Currently unavailable to buy on Amazon

Available now re-published as SHOWING OFF
Link to SHOWING OFF on Amazon

Chapter 25. Oh Er Vicar

The next few days simply raced by.
On Sunday afternoon, I went around to mum's so that we could have a gossip about all that had happened in the fashion show.
Mum was, of course, absolutely thrilled by the success of the auction.
Well, I said, Cancer Research will be delighted and the news is bound to make the Cornish Times and the Western Morning Gazette, if not the Plymouth Herald as well!
Then we discussed how surprised we had been on meeting Margery Lillycrap, agreeing that she hadn't been quite the dragon we had been expecting.
Mum was stunned when I told her of Matt's deceleration of undying love.
It must have been a tough call, Eva, she said. I mean, Spats is lovely, you know how fond I am of him, but Matt, well, he is rather gorgeous, isn't he?
She told me that the twins had driven around to her house for a quick visit before heading back to Exeter. Apparently, Matt was in the back of the limo getting some sleep.
The twins had persuaded Matt that his talents as a dancer really needed to be showcased and that he should travel up to London and work with them at the club.
Matt hadn't seemed all that enthusiastic at first and the twins had been curious as to what was keeping him down here in Penswithian.
I guess nothing really, Matt had realised. His dad now had Betty, he had lost his job as one of the Barnacles bouncers, and except for his scaffolding mates, who he would miss, there really wasn't anything keeping him in Penswithian.
The twins had also revealed to mum how Matt had told them that he was trying to deal with the loss of a great love, so they had advised Matt that perhaps putting some distance between himself and the object of his desire, would actually help in the healing process.
Oh dear, I felt very sad for Matt, hopefully, his father had been right in predicting that Matt was an incurable romantic who would, in time, find a new object of adoration. One thing I knew for certain, was that leaving Penswithian and heading up to dance in 'Edge London' was just the sort of experience he now needed and I didn't doubt that the twins would do their utmost to keep him busy and entertained.
We then had a good old laugh about Sacha's fall from grace, even though neither of us had been lucky enough to bear witness to the full spectacle. I also took this opportunity to compliment mum on her quick thinking at the time of the incident.
You were a total star striding out there and leading Sacha off the stage, I said, and what's more, you looked fabulous in your shimmering gold dress.
Mum admitted that she had quite enjoyed her moment in the spotlight.
Do you think she really suffered any breakages or sprains? I asked.
Mum felt fairly confident that the girl was absolutely fine and had just been playing to the gallery.
We both wanted this to be the case, only because Sacha was the sort of woman who, given the opportunity, would thoroughly enjoy suing either the Ganja, or me personally, for injuries.
Then mum suddenly remembered, with a look of glee, that the twins had imparted yet more gossip during their brief visit.
One of the other men from the fashion show, who had gone to Barnacles to perform their routine, had got entirely carried away with all the attention. To the great amusement and hilarity of the clapping and jeering crowd, he had suddenly decided to do a full Monty and strip naked. The other guys had hurriedly left the stage at this point, whilst this Dave, that's what the twins said they think he was called, just wouldn't stop and carried on the routine totally starkers, until one of the bouncers had had to get up on stage and drag him off.
Oh dear, I wondered how well Dave's flamboyant performance had gone down with Zoe.
Not that well, I later found out, and their relationship was currently undergoing a cooling off period.
Don't be too harsh Zoe, I urged, Dave was very drunk at the time.
Zoe said that she had forgiven him for getting naked, the problem was that he had then spent the next few days speculating on whether to give up his day job as a vicar and instead, see if the other guys wanted to form a male strip act. Joey was mulling the idea over, but Roy was definitely out as he couldn't think of anything more unappealing than exposing his body for the scrutiny of a crowd of baying women. Matt, of course, had already left for the great metropolis with Vinyl Booty.
Monday was spent getting 'Tres a la Mode' back in order and welcoming the flood of customers who had turned up to try on some of the outfits featured in the show. By the end of the day, I had taken more money in the shop than I had in the previous month.
Most of the women who came in told me how much they had enjoyed the evening and expressed how wonderful it had been to watch the men dancing. Some enquired after Matt and wanted to know where I had discovered him and where he could generally be found out and about in Penswithian. When I then told them that he had now left for the bright lights of the big city, they could only express what an incredible shame that was.
After I had returned from mum's on Sunday, Spats reaction had been quite the opposite, and he had remarked that at least now he wasn't going to have to hunt Matt down and insist on a duel. He was joking of course, or I think so anyway.
Although Spats occasionally enjoys getting out an old antique firearm he keeps in his safe and cleaning it every now and then, the chances that it could still be fired were highly unlikely and I hadn't seen any bullets, so that was a good thing.
A few of the customers asked after the girl who had fallen over, but I could tell that their inquiries were more out of curiosity than concern.
One of the women who came in the shop said that her friend, who was a nurse up at the hospital, had told her what a laugh they had all had in A&E on Saturday evening when this woman with a gold face, yellow lipstick, one false eyelash and mad crazy hair, had been briefly admitted. However, once the doctor had ascertained that the patient was not suffering some kind of psychotic episode and did not need to stay in overnight for observation, she was sent home. Physically, she had suffered no more than a few bruises.
Flo also came in to reveal how much she and Nelson had made in their raffle for Animal Rescue, which was a very respectable one-hundred and five pounds and fifty-seven pence.
After accounting for the cost of hiring the Ganja, make-up and hair products, I calculated that we had raised nearly five hundred pounds for the NSPCC, so, not a bad nights work!
At the end of the day, I rang Margery to find out when it would be best to come in and pay the three hundred pounds hire charge.
Just for old times sake, I once again waited until she picked up the telephone and then asked her if it was Mrs Crap with whom I was talking, to which she replied, that indeed it was, and enquired whether she was now speaking to Mrs Grownpetti.
However, despite our initially humorous exchange, Margery was feeling extremely deflated.
The powers that be from the Arts Council funding committee, were once again threatening closure of the Ganja, probably within weeks, and even though she had mentioned that they had just had a sell-out night of dramatic arts, (her own spin on what she was actually referring to, which was my fashion show), they had still seemed hell-bent on shutting the premises down.
Even the mention that on the very same night they had taken a record nine hundred pounds on the bar, had cut no mustard with them.
This was sad news indeed. With our new found borderline friendship and mutual respect, I did feel sorry that Margery was now going to have to dig out her CV and venture out into the increasingly demoralising world of job hunting.
Then suddenly it was Tuesday and we would get to see what the papers had to say.

