"A lovely and beguiling book...full of brambles and sunlight." Frank Cottrell Boyce
"This is Posy Simmonds territory; weíre among fretful middle-class types who take themselves very seriously and make an enormous meal of every bit of slap-and-tickle. That these people are bearable company is entirely down to the authorís lively wit and acute understanding of the emotional landscape." Kate Saunders, The Times
"If you are looking for a happy romantic novel then I would say look further. If you want a book that deals with REAL issues in relationships then look NO further!" The Mole, Our Book Reviews Online
"An absorbing story of love and betrayal...interestingly constructed, as befits an author with a profound understanding of narrative form...The psychology is sharp, the evocation of place and action precise and memorable. A really good read." Dennis Hamley, The Oxford Writer
"Endearing read, due to good narrator character - a real tryer who has a lot to learn. The theme of anorexia is clearly well understood and treated with empathy. The west Oxfordshire countryside, the micro brewery, all make up a rich context. I felt there were in the last third too many minor characters and that the second main character rather faded out. All in all though, very memorable and interesting read." Anonymous reader, Oxfordshire Libraries Catalogue
From an interview with Frank Egerton by Gill Oliver for The Oxford Times
"The topic of eating disorders is a central theme of Invisible. The main female character struggles with bulimia and [Frank Egerton] says his desire to write about it was sparked by watching a close friendís similar battle.
'A friend had a chronic eating disorder which she began to confront in her mid-30s after living with it for 20 years.
'But when she finally got treatment, nothing was tailored to someone of her age.
'It is something that is not really talked about. People know about the acute form that happens to teenagers but adult sufferers do not get much attention.'
While researching the book, he was surprised by the number of people who confided they had experienced some type of obsessive compulsive disorder or cutting.
He added: 'Using these experiences and the fact that I went through a mild form of OCD in my teens, I built up a composite picture. But I wanted to broaden the book to look at obsession in all its many forms.'"
The StreetBooks paperback edition of Invisible is available from bookshops, online retailers and the StreetBooks website: http://www.streetbooks.co.uk. ISBN 978-0-9564242-0-4, £9.99
The starting point of Invisible was a wish to write about adult anorexia. This disorder can be long-term and is often successfully hidden from friends and family. Keeping it secret, though, is just one of the many distressing nightmares that the person with anorexia goes through every minute of their day. The book tries to explore what it is like to both suffer from anorexia as an adult and the problems that others have in understanding the condition.
Adult anorexia is, from a personal point of view, Invisible's central theme but I also wanted to write about obsession in broader terms.
From the back cover
Tom, in his mid-thirties, sells his London pub chain (themed around Charles Dickens' novels), splits with his girlfriend and moves to rural west Oxfordshire. There he begins a relationship with Sarah, which he recounts later as a form of writing therapy.
Having trained as a potter, Sarah owns an Oxford gallery and lives with Welsh Brit Art sculptor, Griff, in a battlemented Victorian tower. To her diaries she confides the history of her secret life.
Invisible is a dystopian romance in which the characters struggle against obsession and misunderstandings in their quest for happiness. It is set against the topsy-turvy backdrop of New Labour's Britain.
Writing therapy exercises written by Tom under the supervision of Dr Martin Calder, July 2004
A Time When I was Happy
I remember one weekend about three years ago not long before I decided to sell the business. Jill had been going on at me for ages to take a break. I'd tried to put her off by saying it was our busiest time but she wasn't having it. She knew it was the busiest time as well as anybody. How long had we been together? Seven years and the pubs had been part of my life ever since she'd known me. It was the fact that she was putting her foot down at the busiest time that made me realise she was serious. There was something seriously wrong with our relationship.
Anyway, she had these friends from when she was at university. Duncan and Ros. Duncan, or Dunc as he liked to be known, stayed on after they graduated and did a PhD. Then he became a philosophy don and settled down with Ros who was at college with him and Jill and who'd moved back to Oxford after training as a solicitor.
They had this big house at the top of Jericho near where the iron works used to be. It had originally been owned by the factory and its garden ran down to the canal. They lived a kind of alternative lifestyle. Ros was an earth-mother with a penchant for all things Indian: clanging bangles and voluminous faded tops and skirts. She had this long hair that she either wore down and straggly or up in a coil like a Cumberland sausage. She was nice although I didn't take to either of them to begin with.
Dunc was sort of hearty. His baggy shorts and near worn-out work shirts gave the impression he was still having to make do after the war. He was ex-public school, had thinning hair and thick dark-rimmed glasses which would've looked great on Michael Caine.
