stevenmdodd

Writer’s Hub

In Accepted for publication on April 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

Dead Cat Bounce

by

Steve Dodd

Like all classics, Pete had endured a decade of derision before reaching ironic vintage status.  For now, he was having to make the best of a new job in the lower leagues, the ones with numbers not sponsors.  At least they hadn’t had to move.  If anything the training ground was a little nearer.  She loved that bloody house.

‘Goalhangers’ stood on the corner of Laburnum Avenue.  It had a red door and creosote mock Tudor timbers.  In the front room window and beside the boot scraper, were examples of his wife’s art.  She made sculptures that looked like curly dog turds.

“My inspiration comes from nature,” she’d say.

“From a dog’s arse,” Pete, would mutter after a few nips from his desk drawer bottle.  But then he was only talking to the team photos on the plaster board wall of his new office.  Tiny it was.  The last gaffer had been a whippet of a man.  Marathon runner, fitness freak.  Pete had to squeeze between the wall and the side of the desk to get to his chair.  Players had to be athletes, managers sat and thought.  Even managers of teams of midlands, mid-table cloggers.  He’d had a lovely office at United.  Wall paper, drinks cabinet, enough room to entertain.  He loved that side of the game.  The after match meet with his opposite number.  They were a rare breed, football managers.  Especially the old guard.  These new boys, some of them hadn’t even played.  How could they understand the pressures of the game?

  Pete liked to think he could’ve survived another five seasons at United and made it safely to retirement, his status intact.  After all they’d only just missed out through penalties in the play-offs.  But no, the board had listened to that property developer bastard of a chairman and called for new blood.  Someone with continental ideas.  Everyone wants to be bloody Barcelona.  One day he’d get the credit he deserved.  Oh they’d be sorry then, when it was too late.  Like Blackburn with Big Sam.

His marriage had been the only constant throughout his career.  He’d not had a lot of girlfriends before Janet.  Truth was, being a centre back for Southampton in the sixties wasn’t the chick magnet it was today.  And he was shy around women.

He’d been introduced to her by the old physio’.  She was a friend of his daughter’s.  Went to art college together.  Well, he hadn’t known what to expect, but Janet was fine.  Not good looking in an obvious way but fine, and quiet.  She showed him her drawings after a couple of dates.  Leaves and acorns he remembered.  Lots of still lives, all very pale and delicate.  She wanted to be a sculptor.  When she fell pregnant in their first year of marriage, talk about that stopped.  And anyway, he was transferred to Albion, the big time.  First of their eleven moves, his playing career ending up in Stenhousemuir.  God that was a low point.  Then into coaching.  Scottish leagues again before his assistant job with Malcolm.  Only took two more jobs to get United.  She’d never complained.  Not really, just the usual moans about the kid’s schools and decorating.

They had three children.  All girls, then they’d given up.  Becky was already married, Paige was finishing teacher training in Chichester.  Only Lottie was left.  Halfway through her BTEC at the local college.  When she’d told them she wanted to specialise in PE, that’s when the arguments had really begun.  He could see that now.  Janet was convinced their youngest was truly creative and would regret it later.

It was the subject of many late night discussions.  Held in that rabid register halfway between whispering and spitting, when they didn’t want their daughter to hear them through the bedroom wall.  When their emotions ran high and sentences rushed to emphatic conclusions with bulging eyes and clenched teeth.

“Why don’t you just let her choose what she wants?”

“I’m her mother.  I know she has the artistic spark.”

“How?  She hated art at school.”

“That’s because they don’t give them the freedom to express themselves at GCSE.  It was the same for me.”

“I don’t see Becky doing anything with her artistic gift and you said the same about her.”

“That is uncalled for Peter!  Rebecca is putting her creative urges into starting a family.  It will emerge later.  Just like it did for me.”

But these exchanges belonged to the time when they’d shared a bedroom.  Now that Lottie was well past any last ditch alterations to her subject choice, Janet had decamped to Becky’s old room.  Their marriage had entered a new phase.  Janet told him she needed to conserve all her positive energy for her work.  That, after all these fallow years, ‘it’ was just bubbling up and ready to burst inside her.  Peter’s attention was a distraction she could not afford.  And when the work came to fruition he would see it was worth it.

