Story of Jett!

Story of Jet

A few years ago I was the single mother of an 18 year old son, Jett. An engaging, eloquent and talented young man. And yes, defiant at times, typically disorganised and impulsive. Like most his age, he thought he knew it all, and mum knew nothing.

I had told him every time he went out that he wasn’t to catch public transport alone, and naturally he assured me he wouldn’t. And naturally, I believed him.

Late one Saturday afternoon he hopped a train from his friends place to go to a party the other side of Sydney, and fell asleep on the train, overshooting his station. One stop short of ‘end of the line’ three youths woke him saying ‘Mate this is the last station’. It was in fact, the second last station really nothing more than a remote platform 1 km from a main road. Jett stayed on the station not knowing what to do as there was no guard, no timetable and no one else around. Thinking that the guys who were kind enough to wake him might help him out, he followed them to the car park and found himself alone with a group of
15 youths all milling around.

‘Mum I thought I was gonna die’

As their attention turned to him, he realised he was in trouble and unable to get back to the platform, tried to be friendly. But he was scared. I asked him later, ‘How did you feel when you realised you were in trouble’. ‘Mum I thought I was gonna die’, he answered.

Train Line for Josephine Hill

Jett was beaten pretty badly and left for dead and to this day carries the scars by way of three metal plates in his jaw. As he lay there dazed and confused he could hear them laughing, he said they seemed far away, Jett in fact was losing consciousness.

It’s still not clear how he managed to get back to the platform and press the emergency button, but he did and 5 police cars arrived, as this particular station was a well known ‘hang’ to the police, and he was taken to hospital.

I’ll never forget the phone call, the one that every parent dreads. After the operation, the detectives wanted to interview Jett, and did for hours. The detectives were kind, but relentless in their questioning. When I asked them why, they told me they believed that this gang was responsible for a spate of attacks in the area and were desperate to identify them before someone was killed.

Carpark with Josephine Hill

This is something I’ll never forget, seeing his body bruised and battered and the myriad of emotions you feel as a parent, first shock and disbelief that it could happen to your child, and then the anger comes, the rage, that tight ball in the pit of your stomach, then the guilt. You blame yourself. Then the helplessness and worry.

What if it happens again?

I’d always worried when Jett went out, even to early teen sleepovers with parental supervision, you always do as a parent, regardless of their age. Jett is now 22 and to this day I still can’t go to sleep until I know my son is safe.

Since that night 4 years ago, the thought was always in the back of my mind……’How can I protect my son?

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Do You know I LOVE YOU?

Charity Kamtaura Duburiya

by Charity Kamtaura Duburiya

It was in the weekdays on the 🌴sland of Nauru, both of us, my sister and I wearing our secondary school uniforms with buttoned white blouses, plain dark green skirts and short pants of black skin tights.

We were both happily cycling, riding and racing our bicycles alongside the footpath on the island road. On the 🌴sland there is a junction with the ‘run-about’ airstrip and my younger sister Mercedes and I took that odd road leading to the church. As we rode our bikes we could feel the heat of the sun soaring up high in the open blue sky on a midday, slightly burning and stinging on our arms and fleshly skins.

We couldn’t stop and hide under the coconut 🌴ree shades as we are already late for the Church Youth Choir practices. Mercedes suggested by saying & calling out loud to me, ‘sis we could park our bikes and give it a rest under the big tree ahead’, but I insisted that we should move on.

So we kept on riding and cycling our bicycles and it took us a few or couple of minutes to reach the church. When we got there in the church hall feels cool and nice so we began cycle around each other in our bikes to ease some of the heat trapped in our bodies and clothes while riding under the 🌴sland’s hot sun.

There were couple of youths cleaning the inside windows of the church’s van near the church hall and I happened to notice one of them, it was Fred and the others with him were Winson & Dolly. They were all there to attend the Church Youth Fellowship Choir practices as well as my sister and myself. I smiled at Fred as he turned to see who were in the church hall, when he realise that it was me he smiled and looked kind of bashful.

We, Fred and I, are kind of interested in each other and got a good love relationship with nothing sexual involved which I really liked compared to other relationships in the Church Youth Fellowship such as Dolly & Mitchell had kissing outside the church and an Elder of the Church witnessed on another previous Church Youth Choir practices that resulted in a shameful announcement to all christian attending that same day held on Sunday Service.

It took a month of gossiping around the church & alot of accusations which also lead to decrease in number of attendance within the Church Youth Fellowship but most sadly that shameful incident became a ‘stumbling block’, in other word that is commonly used by Christians and loss of faith in the church. When Fred and I see each other we get pretty shy & flirtatious too and having no sexual activity with each other kind of makes the relationship special & respectfully as Christian member of the Youth Fellowship.

Soon after Fred and I talked a bit about other youths who came to practice and who did not come and we kind of suspected that it was due to the shameful incident that caused others who did not come loose faith & accused the fellowship as false and committing fornication. The choir singing started sooner and late but lasted for an hour and a half as always. We, the remaining faithful youths said our routine ‘goodbyes’ and ‘see you tomorrows’ with encouragements of ‘God bless you’.

About past 4:00 pm my sister and I took our bikes which were parked outside in the hall and headed back home while the others got on the church van that was cleaned earlier on near the hall and were dropped off at home.

My relationship with Fred started out on me and seeing him for the first time in the back row of the wooden church seats. He sat there listening to Pastor Levi preaching about becoming a better person in Christ by doing or obeying the word of God and His 10 Commandments readings in the KJV Bible.

While I being late entered & saw Fred seated with his styled hair called rat-tail that is in elbow length and even worse chewing it in his mouth while his left hand holding the end of it. I became judgemental in the House of God, in the our church that is by doctrine ‘Be Born Again’. My thoughts began to even wonder, ‘how can someone attend church with disrespect of hairstyle and chewing it during a service?’

I sat myself down with along side my sister and mother in our usual spot at the front seat listening to the pastors’ preaching and all the while I still wonder about the person at the backseat. Shortly, the church service was over. After this unexpected & judgemental experience from a distance, I, most likely to say that my intellectual or my curiosity has killed the cat.

I began to asking his name and move about in befriending and hanging out with his female cousins in the church. I could doubtlessly say now that he got the best and in later life the beat out of me.

Eventually I did found out his English name and that it was Fred but his native name was terribly hard for me at first to pronounce even though I am a native too as it sounded like a name of a Chinese duck. I had practices on the pronounciation to no improvement and decided to just call him Fred for everythings’ sake.

I did try again to call him by his native name but it was pretty upsetting to him as it sounded worse than before and ended up sounding like some sort of a mix breed of German or Chinese duck. He on the other hand find my both names to be an ease as my English name is Cheryl and my native name Equed which means in Nauruan native language hospitable or give.

We got on well getting together in youth fellowships or church services just like two doves happy seen in motion flapping both wings in adoration. And so we were told by most family member’s opinion on us and also in a comparison to a saying ‘all in all’. In our adoration for one each other he would give me expensive gifts from overseas the likes of two crystal earrings that crystallizes under the island’s sun shining like diamonds and some monies but mostly he would rather take me in his mom’s car and driving around the island stopping at a chinese restaurant to eat.

I kind of enjoyed it. I mean I like being spoilt by this person I liked & he returned the same affection back with gifts and all. It felt like there is no beginning of our relationship neither momentarily & or timely but definitely imperishable.

