Tag Archives: short story

Looking back:

Have begun writing some of my memoir into short stories. This is one example:
Empire Day
I watched my mother make toffee apples. The sweet smell of sugar melting, bubbling fast with the bright red cochineal added. No stirring allowed as the sugar became toffee. The dimpled, large tin tray was filled with skewered toffee dipped apples left to set.

The year was 1956, May school holidays. The neighbourhood kids, my brothers and I had scoured the bush on the parade for dead branches and trees. We’d collected anything flammable. Old tyres were a prized find, though previously these had to be hidden from a rival arsonist gang, who had burnt our bonfire down the year before.

This year we joined forces with the rival gang and invited them to help build our bonfire and share the night. They were not so scary, once we got to know them. Two of them, the Stone twins, led a tough life, having to milk the cows each morning and night, helping their mother after their father had died. We all had fun dragging dead branches and piling them up until the bonfire was huge.

Cold winter darkness descended. Dressed warmly in our woolen coats and full of anticipation, we all went to the paddock opposite where the bonfire was ready to be lit. My mother waddled carrying enough toffee apples for everyone, the tray resting on her extended stomach. After distributing them, mother collected everyone’s crackers and put them onto another large tray to prevent them being lit at the same time so that it would extend the fireworks display.

Dad lit the fire illuminating excited faces. Flowerpots disgorged their red and yellow sprays of colour from the fence post. A few tom thumbs ignited, popping here and there, with penny bungers and Jumping Jacks being thrown, scaring the unwary. Catherine wheels spun skewered to fence posts. Rockets soared out of beer bottles, spraying red, green and white stars.

Suddenly there was a ruckus. Someone had thrown a large cracker onto the tray, which started igniting the rest. My mother dropped the tray, jumping back as crackers went off in every direction. A rocket whizzed between her legs as she hopped and danced. Disappointed, without understanding why, my brothers and I were quickly gathered together and taken home.

It wasn’t until the next morning that we were told our brother, Angus, was born on Empire Day. He came into the world with a bang and inherited a crackerjack personality.

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A time to Remember: short story

I am posting a rather more lengthy post than usual. I have begun writing short stories, this one is 1,500 words approx. For those of you who have time on your hands.

Time to Remember

Agatha muses, propped and cushioned in her chair with feet elevated to ease her aching knees and feet. Choices lie before her. Life has been a roller coaster ride with more ups than downs, but now the balance has been reversed. Should she play the cantankerous crone and take out her frustration on her minders? That could be fun. Or should she play the role of the docile and compliant sweet old lady with the aim of becoming nurse’s favourite? Which would satisfy her most and make her feel better?

With the first option, there is plenty to complain about. The shock of being woken at 7am when all you want to do is sleep. Losing one’s dignity and having no privacy at all is beyond a joke. Showering is now restricted to every second day, because as you get older your skin becomes thin, sensitive and dry. Having an accident in the night concerns her. Would she start smelling like those incontinent and infirmed old people that surround her?

Her favourite meal of the day is the luxury of having breakfast in bed, even if the toast tastes like chewy cardboard.

She knows some consider her snooty. Why would you sit in a room full of semi- alive beings playing bingo? Or listen to that dreadful, forever cheerful man that comes in with his guitar? Instead, Agatha prefers to daydream in her room and remember happier times.

Growing up as an only child, life was seldom dull. Playing outside, making cubbies, riding her bike and building bonfires with the neighbour-hood gang all flit through her memory. Living near the beach allowed her to walk, swim and beachcomb. Reading became an important escape, which continued throughout her life. Her elderly parents were great readers too.

Leaving school was the best day of her life. She had a job at the bakers, where she learnt how to bake bread, pastries and cakes. Early starts were part of her job and she was proud to be bringing home a wage. Her aging parents had low expectations for her, which she accepted, being a girl.

Meeting Steve had been her big break. He was on leave from the air force. Marrying Steve was her dream. She thought he’d love and provide for her and the children they’d have. The fact that her parents didn’t like him wasn’t important. They’d move away and prove they could make a success of life.

Moving to Darwin was expensive, and it meant that her parents were unable to visit. This saddened her, though it solved problems too. Steve was an alcoholic. Perhaps that was why they were against the marriage? In Darwin Agatha could pretend everything was rosy. She became pregnant and thought Steve would change when he knew he was to have a baby boy. Living in hope, Agatha prepared for the baby. Steve’s job sent him away for months so Agatha had a break from his abusive and demanding behaviours.

