What’s it all about?

He was the handsomest boy at school, he was also the cleverest. Studying in the school library our eyes met over my broken bag of ‘Treets’, ‘milk chocolate covered peanuts with an outer shell of dark brown glazed candy,’ The sweet nuts scattered and bounced ricocheting round the parquet floor like machine gun fire. We were not allowed to eat in the library so I was asked to leave.
The boy sought me out in a corridor and invited me to the cinema, ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire.’ We queued up at the ticket booth. He paid as he worked in his uncles greengrocers delivering fruit and veg to the local mental home. The usherette ripped the end of our paper tickets. We walked up the sweeping staircase into the cinema with it’s rouched, satin pink curtains. We took our seats in the back row, of course we did, I was16, he a year older, and he snogged my face off.
He went up to Birmingham, and I decided to follow, me in my second year at Drama school, he at the University. The idea was we would live together then go to the Edinburgh Festival performing in perhaps the most pretentious play of 1969. I had to sit cross legged and burn joss sticks as the audience entered the building. We were looking forward to a summer of lurve. As it turned out we were housed in a building where the girls had to stay in a dorm with the girls and the boys with the boys, any intimacy that was to be had had to be had on the banks of the Waters of Leith. In the end he ran off with the theatre Director, a hairy man with dubious passions. During this time I had to get a job to fund my weeks of independence so I signed onto an agency. I lied – I had never used a Dictaphone before, I could’t type, and my dictation was more shithand than short. I took my typewriters erasure pencil where’re I went. By the end of the day I’d worn it down to a stub.
I was put in a solicitors office. They fired me.
I was put in a car factory. They fired me.
I’d work till five then drag my weary body back to his room in the halls of residence. This was hardly ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ it was more ‘A Taste of Honey.’ I was deeply unhappy. Handsome is as handsome does, and the boy who I was in thrall with was less than satisfactory.
And this is where the story begins. One night, I was woken up by a little red wooden bird, sitting on the headboard of the bed. The little red bird whistled red wooden notes, crotchets and minims flying up to the ceiling. I said nothing to my sleeping partner. I would sit up in bed and the little red bird whistled and nodded and threw me a golden latticed ball. What to do? I asked him. The bird told me I had all my own answers. So after Edinburgh, having read the Lotharios’ type written note telling me he had pissed off to Middlesborough, I called my father who turned up in his bottle green E-Type Jag with a can of Skol and a bagel.
“I never liked him.” said my father through a mouthful of smoked salmon. I tried to talk about the little red wooden bird but my father was a Marxist realist a man of few words until he wasn’t. Still that little red bird was as real to me as the cream cheese that dribbled down my tearstained chin.
The unseen world was never spoken of in my house, neither was feminism, astrology and certainly not God. Not that I’m suggesting the little red bird was a visitation from Jehovah, but the unseen world started to present itself to me. Like the time I went to sing in a pub in North London.
I’ve forgotten the name of the pub and the blind piano player, the drummer and I still socialise after 50 years, but he doesn’t remember the gig at all. The gig was a dare to myself. Needing to know whether I had what it took to perform – alone – without the back up of my theatrical group. It worked. I was applauded and lauded and the landlady booked me. Mid set I was accosted by a crowd of women in the ladies including a woman in a faux leopard skin coat.
Standing at the bus stop to travel back to Fulham I flagged down the drummers battered blue Ford van. Only it wasn’t the drummer driving but Len who was married to Lally she of the fake faux leopard. They offered to drive me home
“We dont like seeing young girls on their own of a night.” Said Lally. And I was young, 22, and almost fearless. I say almost, it was more a blind naivete. I was wearing red and white striped sox, a red and white striped tee shirt, with a white Victorian apron thingy over the top – all the rage then – white pedal-pushers and sweet Mary Jane shoes, my shiny black hair was cut into a bob. I looked like a cross between ‘Where’s Wally’ and an Oriental ‘Snowhite’.
Len drove us to the Embankment and parked up. He needed the pubic lavatory. He climbed out of the van and left me and Lally sitting quietly near Westminster Bridge. I was sprawled behind the driver and passenger seat. Lally turned round very slowly, took my hand, and told me there was nothing to be afraid of, that I was not to be scared but she had been looking for me for three weeks. Not only was I scared I very nearly had to join Len in the lavatory.
