By L.T.W. Lucas

Chapter 5

Christ, bloody hell, Ruth's out there knocking on my door again!
I was still in bed and I could see that it was a sunny morning, which was a shame, I would have liked to stay there all day. If it had been wet and windy I'd have felt justified in doing just that.
Reluctantly, I went down and opened the door. I knew Ruth would only keep calling around if I didn't, so I figured that I might as well get the visit over with.
Zeta love, how are you? I called around yesterday and there was no answer, I was quite worried.”
Well, I was out, then wasn't I? If I didn't answer that means I wasn't in, I do have a life, Ruth, you know, I do go out sometimes, I'm not like bloody Angie.”
Can I?” Asked Ruth, indicating to a nearby chair.
By all means, make yourself at home. Coffee?”
Why I ask each time I have no idea, Ruth never has a coffee or a tea.
That's OK Zeta, I've already had one.”
With the pleasantries over with, we got down to the usual dull business. A series of questions fired at me, to which I always gave pretty much the same answer.
So how's it going?”
How's what going?” I do love to wind Ruth up.
Well, you know, how are you feeling?”
Honestly, this is pretty much all Ruth, Angie and that bloody useless therapist ever asks me.
I'm feeling like I want people to stop asking me how I'm feeling, that's how I'm feeling Ruth.”
Did you see Tina last week, did you remember your appointment?”
Yup, I did, and I asked her how she was, how she was feeling, and Tina was feeling fine, just like me, though on a scale of one to ten, she had no idea where she was, maybe just a five or six, not a suicidal ten though, so that was good.”
Ruth looked at me and chewed down hard on the end of her pen before broaching the next question.
Are you writing everything down like she told you to do?”
Yes, the novel's almost finished.”
Tina gets really pissed off with me because I don't do any of the things she suggests. Mind you, she's probably even more annoyed with me now, because I missed the last two appointments. I wondered if Ruth knew this, had they conversed, had they sat around at some meeting or other discussing me?
What about your medication, are you taking that regularly, as prescribed?”
Yeah, sure.” I lied.
It's just that Angie telephoned yesterday and said that she was concerned you might not be, that you seemed more agitated than you had for a while.”
You know Ruth, I am agitated,” I said, “I'm agitated about Angie and concerned that she is eating and smoking herself to death and never leaves the house. Aren't you Ruth, don't you think Angie has some issues there that might need addressing?”
Angie isn't my business Zeta, you are.”
Well, someone needs to make it their business, but no one listens to me. I'm the head-case, not her, not the morose agoraphobic.”
Then I told Ruth that I wasn't feeling well, that I had been throwing up, had a tummy bug, and she needed to leave if she didn't want to stand there watching me vomiting into the sink.
I'll call again in a few days, then, see how you are then.” She said, reluctantly making her way to the door.
I pulled a face to indicate that I was about to be sick.
Ruth means well, I know that, and I don't dislike the old bird. She's kind, and I reckon this job is all she has. I would be very surprised if there is a Mr McKenzie out there. That's her surname, McKenzie. She has a soft Scottish accent I find quite appealing.
Ruth is round and dumpy with a plump doughy face. She looks like any other woman in her late fifties who doesn't really care that they've let themselves go to seed. There's no make-up, no thought to what she wears, clothes chosen only for comfort, and she's allowed her hair to go grey, not dyed it or anything. A good haircut though, it looks as if she does spend money on a professional hairdresser.
When she left I went back upstairs and changed into the skirt and jumper that were lying on the floor.
I needed to go out and get some more bread and milk.
Walking past the neighbours on the way back, I saw that Ray, electric strimmer in hand, was laying waste to Lilly's favourite shrub, the one with the amazing blue blossom.
What the hell was he thinking!
Why are you chopping down Lilly's bush?” I asked, aghast.
He hadn't heard me at first, over all the noise, so I shouted as loud as I could.
What are you doing!
What?” Was all he could say.
The bush, Lilly's bush!”
He turned the strimmer off.
What does it look like... I'm cutting it down.”?
You can't, it has the most wonderful blue flowers in the Spring, it's beautiful.”
Well, it's blocking the light to the front room.”
It's not right, you can't just go chopping it down, it's been there for years, as long as I can remember, it's old.”
Well, I'm afraid I can, I have every right, and I hate to break it to you, but the old lady's dead,” said Ray with an ugly grin.
You've killed it!” I yelled, and then I suddenly realised that tears were streaming down my face.
Ray looked confused.
Look, it's just a bloody great big weed and it's grown too big.”
There was nothing more to say. I hurried back inside and I don't know why, but I just couldn't stop crying, not for ages, and then I went out in the yard and rolled some cigarettes, whilst thinking about Lilly.
That bush was her pride and joy. Even though she was ancient, nearly ninety, that's how old she was, she still managed to go out there and prune it in the summer. I would offer to do it for her, but she knew I didn't know anything about gardening.
