This is Glasgow, it must be Thursday.

A guy stepped into the hotel lift last night, bound for the bar.  He carried a laptop.  I raised mine in salute, acknowledging our brotherhood:  Stuck in a hotel in a city where we know no-one.
Today’s Thursday.  I know this because that’s what it says on my pill blister pack.  The hotel is Jurys Inn.  I know this from the carpet pattern.  I’m alive.  I know this because I can update myblog.  It’s the only real human contact I have.
Um, you *are* real, right?

Busy, busy

It’s been a busy week this week.  That is to say, I have been stuck in a hotel with nothing to do from about 5 pm each evening, so I’ve been busy on the book front.

Unawares is now free in its Kindle edition for five days.  This is the novel I’ve entered for this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  Last year The Young Demon Keeper got through to the semi-finals.  Personally, I think this novel is stronger, but we shall have to see.

And I’ve finally got round to compiling some of my short stories into a compendium, The 07:24 to Cannon Street.  Download it now on Kindle, or wait for the paperback on Amazon any hour now.

Happy reading.

Saturday – the start

The alarm sounded at 02:30, a time at which I am more used to heading to bed rather than rising from it.  I shook ‘Er Indoors awake.

“Wassa amat oo?” she said, eloquent as ever.  “Has the alarm gone off”

“Yes, light of my life, at half past stupid o’clock as you wished.  Isn’t it curious that we say the alarm has gone off, when it clearly comes on?”

She ignored my incisive and witty conversation and staggered off to the bathroom as I made my way to the kitchen.  If I was to drive I would need a fix of tea.  Then we swapped stations until, just after three, we were ready for the off.  I programmed the car park post code into my phone and the sat nav app guided us towards our point of departure.

As we neared the airport I relied on ‘Er Indoors to supply the final navigation, as the whole site has a single post code.  I had also committed the directions to memory.  Now, in my defence, I did not have the directions in front of me, that was her job, and it was still very early in the morning.  Consequently we found ourselves stuck in a line of traffic approaching the drop-off point, amidst building work to make our journey more pleasant (we’re sorry for any inconvenience).  I slowly wound my way past tearful farewells, out the other side and round again.

“We should have turned left,” said the love of my life, five minutes after it would have been useful to know that.  I turned left.  “Oh, not this one,” she said, as we pulled into a hotel car park.  “The next one.”

“No problem, my angel,” I said, smiling.  Well, my teeth were showing.  Let’s call it a smile.

I pulled into the airport car parking lot and parked the car in the required lane.  It appeared quite a lot of people had decided to head off to the sun at stupid o’clock.  I left ‘Er Indoors by the bus and entered the reception area.  I handed over my reservation and key, the receptionist handed me the receipt.  Inside a minute I was back outside again.

“Oh no.  It’s the wrong place, isn’t it,” she said.  Have you not read the previous chapter?  Who’s stolen my drink, remember?

“No, Princess.  It’s all hunky-dory.  Let’s get on the bus.”  We boarded the bus, heaved our hand luggage onto the rack and sat down.  Within minutes we were at the South Terminal.

“This way,” I said, for I am a man, and a man always knows where he is going.

“But it says Easyjet that way,” she said.

“Yes, Precious, but that’s for those that need to check in and who have hold baggage.  We have our boarding cards already, and we don’t have hold luggage.  We can head straight for the bleep-bleep machines.”

“Okay,” she said, doubt not so much dripping as pouring from her voice.  We made our way to the bleep-bleep machine, where she finally entrusted me with my own passport and boarding card.  We went through the bleep-bleep machine.  ‘Er Indoors has a phobia about these.  She is convinced they make the machines bleep whenever she goes through, just so the butch security woman can pat her down.  This time we passed unbleeped.  Not so our luggage.    “Wait a minute!  Why have you got your laptop?”

“Um, well, there’s free InterWeb, and I thought we could research online things to do, and check our flights home, and stuff like that.”  Her look was one that was not exactly encouraging.