So, there we were for three nights, ostensibly free agents, using their house as a base. The idea was Jill would show me the places where she'd been happy. Of course it didn't work out like that. We did go to some of the places but the rest of the time got roped into helping Dunc and Ros. Feeding the chickens and keeping the kids amused mostly.
In retrospect I think Jill and I were relieved to be able to break ourselves into being together gently. If we'd been at a hotel we'd have driven each other up the wall.
I liked the kids. Especially the eldest, Charlie. He had something about him. Despite being the eldest, he wasn't cocky. Neither was he a chip off the old block. He had attitude and could take the piss out of Dunc mercilessly. He had us in stitches -- Dunc included -- and it was done so dead pan. He was tall but had a tongue on him that suggested someone much shorter who'd learnt to live by his wits.
It was the last night that sticks in my mind, when it was just the four of us and the kids had been packed off to a neighbour.
Dunc had this idea that we should pedal out to a country pub then come back for a late-night barbie after it was dark. Before we set off, Ros decked out the garden with nightlights in coloured bowls and scented candles on spiky sticks.
Bikes weren't a problem because Dunc and Ros had a shed full for friends and visiting academics. Not that they were mountain bikes but you wouldn't expect them to be with Dunc. Like him, they were more 1950s than New Millennium.
Away we went, Jill and I following behind. First Jill in front of me, then when I'd got the hang of things, me ahead. To start with, when we were cycling through the streets, it wasn't so much the novelty of being on a bike that mesmerised me but the sight of Ros's billowing dress. I kept expecting it to get caught in the chain. Great lengths of it flapped up, dipped down, almost got snagged but never quite. It was like my grandad baiting his terrier with a handkerchief.
Then we were on Port Meadow, bouncing along a white track before veering onto the tow-path. Ahead of us was a steeply curved bridge which Dunc turned onto and powered over. He was stood up, legs braced but having to give as he negotiated a series of bumps which appeared to run the whole of its length. You could hear the rattle of his bike, sounding like it was going to fall to bits. Every couple of bumps he cried, "Yo!" in triumph.
"Mad boy!" shouted Ros as she side-stepped off her machine.
I pedalled hard to get to the bridge before she did. I thought, Wow this looks great. I had this rush of adrenaline and felt I hadn't had such fun in ages.
Around the corner I went onto the narrow bridge just as Ros was going, "Ride him cowboy!"
There was a line of what looked like wooden ribs going all the way up. I got over the first which made the seat ram into my arse and, fortunately, sent me leaping into the air. The front wheel skewed against the second and I leaped forward over the handle-bars legs apart, landing on my feet as the bike thwanged into the side. It was like I'd been winded but my first thought was, How the fuck did I do that? I had to check my crotch and the insides of my thighs to make sure I hadn't sustained some horrific and so far numbed injury.
I let out a yell of "Whaaaa Heya!" in relief.
"Maaad Fucker!" went Dunc. Ros collapsed into a heap of agonised hissing laughter. Jill, looking worried, was dropping her bike and coming towards me saying, "Tom! What happened? Are you OK?"
Once I'd straightened the forks we were off again. A short straight then a section where we had to haul the bikes over a couple of stiles -- the tow-path in between ran through the garden of a pub I'd looked at once with a view to adding it to the chain. It would have been the first outside London. But it wasn't the one we were going to that night.
After that there were more meadows. The girls stuck to the path. I followed Dunc cross-country, which included a stretch of ridge and furrow. It was hard on the legs and I was still wobbly from the accident but I was just so exhilarated, bobbing up and down after Dunc. He was extraordinary from behind: standing up all the time, driving the pedals down then shooting back up again. His legs were milky white which was odd for someone who lived in shorts. There was an erectness about him and every so often you'd catch sight of his beaky nose and black glasses. He looked like a scout master.
Soon we were on the road, bowling along towards the pub. Dunc and I parked up and had to wait for the girls.
"It was bloody brilliant," I said to him. "Shit," I panted. "Absolutely amazing."
"Simple pleasures," he said.
"I know, that's whatís so good about it. It's like being a boy again. I swear I haven't felt like this since I was ten. It makes me realise how out of proportion everything's got."
"Well, you'll have to come again."
"Did Jill tell you why we wanted-- --"
And then the girls were there.
I kissed Jill as we went inside.
