Thursday, 20 December 2012


True Love


I want to tell you a story. A true one, like all my other stories on this blog. But first I need to get something off my chest, so bear with me for a moment.
Take the time to listen to some pop songs from the 50s and 60s. Listen to the lyrics. Note the innocent passion with which the word love is used. The immense importance given to love as being something meaningful and desirable above all else. Nowadays, however, its meaning is vague---the very word has become devalued; I love chocolate ice cream. I love that song. Loved that book. Love your wallpaper. Love that car. Love your new dress. Love your new hairdo. Worst of all over the 'phone, "love you lots, 'bye." How fake. How shallow.
So yes, the word is still used. But so guardedly, so hesitantly, so reluctantly in any romantic sense when describing that powerful emotion for someone, that feeling that transcends every other kind of worthwhile feeling. 
What am I on about, you are wondering by now. I'll tell you. I think love has fallen out of fashion. It's not believed in, really. Come on, be honest. People talk about relationships now. Not about love. They wonder and estimate how long a relationship is going to last. Because every relationship nowadays is time limited. Like a loaf of bread on a supermarket shelf. And it can be entered into in the same casual way that you would reach for that loaf of bread which is needed to satisfy your hunger. And once that hunger is satisfied, well.....it's time to "move on", isn't it. To pastures new. To other "partners". How I hate that word. As if we have entered into a mutually beneficial business association with someone. 
     Well, isn't that what all relationships are about now? Sooner or later someone else will come along. One or the other of us will simply get bored. The habits of our "partner" will begin to rankle. We'll begin snapping at each other. The Magic's gone. Was there any magic in the first place, we start asking ourselves. Call it a day. Done well to last the time it did. Never mind the children. They will survive and grew up to be just like us. How sad. How very sad. 
     How depressed it makes me, this all-embracing cynicism when it comes to the possibility of any likelihood of a deep attraction, a passion that goes beyond the physical and up onto a plane that makes us dizzy with joy every time we look upon or even think about that someone whom we love. No, we've lost faith in love. Romantic love. It's a temporary feeling, like standing close to a fire to warm your hands for a few seconds. We don't really believe in it, because we've come to believe that it never lasts. And that's a mistake. An absolute tragedy.
Is it because we simply have, so readily available, far too much of everything else to satisfy our needs nowadays? It seems as if all it takes to make us happy are the miserable little faces of our mobile 'phones and iPads, which we sit hunched over for hours on end like succubi. If so, then we can no longer call ourselves human beings.
Now for the story.
Some time ago I was commissioning editor for a publishing company. I went to visit a couple of authors up north about the new edition of a book that they had jointly written. Let's call one of them Dr Sam Hudson and the other Prof Luke Martin, because names don't matter. Only love does, whatever you might think. But back to my story.
Sam and Luke were two of the most wonderfully charming guys I have ever been fortunate enough to meet in my life. They put me at ease instantly, and we had an enjoyable meal amidst much talk and laughter at a local restaurant. 
     I noted that occasionally Luke would look up and out of a nearby window, into the distance, as if searching for something, and his expression would change so swiftly and so briefly that in the beginning I was convinced it was only a trick of the light. For in that instant he seemed to be looking into a dark and bottomless abyss into which he was about to tumble with no hope of rescue or last-minute deliverance. A sheer horror that made dark pools of his eyes.
But then he'd turn back to us. Warmth would flood his eyes. A smile would reappear. This happened several times.
Towards the end of the meal, which to be honest we had hardly noticed having been enjoying each other's company so much, Luke excused himself to go to the washroom. Sam and I were left alone.
'Going through a rough patch, is Luke,' I heard Sam mutter.
'Oh?'
 Yes, I was really concerned. I'd got to like these guys very much.
'His wife's very ill. She's only got a little time left.' 
It was as if someone had come up to our table and upended a bucket of cold water over us. I didn't know what to say. Sam looked very sad and began fidgeting with the cutlery. 'They've been together a long time. Practically worship each other,' he added quietly.
