A Boston Bar named Cheers!

Blue whale

It May Sound Fishy, but…I might once have met

Sam Malone, from Cheers!

We went to Martha’s Vineyard, near Boston, USA.  They let us buy a coach trip to the island, home of many stars and celebrities.  They didn’t say that we would not be allowed to leave the bus:  we found that out later.  The people of that island didn’t want to meet us, which was a blow. I’m not saying the coach was locked, but the driver was jangling the keys.

We were picked up at the ferry and dropped back, right on time.  There was one short stop, at an out of the way café, but otherwise the bus doors remained closed.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s words came to mind: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’  I’ll go for that!

We saw the gates of some famous people – the homes were way back up leafy lanes and completely out of sight.  I heard Ted Danson mentioned.  I perked up; we’d laughed so often watching Cheers on TV!  (We didn’t get to see his place, either.)

Once liberated from our outing, we took the ferry back to Rhode Island, nearest land to the clannish vineyard, and went back to our timeshare to recuperate.

Next day we huddled in a fine mist on an almost deserted beach.  We watched a couple of men replete with rod and line, catch… sod all!   My husband went exploring.  He was soon back.

‘A man down there is catching so many fish he can’t reel them in fast enough.’ He grinned.  ‘Do you want to take a look?  I think it’s Ted Danson.’  I was off like a bat out of hell.

How was I to be sure?  I craned for a better look.  The man had his back towards me, but he did have a couple of glamorous girls with him.  On closer inspection they seemed more like daughters than groupies, so this might be just a family man.  As I wondered which way this cookie might crumble, he turned and caught me watching him.

‘Excuse me,’ I stammered.  ‘I was wondering how you do it, the fishing, I mean. There are men up the beach who can’t get a bite.’

‘Sam Malone’ turned away.  He had two big fishing chairs anchored on the sand, each with a long rod attached:  one of the rods was quivering.  I stayed and watched.

He turned back.  ‘Give me a hand?’

Those girls weren’t helping, so I went down.

‘Take the other line, and yell if you feel it twitch.’  He was masterful.

There was no time to wonder whether he pulled pints up the road in Boston.  He fitted me into the chair.  I grabbed the rod, leaned back, and said:  ‘it’s twitching.’

‘I told you,’ he said:  ‘to yell WHEN it’s twitching!’

It is twitching,’ I yelled.  ‘Right now – it’s TWITCHING!!!

He got the message.  We started the winding in.  On his line he soon had another big blue specimen to add to his bag, while on mine I was looking at the biggest fish I’ve ever seen in my life.

‘What is it?’  I gasped.

‘King mackerel,’ he said.

It was not like any mackerel I’d ever seen; this was more like a Blue Whale!  It was beautiful with an iridescent sheen of green and blue along its sides and a silvery underbelly.

‘Do you want it?’ he asked.

‘No thank you.’  I thought of the fridge at our self-catering unit. ‘Can my husband take a picture?’

He turned, to see my man looking sheepish in the background.   ‘Come on down,’ he called.

He wasn’t exactly chatty, but he was friendly.  But was he Ted Danson?  Right age, not so much hair, but then… (didn’t Sam Malone wear a wig?)

‘What is your name?’  I was dying to ask, but the words I needed wouldn’t come – it wasn’t polite!

‘How do you catch the fish?’  I asked instead.

‘I do it right,’ he said; showing all the humility one would expect from the manager of that Boston bar.

And so I got my picture taken with a fish half my size, and a lot better looking.  Ted got to eat the fish and think of me.  Oh sure!  It was never ascertained if he was – or was not, for that matter – Ted Danson!

We went back to jolly old England.

As this was back when you got film developed, we consigned it to the dark room at BOOTS the chemist, and waited impatiently.  The picture was a beauty, and I sent our print to American friends.  New Yorkers.

‘That don’t look like him to me,’ they opined – and kept the picture!

All these years later I’ve remembered it.  I don’t have the negative; that went in the bin when I was downsizing, years ago.  Maybe the New Yorkers still have it – if only I could find them!

I don’t know if I met Ted Danson.  I think I did.  I should have asked those girls.  He was bossy enough to be Sam Malone of Cheers.  He was not snooty enough to have had much to do with Martha’s Vineyard.

Whoever he was, he was kind.  He gave me something to remember always – a glorious keepsake for when I’m buying small dull mackerel from a dreary store!

‘’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’

LaLa Land by Malabar Cash is an ebook  for Kindle: available on Amazon.  Enjoy!