Chapter 26. Hold The Front Page!

An article had already been pressed by the Evening Country Gazette on Monday night, featuring a front-page spread of the twins arrival outside the theatre. There was a picture of the girl's as they emerged from the limo, under the heading,
Their purpose for the visit and the impromptu gig at Barnacles gave the Gazette plenty to write about. The fashion show was covered in just two brief lines, but 'Tres a la Mode' had got a mention, so I was happy enough with that.
Tuesday, though, would be the release of the Cornish Times and we had been promised a decent sized spread fully illustrated with photographs.
Mum and I spent that lunchtime poring over the paper and exulting in the fact that the show had managed to dominate not one, but three full pages.
Again the arrival of the twins had dominated the front page with the even worse headline,
There was a lot of copy emphasising how the, now famous, girls were Penswithian's born and bred, along with a picture of them both arriving outside the Ganja and a colourful one of them behind the decks down at Barnacles. Matt was simply a swirling blur in front and luckily Dave hadn't yet taken his kit off.
Although Dave's exhibitionism did get a mention of its own, on page three, where a quarter page covered the story.
Had been the chosen headline for this story, and after reading it, I felt that maybe a career as a stripper was the only option left open to Dave. There weren't any pictures, as the Cornish Times didn't go in for that sort of thing, but it was an article heavily laced in ridicule and ending with the question, “ Was this behaviour, in any way fitting for a man of the cloth... The lack of cloth being the problem”. Which I thought, considering it was our local rag, was actually quite funny.
The auction of mums painting had stolen page two, although that didn't matter as it was still all about the show.
There was a photograph of the painting and an archive photograph of mum, which she absolutely hated.
Why, she wanted to know, do they always manage to dig up the worst photograph you have ever had taken?
There was also a photograph of Pridine Campelot which must have been downloaded from the internet to provide a visual image for what, the paper had described as, “billionaire owner of international gallery chain, the Existential”.
According to the Times, Pridine had flown in on his private jet, which had then landed in the centre of the local rugby grounds. The hammer was just about to come down on the painting, when Mr Campelot burst in through the Ganja doors waving his two thousand pounds in the air and securing the winning bid.
Then it went on to comment, that although the upside of the wealthy gallery owners intervention had raised an impressive donation for charity, a local man, who only recently received the all clear on his own cancer, had had to leave disappointed and empty-handed.
The papers speculation was that, the bigwig who had flown in from the city was, probably, going to be selling the painting on to a second buyer for a good few thousand more than his purchase price, and that it would almost certainly end up adorning the walls of some famous celebrities house, possibly David Beckham or Elton John.
Of course, Pridine was not a billionaire, hadn't arrived in a private jet, which couldn't have possibly landed in a rugby field, especially as he had not actually arrived at all. Still, never let truth get in the way of a good story, I always say.
It's certainly enhanced your profile as an artist mum, I remarked, sticking a picture up for auction was a canny move.
Her huffy reply was that there had been nothing, canny, about it, she had just wanted to help raise money for a very worthy cause.
Although Dave's strip had taken a quarter of page three from us, the remainder of the page was all about the show.
There was a photograph which had been taken just before the show commenced, with Justin standing in the centre and four models either side of him. Their hair and make-up looked beyond insane. The quality of the photo was, as it always is with the Cornish Times, extremely poor. It had been badly printed in colour and at first glance, the girls did indeed look like a line of transvestites about to enter a competition for the most outrageous contestant... With Justin, as the judge.
Under this picture was the caption, 'New man in town and owner of 'A Cut Above', Justin Barnet, shows off his crazy creations at fashion show'.
Barnet, I thought, fancy that!
I wasn't sure whether this comment would please Justin or not.
There was another very blurry picture of Matt dancing, although this was excusable under the circumstances, considering the speed at which he was probably spinning at that moment. This had the caption, 'It's our man, Matt, breaking bad in his dance for charity'.
Then horror of all horrors!
I found myself confronted by the truly appalling image of me running up to the front of the stage, arms waving in the air, looking totally deranged, with wild unruly hair, due to having rammed on the Lycra top and then forgetting to give my hair a quick brush.
I'm sure the velvet designer yoga pants made my thighs look far meatier than they are and they certainly didn't look right with the red and gold platforms.
Oh, mum! How will I ever live this down?
Even she couldn't muster up a decent lie and bring herself to pretend that the photo of me was anything other than dreadful.
Don't worry Eva, just remember the old saying, 'Today's paper is tomorrow's chip-wrapping'.
This quote did nothing to improve the situation and I felt obliged to explain to her that chips were no longer sold packed in old newspaper as it was against health and safety and altogether frowned upon, in this day and age. Worst of all, the Cornish Times was not a daily, it would be on the shelves for a week!
Well, the photographs are all a travesty, what then of the article!
Last Saturday night the owner of 'Tres a la Mode' boutique, on Church Street, Eva Pettigrown, held a sell-out fashion show at the Ganja Theatre (see page four, 'Ganja under threat of closure following fashion show').
The rather demure outfits didn't quite match the 'Rocky Horror Show' hair and make-up, and the men dancing at the back of the stage may have proved too much of a distraction for most of the audience, who seemed far more entertained by hunky local man Matt's solo routines.
Apart from a dramatic accident, when one of the models fell off stage (see page five), the show went smoothly and the bevvy of local beauties who shimmied out onto the catwalk proved that Penswithian girls have got what it takes.
We don't as yet know the final amount raised for Charity (see next week's paper), although 'Tres a la Mode' owner and organiser of the event, Ms Petigrown, told me that the sum was certainly going to be up there in the hundreds (see also article, page two,'Local artist Constance Pettigrew raises two thousand for Cancer Research).
The unexpected arrival, minutes before the show, of the famed twin duo DJing act, 'Vinyl Booty', almost caused a riot as over two hundred school girl's fought for a 'Selfie' with the twins.
These two local girls made good, and now internationally famous, certainly added to the night and everyone left feeling that they had got their money's worth.
When our intrepid reporter finally fought his way through the crowd to ask the twins why they had come all this way back down to Penwithian to see the show, they had replied that Penswithian was simply the coolest place on earth and that they just wanted to catch up with family.
I seriously doubted that the twins had called Penswithian, the coolest place on earth, unless they had meant, bloody cold, but no matter.
Their grandmother, Constance Pettigrew (see page two), and aunt Eva Pettigrew, when asked for their reaction to this star turn arriving at the last minute, they said that they had been left utterly speechless.
Neither mum, or I, recall having been approached by a reporter at any time during the evening, so I guess, saying that we had been utterly speechless was, literally, true.
One-eyed cat Nelson won the heart's of the audience when he made a brief appearance on the catwalk and later assisted in the raffle for the 'Cats Rescue Centre' where his recently widowed owner, Flora Penberthy (see obituaries archive), had saved his life, just hours before he was going to be put down.
Police attributed a fight outside the Barnacles nightclub later that night, between some scaffolders and local rugby players, to ill will that had been building up between the two factions in relation to the fashion show. We cannot at this stage verify whether this is the case, although we speculate the likelihood of the connection on page six (see... Scaffolders and Ruggers fight it out over fit models).
Page five featured a photograph of Sacha sitting in a wheelchair looking forlornly at the camera, headlined,
Apparently, Sasha's vocation as one of the countries top contemporary dancers was in ruins after the inadequate health and safety standards, and a giant black rat, running across the catwalk at the Ganja, had caused her to topple whilst in the middle of wowing the crowd with a pirouette. Sacha had suffered severe leg injuries that would now prevent her from taking the leading role she had been offered in the Broadway musical, 'Cats'.
Eva Pettigrown, who was responsible for the show, failed to take action when her model fell to the stage in agony. However, local artist, Constance Pettigrew (see page two), valiantly took to the catwalk, helped Sacha Von Twinface from the stage and immediately called the local ambulance crew, who took over two crucial minutes to turn up (See page seven, NHS cutbacks could put lives at risk as local government plan to retain only one ambulance to cover entire County).
Sacha is now making slow and steady progress as she recovers from her ordeal and an intensive course of physiotherapy has been advised if she is ever to dance again.
Mum and I agreed that it was psychotherapy, not physiotherapy, that Sacha needed most.
Well, you wanted press coverage and we certainly got it! She said.

