Thursday, 26 June 2014

Storm in the City ~ A London Tale

Back from Friday lunch to his office near the Barbican. The receptionist eyed him speculatively. It was just after two. There was a message from Storm. Call ASAP.
He closed his office door and rang her mobile number.
‘Beattie, is that you?’ Through her slurred words he realised she was in a bad state. It was her last day at the bank. As a trader she’d taken far too many risks and eventually it had caught up with her. She'd taken the boys round to a subterranean bar restaurant on Eldon Street near Broadgate Circle.
‘Can you come and rescue me?’ To give her her due she laughed at this. ‘White knight routine. You know the form. Sorry. So very sorry…’
‘Not a problem. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Don’t move.’
‘Not very likely. I’ve a full wine glass in front of me. In fact I don’t think I can without your help.’
He grabbed a cab outside his office and directed it to Broadgate giving himself five minutes to reflect on his damsel in distress, Sara Thomasina Oona Rhiannon Montgomery. Her nickname had kicked in at St Mary’s. Sara had been shortened to Sar but then one of her friends noticed her initials. When she left school for the last time she threw her English dictionary out of the car window. It had been presented to her on Prize Day some years earlier.
She’d been born in Llangollen hospital. Her father, an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, had driven her mother across the border from her grandparents’ home in Cheshire to ensure she was indisputably Welsh.
At Cambridge Storm had been rusticated. She was doing more damage to the Boat Club’s training regime than any night out. She worked her way assiduously up from her college eight to the might of Goldie and the University boat crew, sleeping with several of them along the way. And she was seldom sober, missed classes and comported herself like some gin-sodden relic of the early nineteenth century.
She was alone at a restaurant table in the farther dark recesses when he found her, in her chic charcoal grey office suit and Hermès scarf. The staff were briskly cleaning up after the lunch crew had left. Her wine glass was empty and she was about to pour herself another drink.
He grabbed the bottle out of her hand. ‘I bet you haven’t eaten.’
‘Thanks for coming. Can count on you. Was going to phone Foxy but didn’t think she would be able to get away.’
‘Probably not. Have you eaten?’
She smiled, fingering the rim of her wine glass. ‘Whaddya think, Beattie? No, I haven’t.’
‘You will now.’ He scanned the menu, called one of the waitresses over and ordered a lasagna.
‘For you. I’ve already had lunch.’
‘Have a drink. My card’s behind the bar. Stick it on my tab. One more is not going to matter.’
‘I’ll pass.’ He thought they might take a taxi to his car park and then he could drive her.
‘Not like you. Like you. Like you. I do. I really do’ She reached out across the table for his hand.
‘Storm! Just drink some water will you.’ He opened a bottle of San Pellegrino and they both watched the bubbles in the glass.
‘Bubbles, pretty bubbles. Why are you so good to me?’
‘I’m not. Just want to make sure you get home safe and sound.’
Storm had other ideas. She wanted him to take her to a bar in Clerkenwell where a friend was having her own farewell party before leaving for Australia.
‘Got to go. Texted me. Got to go. She insists.’
‘Not until you’ve eaten something. At least.’ He thought it would provide some motivation.
The lasagna duly arrived and Storm ate it eyeing Beattie and the wine bottle.
‘Can’t I have another drink?’
‘You have one then. Finish the bottle. Don’t want to waste it. Then see about my tab.’
‘First the water.’
‘Ok, ok.’ She shuddered as she took a sip of the San Pellegrino.
Beattie went over to the bar and sorted her tab. He returned with the credit card and receipt for her to sign.
‘Much? How much?’
‘Over four hundred!’
‘Christ! Bloody bankers. And all the back office staff too. Eh well.’ She signed with a sigh.
Beattie didn’t think much of bankers at the best of times but was really pissed that they’d drunk at her behest, charged everything to her card and abandoned her.
‘Had to get back to work. The market doesn’t stop. Except for me.’
‘What’ll you do now?’
‘Haven’t a clue. Something will come along. It always does. Let’s finish the bottle.’
Once she’d demolished the lasagna he poured each of them a half glass of the white wine which it didn’t take long to finish.
‘It’s time we moved on. You up to it?’
‘Give me your arm, Beattie, you lovely man.’
She struggled to her feet leaning heavily on him and they swayed towards the door.
‘Wait, wait. Please. Gotta pee. Loo’s here. Take me in.’
‘It’ll be alright. Don’t make a fuss. Don’t want to piss my pants or go all over the floor.’