In the meantime, Janet was getting all the physical expression she needed from Pilates.  She’d found this wonderful class at the Spa just when she needed it.  Wasn’t it funny how everything fell into place when you knew what you wanted?  Janet worked hard at maintaining her ‘S’ shape and she knew everyone noticed how poised, how much more energetic she now looked.  She’d found this wonderful catalogue too, of ethnic clothing from Norway.  Such beautiful fabrics and colours.  Very distinctive, no one else she knew had even heard of Orjan Birger.

Pete thought the new clothes were far too expensive for his wife to end up looking like an East European peasant.  He thanked god she didn’t attend match days like she did in the old days.  He’d be a laughing stock.  If only he’d gone to Lottie’s last parent’s evening.

Janet had come back in an exultant mood.  Wafting into the kitchen from the garage in a cloud of that awful perfume she’d taken to using.  It stung his eyes.

“I’ve volunteered to be a visiting artist,” she declared, thwacking her leather and raffia bag onto the kitchen table where Pete was enjoying a late night bacon butty.

“What’s that love?”

“I went to ask if it really was too late for Lottie to switch courses and they sent me to see the head of art.”  She stood with her hands on the back of a chair beaming.  “He was resistant to the idea at first, but when I told him I was an artist too he became quite chatty.  Ended up asking me if I wanted to be a guest speaker.  He’s under all sorts of pressure to meet targets for, what did he call it?  Ah yes, academic enrichment.”

Pete looked at her with concern.  Her cheeks were flushed and she was shifting from foot to foot like a child who needed the toilet.  He said, “Are you sure that’s a good idea Jan?”

“It’s too late for Lottie this year.  But maybe next.  If she does a third year, she could drop the PE and do the whole art course from scratch.  And if the lecture goes well, I could do some part-time teaching next year too.”

“How does Lottie feel about this?”

“Oh, she doesn’t know yet.  But she’ll come ‘round.  After I establish myself in the department, she’ll see.  Oh Peter, how wonderful.  I didn’t know it before, but teaching art is what I’ve always wanted to do.  And now I have had my breakthrough, I have so much to give.”

“Steady on love, just what have you gotten yourself into?”

“Hmm?”

Janet danced towards the dining room door, the embroidered felt skirt she was wearing swayed heavily, causing the row of little bells on its hem to tinkle.

“Visiting artist,” she trilled from the doorway.  Next Wednesday afternoon, I shall give a presentation to the students, as a visiting artist.”

He hardly saw over the next few days.  They had a midweek home tie against Portsmouth in the cup, if Pompey could field a team.  No joking apart, they’d be tough opponents and Pete had been drilling the defence on the subtleties of the off-side trap.  Always start with how to earn a clean sheet, then dead ball plays and finally goals from open play.  Competitive football, it wasn’t rocket science.  In many ways the change to three points for a win had spoiled the game.  Taken the pleasure out of nullifying your opponent.  Revie’s Leeds, now that was a golden age.  Anyway apart from bumping into her in the bathroom, Janet had been a ghost in their house.

Tuesday evening she emerged.  Desperate that he watch her practice presentation.

“I’ve got a very important game tomorrow love…”

“So have I Peter.  Only for me it isn’t a game.  This is one of those life-changing events.  It has to be perfect.  Oh Peter please, let me rehearse in front of you, Lottie won’t help and I so wanted the student’s perspective.  Peter, it’s important.”

“All right love.  Will it take long?”

“I just want a fraction of the support I’ve given you over the years.”

“My job’s been our bread and butter all these years.  It’s brought up three children.  Pays for this house.”

“There’s more to life than money Peter.  This is about art.  But if you won’t help…”

“I said I would didn’t I?  Come on, where do you want me?”

He sat on a hard chair in the dining room with instructions to tap the mouse on the laptop whenever she waved her notes at him.

“We haven’t got a projector so you will have to change slides on my PowerPoint when I give the signal.  Of course, I’ll have sample pieces to show as well, but this way they can see my whole process.  From inspiration to sketches and final work.  Click the mouse Peter, I’ve started.”

And so it went on.  Janet ran through the whole thing twice.  Most of the first time, she’d got flustered and mixed up her notes.  Or Pete wasn’t concentrating.  In the end he didn’t know what he’d witnessed.  Lot of waffle about organic forms and holistic technique.  The pictures were all right.  Well they were mostly in focus.  What did Pete know about art anyway.  Jokers had been getting away with worse for years.  That bloke who put a dead shark in a tank.  He was a millionaire.

