The Pond

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The Pond – jc staff

Early grey morning
Frosted grass, glistening
Alone in the park’s silence,
While the world is sleeping.
A dormant fountain
In a circular fishpond;
Within its stone-rimmed edge,
A ring of glass-like ice awaits
Untouched, perfectly formed.
Lifting the little girl up high,
Above the frozen surface,
Before thrusting her downwards,
Holding her tiny body, legs rigid,
Puncturing the ice with her shoes.
Shiny black patent Mary-Janes
Splintering the surface,
The sharp sound skittering
Over the cold, damp ground.
Now he raises her up swiftly,
Her laughter is unbridled joy –
Sweet, young breath, hanging
Hazily in the freezing air.
He’s running now,
Around the pond,
Perforating the ice
With her small feet;
A tidy ring of holes,
The child’s footprints,
Their secret artwork,
Created together.
One day, when he’s gone,
She’ll clutch that moment of love
Inside the gap he’s left in her chest,
And watch the ice melting into tears.

Tell Me The Truth

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

 

Tell Me The Truth – by JC Staff

Morning chases night’s moon
I awake, drinking you in again
With trepid uncertainty

Distorting reality is your game
Why do you play with my mind?
I want you to tell me the truth

It hurts when you say one thing,
And in the next moment, another
A weathervane on the roof of “Now”

Others speak to me of your corruption
I cannot keep pace with your lies
I want you to tell me the truth

I turn away. Your trickery lures me back
I keep watching as you transform
Subtle: something there, then gone

Deceit swims in the dark waters around us
Why am I fighting your constant conjuring?
I want you to tell me the truth

Feeling lost between reality and
Your twisted shape of the truth.
I want to escape your poisoned illusions.

How can you control me like you do?
After all, I know the truth:
You are merely
Glass.

The Contest

The Contest

The Contest – J. Staff
Summertime, I’m living at a friend’s house – he has two brothers and his mother loves me like the daughter she always wanted, so I can do no wrong in her eyes. Which means I can party all I like, as long as I’m up in time for work in the morning. My friends and I are ordering our first round of vodka coolers at Corley’s Bar and Grill most nights by 8pm. I am the youngest among our group of friends, also the wildest, and incidentally the only one still underage. Thankfully, it’s never an issue, I know all the door staff and never get asked for ID. If there’s a new bouncer, I sneak round the back as I know all the guys working in the kitchen – convenient, as they can simply let me in the back door.

My girl-gang is an eclectic group, with not much in common apart from a shared penchant for socialising at Corley’s. Cara* is a hairdresser at a trendy salon in the city centre – a classic extrovert and hilariously sarcastic. Angie is her slightly younger sister, quiet, sensible and conservative, she has perfect hair and never gets lipstick on her teeth. Sherrie is personal assistant to the CEO of a big local company and also the oldest, calmest and wisest. She’s a mother hen to the rest of us, frequently tasked with making sure I get home safely when I’m too drunk to make sure myself. The guys in our circle are mostly boys we grew up with or just know from hanging out at the bar. Summer is one big, hot party; these are halcyon days and life is sizzling.

Tonight, we are onto our third cocktail, beginning to lose count and things are descending into the usual comedy, as we contemplate ordering some food, while flirting with the guys in exchange for the next round of shooters. There’s a promotion on at the bar with a giveaway – free t-shirts from one of the liquor companies. Simon, the bar manager announces a contest. I don’t know if we look interested or Simon just “volunteers” us, but suddenly, Cara, Sherrie and I find ourselves on the now-empty dance floor near the bar awaiting further instruction, having unknowingly entered the mystery contest. Angie, shy and sober as usual, hangs back at our table looking amused.

Any potential anxiety is quelled by drinks we’ve consumed; we are blindfolded before the contest is announced. At this point, I begin feeling less intrigued and slightly ambivalent. Young, a tad reckless and rather drunk, I’m in a busy bar now wearing a blindfold. I suddenly feel an anxious wave wash over me as the vulnerability of my circumstances comes into sharp focus for a halting moment….
But there’s a t-shirt at stake here.
Oh, come on. Let’s be honest, I would hastily join in and attack any challenge presented to me with fervour even just to win a handful of jellybeans – the prize is not the pull for me. It is all about the winning, which prevents me from taking off the blindfold and backing out on the spot.

