Wednesday, 22 July 2020

CURD THE LION ON 32,000+ WORLDWIDE. (Oh, and an old Alice in Wonderland poster)

No news is good news, right?
Well, if you class being ignored by British publishers as being no news, and iff you class that as good news, well then...
(But at least some kids are buying and reading it, somewhere in the world)

So, to keep my multitudinous blog readership happy, as Delia Smith would say: “Here’s one I prepared earlier...”

Poster drawn for my kids’ school play in 1986? Now suitably aged?
Which character is your favourite?
I thought Alice is big enough already and doesn’t need to be blown up!

The old twelve ball conundrum

I was just reminded of my ‘triumphant’ [ ;) ] solution to a mathematics puzzle while at the The Daily Telegraph!
It had evaded a young man (80+) ever since since uni days and he wrote to the paper asking to know the answer before he popped his clogs.
Normally solved algebraically (which I can’t stand), I solved it in my lunch break at the D.T. visually.
Checked by proper mathematicians and approved - this was published the next day (along with an algrebraic solution on another page)


(Obviously, click on each to see whole image)


This is for the delight of all those who don’t get on with algebra!

Friday, 10 April 2020


I do not post frequently anymore - given that it is pointless speaking to an empty auditorium - and social media are so full of garrulousness that the resulting cacophony constitutes white noise, a cavernous emptiness.

But here is a short story that forms both a stand alone tale from my AnaThema (poems and short stories) and the opening chapters of the White Edition of The Flight of Birds.
I put this story here because both books, under my alter ego Alan Howard, are almost impossible to get hold of.