Steve was killed in Vietnam and the shock paralyzed her. It was just after Tommy had been born. Gradually she allowed herself to think it might be for the best. She no longer had to stay in Darwin. Her dream of married bliss was destroyed; disillusioned and disappointed she returned to her hometown of Port Sorrel. There she had her parents to help her with Tommy, which allowed her to find work.

Warm fuzz surrounded her as she thought of Tommy growing up. Her parents adored her son, and looked after him three days a week allowing her to work at the bakery. She introduced Tommy to the beach where he collected shells and went fishing with Grandpa, just as she had done.

She rented a shack by the beach and their simple but idyllic existence began. When Tommy started school she worked full time. He did well at school and later won a scholarship to study marine biology at the university in Hobart. She missed him, but was proud of his achievements. He was the first in their family to go to university.

Agatha was feeling the pressure of the sandwich generation, caring for her parents and supporting her son. She had little time for a social life. She dreamt of her boss retiring and taking over the bakery. Tommy brought his girl friends home and she made a fuss of them. Agatha adored Julia, showing her approval by knitting her a jumper and crocheting her a tote bag. The future looked promising.

Her father’s heart was bad, and he’d taken early retirement. He’d pop in and help her with her garden on his good days. When her mother’s health deteriorated she’d call in after work and cook their tea. Not long after this her mother was rushed to hospital. Watching her decline was emotionally draining. Being an only child had disadvantages.

Tommy and Julia decided to marry now they both had permanency at the Antarctic Division in Hobart. She was glad that her parents had lived long enough to attend this happy celebration and see Tommy settled. She drove them down to Hobart to attend the wedding. It was as if they’d both been hanging on for this, as the following year their health deteriorated further. Agatha had two funerals to organize three months apart. Tommy and Julia came home briefly for each funeral, but hurried back to their jobs in Hobart. At least Agatha’s work gave her a reason to get up in the mornings and kept her relatively sane. Selling her parent’s home enabled her to fulfill her dream and buy the bakery.

Agatha put her heart and soul into the bakery and as owner manager she introduced Tasmanian specialties, like truffle meat pies, scallop pies, smoked salmon pastries and blueberry tarts. The café became the place to visit and was included on tourist routes. How busy she’d been. She was proud the business had become so successful. She had trained several people to share the workload, and they catered for many grand functions.

Julia then had twins, Gemma and Gerald, after waiting until forty to have children. She waited to have the right home before having babies. Julia hadn’t anticipated how difficult two babies at this age would be. Tommy was over the moon, but his job was demanding and time consuming so he didn’t appreciate the broken nights. Tommy asked if Agatha would come down and live with them. She really hadn’t want to, but believed Julia needed her support. The bakery would carry on without her, so she took time off, just to see how it would be.

Living in Julia and Tommy’s house was not what she expected. Agatha loved the babies, but wasn’t prepared for the changes. Her own experience of childrearing was obsolete, and unwelcome. In fact she couldn’t wait to get home. Her fancy that she might live in a Granny flat in Hobart was now destroyed. She and Julia didn’t see eye to eye. Her greatest gift would be to leave them to sort everything out for themselves. She was so grateful to have her job to return to. Thank goodness she hadn’t retired. She would look forward to Gemma and Gerald being old enough to spend holidays with her by the beach.

‘Come on Agatha, lunch is ready,’ the nurse calls as she is passing her room.

Agatha snaps back to reality and eases herself onto her walking frame and follows the procession to the dining room. She has made several friends and they often play cards in the afternoons. Lunch is no better than she expects. Crumbed frozen fish fillets with some powdered, mashed potato and a few peas, followed by jelly and custard. How can anyone use so little imagination? Perhaps it is to cater for those who have no teeth.

Considering her earlier quandary she once again realises how positive thoughts and actions will change her circumstances. If she can get into that kitchen she will change things for the better. Discussing this with the Manager of the Home she asks if she can work with the kitchen staff and share some of her experience to improve their menu. The whole mood of the place will improve with better food.

Gaining approval to teach her friends how to cook a few special treats will give them all something to look forward to. Croissants for Saturday breakfasts, and fruit buns on Sundays will be a good start. The kitchen staff is always stretched at weekends, this will be a perfect time to show how they can help out. When Agatha is cooking her aches and pains disappear. Cooking will also take her mind off the fact that her family has no time to visit. She needs to help to feel needed and whole again. Positive thinking being more powerful than negative lifts her to a better place. Naughty thoughts continue to bring a smile to her face as she concocts stories about those about her, maybe she will write some of them down.