Pete had a sneaky hope that Jan would give Becky’s room a miss tonight.  Burn off a little anxiety.  But she was of a mind that it was her cup final tomorrow and she was in training.

“Maybe Thursday?” she said.  Then she smiled slyly, “We should have something to celebrate.”

“Getting through to the next round you mean?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

They drew nil-nil with Portsmouth.  Not a disaster by any means considering they’d had two players sent off.  The crowd had got a bit uppity, but Roma wasn’t built in a day.  Pete preferred away games anyway.  The tactics suited his game plan.

Being a late kick-off meant he didn’t get home until after eleven.  There was a light in the front room.  When he went in she was sitting in the middle of the floor, heaps of crumpled papers around her, her handbag emptied onto the couch.

“What’s the matter love?”

“They hated me,” she muttered in a voice cracked from weeping.  “I was a little ruffled to start with, that’s only natural isn’t it?  But they started sniggering the moment I went into the classroom.”

“Well surely the teacher kept order?”

“He joined in,” she squeaked.  “In the end there was a question and answer session and he called my work, ill considered and undeveloped.”

“Cheeky sod.”

“But he’s right Pete,” she cried.  “It is.  I saw the student’s work.  Kids of sixteen.  Their drawing’s already better than mine, and they know the names of all the artists.”

“You’re a lovely drawer.”

“Terry Moore, I said Terry Moore not Henry Moore.”

“Terry Moore played right back with me at Southampton love, he was our best man.”

“I know,” she wailed.  “Oh Pete, I’m not an artist at all.  I’ve been kidding myself.  I’m just a football manager’s wife.”

Pete kneeled down beside his wife and put an arm around her shoulders.  “Now you listen to me.  You’re not just a football manager’s wife.  You are the best wife any man could ever want.  And a damn good artist to boot.”

“I’m not,” she whimpered.

“You’ve just had a little set back.  It’ll all look different tomorrow.  Pundits don’t know nothing.  It’s easy to criticise, harder to build.”

“Oh Pete, Lottie’s friends will all know her mother’s a crank.  Everybody will laugh at me.”

“They’d better not try.”

“I’ve taken my sculptures in from the garden.  People must have been laughing at me all this time.”  She pressed her wet face into his chest and sobbed.  In between the gasps she squeezed out, “I don’t know if I can go outside the door ever again.”

The next day he put out some feelers.  Football was a small world and Pete still had friends who valued his classic approach.  There was a job going as assistant coach in Glasgow.  The club there was going through a bit of turmoil but it truly was too big to fail.  In many ways it was a promotion.  They wouldn’t stand in his way here.  The captain was taking his badges and Pete knew he’d been angling for the position of player/manager before he arrived.  They’d save money.

Janet had been good as gold about the move, even offered Lottie her car as a sweetener.  She’d have to move colleges but she was like him, happy in the company of sports people.  There’d be new teams to join, she’d be fine.  And Janet could put all that silly business behind her.  Sometimes when you were on a losing streak a change of direction seems like a good idea.  But it doesn’t last.  The trick was to keep the faith.  Continue with the tried and tested methods.  In the long run, people would see you were right.

“I went to ask if it really was too late for Lottie to switch courses and they sent me to see the head of art.”  She stood with her hands on the back of a chair beaming.  “He was resistant to the idea at first, but when I told him I was an artist too he became quite chatty.  Ended up asking me if I wanted to be a guest speaker.  He’s under all sorts of pressure to meet targets for, what did he call it?  Ah yes, academic enrichment.”

Pete looked at her with concern.  Her cheeks were flushed and she was shifting from foot to foot like a child who needed the toilet.  He said, “Are you sure that’s a good idea Jan?”

“It’s too late for Lottie this year.  But maybe next.  If she does a third year, she could drop the PE and do the whole art course from scratch.  And if the lecture goes well, I could do some part-time teaching next year too.”

“How does Lottie feel about this?”

“Oh, she doesn’t know yet.  But she’ll come ‘round.  After I establish myself in the department, she’ll see.  Oh Peter, how wonderful.  I didn’t know it before, but teaching art is what I’ve always wanted to do.  And now I have had my breakthrough, I have so much to give.”

“Steady on love, just what have you gotten yourself into?”

“Hmm?”