He stood her in the cubicle. ‘Make sure you…’
‘Yes, yes. Good grief, man. You’d think I was a little girl. Promise to behave. Do you want to see me take off my knickers? Thought not. Go now and wait outside for me.’
There was a marked improvement in her deportment as she came out of the loo. However she took his arm to mount the stairs and would not let go as they waited for a taxi. He hoped she had forgotten about her other farewell party but she had not. She insisted they go.
‘Look, I’ll drop you off there and then go and pick up the car. Then we can get back to the flat in Pimlico.’ There was no way he wanted to take her on to her own place.
She agreed to the plan and as she stepped out of the taxi she turned and smiled. ‘Foxy’s a lucky girl. Why are you only my tennis partner?’
His mind was running to tennis as he went to fetch his BMW. Storm played a mean doubles game. They’d entered tournaments in London, Berkshire, Hampshire and East Sussex with Foxy happy to see them go. Even all the way through her pregnancy she played. Towards the end she could not run round very much but still dominated the net. Their opponents found her already large breasts difficult to avoid watching as they rose and fell with her every breath – a thing of beauty and a joy forever!
Back at the bar in Clerkenwell Storm was waiting for him. Her friend had already left. Beattie was relieved at this news although he was sure Storm had indulged in at least another glass of wine while he was away. As she slid into the seat she arched over and tried to kiss him on the mouth. He pulled back and her lips brushed his cheek. Her green eyes flashed as she turned away.
They did not speak as he headed down Farringdon Road towards the Thames. He would take his customary rat run south of the river and back across Lambeth Bridge to Pimlico. Storm had a benign expression on her face. She liked being driven.
When they reached Blackfriars Bridge, without a word, she unfastened her seat belt, leaned over and adroitly pulled down the zip of his suit trousers and reached for his cock.
‘Storm! What on earth?’
‘Shush, Beattie. You’ll like it.’
And in the midst of the traffic crossing the bridge she began skillfully to suck the tip of his cock while holding the growing shaft between her hands. He squirmed momentarily in his seat, trying to fend her off with one hand.
‘I’m going to stop the car.’
‘What? And back up all the traffic behind you? I don’t think so.’
Beattie could see in his mirrors what seemed an endless line of traffic. She was right. After a further effort to pull her up from his lap he abandoned himself to her determined and vigorous attentions. There was no way out and he could not, would not make a scene. He just hoped no oncoming lorry or pedestrians would be able to see what was going on. Her mouth was wet, almost as wet as a baby’s kiss, and, despite feeling guilty, he was very aroused. She kept curling back his foreskin with her tongue, gently caressing him. He looked straight ahead, focused on tightening all his muscles, and resisted the urge to explode.
This resistance only made the moment more intense. By the time they crossed Lambeth Bridge he was in agony, a delicious agony and by the time they reached Pimlico he knew he would not be able to prevent his orgasm. She had become more insistent and took him to another level of pleasure going down deeper and deeper on him.
‘Look, Storm, I’m going to come. You’ll have to swallow.’
‘But, Beattie,’ she half chuckled, her mouth full, ‘I’ve told you before I just don’t do that.’
‘This time. Please. For me.’
‘No. No. Not even now. Not even for you.’
And by the time they were turning into Alderney Street within sight of his flat, with Storm knowing the inevitable and clutching his cock in both hands, he ejaculated what seemed an enormous jet of fluid which spilled out over her hands.
‘Oh God, oh God! Quick, there’s a box of Kleenex in the glove compartment. We’ve got to clear up this mess.’
Storm did not help by rubbing his cock with the tissue, not letting him subside, as he parked. She was laughing, gales of laughter emerging from that wicked mouth of hers, as she thrust his cock back in his pants and pulled up his zip.
‘There. There. No one will know.’
By the time he got her up to the flat her ebullience had diminished and after she had visited the bathroom he took off her shoes and lay her down on the black leather couch in the living room. Within seconds she was asleep and he went searching for a comforter to cover her, thinking how he would explain all this to Foxy when she got back from work, and whether he would tell her that her best friend had fellated him while he was driving across Blackfriars Bridge!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Kipling, Durrell and me: how the novel works...

