My posts normally have less ambiguous titles, but today’s contribution is from my fellow author and journalist Christine Webber whose forthcoming novel is called exactly that, and, as you’ll see, the name is just right. Over to Christine.
After 30 years of being conventionally published, Who’d Have Thought It? is my first independent venture. The novel sees my return to fiction after 29 years (doesn’t time fly!) of penning self-help books.
A lot of the knowledge I’ve acquired as a health writer, and as a psychotherapist, has crept into these pages. I’ve had tremendous fun fictionalising situations that I see all around me.
But my main reason for writing this book is that I find mid-life much busier and more unsettled than I had anticipated. Most people I speak to – who are also of ‘a certain age’ – say the same thing. That sentiment underpins the story of Who’d Have Thought It?
Here’s a brief extract from a chapter well into the novel, when my main character, Annie, has been persuaded by her best friend Janey to try internet dating.
She pushed open the door of the all-day bar and saw him immediately. As he had promised, he was sitting near the mock fire in the middle of the room. He had highly-polished shoes, a blazer and a cravat. A cravat! Dear God, she thought, I didn’t know you could still buy those.
His eyes lit up when he saw her. He jumped up and lurched forwards, apparently eager to plant a kiss on her cheek. Quickly, she held out a hand to be shaken.
‘I think,’ he said. ‘Not that I’m used to this kind thing, but the form is that, on a first meeting, each participant gets his or her own refreshment.’
‘Fine by me,’ she smiled.
As she waited for the noisy coffee machine to steam her milk to a high enough temperature, Annie was able to view Roger in a mirror above the bar. He was about sixty. Dapper. A little tubby. Not overly tall. Perfectly respectable-looking – but her heart was not in this outing, and she wondered how soon she might decently leave without seeming rude.
‘Ah, not a drinker, then,’ he said with evident disappointment as she returned, carrying her cappuccino.
‘Bit early for me,’ she murmured.
He raised his eyebrows. ‘Ah well, once you retire, there seems no reason not to drink whenever you want to. And the excellent thing here is that mid-afternoon, you get a deal – steak and kidney pie and a pint. Had my grub earlier. Very fine!’
She stirred her coffee, stifling an urge to giggle.
‘And they do two-for-one meals on Monday, which is really top value. You couldn’t get a better meal anywhere. And, if I say so myself, I do travel a lot, so I know what I’m talking about.’ He paused to take a deep gulp of his ale.
‘Last month, for example, I accompanied a young lady to the continent for a long weekend. Very luckily, I got a cut-price deal on the overnight ferry crossing. And if you make sure you’re one of the first on board, you can get good reclining seats so you don’t need a cabin. Of course, with the ferries taking care of two nights, you only need to shell out for one night in a hotel. And I found a pretty decent B and B …’
‘And are you still seeing that “young lady”?’ Annie asked innocently.
He took a swig of beer. ‘No! She rang me after we returned to say she’d gone back to her husband. I was bloody annoyed because I had rather pushed the boat out on her account.’
‘That would be the ferry boat, would it?’ Annie murmured, gazing at her rapidly disappearing coffee. ‘Yes, I suppose some women can be awfully ungrateful.’
‘You can say that again,’ he remarked before he launched into a story about another young lady who had let him down.
Surreptitiously, she glanced at her watch. Janey had said she might ring to see if she was coping.
Fortunately, a couple of minutes later, her friend obliged.
‘So sorry,’ she explained to Roger, ‘I have to get this…’ Then ignoring Janey’s whispered question about how things were going, she spoke loudly into the phone: ‘Darling … Oh no! No, of course. I’ll come right away…’
‘Trouble?’ Roger’s brown eyes – which had, up until now, twinkled with a benign expression – gazed somewhat angrily at her.
‘I’m afraid so. My daughter’s having a crisis at the moment. And I have to go. That’s what mums are for.’ She stood up. ‘I would thank you for the coffee, but since I bought my own I won’t bother. Good bye.’
He harrumphed: ‘Well, I must say … Still, maybe another time.’
She was halfway to the door. ‘Probably not,’ she said over her shoulder.
Who’d Have Thought It? is out on June 10 in paperback and as an ebook.