Monday, 15 January 2018

Sapphire and Steel



I used to watch this show in the 70's. I was an adult by then, whatever that means, but still young, maybe immature as some might say - things never change - and found this series compulsive viewing. I had, still do, loved Doctor Who. The Doctor is a time traveller as are the central characters, Sapphire and Steel, from this show. This had a different flavour to it though. There wasn't anything like the Daleks nor the Cybermen, in fact, nothing so obviously Sci-Fi like that. Whereas the BBC show was family entertainment, Sapphire and Steel, produced by ITV, seemed darker, more adult somehow. It was as if M.R. James of Algernon Blackwood had scripted the programme.

In the first episode, we see a young teenage boy sitting at a kitchen table doing what appears to be his homework. There is the sound of a clock ticking. It soon becomes that there is more than one clock but three. A downfall of rain strikes the window pane so the boy rises from his chair to pull the curtains. From upstairs come voices, those of his mother, father and baby sister. The mother can be heard reading to her daughter who begs for more stories from the book. The mother says she has read quite enough telling her child it is time for bed but the father laughingly suggests one more story won't hurt.

The boy downstairs pushes his chair away and then walks into the hall where there are more clocks all ticking relentlessly away. He looks up the stairs to where his family have gathered in his sister's bedroom. Then he turns back into the kitchen, sits down at the table and continues with his homework. Suddenly, all the clocks in the house stop ticking with the minute hand caught at ten minutes past seven. Then he hears an odd noise, an electric rumbling, which arouses his attention. He calls out to his parents but get's no response. He leaves his place at the table calling out to his parents but getting no response. Walking purposefully he climbs the stairs to his sister's room. Entering it he sees his sibling sitting on the bed looking a little shaken. There is no sign of either of his parents. Upon asking his sister, Helen, where their mother and father are, Rob, the elder brother, is told they have gone. Simply gone. Not down the stairs and out the house but gone.

The next scene we see sister and brother together in the kitchen with Helen drinking a glass of milk poured by brother Rob. The boy seems to be holding his nerve, doing the things that someone twice his age would find difficult. By concentrating on the now, on the practicalities, he manages to assure Helen that everything is fine. The scene that switches leaving Helen alone drinking her milk. The camera pans away backing down the hallway where we can hear footsteps crunching over gravel. Rob opens the front door, treble locks with two bolt locks plus the Yale then returns to Helen's side where he informs her that he has phoned the local policeman who had assured him he'd be right over. With some intelligent use of dialogue, we learn that the house the tale is set in lies across a body of water. It might be on an island. For the policeman to reach it he has to use a rowboat. 

A knock is heard coming from the front door. The boy goes to answer but asks first who is it? A male voice answers saying you called for us. Rob opens the door thinking it is the police. In walks Steel followed by Sapphire. Rob asks if they are the police. Sapphire laughs suggesting the local officer armed with his notebook isn't able nor capable of helping but they are. Sapphire and Steel. Cue the opening sequence.

"All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned." 

We never know where they come from only who they are. Sapphire and Steel. Are they human? They appear to be. Are they from the future? Possibly. Highly likely in fact. Or are they agents from another dimension? Again, highly likely. This enigmatic approach adds suspense along with a hint of mystery. Whatever they are, whoever they are they leave a feeling of superiority, of being better, more wise and knowledgeable than us, than humans. Again, I think of Doctor Who. His incredible intelligence, his experience of life in all its myriad forms, his grasp of time and space, of its complexities, its infinite possibilities. Sapphire and Steel struck me as aliens. The pair made a curious mix of Spock with his cold calculating, logical mind and a rather acerbic Doctor Who, William Hartnell's version, crossed with a sensual yet warm-hearted quality.

Sapphire, as played by Joanna Lumley, is the one who has the human touch whilst Steel, portrayed by David Macullum, is the lovely Sapphire's acid-tongued counterpart. Each has their own powers. Sapphire is able to manipulate time, she can rewind time although only as far back as twenty-four hours. She can determine an objects historical properties by merely touching it. She calls this her ability to spot analyze

Steel, on the other hand, is powerfully strong, seemingly almost invulnerable. He is also gifted with telekinetic abilities using them on occasion to paralyse individuals with just a look. The final power in his arsenal is the way in which he can freeze himself to absolute zero which enables him to destroy remnants or images of people trapped in time.

Between the two of them, they are able to communicate telepathically. A gift that comes in handy at times. Sapphire is cool, a little removed at times yet compassionate. Abrasive Steel is at times hard, harsh, clipped, curt and a little callous. He is capable of sacrificing the one for the many even if the one in question is never himself nor his partner but a relatively innocent participant in some macabre set of events.

The first show took a trembling step into these uncharted televisual waters. The effects seem dated now yet, as they are cleverly understated, passable. The acting of all the cast is of a high standard. The script is taut and conveys a sense of dread. Yet for me once this storyline concludes and the two, hero and heroine, are assigned their second mission, so the series really takes off. 

The limited special effects oddly produced an eerie sense of spectral reality. Even if the budgets at first were low, the overall sense of trepidation was high. In other words, the show benefited from the abysmal budget set adding fear to the fiction seldom seen before the 9 O'clock watershed. For a family show, the tension caused by the unseen horrors took the chill factor to a nail-biting 25 minutes of supreme, on-the-edge-of-your-seat entertainment. It was compulsive viewing watched by a healthy 11 million people.

The show was categorised as science fiction/fantasy. I dislike that label. It could so easily have been described as weird tales or ghost stories yet they too, those epithets, are, I believe, misleading. I liked least of all the sci-fi element preferring the spooky concoctions better.

That second assignment sees Sapphire and Steel arrive at a haunted railway station. A lone soldier from the First World War, rifle slung over his shoulder, forever whistling a tune of the time he lived in, walks up and down the platform seeking ... revenge? retribution? release?  The motivation that drives this apparition isn't made clear at first. During the tantalising episodes, a truth is revealed allowing the viewer to glean the purpose of the ghost, and the others that join it. The plot is delicious. Full of tension and fear coupled with a sense of sadness for those who died yet remain. A poignancy that delivers a subtle layer of emotion. I liked this the best. The way in which all the elements of a classic ghost story merge with the constant horror that consistently returns to plague various moments of peoples lives. You see the monster here, the one thing that links all the shows is time itself. Time turned bad. Time gone feral. 

The third assignment was set in the present. people from the future have travelled back to observe and study the people of the past. Us. Things go horribly wrong so, naturally enough, Sapphire and Steel are assigned. This particular set of stories, named after the time it was viewed, was entitled "The Creatures Revenge." There was a political edge to this series. The machine from the future that brings back to the past those instructed to analyse the primitive folk of the 80's, is made up of both machine and animal parts. This is why things start to go wrong, 1,500 years into the future there are no animals. What remains of any form of an animal is processed, produced, propagated by scientists who use parts, segments of the animals which they fuse with their sophisticated machinery. The animals are after revenge.

There were others, of course, there were, others like Sapphire and Steel. Lead for one, Silver for another. I didn't really warm to Lead. The actor who played the part was fine but the character he played, that deep bass laugh of his, always laughing in fact, I found irritating. Lead was strong, powerful more so than Steel. Now Silver was another matter. I liked him. He was as honed as the substance he was named after. Lead was played by Val Pringle, Silver by David Collings. There was mention made of Jet and Copper yet they never appear in any adventures.

The frisson between the two, Sapphire and Steel, is one of the major reasons I loved the programme. There is a sexual tension that rarely shows itself yet nonetheless exists. Largely it is disguised by the often antagonistic dialogue with Steel snapping out his orders which Sapphire tends to reply to, in the main, with stoicism. Sometimes though her calm exterior is ruffled revealing a woman capable of standing up to any mere male.



Assignment 4 brings us the faceless man. A renegade energy from the corridor of time whose sole purpose is to flit from photograph to photograph stealing images of people from the past. A dangerous foe who has our protagonists on the hop. Again we face what appears to be ghost-like wraiths. There is that same sense of fear wrapped up in tension.

Assignment 5 sees us back in the present. From an office sat within a large country house, occupied by a younger woman and a much older man. The man, the owner of Mullrine International, is none other than Lord Mullrine himself. His companion is his secretary. As Mullrine leaves his office exiting via a side door, he leaves explicit instructions that she, nor anyone else, must exit via that side but rather should go through the door facing her desk.

Assignment 5 is an Agatha Christie whodunit twisted out of shape. Time has corrupted. A crime thriller, a series of murders unlike any the grand dame of crime fiction invented. The end is a bit lame, a little too lovey-dovey yet still an excellent, imaginative story.

