Thursday, 27 June 2013

Mother love and naughty boys...

I wonder why a lot of women seem to be attracted to men who bully and abuse them?

What makes them stick around, taking verbal and mental abuse, even physical abuse sometimes? How can they respect the man they are with when he belittles them in public, shouting them down when they have an opinion, destroying their relationships with others, simply because he wants to and can.

What makes some women put up with the actions of these petulant, demanding, pulling-the-wings-off-insects, schoolboy men? 

Maybe they are all just naughty boys in the eyes of these misguided women.

Is it some strange type of mothering or perhaps it’s a form of Stockholm syndrome, capture-bonding as it’s sometimes called. Maybe it starts out as an okay relationship only to become over time - with marriage, children and a greater reliance on the man - a hostage type situation.

Of course, Stockholm syndrome doesn’t necessarily require a hostage scenario, all it requires is a “strong emotional tie that develops between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” I think that describes an awful lot of marriages. I personally know of one at least.

One explanation of Stockholm syndrome suggests that the bonding, let’s call it misplaced love, is a response to the trauma of becoming a victim. It can take years, but eventually the victim completely identifies with their aggressor as their subconscious dumbs down and defends itself. The victim comes to believe in the same values and version of truth as their aggressor and thus ceases to be a threat in the victim’s mind. In this way the victim can love him despite his actions.

Maybe this explains why the likes of Eva Braun, Myra Hindley, Maxine Carr, Rosemary West and all of the others go along with such awful atrocities, joining their very bad men in their terrible acts, covering and lying for them and losing themselves in the process.

What other reason could there be? Oh, I’m sure that these controlling men make their women feel very special and I’m equally as sure that they can be very nice, even charming, when they want to be. But why let their insecurity lead to total control? Of course there are women out there who have been brought up to feel that they don’t deserve any better, or perhaps they really don’t know any better. He’ll scare and manipulate and some women are more afraid of being alone again than of being in a controlling relationship. Some women even believe truly that they can change their man and after a lifetime of trying the realisation that they’ve failed and wasted their lives in the process can only add to their lack of self-identity.

Perhaps in the final analysis these women do what they do simply “because I love him.” But after a lifetime of control that sounds like an excuse, something like the sound of one hand clapping to the other hand’s demands.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Not really cricket...

As a child I never learned to ride a bike or fish, these are things that came to me much later in life and subsequently I’m a wobbly bike rider and I lose most of my fishing tackle in the weeds. It’s not that I didn’t want to learn I did, but in our house failure wasn’t allowed and that hardly encouraged you to try something new.

All the other boys on the estate went fishing and dashed around on bikes. I often wondered how they learnt to do it until one day I realised that they’d learnt from their dads who’d shown them what to do, even holding onto the back of the bike seat, running along beside them until they could balance on their own.

Of course my dad was a busy man and he wasn’t really interested in fishing or bikes. He was interested in football and cricket though. I’ll never forget those happy days in the park and on the beach as he powered yet another goal past me or bowled me out for another humiliating duck. How I laughed as he ‘quacked’ me and tossed me the tennis ball. Of course this was always followed by his innings, which went on and on as he knocked every ball I bowled into the far distance either scoring a six or running back and forth twenty or thirty times until I emerged bloodied from the hawthorn bushes with the ball.

As he often used to remind me: I was rubbish at football and cricket. Eventually I gave up playing beach games, taking myself off to paddle in the sea on my own as my dad didn’t like the water much.

Later, in my teens, I discovered I was pretty good at rugby and got on to the county team. My dad even came to watch one match, but disappeared to one on my mum’s friend’s houses after ten minutes or so. Well it was cold, and it would have been rude not to pop in (she was a redhead my mum met in hospital whose name escapes me), besides my dad didn’t really like rugby.

Anyway, that's why I don't play cricket and why I’m not racing in the Tour de France this year.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Oh Vicar...

It seems to me that God isn't going out of business anytime soon. Maybe I should have become a vicar, a steady job with security. Of course to be one I suppose it helps that you believe that Jesus actually was the Son of God and did all those things that the Bible says he did. But unfortunately I don’t. Not unless Jesus was a biblical David Blaine.

Mind you, perhaps belief isn’t so important. Good presentation, counselling, and communication skills could probably get you by, and if (as I do) you have a penchant for a little flower arranging – well, the job is as good as yours.