And I remember that pint. Hedgecutter. Dunc handed it to me. It was in a handle. It was medium brown and it had this really hoppy nose. It was clear as the evening light. I took the first sip. No hop until the after taste. Good length. Fruity. A taste like an infusion of hazelnuts. Cellar temperature which on a hot night like that felt like it had been in the chiller. Only I knew it was natural. You could tell this guy knew how to keep his beer. I downed half a pint in seconds. It slipped down wonderful.
I felt so happy.
I also knew then what I had to do. I had to sell the business. Get rid of all of the pubs. Get back on the other side of the bar.
I knew too, at that moment, could feel it like the beating of my heart, the singing in my veins, that everything was going to be all right. That Jill and me, we were going to be alright.
The Source of my Pain
It was Christmas Eve last year. I was at my pub in Clayfield. I'd bought the place along with a ruined mill which I'd done up as a home after I'd sold my share of the London pub chain. I was living at the pub, the Castle, because my manager, Andy, was in jail. A lot of things had gone badly wrong even before the worst things happened.
Sarah had gone back to the Folly that morning. The previous few days had been hell. She wasn't eating properly, only nibbling bits and pieces. She was very thin. We both knew we couldn't go on like we were. She and Griff were going to have to sort things out between them before anything further could happen with us. She didn't want to do that, saying she'd had it with Griff, couldn't go back. I told her she was deluding herself if she thought she could simply walk away.
There were other times when she said that we had no future.
"That's it," she'd say. "That's us. I'm off." And she'd go on standing or sitting where she was.
I said what about the property, her possessions, let alone the fact that she and Griff went back half a dozen years. She couldn't walk away. She owed him.
Besides, I liked him. I didn't believe these drinking binges of his were anything other than unhappiness at the thought of losing her.
I didn't tell her about when he'd come to see me.
The night before she left, he phoned the pub and they talked for over an hour. When I asked her what he'd said, she replied that he was being "unusually cooperative" as if she was talking about a naughty school kid.
She was docile that night. She seemed to pull herself together. She said she knew I was right about her returning to the Folly. She was calm and ate a meal of grilled goat's cheese with me. She was happy in a funny sort of way, or so I thought. She read a book upstairs when I was behind the bar. She was in bed when I went up. We didn't make love.
In my heart I was glad it was over for the time being. I told myself that as far as the future was concerned, I would take it as it came. But inside I was experiencing relief: the last couple of weeks with her had been a strain. It wasn't the situation with Griff, it was her. Mood swings, playing games, trying to impose some sort of structure on my life I couldn't fathom.
Anyway, that night I was up at about five-thirty having had a long nap after the lunchtime session.
I switched the gas fire on in the Lounge and stoked up the real ones in the Public Bar and the Tap. There wasn't much else to do because the lunchtime had been quiet. People were still not sure how to take Sarah being there, by daylight at least, and some of them were boycotting the Castle because of Andy's carry-on.
I pulled myself a pint of Wicca Winter Solstice and went through to the Tap. I drew my favourite Windsor armchair across the flags to the fire. I sipped. It was dark, roasted and spicy. There was a chocolateyness about it like a mild. Only Solstice was headbangingly strong. You couldn't manage more than two before the world became a bit unpredictable. I intended to ration myself to two: one then and one at the end of the night before I crashed.
I'd turned out the lights after I'd done the fire a few minutes earlier. There was just the light from the logs and the faint glow from a streetlamp further up the road. As I looked through the window I suddenly realised it was snowing.
I leapt to my feet and went over to check I wasn't seeing things. It must have been snowing for an hour or more. The flakes were like goose feathers. The ground was white.
Then I heard my mobile going in the Public Bar.
I went through. It was Sarah. She was calm to start with -- disturbingly so, like a digital announcement.
"Tom. Come out. You've got to come out."
"But it's snowing."
"I'm not joking, Tom."
"What's the matter?"
"It's Griff. You've got to come."
I knew that something was wrong. And yet, I didn't believe it could be that wrong.
"What do you mean?"
"Is that all?"
"Isn't it enough?"
"Is he trying to hurt you?"
"Yes but I think he's beyond that."
"Well what do you want me to do?"
"I want you to collect me."
"What, and you come back here?"
"Jesus, Tom. Anywhere. With you or with Fiona. I don't care."
"Why can't you drive yourself?"
"I don't know where he's hidden the keys. Besides, he's padlocked the lodge gates."
"Oh for fuck's sake!"
"Look Tom, I mean it about Fiona." Her voice was sounding desperate all of a sudden. "Just come and collect me. I've had enough, Tom. I've had all I can take. Don't you understand?"
