At the end of the speeches I stand up, I don’t know where I’m going but I want to move.
There is a hand on my shoulder, it’s Sophie.
“I’ll forgive you for not coming over and saying hello if you kiss me now.”
I peck her on the cheek and she seems happy, well never happy, but she’s not annoyed with me.
Sophie, leans into the gap of me, her arm across my back, hand on my shoulder. It’s like she owns me.
She makes it look like I’m the only person in her world, unless you are paying attention. She’s asking me questions, but every thirty seconds she is scanning the room for Ian. Ian isn’t looking over.

“So who are you here with?” she asks.
She looks surprised, “a nobody, or really nobody?”
“Actually nobody, Audrey isn’t well.”
“Oh, Audrey, yes… I met her once.”
“Yes, she said you two got on.”
“But I didn’t talk to you about her then, and I’m not going to now.”
If she’s going to do that to me…
“How’s Ian?”
“Let’s not do this. Let’s go in here.”

We head from the main room in to a side room, there are large empty couches here. It’s quiet in here but we can be seen from the main room. She picks a couch carefully and has me sit down. She sits next to me in a way that makes it seem like I am a chaise longue.

“How are you?” I ask.
“Shut up.”
“I just wanted to check.”
She hisses and flicks her tongue into my ear. I move my head in surprise and she laughs.
“Sorry,” she says, “can’t we just sit for a while.”

She snuggles back in and we sit for a while. It’s not uncomfortable, we’ve known each other long enough we don’t ever need to talk again.

“I HATE him”
“No you don’t, if you hated him you’d be doing something, instead of pretending to do something with me.”
“I hate you”
“You want him to care about you, the way you care about him. That’s the problem.”
“That is the problem.”
“What do you want to do? He’s not going to notice you in here.”
“Let’s go back in,” she says.

We get up to begin heading back to the main room. I stop her, “Sophie, you care more about him than you care about yourself. You should fix that.”
“I don’t need you to tell me that, I need you to get me a drink.”

Remember Anatole

Hello everyone, gosh what happened to 2017? Well a lot happened, but nothing much on this here blog. Gamboling has been going now for 14 years!!! Last year was a busier one, this one a very quiet one. You dear reader do deserve something from me don’t you. You need something to help you while away the days until Giggles Advent starts. Of course you do, you deserve it.

I have written you an interactive story, it’s called Remember Anatole.

I hope you have fun with it.

Stephie journal – Day 22

I approached today with extreme caution. For today I dined with Alison. I had no diamond earrings to proffer, and in many ways I felt she wouldn’t find my story about my failure to buy her an engagement ring quite as engaging as I might. She might, quite reasonably, take it as a sign that I don’t care about her and that I hate certain bits of her, quite specifically, her earring baring lobes.

But when I met her she put me entirely off kilter as she beamed back at me.

“Stephie,” she said which being my name was entirely fair enough, “Stephie, why didn’t you tell me?”

I stopped in my tracks, I paused, the little besticked monkey who drums in my chest seemed to have temporarily gone on strike. Had Roger told her my part in all this, but she didn’t mind and I was off the hook? I allowed a smile to not exactly play, but more limber up with the intention of a swift game, on the lower echelons of my visage.

“What didn’t I tell you,” I asked?
“Why didn’t you tell me that being wooed was so wonderful? I’ve never been wooed before, and now both of them are at it, it’s absolutely the best. Why didn’t you tell me? I suppose you’re getting woo-ed so often that it’s rather become old hat to you, but for me it’s still got all a refreshing freshness to it for me.”

“Not me,” I said, “you must have the wrong person.”
“Oh they woo you Stephie, you just ignore them is all.”
“But you,” I said, “I understand it from Roger, but you’re not telling me Anthony is spouting verse at the sight of you?”
“He is, it’s practically cross-garters at dawn.”
“Well this I have to see.”
“You must Stephie, it’s wonderful, its tickled me rotten. Tomorrow take Anthony and me to dinner, and on Friday to yours with Roger.”

I finally let that smile arrive. I had done wrong, and I hadn’t come clean with her about my feelings, but aiming Roger at her had clearly pepped them all up.

“Of course Alison, please consider the invites issued.”



I can hear them all tittering. She’s done it, she’s actually gone through with it in a bush by the side of the veranda. She’s got scratches on her thighs that’s she’s showing off as a badge of honour from a branch of the bush that was almost as persistent as Will.

She looks pleased, surprised, elated and proud.

“What if you’re pregnant,” I ask?

I can’t even allow her the afterglow of excitement and joy, I must watch the crash on her face.


“I know, I know, he was wonderful and you were all caught up in the moment, and all of these girls want to know what it was like and what he’s like, but I want to know what you’ll do if you’re pregnant.”

“I don’t know Stephie.”

I can see her fear, and I can see the other girls despising me, they won’t be told the story int he same way now. It won’t sound wonderful and exciting and full of hope. When she tells it, it will sound full of fear and worry. And I did that, not because I care about this girl and what happens to her, I do care, but that’s not why I did it. I did it because I’m afraid of desire.



I was 16 in 1946, and so consequently all everyone wanted to do was go and have a fun time, but we all didn’t want to make the mistakes we’d just seen everyone else make a few years before. Lots of girls five years older than me got married to boys just to give the boys the courage to go to war.

But now that was over, nobody wanted to get married, we all wanted to have fun, but not too much fun.

I’m afraid to say I was quite judgemental. “Doesn’t she know what he’s after?”, or worse in my mind, “doesn’t he know what she’s after”.

I always felt that I was quite happy to go mooning about after boys, and I was even happier for them to reciprocate or even initiate. I knew I had to be careful. I as a prize catch, no parents on the scene, already loaded, with relatively useful relics and hot and cold running aunts.

I was fascinated with the boys, but I couldn’t let them get near and it turned out that this was quite the way to get them to be interesting, neigh obsessed with me.

Nothing stole my attention more than a couple pairing off. I was always pleased for them, or generally I was unless I was particularly partial to the attention of the boy. I wanted to know all of the details, wanted to know how they planned to even deal with the humdrum matter of factness of living with somebody. Crazy as I have lived with people my whole life, but never consciously. It’s not like I decided to have parents or a cook is it?

Deciding to commit though, the mechanics sent me dizzy and so I obsessed of the particulars of each pairing.


Stephie journal – Day 21

After a weekend revelling in the joys of the old human companionship it was rather pleasant to get back home and not have to deal with anyone anymore. Not so this morning though as it was time to head back to the office.

I was fairly giddy this morning despite the deluge that had rats considering if London might not have suddenly turned out to be a ship they needed to abandon.

It was time to clear the desk and start collecting for the new issue. I’d salvage one or two of the rejected pieces, from those who wouldn’t submit again for an age if I reject them. For those who come back fighting with better they’ll have to lose – keep them keen.

We had a team lunch to discuss ideas today and it all seemed very positive, until Simon-from-the-office reminded me that tomorrow I have lunch with Alison. The black clouds that had been providing the ample rain decided to perch on the fevered brow after that for the rest of the day.


Stephie journal – Day 20

Today, of course, is the day. Now obviously, today is always the actual day, but actually today was the day of reckoning. Could Paul step outside his moral universe and find it within his heart to return my broach?

From the moment I saw Aunt Clara I could tell that she was upset, she almost asked me on two occasions, and then turned the conversation to the subject of it being a shame that old traditions were no longer being upheld. After the first occasion I wondered if it might just be my own mind playing tricks on me, but on the second occasion it was so obvious that herds of rampaging wilderbeast would be asking her to keep her subtext under control as they were disturbing their enjoyment of the rampaging.

I have been assigned Tombola which is all very fun, lots of people attending and having a gas. It’s all in a good cause and everyone is ready to blow off some steam and enjoy themselves. The weather could not be better.

At one point Paul comes and has a spin, and gets lucky with a particularly good prize. He looks guilty as anything throughout the whole proceeding, I want to let him off the hook at times, but it’s not my debt to forgive it’s Clara’s.

After a whole day of ignoring the subject she finally says something obliquely about it. She mentions that after all of the wonderful things she’s heard about Claude that it’s a shame that he couldn’t pack the broach. She went on to say that this was a black mark against him in her book. I couldn’t have that, but I couldn’t rat out Paul.

Luckily Paul was in the room for the moment and I fell cleanly on my sword blaming the whole thing on me rather than Claude or Paul. Paul made eye contact with me as I was taking the blame and I was rather unsurprised when I found the broach neatly returned in the middle of my dresser that evening when I returned.

Perhaps I’ve found an ally for life through this process?


Stephie journal – Day 19

Wake with a ferocious appetite. I want a hearty breakfast, which is unusual for me, but I know I need sustenance if I am to catch this Paul red handed. His larceny is my singular focus, well that and breakfast.

I arrive in the oak room and grab a plate from the sideboard. Tradition here, from my father at least – may well have gone back before but I don’t know – is that you do not speak and nobody should address you directly until you have selected all of your breakfast, sat down and had the first bite.

I realise that the black pudding is in season and have to go back and remove a selected sausage to make room. Finally I sit and start to become conscious to the ongoing conversation which seems to be largely involved with the late stage planning specifics of tomorrow’s garden party.