I’m not sure about the uniform though. Those dog collars look a little uncomfortable and restrictive. I do cut a dash in a black suit though, and purple really is a great colour. The hours seem good. A couple of services a week, a sermon to lift from the internet, and the rest is drinking tea, eating biscuits and wandering around jumble sales and fetes.

Now what denomination would I be? Catholicism is definitely out, as is being a Baptist – they don’t drink do they? No, I think I’ll stick to C of E. Well, at least I’ve got first level membership to that one and I was once asked to join the church choir - I declined. 

Yes, that's it. I’m going to become a vicar and spend my time riding around on a bicycle wearing clips and dinging my bell at my parishioners.

Off now to brush up my praying. God bless you all.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

My top ten smells...

Smell, it’s the most emotive of the senses. Smells can take you back to that fantastic holiday you’ll never forget, that special person who is long gone, even that time that you really don’t want to remember.

I’ve had a long think about my favourite smells. Some almost, but didn’t quite, make it - pear drops, creosote, a beer or two. Others were never even close to getting on the list – babies, 4711, frying bacon, salt and vinegar crisps.

Anyway, here’s the list and over time I’ll probably write about why I like each smell so much.

1. Cut grass
2. The road after rain
3. Cooked onions
4. India
5. Soap
6. Clean sheets
7. The sea
8. Rum and ginger beer
9. A freshly opened tin of Coffee
10. Paraffin

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Big rain…

There was big rain in the night. I lay there, the indigestion bile burning in my throat, wondering how I had arrived at this particular point in time. Sometimes the rain soothes, but last night its beating drummed on my mind like the snares of a dozen devil drummer boys marching me with a ceremonial rat-a-tat-tat to hell.

The hourly, on the hour, wakings are back and nothing, not even the comfort of a small, white, warm cat lying beside me, can stop them from breaching my sleep. It’s not insomnia, I have no trouble falling asleep, but the repeated wake-up-calls leave me exhausted. Of course I can send myself back to sleep in moments, picturing the blackness surrounding the single story building, flowing in through the open window, smoothing across the floor to where he lies like a mountain of corruption, smug and secure in the knowledge that he is the all powerful big man.

He’s always the big man… rat-a-tat-tat.

I mumble something. A dog barks somewhere in the distance. Something… somewhere… and before the deed can be done, the pouring blackness of suffocation started, I wake up, throat burning and itching, and make my stiff-kneed stumbling way to the bathroom again for another sip of water - cold and iron.

I lay listening to the rain. It seems to be talking. If only I could make out the words. I savour the taste of cold and iron as I fall back into the black and slide through the open window. This time there might be thunder.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Summer solstice...

I got up at this morning just before five to watch the sun come up. Of course I couldn’t see it, but then I never expected to. It wasn’t so much the cloud, although it was a little cloudy, but living in streets with houses around doesn’t give the best view of the rising sun.

It wasn’t cold either as I welcomed the day with a sip of red wine and the crumbling of some bread into the small hole I’d made in the ground. I’ll try anything to make my plants get a spurt on. Litha, the first day of summer, summer solstice, the standing still of the sun. Sometimes it feels like the sun really is standing still, or at least stop - starting - stop - starting as the summer stumbles on.

Meanwhile at Stonehenge the sun was welcomed with chants and prayers, scattered flowers, singing and applause as twenty thousand people met to witness the sun’s rise. At Avebury, just along the road, only 500 turned up. This year though, surprise, surprise, it was too cloudy even on Salisbury plain for the sun to be seen. Of course the good old plods were there with their sniffer dogs to spoil the fun, moving through the happy crowds and arresting 22 people. Yes, as my good old fun dad always says “CALL THE POLICE!"; they always know just how to (screw things up) sort things out.

But enough of bullies, here's a happier memory. Many years ago on a school trip bus, full of egg sandwiches and the smell of sick, we arrived at Stonehenge and spent an hour or two wandering through the stones with clipboards and pencils in hand. Obviously it was raining but there was no admission fee, no fences and nothing to stop me from sitting on the alter stone - and I did. Maybe it’s an imagined recollection but I recall I felt the stone pulsing as I sat there… or maybe it was just my bum throbbing on the cold, wet stone.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Not all monsters are big and hairy, some of them have toothy smiles and seem extremely charming, smarmy even.

