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The emails name names and pull no punches. Some of the emails went to a long list of supporters while others planning strategy were circulated only among a smaller core group. The county document includes the email addresses of all recipients. This email originally went to some readers, and every one of their email addresses has been exposed by the town clerk.
The clerk annotated her email as follows: We should have spent a lot more time talking to people about this. We should have put out flyers. We should have looked at better signage. Verbally we had been told many times by VDOT that head-in parking would not be approved. We lost parking across from Mason Avenue and we had to recover parking spaces. Angle parking allows us to get 30 additional parking spaces. We felt that was really needed for big events and in summer. Tucson, Arizona, has reported that when they switched to reverse angle parking they had a drop in bicycle accidents.
Prior to that they averaged three to four bicycle accidents per month. Afterwards, for two years, they had none. In this town we have golf carts, bicycles, motorized wheel chairs — the belief is that it is safer to have reverse angle parking. So this is the best that we can do. While at the counter, as I proceeded to sign my charge, a pleasant looking gentleman at the bar came up to me and said, you cannot pay for that.
It was not about me but about those who have served and given their lives to protect our country. Having never before had such an experience, I found it to be quite moving and genuine. Thanks to Tony for helping all of us to remember. She will begin classes in October studying acting, musical theatre, dance, and voice. She has half the tuition from grants and scholarships.
This small beach town is unmatched for brides looking for a beautiful and secluded destination, especially since you need to cross a 23 mile bridge to get there! The top same-sex wedding destinations for brides? He knows what our readers expect and he is very capable of delivering that across multiple platforms. If it did, we think that sportswriter Bill Sterling would sweep the deck.
We think she hitched a ride with a customer, unknowing to them or us. She could be anywhere. Call or All others — such as those going to the Coach House Grill — must provide their names to the gate keeper. A return to roving night patrols would also be welcome. Never mind that the There are even maps that show the same thing. Also common are outline maps of Virginia that omit the peninsula altogether. That might not win her a Senate seat, but she could probably win at Jeopardy!
Stay tuned for more information on whether a Home Depot will build on the former Meatland property. According to the report, several of the lights are unstable and pose a safety hazard. Meanwhile, new Town Manager Brent Manuel starts work April 6 — this will be a good test to see whether he is content for his staff to take two months to change a lightbulb. The Gossip report cited three excellent journalists at ESN: The paper is devolving into an adjunct of larger Delmarva publications, publishing the same news written for the Daily Times.
Northampton County ceased to exist as a geographical region in ESN reporting some time back, and now it looks like Accomack will follow in the same footsteps. Best of luck to Shockley, who began his career at the ESN at age CLICK to read his upbeat farewell.
Never mind the lady on the beach — check out her topless companion. Is that over the top? In the case of the town, the lucky ducky is favored Old School developer J. But then again, Foster has never paid the same fees and taxes imposed on the little people: But why would the POA agree to such a thing?
Now, Bay Creekers Dr. Such a battle has been won at least once before — see 1 Samuel: Oh no, Miss Dora proclaimed — they had had enough of politics but would never leave their adopted land on the Eastern Shore. But then the Sullivans put their office building up for sale, where both Dora and Mike had run their own businesses, amplifying the scuttlebutt that the Sullivans were not long for the Shore.
Still denials rang out: Cape Charles would be their final resting place. But now the word is that indeed the Sullivans are leaving to join their married child and grandchild across the Bay. Dora has long campaigned for improved healthcare access for Cape Charles residents; having failed to obtain it, and with the hospital moving north, she and Mike apparently decided to move where they could enjoy both family and healthcare.
Instead, he sold out. Wednesday night, meaning he will return. By the time of Final Jeopardy! Ironically, one answer during the game referred to a word in Latin, and Hack got the chance to ask the question. A shot of Broadwater students also appeared on the show. Who buys depends on the outcome of the show. It sounds like a plan to host church groups and other youth groups. Prior to her revelation, the old school plans had been represented as conventional rentals leased on an annual basis.
Since McCormack has been given a waiver on most town requirements greatly reduced water and sewer hookup fees, no current water bills, property tax deferrals, illegal parking lot in front of building, not to mention being given the building by the town , it will be interesting to see if he will be required to follow town rules for vacation rentals.
Unlike long-term rentals, vacation rentals require a business license, payment of personal property tax on the furnishings, and an 11 percent occupancy tax. Then others wanted to bet on who would win. The suspects later posted a video of a battle on the website.
Pfeiffer was the investigating officer, according to the Post. Does Bay Coast Railroad perhaps want to unload some property for quick cash instead of leasing it to the town? State law requires the town to say specifically what will be discussed that is so sensitive as to merit barring the public from the meeting.
Only a few reasons are allowed. Just down the road, the Fab Man property belonging to Tom Kaufman is also for sale. Both owners would have to pay heavily if a PSA scheme is approved requiring them to hook up to a sewer pipe stretching all the way to Cape Charles. Richardson has been an outspoken opponent of the PSA plan. But that has never been the case. Panek has been active in political debates for Town Council elections, choosing what questions were asked to which candidates.
Worse, as the Wave has documented CLICK , Panek sought to manipulate the results of the Town Council elections by postponing the sale of the old school until after the election. Now Panek has moved in the political arena again, suggesting that the town should save money by holding Town Council elections in November rather than May.
Mayor George Proto suddenly found himself forced to call a vote on the proposal. It was a close call: Tom Godwin and Frank Wendell were absent. Proto broke the tie the only instance when the mayor votes , voting no, and the proposal was defeated for now. The Planning Commission responded that a professional arborist should be consulted on how the tree might fare in a parking lot.
When Town Council heard that, they decided to dispense with the advice of the Planning Commission, and voted unanimously to chop down the tree Councilman Wendell was absent.
A crumbling chimney would also be removed. The Historic Review Board has previously balked at allowing a full-length front porch 2 Monroe Avenue and removing a chimney Jefferson Avenue , although the Board relented when the Jefferson Avenue owners failed to install a fake chimney.
Walker has stated that she wants to see what the Board says before making any further decisions. Ask an old-timer how long the sagging Northampton Hotel has stood vacant.
The plan is to show what a vibrant, bustling town awaits Friday night visitors. Organizers will convene in front of the Palace Theatre and are looking for warm bodies to walk around downtown, in and out of the shops. No purchase necessary although Periwinkles is offering a discount to any customer who can show a little bustle. Bay Creek management circulated a notice about the incident.
Kudos to the Town Police and to the Bay Creek employee. But all good things must come to an end, and the reassessment reflected an enormous drop in property value: Equivalent tax rate increases were then passed by the County and the Town so as not to lose any revenue. But earlier, in , the County also passed an ordinance changing reassessments from every five years to every two years.
That meant a new reassessment for tax year
Meet Buffalonian Michael Seeley, a take-no-prisoners intellectual property litigator—and a man on the brink of personal and career collapse. So when United Pictures virtually demands that he fly out to Hollywood to confirm legally that they own the rights to their corporate cash-cow franchise of Spykiller films, he has little choice but to comply. Aiden fights to deal with the struggles of everyday life while attempting to accomplish the one dream he has had since he was a child, to become the champion of the world.