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What are Friends for?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Imaginary Friend.

We all need somebody to blame when we’re caught in the hot stuff.  In times of yore, Princes had whipping boys – Now settle down, it’s nothing to do with S and M, but it is nearly as painful.  (So they tell me!)

I had one of those; he took the blame for everything.  I called him ‘boy.’   He was miffed.

‘I do have a name, you know!’

’‘What is it?’

‘George.’

So I called him Boy George.

I had an Aunt Laura, my favourite Aunt.  She would come to our house at weekends and chat to my parents while I waited impatiently.  When they had done, Auntie would take me for a walk and we would stroll in the park, and chase the ducks at the pond, and then always on the way home, we had an ice cream.  I really liked Auntie.

Then my brother got born.  That was really annoying.  Why does one need a brother?  They don’t dress dolls, they can’t knit, and they are quite useless at applying lipstick and nail stuff.  Anyway, he was there, and suddenly he had to come with us. In his pram!  Aarrrgh!

I was inclined to be bossy, and devious.  The next time Auntie came, I went into the bedroom and stripped my brother.  Every last stitch, and then I hid all his clothes.

‘John can’t come.’ I said.  ‘He’s lost his trousers.’

‘How did that happen?’  Mother asked.

‘Boy George did it,’ I said.

Well, he had.  He’d rushed in with his guitar, hung his hat on the banisters, and borrowed the clothes.

So!  My brother couldn’t come!  Obviously.  He’d be too cold!

It may explain why we never really got along.

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LaLa Land by Malabar Cash is an ebook  for Kindle: available on Amazon.  Enjoy!

When I go wrong, I put my back into it.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Comedy of Errors (and bonus assignment!).”

Image result for wiki Commons free pictures of fountains

I woke up.  First mistake.  Then I got up.  That was the second.  I should have stayed in bed.

We ran a small boat business, my husband and I, and he was away.  There were things to be done, people to meet, and my neck ached.  It ached badly.   I had recently  strode down an old wooden jetty searching for a boat, gazing into the distance.  I failed to notice a missing plank.

I marched resolutely down the hole.  The result was a whiplash injury.

But today I must deliver a message to that same old boatyard.  It was a long time ago, and ‘elf-n-safety was different then.  Missing altogether.  I got into our small black van; windowless except for one at the back, and set off.  I eventually drove down the alleyway at the back of the yard, climbed the steps to the office, delivered the note, yarned for a while, and left.

I failed to notice that in my absence a petrol tanker had arrived.  It was delivering fuel.  The armoured pipe went down a hatch in the ground to underground tanks.  They were under the canal path that ran along the back of the sheds.

I walked round the tanker to my parked van.  I started the engine, peered painfully round, and reversed.  There was a bump and a lurch.  Why?  My van was at an alarming angle.  I got out to investigate and went round the back.  I was met with what looked like the Trafalgar Square fountains, but smelling of petrol.  I had reversed into the open hatch, splitting the huge fuel pipe.

As I said.  I should have stayed in bed.

A man came running towards me – the tanker driver.

‘Turn your engine off, lady!

I hesitated.

‘Just… turn… it… off!’

I wanted to run away, but I went gingerly back to the van and complied.  By now the alarm had been raised and I could hear the sirens arriving.  I had brought the whole of ……..  (I still won’t tell you where,) to a halt.  I waited.

The police arrived.  Nobody could turn on their engines for fear of fire.  The drivers were stuck.  I stood on my own, with my bright red handbag.  Another mistake, believe me.  I could hear the whispers.It was ‘er over there with the red bag!

Hobo bags

A  policeman approached me.  I was looking as near aloof as I could.

‘Did you commit this heinous crime, then? ‘ He asked.

‘Afraid so.’ I said.

‘A thought for you,’ he said.  ‘There were no barricades round the hole.  If you had been blown sky high, your loved ones would be very rich.’

A happy thought.

I conveyed that message to the tanker driver.  He reckoned to have asked repeatedly for barricades that were never provided.

My back hurt now!

I never heard another word about the incident, and I didn’t go looking for trouble.

That was probably another mistake.

Employment in the Olden Days

Greyhound running.

Jobs ain’t wot they used to be!

When I was young jobs were plentiful, you could pick and choose.  When I left school at sixteen, I was up and running – from one unlikely job to another.