Thanks for reading!  🙂

 

Reblog of Angels Behind the Scenes: A taste

Angels behind the scenes. Barbara Pyett © 2015

Being whooshed through a tunnel of brilliant light, I am excited. The air is blissful and resonates with the sounds of singing. My body feels light and translucent. I can run and walk without pain. Having regained my senses I realize that this must be heaven.

Children are running around playing. I recognize a few faces. There is my friend Timothy. He looks happy and runs towards me and gives me a big hug; our bodies melt into our nothingness.

‘You won’t believe what it’s like living here Fleur! Look, here comes Gabriel to take you to your initiation, we’ll catch up later.’                                                                                                    Gabriel, a tall, elegant angel takes my hand, ‘There is a procedure to follow, and then you can celebrate with your friends and family.’ Gabriel telepathizes.

Gabriel escorts me. We speed through the air. It is called teleporting, arriving at the speed of thought. Gabriel’s thought this time, not mine.

‘Where are we Gabriel?’

‘You are here to be initiated, to relearn about living in heaven. On Earth you forgot our ways.’

Together we enter a huge white marble building where the splash of fountains echo under  towering arched domes. It is as light inside as it is outside and the temperature remains warm. With ease I look up into the stunning patterned vaults above. White doves coo and fly around us. I feel as if I am in a dream or am I stuck in a fantasy computer game? The air smells as sweet and fresh as freesias. It must be real, I try to pinch myself and question, what is real?

In a large hall we see a lots of people sitting around in a circle.

‘Please sit and join us,’ says a pleasant voice coming from nowhere.

‘You are here to refresh and adapt to heavenly ways.

To begin with I shall ask everyone to hold hands.’

As we do this electric pulses shoot through our hands and bodies.

‘This feeling allows you to remember that we are all ONE; part of a whole, which is LOVE.’ The room fills with a brilliant light, which emanates from all of us sitting in the circle.

‘On Earth you had free will and forgot about being ONE. Competition was part of your culture. You had the choice of being good or evil. Breaking the rules was always a temptation. Your memories of heaven were obliterated, which enabled you to live a life of comparative freedom and make your own choices. Some of you lived full and productive lives, but some of you made bad choices and other lives were affected by illness,’ the unearthly voice continues.

‘Earthly media thrives on bad news where fear, cheating, lying, power struggles, stealing, violence, murder, child abuse and ruthless competition all hit the headlines. Some of you are still filled with negative feelings, such as: anger, fear, hatred, avarice, jealousy, addiction, resentment, inferiority, deceit or simply being egoists living selfish lives. Afflictions may be healed now you are in heaven in our Rehabilitation Centre. You’ll relearn how to adjust to the light where acceptance, positivity, compassion, authenticity, integrity and love are the norm, and you will experience ONENESS.’

‘Telepathy doesn’t allow lying.’

‘How can this be real?’ I hear my neighbour murmur.

‘Oneness may be interrupted by negative Earthly thoughts. If you experience these, the Rehabilitation Centre will support you in your recovery. If you think you need help, please leave now with Angelica.’

I stand up with a large number of people to leave. My resentment of the way I was torn from my family still overwhelms me. Those of us leaving have auras tinged with different colours. Those who remain sit in a glorious golden light.                                                                                ‘I know many of you are wishing to link up with friends and family, you may do so at the end of this session.’

Rehabilitation:

Teleporting is cool! Standing in a long glass fronted building looking out onto parklands and a river, birds of every size are flying, wading or floating on the river. Their calls mixed with children’s’ happy laughter echo about us.

We sit in another circle as we each share our story. I am surprised to find that every life story is moving and equally poignant. Listening, we let our tears flow freely.

Jo sits on the left side of me. He has suffered from violence and mental illness. He cries when he recounts the harm he has suffered and the harm and distress he has caused his family. The energy from the circle helps release his anxiety.

Maggie, on my right has been addicted to gambling and committed suicide leaving her children without a home, or a parent.

What a lot for her to come to terms with!

My problems seemed insignificant when I listened to so many woeful stories. These extracts make me realize how lucky I’ve been, coming from a loving family. I share my own experience of dying from cancer and the sorrow I feel leaving my family: not being able to finish my studies, to grow up and have a career and family of my own.