Janet danced towards the dining room door, the embroidered felt skirt she was wearing swayed heavily, causing the row of little bells on its hem to tinkle.

“Visiting artist,” she trilled from the doorway.  Next Wednesday afternoon, I shall give a presentation to the students, as a visiting artist.”

He hardly saw over the next few days.  They had a midweek home tie against Portsmouth in the cup, if Pompey could field a team.  No joking apart, they’d be tough opponents and Pete had been drilling the defence on the subtleties of the off-side trap.  Always start with how to earn a clean sheet, then dead ball plays and finally goals from open play.  Competitive football, it wasn’t rocket science.  In many ways the change to three points for a win had spoiled the game.  Taken the pleasure out of nullifying your opponent.  Revie’s Leeds, now that was a golden age.  Anyway apart from bumping into her in the bathroom, Janet had been a ghost in their house.

Tuesday evening she emerged.  Desperate that he watch her practice presentation.

“I’ve got a very important game tomorrow love…”

“So have I Peter.  Only for me it isn’t a game.  This is one of those life-changing events.  It has to be perfect.  Oh Peter please, let me rehearse in front of you, Lottie won’t help and I so wanted the student’s perspective.  Peter, it’s important.”

“All right love.  Will it take long?”

“I just want a fraction of the support I’ve given you over the years.”

“My job’s been our bread and butter all these years.  It’s brought up three children.  Pays for this house.”

“There’s more to life than money Peter.  This is about art.  But if you won’t help…”

“I said I would didn’t I?  Come on, where do you want me?”

He sat on a hard chair in the dining room with instructions to tap the mouse on the laptop whenever she waved her notes at him.

“We haven’t got a projector so you will have to change slides on my PowerPoint when I give the signal.  Of course, I’ll have sample pieces to show as well, but this way they can see my whole process.  From inspiration to sketches and final work.  Click the mouse Peter, I’ve started.”

And so it went on.  Janet ran through the whole thing twice.  Most of the first time, she’d got flustered and mixed up her notes.  Or Pete wasn’t concentrating.  In the end he didn’t know what he’d witnessed.  Lot of waffle about organic forms and holistic technique.  The pictures were all right.  Well they were mostly in focus.  What did Pete know about art anyway.  Jokers had been getting away with worse for years.  That bloke who put a dead shark in a tank.  He was a millionaire.

Pete had a sneaky hope that Jan would give Becky’s room a miss tonight.  Burn off a little anxiety.  But she was of a mind that it was her cup final tomorrow and she was in training.

“Maybe Thursday?” she said.  Then she smiled slyly, “We should have something to celebrate.”

“Getting through to the next round you mean?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

They drew nil-nil with Portsmouth.  Not a disaster by any means considering they’d had two players sent off.  The crowd had got a bit uppity, but Roma wasn’t built in a day.  Pete preferred away games anyway.  The tactics suited his game plan.

Being a late kick-off meant he didn’t get home until after eleven.  There was a light in the front room.  When he went in she was sitting in the middle of the floor, heaps of crumpled papers around her, her handbag emptied onto the couch.

“What’s the matter love?”

“They hated me,” she muttered in a voice cracked from weeping.  “I was a little ruffled to start with, that’s only natural isn’t it?  But they started sniggering the moment I went into the classroom.”

“Well surely the teacher kept order?”

“He joined in,” she squeaked.  “In the end there was a question and answer session and he called my work, ill considered and undeveloped.”

“Cheeky sod.”

“But he’s right Pete,” she cried.  “It is.  I saw the student’s work.  Kids of sixteen.  Their drawing’s already better than mine, and they know the names of all the artists.”

“You’re a lovely drawer.”

“Terry Moore, I said Terry Moore not Henry Moore.”

“Terry Moore played right back with me at Southampton love, he was our best man.”

“I know,” she wailed.  “Oh Pete, I’m not an artist at all.  I’ve been kidding myself.  I’m just a football manager’s wife.”

Pete kneeled down beside his wife and put an arm around her shoulders.  “Now you listen to me.  You’re not just a football manager’s wife.  You are the best wife any man could ever want.  And a damn good artist to boot.”

“I’m not,” she whimpered.

“You’ve just had a little set back.  It’ll all look different tomorrow.  Pundits don’t know nothing.  It’s easy to criticise, harder to build.”

“Oh Pete, Lottie’s friends will all know her mother’s a crank.  Everybody will laugh at me.”