I knew she was trying to manipulate me. But I gave in.
"I've got half an hour before opening time. I'll have to clear the snow off the car. Be down at the gate in fifteen minutes, all right?"
"Make sure you're there on time."
I returned to the Tap and finished the Solstice.
In the yard I reached into the outhouse and grabbed the coat I used when the dreymen came then nipped round the side of the pub to open the front gates.
As well as the snow there was a frost and I had to use some force to open the boot. When it gave the rubber seals crackled apart. I collected the de-icer and scraper.
As I worked, I thought about the time I should've been having in the Tap in front of the fire. I'd been looking forward to those moments all day. All the last fortnight in a way.
The main road out of the village was gritted but the side road across the Marsh to the Folly was untreated. The BMW's wide tyres have good grip, though, and I was outside the lodge in about five minutes. I got out and tried the gate. As Sarah had said it was locked. There was a huge chain around it and the post, secured by a gigantic padlock.
Griff never did anything by halves.
I went back to the car, intending to call Sarah but realised I'd left the mobile at the pub.
I decided I wasn't going to faff about so I climbed over the gate and started up the drive which rose diagonally along the side of the escarpment.
The snow felt comfortable under my boots and I listened to and felt the scrunching sound they made as I walked. The shapes of the first line of trees and shrubs along either side of the drive were different to the unruly ones behind. These were cedars and rhodies and yews -- specimen trees the Victorians must have planted. Griff and Sarah never bothered to do much with them -- Griff liked them looking romantically out of hand -- and yet they retained a kind of natural dignity which was even more apparent in the snow.
Near the top, immediately before I passed under the arch, I stopped for a moment and looked up at the tower. I couldn't see the battlements because of the trees and the effect of the blistering security light which forced everything beyond its range into blackness. I could just make out the tracery of the enormous second-floor window through the trees. The lights were on but they weren't bright. The trees and the security light somehow made the window look like it was shrouded in mist. The snow came at me in slow lines out of the black. They were soft and wet and inexorable.
It was only as I was about to move on that I saw the shape on the ground. It was near the outer edge of the security light's beams. It was big but not human from that distance. It was made bigger because the snow around it had melted or been disturbed. At first I thought it was a dead deer.
I walked over to it. It was in a small clearing beneath the trees and the snow was beginning to cover it. It was Griff.
I knelt down and shook his shoulder.
"Wake up you stupid fucker!" I shouted.
How long had he been there? How long did it take for a drunken man to freeze to death on a night like that? All I knew was that the Solstice was making me feel like a brass monkey.
I pulled him over. He came easy, despite his weight. He'd been half-over my way in any case. It was as if his body wanted to end up facing me. His head lolled towards me. His eyes were wide and smiling. His nose was smashed in and loose so it smudged across his cheek. His mouth opened, the lips twisting as if they were made of rubber. A red bubble began to form rapidly over his mouth, expanding, distending, then popping. Seconds later a great burp irrupted from him, its smell of puke and whisky mushrooming into my face.
I jerked myself away and, without getting up, threw up on the grass.
I heard footsteps on the snow and looked up.
"My God," said Sarah. "Oh, Jesus, no!"
She was staring beyond me in disbelief.
"What happened?" I asked, dragging myself to my feet. I wiped my mouth on the sleeve of my jacket.
She suddenly seemed to realise that I was there. I couldn't catch her expression properly because she had her back to the light, but I thought I could see fear in the way she held herself.
"I don't know," she said. Her voice was faint.
She said something else. I didn't catch it. I tried to retrieve it. It came back to me as, "You've got to believe me. I didn't know."
Shit, I thought. "What did you do?"
I began to walk towards her.
"What?" she said.
"Let's go inside. You'll freeze-- --"
I was close enough to grab her.
Her tiny shoulders wriggled out of my grasp. I lunged at her. She went for me like a cat. Her fingernails slashed across my face. One of her fingers cut into my upper eyelid and I let out a howl.
When I was able to see, she was running off down the drive.
"You fucking stupid bitch!"
I began to chase her.
At the bottom she hauled herself over the gate. Balancing her stomach on the top bar and flipping herself forward.
I thought she had fallen but then I caught sight of her running off down the road.
Her footprints soon left the road and headed into the wood.
I thought I was damned if I was going in after her.
I returned to the car. I put my foot on the accelerator and drove fast back to the pub where I called the police.
