My Dad

My Dad

Given what many would consider an unfortunate Christian name of Basil on 15th April 1925, my father was born into a large, poor family only 50 yards from the cliff tops in Lowestoft.  He was one of seven children, a family smitten by tragedy during his childhood.

The eldest, Horace, was killed in 1939 soon after the beginning of World War 2. Dad’s oldest sister, Edith died also when he was 14, from tuberculosis. She was his very close and favourite sister. Her death had a dramatic effect on his behaviour during that time.

Also, at the age of fourteen, his family was moved from his much-loved sea, inland to Nuneaton, where he still lives to this day.

It was hardly surprising that with a brother killed by the Germans and a sister dying of an illness, he became desperate as soon as he was of age, without the acceptance of his father, to return to the sea and seek retribution on those who had hurt his family. He joined the Royal Navy immediately after his seventeenth birthday in 1942.

Like me, my father always wore his heart on his sleeve. When he was angry you knew it, when he was emotional he cried. When he was happy he was the best company. He had a devilish, cheeky twinkle in his eye, which still remains to this day. Only two topics were never discussed, religion and the war. I never knew what my father did during the war, what action he saw, how he felt. All I ever got from him as a boy, when I asked such things, was a moment of quiet and “it’s best not to talk about the war son. It was all too horrible.” On the religion front, he never went to church, but I do remember catching him sometimes by his bed praying. He didn’t believe in the Church. He hated the hypocrisy but did have his own private God to talk to.

He grew up hard and tough in Lowestoft. Street gangs, fights, dirty backstreets. His early life left no room for weakness. However, even at a young age his affection towards birds and animals became apparent. He would often be taking lost kittens or birds with damaged wings home to nurse. When his father found out they would quickly go into a sack, which was then forced into a bucket of water. This was the world he grew up in.

The street urchin became a Chief Petty Officer by the time the war was over. A tall, upstanding and extremely handsome man on the lookout for a young wife as soon as he was demobbed in 1947 gave my mother no chance. They were married on 26th October 1948 in a double wedding with my Aunt, Mum’s elder sister. At that time double weddings were more common due to the shortage of funds and rations for such an event. All four are still alive today.

Dad found the next few years very hard. He was angry with the world. His educational years had been stolen from him. The conchies, as he called them, had all of the key jobs. All he wanted was to have a regular job, decent wage and bring up a family in a secure world, the land fit for heroes, as he was promised.

His first serious employment was with Courtaulds in Coventry. His boss was a ‘conchie’ and, in my father’s eyes, one of the worst kind. The little man enjoyed ordering the new employees around. Before the first week was through my father was out of work again. His boss had a broken nose. This kind of thing was happening all over Britain at this time. Dad’s hot temper had really landed him in trouble at last. No-one was going to employ a ‘fighter’ or troublemaker.

He applied for numerous other jobs, being rejected as soon as they asked the reason for leaving Courtaulds.  This was probably the lowest moment of his life. At this time his youngest sister was also taken with tuberculosis and fighting for her life. Her diagnosis did not hold much hope.

One day Dad went for an interview at the Morris car factory in Coventry. He had worked on gunner maintenance in the Navy and possessed some skills in mechanical working. The interviewer was an ex infantry sergeant and didn’t mince his words. As soon as my father explained his reason for leaving his last job the sergeant laughed. He told him that he could start next Monday, but if he laid a finger on him or any of the other staff he would get the biggest hiding of his life. They got on well together and became lifelong friends.

His sister June survived her illness after more than a year in convalescence. She is still alive today at the age of 88.

So, after the marriage my parents bought a semi-detached house in Nuneaton, a house they are still living in today. The number of times I heard “I will only leave this house feet first” during my life has probably influenced me more than I am conscious of. I place little such value on bricks and mortar and more on the people around me, who can move around.

Along came three sons over the following eight years. I am the youngest and the one most similar to our Dad. Because of this there was always a ‘connection’ between us. I spent most of my childhood in the garden with him, cleaning out the chickens, rabbits, goats, and ducks. You name it and I am sure that we kept some at one time or another.  Once, when I was around eight years old, I asked Dad if I could have one of the rabbits to keep as a pet.

“Yes you can,” he said. “But if you don’t look after it properly and feed him and regularly clean out the hutch, he will go in the pot.” This was how I acquired my pet rabbit, Tumbleweed, named after a western I saw one afternoon. Some weeks later we were sitting for our Sunday lunch eating when I asked Dad which rabbit this was. I knew them all even though we had around 40 or 50.

“I did warn you boy, if you didn’t take proper care we would have him for dinner. This is your Tumbleweed you are eating.”

Now, I can imagine that a modern day boy would be horribly traumatised by such an event, however I don’t remember even taking a break from my chewing. It was our world and I was used to it.

Dad brought up his three sons with a rod of iron. He didn’t know any other way. Boys (and wives) had to be kept in hand. That was the way of his world. He had an almost obsession for schoolwork and education. I later began to realise that this obsession came from his lack of education. He was an intelligent man and easily capable of a university education, but life had handed some bitter blows which meant his time had passed. He therefore wasn’t going to let that happen to his boys.

The eldest of us took the brunt of the strict discipline. He achieved his degree and went on to study for his PhD in chemistry. Son number two was not so academically minded and left school at 16 to begin an apprenticeship as a metallurgist. I saw the stark difference between an older brother at university with no money and years of study ahead of him, and a brother with money in his pocket, a Triumph Bonneville, and regular job. I chose for the latter, although never did get that ‘Bonny’

Leaving school caused big fights between my father and me. Academically I was strong enough to go to university, but I was a little wild, just as he was 30 years before. The house soon became too small for both of us. I left at the age of 19.


I will now jump forty years to the present day.

Mum and Dad are still in the little semi-detached that they bought in 1948 for one thousand two hundred pounds. It seems that Dad’s ‘feet first’ promise will be fulfilled, hopefully not for a good while yet.

His memory has all but disappeared. It began two years ago, when I first noticed that he could not find his bank, even though we were only a hundred yards away from it. I had given him a lift into town as he needed money from the bank. We went in and he could no longer remember why we were there. This is one of those strange quirks of human nature. If someone middle-aged forgets or makes a silly error we all laugh. If a person over 75 or 80 does the same, we automatically begin to think that they are losing it. Consequently, regarding this day, I just pushed it out of my mind, although I was a little concerned.

My next visit was three months later. Father needed to go to the bank to collect some money for their general housekeeping. I persuaded him to let me look in the place where he always kept his war medals, a few sovereigns etc. He wasn’t keen, as this was his private place, where even my mother didn’t go. I assured him that I just thought that he may not need to go to the bank and may have forgotten that he put some money away. Very reluctantly we went to his toolbox, which was made by him as a schoolboy. Inside was over ten thousand pounds in twenty pound notes.