Assignment 6 is a corker. A garage in 1981 with a roadside café. A car parked in the forecourt near the petrol pumps. Two people from the car, a man and woman, sitting in the café, both from 1948. A pale shadowy form of a man, a ghost perhaps, fades in and out of the scene. Clocks fold back and forth, second hands shuffle forward then back - time is frozen. The shadowy form materialises. Upon seeing Steel, Silver and Sapphire he becomes visibly shaken. When asked why he says that the three agents look like ghosts, their images superimposed onto the landscape. When asked what year it is he tells them it is 1925. Time ratchets forward 20 minutes. Rain begins to fall. The window pane is suddenly awash. Footsteps are heard coming from outside. Steel goes out to investigate instructing Sapphire to close and lock the door behind him. This she does. She goes to other rooms, other doors and locks them too. Returning to where Steel exited the building she sees a shadow cast in black facing her. From the shadow a man, a travelling entertainer, his face made up of angry reds. Upon his head a stovepipe hat. Later he tells them he's from 1957.

The whole effect delivered is remarkably sophisticated and very disconcerting. There is an ever growing tension formed by the fragmentary dislocation of chronological time as witnessed by the characters that time has placed together. A creeping fear forever niggling at the subconscious. When answers to the riddle become apparent so the net closes in. The ending is one step beyond anything our furtive imaginations could have conceived. The villains win. Our heroes are trapped in limbo for eternity. 

For me, this wonderful, yet woefully funded, badly neglected show, sets its sails alongside 'The Prisoner.' Very different indeed to that earlier programme yet equally as good. The actual reason the show finished is unknown. Speculation has been rife. TV broadcasters, ATV who featured the series were faced with huge changes. It may have been the fact that they were about to change forever that made them 'ice' the show. Another may have been because both Joanna Lumley and David Macullum had had enough of the playing the parts of the central characters. I don't really care. It was a favourite programme of mine at the time and remains a fond memory even now. Thank goodness for YouTube.

Now there is talk of the show being revamped, of having new actors play the parts of Sapphire and of Steel.I hope so. I would dearly love to see what that show might look like. However, with any speculation comes an honest truth. I loved this show with all its faults and seriously doubt anyone could reinvent or reinvigorate it. Sapphire and Steel was a masterclass in fantasy. Besides, if it does come back and Sapphire and Steel have been captive all these years, why not have the original cast once again play the part?

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Aliens From Outer Space


Aliens. A God delusion? Is there isn’t there? Aliens. The believers believe. It is a faith. And for faith there is always atheism. For there to be an up there must be a down. For there to be a belief there must be non-belief. The two are one, two sides of a coin. 

Aliens. The belief of such a thing is precisely the same as belief in a deity. Perhaps, as some have suggested, they are one and the same thing. God is an alien. The aliens are Gods. Deities from outer space, beings from another world. Yet beings, whether anyone likes it or not, created from the same blocks of life as humankind, as all existence. So then are they really aliens at all?

The disciples who see UFO’s or aliens on planet Earth are fundamentalists. Their religion, for that, is what it is, is all-consuming. Their faith is blind yet not without theory, not without data. That data though still needs verification. You can pay a call to YouTube and witness endless accounts, reports of sightings along with sound arguments detailing events that might be a consequence of alien activity. All of which lacks that vital verification. As with theists, the believers believe no matter the lack of proof.

Images presented portray grey skinned peoples with large eyes, dark eyes, black eyes, where pupils merge with the iris. Long faces with pointed chins. Thin, elongated necks. Bipedal beings with torso’s much like any other primate. There are other images of more aliens that show them with much shorter bodies and no signs of external genitalia. Their features consistently remain the same. These aliens look remarkably like evolved, ape-like creatures suggesting that wherever it is they originated from had to be remarkably Earth-like. For one thing, these aliens would have to be air-breathers to spend time on this planet.

From fear comes paranoia fuelled by the unknown.  What are they doing here? Have they come for a reason and if they have what is that reason? If they have arrived here then yes, they have a reason but is the reason clear to the faithful or is fear of not knowing adding fearful beliefs. It is belief again. The tragic linear logic of humankind whose perceptions only present an oblique view churned over in minds unmindful, unaware, unawake to the reality of existence.

As each year passes so more sightings are reported. UFO’s now need a UFO parking lot. Aliens will soon need welfare. That, of course, is a joke. Jokes don’t sit well with the faithful. They think you are ridiculing their beliefs. I am agnostic towards there being a deity and equally sceptical of aliens here on Earth. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there is life beyond our blue planet. I categorically do.

All life, no matter where in this vast universe of ours, and it is ours as much as it is other lifeforms, is as one. All creation contains the same building blocks. Just as humankind is related to trees so humankind is related to aliens. Aliens. What aliens? Fellow beings from the same source.
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Village Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - Book Five Point One - "Sex, Sin, Murder" - Chapter 2 - "Toffee Angel"


Anyone with a relatively long memory will remember the first chapter of this novella. I posted a rough sketch of it here some years back. Since then, I have added more, fleshing out what was to all intents and purposes a short story before incorporating it into the Fekenham Swarberry reality. Although not set in the village this is most certainly part of that continuity. The first and second chapters are perhaps challenging for the reader as they are long. This one is some thirty-one pages. Hopefully, this will not deter fans of this series from sticking with it.



The Toffee Angel

Shopping was better than sex thought Heather as she slipped off her shoes letting them fall to the floor. She made a mental correction to the first statement then giggled aloud. Thankfully no one could hear her and besides chance would be a fine thing. Dropping the bags she had filled having gone from store to store, Selfridges to Harrods, from Liberty’s to Foyles, she rifled through the content selecting bits she liked.
Red stilettoes, hussy heels as her mum called them; a bottle of Chanel 5 (clichéd maybe but still a beautiful smell); underwear, lots of it; a cheap necklace from Camden market; a blouse that was far too expensive but she liked the colour and the cut; a preposterous hat that took her fancy; three hardbacks (she didn’t like paperbacks) by award-winning author Yevgeny Mort and a couple of Camilla Drew’s outrageously bad crime thrillers.
She lived alone in the well-appointed apartment overlooking the Thames. Wapping had been the first place she and Caleb had visited when home hunting. They initially had reservations thinking the area would still be like its dark history, a place where sensible people didn’t go, filled with East End hard men and rogues but it was nothing like that. There were remnants of the old cockney dockland haunt, the converted warehouses for example, but they had been turned into smart, modern residences desired by those with money to afford the asking prices.
Caleb had worked at The Royal London Hospital. He had been an endocrinologist, specialising in Diabetes. He had earned a good salary which, along with hers, had given them the necessary funds to lay down a deposit. This had been just after the turn of the millennium when Albion was riding high on a wave of nationalistic wellbeing and pride. Margaret Major’s flag-waving exercises including pumping vast fortunes in defence had been replaced by Andrew Flair’s robust desire to outdo the former PM. The Empire had long gone with no one mourning its passing but Flair seemed hellbent on not only recapturing those halcyon days but bettering them.
The unexpected heart attack that had taken her only love away had shocked her to the core. Caleb had only been thirty-four with both a promising career and life ahead of him. It had been 2001 and in many respects, was the worst year of Heather’s life.
Seven years later, now 39, Heather had given up on ever finding another to fit Caleb’s shoes. She was sure that no one could. At times she missed companionship but her career in publishing kept her fulfilled and occupied. As for sex, that was a thing of the past. Being celibate had proven easier than she had thought even if at times she missed the touch of another’s hand.
Then her sister’s unexpected death under such tragic circumstances had given her a different perspective on life. They had never been that close but hearing how she had died, alone and so unhappy, made Heather regret the wasted hours. Life was too short to waste a single minute let alone sixty of them.
She pulled her legs up beneath her then settled back on her sofa. Her console lay open on the coffee table. PodNotes pinged their never ceasing arrival. She read the letter from literary agent Tim Harris again. He had recently discovered a fantasy author, Rosemont Strange who he seemed excited by. Tim was full of unabashed praise for the woman he claimed was the next Janet Rowling. Heather was not so sure. She had had enough of fantasy writers. Since the success of ‘Barry Trotter’ a proliferation of wannabe authors had provided a constant flood of manuscripts. None of them impressed. If only someone had the common sense to see that one talented fantasy writer did not mean the world needed more. Besides, thought Heather, if you needed seek the genius of that genre look no further than T. Pratchett.
Tim was cute in a very middle-class English way. He was tall, dark and attractive looking a little like a thinner version of Gerard Butler but without the Scots accent. He had a raft of neurosis that plagued him from habitual nail-biting to smoking forty Marlboros a day.
Tim had been born in Guildford. His parents were wealthy living in a mock Tudor six bedroom house that occupied five acres of land. He was one of two children with an older sister, Elspeth, who had dominated his childhood and whose very presence still made him feel hugely inadequate.
Tim had attended Charterhouse where he had excelled at English lit but was, according to him, ‘good at bugger all else.’ After leaving school he went to Oxford where he smoked copious amounts of weed, listened to endless lectures by a profusion of prominent professors and hung around doing a lot of nothing whenever he had the chance. In short, he had no ambition and was lazy.
There had been a time, shortly after Caleb’s death, when Heather had thought she and he might have had some sort of an affair but the moment had passed, either that or common sense had prevailed.
Heather put the letter back in her folder then picked up her Compboard. The new E-mails were not particularly urgent so she quickly went through them before replacing the computer on the glass surface.
There was one message that caught her eye. It was from Lydia Noble. Lydia was one of her friends; one of her two best friends.
Heather read the PodNote, laughed once then re-read it again. Lydia had booked a holiday in Turkey only to have forgotten that her boyfriend, Archie (“like a brick built shit house and hung like a stallion”) had booked the same fortnight in Rhodes.
“Just like my fella to cock-up but I can’t grumble, he is after all paying. You can have my ticket if you like. The place in Turkey belongs to an Uncle of his so no worries about money as Archie has had a word. It’s near Kalkan. Typically Turk but filled with Brits. You’ll love it. Please don’t say no. Sod work for once or take your damnable console with but for God’s sake take a break – you deserve it.”
Lydia’s presence on the network was not enough, she also wrote a blog, contributed to others and fired PodNote’s over with frequent regularity. Heather enjoyed Lydia’s madcap attitude to life. With her, it was all or nothing, famine or feast. There were no grey areas in Lydia’s life. Things were black or white, good or bad. There was no room for ambivalence. There was no middle ground. Lydia didn’t creep into parties as Heather was inclined to; she strode in purposefully filled with confidence and brimming with life.
Lydia’s mood swings were as swift as they were changeable; one minute she was flying, the next digging her own grave. Of course, this was the downside to Lydia’s character which was not so easy to deal with. No one, apart from Heather, knew how to deal with this temperamental, ebullient, fun loving sometimes lunatic woman. It didn’t often affect their relationship but sometimes it did cause tension.
This though, this more than generous offer, was crazy even by Lydia’s standards. A holiday in Turkey? On her own? Why ever not, it might prove fun besides she was a big girl now and could take care of herself.
Heather had taken the odd day off, even one or two long weekends since Caleb’s passing but in truth, she had never quite got over that magical honeymoon the pair had in Morocco. If ever a time could frame a relationship then that summer spent in the dry sun in 2000.
They had spoken about returning there next year but Caleb had pulled a face.
“What’s wrong, I thought you liked Morocco?” queried Heather as she sipped Mocha from a generous cup while sitting in Gildo’s.
 “I did, I do but that was probably the best holiday I have ever had. I wouldn’t want to tarnish that memory. I want it to stay with me well into my dotage. Maybe go back there when we are both old and grey and the kids are off hand,” said Caleb.
“You want children, I didn’t know that?”
“It’s not a priority but someday yeah, assuming you do too?”
She smiled. “One day, yeah, I would but not yet though.”
He suddenly started laughing and she had no idea why.
“Why are you laughing? What’s so funny?”
He flapped his Danish about then put it back on his plate. Wiping his napkin over his mouth he responded huskily.
“I have just seen the future,” he sniggered,” You have a mocha moustache.”
Whatever the future held she knew nothing could ever eclipse that holiday or her love for the one man she had truly loved. She smiled to herself thinking of what they both referred to as Mochatash forever after.
Forever after? Six months later he was gone. A heart attack at thirty-four, what fucking freak of nature was that?
Picking up the console again she keyed in Kalkan. She took the second link down, the Brtipedia one.
Kalkan is a town on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, and an important tourist destination. The area includes many historical sites (such as Tlos and Kekova) and many fine beaches (including Patera & Kaputas Beach). 
Kalkan is an old fishing town, and the only safe harbour between Kas and Fethiye; it is famous for its white-washed houses, descending to the sea, and its brightly coloured bougainvillaeas. It averages 300 days of sunshine a year.
Then she scanned up to the first link, the one from the Kalkan Turkish website.
The historic town of Kalkan is an enchanting place and one of the most beautiful locations along Turkey's gorgeous Lycian Coast. With the absence of mass tourism, Kalkan remains a charming and unspoiled haven of lush nature, brilliant blue crystal-clear sea, historic architecture, ancient history and warm traditional Turkish hospitality.
Well, it certainly sounded nice. Why not?


