Monday 14 May 2018

"A Long Goodbye" by Anthony Le Moignan . Powerful Contemporary Fiction

‘A Long Goodbye’ 

Can you outrun a slow death sentence?

Emma, married with no kids, lives, breathes and manages Orchard Care Home; a position her husband, Michael, used to hold in the good old days. But now he’s soared up the company hierarchy she sees so much less of him.

Simon, a successful accountant, has a big problem. The biggest of them all. He checks himself into Orchard whilst still relatively healthy, the youngest resident by decades. He’s confident he cut all ties with the outside world and is untraceable, but determined ex-partners have their ways...

The attraction between carer and resident is instant, but ultimately destined for catastrophe. Alzheimer’s takes no prisoners and Early Onset, it’s most tragic form, is the cruellest of all.

How can Michael be jealous of this man and his time-bomb? Why does he see Simon as such a threat, driving him to behaviour that will end in disaster?

Simon understands less and less, but knows he has to try and run away from time - to somehow beat the ceaseless clock.

A powerful new novel by Anthony Le Moignan that will make you laugh and cry.


Unsurprisingly, the meal had been a fairly quiet affair. To Emma’s great relief, Simon had not pursued his intimate line of questioning any further - she suspected he might have forgotten what he’d asked Michael. It was the first time in her experience that a reasonable amount of Champagne had not encouraged people to talk more.
Michael had been staggered by Simon on many fronts. What was a guy like him doing in a residential home? Sure, eventually he’d obviously need one, but his social behaviour suggested that was a while down the road yet. And boy, was he right to be furious with Emma for gallivanting off to Manchester – that wouldn’t be happening again anytime soon.
He’d watched Emma carefully throughout the meal to see if there was any exchange of glances with Simon that would suggest they were already up to something. The man was constantly staring at her, but she didn’t seem to be looking his way. Then he thought about Penny and winced – taking the moral high ground was very much more difficult now than a couple of weeks ago. He was also furious with Simon for drinking his pint. There was something despicable about that sort of behaviour. However pathetic it sounded, Michael felt he’d lost a little bit of his mojo during that incident. Men didn’t drink other men’s pints. They just didn’t.
And as if the evening wasn’t weird enough already, Michael had become aware of Julie making eyes at him. At first, he thought he must be mistaken, but twice he’d felt her foot rubbing his shin. If there were any doubts left, they were well and truly extinguished when he went to the gents.
Julie was there as he came out, faking surprise at bumping into him. She pushed up against him, her chin on his shoulder, whispering her gratitude for the flowers. It jogged his memory, and he was starting to apologise when she’d put a finger on his lips and told him to save it for another time, and preferably one night soon.
As he stared at her, utterly lost for words, she told him how nice he smelt and then sauntered off to the ladies. More tragic than anything, he’d found himself watching her bottom as she walked off.
Michael sighed, shook his head and seriously contemplated punching himself in the groin.
Simon was feeling a little tipsy. Drink had often caused him to forget things, and this was one of those occasions. He remembered the waitress, and of course he remembered Emma, but the other young girl and the guy who looked a little bit like him were puzzling. He was enjoying the warmth of the late sun and the ambience of the busy pub, but he couldn’t remember how he’d got here.
Strangely, this didn’t worry him. He’d decided not to say anything and just listen to the others, but they weren’t saying much either. As he studied the faces, it occurred to him that the young girl must be with the other guy. She was looking at him, and unless he was mistaken, there was passion and desire written in her eyes and over her pretty face.
