Tag: Lesley Atherton

Read This Book: NO MATTER WHAT! ***** FIVE STARS

Read this book ‘No Matter What‘ by Lesley Atherton

Review by Guest Blogger, Lauren O’Neill

No Matter What‘ is a short tale told from the point of view of Jayne Smith, a ghost writer who loves her job. She enjoyed the challenge of trying to write a book, autobiography or memoir in a way that it would seem her clients had written the books themselves. That is, until a certain supermodel named Hawk was sent her way, bringing not only stress and trouble along with him but also a past that Jayne had long since left behind.

Image: Pngtree

Lesley Atherton does a really good job of drawing you in and keeping you there and interested until the very end. Usually for me, short stories are just something to read to pass the time but with ‘No Matter What‘, I found myself enthralled with every word.

Even for a short story, each chapter flowed easily from one to another, I never found it difficult to get to the next page, never got stuck on a paragraph and never struggled to find the motivation to continue.

Jayne Smith, the protagonist of the story, is a woman who doesn’t find the need to impress or be a different person just to appease her peers and clients. Throughout ‘No Matter What’, I noticed how I didn’t agree with everything she believed but I still wanted her to come out victorious, be it ignoring the “supermodel version of Christopher Ecclestone” that was Hawk or being able to one day get the recognition she truly deserved for her hard work.

Without giving too much away, I saw myself mentally making note of every word she wrote, putting it away for later. This may just be a short fiction story but within it, you’ll find many things you could put to use in your life. As I started reading, I had somewhat of an idea in my head on what ‘No Matter What‘ was going to be about. Boy was I wrong!

For a 64 page story, there were so many twists and turns that kept me guessing and I have to admit, I never would have predicted what was going to happen and I think that’s quite a feat.

Illustration – quick sketch by a young Morrigan Atherton-Forshaw

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘No Matter What’: the story was interesting, gripping and even quite helpful in some places. It kept me intrigued and excited to keep on reading to find out what happened to Jayne and if Hawk had caused any more trouble for the poor woman.

I would definitely recommend ‘No Matter What‘ to you if you enjoy a quick little fix of humour, excitement, mysterious supermodels and a ghost writer with more to her than she lets on, if you enjoy all that, then this is the story for you.

See also ‘Conflict Management’ by Meredith Schumann, Lesley Atherton’s new author name.

5/5 stars

#lesleyfridayreads, #lesleyatherton, #scottmartinproductions, #laurenoneill, #nomatterwhat, #shortnovel

Review of Bolton: The Positives, by Meredith Schumann

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad.

Second, some goods.

  • Skaters yell to each other. Despite the heat and brightness of the day, they wear long sleeves and beanies and there isn’t a single t-shirt or pair of sunglasses to be seen. We watch as they zoom about, but we’re mainly looking at their facial expressions – pride, cool, nonchalance… The joys of being young.
  • We park in the multi storey where weekend parking is free, and we manage to find a spot on the first floor.  It’s never happened before.   
  • Thirsty, we flop into a café for a much-needed drink. I can’t place the accent of the man who takes our order, but he’s so friendly and recognises us from our previous visits. He asks about the family and gives us each a toasted teacake on the house.
  • We spend two hours rummaging round X-Records and emerge with music, DVDs and a pretty funky Led Zepp-inspired shirt. I absolutely love the friendly organised chaos of this place.
  • We decide to eat at the Cherry Moon café, just up the road. It is a place for gamers of all types, for comic book fans, and for diners who like good food. We certainly go mad for their halloumi fries, and my crushed avocado on sourdough toast is superb. Yep, this has to be the coolest and friendliest place ever. Oh, happy days.
  • A community police officer smiles at us and comments ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day?’ If he’d been wearing a bowler hat or flat cap I’m sure he would have raised it for me. ‘It’s certainly warm, I reply. ‘I think the lions are happy’. I gesture over to the distinctive town hall step statues, and note the affection for the town’s people in the officer’s eyes. †††† ‘Good job. We don’t want hungry lions rampaging round Bolton. We have enough problems.’
  • We do our fish and vegetable shopping in the covered market. The place is clean and bustling and the choice is fantastic. We purchase Caribbean curry to accompany the fish, and I suspect the man dishing out the chickpeas is the cheeriest person in the whole town. We leave, arms clutching food bags and faces glowing with anticipation of our evening meal. It feels like Christmas.
  • We take a trip round the museum and gallery and discuss the photographic exhibition and Egyptian displays. Another two hours happily spent. We don’t call in at the aquarium this time, as we need to get home.
  • The roads are busy, but I’m astonished when a pedestrian stranger leads us from the car park and onto the road. He holds up the traffic with a grin, and waves as we drive away.