The flight had been tedious, stale coffee and lukewarm food. The flight attendants had been more interested in their own gossip than the needs of their passengers. She had tried to sleep but the claustrophobic tube of the aeroplane coupled with the sound of a small child constantly crying prevented that.
     The rigmarole of Customs drifted by in a haze of echoing voices, an address system that cackled with different languages: French, English, Spanish and German; the rattle of trolleys as they battled their way through the panel of shops. A large woman stood with a thin man. He looked and behaved like her satellite constantly moving about her with sharp, quick movements. Finally, the torture ended as she found herself outside in the dark of night by the taxi rank.
     The hirsute driver, plump as a pigeon and balding with grim teeth, hurled her luggage into the back of his car. He spoke little English which was a godsend as she had no desire to converse with him. The drive was long but she slept for most of it. When she arrived the plump pigeon man with his black teeth left her luggage on the kerb side so that she had to struggle on her own, hauling bags into the porch before producing the villa’s keys from her purse.
     The villa was spacious. Cool tiles lined the floors. The living room merged with the kitchen. Two doors led from the living room, beyond one, was a trim bedroom while the other led to a bathroom with a toilet, bidet, basin and shower cubicle. A large wall-mirror ran from floor to ceiling.
     She went back to the kitchen which contained a complimentary bottle of wine around the neck of which was a welcome note. She didn’t read it but filled the kettle with water. Then she hunted through the cupboards looking for a coffee jar. The coffee made, she carried the mug into the bedroom where she undressed. She flopped, naked, onto the bed taking from her purse two pale purple tablets which she swallowed before sipping her drink.
     She laid back, hands by her side, looking firstly at the ceiling with its stain the shape of Spain before gazing back to her own body. She was thirty-two so the years had not started their insidious decline. Her breasts were small but pert, her stomach, as she lay on her back, concave, hollow. Her trimmed vulva with its single stripe of pubic hair curved between her open thighs.
     The drug started to work. She saw colours rainbow from her nipples and her toes. Hues of scarlet folded from her thighs before flying upward. A slight buzzing sounded in her head. It was like the sound of ladybirds in flight. From her navel, tiny winged creatures appeared climbing onto her stomach. They had faces but their features were so small she couldn’t see them clearly. At first, there were only a dozen or so but they kept appearing until a hundred or more sat, stood or lay upon her stomach, her breasts or down her thighs whilst some sat hunched upon her toes.
     She felt their tiny wings flutter against her skin like a butterfly kiss multiplied a hundred times. Her flesh tingled with pleasure. Some of the tiny people gathered around her vagina. She sat up to observe as they nestled against her pink opening, their wings brushing against her. A shudder coruscated through her so that she threw her head back, supporting herself upon her elbows.
     The feeling of heat that had passed through her suddenly changed as the winged fata flew up above her body before they mutated into autumn leaves that cascaded down with a whispered rustle. Leaves of crimson, of gold, of burnished copper fell in silent slow motion. The leaves covered her body utterly leaving no sign of her flesh. From beneath the debris a hushed, sensual, flowing motion could be clearly observed as if something under the fallen leaves were moving.
It felt as if tentacles were tickling her cleft and her anus, probing with delicate thrusts into her soft sanctuary. Although the villa’s windows were shut a wind blew in causing the leaves to rise like a mist above her. They hovered there as a multi-coloured mass before changing yet again into a pink cloud that was curved and bent around a sinking sun. The cloud remained aloft for moments before descending upon her. It covered the contours of her body with its drifting presence, rolling to and fro leaving moist trails that left silver lines on the flat of her belly. Then the cloud changed as a wealth of pink tongues floated free falling softly onto her stomach, her breasts, her ankle, and her thighs. They lapped at her nipples making them stand up like tiny, dark sentinels. They ran a circle around her navel, probing the whirl of her belly button with their pointed end. She felt six or more tongues start to lick at her labia. Then the drug dream, the hallucination started to fade as tiredness took its toll and she drifted off to sleep.
     She awoke hours later to find herself still on top of the bed. She felt rested but the dream remained. The morning drifted like a cloud formation, heavy and slow. She lazed about the villa wrapped in the towel then, as the sun flew at its fiercest, she went inside and showered. She turned the water down to lukewarm and stood stock still as the spray covered her body. Then she applied shampoo to her hair massaging the suds into her scalp. With her head hung slightly forward she watched as the soap ran a white line down between her breasts, over the slight protuberance of her stomach then down to her pubic hair where it cascaded between her feet.
     Climbing out of the cubicle she grabbed the same towel and dried herself. Then she coated herself with sun protecting lotion, her hands cupping her breasts before working the solution over her thighs and calves.
     She left the villa an hour later taking a leisurely walk to the beach. It was now ten forty-five.    
The Mediterranean beckoned like a pale hand dressed in a lace glove of turquoise. It wasn't yet eleven but already the temperature had risen to 85.
     She walked ankle-deep into the still, cool waters letting the sand ooze between her toes. She ambled further out allowing her skin to adjust to the shock of the ocean’s kiss.
Above her, the sun grew ever fiercer threatening her with its male arrogance. It subjected her and her fellow beach bums to yet another day of scorching summer heat. The water licked her thighs with a questing tongue and she enjoyed the sensation. Setting her head back and closing her eyes she faced the sky whilst the surf teased her flesh.
     She remained like this for a good few minutes then she looked down and away from the sky with its blazing jewel and after her eyes had refocused and readjusted she stared at the water where she could see hundreds of tiny fish shoaling about her calves. The touch of the water was delicious and she took another step forward and then another until her thighs sank beneath the placid, lapping waves whilst her crutch hung fractionally above the surf as it occasionally rose up to caress her sex.
She could feel the pull and tug of the tide as its gentle movements shuddered against her vagina and she felt herself become gradually aroused.
    A warm wind ran the faintest of breaths over her flesh making goose bumps rise on her skin. Tiny hairs stood to attention as the waft of breeze flowed over her.
     The water continued to lap and lick and its insistent motion acted like a tiny mouth that pulled at her bikini bottom and her labia, pulling then pushing her flesh, peeling apart her vaginal lips like fruit sending a warm sensation coursing through her sex into her thighs and belly. The material, silky but coarser than her skin, created a friction so that flesh and cloth, combined with the ocean’s delicate motion to arouse her even more.
     She stood like an ancient sacrifice or some historic monument, whilst the sea ran its salty fingers over her and the wind played her like a zither. And just like an ancient sacrifice she waited, legs apart, arms stretched at her side, flushed and hot, as nature worked its own kind of witchcraft on her flesh. She stayed like this, legs parted, head down, eyes closed as the waves washed over her and the burning glow ran within her. Never climaxing but with a constant throb that made her ache and her stomach tingle.
     From somewhere unseen and unnoticed he arrived, Swarthy, young but crudely handsome, a face not pretty, rugged perhaps. His brown eyes set below a fringe of chestnut hair damp from swimming, sparkled with mischief. He could have been no more than eighteen, far too young but oh so appealing. Dolphin slick and nimble he passed between her legs and then surfaced amid a boiling turmoil of bubbles and laughter.
     "Oh!” She cried bringing her arms up to her breasts.
He smiled at her wiping his hand over his face to skim off the water.
“Pretty lady and all alone.”
“Have you been watching me?"
     "Of course. I am, how you say, a lover of beauty and you are beautiful very.”
The flattery worked even if a little clumsy. She kept a straight face
     "You shouldn't be such a voyeur, such a pervert."
      He swam closer to her so that they were only an arm’s length apart.
     "I speak only a little English. So sorry. What is this Voy Yer?”
      He had a mischievous twinkle in his eye that made her smile.
     "I think you know more than you make out. What’s your name?"
     "Costas, Costas Dimitriades "
     He moved toward her so that he stood inches from of her.
“Whoa,” thought Heather, “not so fast young man.” “You want a jig-a-jig?” His teeth flashed white, his eyes spoke desire
She stared dumbstruck. Had he really said that? He was rather cute but even so… He was gorgeous though. Incredibly attractive but she had never had a one-off, never even been tempted. Her life had been one of control. Her love of Caleb had gone down a traditional path. The first drink, then the meal – a courtship of sorts. It had been only after several dates that they had slept together.
 “Normal protocol is a bit of romance, perhaps dinner or a coffee.”
He shook his head.
“We live, we die. Life is short.”
The drugs had been a first. They had given her a longing she had, after all these years unleashed. There had been a time, for years after Caleb’s death, where she questioned her loyalty but no one remains loyal to a memory to the exclusion of personal happiness. Was this that though? A quick shag in the sea with no questions asked? No strings attached?
     "Come closer," he said.
     She did as he bade and moved into his arms, placing her arms around his neck. He put his hands on the cheeks of her bottom and lifted her up onto him saying,
     "Wrap your legs around me."
     Again she did as requested opening her legs and wrapping them around him. As she did this he pushed her bikini bottoms to one side, then pulled her onto him. She felt his erection enter her. She gasped. Wanting to kiss him but lost with the quixotic sense of being part of something insane.
     They stood like this with the water’s swell rising against them and moving them as if they were a buoy made of flesh.
She felt him inside her. Hard and solid and throbbing. He didn't thrust but simply stood with her planted firmly on his erect penis. The sea moved her slightly so that she rose and shifted as the tide moved her and with each tiny surf motion she felt the exquisite pleasures slow burning her clitoris and labia. Her vulva felt the gentle tug and pull and her womb began to churn as though a pot that has been placed on a stove on the least of flames but nonetheless, no matter how small the flame the pot will boil.
He still didn't thrust, allowing the primordial forces of nature to perform their magic. He could see in her eyes the pleasure mount and in the way, she gritted her teeth while moaning with a deep, low delight. The waters lifted her and then dropped her onto him with silent, slow shifts and both he and she felt the slow flame of desire course from pubis to belly.
     Then when he could take no more and he felt the first signs of his climax grow he began to probe her with deep and slow thrusts and then as his fire grew so he pushed faster and harder so that her head rolled loosely on her shoulders as she bit her lip until they both, in sweet desperation grunted then bellowed, climaxing in unison.
     When they had finished they remained locked in an embrace enjoying the warmth and comfort of their bodies. They stayed like this until they heard the approach of a gang of children who were peddling a small craft near them. Then they broke apart and swam back to shore.