I lifted it out to show him. He had the padlock in his hand and switched his glances from me to the padlock, slowly realising that he was the only person with the key and it was he who had stashed the money away. I didn’t know what to say. It was there, clearly demonstrated in front of us both, that he was severely losing his memory.

He said, “You know what lad, I put this money here didn’t I?”

I nodded. “I’m Sorry”, I replied. It was a solemn moment.

His face suddenly lit up and for a second I thought that it was some kind of April Fool joke. He burst out laughing and said, “You know what else? I am really in the shit aren’t I?” He found the whole thing quite amusing. We both laughed together like two little boys. What else is there to do in a situation like that?

An hour later he asked me if I would take him to the bank to get some money for the housekeeping. Since then I take care of their financial affairs.

This was two years ago. Dad is still at home but his memory has deteriorated much worse. It is tragic, but at the same time not so. When I visit him, he is very happy. I can visit every day for a week and each day is a new surprise as he has forgotten that I was there the day before. His strict and slightly aggressive manner has been replaced by a loving, caring gentle man, who only wants the best for everyone.

My eldest brother now is in an advanced state of Parkinson’s disease. He can no longer drive. Therefore in December I collected him to visit our mother for her 90th birthday. When my father saw the condition of his eldest son he asked what was wrong with him. My brother explained that he is very ill with this disease and can no longer do many things that he used to.

My father’s eyes filled with tears and the old Dad came out strong and clear. “Why don’t you come back home to me, where I can look after you, my boy?” He meant it too.

When I am there I try to explain to him that his memory hasn’t actually gone. I tell him that all that is gone is his ability to find it easily. The analogy I used was that each little piece of memory is in a drawer. It is all still there, but he no longer knows which drawer to open to get at it.

To demonstrate this we play a sort of game. I tell him that I will open a drawer just a little and see if he can peek inside. I must stress that it is only his memory that is failing, not his intellect. Proper conversation is still very much possible. I mention World War 2, or his late sister Edith, or his three sons. This triggers some memories and further probing helps him to remember some of the smallest details of his life. The pleasure that this provides him, to reconnect these memories, is immense.

It is at times like these that I regret living in a foreign country. I could give up this life for a few years to take care of my parents. Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t.  I have a wife who also deserves by devoted attention. This is not an easy call, and one which continually causes loss of sleep.

Why am I writing this personal account? I wish I knew. Is it some kind of personal selfish indulgence of mine? Is it morally correct to write such a piece without the knowledge of the people described? Is it conceited to do it anyway? I would like to think and sincerely hope, that it is simply to share my Dad with you all, a person that will not be here much longer and someone that I love and am extremely proud of.

When we look at old people we should never judge them. Often they appear to have out-of-date values and can sound racist or cynical. They may not trust anyone, even their close family. We must never judge them. Who are we to know what they have lived through? Who are we to have the slightest idea of what it must have been like to be torn from your roots as a child, thrust into a killing zone as a teenager, returning to a country ‘fit for heroes’, where the ex-squaddie was not really welcome.

As I look into the still-sparkling eyes of my Dad, eyes that have seen so much sadness and happiness, eyes that have laughed and cried so many times, I now see tiredness and a willingness to say goodnight and God bless to us all.

If you have a family member in a similar situation to my Dad, give them a big hug from me.

Snow White

Snow White

By gazoopi

It is said that no-one owns a cat. It is the cat that does the owning. They quietly choose where to make their home. We humans are gullibly led into believing that our cats love us when they snuggle up, rub their cheeks against us, and purr softly. They really make fools of us. Not only do they not give a damn about us but they actually would walk away tomorrow if a better deal was on offer elsewhere, by a neighbour or other better food source.

So it was with Marie. Marie was a long furred black female cat. She was a beautiful specimen, with a coat that shone under any light and a beautiful Sphinx-like form, when sitting watching the world go by in the garden, before she went into a crouch at the sight of some good sporting prey. The eventual waggle of her rear end and then the pounce would usually signify the demise of some creature or another, usually a mouse or bird. Although in the past Marie has been found trying to drag a full grown rabbit through the cat flap. She did so with a considerable amount of success, until I caught her at it, scolding her severely, and burying the dead rabbit in our back garden.

Marie came to us one Sunday morning in May. She was clearly badly undernourished and looked like a skeleton. As we lived in a built-up area I was not keen on feeding her, in case she belonged to one of the neighbours. I knew very well how interfering neighbours, feeding other people’s cats could cause confusion for the cat and irritation for their owners. However, after giving the matter a few seconds thought I decided to go ahead and give her some food. Her state demonstrated that if there was an owner, they didn’t really deserve that kind of respect. The cat was in a bad way.

So, after a few days, she was at our door every morning. We fed her well, and within weeks she had blossomed into her original beautiful  condition. During this time my wife had been talking to a neighbour and mentioned our new addition to the family. She was told that another neighbour further down the street had mentioned that her black cat had disappeared. We knew the person faintly but had no idea that she had a cat. That evening we went to call on her to explain the situation and offered, if Marie was theirs, to bring her home. We did explain though, that it could be a problem as she would probably keep coming back to us due to the short distance. Mrs Milovac was very understanding and agreed that we were right to feed the cat. She had not seen her for many weeks, long before we began feeding her, and was simply happy to hear that Marie was alive and well. Constantine, her nine year-old daughter, was also very mature about the whole thing, and agreed that we should keep her. She did ask if she could visit occasionally to see Marie, which of course we accepted.

At that time Mr. Milovac was away on business and was not party to the agreement. He returned a week later, only to hit the roof when he realised that a neighbour had taken over his cat. He was one of these aggressive win-at-all-costs type of machos and clearly couldn’t reconcile the fact that someone else may have taken something of his. Within minutes of arriving back from his trip he was pounding at our front door.

“What the hell,” I spluttered, as I opened the door and saw only a clenched fist as he intended to continue pounding the door.

“Where is our cat? What do you think you are doing stealing our cat? You thieving bastard.” He looked rather silly in his black business suit and slippers. In his temper he had rushed out of the house without changing out of some fluffy slippers. I tried in vain to hide the smile.

“And what’s so bloody funny?” , he went on.

“Er, sorry,” I said. “Did your wife not tell you that we discussed the situation of your cat and she and Constantine both agreed that she would be better off here as she has become used to us?”

“It’s no use trying your smarmy arguments on me. I deal in negotiations worth millions every day you know. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes like you did them. Give me back my cat.”

My smile was becoming a fixed feature of my unshaven countenance, but I tried hard not to show it. I went indoors, picked Marie up from my computer stool, where she loves to sleep, and went back to the front door. “Here she is. Please take her.” I offered with as friendly a manner as I could muster.

He snatched Marie out of my hands and stormed off down the street.

I went indoors and quite calmly explained to my wife what had happened, even down to the detail of the fluffy slippers.

“But it is only 300 yards down the road. She will be back here in minutes I should expect”

“I know,” I smugly replied.