#lesleyfridayreads

Elmer and Louise, Part 2

Image: Pngtree

The cure for depression is to purchase and use something expensive and new. That’s what Elmer’s mum had always told him, hence the suit and his manicure. He knew from experience that it didn’t always work. And when this was the case, doing good deeds was the only way to go.

†Elmer leaned against the door, and looked again at the nun who immediately began apologising for the dog-hair covered tartan blanket, but Elmer liked its digestive biscuits and dog paws smell.

‘How did you get here if you can’t drive?’

‘She can. She started, anyway. But then we stopped at traffic lights and this man went mad at us and she got out to tell him off. That was when he went at her with his fists and started saying she was a (swear word) god-botherer.’

‘Can she walk?’

‘She can’t see and her leg is all bloody. Don’t think so.’

‘I’ll drive her to the hospital. Then you can get help.’

‘How long will that take?’

‘Thirty seconds.’

‘Can she wait that long?’

‘She’ll have to. And the longer we wait here, the worse she’s going to be.’

‘Thank you, angel,’ came the whispered voice as I got into the driver’s seat and started it up.

‘Seat belt, seat belt,’ said the loony, throwing herself into the car next to Elmer while he plugged himself in.

That was when he heard the click of the car’s central locking.

That was when he heard the loony nun’s cackle.

‘Straight on, mate, and no funny business or this’ll go straight through your brain. ’

She brandished a tiny pistol that had been pulled from her coat’s inner pocket.

‘What’s going on? The hospital is next right.’

‘That might be the case,’ said the now very much recovered back seat passenger, ‘but that’s not where we’re going.’

‘That’s true, Mr Elmer Bartholomew Cross.’ The front seat loony had by that point removed her angling wellies and coat, and was beginning to look remarkably familiar.

‘I gave you enough clues, Elmer, Didn’t you guess it was me when you saw Scamp’s dog blankey?’

She clearly was not a nun. Not A sister. HIS sister. And the loony next to him was peeling off her facial prosthesis. He should have known it. His sister Louise, and his girlfriend, Dulcie. The drama school graduate. As she peeled off the final piece she grinned and removed her fake upper teeth. ‘That’s better.’

She sighed happily. ‘Remember telling me that there was no point in my going or that audition? Because I’ve never been much of an actress? Remember, Elmer? Well, I got the job. First proper one I’ve been to. It’s telly, and a long series, so will be good money too. So I guess your girlfriend really CAN act. What do you say to that?’

Elmer nodded his head and continued the driving.

‘Well done, you two,’ he said. ‘Good jape. But where’s the car come from?’

That was likely a different story.

Elmer steeled himself to hear it.

Review of Bolton: The Negatives, by Meredith Schumann

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad. First, some bads.

  • The car park’s one we’ve been to hundreds of times, but they’ve changed the entry method. We assume it’s owing to the homeless people who regularly slept on the landings, and perhaps also the drug transactions we’ve seen occurring in this place which stinks of urine and is peppered with pigeon guano.
  • Three men sprawl on the ground, backs leaning up against a wall. One is more lying than sitting and the other two surround this incapacitated friend. ‘Spice’ a woman says, as we pass. Sugar and spice and things not nice.
  • A woman squats on the corner wearing a filthy, navy blue sleeping bag. We pass a little later when she’s being questioned by the community police officers who wander the town centre. She is insisting that she was innocent of a crime, while they are insistent on her guilt. A small crowd gather to listen. Meanwhile, a young near-toothless man, lies on a nearby bench and watches with open mouth.
  • Undeterred by cardboard policemen at the pound shop’s entrance, an elderly lady in an unseasonably heavy camel coat pockets a chocolate block.
  • In a large health and beauty shop, a dead-faced woman hovers by the make-up stands. She opens tubes, installing their contents on her face inexpertly and with speed. When two young staff members inform her that this is not acceptable, she immediately scurries away without a word.
  • A charity shop assistant discusses their recent spate of shoplifting, and the cheek and sense of entitlement of such people. Another customer comments: ‘They must be pretty desperate to steal from this place’. The two workers ignore her slight.
  • Three young boys scare an elderly woman with their play fighting. She stumbles, and the boys disperse.
  • Two teen girls mock a larger than average woman who is reclining in an arcade-salon chair to get her eyebrows done. Her body spills over, and the teens, with perfect skin and perfect bodies, point and laugh. The woman hears, and her smile freezes.