The suspense builds as the music is turned down and everybody gathers near the dance floor, jostling for a good view, where Cara, Sherrie and I are lined up, blindfolded, giggling self-consciously. Damn. There really is no turning back now. Hearing Simon clear his throat to announce the rules, I take a deep breath, stand tall and thrust my shoulders back a little, feigning “confident” to conceal my skyrocketing trepidation.

Our mission: A race.
We will each be handed an empty glass beer bottle and a condom. On Simon’s count of three, we have to open the condom packet, without damaging the contents, and get it safely and securely onto the beer bottle, without tearing it. As fast as we can. Blindfolded.
She who completes the task first, wins.
I feel positive and hopeful, despite having no prior experience of having ever done such a thing before, blindfolded – open a condom packet, and safely roll the condom onto a beer bottle without tearing it, in front of a lively audience, while intoxicated. And seriously, how realistic is that?
But the voice in my head is screaming “You have to win” so loud, I decide it’s worth my best effort.

We wait; tension mounting; and on Simon’s count of three, I feel a surge of adrenaline flood my bloodstream as we are handed our equipment. Like the iconic scene in Chariots of Fire, my senses block out everything as I focus on my goal. In a matter of mere seconds – less than ten and probably nearer to five – as it’s barely begun, it is all over. The contest ends abruptly as a winner is declared and the crowd cheers and whistles: I WON! I am, of course, ecstatic with the victory.
……At first.

Having taken off our blindfolds, I now see Cara and Sherrie standing there staring, open-mouthed, bewildered at my accomplishment, having barely even succeeded in opening their packaging. Despite having consumed several strawberry daiquiris, with shooters in between, I have managed to competently open the package, get the condom out and deftly roll it onto the beer bottle, all without splitting it. All this while blindfolded, with lightening speed and sharp skill. As one might expect, it is my skill level which is now in the spotlight. Feeling my alcohol levels miraculously recede in the moment, I am soberingly aware of what this now looks like to my friends and the rest of the bar patrons, many of them guys we hang out with at Corley’s most nights.
Despite having just essentially portrayed myself as a total sex kitten in front of a whole bar full of people, in reality, I don’t really have any more or less practice at this activity than either of my friends, especially while blindfolded. My victory was purely down to my intent to win, which was driven by the large quantities of adrenaline coursing through my veins as the thrill of competition took over.

Decades later, I will still remember that evening and the ribbing I had to tolerate for many weeks that summer as my disappointed and shown-up friends licked their wounded pride by passing bitchy judgements about my alleged sexual exploits, which no matter how outlandish, my attempts to refute would be futile.  Amazingly, embarrassing as the allegations were, I still look back on that night with a contented smile. Because aside from the fact that the entire bar saw me race two older girls timages (3)o get a condom onto a rigid object with Olympic speed, while blindfolded, the prevailing memory of the Condom-on-a-Beer-Bottle Contest still remains:

I won – and we all know winning rocks.

*Names have graciously been changed to protect identity of those with less speed and dexterity 

 

Skinny Mean Girl

Skinny Mean Girl – by JC Staff

Mean girls hurt, spewing their venom and their predictable ugliness, ever-unavoidably cruel.
Their pace, footsteps ahead, loaded to lash out first with condescending looks, subtle cutting whispers in the shape of tiny, shiny blades to slice deep.
Spat-out remarks fly from their lips, scribbled starkly on gasoline-soaked rags of disparagement.
Jealousy often fuels their intent to draw blood, as they hone in on any scraps of self-worth belonging to those girls who have something they secretly hanker for.

Never was I subject to their boiling cauldrons of hate. Nor have I ever been a mean girl, myself.
I deplore their behaviour, always hoping to offer some consolation to the subjects of their ferocity.
But I had her thoughts once, thoughts of a mean girl, a skinny mean girl, because I was being eaten alive from the inside, and nobody knew.
Or cared.
I was dying.
Silently, they wormed through my being, those mean girl thoughts in my mind. I hid them from view wanting no one to know, because my mean-girl thoughts were shameful.
I was not a mean girl, really. Where did she come from, the ‘mean-girl me’ inside my head?
She was so thin.
Perhaps they called me “skinny bitch” behind my back, when they thought I couldn’t hear.
Perhaps they had mean-girl thoughts about me too? I didn’t care.
They didn’t know I was so weak. Exhausted with the energy it took my withered heart to push blood around my wasted body – a body I utterly despised.
So cold with the chill that clung constantly to my brittle bones, even in hot sunshine, an icy prickle that never went away no matter how many layers of warmth I wore.
Constant exercise causing constant fractures: shins, feet, ribs – bones snapping like dried twigs.
Frail and thin, in child’s sized clothes, with the arms and legs of a diminutive hunger striker, they would stare too long at the unnatural wisp I had become.
Their looks left me feeling more uncomfortable, and the mean girl thoughts grew louder in my mind.
Sometimes when they spoke to me, it was with unconcealed shock, followed by solemn pity which was so easily mistaken for a mournful longing.
Breathlessly, they took in my birdlike limbs, dull pallor, and pleading, desolate eyes.