As expected Marie was at our door exactly 23 minutes after she was carried away. Within the hour Ivan Milovac was there too. He didn’t speak, neither did I; I just handed him the cat and he walked off in a huff.

Three times he called that evening, each time saying nothing. I did the same. At least he didn’t come up in those ridiculous slippers. The last time he came that evening I just hadn’t got the heart to let him know that his flies were undone, another dignity-reducing sight. We assume that he kept the cat locked in that night, as we didn’t see her until the following morning.

This went on for some weeks. He would come to our door. I would hand over the cat. He would storm off. I had genuine concern that he may give himself a heart attack if he carried on like this, but he never showed any sign of giving up. Losing was not in his blood.

One day we were in the supermarket buying our weeks groceries, including cat food, when Mrs. Milovac came along the aisle pushing her trolley in the opposite direction to which we were going.

We each smiled a greeting but apart from a “Good morning”, no-one spoke. As we went along the next aisle she came again. We met by the mushy peas.

“Mr. Peterson…”

“Please, call me Roger.”

“Roger, I really don’t know what to say. You see…”

“It is fine Mrs….”


“It is fine Rose. We do understand that you are stuck in the middle in this. We have no issue with you.”

“It is just that he cannot be seen to lose. Every mealtime is spent with him talking about how he will make the cat come back to us. He doesn’t seem to realise that HE is part of the problem. He locks her in, smacks her when she climbs on the furniture, shouts when she meows to go out. Of course the cat is not happy at home. Neither am I come to think of it. Oh! Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. Please excuse me.”

Off she went with her trolley. Mavis and I just looked at each other knowingly and said nothing. We both felt very sorry for poor Rose Milovac.

It was worse after a business trip of course. Milovac would go off for three or four days, during which time life would become quite normal for us and Marie. Then he would return and the whole farce would get going again.

Knock, knock, knock. Open door. Hand over cat. Close door. Wait for cat to return. Knock knock knock…….and so on until one day I couldn’t be nice any more.

“Do you have any idea how ridiculous this is making you appear Mr Milovac?” I blurted out one day. “Every evening when you come home from work you come here for your cat, a cat that clearly hates you and hates living with you. Why don’t you let it go and get yourself another cat if it means so much? I would even be very happy to pay for it for you.”

He looked at me with trembling lips. At first I thought that he was going to cry, but then realised it was pure anger. He looked me in the eye and said, “You will never win.”

During the first week of December we had a freak snowfall. One Saturday night we went to bed with clear skies and relatively mild temperatures. It was a beautiful evening with many houses already decorated with Christmas lights of various colours and brightness. It was one of those evenings where one is very happy to be alive.

During the night the wind got up and temperatures plummeted. The snow came down in sheets all night. As it was a Sunday we lay in quite late, snuggled up together. Around 9 o’clock I came down, expecting to see Marie in the kitchen waiting for her food. We had built a cat flap a few weeks earlier, despite the issue of Mr. Milovac and his persistent behaviour. I noticed immediately that it had snowed heavily overnight. The snow had drifted with swirling winds so that all sides of the house had drifts up to the window sills. Opening the door was impossible at the back of the house.

I promptly thought of Marie, being outside in the snow, and hoped for the first time that she had been locked in down the road at the Milovac’s.  I proceeded to make a cup of tea to take back to bed when the familiar knock knock knock came at the front door.

I carefully opened the door, trying not to let too much snow fall into the house, only to see a duffle-coated, snow-covered, horrible little man standing there demanding that I hand over his cat. My instant thought was for Marie. If she wasn’t with him, where was she?

“She isn’t here,” I said. “I thought that she was with you.”

“What have you done with her? I want her now before I call the police.”

“Now calm down and don’t be so impatient. First we must find out where she is. It must be minus 10 degrees out there. I hope she is safe. You better come in.”

Mr. Milovac stepped inside, removed his long wellingtons and we went through to the kitchen. I opened the kitchen window and gave a whistle that I hoped she might recognise. I was still in my pyjamas, bare footed. It appears that Marie had been crouching under the next-door-neighbours shed as shelter from the snow. Her cat flap was out of use, nearly two feet below the snow line.

At my whistle she managed to scramble onto the wooden fence between me and my neighbour and gingerly walked along the top, knocking off little clouds of snow as she progressed. At the end of the fence, where it joined the house, there were approximately three feet between her and the open window. She sprang towards the window but her feet slipped on the icy fence and she didn’t make the distance, sliding off the kitchen window sill into the deep snowdrift.

I stuck my head out of the window and could see nothing, not even a hole where she had disappeared into. The snow had covered her leaving no trace.

I turned to Milovac as he was dressed in thick winter clothes and told him to get out the window quickly. He refused, mumbling something about not having his wellies on. Our eyes met as I gave him the most contemptuous scowl. “Fuck you,” was all I could muster.

I leapt out of the window into the snowdrift. The ice instantly chilled my whole body but I only had thoughts for poor Marie, so cold and terrified down under the snow. I scrambled around like a madman trying to find her, when my hand touched something. I grabbed it in both hands and sure, enough, surfaced with Marie. She was bewildered and frightened. The cold was quickly getting to me. Luckily Mavis had come down due to the commotion and helped me crawl back in through the kitchen window.

We sat on the carpet, frozen, totally wet, but happy. Marie leapt into her basket and began licking herself warm again. I began laughing, feeling rather silly in my soggy pyjamas, until my eyes fixed on the third person in the room, Ivan Milovac.

“Get out,” was all I said.

He turned in shame, slowly put his boots on at the door and left. Mavis quietly closed the door behind him.

“Roger, I suspect we may have seen the last of him,” she said with a loving smile.




That Christmas was rather special. John and Maria, our two children came home from university for the holidays. We celebrated our Christmas together as a family just as we do every year, except this year we had one small addition to enjoy it with.

Nature or Nurture

Nature or Nurture

The entanglement of the various influences of genes and the environment, particularly in the formative years of a person’s life, has been the subject of much debate over the last century. In the following story I leave it to the readers to establish their own opinion, if not a general one, at least one relating to the life of Jack Weston, whom I met during a low point in my life. I was having family difficulties of my own at the time and his personal account gave me much food for thought.

How much of Jack’s personality has been permanently altered when compared to his natural genetic makeup, we can never know, but to come through such an early life unscathed by the traumas and confusions that he experienced is improbable and must surely have had a significant effect on his final make-up.

This is his story.


It was the last day of school before the summer holidays. Jack, already at the age of seven, had learned to dread such times. He failed to understand why most of his friends had been so excited to be going home for six weeks, whereas he knew that for him it would be a time of great difficulty and sadness. He also was old enough to anticipate on return to school, the familiar stories of far off places, of sun and sand and long evenings with parents, being allowed to stay up until the sun had gone down. He would have no such stories to tell, but would try to make something up just to appear normal, which only added to his terrible feelings of discomfiture.

