Friday, 12 June 2015

Intermission No 5


In 1946, Harriet Clavering's husband, John, is de-mobbed from the navy, and he returns home to the English midlands town of Torchester. That night, he goes out to the pub...and he never returns home. Almost 40 years later, Harriet is a respected local Labour councillor and a CND activist. She continues to wonder about what happened to her husband and how different her life might have been if he had not disappeared. She encourages her grandaughter Caroline, who is also showing a keen interest in politics and the CND movement. 

Meanwhile, Harriet's son, Charlie, is at a loss for something to do. He is a carpenter, keen on DIY and is only happy when he is building. When Caroline jokingly suggests that he build them a nuclear bunker in the garden, he takes her up on the idea and begins to dig a large hole. Work stops however, when he discovers human remains. 
Who is the body in the garden? Where did John Clavering go to? Is Harriet about to be arrested? 

This light hearted novella skips between events in 1946 and 1985 - from Siren Suits to Doc Marten boots.


They settled down to read a set of meeting minutes. Charlie sauntered back in the room, hands in pockets.  He lifted the cream net curtain and stared out into the garden.  He let out a deep sigh, retrieved a handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose.  Then he lifted the net curtain again and repeated the sigh.
“Dad, you sound like you’ve got a puncture.  Will you please sit down?  Here.”  She handed him The Observer.  “Have a look at that for a bit.”
Charlie thrust his hands back into his pockets. “No, I’m not bothered, thank you.”  He sat down in the armchair and began to stare at the wooden fire surround.
Harriet took off her glasses and pointed them at him. “You know, you could always go and see if Margaret would like a hand in the kitchen.  Surely you can do more than just slice the meat.”
He continued to stare at the fire surround, engrossed in the scrollwork.  It looked good, but he often wondered aloud if he could have done it better.
“Dad needs a project, Gran.  Can’t you think of anything at your house?  Please?  We’re all going mental.”
“No, I can’t think of anything.  He’s done everything.  I can’t move in that kitchen for cabinets.”
Caroline thought, seeking out something for him to do.  There was so much friction about the house when he was bored.  She glanced down at the CND papers, then nudged Harriet.  “Dad?  What about building us a nuclear bunker in the garden?”
Harriet began to suck on the arm of her glasses.  The left hand corner of her mouth gave a small twitch.
“A what?” Charlie jumped out of his fire surround reverie.
“A bunker.  For when the bomb drops. Mind you, I’m not sure I want to survive it.  But it might come in handy.  Dig a big trench, stick a couple of bunks in it and a storeroom full of tinned food.  Cover it all over and make a door.”
“I’m not sure that would work.  Would it work?”  He was considering the idea carefully.  


Dora entered the back door of the Duke of Wellington looking like a corpse in a peroxide wig. This cold had overtaken her body rapidly, making her nose glisten and her throat rasp.
“Blimey Dora!  Are you sure about this?”
The landlord studied her whitened face as he emerged from the cellar. At once he was pleased at his barmaid’s dedication and concerned for his own health.  He worried about the health of his customers come to that, didn’t want them staying in bed of an evening.
“Yes, yes I’ll be alright.  Rather be here then sat inside looking at them awful curtains.  Anyway all the fag smoke might do me good, help me get it off my chest.” She sniffed deeply, making the Landlord wrinkle his own nose in return.
“Here, have a tot of whiskey on me, perk you up.”
“Ta.” She knocked the contents of the tumbler that he offered her in one gulp, then blew her nose.
“You got a good supply of hankies? I can lend you a couple if need be.”
“I brought half a dozen.  Mind you, that one’s down already.”  She looked into her handkerchief and grimaced.  “At least it’s on the move.”
Dora applied lipstick to her dried out lips and went to open the doors for the drinkers already queuing outside. The customers were mainly sympathetic to Dora’s ill health.  That is except for Mrs Sim, who declared loudly that she remembered the flu at the end of the last war and her fervent hope that Dora wasn’t spreading certain death.  Dora was stood two more tots of whiskey.  One of these came from a man that she hadn’t met before.  As the stranger expressed such concern, she felt obliged to ask him about himself, although she really couldn’t care if he was the Grim Reaper himself.

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