That's very kind of you Zeta, she would say, but it has to be done right if we are going to keep the shape and not have branches sprouting out all over the place.
I liked it when she said “We” as if it was both of ours.
So, I would sit on her old stripey deckchair and she would bring some of her homemade lemonade out into the garden, and we would chat away while I watched her.
Lilly would tell me stories about her life.
How in love she had been with her husband George, what a wonderful man he had been. He had been a doctor and Lilly a nurse when they met. George, tall, handsome, kind, Lilly, petite, with a cute blond bob and big blue eyes. I know because I've seen the pictures and even in her nineties she had a soft pretty face.
He looked like that old movie star, old what's his name, Clark Gable, and Lilly was like a delicate doll, the sort any man would want to scoop up and protect, cherish.
I think Joe loved me, but I don't think I could say that I was 'cherished'.
Lilly had wanted more than one child, they had had a boy named Freddy and then no more children came along, it just didn't happen for them.
Lilly told me she would have loved a little girl.
Freddy was still alive, but he hadn't visited during the two years that I knew Lilly.
He lived in Dorset and was confined to a wheelchair so I guess it would have been too difficult.
After Freddy inherited the house he had just arranged for a van to come and remove all its contents before putting it up for sale.
Even though I hadn't known Lilly all that long, she would say, “you're like a granddaughter to me Zeta.”
Freddy had never married or had children so there had never been the grandchildren she and George had wanted.
Most days Lilly and I would have a cup of tea and a chat together in her kitchen.
Lilly would cover the table with a crisp white tablecloth and bring out her pretty floral china teapot and matching cups. We would always have cake, not bought cake, proper home-made cake that Lilly had made. She loved baking so her home always smelt wonderful.
It was so cosy with all the memorabilia and antiques, decorating every surface, and old paintings of landscapes and flowers hanging on the walls. Over the little fireplace, there was a gilded mirror, very ornate, I loved it.
Lilly always had fresh flowers in the window too.
I never smoked in Lilly's house, it would have been disrespectful, I knew that it just wouldn't have felt right.
The next day, when I looked out of my bedroom window, all that was left of Lilly's bush was a miserable stump. That's builders for you I thought, fucking vandals.
There was an appointment at the job centre in the afternoon. I want a job, but there's never anything for me. I keep applying and every now and then I go on some useless training programme they send me on.
When I got back home after another demoralising, pointless interview, I bumped into Bella, both of us just about to head up our respective garden paths.
Shame that,“ I said.
What,” Bella looked distracted, irritable, keen to get inside the house.
That lovely plant,” I said, indicating where it had once been.
In the Spring it would have blossomed, then you would have seen something. If you had seen it in the Spring, you would know what a shame it was, to have just chopped it down like that.”
It's been a long day, so if you don't mind,” was all she said.
She's as bad as him, I thought, a few minutes later, as I stood in the yard puffing on my cigarette. Just plain ignorant.
The thought of the evening ahead made me feel desperate with loneliness, a great big vacuum of nothingness spread before me, and I had no idea how to fill it.
I wondered if I should go around and see if Tammy was back from work. Then I remembered that it was Friday evening and Graham would be heading down from Bristol.
There was nothing to do, no one to see, and it was Friday night, the beginning of the weekend when most people go out to the pub or a club.
Other than Tammy, there are no other friends I can visit.
I didn't make many friends at school, not easily.
Tammy was really shy at first, so I felt really protective, that was the basis of our friendship I guess. I felt a bit like her big sister, even though I was only a few months older.
Tammy's got a brother now, but back then she was an only child.
The person in Tammy's family I really can't stand is her mother, Sandra, and she doesn't like me either.
There was one incident early on and she's held that against me ever since, it's ridiculous.
I've been in Tammy's house just the once, just after we both started school.
It was Tammy's birthday, she was having a party and I was invited.
There was going to be a magician and everything. I was so excited, this would be the first birthday party I had ever been to.
Tammy said that there would be jelly and egg mayonnaise sandwiches, crisps and chocolate fingers.
Also, it turned out that Sandra had ordered a special cake from Richards Bakery, the big one on the high street.
It was the most amazing cake I had ever seen. It had pink, white, and purple icing and was shaped like a fairytale castle. It must have taken hours, or days, to make, there was so much tiny detail, even a little prince and princess standing on one of the turrets.
It had been placed on a hostess trolley in the corner of the dining-room at the beginning of the party so that we could all admire it before it was cut up later on.
