New Year’s Eve 1973

Image: sjdents0 Pixabay

‘Lesley Howard?’ Patricia pulled on her cigarillo, puffed a cloud of blue grey smoke into the air. ‘Is that the Brief Encounter chap?’

‘No, that’s Trevor Howard. Leslie Howard was Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind.’

Patricia selected a card from the hand she was playing and slapped it on the green baize table. ‘So in answer to the question, “which film actor would you want to be”, you choose the one who loses the girl.’

Bobby rubbed his stocking feet against the flank of a dozing Labrador. Firelight flickered around the living room, casting picturesque shadows over the threadbare rug, the stacks of mouldering newspapers. ‘Always seemed like a decent sort,’ he said. ‘Shot down over the Bay of Biscay, 1943.’

‘A dead war hero? So decent, so proper, such a good egg.’

He recognised the hard chink in her voice. ‘You and Scotch do not make happy companions.’

She raised a hand. ‘I’m just saying you sound very alike, you and your dead actor.’

‘Oh, yes?’

‘Always doing the right thing. Fighting for King and country. So noble. So very, very bland.’

Bobby reached for his own glass. New Year’s Eve and she was as impossible as always. Well, this year he refused to bite. ‘Who would you be then? Greta Garbo, I suppose, wanting to be alone?’

Patricia’s teeth chinked against her glass tumbler as she threw her head back, laughing hoarsely. ‘No, not Garbo. Too sulky. Perhaps Marlene Dietrich in Morocco. Remember that scene? Her in a top hat and tails?’

‘Huh. Very, very you.’

She raised her glass. ‘I always was the butch one, dear.’ She drained the last of her Scotch, rolled the glass between the palms of her hands. ‘Ideally, I would have been Gable.’

‘Clark Gable?’

Patricia nodded. ‘That sharp moustache, the oiled hair, stamping around the Deep South, shooting Yankees.’ Then with a watery smile, she added, ‘Not giving a damn.’

***

I’m currently planning a new novel and these are two of the main characters. Their spiky relationship keeps drawing me back and Patricia talks to me, even when I don’t necessarily want her to.

For reference, the novel is set in the early 1970s and they’re both in their 70s, hence the selection of old film stars.

NB For those too young to know…

To learn more about Leslie Howard, Trevor Howard, Brief Encounter, Gone with the Wind, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo, follow the links.

34 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve 1973

    1. Thank you so much Joy. Yes, she’s a difficult woman, Patricia, but some of the women I admire the most could be described as such. Bobby is loyal, patient, decent so a good foil for P, a way for her to keep in the straight and narrow. Thanks so much for the encouraging feedback. Just need to pin down some plot points and hopefully get writing in a few weeks

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  1. Your new novel sounds intriguing, Lynn. Bobby and Patricia sound like compelling and believable characters. I love the gender fluidity that’s already visible in your short introductory story. That gives loads of potential for dramatic tension. Good luck!

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    1. Ah, thank you Penny. I’m so glad you picked up on the gender aspect of the story. I didn’t want to mention it in the post, wanting readers to draw their own conclusions, but I’ll say that Patricia is an older lesbian lady, living in a small coastal town in the 1970s. Bobby is her oldest friend, they’ve known each other since they were children, and he once had a thing for her but has long realised that’s impossible. Patricia’s been around a long time in my head. I love her because, yes, she’s spiky, she treats Bobby badly and take him for granted, but when it come down to it, she’s a woman of great empathy and personal courage. She has never wanted to be anything other than what she is and though others in the town may not accept her, she’s content to forge her own way. Glad the characters came through strongly and thanks for the encouragement.

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  2. I’ve met this couple of friends, customers in a pub I worked in, except there was a slight difference (reverse them). It was amusing in a weird way to hear them banter, so comfortable in each other’s company, so able to bitch.
    I wish you well with constructing the story.

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    1. Thanks Crispina. That was what I was hoping for, the banter of people who’ve clearly known each other so long they don’t mind offending one another. Thanks for the encouragement – I don’t think I’ve ever thought about a book so much before actually sitting down to write! Taking it as a good sign 🙂

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      1. Lots of fiction writers say the book is written in the head before they set pen to paper (or fingers to key). Myself, I tend to do the same. When writing the first draft, I’m writing in my head at every opportunity, though I try to keep a notepad to hand.

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      2. I’ve been making notes about this one for months, researching, thinking about character and plot. Still a while to go, but feeling reasonably confident I could write an interesting book people by realistic characters, which is a start :). My son showed me One Note on my phone and I’ve been using it non stop to make notes, especially when I’m travelling on the bus. Love it

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      3. Just got a new phone that’s much better at recognising swipe writing too – so you use that? So much quicker than the tapping. Something else my 15 year old taught me 😀

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      4. Yeah, I know what you mean. My old one was actually my son’s old phone I’d taken on and I only upgraded because it was starting to have problems charging and I knew it would fail me at some point soon. Don’t really get people who upgrade every year – what’s the point? So wasteful

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      5. I was encouraged to update to my current phone, but I’ve never really liked it. Though being able to make notes is handy. And I have once or twice used it to connect to internet, but not often. It’s camera is crap. In the respect my old phone was much better. And I carry the old phone with me (so sim) just in case there’s that *cannot be missed* shot.

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      6. I confess, I went for years without a phone that could connect to the net, now I have one, I use it all the time. Handy for replying to comments if I have a few minutes to spare on the bus and I do use it to read sometimes – a Kindle app comes in handy

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  3. So good, Lynn! I was reading along. not wanting it to end!
    And reading your response to Penny confirms what I had in mind for Patricia.
    I love their back and forth.

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    1. Thank you Dale. They’re an intriguing couple, I hope. Not romantically involved, but have known each other forever and are both single, mutually antagonistic and supportive. Glad you enojyed the snippet and thank you for the encouraging words

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    1. Thanks so much Chris. Still planning, plotting, trying to be ambitious with the ideas and imagery. But getting there slowly. I’m happy to let this story gestate a while longer so that it (hopefully) flows better when the time comes to write. Thanks for the encouragement

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  4. Ah, just read the comments. I had been back to reread, convinced it was a couple of women. I admire you writing across genders. I don’t think I could do it, but this is perfect, and the tension is palpable.

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    1. Thank you, Jane. Patricia is more forceful, definitely, and Bobby – who was actually a soldier for many years – is ironically the peacemaker of the two. Though he’s pretty good at picking her up on her faults. I just like strong women and sometimes, strong women are argumentative, vocal, not passive and agreeable as we’re expected to be. Thanks so much for the positive feedback, Jane

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      1. Exactly. And I’ve always been drawn to them. I’m bad at confrontation, avoid it at all costs, but I’ve always been drawn to female friends who are good at it, who can fight their corner, speak their minds, be themselves. Probably why I enjoy writing these women – they can say what I think but sunny have the courage to

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      2. I know what you mean. I find myself putting words into the mouth of a female character that I imagine myself saying—knowing fine well it’s maybe only what I imagine. Having the nerve to do it depends on who I’m up against.

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      3. Very good point. I’m much more likely to speak the truth to some people rather than others. All the same, I find I can’t be as forthright as many people seem to be. It’s a personality trait that I simultaneously admire and shake my head at in astonishment

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