I was, by nature, daring. I was the one in our school who smoked Players Weights behind the bike sheds.  I didn’t know it could damage my health.  I thought it was smart to smoke.  I learned that it was not the only sin committed behind the bike sheds!

I graduated to Balkan Sobranie, Black Russian, with gold filters.  It got me noticed.

Aged eighteen I took off to Canada with a girl friend.  My boyfriend, a reliable type who played in a well known Jazz band, had broken my heart.  I wanted to forget him, and the best way was to get up to my neck in trouble.  So I did.

First I needed the fare.  I left my sensible job sorting cameras, and took a job in a factory.  I learned to make armatures for vacuum cleaners, operating one of a row of huge machines.  They had whirling struts that wound wire into slots in heavy spiked cylinders.  I once got too keen and pressed the ‘go’ button before the cylinder was safely in place.  It flew out of the machine, rocketed the length of the shed, and hit the metal walls at the end.  Boi-i-ing!….Thank God there was nobody in the way!  I locked another one in and prayed.  There would be an enquiry.  Who dunnit?  My mates knew, but nobody grassed.

I got an extra job on the Tote at a London dog track.  I was good looking then, and bad at maths, so they employed me.

I had one evening of training, and the next week I was on my own.  I had never seen a dog race in my life, (and still haven’t.)  There were all sorts of terms to remember, and odds to work out:  straight bets; four and six reverse, and ‘come on luv, you must know something.’   I gave up saying ‘I really don’t know,’ and instead proclaimed the virtues of four and six reverse.  On the occasions it came up I collected a bonus:  gamblers are often generous.

I saw the sad side; desperate people hooked on a game of chance.  I caught on quickly to the gambling odds – I took in a packet and paid out a pittance.  It taught me a lesson for life.

I still didn’t have enough money, so I looked around for one more job.  My next was at a laundry, sorting roller towels.  The pay wasn’t bad but the pong was awful.  I can’t tell you what people did with roller towels…  Really.  I don’t want to tell you!

By a strange coincidence, many years later I was run over by the Managing Director of that same towel company.  We were both innocently involved in a fast motorway pile up and his Jaguar flattened my Mini.  I was in it.  Cars were smashing into cars everywhere and he was unable to stop.  I’m now two inches shorter, due to smashed vertebrae.  I do resent that.  I still think of myself as tall!

And so I found myself on the Empress of France, out of Liverpool and bound for Montreal.  I had twenty pounds, which was all you could take out of the country.  It was a long time ago and worth more – but twenty pounds was not much to see you through to finding a job and getting some wages paid.

We made friends on the boat and on arrival; five of us girls rented one room for a while, eating and sleeping.  We lived like the sardines we couldn’t afford.  Montreal was bi-lingual – French Canadian, which is nothing like French.  It ruled out waiting at tables.  We were all out of work for a number of weeks.  Our diet was rigid.  Toast and butter, or toast and jam, and tea – and fantastic adventures.

There were no cigarettes.  I had to weigh up once whether to buy an egg or an apple for dinner.  I decided on the egg.

The corner shop owner raised an eyebrow.  ‘You sure you wouldn’t like half an egg?’

‘My man,’ I told him.  ‘You are looking at someone who once smoked Black Russian Sobranies!’

I got a job in a prestigious hospital.  I was interviewed by the Chief Surgeon, and there was only one question.

‘Do you know the London Tube?’

‘Yes,’ I answered.  ‘I took the Northern Line every day.’

‘Tell me the stations,’ he said.

‘Edgware, Burnt Oak, Colindale, Hendon…’  I intoned while his eyes misted over… Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square, Piccadilly.’  He shook his head and stopped me.

‘You’ve got the job’ he said. ‘Come in Monday.’

On Monday they discovered I couldn’t type, but I worked at it, and I stayed.

Later, two of us took a Greyhound bus to Toronto and worked in a bakery there.

cake

Slicing iced cakes into sections is messy, the icing gets up to your armpits.

When, after three years I came back to England, I reached London with exactly one shilling left, (five pence.)  I’d lived on the edge, had a great time, and learned a lot.

I don’t smoke now, but I do still like an adventure.  As the man said, you may have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up!

I like today’s generation.  They don’t have a huge range of jobs to choose from, but they’re an accommodating lot.  They cheerfully sort me out when my mobile won’t work.  They point me in the right direction when I’m lost.

I hope they dare to have fun while looking for employment.

Because…

Who dares – wins!

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LaLa Land by Malabar Cash is an ebook  for Kindle: available on Amazon.  Enjoy!

