Tuesday, 5 December 2006


Are you familiar with those excruciating slip-up moments when you think you’ve got it all sewn up, it’s in the bag, the cheque’s in your pocket, all you have to do is cash it? And then – whoops! You skid on the banana skin, the rug’s pulled from under you, the chasm opens, and down you go.

I’ve had a few of those. One was soon after I met my partner in 1960, and took him for a holiday to one of my favourite spots, the Scilly Isles. We were picnicking on a small isolated granite rock far out into the Atlantic. During the war, my mother had purchased some “unbreakable” toughened glass tumblers [some of which we still have and use daily]. As we drank out of these, I dropped mine and it shattered to pieces, but I didn’t see them and started feeling around behind me for the glass. “Be careful”, Terry said, “it’s broken”. “Nonsense”, I retorted, “those glasses are UNBREAKABLE”. He burst into peals of laughter.

Another, rather bigger, “whoops” moment occurred on another holiday, some years later. We had stayed several times at a country inn which nestled under a steep hill in the Pennines. It was comfortable, the food was good, the fresh air and scenery were invigorating. The proprietress, Mrs Monk, was a middle-aged lady who sometimes sunned herself in the garden, where we had some casual conversation with her and I formed the impression that she was somewhat lonely. On about our third annual visit she said to me “why don’t you come back later in the year?” Although there was still some spare vacation time, I told her, I couldn’t afford it. And in any case, I wouldn’t want to go back there without Terry. “Bring him along as well”, she replied. “It won’t cost you anything. You’ll both be guests of the inn”.

So we went for a week. It was, as always, extremely pleasant – especially with the free run of the quite extensive wine cellar. Mrs Monk, as usual, was not much in evidence. But about half way through our stay, she sent a message inviting me to go out on a drive with her the following day. We set off in her open sports car, and she took me on an extensive scenic tour of the district. As we chatted, it gradually dawned on me that she desired to make me not only her business partner, but her life partner. I was dismayed to feel that I had accepted her hospitality under false pretences and a bit nonplussed how to respond – “coming out” as gay was not nearly so easy and common in those days. So I said “That’s a most interesting idea, but Terry and I have shared a home for some years now and are rather too settled in our ways for me to make such a big change”.

Mrs Monk fell silent, and said very little for the rest of our drive. When we arrived back at the inn, she left me abruptly. I told Terry what had occurred, and he creased himself laughing. “You didn’t realise what was going on”, he said. “Everyone else did. Several of the inn staff are gay, and know that we are – they’ve been joking for days about how naïve you are.”

We returned home two days later. Mrs Monk had not appeared again during that time, and when I asked for her to say goodbye on the morning of our departure I was told that she had left the inn very early, to visit her sister.

Needless to say, we never went back there. A pity, because we were really fond of the place, and liked Mrs Monk. Did she ever find herself a husband, I wonder?


Merk said...

Lovely story.
Reminds me of the story by Guy de Maupassant 'Miss Harriet'.
If you have not read it yet do find it.

anticant said...

Thanks, Merk. Oh yes, I love those Guy de Maupassant stories. Haven't looked at them for a while, but they're up there on the groaning shelves. Maybe I'll peer into them again during the 'festive' [ugh] season. Trouble is, all this blogging leaves even less time for reading....

MerkyMerk said...

Lucky you, groaning shelves and all.
I have lost two complete libraries in recent years - never to be replaced until my next attempt at domesticity.
Still, there is always the net.
(In fact, when I was first posting today I checked out a full version of 'Miss Harriet' on the net).

zola said...

Murky Merk : To lose one library is bad enough but 2?
Was it something to do with tax cuts or rationalisation or was it just that somebody nicked them from you?
My sympathies anyway.

MIstyMurky said...

Dead right, big man.
You can easily cry when you lose books. For certain.
What they can't steal is the 'ideas' that were so precious.
I hadn't even finished colouring my favourite. C'est la fuckin' vie.