Our place out here


short story written by me

How long am I here for? Oh who’s to say, boy. We’ve got a cottage on the island, so I suppose it’s really up to me how long I’m here for. Where? It’s out on the spur, right out where the lane starts bolting back and forth like a silly little rabbit. Near the end. It takes an age to drive out there and it knackers your suspension and in fact… it’s a lot easier if you just walk it, if you don’t mind the distance. I still don’t really mind it even in my age. That must be why I’m such a sturdy old goat to this day.

It’s a nice little place. We’ve had it since… must have been about ‘83. It’s got just the bedroom, bathroom, boot room, lounge, and a kitchen-diner with one of those ferocious wood burning stoves the locals all swear by here. The boot room is a blessing, of course. You can traipse all over the muddy foreshores and scramble up the scree and slip-splat into the odd sheep muck. Then you get home, scrape the old crag-hoppers off in the boot room, hang up your damp bits and bobs, and you’re cosy soon as you step into kitchen for a spiced tea.

We paid out to have the windows in the lounge totally replaced a few years ago. They face out to sea and it really gets howling out there sometimes and well one spring we came to open up the cottage and found a tree branch lying on the rug, sprinkles of broken glass. Something fierce must have picked the thing up and hurled it because it wasn’t a piddler; it was half a ruddy tree. Anyway, we thought while we’re at it why don’t we sort out the whole panorama. Out came the windy, whistling single glazing from god-knows-when and in went the boxed double glazing UV protected hows-it. When the bloke quoted us I thought I was going to put the poker through his forehead but she calmed me down and so they stand now: our picture windows into the tempest.

No I’m alright thank you, I don’t drink in company. Tom doesn’t mind do you, Tom? I’m still buying your pickled eggs and pots of tea, aren’t I? You know I’ve never been the boating type. My dad was, rest his soul. He learned how to sail and all that with the navy. He said the navy taught him everything he needed to know in life, which seemed to be how to beat the daylights out of you quick and easy. He could tie a bowline with his feet, mind. Anyway, I was never inclined to get in a sailing dingy on a piss rainy afternoon nor was he inclined to invite me. My wife reckons our place used to be a fisherman’s cottage. I reckon she’s being romantic again on account of there’s no path up from the shore that I’d be wanted to carry tackle and catch up every time. She would often paint a picture in her head that appealed to her like. Then before you know it, that’s how it must have been.

So what brings you boys here this time of year? It’s a bit of a funny one for an holiday. Birds? Yeah we get a few of you lot funny times of the year but usually not so young. Usually it’s old codgers like me but even sadder, silly little hats and vests with too many pockets to possibly have a use for. Can’t find girlfriends is it so off for the birds? I’m only joking of course, don’t mean any offence. I can see you’ve got your heads screwed on. Myself, well I was feeling like seeing the place and having a little bit of peace. Having a place of your own to come and run away to, a luxury I’ve never taken for granted. No harm in coming in the pitch of autumn slop, is there, when the place is just here waiting?

My wife and I have been married more than thirty years. We got the place out here after a tough spell. It was reckoned that we both needed a place to unwind, get the hurly burly off of us for a few years at a time. When her daddy passed, suddenly there was the money. Not that the cottage costed a great deed, especially back then. Besides, at least out here we could get into it with less of an audience to be listening on and twitching their curtains. We always did do a good bit of trouble when we really, properly got into it. Cathartic I always say it is, to really have it out with somebody. I’ll confess to being a little bit too accommodating most of the time, I think a lot of us are. When you’re like that the little slights and nudges and niggles, they build up don’t they? Every bloke’s got some way to let off that steam so they don’t fold in the guy’s face when he tuts at you for taking too long with your change. Sports for some people, I reckon. I could never really go for sports, which never got me far with the girlies at school. Pity. But my Debs is all I needed.

We do better out here. I always wanted us to give up the place in the city and get somewhere with a garden. Kids never happened for us but that’s no reason not to get somewhere a bit more comfortable is it? But no, she said she liked being close to her girlfriends. Oh she loved to see her girlfriends. Lunches in the kinds of places you’d never catch me dead in, but I don’t really mind, gives me a bit of peace. Time to do some reading without the twittering. The girlfriends. Bit old to be calling people our girlfriends I always think, a little bit embarrassing, you know? We’re not teenagers getting a milkshake after school any more. Doesn’t help of course that not all the girlfriends are girls, a couple of slick pricks from the school days still sniffing around in there too. Not me, though. Wouldn’t have wanted to be there.

Say Tom, when’s last boat this time of the season? Long past then. Just curious. Well I think there’s no harm in telling you my wife makes silly mistakes. I can see that a little bit clearer now I’m out here in the good air. Trouble is when we’re in the city I just get so het up about the stupid things she does to wind me up, they bubble over faster you see. Nowhere for them to go. I found messages on her phone, which she thinks I don’t know how to use but I do. There’s all this rubbish from the slick prick from the girlfriends. Well she left her phone on the dresser while we were watching the cricket. She stepped out to the bathroom and left it there, so I had a look. We are married after all. New message though, from him, so I opened up the whole lot. Like I say I get wound up so quick in that place. When she came back from the bathroom she saw me standing, not paying attention to the telly. She was onto telling me that it was going for the boundary and I was missing it. I thumped her with our paperweight from Santorini before I’d even given it much thought.

Oh she mewed like a little kitten, a bit like when we make love. Quiet, curious little sounds, you know? She couldn’t make any words. She shook a bit and looked up at me standing over her. Then she stopped after a few seconds and I think she was probably already gone within the minute. Loads of blood in the carpet. Suddenly there was nothing keeping me in that place any more. I stepped over her and into the hall, put my cagoule on and went straight out the front door. I was on the ferry by dinner time.

No now don’t get keening. The catholics made it out here a few hundred years ago and saw off silly pagan nonsense like keening and the rending of garments. Time was, what happened between a man and wife was none of anybody else’s concern. Master of the castle, lord of the manor and all that.

Sit right back down. Both of you.

There we go. Now why am I here now if I’ve supposedly wiped my hands of the place and the silly woman I left here? Nice of you to ask, rude buggers. Well I felt, saftie that I be, that it was wrong for whatever island beasties that might come along to find her. Wipe my hands of her entirely, I could not, until I’d given her a real send off that didn’t involve the foxes getting in. So yesterday I rolled her up in a tarpaulin and floated her out with the evening tide.

As it happens the guard will razz out their little boats at night for a special occasion, such as I was, apparently. A couple of them stepped off onto the pier only an hour or so after I got talking to the boys. They didn’t give me the time to go and chew on the hunting rifle I’d left loaded in the boot room, after a fortifying whisky at the pub (one exception). Of course they caused an obvious stir, a boat coming in so late. I knew as soon as I saw their boat light hit the window of the pub what had gone on. Tom having stepped away to “clean the lines”, the cheeky shit. I let the birders think they were keeping me talking. Really I just didn’t like the look of me staggering up the path to the cottage. At my age? No dignity in it.

The silly bobbies didn’t cuff me. I came nicely, they practically waved me onto the boat. I gave them my best King Lear, raving in the sea spray, but of course it was me was the storm.