Welcome to writings and rantings of Michael Crane!
At present, for your delight I have a short story, Somewhere Nice And Sunny and my diet diaries from my Rosemary Clooney diet & exercise classes from a couple of years ago. I have included My First Trip to Turkey, an account of . . . my first trip to Turkey! I hope you find them as much fun to read as they were to write.
Somewhere Nice And Sunny
By Michael Crane
Falling down the stairs. That would do the trick. There’s no way a frail 78 years old widow would survive such a tragic accident. These sort of accidents happen every day somewhere or other. Mind you, it is a bit of a cliché – perhaps too much so. It might draw too much attention.
How about falling over in the shower and banging her head on the bath taps? Mmm, what if the first fall didn’t kill her? She can hardly fall two or three times! She could drown in the bath; a lot of old folk do. The problem with that is I’d have to hold her under. How long would it take until she died? Less than a minute? Well, I’d imagine that in less than a minute she’d have clawed me to death; which would be a bit of a giveaway.
It was 4.15 in the afternoon and Barry Collins was sat at his desk at Hope & Son, absentmindedly tapping away at his keyboard; his mind clearly on a non-work topic. More and more nowadays his mind wandered to the forthcoming tragic death of his much loved mother. At fifty-seven years old he was still living with his mother – and this situation was a subject of much speculation among his work colleagues. Half of them thought him gay, and the other half thought him a sad old loser that nobody could fancy whatever their sexual proclivities.
He had hoped that after the death of his father, her beloved Arthur, that she’d have pined her way to death. They were an inseparable couple and utterly devoted to each other. Dying of a broken heart seemed a real possibility. A possibility that Barry saw drawing him closer to his goal in life – the lazy, opulent life of a millionaire playboy. His parents didn’t have much money, fifty, sixty thousand, perhaps, but they did own a huge house; and it was worth a bomb. However, after a gap of ten years it didn’t seem likely that she’d succumb to a broken heart.
Elsie and Arthur Collins had moved into the six bed-roomed house three years before Barry was born. Situated in what was at that time a quiet suburb of London, it was a wedding present from an admiring, childless aunt of Elsie’s who bequeathed it to her in her will. Elsie always looked upon her aunt Gladys with affection and, in later life, with gratitude for it was she that introduced her to Arthur.
Gladys was a Nippy at the Angel Café, Islington; a position that was in complete contrast to her wealthy upbringing, and it was through the Lyon’s policy of offering holiday provision at their Sudbury ‘holiday camp’ for employees that she met, and fell in love with, Arthur, at that time aged 16 and angry that the war would be over before he’d be able to join up. That summer of 1942 was idyllic – they discovered they lived but one mile apart and, after returning to their respective homes after an all-too-short holiday, they regularly kept in touch and met most weekends under the watchful gaze of aunt Gladys – resplendent in her black uniform and white starched collar, cuffs, hat and apron.
After the war, in 1945 Elsie began working for Lyon’s but she never did attain Nippy status, her wedding to Arthur in 1946 cut that ambition short – but it was an ambition that she was happy to relinquish. The next three years she and Arthur busied themselves with readying their new home for the arrival of a much wanted family and travelling the country with Arthur’s orchestra, in equal parts. Her favourite times were when the regular pianist, Bob Pick, was taken ‘ill’ or “Bloody drunk again!” as Arthur delicately put it! Then she’d accompany Arthur on his violin: Years later she and Arthur would laugh about Bob and his ‘illnesses’ as they recreated those halcyon days in the living-room.
As the City expanded the property became absorbed in its rampage outwards and the family home became closer to the heart of the City and increased in value at an obscene rate. No mortgage meant that there was 100% equity and at a conservative estimate it was worth six figures as it stood - and Barry had big plans to increase that.
The newly-weds had planned to fill the house with children, lots of them. They were both the only child of loving parents and they both discovered that the other had craved a sibling. Sadly their ambition to fill the house with children wasn’t to be. Elsie was a long time falling pregnant; and it wasn’t a pleasant pregnancy. Literally from the day of conception she was sick, and it never relented. Day after day she took to her bed, too tired or nauseous to do anything. The birth itself was a nightmare and it was touch and go whether or not she or the baby, or both, would survive. To Arthur’s great relief both did survive but there was a price to pay for his prayers – Elsie would be unable to bear any more children. The house that was to ring to the laughter of five or six children rang with the occasional laughter of one.
