Archive | December, 2012


31 Dec

photograph: Carol Smith in the park with new friend


24 Dec



It was Christmas Eve, we were just back from lunch, a depressing occasion since neither of us had been with our partners of choice.  Jeremy had been recently dumped and my married lover, as happens most years, was again not able to give his family the slip.   Though I had become resigned to that, Jeremy had most certainly not.   Christmas is certainly not an occasion for losers.   We sat in his car in front of my block but I couldn’t be bothered to ask him inside, had already expended too much fake good cheer over that tedious lunch.

“Where are you going next?” I inquired, though frankly could not have given a damn.   I’d known him slightly for quite a few years but he simply wasn’t my type.   The mutual friends who had hosted this date were clearly trying to fix us up though I could have told them right from the start that in no way could it work.   Neither of us was in the mood; we both faced a loveless Christmas.

“Just back to that tip that stinks of drains and cat pee,” Jeremy said.   He was renting a room in the Earl’s Court Road though I doubted he’d be on his own very long.    He was smooth and attractive, if you like the type.    Losing was not his style.

“Well,” I said cheerily, playing a part, displaying a nonchalance I did not feel.    “That’s where I’m headed,” and pointed up at the unlit window of my top floor flat in the massive structure I knew as home in which not a single light showed.    Even though it was still only late afternoon, it looked as grim as a prison block after curfew.    “Guess there’s nobody home,” I said.    But still he failed to react.

It had not been my fault that my lover was married.    By the time I found out I was in far too deep so had dreamed up all kind of excuses to justify it.   I pecked Jeremy’s cheek and got out of his car, wishing him all he might wish for himself.   I felt not remotely festive but it would soon be over, thank God, for another year.    Plus there were things that I still had to do.    Starting with them downstairs.

My fourth floor neighbours travel a lot.   Her sister is married in Colorado so they go there most winters to ski, leaving behind them two pampered cats who hate the upheaval of having to change their digs.   So the onus of feeding them falls upon me, the spinster upstairs without much of a life, but that, I suppose, is the point of being a neighbour.   Not that I mind, do not get me wrong.   I’d have a cat of my own like a shot if it weren’t for my lover’s tiresome allergies.    As far as pets go, his own kids make do just with tropical fish.

I took the lift up to the top floor, aware of the building’s tomblike stillness.    Usually there are signs of life, distant laughter and closing doors, the sounds of people on other floors getting on with their more interesting lives.    And cooking smells from all kinds of cuisines wafting gently down corridors and the sound of somebody’s radio slightly too loud.   That’s what you get in a mansion block, a community spirit if only at second hand.   As it is, I prefer my own company, always have.

I dumped my coat, grabbed the neighbours’ keys then ran down one flight while I still felt I could.    They were waiting for me just inside the front door, hungry yet still slightly cautious.   One, as was his habit, had crapped on the rug.     I flicked the switch to illuminate the passage that runs the full length of the flat.   The doors to each room are always kept shut, to stop them clawing the furniture, except for the kitchen – right at the end – where they live.     Halfway along the narrow hallway was the tree, decorated by the kid, with a pile of presents, still wrapped, awaiting his return.   

The previous owner was an elderly woman who had lived there most of her adult life.   Once a teacher, she was hard of hearing, which meant she had spent her retirement years in increasing isolation.   She was, in fact, a wise old bird who sometimes invited me down for tea.   She died one Christmas while all alone with nobody knowing she was there.   They found her still sitting in her chair with a half empty bottle of Chivas Regal, having swallowed a whole lot of pills.  She had always had class.  The detail that sticks most in my mind was that she had rinsed out her underwear and left it on a drying rack to air.

The cats preceded me passing the tree, tails aloft, impatient to eat.   The main bedroom door stood slightly ajar; I could swear it was closed at breakfast time and I sensed an aroma of tea rose and whisky which was when I was stopped in my tracks by a cackle of laughter.   I swung round, frozen with terror, but no-one was there.    And that’s when I noticed, beneath the tree, a miniature windup Santa Claus which had, for no reason, suddenly sprung into life.    Ho ho ho, it sang as it danced, clashing vibrating cymbals.  The spirit of Christmas Present, no doubt, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out.   I’m ashamed to admit that the pussies went hungry that night.

The porter escorted me back there next day.   I was far too frightened to go on my own.   While I, with shaking hands, fed the cats, he examined the now silent toy.

“I hate to scare you,” he said as we left.   “But the battery’s still in the box.”





©   Carol Smith 2012


21 Dec

Everyone was in tremendous form and we talked about publishing throughout the meal.   We will not be defeated….are all working away.    Our various back lists are going into Kindle.   We were all of us cautiously optimistic….let’s hope.


18 Dec

Cooking today for a bunch of writers, all of them former clients (from my agent days).    All of them still doing very well.     I am delighted.



11 Dec

Oh, by the way, here they are…

photograph: Carol Smith's cats


11 Dec

Kensington High Street looks very festive though in a less glitzy way than adjoining Knightsbridge.   There it looks like a slice of Las Vegas, vulgar and o.t.t. around One Hyde Park.   Here we have spiky balls of lights that hide in the trees like dandelion clocks which make us resemble a fairy grotto.    Very tasteful.   All we need now is some snow…fingers crossed.    The cats are on the windowsill, ever watchful.


And I have hit the halfway mark in my new book!!!