Len climbed back into the van, turned on the ignition and off we went. In the amount of time it took to get to the Fulham Palace Road Lally spoke to me in Yiddish, talked about my last Dutch squeeze, revealed my father was being ripped off by a woman whose name began with an ‘M’, described pieces of jewellery, including a snake ring, in detail, and that there was a ‘Maisha’ in my life. I had never heard the name before. Lally declared that my fathers’ mother was giving me all this information to reassure me that I had lots of talent and that the world would be my oyster. Oyster schmoyster, I needed to get out of that van. By the time we reached SW6 I was a gibbering wreck. Lally gave me a piece of paper with her telephone number on it, told me to call her whenever, and without a bye your leave Lenny sped off up Cloncurry Street back to fuck knows where.
I telephoned my mother who confirmed that there was indeed a snake ring which belonged to Great Aunt Becky, that my father was in fact being ripped off by a woman called Maureen, and that my paternal grandmother’s nickname for my father was MAISHA!
I hung up on my mother and called Lally’s number. It was engaged.
It was engaged the next day and the day after that. It was a telephone hung on a wall in a house of flats. The subscribers name was unknown.Then fast forward a dozen years and I was rearranging some books, from out of the pages of ‘Fat is a Feminine Issue’ the piece of paper with Lally’s telephone number fell into my fingers. I called it but it was still engaged. I tried for days but always an engaged tone. I then had to make a choice, whether to believe all this woo-woo stuff or get all Brian Cox about it and dump it in the crankology bin. I decided to keep an open mind, although the thought of Lally and her invisible pals watching me all the time certainly cramped my style.
When my mother died she left us a little money so I took myself off to a detoxifying retreat in Glastonbury, we lived on juices and entertained ourselves with daily colonics. Understandably I chose to have my own space with my own bathroom. On the third night I woke up to a man at the end of my bed. He was wearing a baggy tweed suit and looked at me through dark framed glasses. The image didn’t last very long, the retreat owners told me he hung around in that room and checked out the new residents.
I did not sleep one wink for the rest of my stay, although the mere thought of him did aid my colonic irrigation.
So now we come to last Saturday night. I finally fell asleep at around midnight. I awoke with a start to a girl standing next to my bed. Young, big hair, arms outstretched her mouth open in the middle of a word. She appeared for less than a nanno second. I had been sweating. I mean so wet and disgusting was I I had to change the sheets. My hair soaked, my body cold, I returned to bed wearing a fleecy top, but strangley calm. Not a hint of Glastonbury fear anywhere.
“It’s your spirit guide coming to help you.” said various know-it-alls.
My niece said she saw the very same young woman when she slept in our bedroom years ago and a guest, who slept in the attic last summer, said she had the same visitation. I felt strangely comforted knowing that I wasn’t going potty. I know our cottage is haunted, it was built in 1690. Wearing a leather apron full of blacksmith tools, the blacksmith who used to live here, would guide my mother up the worn stone steps.
‘Lovely man,” my mother would say “But I never see his head.” The dawter heard the blacksmith and his wife shouting at each other at the foot of the steps whilst the metallic ding ding of the hammer on his anvil was loud. We could never get Jackson, our lovely dog, to go down the cellar steps.
“I’m not fucking surprised.” said a mystical friend. “That couple at the foot of the stairs are always bloody arguing.”
I hear things, see things, feel things. But don’t we all? Now, I’m told, we’re going through a real transition. Lots of empaths and sensitive people, lots of intuitives and mentalists are seeing and feeling weird things. After tonight’s storming of the count in Washington, and the Trumplicans revealing themselves to be nothing but an ill informed renta-crowd from a David O Selznik movie, after tonights undemocratic antics, I’m beginning to think that the times they really are-a-changing. Lock down is making us all review our situations. Curfews and restrictions are requiring we take a look at ourselves and our purpose. Climate change is demanding we look at the time line of our lives and the future that we will bring about. And thems that straddle the dimensions keep telling us we are now truly at the beginning of the age of Aquarius. I’m prepared to listen to everything now since the older I get the less I seem to know about anything. ‘DOWN TO EARTH’ is a wonderful film, you can watch it on You Tube, it’s full of people who don’t scoff at the unseen.
I don’t know whether my apparition is heralding in a new dawn, or whether she’s a figment of my very fertile imagination, but she’s clearly trying to tell me something. If only Lally hadn’t fucked up her telephone number I could have given her a call.

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