He looked at Emma a few times simply because it was a pleasure and a delight. If the other two were a couple, it would make sense that he and Emma were as well, but he knew this wasn’t the case. She seemed to be staring into the horizon, and he was unable to make eye contact with her.
It gave him an opportunity to study her features – he found her stunningly beautiful. He desperately wanted to kiss her. Surely he’d done that before?
The waitress approached the table. ‘Guys, there’s a taxi for Mr Carter.’
‘Oh, that’s me, excellent. Are we all ready to go?’
‘That’s just for us, Simon.’ Julie stood up and put a hand on his arm.
‘Really? Are you sure? What about Emma?’
‘Michael and Emma are going back a bit later.’
‘Oh, that’s a pity. Would you both like to come with us?’ Emma smiled and was about to accept the offer, but Michael got there before her.
‘No, we’ll stay on until our own taxi arrives, thank you very much. Is that a problem for you, Simon?’
‘Yes, it is, really. I wanted to go back with Emma. Would you like to come back with us, Emma?’
Michael swiftly stood up with his fists pressed on the table. ‘Well of all the ...’
This time, Emma was able to interrupt her husband.
‘That’s very sweet of you, but Michael and I should wait for our taxi. I’ll see you tomorrow back at Orchard, okay Simon?’ She smiled at him, not attempting to hide her reddening face.
‘Bye-bye, Julie, take good care of Simon. Michael, let’s go inside, it’s getting chilly now.’
Michael moved towards her, and she grabbed his arm, dragging him into the pub.
Michael had finally managed to buy and drink a pint of his own by the time Emma came back from the ladies. Some of his mojo had returned, along with a nice little buzz.
‘I don’t fucking believe that guy – I should have punched his lights out. And he orders two bottles of Dom, and I get to pay for that and the whole damn meal, the bloody con merchant. Is he one of these guys we’re going to have trouble getting residential fees from? Have you done financial due diligence on him, Em?’
Emma could no longer contain herself, buoyed by the alcohol and her heartache.
‘You fool. You stupid fool. Is it really that long since you were a carer that you’ve forgotten all the signs of Simon’s illness? Can’t you tell he didn’t have a clue where he was or what he was doing?’
‘Oh really? So what about when he grabs my drink off the tray, knowing it’s mine and drinking it in front of me. Then he asks why I don’t see you more often, the cheeky sod. I should have given him a slap. That Champagne came to two hundred and seventy quid, for fuck’s sake! Perhaps you told him I’m wealthy so I can afford it, eh?’
Emma couldn’t remember ever feeling so angry.
‘You’re so wrong on every level. No, he didn’t know it was your drink. As he walked up to us his expression changed. I know him well enough to realise something snapped in his mind.’
‘I bet you do.’
Emma stood up, and her chair clattered to the floor.
‘How dare you, you bastard. Dream on about giving him a slap or punching his lights out – you’d have been on the floor before you’d raised an arm. And no, you’re not wealthy, Michael – not compared to Simon. He’s a multi-millionaire, you idiot. If you’d looked in his file, you’d see his financial situation and how open he is about it. You’ll get your lousy money back. Couldn’t you see how totally confused he was before he left? Damn you, Michael. Damn you to hell!’
The pub had gone eerily quiet as Emma stormed out of the door, slamming it shut behind her. Michael jumped up out of his seat and ran after her, but two rather large local men stood in front of him by the door and politely asked him to calm down and return to his seat. They suggested he have another drink and leave the lady alone.
As Michael was arguing, one of the men’s companions went outside to find Emma. She was leaning against a table, sobbing. The woman put an arm around her.
‘It’s alright love, it’s okay. Are you far from here? Can we give you a lift?’
Between sniffles, Emma told her they had a taxi arriving soon. As they were talking, the cab pulled into the car park, and the woman helped Emma into it.
Back in the pub again, Michael was still arguing with the men – the woman spoke to one of them, and they all sat back down at their table.
Michael was just in time to see the taxi’s tail lights disappear down the road.
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Author Bio