Later she found a restaurant near the beach. Tables were laid out both in and outside. She spotted a table for two situated beneath a palm. She pointed toward it.
“Is that table free?” she asked.
The waiter nodded with histrionic affability indicating she should follow.
“Yes, yes. For you it is free. Please follow.”
She thanked him then seated herself at the table. The ocean shushed soft surf against the sand, a warm breeze blew. She smiled indulgently enjoying the sound and the darkening scenery. The waiter asked if she would like a drink? Some wine maybe? She said she would and then ordered a bottle of Rosé.







     Later, after the moon had risen and night fell curtain heavy she lay back on the bed. She thought she could still feel the effects of the drugs she took earlier. She found that hard to believe for it was now several hours since she had swallowed them. Perhaps it was the brief encounter with the Greek boy Costas that left her still aroused or maybe it was just the climate that had ignited her desires. She felt oddly insatiable. It was as though whatever had triggered this response she had stayed aroused. Notwithstanding her brief sexual liaison, she remained unsatisfied. She spread her legs like butterfly wings. Laying back in the heat, even at eight in the evening, the temperature was unbearable. Tender brown thighs exposed. Her needs were paramount. All else meant very little at this precise time. Even her fingers felt hot. Vulva raised high in anticipation. Moist, open and needy.
Caleb used to call her his comfort blanket for she always knew how to please him. Now she was doing that for herself. It had become routine since Caleb’s death for when you have no partner, no lover to satisfy her wants then they had to be satisfied by other means. Her hands fluttered across her abdomen like a flight of moths driven on by the ache of her sex.
Caleb had been so attuned to her needs and so able to satisfy them. His fingers could just as easily bring her to fulfilment as could his mouth or his erection. It was as if they had been made as jigsaw pieces that slotted together perfectly.
It wasn’t just the sex that had been good, though lord knows she missed it still, it had been the way that the one always knew how the other felt or was. When she had her period he knew before she did. When he was going to be late she knew long before the phone rang. If she was having a hard day at work he’d call asking what was wrong. Their relationship felt as though it had started in the womb, that somehow, by some odd miracle, they were twins of the soul.
Her fingers eager to find warm sanctuary within her pink folds.
The nub of her clitoris trembled as her forefinger fell against it sending shivers of delight coruscating across the camber of her belly.
 Her buttocks clenched together and her hips momentarily rose to meet the questing hand.
Was that it? Was the memory of the sex life that had instigated these feelings within her at some dark, animal instinctive level?
Perhaps. As love went it was as near perfect a match as you could want.
She touched herself again this time using forefinger and thumb rotating her desire as though she were feeling fabric, stroking one and then squeezing the other of her lips between thumb and forefinger.
She felt pleasure run like mercury down her parted thighs and into the dark corrugated recess of her anus. A liquid delight that flowed from her then coated her flesh like a trail of soft silk.
She bit her lip and tousled her hair and shifted her shoulders so that her back arched. The movements of her fingers were restricted to the outer reaches of her vagina, the labia, the vulva and the clitoris.
The darker pink of her inner self lay open and exposed and she circled it with her index finger. She drew random designs over and around it now using both her hands to titillate.
Oh, Caleb how I miss you still. You inside me. You in my mouth. Your mouth on me. Strong hands massaging my breasts. My hands running along your length. Our tongues caressing. Teeth biting soft shoulders. Wet traces of saliva of your stomach.
The vibrator lay to her side. She reached for it and thought she felt his hand fall upon hers. It felt as if he had been standing there watching her, a spectre from the past,
his erection obvious even through the fabric of his jeans. 
She smiled at him but continued to do what she was doing.
He slipped out of his clothes, flesh a pale shade of white, his eyes darker than they had been and stood before her with his erection standing tall and firm before him.
Oh, Caleb I still love you so. How I have missed you.
He took hold of her hands and put them to his face breathing in the musky odour of her then he put her fingers into his mouth and sucked upon them.
Her orgasm when it came shook her. Her stomach muscles went into spasm, she squirmed with delight, her face contorted in pain/pleasure. Her breath came in heavy gulps. She was desperately dragging in air to fill her lungs having held her breath throughout her climax.
She was weeping now not for the pleasure of release but for the reality of the hallucination, for the brief respite it gave her from her sense of loss. They say time is a healer but they, whoever they may be are wrong.