For you see, food and I were at war back then, days posed the relentless struggle.
I could not eat – could not chew, could not swallow; food was my nemesis, as I awoke to the same relentless conflict with it every morning.
Ironically, my body battled to keep breathing, as I battled back to deprive it of the source of nourishment keeping it alive; it was struggling to get by.
I raced it to the scarce energy which arrived intermittently by way of an apple or some celery, intent on burning away every single calorie with a vengeance before my cells and organs got them first.
Locked in a struggle, the mean-girl thoughts raged, soiling my mind and flooding my tongue.
I held back the dam, desperately trying to replace the mean-girl thoughts with gentle words of conviviality before they reached my breath.
I pictured people who had been unkind to me, overweight teachers I didn’t like, bitchy secretaries who ate too much cake, as I threw up in dark bathrooms, and ran until my body was collapsing.
I thought wicked things about butter clinging to larger frames of sad people with chubby faces.
I wanted to make them more obese, and to feed them all the food I couldn’t eat, food I was afraid to touch in case it swallowed me first.
Such jealous rage I harboured for their freedom when, in reality, they probably didn’t have any either.

They were enemies with those who could eat without guilt or fear. Oh, little did they know.
They were bigger and unhappy; “You don’t need to go to the gym, you’re so skinny” they would say.
“I would look like you if I didn’t!” I thought.
“You’re so lucky, you can eat what you want” they whined. So far from the truth, like a taunt.
“I would love to know what I want to eat, my appetite is dead and long gone,” I wanted to say.

As I slowly began trying to eat again, they mocked me more.
“You look well!” they would say.
“You look fat!” I would hear.
Haunted still, being told I look “well” never feels good, only leaves me feeling more ashamed and unattractive. And it makes my mean girl thoughts return like maggots which decompose my reality.
I want these people to get fatter.
I want them to say they are too busy for the gym when I go every day.
I want them to eat too many cookies because I never even eat a whole one.
And I want them to put on five pounds as I starve and purge a few pounds away.
Because I want to win.
The mean-girl me, she wants to win. Losing makes my mean-girl thoughts meaner.
And I don’t want that.
It’s the war with food and a body I’m never happy with that I detest, not people.
Most of all, I don’t want the mean-girl to live in my mind anymore.
She’s mean to me, too.
She. Needs. To. Go.

Dreaded Dark

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Dreaded Dark – by J. Staff

It’s so dark, engulfing me until I am saturated with a compulsion to shut my eyes tightly.
No light.
Now opening my eyes wide, willing my pupils to drink in any detectable drips of light: I wait.
Nothing.
In that second, crushing dark is winning our game of terror, suffocation its weapon of choice.
Breathe.
I blink hard. Again, harder. I will not be lost to the darkness like a frightened little girl, alone.
Black shifts.
Eyes adjusting – can’t tell if the light seeps in first, or the calm. Maybe they are one in the same?
Silhouettes.
Shapes appearing now, familiarly, just as I remember when there last was light. They are still.
Comfort.
Feeling safer now the shapes are the ones I know. The sinister edge of dark has gone, leaving
a faint precursor of day, which will eventually consume the darkness completely, illuminating
all the corners of my mind and shadowy parts of my soul where malevolent energy thrives.
Once again, leaving it
with nowhere
to hide.

 

 

Laughing Out Loud

Laughing Out Loud – J Staff
Wet with a fresh coat of sarcasm,
Reeking of soured self-hatred,
The words are hurled in haste,
With mockingly snide frivolity.
Incongruent smile
Poisoned remarks
Brimming with bilious venom.
Inwardly-inflicted harm,
Punishment just for being.

On a fleeting gust of flippancy
They land like drips of acid,
Unceremonious punch-lines
At the feet of those close by.
Attempts to appear charmed,
And entertained by my cruelty,
Are transparently feeble.
Responding to the acerbic jibes
Jam-packed with thorny self-loathing,
They laugh with me, a tad too heartily
Courteously masking disingenuity.
Though,
Sometimes their eyes betray them,
Reflecting confusion, sympathy,
Sadness, crushing pity,
Despite their lips now contorted
In the shape of hollow amusement,
Freeing fabricated laughter – after all
They know the quip won’t hurt anyone.
Else.