Mary and Joseph are a nice couple from Buffalo. They truly love each other, but when he finds out she's expecting and the baby isn't his, he breaks their engagement. The kids decide to find a life of their own They ride elephants in India, escape deadly piranhas in the Amazon River, and hail a water taxi to visit the beautiful boat city of Hong Kong—all without leaving the apartment above the family tailor shop in Buffalo The mother of the detective novel, a Buffalo native, sets scenes in Buffalo in this novel.
Rube's team faces off against the Buffalo Bisons for the pennant. Snow Ball New York: The Snow Ball was an annual event sponsored by Children's Hospital where all local debutantes would be presented. A large ball usually held in the Mary Seaton room of Kleinhans.
Romance novel, set partly in Buffalo. Books for Libraries Press, . Originally published in Includes a character, Anton, who is appalled that his daughter has gone to Buffalo with a bookkeeper who has anglicized his Polish name and abandoned his people.
A French child is adopted and raised in Tonawanda and falls in love with a village girl. His father reclaims him, takes him home to life in the French nobility, but he escapes and returns to his true love.
Appears to be the first novel ever set in the Buffalo area. A historical romance set in Buffalo in A thinly-veiled fictionalization of the Edwin L. Burdick murder, which scandalized Buffalo in By the widow's attorney.
Henry, Elizabeth Angela Cloudy Weather: A science fiction story set in Buffalo in the s, with handsome illustrations. Herod, William Myths and Legends: A fictional urban legend about robot sightings in Buffalo. An executive in a steel plant in Buffalo has an extramarital affair with the boss's daughter. In spite of the destruction this causes, he spends most of the novel feeling misunderstood and explaining how pure their love is.
Death in a Delphi Seminar: A grad student is poisoned in the English Department at the University of Buffalo. Holland is a former UB professor. A children's book for middle grades, the story of a young Polish immigrant trying to help support his struggling family in late 19th century Buffalo. Historically accurate illustrations and text. Follows Africans-American characters as they escape from slavery and settle among Seneca Indians outside of Buffalo.
Hopkins may be the first African-American author to set a novel in Buffalo. Farrar, Straus and Giroux . A coming-of-age novel set in the 's in "Dorchester," supposedly a blend of Buffalo and Rochester.
Has several scenes in Buffalo. Naked in Church Lincoln, NE: A deep, penetrating psychological soap opera delving into relgious extremism, emerging gay identity, angst-ridden romance and the pressures all of these bring to bear on one small town and one family of Cuban immigrants.
Jude's Gospel Lincoln, NE: There is a subplot in which the Bills win the Superbowl with Doug Flutie as quarterback. Author is a Buffalo ex-pat. Two newlyweds travel to Niagara Falls, Montreal, and Quebec. A Story of To-day New York: Written under the pseudonym Aspasia Hobbs, the novel is set in Buffalo.
It was Hubbard's first book, and Moore, soon to be his wife, was a large contributor. Apparently, Hubbard was so dissatisfied with it that he burned all his copies. Hubbard, Susan "Conversations With Men" [short story], in: Blue Money Columbia, MO: According to the review in Publishers Weekly , a union organizer returns to Buffalo to mend her relationship with her ailing father.
A young adult novel about the War of on the Niagara Frontier. Includes scenes set in the village of Buffalo. Buffalo Noir Brooklyn, NY: Part of this novel takes place in Buffalo, actually in a fictionalized version of Buffalo called Niccalsetti. A demon reincarnates in Buffalo. Possibly the first-ever computer crime novel, with scenes at the Ellicott Square Building, the W. Ferry lift bridge, and the Erie Canal. Taming Pillip Edgewater, FL: Priince Phillip has come to Buffalo to find a wife.
Corinne Verland is assigned to show him the sights and to help him find a bride. Can she tame and mold the arrogant prince into a proper husband? What happens when he decides she is to be his bride? Johnson, Peter I'm a Man [n. Features offbeat characters from Johnson's hometown, Buffalo.
Author's Website with Full Text. Buffalo boy helps with Underground Railroad. For 6th to 8th graders. The narrator recalls the arrival on television on McKinley Parkway in the s. The saga of a South Buffalo Irish-American family. A Novel New York: Set in Buffalo and Rochester in the early 19th century, focusing on the plight of Irish immigrants.
According to Gerry Rising, who reviewed this novel in Artvoice , this story is about a retired Buffalo schoolteacher and actor who becomes obsessed with the story of Bluebeard. Kessel, John "Buffalo" [short story], published in: Fires of the Past: Set in a Muslim punk-house in Buffalo, New York, this novel explores the twin identities of punk and Islam in their many varieties and degrees of orthodoxy. Knowles, Mike The Buffalo Job: A Wilson Mystery Toronto, Ontario: Kolker, Alex Ace Scores a Ticket [short story] [n.
Ace arrives at a Grateful Dead show in Buffalo without any cash but he doesn't let that get in the way of his good time. Dani is an amnesic woman threatened by the truth of relearning a past she doesn't want to remember. Set in South Buffalo. A man without a penny to his name who is suddenly launched into an off-world encounter and engages in a mission to change the face of his city.
A detective novel with a blizzard scene in Buffalo. Rented Rooms Lincoln, NE: The author writes, "I have published a collection of my previously published short fiction Many stories are set within Buffalo or Western New York, i.
A children's storybook about a blizzard. A novel about a Polish-American family in the s. The daughter is a college student in Buffalo. The narrator goes to Paris to study painting under Monsieur Schoelkopf can the use of that old Buffalo name possibly be coincidental?
A teen romance set in Buffalo. It is a place of secrets, fights, and scandal, but also a place of love, friendship, and forgiveness. Five young gay men in the s and s find hardships, pleasure, and conflict on this barren street.
Lynn, Jo Who Killed the President? Before it ends, a President will be assassinated, the Secret Service will be born, surgery technique will change forever, and a young woman will fall in love. A story of a boy named Hap Pozner growing up in the s and 60s living in South Buffalo, NY just a few blocks away from Lake Erie and the plants and factories where all of the fathers, including his own, go to work.
A murder mystery that takes place in Wilmington, NC but reaches to the east side of Buffalo to find the murderer. Talking Leaves Bookstore says, "Can you imagine major-league baseball in Buffalo? Maloney does in his first novel. End of a Dynasty is the story of the Buffalo Pioneers, a small-market baseball team that defies all odds by capturing the World Series three straight seasons before succumbing to myriad problems: As the team is ripped apart by free-agency, drug controversies and personal rivalry, tensions in the front-office and egos in the clubhouse spill over onto the field, depriving the Pioneers of the chemistry that brought them glory.
Manka, David You're Lost! But what once was lost is now found. Lemon became the reclusive night manager of the dowdy Your Host restaurant in the once-elegant Elmwood neighborhood of Buffalo. Biograph Girl New York: A 'what if" novel about silent screen star Florence Lawrence, who did live in Buffalo in her youth.
Speculates what her memoir might read like had she lived to be in a Buffalo nursing home rather than passing away in Marshall, Tom Voices on the Brink: A mystery novel set in Niagara Falls with an unsolved murder in Buffalo.
