A hotel in a small town at the foot of the Jura mountains, a small town just stretching over the frontier, a frontier that drew a line between domesticity at home and adventure abroad.

With Christmas over and the sparkling street lighting gathered in for the foreseeable future, the worst of the weather arrived. Snow warm enough to turn to sleet, sleet to rain, rain to fog, but still cold enough for ice underfoot and kerbs to be indistinguishable from gutters in the grey slush.

The Saturday morning market did brisk business, quite cheerily for the prevailing conditions and time of year. Every customer welcomed heartily, every purchase, whether of vegetables, fruit, hats, gloves, scarves, umbrellas, genuinely and warmly appreciated.

What was noticeable, in addition to the chatter of stall holders and customers, was the noise of the rain on canvas and the occasional sploosh and splash of a pool of water being displaced by a trader using a broom handle to relieve an awning bulging over the produce, the rushing of the culverted streams channelling snow melt under foot bridges, behind houses, under the roads. The sound of moving water saturated the air, echoed off the granite buildings.

Oysters were being sold from an occasional stall where the market was more open to the weather.

She wanted to try an oyster, not buy a dozen and of course her offer of one Euro was accepted for the single sample of the salty bivalve. She glooped it down with a shiver and turned to her companion with a familiarity born of intimacy.

“As if you needed an aphrodisiac after this morning’s performance.” he remarked.

“Every little helps.” she replied.




The wedding was held late on the Saturday afternoon. The church bright from the low sun beating through the open west door, was a place of calm reflection as the guests waited for the bride’s arrival.

A wedding held after the bulk of the day has been spent by attendees swimming and sunbathing, followed by afternoon sex and a sleep has to accept that a certain torpor will befall the congregation, or at least two of the party.

Our heroic couple had flown in on separate flights the day before and had set about each other as lovers do: savouring the moment of rediscovery; the remembrance of each other’s scents; the refreshment of mutual tastes; the heaviness of shared sleep. By the time of the wedding, sitting beside each other on a solid well-polished pew holding hands, (of course), they needed to be still.

A friend of the bride and groom, flown over to the island to sing, sang beautifully. The priest spoke enthusiastically about marriage and the fruit of the loins. The vows were expressed sincerely and enunciated proudly before friends, relatives and plus ones. The open-top vintage Rolls Royce over-flowed with joy as it moved off toward the chosen hotel. The sun dipped toward the sea warming the backs of the cheering people.

Before the wedding reception dinner and dance under the stars across the harbour commenced, our unmarried couple slipped into the water of the town beach after another quickie to cool down in the slight ebbing tide.

Floating on his back, spread-eagled staring into the darkening blue of sky above, he thought of the afternoon’s ceremony, his own wife and why he had travelled to this island. In a moment of startling clarity he realised that he was out of his depth.


CLP 31/10/2021

Red Flag

About four years later, reviewing the collateral damage, (i.e. bewildered family, and bored friends), it was observed that the affair had been destined for the rocks from the beginning.

With perfect hindsight it was obvious that, even without the clarity of passing time, the male protagonist would not have had to be a detective inspector to have seen multiple warning signs; in fact, half a dozen of them, possibly including the local GP, who may, or may not have been a little too attentive to his vulnerable patient. She recalled kissing him once during an out of hours appointment.

There may have been others, but her memory wasn’t very good, so she tried to live in the present as best she could, decorating her presence with anecdotes of times with others, right back to her early school days.

Oh, yes and there was her husband, although she didn’t wear a wedding ring and she said their physical was history.

“I want something different.” she texted him.

This is it.” he replied, removing his wedding ring too. He was clever with words, although clearly, not that clever generally.

And with that simplistic exchange all previous was whitewashed from history, (unless they were resurrected at an insecure moment, or by way of comparison, or by way of instruction), which in itself was an albatross.

For our female protagonist, her certain age, the prospect of being on the brink of unprecedented adult independence, (her marriage was only held together by duty, expectation and financial dependency), shame-free choices, combined with her acknowledged sexually inquisitiveness meant that meeting this man now, was of course, for the present.

From the very start he found this philosophy profoundly unsettling, but set off hopefully hand-in-hand with her, when out of sight of others.