It is not just spoken shards
Carrying that razor-edged glint.
Written assertions all valiantly wear
The same barbed self-judgements,
Jagged, spiky, ugly, harsh,
Saturated with contrived joviality
Rendering my heart bleeding invisibly,
My self-worth stifling uncried tears.
Pleadingly hoping others will join me
In these spiteful jabs at self.
My smile is twisted in dark ridicule,
Soul tightly clutching the black sludge
Of inner-revilement,
Asking those close to me
To validate my resentment, and
“Laugh Out Loud.”

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Not All Men

IMG_20180129_1914060_rewind_kindlephoto-474955704 (002)#MeToo & #TimesUp

As news unfolded about Harvey Weinstein’s prolific sexual harassment of women across the entertainment industry, spanning decades, a snowball effect swiftly ensued.  The #MeToo movement gained rapid momentum.  More stories, more survivors, and more perpetrators of abuse came to light, many disclosures previously unreported.  The news was flooded with sexual harassment and sexual assaults women have endured, not just in Hollywood, but far beyond, from childhood to adulthood.  Soon after, the #TimesUp movement surged.  It highlighted globally that for the sexual harassment which #MeToo has proven to be rife, “Time’s up”.  This was the call to action.

Snapping at the heels of both #MeToo and #TimesUp like a hungry wolf, was a third movement.  This was led by men the who felt tarred with a brush they were not happy to be tarred with, simply as a result of being men.  It also imagined itself worthy of its own hashtag…

#NotAllMen

In case it’s not self-evident, #NotAllMen pipes up as a counter-narrative to women’s disclosures of abuse at the hands of men – “not all men”, of course.  Perhaps understandably, some men would not want to be lumped together and chucked in the metaphorical “men-are-bastards” dumpster that women co-imagined years ago to cope with the after-effects of male-perpetrated abuse they suffered.  Indeed, my 13 year old son and my adoring husband would be completely justified to play the “not all men” card, being the supportive, feminist-ideology promoting males they are….

….But they don’t.  Out of respect for the many women in their lives who are survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault, including myself, and in acknowledgement of the wide-spread prevalence of male-perpetrated violence against women, they choose not to.  As well, they are not so arrogant as to stake a claim to an issue that is clearly about women and gender inequality, and make it all about them.

Hey! We never said….

The funny thing is, the #NotAllMen hashtag is not even a response to anyone having said “All Men”.  #AllMen never was trending throughout any of this.  No one was saying “All men.”  That is a conclusion jumped to by mostly men, men who are perhaps worried they will be accused of something, or maybe are feeling guilt about something they did once when they were young and foolish.  Or maybe what they did at the weekend?  Some men crying #NotAllMen will be men who have legitimately never committed a crime but if pressed, would probably admit to having “behaved inappropriately” on occasion.  Wow, doesn’t that catch-all phrase conceal a multitude of sins?…. Even if they never have “behaved inappropriately” (take a bow!), they likely have a list of friends, co-workers, brothers, cousins or teammates they can name who have.  The crux of it is, we are talking at least a significant number of men, considering the amount of women speaking out.  And let’s be sure to remember that for all those courageous women who have found their voices, there are countless other brave survivors still whispering “MeToo” behind a closed door.

So it begs the question….

Interestingly, there is a huge question that has not yet surfaced in all of this, and one which would help us all to explore the roots of the problem:

                 Before jumping in with a #NotAllMen response, has anyone ever wondered why that even needs pointing out?

To be honest, it does seem like there must be a lot of men involved, considering the number of women who have experienced sexual harm.  Does it feel like possibly nearly all men have played a part either actively or passively in the sexual harassment and abuse that women the world over have survived?

Let’s take a different example:

Women have always been judged as being the worst drivers, despite the fact they have less accidents and until recently, men’s car insurance was always higher as a result.  At no point have women felt the need to say “Not All Women” when men are slating women drivers.  Incidentally, I learned to drive a car at 14 years old (on private land), and am much better at driving and parking than most people I know, including my husband.

Why do some men feel justified to speak out and point out that it is not all men?  Because in truth, for the 1 in 3 women who experience sexual or physical violence prior to their 18th birthday, it sure seems an easy conclusion to jump to.  The statistics are so high for women who have been sexually abused, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed, it is impossible that these crimes are being perpetrated by just a small number of men.