#lesleyfridayreads

Elmer and Louise, Part 1

Elmer’s daydreams of escape and relief at having finally left the office, were disturbed within a minute or so of him arriving at the bus stop. The disturber was a disheveled eccentric woman anxiously circling a car that she seemed far too poverty-stricken to have ever owned. His own hair, primped, preened and moussed to perfection, bristled as he took a proper look. He shuddered, clearly being as fit, healthy and self-contained as she was demented. It’s what came from working at the hospital, surrounded by sickness and by healthy living posters. There was something to be said for saturation advertising.

It wasn’t only the woman’s actions that were demented. Her legs were clad in filthy long anglers’ wellies and her trenchoat, face and hair were blood-streaked and filthy. Later, he’d remember her as flapping like a vampire bat, but as she called him, he was far more concerned that she didn’t get run over.

Image: Pngtree

‘Are you alright, lady?’

His accent was refined Edinburgh, with the intentional focus on ‘refined’.

‘Thank God. Thank God. Come here. Wounded cargo.’

What?

She grabbed the sleeve of Elmer’s suit jacket and he bristled again. She was not the kind of woman who’d be encouraged to touch any part of him or of his apparel, and she definitely was not allowed to touch his navy blue silk blend. Lee Rager suits weren’t made to be pawed at by unwashed fingers, nor their fibres broken by her rasping, uncut nails. Almost £2000, the suit cost him. £1993, to be exact, once he’d had he pants shortened.  

‘Can you get off me, lady?’

It was more an order than a request, and the woman backed off, beckoned and urged him towards the car’s back seat.

‘Look. Look. Me sister’s been attacked. She’s been attacked. She’s precious, wounded cargo. Make her better. You’re a doctor aren’t you?’

‘I’m not.’

‘A nurse?’

‘No. I work in administration. The hospital’s just there – that big building there.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m here… but I bumped the car.’

Elmer followed the madwoman’s eyes. Lying on the car’s back seat was a woman dressed in black robe with white headpiece. The white was stained with blood, rusty dried and cherry wet. The black was speckled and streaked with dried clay mud and darkened bloody patches. The woman moved her head a little and looked back at him.  

‘You’re an angel. A saint,’ she mumbled, blood bubbling from her mouth’s corners.

‘I’m a hospital administrator. Not an angel.’

‘Oh God, in heaven. I give you thanks for delivering this angel to me.’

Elmer sighed. She was as batty as her sister.

‘She’s in a bad way, kid,’ he said to the crazier of the two. The one not lying collapsed on the back seat. ‘You have to take her to hospital.’

‘I can’t drive.’

Elmer shook his head. It was typical of him to get saddled with each and every lunatic who passed his way. And here were two – one who was demented and the other who thought she was a nun. Perhaps they were on their way to a fancy dress party, but he suspected that both of the poor unfortunates had come straight from the loony bin.

Part two coming soon…

Love You, Mummy

‘Love you, mummy,’ he said, and threw his chocolate-covered arms around that most favoured parent. It was snuggle-time – a time they both loved, chocolate arms or not.

Trudie tickled Alex’s feet, sang ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ a couple of times, and gave her son exactly what he needed and what her loving heart happily granted: time, attention, love and cuddles. And Alex spoke back to her as if she were the silliest but most adorable pet – a naughty puppy, perhaps, or a cat that had insisted on scratching the leather sofa. ‘Mummy, silly sausage,’ he gurgled. ‘Lalalala, mummy moo, mummy moo, mummy mummy mummy poo!’

It was mother/child bonding at its best. Trudie knew it. Alex knew it. But somebody else was not so sure. Trudie knew that because of the smashing sound that shocked mother and child out of their reverie. Shocked but not entirely surprised by the noise, Trudie turned and followed the eyes of her son to look towards the source of source of the smash – her husband, and Alex’s dad, Mark.

‘What’s going on?’ Trudie shouted. The vase he’d smashed against the sideboard was scattered in sharp and dangerous pieces all over the floor, and Alex had already jumped off his mum’s lap and was making his way curiously towards the mess. Trudie began to rise to retrieve the brush and dustpan, but Mark pushed her back down.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll do it. I was just… shocked.’ Mark scratched his beard and looked down at the mess, shaking his head.