Am I a hypochondriac?

Searching for a hobby was giving me a headache!  I knew the usual pursuits – collecting beer mats and coasters.  I wanted miniatures – whisky, gin and rum, preferably full.

I needed a hobby to get my teeth into.  They ached quite often.  I gave it more thought, and there was that pain again.  I feared it might be serious!   I felt a flutter, a frisson of excitement.

With hobbies – hypochondria is King.  It concentrates my mind for most of the daylight hours.  At night I enjoy a spot of insomnia.

Most hobbies are expensive, golf springs to mind, deep sea diving, and hang gliding.  Even gentle pursuits like counted thread work cost a fortune and send you blind.  Hypochondria needs only a good medical dictionary, a wild imagination and the bus fare to the clinic.

How I used to suffer, leafing through my volume of illustrated ills.  When Google came along the world was my oyster.  (Now there’s an allergy!)  There are moments of terror, of course, as in horror novels and films, but I savour them.  Some folk pay good money to be frightened out of their wits.

I’ve dallied with most of the spine chilling complaints.  My breasts have had more lumps than a bowl of porridge, and, oh yes, my bowels have moved me!  Once, after downing pills donated by the National Health, I got thrombosis – well nearly!  Driving my new car caused the pain in my leg.  It took weeks of tantalizing anguish to find that out.

This hobby out puzzles Scrabble and Sudoku, (and I’d have to buy those games.)

A professor who examined me for bladder problems hooked me up to a catheter and a large tank of water.  You don’t get that playing contract bridge!  My innards took in a steady trickle.  ‘Tell me when you’re full,’ my tormentor said.

‘No problem yet,’ I responded to his first enquiry.

A while later: ‘I’m still comfortable,’ I said.

Still later:  ‘No trouble at all.’

‘Well, we have a problem,’ the boffin informed me – we’ve run out of water.  Your bladder rivals the capacity of the Aswan Dam.’

What a relief!   Oh!  It was worth it!

That’s the point, really.  I can’t tell you the euphoria that sweeps over me when I get the all-clear.  That lift of the spirits,tinged with regret, because I was rather enjoying it!  That high is rarely achieved by an aerobics fanatic going for the burn.

I wondered if there were fellow enthusiasts.  I found that there’s a great big world out there brimming with players.  Health is always in vogue – it’s the next most popular topic after the weather.

I am sought after for my specialist knowledge, and know that my physician finds me fascinating.

I get all this excitement for free: or at most, the cost of a good medical dictionary.  If I bought the right one, I might win a prize.  I could get chased down the road by a man with a prize draw cheque!

It would definitely make my heart race!

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LaLa Land by Malabar Cash is an ebook  for Kindle: available on Amazon.  Enjoy!

Phobias, big spiders and me.

Adventures on the Web.

I have spiders that live in my house.  I wish they wouldn’t.

I live alone now.  (I believe there is a black widow spider, so I suppose we have something in common.)  I knew that when October came around, there would be at least one spider the size of a soup plate.

I gave the problem some thought.  How should I deal with this?  Well, if I was in dire straits – suppose Hannibal Lecter was after me and there was an arachnid between me and the door – what would I do?  Well, I’d try flirting with Hannibal first – I’ve read the Silence of the Lambs, and he’s quite fun as long as he likes you.  If there was no Hannibal?  Well a spider is about an inch high, so I could vault over it.  I’d be out that door and legging it up the road like Usain Bolt.

So I was ready when Wincey arrived.  He was orangey-brown, spray-tanned probably, and he was a fan of Strictly come Dancing.  Come Saturday and Sunday nights Wincey was there, swaying in front of the television, (he liked the Argentine Tango, he had the legs for it.)  He came out during the week for updates, rather fancying Zoe Ball.  She only has two legs, of course, but she’s spindly, and may have spidery handwriting.

I used to say to Wincey:  ‘OK.  Here’s the deal.  You don’t come near my feet, and I won’t crush you.’  I then turned out all the lights and held a magazine up to the edge of my eyes, so I couldn’t see him in the light of the TV.  It rather curtailed my own dancing, and my floor exercises, but I didn’t want an eye to eye encounter with a brown recluse.

Wincey left shortly after the end of the series.  He didn’t stay for the Christmas edition, probably lured into Panto, as Daddy long legs.  I can’t say I missed him, but I had got used to him.