   Amelia looked out of her bedroom window overlooking the square. Small clouds were playing across the grass under the watchful eye of the sun. The trees solemnly whispered their secrets into the deeper shades fringing the square, only to have them snatched away by the inquisitive shadows of the clouds flitting through and thrown in careless asides to one another across the bristling manicured lawns designed for the gentry of years gone by.
   What secrets these trees could tell, she thought; whole histories of laughter and pain, as generations of people sped through the square with their triumphs and tragedies, as fleeting and impermanent to their greater lives as these playful petulant clouds.
   And of her own secret? What did they know of that? What did they whisper in their strange rustling tongues about Amelia Pegler and her so-fleeting presence here?
   Children, now, were playing out of school on this late spring afternoon, careless of all but the moment, as hers had been not so long ago. She remembered folding her own little Katie into her arms as that mother over there was now doing; healing her with a kiss, just as she was.
   It was as if she, Amelia, and Katie were revisiting the square as it was then; as if she was reliving this past now from her elevated perspective, up here on her verandah; as if the opening of these French-doors with their soft lace filtering the vulgar glare of reality, as if this act of itself could, in a blinding instant, transport her to see what she would see, what she willed herself to see: herself, Katie and John, her husband, in those happier times when there was hope and simply a future to be taken for granted.
   The sudden squalling of a child on the green, rising to a wailing crescendo; the sight of her squirming in her mother’s arms and pointing a blaming finger at a little boy nearby, of their rising and approaching the boy; the mother’s gesticulations, so obviously angry, so blatantly defending her little darling, despite the perplexed protestations of the little fellow, sharply awoke Amelia from her reverie. She rose slowly from her chair in the window and walked to the railings.
   She looked along the road edging the square, then diagonally across the square itself to the point where her daughter, Katie, returning from school, would cross at the Pelican crossing before making her way either round or across the square.
   She kept this vigil each day: Kate’s rounding into view, the raising of her eyes towards the balcony, the breaking out of her smile and the shy wave of recognition. She lived for these moments when, separated, however briefly, they were reunited once again.
   Amelia waited until Katie appeared and waved, as always, before re-settling herself in her armchair in the sun.
   How many more days, she wondered? She was blowing her nose clumsily as Kate stepped into the room and Kate’s vision of her was of a half-silhouetted figure in her armchair, her head stooped against the brightness outside.
   “Mother, you shouldn’t sit so long in a draft like that; you’ll catch your…” Kate stopped.
   “Death of cold?” Amelia chuckled. “Would it were so easy, my dear. I would welcome it.”
   “How are you today?” Kate knelt before her, taking her hands and kissing them, before placing them back in her lap and looking up into her grey-blue eyes.
   “Oh, alright. So-so, you know. I’m still here,” Amelia replied, “Make me a fresh cup of tea, will you darling? Mine’s gone cold,” and then, silently, to herself alone: I love to see you move about me, Katie, my darling; so young and lithe and guileless. Your every gesture, the angle of your wrist as you pour from the pot, the tinkling circles of your stirring, the way your eyes glance up to meet mine as you hand me my cup, the mellow purring of your conversation, recounting the day’s events, which falls upon the nape of my neck like a gentle stroking in the twilight of my attention, inducing bliss…
   “Careful, Mum, you’ll spill it!” Kate leaped forward to steady her mother’s cup.
   Jogged out of her meditation, Amelia said: “I’m sorry, dear, I seem to nod off so easily these days.”
   “Perhaps it’s the medicine? Shall I reduce the dose?” asked Kate, “Are you in pain now? If not, I could reduce it a bit.”
   “Yes, you could try that for a while. It might help keep me awake. I don’t like falling asleep when you are here. It seems such a waste.” Amelia smiled. “I stay awake when you’re not here, you know, because I worry for you. And then, when you are here, it’s such a relief I suddenly seem to relax and nod off, just when I least want to. It must seem as if I don’t care.”
   “Never mind, Mother. Shall I put some music on?”
   “If you like. You choose something. I’d like to listen to what you like. It makes me feel as if I can come closer to knowing you, from within, so to speak.”
   “Ok. You asked for it.” Kate picked up her laptop and picked an album. A raucous dissonant music reverberated from the speakers of the hi-fi they had set up in her mother’s room. “Is that loud enough for you? I think I’ll shut the doors now, before the neighbours complain.”
   Amelia watched her as she went to the French-windows and looked out. The world would be continuing much as it had half-an-hour earlier, with little regard for their domestic tableau. As it would long after their small charade was done.
   The light became diffuse and hazy where the sun shone through the lace, and waves of subtle hues flowed across the room with the slow motions of the curtains. Its dreamy peacefulness contrasted sharply with the bellowing issuing from the speakers. Amelia smiled as she watched her daughter. Her intense green eyes like sea-grass, the fleck of pale grey that ran through Kate’s auburn hair above her left temple was as if a single shaft of sunlight had crept through the closed curtains to shine onto  it.
   “Strange,” thought Amelia, “I wonder how she came by it? She has always refused to dye it out. Maybe she regards it as a badge of honour, marking her out as somehow unique.”
    Kate’s feet were tapping furiously with the music as if impatient of this enforced companionship.
   “You can go, if you like,” Amelia said, “Dad will be home soon.”
   “It’s ok. I’ll stay till he comes,” replied Kate, “but do you mind if I do my homework here for a bit? I’ve got rather a lot to get finished tonight.”
   “Of course not. I’ll just listen and watch,” replied Amelia.
   Kate fetched her books and set to at the writing desk near the window.
   Amelia watched her daughter hunched over the books, writing furiously, pausing, looking up into the air and then resuming her scribbling.
   “Such purposefulness,” she thought to herself, “such concentration – as if there were some meaning to it all.”