‘Shocked? Why? Nobody was doing anything wrong.’

Why could this man never talk to her about anything?

Mark said nothing, just pointed to little Alex who toddled over to his daddy with arms outstretched.

‘What’s Alex done that’s so bad? What on earth could a little boy of two years old do that was so bad? I know I’ve not done anything wrong… so it’s obvious,’ said Trudie. ‘You just can’t bear to see us happy.’

He shook his head. ‘No. No, it’s not that. It’s just… inappropriate.’

You snowflake, Trudie thought. In what way was it EVER inappropriate to hug your baby, specially if he was gurgling happily in his loving mum’s arms, as Alex had been?

Mark was just so different. So irritable. So annoying and so incredibly annoyable – and a victim of his own restrictive thoughts. Nobody could get anything right. Not ever.

He didn’t like Alex’s bedtime routine. Apparently, it was wrong to give and receive kisses and hugs between parent and child. It was also not right to hold that child’s hand in public, or to affectionately ruffle his light brown curls.  

‘Why are you like this, Mark? It’s got worse every month since we got together. Is there something I should know?’

‘What do you mean?’ Mark turned his back to her.

‘Well, you know, some reason why everything about me and Alex irritates you?’ It was a question often asked and never answered, not even in part.

‘It isn’t you. It isn’t him. It’s just…’

‘Just? Just..? Come on man, look at him. He’s just a little boy. He needs his daddy to hug him sometimes. To play games. To laugh a bit. To tickle him. Why don’t you? Why can’t you?’

Mark walked back into the kitchen. Trudie glanced at their son who was transfixed by Cbeebies on the television, and made the decision that he would be safe from the broken vase for a moment.

She followed Mark and stood in the doorway, leaning against the raw, unpolished wood marked with the growth record of their home’s previous residents.

Her hand automatically went to her hip in a ridiculous representation of her own mother. ‘Well. Why can’t you? Why won’t you?’

Her husband stood, clearly shielding himself from her inquisitions with the fridge door. Nothing. Just a deep, agonised sigh.

‘Come on, Mark. Why? Please…’

The door was slammed, and for the second time that evening, Trudie jumped.  ‘Mark, stop slamming, and just talk to me. Talk to me. Tell me.’

And that’s when it all came out. After all their years together. Her big, tough man. Her sheltered, physically hung-up man. Her man without positive loving feelings towards either her or their child.

Mark cried. Trudy cried. Alex rushed to comfort them, and fell, cutting his knee, just a little on the shattered vase.

‘Mummy moo,’ he cried, and his mum scooped him from the floor, placing him straight into the arms of his daddy.

‘Do it,’ she said. ‘Feel it… Be the dad you know you should be.’

Mark’s body, overtaken by tremors caused by thirty years of backed-up tears, shook and near-collapsed, but Trudy gently guided him up to the wall, supporting the weight of her two loved ones.

‘Go on,’ she said. ‘Comfort him… your past isn’t your future.’

Mark looked at his ever-patient wife and then to his beautiful son. The pair of them slid to sitting position on the floor of the kitchen, and Mark’s arms wrapped round his little boy for the first time ever. Both sobbed quietly till the sobs transformed to giggles and tickles.

‘Love you, daddy,’ said Alex. Another first.

And somehow, something was healed.

‘Love you, mummy,’ he said, and threw his chocolate-covered arms around that most favoured parent. It was snuggle-time – a time they both loved, chocolate arms or not.

Trudie tickled Alex’s feet, sang ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ a couple of times, and gave her son exactly what he needed and what her loving heart happily granted: time, attention, love and cuddles. And Alex spoke back to her as if she were the silliest but most adorable pet – a naughty puppy, perhaps, or a cat that had insisted on scratching the leather sofa. ‘Mummy, silly sausage,’ he gurgled. ‘Lalalala, mummy moo, mummy moo, mummy mummy mummy poo!’

It was mother/child bonding at its best. Trudie knew it. Alex knew it. But somebody else was not so sure. Trudie knew that because of the smashing sound that shocked mother and child out of their reverie. Shocked but not entirely surprised by the noise, Trudie turned and followed the eyes of her son to look towards the source of source of the smash – her husband, and Alex’s dad, Mark.