Near the Church just opposite the nation’s National Airport building we were both sitting on one of the many towed up baggage trailers that I just looked at him & kind of asking him ‘the’ question and saying, ‘DO YOU KNOW I L❤VE YOU? He looked at me but wasn’t sure on what I just said as I can tell from the looks on his face. I repeatedly, told him again eyeing him this time, ‘Do You Know I L❤ve You??’ He smiled back at me then looked down at his feet not saying a word or anything, just smiling down.

Then we looked up and saw on the public road a couple of meters away & heading to the national airport a 3 wheeler motorbike passed by but it’s more likely a golf-motorbike from the model of it as it had a golf basket at the back of the driver’s seat. We stared at it as it zoomed by with its huge butted she driver steering its small driver’s wheel her head straight on the road ahead without noticing us nearby.

It happened to be a Saturday and no cars or the vehicles but this one strange bike and huge driver all alone on the road. Fred changing the subject at hand asked me if I wanted a ride on the same bike? He will be the driver & I will be his passenger riding in the golf-bag steel basket at the back of the bike with my legs hanging over & loose.

Suddenly, I looking ahead faced back at him in a blank stare astounded and trying to picture myself in the position he had imagine me in. Then looking back at the distancing bike on the road and its driver. Instantly I looked back at Fred and laughed back at him because I couldn’t imagine myself in the back basket with my legs hanging out and nearly my whole body in a helplessly squashed up posture.

He cheekily laughed back too. I asked him if he was joking with me. His cheekily smile down and I waited for a bit for him to answer back but that is all I got for an answer-his cheeky smile. His reaction that day made me kind of doubt him & put in awe if he had taken my words seriously.

In the following months things got more intense. On my sixteenth birthday I invite him and other youths including Winson & Dolly at the Boat Harbour for a swim & take-outs then eventually we would meet up with my parents. As they both, my dad & mom would like to meet him for the first time after hearing alot about him & me having a ‘boyfriend & girlfriend’ relationship.

Fred was kind of nervous as he knew my father from his previous job as a train driver with the Corporation delivering phosphate dirt to the cantilever belt machine which offloads the tonnes of dirt on ships bound for their destine country. I, on the other hand wouldn’t give a thought of anything but to get my parents to meet up with my boyfriend, pretty much eager to get the relationship known to my parents.

My mom has a lightest doubt on what is going on and I could see it on her face. Fred and I have 6 years gap in age and I would understand mom’s concern for this but ‘age doesn’t matters’ if you really like someone and I kind of believe in that saying. And Fred was a guy who is ‘young at heart’. When we’re together it’s seems that I am more mature than he is in any ways .

We enjoyed the swim at the Boat Harbour and had great take-outs at the chinese restaurant even though something caught my attention with Dolly having a seemingly flirty giggle & talk with Fred further away from the rest of us earlier at the harbour. Later in the evening we arrived at my aunt Baba’s house where my family & I resides and while Fred & I parked outside the house and sat comfortably in his mother’s car which she lend it to him for this occasion.

My parents are in the lounge area where they were watching Australian National Football League, the Eagles versus another favourite team that my dad idols.I got out of the car went over to mom and dad in the house. My dad was a bit startled when I told him that Fred is outside but insisted that my boyfriend should come inside the house and meet up with him and have a chat. Mom didn’t say a word but looked puzzled as before. I called out to Fred, he went out his mom’s car in a energized mood; getting out of his driver’s sit and shutting the door with much strength and causing me to wonder if he is alright.

Fred made his way to the doorway of the house and met my dad. My dad knew him instantly and nodded his head in acknowledgement and mom just went along with no expression of approval or disapproval, mostly observing Fred. It was a quick chat of how are you doing in our native language to, where you’re working now and also some comments on who is winning the football game on TV with an ending off, with ok we will see you again or tomorrow if you like to come back.

I wasn’t sure if it was a good meeting or not but all I know there and after that my mind is at peace with dad and mom and I don’t get to be asked again of who my boyfriend is anymore. Fred on the other hand felt at ease too. He had made himself know to my parents and I could guess that we were just glad about the ‘meet up’.

(To be cont….😊)

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Short: Do You know I LOVE YOU?

Charity Kamtaura Duburiya

Happy Heart❤ hopes for Eternal Love💕 Sweet Dreams of Life together & forever. Do You Know I Love You?💘 

Celestial strengths spiritual keeps, faults unbound
& pardoned in this universe & beyond but still Do You Know I Love You?💞My L❤VE for you is boundless; it scars me, it abuses me, it scares me & will kill me the least.

Now Do You Know I L❤VE You??

Yes….I have L💖VED You thrice!…
1.from the start of our L💘VE for each other…
2.our mid-l💞ve crisis together…. the end of our L💕VE & forever.

I didn’t know I was in

Charity Kamtaura Duburiya

By Charity Kamtaura Duburiya

I didn’t know I was in.

Earlier on I thought to myself well someday I will be, joint to these ‘Inspiration’. The weeks passed by I got sad that I haven’t seen any notifications. Maybe another group will admit me in this wild dreams gone loose and it’s quite a goose chase.

My Prayer group friends offered Praise & Worship to the one True God-The Creator having songs of praise blasting in ears. I went through my notification again. Nope nothing I thought to myself maybe next time but there it was. I was glad not sad. I thank God for this.

I just love it, its my heart’s and it inspires it inspires me for as long as I had this terrific feeling that I can’t explain. I thought it must be ‘destiny’. Ok then I persuaded myself entirely to pursue this but I can imagine it will take time for this to happen. I told myself I’ve got nothing to lose why not give it a go and inspire such events in my life that elevates me in my dark moments. I thank God for that though.

So my new friends in writing I hope to bring to light the mystery that somewhat always shadows every life.

Hi this is just my facebook search on joining writer’s group.

Short Author Bio

Charity Kamtaura Duburiya is a Case Worker @Host International Org/Au for Nauru Regional Processing Centre.

ZZZ-Code | The Wright brothers

Bonnell Spring Dreaming of Flight

by Warren Moore

Dayton Ohio 1869, Susan Catherine Koerner and Milton Wright have a secret. All of there lives they have had faith and belief in a universal connection, a spiritual intelligence that could be called upon when the time was right. They didn’t understand how or why this was possible, they just had faith. They knew that every person on this planet was capable of calling out for help. It was a natural part of life, if you were in trouble, automatically you would call out for help. Susan and Milton believed that all thoughts were collected in one place and when you asked for help the ether of the universe responded.

Milton was a local church Bishop. He knew more than most about a higher power and the gifts that can be delivered by those that believe. With the life expectancy in 1870 being 41 years, you have to dream big and make the most of what you have.

One night when Susan and Milton settled in for the night, on their old Bonnell Spring mattress, something was different. Everything had aligned, their position on the bed, the temperature of the night, and Milton snoring in a rhythmic tone. The springs of the mattress began to vibrate like a universal antenna, picking up every thought and dream of every person connected to the universal ether.

What they didn’t know was the Bonnell Spring mattress had been created by Mark and Jay Bonnell. The springs were handpicked by Mark on Bonnel Spring Nursery and the Core created by Jay in the factory, twisting heating and stretching the core until he was able to hear that fine musical note that only Jay could hear. The ZZZ code, a magical frequency that resonated dreams and thoughts. Unbeknown to Jay, he had tapped into this universal frequency, creating a radio antenna to collective thoughts and dreams.

The noise in the Wright house was disciplined and controlled. Milton and Susan have 5 children and many nights were spent together keeping warm, telling stories and talking about their dreams and possibilities of the future. They would tell stories of the future, giving thanks to God for everything that they had and the opportunities that would come.