   Kate Pegler and her father stood arm in arm beside the simple gravestone in the tiny churchyard of her mother’s childhood home. They looked out over the Wildbrooks towards the downs as the clouds in the east turned pink and mauve, reflecting the sunset behind them.
   Refusing cremation, Amelia had wanted to be buried here, in spite of the fact that she was not religious, because these wild meadows, so often flooded, saw the autumn transit of immense flocks of birds in migration from the cold north where they bred, to the warm south in winter, and their return passage in the spring.
   She had always regarded these water meadows as a sort of spiritual nexus, a symbol of the passing from one existence to another. She had told her ‘darling Katie’, that the flight of the birds through this place somehow embodied for her the endless cyclical transformations of the universe. She had told her that she felt more in harmony with the idea of an eternal recurrence than with the hard arrow of time that epitomized the idea of the irreversible progress of man.
   She had told them she wanted to be able to look out over this scene for eternity and feel herself a part of this great rhythm of renewal and rebirth.
   “Ironic, isn’t it,” she had said, “that I should be buried in a Christian churchyard in order to enjoy a very unchristian eternity. But beggars can’t be choosers, and I can’t just go demanding to be buried anywhere. This is the nearest I’ll get to where I want to be.”
   Kate and her father had travelled down from their two-story flat on the tree-lined square in a once well-heeled part of London that morning, after seeing off the removals men and locking up. She had gone back in for one final look round, straight to her mother’s room to fix in her mind that vista that was her mother’s last, from the balcony of her bedroom.

   Kate had been awakened suddenly one morning by a strange screeching noise followed by cry for help from her father.
   Kate rushed in to find her father, John, struggling to hold her steady. Amelia had, with her husband’s help, got out of bed that morning, taken two paces into the room and frozen, wracked with pain.
   Amelia, though as thin as a bird now, had suddenly seemed to take on a deadweight that even his strength found difficult to bear. Every slight movement was accompanied by an uncontrollable scream from her mother.
   Kate took Amelia’s other shoulder, and the pair of them manoeuvred her back to the bed and laid her as gently as possible on it.
   Kate couldn’t help herself bursting into tears in sheer frustration at her helplessness as she whispered endearments into her mother’s ear, stroking her hair. She looked across to her father and saw tears running down his cheeks as he fiddled with her morphine drip.
   “Could you help me with this, Kate,” he said, “I can’t see properly.”
   Kate rushed round the bed, wiping away her own tears and hastily increased the rate of the pump’s infusion.
   Only a few days before they had cut these back because Amelia appeared to be undergoing a phase of remission, experiencing much less pain and being able to go downstairs and walk around their house for the first time in months.
   Soon the muscle-spasm that arched Amelia’s back relaxed, and she subsided into a morphine-induced sleep.
   “I’m afraid this looks like the end, Katie darling.” Her father whispered. “The oncologist said it would reach her spine soon and that that would signal the final phase. We just have to accept it and make her as comfortable as possible.”
“It can’t be, can it?” cried Kate. “She seemed so well yesterday, walking about. She looked so happy as she looked at everything in the living room.
   “It often happens. Remission. Though not so short,” replied her father. “Perhaps she was storing memories, my darling, for when she goes.”
   The Macmillan nurses called an hour later, changed her and made her more comfortable.

   Amelia slipped slowly away. In the first hours she would open her eyes and look lovingly at Katie or John, whoever was keeping watch, swabbing her brow and cleaning her mouth of the saliva gathering there and spilling over as she turned her head in a hopeless attempt to communicate. The only words they understood through the wheezing rattle of her attempts at speech were: “Thank you, thank you.”
   Later she just laid passively, eyes closed, whimpering when any attempt was made to move her. When Kate removed her oversized nappy to change her, she peed like a baby in the sudden rush of cold air.
   She ceased eating. Kate and her father made numerous attempts to force teaspoons of water between her lips.
   Towards the end her frail chest heaved in spasms as she took tiny gasps of air, three or four at a time, and then relaxed and didn’t breathe for what seemed an eternity to Kate. Then she would repeat the process. Her eyes were sunken in their sockets and her cheekbones and nose seemed to grow as the soft tissue dissolved beneath her almost translucent skin.
   Seeing her mother visibly waste before her was too much for Kate, and it was almost with relief that she obeyed her father’s instruction to “nip down to the shops to get us some dinner, or we’ll starve.”
   When she returned, she saw her father standing quietly at the top of the stairs, looking vacant and lost.
   “What is it?” She cried, running straight up the stairs to him, “What’s happened?”
   “She’s dead. She died a few minutes ago. She just opened her eyes wide, took a deep breath and then collapsed back, giving a long sigh.”
   Kate ran in to her mother and was about to fly to the bed to hug her, when she saw the strange expression of surprise in her mother’s wide eyes and open mouth. She seemed beyond reach, now, untouchable. An involuntary shudder shook her to the core.
   Kate approached and looked down at the corpse of her mother, this cage in which her spirit had dwelt. It looked so empty. She gently pushed Amelia’s lower jaw shut and closed her eyelids. Her mother’s expression looked more peaceful now. More like her living self as she was in sleep.
   But Kate would never forget that awful vision of life departed from this hollow shell, that had, in a different guise, borne Amelia through life and brought her, Katie, into being, now lying prostrate before her.
   She leaned forward and kissed her mother on the brow, cupping her face in her hands, as Amelia had so often done when she thought Katie was asleep when she was a little girl. Through the memory of those secret kisses Kate saw her mother once again as through the eyes of a child.
   She turned to her father, hovering in the doorway as if the room had suddenly become strange and frightening to him. She rushed to him and they embraced. Kate’s father hugged and hugged her, as if by doing so he could somehow bring them all together again, bring his own dear Amelia back to life.

