Sunday, 4 November 2012


Now, I am back from my walk through the icy, municipal park:  all fluttering amber leaves, tumbling Greggs wrappers and watery sunlight.  I shall now continue the Chronicles of Rochester.  Students of literature: there are indeed parallels with The Chronicles of Narnia: both stories have a cloven-footed protagonist and a bleak, Northern setting.

By the way, if you want to know the back-story of Rochester, I suggest you check out my screenplay. It is mildly diverting.  Well, it is if you have several hours to kill, have very low expectations and like stories of thwarted love, moustache-twirling villains and plucky but socially gauche heroines.

So, until this week, I hadn't actually seen Rochester for 23 months.  We spoke often; discussed meeting frequently.  But never did it. There is a Mrs Rochester, you see. And tiny Rochester bairns. I expected we would meet again, but not till we were much older.  I imagined our romantic twilight-years-reconciliation would look something like this (I love this picture SO much and Rochester does have a hint of Sid James about him).

However, this summer, I relented.  I missed the flaky fanny rat and his sardonic ways too much. So, I told him that next time he came back North, I would meet him.  That felt like a big step.  I spent much of my summer break in a state of fluttery anticipation.  I was seeing Rochester again!   But, something odd happened, the scoundrel went suddenly, sullenly silent.  Weeks and weeks drifted by, like mute, melancholy ghosts. Every text I sent was ignored.  I even tried calling the bounder.  On the phone, like.  (I am renowned for my telephone phobia, and usually only make one phone call per decade).  He never answered. He had vanished.  Sadly, I returned to school, and soon the reassuring rhythms of school life:  assemblies, harvest festivals, rounders, threadworms etc took my mind off the rogue.   Finally, one Saturday morning, as I sat with a fried egg sandwich,  resplendent in moth-eaten leggings and Flock of Seagulls hair, I received a text.

"VG pub for a game of pool in a half an hour, petal?"

Reader.  I was rather peeved.  I declined.  

Last week, I texted him to tell him about my new job.  To my surprise, he called back.  We had a conversation.  At one point, he even apologised for being 'a twat'.  The cruel cut and thrust of life at the UPVC coal-face, he claimed, had got him down. 

This week, on Halloween morning, he called again.  

Rochester: Flower, I have the day off.  What shall I do?

Miss Underscore: Go and see the Bond film.  I LOVED it.  Although, personally, I could have done with a bit less Daniel Craig and a bit more of Judi Dench.  00HRT.  

Rochester: Aye, my daughter said it was canny.  Maybe I will.  I'm in the fanny wagon.  The reception is shit mind petal.

Miss Underscore: It was a disgrace what they did to Javier.  Obviously Javier could out-sex Daniel Craig any day of the week.  So they made him blonde.  And camp. And put him in nylon slacks.  I am rethinking whether he will now get to play Rochester in my movie. Even if he can pronounce 'petal' and not 'pethal'.  The magic is gone.

Rochester: What are you doing?  (a cacophony of frenzied barking explodes in the background)

Miss Underscore:  I am putting on my scabby dog-walking boots and heading out to the park.  .  . the lurchers are going bonkers  . . .Rochester . . . are you there?  Rochester?????

The line goes suddenly dead. . .

Half an hour later I was scuffling through the fallen leaves in my local park, bedecked in a much loathed (but terribly cosy) PER UNA (I know. . . I know) quilted coat and down at heel fake UGGs.  To put it mildly,  I'd looked a bit of a clip.  In fact, I probably looked rather like Dame Judy.  Tragically, not Judy as she was in Bond (where she is a stern, silver-haired saucepot siren), but how she was in Notes on a Scandal.  Or, as I pointed out to Waffle, I resembled an extra from a jumble-sale scene in Last of the Summer Wine.  