‘What’s going on?’ Trudie shouted. The vase he’d smashed against the sideboard was scattered in sharp and dangerous pieces all over the floor, and Alex had already jumped off his mum’s lap and was making his way curiously towards the mess. Trudie began to rise to retrieve the brush and dustpan, but Mark pushed her back down.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll do it. I was just… shocked.’ Mark scratched his beard and looked down at the mess, shaking his head.

‘Shocked? Why? Nobody was doing anything wrong.’

Why could this man never talk to her about anything?

Mark said nothing, just pointed to little Alex who toddled over to his daddy with arms outstretched.

‘What’s Alex done that’s so bad? What on earth could a little boy of two years old do that was so bad? I know I’ve not done anything wrong… so it’s obvious,’ said Trudie. ‘You just can’t bear to see us happy.’

He shook his head. ‘No. No, it’s not that. It’s just… inappropriate.’

You snowflake, Trudie thought. In what way was it EVER inappropriate to hug your baby, specially if he was gurgling happily in his loving mum’s arms, as Alex had been?

Mark was just so different. So irritable. So annoying and so incredibly annoyable – and a victim of his own restrictive thoughts. Nobody could get anything right. Not ever.

He didn’t like Alex’s bedtime routine. Apparently, it was wrong to give and receive kisses and hugs between parent and child. It was also not right to hold that child’s hand in public, or to affectionately ruffle his light brown curls.  

‘Why are you like this, Mark? It’s got worse every month since we got together. Is there something I should know?’

‘What do you mean?’ Mark turned his back to her.

‘Well, you know, some reason why everything about me and Alex irritates you?’ It was a question often asked and never answered, not even in part.

‘It isn’t you. It isn’t him. It’s just…’

‘Just? Just..? Come on man, look at him. He’s just a little boy. He needs his daddy to hug him sometimes. To play games. To laugh a bit. To tickle him. Why don’t you? Why can’t you?’

Mark walked back into the kitchen. Trudie glanced at their son who was transfixed by Cbeebies on the television, and made the decision that he would be safe from the broken vase for a moment.

She followed Mark and stood in the doorway, leaning against the raw, unpolished wood marked with the growth record of their home’s previous residents.

Her hand automatically went to her hip in a ridiculous representation of her own mother. ‘Well. Why can’t you? Why won’t you?’

Her husband stood, clearly shielding himself from her inquisitions with the fridge door. Nothing. Just a deep, agonised sigh.

‘Come on, Mark. Why? Please…’

The door was slammed, and for the second time that evening, Trudie jumped.  ‘Mark, stop slamming, and just talk to me. Talk to me. Tell me.’

And that’s when it all came out. After all their years together. Her big, tough man. Her sheltered, physically hung-up man. Her man without positive loving feelings towards either her or their child.

Mark cried. Trudy cried. Alex rushed to comfort them, and fell, cutting his knee, just a little on the shattered vase.

‘Mummy moo,’ he cried, and his mum scooped him from the floor, placing him straight into the arms of his daddy.

‘Do it,’ she said. ‘Feel it… Be the dad you know you should be.’

Mark’s body, overtaken by tremors caused by thirty years of backed-up tears, shook and near-collapsed, but Trudy gently guided him up to the wall, supporting the weight of her two loved ones.

‘Go on,’ she said. ‘Comfort him… your past isn’t your future.’

Mark looked at his ever-patient wife and then to his beautiful son. The pair of them slid to sitting position on the floor of the kitchen, and Mark’s arms wrapped round his little boy for the first time ever. Both sobbed quietly till the sobs transformed to giggles and tickles.

‘Love you, daddy,’ said Alex. Another first.

And somehow, something was healed.

Minute Poem – ‘Upside Down’

Minute Poem

1 (8 syll) The straw that broke the roofer’s back

2 (4 syll) A roof of thatch.

3 (8 syll) With match to watch, his aerial 

4 (4 syll) Came unattached.

7 (8 syll) First mend the fault, then watch the sport.

8 (4 syll) That was his bid.

5 (8 syll) First roof, then tile, then aerial,

6 (4 syll) That’s when he slid.

9 (8 syll) He clung to life on gutter weak.

10 (4 syll) And fall he did.

The China Kitchen: Chapter One

In front of my face a hand hovered. Wrinkled and lined with cracked and split fingernails, it was also dirty with the kind of filth that can only be described as ‘caked-on’.