The Ganja theatre's future still hangs in the balance but, to date, Margery and Yorik, the in-house technician, still have their jobs.
Margery also stopped being Crap and is now Mrs Stephens.
An online petition has been set up to 'Save the Ganga'.
Matt is currently lodging in East London with the twins and their friend Rocksy. He can be seen most nights performing his break-dancing in front of 'Vinyl Booty' at 'Edge London'.
Sacha became bored performing art with her boyfriend, and left Penswithian for good. No one was sad to see her go.
Dave gave up being a vicar, formed a male strip group and is now touring the South West, where and when he is hired to perform. Not with either Joey or Dave though.
Zoe ended their relationship.
The Ukulele group are still hoping for a paid booking and Zoe has already knitted several outfits for Dave and Jackie's baby, due just before Christmas.
Patrick, Kelly's dad, married Betty.
(I heard that Matt came down for the wedding with Rocksy).
Kerry is going out with Ricky, one of Matt's scaffolding mates.
'A Cut Above' didn't gain any extra clientèle from their involvement in the show and has relocated to smaller premises five doors up from Simon Snipets salon.
However, Justin Barnet and his right-hand man Levi married a few months later. Justin's mate Greg (the one who does make up for film and telly), was best man.
Oh, and in case you're wondering...
One of Dave's old congregation won the free-range eggs and another got the crabs.

For more background to some of the characters and events pertained to in this novel please read the author's debut novel, Hungary For Love.

Non Fiction at Pillar Press

In Conversation with Gill Watkiss
In Conversation with Gill Watkiss CLICK HERE to find it on Amazon 

 In Conversation With Gill Watkiss is a faithful and candid transcript of three separately recorded conversations with the artist during October and November 2019.
The biography begins with Gills experiences of growing up in Walthamstow, London, and her evacuation to the countryside during world war two.
The second conversation explores the series of events which led to Gill's move from London to Cornwall at the age of nineteen, the inspiration behind her work, and the emotional attachment she has to Cornwall and the West Penwith in particular.
The third and final recording focuses on Gill's thoughts on life in general.
This book has been devised to give the reader the impression of personally engaging with the artist.
Some paintings included in the book are from Gill's private collection and have not been previously exhibited.
The Clock Tower, St Just. Gill Watkiss

Pillar Press Comic Fiction.

Hungary for Love

Out Now
Click here to get your copy of Hungary for Love

 Google books review:
 "Sorry but this is actually genius. It's like taking all the most inane and embarrassing conversations you've had with people, pouring it into a flask, and burning off the boring bits to produce pure distilled ridiculousness."

 Love doesn’t come easy, certainly not for Tiffany.
Internet dating is about to take her across uncharted waters.
Familiarity will be left behind and borders crossed.
It’s all good gossip for the rest of the family, keen to share their doubts and concerns.
Though blood is thicker than water and this family is thick.
When it looks like an intervention is on the cards, two family members swing into action.
This is a story that will take you to places you really didn’t expect to go.

Just when you think you’ve got the plot, you’ll realise you’ve lost it.

Showing Off 
Out Now
Click Here to find Showing Off on Amazon

 It’s showtime, so who wants to show off?
Just about everyone.
This might be a small-town event, but it’s big on ambition.
Will Eva Pettigrew pull it off, or will her nemesis spoil the day?
Love is in the air and where there’s love there’s loss.
Who gets the man and who wants him anyway?
The big after-show party is an event in itself.
What about press coverage?The local papers have plenty to print and it's not all pretty.
Bring it on!

