First Five Pages


(Fact meets Fiction)


March 1995


“So why don’t you give it a go Laura? It’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time.”

This was Grace, my neighbour, newly returned from the Middle East after twelve months as a mother’s help and an eighteen thousand pound cheque to show for it.

She had been working, happily enough as a medical secretary and then reading The Lady magazine one lunchtime, she saw an advert. No formal qualifications, just lots of experience, willing to take sole charge, six days per week.

“For goodness sake mother, do it. Think of it as the gap year you never had.” This was Grace’s daughter’s advice. “You spent years looking after us. It’s like riding a bike.”

So that is how it all started. I didn’t have any children but I had always worked with people and decided that the other end of the age spectrum would suit me.

“At least they won’t move so fast!” agreed Grace.

Chapter One.

Paradise Found.

  Tuesday 27th June 1995        


Somebody pinch me. Here I am, happily out of bed and it is only seven forty a.m. But it is twenty six degrees in the shade already and I am sitting on the terrace, watching the rhythm of the bright blue water, as it laps against the curved end of the pool. I am sticking my tongue into the froth of my first cappuccino, listening to a lone cicada, stirring behind me. No really, I am.

 Deirdre and Gerard have just left for work and there is no sign of Betty yet, so I have this world to myself; and this is my job for the next six months.

Julia, I must phone Julia, my best friend, also known as, the voice of reason. She’ll tell me if I’m dreaming.

Okay, it’s only six forty in England, better wait a while.

It is amazing that I didn’t give up after my first live-in care job with Miss Belcher, pronounced Bel-shah.

But no, I remembered my years of sales training. Never give up; the next call might be The One.

Only trouble was, I soon found I was limited to what I could sell.


Three months earlier.

Julia had seen an advert. An up and coming Vacuum Cleaner company required freelance sales agents. Fabulous holidays to be won when you reach your monthly target. Worth a shot I thought.

I had called in to see Julia on my way home after the interview. Julia was receptionist at our local beauty salon. There were no clients needing attention so sidled up to the desk.

“So how did it go?” Julia said keeping one eye on the staff room door.

“Well for a man who prided himself on his natural sounding sales scripts. I reckon he cocked up.”

“He did. And how did he do that exactly?”

“I couldn’t help it; they all looked so bloody serious…”

I continued. “Well we were all sat there, about twelve of us, all paying rapt attention, you unscrew this, attach that there, switch on…bla …bla… and bingo.”

“Sitting. You were all sitting there…” Julia could not help herself.

I sighed. Julia went to a Grammar school. I did not. We locked eyes.  Julia was still with me.

“Go on.” she said, “What did you do?”


Julia gave me one her looks. The kind that only exasperated best friends can give.

“Well, you know how I’m not always very practical and he had only shown us once…”

Now she had her arms folded, bad sign; better hurry up.

“So you couldn’t put Humpty back together again, was that it?”

“Oh I did but apparently not the right way round, but it did seem to fit.”

“And you failed the interview over one attempt?”

“Erm, no, not exactly, you see I was about to switch on, thinking I’d got it right, when Mr-oh-so-smarmy- Area Manager says, “Stop. Think. Do you want to blow or suck?”

“Oh God.” Julia had her hands over her eyes, “And you said?”

“Shouldn’t you at least take me out to dinner first?”

Julia’s jaw line gave her away. She was laughing. “You’re hopeless.”

With that, the phone rang. I nodded my departure and Julia swallowed hard to regain her composure before answering the phone.


And then four days ago, Julia rang to ask if it would be okay to bring Doris to my leaving the country- do. Julia would drop her off before we went clubbing… if we had the energy. Doris is Julia’s mother in law. At seventy nine, I thought we were going to be seriously restricted in our conversation. Julia assured me I would be pleasantly surprised. We had decided to go for a drink at our unlikely favourite hideaway; the bar of a faceless hotel but conveniently placed a mile and a half from each of us. Fridays were always quiet, until we arrived. All the business clients had scarpered back to their weekend lives. We would have one drink each and then just keep topping up with tonic or dry ginger. We did not need alcohol to lift our spirits. I was having an in depth discussion with couple of the female bar staff about whether size does matter, when Julia and Doris joined us.

“Men?” asked Julia looking at the three of us.

“No, last Saturday’s football results.” I suggested.

“Oh me god, I might as well go home then.” This was Doris, a mass of white hair, smelling of lily of the valley and a ring on every finger.

“Don’t worry Ma, they’re only kidding. So, what were you talking about?”

Drinks appeared as if by magic. Julia must have ordered them on her way in. The young barman, tall, blonde and clean cut, eyed us all with trepidation.

“Nuts?” enquired Julia. We all nodded. “Large mixed, salted. Thanks.”

“So, tonight’s topic of conversation…hmm?”

I had already checked and Julia said her mother in law was as broad minded as the rest of us.

“Size versus technique.” I offered.

We all blinked at Doris as she said “Well, you do want it to touch the sides.”

The ice was well and truly broken. The nuts arrived courtesy of one of the regular barmen.

“Thanks Ben.” we said in unison.

The new recruit was at the far end of the bar and had been polishing the same glass for the last ten minutes.

“He’s new, he’s young.” Ben nodded at the bar, “Be gentle with him ladies.”


But there was no ice here. It was the start of the fourth day since I had left the girls behind and so much had happened already. I checked my watch, shaking it lose to make sure the white line was still there. Six sessions on the sun bed had paid off.

Where had the last hour gone? Eight forty. I could not wait any longer.

“Julia, it’s me…I know I’m sorry it’s so early…what? No nothing’s wrong…Oh is that your pager…Okay speak to you tonight.”

I put the white, banana shaped, cordless phone down on the white painted wrought iron table. It rocked back and forth. I was in a trance. Could this be any different from my first live-in care job…?


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Complete book now available on and
One Response to “First Five Pages”
  1. helenducal says:

    Now available on Amazon.

    ebook for now. Paperback to follow.

    Also on and ( in English)

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