And then Luke was back with us again and Sam and I hurriedly re-composed our expressions to mirror the former enjoyment that we had been deriving from each other's company.
Talk turned to business. This was good, because I sensed that neither Sam nor I were comfortable going back to the former atmosphere of social enjoyment. Luke didn't seem to notice anything amiss. He went on being a jovial lunch companion. The perfect gentleman in every way. Hiding his terrible secret because he wanted our brief time together to continue in a happy tone.
Six months later I went to see Sam and Luke again. Sam had warned me that Luke's wife had died.
There was a different atmosphere, as was to be expected. I still didn't know the right words to say to Luke, because I did not think any words could mean anything at a time of such devastating and mind numbing grief of the kind that Luke was going through. A wan smile. The life washed out of his eyes. A pale blankness and a strange kind of withdrawal from the world around himself--- no other way to describe it. 
     Well, since I couldn't---no, it's more a case of I wouldn't---say any words of condolence, we rapidly moved on to discussing the new edition again. And there we sat, in a quiet corner of the university library, at a round table, discussing business and nothing else.
Luke's grief was so huge and awesome in its intensity that I was scared. It shocked me just to look upon it. I felt bad about this as I so wanted to say something.
We got into my company car and went to the restaurant for another meal. The conversation was subdued and mainly to do with work. Then, with the meal over, I drove both Sam and Luke back to the university.
And then suddenly, out of nowhere, Luke began reciting funny lines from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.
"The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things; of shoes and ships and sealing wax. Of cabbages and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot. And whether pigs have wings."
(Almost without a pause Luke went on,)
"You are old, Father William," the young man said. "And your hair has become very white; And yet you incessantly stand on your head---do you think at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son, "I feared it might injure the brain; but now that I'm perfectly sure I have none, why, I do it again and again."
It was back, that warm buzz which we three had felt at our first meeting! His face wreathed in smiles, Luke had said the lines so perfectly, in such a comic tone, that both Sam and I were laughing our heads off like maniacs. It was so well done, such a neat delivery. Sam and I had tears rolling down our cheeks. Lots of them. Sure, tears of laughter to begin with. Then tears of grief for Luke, because we could show them freely now and make believe to each other that we were still laughing at Luke's performance.
Back at the university Luke wanted to get dropped off at the library, saying he didn't wish to go home yet. Goodbyes were said. For the first time I rather belatedly noticed an air of neglect about Luke. His hair was too long and unkept. There were little red nicks where he had cut himself shaving. A button was missing off his shirt. He didn't look me in the eye when we said goodbye. I suppose he didn't want me to see the darkness he was slipping back into.
I dropped Sam off a little further on. He wouldn't look at me either. I understood that. We didn't want to end up crying for Luke again. Couldn't have that. We were professionals. This was meant to be a business meeting.
I went up again, a year later. In my hands I had a copy of the new edition, hot off the press. But this time it was only Sam I was meeting. Luke had died. No surprise to either Sam or I. We'd both known it was coming. So did Luke. For Sam, Luke and I were men together; we knew about love. And Luke had loved his wife too much to survive without her......
Forget finding someone else. That doesn't happen with true love. Forget getting over it and moving on. That doesn't happen either with true love...... 
......there is no future. There is no life. Nothing matters any more. It's the end in every way. No? Am I being silly? If so, then you, dear reader, have never experienced true love. You have no idea what it is like. Which is just as well, isn't it. Because there is so much in this world for you to enjoy---good books, good food and wine, lovely holidays, fine clothes, fast cars. And don't forget your fancy electronic gadgets. Yeah. Who would want to stop you enjoying all that just for the sake of true love! Go find yourself a time-limited "partner". It's what you understand.
and