One early morning Orville and Wilbur snuck into their parent’s bed and fell asleep while Milton and Susan were preparing for Fourth Of July Celebrations. Susan had 200 gooseberry pies to prepare and Bishop Milton spent countless hours in preparation for Church duties.

In unison, the boys began to snore and resonate on the Bonnell Spring Core.

As the boys began to snore it caused a vibration in the core, the core responded by amplifying the ZZZ-code. The more they snored, the bigger the vibration and the greater bandwidth was achieved between the Bonnell Core and the Universal Ether. An untapped universe of questions and answers. Every idea ever created is stored in the Universal Ether. But very few are able to tap in or translate the messages.

Immediately, Wilber and Orville began dreaming of wild eagles and hawks swooping and floating on pockets of air, their wings hardly moving as the air passing over and under them lifting them into the sky.

Bonnel Spring - Dreaming of Planes

The question was planted deep into their subconscious, “how can we fly?”. They saw visions of trees and buildings, people and animals all below them as they floated above them. They could see their shadow chasing them as they crossed paddocks and roads made by horse and auto-mobiles. It was an amazing dream.

Their minds began to flood with visions, like a cyclone of thought, spiralling and flashing, twisting and turning. Different parts of their mind opened up to thoughts and ideas never before possible. Blood was rushing to their brain to cool them from the intense influx of thought bombarding them with ideas of the future. Imagine the possibilities, imagine being able to see people praising your achievements in the newspapers, of people cheering and throwing great functions in your honour. They were exposed to it all.

When they woke, they both sat up, looked at each other and smiled. They knew. They couldn’t explain how, but they had shared the same dream. An explicit dream, a dream with so much detail. A dream with so much excitement. A dream with a purpose. The Write bothers knew what had to be done.

*            *            *            *            *            *


Back Yard Domination by Warren Moore

Tree Roots Back Yard Domination

Back Yard Domination
by Warren Moore

The back story.

23 years ago in a back yard near you, a young couple had plans of building a home and growing a loving family. They could see the little feet running in the house and swinging on the tyre hanging from the tree in the back yard. It was going to be a magical time.

The house is taking shape and the gardens and trees that they planted to create the screen along the fence are all growing, and growing, and growing.

The family increases from 2 to 3 to 4 and it’s time to pick-up and move to a bigger place with more rooms and closer to schools and work.

The old place is sold to the new family with little feet enjoying the back yard with the growing trees and a house for the dog.

Deep down in the bulging soil is our villain, with visions of Yard Domination. But he needs more water to grow stronger, so the grip is tightened on all drains and pipes he can get his gritty roots on. Until one by one, the pipes break and the tree roots enter the drains and sewer. 

Now no-one wants to go into the back yard because of the smell that is coming out of the ground. When they flush the toilet it starts to back up and is blocked. The washing machine is having problems and the laundry is always wet. Nothing is draining the way it should.

The new owners of the property transform into our hero’s, wearing capes, gloves and masks take on the task of plunging the toilet and pouring chemicals down the drains to clear the blockage. They know they can defeat the villain with a bit more effort, time and money. 

A friend from work recommends they seek guidance from a plumbing master, one who has the knowledge they seek to defeat the villain and win the day.

They called Jamieson and arrange a battle, a duel unlike anything ever seen at this address, but are somewhat underwhelmed when JR Burns Plumbing arrives with the right tools to immediately take care of the problem. 

The drains are pressure cleaned and the roots are removed. They know while the trees are growing the pipes will again eventually be blocked, but they also know that there is a quick and easy resolution to the problem.

The new owners put their capes away and resume there mild, meek persona’s as stress-free loving parents until their next epic adventure.

JR Burns Plumbing #jrburnsplumbing #fivedock

Nuts and Bolts by Lydia Penn

The Afghan Cover for Nuts and Bolts by Lydia Penn

Nuts and Bolts by Lydia Penn

The old corner house, it’s garden choked with weeds and overgrown bushes, had been vacant for so long, that it became an object of great interest in the street when signs of life began to appear; smartly dressed young men began coming and going, work began to tidy up the garden, and the “For Sale” sign was taken down.

No one was more interested than Betty Bolt who lived next door. While others might have described her as a “nosey parker”, Betty considered herself as merely “neighbourly”.

She accosted one of those smartly dressed young men to learn the date of the new owners’ arrival, and it was, of course, no coincidence that Betty chose that day to work vigorously in her own garden.

It was a fine spring day, and by midmorning Betty was at her post, weeding with great enthusiasm; by mid-afternoon she was tired, her back hurt and her muscles ached from the unaccustomed exercise. She was just beginning to think she would have to stop, when a large removal van appeared at the end of the street, followed by a shabby, dusty old model car.

Forgetting all her aches and pains, Betty rose to her feet, put on a plastic smile, and watched as the car stopped in the street and the van moved into the driveway. A man wearing jeans and a dirty tee shirt emerged from the driver’s side of the car. As he turned round Betty saw he had a deep red scar along the right side of his face, and his jaw appeared to be dropped to one side. At the sight of this unprepossessing, somewhat sinister looking individual, Betty’s plastic smile faded, and she stopped still. As she hesitated, the man marched into the house, and presently the passenger side door opened and out stepped, a slightly built woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing a long floral dress. She too went into the house and the removal men began to unload.

Seven-year-old Mary came home from school, stationed herself by the window and gave a running commentary, while Betty began to prepare their evening meal.

She postponed her ‘neighbourly’ visit until the next morning, but later that evening gave her husband an up to date account of the activities next door. “……, and then she came out again carrying something in her hand, which she put on the floor at the back of the car, and then, …”.

Thomas Bolt was used to his wife’s daily bulletin on the neighbourhood activities, so he paid her scant attention, while he continued to watch his favourite T.V. programme. But when he looked out of the window the next morning, he was no longer indifferent to the new neighbours.

“What’s that peculiar looking creature that seems to have staked out a claim on our front lawn,” he barked.

“Oh,” said Betty joining him at the window, “its an Afghan. That’s what was in the back of the car”.

“Well please make sure it isn’t there when I come home tonight,” said Thomas as he went out of the front door.

As soon as she saw the car next door had also gone, Betty took a plate of newly baked scones and knocked on her new neighbours’ door, presuming that rather sinister looking man had gone to work. As she waited at the door she heard soft singing, and it was some time before the door was opened by the woman, still dressed in the long flowing floral dress. Betty introduced herself, the woman said nothing but opened the door wider, which Betty presumed was an invitation to come in.

She followed the still silent woman down a passageway stacked both sides with boxes and entered a small dark room at the back of the house.

“I’m Hazel,” the woman said at last. “I was just singing to Orphelia.”

Betty looked around expecting to see a baby, but the room was totally bare except for a couch under the window, covered with what appeared to be a bright red quilt. On it lay the Afghan. Hazel sat on the floor and commenced stroking its long silky coat; she began to sing again.

Betty stood there completely nonplussed, still clutching the plate of scones which Hazel did not seem to have noticed. Close up, she appeared older than Betty had thought at first, and her eyes had a wild fierce expression.

She’s nuts, thought Betty uneasily, wondering if she could just walk out when she heard the sound of a car. The door opened and in came the Man with the scarred face.

“Hello,” he said quite pleasantly, and held out his hand to Betty. “I’m Wal Nutt.” He smiled, but with his distorted jaw and disfigured face, it looked more like a leer.

“I, er, was just going,” said Betty, thrusting the plate of scones into his hand, and heading for the door. As she walked rapidly down the path she saw the curtains move at the window of number four opposite and knew that Thelma Wright would be eagerly waiting for a full report.