So, there I was, awash with dowdiness and muddy, rampaging lurchers.  I had indeed applied make-up, although I hadn't brushed my hair (Cyril has devoured my hairbrush, you see, I don't think I've brushed my hair all week).  The park was empty anyway.  I was later than usual, so had missed meeting up with my usual gang of devoted dog-walkers.  In the distance I noted a dark man ambling towards me.  I squinted.  He looked terribly out of place.  He had no dog, for a start.  Neither did he have a can of lager.  (Men in Sunderland parks are compelled by law to have one or the other).   The chap was smoking a roll-up.   He was a wrong 'un, and no mistake.  The pathway ahead forked.  I decided I had better take the other path, thereby avoiding passing the swarthy sort in front of me (who was quite obviously a nonce).  I looked again.  He resembled Rochester, I thought to myself, a bit. Thinner though.  Much thinner.  This wasn't a man who could eat his body weight in pork scratchings, not like the UPVC messiah.  He was very gaunt.  I took a step on the other path.  As I did so I glanced again at the approaching figure.  He was dressed in black, but there was no funereal overcoat, just an anorak (the overcoat is to Rochester what the billowing white shirt is to Mr Darcy).  It couldn't be, I thought.  Rochester was 300 miles away in Bristol.  I had just spoken with him.  I stole one more shy glance.  The man was grinning at me, wickedly.



It WAS Rochester, and he was smirking proudly, like the tom cat who had got the ALL THE CREAM.  

We walked round the park together. It would like to say that our conversation sparkled like champagne and Noel Coward, that we were wisecracking like Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It wasn't like that at all. I felt like I had been pushed out of an airplane, and was freefalling, counting down to the moment my parachute would open and save me.  All I could think about was my twatting PER UNA coat and unbrushed hair! I hate surprises.  Loathe them.  

"What would you have done if you hadn't found me in the park?"

"I'd have gone round your house flower.  I'm sick of giving you the opportunity of turning me down. By the way, what EXACTLY is the story with your hair?"

Oh God.  It was terrible.  I didn't even dare look at him.  After a mere 5 minutes together we arrived back at our respective cars. 

"Is there anywhere to get decent coffee round here?"  he said.



"Hey, Senor Boldon* is splitting up from his wife.  He's on the market again, if you're interested."

"Ahh.  I don't think so. But thanks."

More silence.

"Here, come and give me a hug petal.  Listen, how about we have a drink at your local while I'm up, eh?"

I sneaked a look at him.  He was thinner, but his face, the face that I loved so much, had the usual familiarity of a bold, rugged landscape, exposed by dazzling winter sunlight.  I couldn't shake the feeling that he'd done something wonderfully sweet and romantic (for once), and I'd fucked it all up with my bumbling shyness and Per Una coat of shame. 

And that was it.  It was a relief to drive away.   Later that day, I texted that, yes, I did, very much, want to see him.  He replied that he was out with his family that night. He was up for a few days.

The next few days passed in a flurry of jittery but delicious anticipation.  

"Have you got any decent underwear, Miss U?  Are you sleeping with him?" asked Madam Noir, over tea and scones.  

"WHAT?  Oh, dear God.  I haven't had to even consider such practicalities for such a long time.  Will my liberty bodice not do?  The outpouring of moths could possibly distract from my cellulite, I suppose."

Would I have slept with him?  Probably.  After languid waves of gin had washed my anxieties and nerves away.  If we could have sat together, in my fleapit of a local, and talked and teased as we used to. 

Two days passed.  I did not hear from him. I tried to keep busy:  I tackled schoolwork, visited Aunty Margaret, had lunch out with friends, spent a morning in Durham.  I considered defrosting the fridge.  I didn't, of course, for that would have been sheer, unbridled madness.  But it the thought did cross my mind.  That is how desperate I was for distraction.

Friday came.  His last day.  Still, he had not been in touch.  I sent a text, asking if we were meeting up. Several hours later a reply came.

"I've been driving.  Went back home today early.  I'll be back up North soon.  Sorry."