 A gentle tap on her shoulder interrupted Kate’s recollections. “I think it’s time we left. We have to get to our new home tonight.” Kate’s father squeezed her hand and started as if to leave.
   “A moment. Just a minute more. I’ll catch you up.” Kate replied.
   “Ok. But don’t be long. We really must go. We can always come back.” Her father turned his back on her and she watched him walk into the sunset towards their car.
   Before departing, Kate knelt by her mother’s grave and, with one hand on her tombstone, made a solemn promise: “I will return, dearest mother, and tell you of our lives. I will watch the flight of birds and though your body is imprisoned in this cold earth you shall see through my eyes and through me live on.”
   Kate stood and walked back to the car and her waiting father.


Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Privacy in the Age of Surveillance.

“Anything (and everything) you write, or say, or do, will be taken down and used in evidence...”

We’re all on trial, here, in this Age of Surveillance.
No Blakean Songs of Innocence and Experience. but that we will be led ultimately, like lambs to the slaughter.

However, despair not, ye citizens of the New Jerusalem!
Be ye not overheard in your cups or in discourse with intimate friends!

The Bracelet of Privacy is at hand, or wrist, enabling discretion to be your watch-word!

No snooping smart phone, watch or speaker may overhear your most private moments shared..
With this amazing Privacy Bracelet, today’s must-have wearable Jammer!

This handy wearable gadget blanks out all such with white noise, inaudible to the human ear, preserving your indiscretions or intimate desires from the Google-eyed gaze (well. -eared) of the Bezoses of the internet of all things, with its multi-speakered, omni-directional shield, enabling you to speak as you may have done twenty years ago without regard for the consequences (assuming, of course, you have no ‘leaky’ friends).

Photo: credit Chicago University.

You can find out the technical wizardry behind this gizmo developed by Chicago Uni tecchies here:*

But, fear not, ye of little endowment (financially), we have the answer for you, too!
Just nip down to your local pet shop, buy one of these, and fool and amaze all your friends with your  wearable “Snoop-Dog Jammer’!

*But seriously, a few years down the line and with a bracelet sized device, you will be able to even tell off your kids without fear of the Thought Police a knocking on your door.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Curd the Lion book at over 30,000 copies sold

Thanks to China.
At least twice as many Chinese as English have now bought and read the book - a small irony for a story with plenty of word play, riddles and stuff!
Are English publishers /agents too sniffy or hung up on Lewis Carroll (it had been ‘likened unto’ by various commentators - which apparently raises some hackles) or reluctant to take on a story that does, some say, require a modicum of intelligence (LCD), thus would only appeal to parents not kids themselves?
That latter flies in the face of all those kids at my signings (before they were brought to an abrupt halt late 2012 by the then new MD of Waterstones) who, 80%+, literally begged their money bags to buy the book, sometimes without success, such as the two in Durham who sat reading my book for over half an hour before their mum returned, loaded down with fashion shopping bags, only to hustle them out of the door despite their pleas! Two kind old ladies a moment later, when I asked if I might tell them about my book, replied, “No need. We have watched those children for the last half hour not lift their heads out of the books, so we will have four copies, thank you!”
Such tales cut no ice with the case-hardened risk-averse gatekeepers of the publishing industry, however, denying the next generations of kids the opportunity to try this 176-page nonsense adventure with its 80 plus pencil sketches by the author.
Just for fun, here are some of those who WERE allowed to try it!

