The Late Mr Jones

 

Punctuality had never been one of his strong points. Now, it really had come back to haunt him.

Even as a youngster, Edgar Jones had difficulty turning up to classes on time. “The Late Mr Jones” his school master had labelled him.

Now, things were serious. He had obtained a week’s work at sea, helping in the engine room. It was hard toil down there, in the bowels of the ship, but it gave him a roof over his head, some basic meals and, most importantly, a desperately needed wage.

Standing on the dockside, he reflected on what might have been. If he hadn’t joined in that further round of drinks in the pub, perhaps. He had lost track of the time, the chatter of voices and clatter of glasses echoing around the high-ceilinged saloon, amidst the fumes of the ale and talk of football, racing, union matters and the possibility of a dock strike. Maybe if he’d left earlier, or made it across the road before the traffic lights changed. What if the traffic hadn’t been so heavy and he had not had to wait so long for the lights to change back.

He could see the expression on the guard’s face: “I’m sorry, mate, you’re too late. You should have been here earlier – they’re already raising the gangplanks. You really have, er…” he smirked “…missed the boat”.

No wage for the coming week, and he must now find accommodation for tonight. He cursed his luck and the hand that fate had dealt him.

It was 10 April 1912, and from the dockside he watched RMS Titanic steaming away from the port of Southampton, on its maiden voyage to New York.

Replaced

2014-07-21 16.29.45He lay the signature red rose down on the sandy beach. The rippling waters of the loch had a calming effect as they lapped gently towards him. This had always been the quiet place that he would come to, when he needed space to think and reflect.

For nine hours now he had been on the run. Many nights he had spent planning this within the confines of his cell. Breaching the outer security barrier, he would make his way to her house – the place where they had spent so many happy times together. She would greet him with surprise and open arms, and he would present her with his signature gift – the single red rose, a token of his love.

How differently things had worked out. Arriving at her house in the early hours, he had sheltered initially, hidden in the trees opposite. Soon she appeared, looking as beautiful as he remembered her, with her joyous smile, deep brown eyes and long flowing hair swishing around her as she moved. But she was not alone. He did not recognise the man who followed her out of the house and into the car, but he could hear them joking and laughing together, very much at ease in eachother’s company. They did not see him as they drove off together, fully enjoying the freedom that was no longer his.

Now, in this place of quiet repose, he stared down at the red rose – the freshness of its petals from early morning, when he had picked it, now giving way to signs of wear. He felt the pressure building in his head – the return of those very same dark feelings that had led him into trouble in the first place, resulting in his incarceration in that damp, depressing cell. He had the growing awareness that, however he may want to, he could not control it. The base animal instinct that lay under his skin was once again rising to the fore.

Standing up, he watched and felt the dying petals of the rose crush beneath the metal heel of his boot. They would be out looking for him now, and he had limited time. He knew very clearly what he needed to do.

This story inspired by the intriguing find of a single red rose laying discarded on the banks of a Scottish loch, captured in my photo above.

Steam

20140614_104536-1A trip to the tiny village of Corfe Castle in Purbeck is like stepping back in time. You can scramble over the ruins of the 1,000 year old Castle that looms over the little collection of stone-built houses and tea rooms, and catch a daily train service – steam-powered of course – to the coastal town of Swanage. It is no surprise that this picturesque landscape inspired the books of Enid Blyton, a good stock of which you can still browse through amongst the ginger pop bottles in the village store. I waited patiently one morning in full sun to capture this shot of the steam train pulling into the 1940s-period station, with the Castle in the background beneath the blue, English summer sky.

Demons

2014-02-09 12.06.16-1She woke all of a sudden, in a cold sweat, sitting bolt upright in the bed. It took a good few seconds for her heaving breath to return to normal, and for her thumping heart rate to stabilise. The room was still in darkness, only the very first rays of dawn beginning to penetrate the curtains.

It had happened again – what started out as a calm and tranquil dream, quickly descended into nightmare, once that figure appeared. She did not know who he was, or what he represented, but his was clearly a dark, forboding presence.

It was happening every time she went to sleep now, and each night, it was getting worse.

My photo inspiring this story shows a detail from The Victors of Leningrad Supported by the Colour Blind Monster Matisse, by Gudmondsson Erro, which I found on display at the Museu Reina Sofia in Madrid