When we finish, we hold hands and are zapped with loving energy. Most of us feel wiped out and need sleep before we can face seeing our family and friends.

The Rehabilitation Block has beds for us all; where we can sleep soundly to refresh ourselves. Heavenly sleep, how apt!

Another change from our former lives is that food isn’t necessary. Of course a food- a-holic may choose to pretend to eat, by conjuring up visions of food. This is something they will wean themselves of in rehab. The same method applies to Alcoholics and for any other addiction.

 Reunions:

Meeting up with my great grand parents, great aunts and uncles and my darling grandmother is overwhelming. None of them look as old as I expected. Grandma tells me, ‘I was able to choose to be rejuvenated in rehabilitation, so I could return to a healthy body and leave those old arthritic knees behind. We can all choose whatever age we wish to appear. No plastic surgery necessary in heaven!’

‘No wonder there are so many young looking people.’

‘We all watched over you in hospital.’ Grandma says.

Life in heaven blows my mind, to know that I had all of these people watching over me. My friend, Timothy, appears as soon as I think of him. He says,

‘With telepathy and being able to move so quickly, linking up is easy.’

We sit and talk about our friends left behind and the good times we shared at school.

‘All of my problems are over, no pain and no worries. Acceptance and love have obliterated my sad memories. Though sometimes I do think of what might have been if…’ Timothy looks away, as he hides a wistful expression.

We watch Joe meet up with his father; they look so similar, and the same age. Seeing Maggie’s loving family surround her makes me want to cry. People to care and support them, no matter what they have done in the past, surround the newcomers.

It is time to return to rehabilitation for another session.

‘Off you go, that is where you need to be at the moment. I’ll see you soon!’ Timothy is gone in a blink.

Being one huge family, just a thought away, means that we are always there for each other, this is awesome!

Would you like more?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy dispelled:

Oral history is not always reliable. I had thought I’d write a quick post regarding my father in law, Eric Harold Pyett, who wrote yesterday’s short story, ‘Jenny and the Bag of Bones’. After a couple of checks on some of the details, facts have been distorted. So here is a little of what I’ve been able to decipher:

In 1930, Eric Pyett went to sea at the age of 16. His father who had been a builder and shipwright in Liverpool, England, due to the depression, also left home and found work at sea. Eric was the eldest son, though had an older sister, Kathleen, and two younger brothers, Alan and Brian.

Eric has written short stories about his time at sea. He has not written about his time during

Margarett and Eric Pyett with Chloe Hall, and Aidan Eddy, (Margarett's brother) 28-2-1940

Margarett and Eric Pyett with Chloe Hall, and Aidan Eddy, (Margarett’s brother) 28-2-1940

the war. We do know that he met Margarett, his wife to be, at a dance at Beauty Point, Tasmania, before the war. He was at this time working for the British Blue Funnel Line, shipping cargo, including apples from Tasmania to England. Eric and Margarett married on 28th February 1940.

After their marriage, Eric transferred to the ship, ‘Manunda’, Adelaide Steamship Company. This ship was converted to a hospital ship. The fall of Singapore happened on 15 February 1942. There was a build up of activities around the Northern coast of Australia.

On Thursday 19th February 1942, there were 55 ships in Darwin Harbour at the time of the attack. Six large ships and two smaller ones were sunk. There were about 176 people killed and about 200 seriously injured on ships in and around Darwin Harbour. Eric was 4th officer, and ashore, when the ‘Manunda’ with its red cross on a white background was sprayed with shrapnel, killing four people. 76 holes were peppered into her plates and a bomb exploded on B and C decks, missing the bridge, but starting many fires.

There were many staff injured and the navigational instruments were damaged. Hospital crew who, rescued seriously injured people from the water, manned the life- boats. There are differing accounts of how many people were killed and injured. In one account there were 13 members of the ships’ crew and hospital staff killed, 19 others seriously wounded and another 40 or so received minor wounds. Thanks to the Internet for this information. Such times must have made life seem very precious.

The ‘Manunda’ was able to leave Darwin the next day taking casualties from other ships to Fremantle. As Captain of the ‘Manunda’, Captain Gardener, was later awarded the OBE, in 1945 for his bravery. He navigated by the stars to Fremantle in their battered ship.

Eric later became Captain of the ‘Manunda’, after completing his Masters Ticket in Sydney, becoming the youngest Captain, at that time in Australia.

