Monday, 31 October 2011

The 'Tweens by Bobby Stevenson




In all the time that planet Earth had been circling our Sun, it was a miracle that they hadn’t been seen or at least caught on camera before now. 



They had lived here far longer than us and had kept themselves apart from us. Perhaps that was the reason they survived. Homo Sapien’s impatience with those different from themselves had long been demonstrated. 



They were probably mistaken for Yeti, or Ghosts, or Monsters – Man had called many things monsters except perhaps, himself. 



The Universe was theirs – they lived amongst the dark matter, they lived in the time between seconds, they lived in the rooms that were left empty until we entered them, they lived in the spaces that we had not owned or destroyed. They lived in the inbetween.



There’s one now in the next room from you, living the life of a ‘Tween  - until you turn the door handle that is.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Rockets by Bobby Stevenson




My name is Annie and when I was nine I didn’t have too many friends except my Grandmother who always wanted to be an astronaut. 

She said that my Mother had come along and put an end to that dream, thank you very much for asking - but I hadn’t asked.

I didn’t quite understand how or why my Mother had stopped her being an astronaut but my Grandmother was not one to talk crazy like, so I went along with her story. It had something to do with my Granddad turning my Grandmother’s head with all that kissing nonsense and such like and her being in the family way, thank you very much. 

It didn’t stop me and her always talking about being astronauts and we would look at the maps of the sky and choose which of the planets we would visit first. My Grandmother was going to Jupiter and I was very definitely a Saturn girl.

When I was nine I used to think that my Grandmother smelt a bit funny which I thought was because she was in training and eating special astronaut food. 

One evening, when I was safely sitting on her knee and after she had put a large log on the fire, she told me how she had always dreamed of going to the stars. 
“One November afternoon my parents, your great Grandparents Annie, took my brother and me to see a film at a little tea room down Duchess Street, mind you that street’s all gone now, got bombed in the war and they had to pull the whole lot down.

“By day it sold the most wonderful cakes in the world but in the evening, well then it became a wonderland. Mister Guitolli would hang a white sheet on the wall and then show films from a projector which he turned by hand. He never charged anyone a farthing but at the interval Mrs Guitolli would sell some of that day’s stale cakes for a half penny each. 

“Sometimes, if he had had a hard day, he would turn the projector very slowly and every one would stamp their feet to get him to speed up. Sometimes he would just fall asleep and the film would stop, then smoke would start rising from the projector and people would run out of the cake shop, screaming. They knew it wasn’t a real fire but to us it was the only chance we ever got to scream in front of grown-ups.

“On the days that Mrs Guitolli was in a good mood and kissed Mister Guitolli on the cheek in front of everyone, well those were the days that the people in the films would move very fast as Mister Guitolli wanted to finish early. My Mother never did tell me why he was in so much of a hurry.” Then my Grandmother coughed, cleared her throat and continued.

“One day Annie I saw the most marvellous film, The Journey to The Moon, the one where the rocket lands right in the eye of the Moon’s face. Everyone was laughing but I felt sorry for the Moon and made up my mind that I would go there and apologise for what had happened to his eye.” 

Sadly nothing much happened to my Grandmother and her dream for many, many years, not until the very day of her fiftieth birthday on April the 12th, 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.

My Grandmother decided two things that day: 1 – fifty was no age, no age at all, and fifty year old people could still go to the Moon and 2 – if anything happened to Granddad, God forbid, she would marry Yuri. There was a time when she more inclined to John Glenn, the first American in space than Yuri, but in the end the Russian won her heart. He was her first Cosmonaut and that was that.

My Grandmother said that every day she would check the newspapers looking for an advert that would state ‘Have you ever considered being an Astronaut or Cosmonaut? Then telephone the following number .....” but she never did find it, “Must have been on one of the days I didn’t buy a newspaper.”  she said.

She always wondered, considering the amount of people she had told about her dream, why the rocket folks hadn’t actually contacted her. “I mean”, she said “wouldn’t it be better having a really enthusiastic astronaut than a reluctant one?” 

She even wrote to the Russian Embassy who invited her to tea one afternoon and told her that the waiting list to be a cosmonaut was so long that she would be a hundred and twenty years old by the time they got to her. She had to agree that one hundred and twenty was a good age but mentioned that if her name did come up, then could they contact her anyway? The man said he’d put her name down on the list straight away and sent her home with a signed photo of Yuri that said ‘To my comrade’.