Martin, Joseph Xavier Buffalo Stories [various dates]. Most of Martin's short stories uploaded here have something to do with Buffalo. May not be all fiction. Although the focus of the story is a family relationship, there is a local flavor to the drama.
An Erie Canal novel for young adults with a orphaned protagonist who has climactic family reunion in Buffalo and witnesses the canal opening ceremonies in In the city of Buffalo, NY, lives a diverse and eclectic population of people. You will meet some of these people in "Buffalo Stories. He can no longer paint. He no longer understands his wife Kate. Melville, Herman Moby Dick, chapter Peter Hassett writes, " While almost everyone knows the essential story of Moby Dick , surprisingly few know of this dream-like, tangential digression.
I bet Melville included it just because it was such a good yarn. The Charmed Circle [short story] Smart Set , v. Horace Blackwell, a bookkeeper living near Buffalo, inherits some money and attempts to hobnob in high society. Published under the pseudonym William Drayham. Mike says it has a "heavy Buffalo emphasis. A young adult novel peers inside the head of a New England prep school student. One of the characters, Molly McGarry, is from Buffalo.
It's an offbeat, darkly comic tale of profound underachievement set in Buffalo's working-class west side. Franklin and his neighbors search for happiness and meaning amidst murder, mental illness, drugs, sex, voyeurism and arson -- with a dash of pop psychology, and an occasional therapeutic blast from an alp horn.
What they discover is that, more than anything, they just want to be left alone. Features a professor who was radicalized as a '60s college student by the anti-war uprisings at UB. His wife, Barbara, is to attend a baby shower in Brooklyn where they live, and declines to come along. What if it Doesn't Rain? It has something to do with a Buffalo interior designer, a Paris chef, and stuffed frogs. The only way out is to work harder - but when her elders are arrested it's up to Maggie and her mother and brother to race against time to get the job done.
The book brings to life the Erie Canal and what it was like to be a canawler. Buffalo is one end point of the family's canal haul. Slurry Seasons in Buffalo, New York: They discovered in Buffalo a netherworld of deceit, deception and corruption and they prospered in their new environs during most of the next fifty years. Bittersweet Tears Morrisville, NC: Their romance blooms in sunny California. A body found in a shallow grave in upstate New York.
The Mexican drug Cartel and an undercover narcotics cop from Buffalo all weave an adventurous tale from coast to coast. Niedzviecki, Hal Ditch Toronto: Random House Canada, Set mostly in Toronto with scenes in Buffalo.
Nixon, James Leroy Maid of Ontario: Shadow Hunters Rockville, MD: A young reporter comes home to Alden to solve the murder of his brother.
Sea Tales and Others New York: Set in "Willowsville," based on Williamsville, where author briefly lived as a teenager. The Port Oriskany in this novel is based on Buffalo. The Union City in this novel is based on Buffalo. Sawmill Road Martinsville, IN: A veteran investigator with the New York State Police, Levine quickly suspects he may be dealing with a blossoming serial killer.
A task force comprised of state troopers, the FBI, and Erie County Sheriff's Department personnel follow what few leads come their way. Sin Killer Martinsville, IN: No one is more frustrated than Terry Levine, the state police investigator who headed up the team.
He is ordered to leave the case alone, but continues it in a different way. A family gathers for the last time at its summer cottage on Chautauqua Lake. Has scenes in Buffalo. Panara, Patricia Reilly Buffalo Winged [n. Melina Dimitris searches for missing children in Bethlehem, NY, which is apparently based on Buffalo. Can Kimberly Evans find him before he finds her--or her young daughter?
Using her heretofore quenched psychic abilities, Kimberly, together with Cooper, set off to seek the Terror of Buffalo. A mystery set in thinly-disguised Orchard Park. While investigating a missing person's case, Mack Bolan's brother Johnny uncovers a link between the Buffalo police department and the Mafia.
But when he's forced to kill one of the cops moonlighting for the mob, the stakes suddenly go through the roof. A sorority hazing leads to murder in this suspence novel set at the University at Buffalo. Featured in the Buffalo News , May 3, The Justice Department pursues a professional hitman. Set partly in Buffalo. Petry, Ann "The New Mirror" [short story] in: The narrator is year old girl in the only Black family in a small town.
When her father, the town pharmacist, disappears for the day, she worries that he has gone to Buffalo. A young boy is terrified of everything from city streets to the atomic bomb. Winner of Pushcart's fourteenth annual Editors' Book Award. Set in a public housing project in Lackawanna. An email acquaintance who taught a class on Buffalo literature considers this, not City of Light , the quintessential Buffalo novel.
A bit character in The Godfather opens what else? On the west side, maybe? Two magicians acquire the Davenport Spirit Cabinet, which belonged to brothers Ira and William Davenport of Buffalo who held seances during the 19th century.
The Davenports are actual historical figures who employed a cabinet in their performances. A young adult novel about a teenager who runs away to work on the Erie Canal, experiencing everything between Albany and Buffalo, and eventually continuing west to the prairie.
Horror novel with a few mentions of Buffalo locales. I seem to recall reading that this is an Underground Railroad story with scenes in Buffalo. Reisman, Nancy "Buffalo Series" [four short stories], published in: House Fires Iowa City: From Kirkus Reviews , July 15, Reisman, Nancy "Illumination" [short story] published in: Publisher's Website and Excerpt.
From the review in the Buffalo News , December 9, Summoned back to Buffalo by his Sire, Rajmund finds his master out of touch and rapidly weakening. Vampires in America 3. Local author; novel has several scenes in Buffalo. Riker, Dan Seneca Point: Based on the Angola area of southern Erie County. Webster, a covert operative, tackles the murder of his brother, the town supervisor.
A natural gas shortage during a harsh Buffalo winter kills 20, people and lots of international energy intrigue ensues. Author lived in Buffalo as a child. Disillusioned with the single life in Buffalo, Holly decides that the solution to her problems is to find herself a rich man. The deceased father in this novel is a Buffalonian.
Heroine works in a restaurant on Jefferson Avenue in the s and s. Author briefly lived in Buffalo as a child. Featured in the Buffalo News , Feb. Three young people fall through the ice hiking across Lake Erie south of Buffalo. The story of a Buffalo boy who ascends to power and becomes megalomaniacal while a maverick federal team vows to stop him. Seale, Anne Packing Mrs. Phipps and drive her back to Buffalo. She makes it as far as Georgia before a blown engine and a giant motor home divert her far from her original plans and carry her deep into danger.
Mentions Buffalo locales throughout. Third in the series of sex-crime mysteries featuring skin trade worker Darrien. Author, who works in the business, grew tired of seeing exotic dancers portrayed only as victims and killers. This has to be the first novel with a Buffalo connection published in Hebrew. Semel imagines a future in which Grand Island did indeed become the Jewish homeland as envisioned by Mordecai Noah in Shannon, Tom Da's Shillelagh: Shunned by the Protestant settlers in the village of Buffalo, they are befriended by the Seneca Indians dwelling along the creek.
Finding themselves caught up in the War of the family struggles for survival on the Niagara Frontier. A private detective tracks a prescription drug smuggling case. Set in Toronto and Buffalo. Simmons, Dan Hard as Nails St. Joe Kurtz has more adventures on the streets on Buffalo. Simmons, Dan Hardcase St. Joe Kurtz is hired by a Buffalo mafia don to find a missing accountant. Simmons, Dan Hard Freeze St. Simpson, John Worsley Missing Rebecca: After a whirlwind romance, Liam and Rebecca marry, knowing almost nothing of each other's backgrounds.