After the war, Eric and Margarett and Christopher moved from Malvern, Victoria to Devonport, Tasmania, where they settled and Eric built their beautiful home in North Street, completing it with his own myrtle furniture. Their acre garden was also a work of art.

Eric left the sea to work as a stevedore, organizing shipments leaving Devonport for far away places. Eric shared his love of classical music with his son Christopher who was born in 1943. Eric and Christopher inherited a great love and understanding of classical music from Eric’s Maternal Great Grandfather, composer, Sir Henry Bishop (1786-1855, the first knighthood to be bestowed on a musician).

Eric and Margarett had the happiest marriage of any couple I knew, as a child, and an adult. Margarett had an artistic streak and their home was once featured in Home Beautiful, in the 1950s. It was before its time being sun drenched, with large glass doors and windows to bring the garden inside. The eaves were at the right angle to capture the sun in winter and deflect it in summer. Eric had large round windows upstairs facing the street, and when we saw the round window on our house, we knew it to be the right one.

Ship's bell that Eric had on their two houses, that he kept polished. We have moved it to our home in Victoria.

Ship’s bell that Eric had on their two houses, that he kept polished. We have moved it to our home in Victoria.

 

So all things considered, I believe that yesterday’s short story, ‘Jenny and the Bag of Bones,’ to be fiction. Christopher and I pondered this for some time, as it sounded so real, but looking at dates, it couldn’t have been true.

 

 

 

 

‘Jenny and the Bag of Bones’ Eric H. Pyett © 1981

Jenny and the Bag of Bones is a short story found when we were emptying Chris’ parent’s house. It was one of the treasures we found in a box of papers. Eric was a gentle Englishman, and sea captain. I shall write about him another day. Here is his story that left us wondering how much was based in his imagination, or was any of it based on reality?

 

It had been a happy afternoon. We had wandered, hand in hand, through the banks of flowers until we found a quiet bench in a corner of the rose garden, and there we sat, my arm around her shoulders and her head against my cheek. And sometimes we talked, and sometimes we were silent, content to be together, renewing our affinity, recharging our batteries Jenny used to call it. Building up our strength for the months ahead.

Jenny had been my friend since childhood. We had belonged to each other for as long as we could remember and neither of us sought out any other. I was a sailor then, and we met for only a few brief days between long voyages. This was the last day of my leave, before night I must catch the train to London to rejoin my ship. But the next time I came home, at the end of one more voyage, Jenny was to become my wife.

Always, when we were together, we tried to live life to the full, seeking to extract the utmost happiness from the few days granted to us, and trying to forget for a while that soon we must part again. But however hard we tried to forget, the thought was always there, gathering and growing in the background of our minds like a dark thunder-cloud slowly spreading across the sky. And so it was on this day. Beneath all our gaiety and happiness lurked the all-pervading thought that, inevitably, at the end of this perfect afternoon we must face once more the bleak sadness of farewell.

I glanced at my watch. ‘Jenny, dear, I’m afraid it’s time for us to go,’ I said. She stood up and smothered out the wrinkles in her dress, the crisp blue linen dress, which was my favourite. ‘Well, it’s been a gorgeous day, and a perfect afternoon, and I’ve been so happy. Now I feel refreshed and strong.’ She slipped her arm through mine, and slowly we made our way to the gates of the park. Outside, on the Promenade, a rank of open horse-drawn carriages waited for patrons. Jenny, who loved all animals, scanned the horses critically as we strolled along.

At the head of the rank, an old man in a long white coat was polishing already gleaming harness, his horse peacefully munching chaff from a well-filled nose-bag. The old man looked up with a smile as we approached. ‘Lovely day,’ he ventured.                                                      ‘Yes, indeed it is,’ Jenny agreed, stepping beside the old man.                                                      ‘And that’s a fine looking horse. May I pat him?’

‘Oh yes, Miss, if you want to. He’s very quiet.’                                                                             Jenny took off her gloves and stroked the horse’s silky neck and shoulders.                           ‘What’s his name?’ She asked.                                                                                                  ‘Tommy, Miss. All of my horses have been called Tommy.’                                                                       Jenny stood in front of the horse, and he lowered his head so that she could reach his forelock and ears. ‘Isn’t he a beauty?’ she said, ‘and what a friendly old fellow.

He likes his ears rubbed, don’t you Tommy?’ But it seemed she had misinterpreted Tommy’s feelings. Without warning, he tossed his head, and gave a great snort which deluged Jenny with a shower of chaff. She took a quick step backwards.