Look, I don't care if he is 83, charming and a minor national treasure. I don’t care if he is in poor health or that he made millions laugh in the Seventies with his not-very-funny jokes and striped jackets. I don’t care that his fourteen victims are about one percent of Savilles – ‘only’ as his brief is on record as saying. All I care about is that his punishment matches his deeds.

Fifteen months imprisonment for what Stuart Hall did to girls as young as nine is an insult to everybody that isn't a pedophile. In reality he’ll serve half of that, only two weeks for each young girl he fiddled with. What is wrong with that judge, maybe he's nostalgic for It's a Knockout? I’m beginning to worry that our society is starting to accept that TV personalities in the seventies and eighties were ‘up to it’, that it was ‘par for the course’ and that ‘they were all at it’.

Well that makes it all right then doesn’t it.

The fact that for each girl that has come forward several others probably haven’t - not wanting to make their lives messy by raking up the past – isn’t even in that pathetic fifteen month equation. And what of Bill Roach or Tarby or Rolf? If they are found guilty what will they get? Will the courts and the public be so used and bored with it by then that we accept the slap on the wrist that some sympathetic judge hands out.

Meanwhile Ian Brady continues with his life sentence, without even the right to commit suicide for the horrors that he committed and rightly so. Yes, make him sweat out every last minute of his miserable life.

Stuart Hall’s sentence is far too lenient; my God you can get five year for not paying your tax and seven years for habitual shoplifting. Stuart Hall, the king of the funsters, might have been having fun with those girls but they weren’t. He didn’t kill any of them, but he did damage all them. He isn’t Ian Brady but he does deserve to be locked up for his forever. I hope someone sees sense and makes his punishment fit his crime.

Monday, 17 June 2013


Respect, it’s such an overused word these days. Schools teach it, politicians bleat it, the police fill in forms about it, companies run courses on it and street gangs kill for it.

I have little respect for a lot of the people in established authority, even less for my elders and so-called betters. The police, the army, priests and politicians, doctors, judges; what makes them think they automatically have the right to the respect of people? Is it their hats, their guns, their bibles and bills, their drugs, their silly powdered wigs? Automatic respect is nonsense, something belonging to the forelock touching past driven by fear without any basis in reason. Respect needs to be earned. Of course this means that the people who become policemen and soldiers and priests and the rest can be respected, but it doesn’t automatically follow that they should.

When I was young we had a vicar in our town who abused children, what he did was known about but nobody did anything because he was respected. Another man, a local councillor, regularly got completely smashed and then drove home from the pub. One time he ended up smashing into a Belisha beacon, he wasn’t even breathalysed. The local bobby regularly took sweets from the sweet shop without paying for them, the doctor took his own drugs and my old headmaster dished out punishment for no reason other than he could.

‘I demand that you respect me.’ How many times have I had that bellowed in my face? Ditto: ‘Show me the respect I deserve.’ Thing is, I did. I showed exactly the respect that was deserved. I base respectfulness around what people say and how they act rather than what job they do, how much money they have or if they related to me.

Should we respect old people? What all old people? Even the ones who lie and cheat and bully and steal and use others to do their dirty work? Should we respect our parents simply because they happened to give birth to us? What even the ones that neglect their children? And what about all the others that command our respect; the TV presenters, sports stars, the bankers and the bullshitters?

For my part, it matters not if people respect me or not. That isn’t how I measure myself. I measure myself on how much self respect I have – and therein lays another and much more complex tale.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Father's day thoughts - my fictitious dad...

What to say about Father’s Day? Should I bother to say anything at all? As a father I could comment, as a son I probably have the right.

I didn’t set out to be a father. It was never a burning ambition of mine. It was one of those life things that happened along the way and, me being me, I went with it and did my best even though I don’t think my best was really good enough.

As a child I used to watch those American family movies where the father was always so great - playing ball and teaching right from wrong. He always knew just what to do and how to make things better. Those Dads went to work in the office, the factory, on the farm, Mom made apple pies and sewed on buttons - everyone was happy. .

How I envied those film kids their fictitious film fathers, even though I knew that they weren’t real. I envied them so much that I used to dream that I too had a fictitious father, just like the one in the movies – after all a made-up father can’t do you any harm.