It was both a shock and a delight when Anthony Le Moignan received The English Prize at end-of-term assembly.  He was 11 and in the 6th form, his final year at Prep.

The celebrations carried on for years – five in fact, at which point he was expelled from senior school (‘asked to leave’ was the official jargon).  However, a lifelong lesson was learnt (even if an avoidance of alliteration wasn’t) – he was clearly unemployable.

So through a series of almost absurd luck which he cannot begin to over-emphasise, he seems to have successfully ploughed himself to this current moment in time.

He won’t excuse his love of Cambridge.  Having travelled around the world playing croquet for a couple of decades, this little city is just about his favourite place on the planet.  He’s not entirely sure why, but he seems to love being surrounded by people far brighter than himself, and buildings older than God (welllll, sort of…).

So, a lot of his novels are going to be set in or around Cambridge and London, all of which he hopes will be glanced at in the fullness of time.  For now, he’d like to mention that all of the characters in his books, every single one of them, human and otherwise, are based on actual persons; fragments maybe, but they all truly exist.  Quite how any author can claim otherwise is a complete mystery to him.

Friday 11 May 2018

Extract from - Girls of the Great War



She was running as fast as her legs could carry her, rocks constantly tripping her up, and a blanket of trees towering around so that she could barely see where she was going. The sound of heavy feet pounded behind, filling her with panic. Was he chasing her again? Would she be captured? Breathless with fear she ran all the faster, knowing what would happen if she did not escape. She could feel her heart hammering, tension freezing every limb. Then pain rattled through her back with merciless precision. She felt utterly powerless and vulnerable, petrified of what might happen.
    A hand tapped her cheek and she jerked awake in panic.
    ‘Wake up, Martha, it’s time for breakfast.’
    Staring into her mother’s eyes, the young girl gave a small sigh of relief. So this had been yet another nightmare, a trauma she suffered from constantly. The emotion attached to it always cloaked her in absolute terror. At least she had managed to sleep a little last night, which was never easy. Tension would mount within her whenever she went to bed, no longer a relaxing time. Now pain and fear escalated through her once more and she cried out in agony.
    It seemed that having spent nearly five months virtually locked away in her room, she was now about to give birth, although she had only just turned seventeen.
    A part of her longed to vanish into oblivion, to disappear back into the world she’d once enjoyed, not least her happy and privileged childhood. Why had that all gone wrong after her beloved father died? Would she now die? Many women did when suffering this traumatic event. Would the good Lord take her to heaven? Her soul having no real attachment to Him, it was doubtful He would trust in her innocence and accept her. Nor did her mother, who’d made it clear she didn’t believe a word her daughter said. She no longer viewed her as respectable and had offered no sympathy or support, declaring that no one must ever learn of her condition.
    Martha gazed up at the window, her blue eyes glittering with desolation. How she ached to catch a glimpse of the sun, the cliffs and the sea. Oh, and how she missed her life. Her mind flicked back to the young man she’d once grown fond of. He was most handsome, dressed in baggy trousers, and lived in one of the fisherman’s huts. Whenever he wasn’t away at sea working in smacks and yawls to catch fish, he’d be in a local pub eating, drinking or gambling. He also spent much of his time sitting by the harbour mending nets. They’d sometimes listen to the band down on the bay along with crowds of spectators, or watch a concert and dancing. Claiming he adored her, he’d give her sweet kisses and had her name tattooed on to his arm. Then one day, when she’d excitedly hurried to meet him, as usual, he’d told her he was off to America in search of a new life, having become bored with fishing. She’d felt utterly devastated. He was so charming and helpful over her family problems that she was almost falling in love with him. How she missed him, but if he were still around why would he ever agree to marry her?
    Now water suddenly flushed out of her and the sound of her screaming echoed around the room, bouncing against the shutters that blocked the window. Over the next several hours she sank into more agony with no doctor or midwife around to help, only Enid her maid and of course Mama. Whenever another bolt of merciless pain struck, she struggled to sit up in a bid to resist it, only to be pushed back down by her scolding mother.
    Finally, something solid slid out of her, leaving her breathless and exhausted. She felt hands pressing upon her belly and more stuff flopped out, including blood that soaked the bed sheets. Then she found herself being briskly washed, wiped, stripped and dressed by the maid, making her feel like a piece of dirt. Not a single word had been spoken to her, save for orders to push hard and stop screaming. And no comfort offered.
    Whatever child had been delivered was now swept up into her mother’s arms and she marched away, slamming the door behind her. Martha gave a small sob of distress aware she’d been informed the baby would instantly be given away for adoption. She certainly would not be allowed to keep it. If only her life could return to normal but the harsh, uncaring attitude of her mother proved that would never happen.
    It came to her then that with the agony of her imprisonment and this birth finally over, she had no desire to stay here any longer. In order to maintain her safety, she needed to go as far away from here as possible, and change her name. The time had come for her to leave home and build a new life for herself. Then she’d find herself a husband and become respectable again.

