A First

I had discovered a whole new world of live music in town. Original Blues Guy played in a different pub every night from Sunday-Thursday and I was enjoying trailing round the eclectic mix of pubs he frequented for Open Mic nights. There was some overlap with musicians; some faces became familiar and I was enjoying the uncertainty of every evening’s entertainment. Some pubs were jazzy, some folky . . . sometimes covers dominated the evening and at other times it was mostly home-spun music. Some musicians were ridiculously talented while others were clearly trilling and strumming away for the sheer love of it, regardless of their talent or, in some cases, dare I say it – lack of it. There wasn’t much of the latter, to be fair and it didn’t matter because no-one played for long and if they were enjoying themselves then there was no need to judge.

After a while, it became clear that this was a whole new world of which I had become a part, even if I was on the side-lines, as a spectator. It reminded me of the world of theatre, of which I had been a part for most of my life. It is as if each city has several dimensions and you can only enter a new one by way of a very gradual process. And once within that new dimension, you become a part of the fabric of it and you can only leave as gradually as you entered. I was still – just about – a part of the world of theatre, but I was losing my hold on it. I hadn’t trodden the boards for two or three years and was keen to become a part of that world once more. Everyone told me I should, so that was one of my plans for the summer. Find a suitable, forthcoming production and audition for it.

But meanwhile, I was excited by the prospect of Original Blues Guy teaching me how to play the guitar. He was an artist too and had invited me up to London to go to an art exhibition on the same day he had a gig in Pimlico. His constant pestering for a relationship was concerning me, though. Was I leading him on? I didn’t think so; I made it clear I wasn’t interested but I enjoyed his company. He seemed to have a complicated life – I felt I wasn’t hearing the whole story about his relationship status, which was off-putting.

I wasn’t on Tinder at all, since that last fateful Tinder date. Meeting Toby in a place I liked, doing something I liked, was far more fulfilling than starting a relationship as a 2D image on a screen. So I’d deactivated my account and deleted the app. Tinder had served a purpose; it softened the blow of rejection and abandonment, but that was all I had ever needed it for. If you’re keen for a relationship and going out and about hasn’t worked, then it’s a good thing. But I wasn’t keen for a relationship and I hadn’t given ‘going out and about’ a go. When I say I wasn’t keen for a relationship, I mean that I was happy being single until I randomly met someone, again, in a place I liked, doing something I liked. I figured that I would just as likely meet my match in those circumstances as in a dating app. And until then, I was enjoying the benefits of being single.

The children were home from uni so I had cut back on the social life and was enjoying their company. I’d put the house on the market too, so I knew that summer would be busy with viewings, both of my house and potential homes for us. On this particular day, there was a calm after the storm. There had been rough seas the day before but the wind had calmed down as the sun came up and late morning was making promises of a warmer afternoon. My son was with friends in town and my daughter’s boyfriend had stayed over. As I left to walk the dog, they left for a late breakfast and so we strolled together, until we reached the cliff-top café where they would soon abandon their breakfast . . .

‘Why don’t you join us for breakfast?’ invited Rhiannon.

I turned her down, on the grounds that I’d had breakfast and wasn’t that hungry. I would regret that decision later.

I was dressed only for walking the dog, in hot-pants, a skimpy top, an over-sized floppy sunhat and with my trademark rucksack slung over my shoulder. I was enjoying the walk, but was preoccupied. I would be moving house for the second time in a year which, although my choice, seemed a daunting task. I kept reminding myself that I needed to make a doctor’s appointment, as I had found another lump in a different place. Well, it was more of a wedge, really and was painful. On the one hand I wasn’t as worried as before, as the last one was harmless, but on the other hand, I was more worried, because it was very different. I hadn’t told anyone, because I felt I’d used up my sympathy points with my friends and family. And lastly, I was allowing myself a rare moment of wallowing just a little in melancholy. As the Undercliff was pretty deserted, I started to sing Regina Spektor’s ‘How’, quietly, to myself. Pathetically, I had been playing it last thing every night ever since stumbling across her on Spotify one night when I was blubbing in bed. I had been searching for another artiste whose name began with ‘R’ and found her instead. ‘How’ could have been written for me, at the time, as it captured my feelings entirely. Like many of her songs, I found it particularly evocative and as I was trying out songs I could possibly learn to play on a keyboard, should the guitar lessons not materialise, I had learnt it from start to finish.

The temperature had dropped; early afternoon had not kept late morning’s promise of warmth. I stopped to take in the sight and sound of the waves crashing against the wall of the beach, as the cool air had started to whip the sea up into a bit of a frenzy. I took a break from ‘How’ and stole a few images of the sea-spray with my iPhone.

I resumed my walk and my singing, staying close to the low wall so that I could see, hear and even taste the sea, as the clouds darkened and what was once a gentle lapping, become a low rumble on the beach. There were puddles of sea-water, from waves that had managed to scale the wall and hurl themselves onto the Undercliff and I thought nothing of stepping in them, as I was wearing plimsolls which were battered and didn’t matter. But one such wave must have splashed onto a clod of chalk, from the cliff, as when I set foot on one such puddle, my heel slid forward as if I was stepping onto an ice rink. My whole being lifted into the air and it was as if time stopped while I hovered, because I was there for long enough to dread the journey back down. I had been thrown into the air with such force that I knew I would not emerge from this unscathed. I came crashing back down into the seemingly innocent puddle and was only too aware that my wrist was the casualty . . .

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