“They’d better not try.”

“I’ve taken my sculptures in from the garden.  People must have been laughing at me all this time.”  She pressed her wet face into his chest and sobbed.  In between the gasps she squeezed out, “I don’t know if I can go outside the door ever again.”

The next day he put out some feelers.  Football was a small world and Pete still had friends who valued his classic approach.  There was a job going as assistant coach in Glasgow.  The club there was going through a bit of turmoil but it truly was too big to fail.  In many ways it was a promotion.  They wouldn’t stand in his way here.  The captain was taking his badges and Pete knew he’d been angling for the position of player/manager before he arrived.  They’d save money.

Janet had been good as gold about the move, even offered Lottie her car as a sweetener.  She’d have to move colleges but she was like him, happy in the company of sports people.  There’d be new teams to join, she’d be fine.  And Janet could put all that silly business behind her.  Sometimes when you were on a losing streak a change of direction seems like a good idea.  But it doesn’t last.  The trick was to keep the faith.  Continue with the tried and tested methods.  In the long run, people would see you were right.

Liars League HK

In Accepted for publication on January 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Jervis Street

by

Steve Dodd

It was the scent of lilies in a florist’s window that brought it all flooding back.  Not much anyone can do to stop such a primal trigger.

I remembered how I’d almost slept with Heather in the first year.  We were on the same course at uni’ and she quickly got a reputation when she gave every boy on her floor of the halls of residence crabs.  She may not have looked like much, being short and squat with a broad face and her dark hair cut with an unfortunate fringe, but in the parlance of the day, Heather was obviously a goer.  I hung around when everyone else treated her like a leper because I figured she’d soon get treatment for the infestation, then I’d be first in line.

When Heather did ask me around for dinner, we were second years and she’d moved into a house with Suzie and Lezzer.

Suzie and Lezzer were a couple of freaks.  Suzie wilfully so.  A pretty girl from money, she wore charity-chic clothes over tight black body stockings and laughed too loudly at nothing in particular.

Lezzer was just the inevitable nickname the class gave Leslie Wong.  A tall, handsome boy with a pony tail and a motor bike, given to long, sulky silences and wearing women’s clothes.

To begin with it was nothing obvious.  A silk scarf that could have passed for cool with his leather jacket.  Blouses that made him look like a romantic poet and too-tight knitwear that showed off his muscles.  The same charity shop collections that Suzie was so fond of.  Once they started swapping outfits it all became a bit tragic, and then he started wearing make-up.

Still, they never bothered me, and Heather clearly remembered the sympathetic coffees I’d bought her after her little spot of difficulty.  So I eagerly accepted a dinner invitation to their little place on Jervis Street, miles from campus in a dock-side neighbourhood.  All gone now of course.  Replaced by skyscrapers and fancy seafront restaurants.

Back then, choosing to live on Jervis Street was a perverse decision, bordering on the masochistic.  One entirely consistent with the rumours of their house-warming party.  When Lezzer was strapped naked to a dining table and Suzie encouraged the guests to drop hot wax on him, whilst Heather waited behind a homemade glory-hole made from a blanket pinned up in the kitchen.

I didn’t know anyone who’d actually been to this orgy.  Stories of its lewdness varied depending on who you asked.  It seemed someone always knew someone else who’d dropped by but left before it became too crazy.  And since the three of them hardly came to classes anymore, who was there to contradict a good story?

It took two buses and most of the afternoon to get there.  The crowded terraces all looked the same.  I missed their door and was relieved when Suzie called out.  She was dressed in her standard black leotard, this time with a garish silk kimono draped over it, but she seemed genuinely happy to see me.

“I saw you walk past,” she said as she ushered me inside.  “It’s easy to miss this place.  That’s one of the reasons we chose it.”

The doorway opened straight into a small room, neatly ordered around a second hand dining table with artfully unmatched chairs and calligraphy scrolls on the walls.

“Ah, don’t worry about the table,” she said.  “We only sacrifice virgins when there’s a full moon.”

Then she laughed her shrill laugh, and I realised, close-up, she was really just a nice, nervous person with regrettable dress sense.  “Sorry I’m late,” I said.  “Took me longer than I thought.  Here I brought these.”

“Oh, lilies, how lovely.  Their smell is divine.  Heather,” she shouted gaily, “Your friend’s arrived.”