The following year Octavius took his place.  He isn’t exactly a tarantula, but he’s big and black and serious looking.  I call him Octavius, because he has eight legs, and is generally unattractive.

He was very well behaved at first, lying doggo in a corner and staying there while the light was on:  until I went away on holiday.  I was confident he would be gone by the time I came back.  Wrong!  He was not only there; he was a squatter, and not too amused at being disturbed. He takes off at a gallop now across the living room floor.  I ignore him, he’s just showing off.

I know Octavius is male, because he does exactly as he likes, regardless of what I tell him.

There was a time when I could call for help at sight of a spider and wait with eyes closed until it was removed.   Experts report that if you put them outside, ( because they have a right to live,) they just turn around and come back in when you’re not looking.

I talk to Octavius when I see him, and he looks back with soulful eyes under raised eyebrows.

When I meet him upstairs I admonish:  ‘What are you doing here?  Why don’t you go under a floorboard?’

‘Fat chance,’ he implies.  ‘It’s wall to wall carpeting.’  Fair point, I suppose.

‘Don’t go into my bedroom,’ I tell him. Spiders exhibit sexual dimorphism.  Is that similar to S and M, I wonder?

I lock eyes.  ‘If I meet you on my pillow, boyo, you’ll be straight up the vacuum cleaner!’

He shrugs:  resignation? Or disdain?  Spider’s blood is pale blue, of course:  I expect that’s where they get their lofty notions.

So far, he’s kept the bargain, hasn’t spun out of control.

I expect that soon he will want to find a mate, and spin her a line.  Well, do it outside of my house.  I want him to be happy, but there is a limit!

I’m not sure whether spiders have extra sensory perception – but I think he’s got the message.

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LaLa Land by Malabar Cash is an ebook  for Kindle: available on Amazon.  Enjoy!

A bit about a Boat

Somebody's treasured boat
Somebody’s treasured boat
Aboard a boat belonging to the Royal Omani Navy.
Aboard a boat belonging to the Royal Omani Navy.

I’ve had a lot to do with boats, one way or another.  For many years my husband and I spent our spare time looking for boats that had been abandoned, or sunk.  No job too mucky.  I wish I could show pictures, but it was before digital cameras.  Believe me, those boats were dirty.  If you value your fingernails, girls, don’t marry a guy who’s into old boats.

Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is satisfying.  Once up and running, we used our newly painted boat for a while, and then found that we had enjoyed fixing the beast more than sailing it, so we sold it on and looked for another.  You can waste a lot of money that way.

I particularly remember an old wooden boat called Quest.  She took us through many adventures, the most hairy of which was when we motored her across the channel to France.  Quest behaved well, but the channel did not.  On the way back from a good weekend in Cherbourg we were making excellent progress and had negotiated one shipping lane, when the engine stopped.  Geoff had to go overboard and check it out.   I had to put a rope round him and tie a bowline knot.  It’s the one described as when a rabbit comes out of a hole, goes round the tree, and back down the hole.  Not as simple as it sounds, but I did it that day and lowered Geoff over the side.  If he couldn’t fix the problem we would have to call out the lifeboat!  He dived down, and I waited.  After an hour or so, (it seemed) he tugged on the rope and I hauled him up.

‘It’s a tarpaulin,’ he said, ‘round the propeller.  I got my knife to it, but I may have to go again.’

We watched anxiously, aware of the ships and tankers so close by, and then we saw a huge grey sheet rise and move away from the boat.  Thank you, God!  We tried the engine and it spluttered into life, and we were off.  I checked my watch, 15 minutes for the whole thing.pic for whirlpools

My navigation had to be checked, the tide can take you a long way in fifteen minutes.  A yacht  coming in the other direction gave us a fix, and before too long we were in sight of St. Catherine’s point and celebrating another adventure.

Thank you, Quest.  I’ll never forget you.

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Showers, Campsites, France and Me

Ordeal by Water

I seem to have trouble with water.  Well, bathrooms, kitchen taps; definitely showers and anything remotely wet.

It seems to happen mostly in France.  We all know about the French; lovely people, but definitely not too bothered about sanitation.  At the drop of a zip they’ll be off watering the verges and not being shy about it.

Camping sites are notorious for trouble with water.  It runs everywhere, erratically.  The quickest way to get it is to give up and go away.  Look back – and see it showering an empty cubicle.  Within moments of entering a shower you can be sure your clothes will be wet – the spray goes everywhere and your shoes will be full to the brim.

Campsites in France.

