Welcome to my Short stories
It’s so funny me writing things down with an old-fashioned pencil, one that I even sharpened with a pencil sharpener shaped like President Putin (you can guess where you insert the pencil! Dave brought it me back from one of his business trips to Amsterdam. I bought the pencil later just so it wasn’t lonely.
I am making a list. These things will make this year better than last year, not that there is much competition, but if you don’t have a goal than what’s the point? That’s what Gwen says on Gloop.com, how can you demand your dream if you’re not moving towards it? She had a goal and look what happened to her, a TV career, handsome footballer husband, two beautiful children and a lifestyle website Gloop that helps the rest of us follow in her footsteps. As if we could! But even if we can’t do that I can trace where she’s been. So, the list:
Number 1. Quinoa.
I know, I know! I’m late to the party! I heard some of the younger girls talking about it at work last year, but I thought they were talking about some holiday resort. I think they look down on me and Marjorie, we are in our late thirties and I know that when I was in my twenties that seemed so ancient, practically retired! Chance would be a fine thing! Dave says with this economy and the immigration driving down wages I’ll have to work until I’m seventy! I just nod along when he says that. As if we’ll be around then!
I form my mouth into a flat line and practice pronouncing it, ‘KEEN WA’. It’s easy to sound foolish saying words you’re not familiar with. Dave always laughs at me when I try out a new word and get it wrong.
When I was their age all we talked about was the weekend and what we needed to get mashed. A balanced diet was waiting to come down, so you could eat some Maccies at four in the morning. I can’t decide whether I’ve missed out on living properly or they have. I’ll ask Dave, he always has an answer. If not Quinoa then Freekah, or Buckwheat I write down ‘BEANS/GRAINS’ and then draw a stick figure with a dress next to this. This is me as I want to be. As Gwen says, imagine the healthiest you and eat your way there!
Facebook is so addictive! There was a girl at school, Claire, who everyone said was a junkie (it turned out she had some genetic disease) and I always think of her sallow skin, rotten breath and hungry dog eyes when I look at Facebook. I don’t want to look because of the children but it’s also why I do in the end. My friend’s perfect lives make me happy for them. Jennifer has posted a picture of her son’s sixth birthday party. Look’s fancy. It’s taken in their back garden. Me and Dave visited for the house warming eighteen months ago, and there’s a bouncy castle like a big pink blancmange filled with the children of all of our friends and a picture of a clown. I’m glad we weren’t invited to their child´s birthday party because I don’t like clowns. I don’t think anyone likes clowns. They remind everyone that even when you’re laughing, even at your happiest, true innocence is a fake and something darker is waiting when the smile fades. Goodness, what would Gwen say, this is not positivity! Maybe I should add liking clowns to the list! So funny.
Number 2. Exercise.
Now then there’s no point in beating around the bush as my Mum used to say, I have never liked exercise. It seems so pointless, all that running around and sweating for no good reason and the clothes, oh my god, the clothes. At school, when I was actually a size that Gwen would be proud of, we used to pretend to have our periods three or four times a month to avoid wearing those silly cotton pants and baggy t-shirts. It was bad but it’s so much worse now. Dave started drinking protein drinks and joined a gym after his last business trip and he insisted I come with him, because he was nervous although he would kill me for saying that, and it was like school but so, so much worse. I wore some gear Dave bought me from Sports Direct. I tried it on in the house before we left and I knew it was too tight, I could feel the Lycra squeezing me from below my neck to my ankles like a slinky spring with my fat bulging through each ring but Dave said I looked ‘ok’ and he looked at me in a way that I’d not seen him do for over a year. So, we went to the gym for our induction. In the changing room I knew we were all wrong. It was the smell of sweat and damp towels, it reminded me of school and of awkwardness. But you know what? When I got into the gym itself, I enjoyed it! We were given a tour by a handsome instructor called Andy. When Andy was demonstrating a piece of equipment Dave whispered to me that he was a ‘total meathead’ but two minutes later Andy was telling us that he was studying for a Masters in Law whilst working at the gym and I nearly gave Dave a smile but I could see from the tightening of the lines around his eyes when Andy told him this that it wouldn’t have been a good idea.
When I tried the chest press machine Andy told me I was doing great and Dave muttered ‘for a fat lass’ and I pretended I didn’t hear. When it came to Dave’s turn Andy added some weight and Dave took a seat on the machine. He tried, bless him, to push the bar forward but all he succeeded in was turning the colour of a beetroot. Andy told him not to worry and that plenty of men who weren’t used to going to the gym struggled with this weight and then he dropped it for Dave. I think Dave went an even darker colour when he said that and then Andy winked at me. I couldn’t help smiling back and Dave saw. We didn’t join the gym and it was a bad night.
Gloop. Gwen on holiday with her family. Gosh they all look so happy. I don’t believe what that papers said about her husband. You can see in the picture on the beach on Barbados, the one in which they are holding hands, he’s got no top on and she’s wearing a white bikini, that they are very much in love. It’s in the eyes. The eyes don’t lie. Exercise and eat like Gwen for a year and I will buy a bikini like that.
White Next bikini, £35.99. For a bikini! I check and yes, they have it in my size. It’s the last one listed. After the exercise it will be my reward. I buy the one in a size 12 instead. It will motivate me. So naughty!
Facebook. Cathy´s had her second and they both look adorable even though the picture was clearly taken only hours after little Finn was born. I write ‘Buy card for Cathy and Pete’ at the bottom of my pad and I feel myself welling up.