Jack was a sullen boy, small for his age, with almost no friends. He wasn’t allowed to have real friends, ones that could come to his home to visit as others is his class did. The only one he could call a ‘part’ friend was Emily. They often walked home from school together as they were the only two children who weren’t collected daily by their parents.

On this last day they walked the short distance to their homes, hardly speaking, both in deep thought about the coming holiday. Jack finally broke the silence.

“Where will you be going for your holiday this summer, Emily?” he asked.

“Only to my Gran as always”, she replied, “That’s where Mum and Dad send me every year.”

“Is it in another country like Spain or Portugal? Robert Wilkins says he is off to Spain again for four whole weeks, and Josh is going to Portugal. He said it’s only possible to get there in an aeroplane.”

Emily looked at the floor sadly. “No, I don’t think it’s in another country but there are some woods to play in.” Then even more melancholy, she added “But there are no other children, only Gran. What about you? Where do you go?”

“Oh we’re going to Africa to hunt tigers and watch elephants drinking in the rivers.” Jack had seen this in a book and it was the first thing that came to him. Emily looked so depressed and he saw a small tear form in her eye. “What’s wrong Emmy? You’re crying.”

“I just hate the holidays. I always get sent to Gran’s and it’s so boring. Mum and Dad don’t want me at home. They say it is because they have to work, but I know they just don’t want me.” She then burst into tears. Jack didn’t know what to do.

In a sudden rush of guilt he blurted “I lied. I’m not going anywhere. I never do. I only said that to try to be like the others. Please don’t tell them when we get back to school. Please don’t. I promise I’ll be your friend forever if you keep it a secret.”

Emily stopped crying and suddenly felt very sorry for Jack. “I bet Robert and Josh were lying too. They are probably just like us and have a horrible time.”

“Yes, probably.” However even as Jack spoke he somehow knew that was not the case.

As they reached Emily’s house, they stopped walking. “You are my only and best friend Jack.” With that she kissed him quickly on his cheek and trotted up her garden path, taking one last turn to wave as she went through the front door.

Jack skipped home as happy as he ever was, still feeling the kiss on his face.


Jack’s Dad was always at home. He wasn’t like the other Dads as far as Jack could tell. They all seemed to go out every morning and come home in the evening. His Dad was always sitting watching TV and growling.

In truth Pete Weston was the most disputatious of men. Normally unshaven and in foul mood, Jack tried to keep away from him most of the time. His mother also seemed to be afraid and kept clear whenever possible. Jack assumed she was afraid because he saw how her hands often trembled when she held a glass, which was most of the time.

As Jack crept through the front door, trying not to let them know he was home, he heard his mother crying. This was not unusual, so he didn’t go to her for fear of coming face to face with his father. That would surely bring a reign of blows down on him. Instead he crept up the stairs to his room and stayed quiet with his book of African safaris.

Jack stayed in his room until quite late. Despite his hunger and the fact that his parents would insist that he went to the fridge to get his own supper, he contumaciously refused to follow such orders, more through stubbornness than through wilful disobedience. He fell asleep but woke again after it was dark. His tummy was rumbling and he knew that he would have to descend the stairs for food. Slowly, one step at a time he crept down, listening for any murmur.

On peeping his head round the living room door he saw his mother lying face down with a horrible stink all around her. He knew the smell as he had experienced it many times. Dad was nowhere to be seen.

“Mum, wake up,” he cried. “Mum!” He shook her but there was no response. Jack ran outside and began banging on the window of the house next door. He banged for ages until eventually Mrs. Parsons came out.

“What on earth! What’s wrong Jack?” She asked, without waiting for an answer as it was clear that she must go into his house to see for herself.

Five minutes later police cars, ambulances, flashing lights were in the street and before Jack knew what was going on he was sitting in a police car with a very calm and pretty young policewoman. She was holding him close and speaking to him gently.

“Don’t worry little chap. Your Mom will be all right. She is just not very well today and will be taken to hospital. We will have to look after you for a few days, won’t we?”

“But, what about Dad? Where is he? Why isn’t he here to look after Mum?” Even as he asked the question, he knew that his father never looked after her. More likely give her a slap or demand another beer.

“Your Dad has gone away for a while, Jack. He has done some naughty things. Didn’t your Mum tell you?”

“No, I went straight to my room after school.” Jack suddenly felt a heavy surge of guilt that he hadn’t gone to his mother when he heard her crying earlier. Maybe he could have helped.

“Never mind. Everything will be all right. You will see.” The police officer gave him another hug to assure him that he would be safe.


Jack was taken to a children’s home. He was given a bed for the night in a room with another small boy. They didn’t speak all night but Jack couldn’t sleep. He wanted his Mum and promised himself that he would never leave her alone again when she was crying. Next time would be different. He felt so wretched that he believed it was somehow his fault. He sagaciously concluded that it was no fault of his mother, but was definitely linked to the behaviour of his awful father.

The next morning he was taken to the home of a family. The Morrisons had two children, one boy of the same age as Jack and a little baby girl. Their Mum and Dad seemed very nice and Jack was told that he would be staying with them for a while until his mother was well again.

He remained there for the complete summer holidays. Mrs Morrison, who was a dumpy woman and spent most of her time baking in the kitchen, gave him a room of his own and fed him as he had never been fed before. Mr Morrison, a swarthy man but also gentle and kind, took him to the park at weekends with their son Peter and they played football, had picnics and swam in the lake on hot sunny days.  Jack was confused. He was happy, apart from missing his Mum terribly, but was finally beginning to understand what a holiday is. He imagined that this was what his classmates had meant when they were excited about the school holidays. He believed that they all went to other Mums and Dads where they would be treated kindly and looked after.

One day Mrs. Morrison said to him, “Jack, next week we will be going on holiday for ten days. Would you like that?”

“But I am on holiday, aren’t I? I thought that this is holiday.”

Mr. and Mrs. Morrison both laughed. “Well, I guess it does seem like a holiday for you, but this is just normal life for us. A holiday is where we do something different. We are going camping in a tent by the seaside. There will be lots of new things to do.”

Jack lay in bed that night trying to make some sense of it all. It seems that there are different meanings to holiday. There was holiday from school, holiday away from Mum and Dad and now holiday in a tent. He pondered about which type of holiday the other children in his class talked about when they returned to school. That night he reposed sweetly in his new home, feeling safe but missing his mother constantly.

The following morning he asked Mrs. Morrison if they could go to see his Mum before they went camping. She looked slightly worried but after making a phone call, came back with a smile and said that they can go that afternoon.

They pulled up outside a great mansion, as Jack imagined it. “Is this a hospital, where Mum is?” he asked.

“Well, sort of,” replied Mrs Morrison. “It is called a rehabilitation clinic where people like your Mum can get well again.”

“Will she get well soon?”

“We all hope so, Jack. There are experts here who know how to look after your Mum really well.”

As they went in and found Mrs. Weston’s room Jack ran to the bed. His mother looked very pale and weak but hugged him as though it was for the first time.

“Are you being looked after nicely Jack?” asked his mother.