“Gave me the creeps”, said Betty, drinking tea in Thelma’s cosy kitchen. “He must have been in a fight or something. I wouldn’t like to meet him out on a dark night. He looks really violent”.

“Is she afraid of him, do you think?” asked Thelma.

Betty shrugged. “It’s all so weird. I couldn’t face going back in there. And I mean, nothing, absolutely nothing, had been unpacked. I could hardly get in the front door.” She declined another cup of tea and got up to go. She was due at the hairdresser’s – another fruitful source for gossip.

It was two days later in the early evening when suddenly the Bolts heard a lot of loud noise coming from next door. After about ten minutes, when it seemed to be even louder, Betty suggested to Thomas that he should ask them to turn down the T.V. a little.

He opened the front door and went out only to retreat inside again quickly.

“That’s not T.V.,” he replied. “No T.V. station would dare to put out that language or those expletives. They’re having a row.”

They stood listening at the front door, joined by Mary who had acquired her mother’s interest in neighbourhood activities. Presently out ran Wal Nutt, followed by screams and a barrage of pots, pans, and crockery which piled up in the front garden.

There was silence after that, and the Bolt family returned indoors. Then in the twilight, Mary, who was still looking out of the window, yelled out, “Mummy, what’s that man doing up against the fence?”

“Oh no,” gasped Betty.” Get away from that window at once,” she ordered, as she went to get her binoculars from the kitchen table. She was just in time to see Wal Nutt climb into the back seat of his car. Periodic checks during the evening showed that he was still there.

“What should we do?” Betty asked her husband. “It is domestic violence, isn’t it?”

“Just keep out of it,” retorted Thomas, as he went about checking the locks on all the doors and windows.

All was now quiet, and the next morning they saw Wal Nutt emerge from the house and drive off in his car as if nothing had happened. But as Betty surveyed the wreckage in the next door garden, she was furious to see that pieces of her plate were among the debris.

Nothing more seemed to be happening next door; Betty did not call in again, and there were a lot of other interesting events in the street to take up her attention; Thelma’s mother-in-law was coming for a visit; the daughter of the lady in number eighteen was pregnant and had to leave school; the husband of Mrs Price in number nine had just left her again. All these news items and their ramifications were enough to keep the gossips of Almond Avenue well occupied over their teacups for several weeks.


It was a Saturday morning. Betty and Thomas were enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Betty finished her summary of the recent neighbourhood events while a bleary-eyed Thomas listened in silence.

She paused drinking her coffee, then looking out of the kitchen window suddenly remarked, “you know I haven’t seen Orphelia around in the garden for a while.”

“She’s probably gone on holiday,” muttered Thomas taking another piece of toast.

“Don’t be silly. Orphelia’s the Afghan, “said Betty.” Though come to think of it, I haven’t seen Hazel either. I’ve been so busy lately that I’d forgotten her.”

“Well there’s someone there,” said Thomas, “The other evening when you and Mary were out I heard a lot of sawing and banging going on in the garage, and the car’s still there.”

Betty’s curiosity was fully aroused once more. Later that morning she knocked at the Nutt’s front door.

After some time the door was opened by Wal still in his pyjamas looking even more unprepossessing with red-rimmed eyes and a haggard unshaven face. The leer was very pronounced as he looked silently at Betty.

“Oh, er, I just wondered how Hazel is”, she stammered. “I haven’t seen her lately”.

“Gone to her mother”. snarled Wal Nutt preparing to close the door. Betty retreated!

That afternoon Mary reported,”that man’s digging a big hole in his back garden,” — and Betty suddenly remembered that there was a lot of weeding to be done in the Bolt’s back garden!

As the long summer evening drew to a close, even Thomas became curious when Mary, watching from her bedroom window, yelled out again, “Mummy, Daddy, that man is putting a big box into the hole.”

Out came the binoculars again! Later when Mary (who had been caught eves dropping at the door) had been sent to bed, Thomas and Betty sat in the kitchen discussing the matter.

“Do you think he’s killed Hazel and buried her in the garden?” asked Betty.

Thomas was more logical. “Hardly in broad daylight. The man’s surely not such a fool.”

“It wasn’t broad daylight. It was getting dark,” argued Betty. “And what about Crippen — didn’t he murder his wife and say she’d gone to her mother? Or was that someone else?”

“Betty, you just keep out of it — and for goodness sake shut up Mary too,” said Thomas sternly. “It’s none of your business what goes on next door.”

But Betty felt it was her business, and for the rest of the weekend her imagination ran wild. On Monday morning she was back in Thelma’s kitchen with a highly embellished account of Saturday’s activities.

“Better tell the police,” decided Thelma. “I mean it’s your neighbourly duty. Oh, and by the way, that Mary of yours has been telling all the kids at school that your neighbours are nuts.”

Betty laughed. “Well that’s true actually. Their name is Nutt.”

“Is that so?” Thelma guffawed loudly and slapped her ample thigh as she got up to refill the teapot. “Well if that doesn’t beat everything.”

Betty returned to the subject of the police as she stirred sugar into the tea. “What would I say to them. I mean they might think that I’m nuts too if I tell them such a story.”

“Well it’s all true isn’t it?” said Thelma. “Look I’ll come with you. You must report that Hazel is missing; it’s your duty.”

While Betty still hesitated, Thelma reached into the cupboard behind her and pulled out a bottle. “Here, have a little tipple in your tea. That will give you courage.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” said Betty holding out her cup for a lavish tipple from Thelma.

Thus well fortified the two set off for the police station where a bewildered young constable listened to Betty’s story which was punctuated by frequent interruptions and hiccups from Thelma.

Pair of old busybodies, he thought as they went out of the door after giving Betty’s name and address. However he had to report their call, and two evenings later Mary responded seeing a policeman calling next door.

But when nothing more happened, three days later Betty and Thelma were back at the police station.

“Aren’t you going to get an exhumation order?” demanded Betty as she faced a stern looking inspector. “I mean isn’t that what you do?”

“Madam,” he replied. “I must request you not interfere in your neighbour’s affairs. We have spoken to the gentleman and are quite satisfied.” The phone rang, and as he picked it up he gave them a dismissive nod.

But Betty was not satisfied.

That evening she stood once more at the Nutt’s front door, courageous in her indignation.

“Oh, it’s you again,” said Wal as he opened the door and glared at her. “You’re the interfering busybody who went to the police.” He stepped outside and towered over Betty who was already wishing she hadn’t come.

He continued, “we got this place at a cheap rent because they couldn’t sell it and now we’ll have to move again just as we did from the last place because of an interfering old biddy like you.”

“But Hazel _ _ _”, Betty said.

“I told you she’s gone to her mother. Hazel is very sick and when she gets violent I can’t handle her like her mother can.”

While Betty stood mesmerised he turned round and pointed to his face. “Where do you think I got that jaw and those scars?” he demanded.

she was appalled, “But surely there are places _ _ _ ” she looked at him in horror and pity.

“No one’s going to take her from me. I love her you understand.” As he spoke his face crumpled and he burst into uncontrollable sobs _ _ a terrible sight!

Betty was aghast. ” You must be n___” she began, but stopped herself in time. The man continued to sob loudly.

“She loved Orphelia. What am I going to tell her,” he whimpered.

Betty was completely out of her depth but at the mention of Orphelia, light began to dawn. “You mean, Orphelia _ _ _ _ “.

“Follow me,” he ordered and led her into the back garden where he seized a large spade and vigourously threw up clouds of earth until finally he exposed the coffin. He took off the lid.