Pillar Press Contemporary Drama

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Read for Free and vote for Lies & Revelations on Inkitt.
True reviews welcome
Click Here 

What I realized after reading L&R is that we are left to speculate about who Zeta really is. The book's POV is limited to what is in Zeta's head, and you have deftly woven a picture of whom she is within the narrow scope of her own thoughts and perspective. Having said that, she sees herself as troubled and misunderstood, innocent and naive.

Lies & Revelations is a gripping, contemporary, saga, that follows a decade in the extraordinary life of its main character, Zeta May.
Emotional extremes, moral dilemmas and simple twists of fate all play their part in moulding this utterly compelling story.

Audio book currently in production.

 Lies & Revelations on Amazon

 I really enjoyed this book. It draws you in slowly and then, as the main character's life changes dramatically, so does the pace of the story. This novel deals with a lot of complicated and difficult subjects of which you feel the writer has genuine knowledge. The story of Zeta May and those closest to her is gripping. I sat in the sunshine in my garden and stayed there, for far longer than intended, reading this novel. So, I felt compelled to write a review and highly recommend it. I have read this writer before, but this is a very different book to those previously written which had a much lighter, comic touch. There is humour to found in this book, though ultimately, it's a moving and sometimes disturbing story. Becca J

 'Lies & Revelations' at first amused me, then shocked me, then sucked me in; eventually after getting over a few jolts, I found myself literally unable to leave the book alone until I had finished reading it. This work should be aired on the radio or at the very least be made available as an audiobook. 5 stars out of 5, possibly more ... P Mason

Pillar Press. Children's Books

Caterpillar Cat is a delightful and entertaining story about a stray cat and a little girl called Rose. Rose first sees Caterpillar Cat walking along the snowy rooftops outside her bedroom window. Caterpillar Cat is cold and lonely. What will Rose and her mum do to help, and how did Caterpillar Cat get her name?

A very sweet story, my granddaughter loves this as her new bedtime night read, finally I can stop reading Hungary Caterpillar her old favourite at bed. Illustrations charming and funny.

5 stars A funny heart-warming story about a cat.

My daughter loved this heart-warming story about a cat. Fun illustrations that made us smile. A great book at bedtime for younger children.

SHORT STORIES To read here at The Press.



