Today on the Blog Blitz I'm delighted to be given the opportunity to share two short excerpts from my first novel, This Time Next Year. Huge thanks to Claire Baldry, founder of Books For Older Readers for all her hard work in organising both the website and this Blog Blitz.
The novel's main character, Alison, is in her fifty-first year. She's recently divorced - her husband, Brian, left her for a younger woman - and she's not entirely enjoying life. Her two best friends, Pippa and Bev, feature in these two excerpts.
6th June, Thursday
I am good for my age. It’s official: I’ve been told by both dentist and optician. Despite getting long in the tooth I’m pleased to report that my teeth and eyesight are okay. Apart from needing a tiny filling and a slightly stronger pair of glasses. That aside, my teeth and eyesight have ‘not deteriorated more than would be expected’.
Thinking about it, I seem to recall that both dentist and optician added ‘quite’ before the ‘good’. Still, that’s not a disaster; that is ‘quite good’. I can live with that. At least I’m not bad for my age. I would probably be incontinent as well if I were.
The nurse called me in to see the dentist just as I was engrossed in a fascinating article about ‘Your best friend’. According to the article, forget dogs, a woman’s best friend is her best friend i.e. another woman. ‘A woman’s best friend is her life support. She lifts you up when you are down, confirms that your ex is a total cad, and, in every way, is there for your benefit. In return, all she asks is that you do the same for her.’ I was tempted to tear the article out so I could show it to Bev and Pippa. I’m not sure they’re living up to the ideal.
14th July (After Alison has been out on a date)
Bev & Pippa turned up at seven, Bev with wine and Pippa with little nibbles and dips from M&S. The trouble with little nibbles is their littleness. By 8 o'clock, we were scouring cupboards for suitable dipping items. I found crisps; Pippa peeled and sliced carrots, peppers and celery.
Then I filled them in on the events of Saturday night. It didn’t take long.
‘Oh,’ Bev said, when I’d finished.
‘Well,’ Pippa said, ‘just because he hasn’t phoned doesn’t mean he’s not interested. It’s only been two days, and, as you said, Alison, he’s probably been busy with patients all day.’
‘Huh,’ Bev grunted. ‘That’s a pretty crappy excuse.’
‘Well, I did make a bit of a fool of myself, one way and another.’
‘But that’s you, Alison.’
‘Yeah, and from what you’ve said before, he already knows what you’re like, so he should have been prepared.’
The words from magazine article I’d read in the dentist’s suddenly come back to me. ‘Your best friend always thinks well of you.’ I pointed this out to Bev and Pippa.
‘Oh, Aliss, we only ever say things because we love you.’
‘Yes, Alison, you know it’s your interests we have at heart.’
Pippa tried to reassure me by telling me about her first boyfriend. ‘He wasn’t really a rotter so much as thoughtless. Never thought to tell me that I looked nice or that he’d be late or that he liked being with me. It just didn’t occur to him.’
‘Huh, one of my boyfriends was a real sonofabitch,’ Bev joined in. ‘He was seeing three of us at the same time, but we found out and we got our revenge.’
‘We turned up at his regular pub, debagged him in front of his friends and made belittling comments about his equipment!’
‘Bev, that’s brilliant,’ Pippa said. ‘Men are so sensitive about their thing.’
‘And goodness knows why! Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.’
They both screeched just as I said, ‘Why, how many have you seen?’
‘Oh, only...’ Pippa stopped and did a mental total, ‘three. No, four if you count Ian but that was only once and in the dark so it hardly counted. In more ways than one!’
Bev was still counting and appeared to have run out of fingers.
‘I didn’t realise you were both so experienced,’ I was shocked.
‘I don’t think three, or even four, would be counted as experienced these days,’ Pippa said.
‘Definitely not, kids today are into the tens before they’ve left uni.’ Seeing my face, Bev added, ‘Course that’s only some of them, not the ones like Chloe who have a steady boyfriend.’
‘Honestly, Alison, there’s no need to look so horrified. Don’t tell us you haven’t seen a few in your time.’
‘Yeah, come on, Aliss, confess, what’s your rating?’
They both stared at me.
‘You’re not serious?’
‘You mean just Brian?’
‘Yes, there’s only ever been Brian.’
‘But, but...’ Bev was stuck for words.
‘I think what Bev’s trying to say, Alison, is that you’re not that much older than us. You grew up in the sixties and seventies. The permissive society had begun. How could you miss it?’
‘I was sixteen when I started going out with Brian, we got engaged before he went to university and then married straight after.’
‘Well,’ Bev said, ‘you’ve got some catching-up to do, girl. Here’s to you!’