There lay Orphelia, her long silky hair spread out carefully over the red quilt which Betty had seen previously.” She was so old,” he muttered.

Suddenly, his mood changed.

“Now you get out of my way,” he rasped, raising the spade menacingly. “You just get back into your Bolt Hole quick.”

Betty needed no second warning. Stumbling and shaken, she managed to reach the safety of her own home where she collapsed in a heap inside the front door. “oh my,” she gasped. “They’re both completely nuts! Stark raving mad.”

Early the next week it was with great relief that the Bolts saw the removal van again. Wal Nutt got in his old car, packed tightly with cardboard boxes, and followed the van down the road shaking a fist as he went.

Soon the “For Sale” sign reappeared in the now cleaned up garden, and the ladies of Almond Avenue returned to more innocuous sources of gossip.

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The Search by Lydia Penn

Image of a man searching through the polution by Lydia Penn

Eleven-year-old Anton scuffed his feet in the dust, and then sat down with his back against the graffiti-covered wall. He stretched out his thin brown legs, and began to munch the apple he had just helped himself to as he passed by the fruit shop.

He looked up towards the distant mountain range – at least what could be seen of it above the shrouding mist – and began to contemplate, as he had done so many times, what might be beyond.

He coughed as he breathed in the heavily polluted air of the valley where he lived, and thought to himself, there must be a better place than this, but I don’t know where to go and find it.

He coughed again as fumes belched out from the factory chimney at the other end of the valley and wafted towards him. “Aw shucks. It just gets worse,” he said aloud.

“What does?” asked a familiar voice, and Anton looked round to see his friend. Pedro, who had crept up stealthily and was now grinning down at him.

“All this pollution of course,” answered Anton as Pedro squatted beside him. “I’m sick of having to wear a mask, and anyway how can I while I eat an apple.”

He looked at the apple with distaste.”It doesn’t taste nice any more,” he complained as he threw the offending object across the road where it joined the pile of empty cans and rotting food.

“Let’s go to the beach,” suggested Pedro. “I feel like a swim. Come on.”

Anton got up reluctantly, The beach was a short walk from the fishing village where they lived, and, as Anton had expected, was strewn with empty cans and cartons; there was a strong smell of sewage in the air.

After a brief swim, they lay on the beach, watching the activities surrounding the fishing boats as the men prepared to go out for night’s catch.

“Not much fun swimming when all that plastic gets wrapped round your legs,” complained Anton.

“You’re always grumbling these days,” said Pedro, who was two years older. “You have to get used to it like everyone else.”

“I don’t intend to get used to it,” retorted Anton. “I’m going to find a better life somewhere.”

“Oh, you’ve been dreaming again,” teased Pedro. “All those stories your Grandma told you, about a better country the other side of the mountain. Believe me, it just doesn’t exist.

Anton shrugged his thin shoulders and said nothing. But that evening, when his father had gone out with the fishing boats and he had helped his mother clear away and wash the dishes, Anton approached Grandma where sat in a dingy corner of the two-room shack. She surveyed him with a toothless smile.

“Grandma,” he began, “those stories you used to tell me about a beautiful country the other side of the mountains, where the sun shone in a clear blue sky, the birds sang and the leaves on the trees were bright green.”

Grandma started to cackle. “All myths, boy. No one believes that anymore. Ain’t no such place.” She pulled her blanket round her and closed her eyes.

“Stop bothering Grandma with your nonsense,” said his mother who was listening. “Here, mind your little sister while I go get some eggs.

Anton’s little sister looked at him appealingly out of her big brown eyes set deeply in her pale thin face. “Play ball,” she said producing a large warn ball that Anton had found on the beach.

But even as he complied, his thoughts were still elsewhere. Why does no one else want to find a better country, he pondered.

Two days later he decided to seek out the oldest man in the village; he’s even older than Grandma, he thought; maybe he knows something, he reasoned, as he wandered down the dusty streets, kicking empty cans out of his way, and dodging the old cars which whizzed by emitting even more fumes into the air.

He found the old man sitting on a bench outside the village tavern, smoking a dirty old pipe, an empty glass on the table in front of him. His rheumy old eyes surveyed Anton with interest.

“Heard about you,” he said as Anton sat down beside him, “You’re the boy who is always asking questions, always talking about a better country. Let me tell you, boy, there ain’t no such place. That’s what people used to think when I was a boy. But they is better educated now.”

“See, they are building another factory in the town at the other end of the valley. Plenty of jobs there for boys like you. It’s a good place to live.” He indulged in a violent fit of coughing, as Anton walked away disconsolately.

A year passed. Anton was being groomed to take over his father’s fishing business. But it seemed to him that there soon wouldn’t be any fish to catch. Frequently his father came home with an empty boat and took his frustrations out on the rest of the family before heading for the tavern.

Anton decided to see for himself what was the other side of the mountain. One night he crept out of the shack and made his way to the foot of the mountain, equipped with what he thought was necessary climbing gear – a pair of his father’s old boots, a torch stolen from his mother, a bottle of water and a few biscuits he had codged from Pedro.

He found the torch was useless, as he soon realised he needed both hands to push aside the scrub and climb over rocks as he began his ascent. In the total darkness, he tripped over a jutting out rock and fell headlong. Beginning to slide down, he grabbed at some nearby scrub and managed to stop his fall. Sore and scratched, he sat for a while panting for breath.

I won’t go back, he vowed, as he started again to climb. He had no idea how long he had been going when he suddenly looked up and saw a pair of red eyes gleaming in the darkness not far away. They seemed to be moving closer.

Anton had heard stories of wild animals on the mountains; for a moment he was petrified with fear. Then he turned and fled, dropping his bag of possessions, as he stumbled, slithered and clawed his way down the mountain. Scratched, bruised and bleeding he made his way home.

It’s obvious that I can’t hope to get over the mountain however hard I try, he admitted to himself. From time to time he thought of making another effort, but his failure had left him very disheartened, although he still hung on to his dream.

Another year passed and a few concerned villagers had banded together to try and clean up the beach and the village streets. Maybe this is the way to go, thought Anton, as he joined in. But they had little support from the majority of villagers and enthusiasm waned. So the idea was abandoned and even more, garbage lined the streets which began to be haunted by mangy dogs looking for a meal. There were a few minor earthquakes but the villagers were used to this and ignored the debris left from badly constructed shacks, which now lay in the streets.

Pedro was planning to get a job in the newly built factory in the nearby town. One day he persuaded Anton to walk with him in that direction along the base of the mountain. Neither had ever walked that way before.

To their surprise, they came across a group of people standing by a large noticeboard at the foot of the mountain. They were even more surprised to find, as they got closer, that in the centre was a woman in full climbing gear.

“I am Grace,” she announced, “and I am your free official guide over the mountain to the country beyond. We leave in two days time and all are welcome to come”.

Anton couldn’t believe his ears – his chance, at last, to get away from this gloomy, unhealthy valley where even leaves on trees all turned yellow, and birds had long since left.

Excitedly he turned to Pedro. “Let’s go. This is what I have been looking for, and it was here all the time.”

But Pedro’s heart was set on his new job in the factory, and he also had a girlfriend. The pull of the valley, polluted though it was, made him reluctant to move. “I’ve got a good future here, and I can make lots of money and get married,” he argued. “I want to be like everyone else.”

Sadly Anton left him and went home to pack and share his new venture with anyone who would listen.

His father began to abuse his Grandma. “It’s all your fault, putting those ideas into his head,” he shouted. “Now who’s going to take care of the family when I’m too old to work.”