Barry was an unhappy child, despite the love and affection each parent lavished upon him. It seemed as if he resented his birth and held both his parents responsible for bringing him into a world he would have been happy to have never known. His unhappy childhood converged into an unhappy teens, and then into an unhappy adulthood. How shocked would his mother have been had she known that the only day he felt truly happy was the day of his father’s funeral? His grieving mother, at the graveside, looked as if she’d soon be joining him – but she didn’t. Her stubbornness in not joining him incensed Barry and made him even more unhappy – which seemed an impossibility.
As the years dragged by and his mother showed no signs of laying next to Arthur in the grave she lovingly attended each Sunday afternoon, Barry slipped into depression. He was on drugs to combat it but they didn’t really help – except to make him habitually tired. In fact, he was convinced that he’d be joining his father instead of her if things didn’t get better. Six months ago, they did!
Despite the opinions of his work colleagues Barry was not homosexual. He had, on numerous occasions, visited prostitutes in Soho and he enjoyed a ‘healthy’ sex life. He probably had better sex than the majority of the married men that infested his office. Paying for it wasn’t a stigma for Barry, quite the contrary. Whilst the office studs were at it with the same woman time after time, he was at it with a variety of women - and in ways that'd make their wives blush.
It was during one of his lunchtime visits to Soho that he met Sandy. As a prelude to sex he’d gone into a peep-show to whet his appetite and there she was – a vision of beauty. He instantly fell in love with her and wanted to posses her; to be with her; to be in her; to rescue her.
I suppose she could commit suicide. She could take an overdose or maybe slit her wrists. No, that won’t work. No one would believe she’d top herself – she was never depressed, the bitch! Too bloody cheerful to do anything like that.
He started plotting her demise the day he saw Sandy. Everyday the same thoughts. And everyday the same inaction. This morning at breakfast he even contemplated strangling her at the table over the cornflakes – but he didn’t. As usual, he came down to breakfast already on the table; his suit jacket nicely pressed, his shoes shiny enough to please a Sergeant Major. She fussed over him and tripped about the kitchen like a ballerina – certainly not the day she’d keel over and die of a heart attack; much to Barry’s dismay.
He glanced down at his monitor. Bloody hell, is it only 4.20? Roll on 5.45. A smile flickered over his face – not one that could be discerned by the others in the office – but a smile nonetheless. His penis began to stiffen, ever so slightly. He was remembering this lunchtime and another twenty minutes past the hour.
He’d been asked by a few of the chaps in Accounts if he fancied a pie and pint for lunch. He knew they didn’t really want (or expect) him to come, and that they only asked, The Grey Man, out of sympathy. He told them he was going home over lunch to see Ma. She’d been unwell at breakfast and he wanted to go home and see that she was OK. They didn’t know it was a lie. Stupid bastards!
He knew they called him The Grey Man behind his back. It was because he always wore the same type and colour suit every day: a grey double-breasted worsted; the trousers cut just a tad too long so that the turn-ups polished his black brogues to perfection. The sobriquet secretly delighted him for he was a Grey Man. He had an instantly forgettable face. People sat opposite him on the tube or next to him on the bus would have forgotten all about him entirely when they alighted. He imagined he was some sort of spy, a Harry Limeish character, wandering the streets of London, unseen and unremembered by all he came into contact with.
As his colleagues repaired to the pub for their pies and pints, Barry caught the tube – not the Circle to Sloane Square, Belgarvia and mother, but the Picadilly to Soho and Sandy.
As he passed the ‘doorman’ and proffered his five pounds ‘membership fee’ to the gum-chewing, blonde-haired moron that took it without a smile or a thank you, Barry didn’t detect a flicker of recognition from either of them. They never did – The Grey Man was never seen!
He descended the steps and made his way to Booth Six – Sandy’s booth. He deposited two one-pound coins into the slot and the curtains opened and the light in the booth came on. There she was, the love of his life. Her long, light-brown hair cascading over her pale shoulders and framing her pert breasts. Her nipples erect; although this was most likely due to the temperature of the booth and nothing to do with arousal, Barry liked to think is was the latter; and that he was the cause of it.
Of course, her real name wasn’t Sandy. He’d never actually met her socially. He’d named her Sandy after her beautiful hair. She didn’t do much; a few poses, a stride around in her patent leather thigh-boots; leaning over the solitary chair in the centre of the booth - it was the ‘finale’ that Barry fed upon, the Christine Keeler! It was the most erotic thing he’d ever seen.
When (and hopefully soon) his mother died it was Barry’s plan to convert the house into luxury apartments and realise a shitload of money. Enough for him to take Sandy away from all of this. To pamper her and make love to her, to shower her with gifts; and to live happily ever after somewhere nice and sunny – Portugal, perhaps.