A section of Chapter One 

Christmas 1916 
Lights dimmed as a man dressed as Pierrot in a bright blue costume and pantaloons, peaked hat and a huge yellow bow beneath his chin, skipped merrily on to the stage singing ‘All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor’. He was quickly joined by a troop of dancing girls. They too were dressed like Pierrots, all of them looking ravishing in a pink costume with a wide frilled collar, long swirling skirt decorated with fluffy bobbles, and a tight-fitting black hat. They were complete visions of beauty who brought forth roars of excited approval from the audience. Pierrot waved his gloved hands at them, the theatre being packed with British and Belgian soldiers who responded with cheers and whistles.
    Cecily smilingly watched from the wings as she loved to do most evenings. A part of her ached to join the singers, something her mother would never agree to. Viewing herself as the star performer she expected her daughters to wait upon her hand, foot and fingers. Not that Cecily believed herself to be a good assistant, being too involved with working as a conductor on the electric trams now that most men were caught up in the war. Her mother disapproved of that. Cecily, however, firmly believed in making her own choices in life.
    Feeling a gentle tap on her shoulder, she found her sister at her side. ‘Her royal highness Queenie requires your assistance,’ Merryn whispered, her pretty freckled face wrapped in a jokey grin. ‘I’ve been dismissed, as she’s engaged in her usual bossy mood.’
    ‘Oh, not again!’ Stifling a sigh, Cecily accompanied Merryn back to the dressing room. Gazing in the mirror she recognised the familiar lack of focus in her mother’s blue eyes, proving she’d again been drinking. Despite seeing herself as a star, Queenie too often felt the need to overcome a sense of stage fright before she performed.
    ‘Merryn has made a total mess of my hair,’ she stuttered in a slurry voice.
    ‘I’m sure she didn’t mean to, Mama,’ Cecily calmly remarked, and reaching for a brush began to divide her mother’s curly blonde hair across the back of her head.
    ‘Never call me by that name. You know how I hate it.’
    She’d chosen to name herself Queenie years ago as she considered it more appropriate for her career than Martha, the name she was born with. And that was what she required her daughters to call her, having no wish to be reminded of her age. Merryn seemed to accept this. Cecily always felt the need to remind her of their true relationship, which irritatingly was not an easy one. She carefully twisted up a small strand of her mother’s hair and clipped it, then tucked the other portions neatly around before pinning them together with a glittering silver hair slide on the top of her head.
    Grabbing a curl, Queenie pulled it down to loop it over her left ear. ‘I’ve no wish for my hair to be all pinned up. Flick some over my ears.’
    ‘I thought you liked to look as neat and tidy as possible, Mama,’ Cecily said.
    ‘No, fluff it out, silly girl. How useless you are.’
    Cecily felt quite inadequate at this job and checked her success or lack of it by viewing her mother in the mirror. She was a slender, attractive woman with a pale complexion, pointed chin and ruby lips frequently curled into a pout, as they were doing now. But she was also vain, conceited, overly dramatic, emotionally unstable, selfish, overbearing and utterly neglectful. Queenie was never an easy woman to please, even when she was stone-cold sober. She was an exhibitionist and a star who demanded a great deal of nurturing and support, a task Merryn was extremely skilled and happy to do, save for when Queenie was completely blotto, as she was now. And having been scolded and dismissed countless times when her mother was drunk, her sister would sit in the corner reading Woman’s Weekly, taking not the slightest interest. Once Queenie sobered up she would happily treat her younger daughter as her favourite child in order to make Cecily feel unwanted, even though she’d done her best to help. Not that she ever felt jealous about this, always eager to act as a surrogate mother towards her beloved sister as Queenie could be equally neglectful of them both, wrapped up in herself and her tours.
    There came a rap on the door. ‘Three minutes on stage please,’ called a voice.
    ‘You should have a drink of water,’ Cecily quietly suggested. ‘It might help to mobilise your voice and cool you down.’
    ‘How dare you say such a thing! My voice is fine,’ Queenie snapped.
    Reaching for a jug, Cecily poured a glass and placed it on the table. ‘Do take a sip to improve it, Mama.’
    Filled with her usual tantrum she snatched the jug and tossed the water over her daughter’s head. Then she swept the glass of water, a box of make-up, brushes, jars of cream and all other items off the dressing table onto the floor, swirled around and marched away.
    Grabbing a towel, Merryn rushed over to pat Cecily’s damp hair and face.
    ‘Don’t worry, it’ll soon dry off,’ Cecily said, rolling her eyes in droll humour. ‘Come on, we need to make sure Mama calms down and performs well.’
    Giving a wry smile, Merryn nodded, and they both scurried after her.

Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancĂ© is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Published 22 May 2018
Amazon UK 

Amazon US