With tears in her eyes, his mother begged him to stay, and his little sister cried lustily. But Anton was adamant, and clutching his few belongings, he set off two days later.

The group was large, but as Anton came closer he noticed that a few were leaving. He was puzzled, until he heard one girl say, “I can’t go and leave my pet monkey. Who would look after him?” She started off with the monkey on her shoulder followed by a boy who was clutching a radio set.

“It is a narrow, steep path and you need both hands to climb,” Grace was saying. “Everything must be left behind.”

One or two others walked off carrying their possessions, and Anton looked longingly at the bag of treasures he had brought with him. But there was something about Grace which made him feel he could trust her. So he reluctantly added the bag to the pile already there and began to climb.

However, he had barely started when he heard his name called and turning round saw his little sister running towards him calling, “Anton, Anton wait for me. I’m coming too”.

Anton was fond of her but he hesitated; she seemed so young and the journey would be arduous. But Grace had also heard her cry, “All the children are welcome. They just need a little more help,” she said. “It is good for them to get out of the polluted area as soon as possible.”

Then as Anton looked round, he saw several other children in the group. In fact, there were people of all ages from different nearby towns, and soon a strong camaraderie developed among them. If someone fell or grew weary, there was always a helping hand, a strong arm to lean on. Anton realised that his little sister was not so little now, and she certainly knew what she was doing; he helped her along the way.

As he looked back at the village he had lived in all his life, he was horrified to see the thick pall of smoke which hung over it like a light brown mist; the sea too seemed dark and turbulent.

“Makes you glad to be out of it, doesn’t it,” said a fellow traveller, following his gaze.” I had no idea it was so bad.”

The group kept close together as protection against the wild animals which, Grace had warned them, roamed the mountains. They lost all sense of time as they journeyed on happy in each others company, and the hope of a better land ahead. But the mountain did not seem as high as they had thought from the valley below, and soon they were in the clouds and could no longer look back.

They emerged from the clouds to find a clear blue sky with the sun shining brightly on the rich green foliage, and the sea sparkling below them. There was a strong fragrance of flowers, and birds singing in the trees. Grace indicated this was their new home and they were free to go where they wanted, and would be welcomed by the present inhabitants.

As Anton, with his arm around his little sister, stood gazing at the vista before him, his joy was inevitably touched with sadness that his family was not there too. – his mother, father and even grandma; But maybe, he thought, one day they will come. I did explain the way to them. He thought too of Pedro, who had been his friend for so long and with whom he had shared so much, and hoped that maybe he too would change his mind and come one day.

Meanwhile, Pedro had been thinking a lot, and one night he couldn’t sleep. As he tossed and turned in the bed he shared with his younger brother, he thought about Anton and wondered if perhaps he should have gone with him. But I can always go later on if things don’t work out, he reasoned. At least I know now that there is a way.

He was still awake when the earthquake struck. As he felt the shaking of everything around him, he ran into the street, yelling as he went, pulling his brother with him.

Buildings were falling and people were screaming all around him. This was not the usual slight tremor – it was massive. Pedro ran towards the beach for safety. But to his horror, he saw a large wall of water rising up out to the sea and heading straight towards him.

It was the last thing Pedro saw!

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Doubling Up by Lydia Penn

Doubling Up by Lydia Penn

Part 3 of the “Double” Trilogy

Audrey and Jason sat in a companionable silence, sipping their wine in the picturesque riverside country pub. They had sat there together often over the past year, but tonight, Audrey sensed, was going to be rather different. Jason was distinctly uneasy.

She looked at this man who had been her brother-in-law for over thirty years. From the beginning, there had been a thinly veiled hostility between them. But over the last year since her sister’s death, there had been a gradual but very noticeable change in Jason’s attitude towards her. At first, they had been drawn together by their common grief, but then Jason had come to seek her company more and more, and his manner towards her had become increasingly warmer.

Audrey’s own emotions were in turmoil. For some time she had realised, and been appalled by, the depth of her feeling for Jason. Did he feel the same, she wondered, or was he just lonely. Had she made her own passion for him too obvious?

To cover her confusion, she resorted to small talk, “What a beautiful sunset,” She exclaimed looking through the window across the river.

“Yes indeed,” agreed Jason. He raised his glass. “May our sunset years be as beautiful.”

As Audrey responded, she added. “I think you are a few hours older than I am, even though we were born on the same day.” She paused. “Were you told that a stork brought you?”

“Good heavens no.” Jason was appalled at the idea. “We were told the truth – that babies are a precious gift from God. None of that stork nonsense.”

Audrey smiled at his vehemence. Then she said with a twinkle in her eye, “well that is what I was told, and quite frankly, I don’t think my mother liked that stork that bought me, very much!”

Jason laughed. “Yes, I kind of got that impression the first time I came to your house with Anthea.”

Audrey became pensive; so much had happened since that first time they had met, when he had just become engaged to her sister. Now, while still only in their sixties, both had been widowed. It was two years since Audrey’s husband, Grant had died of a sudden heart attack.

Audrey had been devastated. Her twin sons, although very supportive, were married and had their own families to look after. So in her loneliness, Audrey had sold the Cambridge house where she had lived most of her marriage, and moved to South Devon to be near Anthea and Jason. A few months later Anthea had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, and within the year she too was gone.

Audrey became aware that Jason was studying her. She looked up and met his eyes. He’s still handsome, she thought; his thick brown hair is turning grey, but he still has plenty; he has some wrinkles of course, but he still has that devastating smile and that very upright posture. She hoped he wasn’t reading her thoughts!

“Grant was a wonderful husband,” she said, almost defiantly. “He was so kind and concerned about my welfare, though I think I shocked him at times. He adored the boys too.” She recalled the succession of extremely unsuitable men she had dated in the months following Anthea’s engagement and shuddered.

“Just to think,” she went on, “that I nearly ended up with that creep, so-called actor, who was too mean to even buy an engagement ring. Grant was the first man to ever really love me and want to marry me.”

“No, Audrey, you’re wrong,” said Jason quickly. “Grant was not the first man.”

His meaning was unmistakable, and so was the expression in his earnest grey eyes.

Audrey blushed, but was spared the need to answer by the approach of the waiter to take their order. The moment had passed. The tension was eased.

“Let’s have shepherd’s pie,” she suggested. “They always do a good one here.”

Jason gave the order, and Audrey moved on to the safe topic of Anthea.

“We were close in age but certainly not in our relationship. Once we left home, we had nothing to do with each other. We were so different and she was everything that I was not – tall, slender with classic features, perfect skin and that glorious blond hair.”

“Yes she was beautiful,” Jason agreed.

“Like a delicate flower,” put in Audrey with an impish grin.

Jason stared at her.

“Oh, your sister told me at the funeral, that’s how you described her. “Audrey explained. “But I was not at all beautiful. My nose was too big, my hair was mousey, and I had the most awful pimples as a teenager. Anthea took after Mummy, but I didn’t seem to be like anyone.”

“Maybe Uncle Joe,” suggested Jason mischievously.

“Oh Jason!” Audrey was indignant. “He was old and had all that white hair. At least the hairdresser has done a good camouflage job on mine,” she laughed.

“But you do have his twinkling blue eyes,” said Jason, as their meal arrived.

“Dear Uncle Joe,” said Audrey. “We’d always been told that he was the black sheep of the family, who ran off to South America and was never heard of again. I’m so glad that he came back and we had those two years with him. I don’t think he was bad at all. He just wanted to get away from that stuffy Victorian family and have some adventure. Although he was in his eighties he was still great fun. I loved him.”