“Oh yes. We play football in the park and have some scrumptious cakes and puddings that Mrs. Morrison makes every single day.” At this he realised that his felicitous description might make his Mum think that he didn’t love her anymore, so he added, “But I still want to come home to you Mum. When will you be well again?”

Mrs. Weston dropped her gaze and said that it would take a little while longer. She told Jack to enjoy the camping holiday and they could see each other again after he came back, and not to worry, things would be fine soon.


The camping holiday was the best time of Jack’s life. He became very close friends with Peter. They even decided one day down by the river, to become blood brothers. They bravely nicked their thumbs with a small penknife and promised everlasting friendship with their thumbs pressed hard together.

The time flew by. Jack almost forgot about his mother for a while, which gave him pangs of guilt on the occasions that he did think about her.

Just as they were entering the last week of the summer break Jack was returned to his home, where his Mum was waiting for him with open arms. She looked different, more beautiful than he had ever seen her. He reluctantly said goodbye to the Morrisons and went into the house, the automatic reaction suddenly kicking in with anticipation that his father may be inside. Mrs. Weston noticed the look of apprehension and quickly said, “No need to be afraid. We are all alone Jack. Just us.”

That night Jack lay in bed remembering his first real holiday. He missed Peter and Mrs. Morrison the most but deep down was glad to be back home with his Mum. After a while he sneaked out of the bedroom and peered around his Mum’s bedroom door. She was still awake, smiled and opened her arms for him to join her. They slept the night huddled together as though nothing could ever separate them again.



Back at school Jack was eagerly ready when the teacher asked some of the children to tell about their summer break. When it was his turn he stood up and told about his new friend Peter, their camping holiday, fishing, swimming and all of the great new things that he had experienced. He left out the part about his Mum’s illness and his Dad’s disappearance.

His teacher smiled at him knowingly and gave him words of encouragement for his wonderful account. Jack sat down proudly, but not before noticing the deep sadness in his friend Emily’s face. She had no story to tell.


I met Jack Weston in a bar somewhere in Birmingham two years ago. He was on business, something to do with diesel pumps. When we came across each other I was pretty well the worse for drink. After a short cheap affair with my secretary I had been thrown out of my home three days before. Jack told me his personal life story over a few more beers and I told him mine. I was so taken in by the misery that we adults can inflict on our children for the purpose of our own selfish indulgences that, during our exchange, I descended into a deep and dark place. My heart turned black when thinking of my own two children. Johnathan was eight and Louise five.  Jack’s story made me realise that I must save my marriage and fight with all my might to get the family back together. If not for myself, at least I must fight for the wellbeing of my wife and children, as I didn’t want them to follow in Jack’s footsteps.

I did manage to reconcile with my wife, and the wounds are slowly healing.  He has saved our lives.

In the years following Jack’s first holiday he had a few more, some of them with the Morrisons, but also with other foster parents. Mrs. Weston eventually kicked her addiction for alcohol and is now a loving grandmother of two. Jack and Emily (yes, it is the original childhood sweetheart) live a quiet but happy life in a cottage down by a river, where he plays football, swims and goes fishing with his children.

Peter Weston was released from prison but never returned to their home. Jack had no knowledge of his whereabouts and also no intention of pursuing any.

Today Jack believes that his difficult childhood and the relationship with his parents and various foster parents have altered his nature and personality completely.



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Down and Out



I lie cold and tired. The questions in my mind slowly drifting in and out like a butterfly flitting between cabbage leaves. The moment a new thought settles, it is quickly floating away again, to be replaced by a new random one.

Is every life so fragile, or is it just me? Perhaps I am simply reaping the consequences of my actions. Ah well, this question is no longer of any real importance. It is too late for me to worry now.

Although it is merely a few months, it feels more like years, since my world began to fall apart. Maybe the financial crisis was to blame, or those leeches at the banks, or perhaps it really is all down to me, not being strong enough to live in this cut throat world. In any case, it doesn’t matter anymore. I am now the fool, the beggar, the scumbag. I am the one some call a ‘stinking humanoid’.

Originally I had it good. With a first class honours from Birmingham, management team position at Price Waterhouse and my first six figure salary at thirty, I was set up for the good life. For a decade I lived like a king, never imagining that it could end.

But it did.

It started with redundancy, loss of job and company car. Even my laptop disappeared with my work. I consoled myself in the close relationship I had with Jenny, until she followed soon after. Our relationship had been strong while the paycheque constantly arrived. How naïve I was to think love has no boundaries. She was off like a shot, leaving the words ‘failure’ and ‘loser’ hanging in the air, like an invisible fog, ever ready to wound my little remaining dignity.

I tried to search for another job. They were scarce, with hundreds of applicants for each position. I had no chance. My heart was not in it, maybe it was broken.

The next to go was my apartment.  I was out on the street before I could blink.

I couldn’t face going to family or friends. They have their own lives, and in any case the shame is far too great to share it with them.

No. It’s better to be here where no one knows and probably no one cares.

It’s better to be here, helped by a bottle of gin and a few scrounged fags from the passers-by. I am almost invisible here, free of my shame, free of my dignity. Those that do notice, mostly look at me with pity or sadness, but some of them with disgust. It is these that seem to believe that I chose this life, that I am lazy or trying to cheat their society. I feel sorry for these poor people, without any compassion to understand or feel my pain. These are truly the sad people of our country.

It is becoming colder now. I welcome the numbness.

I welcome the end.




A San Bushman boy with a spear.

Nhuju Kassie lay still in the long dry grass. He paid no heed to the searing heat of the sun. An intense urge to scratch at his left buttock came over him, where a fly was playing with his delicate senses. Even at the age of nine, he knew that such a slight move might give him away. He gritted his teeth against the irresistible urge to scratch, and watched with a fearful curiosity as the strange looking people crossed the desert ahead of him.

His instinct was sharp. He could sense the fear and could smell the people. They appeared and smelt as nothing he had ever experienced before. His sudden deep longing to be back in the cosy hut with his parents and siblings was pulling knots in his stomach. He sensed danger.

Nhuju Kassie was from the #Khomani community of Natal province. He was out alone for the first time in his life on a three day walkabout, his first step towards manhood. He was sent out by his parents, without food or water. He had no clothes to protect him from the sun, or tools to help him kill for food. The San people believe that they are at one with the nature. At an early age they learn to survive in the most uninhabitable conditions. This was Nhuju’s first test.

His taught muscles remained still as he stared at the line of small wagons. He counted eighteen people. Twelve of them were like him, brown skins, but with different faces. He knew that they were not San, and remembered overhearing the words of his parents as he lay in his cot at night. He had heard them talking about the new dangers coming from far away; From people who spoke and acted differently; From people who were cruel and wanted to harm them. His instinct told him that these were such people. Six of them were pale skinned, carrying long strange sticks. He could see that they were sweating, probably the cause of the stench he had become aware of almost an hour before he saw them.