While one guard tested ‘Er Indoors’ collection of liquids another wiped the inside of all my backpack’s pockets.  He rifled my carefully packed contents.

“A travel iron?” he said, looking inside a small bag.

“Yes, God forbid foreigners should see me in a wrinkled shirt,” I said.  “Or old shirts,” I added, as he picked up shirts still wrapped in plastic.  He smiled.  He obviously had an ‘Er Indoors of his own.

It appeared that neither of our bags had been in contact with illicit chemicals and we were allowed to proceed (after I had surrendered my boarding card and passport back to ‘Er Indoors.  I am not to be trusted, it appears.  I wonder how I ever manage to travel on my own).

It was now 04:20.  We had passed through the whole process in minutes.  We located our flight on the departure board.  Good.  No delay or cancellation.

“The gate doesn’t open till 06:20,” said ‘Er Indoors.  “I thought it was 04:40.”

“No, ma Cheri.  The check-in opens at 04:40, but we checked in over the InterWeb.  That’s why we could go direct through the bleep-bleep machine.”

“You mean we’ve got two hours to wait?  We could have had another hour in bed?”

I showed her my teeth again.  We bought a newspaper and waited.

The gate opened a little before time.  When we boarded the plane the row by the emergency exit was unoccupied.  My six feet three frame rejoiced.  We settled in.

“This is the captain.  I’m afraid we’re scheduled for a little delay.  Air traffic has scheduled us for a 07:05 slot.  My apologies.”  I have yet to be on an Easyjet flight that took off on time, but they’ll charge you if you’re a minute late.

But as it was, we took off just before 07:00, and landed at Montpellier on time.  We skipped past the tourists waiting by the luggage carousel, trying unsuccessfully not to look smug.  We found the bus stop.  We had just missed the bus.  The next was an hour later.  Stuff it, I had Euros burning holes in my money belt (not all our Euros, of course, but as much as I could be trusted with).  We took a taxi.  Like taxi drivers the world over, he drove at breakneck speed, casually holding the wheel in one hand.  The sensation of imminent death was enhanced by the fact they all drive on the wrong side of the road.

He dropped us off at the hotel, corporeally intact.  We walked into the reception, smiles present and baggage wilting.  Check in was at 14:00, but we could we drop out luggage off.

First was the tourist office.  We walked along the magnificent Antigone pedestrian precinct.  The sky was overcast, despite all my predictions of blue skies and unbearable heat.  In the Place de Comedie (how can you not love a place whose central square is called that?) market stalls littered the square.  ‘Er Indoors’ eyes lit up.  As we walked through the place a group of people debussed from the tram, a variety of mainly brass instruments in their hands.  They took up their instruments and launched into an enthusiastic recitation.

“Is this a flash mob?” said ‘Er Indoors.

“No, it’s just Montpellier,” I replied.

We wandered along tiny medieval streets, lined with boutiques.  I found a cafe I’d eaten at six years previous.  We ordered beer, with me showing off my perfect French.  The pretty waitress immediately divined we were English (how, I don’t know, as my French is without fault).  Afterwards, refreshed, we made our way to the pumping station.  Now, anywhere else you would be correct in asking, what the heck?  But this is the south of France.  The pumping station is like a monument, and the aqueduct a marvel.

Afterwards we meandered through the municipal gardens.  Formal layouts gave way to natural-looking conglomerations of vegetation.  Turning a corner we came across a bamboo grove, the trunks clunking against each other in the Mistral.  We turned another corner and I swear the man seated on a bench was Gandulph.

We started back towards the Place de Comedie, or L’Oeuf, as we locals called it.  We came across the huge cathedral, where a couple were getting married.  I called out, but it was too late.  The groom had already been suckered into it, and it was all over bar the rice.

The next square held another fanfare band, different people but the same joi de vivre.  I wonder what that is in French?  Another square, and yet another fanfare band, this one all dressed in a uniform that consisted of red and blues, with skirts.  The men in particular looked very fetching.