She was aware that she was talking too much but couldn’t stop herself. “I had no idea he had all that money,” she went on. “I thought he was absolutely penniless, and when I took him out he let me pay for everything, even all his whisky, I just enjoyed being with him and hearing all his stories. To think he was so wealthy and left it all to me!”

“He was a wily old bird,” said Jason sagely. “He was just testing you. He wanted to be loved for himself, not his money. You really were kindred spirits you know”.

Audrey took a mouthful of shepherds pie. Then she went on. “Handy for him that Daddy was a solicitor. He got him to draw up his will and swore Daddy to secrecy, you know”.

“He had to be smart to make so much money starting from nothing,” Jason rationalised. “What was it, mines or something, and all carefully invested. He knew a lot about plants too.”

He smiled. “As a botanist, I was amazed at all he knew about South American plants. But unfortunately, we didn’t see much of him, as Anthea didn’t like him at all – she thought he was uncouth.”

They both laughed.

“Did you know,” said Audrey, “that at your wedding Aunt Beatrice asked him to go and stay with her and fussed over him like an old hen. She thought he had money as she said his clothes were expensive. But he saw right through her, and when he caught her going through his things, that was it! He came back to us quickly. But I never ever knew his clothes were expensive.”

“I can imagine,” laughed Jason. “You were a hot head. Never still, and no one knew what you would do next. Clothes didn’t worry you.”

Audrey read the intense expression in his eyes again and hastened to go on. “After that sleazy would be actor, I began to realise I was mixing with all the wrong people. So I joined a debating society, went to concerts, started going to church again, and of course, I joined the local hockey team. Cambridge is full of really nice people and I loved teaching there.”

“And then you met Grant.”

“Yes,” said Audrey. “Funny how that happened. After Uncle Joe, I found I really enjoyed old people, and that’s why I put most of the money into facilities for them. I had to use an accountant – and that was Grant!”

They finished their shepherd’s pie in silence as the pub began to fill with people, and the background noise made conversation difficult.

“Let’s get out of here,” suggested Jason. “How about coffee at your house.”

Audrey agreed, and a ten-minute drive brought them to her small cosy cottage, where she made coffee, while Jason settled comfortably in one of the chintz-covered armchairs by the fireplace.

The atmosphere became charged once more as they looked at each other. Both realised there could be no more pretence or evasions. They both knew!

They were deeply and desperately in love!

Jason broke the silence. “What about drawing the curtains. It’s getting dark, and the neighbours –.”

It was not what Audrey had expected him to say and she laughed a little nervously. “What at our age! Don’t be such a prude, Jason–“

She stopped and put her hand to her mouth as the colour flooded her face.

“I’ve said that before haven’t I,” she said in some embarrassment,” – the bathroom!”

It was Jason’s turn to be embarrassed. He nodded, How could he ever forget!

“Was it then you –” Audrey voiced trailed off.

“Heavens no,” said Jason firmly. “It was long before that, perhaps even the first time I saw you. But I didn’t see much of you after that, and I managed to kid myself it was nothing. But that day, every bit of the protective wall I had built around myself collapsed. I was devastated.”

Both were silent again, thinking of that hot summer afternoon in the school holiday so long ago. After driving down to Devon from Cambridge, Audrey had arrived hot and tired, to spend the weekend. As usual, she had parked her car in the big double garage and gone into the house by the kitchen door. Anthea had left a note on the table, to say they were at the beach and would be home at 5 pm. Audrey had arrived earlier than expected and as it was only 3.30pm had decided to take a long refreshing bath.

Unaware that she had arrived, Jason had returned to the house to pick up more bottles of lemonade. Preoccupied with his thoughts, he had walked into the very large bathroom, thinking he was alone until he heard a slight splash of water.

He looked around and saw Audrey sitting up in the bath staring at him from across the room. Covered with confusion and embarrassment, Jason had quickly turned his back and fled, while Audrey called mockingly after him, “Don’t be such a prude, Jason it doesn’t bother me.”

Maybe not, but it certainly did me, he reflected, remembering how he had slammed the door.

Audrey broke into his thoughts. “You were so beastly to me after that, ignoring me and snapping at me all the time. And it wasn’t my fault, I was glad to leave.”

“Yes it was,” argued Jason. “You should have locked the door.”

“What! In an empty house,” expostulated Audrey.

“Yes, I guess I was pretty boorish,” admitted Jason. “But I was so angry with you and myself. I didn’t know how to handle it.”

“I understood after,” said Audrey. “But at the time I couldn’t understand you at all. I was still very naive I guess. Maybe all that teaching about storks.” She got up and draw the curtains.

Jason rose too. “We are still playing games,” he said hoarsely. “I can’t pretend anymore! Come here, Audrey.”

As Audrey came into his arms all the pent-up longing of so many years engulfed Jason and he held her tightly to him. They clung together in one long wordless embrace for some time; again and again, Jason kissed her passionately as they moved apart.

“Beats all those perfunctory pecks at family gatherings,” he said as once more he pulled her to him.

The coffee long forgotten, by unspoken agreement, they moved to the large settee under the window, where they sat close together with Jason’s arm tightly around Audrey. It was as if they had just discovered each other.

“But I thought you really disliked me,” said Audrey. “When I began dreaming about you and thinking of you a lot, I was so cross with myself; I felt you would never even like me. So I certainly wasn’t going to be nice to you!”

“I think I loved you the first day I saw you,” admitted Jason. “You looked such a waif standing at the door, that weekend of your father’s 60th birthday party. But what could I do? I had just got engaged to Anthea, and you didn’t even know I existed.”

“I remember,” said Audrey. “I was licking my wounds over being jilted by that jerk of an archaeologist and I spent most of the weekend crying in my room.”

“It was just as well that you and Anthea didn’t get on,” said Jason. “So we didn’t have to meet very often – till you discovered that you liked playing with our children. By the way,” he added with a sheepish smile, “that night of the bathroom incident, Anthea got pregnant again.

Audrey hooted with laughter. “I’m sure Anthea didn’t mind. She loved having babies.”

“Yes and she was a good wife and mother,” agreed Jason. “And I was determined that our children should grow up in the same happy home environment that I had as a child. There were five of us too.”

“Maybe all those others guys I dated were all substitutes,” Audrey admitted. “I was crazy about you, Jason, and I didn’t realise it. Then I met Grant, and I really loved him – we were very happy together. But oh Jason, it wasn’t the same, I know now. But we were so wrapped up in our children too.”

She got up. “I’ll make some more coffee. I could certainly do with a cup.” Jason followed her into the kitchen and once more pulled her into his arms, kissing her tenderly again and again.

“You know,” said Audrey as she sipped her coffee, “maybe we weren’t ready for each other all those years ago. What we are today is the result of our lives up until now.”

Jason agreed. “I think,” he observed “that there is love and there is love with a spark. We have always had that spark I guess. We must get married as soon as possible, and maybe God will grant us many happy years together. After all, we are only in our sixties and I won’t wait any longer.”

“A registry office and a lunch after with the kids,” said Audrey. “Oh, whatever will they all think? What shall we tell them?”

“They’ll be delighted,” affirmed Jason. “We don’t have to tell them about the past. We’ll just say we are doubling up to save electricity bills.”

They both laughed as Jason got up to go and again pulled Audrey close to him. “See you in the morning, darling” he whispered.

It was after midnight when he left and each knew it was the dawn of a new day for them both.