Apollo eight was the next big milestone in my Grandmother’s life and that was the one that got me interested.
In March of ’68 Yuri died in a tragic accident and my Grandmother went into a mild sort of mourning. Other people were twisting to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones but my Grandmother had all the heroes she needed in one man and now he was gone. My Grandfather used to be jealous of a person he had never met and would refer to him as ‘that bloody communist’ but after Yuri Gagarin’s death, and I’m ashamed to say it, my Grandfather started to whistle. It led me to wonder if he hadn’t had Yuri bumped off.  

My Grandmother gave me a poster of the crew of Apollo Eight to hang on my wall, I still remember their names: the commander was Frank F Borman the 2nd, James A Lovell Junior was the Command Module Pilot and William A Anders, the Lunar Module Pilot. 

I always wondered what happened to Frank Borman the 1st and James Lovell Senior, were they lost in space somewhere?  

In those days, the launching of a rocket was the most important thing in the world – at least to me. Every television channel would cover it and very clever people with extremely large foreheads would discuss it for hours on end. We would sit with bowls of popcorn and devour every delicious second of the programmes and when the talking got boring, Grandmother would test me on all the people who had ever been in space. 

We had a happy Christmas and we made it extra so, because my Father was off to Singapore in the New Year to work for several months. My Mother and I moved in with Grandmother in order to provide company for us all and I was more than delighted. 

Apollo 9 was a bit of a strange one and never really went anywhere, there was lots of talk of trying out modules but to be really cross-my-heart-honest, I found it boring. 

The next trip was really exciting, the guys were going to go to the Moon to try everything except landing. I thought it was a shame and so did my Grandmother “Why couldn’t they just let them land on the Moon for five minutes?” she said, but it wasn’t to be and they all had to come home again. 

In July 1969, me, my Mother and my Grandmother all went out to Singapore to see my Father and we had the best time ever. It was a truly amazing place and it was there we got to see Neil Armstrong on television, not just land on the Moon but actually walk on it. It was brilliant. 

My Grandmother and I sat there holding our breaths as Commander Neil put his foot on the Moon’s surface. My Father said he thought that his foot would go right through and he’d get stuck but then I caught him winking at my Mother - my Father, not Neil Armstrong. 

I remember the day I asked my Grandmother who the first man to walk on the Moon was and she said “where dear?” and I have to tell you, I thought that was a funny thing to say. “Too late” I said, “It was Neil Armstrong”.
“Who dear?” 

Then I heard she’d fallen down the stairs which I was sure was due to her Astronaut training. She was very hard on herself. 

She never did tell me she was going to Astronaut Training Camp, my Father did. I asked him whether my Grandmother had found the advert in the paper and he said that she had and that they had accepted her. So I was pleased but I really wished she had told me herself.

Then one day my Father looked really sad and told me that I had to be brave and I said I was. He said that his Mother, my Grandmother, had gone to live on the Moon and I said stop talking crazy like as Apollo Twelve wasn’t due to take off for some months. He told me that she had been sent on a secret mission and that I was to tell no one. I never did. 

When I was nine years of age my Grandmother went to the Moon and didn’t come back.

She will soon and I bet she’s building a rocket even now.



Wednesday, 26 October 2011

One Day by Bobby Stevenson




One day when this journey’s ended,
When the sun is setting low,
You’ll come for me and wait for me,
Where the wild blue waters flow.

One day when I’m old and tired,
When this life is almost through,
You’ll lift me up and carry me,
To the peace that we once knew.

One day when the heartache’s over,
When the tears no longer come,
You’ll whisper softly in my ear,
My love,
My love,
Come home.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Stones by Bobby Stevenson



Willie wiped his brow and looked out at the desert. There had been stories as far back as the dawn of time about the desert, the Moonboy Hills and those stones.

It had been said that when the stones started to move the end was coming. Willie always wondered what end these folks were talking about. He had been too long in the saddle to really care about such things now. There were names and places that he had started to forget and well, his end was probably coming sooner rather than later.

Willie guessed there must be a right time for everything.