We hit the Office de Tourisme again.  It was to be an almost daily thing.  We bought tickets for a walking tour on Sunday, grabbed yet more leaflets and looked for lunch.  This was France.  Not just France, but Mediterranean France.  What would our first taste of this gastronomic centre of excellence be?

After our burger and fries we returned to the hotel.   It was 14:10, but our room was not ready.  Twenty minutes.  Have a coffee.

When our room finally became available at 15:00 I was almost asleep on my feet.  They gave us our card keys and the wi-fi password and we ascended to our third-floor room.

Or rather, our suite.  “Yes, I’m famous,” I told her.  “They’ve upgraded us.”

“No they haven’t.  They’re all suites.  Why haven’t we got a balcony?”  Oh, she can be so ungrateful sometimes.

“I am just going to test the bed for five minutes,” I said, as the air-con kicked in.

I awoke at 19:00.  Oh come on.  Up at stupid o’clock, remember?  We headed out for a bite to eat.  Tired and hungry, we forwent the excitement and mystery of a restaurant hunt and opted to go to the end of Antigone by the river, where a dozen restaurants nestled together.  ‘Er Indoors ummed and ahhed over each one, wincing at the prices.  We settled on an Italian restaurant.

“I’m not that hungry,” she said.  “I’ll just have a salad for starters and a pizza.”

The salad arrived.  I don’t know how many fields died to populate the plate, but the apple of my eye (and lettuce and cabbage as well) looked aghast.  “That’s bigger than a main course.”

She managed to struggle through it, though.  The pizza was no smaller.  Welsh crofters could have used it as a coracle, and still have room for a sheep.  It was too much.  We had to take half of it home in a take-out box.

We sauntered slowly back to our apartment.  As night fell and the street-lights game on, families with small children wandered along the precinct.  Back home they’d all be safely locked away by seven, but the climate and the attitude here gave us a sense of safety and well-being.  I grinned.  I hadn’t dreamt it all.  This was going to be a magic place.

The language student

“Boa tarde,” said the man on the train.

“I’m sorry?” said Jeanette. The man took an earpiece from his ear.

“I’m sorry?” he said.

“I thought you were talking to me,” said Jeanette. “I thought you said something.”

“Oh, no, sorry, I was just, um.” He lifted an MP3 player into view. “I was listening to this. Sorry, I didn’t realise I was talking out loud. I’m trying to learn Portuguese.”

“Oh, right. Portuguese, eh? Is it hard?”

“It’s okay, I suppose. It’s a latin-based language, so I guess it’s no more difficult than Spanish or French. Not like Finnish. They say that’s one of the most difficult languages to learn. Lots of verb tenses, apparently.”

“Really?”

“So they say.”

“Do you speak Finnish?”

A look of panic crossed the man’s face. “Dear me, no. Gosh, I hope I never have to learn that. Portuguese is bad enough.”

“So are you going there on holiday?”

“Does anybody go to Finland for a holiday?”

Jeanette laughed. “No, I mean Portugal. Are you going to Portugal on holiday?”

“Oh, I see. No. We thought the South of France this year, maybe. We tend to leave it till the last moment to plan our holidays.”

“So, business then?”

“No. Oh, I travel with work, sure enough, but I rarely go further than Birmingham.”

“So, what? Is learning Portuguese just an academic exercise? A hobby?”

“Well, no.” The man looked embarrassed. “It was my birthday last month. I travel quite a bit. Usually it’s by car. So anyway, I’m not very good with maps, so my wife bought me a GPS navigator for in the car. It’s very good. You just type in the post code and it tells you how to get there. You can program it with your preferences like whether you like back roads or not, and it plots a route. It will even warn you of road works or traffic snarl-ups.”

“O – kay,” said Jeanette carefully. “And the Portuguese?”