It was in France that a trip that had started so well went awry!  After a fair night’s sleep, I sashayed across to the campsite shower block attired in a seventies shell suit.  It covers everything and nobody knows or cares, that it’s your pajamas.

I found an empty cubicle, tied my clothes into a ball, hung them safely over the outside of the door and got au naturel.  I looked at the money machine and read the notice.  Mettez le jeton doucement!  So I put the metal disc gently into the slot – and nothing happened.  I tried again, gently but firmly, with no result.  For my third attempt I rammed it in hard and banged heavily on the machine, convulsing all the cubicles near to mine.  I got nowhere.

I decided to try the other side of the shed:  I had heard people showering over there.  I could leave my clothes, I decided, and dash across with my rather tiny towel, since there was nobody about.

I set off.  When I was mid way, and fully exposed, the campsite manager arrived.

‘Do you ‘ave a prob-lem Madame?’

I stayed where I was, clutching my hand towel:  should I arrange it ‘up’ or ‘down’?

Unknown to me some busybody had alerted the management, but Monsieur le proprieteur was not at all phased.  I’ll give him his due he was a gentleman; he kept his eyes strictly on mine as we discussed the situation.

He asked for the jeton, and I leaned carefully towards him.  He went back to my shower, placed the coin gently in the slot – and the water gushed out!  I nodded imperiously, to hide my embarrassment, made no further comment, and made my way back.

Nobody, but nobody, had been able to get water out of that shower except him, and now it had built up.  I found it wouldn’t stop, and I was in danger of drowning as well as flooding the place.  I collected my clothes, forced my wet body into the shell suit and left the building to its fate.

Old London town.

Even in London I am not immune.  I once got an urgent call for assistance when I was rinsing shirts at a  sink.  Our flat was above the shops in the High Street, above the bakery and sandwiched between the wet fish shop and the funeral director.

So I set off like Wonder woman but inadvertently left the taps full on.  Whilst I was sorting somebody else out, a shirt got sucked into the sink outlet at home, then another, and then one more.  The sink became blocked and the water overflowed to the floor.

On my return I was faced with paddling around trying to clear up the mess.  Many buckets were emptied before I was done:  (home and dry.)  I decided on fried chicken for supper, always a treat, and oddly it came from the fish shop beneath us.

‘Can’t be done, luv,’ I was told with regret.  ‘No electrics – the lot’s gorn, even the stiffs in the Chapel of Rest are getting warm, so they tell me!’

I blanched!  Was I to blame?  Definitely!  Should I confess?  Not unless I had to.  So I didn’t.

Horoscopes?

Why is it, I ask myself, that where water is concerned, I am always in the hot stuff?  Maybe it’s because I was born in the wet month of February.  A Pisces rule decrees:  ‘You will always be happiest surrounded by water!’

I live on the Isle of Wight now.

I am happy…  but I do check up each morning…  In case it has  floated away.

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LaLa Land by Malabar Cash is an ebook  for Kindle: available on Amazon.  Enjoy!

A Week on the Tall Ship SV TENACIOUS

DSCF0516

Handicapped person climbing.
Handicapped person climbing.

I ‘pulled’ on SV Tenacious

When I signed up for a Tall Ship

S.V. Tenacious in full sail.
S.V. Tenacious in full sail.

voyage, I was looking for Captain Jack Sparrow, not Captain Bligh.  I knew I would pull – big ropes, little ropes, maybe pints, because I knew I would be working as crew.  What I didn’t expect was to gaze down from forty feet in the rigging, and think – What the hell am I doing up here?

SV Tenacious and SVS Lord Nelson are ‘three mast barques,’ used by the Jubilee Sailing Trust to enable people of all abilities to be part of the crew on a voyage.  Those in wheelchairs, or with partial or no sight, can with the help of a buddy, join in the fun (and the really hard work.)   Lord Nelson and the younger Tenacious, the only two of their kind, were built with equipment to enable all crew to sail on equal terms.

I am a mature woman, some would say very mature, and I do know a bit about boats.  With my husband I regularly sailed the French coast and Channel Islands.  Now single again, I was hoping this voyage might provide some yo-ho-ho, the odd rum punch and perhaps a little adventure.

Our voyage started from Southampton.  I walked the length of Dock Gate 4, to berth 36, as advised, but no tall ship was in sight.  I walked on – and on.  I found Tenacious, eventually, hidden behind and dwarfed by a container ship.  I was hot, flustered and incredibly tired when I finally boarded.  I found my bunk and lay down to recover.  The tannoy crackled.  ‘All hands on deck.’  It could not possibly be for me.  I was wrong!