Which reminds me of a friend’s mother’s observation about older married couples holding hands, “Oh, they’re married, but not to each other.” Her mother knew what she was talking about.


CLP 30/10/2021


I used to get confused about where I was supposed to be living. Was I supposed to be living with the woman and the man, or the other woman and the other man?

It was never resolved as far I was concerned. There seemed no rationale for the frequent and irregular shifts of location for my bed.

I decided that where I slept each night was not an issue. If I had my bed to sleep in, was fed at the usual times and could be taken outside for a walk, be allowed to snuffle around in the woods off my neck restraint, or be let go to play with others in the parks, or dive in the lake for stones, all was fine and dandy. Where I was required to sleep each night was immaterial. I learnt that either location was safe and warm at night. There was the same food at both places.

I am easily pleased I suppose, but I did enjoy the company of the older woman. She was able to walk further, more often. She was also less timid when it came to the weather, I think she enjoyed the variety of smells and sensations changes in weather bring.

She would appear quite energetic when the time for a walk came round. She was sensitive to my needs most of the time and responsive to my demands, even though her routines were more variable. She was also noticeably quicker to cool if I had done something that annoyed her.

The younger one had a sharp bark and I could feel her anger was slow to dissipate. I would have to suffer her strident tones for two or three days when she had been particularly enraged. Hey! I am a dog, I mess up. Live with it! Move on.

But everyone has moods, perhaps she had pains. I am not happy when I have a pain either. It can take days before a pain I might have will be noticed. They spot any injury to one of my legs soon enough, it’s the stomach pains they find harder to identify.

As I said, she may have suffered internal pains. She was often unhappy, as far as one can tell with people. Most mornings she would have to be up and out before the sunrise, then be gone all day after dragging me, half asleep to the verge downstairs for a crap. Other times she’d be gone all night then sleep in the day. I am sure that I would be in pain if I lived like that. It must destroy the metabolism to be awake and outside at nights. Take it from me, night time is sleeping time.

The older woman seemed able to put on a happy face when she stepped outside and followed my lead. Perhaps her owner had trained her to be well-behaved when out and about in polite society. The younger one didn’t seem to have an owner, I think she may have been one herself, as she had a couple of changes of men staying at that home over the years, while she stayed put.

The older one was a bit like me, enjoying meeting others in the park, or by the lake, even up in the town. They were often men, but men who came along with us for a season or two before being replaced by another after a break of a few weeks. Her women friends, on the other hand, kept reappearing. When they did she seemed happy all the time when they were out together. She had a lovely laugh. I heard it more when she was with the women.

The only thing I disliked about being with her was being dragged into cafés and made to lie under a chair while the woman ate and talked for a couple of hours. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, oh pup! I would eventually have to articulate my need to get moving through whining and pulling at the lead. Once she was talking for so long to a lunch companion I had to bark to be taken outside. No one likes to have to bark to get attention.

That’s me being picky. The older one just seemed to know me better and was quicker to respond to me. She was gentler in tone. She smelt nicer too, less artificial.


CLP 30/10/2021


If you’re ever in that city I can recommend a reassuringly French restaurant below the station. It was the one he’d thought of first having left the bookshop with a collection of short stories by Maeve Kelly.

An uncertain pause at a crossing to scan for traffic, led him to spot the art-deco whorls, carved stone curves and curls of a café across the way. Somewhere different.

He turned right and walked into the brisk clatter of the café brimming with people at lunch. He asked for a table for one and there was just one left. It was just after One.

‘Orange Horses’ has a striking cover, but is too big to slip into a jacket pocket, so he had to put it toward the corner of the small square table while he read the menu and settled himself to eat.

He’d been hoping for a busy café resounding in foreign voices; a buzz of anonymous alien background talk that would permit him to gather his thoughts and jot some notes in his journal undisturbed. Unluckily, the two women at the adjacent table were speaking English, quite clearly; Australian.

He struggled to concentrate. The writing in his journal shifted from contemplation to observation of and sour commentary on the conversation that disturbed him from the table not a breath away.

After the painful audial experience of his main course, (which nevertheless he ate mindfully), a moment’s peace of mind, gained while visiting the urinal, lasted until he returned to his table.

“We were wondering, are you here on business or for leisure?”


CLP 28/10/2021