Perhaps those who feel entitled to take a “not all men” approach need to do a little research first.  You’re right, it’s not all men.  We get it.  Now stop wasting time telling us, take a look at the data, and take steps to start educating your male friends/relatives.  You can now play a role in stopping the sexual abuse of girls and women which has gone on for far too long – because like we said, #TimesUp.

**Please note, I am fully aware that men are sadly victims of sexual harm too, however the focus of this piece is sexual abuse of women.

**Kind thanks to Thora for the artwork accompanying this post.

The Sister Wish

The Sister Wish — by Judith Staff 

Sparkling fountain
Splendorous sight for a child          IMG00563-20140427-1113
A penny pressed into my tiny palm
“Make a wish” they tell me
Always my wish is the same
Closing my eyes, adrenaline soars,
I hurl the money excitedly
Six words repeated each time
“I wish I had a sister”
The coin’s plunge a familiar sound
Delicate splash on the surface
Taking my wish deep
Into the cold, clear water
I plead for more loose change
To make more wishes
Again and again
“I wish I had a sister”
She comes to my tea parties
With my dolls and teddy bears
She comforts me when I feel afraid
Most days, her name is Sarah
In time, I begin to realise
The sister I wish for is older
And my wish can never be,
Though still I wish the same
Every fountain, every penny;
“I wish I had a sister”
She will be beautiful
And clever, and taller
I’ll stare at her as she speaks to me
Telling me marvellous things
Unshakably ever-calm in a crisis
Because she knows it will be okay
She tells me so.
“I wish I had a sister”
Now I am a woman, a wife, a mother…
My wishes have all finally come true.
*Dedicated to each of my beautiful friends who are a little older and a lot wiser than I will ever be. I am so grateful for my older “sisters”; you are all my wishes come true.

 

All The Soap

IMG_20171113_0659204_rewind_kindlephoto-207540412“All The Soap” by Judith Staff 
Inhaling each bottle’s scent in the shower,
Hoping there’s some I might bear
Lingering in my hair and on my skin
For the day.
“The soap smells”
I complain, quietly
“Which soap, darling?” he gently asks
“All the soap. Everywhere.”
I feel a little sick.

Flinching at my son’s voice
I remind him to whisper
Because his pubescent tones
Thunder in the depths of my psyche.
I make a slice of toast I don’t want.
In the living room, a child shouts
Their sibling discord closes my throat,
Stealing the nourishment away
I spit the toast out, letting the rest go cold.

The grocery store: a minefield
All my senses are in overdrive
I can do this today.
Can’t I? Or can I?
A man leans lazily over the front of his trolley
And idly drums his large fingers on a plastic lid
Inside, I scream as the deafening rhythm paralyses my bones
Escaping the aisle, I forget what I needed
The constant adrenaline exhausts me.

Another store, to look for a dress
Trying to concentrate on the rack
Thumbing hangers, not seeing the clothes
A woman shopping nearby steps closer
She doesn’t notice me, but she’s. Too. Close.
I feel trapped now with no way out
“Breathe, just try to breathe”
Then a store announcement,
“Phone call for Zoe, line 1 please”
Startled, rattled, frozen
I need to go right now.
Memory halted; then –
Collapsing into the car
Shutting the car-door
I use the tranquil silence
To fill my starving lungs.

The Great Escape

A road trip up North, our first romantic getaway together.  I book a couple of bed & breakfasts online, and arrange a few days off work.  First stop is my grandmother’s on the outskirts of Manchester.  There are no words to prepare anyone for my grandmother, an individual in every sense of the word.  She lives in a little retirement-village-come-trailer park.  Despite knowing we’re just there for an overnight, she has bought half a grocery store of food, and relentlessly suggests we cancel the B&Bs and stay with her for the week.  The “tell me again why you can’t stay?” conversation plays out at almost hourly intervals, as she hopes the guilt will wear me down, and we will eventually concede to spend our five-days in her little shoebox surrounded by her nosey, cranky neighbours instead.  I hold fast, and keep reminding her we are leaving in the morning.  She lets us share a room, but makes him a bed on the floor as a statement.   We’ve been sleeping together for months, so we share my bed instead (sorry Nana!)