I can't remember who pushed me, but that's how it happened. Just as we were all getting ready to sit down for the party food.
The trolley wasn't stable enough and when I fell against it, that was that, the beautiful cake in pieces all over the floor. It was terrible.
Then all the screeching and laughter stopped and there was this awful silence which seemed to last for an eternity. Everyone was looking at me open-mouthed, aghast.
Then Sandra started screeching.
You stupid, stupid, spiteful little girl! I saw what happened, you did that on purpose!”
Which was just not true, someone had pushed me, I don't know who, and I had lost my balance. I told her, but she wouldn't believe me.
She called me a little liar and for a minute I thought she might hit me.
It was all so awful.
Then she made me sit on a chair in the corner of the room for the rest of the party and I wasn't even allowed any of the food, nothing at all, not even an egg mayonnaise sandwich, and they were my favourite.
So I sat there crying and Sandra took no notice and just acted as if I didn't exist.
Some of the other children looked over at me with pitying glances while they stuffed their faces, which made it even worse. Christ, I was only four and a half.
Angie hadn't been able to afford a party for my birthday and it hadn't mattered one bit because she had taken me out for chips and a banana split, which was lovely.
When Angie turned up, at the end of the party, I could hear Sandra telling her what a naughty girl I had been, how I had ruined everything.
Which was rubbish, everyone had played games, and stuffed their faces with party food, except me, and it was just a bloody cake.
Anyway, what was funny, was that when Sandra told Angie that I had been made to sit in the corner of the room Angie was furious!
How dare you treat Zeta like that, she's only a little girl, what a mean spiteful thing to do!”
Then Angie charged past her and into the dining room.
Oh Zeta, you poor love,” was all she said, and then she picked me up, which was something she hadn't done in ages, and carried me out of the house, kissing my hair and being lovely to me.
When I told her that I hadn't been allowed any of the food either she was livid.
What a fucking bitch.”
Then she took me to a cafe for a milkshake and cake and told me not to worry, it wasn't my fault.
So, after that, I was never invited to Tammy's house again.
Tammy didn't come to school the next day.
Then when she did turn up, she was moved from the seat next to me, and at playtime, she tried to avoid talking to me.
When I asked her why, she just said that she was sorry, but her mum didn't want her to be my friend and that she was to keep away.
For a few days, I was left alone, just hanging around on the peripheral of the playground wondering what to do with myself.
Tammy, on the other hand, was now enjoying a newfound popularity.
Her status in the eyes of her peers had been massively enhanced by the lavish birthday party, whereas mine was at an all-time low.
This was a situation I needed to resolve.
There was this really big, scruffy, dumpy kid in our class, Emma, she was the only girl who hadn't been invited to the party.
Tammy's snobby mum probably thought she looked too poor.
Angie always made sure I had nice clean clothes, even when it was hard for her.
Everyone was a little scared of Emma because they couldn't make her out, she just didn't fit in.
So, one lunchtime, a few days after I'd been abandoned by Tammy, I decided to go up to Emma and have a chat.
So, Emma, that was mean wasn't it?”
Tammy not inviting you to her party, when everyone else was invited.”
Not bothered, didn't want to go anyway.”
Do you want to be friends?”
Not really, don't like parties, don't want friends.”
All that really mattered was that the other kids and Tammy had seen me talking to Emma.
In the afternoon break, just as we were all filing out to the playground I sidled up to Tammy and told her that I'd been speaking to Emma and she had said that she was going to beat her up because she hadn't been invited to her birthday.
When you go to the loo, she's going to go too and then she's going to flush your head down the toilet. That's what she told me at lunchtime, and she's going to pull your stupid ponytail so hard it will make your head bleed.”
Tammy looked really scared, but I told her that I wasn't going to let it happen because I could easily beat up Emma and she didn't scare me, not one bit.
Then, to prove it, I walked up to Emma and gave her a really hard kick in the shin.
Even though Emma was way taller than me, she was a real crybaby and ran away in tears.
Tammy was alright after that, she knew it was best to be on my side. None of those other stupid friends would have had the nerve to do that.
Emma told on me, which I hadn't really thought about or expected, and I was sent to the headmistress.
When Angie found out, when she came to pick me up from school, about what I had done, she was really, really angry with me.
I was marched me home in silence and after I had finished my fish fingers and baked beans I was sent straight to bed.
I didn't get any cocoa or a bedtime story.
Still, after that, Emma gave me a wide berth and so did most of the other kids, but Tammy was back on my side and even though she still played with the others sometimes, she made sure that she played with me as well, which was fair enough.