‘Well, I asked for it, didn’t I?’ she laughed, bending down to shake the chaff out of her shining hair. The old man looked up.

‘I’m sorry, Miss, he does that sometimes. I should have told you, he don’t like his ears rubbed that much.’

‘Would you drive us to the station, ‘ I asked.

‘Chapel Street Station? Certainly Sir.’ He put away his polishing rags and opened the door of the carriage, for us to enter.

Jenny turned her blue eyes on the old man. ‘What’s your name?’ she asked in her most charming manner.

‘Me?’ he said. ‘Oh, I’m Tommy too, Miss, Tommy Jones. Most people call me Tommy-the driver, and him, Tommy-the –horse, that’s how they know us.’

‘Well, Tommy, would you let me sit up on the box with you, and perhaps drive a bit of the way?’ I thought Jenny’s charm irresistible, but the old man looked doubtful. He pushed his hat to the back of his head and scratched his nose.

‘Ooh, I dunno about driving, Miss. You’re supposed to be a registered driver.’

‘But you’d be sitting beside me, Tommy.’

I was just a silent spectator, and I could see the old chap melting. In his place I should have done the same.

‘Well, alright, Miss. But we better take it steady for a bit. Just till you get the feel of it .’

The nosebag was taken off Tommy-the –horse, and Tommy –the –driver dusted the high box seat, and helped Jenny to climb up. I took my place, in solitary grandeur, in the open carriage. When all was ready, Jenny turned and looked down at me with a triumphant grin,                     ‘Are you quite comfortable down there, Sir?   Chapel Street, wasn’t it?’                                              I lounged back in the comfortable seat, my arms behind my head, and looked up at her laughing face.

‘Jenny,’  I said, ‘I’m seeing you from a completely new angle. A kind of worm’s eye view, which is most revealing. Do you know, you’re getting fat? And that straw in your hair looks very like confetti? Look to your driving, madam.’                                                                                       She made a face at me, and taking up the reins, she turned to the old man beside her.           ‘How do I get him to start?’ she asked.

‘Oh, he’ll start when he’s ready, Miss. Just shake the reins and click your tongue, like this, ‘”Tsck, Tsck,” and say “Giddup”. Keep the reins slack, Miss, he don’t like to feel the bitt.’                       ‘And when I want him to stop? Do I shout ‘Whoa?’                                                                          ‘Oh, no, Miss!’ The old man sounded shocked. ‘Don’t rattle him. He’ll stop when we get there. ’‘But how will he know?’ she asked.                                                                                                  ‘Oh, he knows where we’re going, Miss. I whispered “Chapel Street” in his ear when I took his nose-bag off.’

‘But…’ Jenny looked at the old man doubtfully. ‘Do you mean to tell me that he goes on his own? That he knows the way? What does the driver do?’                                                              ‘Oh, yes, Miss, he knows the way alright, better than I do. You don’t have to worry about that, it’s up to him, he’ll get us there.’

Jenny glanced back at me. ‘Madam, ‘ I said, ‘in years to come I’ll tell your childrenabout this day. They will gather round my knee while you darn socks in the background, Andrew, and Susan, and James….’                                                                                                                       ‘And Kate,’ she said.                                                                                                                           ‘Ah yes,’ I agreed, ‘and little Katie.’

‘Go on she said, ‘I’m listening.’ But she wasn’t, she had turned back to the old man.               ‘Right, well off we go,’ she said briskly. She gave the reins a shake, and clicked her tongue, ‘Tsck, Tsck,’ and called ‘Giddyup,’ in commanding tones. Tommy-the –horse turned his head and looked carefully up and down the Promenade, then he leaned forward in the shafts, and we were off, at a leisurely, ambling walk.

‘How can I get him to go faster?’ Jenny asked. ‘Should I use the whip?’                                       The old man ‘s face froze in horror.                                                                                                  ‘Oh no, Miss. Not the whip. We only use that for flicking the flies off. No, not the whip, oh, no.’ He was clearly shocked and upset, and Jenny had the grace to blink.

‘I’m sorry,’ she began. ‘I thought…’ The old man looked at her patiently.                                                ‘You see, Miss, it’s like this, he’s a stubborn old devil, is Tommy, and he won’t go any faster unless he wants to. But sometimes you can sort of encourage him a bit if you shout “Giddup yer lazy old bag of bones.” Sometimes it moves him along a bit, if he’s in the mood.’