And here’s a sweet girl who went all the way back home in Redhill to collect every penny she had and returned to buy my book!

 And the lovely lady who bought it for her baby...

 And when “The White Knight on his charger” came to visit...

And possibly my very last signing before I too was “signed off” by Warblestones.

Oh, nostalgia! When the re-invigorated chain’s manifesto announced...

There was this!

Well any statement may be open to Fifty Shades... of interpretation!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018


How, you may ask?
Because it has sold 19,000 in China and South Korea. The Chinese publisher has just renewed the contract for a further five years!

It had sold £135,000-worth in the UK before the ‘dashing’* James Daunt put a spanner in the works by banning all-day signings in Waterstones - my forte - talking kids into the story with illustrated storyboards.
*(my hopes and sales)

Here’s a belated (received last week) email from one of my customers in Waterstones Windsor in August 2012, aged 9 (now 15):
We met up, a few years back in August of 2012 when you were signing books in Waterstones and we talked for a while. I read the book, completely enthralled in Curd And his adventures and recently picked it up again, and read just as enthusiastically as before. I’d like to thank you, for meeting me back then, and signing my book and talking to me, I Never did contact you before now, like you had asked, but I hope this makes up for it. Thank you.”

And belated response to my second, Gothic ghost/horror story, The Flight of Birds (under my pen name, Alan Howard):
“First I owe you an apology for the promptness of my email, be it over a year overdue. Call it the curse of being a disorganized teenager.
I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Not being the greatest reader I wasn’t sure how long before I would get distracted, but I couldn’t put it down! Truly a grim tale that had me gripped at every page. By the end I found myself holding back tears of emotion I was so engaged in the story.”

Saturday, 31 December 2016

#SuicideAwareness. The Tale of Boy-who-was-Fish.

Here is my parabolic tale told in the style of a Just-so story on the ‘expunging’ of emotional vulnerability in men. It may not resonate with many, but I offer it for what it is worth.

“The Tale of Boy-who-is-Fish”

(a tale told somewhat in the style of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just-so’ stories by Alan Gilliland.)

Boy-who-is-Fish is swimming, as fish do.
He is swimming in Sea, who is clear, blue and very, very warm.
She and he are closest.
Sea caresses his skin with rippling strokes, tickling his skin as he swims through her as fishes do.
She has been there always, like this, carrying him warm and snug in her belly. Her belly so huge there is no end to it he can see.
He flies weightless in her caressing warmth and she lets him do as he pleases.
Sand there is below: white, white Sand. And Sky above, bluer than Sea. Through Sky scud little patches of Cloud, which sometimes fill Sky, rippling just like wavy ripples in Sand below, so that Boy-who-is-Fish sees above as below, Sand as Sky.
But Boy doesn’t care as he spins and turns and flies hither and thither, free and weightless, for it is all the same to him: up and down.
Boy-who-is-Fish sometimes burrows in Sand, so that white Clouds follow him just like in Sky, but burrows not so deep as to lose Sea, his Mother.
Other times Boy tries to burrow into Sky, but Sea follows him into Sky, reaches out with many silvered fingers to fetch him back with laughter splashing all around.
So they go on, Boy-who-is-Fish, his great Mother Sea, Sand and Sky, from day to sunny day.
At night, Sea strokes him to sleep and purrs, “Shhh..., shhh...”as he slumbers on her shoreline. She laps about him and rises to embrace him.
Always, when her fingers stroke the nape of his neck, Boy awakes and drowsily lets him be taken into her huge warm belly.