In my film my fictitious father knew the value of things, not simply their cost and was able to appreciate words and art and music. He had patience, never roaring into a temper at the drop of a hat and bullying everyone around him, abusing their space and homes. My fictitious father showed my fictitious mother a little respect and allowed her to have an opinion without knocking her back with a barrage of bellowed abuse. My fictitious father meant it when he used the words “I’m sorry” to apologise and didn’t simply use the words as another way of telling you to shut up and do as you were told. My fictitious father brought a smile to my face when I thought about him, rather than emptiness and bad, bad memories. My fictitious father liked and respected me and I liked and respected him back. We had things in common, shared interests, understood what we meant when we spoke to each other, he was even able to see my point of view and I his. My fictitious father never stormed out of my house in a childish rage simply because he couldn’t get his own way. My fictitious father was the sort of dad you could have a pint with, have a joke with, touch.

I suppose. I never set out to be a father. Like fairies, I don’t believe in them.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The TV people...

Just another day in our road - man beats red sports car with a branch from a tree, two familiar looking women move backwards and forwards behind the windscreen, hands upraised in mock shock (even though the car is static) and a small army of people with clipboards and coffee stand watching them jiggle whilst getting paid ridiculous amounts of dosh.

One curly-headed chap stands for hours holding a boom; wouldn’t a boom stand do the job just as well? It would certainly be a lot cheaper.

Yes, it’s just another ‘lights, camera, action’ day on our road. We haven’t had one of these since Cold Feet was at number 16, or was it that programme with Robson Jerome on the other side of the road?

Yes, for the last week we have had the TV people in again. No, not the ones who live in the TV, but the ones who make the programmes to go inside the TV. Dozens of white vans have lined the pavement, wheels mounting the kerb by a foot or two, best boys, not so best boys and not very good at all boys run hither and thither carrying notes about bacon sandwiches and the 3.30 at Epsom. Large cameras are set up, only to be taken down again without any apparent filming. Men stand around with clipboards, young girls bring coffee, luvvie language abounds (sweetie) and huge black curtains are drawn around scaffolding to create night in bright daylight.

So what goes on?

EXCLUSIVE: ITV and Red Production Company have found the two lead actresses for their upcoming comedy series Cabbage and Pat. My sources tell me that Cherie Lunghi (Secret Diary of a Call Girl and The Manageress) and Barbara Flynn (Cranford and A Very Peculiar Practice) have been cast as the co-leads in the six episode series, with production on Cabbage and Pat currently underway.

Created by Amy Shindler and Beth Chalmers, Cabbage and Pat follows two women, one widowed and one divorced, who together find a new lust for life.
Ah, Cherie Lunghi and Barbara Flynn. Didn’t I meet them both once in a sauna in one of my dreams? If I remember Barbara was dressed in a white nurse’s outfit and Cherie, well let’s just say that Cherie was wearing quite a lot less.

My neighbour’s house has been hired for the week and transformed into hippy home. It’ll all be redecorated when the filming is done and it pays very well apparently, almost a king’s ransom, certainly a small chest of pirate’s treasure. Damn! Why couldn’t they have chosen mine? It badly needs redecorating and I could do with a Caribbean holiday.

Cabbage and Pat, a bit like Cabbage Patch… I wonder which is Cabbage?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Back yard update...

When I decided, way back in March, that this year all of my garden plants would be grown from seed and that I would stick to predominantly blues and purples to attract the insects I hadn’t reckoned on the coldest spring on record.

I planted my seeds indoors and I’m happy to say that almost everything I sowed germinated. I was assured of a wonderful show this summer, particularly my Morning Glories as I had sown three varieties and potted on well over sixty plants. I’d had real success with them last year and, whilst I only grew a few, they grew tall and strong and were covered in beautiful purple, blue and white delicate trumpet-like flowers. Not this year though.

I constructed a small cane run against the wall on which to let them climb and waited for the weather to warm up enough to plant them out. Weeks in the cold frame saw them growing stringy and weak. If they didn’t get planted out soon they wouldn’t stand a chance. I waited and waited and eventually planted them out anyway despite the soil not being warm enough really.

The few I have left are struggling hard. In fact the whole yard – such a glorious picture last year – threatens to be much less than the leafy haven it was. So that’s it. I’m going to have to buy some bedding to lift it which isn’t what I had planned at all and just in case you were wondering - this is one of last year's.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Lost Luna two...

So there she was sitting on the windowsill. We rushed to open the back door and down she jumped and began to make the loudest purr I’ve ever heard. She must have been running on adrenalin because after licking our hands and faces and quickly gobbling down some food, she fell over exhausted. I picked her up. She was thin and she whined in pain when I touched her tummy. She was dirty too, covered in dust and grime. We coaxed her to drink some water and she lapped and lapped still purring as she did so. We were all smiles and relief, the dread of not-knowing dissipated as Luna wearily made her way to her igloo bed, lay down and went to sleep.