“Well, I’m not very good with technology either. If it has batteries and buttons, I’m going to have trouble with it. I’m convinced machines have it in for me. But this one, it’s very simple to use. The salesman assured her that anyone could use it, and for the first couple of weeks it was. Birthday gifts are always a difficult thing, even if you know the person well, and she was so pleased she thought of this one. A couple of times a week she’ll ask me how I’m getting on with it, so I have to tell her it’s great.”

“But you broke it?”

“Well, no, not exactly. It still works. I put the post code in, and it knows exactly where I am and where to go.”

“So…?”

“So, last weekend I must have pressed a button. Probably more than one. Anyway I must have gone into a menu somewhere or something. The thing is, the damn thing will only work in Portuguese now. I can’t work out how to switch it back, because the settings menu is all in Portuguese. I’m not even sure it is the settings menu. So I’ve told her I’m learning Portuguese, and this weekend, when she gets in the car, I’ll tell her I’ve switched over to Portuguese mode to help me learn.”

“Can’t you just try pressing every combination of buttons?”

The man looked aghast. “What? And risk putting it into Danish? Or even Finnish? No, this is the easiest solution.” He looked out of the window. “Excuse me, this is my stop.”

He screwed the earpiece into his ear and nodded at Jeanette.

“Muito prazer a conece-la. Adius.”

Author Notes
Loosely based on an encounter I had. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, and now I don’t know how to change them back again

What would God want me to do?

“Now, cherubs, before we hear about Moses and the Egyptians, do any of you have any questions about what we spoke about last Sunday?”
“No, Miss Thompson,” chorused the class. At least, most of the class. A young boy raised his hand. He was new. It was only his second week in Sunday School. What was his name? Tom? Tim?

“Tristan? Do you have a question?”

“Yes,” he said, dropping his hand. “I’ve been thinking about what you said last time.”

“Really? Wonderful.” And Miss Thompson really did think it wonderful. What a delightful change for one of her class to ask a question. What a wonderful validation of all those Sundays she happily sacrificed for these innocent ones. “What is your question, Tristan?”

“You said that God wanted us to do what we’re told, right?”

“What He tells us to do, yes.”

“And so that’s why Abraham was going to stab his son.”

“Well, God was never going to actually let him do that, but yes.”

“And what’s-his-name, his son, he let his dad tie him up and stuff, because God wants us to do what Mum and Dad tell us, right?”

“Yes. Isaac was a very obedient and dutiful son.”

“Okay, so I have a question. What if your Dad told you not to do what God said? I mean, if you’re meant to do what Mum and Dad says, and you’re meant to do what God says, and they’re two different things?”

“I’m sure your parents don’t do that, Tristan, do they?” Miss Thompson frowned. Was this some clue to something dark and hidden in the poor child’s home life?

“No, but if they did. I mean, if your dad was a serial killer or something, and he ordered you to chop someone’s head off? I mean, God said don’t kill, right? So if God tells you to do something and your Dad tells you to do something else, like chop someone’s head off, and God says you have to do what your Dad says, what do you do?”

“I hardly think that’s likely, Tristan.”

“But what if he’s turned into a zombie, and you have to kill someone or he’ll eat your brains?”

“Now you’re just being silly, Tristan. There are no such things as zombies.”

“Okay, but what if he’s a serial killer? There are serial killers, Miss, and if they’re dads, they might want to train you up to take over when the police gun them down, Miss.”

“I’m sure your parents never ask you to disobey God, Tristan.”

“No, but what if they did?”

“Well, in that case, if they did, and I’m sure they never will, but if they did, then God’s law is always the final authority. So if your parents said something like, oh, I don’t know, something like, ‘Go steal something from the supermarket,’ then the right thing to do would be to say no. Sometimes we have to make a stand for what is right. And do you know who else made a stand for what is right?” she added, trying to steer the conversation back on topic. Tristan’s hand shot up.

“Tristan?”

“But what if your dad’s got a knife, and he says, ‘Chop off that person’s head, or I’ll kill you,’ what then, Miss? I mean, if he’s going to kill you if you don’t do what he says. What then?”