Bye and bye, Boy-who-is-Fish crawls further out of Sea-who-is-Mother, out onto Sand-which-is-White, and leaves her fretful lapping behind.
He learns to stand, and finds himself in Sky-which-is-Blue with his toes in Sand, finds himself somehow with a heavy Heart, something like regret, leaving Sea behind, if only for a while.
But this new feeling too excites Boy, and he wiggles his toes into the hot hot Sand and stares up at the bright yellow eye of Sky watching him as he feels the last tickly caresses of Sea as she trickles down him into Sand.

As days turn one into another, a whispering is heard among the Green-that-is-Leaf on the shoreline between Sea and Sky, a soft whispering in the winds:
“Oh, look at Boy-who-is-Fish,
How Sea drops away from him like Scales.
See how smooth and white is his skin, smooth and white like Sand.”
And they whisper this, these Leaves-in-Wind:
“How like Palm tree he stands, so tall and erect, how like Palm his hair grows thick and bushy.
Strange, his hair, so white upon his head.
But see his eyes, strangest of all. Not Blue like Sea and Sky, nor White like Sand; not Green like Palm, nor yet like Coconut, fruit of Palm, Green.
Not bright colour, like these, but Brown. Brown like old Sea-worn-Coconut, fallen and all dried up.”
And this strangest-of-all brown, Brown Eyes betrays him to his Mother Sea, who cries to herself softly, “Am I losing you, my son?
Where are your silken scales a-shimmering with lights?
Where your sleek tail swishing freely through my warm belly?”

One day at dawn, as Boy-who-is-Fish slumbers at the shoreline as he always does, neither in nor out of Sea, strange Creatures happen by: Man and Woman, arm in arm.
Seeing Boy-who-is-Fish at the shoreline, neither in nor out of Sea, Woman cries out:
“Oh, look at that beautiful Boy, half-in, half-out of water! Oh, Man, rescue him before he drowns!”
And Man leaps bravely into Sea, right up to his ankles, leans down and snatches Boy from Sea, who murmurs angrily, and Man shouts:
“He’s alive, thank God. He’s alive!”
This sudden snatching and loud shouting wakens Boy-who-is-Fish, who cries out in alarm and struggles to be free of this iron grip and return to Sea, to the warm womb of his Mother.
But Man will have none of it, and holds firm onto Boy, while Woman coos:
“Our own little beautiful Boy, it’s a Miracle!”