I arrived on deck to hear that in the complement of fifty, there were only ten males.  (What?)  The females included twenty Irish schoolgirls, sixteen years old, nubile and wearing short shorts and tight T shirts.  Oh, just great!

Fab 4. Aishling, Myra, Maeve,Amy.
Fab 4. Aishling, Myra, Maeve,Amy.

Due to a hitch, the ship would stay in Southampton and head for Cherbourg next day.  It would mean, the captain beamed, that we could practice climbing the rigging immediately:  the ratlines and yard-arms awaited.  Deep joy!

First in line for the ratlines, (thin slats of wood about half a mile apart,) was a nubile schoolgirl.  She set off like a rat up a drainpipe.  I have a good head for heights, but there are ladders and there is rigging that sways and wobbles.  I found that though I could look down, I didn’t like looking up!  When the climber ahead panicked, I was told to stop:  I clung on – and on!  With the aid of a permanent crew who were calm and infinitely patient, we got sorted, and I lurched from certain disaster to apocalypse now and survived.  You are not hooked on for the first forty feet, to make it interesting!

We met the chef that evening: a truly excellent cook who modelled herself on Gordon Ramsey.  If you want to commit suicide, tell her you don’t like onions! On mess duties once, together with three delightful girls, I managed to macerate the next day’s greens.  Who likes greens anyway? Even George Bush the elder didn’t like broccoli.  ‘Gordon Ramsey’ went ballistic!

Duties aboard include pulling the hard, hairy ropes, sail setting, night watches, mess duties, (think veggie peeling, laying tables, pulling trolleys, and washing up for 50); scrubbing of decks and cleaning of bathrooms: (pulling chains!)   Consolations include excellent food, a well stocked bar, visits to foreign ports, and the company of like minded people.  Many a friendship is cemented during a long watch on a cold night.

One of the girls confided that she’d crawled into her bunk at four am, fully dressed, but for her mac and shoes.  ‘Me too,’ I said, ruefully.  ‘But,’ she whispered at four pm, ‘I’m still wearing all the same stuff.’  ‘So am I,’ I told her, aware that I’d made the choice between a wash and change, or breakfast.  (There was no contest, really.)    ‘The world hasn’t come to an end,’ I said.   We bonded.

There were three people with wheelchairs, as well as others less challenged.  They joined in everything.  They got the chance to go up the mast, chairs and all – hauled by permanent crew and volunteers.  Two were encouraged to leave their chairs behind and climb the rigging, aided by a crew member.  He supported them and placed feet on the ratlines with infinite care and kindness.  Up they went, on the same path as mine, and had pictures to prove it.  Friends and family back home would envy them for a change!

Given the hard work – was it worth it?  I now know that I can go the extra yard, and be calm in a crisis.  I got a huge boost to my self esteem.  There was no hunky matelot hauling on a rope and panting for me, but maybe next time…….

What really made it, was seeing the joy on the faces of those less physically able – and that, as they say, is priceless.

I’m glad that I pulled on Tenacious!

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LaLa Land by Malabar Cash is an ebook  for Kindle: available on Amazon.  Enjoy!

LaLa Land the new thriller

Cover page for LaLa Land
Cover page for LaLa Land

My new book, LaLa Land is now up on Amazon Scout and I’m hoping that all those who read the extract will nominate it for publication.  It’s a free download, so please click on https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/P23BFJR5NBZ3

Here is what the book is about.

In London, Ellis Hudson knew the ropes. In Los Angeles he is finding his feet – and stepping on toes. A wannabe Philip Marlowe, his client fits the bill rather too well. She’s dark, delectable and definitely dangerous to know. Penny Alvarez believes in sell-by dates, after which she will strip a man down, make him purr, and let him die happy. She’s the client, but Ellis Hudson has to call in the cavalry. He needs all the help he can get!

I’ve added an excerpt about Penny Alvarez.  She is what Ellis Hudson is up against!

It was going great.  Tony’s knees had buckled slightly as he heaved the sail bag up across his back, but he rallied with a word or two from Penny.  Both bags were transferred to the waiting boat, and Penny breathed a sigh of relief.  It was another step completed.

Her heart was beating fast.  She had disposed of inconveniences before, various modus operandi, but basically they had all been the same.  This time was…. well, it was different.  This was a culmination.  It was the end of a very long road.