Chapter 6

I spent most of Saturday lounging around, falling in and out of sleep with the television on in the background.
I've never been one for reading, I find it really hard to concentrate, my mind keeps wandering.
Angie used to help me with all my homework, she would read to me from the textbooks. I was good at listening.
Although It was all sunny outside, I just couldn't get motivated to venture out or do anything.
Graham would be at Tammy's so that was a no-go area.
Sundays are alright because I have dinner with Angie in the afternoon.
Angie cooks the best roast and we share a bottle of wine.
You're not really supposed to drink alcohol on the medication I take, but a couple of glasses now and then don't matter.
So Sunday was a better day. Angie was in a fairly good mood and we had a laugh about the old days, the things that I got up to when I was little, which weren't so funny at the time, but none of it seems that important now.
When I left Angie's at about six o'clock I figured that Graham would have had to get the train back up to Bristol by now, and even if Tammy had had Sunday lunch at her parents, it was late, she'd be in her flat getting ready for work on Monday.
So, I decided to make a detour past her place before going home.
The lights were on, she had to be in.
Tammy came to the door and peered out at me through the small crack, the latch on.
Oh Zeta, what are you doing here?”
What does it look like? I'm visiting.”
It's Sunday evening, I've got work tomorrow and Graham's been here all weekend, I need to tidy up and iron my work clothes.”
I'll help if you like.”
Look Zeta, it's not a great time to call around, maybe later on in the week, we could arrange something for then.”
Please Tammy, just for a minute, that's all. I'm ever so upset, the new neighbours have done something awful, it's really important, I just need to have a chat, get it off my chest.”
Tammy removed the chain and I followed her inside.
The flat looked immaculate.
You know Tammy, I think you're obsessive-compulsive, what's there to tidy!”
Well, it's been a heavy weekend Zeta, I need an early night.”
Christ, Tammy, you and your early nights.”
I pulled out one of the stools by the breakfast bar.
Tammy's flat was an open plan affair, it had a really large living, dining, kitchen area, and then a separate double bedroom and bathroom, all very smart and modern.
I'd love a coffee,” I said.
While the kettle boiled I told Tammy all about the neighbours.
They've gone and dug up Lilly's lovely bush.”
Is this the really important matter you need to discuss with me?”
Well, yes, I wanted some advice, you might know about these things, what with your dad on the Council and everything.”
Advice about what?”
Do you think I should contact the planning department, find out if there is a law or something that says it's illegal to just go around uprooting trees. I'm sure there is.”
Tammy pointed out that a bush isn't a tree, which I guess is technically true.
Look Zeta, I'm fairly certain that your neighbours have every right to chop down any plant growing in their own front garden, it's their property.”
Well, aren't some species of plants protected, you know, like birds?”
Tammy didn't think so, and said she was sure that even if there was, Lilly's bush would not come into that category.
Tammy was in a strange snappy, agitated mood.
Look Zeta perhaps you need to occupy your time looking for a job and worrying less about what the neighbours are up to.”
Which I thought was quite rude of her.
Bloody hell, Tammy, what do you think I've been doing! I'd love a fucking job!”
Then I asked her if any vacancies had come up in her store.
As always, the answer was, 'no'.
How was grumpy Graham?” I asked. That's a jokey term I use for him, even though Tammy doesn't seem to find it very funny. Perhaps they had had a bad weekend, maybe they had argued.
He's fine Zeta, now if you don't mind, I've got a really early start tomorrow. I've got to go in and sort out the new window display.”
Big deal, I thought, so you've got to dress a few mannequins.
Well, I know when I'm being chucked out Tammy, I can take a hint.”
I'm not chucking you out Zeta, I'm just saying, you know, I've got work tomorrow.”