With a click the light was extinguished and the distant buzz of a motor heralded the closing of the curtains. Barry returned up the stairs, past the moron and the doorman – neither saw him leave: They never see The Grey Man.
Later, back at the office Barry was washing his hands in the Gents. He shook the water off and ran his fingers through his greying hair – Still got my hair, thanks, dad. As he checked himself in the mirror to his annoyance he noticed one of the spare buttons common to double-breasted suits was missing. Bugger! Where the hell is that? He was still annoyed about it when he returned to his desk.
A glance down to the bottom right-hand corner of his monitor told him it was 4.30. Still another one hour and fifteen minutes to go. Poisonous mushrooms, they might work. I could get some (don’t know where from though) and leave them for her to have for her lunch. I’d be well away, in my office, and not a suspect. He Googled, poisonous mushrooms and was overwhelmed by the 352,000 entries! As he scrolled through the many pages his attention was caught by a movement he saw in his peripheral vision. He turned his head towards Hope’s office to see a uniformed constable and what might be a plain-clothes officer, entering, their bodies obscuring the Hope & Son inscribed in gold-leaf on the glass. I wonder what the Son’s been up to this time?. Barry grinned, and returned his attention to his PC; this time Googling, property conversions london.
Every lunchtime, Elsie had her routine: a sandwich, a cup of weak tea and the BBC News at One. She’d watch the news until Neighbours came on and then she’d turn off the TV in the kitchen and, if it was a Wednesday she’d get the playing cards and the sherry out for her weekly session of gin-rummy with her friend, Nance. Today was a Wednesday.
It was during these lunchtime rituals that Elsie’s mind wandered back to the happy times she and Arthur shared; the visits to see aunt Gladys; the balls and functions they attended where, on the occasions Arthur wasn’t performing, they danced the nights away. A twinge in left her hip would drag her back to reality, a reminder of a hip replacement operation a few years back; however she was still as sprightly now (well, almost) as she’d been then, regular exercise and a good outdoor life and kept her fit and relatively active. She led a full and happy life and didn’t have many regrets, but one she did harbour was her inability to have any more children after the birth of Barry. Adopting had been considered, but that was as far as it went – just a consideration. Over the years she looked upon her ‘accident’ as a blessing; Barry was a difficult and demanding child and he would have made it impossible to tend to any other children.
The news was on, she had her tea and her sandwich, and she sat at the table. She was just about to bite into a lovely piece of ox tongue when she glanced across the kitchen, got up from the table and went over, bent down and stood up again. “Now, where is my basket?” she asked herself. “Ah, yes. The back bedroom.” She replied to no one in particular. So saying she exited the kitchen, crossed the hallway and climbed the stairs. As she pushed open the bedroom door she stopped. “Oh silly me, it’s not in here, it’s in the parlour behind Barry’s chair.” Muttering to herself about her mind going she about turned and headed back to the stairs.
It wasn’t the abrupt halt at the bottom of the stairs that killed her when she hit the hallway wall with a loud thump! It was the threadbare seventh tread as it made contact with her skull, instantly snapping her neck like a Twiglet. She’d known she was falling. Despite her advanced years she contorted her body round as she lashed out in a vain attempt to grasp the banister or one of its rails. If it wasn’t so tragic her graceful movements would have gained her a good score in a high-diving competition. She didn’t feel any pain, death was instantaneous; her demise accompanied by a loud CRACK as her life-force was extinguished.
It was Nance who discovered her body. She arrived at 2.03. Rang the doorbell . . . knocked on the door . . . but Elsie didn’t materialise. She could hear the closing bars of Neighbours drifting through from the kitchen. Neighbours? Elsie can’t abide Neighbours! So thinking, she popped open the letter box to call out Elsie’s name. Before the words left her lips she saw in the hallway, Elsie, her limbs at impossible angles, a pool of dark liquid she knew to be blood pooling around her outstretched arm.
It was she who called the ambulance. It was they that called the police.
The police arrived first in the form of P.C. Jack Gibson. A policeman of the old-school – big, brawny; fingers like pork sausages and ears like halves of bagels. His broad shoulders soon made short work of the door jamb as it splintered open under his powerful charge.
He stepped into the hallway and knelt by the body, Nancy peeking, tearfully, behind him. Elsie was obviously dead, her eyes were staring up at him, her head hanging back and to one side; her neck definitely broken. Cause of death? Broken neck he looked up and saw the chipped tread one third down from the top after a fall down the stairs. CSI? Who needs ‘em? He became aware he was kneeling in Elsie’s blood, and as he began to rise he spotted shards of glass glinting up from the cold terracotta flooring. He reached out and carefully lifted Elsie’s left-hand, turned it over to reveal her wristwatch – an anniversary gift from Arthur many years earlier. The shattered lens revealed at what time the watch had stopped. Time of death, 1.20. Gil Grissom, move over, Jack Gibson is on the way!