Jenny looked a bit surprised at this advice, but nevertheless, in a stern and confident voice, she called out loudly,                                                                                                                 ‘giddup yer lazy old bag of bones,’ and to her obvious amazement it had the desired effect. Tommy-the –horse snorted with disgust, but immediately broke into a gentle trot. Jenny turned around and looked down at me, her eyes sparkling with excitement and delight.

‘You see,’ she said, ‘there’s nothing to it, is there? Are you quite comfortable, down there?’I waved a languid arm to the puzzled occupants of a passing carriage.                                        ‘Please look to your front, driver,’ I begged.                                                                                     We were now bowling merrily along the Promenade, with traffic passing in both directions. Tommy-the-horse seemed to be fully in control, and I sincerely hoped he was, because the two occupants of the box seat, high above me, were engaged in an animated conversation of which I could only hear occasional snatches above the clip clop of the hooves, and the quiet whirr of the wheels on the wooden paved roadway. Tommy-the –driver was laughing heartily at something Jenny had said. She was sitting up, slim and straight backed and lovely, her fair hair shining in the sun, and the reins held loosely in her white gloved fingers. I thought she looked adorable.

‘Oh yes, we do sometimes, Miss.’ I heard him say. ‘I put his rosettes on, and ribbons in his mane and on his headband, and the wife decorates the coach with white ribbons, and bows and flowers and things. It looks real classy, Miss. I hope it’s a cool day….. the livery’s hot….. top boots, top hat and ribbons… I used to be a coachman for Lord Derby once…. Tommy-the –horse is from his stable too…..You reckon about Easter, Miss? ….How many?’                            ‘Oh, I could get a few of me mates if you need them…. Yes, Miss, I’ll write out the address for you…. We went to one a while back…. They poured champagne in his nosebag… he was snorting and coughing all the way to the station….’

While this one-sided conversation was going on, Tommy-the-horse had come to a halt and seemed to be waiting to make a right-hand turn. Tommy-the-driver was scrawling something on a scrap of paper with a stub of pencil, and my lovely Jenny was making a close study of the roofs of the nearby buildings, oblivious to the curious and astonished stares of the many onlookers.

As soon as the road was clear, she clicked her tongue, “Tsck, Tsck.” shook the reins, and called loudly in her clear voice, ‘Giddup yer lazy old bag of bones.’                                                          All along the street heads turned towards us, and I waved politely to those nearest. However, the response from Tommy-the-horse was somewhat grudging. He looked carefully up and down the street, and, satisfied the way was clear, he set off at a slow and dispirited walk, his head hanging dejectedly.

Tommy-the –driver finished his writing and handed the scrap of paper to Jenny, who slipped it into her glove.                                                                                                                                  ‘He’s a bit upset now, Miss,’ the old man said sadly.                                                                      ‘You did the wrong thing back there, I should have told you. I always lets him make up his own mind at a crossing, and it don’t do to give him the “bag of bones” bit until he’s under way. Best to let him go his own gait now, Miss, he’ll pick up when he’s ready. It don’t do to upset him, he’ll sulk on me all day.’                                                                                                                           ‘He’s a remarkable horse, isn’t he?’ Jenny said apologetically, ‘I hope I haven’t upset him too much.’                                                                                                                                               Oh, he’ll be alright after a while, Miss. I’ll give him a peppermint when we get to the station, he likes them, they cheer him up. He’ll do anything for a peppermint.

We were turning into Lord Street now, the main shopping street of the town. It was a very wide street, with gardens on one side and shops on the other, and it was thronged with tramcars and traffic and summer visitors. Perhaps encouraged by the noise and bustle around him, Tommy-the-horse shook off his ill-humour and broke into a smart trot, his head held high and his nostrils flaring. I held my breath as we weaved in and out among the taxis and trams and carriages, but Tommy-the –driver appeared to be unconcerned, only interrupting his conversation with Jenny to wave to the drivers of passing cabs and buses.

‘You’ll let us know about the flowers? I overheard. ‘We’ve got silver vases that go in the corners, you see these holders, there… and there.’ They both swung round while he pointed out the fixtures in the corners of the carriage, ignoring me, sprawled comfortably in the back seat, outwardly nonchalant, but inwardly transfixed with fear, expecting annihilation at any moment by a passing tram or bus.