Heather entered the room with a glass of wine in each hand and handed one to me.  “Welcome Jon, she said and lent forward to kiss me on the cheek.  “Leslie will be along shortly, he’s just fussing over dinner.”

“Oh, I hope it’s not turning into a drama in there,” said Suzie.  “He’s been cutting and dicing all day and he gets so temperamental when he’s creating.”  She smiled at Heather, and went to help in the kitchen.

“It was nice of you to ask me,” I said.

“I’d been meaning to for ages,” said Heather.  You’re one of the few at college we’ve got any time for.  The others are so,” she wrinkled her snub nose, “Judgemental.  Cheers.”

We clinked glasses and made some steady eye contact.  I was beginning to be very glad I’d made the effort, then Suzie re-entered the room clapping her hands.  “Dinner is served.”

Behind her came the tall, broad shouldered figure of Lezzer carrying a tray heavy with steaming bowls.  For once, he was dressed half-way normally.  Jeans, a Blondie T-shirt, just some garish plastic beads around his neck and a hint of eye liner.

The dinner passed pleasantly enough.  Actually, it was rather good.  Lezzer proving himself to be an excellent cook and Suzie keeping up the conversation whenever it looked like faltering.  I sneaked Heather the occasional meaningful glance, but she remained demure so I decided to play it cool.

When dinner was finished, Suzie and Heather cleared away and I steadied myself for some one-to-one with Lezzer, but he didn’t hang about.  Through the thin curtains I could tell it was quite dark outside, there being no street lights to speak of on Jervis Street, and without the two girls flanking him he had become quite agitated.

“Scuse me,” he said and literally ran up the narrow stair case that divided the front room from the tiny kitchen behind.

At the sound of his feet on the stairs, Suzie and Heather rushed in, shouting in unison, “You are not to go out again.  You promised.  We won’t let you.”

Within moments, he appeared at the foot of the stairs, tottering on stilettos, wearing a floral dress and a ridiculous blonde wig.  “I must,” he cried, and forced his way past the two women out into the night.

I could hear him running off, while the others stood huddled together in the doorway.  Suzie started to cry and Heather looked at me, desperation in her eyes.  “Could you go after him?  He’s done this before and got horribly beaten up.  The men ‘round here, once they’ve been drinking…”

I stood up and went out.  What choice did I have if I wanted Heather?  Maybe I could find him quickly and drag him back.  But as I walked slowly in the direction of his footsteps, thoughts for my own safety took over.

In the near distance I could hear drunken voices.  Laughter and something else, something uglier.  I turned and fled.

It took me fifteen minutes to find a taxi and go home.  I had a couple of days off sick.  When I went back, Suzie and Heather had dropped out of college, I never saw them again.  Now when I smell lilies I’m in the darkness of Jervis Street once more.  Hearing screams echoing in the shadows and the sound of my own feet, running away.

Inkapture

In Accepted for publication on December 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Southsea Pier

by

Steve Dodd

I don’t know who it was that said, “Autobiographies are my favourite form of fiction.” But I certainly get the point now. The anecdote about finding inspiration on Southsea Pier was particularly amusing. I never remember him enjoying going anywhere near the seafront. Always too busy propping up the bar in the Jolly Sailor. That’s what I recollect about Portsmouth’s most famous son. Funny, that was the least galling of his ‘remembrances’.

It’s my own fault I know. I bought his ghost-written opus of my own free will. And I’ll admit it now, hoping to see my name mentioned. When I read about the book coming out, I was straight onto Amazon to pre-order a copy. I didn’t expect him to have dedicated it to me, or anything like that. I just thought that his life story would be bound to include at least some acknowledgement of the role I played in his success. After all, we did live together for eleven months.

Instead, I found a pack of lies from start to finish. I know I shouldn’t have expected more from the ex-winner of a reality TV show who went on to become a number one recording artist with the biggest selling single of all time. Yes, thank you date movie soundtrack tie-in. Now he hosts the most popular game show in living memory, a regular, ‘Mr Saturday Night’. All the details on that side of things match what we have already read in the papers. It’s just how he got there that bares no resemblance to the truth. He could never have had that affair with Margot from Channel Four when he said he had for a start. He was living with me at the time. To think that he claims to have met her in the Queen’s Hotel when working in the bar there! And that she, and I’m quoting here, “recognised his raw talent and not just in the trouser department.” Well, it just couldn’t have happened. I dropped him off for his evening shift and picked him up afterwards, because male bar staff didn’t get a taxi service home, despite what he says in his book. Exhausting it was too, after a full day’s work myself, to come home to our little place in

North End, make supper for his lordship, then chauffeur him to and from work because we both knew that if I didn’t, he would never make it in on time.