Pest Control. 
By Louise T W Lucas 

I really can't stand my neighbour.
She has the most appallingly loud parties outside on her patio nearly every weekend.
She shows absolutely no consideration for the residents of this street.
It's not a large patio, in truth, it's more of a backyard. Just a slab of concrete, really.
It amazes me how many people seem to gather out there of a Friday night. Or is it only a few very noisy individuals managing to create the impression Glastonbury Festival has just relocated? 
Of course, they all get totally wasted, often drinking until the early hours of the morning. Then they hear the road sweeper driving past and somehow that, finally, alerts them to the fact that a new day has just dawned.
I doubt that any of them hold down regular jobs.
Admittedly, I am at present unemployed myself, or rather, between jobs.
What's the point though? Do I really want to be working seven hours a day, five days a week,  just to pay my ex-wife child support and maintenance?
I'd end up with hardly enough money to cover my rent while she gets to live it up at my expense.
One thing's for sure, I shan't be declaring my part-time painting and decorating work to the Social Security Office. That extra income is all that's keeping me afloat.
Anyway, I digress.
Apart from forcing me to listen to her truly appalling music collection, which is always turned up to the highest possible volume.
She has recently purchased a bloody chiminea.
You know, one of those patio heaters, the sort you chuck coal or wood into. The result of this being, that once lit, large clouds of thick billowing smoke drift up into the night sky and in through my open window.
Why leave the window open? You may ask. Would it not be best to close it at such times? Well, no, it wouldn't be best. I need air in the room, some kind of ventilation.  It's a good job I don't suffer from Asthma, although I did have a chest infection the other week and I hold her entirely responsible.
Not only that, her friends, apart from being a bunch of barely functioning alcoholics, are all heavy smokers. The toxic fumes from their cigarettes are poisoning the very air I breathe. Only the other day I read that cigarettes contain over four hundred chemicals, including forty-three which are carcinogenic. These include carbon monoxide, arsenic and formaldehyde. If I  get cancer I shall know who to blame.
That woman will literally be the death of me.
There is no respite due to bad weather either.
They just go and erect a gazebo to shelter them from the rain. It's maddening!
I'm sure I've prematurely aged since I moved in here.
Without wishing to sound vain or egotistical, I would describe myself as your quintessential tall dark and handsome alpha-male.
Now when I look in the mirror all I can see is a man worn down by severe sleep deprivation.
There are dark circles under my eyes and for the first time ever I have noticed some grey hairs. 
I mean, bloody hell, I'm only in my thirties. I won't be forty until next year.
On one occasion, someone turned up with a guitar, for goodness sake!
They all started singing along while he strummed 'Yellow Submarine'. I hate 'Yellow Submarine'. I hate 'House of the Rising Sun' too, which was another tune he knew how to play badly.
She has the most irritatingly high-pitched laugh.
I can only describe it as ear-piercing.
In fact, it's the endless laughter from the lot of them that really gets me down. Everything just isn't that funny. It's so insane!
One evening I was so frustrated I decided to call the police. My peace was being disturbed and the noise level was totally unacceptable. 
Initially, I was delighted when two policemen turned up within half an hour of my call,
and, as my window was open, I could clearly hear most of the ensuing conversation.
What a jolly exchange of pleasantries that turned out to be.
It seemed that one of the policemen was on familiar terms with my neighbour. Not through previous misdemeanour's, oh no! He knew her because she happened to be great friends with his wife who, as then became apparent, was actually out there forming part of the merry throng. After a series of inaudible mutterings I just managed to catch the words, noise, and, keep it down. Then the police left.
For a whole ten minutes the atmosphere seemed slightly subdued and then the racket, just as loud as before, started up again.
You're not going to believe what happened next though!
As I went to get in my car the following morning for a quick shop for supplies, I found a man clamping one of the wheels.
The previous day I had been delighted when I drove past my flat and noticed that there was a free parking space right outside. Usually, I can't park anywhere near the building and end up streets away.
Anyway, there aren't any yellow lines or notices, so, I was pretty angry and confused
Apparently, this guy had been contracted by the police to clamp and impound my car!
Why? How on earth can that be? You may well ask.
Well, it turns out that our local constabulary considers this to be a reasonable measure to take in response to unpaid road tax!
I just couldn't believe it, and all my protestations got me absolutely nowhere.
So, big deal,  my tax is three months out of date! It was hardly crime of the century for Christ sake!
It took me days and a great deal of money, I can tell you, to get that bloody car back.
The first time I went to the pound, after enduring a long and tedious bus ride, I was told that I needed to show them my logbook.
As I am not inclined to carry my logbook around with me on a regular basis I had no choice but to return to the flat.
I looked just everywhere for it and eventually found it under a pile of unpaid bills.
Then I got back to the pound and this time the guy there tells me that I need to show identification. Proof of my name and address, a utility bill or something.
I mean, effing hell, why didn't they tell me that in the first instance!
So, then I had to go all the way back home again on the bus!
Honestly, my blood pressure was through the roof by the time I returned to the car pound brandishing my council tax demand to verify my name and address. 
Then I'm hit with another bombshell. This bloke hands me some massive bill for the surety and impound fee! 
At least I didn't have to go back on the bus and get my chequebook.
My credit card was in my wallet, and yes, American Express would do nicely thank you very much!
I knew that bloody neighbours policeman friend was bound to be behind this calculated and malicious persecution. He must have noticed my out of date tax disc the evening they turned up after my telephone call.
Now that I think back, I can recall some childish sniggering taking place between her and the officers.
After that, I decided to make any future complaint via the regular channels.
I started to keep a diary of the times and dates of these disturbances. Then I sent it to the Environmental Health Officer, along with a tape recording I had made.
I had spent months compiling the evidence and now, I've been informed, the council have mislaid the audio proof.
Really, I thought, or, could the Environmental Health Officers voice actually be one of those recorded on that very tape?
It's driven me to extremes, I can tell you. Behaviour I would not have thought I was capable of.
Once, in retaliation, I even turned my own stereo up so loud it must have reverberated from one end of the street to the other. Certainly, a lot more lights went on and the woman over the way started shouting, although I don't know if it was aimed at me or them.
Then I decided to just go crazy and chuck a large bucket of my own urine out of my bedroom window and over into her patio. I had built up quite a quantity over a matter of days, just peeing in the bucket rather than the toilet. I couldn't stop laughing thinking about how they would react to being soaked in my golden shower. Unfortunately, my fluids failed to reach their designated target.
Instead, it just fell into the garden of the flat below and all their nasturtiums have now died. 
Luckily, the couple who live there were both away at the time. It would have been very difficult to explain my actions.
So, I constructed a rather cleverly designed trebuchet style devise. With this, I could lob things more accurately into her backyard, when she wasn't looking.
I know this might sound quite immature, and, thinking back,  I'm not sure I wasn't on the verge of a mini-breakdown by that point.
It helped though, taking action, having a plan. It gave me a sense of control over the whole situation, and I found it quite therapeutic.
First, I found a rotting rat outside the restaurant opposite and used my new invention to catapult it over her wall.
In the park, the following day, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the maggot-infested carcass of a dead squirrel.
The trouble was, searching for dead rodents and birds was fairly time-consuming.
Also, people tend to give you some funny looks when they come across you bagging the remains of dead rodents and road-kill.
For this reason, I decided to start saving my leftovers instead. Pizza crusts, half-eaten yoghurts, chunks of Stilton cheese, that sort of thing. I would put them in a plastic bag under the sink and when they were rancid enough, over onto her patio they would go.
Ha! I thought, the rats will find their own way into your yard from now on.
I don't know what she made of this, or whether she was aware that I was responsible.
Then, one Friday night, I thought, to hell with the lot of them, I'm going out clubbing. Which was something I hadn't done in years.
When I was married I was happy to stay in with the wife and kids. We only really socialised when she invited her friends over for dinner.
My ex-wife, Alisha, was always popular. I first saw her at the secondary school Christmas party. There she was, laughing away with a group of what I used to call, 'the cool kids'. At that time I thought she was really something. Alisha was very petite, just like a beautiful delicate doll. She had fabulous long dark auburn hair, perfect skin and the most adorable big brown eyes.
I really don't know why I had that affair with her friend Helen. She was a right bitch really. Mucked up my marriage and then went back to her boyfriend.
Not that I'm sorry. It's great to be free and single, playing the field again. Who wants to be stuck with one woman all their life?
So, anyway, I swaggered into the club, and although I say it myself, I think I look pretty sharp in my Kurt Geiger shades, black skinny jeans and Che Guevara T-shirt. The first thing I do is,  I go over to the bar and hit on this really sassy hot young blonde.
It wasn't long before we were heading back to mine for a nightcap.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the pile of rotting foodstuffs that I had been nurturing in the cupboard for the benefit of the neighbour.
The kitchen now had the odour of the inside of an unwashed dustbin and just as I was pouring her a large glass of Chardonnay, this bloody great cockroach scurries across the floor, right in front of her.
Then I turn around to pick up my wine and there's another one floating around in it!
Talk about hysterical! You would think she had just caught sight of a tarantula or something.
Needless to say, sassy blonde exited tout suite!
Over the following weeks, I noticed that these two cockroaches had not been lone invaders. There were now quite a few of them and they had taken up residence in my flat.
This was a worrying development.
My landlord was due to turn up for the six-monthly flat check and this infestation was unlikely to impress.
I purchased a variety of products that promised to eliminate my ever-increasing cockroach community.
Absolute waste of money, nothing worked.
I did some online research to identify this particular breed of cockroaches so that I could find out the best way to kill them off. Turns out that they were German, not the Asian, or American variety, no, I had been invaded by the Germans!
When the landlord turned up. I tried to shift the blame. I told him that they must be coming in from next door, said my neighbour was a real slut and mentioned the fact that she had recently had a problem with rats. I suggested he went next door and insist on inspecting her patio.
So, he goes around there to see her.
Then, after about half an hour he comes back here in a real mood.
He tells me her house is extremely clean, tidy, and cockroach free.
He says she was a very charming woman and that now he feels he has made a complete fool of himself by going in there ranting on about rats and German cockroaches.
Anyway, the upshot is, I have to find somewhere else to live because the landlord now needs to bring in a pest control company to tackle the infestation.
Then he plans to re-decorate and put the rent up.
I won't be able to afford a higher rent, that's for sure.
I'm going to have to move back in with my mother for a while. I really can't think of anywhere else to go.
I thought it might be amusing to collect some of the cockroaches before I left, and then put them in a box ready to release through her letterbox, as the perfect parting gesture.
However, during my online research, I discovered that these grubby little insects can be the cause of salmonella, dysentery and gastroenteritis.
Now, as much as I despise my neighbour, who also happens to be Alisha, my bloody ex-wife (I don't know if I mentioned that), and would happily see her suffer from any, or preferably, all three of these infections. Our two young sons live next door with her, and I'm not going to risk making them really ill just because she doesn't know how to behave!
I suppose it's ironic really. I only moved in next door to aggravate her.


