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I recently cast off my law-abiding habits and turned into a criminal, for about 20 minutes.

Ironically, it happened, just as a skinny teenager had whizzed past me on his bike and had tried to steal my smart phone. That’s when I turned into an improbable Rambo and fought back.

I could have been sensible and let the miscreant get away with it, but

a) I am not insured and I am cash strapped, so letting go of this phone was not an option

b) A righteousness worthy of a heroine straight from a Greek tragedy took over:  the wrong-doer will be punished, punished, punished, punished (the last three ‘punished’ chanted by a choir in my head)

c) My contacts are not backed

So, armed with this mixture of lofty ideals and practical reasons, I snatched the phone back,  and started screaming B******, which alerted a couple walking just ahead of me.

The man intercepted the would-be thief, who lost his balance, fell off the bike, left it and sprinted ahead, in a manner that in more constructive circumstances would probably have won him an Olympic gold medal. I say this with admiration.

You too would be seriously impressed, if you had seen how fast he got, despite his low trousers. If this petty criminal can run  so fast thus impeded, think what he could achieve wearing suitable kit.

But I digress.

From the moment low-trousers, low-life made a dash for freedom, I became a thief. That’s right: he tried to get my phone and I got his (or perhaps not strictly his) bike.

I grabbed the bike and decided to bring it down to the nearest police station. The couple: Anthony from Australia, who so bravely stopped the would-be thief  and Amelie from France  kindly came with me. On the way, after introducing myself and thanking them a few times for their public-spirited attitude, I entertained  them with this thought: what if our low-trousers & low-life turned the tables?

After all I was the one who had taken another’s (whoever it might be) property and in the interval between my appropriating it and my transferring it into the  care of the police, how could I prove that my intentions were honourable?

The marvellous Anthony and Amelie laughed, but the truth is that I could not, so there you go: low trousers & low-life had turned me, an over-worked, pretty boring, average person into a fellow low-life.  I am not qualified:  I do not even have one tenth of this  youngster’s athletic credentials.

Meanwhile, you dear reader, (and maybe you too, petty criminal) will be interested to know that the police have now a DNA sample (out of the sweaty finger prints on the vehicle) and are looking for our sprinter.

I don’t know whether my assailant will ever account for his attempt to take away my phone, but I hope he learnt a lesson: people do fight back. Even someone as anti-Rambo, average-looking as me can experience a moment of unbridled rebellion.

So, if you are reading this, kid: listen to someone considerably older (and heavier) than you: if the carry-on I have witnessed is anything to go by, you have a future in athletics, not in crime.

Ditch phone snatching, get a pair of good running shoes. Meanwhile, I got the bike.

 

 

 

 

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Three things about grief and one about hope

About six weeks ago, I lost someone I loved and respected. This person was a member of my long-lost family, but he and I had formed a special bond.  What started as a casual Skype conversation developed into a friendship.

My friend was such a gentle, kind and wise man, that I gradually opened up to him. I had forgotten the relief, the joy to be able to trust someone. My friend stood out from the crowd because unlike my other friends, he had seen quite a lot of the world. What I mean is that he had formed a shrewd idea of what really mattered, without losing curiosity and joie de vivre either.

He could see further than me, but he never made me feel inadequate. Not only he listened to me, but he, too, opened up and in time he let me read his poems. We had a nick name for each other and usually shared thoughts, ideas and, sometimes, fears – usually mine.

I was lucky to have known the complicity of a real friendship, even more so because I knew that my friend was seriously ill. The truth is that I sometimes forgot about that, because my friend never complained, was always ready to listen and had a delicious sense of humour. He gave his illness the finger and smiled at life.

A few weeks later he left us, quietly. And then silence descended over me. I have since lived in a muffled world.

The other day, just as I was in the quiet place next to the river, where I give myself permission to cry over my friend’s loss, I realised that his loss has reminded me of three things that grief does to people.

Grief robs you of your energy: I am grieving, because I feel the injustice of a life lost so soon, so prematurely. I am mourning the waste. He was such a curious and alert person and I cannot help thinking of the loss of what has not yet been: the conversations about the places I will visit, the people I will meet, the demons I have not yet beaten, the hopes I have not yet lost and the facts I have not yet quite grasped and those I have and he refused to see. I miss making mental notes about funny, strange, unusual things to share them with him and then I realise he is not with us and feel so tired I could dissolve into thin air.

Grief is a thief: since my friend has gone, I have been unable to write, which is my passion. Grief has taken away my imagination and I have let it.  I tell myself I must get on with it, snap out of this ennui, so I keep busy and get on with it. But ‘it’ is hollower since my friend has gone. Then I feel guilty, because my friend loved life and the least I could do is living, because that’s what he wanted. I know this for a fact, because he wrote a poem for his children and entrusted it to me, until the time came. His poem was very wise and full of wisdom and deliciously sweet. It was about life.