Oh yes, he’s very grateful to Margot. All those details about their love-making have certainly not done her languishing career any harm. Mutton-dressed-as-lamb now has been able to re-launch herself as a chat show hostess, thanks to all the kiss-and-tell publicity he has given her. And guess who’s going to be the first guest on the couch for her post-watershed puff-fest?

But he hasn’t made it there yet, has he? Not quite. Due for a book signing at Waterstone’s in Commercial Road first. The opening date of his national book tour was inevitably to be where it all began for him – in dear old Pompey.

And that is how I knew where I could catch up with him at last. Divert him from the next stage of his triumphant progress. Just long enough for a little catch-up session with reality. I had kept back a few of those pills the doctor had given me when my little patch of difficulty began. All in the past now, but after he got that audition for ‘Star Maker’, he was hardly ever home, and it took its toll on me. I realise now he was moving on. It was what was most convenient for him, but at the time I was so confused.

He didn’t recognise me when I stepped up to take my turn at the little green baize table where he was doing the signing. Not that the illiterate scrawl he scratched over my copy of that travesty-of-a-memoir could be called a signature. He looked straight past me and muttered some blandishments, saying that he hoped I would enjoy reading it. That was all as it should be. In my simple disguise of an old headscarf and dark glasses, I didn’t want him to guess. Nor to notice, when I dropped the powdered tablets into his water glass.

I knew I had ten minutes or so before the pills started to work, so there was plenty of time to put the rest of my plan into effect. Pass unnoticed in the scrum of activity around him. Pop into the staff lavatory to wait for him to enter. Wrap the charity shop rain coat around his drug-befuddled shoulders. Bundle him into the back of my little car, parked in the alley behind the store, with a purloined ‘Disabled’ sticker in the window to keep the traffic wardens away. And so, as long as I remained calm and assertive, I was confident that I could abduct him safely and without a hitch.

I know, looking back on my plan now, that it was littered with flaws. So many things could have gone wrong. But none of them did. It worked like clockwork. Even his silly PA was too busy trying to see if there was a doctor in the shop, after her charge had suddenly felt ‘funny’ and had to get to the back for a little respite.

I topped up his dose when we were at a safe remove, pouring most of a bottle of voddy down his throat at the top of the multi-storey car park behind Waitrose. We stayed there for much of the rest of the day. Him passed out under the enormous raincoat, and me, rehearsing all the home truths I was going to tell him.

I thought taking him to Southsea Pier was a particular master stroke. Once it had become late enough for all the student revellers to finally go clubbing, there was hardly a soul around on the sea front. Not even a stray, late-night fisherman.

I will confess, getting him and my supplies from the back seat of my car to the end of the pier was a struggle. But as I am sure I have said already, when one is determined, and right is on one’s side, one can move mountains.

He came to just after I had checked that his wrists and ankles were securely tied with black duct tape. Maybe it was the drug/booze cocktail, but he didn’t seem all that surprised to see me.

“I thought you were locked up in Saint James’,” he said.

“One of the privileges of the day-release programme, means that I am being eased back to the normality you stole from me.”

“Oh yeah, a little don’t-care in the community is it? They should’ve thrown away the key.”

“I was just so disappointed that you didn’t mention me once, not even in passing, in the whole of that forgery you call an autobiography. After all I did for you. How I believed in you.”

“What are you on? Believed in me? You’re having a laugh. You just took the piss all the time.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

“When I wrote my raps. When I tried singing. You laughed.”

He swung his bound legs away, tucking them under his body. I thought he was just trying to be a nuisance, hindering me from placing his feet in the cement I had prepared, but then he launched himself upright with an almighty spring. I stepped back, making sure the plastic bucket was close at hand. I thought, if he would just keep still, I could wait until the mixture was almost set, then throw the contents over him. Not exactly to plan, but the result would be the same. I could tip him over the railings and he would sink like the proverbial stone.

He must have noticed me smiling, as I watched him leaning against the rusty balustrade, because he became a little panicky.

“Stay away from me,” he said.