Only months later, on an afternoon shopping trip to a mall in the Buffalo, New York, suburb of Cheektowaga, Rebecca vanishes, seemingly abducted. Or did she make herself disappear? Was the marriage a sham? Was Liam a dupe? Smith, Matt Jailed by My Father: Publisher's Website Author's Website. Smith was featured in the April 11, issue of Artvoice. I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was It was a great deal of fun. And I love this city, so I wanted it in the book.
Life at the South Buffalo, NY: Tom suffers miserably in the north including in Buffalo, where the novel was published and Smith himself may have lived , and inadvertantly winds up in Canada -- until he is rescued from his freedom and happily carried "back to old Virginia" and his slave cabin. Smolens, John The Anarchist: But the handkerchief conceals a. Soper, Barbara Carnival of Rainbows: Herkimer Dawes dreams of flying, not of inheriting his father's successful toiletries business.
Aeroplanes are all the rage in , and San Francisco's Lincoln Beachey is the most heralded flier alive. Herkimer wants the man's crown. Thus a rivalry is born that takes Herk from Buffalo to San Diego and many points in between on his quest to become the world's greatest stunt pilot — even if he dies trying.
A murder mystery set in New York and Buffalo. The narrator disguises herself as a man in order to follow her lover to Buffalo, finds him pursuing another, and goes off to have all kinds of adventures while still disguised as a man.
Jen hoped her older daughter would thrive here. Instead, shy, studious Carley becomes the target of vicious bullies. But the real danger at Sacred Sisters goes much deeper. Someone in Woodbridge, NY based on Orchard Park is preying on blond-haired, brown-eyed teenage girls. The voice of Rafael, the lead singer, mesmerizes her A chance for love brings them hope and tragedy. Rose throws off her conservative Christian upbringing and finds a new fascination with the supernatural.
After her lover commits suicide, Rose flees to Buffalo. The Eco-Thriller New York: Harry Reese Mysteries, Book 1. But when Harry uncovers a smuggling operation, the case morphs into something more serious. Stratemeyer, Edward, Marching on Niagara: A War of novel for young adults. Wealthy kid feels misunderstood in economically depressed Buffalo. Seen at Talking Leaves Bookstore. Nickle City Sixty Six Underground, While investigating a murder in Buffalo, New York, private detective Tommy McKinney discovers a conspiracy leading back through the history of the city to a centuries-old cult.
As the city becomes ever more dangerous for the few people he trusts, he finds links to his own shattered and mysterious past that could destroy the city he loves or save him from immortality.
A fictionalized memoir about life in the Communist Party in Buffalo from the s to the s. Nights in the Gardens of Brooklyn New York: New York Review Books, A Buffalo author sets out to write a meticulous novel about Buffalo's history, only to compromise for commercial success instead of literary success.
Talty, Stephen Hangman Ballantine Books, And when I was seven years old, he brought back Prince. We adopted each other immediately. He would follow me to school and wait outside the gates until I reappeared. He followed me to the Saturday Morning Pictures at the Broadway Regal, running along behind the tramcar, and while I was inside enjoying my favourite series, The Perils of Pauline , he would sit patiently outside surveying the street. As the one whom nobody wanted in their gang, I always felt safe with Prince.
His only vice was killing cats. He murdered about twenty of them before a great tom cured him with several nasty blows in the face. Liverpool had twenty-three miles of docks, the largest dockland in the world at that time, and was bombed heavily during the war. When the siren blew at night, everyone was supposed to run into the Anderson shelter. These were made of corrugated iron and were to be buried in the garden and covered with earth. It was stuck out the back at a lopsided angle in a few inches of soil.
There were three bunks on either side full of fleas and bugs. I detested going in there even more than into the single bedroom and if Father were home he would allow me to crouch close to him under the hedge while explosions shook the house and the sky over Liverpool turned red. But what I most remember is the smell of salt in his uniform. My schooldays - such torture. Those nuns, those priests, those hopeless teachers, those disgusting children! Although he never went to church himself, Father insisted we were brought up as strict Catholics.
I was sent to St Theresa's Primary School, a vicious and backward institution run by the clergy where one was forced to one's knees four times a day in prayer. It was very rough. We spent a great deal of time cleaning the floors with dusters tied to our clogs and if we were slow the nuns would rattle rulers between our knees.
Knees were the big thing at St Theresa's. On the whole my education consisted of learning how to run fast. I was the ultimate weed.
My head looked far too large and this was emphasised by Mother's penchant for cutting my hair into a Henry V pudding bowl, If they weren't calling me Sissy they called me Chinky, and I was. It was fortunate that after school the staff would inspect all the air-raid shelters because often they would discover me inside one, tied down to a bunk.
It wasn't so dreadful being tied on one's back. But being tied face downwards left ugly red marks across one's cheeks from the bare bunk springs. Once a gang held me to the ground while several more jumped rapidly up and down on my feet. This meant another term missed, more piggy-back rides to hospital, and Roddy and Freddie wheeling me about in a box.
In an attempt to freshen up my life, Miss Filben - an eager young Canadian teacher with large expensive teeth - decided to make me class monitor with responsibility for distributing books.
As I came by with the decomposing red textbooks I can't remember what they were, Miss Filben never managed to get very far into instruction , the urchins lashed out with their iron-clad clogs. After a fortnight of being rendered black and blue by my privilege, I had had enough and the next time that breezy Canadian accent came lilting over the desks - 'The books please, Jamieson' - I froze. Miss Filben tried again. I was paralysed and she slapped me in the face. I slapped her back.
We were all flabbergasted. Her pretty eyes filled with tears but I lost the job. Anything else in the academic line? What do you want to be when you grow up? One was supposed to say 'train driver' or 'priest'. Eventually they awarded me a bronze medal for life- saving. Vincent Patterson was my only friend at school.
He was dark and pale like me but bigger. He didn't enjoy fighting but was good at it if somebody insisted. We were very religious together and decided not to swear.
For such a place Vincent was exceptionally ethereal and he might well have become a priest. One day he went on an outing to Bromborough in Cheshire and drank from a polluted stream. Three days later he was dead. I was thirteen years old, very shaken, and committed the mortal sin of missing Sunday Mass.
During Confession the priest said, 'Why weren't you in church on Sunday? Get out of this church! A by-product of my loss of faith was a loss of guilt over poaching.
These were about half-an-hour's walk into the countryside from Norris Green, dreamy spots on a sunny afternoon, but the arrival of myxomatosis put an end to it. Not long after Vincent's death, Mother had Father evicted from the house, which therefore ceased to be home for me too. Long voyages at sea, and when he was home getting plastered in pubs on rum with beer chasers, he would go Absent Without Leave.
There would be fights, Father coming off worse. Besides, Mother was now getting on very well with Bernie Cartmell. After Father's eviction, she and Bernie lived as man and wife. Father was eventually invalided out of the Royal Navy with shrapnel wounds in his stomach and legs which refused to heal. He worked briefly as a bus driver, then tramped round Liverpool on a tiny pension. Just before my fourteenth birthday I had another terrible shock.