Suddenly one of the pale men pulled his stick to his face and pointed it in front of him. He watched in amazement as the man swirled round, pointing the stick at a baby antelope, which had somehow become separated from its mother. The sound was deafening. A loud clap vibrated in his eardrums as he saw smoke appear from the stick. At the same time the antelope calf fell, first onto its front legs and then as if in slow motion it tumbled down onto its side.


As the man began laughing Nhuju forgot all he had learned. The shock of the rifle shot and the evil power he sensed caused him to break out into a run. He tried to keep low, but was spotted by one of the black men. As he ran, he heard the dull muttering from the group and sensed that they were running after him. He ran as fast as his little legs would carry him, but it wasn’t long before he heard their steps behind. Knowing that they would soon catch him, he stopped dead, lay down, and froze. As if in death he stilled every muscle, every nerve, and every breath. He heard them stop and converse in their strange language. Then they spread out. He concentrated on becoming part of the desert, blending in as an invisible part of the nature, just as his father had taught him when out hunting.

He felt the shadow wash over him as a giant approached. Still, he lay motionless, aware that he would soon be dead, just like the baby antelope.

Nhuju then opened his eyes to the sound of loud laughing. The giant towered above him, rocking with laughter before he said, “Well what do we have here? Is it a boy or a little desert rodent?”

Two other giants came around and joined in the laughter, before grabbing Nhuju like a wild animal and carrying him back to the group.

“Look what we have here Buana”, said one of the giants.

“This is a desert boy; A Bushman. Their village must be near here. Where is your village?” The voice came from one of the pale men, the same one who shot the antelope.

Nhuju stared at the man’s stick. His curiosity was more intense than his fear as he studied it, realising that it was no ordinary stick, but something far more complex. He could never make one of those without help.

As he looked up at the man, the words of his parents kept ringing in his ears. He had never seen one before, but knew that these must be the evil strangers his parents were talking about. They smelt so bad. Nhuju, trying to control his shaking to avoid showing any fear, spoke to the man, “what do you want with me? Let me go.”

The white man grinned. He heard only the clicking consonants of the San tongue. He watched with some interest as he realised that this little boy was trying to speak to him. He seemed to be using his throat, nose and pallet all at the same time, which fascinated the white hunter. Then his grin became more serious. “We will learn nothing from him. Move on,” he commanded.

As the native who was holding him relaxed his grip, Nhuju broke free and ran for his life. He glanced round to see if they were following him and saw the deadly firestick pointing at him. He prepared himself for the pain and his quick return back to the earth and the reunion when he also would become dust.

John Duggan raised his rifle and had the little bobbing head of Nhuju is his sights. He knew that he could not miss. He squeezed the trigger slowly and the shot rang out across the desert floor, causing snakes to stiffen, rats to dive and ears to prick for miles around.

Nhuju heard the shot but kept running. John Duggan had raised the rifle at the last minute and fired into the air. With a thoughtful sigh, “Come,” he said. “We have wasted enough time.”

Nhuju realised that he was still alive. Eventually he stopped, turned and saw the train of carts and men marching off into the distance, leaving only their smell to hover on the sand, like an invisible cloud of human terror and destruction.

He was tempted to return immediately to the village, but knew that this would be considered failure in his father’s eyes. How he longed for the comfort of his family, but knew that a man must learn to fend for himself. He must continue for two more days before he can return to that bosom.

Nhuju wandered in the desert as was his destiny. Survival was automatic for him. He found water where there was none, he ate beetles and insects. He slept under the hot sun and was excited to be on this mission. In keeping with the long San traditions he merged to the desert and they coalesced in a peaceful serenity. The two days passed quickly.

While entering the village he tried hard to keep a glowing smile from his face. He was a man now, and must be serious like his father. Laughing was for children. He imagined how proud his parents would be when they saw him. How his mother would prepare the welcome feast for his return. Although this was the first of many walkabouts and he would have to kill his first antelope before he would be fully embedded as a man of the tribe, for him this was the most important one. It was the first step towards manhood.

He entered the external boundary of the village and stopped short as he realised that something was wrong. A feeling of sheer terror came over him as all of his faculties raced into overdrive. He could hear no children playing, no sound of women as they pounded the food or sat chattering around the cooking fire. It was quiet, and worst of all, the evil smell of white men was in the village.

Nhuju let out a frightening howl which shook the very ground when he saw what must have happened. The village had been decimated. Most of the huts were destroyed. The ground was dotted with red patches and gleaming white bones, where the bodies of his family and other families had been cleaned by the nature of the desert.

Nhuju sat for two days under the hot sun. His little body shook with the sobs and memories of his family. He concentrated to remember all he could from the stories he had heard. These stories would be the only record of the village, the only memories to carry forward. He swore to himself that he would keep the images of his family with him forever.

As daylight emerged on the third day Nhuju slowly came to his feet and walked out of the village. He will never celebrate with his family the final step of his journey into manhood, the killing of his first antelope.

This would become his final walkabout.

san family

Dogged Revenge

Dogged Revenge

Daniel Lopez had a bad night. He slept fitfully, never fully awake, but never properly asleep either. He tossed and turned throughout, which gave his wife, Estrella, a poor restless night too. The reason for their lack of quality sleep, unbeknown to them at first, was the lack of barking of theirs and their neighbour’s dogs. They had become so accustomed to the persistent barking, that they could no longer rest properly in a quiet neighbourhood.

Their son, Juan, poked his head around their bedroom door, waiting for the invitation to come in and crawl under the warm duvet with them. Daniel woke as he heard the door creak open, winked at his son, and motioned for him to come and join them.  Juanito smiled, leapt onto the bed and snuggled under the covers with his parents. The sudden movement woke his wife, Estrella, with a start. She groaned and buried her head under the pillow.

After some time Estrella sat up with a slight look of concern. “Danny, why is it so quiet outside? I hope Bacco is alright.”

Bacco was their German Shepherd. Estrella sometimes wondered if her husband loved the dog more than he did her. She knew that he doted on his prize winning pedigree hound.

“Juanito, go and take a look will you? Just check that he hasn’t got out again like last time.”

Juanito groaned, climbed out of the warm place and sidled out of the bedroom. He came back minutes later, tiptoeing up to the bed and whispered, “Shhh Mummy. Bacco is sleeping on the front doorstep. I didn’t want to wake him up.”

Daniel raced out of the bed. He knew something must not be right. Bacco never slept on the step; always in the corner of the garden.

He opened the door, sensing instantly that poor Bacco was dead. He was lying in a pool of his own vomit, with his long pink tongue sticking out, as though he was trying to gasp for air. Daniel sat down on the step, oblivious to the stench and filth, cradled Bacco’s head in his arms and slowly wept.  Through his tears he gradually became aware that the whole street was dead quiet.

At first he imagined some kind of dog disease, but quickly dismissed the idea. He dressed quickly and went out into the street. Many neighbours were already out there talking, crying, showing bouts of anger. “Who would do such a thing?” cried the older widow from opposite.