The Cushion Effect undoubtedly combines the dual elements of what Rudyard Kipling called “the game” and “the quest”, as exemplified in Kim, which Lawrence Durrell, also a proponent of these two fictional elements in nearly all his stories, identified as his bedside book. I suppose by the side of my pillow is the redoubtable The Revolt of Aphrodite, or Tunc and Nunquam as they are entitled as the individual novels published by Faber and Faber. I have long since abandoned The Alexandria Quartet to the ottoman at the foot of my bed.

The three central female characters in The Cushion Effect chase the game, the secret that must be discovered in the novel’s denouement, centred on Catherine’s husband’s midlife crisis. Yet at the same time a second game is played through Naomi and her cushion, which contains an intimate missive. The interior quest, the individual’s pursuit of self-knowledge, runs parallel to the public game or games. It is present in all three women with differing outcomes. Ultimately the focus of attention for the quest is how Leanne emerges by the end of the book, but it is deliberately held in the balance until the very last paragraph. Leanne is the everywoman of The Cushion Effect whereas Catherine and Naomi are its pragmatic professional and impetuous romantic extremes.  

I can see clearly now how my novel evolved although the writing of it took many drafts. My literary forbears have much of the responsibility for that and the methods I use to draw out the sketch of an idea until it is sufficient of a storyline to receive additional embellishment. It is not a way to write a novel a year. I certainly cannot recommend it. Nevertheless it is my way. And the ideas grow into sketches, the sketches into stories and the stories into novels in some haphazard laboratory of the mind and soul. My bench is awash with literary life forms in various stages of development and decay, some oozing life, some barely changing cells and taking in oxygen and water. It is hard to admit that this is not exciting. It’s … a life. My life.

My thanks to Richard Pine, editor of Lawrence Durrell’s Judith: A Novel, whose 2012 introduction to the aforesaid work has inspired my thoughts.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Novel Thoughts: The Making of Miss B

Our B could be Brighton, it could be Bexhill-on-Sea, Or it could be Bognor Regis or it could be Bournemouth. We’ll just call it B, a jewel of a resort on the south coast of England. And its beauty queen is Miss B. And this is her story, or rather, the story of the making of Miss B.
A long time ago, before I was born, it all started by the ornamental swimming pool, where gals in modest one-piece post-war swimsuits and multiple hairstyles inspired by Veronica Lake, Rosalind Russell and a young Elizabeth Taylor shyly gathered to have their beauty graded by chaps in blazers and white ducks with moustaches and matronly spinsters from the local school of deportment. This was the time of popular end-of-the-pier jokes about beauty contestants and their embonpoint. Then came the sixties with the advent of the bikini, and the hot foreign bodies, from Brigitte Bardot, to Elke Sommer, to Britt Eklund. But it was the Bardot blonde, the sulky, cigarette-smoking girl of the Midi who changed the look and feel of these contests forever.
Before too long, however, the feminists came on the scene, at about the same time as me, to burn their bras if not their bikini tops and the beauty world seemed passé and very much part of the male dominance of society, where a woman was judged solely on her looks, even if the look of these looks changed not only with the dictates of fashion but also with social conventions. By the end of the century the beauty business was in decline with television marginalising the competitions and the competitors still an easy target for ridicule with their protestations for world peace.
But then the world of celebrity and reality shows changed all that in the new millennium. Suddenly every girl wanted to be a beauty and even the most provincial of contests was oversubscribed with hopefuls, coiffed apurpose, batting false eyelashes and sporting talons of animal length and aesthetic artistry.
I remember my first day as editor of the Guardian, B’s local newspaper. I was called in to the publisher’s office to witness him sending off the incumbent Miss B. Already four months pregnant. She had come to the town for her tertiary education at the revamped poly, now dubbed laughingly a university, in media studies. It appeared she had decided to keep the baby but had yet to inform her parents. Kirk, the middle-aged publisher, wrung his hands and lamented her position. So she was packed back off up north.
When she had left he pointedly remarked to me that he did not want another outsider crowned as Miss B, nor did he expect my management of the competion to be as flawed as that of my predecessor. Certainly there was no way I would be able to get any of the contestants pregnant! I think he was relieved at that. It was a start. Little had I known this would be part of my job desciption. Managing a beauty pageant.
‘Miss B is not just about a pretty face. The search is on to find a young lady with that special spark to represent our town in the national competition later in the summer, and, who knows, if she wins that she would go on to compete in Miss Galaxy.’
This was the dream, then. The reality was rather different. The town had never won the national competition, only getting as close one year as third runner-up, a giant of a girl, model potential if she could have lost some weight, who declared in her semi-final stage speech, that she was only doing the competition to give her a leg up in the music business. You can imagine how that went down with the judges. These days she was seen from time to time fronting a distinctly amateur band playing some of the seedier pubs on a Friday night in the bad part of town.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Football First (the pre-game show) ~ New York Stories 3