Where had she been? Had she been trapped somewhere? It looked like it, and it looked like she’d struggled to get away. Still, she was home now so we left her to sleep in her bed in the kitchen.

Next morning she was still asleep. I knelt down and stoked her and she opened her eyes and purred. You could really see how pleased she was to be home.

A couple of days on and she’s almost back to normal. She’s still not jumping as easily as she should and I think she’s still tender around her middle. Bur she's back to jumping into bags and is keen to go out but we are keeping her in for a few more days - Taking her outside on her leash in the sunshine. She still hasn’t told us what happened, where she was, or how she escaped - perhaps she’s saving that for another day. Maybe I can coax it out of her for a treatie.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Lost Luna one…

Just look at Luna hiding in the chiminea the day before we lost her. So cute and happy, so content.

You know something isn’t right when your one year old white cat isn’t home by eight in the evening, particularly as she left the house at seven-thirty that morning. You know something is up when she hasn’t been back for one of her two hourly home-checks - just to be sure we haven’t moved whilst she’s been out adventuring. You definitely know something is wrong when she left without eating and fifteen hours later hasn’t been home for any her delicious nin-nins.

Thirty-nine hours might not seem like long, but when your feline friend – all purrs and scratches – goes missing for that length of time it feels like a lifetime.

Distraught probably sums up how we felt. Images of car accidents and broken limbs, fur-trading cat snatchers, evil garden protectors with spades and falls from tall trees ran through our minds. The fur-trader imaginings were the worse – nets and sharp stiletto knives – and increasingly common to fuel the German cat fur trade by all accounts. Of course we hoped she’d been locked in a shed or garage somewhere. It really does come to something when you hope that your cat is locked in small, dark space without food or water and the potential of days or weeks (maybe even months) of incarceration. Of course weeks would be too long and months would be an impossibility; even with a good supply of mice.

We trudged the streets calling her name, checked the alleys, drove around looking for signs of something white in the gutters, and scoured the tarmac for tyre prints and blood. My daughter printed posters and she and her grandmother walked miles pinning them to lamp posts. My wife delivered hundreds of flyers to houses asking them to check their sheds, a friend overseas said a spell for Luna, my Facebook friends sent me words of encouragement, the postman was asked to keep an eye out, vets contacted, groups of small boys encouraged to go searching. I sat and moped convinced that she was gone forever.

By ten o’clock on the second evening we had all given up hope except for Holly. We’d been hearing her bell all day only to find it was jangling keys or the swifts darting and twittering high in the air above. I must have seen her at the back window at least a dozen times only to realise, in a dashed hope manner, that it was actually the white paint of the window frame across the way.

Then Gaynor screamed as Luna appeared at the back window like a ghost.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Moments in time…

Not a great drawing but a two minute scribble almost twenty years later becomes so much more. Every time I look at this old scraping of mine I’m taken back to a sunny afternoon sitting in the car beside the bee-buzzing garden of the cottage we were renting in Wales.

There was the smell of lavender in the air, the glint of the sea past the mountains in the distance. I was waiting for the others to come to the car and in those couple of empty minutes dashed off the old shed which stood in a field on its own. I remember every line and the way the pen felt upon the cheap paper that I found in the glove compartment as I sketched the fast disappearing, tumbled-down shed.

The year after, when we rented that cottage again, the shed was gone and the field had been cleared.

No, it isn’t the greatest drawing in the world, but it’s a moment in time caught on paper that will never take place again and perhaps the only evidence remaining that the old shed ever existed. Besides - it’s my moment in time.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A key…

Time, tide and the elements beat things up a little; even the cold store where the fish was kept had to succumb eventually. Over the years things get chipped and broken, smoothness cracks, shiny enameled veneers flake away until all that is left is the darkness of what has always lay underneath, hard and black.

My mind is like that cold store. Empty of fish and full of dark. Of course, I didn’t plan it that way it just always was. I’d rather that my head was full of pink fluffy sunshine than the dark clouds that sometimes fill my head to full. Where and how it started you don’t want to know, but it’s always been there; making me see something ominous in the clown, soon to be gone in the sunflower, less, not more, when there was always plenty.