Daniel swung his head round in the direction of his nearest neighbour, John Diamond. “I bet I know who did it. I’ll kill the bastard,” he spluttered as he immediately marched in the direction of his neighbour’s house.

He rang the bell non-stop. Before waiting for anyone to come he began shouting, “Come out you murdering bastard. I am going to wring your bloody neck.”

Glenda Diamond came rushing out to see what all of the commotion was about. “Daniel, what’s wrong? Why are you shouting and threatening John?”

“He killed our dog. I know it was him. He never liked our dogs. Getting a bloody little poodle was just for show, so that he could kill ours without being suspected. Where is he? I’ll kill him.”

“He is around the back of the house. You are wrong. He would never hurt your dog.”

They walked round the house. Daniel had his fists clenched ready. He was trembling with anger. As they turned the corner at the rear of the house John was sitting with his dead poodle laid across his lap. Tears could be seen running down his face. “Who could do such a thing?” He looked up at Glenda and Daniel. “Who? Tell me, who would do something like this?”

Daniel’s anger drained out in an instant. He was momentarily confused. He didn’t know what to do or what to say.

Without speaking he turned and walked away. Glenda looked at her husband, then at their little dog and finally at Daniel. “You see Daniel; I told you he would never do something like that.” Then turning back to her husband she stuttered, “But who would?”

Before leaving, Daniel turned towards them and whispered, “I’m so sorry. I thought…..Please forgive me.”

John’s mind was racing. “Go back in the house darling. I will take care of this and clean up the mess. We will discuss it when I have calmed down.” Then realising that he was still not supposed to know about any other dogs being poisoned yet he added, “We’d better call the guardia civil.”

He winced, thinking that he had almost made a serious mistake. He must be more careful.

Then, as Glenda walked away, he gave a long smirk, pleased with himself that all was going as planned. What he didn’t know was that Daniel Lopez had been watching him through a small gap in the fence. Daniel saw the smirk and now knew that he had been right all along.


The police came, took statements from all seventeen close neighbours who had lost their pets.  There were also a number of cats amongst the casualties. Clearly someone had poisoned them all.

Due to the scale of the crime tests were made on the animals. They had all been poisoned with a high strength arsenic solution placed in their food. This explained the number of cats which were also killed.

During the interview Daniel gave no clue that he believed that John Diamond was guilty of the crime. In fact he openly praised his neighbour for the way he had handled the situation, in front of the police during questioning. He wanted this to be recognised by everyone.

All of the animals had been collected by the local veterinary surgeon and, after testing, were packed into a wooden carton to be disposed of by burning the carcasses.

That night Daniel looked full of sorrow. “I always walk Bacco in the evening. I think that I will just go out for my walk anyway Estrella.”

He slouched out of the door with his head hung low. Estrella wanted to hug him, but knew that was not what he needed.  “We can go out for some tapas at Pedro’s Bar if you want,” she called down the hallway.

“I’m not really in the mood if you don’t mind. I just want an hour to myself.”

Daniel walked slowly at first and then broke into a trot. He must be back in time. He jogged five kilometres to the ‘laboratorios patológicos’ and quickly clambered over the iron gate. Once inside the compound he was invisible from the street.

He crept stealthily around to the back of the building, where he was expecting to find it necessary to break in. He was in luck. The wooden carton was recognisable immediately. To his surprise it had been left outside ready for disposal. He slowly unscrewed the top bracket and eased the lid open.

Instantly the stench caused him to wretch. He turned away, before his stomach lost control. Gagging on the putrid smell, he took a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it around his mouth and nose. He turned back to the carton with dogged determination.

He thrust his gloved hands into the slime and gristle. There was little to be recognised of the individual animals. They had been carved up during the examinations. He was losing resolve and was about to give up, when he felt something he recognised. It was the studded collar of his Bacco. He pulled as hard as he could to free the animal from the surrounding mix of blood and flesh, eventually managing to drag the remaining contents of his dear old pet free.

This was the part that he had been dreading.  He took out his knife and began to cut through to the stomach. His job was made much easier by using the opening that the investigators had made. He cut two small slices of meaty offal from around this area, hoping that he had enough to do the job. He placed them into a self-seal food bag, and stuffed it into his coat pocket. Silently, he slid the remains back into the carton, removed his gloves and screwed back down the lid.

At home, after depositing the food bag in a discrete place in his garage, he went directly to the bathroom for a shower. Later, while he sat with his family he began to slowly feel better. A good bottle of rioja helped him on his way.



Two days later was the annual birthday event for Felix Garcia, one of the well-known residents in the street. Felix was famous for his wonderful garden parties. He would always invite the neighbourhood for an evening of paella, grilled fish, tapas etc. He prided himself on his ability to throw a great party and invite as many guests as he could. Since his wife had died this had become the main event of his year. It was to be a special event this time, as it was his seventieth birthday party.

It was a warm humid evening as the guests began to arrive.  Glenda and John came early and sat furthest from the BBQ because of the heat. In all, more than forty people arrived during the next half hour. Daniel and Estrella, together with young Juanito were almost the last to arrive.

Juanito said, “aw Dad. Now we need to sit near the fire. It will be too hot.”

Estrella admonished Daniel by whispering, “If it wasn’t for your messing around in the garage until the last minute, we could have been here earlier.”

Daniel was calm and knew exactly what he was doing.

Despite the tragedy of losing their dogs only a few days before, many of the guests were upbeat in anticipation of the evening ahead.

Once everyone was seated Felix brought them to silence by clanging his spoon on a wine glass and made a small welcoming speech, thanking them for coming and wishing all his friends a wonderful evening.

When he had finished Daniel stood up to make a further toast to Felix. All stood and took the toast. Before Daniel sat down again he begged forgiveness for his indulgence but wanted to say a few words more.

“Please, I don’t want to spoil a wonderful evening by discussing the tragedy that has befallen our pets this week, but feel it necessary just to say a few words. Many of us have lost something special to us and are still grieving. Let me just say that when I went round to John, our newest neighbour, immediately after he had found his poor poodle, I saw a sight that I will never forget as long as I live. The sadness I saw in him losing a pet that he loved helped me to realise that I was not the only one to be suffering. It helped me a lot.”

As he was speaking he walked around the table and put his hand on John’s shoulder.

“We, as neighbours and friends help each other in so many ways. I would like to propose a toast to ‘neighbours’.”

All stood again and repeated, “To neighbours”.

Everyone clapped and began to continue with their previous conversations.

Daniel was watching them all. He was tight inside down to his guts. He used all of his self-control to convince the guests that he was genuine.

After the aperitif and some olives Felix announced that the paella was ready to serve. Daniel, being the one closest to the BBQ, jumped up and shouted, “Here Felix, let me help you. Who is for paella?”

The chicken Paella was handed out, ladies first, as is the custom. “This looks really good,” said John Diamond, smiling. “Felix, you have excelled. I think I am going to enjoy my retirement here very much. I am hungry enough to eat a horse.”

