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JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

24. Castles in the Sun

Credit where it's due. "Crying Makes Your Nose Run",
my neurotic's guide to the broken relationship which will be published round about the time of the Brussels Book Fair - though too explicit I should think to get through Customs - (all about this lover, Edgar R Wallace, who tries to be a cripple so that his girl-friend won't leave him), is dedicated to that truly lovely person, leaping onion, temps delight, M'sieur Paul.

Said: "Don't you think that's a bit vindictive?" Said: "Yes, I think so." Said: "You're a bad loser." Said: "I haven't lost yet." Said: "If you open that parcel and your book's inside it you'll be lost." Said: "An egg is not bad until it's broken."

The greatest decision you can
make, Father Jack replied to his lad, is never to accept other people's great decisions until you're certain they are of sound mind and judgement and not just temporarily annoyed at something you might have said or done though heaven knows what.

Margot, my Mary Poppins copywriter, spread her fairy tale dress around her and with the point of her little parasol searched the grass around our feet by the park bench for something I might have said in one of my fusillade of whimsical or sad or funny or illustrated or pleading or casual and uncaring letters and postcards.

"You tell her that you love her?" All the time. "You never say you forgive her or anything chauvinistic like that?" Gracious no, why should I? I was going to die anyway. "Does she know that you know that you're different people now?" I've co
mpletely altered my signature. "Do you remind her of old times?" Sometimes though I seldom mention poodle or her castor oil plant which would be, as we say in the movies, a cut-price tearjerker. "Does she know that everything is as she left it?"

That's the last thing I'd tell Maggie. I
mean she knows, but I haven't told her. A month ago I was going to live in Paris over the Shakespeare bookshop, then I had this 70ft. converted barge on the Sussex Ouse. The first thing you do if you want to change your life completely is buy Exchange and Mart. I've thrown up vague, shadowy images of log cabins, heeland crofts, me swinging sheep into the dip, carving a herb garden out of bare rock with my bare hands. Jack Straw's Castle in the sun is the place to do it. What better name for my local?

Said: "What about you and other women?" Said: "I'm always honest with Maggie. I wouldn't want her to feel rotten."

The point of the parasol
missed a worm by the skin of its tail. I think it also missed the point; my purity is of no more consequence in Brussels than how often I cut my toenails. Perhaps I've caused some kind of embarrassment, I do hope not. But I've never quite believed in Richard's 300-mile journey to report the Avenue Molière disruption. I never had so much as a postcard from him either before or since.

Said: "She wouldn't want you to annoy Paul whether they've broken up or not."

When Maggie cuts she cuts. After Soapy Joe and his debt collection, picking her up for a bar lunch every Friday for 15 months, I caught her looking sad and suggested a return visit to the Islington pub, Said: "What for?" No use getting senti
mental for her. When Maggie charts a new course, you have got to be a new star.

"Said" is one of her little anecdotal waggish things like "Cup tea!" without the "of". This week being the first anniversary of the drive to
Dover, I've been playing her tape. You can hear this tin alarm clock ticking and there's a television programme about Edith Piaf in background. Crockery noises crash over a good deal of her bright, unaware conversation and towards the end, late at night, she keeps asking me a question which never got answered.

"What happened?" asks Albert in the play I've just finished. Eleanor says: "Everything. I still love him," "I've got some like that," says Albert.

So there was big Peter,
my Peter, Lee, Lee girl, Haidi, Tony, Harry, Bob, Geoffrey, Debby and her chap and a beautiful giantess who nobody knew much about. When you get your head up after a writing stint you check the fences, see if everyone's still there. Oh yes, Mary was there, an old Maggie disciple. They looked at me and then at each other and then I got the reason.

"Mum's in the loo..."

That's twice in the past six
months to my certain knowledge she's been in a pub. "Hallo!" she said, when she joined us. "Hallo!" I said. There was more emotion round the dart board. Marriage and after is war and peace. It's like Irish Tony describing the dead, which I have never yet seen, which he was anxious to assure me held no terrors. "It's beauty. It's peace. Everything gone. All the agony and the grasping."

"Here," said
mum, as if wracking her brains for something to talk about, "are we divorced?" I don't think so. She said: "I never heard anything more after that first letter from your solicitor."

I really ought to open so
me of those letters with windows.

Sunday teati
me I dreamed a terrible aeroplane crash. It roared up, no wings, no tail, no fuselage, just a noisy, flat crumpet with three propellers spaced across the front. The one closest to me had stopped turning and everybody knew it was doomed though there was a feeling that if I could have climbed to the top of a precarious trellis-work bridge in time it would have missed the ground. Poodle slipped between the holes and with my arms full of something I only just managed to grab her by an ear and the ball of fire burst up from beyond the trees.

Laying and thinking about it afterwards I got the last act of the play, which is all set in a pub.

Said: "How do you write?" Said: "You have to keep going to sleep."

Digging, drea
ming, fishing the air, old worms, old voices.

"What's that stink?" asked Maggie, this week last year. She had gone to the Isle of Wight for Whitsun but got bored and ca
me home on the Saturday morning. It had been one of those really unlucky nights for me, two girls right out of the blue on my only free night, one sick in the car. Vomit and Jeyes Fluid remained with us right up to the final hug by the hovercraft bus, a football team waiting to come past.

"Even after a week I didn't feel the same about you. It depressed me. I told Hilary..."

Rubbish, girl.

"She didn't know yet that splendour was something in the heart..." there you are, that's good old Scott Fitzgerald in love with Lois Moran and writing "Jacob's Ladder". I
mean that's your actual poet. What do girls know about how they feel? I'm in charge of this affair, Maggie, so just hang around the Grand Place and wait for the book - and don't send it back this time.

"Silently, as the night hours went by, he
moulded her over into an image of love - an image that would endure as long as love itself, or even longer - not to perish till he could say, 'I never really loved her'. Slowly he created it with this and that illusion from his youth, this and that sad old yearning, until she stood before him identical with her old self only by name..."

(The Guardian, Saturday 9 June 1973)


Jack Trevor Story's texts copyright ©  the estate of Jack Trevor Story 2002. Not for reproduction. Copyright in all work by Jack Trevor Story is the property of the author's heirs. Permission for use of this material can be obtained through Jackie Edwards (Story), Peter Story, Lee Story or Michael Moorcock. Reproduction of copyright material whether in text, visual or audio form by unauthorised sources strictly forbidden.


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