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Friday, 23 November 2012

Author Quiz: John M W Smith, author of Wacky Stories For Women:...

Author Quiz: John M W Smith, author of Wacky Stories For Women:.(click on link) John M W Smith is the author of eleven books including Wacky Stories For Women Volume One, available for Kindle and PC from amazon.com and a...



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                                       Hunting The Beast (Kindle and paperback editions)  (click)
                                               

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                                 Wacky Stories For Grown Up Kids (Kindle and paperback editions) (click)

                                               

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Katie L Thompson: Interview: John M W Smith

Katie L Thompson: Interview: John M W Smith (click on link): What have you had published? I have had many 'twist in the tale' short stories published in the high circulation women's weekly magazine...


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Friday, 12 October 2012


Please Release Me!


Once, in the distant mists of time, I read this fairy story. I've forgotten who the writer was, but the story itself has never left me. And frankly, I'm amazed it is not better known. For if it was, then many of our relationships---and not just the romantic ones---would survive and flourish so much longer. This I truly believe.
I cannot find a copy of the story to hand, so let me tell it to you in my own words. You can then decide whether I am right or wrong.
There was once a king. He had most of everything, but that did not stop him from wanting to find that one elusive something that most of us need to find at some point in our lives. So, at last, world-weary and bowed under by the weight of his duties and responsibilities, he sickened and took to his bed.
His physicians could not find any illness that they could treat, so the king rid himself of them and resigned himself to that lonely journey we all have to take, sooner or later.
Every day the king grew weaker, until at last he sensed the end was near.
One evening he was lying alone in his bed chamber, drifting in and out of consciousness, when he heard a sound. He listened. It was like no other sound he had ever heard. He opened his eyes. A bird sat on his windowsill, and it was singing the most beautiful song he had ever heard. The king's heart was filled with joy. His exhilaration was immense, so much so that he could actually feel the strength flowing back into his limbs.
After a while the bird stopped singing and flew away. The king's family and courtiers were dumbfounded by the sudden change in him, all in the space of a single evening.
The next evening the bird appeared again and sang to the king. And once again this made the king so happy that he recovered his health even more. And so it went on for several days until the king had just about regained his former good health.
At this point the bird, one evening, after singing as usual, said to the king, 'Your Highness, I've given you all I've got. You are now well. I'll come back and sing for you one more time tomorrow, and then I'll have to say goodbye.'
The king was appalled. 'But why do you have to go? Why can't you stay? I can give you anything you want.'
The bird just looked up at the blue sky outside and said, 'but I am a creature of the air, and I need my freedom. To go where I want to go and do what I wish with my life---that alone is what can make me happy.' And so saying, the bird flew away.
The king thought long and hard. He could not see any future for himself without the bird. Nothing could ever make him happy the way it did.
So there was only one solution.
Next day the bird appeared to sing its farewell song. And as usual, the king listened. And when the bird's song was over, out jumped the king's courtiers and quickly captured the bird in a gilded cage. 'I'm sorry, but I can't let you go,' said the king to the bird. 'You are everything to me. Without you I cannot live, so I must have you to myself. I can only hope you'll forgive me.'
The days passed, and gradually the king noticed a change in the songbird. Something was wrong. Although it was trying its best for the king, the song is sang did not sound as good. 'I told you, O king,' the bird said. 'I am a creature of the air. I am not suited to the life in this prison that you have placed me in. Much that I care for you, I cannot be with you while the blue skies yonder beckon to my soul.'
'Well, it's either you or me then,' replied the king. 'I cannot do without you, that's for sure. So you have to stay and do your best and--- well---that will have to be good enough for me, I suppose.'
However, it was now the bird that went into decline. Day by day it grew weaker, and it hurt the king deeply to see this, because in all truth he loved the bird dearly, more than anything else in the world, for only that bird could nourish the soul. To witness its painful deterioration simply tore the king apart. He could not bear it. Finally he knew what he had to do.
The king went to the cage and opened the door wide. 'Go,' he said to the bird. 'Fly away and be happy, for I cannot stand to see you unhappy any more. I would rather die than make you unhappy.'
And the bird flew away.
The king missed the bird. He hungered for its song. The sight of it sitting and singing to him, it's wonderful presence in his life. And slowly he fell sick again and took to his bed.
The days went by until there came that fateful day which was to see the end of his life. With all his courtiers and family surrounding him, the king was ready to breathe his last. This time, however, there was a fierce contentment in his heart. He was happy he had let that the bird go even though he could not do without it. Because he knew he had done the right thing. As his eyes were closing, the king whispered, 'oh, sweet bird of mine, be happy. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy. I've loved you so much for the song you gave me that your happiness meant more to me than my life, and by keeping you against your will I had already lost you.'
Just then there was the soft flutter of wings. Everyone looked around. The bird had reappeared on the windowsill out of nowhere. 'Sing for me--- just one more time?' pleaded the king. So the bird sang, sweetly and strongly, in all the glory of its beautiful voice, and thus the king died a happy man. For he knew he had done the right thing. He had let the bird go. Given it the freedom it craved. Even if it had meant his own death. So much did he love that songbird.
To keep someone to yourself, to try and change them by forcing them to live in your environment, by your rules, away from their natural desires---this will make them unhappy. Which is why you must accept whatever love someone is prepared to give you and not ask for more. And if you cannot live without them, so be it, for if you really love them you will allow them their freedom, to choose their own life and destiny even at the expense of your own. Don't try to change people. Let them be who they really are. And, above all, never try to keep them all to yourself. For verily in this lies the test of true love........
and



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