“You should always do the right thing, Tristan, no matter what the cost. Sometimes you have to be brave, just like Moses was in the story I’m going to tell you.”

“So,” said Tristan, frowning, “if the bible says do one thing, and people say do another, you should do what the bible says?”

Miss Thompson smiled. “Exactly, Tristan. If ever you are in doubt, look to the bible and it will tell you what to do.”

“Like when it says don’t work on Sunday, Miss, even though the supermarket is open?”

“Exactly like that,” said Miss Thompson, who had campaigned hard when the local supermarket announced plans to open on the Sabbath. It had been fruitless, but they had lost her custom, and served them right.

“So if the bible says don’t work on Sundays, but your dad says you have to tidy your room on Sunday afternoons, even if it’s nice out and your friends want you to go out and play, you’ve got to take a stand for what is right and tell him you’re not going to tidy your room?”

“Well, I’m not sure that’s exactly what God had in mind when he wrote the Ten Commandments.”

“But tidying your room is work, Miss. Mum says it’s ten times the work tidying my room as anyone else’s.”

“Yes, but I think what God actually meant was paid employment, Tristan.”

“But it is, Miss. Dad says I won’t get my allowance if I don’t tidy my room, but I can’t do it if it’s Sunday, not if God says not to.”

“I’m sure God did not mean for you not to tidy your room, Tristan. I’m sure that’s not what He meant when he said to keep the Sabbath holy.”

“But it doesn’t say, ‘Don’t do any work on Sunday, unless your dad tells you to clean your room,’ though, Miss.”

“Be that as it may, we’re going to have to move on now, because we’ve got a wonderful story all about a brave man called Moses who stood up to a king. Not now, Tristan. Everyone wants to hear the story of Moses.” Miss Thompson pressed on, despite the hand waving from the back of the class. “Now, Moses was born a slave, but a princess found him and adopted him. Do you know what ‘adopted’ means?” At the back of the class Tristan’s hand shot up again. Miss Thompson tried to ignore it. “Anyone know?”

“Miss, Miss, I know,” said Tristan, raising his hand so high it was almost pulling him off his seat.

Miss Thompson fixed a smile onto her face.

“Tristan?”

“It’s when your parents give you away to someone else.”

“That’s right,” said Miss Thompson, relieved.

“My dad says he’s going to get me adopted, if he can find anyone who’ll take me.”

“Really?” There was a manic edge to Miss Thompson’s smile now. “Has he considered Egypt?”

The Bone Man

“I’m going to die.”

I looked up. The stranger opposite was staring at me. The remark had obviously been addressed my way.

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“I’m going to die.”

He was in his forties, suited and booted for a day in the office. He didn’t look any different from any other commuter. I looked around the carriage, but everyone else had those ubiquitous MP3 players screwed into their ears.

“I’m sorry,” I said, because what else was there to say? Sure, we’re all going to die, but when you say it out loud, it means you’re going to die imminently. But you don’t say it out loud, not on the seven-twenty-four to a complete stranger. You talk it over with your doctor. You tell your wife or close friend. You pour your heart out to a priest. You post it on Facebook if none of the above applies, but you don’t lay it on a complete stranger on a train where he has no chance of escape. What sort of selfish SOB does that?

He looked at his watch.

“Not long now,” he said.

I caught myself trying to breathe gently through my nose. People do that, when faced with someone else’s mortality. Even if it’s something non-infectious, like cancer or multiple internal injuries after a crash, healthy people are afraid they’ll somehow catch it. And if this stranger were a risk to public health, he wouldn’t be allowed out, surely. Even so, I sat back a little in my seat.

“Sorry,” I said again, and because it sounded so inadequate, I asked, “Cancer?”

The word sounded obscene, spoken out loud. In Europe all the worst swear words are religious, but with the decline of religion they are becoming less shocking. In the English-speaking world it’s sexual, but in today’s liberal society they’re losing their effect. But we only whisper the C word, or refer to it by euphemisms: the big C or malignant tumour.