And still Tommy-the-horse trotted on, undisturbed by human interference. He turned to the right, watching his chance in the crossing traffic; then right again, Into Chapel Street, then left, into the station yard where he pulled up smartly beside the curb. Thankfully, I leapt out of the carriage and fell on my knees to kiss the footpath, while Jenny, uncaring, climbed slowly down from the box, still talking to Tommy-the-driver.

‘Could I give him the peppermint, Tommy? I feel I owe him an apology.’ The old man produced a dusty peppermint from some inner pocket and handed it to her. Tommy-the-driver looked round expectantly as Jenny took off her gloves. She held out her hand and the soft leathery lips nuzzled her palm until they closed on the tiny peppermint. ‘I’m sorry if I upset you, Tommy,’ she said gently stroking his neck. ‘Are we friends again now?’ The horse just leered at her, hungrily. ‘Here, give him another, Miss, and you’ll be friends for life,’ his master said.

While Jenny fraternized with the horse, I asked Tommy-the-driver how much I owed him. He took off his hat and rubbed his head while he considered his reply.

‘Well,’ he said, at last, ‘by rights I don’t think I should charge you anything, ‘cos the young lady did the driving, but I’ve got to think of the wife and the horse.                                                        Would half-a-crown be alright? She’s a lovely young lady, sir. Looked a picture on the box, I thought. Gentle on the reins, too. I hope you’ll be very happy.’

Jenny took his hand. ‘Thank you, Tommy, for letting me drive, it was a wonderful experience. I’ll be in touch with you in good time about the other thing.’

Thank you, Miss, it’s been a pleasure. You just let me know what you want and I’ll attend to it. We can put the top up if it’s a wet day.’ He climbed up to his box and looked down at her with a grin. ‘Will you be wanting to drive yourself that day too, Miss?’

She laughed. ‘I don’t know Tommy, perhaps I shall. I’ll bring some peppermints, anyway.’            The old man shook the reins. Jenny called ‘Tsck, Tsck,’ Giddup’. Tommy-the horse looked up and down, confirming for himself that all was clear, and they moved off with a parting wave from the box.

‘What a lovely old man,’ Jenny said, grasping my arm. ‘Why are you trembling?’                    ‘Whew,’ I said, ‘I was petrified in all that traffic. Have you ever driven a horse before?’                ‘No, certainly not one like that,’ she laughed. ‘I hope he wasn’t too upset, he’s going to drive us to our wedding.’

I collected my bag from the luggage office, and we went to the platform where the London train was waiting. I found my seat, then went and stood on the platform with Jenny. And now, with only a few minutes left to us, her mood had changed.

She clung to my arm. ‘A part of me dies each time we say goodbye, David,’ she whispered. ‘When you are my husband I’ll never let you go.’

I held her to me, with nothing to say.                                                                                             ‘I’m not going to cry,’ she said, ‘but if I do, it’s because I’m so lucky to have someone I love so much that I want to cry when we say goodbye.’                                                                                   I smiled down at her, ‘Jenny, dear, what does all that mean? I asked.                                           She didn’t answer, just buried her face in my shoulder.

The guard waved his flag, and whistles blew. One last hug and a quick kiss.                               ‘David, take care, and come back to me soon, I’ll be waiting for you.’                                              ‘I will, Jenny, dear. You take care, too.’

I watched her standing on the platform, waving, until she was out of sight, and that was the last time I saw Jenny. It was 1939, and within a few months Hitler’s war had started and the world turned upside down. It was more than two years before I got back home, and by then Jenny had already been dead for a year, killed in one of the first raids.

I took her some of her favourite roses, and knelt in the rain beside a little wartime stone, which said, ‘Jenny Martin, killed 20th July, 1940, Aged 22 years.’ I stayed there for a long time, kneeling by her stone, and felt her had against my shoulder and her soft hair against my wet cheek, and I knew she was waiting for me, as she had promised. When my batteries were fully charged I left the roses on her stone, and went away.

That was in 1941, a long, long time ago. A long time to be without Jenny. But now I think we shall meet again, quite soon. And there will be sunshine again, and roses, and Jenny’s soft shining hair against my cheek. And there will not be many silences because we will have so much to say. And I think the children will be there, Andrew, and Susan and James and little Katie, the shadowy dream children that we never had. And I’ll gather them around, and together we’ll tell them the story of Jenny and the bag of bones. And we will laugh again together. And there will be no more partings – ever.