Focus on the positive. Always. That’s Gwen’s number two rule. I have my health. A girl at work, Miranda, got diagnosed with breast cancer last month. I have this house. I have our dog Jess. I’ve not got cancer.
Number 3. Be Confident
Gwen says that anyone can be confident. When she was asked to be a judge on Singsong she didn’t feel she could do it as she says in her own words, ‘ I had no singing knowledge, skill or ability in this area and I thought I can’t do this but I told myself be confident Gwen and you can do it’ and we all know what happened after that! I’m not going to be asked to be a judge on a TV show anytime soon, but I do want to get on at work and although I know I’m good I just can’t seem to speak up in meetings the way that the men and some of the younger girls can. I hear them talking often for a long time without actually saying anything and I sit there with all these things I want to say but when I start to think about saying them, I get a clogging feeling in my chest, the air seems to thin and sometimes it feels that I just float right out of my body. I will be more confident.
Gardenworld.com I delete the website from my browsing history. I must remember to take my laptop to the river later on. As Gwen says, if you want to succeed, plan, plan, plan!
There is a sound from downstairs which makes me jump.
It’s the front door. Dave is home.
He always wants his tea within 30 minutes of getting home from work and I can tell from the lack of ‘I’m home’ that he’s had a bad day. I grab my lipstick and touch up my lips. He likes me to look nice when he gets in. There are footsteps on the stairs and I slam the computer shut.
Dave walks past the bedroom and heads straight into the bathroom. He doesn’t say hello but as he has explained to me on many occasions, he’s often tired from work, and even those massages he goes for to relieve the tension, don’t seem to help, so he sometimes finds it too tiring to even ask me how I am. He works very hard so who can blame him? Not me that’s for sure. As Gwen says, you have to accept everyone as they are and not as you want them to be. Dave is Dave.
When I hear the shower start, I head downstairs. I know Dave will be ten minutes in the shower, he always is after going for one of his massages. It ´relaxes him´ he tells me.
The stew is a recipe my Mother gave me, and she got it from her Mother, Nanna Pat. When I walk into the kitchen the aroma immediately conjures up an image of Nanna Pat from when I was small. I can see her kindly face wrinkling as she bent over the pan and smelt the stew, Nanna Pat´s stew will make you well, she used to say which is the same thing as Gwen said in her recent blog, ´7 days to a new you´, you can eat yourself fitter!
The stew has all the ingredients to reach that goal that’s for sure.
Lean beef for healthy blood and bones, onions, potatoes and carrots because vegetables are our friends (you can guess who says that!), Guinness for body and iron to make us strong, and herbs, we have all the thyme in the world! Thyme! I love it when I do a funny. And of course, my own special ingredient.
They arrived in a little Jiffy bag six months ago. Just a regular envelope and inside a smaller white envelope with a printed line drawing of a rose on the front. I poured them out carefully onto the Formica worktop, and then knelt down to get a closer look at the five little seeds. They looked tiny for something with such a punch. I put them in a small Tupperware box and put them to one side. It was only after the ´gym night´ that I planted them, hidden away at the back of the garden, near my Petunias.
The flowers, when they came, were beautiful, dark purple and hooded. I made sure to cut them at the root as that’s where the real flavour is to be found. Nothing but the best for my Dave.
I wore marigolds when preparing them. You can’t be too careful you know. I once prepared a chilli pepper whilst not wearing rubber gloves and later on rubbed my eyes. In all my days I’ve never known pain like it.
The way to prepare the root I found online. It´s quite ancient and I do hope Dave likes it. He’s finished his shower now and I can hear him padding around upstairs, putting on his house clothes. He’s quite a big man so I went a little overboard on the roots. He’s usually as hungry as a wolf after his massages. He puts it down to the ´release of toxins´ it apparently brings. Hungry as a wolf is funny given the beautiful name of the plant, Wolfsbane. Two funnies in one day, I’m on fire, Gwen would be proud!
I hear Dave´s footsteps on the stairs and I give the stew a final stir. I’m not sure I’m that hungry myself. If I’m to fit into that Next bikini I am going to have to have to skip a few meals.
Because as Gwen says, if you want the life you deserve you need to make sacrifices.
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IN THE PRESS
Totally un-putdownable .....quite outstanding.
Wonderfully written, tightly written: Erasmus Jones is like Jack Reacher…wonderful.
JEFFERY ARCHER, English Author and former politician.
CATHY KELLY, Former Journalist and Author.
This pulls you in at 100 mph. [The] sense of place is terrific. A great central character. I love Erasmus Jones.
English novelist, actor and television screenwriter.
Phil Kurthausen is the best selling author of crime and thriller novels including the stand alone 'Don't let me in' and the Erasmus Jones series.
He has travelled the world working as a light bulb repair technician, a flower salesman, a lawyer and, though scared of heights, painted Sydney Harbour Bridge. He once put Ken Dodd in a headlock for being annoying.
His work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 extra, he has published short stories and his novel ‘The Silent Pool’ won the Thriller Round in the Harper Collins People’s Novelist Competition broadcast on ITV and was later shortlisted for the Dundee International Literary Prize in 2012.
More recently 'The Silent Pool' has been Apple book of the month and his highly anticipated new novel, 'Don't let me in' was released on 22 October 2018.
He currently lives in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.