So Boy was taken away from Sea, from his warm mother, and taken far from there.
Man and Woman, they took him far away to a cold, cold land, far from Sea, and called him their own little Boy.
Boy-who-was-Fish became Son-of-Man and Child-of-Woman, who both possessed him because he was theirs.
They brought great Fuss with them to take care of Boy in the best manner of that country.
Great Fuss was called Nanny, who looked after him wherever he tried to go and brought him back and up.
He was brought in daily to show Man and Woman and Man-and-Woman’s friends and relations what a Good Boy he had become. Boy was much admired for his beauty and his never-speaking-out-of-turn.
But Boy’s silence was a great hole in his heart - was a void of longing for the warm caress of Sea, his Mother.
He was burned by Eyes all around him, which touched him like hot pokers, prickling his skin with their hard scrutiny.
Because he was their Prize Possession, their Pride and joy, Boy was sent away to be with his own kind who were not, but were cruel and hard, whose prying was harsher than Eyes.
Boy cried at night for his mother, Sea, and his tears trickling warm down his cheek brought him briefly close, feeling her soft caress.
His own kind didn’t like Boy’s tears, which frightened them, so they rubbed them harshly away and handled him like rocks in a storm of bruises, dark clouds across his Sand-white skin.
When Man and Woman, who called themselves Father and Mother, came to inspect Boy they were proud of their Son, who was learning so well to hide his feelings.
But one day his yearning and longing for his warm mother, Sea, swept away all his learning and impelled him to return.
He was found and brought back and his Father said: “You belong here and here you will stay until you learn to forget this foolish Childishness.”
And Boy’s mother, when he tried to touch her and hug her and have her run her fingers through his hair all trickly down his neck, started and said: “Don’t be silly Dear! You’re a growing Boy now and that’s not how we do things here.” And she looked away from him, as far away as possible to hide her own silly Weakness-of-Woman and made an end of it.
Boy behaved.
He behaved so long he grew to learn to forget and became for All-the-World like every other Young Man.
Except in that space which he kept secret: where his Heart beat, “Sea… sea…” which he could hear when it was dead-of-night and all was quiet around him.
Thus he carried Her within him, rhythmically surging through his arteries and veins, washing warmly through every part of him - invisibly all though him - Sea.
He learned to adapt to the cold ways of Man. He learned to “measure up,” and to measure others, too. He acquired Talent, Success and Possessions, as all Men in that country want to do.
One day he found himself an Asset: he acquired a Wife, as most Men do, and Family to go in House, which is called Home when fully equipped with these Possessions.
He had Happiness, which was measured by Success and Wealth, consumed by Family, and so on.
To all outward appearances Boy-that-was-Fish had become Man-of-Substance.
He was entirely Normal, just as he should be, Praise be the Lord.
But deep down a worm gnawed. A little Sea-Worm, such as burrows in Sand-below-Waves, hungering for Sea and all her Gifts.
Worm burrowed into his Heart a tunnel, always in the direction of Sea, down which poured a torrent of yearning for that pure Grace in which he had once swum free.
Then one day came Other-woman, who carried with her something of Sea.
In Her he tasted Saltiness-of-Surf, smelled Fish-of-Sea, felt in her rhythmic caresses, his once playful Carefreeness.
He knew he must follow Her to the far sea-girt land from whence she came.
He was sure she could lead him Home.
Her home was a Land-almost-sea, formed of the lapping of waves on sand, and its sea grasses rippled in the breezes like blue-green waves of the sea.
Other-woman too, he thought, was born of Sea.
She swam in Surf’s surge with an ease born of Nature, and joyful Ecstasy broke over him in waves.
As he watched her run and dive, disappear and re-appear in that grey choppy swell against the grey-clouded sky he laughed.
She emerged, laughing too, and skipped over the wavelets towards him and dragged him, so willing, towards the great Sea swell.
He felt “Now, at last, all will be well.”
Icy cramp seized him, dragged him from her.
Its grip tightened on his chest like a clamp and its claws dug deep into his heart.
It suffocated him, strangled him, bloating him purple like a corpse.
His own Mother Sea!
Frigid, cruel, winterblast counterfeit!
Breaching the waves, he clung desperately to her surface, crying out for release.
In the distance, he saw Other-woman, sitting on a rock, perfect in form, in substance perfectly remote, remote from his comprehension.
Mermaid, Ice-Maiden, impenetrably smiling, looking out far away, oblivious to his agony.
He slipped beneath the waves, icy fingers dragged him down, heart growing cold.
Suddenly she was lifting him to the surface of the grey icy sea, guiding him gently to shore.
He lay on the shore, bloated, burning with cold, gasping for breath.
Other-woman looked down at him with Pity in her eyes for this Man-who-could-not-swim and she could not help him.
She slipped quietly into the waves so icy and her wild hair in the frothing surf was the last of her.
Man-who-was-once-Fish left the cold unfriendly shore of that Land-almost-sea and returned to his place.

But from that moment on Despair took up residence under his roof and ate his bread, starving the Hope that sustained Yearning.
He never recovered from the cold shock of that day.
His breathing became short and laboured as if the air in which he swam was alien, choking him.
From that first cold swelling of his body, eruptions volcanically spread in crusty flows across his skin, slowly encasing him as he withdrew inside himself.
All around stared in awe at this Transformation in him.
Doctors came to inspect and name its parts. Cold Urticaria. Chronic Asthma. Psoriasis.
These were some of the names.
But their naming of parts did not drive out those demons of despair.
As the days dragged, wheezing, one after another, ever slower, he withdrew entirely.
His last breaths gurgled, a gentle bubbling, whispering, “Sea… sea…”
And, as they covered him over with a sheet, one doctor was heard to remark to another:
“His skin – so scaly – almost like a Fish.”