The Chef's Special. 

By Louise T W Lucas

The overwhelming sensation of joy and excitement that swept through me as I entered the grand foyer of The Bodringham Park Estate Hotel and Spa was immense.
What a weekend this was going to be!
The online description had promised, a magnificent Country house with both heritage and luxury effortlessly combined. The opportunity to fine-dine in a contemporary and stylish restaurant on locally sourced cuisine prepared, Dans la Maison, by its internationally renowned Michelin star Chef. Guests would be able to enjoy exclusive use of the indoor heated pool and pamper themselves with a range of spa and well-being treatments.
Not only that.
If the mood took me, I could ride through the four hundred acres of parkland on horseback, with the wind in my hair, or get lost in the famous Bodringham maze.
This all sounded wonderful. However, wind in my hair and getting lost was not what I had signed up for.
I was here to perfect my skills and master new techniques by partaking in the intensive, two days, Seafood cookery course.
As well as creating the perfect seasonal seafood dishes and learning how to rustle up a delicious fish starter, my culinary creation would then be paired with a complimentary glass of wine.
For two whole days, I would reside in this world. A world of elegance and exclusivity.
Bring it on! I thought.
The children have grown up and flown the coop, then my husband had swiftly followed, lured to pastures new by the charms of his much young secretary.
I know, how cliché!
“Don't worry Ruby.” My mother had said. “You're a very attractive woman with much to look forward to. Get out there now and enjoy your new-found freedom.”
So here I am, free, single, and in search of self-improvement.
My hotel room did not disappoint,  fabulously furnished and inclusive of everything one might expect from a five-star establishment such as this.
By the time I had unpacked, it was about half-past three in the afternoon. As the course didn't start until the following day, I decided to go for a quick dip in the pool and possibly book a facial.
Oh, the glorious decadence of it all!
There was only one other person enjoying the pool. A woman called Jean, about my age I would guess, or maybe slightly younger, mid-forties perhaps.
Jean was the open chatty kind, keen to mingle and make friends.
She had a big round face and very large blue eyes. Her figure had been kept in check and her mid-length blonde hair, though wet from the water, was still fastened at the back with a slide.
Jean and I hit it off immediately.
She had also recently waved goodbye to a long-lived and tired marriage.
After our brief exchange of life stories, we agreed to meet up again at six-thirty in the hotel's lounge bar and celebrated our arrival with a shared bottle of champagne.
Even the cheapest bottle was horrendously expensive and we downed it while debating whether to try out some of the famed cuisine, of the great Franchot Bouchard, in the lavishly decorated glazed dinning-room overlooking the gardens.
We thought better of it and settled for some foie gras and toast from les petites collations offered at the bar
Then, feeling slightly tipsy, we made our way back up to our respective rooms for the big day ahead of us.
I met the other four guests taking part in the seafood course the following morning, at breakfast.
There were two other women.
One in her thirties, called Felicity, who wanted to learn new cooking skills in order to impress her boss when he next came to dinner, and Sophia, a French teacher in her late forties who confessed to an addiction to life-skill enhancing mini-breaks (the previous weekend she had been on a hat-making course somewhere in Kent).
The two men consisted of a retired taxman called Harvey who must have been in his mid-sixties. Harvey was, undoubtedly, a man who enjoyed his food, a fact made apparent by his extraordinarily large frame, which must have been carrying a surplus of a least seven stone.
Peter, on the other hand, was a tall, lean and handsome man in his early thirties with plans for a major career change (he was the son of an undertaker, currently serving as a funeral assistant in the family business). Peter's big ambition was to open his own restaurant.
On arrival, an assistant to Franchot, handed us all crisp white aprons bearing the Bodringham logo. Then we stood amongst the large gleaming chrome kitchen awaiting the entrance of our hallowed teacher.
Chef, as we were asked to call him, strode into the room with all the confidence of man fully aware of his God-like status in his Michelin star-studded world.
Tall, imposing and truly handsome, we were all in awe.
As Franchot scanned the room to assess his subjects, I felt my hands start to shake as his gaze met mine.
What beautiful deep brown eyes he had, their intensity only further enhanced by his majestic head of silvery hair.
The expression 'weak at the knees' sprung to mind, as I felt my own threaten to buckle beneath me.
We were asked to pair up and Jean and I hastily secured our pitch.
My hands were still unsteady as Jean and I watched the Master Chef in action.
It was enthralling to observe how speedily the internals of a trout could be dealt with, how dexterously the skin could be sliced from a lemon sole, and the ease with which this man could fillet a large halibut.
Truly mesmerising, was how Jean described Franchot's performance, as she looked on, dazed and mesmerised.
After showing Felicity and Peter how to prepare their prawns, Franchot sifted over to our area to demonstrate again how to fillet a fish.
Brandishing a suitably sharp knife, Chef confidently plunged it into the stomach of our trout and swiftly sliced it open from tail to gills. He then ripped out the intestines with a flourish, before boning, decapitating, removing the tail and skinning it.
“You make it look so easy Chef.”
Purred Jean, gazing up into his face with an expression I can only describe as soppy.
Chef's features also seemed to soften as he looked down into Jeans large adoring eyes.
Shall I show you again? He offered, obligingly. 
This time he sidled up close to Jean, took hold of her right hand and made a careful insertion. Together they sliced the trout from one end to the other.
After completion, Jean became rather flustered and giggly and I began to wonder if my initial feelings of comradeship had been misguided.
Chef then turned to me and asked if I could pull out its innards.
I did, what I thought, was a decent job of this unsavoury task.
Though Chef was not happy and looked at my efforts with contempt before muttering something in French.
Merde, I understood, the rest I didn't.
Then Jean started conversing with him in his native tongue and offered a translation of exactly what he had said during their verbal exchange.
Chef says he is not pleased, you have left some entrails behind, even though he has already demonstrated the procedure twice. He says he is wondering whether you have attention deficit disorder or something, though I suspect he was just being sarcastic.
Chef then leant over Jean and once again took her hand. Together they swiftly sliced off the trout's head and then its tail.
Skinning the fish was my task.
This really is quite tricky for a total novice. However, once again, I did all I could to excel and show some natural ability.
The skinless fish looked good to me and, with renewed confidence, I waited to hear some words of approval and encouragement.