Daniel almost choked. “Well, we have no horse, but I hope chicken will do.”

As Daniel piled the steaming plate of paella, he slipped in the two small pieces of dog meat, which he had cooked earlier. He was shocked at the difference in colour against the pale paella, spending some moments stirring John’s plate to blend it in.

Daniel placed the plate in front of John but realised that he hadn’t given him such a good portion after all. With the stress of the situation he had lapsed in concentration and only then realised that the plate was only half full. “I’m sorry John. You said that you were hungry. I will get you some more.”

John laughed. “Don’t worry Daniel. I can always come back for more afterwards. Please, get yourself a serving and join us.”

By the time Daniel had served himself and sat down, he was almost shaking with the tension. He didn’t even know if his plan would work. As he began to eat he heard the most frightening thing of his life. “Darling, you have far too much on your plate. As my portion is smaller, let us swap.”

John shoved his plate in front of his wife as he took her plate.  Glenda was irritated by John’s assumption that she would eat a smaller portion but they both began eating without a further word. Daniel, on seeing this, choked on a piece of chicken and broke into a fit of coughing. “Here amigo. Drink this. It will wash it down,” said Felix, handing him a large glass of Sangria.

With a blotchy red face Daniel could finally speak. “Sorry about that. I think a piece of something went down the wrong way.” Everyone laughed, when they saw that all was well.

Daniel eyed Glenda working her way through the meal. He stared from the other end of the table as she placed the first piece of Bacco into her mouth. He watched the movement of her moist lipstick coated lips as she chewed the morsel of his old dear dog. He was fixated as she picked up her glass of sangria and placed it to her lips, taking a small sip and swallowing it down with the remaining residue of the chewed meat. He was paralysed as he watched the slow movement of her Adam’s Apple as she swallowed Bacco down into her stomach, where it would react with her body. He had no idea what would be the result, but only knew that his plan had failed. The revenge he had planned on the evil dog killer, John Diamond, had instead gone to his poor innocent wife.


The ambulance was quick to arrive. Its siren could be heard almost as soon as the call was made. Glenda, on her way to the toilet, had dropped to her knees with terrible stomach pains, resulting in severe vomiting in the middle of the terrace. Felix reacted instantly and called emergency. He had seen the results of food poisoning before, and knew that speed was critical for the patient.

The two hour delay,  from serving the paella until the time of Glenda’s symptoms, was hell for Daniel. By the time the ambulance came he was totally drunk. Estrella had never seen him like this before, but just assumed that it was another reaction to the loss of his dog earlier in the week.

Glenda was immediately packed into the ambulance, which raced off to the local hospital. John and Felix went together in Felix’s car.

It was a long night. Glenda was drifting in and out of consciousness the whole time. Luckily, as it had happened just after a meal, the doctor assumed food poisoning and had her stomach immediately pumped and flushed. The samples were sent to the laboratory, as was standard practice in such circumstances.

The following morning at 8am, the doctor came out into the waiting area to see John and Felix, who had stayed with him the whole night. The doctor looked very grim. “Mr Diamond, I can tell you that your wife is still very ill,” but then his face relaxed slightly as he continued, “however, she is now out of immediate danger. She will live.”

John slumped down into his chair, buried his head in his hands and whispered,” she will live. She will live.”

The doctor continued, “She is now sleeping and needs more rest. I suggest that you go home and get some sleep. Come back in a few hours and she will probably be able to speak to you.”

At home Daniel, despite all of the alcohol the previous evening, had not slept a wink. He heard the car pull up outside and was immediately at his front gate showing concern and wanting to know how Glenda was. John was quite taken aback by the look of concern on his neighbour’s face. He was quite touched.


That afternoon, while John was at the hospital, a police van arrived. They had a warrant to search each house in the street and with utmost speed and efficiency began to go through sheds, garages and houses, looking for something. They refused to explain what.

Later, as the officer in charge came out of John Diamond’s garage holding a small vial, John appeared at the front driveway.

“What the hell is going on here? “He shouted. “You have broken my garage door.”

“Sir. Are you Mr John Diamond, of this address?”

“I am.”

With cold eyes piercing right into John’s face, he grimly said,” Mr Diamond, I am placing you under arrest for the attempted murder of your wife and the brutal poisoning of seventeen dogs and numerous cats.”

As he said this an officer took John’s hands, placed them behind his back and clapped them in hand cuffs.

Daniel looked on from a distance in cold satisfaction. “Revenge is sweet,” he thought to himself.

He breathed a long sigh of relief. Never again would he try such an evil deed. He had learned his lesson.

Dogged Mindedness

Dogged Mindedness

John Diamond lay awake again to the persistent barking from his neighbour’s dogs. From the small nerve wrenching yappers to the big booming frightening barks of the hound next door, he heard the whole range of dog sounds. It was driving him crazy. He lay next to his wife, who added to the disturbance with her constant snoring, and wondering what he had done to deserve this torment. It was never supposed to be like this. He had worked hard for forty years, looking forward to a relaxing retirement in Spain. As he lay, his anger building, he determined not to give up on his retirement dream. He conjured up a plan.

The following day he bought a poodle. He knew that a poodle would be greeted by Glenda. She loved the ugly things. “John darling, whatever made you change your mind about a poodle? I thought that you hated dogs.”

“Anything for you my sweetheart,” he smiled through gritted teeth. “I know that you always wanted to have one of your own.”

For the following six months John Diamond suffered. He hardly slept, except under the parasol on the beach during the afternoons. The neighbourhood dogs barked consistently. Mornings, he was often seen out walking the poodle, talking friendly with the neighbours, asking them about their own dog’s welfare. He demonstrated to them such a kind affection for dogs, that he had half convinced himself that they really were a man’s best friend, until the night came and their incessant barking.

Finally the day came when he would realise his cunning plan. Months earlier he had obtained a vial of arsenic from a discreet friend. He had stored it secretly until this moment. In order to be sure to avoid any possible clues, he drove fifty kilometres to a small village where he bought three kilograms of their best stewing beef.  Back at home he diced the beef into compact bite-sized cubes and, using an old syringe, injected five milligrams of arsenic into each one. He packed them into a plastic Tupperware box and hid them behind the flower pots in his old wooden shed.

As dusk came John casually put on his old mac and flat cap. It was raining slightly. “I’m just off to walk the dog. See you in half an hour or so“, he called as he walked out of the door.

He slipped into the shed, grabbed the Tupperware box and set off down the road. The dogs heard his footsteps as he walked by, throwing two pieces of meat over each front fence. The neighbour, with the large German Shepherd got three for good measure.

Arriving back at home he carefully placed one piece of the poisoned meat in his poodle’s dish with the evening portion of dog food.

That night he slept well for the first time in months. He slept in a quiet neighbourhood with the knowledge that no-one would suspect him.

Well would you poison your own dog?