The school leaving age went up to fifteen. The most intelligent course of action was to ignore it - until the authorities threatened Mother with prosecution.
One day the Headmaster came into the classroom. We stood up in uneasy silence. While talking to the teacher, he suddenly span round. It came from over there. Hurt and angry, I yelled, 'You horrible man, I told you it wasn't me! Mother barged straight in. The Headmaster made the mistake of trying to patronise her.
You bloody Roman Catholic, I'll kill you if you touch one of my kids again! She was jumping up and down, hitting him. I didn't want my kids brought up bloody Catholics anyway, I'm sick to death of them spendin' half their bloody life on their knees prayin'! The word went round about Raving Ada of Teynham Crescent and my final months at school were largely untroubled. What a hard life it is for mothers and head-masters in the slums. If I have given the impression that home life and school life, though brutish, were continuous, I shall correct that now.
From the age of ten I started moving out. John's brother was briefly engaged to my sister Theresa goodness, the times Tess was 'engaged' as she called it. When I began to drift away from home it was towards them. They employed me as errand boy at their shop, which was famous for bacon. I hauled sides of it which were much larger than myself. Half-a-crown a day plus tips, 8a. This was at weekends and during the holidays. Later, whenever I chose to ditch school, which was often every other day.
John was large, fair and given to mirth. I tried to imitate it and in doing so fell between two stools, as far as accents go, so that later when I moved to London it became easy for me to speak with no accent at all.
John and Edna turned into surrogate parents and I lived for long periods in their warm flat. For the first time I encountered wine and uncracked crockery and could sneak slugs of whisky from the bulbous cocktail cabinet with a musical cigarette-box on top.
Edna became pregnant, a business one vaguely understood in a creepy way. Something about it had been indicated to us at school via readings from the Bible, but on the whole the nuns and priests, celibate themselves, circumnavigated the problem by filing it en bloc under 'Sin' and trying to pass their sense of revulsion on to us.
At home, where we were frightened even to put our arms round each other, the entire subject was taboo. But one cannot live long in a town like Liverpool and remain ignorant of the facts of life. The red-light district in the port was Sodom and Gomorrah with flick-knives.
From one's earliest memory the prostitutes were a city sight. It was said that if ever a virgin walked down Lime Street the lions outside St George's Hall would roar. Each Friday evening the girls would gather on Lime Street Station, wearing red lips and red shoes, to meet trains bringing in the G. We would follow, making grabs at the sprays of chewing gum which went flying across the platform as the carriage doors crashed open.
If any girlfriends were there to greet their beaux, the tarts would flay them with handbags: If this sounds melodramatic, be assured that scarcely a day passed when I was not subjected to some barbarism by the local tough boys, so that early on there was forced upon me a sense of my own uniqueness.
Thank God, through cutting so much school to work in the Market, I was rich. As a bonus John would push a bunch of tea coupons into my hand rationing still prevailed. With my wealth I bought Mother presents - scarves, stockings, cheap jewellery. After he was turned out of the house, Father would hang around the Market or the school gates and ask me for a few bob.
I gave him what I had, knowing he would make for the nearest pub. When at the age of fourteen I made my first court appearance - Prince had returned to his old ways, been caught biting the head off a cat, and the outraged owners prosecuted me - I was able to pay the fine of ten shillings. Funnily enough, I hardly ever bought anything for myself. The bliss of those first shoes. It was like walking in bed.
My hair grew out of its embarrassing pudding bowl and, with all the bicycling, I developed slight roses in my cheeks. I came to work one morning, put on my white coat and was about to nip under the counter to collect the orders, when Edna said, 'Why, Nugget, you're quite beautiful. Physical references to myself always made me feel ill. I assumed I was ugly, a belief most others seemed happy to confirm. Later I checked up in the mirror.
Thin and stunted for my age. Eyes dark, greenish brown, eyelashes very long and eyebrows finely arched. This part of my face was always held in a deep frown, except when it lifted into bewilderment.
No spots - I never went through that ordeal. A bit of red in an otherwise gruesome pallor. So what was new? Soon after, returning from the Pierhead on the No. Unexpectedly he knocked me in the ribs. In comparison many of my contemporaries were hulking brutes covered with fluff. Although I neither wanted to play with dolls nor dress up in Mother's clothes, I was constantly taunted for being like a girl and yes, I wanted to be one.
Until my loss of faith I would have long conversations with God each night, asking Him to make me wake up normal, wake up a girl, wake up whatever it was proper for me to be. Instinctively, without knowing why, we all knew me to be a misfit. Therefore I decided to take myself in hand. It was no longer any good wanting to be a girl. I wanted to be a man. When nobody was around I croaked away in the lower registers until my voice was forcibly broken or at least roughened up. I couldn't speak for five days and the Indian doctor told Mother I had 'done something mental' to my voice.
Far more important, I privately determined to go to sea. All the other men in my family did, even little Ivor in the end. It seemed to be one of the things that made you a man. My grocery deliveries took me to the smartest districts of Liverpool.
Since these were a long way from the town centre, I would be given cups of tea when I arrived. One of my favourite destinations was the house of Mrs Rossiter. To me she was a creature from outer space, with her hair-dos and long fingernails, her Tradesmen's Entrance and sprinkler on the lawn. Mr Rossiter was an important man with Cunard and when I confided in his wife she arranged for him to interview me in the Cunard Building itself.
I was fifteen and looked about eleven years old. It cut through all the red tape such as medical tests and parental consent, which was a boon because I had told none of my family or friends about this - not even John and Edna who were more important than anyone - in case they raised obstructions.
The night before departure I came home from work and said, 'Mum, I'm leaving tomorrow to join a cadet ship. On a damp November morning I found myself at Lime Street Station with a small brown cardboard suitcase, waiting for the train to Bristol and the cadet ship S.
My only personal memento - rosary beads. The course was very intense - six weeks long. I never could do them. I did bows instead. The first three weeks were spent in nissen huts. There were about two dozen of us. We were issued with blue serge trousers and a boiler jacket, thick woolly socks, square-bashing boots and a beret to be worn at a jaunty angle. There were no fittings. Everything simply came at you out of a big cupboard.
All mine were far too large. I looked like a vaudeville act. Up before dawn, ablutions, tidy the bed and locker, polish buttons and boots, clean the washroom, marching, breakfast, formal classes, lunch, potato-peeling and floor-scrubbing, physical jerks, dinner, lights out at 9p.
There was no time for conversation. The second three weeks were more romantic. We moved on to the S. Vindicatrix herself, a three-masted hulk slurping up and down alongside the River Severn, where one was taught the practical skills of seamanship.
I dashed up the rigging, out along the yard, and shouted 'Land ahoy! We're putting you in charge of the yacht. The Captain shouted 'Nor' Nor' East! Every order on the Bridge had to be repeated to ensure there were no errors of communication. At night we fell asleep exhausted, soothed by the creaking of the ship and the sound of water. I loved it all, especially this new experience 'companionship', even when the others bragged about girls and I went peculiar inside.