I remember thinking as I drove that if she froze to death, it'd be no bad thing.
Tuesday 9th August 1994 -- Debbie's House, Norfolk
I've decided to keep a diary.
For the second time in my life.
I wanted to keep one again before now but Daddy's words when he found out about the first served as a warning. I suppose I could have begun one at any time and kept it hidden, especially since I started at boarding school but I couldn't quite believe he wouldn't find out. How stupid can you get although I'm having these sort of half visions of him suddenly bursting into my bedroom here as I'm writing.
I know that's not going to happen with him a couple of hundred miles away but I'm still worried about where I'll hide the book when I get home. I know it's irrational but I can't help feeling that I'll look guilty and he'll know I'm up to something.
I decided to keep this diary yesterday.
In the afternoon Debbie's mum gave us a lift to Yarmouth where we did some shopping and then holed up in a pub on the seafront.
We went into Smith's to check out some CDs and I thought I'd buy a notebook and write a diary because Debbie has piano practice for two hours every morning.
It feels like the right time. Something logical but nevertheless strange has happened to me since starting at boarding school. I've grown away from home. Not a long way but enough to notice. It's like the girl who used to go to day school is still doing that and I'm someone else who's thinking what it must feel like to be her. Then when I'm at home in the holidays -- which are just the same as always, in a way -- I can't quite believe that life's so different for me. I'm Sarah on my school holidays but there's also a new me who's living this amazing new life for huge chunks of the year!
Before boarding school too my friends lived locally. It's good having a friend who lives a long way away. I didn't imagine that would happen when I went. I felt homesick for a start and couldn't believe the other girls would take any notice of me. I thought they'd all be very sophisticated. Some are but most aren't -- not when you get to know them.
Debbie is one of the more sophisticated, oddly. But underneath she's vulnerable -- and kind. She's an actress. Last winter she played Ophelia. I couldn't imagine anyone having the confidence to do that in their first term. Like me, she arrived for the Sixth Form. She got the part even though there were girls auditioning who had been at the school for ages and who'd been in loads of plays before.
I helped out with the set and did some make-up.
That's how I got to know Debbie. Then her brother Peter was killed in a car crash and she wanted to confide in me. I'm good at listening. We'd also got drunk a few times during rehearsals and knew we were on the same wavelength. Plus I don't get as pissed as Debbie and can put things back together when she's out of it.
The day before yesterday, we went for a family walk along the coast after Sunday lunch. We were strung out along the lane in pairs chatting. For most of the time I was with Debbie's dad. At one point he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "We're very grateful to you for what you did for Debbie. She's told us how you were there for her." I put my hand on his arm for a moment. It seemed right -- though it always seems odd when that sort of thing happens with a man my father's age. Itís because it never happens with him.
Do I miss my dad? Yes, but I'm not sure now if it's the idea of him I miss or Daddy himself.
Strange how hard it is to write the word 'Daddy'.
Anyhow, I've managed to write several pages without him breaking the door down. I quite like the feeling of being disobedient. Writing to myself seems such an innocent pleasure. I wonder why he hated it? I also wonder whether he did. Sometimes after an 'episode' he'll tell me I shouldn't take any notice of what's been said: he says he blows up but then it's all gone the next day. How odd it would be if he'd forgotten what he said. Because it lodged in me and has been there ever since.
I can hear the sound of Debbie practising because all the windows are open. Outside it is hot and beautiful. There is a breeze coming off the North Sea which makes the curtains billow. I think I'll change into my bikini and swim in the pool for a bit. I need to cool off after the excitement of being so wicked.
Thursday 11th August 1994
Two days since I first wrote in this book. I feel I've betrayed it already. Trouble was I got into this novel Debbie showed me. On Tuesday afternoon her mum gave us a lift into Norwich because Debbie had a hair appointment -- getting ready for tomorrow -- and a check up at the dentist (she asked me if Dad ever did freebies for friends -- I said that was a laugh). Before we left I decided I needed something to read. I told her I'd go book shopping in Norwich. She said that was a waste of money. What was the use of having friends with loads of books if you couldn't borrow one? True. It was amazing looking along the shelves. Such different authors to Dad's. Will, Debbie's dad, likes eighties stuff by writers like Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Tom Wolfe. Debbie suggested The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan. I hadn't heard of him and the date in the front said 1981 -- when I was three! He was still writing, Debbie said.
Whatís good about it?
You won't be able to put it down. It's a bit -- you know-- --
She was right -- both ways.