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Interlude in Andorra by Lydia Penn

Interlude by Lydia Penn

Things were not going according to plan! Hot, tired and frustrated, we stood with our (fortunately) light luggage, outside the tourist office in Toulouse and considered our options.

It was early June 1991 and we had just arrived in Toulouse, intending to stay two days sightseeing. The previous day, after a flight from Heathrow to Frankfurt, we had boarded the overnight train to Marseilles, where, after an indifferent cup of coffee, slopped in the saucer at the station buffet, we had continued by train to Toulouse, recommended by the guidebooks as well worth a visit.

As we emerged from the station at 11 am, we were certainly favourably impressed. But also we were tired, hungry and very thirsty; all we wanted was a hot shower and a good meal, which we had not had since leaving London.

Being rather ‘choosey’, we appraised the row of hotels opposite the station, and selected one which looked promising. The boy at the desk gave us a room but said we would have to wait “until Madame gets back” before we could register. It was a long wait. When she eventually did appear, it was only to tell us that there was no vacancy in the hotel.

It was the same story at each of the other hotels. Disconsolately we wandered back into the station to find a tourist office. But there did not seem to be an office of any kind open. Eventually, Hugh located one with a helpful official who suggested we take a bus into the centre of Toulouse where the tourist office was located.

To our dismay, we now learnt that because of a conference in the town, every hotel room was fully booked. So after deliberating for a while, we reluctantly decided that we would have to miss seeing Toulouse and continue on to Andorra and Spain a little sooner than we had planned.

Back at the station we bought ham rolls and waited for the 2.25pm train to AX-les Thermes where we would transfer to a bus to take us for the rest of the journey into Andorra.

We knew very little about this small country, high in the Pyrenees sandwiched between France and Spain and, since the sixteenth century, jointly governed by the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell, Spain, with Catalan as the official language.

Although we had first class seats on the train, they were not very comfortable. However, we soon forgot our discomforts as we climbed up into the Pyrenees. The scenery was truly beautiful. We marvelled at the majestic mountain peaks with the streams cascading down, and were intrigued by the many old buildings, several of which, like the 11th-century castle at Foix, seemed untouched by time.

At AX-les Thermes a bus was waiting to take us across the border and into Andorra. The journey was quite an experience, The bus continued to climb along narrow winding mountain roads until we were above the clouds and visibility was almost nil. The Spanish driver just had to be experienced!

There was still snow to be seen on the mountains when we reached the border at Pas De La Casa where a customs official came aboard for a perfunctory inspection and didn’t even look at our passports.

As we entered Andorra we thought we had already reached our destination; it reminded us of a Swiss village – shops, cars and people everywhere! But we still had a long way to go to the capital, Andora La Vella, which is the other side of the country, near the Spanish border.

The bus now was almost empty, As we wound our way down the mountain road we passed many small towns and villages, and gradually lost sight of the snow. We came quite suddenly into Andorra La Vella which is situated in a sort of gully with the Pyrenees towering high above on all sides

It was certainly not what we had expected! The guidebooks had led us to imagine we would find a picturesque mountain village with bucolic surroundings – peaceful and quiet.

Instead, we found we had arrived in a noisy metropolis – a mass of narrow streets just jam-packed with cars and people! We began to wish we had got off the bus at one of the small snow-covered resorts we had passed on the way.

We could, of course, have taken a bus out into the surrounding countryside, but we had had enough travel over the last twenty-four hours. So we decided to spend two days where we were and then go on to Spain.

We had been an hour and a half on the bus, which we now realised, at 40fr each, was better value for money than we had at first thought. At this time the official exchange rate was about US$1 = 5.26fr or 97.40 Spanish pesetas. Andorra operates in both currencies but we felt that there was a better exchange rate in pesetas.

It was now 6 pm, and remembering our experience in Toulouse, we made straight for the nearest hotel, which had also been recommended in the guidebooks as being inexpensive! It was a relief to find we were able to get a large room and breakfast for 5,800ptas a night. The hotel turned out to be very pleasant with friendly staff.

After buying 2ltr of orange juice and drinking almost all of it, we went in search of a good meal. However we had arrived too late to get to a bank to change travellers’ cheques and had only 144fr left. So we were restricted in what we could buy.

We probably went in the wrong direction from the hotel, as although we passed plenty of bars and snack bars as well as more expensive restaurants, we found nothing to suit our present limited budget. The shops were filled with expensive looking jewellery, clothes and perfumes with no price tags on display. The narrow street was crammed with cars bumper to bumper, even at 10pm!

It was warm, and my feet began to ache long before we found a small cafe which advertised “Tourist Specials”. By then I really didn’t care if I ate or not, which was just as well, because the meal certainly was not gourmet fare – soup, haddock and chips, and a desert choice of some custard dish, or peaches floundering in juice. But at least we had refuelled!

After that exhausting day, we slept until 8 am. We got up quickly and went down to breakfast and were rather surprised to find the dining room full of people jabbering away – a tour group. There was a typical cold buffet from which, as was our custom, we took enough to also supply our lunch.

It was cooler and raining as we went in search of the tourist office where we cashed US$500 into 53,300 ptas, which, we reckoned, would be enough to take us through to the south of Spain.

Solvent once more, we walked in the opposite direction from the hotel. It was obviously the area where the “locals” shopped, as we came across two butchers and a small supermarket where we purchased more orange juice and some fruit. We noticed that such products as strawberries and tomatoes were very much larger than those bought at home.

Everything was priced in both francs and pesetas, which could get a little confusing, but was typical of Andorra, which has both French and Spanish postal and school systems, because of its dual rulership.

Again we found the traffic bumper to bumper and as the streets were so narrow, one couldn’t avoid the petrol fumes, either walking along or sitting in a cafe. We reckoned this was the cause of the dry mouth and continued thirst which we both experienced.

After a relaxing afternoon, we ate at a small cafe in the same area, where we had a three-course meal for 750 ptas each. It was an improvement on the meal of the previous night, though somewhat heavy in carbohydrates – some spaghetti tomato dish, paella and ice cream. The little waitress who spoke french, giggled all the time and brought us coffee which we did not order.

The next morning we were the only ones in the dining room as the tour group had left. After breakfast, we settled the bill and left our bags at the hotel while we went out to do more sightseeing before we caught the afternoon bus to Barcelona.

We found very few people speak English in Andorra so we joined a French-speaking escorted tour in the sixteenth century Casa de la Vall, which was the seat of government. We then wondered further into the older area of narrow streets, before ending up at the tourist office area where we sat in the shade near a sort of bandstand.

There we met a Korean girl who had been on the guided tour. She spoke French and told us that she had been travelling in Morocco. I was surprised that she just left her bags on a seat while she walked around, but maybe after Morocco, she felt Andorra was safe enough.

Seats were allocated on the bus to Barcelona which we hadn’t realised. By chance Hugh got into the right seat, but I had spread out in the seat in front and had to move. The bus left at 2:30 pm, Cost us 1805ptcs each for the three and a half hours drive into the centre of Barcelona.

At the Spanish border, things were done a little more thoroughly than on the French side. The customs officers seemed more interested in the luggage hold than anything else and there was a fuss with a boy sitting behind us who had a keyboard. The matter was settled after 15 mins and we were on our way to La Seu D’Urgell, the first town on the Spanish side, which we reached 30 mins later.

We were still in a sort of gully and could see a little snow on the mountains at first. We went through a toll and the road gradually got wider and straighter, there was a heavy build up of traffic and we had reached Barcelona.

It had been an interesting interlude, although my main memory of Andorra is of all the incredible traffic!

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