He remembered when he was a boy and that first evening he’d ridden up into the Moonboys. He’d been arguing with his paw about some nonsense or other. Taking off with his old horse General had seemed the easiest way to resolve things. The first two nights had been lonely and cold, boy could it get cold up there.
On the third night he’d taken shelter in a cave and managed to light a fire. That was when he saw them - the weird carvings on the far wall. 

When he’d asked around town about them, one of those clever college guys had talked about the pre-Clovis people being responsible but Will had no idea what he was going on about. The Professor had asked if Will could take him to the exact place where he’d seen the carvings but Will wasn’t too keen. He just said he’d forgotten. Anyhow Willie felt it went a lot deeper and darker than those Clovis folks, there was something strange about those signs and that was the truth.

Funny thing to tell, he’d never actually shown anyone other than his own family the location of the carvings. In his teenage years Willie had spent a lot of time up in the hills worrying and thinking about one thing or another.
Girls, money, work, you name it he always took his problems ‘to the cave’.

When he met Sarah he’d stopped going up there. Then, when the kids had come along, he’d take them up one by one on his horse to show them the pictures. But they had all grown up and moved away and no one apart from his youngest Brad had kept up any interest in the place.

Recently after Sarah’s death he’d found himself coming back to the place more and more, to think over his life. Things didn’t feel so lonely up there. The kids and their children very rarely came visiting anymore and he’d usually see the clan at some Christmas get-together, then nothing until the following year.

Willie didn’t mind saying it, he was as lonely as hell and wondering if it was time he should be moving on. Life was for the young and he would tell you, he hated getting old. It hurt in every sense of the word. He was tired and it was as plain and simple as that.

Then a couple of weeks ago the stories had started circulating around the place. Over at Jacob’s Rock and in Wall Fire Alley there had been folks talking about the stones, they were moving, sometimes as much as several feet in a night.

Over in Kent County a minister had called it the end of days. He’d seen the stones moving with his own eyes, may God strike him down if he was lying.

Some folks from the big city came and took photos of the stones and they were kind of thinking that the locals were up to no good, perhaps moving them in the middle of the night. But as the good folks of the Moonboys had seen, there were no footprints near the stones. No rope marks. No way, anyone or, anything could have been involved.

Sixty years before the stones started moving when Willie was still a teenager, he had taken a rubbing of the cave carvings. He was sure he still had them somewhere.

After a barrel load of searching one stormy afternoon, he’d found them in the attic, three clear images of the carvings.

The first image was of little rocks sitting on a plain. In the second, the rocks had changed position and they all seemed to have moved or been moved in the same direction. On the third there was a figure that someone in antiquity had attempted to erase from the carving by rubbing over the image with something rough.

It had never made any sense to Willie except there was something peaceful about the carvings and the cave. There was no doubt about it there was a connection between the story that these carvings were telling and the rocks moving.

Willie decided he’d go out to Lazy Boy Canyon and have a look for himself. He’d go at night when the desert was a lot cooler then he’d catch the stones as the sun came up.

He pitched his old tent by an overhang that helped him get some shelter from the frost. He tried as best he could to get some sleep but this wasn’t a night for it.

Just after two in the morning he could hear a scraping not too far from the tent, he guessed it was just another lonely animal out looking for company or food.

He rested a while but around four in the morning the sun rose over the top of the Moonboys and caused the tent to heat up real bad. Willie felt the only place to go was outside and anyway he was eager to see the stones.

Sure enough, there they were, streaks of sand behind them like they had been moving on their own.



Surely that couldn’t have been what he’d heard in the dark of night?
Willie walked over to the rock and all of a sudden he felt a peace come down on him like he’d never felt before.

He bent down and touched the rock and smiled.

A few days later they found the tent but nothing was ever found of Willie.

There was one strange thing that only the wild animals would have seen, the rock that Willie had touched had moved forwards a few feet.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Be Who You Are by Bobby Stevenson



Be who you are,
Be magnificent,
Be strong,
And except to those who cared too much,
The one who never quite belonged.

Be who you are,
Stand tall, unique
Be grand
The one who smiled at little jokes,
That no one else could understand.

Be who you are,
Let laughter roll the same as tears
Take pleasure in the here and now,
Not in the days or months or years.

Be who you are,
Be loved
And loving everything,
Don’t back away from chance nor dare,
You too will have your song to sing.