They were not forthcoming.
A further exchange between Chef and Jean ensued.
She then informed me that, according to Chef, I had taken off too much of the fish meat and that I was an extremely sloppy worker who lacked quite basic cookery skills.
Mr Bouchard then abandoned us and wandered over to the taxman, who had partnered up with Sophia. 
They were busily hacking away at a lobster.
As the day progressed Franchot wandered from table to table offering advice and expressing his general dissatisfaction with our efforts, particularly mine.
I'm ashamed to admit that by the time we had had our lunch and complimentary glass of wine I was beginning to feel rather teary, and twice made a dash to the wash-room for some deep breathing exercises.
I had so wanted to shine, to impress and make this incredibly gorgeous and charismatic French man look at me in the same way as he did Jean, who it seemed, towards the end of the day, had acquired the status of teacher's pet.
Sensing my rather subdued spirits Jean told me that I really shouldn't take Chef's derogatory comments to heart.
He's a perfectionist, she insisted. Nothing will ever match up to his high standards, don't let it upset you.
Well, I thought, begrudgingly, you seem to be matching up to his exacting requirements.
By the time Chef returned to taste my smoked salmon, crab, and watercress tureen, I was a woman on the edge.
When he then paused, looked theatrically around the room and declared it a triumph, I nearly fainted.
Instead, a flood of tears cascaded from my eyes and I made a dash, once again, for the salle de bains.
Franchot then announced the day's lessons over.
Jean suggested we head immediately for the bar to enjoy a large gin and tonic.
Isn't he amazing! Exclaimed Jean. Just so ludicrously handsome!
I can't say I noticed, I lied. I personally found him something of a bully, if truth be told.
Jean insisted that he was more masterful than bullying.
Sophia the French teacher and Harvey, the taxman, were already deep in conversation at the far end of the bar, whereas, Felicity and Peter were nowhere to be seen.
Jean and I sat down with our double gins and Jean confessed that she was absolutely head-over-heels, in lust with Franchot, and that if he was to make a play for her, she would simply not be able to resist his advances.
I suspected that Franchot might also have designs on enjoying some boudoir action with Jean, prior to her departure on Sunday.
A  possibility that rather miffed me and only increased the hollow, empty, feeling I now harboured in the pit of my stomach
Franchot made an entrance, unexpectedly, half an hour later and, after greeting Sophia and Harvey, swaggered over towards our table and sat down.
“Bonsoir madame's, may I be delighted by your company for a short while? The Sous Chef is busy with 'is preparations and I 'ave a few precious minutes to spare.
This was the point where Jean began to lose control of her senses and adopt the behaviour of a love-struck, overtly flirtatious, teenager.
With a click of his fingers, Franchot summoned the waiter and ordered a bottle of something called Pessac Leognan, informing us that it was the best white wine of the Bordeaux region and we really should try it.
Unfortunately, Jean's nerves were getting the better of her and she gulped down the first glass of Pessac before Franchot, or I had hardly had a chance to savour its rich bouquet.
It was not long before she was grabbing the bottle and proclaiming it a really lovely crisp and refreshing wine with saucily fruity undertones.
At this point, I began to suspect that my new found friend had possibly watched the film 'Basic Instincts' rather too many times, as she started crossing and uncrossing her legs in a fashion that was in no way reminiscent of the famous scene starring Sharon Stone.
Then, she leant so far in towards Franchot, two buttons of her blouse burst under the strain of her heaving bosom, thus revealing her lacy red bra.
Seemingly unaware of her overexposed cleavage and underwear, Jean yelled over to the barman to demand another bottle of, what she was now calling, Pesky Lognan.
Franchot looked horrified.
A second bottle arrived.
Jean poured herself a full glass, drained it in minutes and then stood up, insisting she needed the powder-room.
Those were the last words she spoke that evening.
Franchot hailed for the hotel staff to assist and five minutes later she was being carried up the stairs to her chamber by three reluctant volunteers.
I made sure Jean was safely placed on her bed in the recovery position, before retiring to my own room.
As I looked out over the charming view of the great estate, prior to plunging into my hot, inviting, whirlpool spa bath, I caught sight of Peter and Felicity galloping across the grounds, their hair, most certainly, ruffled and windswept.
Day two was something of a disaster all round.
Peter and Felicity were a no-show. It seemed that boiling up fish heads had obviously lost its lustre. Either that or they had actually got lost in the famed Bodringham maze.
As I had peered out of my window at the lush dewy lawn that very morning, I'm sure I had seen them both running and laughing, with great gaiety, in that direction.
On the other hand, by this point, a certain distance and frostiness had developed between Sophia and Harvey. Sophie had been given a room only two doors up from my own and I had overheard an angry exchange between herself and a man, probably Harvey, late in the evening.
I caught only a few words, lecherous, being one, and creep, being the other.
Jean arrived last, looking extremely pale and generally out of sorts.
Surveying the depleted crew before him, Chef's mood darkened and he delivered the mornings teachings with what can only be described as ill-concealed contempt, shouting clipped instructions at us, while randomly waving his fish knife in a quite threatening manner.
With dampened enthusiasm, I set about skinning a Haddock.
Jean wasn't up to filleting, so I allocated her the task of taking the fish offal over to the waste disposal on the other side of the kitchen.
By midday, Franchot's incessant shouting proved too much for poor Jean to tolerate.
Tearing off her apron, she informed Franchot of her intention to return to her hotel room, where, she would no longer have to listen to the incessant rantings of a mad megalomaniacal cook.
Reached the exit, she threw one final insult in Chefs direction, declaring that she had overheard guests complaining about the lack of seasoning in the restaurants Pate De Maison and that the chocolate souffle had been on the dry side.
Then she slammed the door.
We stood mute and frozen as we waited to see how the great Chef would react.
The haughty look of superiority Franchot generally chose to adopt, suddenly crumbled and you could see the storm clouds gathering as his eyes widened and body stiffened.
Suddenly, bristling with anger, he strode towards the exit, intent, we assumed, on pursuit.
Unfortunately, it seemed that walking as far as the waste disposal without slopping half the fish skin on the floor had proved too challenging a task for Jean.
Franchot went down backwards and his head hit the tiles with a disturbingly loud crack.
Sophia, Harvey and I ran to his assistance and then ascertained that, in his unconscious state, the best plan of action would be to call an ambulance.
The last time I saw Franchot was as he was fed into the back of an ambulance.