Grief can be shared: I grew up nursing the pain of having lost someone I had loved and who had abandoned me. I did so keeping as much of the pain to me, because I believe that our grief is our burden. I do not like to display sacrifices, disappointments, pain as medals, for everyone to see. But my friend and some other friends, argue and argued that sometimes grief can be shared. I  doubt it, but I might as well try. This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for me. Perhaps now I understand what my late friend meant when he told me to live truly and utterly.

So, I have taken the plunge and here I am: writing again. Not only that: I am writing about my own loss in a public platform, because my pain is not a shame, it’s a fact I have to deal with.

Sharing the burden for the first time in my life is a great risk, but not the first I have ever taken. What’s more I am going to start writing again, because I have to go on, get on with it and that ‘it’ is an adventure and it could turn out to be a good adventure too. Who knows, I may even learn something new.

Which brings me neatly to the part about hope: it’s stronger than pain. My friend has taught me that there is always hope, that everything can be fixed. I have lost him, but he has given me a few very happy moments, lots of laughter and an adorable nickname.

So, dear friend, thank you! Good journey! May you rest in peace. I will miss you for the rest of my life, but I will live. Every time I learn something, meet someone new, remember something I had forgotten, make up for my mistakes, I will think of you. I will live, not only that: I will live truly and utterly, as you wisely advised.

Here’s to you: thanks for being my friend.

 

No, I don’t have any New Year’s resolution (especially when I am at the dentist’s)

Last Friday I was languishing at my local dentist’s rocking with pain and massaging a cheek, which would not have been out of place in a XVIII’s freak show. 

Picture a woman with a face half normal, half resembling a rugby ball, eyes glassy with terror:  what will the damage be like?

Not to my oral cavity, mind,  but rather to my depleted bank balance.

What will the dentist charge me for restoring me to good, ruddy health? Will I be able to pay for food, drink and rent after this brief dental encounter? 

Absorbed as I was in such mundane feelings, I had not seen the ethereal receptionist approach me.

“Hi-ya. Can I get you anything? A glass of water?” this slight, soft spoken woman asked. I shook my head, but not too much, as I was too busy feeling the pain in my mouth, torn between the desire of relief from the pain and the pain of being relieved of my annual savings forthwith (I have no dental insurance).

Next I noticed the receptionist had actually brought me a glass of lukewarm water and was offering me the plastic cup in a manner worthy of an ancient Greek prophetess, gracefully passing on the latest message from Zeus to mere mortals.

“What’s your New Year’s resolution?” this throw-back from Delphi asked, while I gingerly sipped water.

I must have produced a very ungracious stare, because the poor woman beat a graceful but hasty retreat.

Four days later and 12 antibiotic capsules to my credit, I feel well enough to be less truculent, so here’s my answer to the well-meaning, polite, sympathetic receptionist at my dentist’s. 

Dear receptionist, 

I am sorry I might have given you frostbites just by looking at you last Friday, when you so kindly tried to take my mind off my pain.

Just as well that you were not having tea, or I would have turned the milk sour too, just with my gaze. I am sorry I looked like someone after a session on the rack at the Tower of London, I am sure I was not a pretty sight rocking on that chair. I feel better now, so  let me reply to your question: NO, I do not have New Year’s resolution.

Here’s why:

1) I do not believe in sudden, extreme changes. Bad habits are hard enough to break, so why would I put myself through the extra bother of changing while it is dark, grim and cold? I believe in accepting myself.

2) I have noticed that most  NY resolutions pertain to weigh loss. ‘Weigh Loss’ does not even begin to cover the matter, it sounds like you  achieve a svelte figure by chance, by accident. If you want to talk to me about such enterprises, label them properly ‘weight demolishing’ ‘fat destruction’, for instance.  Even if you call a spade a space, I am not likely to join the debate: taking exercise is not something I relish.  I do it to keep myself reasonably healthy, but weight loss is NOT a fit topic of conversation for me. If your NY res is about something else, I will be receptive. Try me next time I visit your honourable establishment. 

3) Driven as one can be, NOBODY, I repeat nobody visiting the dentist in my predicament could have the strength or the presence of mind to chat about resolutions. Did you notice it took me a good five minutes to fill in the form you handled me? That’s because I had to concentrate hard to remember basic things such as my name, my age, my gender or other basic personal info you request before I get to see the dentist. 

So, here I am, a difficult customer, perhaps, but at least I am straight with you. Which is more that can be said for my tooth, the source of my pain. 

I shall soon see you. You will recognise me, I am sure: I am the one who will arrive with a sackful of cash to settle the bill.

We can exchange pleasantries then, if you like!

 

Kim’s Guest Review of The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

Reflections of a Book Addict

tpombpmIf you’ve often thought that Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice has been neglected in the Austen fan fiction world, listen up. My latest review for Austenprose is on The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle and it’s all about Mary!

I can happily tell you that Mingle gives Mary a story well worthy of her character.

For a direct link to my review, click here!

This is my thirteenth completed review for the Pride and  Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

This is my twenty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

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