When I paint my palette is muted, skies are stormy, my subject matter often worryingly sad. When I write something always sits beneath the text. A sunny day is spent waiting for the rain, a good meal, indigestion, an adventure, accident. Friendship is something I don’t deserve and don’t feel I have the right to. Success should go to somebody else who deserves it. And love?

Is this depression? I don’t think so. Is it low self esteem? If so then why would I want to share my thoughts with anyone who will listen? This is just the dark and all I have to do is open my head and let the sunshine scare it away.

All I need is a key and a sunny day and everything will be fine.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Old boat…

It must have been painted over and over. Each coat covering the previous year’s quickly brushed lick - another year, then another year - so that young boys could go out onto the water and old men could gently smoke their pipes and quietly fish. Now, forgotten behind the dunes, full of sand and almost overcome by the marren grass, the old row boat lay forgotten.

Winter rain and summer storm had taken its toll on the boat’s once pristine surface. Under the green the blue was showing through, then the pink beneath, and on down to the thin hull’s wooden and metal nakedness. No more boys to dive from stern to water. No more old men to tap their pipes against the side and, wearily picking up the short wooden oars, row slowly and fishlessly back to shore for a pint.

An old forgotten boat chanced upon on a windy, wet walk along the sands; an old sailor fading away in the blowing sand.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The smell of caps…

The smell of caps will remain with me forever. The slightly burnt paper, sulphurous odour taking me back to cowboy hats, cap bombs and six shooters. KAPOW! A boy wasn’t a boy without a roll of caps in his pocket; the rolled pink paper dotted with red-brown spots inside a soft cardboard casing. The casings were round as well, the colour of egg boxes, a penny a roll. Toy pistol caps made in China, approx 100 shots - bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.

Gotcha, you’re dead Ian. You’re dead Jimmy. You’re dead Michael - bang, bang, bang.

Despite the childhood killing, and the smell of gunpowder, I’ve never wanted a real gun. Just as the bows and arrows I used to make from string and sticks never drove me to go buy a crossbow or the fact that we all carried knives in our pockets led to gang fight stabbings.

A cap gun was just fine for me. It was about the smell you see, and the bang. Not the act of firing though, that was almost incidental. Of course in these more enlightened times we don't really want our children to play with toy guns; perhaps that's what makes some of them want real ones.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Earthquake in Wales...

The earthquake took place at 4.16 on Wednesday, 29th May. It measured around 4 on the Richter scale and took place somewhere on the Llyn peninsula between Aberdaron and Nefyn or further out in the North Sea. It didn’t last long and was felt as far away as Southport, Dublin and the Isle of Man.

Yes, my very own disaster movie. This is an eye witness account. Well, ear witness to be more accurate.

It sounded like the corner of the cottage had fallen off, a huge piece of masonry dropping to the gravel fifteen feet below. I had been walking my white terrier in the park when it happened. I was on my way to meet some old colleagues and for once I had some good news; my book had been accepted, I was assured of a best seller, and my offer on my Greek island was going through. All was well with my world and I basked in the sunshine. Then the incident happened.

Yes, it sounded like the corner of the cottage had fallen off. I lay under my early morning covers as the walls boomed and the bed trembled, the electricity wires above my head humming like violin strings plucked by a stormy wind - there was no wind though, was there? I awoke immediately my little Timmy running off into the grey twilight of my dream. The thunder under the ground only lasted about fifteen seconds, then silence until suddenly every bird in the world decided to start singing. I jumped out of bed convinced that the heavy chimney stack had fallen or that a drunken farmer had driven his silage wagon into our roadside wall.

We were all awake and up, Holly and Gaynor as confused as I. ‘What was that?’ I think that I knew immediately that it was an earthquake - well, we do have a cottage in the most earthquake prone area of Britain – but I checked anyway. There were no huge cracks in the walls, no piles of rubble in the lane beneath our windows, no snapped-off jet engines in the field across the way. Hurriedly pulling on a T-shirt and shorts, aware that my uncombed hair made me look like a madman, I went outside to be greeted by the pale grey pre-dawn light and the singing of the panicked birds.

I looked around; nothing. Not a fissure or a loosened stone, no jagged chasm in the road, the telegraph poles still stood, the roof remained on the cottage; only the sound of the birds and the bleating of running sheep to remind me that something unusual had happened.

Going back inside I noticed the mug smashed upon the kitchen floor and then the hairline crack in the bathroom wall. We hadn’t escaped entirely Scott free after all.