Be who you are,
Let happiness and joy
Break through,
The universe was wise enough
To only make the one of you.































Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Somewhere South by Bobby Stevenson




It was yellow that was the only way to describe the day. A sort of washed out yellow but then so were we - we too, were washed out.

The hotel itself was like an asylum decorated in muddy brown and the light, which fought the unwashed windows, gave the lobby an almost unreal quality. There was a woman at reception who was too busy flirting with the mail man to look over as she took our room keys.

“I swear this place ain’t seen paint since Eisenhower’s day” and as she laughed, she sweated even more and didn’t care that the whole world could see she only had one tooth in her head.Her neighbour, who lived just down the street in Pennsylvania Avenue, was Jimmy Carter but she didn’t see too much of him.

Then there was me and my pal Stu, two kids who were simply travelling and had decided long ago that planning was for other people. So on that hot and yellow sticky day we were aiming for the bus station and heading ‘somewhere south’. 

As we passed the FBI building, I was trying to remember a while back when I had been here with my family. We’d got caught in a downpour and had run into the J. Edgar Hoover building looking for shelter. We'd thought it was a bus station – as you do, didn’t take us long to find out it wasn’t.

Yesterday had been the Fourth of July.

After the parade, we had found ourselves sitting across from the White House where we saw what we thought to be a music concert. Cross my heart and hope to die, we honestly did think it was a music concert; there was music and there were people, what else would you think?

There was an old man throwing marijuana joints from a bag to the crowd while singing the Beatles ‘Eight Days a Week’. This was the summer of ’77, people did things like that back then. It was only when the cops on horseback started to move in that we realised it was a ‘legalize cannabis’ demo. I swear to God, it was only then.

I think it was Stu who shouted “run” and that’s what we did, all the way around to the other side of the White House where we lay on the grass next to the Washington Monument and waited for the fireworks – the ones that explode in the night sky, not the metaphorical kind.They never happened.

Some non-American guys made a camp next to us and by non-American, I mean we found out they were all from a well-known Australian rock band. One we’d actually heard of and they were good. The funny thing about this life is how it drops clues into your lap when you aren't even looking for them but I’ll come to that a bit later.

The guys from OZ spent the evening making weird and wonderful shapes, many of them pornographic, out of inflatable balloons. These kids could entertain even when they weren’t on stage and, all in all, Independence night, 1977 turned into a good one. We were still talking about it all the way to the bus the next day.

We were soon heading for a place somewhere north of Savannah, Georgia - that’s as much as I want to tell you right now. We travelled through the night and hit an Atlantic resort just as the town’s thermometer was showing the high eighties and it was still only breakfast time.

Some places just don’t do it for you and this was one of them. It had everything and nothing and so we decided to move on as quickly as possible – or rather return north. A couple of stops back was a place in the middle of nowhere, we’re talking a couple of houses and a horse at most.

What we had noticed as we'd passed through the first time was that this little town had the same name as the Oz band we’d been sitting next to the night before; see what I mean about the world working in mysterious ways?

Boy when the local bus dropped us at ......, no I ain’t going to tell you the name but we were ready for passing out. The air con didn’t work and there were far too many people on board.
Here we were in the middle of nowhere, so Stu said let’s just walk and we did, for several miles.
Until we hit the Intracoastal and to save some time here's the Wikipedia explanation:

The Intracoastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile (4,800-km) waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Some lengths consist of natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, and sounds

; others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea.


Next to the Intracoastal was a solitary motel, a little like that one out of Psycho and yet a bit of a momma and pappa place too - you know homely as well.At the reception was an old drunk lady who was picking fleas from her dog.

“Can I help you boys?”I told her we wanted a room - and to make it cheap.“That’s the only kind we got in these parts honey. My husband will be along shortly to escort you young gentleman to your boudoir.”Looking back I remember that’s exactly how she said it ‘boudoir’, like she had been invented by Tennessee Williams.

She thumped an old brass bell on the reception desk as if folks were going to come jumping out of doorways any minute, but nothing much happened for a long time. We could hear the noise of an old worn out golf cart and then we saw his leg.

As he drove manically into the reception area, his army charge was led by his broken leg sticking out a good two feet in front of him (if you’ll pardon the pun).