I finished it when we were slobbing around in her bedroom yesterday afternoon. She was lying on her bed reading A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy (one of our A level set texts) and writing a song. She was wearing her favourite denim shirt and combats. She looks cool when she wears things like that. She looks like she's tough and doesn't care. When she dresses like that she's got that, Fuck you, take me as I am look that Tracy Chapman has (who Debbie thinks is God -- I'm waiting for the right moment to tell her that Tracy must be as old as Ian McEwan).
I was curled up in a really comfy armchair.
What do you think then? she asked when I closed the cover.
I'm still in shock. I'm not sure I ever won't be.
Oh come on, it's not that bad. It's not as if you care about the characters. It's the story -- it's like a thriller.
With sado-masochistic sex.
Yeah -- it certainly broadens the mind. I didn't know what I thought about that when I read it.
It's kind of gross.
So why did you want me to read it if the characters are like Mister Men and it's full of bizarre sex?
I don't know. Devilment?
I pulled the cushion from behind me and threw it at her. I didn't throw hard but I was angry -- angry-confused. I still am.
She was fine about me throwing the cushion. Her calmness made me feel so much younger than her. We talked about the book for a bit. She said she wasn't being a mischief maker by suggesting it, she just wanted me to try something different. She said it wasn't about characters, nor the sex, but the fact that it was a totally compelling story. What she found fascinating was the idea that you could be made to read something you didn't want to. We agreed that was really disturbing. I said it was an example of evil genius (well, maybe not evil, more dangerous) and tried to compare Ian McEwan with Mr Knight in A Pair of Blue Eyes. Not a success.
-- -- -- -- --
Back from a coffee break. I went to the kitchen where Debbie's older brother, David, had the same idea. David was second oldest before Pete died. He's twenty-three and doing a doctorate in music at Manchester (such a talented family). He's home for a couple of weeks but still works religiously from nine to five. Debbie says he plays the sax and will probably provide some moody late-night music if it's warm enough to barbecue on the beach when Karl gets here. David looks so mature. He's got a more rounded face than Debbie, or any of her other brothers and sisters for that matter. He has these soulful eyes which remind me of Wynton Marsalis.
Now I'm back in my room, I realise I'm still confused by the twisted genius of Ian McEwan. Although I agreed with Debbie that the book made you want to read something you didn't like, I knew when I was saying the words they were only half true. It's not that I could identify with a woman who risks breaking her back to get sexual satisfaction. It's that I found the man, Robert, compelling psychologically. His silence, his black clothes, his kind of gay posturing in the bar -- all these things repelled and attracted me.
I felt like you do when an older person is talking about how childish wanting to do something is and you think, Well actually I'd still get off on that (but you have enough sense to keep quiet).
It was also scary. I'm not sure I like the me the book appealed to. It feels like a naughty secret. But I don't know whether I should be ashamed or what I should feel.
God! It's so unsettling writing down your deepest thoughts. Daddy must never find this book! Not that he read the one he tore up. I can hear him saying, You've got such bloody peculiar writing. It's a wonder you get anywhere at school. Maybe that's it -- youíre really as thick as two short planks but they give you the benefit of the doubt.
I sometimes wonder if I should talk to Debbie about Dad and home. I tell myself I will, when I'm drunk enough. But I can't let myself get that drunk -- not so far.
Talking of which, we went to this amazing pub last night. David drove us. It was an old mill. It was huge and its outside walls were planks of wood. It's supposed to be ancient and it's on a river in the middle of nowhere. Just cornfields stretching as far as the eye can see like the Canadian Prairies.
David left us to talk on our own for a lot of the time. He got together with some friends from when he was a boy. Debbie filled me in on who was coming to stay for the weekend. There's Karl, obviously, and some others who left last year I know slightly from the play but who Debbie knows really well. Then there's a couple of boys from other schools Karl knows.
Where are they all going to stay? I asked.
Well, if all goes fine and dandy, we'll crash on the beach -- and if it's wet we'll pass out in the barn. It's going to be a mega brilliant party either way. And who knows, babes, this might be the weekend you pop your cherry.
I am indebted to Gillie Bolton for her book The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999). I would also like to thank: Jess; Frank Cottrell Boyce; the late great and much missed Chris Moss, founder of the Wychwood Brewery; Harriet Stevens; Alan Caiger-Smith; the man on the 18 and 100 buses; Robby Behind Bars; David Flusfeder and Louisa Young for the Arvon course; Keiren Phelan of Arts Council South East; and all at Writers in Oxford.