Tony gunned the engine.  It fired.  They had noted the mooring and the boat would be returned to the same place.  Who was to know, as long as they got it back, that it had ever been part of an adventure?

They kept the throttle low.  Nobody had shown any interest; there were indeed not many people about.

‘How far out?’  Penny asked.

‘Ten minutes should do it.’

‘Make it fifteen,’ she said.

At last they puttered to a stop.  Tony was straight into action, wanting this over as much as she did.  It was no easy matter.  Both bags were heavy.  One bag would remain heavy, but the other must be weighted down permanently, it must not surface as time went by.  During the journey out Tony had unscrewed the guard rails.  The bags were on the cabin roof.

Tony continued masterful and in charge.

‘Keep out of this until I say so.  It’s too damned easy to become attached and go over with the rest.  Many a fisherman….’  He was getting his message across.  Penny wished he had always been like this…  Perhaps he had – she had loved him once.

She perched a safe distance away and watched him tie the bags together, wind more chain round the outside, until finally he sat back, satisfied.

‘You ready for the big push?   He asked.

‘I am.’

‘Check yourself over, no loose cords; no strings attached?  He grinned.  He was actually enjoying this, and transferring the mood to her.

‘I’m loose.’  A quick smile.

She got into position, braced her legs, made sure her arms could be easily pulled free.  He checked her again:  he checked the bags.  He was ready.

‘Heave!’ he said.

By God they were heavy, but the bags moved from the cabin roof.  The first one snagged on the deck and they heaved again to keep it going.  The second bag came down and they put their backs into getting the momentum to push it over.

All of a sudden they were gone, with an almighty Whoosh and a clatter!  Surely it had woken the whole of the near-by marina?

All was silent.

They stared at each other, and then Tony opened his arms wide and she fell into the embrace.

‘It’s over.’  He buried his head in her hair and drew a deep breath.

‘It’s over.’  She savoured the smell of him.

They laughed in unison.  ‘It is over!’

‘Let’s go home,’ Penny said.

The boat was returned to its moorings.  Yes, there were drag marks on the deck, but that could have happened at any time, and for craft that had been neglected it was only to be expected.

All they needed to do was drive away.

‘How about we take the pretty way?’  Penny asked.  ‘The coast road:  over towards Los Palos Verdes?’

‘You’re a glutton for punishment!  I’ve had enough excitement for one night.’

‘I just thought we might find a little place to lay our heads – when the inns open.  We could make it a romantic week-end.’

‘That’s different.  Now you’re talking.  I’ll go for that!’

The road was winding.  They were cruising, taking their time.  No hurry now.

Penny was running the caper over in her head:  no loose ends as Tony had said.  Nothing to trip them up.  They’d been way out to sea and nobody was watching them anyway.  Just tonight to organize now and that must be perfect.  She checked the road behind them in her rear view mirror.  No lights.  She drove around another bend, the road was climbing, and the view was fantastic.  Still no lights, they had the road to themselves.

‘Can you feel that?’  She asked, frowning, leaning towards him.

‘Like what?’

‘There’s something wrong, the car is wobbling.’

‘It’s the wind up here.’

‘It feels more like a puncture.’  She pulled the car to a halt against the cliff.  ‘You want to take a look?’

Tony sighed.  ‘I won’t be changing no wheels up here,’ he said.

‘I’m not asking you to do that, but I may have to call Triple A.  A wheel out of shape is dangerous.’

‘OK,’ he grumbled.

‘Make it quick.’  She said.

Tony got out.  ‘Front or back?’

‘It feels like the back.’

She waited, with the engine running.  She moved forward a little, causing him to shout.  ‘Hey!  Where are you going?’

She calmly put the Lexus into reverse, and hit him just enough to knock him over.

‘Hey!’ He shouted again – before she ran slowly over him.  Nothing dramatic!  Nothing had been enough to leave marks on her car.  In Drive she ran forward over him to make sure he was dead.  She wouldn’t put it past Tony to have survived!

She watched the road; still no lights.  The cars would come sooner or later.  Move fast now Penny – get away.  Your life may depend on it.

She had to reach the twenty-four hour car wash.  She would go through it twice.  There would be time to dispose of her overalls and definitely her shoes, somewhere up there.

Frankly, it had been a long night.  She would be glad to get home!

I really enjoyed writing this book.  I hope you enjoy reading it.  Quite apart from nominations, if you would care to leave a comment here, I’d love to hear from you.