“Hi boys, hop on.”
"The Atlantic Room." She said.
"Sure hun."

And her husband drove us like an insane person over to one of the far rooms.
“Not too many folks staying at the moment, so you boys can party all night. Now, you’ll need to excuse me.”
And he slapped his leg. “Here’s your keys boys, you can let yourselves in.” And with that, he was army charging back to the inebriated wife and the infested dog.

We found the solitary store which sold beers and chips and we made do with that for our evening meal. The next morning there was a knock at the door. Outside the owner was hitting our motel door with a large stick.“You boys up yet? I got a proposal to make to you. Come on down to the house when you’re ready.”

So we’re sitting there with the drunk wife (yep, that time in the morning and she was already gone) picking the zoo of creatures from her dog’s back, and the husband who had slid himself on to a stool. I had started to wonder if he slept in the golf buggy.

“Me and the good wife have been talking. Now until this leg...”
 and he knocked it three times on the cast “well,until it’s mended, I’m going to need some assist-tance” that was just the way he said it ‘assist-tance’,
”You boys can have a room between you and some cash. Can’t say fairer.”

Stu and I decided that was fair and we accepted. It was six bucks a day, our food and a room. Not the one we were currently in however but a more damp ridden one around to the rear of the hotel. It had a roof and beds and that was it.

For six bucks a day we had to clean the rooms, clean the pool and empty the trash, work in the kitchen and Stu (only because the Southerners could understand him better than me) worked in the bar. If I’m being real honest Stu was given, and gratefully received, all the easy jobs – if you’re reading this buddy, you know it’s true.It was a wonderful time, even if working in almost 100 degrees made the job that little bit harder.

 My first activity of the day was to clean out all the vacated rooms then put on new sheets and generally clean up - Stu’s job, at this time of day, was to empty the garbage then as I far as I can remember play the large old church organ which lay at the bottom of the steps in the big house, until hunger made him move.Now I may be doing Stu a disservice here but I don’t think so.

We both worked in the kitchens around lunchtime and as anyone who works in a kitchen will testify, it doesn't make you want to eat in the place. 

We did terrible things to peoples’ food. Taking anything that could be saved from an incoming plate, putting it on an outgoing one after heating it a little. Still there are some things in this life that you’re better not knowing.
Everyone had a siesta in the afternoon as, by then, it was well into the 100s. In the evening I served tables as Stu played the cocktail maestro. 

Now we both come from the same part of Scotland, although Stu’s lawyers have asked me not to be specific about the location as he has been telling terrible lies about his birthplace in recent years. However those people drinking in the bar could understand his tongue as if he was born there. Me? Well they always asked why I spoke all that weird Spanish – go figure.

It’s the next bit that has been troubling me all my life.

Really, this is the point of this story and why I am reluctant to tell you where it is.
One of my odder jobs in the morning was to get an old man out of his room, let him have some fresh air then stick him back in his newly cleaned room. Oh yeh, and put a new bottle of bourbon on his bedroom table. After that I had to ensure that I locked the door.

Yeh, you read it correctly, I’d lock the door. I had to unlock it and let him out in the morning. Now he wasn’t actually old, probably only in his forties but with my young years and his drinking, it made him seem a lot older.

I used to sit him by the pool and away from any of the other guests – those were my instructions – and when I cleaned his pee-stinking room, changed the sheets and replaced the drink, I’d help him back in.
Sometimes he would grab my hand and smile, other times he would say only one thing, the thing that has haunted me all those years: ‘help me’.  

One night, just before we left the motel, the question of the man in room 17 came up and a young Inuit (or Eskimo as we called her then) told me his story. It seemed that he’d been a top class, grade A lawyer but he’d murdered his wife. When some technicality or other had made things complicated, he had appealed and been released from prison early.

However someone, and no one knew who - or so they said - paid to have him stay in a small room in a stinking run down motel in the middle of nowhere.He was to talk to no one and be kept with as much alcohol as he wanted.You’re probably thinking how stupid I was not to have seen what was happening. It still wakens me up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I was his prison guard and all he wanted to do was tell someone, something – maybe the truth.

All I can say is how truly sorry I am.

 Stu and I had to leave in a hurry as some guy from the British Embassy was staying with his family and he warned us if we continued to work, he’d have to turn us in. So once again we headed somewhere south.