When she awoke the following morning it was after having spent a dreamless night. If she had dreamt then she couldn’t remember. She languidly stretched linking her hands in front of her as she yawned. Outside the day was bright. The sun was already blessing the sky which was cloud free. She looked at her watch that she left on the cabinet beside the bed. It was ten fifteen.
She climbed out of bed feeling the cool of the floor tiles as her feet touched them. It was already warm, too warm to bother with a robe so she drifted toward the kitchen touching things as she went. The cream coloured walls, the onyx door handle, the figurine on the landing table, the handrail that followed the curve of the stairwell. It was as if by touching solid items that yesterday’s escapades grew less surreal, that reality and that what felt so dreamlike where in fact part of the same existence.
She hadn’t really given the villa a second glance yesterday so now she ran an appraising eye over it. Upstairs were three large bedrooms each with an en-suite but also with a separate bathroom. A tall, modernist painting, hung from the wall above and behind the table with the figurine on it. Tasteful, neat but she suspected not particularly authentic. She doubted the average Turk lived in homes like this. The stair curved to the right. The handrail was of polished, pale wood, the steps of marble. At the foot of the stairs a large room, the living area come kitchen, was decorated with more works of art. Two caramel coloured leather sofas faced each other over a long, oddly shaped coffee table which again was made of marble. There was a large television and beside it, set some three or four feet from it, a tall bookcase filled with paperbacks. To the left of the living room was the kitchen. Less attractive and more utilitarian, functional with hob, oven, fridge and a rather deep sink. A collection of three stainless steel stools finished in brightly coloured seats ranged around a banana-shaped breakfast bar. Outside the sun danced upon a narrow, long pool. Beyond that, a garden, small and filled with very Mediterranean looking plants, seemed surprisingly green.
Heather trailed her fingers across the breakfast bar, opened the patio doors and stepped out into the sunlight. A cat, a neighbours perhaps, or one of the many feral animals found in Turkey, wandered over to her rubbing its head against her leg. She leant forward and tickled its head. It meowed sounding remarkably like a small child.
“Hello, you. Live around here don't you? Want some milk? Let’s see what’s in the fridge.”
She knew Lydia have filled the fridge for her friend and sure enough, a carton of milk, unopened, sat on the shelf. The cat continued rubbing its head against her leg then, seeing her bring the carton out, stretched up on its back legs and meowed all the more.
“Ok, Ok, I’m doing it.”
Heather opened a wall cabinet which was filled with packets of things, cereal and biscuits then opened another took a small bowl down from the shelf, half-filled it before placing it on the floor. The nameless cat instantly pounced and began lapping the liquid.
Heather looked around the kitchen, rooting in the cupboards and drawers. She found a loaf of bread which was unlike any she had seen before, cut two slices, put them in the toaster then dug out some butter and then a pot of jam, apricot.  She filled the kettle in preparation for making instant coffee.
The cat was still drinking as though it hadn’t for days and, who knows, maybe it hadn’t thought Heather.
The toaster tossed the bread, slightly underdone, into the air. Scooping up the slices she buttered them quickly then spread the jam on. She poured hot water onto the coffee, spooned in two sugars then with one slice of toast firmly between her teeth with the other in her left hand and the coffee mug in the right she sauntered out onto the patio where she flopped into a cushioned chair.
“This is the life.” She mumbled through a mouth full of jam and toast.
The cat, having had its fill of milk slinked out to sit beside her. It looked up with pleading eyes so she held her arms apart leaving space on her lap. The cat sprang up, curled into a ball and then closed its eyes.
Heather smiled, ate the second slice of toast, sipped at her coffee as she stroked the cat’s side. She could hear its ‘motor’ running, that deep thrumbing that sounded a cross between pleasure and a threat.

Morocco. The name conjured magic. The hotel she and Caleb stayed at was even called Branca Casa. The choice of country had been theirs, the city, Caleb’s. He was such a romantic. Heather loved that old film. When she realised, after they had disembarked the airship and climbed inside a dusty old taxi, an antique American Oldsmobile, as Caleb instructed the cabbie to take them to Hotel Branca Casa, she squealed with delight.
The Hotel was quite grand if a little shabby with a modicum of chic thrown in. She doubted Sam had played the piano here but hey, what the heck, she could pretend.
Their room overlooked the Atlantic, a deep blue ocean playing its shade against that of the sky. Silver coloured sand eased its way into the sea. A series of canopied parasols cast odd shapes. Bathers could be seen splashing and diving, swimming in the great expanse of water.
Caleb pulled up beside her having just unpacked their cases. He thrust his arm around her waist and pulled her close.
“Beautiful isn’t it?”
Heather nodded placing her hand on his, feeling the weight of his arm against her middle.
“Yes, it is. Magical beyond words.”
“The hotel has a house band that plays all the songs from the film. Every Wednesday. They begin at eight. I have two tickets.”
“One for me then, who gets the other one?”
He picked her up swinging her around the room before tossing her onto the bed. She bounced and giggled with arms and legs flailing. She rolled onto her stomach fluttering her eyes, licking her lips in a provocative manner.
“I don’t know if you realise but it is our honeymoon.”
She patted the mattress.
He cocked his head to one side, folding his arms over his chest.
“I hear the shower is big enough for two.”
“Really?” she replied in mock seriousness, “I would need to see for myself obviously, check out the plumbing as it were.”
He nodded his head, rubbing his hands together as he did.
“Of course. I always like to make sure that the faucet and spigots work. If you’ll let me I’ll show you the facilities.”
He held out his arm. She slipped off the bed and placed her arm through his.
“Lead on,” she said grinning.