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

I should have left it there. I shouldn’t have carried on the conversation, but I never know when to keep it shut. “You’ve not been to the doctor?”

“Oh, sure, but they can’t find anything wrong.”

I relaxed and started to breathe a little more normally. He wasn’t rotting from the inside after all. He was just a nut job. I nodded as if to say, ‘Doctors, what do they know?’ and stared out of the window at suburbia rushing by.

“I don’t even know if it is medical. They didn’t say.”

“Who?”

“The bones.”

“The bones?”

“The bones,” he repeated, as if that explained everything. Of course, the bones. Well, if the bones said so, how could you argue?

He stared at me in silence. Well, good, that was what I wanted, wasn’t it? To be left alone? But that damned inquisitiveness got the better of me.

“Whose bones?”

He shrugged. “Any bones. It doesn’t matter. They all say the same thing. I normally use chicken bones. Easy to get, see?”

“What? You read bones, like, um, like a witch doctor?”

“Yes.”

Okay, fine, good. He didn’t look like a shaman from some hitherto undiscovered Borneo tribe. He looked more like an accountant, but it took all sorts. So, I was sharing a carriage with a man who had predicted his own death by divining chicken bones. No problem. I tried to bite my tongue, but the pressure to get the questions out was just too strong.

“How do you learn something like that? Do they do courses in that sort of thing?”

He gave me a look that implied my question was on a par with, ‘Do televisions have little actors living inside them?’

“What, a degree in foretelling the future? Night classes in divination? You can’t learn it. It’s not written down in any books, and even if it was, wouldn’t do you any good. It’s a natural talent, bone reading. You either can or you can’t.”

“And you can?”

“Yep.”

“How do you discover something like that?”

I mean, who would wake up one morning and ask himself, ‘I wonder if I can tell the future by staring at bones?’ It’s not a natural question, not at the top of the lists of subjects to ponder on a wet Sunday afternoon.

He shrugged. “It just happened. One afternoon I was clearing the table. I went to throw the remains of the chicken away, and it just jumped out at me. I could tell, just from the carcass, something bad was going to happen. Sure enough, the next day Dad drove his car into a lamppost. Nothing serious, thank God, but that was the start.”

“Yes, but bad things happen all the time. It’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it? Connecting something vague like ‘something bad’s going to happen’ with a car crash?”

A bit of a leap, like a suicide’s fall from the Empire State Building.

“If that was all it was, but I sort of practiced. I experimented with different bones, throwing them down and looking at the patterns. It just seemed to fall in place. The more I practiced, the better I got. Most of it is in the leg and wing bones, but the details are in the ribs and the little bits in the claws. I don’t know how it works, exactly, but it does. The things I’ve seen in the bones, and then seen them come true. You’d be surprised.”

“I’m sure I would,” I said, sincerely. “And you saw your own death?”

He nodded.

“How long have you got?”

He looked at his watch again.

“An hour and five minutes, give or take.”

“An hour and … It’s that accurate?”

“It depends. I mean, your own death, that sort of concentrates the mind, you know? And I’ve thrown the bones so many times since the first time I saw it. Yeah, just over an hour left.”

“You’re taking it very well.”

“How many people get a chance to prepare themselves? I’ve seen it coming for a few months now. I’ve made preparations. Said goodbye to those who care. That’s where I’m off to now. Seems a shame to call the undertaker out, when I can still make my own way to the funeral parlour.”

I took at the suit, the freshly cropped hair, the manicured hands. Well, if you have to go, you might as well look your best.

“Is there a chance you’re mistaken?”

“Ha! You think I haven’t asked myself that? No, it’s very clear, very precise. You can’t argue with such unmistakable evidence.”

Well, a court might, I thought. It’s hardly recognized as expert testimony.

“But they didn’t tell you how?”

“No. That’s the odd thing. No clue whatsoever how. I suppose if they told me that I might be able to take precautions against it, and then what sort of universe would we live in, eh? No, it’s fated, preordained.”