The place isn’t there now and I guess most of them are dead. 

The guy with the broken leg had been beaten up by three native Americans who wouldn’t pay their bill.There’s more I would like to tell you about that place but I’ll save that until the next time we meet.

Until then don't let anyone lock you in any room.











  

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

One Rainy Day, Somme, 1916 by Bobby Stevenson

And I have laid thee down my love,


In a bed of silk and lace,


And a garland for your hair my love,


And a warm wind for your face,


And I would give you ships my love,


And stars to guide you by,


But will not watch you growing old,


And you will not watch me die.  



                                                             

A Toast To All (poem) by Bobby Stevenson




To all the love,
That died unspoken,
To all the hearts,
So gently broken,
To all the tears,
That fell unseen,
To all the things,
That might have been.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

That Gregory Peck Incident by Bobby Stevenson




She’d been living in the city long enough to remember to call an elevator - the lift, and the place where she was standing right now was a bookshop not a store.  

London was a million miles away from northern Virginia but home was where God had placed her whereas this big city was her current choice in life.

She had been born in the town of Herndon, right under the flight path to Dulles airport. That was when the place was little more than an oversized village, but now each of the towns had grown to touch the next  until there were buildings all the way to the Potomac river and into Washington itself.

Nancy had never really seen D.C. as a city, to her it was just another small town where everyone knew everyone else. She had worked in administration at William and Mary College in Williamsburg but when her mother remarried and moved out, Nancy needed more money and took a job at Georgetown University. It was a bit more travelling but boy was it worth it.  

Although Washington had always been on her doorstep, it was only when she started working there that she appreciated how beautiful the place was. Her father had been employed in the tax offices on Pennsylvania Avenue and at weekends the last thing he wanted to do was take the family back into the city. So for a long time she remained ignorant of what it had to offer.

Her father was many years older than her mother and died when Nancy was still relatively young. Eventually her mother married another government official and moved a few miles away to Great Falls, a more upmarket estate on the edge of the Potomac. Nancy very rarely visited her mother until her second husband also passed away and then she found herself visiting on a weekly basis.

Nancy and her mother grew closer during those years, walking in the Great Falls Park everyday and watching the great and the good of Washington riding their horses through the woods. When her mother began to lose her battle with ill health, Nancy sold own her flat and moved in with her. She eventually gave up her job to nurse her mother full time and over the next three and a half years she did so, until her mother quietly passed away.

Nancy found herself with no family to speak of, no partner, no job and very few friends who weren’t married - in fact nothing but a huge empty house overlooking a river. It was then that the idea came to her to sell up and travel the world. There would be enough money from the sale to keep her comfortable for a few years.

What she didn’t expect was to arrive at her first stop on the itinerary and stay there.

Eighteen months she had been in London and now she was employed at a branch of a well known American magazine. Someone she had known at Georgetown had recommended her, one quick interview and the job was hers.

The work was hard, the hours were long and initially, to Nancy, it seemed that the city was indifferent to most. Unlike D.C. she felt that no one really knew anyone in London or for that matter really cared whether they did or not.

She had rented a decent sized apartment   (or flat as she now called it) just off of Kensington High Street. Her wages as a personal assistant would have never covered the cost of her living there alone, so until she decided what her next move was, she subsidised the rent with her own savings.

The folks in the office were mostly from back home and would socialize on occasion; the 4th of July, Christmas holidays, Hanukkah and New Years. She had hooked up with a couple of boyfriends but nothing to make her stay. If she was being honest with herself, she had been already thinking of moving on to Paris or to Prague. She had been to check out both places over several weekends and liked what she saw. Air travel within Europe was so cheap these days that almost anywhere was within easy and inexpensive reach.

Her office was in a prestigious building on Piccadilly which meant at lunchtimes she could take in art galleries, sunbathe in Trafalgar Square, see the movers and shakers in Downing Street, or just take a wander through the West End and people watch.

She’d developed an odd little hobby, one that she would most definitely keep to herself. In D.C. there were never that many interesting buildings with elevators, at least not ones which were open to the public. So when she came to London she was fascinated with riding in lifts, something she had loved since she was a kid.  Nancy felt that if something was meant to be then it would happen, so when she discovered an interesting building with a lift, she would take it and get out on the top floor.