He was just about to put her hand back down when he noticed her hand was balled into a fist as if she was clutching something in her bony fingers. With a tenderness belying his bulk he delicately peeled back her fingers one by one to reveal a single, grey button.
© Michael Crane 2006
The Rosemary Clooney Diet - A Personal Account (2003)
I achieved my astounding weight loss by eating cardboard and sick for the last 14 days - or to give it its proper name, Ryvita and cottage cheese. Has anyone tried these two foods at all? I am certain the box containing the Ryvita tastes better than the contents; and the comparison between cottage cheese and sick is spot on - except, perhaps that sick contains more nutrients in the form of bits of carrot and the odd pea.
Why are you dieting, Michael?, I hear you ask. Well it's my age. Listen carefully, for what I am about to tell you will (maybe has) happen to you.
In my teens I had the nickname, Snakehips, because my hips were slim and I was lithe. Sadly now the snake has moved from my hips to my waist and has wrapped several coils around me and has taken up full-time residency.
On my 30th birthday I noted with interest that my waist and age were the same - 30 each. At 35 years the waist had expanded to 31", at 40 years it had gone up to 32". This meant that on my 54th birthday in January of this year I was ballooning out towards 35" in the next 12 months. Do you realise that by the time I reach 100 years old my waist will be a gargantuan 44"? I am in danger of becoming a human Weeble!!! Hence the diet.
Now, good old Rosemary, in her wisdom has decreed that eating cardboard and sick alone are not the answer; we must also exercise. This is done in the form or aerobics; which is Japanese for humiliation.
I thought the best place for me would be at the back of the class for two reasons:
Neither happened. I was placed at the front and they all saw me make a fool of myself and they all ogled my bottom!
Men, if you haven't tried aerobics yet - don't. It takes an enormous amount of co-ordination to smoothly glide from one bit to the other. Daniel Day Lewis showed more co-ordination in My Left Foot than I showed today. When they went left, I went right; when they went up, I went down; when they skipped, I tumbled; when they mamba'd back and forth I fell over my feet. Hopefully, as time goes by and I learn to anticipate the movements rather than try to catch up that two beats behind, things will improve. Fingers crossed!
Finally. One of the ladies said to me, "You're brave, coming to a Rosemary Clooney class. We never get any men. Don't you feel out of place?"
"Out of place? One man - several ample, voluptuous, tightly-clad, bending stretching women? No," I replied, "I'm very much in the right place!"
I've just spent the weekend at the Hilton, Coventry where all the food and drink I could eat and drink was eaten and drunken. And, I got the call of the fig rolls last week, too. I adore fig rolls - so Sharen (bless her) got me a packet of the Go Ahead slimming fig rolls, and they were delicious . . . all of them! Yep, I ate the lot at one sitting; I mean, who on earth can eat one fig roll???
You'll be pleased to know that my co-ordination has improved during the aerobics (see Japanese for humiliation) in two ways.
1. I am getting used to the routine
Mind you, we departed somewhat from the routine this week; we did 'circuit training'. Sounds manly, eh? Well, if squeezing a cushion between your thighs or balancing on a hot-water bottle or hula-hooping can be termed manly, then I'm the man for you.
The old snake-hips came into their own with the hula-hoop, I can tell you. I was swinging it around like they were going out of fashion . . . which they have!
Jo, the instructor, has advised me to cut down on my evening glasses of wine (good, full measures, none of that stingey pub measures for me!). According to her they're costing me about a pound a week - and we aint talking money! So, it'll be diet coke from now on. How shall I survive?
If I haven't wasted away I'll post another update next week.
Over the top? What do you mean, that's a bit over the top? Consider this:
Friday night out at my favourite Italian restaurant celebrating a friend's 50th birthday. I ate:
Starter - 12" tomato & basil garlic bread (actually it's more like a pizza).
Main course - Taglitelli al pollo (chicken and pasta in a creamy sauce). Big portion!
Sweet - Triple scoop mint-chip chocolate ice-cream. No cream, after all, I am on a diet!
Liqueur - One strega (fine Italian liqueur).
Extras - One bottle of Frascati; nicely chilled and all for me!
I consumed all of this . . . and still lost a pound. I love Rosemary Clooney!