I was talking to a man who had calmly accepted his death as foretold by a dead chicken, and he thought the odd thing was they hadn’t told him how. Oh well, some people’s odd is someone else’s normal.

He looked out of the window and squinted into the spring sunshine.

“Nice day for it, anyway. I always liked springtime. Well, this is my stop. Goodbye.”

He rose, then gasped. His face contorted in pain and he clutched at his shoulder. Then he hit the deck as though he’d been struck from behind. Even seasoned commuters pulled their earphones clear and looked concerned. I dropped to my knees besides him.

“What’s happened?” I asked, as though it weren’t obvious. “Are you all right?”

Through the pain he looked confused, puzzled.

“Too early,” he said. “Got an hour yet. Don’t understand. Oh, wait.” An odd expression surfaced on his face, a mixture of relief and embarrassment. “Daylight Saving Time.” Then he closed his eyes.

I apologise

 Dear Janet,

I’m writing to apologise once again for the other night. It was all totally my fault, and I fully understand you not wanting to answer the phone to me. I hope that you’ll find it in your heart to read this letter, even if I am beyond forgiveness.

I’m not good with women, not as an awkward teenager and not as an even more awkward adult. It’s nerves. I’m sure that if I could only relax and be myself things would be better, but I accept one of my faults is I try too hard. When Julie arranged our blind date I was convinced that no normal woman would want to go on a date with me, and when I saw just how extraordinarily beautiful you looked, I thought you couldn’t possibly be my date for the evening.

On reflection, it makes perfect sense that you should bring a chaperone for the initial meeting. Even though Julie is a mutual friend, you had no idea who I might be. I could have been some terrible freak, or Julie’s idea of a joke. So I understand now why you would be reluctant to meet me alone and vulnerable. And I think it’s terribly endearing that you should choose your mother as your chaperone. After all, a girl’s best friend is her mum.

And so I can only apologise for flirting so outrageously with your mother when we met. I was convinced you were too beautiful to be my blind date, and your mother looks remarkably young for her age. In my defence, your mother didn’t correct me, and I felt she remained with us a little longer than was strictly necessary. Incidentally, I wonder if you could explain this to her for me? She has texted me several times, and whilst she is a lovely lady, I really don’t think it would work between us.

As for the restaurant, again, I put my hand up. It was my fault. I should have researched it more thoroughly. I had never been there before, and I made assumptions that in hindsight I was wrong to make. When Julie told me your parents were Scandinavian I panicked. I wanted to make as good a first impression with you as I could, but my knowledge of Scandinavian haute cuisine starts and stops with Swedish meatballs. I only wanted to make you feel at home, and so I scoured the local directory for a Scandinavian restaurant. I swear on all I hold dear I thought it said Lap Dining Club. I expected dishes of roast reindeer. I was as mortified as you when Trixie’s bra landed in my dip. You were right afterwards when you said I should have handed it back, but in a blind panic I stuffed it down my shirt in the bizarre hope that you hadn’t noticed. I know that sounds stupid when I say it now, but fear does strange things to a person’s reasoning.

As for black eye, that was totally my fault again. I reiterate, I was not making a lunge for you, and by that point in the evening any hope of even a chaste goodnight kiss had disappeared. The truth of the matter is, Trixie’s bra had worked its way down and as we stepped outside the clasp reached a rather sensitive spot, causing me to convulse in surprise. I was horrified when our heads made contact, and I hope that you will take into consideration that I did drive you to the emergency room myself rather than wait for an ambulance.

So all in all, I don’t think you saw me in my best light. I understand if you never want to see me again. However, I meant what I said about you being extraordinarily beautiful, and I would love to make it up to you. If you are willing, could I ask for a second chance? Julie told me you are a nurse. It just so happens there’s a little cinema in town showing a hospital drama. So please either phone or text me (your mother has my number) and let me know if you want to see ‘Nadine, Night Nurse’ at the Spy See Cinema this weekend.

Regards

Bob