They say that American football is a metaphor for US foreign policy. It’s the only contact sport where you can hit everyone and anyone even when they don’t have the ball.  All in the objective of protecting or annihilating the quarterback, a presidential figure who calls the plays from huddle to huddle. Of course, it’s convenient to forget about that mayhem on ice I prefer, of which the peace-loving Canadians and the vodka-soused Russians are traditionally the most accomplished practitioners. 
I, however, had an altogether different mind-set about the pigskin parties so much a feature of the American fall. Columbia University, not recognised as an Ivy League sports powerhouse such as The Crimson Tide, The Bulldogs or indeed the Big Red C in upstate New York, I eschewed for my first glimpse face to face of the game at the professional level when my godfather, who had seen Joe Willie lead the New York Jets to Superbowl triumph, told me he would organise a trip for me to the Meadowlands, their out of state home shared with the New York Giants in New Jersey. Confused? I was. I had hoped to go to Shea Stadium where the Jets had played when the Beatles performed there too. Besides, I would then be able to boast “Samantha does Shea” just like Debbie did Dallas in a famous film of yore. Nevertheless, easily impressed by a man who would openly admit to watching a Joe Willie perform in public I leapt at the opportunity.
On the appointed Sunday, a brisk, fresh, sunny, autumnal day, a limousine drew up outside my ob/gyn’s house in Riverdale and whisked me away to cross the Hudson River. Inside, cocooned in the comfort of his custom Cadillac, was a well-groomed man of average height in a well-tailored suit, well-polished shoes and well–knotted tie. He introduced himself as Teddy and told me he had represented my godfather for many years.
Now I, of course, had a teddy when I was little but it hardly crossed my mind that I would think about having one then. My rather short, green (I had done my research), A-line skirt rode up high on my thighs as I sat next to him in the back of the Caddy and I saw out of the corner of my eye that Teddy did not miss a trick. Well he was a lawyer after all. He closed the screen between his driver and our pleasurable tête-à-tête and offered me a glass of champagne.
He quickly plumbed the shallows of my ignorance of the sporting spectacle in which we were about to participate. I countered with a bold interrogation of his antecedents. His family were certainly of establishment New England stock. They had a summer house on Cape Cod which he casually invited me to visit. He had gone to Yale as an undergraduate and later to law school at Harvard. I don’t know why but the thought of Mary Jo Kopechne crossed my mind and I squeezed my ass tighter into the opulent leather seat as we crossed the Hudson. A reflex action I suppose. Somehow I felt safe as long as Teddy had his tie on. In any case the driver managed the car professionally smoothly, I ne’er spilled a drop of my champagne, when we took the George Washington Bridge. And with the Martha Washington supporting from below, like a good Tory squirearchy wife should, there was not much chance of us ending up in the drink.
I began to feel rather hot in the confines of the heated limousine and moved to pull my figure-hugging, black, cashmere sweater over my head. In so doing I snapped the thread that held my string of South Sea island natural pearls, a gift from my ob/gyn. They scattered on the floor and not waiting for any move from Teddy I swooped down to gather them up, dropping them one by one into my darling black Chanel purse.
Teddy seemed to be genuinely sympathetic to my plight although I found his amusement at the relative position of my head to his knees disconcerting. As  I leaned forward trying to pick a pearl from a join in the lush carpet he seized the moment, another legal trait, exploiting the opportunity. He commanded me to adopt the position. This certainly confused me. It was way too soon for any of that.
Obeying his instructions I crouched down facing the front of the car, one hand clutching my purse, acting as the pigskin, set in a transverse position on the sward. He explained he was demonstrating the snap, the action that commenced every scrimmage, the holding position and the holding stance of the line. From behind me his voice calmly issued clear guidance on how I should kneel on one knee.
Now I had every reason to be alarmed as the word snap in my limited experience always preceded the word garter and I hoped that my suspenders supporting my fine denier, semi-nude, black stockings would be sufficiently elastic to resist any of the stretching that I was being put through. He continued to explain the role of the centre, the position I was playing, asking me to bob up as he delicately lifted my skirt and almost reverently inserted his hands between my spread legs. This was no grope, you understand, only the gentlest of contact with the bare skin above my stocking from the back of his hand as on the third “hut” of the count he asked me to hike the purse back to him. After a couple of attempts in slow motion we did it at full speed and I thought I was getting the hang of it. He showed me how the position was designed to be stable by seizing my ass and pressing it down and swaying me from side to side.
All this exertion and excitement made me thirsty so I resumed my seat and asked for another glass of champagne. While Teddy poured I examined my legs, seeing a ladder in one of my stockings. This would never do. I murmured something about roughing the snapper. It seemed appropriate. In my preparation for the day I had read about penalties for roughing the kicker and roughing the quarterback. Teddy admitted that there was in fact a rarely used penalty to protect the centre as well, but that it was used against the opposition not one’s own QB. I gave him my best sardonic look as, always the practical one, I dived into my purse and retrieved a spare stocking, neatly removed the damaged article and secured the replacement.
Ever the gentleman Teddy reached over to pick up the discarded stocking and slid it into his pocket. I so liked a neat and tidy man at the time. I suppose I still do. As we approached the stadium I finished my champagne, put on my cashmere sweater, shook my hair into place and applied a quick covering of lip gloss with the aid of my compact. Teddy looked on seemingly very pleased with himself. My exposure to American football had begun in earnest.