Having showered, ensuring water flow was consistent and that all those hard to get at places were examined, explored and er, cleaned, the couple went down to the bar where they drank Cointreau. “They drank it in the film,” insisted Caleb.
“How do you know that?” She laughed.
“I am a man of useless information. It comes in handy when trying to pick up females in grocery stores.”
She laughed that odd laugh of hers, a sort of snort come wheeze that always made him laugh too.
“You didn’t pick me up. I’d lost my purse and you volunteered to pay for me. We went back to mine where I paid what I owed, offered to make you a cup of tea which you then declined.”
“Always a gentleman, that’s me.”
“We then bumped into each other..”
“Literally.”
“…when you drove into my car at the library.”
“I didn’t drive into you, you reversed into me.”
She took a gulp from her Cointreau, swallowed, raised her hand holding the glass and pointed a finger at him.
“Same difference. You weren’t looking where I was going. Anyway, that was our second meeting and it was when you asked me out on a date.”
“Speaking of which, fancy going down to the beach or maybe look around the town. It is the richest, most prosperous city in Morocco.”
“That’s tautology.”
“Huh?”
“Rich and prosperous, same thing. It is redundant speech therefore tautologous.”
“There speaks a literary agent. Now then, town or beach?”
Spoiled for choice they did both.
Walking along the beach hand in hand, feet in the surf, shoes in a bag slung across Caleb’s back. It was her bag but he had insisted on carrying it. His sense of romance had a charm all its own, a little old fashioned perhaps but she liked that.
They passed a stall, more a cart on buckled wheels, selling T-shirts. Heather saw one she liked. It was a picture of Joni Mitchell, in fact, a self-portrait. Caleb asked if she wanted it. She just laughed that snort/wheeze of hers so he went over and bought it for her along with a bangle that he liked. He suggested she put it on which meant taking off the blouse she was wearing so she said no.
“I’ll wear it in bed tonight.”
“Just that?”
“And the bangle.”
Ahead of them, strung together and shivering on the warm water of the Atlantic, were half-a-dozen pedalos. A little away from them and to Heather and Caleb’s right was a large cabin that had a wooden veranda skirting the outer structure. There was a sign advertising Coca-Cola, Ice Cream and Milkshakes.
“Want one?” Asked Caleb jabbing a finger at the sign.
“One what?”
“Milkshake.”
Children skittered across the soft sand kicking up dust as their feet dug in. Upon comfortable breezes, a lone kite hovered. Heather caught a brief glimpse of the string and followed it down to where a father and daughter were toying with the air currents above.
Outside the shop, set onto grass mats, were a collection of tables topped with large parasols that stretched their shadows in awkward shapes shielding the customers from the sun.
Heather went to a vacant table whilst Caleb went and bought the milkshakes. He returned ten minutes later apologising for taking so long. “Hell of a queue.” He explained. In each hand, he had two enormous glasses filled to the brim with one strawberry and one banana milkshake.
“I think I’ll burst if I eat those,” giggled Heather placing one hand on the base of the glass while with the fingers of the other she pulled the straw to her lips. “Delicious,” she said, “really yummy.”
A football rolled up against Heather’s leg. She looked up and saw before her a young boy of about eight. He stood with arms by his side breathing hard as though he had been running. He looked from Heather to Caleb to the ball at Heather’s foot.
She smiled at him and tapped the ball with her foot. It rolled over to him and she winked at him grinning. The boy smiled back. “спасибо!” he shouted then ran away.
“That wasn’t Moroccan was it?” Asked Heather.
“Russian,” said Caleb wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
Heather nodded, took another suck on her straw delighting in the silky taste of strawberry milkshake.
“Do you think anything will ever come of the obvious dislike Federal Europe has with the States, I mean it is only Germany and France that keep the Russians happy isn’t it?”
Caleb wiped his forefinger around the circumference of his glass cleaning the last vestige of banana milkshake before sucking it off his digit.
“Europe has enough to worry about what with inviting Spain and Italy to join them, their economy is hardly in a healthy state is it. Then there is this constant threat of the Chinese hanging over them. I think Europe has enough on its plate without antagonising the Yanks.”
“Still, theirs is a fractious relationship. Besides China would never dare attack Russia. It would start a war,”
The boy had caught up with his parents and was kicking the ball behind them. Large gulls flocked to a packet of spilt food. One bird attacked another sending the rest screeching into the sky. White birds on a blue horizon.
Heather and Caleb left the shack. Walked on down the beach holding hands heading toward the town. Casablanca was the richest and one of the most important cities in North Africa. With a population of near five million the man-made port, the largest in Africa was a vibrant gateway leading from one diverse cultural to another. With Spain to the north, a member of Federal Europe since 1999, Algeria to the east and Mauritania to the south. And there it was, nestling against Mauritania, Western Sahara. That arid mystical myth of dried bones and treasures hidden beneath the sands, a promise and a threat, a divine mystery daring the brave to uncover its secrets. It was also a wake-up call for, paradoxically, where life hummed and throbbed in the city of Casablanca, where the sea blessed the shore and hot water ran from shower heads, pools filled with tourists, only a stone’s throw away was a dry reality that would as soon as burn your eyes out once you stepped into its furnace embrace. It was here where civilisation meets a harsh mistress.
“Do you worry that China might soon restart its empire building?” Asked Heather as she bent to tie her laces. It wasn’t such a random question, many in Albion, and further afield in Europe, we're asking the same question.
Caleb laughed softly. “It really bothers you doesn’t it?”
Heather pulled a face, dragging the muscles around her mouth so it formed an inverted U.
“I guess it does. There hasn’t been a war in over ninety years. The French were never as powerful as the Chinese are now.”
“Listen. If war comes then let it. We will face that eventuality if and when. Until it does let’s live our lives for as long as we have them, together. One day at a time is my motto.”
She squeezed his hand. He had a way of making the prosaic seem an epiphany. The thought of not having him nearby scared her. This was in itself odd for they had only known each other such a short while, a whirlwind romance in fact. In that time he had become the centre of her world. She looked at him to see him looking back at her, smiling.
“Penny for them?”
“What am I, a guy?”
He laughed. Tugging at her hand he pulled her toward him.
“See that, that’s Casablanca, the town I mean. Isn’t it something?”
This was him, the core of what he was – a child excited by the new.
“So are you,” she said pulling his hand up to her mouth then kissing his fingertips.