I burst into hot, bitter, humiliated tears.  Every encounter with him leaves a scar. This has been one of the deepest.  There is a reason, I suppose, that I have kept him at a distance. That reason is not down to Mrs Rochester at all.  Or even the babies. It is self-preservation. I suspect the park ambush was a fabulous joke to him.  I suggested that, by text.  He responded angrily. 

"Fine.  Fuck off. But don't text me that kind of shit and expect a calm response."

I really wish he hadn't bothered.

* Senor Boldon:  Rochester's elder brother.  My ex. See the screenplay for more details.


  1. This is damned good stuff Miss. Very readable. Very very readable. I'm hooked.
    Btw I too have a shitfaced bampot of a man I've been 'in lust' with forever - and he never fails to live down to my expectations. Hilarious what we do to ourselves. You really would think we would know better.
    Saw Flock of Seagulls in Glasgow circa 1988. Mmmm. Not a good look. And Per Una?? What were you thinking about!

  2. I can't say what I would like to don't know me and let's face it you would tell me to fuck off, but I remember a conversation I had with my daughter, about sexy knickers and using them to entice or excite a man.......we agreed that a man could care less about your knickers truth be told...he wouldn't notice them really....he's after what's inside don't beat yourself up about a bloody per una coat....forget the fanny-rat and move on......but do keep have a gift.

    1. A great many men are interested in a nice knicker, per se. Given that one has already been granted access to said undergarments, one assumes that any forthcoming further revelations are excitedly anticipated. But you tar us with a somewhat broad brush in saying none of us are delighted by a Siren's underwear.

  3. I'm so glad you're back! I'm very sorry to hear about your Aunty Joan. And Rochester is being a dick, but that's no surprise. Hang in there. Soon you'll have your great new job to distract you. Please keep writing!

  4. "Fine. Fuck off. But don't text me that kind of shit and expect a calm response."

    I had to read that several times to make sure it was Rochester who was speaking. I was amazed--surely that's your line? How on earth, after the way he treats you, can he accuse you of talking shit and then attacking you for it. Oh dear me Miss Underscore, you are in love with a man who is simultanoeusly so right and so wrong for you.

  5. I really hope this will be the last of your Rochester scars and when you look at them all you will truly feel that game is not worth the candle. New job, new eyes, new start. XX

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  7. I kind of got stuck at Per Una. PER UNA??? Anyway, new job, new coat methinks ;)

    I hope your new job is fulfilling and brings you lot more good things xx

  8. Oh Miss Underscore ... beautiful writing. And welcome back. I read your posts early yesterday morning (when I should have been working), and they had me thinking all day.

  9. Looby....of late I have noticed that a pretty undergarment is indeed a thing of beauty and may have to investigate purchasing a set or two.

    1. I highly recommend pretty undergarments. They can effect wonderful transformations in one's life, both by oneself and with others. I look to forward to reading your reports!

  10. Miss Underscore! He is a bastard. This much we knew. But what we did not know was how your writing gets better and better the less you post! How is this fair? How long will we wait to read more? And surely becoming an Assistant Head means you will rarely have time for a fondant fancy never mind a blog post? Woe is us (the readers.

    p.s. Congrats on the job.

  11. Ah, Miss Underscore, I am sorry to hear such on both counts. I mean, really, Rochester, very disappointing - could he not at least be decent about it? See, now I feel a bit vindictive, to be honest, like I'd like to fart in his car or something, since he (presumably) doesn't have a handbag.

    On the other hand, maybe this is the only way.

    But well done on the stellar career front. I am most impressed. Onward, Miss U, onward!

  12. Sorry for your loss but congratulations on the new job. Will you need to move? Re: Rochester, I think you can do much better.

  13. You are an amazing writer and teacher. I'm with Anonymous - you can definitely do better.

  14. A flock of seagulls?
    Our blogs are calling it " ESSESGUL 4".
    And they're flying with Dassault.
    Frioris .
    That makes 5.
    And if you include RDeland, it comes outte to 1243.