How long I’d been crumpled behind the ‘China Kitchen’ bins, in a mess of boxes and overflowing black bin bags, was hard to tell, especially as I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

The hand brought its own problems with it. It brought the danger of others. People like this man. People who might have known me, and who might have wanted to cause me harm. Though, of course, the person may have also wanted to help me. He may have been reaching out to me with love in his heart and nothing but empathy in his reach. Still, my heart hammered in my chest. This was real fear, because I knew that when that hand neared my hair it wasn’t for reasons of empathy that his fingers were approaching me. Perhaps I knew it because of the pincer movement of those grasping digits, but I think it was more the expression on the man’s face which emerged out of the darkness, unattached from its accompanying limbs. The expression plus the noise that emerged from that weasel-like toothless visage. It was the noise of grunting, choking swine, emerging from a stinking, pointy-nosed specimen of feeble masculinity. I was sweating with fear and could barely see straight.

‘Give us your ring,’ he croaked, between wheezes.

‘And give us your necklace.’

My hand immediately rose to my neck. I couldn’t lose the gold sovereign, though I wasn’t sure precisely why. There was no reason in the whole of the world that I would just hand it over to that repulsive man.

‘No,’ I croaked, my voice low and deep.

‘Yes,’ he insisted, and his blackened finger reached down to stroke my stubbled chin. I cringed and pulled back as much as I was able. The man cackled breathily, and his gasps brought about a long, deep coughing spell. The force of his body’s spasms pushed the revolting man backwards towards the other side of the alleyway. I took my chance and stumbled to my feet, while he was still wiping his eyes of moisture and calming his overactive lungs.

I seemed to be physically unharmed, and fully dressed. I wasn’t in pain, and didn’t feel as if I’d been attacked, but I just didn’t know why I was there, what was my name, and how to get home. Judging by my clothing which was smart and brightly coloured, though somewhat stained and creased from my time behind the bins, I wasn’t a person of the streets. Unlike that wizened old man who glared at my newly upright form, who took in my clothing and scanned my height and build, and who clearly realised his own attack was pointless. I was twice his height, almost, and more than twice his breadth.

He growled a mouthful of obscenities in my direction and trudged towards the warm spot I’d just vacated, and as he mouthed his final ‘Arrogant ponce’ at me, a sliver of a memory began to return. Yes, that was it. I knew how I’d ended up in the alley behind the ‘China Kitchen’ bins, but I almost wished I’d forgotten forever.

It was the word ‘ponce’ that did it for me. Yes, I was a man who benefitted from the on-the-back work of street girls, and gradually the gaudily made-up faces of Crystal, Ellie and Jools wafted into my consciousness. My girls. Crystal, blonde and cute, with a drug habit that hasn’t yet spoiled her looks, and the tiniest feet I’ve ever seen on a grown adult. I’ve seen a fair few too, being in my line of business. I remembered Ellie and Jools, twin sisters who’d gone on the game owing to both parents abdicating all responsibility for their upkeep as soon as they turned 13. I did enjoy the company of those two. Such sweet girls, and Jools had pretty much the best sense of humour of any person in my employ. God, she should have been a stand-up comic. And Ellie, darling Ellie, could drink like a fish and hold it. She was a laugh and a half too.

With pounding head, I walked to the restaurant’s kitchen door. I didn’t knock as I knew I didn’t need to. It was my place. They were my girls, and here – the cook with the machete knife, he was mine too. Sam, the head chef, noticed my arrival and stared at me with an expression I couldn’t quite evaluate.

‘Mr Filey. Don. What’s happened?’ He began to walk towards me then realised he was still holding his knife. He replaced it on the counter top and grabbed my hand. As the knife clattered and glinted on the counter top, the other kitchen staff froze and stared in my direction, vacant-faced, like sheep on a windy night.

‘Good God, Don, you look terrible,’ said Sam.

‘I don’t know where I am.’

Sam dug around in the pocket of my overcoat and drew out an empty bottle. Vodka. I knew I’d bought it earlier that day, and suddenly I realised that the stinky man in the alley behind MY restaurant who wanted to steal MY jewellery, was nothing but a figment of MY soused imagination.

‘You’ve gotta stop drinking, Don. You’ve gotta stop drinking. Now, mate, now.’

I nodded with effort and patted Sam on the upper arm. The noise within the kitchen seemed to return, and the previously staring staff reanimated themselves. A path was cleared for me, as I trudged to the stairwell, then up towards my office. Never again, I thought. Never again.