Heather awoke with a start. Her lap was still warm from where the cat had been laying but the cat was gone. Her coffee had grown lukewarm. She drank if anyway. Getting up she stretched thinking it odd she should have dozed off so soon after waking for breakfast.
The dream, more memory really, had been beautiful. The thought of that time no longer left her with the ache it did even if thoughts of Caleb still pained her.
She looked around to see where the cat had gone but there were no signs of him, or possibly her, so she went inside placing the empty mug in the sink. Wash it later she told herself.
She retraced her steps going back upstairs to the en-suite in her room. Stripping off she turned the shower on, left it to run as she cleaned her teeth. Lydia really had thought of everything. There was even a bottle of mouthwash. Using it she gargled then spat the contents into the sink running cold water as she did. Then she sat on the loo and emptied a bladder she should have done upon waking.
Stepping into the shower she luxuriated in the water as it flowed over her. A Taking a bath was better of course for you could lay in the water relaxing, maybe read a book or listen to music but she wanted the exhilaration, the energising whoosh that a shower gave. It was like coffee, better in fact, it woke you up.
Once finished she wrung her hair out then grabbed a hand towel which she tied turban fashion about her head then she took the larger bath sheet and wrapped it around her torso. Half an hour later, hair still damp (she seldom used a hairdryer as she thought it ruinous) she stepped outside the villa and, looking to her right where, in the near distance, the ocean shimmered a silver blue, she started walking in that direction.
Stray dogs wandered about oblivious to the humans they passed. A car, old dusty and dilapidated struggled up the hill going the opposite direction she was taking. Inside the vehicle, a wizened old man with vulture features, more lines on his face than a roadmap stared at her. Seated next to him was an equally shrivelled old lady who sat holding a chicken on her lap.
Before leaving for her holiday Heather had phoned her parents. They had been due a call anyway but due to her sister’s death with the enormous loss they, as any parent would feel, of their youngest daughter it seemed only right to let them know she was okay and would only be away for a short while.
Her mother answered the phone sounding businesslike as usual. Obviously pleased to hear her eldest daughters voice and grateful for the call. Heather’s mother said her father was unable to come to the phone. Heather knew why. He had always favoured her sister and was finding the death hard to cope with. Of course, he would, she believed, had reacted the same had it been her buried before her time but her sister had been his pride and joy.
Perhaps she shouldn’t have taken a vacation so soon after the funeral? She hadn’t thought of it before. Had she been a little thoughtless? She supposed she had but hadn’t meant to cause hurt.
Her mum seemed glad to speak with her as she wished her a happy holiday and then telling her to bring back some small memento. “A stick of rock would do.” Heather said she didn’t think the Moroccans made such things but would find something for them both.
Telling her mum she loved her and to tell dad she loved him too she said goodbye. A sad sort of silence filled with a sense of loss and of fear remained after the phone line had disconnected.
Arriving at the beach she saw a tented café with a set of tables covered in plastic cloths. A young man was serving a family of four, from Albion judging by their voices. He saw her and beckoned her over. She smiled and nodded consent ambling across to him.
Sat at a seat by the front of the café was an elderly lady, perhaps the younger man’s grandmother, who smiled a broken-toothed smile at Heather.
“Teeee?” she gesticulated miming the act of pouring from a pot. “Teeee?” she stretched the last letters into an elongated, exaggerated syllable. “Inglish teeee?”
Heather nodded and smiled. “Please,” she said following to where the grandson indicated a table.
When the tea arrived it came upon a bent old tarnished metal tray. There was a pot, a mug (no cup and saucer) a bowl of sugar that had had one too many wet spoons dipped in it leaving the content clumpy and tea stained and a jug of hot milk.
She thanked the man and, as he held his hand out, placed a note on his palm telling him to keep the change. He nodded his appreciation and thanked her.
“I have boat.” He announced rather proudly. “I am captain. I take you for see in glass bottom. You like glass bottom?”
She felt like saying she rather liked a bottom that was tight, pert and firm but didn’t.
“Okay,” she replied, “once I have drunk my tea you show me your boat.”
He waggled his head so vigorously his body moved in a jerky fashion.
“You like, you see. You like glass bottom. I take you see sunken city. It is Atlantis.”
“Atlantis?”
“Yes, yes,” he nodded energetically, “Atlantis of the Ocean buried deep beneath Atlantic.”
She smiled not liking to point out that Kalkan was on the Med and not the Atlantic. She poured the tea into the mug then followed with the hot milk. Oddly enough it didn’t taste that bad. It wasn’t tea, or anything even like it but it was hot and it was tasty enough. No sooner had she sipped her last sip than the ferociously nodding Moroccan, the captain come café owner, appeared at her shoulder.
“We ready? Give you one hell of surprise when you see my big one. This way, my boat this way. Big one yes?”
The honest answer would have been, no, the boat wasn’t big. Rusty, yes. Dilapidated, certainly but big, no. It sat squat and ugly on the water. If there was a tide, and ebb and flow of water then the boat gave no indication of such. It seemed unmovable as though it were part of a concrete block upon which it was fixed and not moored to the jetty..
“My name Bülent. I captain of glass bottom boat. You come aboard now.”
The thought had occurred to her that one lone female accepting a ride of any sorts in a foreign land could be dangerous. She looked at Bülent, a man of five-six, tiny arms, thin wrists and lacking any real muscles. Sure, looks could be deceiving but even she, at barely five foot, felt confident she could take care of herself. Anyway, she sensed no danger in either the man or the situation. Taking hold of his outstretched hand she climbed on board.
He followed on behind her indicating for her to sit to his left on a crudely crafted wooden seat. She did as asked and watched as he started the engine by pressing a small black button. A guttural spluttering like a choking bovine rocked the vessel. There then followed silence. Bülent pressed the button again and this time the engine fired properly. Walking forward Bülent untied the rope, wrapped it around the cleat then ambled aft as the prow swung out. He repeated the same thing and then sat down with his left arm on the rudder and the right on a silver lever. He gently pushed the throttle forward and the boat began to move away from the jetty.
A natural upturned U forms an inlet, a bay which protects that part of the shoreline from the major swell of the Mediterranean Sea. It was around this cove that Bülent was steering Heather.
The water was at first calm but then, as the prow cut through the surf and the boat left land behind so the waters became increasingly choppy. Spray splashed against Heather’s face. She brushed a loose strand away from her forehead and turned when she heard Bülent laugh.
“It OK. Water get splashy out here. It safe.”
She believed him. Smiling back she raised her thumb.
The coast was some way distant. It looked indistinct with a seaborne haze hiding its features. Later she was to learn that the bay they were on was Kalkan Bay and that Bülent had steered the boat to starboard so that the shore, seemingly far away now lay to her right.
“Look now, look. In glass bottom. You see ancient city drowned,” shouted Bülent above the noise of the engine.
Painfully aware of the short summer skirt she was wearing she bent down and looked through the so-called glass bottom which in fact was a bucket-like device with a glass screen.
At first, she could see nothing just one or two fish then, as another spray of water hit her neck she saw what looked like columns of masonry. The columns were vaguely Greek or perhaps Roman. Then she saw what might have once been a house or at least part of one. Then the sea turned murky again so she sat up.
“No, no, bend over. Look. See head of God’s.”
She bent again not liking the look on Bülent’s face. She suspected he was eyeing up her arse. Then she saw the head, featureless now, of some statue sunk in the silt and mud of the Turkish coast. She remained bent over until sure they had passed over this tourist Atlantis. Sitting up Bülent once again remonstrated with her to look in the glass bottom of the boat.
“You perv,” thought Heather, “I should have worn jeans.”
She shook her head. “Enough, I’ve seen enough.”
Bülent pulled a face. Exasperation or frustration? It was hard to tell. He leant against the rudder following the coastline.
“I take you see my friends. Get you nice coffee or nice Coke. Maybe some food you eat?”
So that was the deal. Client buys tea. You suggest boat ride, which she still had to pay for, you take a client to some godforsaken backwater where said friends sell her more food and drinks client doesn’t really want. Client? No, far too upmarket – customer.
The boat chugged noisily into a tiny bay with a rickety jetty. Waiting on cue was a tall moustached man who caught the mooring rope thrown by Bülent. He smiled rakishly at Heather offering her his hand as Bülent secured the lines.
“You for coffee? Some cake maybe?”
Heather smiled. What else could she do? “Thank you.”
Barefooted children ran about chasing cats, tiny cats; a new litter perhaps for there on a fractured wall a larger cat, black and white, perhaps the mother, lay sleeping with one eye open. It was gazing at her. The kittens leapt and tumbled play fighting with each other while by some small miracle managing to avoid the feet of the children.
The moustached man bowed his head a fraction and held his hand up with knuckles facing her. He beckoned her to follow. He led her to a seat where Bülent, acting as interpreter, asked her what she’d like to drink.
“Coke please.”
“Just coke?”
“Yes please.”
“And some food? Maybe a sandwich toasted cheese? You like?”
She nodded feeling like she’d been mugged.
It was hot now, approaching midday. Turkey seldom gets cold. Even in winter when it rains the temperature stays at about sixty.
Heather sat thinking of her parents hoping they were both okay. She’d have to get a postcard, one with a pretty picture of Kalkan on the front, and send them. Normally she’d have done the same for her sister but there was no point now.
She turned sharply upon hearing voices speaking in English. A man and woman, dressed in only the way English tourists can, were speaking to Bülent who was apparently working tables. He nodded in his emphatically as he did.
“Seat, seat you take seat. Me get you menu near pretty English lady. You then have two roses to make with, yes?”
The man, large ears like Disney’s Dumbo and face filled with youthful excitement even though he had to be in his sixties, laughed with some embarrassment. Seeing Heather he led his wife (Heather presumed she was such) to a table, pulled the chair back for her then gently pushed it under her knees. She sat and smiled at Heather.
“Hello my dear, I’m Hen and this is Parminter, my husband. Nice to meet you.”
Hen was dumpy, had two chins, bright sparkly eyes and looked like everyone’s favourite mum.
“Been here before?” Asked Parminter settling himself into the chair which seemed rather wobbly to him.
“First time I’ve been to Turkey,” confessed Heather, “how about you?”
“We come here every couple of years, dear,” said Hen, “we tend to hop one year to the next between Greece and Turkey.”
“Might go to Antibes next year,” suggested Parminter.
“That’s in France. Haven’t been there for years!” Exclaimed Hen.
They were a nice couple. Heather liked them.
“I’m forgetting my manners. My names Heather.”
Parminter smiled. It was the sort of genuine smile a child has when encountering something new and exciting. Quite why he was being like this to her was beyond her but there was an air of pleasant artlessness about him.
“As I said, I’m Parminter, Parminter Fullcock and this is my wife, Henrietta or Hen for short.”
“And I am!” Laughed Hen.
“You are what dear?” Asked a puzzled Parminter.
“Short!”
They all laughed, Heather, making her odd snorting sound which seemed to make the Fullcock’s laugh all the more. They really were nice people.
Bülent returned carrying a tray with a can of Coke and a plate containing two slices of cheese on toast. He placed the plate down first, put a knife and fork either side of the plate the plonked the can of Coke top left.
“Enjoy!” He shouted magnanimously as though running a Bingo Hall.
Smiling at the Fullcock’s he shuffled away.
“Tuck in dear. Don’t wait. Doesn’t look like you’ve got the pickings of a chicken there. Trouble is the foreign types, nice though they are, simply don’t know how to feed the likes of us.”
But you do, thought Heather looking at Hen’s figure.
Doing as instructed Heather ate her food which tasted better than it looked. She had finished before the Bülent returned to ask husband and wife what they would like to eat.
“Chips” Do you do chips?” Asked Parminter giving Bülent a strange look as though he doubted a Turk would understand the concept of cooking a common root vegetable before slicing it into wedges.
“We do a many chips. Potatoes too. With chips you like the eggs? Maybe some bacon, fried, yes?”
Parminter clapped his hands together. “Just the ticket,” he smiled broadly happy to find somewhere that prepared wholesome food.
“Just ticket? We don’t do this ticket. Sorry. Maybe salad?”
“No, no. Eggs, bacon and chips will do us fine. Thank you.”
Bülent nodded so vigorously this time his feet appeared to leave the floor as though his efforts had given him flight.
“Okey dokey, pig in the pokey. I go get. One minute only.”
Twenty minutes later Bülent returned carrying two enormous plates filled with mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, beans, fried bread and two eggs sunny side up.
“Excellent!” Enthused Parminter. “Good lord, what a splendid meal. Way to start the day eh even at lunchtime.”
It transpired that the Fullcock’s were also staying in Kalkan, in a villa not far from Lydia’s. “We’ll give you a lift back,” said Hen which Heather gratefully accepted. She didn’t fancy another trip on the glass bottom boat especially if the only bottom worth studying as far as Bülent was concerned was hers.
She paid Bülent his due. Thanked him and his friend with the moustache for their hospitality then turned to go. One of the kittens took a fancy to her and started rubbing itself up against her calf. It meowed over and over and Heather was reminded of the cat she had met back at the villa. She picked it up and stroked it then put it back on the ground. It refused to go away and kept pestering her.
“You’ve got a friend there, dear,” smiled Hen.
“Take it. You can have it, pretty lady. Take it back to Albion,” Bülent said scooping the creature up and trying to give it to Heather. Parminter stepped in.
“Awfully kind of you but we couldn’t. Customs wouldn’t allow it. Sorry. Thanks again for the lovely lunch.”
The children ran around them. The kitten sat meowing as they walked away. Bülent smiled and nodded waving his hand almost as energetically as he did his head. He looked like a dysfunctional windmill with its component parts operating independently and randomly to the rest.

When they finally got home to the villa Heather thanked them for the lift and, as Hen extended an invitation for Heather to dine with them that night, she accepted. Parminter said they would collect her. They agreed to meet at eight. It was now five thirty-five so that gave her a little over two hours to get ready.
She went inside and ran a bath. As the water was running she opened the patio doors to let some air in. The villa was hot and stuffy. She went around opening all the doors that faced out onto the garden.
Stripping off her clothes which she left strewn about the bedroom she then stepped naked into the kitchen, opened the fridge door and took out the bottle of wine. Pouring herself a generous glass she took the drink upstairs to the bathroom and eased herself into the bath.
The water was hot, filled with bubbles that came up to her chest. She sipped at the wine, placed the glass beside her and then settled back in the embracing warmth with her left hand hanging languidly over the edge.
She felt all her cares drift away as the balmy effects of the hot water made her eyes grow heavy as sleep tried to claim her. Something brushed against her hand. She shrieked and pulled her hand up and away from whatever it was.
The cat, the same one she had first encountered earlier that day, shot away terrified. It stopped by the door, back slightly arched, looking at her. It made a puzzled mewling sound as if asking what on earth was wrong.
Heather sighed as much with relief as with exasperation.
“What is it with me and cats? Bloody Turkey seems full of flipping moggies. Ok,, OK, I didn’t mean to frighten you but you just scared the living shit out of me.”
She made some weak attempts at cat speak. It sounded dreadful but nonetheless had an effect for the cat pricked its ears up and slowly moved toward her. It brushed its head against her hand so she scratched its ears, then tickled it beneath its chin. It lay down beside the bath and curled up, eyes shut.
Heather slid back into the water and did the same. At least she now had three friends here – Hen and Parminter and the cat, whatever its name was.