My only reservation was in having to occupy a bunk when most of the class were swinging glamorously in hammocks. Shore leave came at Christmas but those unable to afford the fare home were allowed to stay on board. It promised to be glum until an extravagant food parcel arrived from John and Edna. Included was a huge fruit cake. I cut myself a slice and passed the rest on. In return, back came a hunk of haggis which I tasted for the first time and found not unpalatable.
We shared everything, cracked jokes, and in the evening ambled over to the Mission House where the tea ladies in flimsy paper hats made a sense of occasion out of lemonade and buns. On Boxing Day three of us slipped away to the Bristol pubs and got tiddly: It was the most delightful Christmas I've ever had. By and large I loathe Christmas, bolt the doors, and watch television until it goes away. My final report was creditable, apart from knots, which were disastrous.
We signed each other's group photograph, pledged eternal friendship, vowed to meet up in Cairo or Rio or Tokyo, and all went home. If you want it. It slowed up for a moment when on a cold February night in I found myself with Colin at the entrance to the vast blackness of Manchester docks. In fact my heart almost stopped. It was so dreadfully silent - apart from the squeaking of rats and the ominous ripple of unseen water. Black lines of cranes and sheds fell away into pools of ink.
It started to sleet again, softening the smell of resin and old fibre. A policeman checked our papers from his little sentry-box and let us pass. I screwed up my eyes, stuck my head forward, and stumbled after him into the murk, trying to avoid coils of rope and long cables mooring dead ships to the wharfside. Suddenly the black hull of the Pacific Fortune hung over us.
Except for half-a-dozen hurricane lamps the ship was in darkness. The sailors were ashore. I followed Colin up the gangplank. At the top a man stepped out from the shadows.
He was about fifty and cube-shaped. Swinging me into the lamplight he looked me up and down, then said over his shoulder in a thick Glaswegian accent, 'Och, Colin, I thought we was gettin' a laddie! This was Mr Macdonald, my boss, the Bo's'n. We crossed the deck, went down the gangway, flicked on a light, along passages, down again, along more passages, down, down, to the aft of the ship where the sea crew had their quarters.
An iron door was opened and I was shown into a small cabin. Danny will be back soon - he'll explain everything. Sign the list tomorrow at 9a. There were three bunks in the cabin. The two lower ones had already been taken. I clambered up into mine and sat there nervously swinging my legs. An hour later the door opened and Danny came in. He was about nineteen or twenty, skinny with an unexpectedly studious air.
Danny had a crisp tongue which I later discovered enabled him to hold his own among the bigger, rougher sailors. Robby, a junior like myself but a couple of years older, followed. Robby was amiable enough but overweight and afflicted with boils and indelicate odours. I was the youngest crew member, the only one who had never before been to sea. Danny showed me where to hang up my toothbrush, all that sort of thing, and said, 'I'm bollocked so it's lights out.
Suddenly there was a rumpus outside the door. Drunken sailors crashing back from the bars, a sound which was to panic me often in the future. The door sprang open and a light went on. Three young mariners were hooting round the cabin. They weaved across to my bunk and started to tug at the bedclothes.
The ringleader, a heavy leathery crewman about twenty- five years old, was bellowing in a Scots slum voice, 'C'mon, let's have a look! Ooh, 'e's wearing pyjamas! Danny was shouting, Fuck off, Jock!
We want our sleep if you want your breakfast! Robby was giggling uneasily and playing with a boil on his neck. The alarm shook me rigid.
Robby was already pulling on his trousers and saying, 'Get a move on, we've got to get the mess going before the sailors turn up, I'll show you the routine. We were the first up. Robby led the way along brilliant red decks and into the sailors' mess, which was spotless and had to be kept that way by us. He showed me how to make the tea, set the table for the crew, trot along - everything was done at a trot - to the Petty Officers' Mess and set it up for the Bo's'n, Colin and the Ship's Electrician known as 'Sparks' , then along more corridors to meet Chief Ship's Cook Heywood who resembled a barrel of lard.
His face opened in a grin and he said, 'Well I'll be blowed, whatever next! They lived amidships with their own mess and waited on the officers and passengers. There was a sharp distinction between the sea crew, who actually moved the vessel, and the stewards, who provided service for the elect. The sailors dismissed them as a 'bunch of fairies'. Most of the stewards were English and all the sailors seemed to be Scotsmen called Jock, coarse-grained types yet good at heart.
The passengers were even further away, somewhere in heaven - the Pacific Fortune was a 9, ton freighter carrying general cargo but with room for a dozen or so banana-boat travellers. One never saw them unless 'scruberising' their decks or painting the scuppers where the water ran off. Captain Perry one saw only when he chose to make the ship's round like Matron in a hospital. Having been introduced to the hot, steaming galley it was time to trot back to the sailors' mess to clear up the tea and ashtrays.
The crew would work until about 8a. Afterwards Robby and I had to dash away to serve the Petty Officers. Colin said I had a choice - to call the Bo's'n 'Sir' or 'Bo's'n'. I chose the latter because it sounded so nautical. When all this had been set in motion one was permitted to eat too, for about five minutes, before the clearing up had to be done. My duties were divided into one week in the mess, one week on deck, plus serving tea and breakfast daily. Mess duty was no joy. Waiting on the sailors, cleaning out their quarters, scrubbing floors, polishing brass, waxing teak, lunch, tea - after which many of the sailors would finish for the day - dinner, collapse.
Our part of the ship was usually silent by 9p. Scrubbing in the fresh air is more entertaining than scrubbing in the bowels so I preferred deck work, especially when entering or leaving a port.
My overseer on deck was a taciturn Scot. I can't remember his name but presume it was Jock. Since he had no regard for words I learnt as I went along. The first voyage began. The stevedores came on duty and cast us off at dawn. Winding the steel hawsers on to the bollards made my palms bleed. Jock said, 'Put these on', and my hands disappeared up to the elbows in deck gloves. But I lost some of my excruciating shyness and began asking questions which Jock ignored with a friendly smile.
At Liverpool the ship floated past the green bronze birds on top of the Liver Building. Father said that if one saw them flapping it was a premonition of tragedy at sea. First week out of port: In the mornings I ran up to the fo'c's'lehead to retrieve the flying fish which had inadvertently suicided there.
First come, first served, delicious for breakfast. And at the end of the day, while the crew were gambling or unwinding in their bunks, I climbed to a secret place on the poop deck and sat on a pile of ropes in my oilskin. Out in the Atlantic after dark the world is eerily bright.
I wondered many things - and especially: The sailors began to take off their clothes, which was very disconcerting. I clung on to my jumper and black trousers.
We worked without shoes or socks unless the steel decks became too hot. We put up a canvas swimming-pool for the passengers. About two weeks out: I was running along the deck in the early morning when a remarkable smell hit me. The relentlessness of salt had abated, and a heavy scent was in the air. Even the old hands were growing frolicsome on it. Eight hours later - land!
On the horizon a low green island wobbled between the blue water and the sky. My first palm trees. I had never been anywhere in my entire life and now - whack! I kept rushing the sides of the ship and shouting, 'Can't we get off now? The ship rode at anchor all day in the Bay of Kingston, waiting for a berth. I asked if we might swim ashore like the sailors do in films with a Polynesian setting.