I virtually fell onto my chair and rested my head on my mahogany desk. I looked towards my hands, and knew. Just knew that the hands I’d seen reaching for me in the alley had been my own.

Sam was right. I needed to stop drinking. I also needed to liberate my girls. Let them have their own lives. Manage my proper business again. Get organised. Take back control.

I fished in my zippered jacket pocket, found my secret key, and unlocked my largest desk drawer. The contents were as I expected. As they always were. A bottle of White Star vodka; a densely filled note book, a canvas bag that I knew contained £85,000 in £50 notes, my new passport purchased from Sly Larry only last month… And, of course, my untraceable revolver. It was down to me, and me alone, what happened next.

I unscrewed the vodka cap.

Interview with Lesley Atherton about her book, ‘Past Present Tense’

Interview with Lesley Atherton re: ‘Past Present Tense’

A: This book is about hoarding and nastiness as well as being about family and relationships. It’s an obvious question, but why on earth would anyone want to write (or read) about hoarding?!

L: Well, it’s down to my own personality really. I’m a natural acquirer of unnecessary items but have always managed to stop short of becoming a hoarder. I’m more of a clutterer. Give me a wall and I will put things on it.
Give me a shelf and I’ll fill it. I wish I wasn’t like this, but I am.
Waste Not, Want Not. Make Do and Mend.
So this led me to begin watching programmes about hoarding and getting some deep compassion and understanding of the sufferers as well as those who must live with a mess not of their making.

The main character of ‘Past Present Tense’ is Tanya, who discovers that the dad she thought was dead is actually alive, and is buried under his own clutter in his own hoarded house. I was able to put myself in her position. I was able to also put myself in his position. I hope that’s come over in the writing. There is so much misunderstanding of the reasons behind hoarding. I know that one of the fallacies is that the people just need to get up off their bums and start to clean.

But for the majority of hoarders, it isn’t laziness that causes the collections and clutter, it is more a feeling of connection to the items, and to the memories and feelings those items hold. There are elements of anthropomorphism too. Hoarders don’t just feel responsible for the items they own, but also feel compassionate towards them and often their relationships with the objects are more meaningful than many of the relationships they have with other humans.

Like I say, I’m not a hoarder, but I do understand where the hoarding motivation comes from. I currently own 76 musical instruments. I play only 3 of them regularly, and play none of them daily. Why do I not sell them? Because I like them and enjoy the ownership of them. I like them to be there when I’m ready for them. And there are so many other reasons too: creativity, appreciation of beauty, appreciation of usefulness, and the desire to be able to entertain myself!

I know I’ll never be a minimalist. Blank spaces irritate me. But I really do need to have far less stuff. I hoped that writing about hoarding in this way might interest those people who live with hoarding, either their own or that of others.

A: Is the writing based on the work of anyone else in particular?

L: No. Just me, though one of my reviewers felt that the inner dialogues of the early chapters were reminiscent of Sartre’s ‘Nausea’. It’s odd really, but in recent years my reading has definitely taken back place to my writing. On the plus side, it means I’m not overly influenced by new books I’m reading, but on the negative side, I’m also behind the times. But that works for me. I don’t mind being retro. I can’t imagine being anything else.

A: That’s your personality?

L: It is. I don’t really do trends. I am who I am.

A: I understand you’re working on another book at the moment.

L: Yes, I’m finishing the manuscript for my novel, ‘The Waggon’. It requires completion before September 2019 as I will be submitting it as the final assessment for my Masters Degree in Creative Writing. It’s currently at the 65,000 word stage, but there’s quite a way still to go. After that, I’m going to be starting on a book about teenage Aspergers, and will continue with my publication of other peoples’ work through Scott Martin Productions. I have a few ideas for novelettes and many ideas for short stories, and will also be working on my blog.

A: You’re unstoppable. Do you still have time to attend writing groups?

L: I do. Currently I go to two weekly groups, and two monthly groups. I also attend two monthly reading groups. Why do you ask?

A: I was just wondering if you still find them of use, now you’re published and have more writing experience. Isn’t it something you grow out of as time goes on and you know what you’re doing?

L: In my case, no. My Tuesday group, in particular, is like family. I don’t know what I’d do without them
socially, and they give me great confidence creatively too. My advice to anyone who wants to write, is to
engage with other interested souls online and in person. Once you get over the first feelings of fear at
sharing your work, it really is liberating!

A: I can see that. Thanks so much for answering my questions!

L: Thanks. It’s been fun 🙂