“Do you see the bucket?“ I asked, motioning to the decking between us. “It contains quick drying cement mix.”

He didn’t move. He just stared at the bucket as if he’d never seen one before.

“The deceased was found to have a belly full of supermarket vodka and barbiturates,” I explained. “No investigation was considered necessary as, naturally, all celebs have trouble sleeping. What with the strains, the pressures of the high-profile life, it came as no surprise that he chose to kill himself at the very spot where his meteoric career began. The high price of fame in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, blah-blah, boo-hoo.”

“You’re a mental,” he said.

“Less of a concrete overcoat. More of a red plastic bucket and a bag of quick-dry patio repair mix,” I said, as I picked up the pail. “Of course, I really wanted to do this whilst you were still asleep.”

“You don’t have to do anything,” he implored. “Can’t you forget all about it?”

“Oh no,” I said. “I have brought you here to remember what we meant to each other.”

“I want to forget where I come from,” he cried. Then he uttered something completely unnecessary, “Margot understands.”

I had remained quite resolute up to this point, but I confess that at the mention of that person’s name, I lost focus for a moment.

“Don’t harp on about that ridiculous old has-been!” I shouted.

“Margo’s very fly,” he said, as if he was talking to himself. “Knows the business inside out. She’s been a real help to me.”

“I don’t know why you persist with this Margot nonsense,” I said, feeling myself regain a little composure. “After all, I know, I was there. I thought if I brought you here, to sad old Southsea Pier, where you made that ridiculous claim that it was where you wrote that silly love song…” I took a deep breath. “that you would finally realise the difference between truth and lies. And just how much you have hurt those who know better.”

I paused to look into the bucket. I could discern that the ripples in the mixture were moving more slowly. Nearly time to throw it over him.

“This is where it all began!” he shouted. Really, I did think he was beginning to lose all semblance of self-control.

“I used to walk here from the Queen’s after my shift ended. Those nights you couldn’t make it to pick me up, remember?”

If he thought I was going to entertain answering that question, he had another thing coming. But on he went, “It was like a mixed blessing, when you didn’t turn up. It gave me a bit of time to myself. I knew that when I got home you’d be ripped on crack. Or whatever else you were bagging at the time.”

“I don’t want to hear this…”

“Little Miss Perfect, with her loser boyfriend and her secret drug habit. You seriously think I was gonna put that in my book?”

“I encouraged you…”

“You only went out with me cause you thought you were slumming it with a bit-o-rough from Leigh Park.” He then put on a plummy accent, “Course he’s an awful chav darling, but he’s good for a discount on the pharmaceuticals.”

He narrowed his eyes and stared at me, “You think I didn’t hear you rinsing me to your posh friends?”

I wasn’t going to stand for this revisionist nonsense. It was one thing to sneer at me, to deny the importance of our relationship, but he had no right to criticise my friends. They stuck by me during my troubles. Most of them anyway. The ones that counted.

“You drove all my friends away!” I exclaimed. “You were always so rude to them whenever they stopped by.”

“You let them think they’d get free samples cause you were my bag bride.”

I was astonished at this truly ghastly accusation. Of course, I’d heard terms like that from my time in group therapy. Bag bride indeed. Who did he think he was talking to? But now I realise that he meant to distract me. Recollecting my time in the institution waylaid me from my purpose. I had failed to realise that all this time he had been rubbing his wrists against the cracks in the wrought iron railings.

And then suddenly he was upon me, beating me with his fists. Hopping after me with his legs still bound together like a demented Jack-in-the-box. I tried to fend him off. Tried to turn and run. But one of my heels must have caught in the planking of the pier’s deck, and I fell over. I heard him scrabbling for the duct tape as he pressed his knees into my back.

“I know you weren’t statemented anymore,” he panted as he trussed me up like a Christmas turkey. “You think I haven’t kept tabs on you? After all your mad-whack. Hundreds of texts every day. Have you any idea how many mobiles I’ve had to throw away cause you keep finding my number? I threw the last one out the window of the Waterloo express on my way down here.”

I tried to struggle, but he was so much bigger than me. All that personal training he described in his book was true – he really had become quite strong. The last cruel words I heard

him say to me, before he threw me into the back of my own car, which was so carefully lined with thick polythene sheeting, were, “It’s like what I wrote in my song, you gotta learn to let go of the past, before it lets go of you.”