When I’m writing, and full on in the flow, I sometimes have several different story-lines running, but not all of them make it onto the paper. Sometimes I need to know what characters said and did off-stage, or off-page, in order to have some sense of why things happen. My readers don’t need to have 24-hour coverage of every single little tiny thing, but I sometimes do!
The following extract is Antoine’s back story from my unfinished novel about the Portbradden family. This will never be in the book because it isn’t needed, but I had to write it to keep track of what Antoine was doing, how he was feeling, what he was experiencing. My books are long enough as it is, if I published everything I wrote they would be longer than ‘War and Peace’!
He walked at random through the rather untidy streets, once a richer part of town than it was now, the land of bed-sits, flats and multiple occupancies. He couldn’t wipe the smile from his face, he felt as if he could walk for a thousand miles. He found a little park, empty apart from a few dog walkers and for some reason he broke into a run; he’d been a runner as a school boy, a distance runner but he had not run since leaving University. He trotted round the park and it felt good, but he had to stop and walk, he was unfit, very unfit, except for the strenuous exercise of the past couple of nights he had not exerted himself for years. he walked on grinning, making love in the back of the car… and then broke into a slower jog… maybe he would start running, he ought to make sure he became fit with a young wife – he stopped dead. Wife? wife? He stood lost in thought for a few minutes then walked on, smiling dreamily.
Antoine’s phone rang. Alison asking where he was. Jogging in the park, he replied with a laugh… his marriage of nearly thirty years was over, he was homeless, he did not know when he would next see his boys, he had split the family for ever… and yet he was laughing.
She was asking him to buy some bread and milk and some squash for the children. She told him she loved him and left him grinning like a fool. He wandered on out of the far gates of the park and found himself by a little row of shops. There was a little supermarket with a range of exotic fruits and vegetables arrayed on tables at the front; he paused to look at them, wondering what they were and wondering if the cheap looking prices really were good value. He never went shopping, he had little idea of the cost of living, he just paid the bills but now he and Alison would have to watch the pennies even more… he and Alison, ‘we’, ‘us’ he smiled again.
“Good morning sir,” said a man in a turban.
“Good morning, I was just admiring your fruit and vegetables,” Antoine replied feeling rather foolish
“They are very fine, vegetables sir, most fine, can I serve you with some?” the man was polite but not deferential.
“Um… well, the truth is, I actually don’t know what a lot of them are… or how I would cook them,” he picked up a green knobbly item like a small warty courgette.
“You are holding, sir a bitter melon… are you thinking of cooking something in particular?” Antoine pondered, cooking, him cooking, maybe he would be able to do more… if it would be helpful to Alison. He nodded and asked the man for advice and they had a pleasant chat about Indian cookery.
He settled on buying some spices and some Indian sweets for the children and was just leaving the shop when he remembered the milk and bread and squash. As he was paying the shop keeper he noticed a photo in a frame on the wall at the back of the counter. The shopkeeper, stood, arms folded round a snooker cue, smiling proudly out of the picture standing beside a table bearing a large silver cup.
“Do you play snooker, sir?” the shopkeeper enquired seeing his interest.
“Many years ago, I was quite good actually, I suppose I’ve lost my touch now,” he must have sounded more plaintive than he intended because the shopkeeper suggested he took it up again.
“It’s not the winning, sir, it’s the taking part as they say,” he smiled merrily, the slight reserve had gone as they discussed different dahls.
Antoine gazed at the picture, maybe… maybe he could… “Do you belong to a club?” he asked taking the carrier bag the man proffered.
“I go to one in Strand, I know it’s a way from Castair but I don’t find the clubs here very… congenial…” the man gave Antoine a piercing look. “If you get my drift, sir…”
Antoine nodded. “I’m Antoine… could you tell me the name of your club… I’m not sure I will be able to get back into playing… financial reasons.. family… you know… but in the future..”
“How do you do, Antoine, my name in Anudeep… let me give you a card for my club…. then maybe one day you will be able to come along, people are very friendly and welcoming there, all sorts of people, and there is a social side too if your wife would like to come, or maybe she would play too? Many ladies these days play snooker, there are some very fine lady players,” he smiled and handed Antoine a card.
Antoine was about to say something about Shane not ever in a million years wanting to play snooker and then he remembered. He laughed “Maybe she will, she’s a remarkable woman, so maybe she will!”
With more friendly words Antoine said goodbye and left the shop, sauntering back to where Jess lived, to where he now lived for the moment
Since this was originally posted, I have published ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ -you can read Antoine and Alison’s story, and those of the other Portbraddons: