This story was told to me by Aunt Josephine, a
Fisherman’s wife oo’s a part time cleaner.
Er ‘usband, Uncle Arthur, can ‘ardly make ends meet;
With the price they get for shellfish the inshore fleet
In Padsta’s on its uppers, and Aunt’s domestic’s wage
Wouldn’t lift the needle on the fuel guage
Of a second homeowner’s gas-guzzler.
It was years of servitude that puzzled er
Mind and pushed er to putting into action
A devious plan she’d long bin ‘atching.
There’s this ouse stands alone in Booby’s Bay,
Which she caretakes, and every day
Of every week throughout the winter Aunt
Cycles from her home in St. Merryn’s hinterland
Down the long lane from Harlyn Barton to the coast
To check on the empty property, abandoned by its host.
For all but the two hot months of a long, damp year
Atlantic Rollers, that’s it name, a big house, too dear
For local people to afford, stands unoccupied and dark.
Bordered by the ocean, its neighbours are pipits and larks.
There’s many people down our way
Do an honest day’s work for very little pay.
They drive around in bangers, illegal half the time,
And some, to bring ome the bacon, turn to petty crime.
They burgle houses left unattended by the filthy rich,
Like Atlantic rollers, the one I’ve just described, which
Is easy pickins on a dark and moonless night.
And thass why my Aunty felt within er rights
To put a lodger in for the months it’s empty,
To guard the place and also pay er rent. E
Was a decent chap, young Jim, the one she chose
To put er devious plan into action. E was one a those
In need of work, penurious and recently divorced.
Thrown out of his house and forced
To live in rented accomodation, Jim was the perfect choice.
One night in the Farmers Arms, Aunt Feen gave her plan voice.
“Jim” she called across the bar, “come ere.”
And when e was sat with er, she whispered “I got an idea.”
“Y’know” she said, “that I’m in charge of a big ‘ouse by the sea?”
“Aye” said Jim. “What’s that to do with me?”
“Wanna squat there? Said Aunt. “For three fourths of the year?”
“Good grief” thought Jim, as Aunt made her plan clear.
“You’d ave to be alone” said she, “and not a word
To any bugger, man nor beast.” For two-thirds
Of the night she laid down rules and restrictions
On the awestruck Jim. Givin stark descriptions
Of what would happen if the owner come down
And caught im in the house. “Could you evacuate
Within minutes, having cleaned and vacuumed it?”
She asked, “without a trace of ever havin bin there?”
“I aren’t so sure, all things equal, if this is such a fair
Proposition” mused the bewildered Jim. “Though I’m a tidy
Sort a bloke, and keep me own comp’ny, I’m mighty
Concerned that things could easily get outa hand.”
“Am I right to think you’re lodged in a caravan?”
Asked my Aunt. “Payin sixty pound a week
For a chemical toilet, no power and a roof that leak?”
“I shall halve your rent” said Aunt, “to thirty pound.”
“And if the balloon goes up and you’re found
In the house without permission, I shall shoulder
All the blame. Come on Jim, what’s it to be, moulder
In a plywood shack on wheels the winter through,
Or live encased in bricks and mortar, with electricity,
Fridge, cooker, Teevee, running water,
Fitted carpets throughout, and a sea view?”
Twas the latter what swung it for Jim.
Cus truth to tell, the sea meant more to him
Than a teapot designed by Terence Conran,
He was born and succoured beside the ocean.
But I shan’t go on all day about how Jim
Rose to Aunty’s challenge, moved in
And made himself at home, religiously
Followed the rules and cleaned fastidiously,
Lived like ‘ermit, like a monk, quiet as a ghost.
Not one person knew Jim occupied that house.
Least of all its owner, Hugo Bryson Spelles.
Who’s first home was in Sussex, Tunbridge Wells.
Hugo was something in the City, aren’t sure what.
Traded options, shares, bonds, futures, stocks.
Sufficient to say his employment was such,
He made a lotta money outa not doin much.
But Hugo Bryson’s life was not a bed of roses.
Don’t take pity on the bloke, cus nobody chose his
Actions but himself. Fact is his marriage was a mess.
On the outside they were happy, blissful, yes,
But behind closed doors, Hugo and his misses
Had all but ceased the art of trading kisses.
A love was there, of sorts, but sex was long forgotten,
The core of Hugo’s Granny Smith was well and truly rotten.
In matters extra-marital, our friend was quite discreet,
He had a hundred lovers, yes, but not one did he meet.
Not for him the one-night stand or steamy office ritual,
In this, the age of cyberspace, Hugo’s sex was virtual.
Every night he’d creep downstairs and switch on his computer,
Engage his chosen paramour and devise a man to suit her.
Once he was an athlete of Olympian proportions,
Mountaineer, celebrity chef, there was no end to his distortions.
But of all Hugo’s basketful of romantic pseudonyms,
The one the women fell for, was a fisherman called Jim.
He was everything Hugo wasn’t, this Jim,
Handsome, rugged, tall, dark and slim.
He lived on his own in a house by the sea
Which bore a close resemblance, not surprisingly,
To Hugo’s second-home. Best to keep your feet
On the ground when practising deceit.
One girl took the bait, I shall call er Nancy,
She, above all others, caught Hugo’s fancy.
The cyberotic courtship grew to blind infatuation,
Logging off was agony and soon their adoration
Got to such a pitch that contact was inevitable,
And once they were committed, things began to roll.
“Dear” e told ‘is wife “I gotta conference in Rotterdam”
Or Paris, someplace in Europe it matters not a damn
Where it was cus the bugger never bought a ticket
But on the Saturday before e was playin village cricket,
‘is mind, you can imagine, wasn’t on the match,
Put ‘is head where his hands should be when goin for a catch,
The ball hit ‘im hard on the left temple, knocked im out flat,
E was unconscious for four days so that was the end of that.
But what about Nancy? Knowin nothin of all this,
She took a bus to Booby’s Bay for three days of bliss,
And that’s how it was that Josephine’s squatter, remember im?
Was met by a beautiful stranger who smiled and said “Hullo Jim.”
Before e got the chance to say “What the hell is this?”
She’s come inside, shut the door and gib’m a big wet kiss.
On what happenned next, I shouldn’t really dwell,
All I can tell you is they got on very very well.
Jim, a bit confused at first, let Nancy do the talkin,
E got the picture soon enough and next day when out walkin
They was holdin hands, skippin, laughin, linkin arms,
It was a miracle how quick it was that Cupid’s charms
Had so engulfed this lovestruck couple. So what
If Jim wad’n Jim the fisherman but Jim the squatter?
Would you say “I’m not oo you think I am, this house e
Id’n mine, I wish to God we ad’n met, or ad a lousy
Time?” So when the hour was up and Nancy’s leavin came,
They never said “Goodbye”, but “We shall meet again.”
But the time has come to switch our gaze
To Hugo Spelles, who waking from his daze
Went straight to ‘is desk and switched on the computer,
There to find an e-mail from ‘is erstwhile cybersuitor
Sayin “same time, same place, next week, can’t wait.”
What did this mean? Had e, whilst comatose, been on ‘is date?
Was there some parallel dimension, a web facility
To which they’d both subscribed, unwittingly?
With a counterfeit Nancy, a substitute Jim,
Who rendezvous’d by proxy and e-mailed in?
Hugo replied “My darlin, already the days
I spent with you are fading fast, so crazed
Am I with love. Remind me dearest, what we did,
I fear my melancholy at bein apart will rid
My wits of all that passed between us.”
Nancy spared no detail. The first kiss, the lust,
The full, lurid panoply of romance.
Hugo was shocked! His mind danced
With theories on what had come to pass
Be e couldn’ settle on any til at last
It came to rest, his troubled mind, upon a plan.
E would concoct another Rotterdam,
Remain conscious, which meant stayin off the cricket,
Go down to Booby’s Bay and spy on her next visit.
So there e is sat up on Trevose Head
With a pair of binoculars glued to ‘is head,
Trained on the door of his holiday house
Waiting for traffic to go in and out.
What e sees is beyond a joke.
For stood on the lawn is the image of the bloke
Who he conjured up for Nancy, Fisherman Jim,
Handsome, rugged, tall, dark and slim.
And what e saw next made Hugo scream,
For there was Nancy, the woman of his dreams.
His virtual affair hadn’t reached consummation
Before he’d bin cuckolded by his online creation!
Jim and Nancy, Nancy and Jim.
Whichever way you hang it, Hugo wasn’t in
The picture. But was it chance
That flung together Jim and Nancy?
No! Hugo had engineered the whole damn thing!
Wasn’t it Hugo who loved her? Hadn’t he made her sing
Sweet nothings to him through cyberspace?
He lowered the bins down off his face,
Buried it in his hands and wept. Tears
Of anger, self-pity, jealousy and fear
Flooded down his ash-grey cheeks.
How long was e sat like that? Minutes? Weeks?
Long enough to be noticed by a loving couple,
Who, strolling along the cliff, stumbled on a man in trouble
Stopped, concerned, and asked “Are you okay?”
And sat down beside im before e could say.
So Hugo lifted his face off his hands
To find himself flanked by the woman and man
Who were the wellspring of all his sorrow.
“Cheer up” said Jim, “there’s always tomorrow.”
“Look at us” said Nancy, “before last week we ad’n met”
“And now a happier pair you couldn’t get.”
And assuming their story would make him feel better,
They told im it all, in a cascade of chatter.
Every word was a knife in Hugo’s back.
His mood swung from black through black back to black.
When Nancy said how perfectly Jim fitted his description
Hugo interrupted and put to her the question:
“What would you do if e’d turned out to be
Not Jim the Fisherman, but some bloke like me?”
“No offence intended” said Nancy with a smile
“But if e looked like you, I’d a run a mile.”
Hugo gasped, he trembled, went weak at the knees,
So she put her arm round his shoulder and gived it a squeeze.
Never has compassion bin so misplaced.
The touch of her flesh e just couldn’t face,
In a trice he was up and to their disbelief
Started running towards the edge of the cliff!
E woulda jumped off had it not bin for Jim,
Who bein younger, and fitter, outpaced im.
But only just. A broken heart drove Hugo on
Til he was brought down half a yard from oblivion.
However you cut it, when all’s done and said,
If it wad’n for Jim, Hugo would be dead.
Nancy and her lover, as you might have guessed,
Thought here’s a man who is deeply distressed.
So Jim made a suggestion, quiet as a mouse,
“Calm down and come sit in my house”
Oh Hugo. Hugo Hugo Hugo.
Whatever was it made you go
And do what you did next?
The possessive pronoun ‘my’ used by Jim
In relation to Hugo’s house is what made him
See red. So e hit the fisherman, biff.
Jim lost his balance and fell off the cliff.
Aunt Jo, on a jaunt on er bike, ‘eard Nancy scream
And by pedalling hard was soon on the scene.
“You explain,” said Hugo to Aunt “then she’ll desist,
That house is mine, not Jim’s, he doesn’t exist!”
“Jim don’t exist” rang in her ears,
Twas the best news she’d eard in more’n a year.
Not stopping to hear any more, Aunt Feen
Pedalled like fire to the house, in order to clean
The place up before Hugo got back,
Get rid of Jim and cover his tracks.
But what about Jim? What happenned to him?
Well e was lucky, cus when e fell in,
The tide wad’n out and e managed to swim
Back to Boobys. So when Aunt arrived at Hugo’s second home,
There was Jim knackered and wet through to the bone.
“Clear out” she said, “the owners on ‘is way,
E thinks you don’t exist so we might just get away
With it!” But Jim wad’n budgin, e was understandably miffed.
“I saved the bugger’s life” e said, “then e pushed me off the cliff!”
In rushed Nancy. “My darlin” she cries when she sees her man,
“You’re safe! Welcome home!” “And oo’s this?” enquired Aunt.
“I shall explain” said Nancy to Jim, still wet,
“I’m ‘is lover” she said, “we met on the net”
“Her lover?!” cried Aunt, “you think I’m a fool?!
I gived you the key and you broke all the rules!”
“I didn’t break any” wailed the shivering Jim,
“I opened the door and she let erself in!”
It began to dawn on Nancy that all was not right.
Confessions unfolded and the more light
That fell on the matter, the more was implied
That perhaps she mighta bin took for a ride.
Not by Jim, you understand, the flame
Of love burned too strong for any blame
To rest on him. But Hugo was another matter,
The file on Hugo was gettin fatter and fatter.
Aunt Feen was all for callin ‘is wife
And puttin er straight on the double life
Er ‘usband’d bin leadin. But Nancy said “No.
‘long as the secret remains with we three and Hugo
We’re on high ground, we got the upper hand,
There’s nothin e can do which will land
Us in the proverbial steamin’ cowpat”
And they all ‘ad reason for sayin amen to that.
Jim ad turned blue. “I got ‘ave a bath”
E said, and disappeared upstairs. The aftermath
Of fallin off the cliff and swimmin ‘alf
A mile’d shook im up a bit. And e wad’n the only one.
Cus Hugo, after his housekeeper and dotcom lover’d gone,
Took a peek over the cliff, seen not a sign of Jim
And come to the conclusion that the chance was slim
That if e did indeed exist, the bugger was alive.
And when e put two and two together e arrived
At the conclusion that it ‘adn’t in any way
Bin a successful trip from Tunbridge Wells to Boobys Bay.
It was no longer ‘is sunny little spot beside the sea
With its quaint little fisherfolk, pasties and cream teas.
It’d took on a distinctly black and sinister look,
Like e was stuck in the middle of a Daphne du Maurier book.
Or worse, if that’s possible, cus e could see imself in court
Accused of murder in the first degree and grounds for a divorce.
When your mind begin to run that way tis ‘ard to make it stop.
So e stepped back from the cliff edge with it’s sixty-five foot drop,
And began to make ‘is way down towards his second ‘ome.
All the way e mumbled “What in God’s name ‘ave I done?
Nancy saw me push the bloke, she’s me only witness,
She hates my guts she’d never lie for me unless -
I bribe er.” That caught im short. “What would it take?”
Slowly he approached his second garden gate,
Creeped across his second lawn and opened up the second door
Of his once-loved second home, but loved no more.
“Oh Nancy,” he called, “are you there?
Could I have a word or two my dear?”
Now Jim you understand was nowhere to be seen,
E was in the bath, so twas Nance and Aunty Feen
Oo greeted the unsettled stockbroker.
“Now thun” e said. “I know you folk are
Mad at me and what I done’s beyond reproach,
But I wanna make an offer and please, its not a hoax.
This house is yours if you keep your mouth shut
On all fronts, not just the misses, but the murder.”
Kept their mouths shut alright, you coulda heard a
Pin drop. And before you judge what they did,
Remember the place was worth ‘alf a million quid,
Nothin to Hugo, e could earn that in a day,
But it take a little longer if you live in Boobys Bay.
“Alright” said Aunt, now off you go, back to Tunbridge Wells,”
And that’s the last they ever saw of Hugo Bryson-Spelles.
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The Fisherman’s Tale