Of course, we all demanded a refund and that evening, over a 'hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-her', Jean and I decided that we should use the money on another weekend away. Sophia had told us about a really good creative writing course she had been on at a hotel in Berkshire.
Our first task was to compose a short story of no more than two thousand words.
Write about something you have actual knowledge and experience, suggested our tutor.
So I have, and here it is.
Should anyone be interested, I'm sorry to inform you that the Bodringham Park Estate Hotel and Spa no longer offer all-inclusive cookery course weekends.

Slum Landlord Millionaire
True story by Mr Lucas T Lucas

As soon as I left school at sixteen I headed to London, Cornwall in the seventies was not where it was happening.

London, that's the place for me, to knock the dust off my shoes from the dire lacklustre back-water town of my youth.

I arrived at Paddington and walked over to my friends digs in Notting Hill (bit of a dump back then). Two brothers I had known since childhood had said, come up here and get a job, it's great.

We went out drinking till midnight, next morning, I wake up to a banging on the front door. Unable to wake my new room-mates, I answered it, and that's how I met my new boss, an ex Eton, homosexual friend of the Duke of Edinburgh and neighbour of Edward Heath.

So there he was, a full-on upper-class nutter who would be my employer for the next two insane years.

He poked me in the chest, asked who I was, said I looked, ‘in the pink’, and hired me on the spot. Having said that, and after working for the aforesaid two years, he never told me what my job was and I never really found out.

One day I was his butler at a large dinner party he threw. There must have been thirty of his friends there but I never saw any of them ever again.

He also had a Polish maid that he had smuggled out during the war. She lived in the basement and must have been about eighty or ninety years old. She did all the cleaning, washing, dusting, etc, seven days a week. Devoid of any of the necessary papers, she never left the house, spoke no English and he paid her (I found out), five pounds a week. I don't think he ever even told her the war was over, so she lived the rest of her life in the basement of his house in fear of being deported back to Nazi Germany.

To my eternal shame I never told her, but then again, how could I? I didn't know how to say, run like a scolded ape in Polish.

A week after being hired he had me dressed up as a chauffeur and I drove him around London in his Bentley, a modest number he picked up cheap from the Tzar of Iran.

It was bulletproof, weighed five tons and was as ugly as sin. It handled like a hippo on Quaaludes.

Prior to this, I had only ever driven a mini, had had no lessons, or indeed, a driving license. To this day it amazes me that I never killed anyone!

One morning he picked me up in a VW Polo, the Bentley, he explained, was far too heavy on petrol (to be fair, it did about four miles to the gallon), so it had to go.

He was going to drive as he had got his license back after being band for a year on a drink driving offence (he drove down the entire wall of a church in the Bentley, little damage to the car, church didn't fair so well).

We headed off to a court hearing as he had decided that I could be his new legal secretary and should take notes through the hearing. I then found out that I was. basically, working for a slum lord.

He had bought over forty houses in London after the war. They were all bomb-damaged and very cheap.

My two room-mates spent their entire time going around hopelessly trying to stop the buildings from falling down or bursting into flames.

By this time I had worked out that the reason he had so much money, was because he never spent any. As he was a total loony, even the most simple task became a Herculean effort.

After yet another hearing (he had about twenty going on at any one time), this time to replace a renters fridge (which had only been broken for three months, I mean, fairs fair, he said to the judge), we called around and found the cheapest fridge in the greater London area.

This meant that I had to fire up the most clapped out old Ford Transit diesel in the world, which he kept, to the horror of all his neighbour's, parked right outside his house in Mayfair (see Monopoly board for more details).

It did not start and it never did. The slow plugs put out as much warmth as my ex-wife. The battery was flat, he called the AA. They would indeed send a truck over, but as it was in his street they would have to charge a fee of two pounds and fifty pence.

He was, of course, unhappy.

Wait, wait, if it's in another street would it be free?


So, he got into the VW, I in the transit, and he pushed the Ford to the next street. We smashed a headlight out turning the corner (the Ford's rear bumper slipped over the VW's). Success! The AA man came and push-started the transit. I drove it back and, leaving the Ford running, went up to his office. He told me he had called around and found a replacement headlight and I was to take the bike (he had one of those old bakers bikes with the huge basket out front). Why I couldn't take the Ford was beyond me. I took the bike and went to pick up the headlight. Oh no, the headlight cost a tenner, call the boss.

He gets on the phone.

No, No, in the old days of VW Beatles you could just replace the glass bit.

Doesn't work that way now sir.

But do you still sell the glass?

Yes, but it won't fit properly.

Never mind, give me that.

I walked out of the shop carrying a piece of glass that had cost two pounds fifty, only to find that someone had nicked the bike. So then I walked back to Mayfair and found that in my absence he had turned the Ford engine off (it could have been stolen, he explained). I taped the glass to the grill of the VW. It looked like crap, we had lost a bike, damaged a car, wasted a whole day and never picked up the fridge.

The Ford, as far as I never know, never ran again.

It was time for a new Job.