The aerobics is getting easier. I've managed to co-ordinate my legs now; all I have to concentrate on in future are my arms. Currently I am in danger of being tilted at by Don Quixote! I flail my arms around like a windmill on speed. A drowning man has more grace than I. Most of the time I restrict them to my sides for fear of knocking out the persons nearest me. Mind you, on the plus side, I do get lots of room!
I'm really getting the hang of this dieting lark. I eat all I want to and then I vomit it all back up again! It worked for the Romans!
Of course, now that I've enlisted with Rosemary Clooney I've become a diet bore. It's amazing the ways in which I can bring dieting into the conversation:
"So, Michael, are you looking forward to your holiday in Turkey?"
"I see Lincoln City are playing in Cardiff this weekend. Will you be going?"
"I see that SARS thing is getting worse. Does it frighten you?"
I didn't stay for the humiliation this week. I felt a bit off to tell you the truth, so I took the dog out for a walk into town. But, this was no ordinary walk. I turned it into an experiment. . .
I took out the kitchen scales and measured out 5½ lbs (flour and a couple of tins of baked beans) to simulate the load of fat I've lost so far. I then plonked it into my back-pack, collared the dog and set off for town. It's amazing how heavy things can be when you've got to tote 'em around with you. When that little lot was lodged around my waist I didn't really notice it - put it on your back and walk two miles and you do!
I'm at that awkward stage of the diet now. My waist has gone down at least 1½" and a lot of my trousers are beginning to hang a bit low around the crotch. I keep tightening my belt, but without that lovely layer of fat anymore, there's nothing for the belt to sink into.
If things continue in this manner, ol' Snakehips will be back.
"Hello waist!" I said.
Yep, I've got my waist back. I really have! I couldn't see it before because of a couple of things - my stomach hanging over it and the snake coiled around me! But, now that my stomach is getting back into shape the waist is there in all its glory.
Now, don't get me wrong, my stomach isn't exactly a six-pack at the moment, but hey, anything but the Party-7 that had insinuated itself there over the years is alright by me.
I didn't lose any weight this week - nor did I gain any, so that's OK. Jo has put it down to a couple of reasons; a possible lapse in calorie counting or replacing fat with muscle (thanks to daily tummy exercises). I think it's both.
I've yet to cut out alcohol completely, but I am trying - honestly. My biggest hurdle is going without my nightly glass of Chardonnay or Merlot with my dinner; I am compelled by some greater force to get out the corkscrew and indulge. I just can't resist.
So this next week I resolve to strenghten my resolve and to count the calories, cut the imbibing and tuck in that tummy. It'll all be worth it when I hit my target weight.
I have to confess, this isn't my first attempt at losing weight. I have tried in the past with qualified success. On all previous occasions I lost the weight from my face, prompting calls of concern from family and friends along the lines of, "My God! Have you got Aids? You look terrible!"
And I did look terrible. To give you a mental picture, I had the face of Victoria Beckham (hollow eyes, sunken cheekbones, pinched expression), and the body of Bernard Manning! There, I've scarred you for life now, haven't I?
The wonderful thing about Rosemary Clooney is that this time the fat I was cultivating for an extended polar expedition (or so it seemed) is falling from my waist and hips - leaving my face full and round and healthy. This is all due to the low-fat diet and exercise I'm now committed to . . . for the rest of my life.
I mentioned last week about my long-time-no-see friend, Waist. Well, now that it's back I can look down and see my feet . . . and if you were not thinking feet, then you should be ashamed of yourself!
I went to the doctors the other day for my annual MOT. He told me I had the heart and lungs of a twenty-year old. They're waiting for me in cold storage for when my own peg out.
Hurrah for me!
All I have to do now is to be careful and to watch out on my alcohol and calorie content whilst in Hisaronu . . . . Yeah, like that'll happen! I'm on holiday, of course I'm going to overdo it - that's what holidays are all about. Mind you, I do promise to take regular exercise. I already have a few routines worked out:
Vigorously rub suntan lotion over the bodies of any topless woman that asks - I wish!
Last week, on the Carvoeiro forum I was asked why no mention of the aerobics. Well, I didn't bother because I was in step and in tune. But, I'll mention it this week because I had a special treat - albeit unintentional. During the routine, Jo decided to turn us all around and let the front become the back. For the first time I was able to look at their bottoms - which was nice.
2006 Update: I've put a bit of weight back on since then and I have returned to the gentle embrace of Jo and Rosemary. Together they are sculpting my body into that of an adonis . . . which will be a change from a doner kebab!
© Michael Crane 2003
My First Trip to Turkey
By Michael Crane
Ah, the old sights
© Michael Crane 2002
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