At eight, right on the dot, Parminter pulled up in his hire car. Hen was beside him dressed up as only the English on vacation can. Parminter had opted for a pale blue shirt and chinos. Heather was wearing a simple dress of black with a pair of mules.
“You look lovely my dear. Here, let me get the door for you. Locked the villa up have you?”
She thanked him and said she had.
Parminter obviously knew his way around. He took the roads without referring to the map Hen diligently held on her lap. They parked the car in a municipal car park. Hen dug around in her handbag for her purse and paid the fee. They walked the back streets where, or so she informed Heather, the real side of the town could be seen.
To the left was a group of shops with a restaurant at the end. Outside a man dressed in white shirt and black trousers stood. He waved at the three of them inviting them to look at his menu. Beyond was a larger area of shops and to the left of that, a slight incline with more shops and restaurants banked along the edges.
They walked up this street past shops filled with a variety of goods. From paintings of the local area to watches to general bits of tat.
Heather and Hen stopped to look at handbags. Parminter hung back looking up and down the street. He could see the town square. Groups of people were gathered there.
Spotting a shop selling books, Turkish, French and English, Parminter sauntered over and began browsing. He had plenty of time as the girls spent, what seemed to him an inordinate amount of time, lusting after a range of bags that held no interest to him at all.
He came across an old book covered in blue cloth. It was embossed and gold foiled. The title was Nautical Ships and Boats of the Empire. He opened it and begun leafing through the pages. There were a beautiful array of line drawings of various seagoing vessels. Yes, he thought, I like this. The price tag was a tad expensive but he could afford it, besides, he rarely treated himself so why not.
As he was thanking the man for wrapping the book and taking his change so Hen and Heather walked in.
“Bought yourself something pet?” Asked Hen.
“A book about old boats. And you? What’s that behind your back?”
Hen giggled. It was the laugh of a schoolgirl thought Heather not that of a woman in her sixties.
“Well, you know me, I never could resist a good bargain.” As she said this she flashed the bags from behind her, three, which all appeared filled with handbags.
“Good lord. Where will you keep all those?”
Hen didn’t bother answering preferring to deflect the question to Heather who also had bought goods. Parminter, soft of heart, smiled.
“Okay. If that’s what you want. Shall we make our way to the café sort of place? You know Hen, where you have to remove your shoes and sit cross-legged on cushions.”
“I shan’t be doing that again. Take my shoes off maybe but I’ll sit on one of those cushioned benches if you don’t mind. The last time I struggled to get up again.”
The café in question was on the corner, the right-hand side, as they walked up the hill.  The customary figure waited outside and bowed formally as they approached. He waited as the party took off their shoes then showed, with a theatrical wave of his hand, where they should sit. As the place was empty it was a pointless display but the smiled at him before settling down.
“We came here last time didn’t we pet?” Asked Hen looking around her re-establishing dusty memories.
“We always come here my love whenever we holiday in Turkey.”
An English speaking waiter arrived at Parminter’s elbow. He was prim, tall and looked like a Stork. He took their request for drinks, asking if they would like olives to which they all replied in the positive and then left. As he walked away, bird-like and with irregular, choppy movements, his legs appeared to unfold from beneath him then slapped down hard covering several feet with one single stride.
He returned carrying a tray upon the flat of his upraised hand so that the platter was level to his right ear. His gait, jerky in the extreme, did not spill a single drop. He then, with another flourish, brought the drinks down, still upon the tray, to the table the three of them were sitting at. With fingers tapered and bony he plucked each glass, without checking he was giving the right person the drink they ordered, in front of each of them. All the correct drinks arrived with the corresponding person.
“Thank you,” they all said in sequence.
The man nodded and again left without a squawk or a rustle of a feather, his legs once more swallowing yards as he walked.
The sipped their drinks making small talk as they did. Heather enjoyed their company. She felt no pressure to select conversation as there always seemed something to say. They spoke of their lives, of hers in London, theirs in Dorset near a delightful, if slightly odd, village - Fekenham Swarberry.
They liked the sound of London and both said they had visited but they couldn’t understand how anyone would want to live there.
“Too busy,” said Parminter.
“Too noisy,” added Hen.
She said she liked cities, liked the vibe they gave, the buzz of activity. They asked if she had ever visited Winchester. She said she hadn’t although she had, during the course of her job, been to Salisbury. They told her Winchester was better and that she should visit. She promised she would.
“You never know you might prefer it to the Smokes,” suggested Parminter.
Who knows, she thought, maybe she would.
The light started to fade as day said a reluctant goodbye to the sun. The evening drew on with dusk as its herald. They finished their drinks, thanked their hosts and left making their way to the restaurant Parminter had selected.
“I know it well. We have eaten here many times.”


Like virtually all restaurants in Turkey, this one had the obligatory sentry come sales bod standing outside. This one was female and, more surprisingly, English. She seemed to know the Fullcock’s for she welcomed them like old friends. Chatting away, asking them how business was, what was going on in Fekenham, was Arthur somebody or other still the village lothario all whilst leading them to a table reserved for four (apparently Parminter had pre-booked). As Hen busied herself talking to this woman they appeared to know Parminter leaned close to Heather and whispered confidentially.
“She comes from out neck of the woods. Her name is Tessa. Used to live in Muckleford. One of Arthur Bentwhistle’s old flames. I’ll explain more over the first course.”
He held his finger to his lips and winked. Heather nodded trying not to laugh. It all sounded so sordid.
During the course of the meal Parminter, with interjections from Hen, filled Heather in on all the detail. How Tess and local publican Arthur Bentwhistle had had an affair and how Tess had left her husband for her lover only to find out he had no intentions of leaving his wife. Hurt beyond belief, both by her own stupidity but also by Arthur’s lack of honesty and commitment to her, Tess had moved to Turkey, to Kalkan where, as luck would have it, she met a man, slightly older than herself, who loved her and whom she loved in return. Together, ten years ago now, they set up a business together, the very restaurant they were eating in, and hadn’t looked back.
Heather found herself bizarrely angry. Not at the publican, although he seemed a louse, but at the stupid way in which Tess had been so easily fooled. Hen explained that Bentwhistle was like that and Tess had been taken in by his rustic charms. To which Heather replied, rather cryptically thought Parminter, that women should wake up and smell the coffee before they committed to such low lifes.
“Have you been hurt in love?” Asked Hen leaning forward with elbows on the table the better to study Heather’s face.
“No,” replied Heather, “I was one of the lucky ones. I found the right man.”
“I didn’t think you were married,” said Parminter.
“He died,” stated Heather matter-of-factly.
Hen leant even further forward, so far that Heather thought she might as well sit on her lap.
“That is awful. I am so sorry pet.”
Heather creased her face with a maudlin smile. It spoke volumes even if she said little.
A little way off a rumpus was going on. One of the diners, another Englishman, was getting increasingly annoyed. Apparently, he was unhappy with something, the meal presumably, and had demanded to speak with the management. Tess and her husband had arrived and were trying to placate him.
“It isn’t the meal,” the man, mid-thirties, stocky with a face one could only describe as having character, “I keep telling you, the food is fine. It is this bloody table that is crap. The is a gust of wind that keeps blowing, not that its cold mind, and it frankly I irritating. Is there no else in this godforsaken eatery when I can sit in peace and eat my food.”
Tess’s husband explained that this night the restaurant was full. There were no other tables available. Tess suggested that they, the management, would not charge for the meal and that the man could return tomorrow. He was having none of it.
“I am hungry now. I want to eat now. I do not want to go home on an empty stomach nor do I want to find somewhere else to eat. I want a better seat.”
Spotting the trouble, and heading it off at the pass as it were, Parminter got up, left Hen and Heather gawping at the fracas and went over to the man. They shook hands,  a heated debate began, the man nodded, smiled and then got up from his seat then together with Parminter walked back to the table the three friends were seated at. Parminter pulled out the spare chair indicating for him to sit.
“I have asked this gentleman to join us. He was having a spot of bother so I thought sharing our table the obvious solution. This is my wife, Hen,” said Parminter,  “and the lady seated here is Heather.”
“Hello,” said the man to Hen offering her his hand, then, looking directly at Heather whose fingertips he took and put to his lips. “I am Craggy Ampule Ponce. Very good to meet you, very good indeed.”








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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.