It always led her to some adventure or another but she was wary that one day it might get her into trouble - it never did; she played ‘Elevator Lottery’ and she always won.

On this particular day she was in her favourite bookshop, at the far end of Piccadilly, looking at nothing in particular yet at the same time watching the British at leisure. She noticed something she had never seen before - a lift over in a dark corner of the shop. There was no point in resisting as she was determined to find out what on the floors above.  

She pressed the call button and when the doors opened, she stepped inside discovering it was empty. She then selected the highest number - ten - and pressed it. Sometimes it was nothing more than the administration floor full of accountants and managers and on those occasions she would make her excuses and take the stairs down. Even under these circumstances she would find forgotten floors. 

The doors opened at the top and delivered her into the most charming of tearooms, one that was open to the public but, by the looks of it, was a well kept secret. This was a place for those who knew. The tables by the window had the most marvellous views of Westminster , Pall Mall and the parks.

Some sat at tables reading their latest purchases, some wrote on computers, some talked to lovers while holding hands. Nancy couldn’t understand why in all the months she had been working in London no one had told her of this place. Perhaps if you stumbled upon the tearooms it was because you felt it was meant and there was no need to make its existence widely known to those who were not so deserving of such a prize.

Nancy took the last table for two beside the window and ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea and two scones. These arrived at her table very quickly and were delivered with a glass of water which she appreciated. She looked around the room and saw contentment on the faces of her fellow tea drinkers and made a mental note that she too would keep this place a secret.  As she bit into the crumbling scone she realised just how British she was becoming.

“May I?”

His question pulled her away from her thoughts.
Her eyes met a well dressed man in his twenties, who had a kind face and who was looking around as if to say, this is the last seat in the room.  It wasn’t of course but it was easier to join another single soul than push into a table of three or four.  

“Of course, please sit.”

He pulled the other chair from under the table and sat.

“You’re American?”

“Virginian.”

“How splendid, I’ve been there, a wonderful State.”

He passed his hand above her cup and took in the aroma, “Earl Grey?”

“Mmm”

“Waiter, same please.”

She had loved the first scone but didn’t dare lift the second until his also had arrived. People couldn’t help it and were usually unaware of it but when only one person was eating, the other one at the table normally watched as their companion ate every mouthful. It was what we humans did.

When his tea and scones arrived they both got stuck in.  Nancy told that him this was all part of her world tour, that was if she ever left London. He told her that his name was Alfred and that he worked in public relations.


"Sometimes I just walk away for a shirt while, when it all gets too much. I find this a nice place to think, to get things clear in my head." He said.

She smiled and felt as if she recognized his face, perhaps from television but was too afraid to mention it.

When they had finished their tea, he asked if she would like a walk or as he put it ‘a perambulation’ which she laughed at and he seemed to enjoy.  They walked down Lower Regent Street and across Pall Mall, down the stairs and into St James’ Park.

By this time the sun was shining and the park was awash with wild life, they sat on the grass and watched the world going by.
“I never get a chance like this.”
“What to sit in the park?” asked Nancy.
“I suppose, I am always busy and if not, someone always finds something for me to do.”  

And talking of working , Nancy suddenly realised that she had to get back to work.

“If you must” he said, sadly.

“Oh, I must, I must.” And she wished him well giving him a kiss on both cheeks. Yes she was becoming European.

“Perhaps if you are ever in the tea room again, we might meet.”

“Perhaps” said Nancy.

And with that Nancy walked back towards Piccadilly even though she was sure he was still staring .
As she was perambulating  up Lower Regent Street, she realised that she did indeed hope she would meet him again in that secret tea room.

Twice a week she went back for several weeks but he never turned up.

Then one afternoon, as she sat down for her usual Earl Grey and scones, she started reading an early evening newspaper that had been left on the table and there he was in a photo on the front page.

Prince Alfred off to Afghanistan, it continued, the Queen’s grandson is off to fight for his country.....

Now there was a story to tell one day.

She took the stairs back down to the ground floor and went to the film section where she bought a copy of Roman Holiday - that one where Gregory Peck plays an American journalist who runs into a beautiful girl who happens to be a princess.

That night she poured a glass of wine, watched the movie and felt, for the first time in a very long time, that everything was going to be okay.