Cook Heywood said, 'Ever seen sharks, laddie? An old salt had become very agitated. Apparently the saying goes: Ours disappeared on the second night and the old salt lived to sleep again. Cook Heywood picked up a bucket of bones and offal and tipped it over the side. At once, and I mean at once, the water convulsed in paroxysms of pink foam and teeth.
It was absolutely mesmerising. The ship was overrun by hawkers in jazzy clothes with whom the crew bartered furiously.
Last to arrive was a black woman of enormous size. She wore a peppermint-green blouse which couldn't have been cut lower, a blue skirt daubed with flowers, and a flamingo scarf tied round her head. She flapped on board in sandals. When she moved everything moved because she wore no undergarments.
This was Cynthia, the washerwoman, who had come to take the sailors' laundry ashore. Obviously she was very popular and knew all the men by name. They were phenomenal, and running down them was an unstoppable exudation of sweat. I emerged damp and red with the promise that 'One night, darlin, I's gonna show you der reeeel Kingston.
They looked incongruous, seedy even, in that tropical landscape. Officially the party was in honour of a Royal Navy battleship moored in the bay. A group of young matelots moved towards me and I overheard 'Look at that skin! Only minutes before, I had discovered Coca-Cola, an invention of genius. So Coca-Colas started to arrive. For the first but not the last time I was horribly sozzled. They had fixed the Cokes with rum.
The next morning I made another discovery. Double agony, because our cabin was at the bottom of the ship, just over the screws, where the heat is at its most aggressive. True, there was a porthole. But this could not be opened in harbour because of rats. In fact it couldn't be opened at sea either because we should have been drowned.
But when Cynthia, smoking a cigar, turned up to take me along the Kingston Waterfront, I knew exactly what to order. In and out of the little wooden bars we went, where three-piece tin-can bands make the sound of thirty, and smiles leer at you out of clouds of marijuana smoke - eventually I ordered so many rum and Cokes that I went quite off them. Cristobal, where South America begins. We went ashore across a solid red carpet of cockroaches the size of sparrows.
Here the issue of salt tablets was added to my chores. I hardly needed them myself, being a salt addict. Salt over everything, even over anchovies, even today when I'm supposed to be on a sodium-restricted diet.
Sliding out of the Canal into the boundless blue clarity of the Pacific Ocean, we almost bumped into a whale. The idea was to avoid ramming it.
The whale rose out of the sea like a cathedral, waved and gracefully disappeared. This went on for twelve hours because the animal had adopted our ship as a playmate. If you ram them you drive right into a mass of blubber and it sticks, forcing the ship to put into port to have the corpse removed. Usually I wouldn't press myself on Danny and Robby when ashore. In public they were embarrassed by my effeminacy, I think.
But the older sailors didn't give a damn. They were amused by the sight of a young thing groping pathetically into the mysteries of alcohol and adult life.
But in San Francisco all the sailors had their special banging parlours to visit, so I went into the city alone. From the docks I caught the bus uptown past the gingerbread houses to Union Square where you have to press your face against the bus windows to see the tops of the skyscrapers.
I gravitated towards Chinatown. We had one in Liverpool but San Francisco's exploded all over me in a dazzle of Chinese neon. Too young to enter the bars, I walked agog for hours and hours and formed a lifelong friendship with the American hamburger.
After the lights, the most noticeable feature of the district was the number of drunks vomiting in doorways. Then it went very quiet. It must have been the early hours of the morning. I had to return to ship and grew apprehensive between Fisherman's Wharf and dockland.
No bright lights here. Out of the gloom, wailing and flashing, a cop car flew at me. Two uniformed immensities jumped out, an entire hardware store hanging from their belts. I hadn't known there could be so many different instruments of persuasion.
Hands up, against the wall, frisk; I knew the routine from James Cagney. They clanked around for a few minutes, checking my papers, expressing surprise at my being at sea 'aweady', and told me to hop in. I was treated to a motor tour of the city before being dropped back at the ship.
Their surprise returned when I shook hands and said thank you. Americans, I've since realised, are always impressed by civility. They don't quite know how to cope with it. If ever you find yourself the victim of aggression in the U.
As we sailed out under the Golden Gate Bridge I very much hoped Seattle would be as stimulating - one was so inexperienced. But we did see a body float by with a bullet through its head, so even Seattle must have its moments. Our northernmost call was Woodfibre, an isolated lumberjack settlement with one coffee bar, where, surprise, we took on timber. It was in Canada that I gave my first interview. Colin had something to do with it because the radio people were allowed to come on board.
They introduced me to the listeners as 'the youngest person to go to sea since child labour was abolished'. Now the voyage reversed itself. Haiti was on the horizon for a while. My seventeenth birthday came and went like a piece of flotsam. Then only the sea. Whenever I could I retreated to my secret place on the poop deck.
While we were in and out of port, everybody had plenty to occupy his attention but now, back in the small claustrophobic world of a ship in mid-Atlantic, my anxieties proliferated. At meal times the sailors flaunted their sexual conquests, while I sat in silence and became increasingly choked. With all the toil I should have been developing male muscles but I remained puppyish.
Most of the men showered in the evening after work. Always secretive about bathing, I was now so ashamed of my body that I crept out to shower in the middle of the night so that no one would see me unclothed. My behaviour of course only made them more curious.
It was always a huge relief when the weather changed to wind and rain, so that everyone was covered in oilskins and there was no pressure for me to take off my top. I was phobic about anyone seeing my chest. Instead of the hard pectoral muscles which all the other sailors loved to display as one of the bonuses of physical labour, there was a pulpiness around my nipples which I took to be rudimentary breasts.
The ragging of that first night was repeated, usually at the instigation of the same young bullying Jock who now frightened me very much. There was always a great commotion.
Objectively nothing catastrophic happened - a few bruises in the scuffles - and the older men prevented matters getting out of hand. But it made me wretched. Sometimes they blew kisses and said 'Hullo, ducks' or 'girlie'. They would wink, slap my bottom, slip an arm round my waist. What was one supposed to do back? All my wires were tangled up inside because, you see, I was excited by it as well as afraid. Had I been among the stewards, possibly it would have been easier.
But I was at the Men's End of the ship, in the throes of a profound identity crisis brought on by puberty but not explained by it I never completed the proper physical cycle of male adolescence.
Why did I have this curvaceous body? After three months of voyaging, the ship was in a filthy condition. If one wasn't asked to join up again all the fears about not being good enough were confirmed. I had made the grade as far as they were concerned.
I couldn't wait to return to the ship. When I did, it was a comfort to see that the seamen were by and large the same as on the first voyage. At least I knew where I stood with them. And one - tall, too handsome, blond, a friend of the young bully - thrilled me strangely. This could not be openly admitted, especially not to myself, but nor could it be disregarded because I went groggy every time we met. Half-way along the Ship Canal my overseer knocked me to the deck with one clout.
A whirring noise passed overhead, terminated by a violent whipcrack. One of the hawsers securing the ship in the lock had snapped and would have gone through me like a wire through butter.
It wasn't a good start. Passing out into the Mersey I scrutinised the Liver Birds. A light flashed from them but did they move? Or was my mind wandering? Life on board settled down to its jittery routine. One of the stewards I met in the galley presented himself as a suitor but I didn't respond, having adopted the condescension of the sailors with regard to these lesser mortals.