The next morning, we convince my grandmother we will visit again soon, escape the Trailer Park for the Elderly and Overly Observant, and head for Lake Windermere.  We find the cottage on the road above the lake, surrounded by trees.  It is beautiful, and the Bed and Breakfast rooms are up a separate staircase in a side wing of the massive cottage.  The room is delightful, with a lovely view.  We settle in, and enjoy a couple of pleasant days relaxing, walking down to the lakefront for dinner and walking back in the dark, with a bottle of wine to share in the room.

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Two days later, we say our goodbyes, and head further north for Scotland, bound for the rugged and barren Solway Firth coast.  The bed and breakfast is very difficult to find, the last bit of the road is a long, narrow dirt driveway.  We finally arrive at a small, secluded stone bungalow, and knock on the door.  A woman in her fifties answers, she’s friendly and very pleased to see us.  The couple explain they have only recently “opened” their home as a bed and breakfast and we are their first ever guests.  They show us around the cottage, a two minute walk down to the sea, the views are breath-taking.

We get our bearings in the bungalow – which doesn’t take long.  The couple seem overly attentive, so quaint – they obviously want to get it ‘right’ given we are their maiden voyage into the world of hospitality and catering.  They suggest places to go for dinner and we eat out at a restaurant in the nearest village, fifteen minutes away by car, before heading back down the dirt lane in the pitch black to the bungalow just after sundown.

The couple are in the living room when we arrive back, and they invite us to join them.  Politely, we do so, making small talk for a while before excusing ourselves and heading to our bedroom, which is next to theirs, I might add.  We giggle behind our hands like school children, amused by the awkward atmosphere in the bungalow, given we are the only guests (and the first ones at that.)  As it is too early for bed, we agree it might be easier to go for a walk – the seafront is beautiful and it will give us some time to ourselves.  We get our jackets and pop back up the short hallway to the living room to let the couple know we are going for a walk.

They laugh.  “You won’t manage, you can’t see your hand in front of your face out there.  Besides, it’s a narrow, rocky path, too hard to follow in the dark, you could fall into the sea at the end!”  We gently insist we will be careful before quickly heading out the door just as our ability to stifle our laughter gives way completely.

Outside in the yard, we suddenly stop laughing.  We stop walking, too.  We really cannot see our hands in front of faces, as we had been warned.  City kids, this is darkness like we’ve never experienced.  We try to use the little flashlight they lent us, but it is as good as a chocolate teapot, and clearly no match for the black Scottish sea sky at night time.  We can hear the waves, but we cannot see a single thing and realise we are absolutely completely at risk of falling in the sea, and a walk is a total impossibility.

Now we have the humiliation of going back inside and admitting the couple were right, a walk was a ridiculous suggestion.  Tired by now and having run out of ideas of what to do, we decide to turn in for the night.  The room is decorated in daffodil yellow, curtains, walls, everything, and the bedding feels fresh out of its packaging, like just a few hours ago.  We get ready for bed laughing at the newness of it all.  We hear the couple retire to their own room shortly after.

Young, in love and on vacation, we climb into bed with “plans”, although I bring things to an abrupt standstill when the bed makes a sound.  He reassures me we can be quiet, and that they won’t hear, but I feel like someone’s parents are in the next room and there is no way I can enjoy any intimate contact on that bed and risk it making a single creak as a giveaway.  We de-camp to the floor, occupying a gap about 18” wide next to the bed.  Yes, if you are picturing that space, it is much narrower than the bathroom on an average aeroplane.  We manage somehow, though decidedly, it was not the best sex ever.

The next morning, we venture to the dining room for breakfast.  There is a crocheted doily with beads on it draped over the milk jug.  We really struggle not to lose it in fits of hysterics at this point, feeling like we’ve woken up in 1923.  Breakfast is nerve-wracking at best, and we feel under-pressure to compliment everything we are served and clean our plates.  It is exhausting.  After breakfast, the couple, who we are now thinking have very little contact with the outside world, want to spend time with us.  The husband takes my boyfriend to his green house to talk plants and the wife starts telling me her life story.  I am slowly coming to the realisation that we have another two days of this … unless we can make our escape.  We manage to disentangle ourselves after an hour or two and go for a walk on the shore to hatch a plan.

I call the nice man at the B&B on Lake Windermere, who serendipitously has just had a cancellation to book for two more nights.  We then come up with an excuse that one of us needs to get back for work and we have to head back early.  We pack the car, take a handful off brochures with the promise to recommend the B&B to all our friends, and scarper back along the coast and south to the Lakes.

It was not the most relaxing 24hrs of our lives, but was a hilarious adventure which was well worth the trek.  And as I’m writing this, I’m now wondering if they perhaps wrote a blog about us, too?