I'm just teasing you, Tammy,” I quipped, ”lighten up. Anyway, if you could just ask your dad, tell him about the tree, see what he thinks.”
He's not in planning Zeta, he's in waste and recycling.”
That sounds like a rubbish job,” I said, as a joke. Quite a quick-witted one, I thought.
Tammy just rolled her eyes and closed the door.
Walking home I wished I hadn't bothered calling in on Tammy, stupid bitch, and she's never had a sense of humour. Sometimes I wonder what I see in her, and how good a friend she really is.
As I reached my own house I noticed something moving around in the garden. Then when I got closer I could see that it was the neighbour's cat!
I was about to run at it, shouting, and chase it away.
Then I thought of something better. I had some cream in the fridge, cats love cream, we all know that.
The neighbour's cat is actually called Ginger, which is a pretty pathetic and unimaginative name if you ask me.
It took until the end of the following day before they realised that they hadn't seen their cat since the day before.
Ginger! Ginger!”
They were all outside calling for him.
I could see Bella walking around the park with Almado and Luca.
Ray was standing in the garden with a beer in his hand.
What's up?” I asked.
Bloody cat's gone missing.”
Well, since yesterday.”
Ray didn't look that bothered really.
Then I wandered into the park to join Bella and the boys.
Ray tells me that old Ginger has gone missing.”
Bella looked flustered, as always.
Yes, we're really worried, he's never been gone this long before. I told Ray, it was too soon to let him out at night.”
Absolutely, it's pretty stupid to let a cat out all night when you've only just moved into a new area.”
Bella gave me a frosty look and then carried on calling out for Ginger.
So I joined in.
After about an hour Bella turned to the boys and told them it was bath time.
They didn't want to stop looking though.
Look, boys, he's just not here, he's obviously not in the park,” I explained
They were still calling out for Ginger the next morning as Bella walked Almado to school.
I caught Bella on the way back.
You're going to need a poster, a lost and found poster, with a picture.”
Yes, I guess we ought to get one made up.” She agreed solemnly
What about a reward,” I suggested.
She didn't think that that was necessary. Bella reckoned that if anyone was to find Ginger then they would be only too happy to hand him back.
Nothing wrong with a bit of extra incentive,” I said, “more people might join in the search. I guess it depends on how much you want your cat back really, but the boys look pretty upset.”
Bella didn't bother responding and just turned to Almado and told him that she was sure Ginger would find his way home soon.
Which was a stupid thing to say as she couldn't possibly know that. She was giving Almado and Luca false hope.
Later, when I guessed that they might be eating their dinner, I wandered back into the park and continued calling out for Ginger, although I knew it was pointless, but at least the neighbour's would see that I was making the effort, trying to help out.


Here we have the all-new greatest old movies of all time page.
If you would like to recommend your own then why not share it with me on twitter

Jane Eyre 1943 Trailer

Without doubt, the very best ever Jane Eyre film of all time. This is an absolutely gripping version of this great story. Orson Welles is brilliant as Mr Rochester and Joan Fontaine well cast as Jane. The young actors in the film are also excellent. It's wonderfully dark and atmospheric throughout. No other attempt to turn this story into a film can touch this.

Ace in the hole starring Kirk Douglas is an unmissably brilliant film. Kirk Douglas is superb in this chilling dark and utterly gripping story. 
Above is a link to a recording on Youtube ... though I highly recommend downloading or buying on DVD a full screen good version of the film. It deserves and is worth it.

Angels With Dirty Faces 1938

All time brilliant classic staring the wonderful James Cagney.

 James Cagney interview

Found this recent interview with James Cagney on YouTube.
Well worth watching. What a star.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Brilliant and unmissable film.

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