Meeting Stanley

“Now, Joan, do help with this case. Where’s Beryl?…Beryl, take this bag. There. Oh, Mary, have you the tickets?”

Mary had walked a few steps from the confusion of the disgorging taxi and was watching the crowds flooding in and out of Waterloo station. She turned to her elder sister. “No, I haven’t,” she said quietly, wiping a strand of blond hair from her face “You had them.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite sure.”

Linda Salter threw up her hands in a gesture of despair and began frenzied and incomplete searches of various bags. Mary sighed and turned back to her view of the station concourse. She slipped into a reverie.

“Now, children, you must help! Millie, stop singing. And your Aunt Mary must help too. Now…ah, here they are. Thank goodness! Beryl, help granny out…”

Granny did not need help, from Beryl or anyone else, but graciously permitted her eldest grandchild to offer an arm. She stepped onto the pavement, smoothing her billowing linen skirts.

The unloading was now complete. Mrs Salter considered the luggage, and the capacity of her family to move it, with foreboding. In their various ways they were quite useless. Mary was the worst, always a few paces behind or in front of everyone else; or else stood stock-still, as now, staring into the middle distance like an idiot child of thirty. Beryl, who was sixteen, needed to test the graceful motion of her long limbs and hated to be burdened with anything. The three younger children were obviously also quite useless. Her mother, who was in fact almost strong enough to carry most of the luggage and several of the children on her back, was seventy-one and therefore quite useless as well. Mrs Salter sighed. Apart from herself, everyone was quite useless.

“Are we going on a steam train?” eight-year-old Millie asked happily.

Her elder sister Joan rolled her eyes. “They don’t have steam trains on this line now, silly. It’s diesels.”

“Oh,” said Millie, shamed as always by Joan’s rebukes.

“Class-two diesels,” Joan went on. Joan was ten.

“I hate steam trains,” five-year-old George said, bravely trying to hold Joan’s aloof gaze.

“That’s because you’re stupid,” said Joan.

“No I’m not.” George said. His little face was reddening with the effort of arguing with his brain-box of a sister. Joan saw he was about to cry, and so pinched him.

George started to cry.


• The rest of this story is now available in a paperback book (as are 25 others) – Unaccustomed as I Am (RRP £9.95).

It is stocked by the Hungerford Bookshop and you can place your order here.

Copies are also available at the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough, the Mad Hatter Bookshop in Wantage and through an increasing number of other retailers.

You can order it from any bookshop: they will need to know that the ISBN is 978-1-8382580-0-9 and that it can be ordered from Gardners or Central Books.


Brian Quinn

• For further articles, please click here
• For rants and musings set to music, please click here



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