Luckily I haven’t been hooked directly into the conversation as yet, and I call for some coffee to help clear the old cranial hemispheres. My rudimentary understanding is that the two key bits of the brain are supposed to keep there distance up there, but something about the Château Margaux from last night seems to have resulted in the two halves clanging into one another a bit more than expected when I move my bonce.

Aunt Clara leans over after she senses a sufficient quantity of the black stuff has bucked up my system. “How,” she asks, “are you getting on with Paul.”
“Yes, wonderful, very well, he’s a smasher,” she looks unconvinced, I add, “we are planning to go for a long walk” mainly so I can think the rest of the sentence in my mind “off a short cliff”.
But at the news of a long walk Clara noticeably brightens, and I realise that my opportunity to tell my own brain a secret joke has doomed me to actually gad about with the blighter.

When I break the news to Paul one rather gets the impression that in his mind I haven’t merely taken all that he clings dearly to in his life and trampled upon them. The look in his face suggests that I have instead hired a steam roller, flattened his hopes and dreams and posted them back to him through his letterbox.

We head out for the walk and actually, after a short acclamation period, it turns out that he’s largely a good egg. Goodness knows what I’d have been like if this ill fate had occurred in my young life.

We exchange tales of youth and dangerous pursuits which seems to keep him engaged. At one point I broach the broach and he bristles. I use all my wiles and suggest that while I don’t mind that it’s missing personally I am worried about the big stink that it will cause tomorrow, especially for Aunt Clara. Nothing. His stomach contents might have been curdling as we spoke but he gave no outward signs I could latch upon.


Stephie journal – Day 18

Down to Aunt Clara’s for the long weekend. Claude was doing driving duty while I tried to retain composure in the back of the car. The journey was thrilling, as Claude can generally be relied upon to drive a little bit too fast.

After a while Claude’s usual confidence behind the wheel seemed diminished.

“Claude,” I shouted, “why are you slowing?”
“No reason,” he answered and gunned the engine.
“You’re lost, aren’t you? Admit it Claude.”
“Not lost, Miss Lettings, just recalibrating one’s bearings.”
“That’s Claude for lost. Ha!”
“I don’t think it is generally appreciated for one’s employer to take such joy in ones shortcomings.”
“Generally ha! You aren’t generally anything Claude and don’t let anyone ever say that you are. You and I both know that your shortcomings are so few and far between that one must make absolute hay when the opportunity presents otherwise you might start to believe your own press.”
“How can we be lost on the way to Clara’s, it’s our country pile Claude, it’s where we emanate from, seems a bit rum this Claude.”
“Well there was the small matter of a poorly signposted diversion, it was very clear about which ways we couldn’t go but hasn’t, since that time, been as keen to inform us of how we might return to the designated path.”
“Well that explains it Claude, I’m sure you’ll get us back on track, but if you could see your way to hurrying these wilderness years along it would be preferable. I believe fatted calves are being prepared and one doesn’t want to put people out.”

We made it in shorter time than normal, I allowed Claude his pretence that he had found a shortcut, while secretly being rather pleased that he’d gunned the engine to make up time.

Clara greeted me and rather than welcoming me into her bosom and asking me to pull up a pew began to issue me marching orders and complaints. What, she wanted to know, was going on with young Alison etc, etc, this didn’t seem a fruitful line of dialogue to have at the moment, but in exchange for diverting her river of verbiage off course I was given the unenviable task of acting guardian over the weekend for a vicious squirt, known as Paul, who was a nephew of Lord Boysenby.

I decided that the best way to break his spirit was to charge him with taking my bags to my rooms. He was none to keen and seemed to feign buckling underweight and there was a great deal of groaning to contend with.

Once in my rooms I ordered him about with abandon. Claude was not keen on receiving such help but I feel this is good for him and the boy too. I’m sure Paul sees this as beneath him and it’s good to break this belief. Claude thinks such things not proper, and I want him to realise that there’s no such thing anymore.

We are just about done when I realise that my scotty dog broach is not at the appointed place. I quiz Paul about it and immediately I can add to the existing list of shortcomings, which already includes wiping snot from nose, lifting bags without a fuss, and not showing distain quite so blatantly, the new item of inability to lie convincingly.

That boy has my broach, and I must have it back by the garden party on Monday or there will be hell.


Stephie journal – Day 17

By rights, after having a night where one spends a significant portion of the allotted slumber time conversing with argumentative foremen, one should be sub-par but in fact I do believe I felt more ready for action when I woke then on a normal day. Must have been some of incandescent anger which can flare up in one from time to time if pushed.

Obviously by about eleven this had largely faded and the rest of the day slumped, then rather badly sagged and by the end it felt largely like the day might rather need to be sent for repair. No point in starting anything on a Friday before a long weekend.

I closed up shop early, allowing everyone else to get out while the going was, while not necessarily good, was at least fair.