Besides, the rejection of all advances had become automatic. Touching people is a very healthy activity. The absence of it made me morbidly sensitive. Nor could I accept my feeling for the Blond Sailor who caused such an upheaval in my prudish breast.
I stared at him working on deck. He would look up, wink, and I'd turn away hot and confused. I was convinced a monstrous mistake had been made and only my being a woman would correct it.
There were no fantasies about dressing in such and such a way. I merely wanted to be whole. One night the Blond Sailor opened my cabin door, unbuttoned his shirt and started to kiss me.
Two of his friends burst in to see how far he'd got. The Blond Sailor laughed and went off with them. But I was engulfed by shame and driven closer still to paranoia. In Kingston Cynthia said, 'Why, honey, you sure is gettin' prettier every time I sees yooo. Cynthia, all Earth Mother and soothing powers. Yet really she could do no more than she already did. Which was my washing, free of charge. Colin took me up into the Blue Mountains for a drink. We sat on a terrace overlooking a misty valley.
The alcohol churned and threw up the conviction that not only should I never be normal but that instead of getting better it was going to get worse which it did.
I experienced an acute attack of panic which suddenly began to break me up from within, the eruption of intolerable pressures, and a compulsion to jump. Reason played no part in it. The compulsion emanated directly from the body.
As we sailed for the Panama Canal on a calm sea I began to vomit from nerves and tried to pass it off as seasickness. The Blond Sailor knew he had broken down my reserve. He appeared to swagger with extra self-assurance. The battle raged on inside me. In the Pacific the Bo's'n began to realise I was in a pretty bad way. He gave me work which was either alone or with older men but he couldn't isolate me. Knots, always my torture, now I had them in chest, stomach and head and they were getting tighter and tighter.
The sailors must have thought me a very odd kettle of fish. I was over-polite with them through fear of involvement. Physically I had deteriorated, eating little, working feverishly in an attempt to block my thoughts - so much so that the Bo's'n took me aside and told me to take it easy.
But I was under excessive emotional strain. The upshot was that, walking down the street in San Pedro, I saw a sign saying 'Doctor' and went in. After an initial reticence I burst, ending up with 'I want to be a woman! I mean, you'll grow out of it. He gave me two sorts of pills, anti-depressant amphetamines and barbiturate sleepers, and told me to visit a psychiatrist as soon as I arrived back in England.
He added that he would waive his fee. Well, I hadn't a clue what a psychiatrist was. It was a new word.
The amphetamines shrivelled up what remained of my appetite and shredded what remained of my nerves. The sleeping pills made me dizzier than I already was.
By the time we reached Los Angeles I was totally screwed up. After clearing away the dinner I stayed on board and when my two cabin mates returned I pretended to be asleep. At about 3 a. They were laughing and stank of drink. I fought like a tiger. As usual the old men broke it up and I was left on the floor with a nosebleed. Later I relaxed sufficiently to weep. But I'd had enough. My mind went cool and I decided to kill myself. On this resolve I fell sound asleep for the first time in weeks.
Next day I worked dispassionately through the schedule and after the last job, which was to clear up when Colin, Sparks and the Bo's'n had dined, I shut myself in the Petty Officers' Mess.
No one would return there until the following day. Picture me looking androgynous under a mop of black hair, with a tall glass of water on my right and on a tabletop to my left two piles of pills, one pink, one yellow.
It was common knowledge that the way to kill oneself was to swallow an overdose of pills. To hedge my bets I decided to swallow both, first a pink, then a yellow, then a pink, then a yellow, until they had all gone. I'd got half-way through when I began to shake, tingle and sweat.
My vision flashed on and off. It went into black and white. My final thought was 'This is wrong but so is everything else I do - hope Mum forgives me. Strange to say, I didn't blame the sailors. They didn't mean to be unkind and were only being their raunchy selves. Certainly if they'd realised what was really happening they would have done anything to make life easier. But there was no way of getting it across.
How could they be expected to understand what I couldn't understand myself? Actually their attempts to make contact with me, however rough and ready, were in fact an example not of their meanness but of their generosity of spirit. Sea people are wonderfully generous. They have simplicity and depth because dealing with the elements is their business.
And because of this simplicity they are also touched by romance. I have always admired and loved them. Later on, when I became well-known, I received many letters from sailors and from whole messes. Dear Miss Ashley - When you first appeared in the papers we have been collecting your photos and pinning them on our locker doors. Not long ago we decided to form a fan club and all the Mess wholeheartedly agreed.
We thought that if you could send us a few autographed pictures Excellent , Monday Tot Time. Dear Miss Ashley - It is with hearts full of hope that we write this our first letter to you, an ex-mariner and now a beautiful woman. In our mess deck we have forty-one pin-ups of various young, good-looking women but nowhere among these can be found one such as you.
We would willingly tear these down if we could replace them with portraits of yourself We write this letter in the belief that you will treat it as a sincere one, and it is you know. Dear Miss Ashley - I wish to thank you on behalf of all the lads for the photographs you very kindly sent. They now occupy a place of honour in the mess, where no matter where we look we can see them, not that we would want it any other way Take good care of yourself and the very best of luck and happiness in all you do.
Sirens rang in my head. I came to and passed out, over and over again. On the third day I came to and managed to focus on the cheerful face of a middle-aged American nurse in a pale-blue and white uniform. And I was furious! The nurse was saying, 'Oh darling, you've got your whole life in front of you, how can you be so silly, it's a wonderful, wonderful world!
She gave me something outlandish to eat called an avocado pear. The Pear was followed by a priest, blue-eyed American-Irish with a spine-chilling smile. He prefaced all his remarks with 'my child', which drove me up the wall.
Eventually I had to say, 'Will you please leave me alone! A faintly embarrassed representative of Furness Withy said that the Pacific Fortune had left and I should not be allowed to rejoin it. I must say, Furness Withy's conduct was exemplary through all this. But paradoxically the news saddened me. Despite everything the ship was my only home and contained my only friends.
He added that I was being transferred to the Seamen's Mission, San Pedro, to convalesce and should be issued with meal vouchers to the value of three dollars per day. These could be cashed in unofficially so there was pocket money for bus rides out to the beach. The local Samaritans from the Norwegian Seamen's Church introduced me to teenage American voluntary workers who took me to Hollywood, to ball games, to the desert, to the Biggest Big Dipper in the World.
With their help my toehold on life returned amazingly quickly. One is so pliable when young. After months of playing around, I was told without warning to pack my bags for a midnight flight to New York City.
I'd never been up before and was treated like God. The New York mission was grim and in a sinister part of town. Again I managed to cash in my vouchers, lived on hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries, and went into the head of the Statue of Liberty the arm was closed.
The representative told me to pack again. I was on stand-by for the S. America , which held the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing. It was a case of having to take whatever berth was going. This turned out to be a luxury stateroom on U deck with yards and yards of panoramic windows. The menu was an astonishment. Here began my love affair with caviar but I baulked at using the First Class dining-room because my trousers were ragged and my thin freezing Californian shirts frayed to death.
However this get-up was perfect for the fancy-dress ball on the last night at sea. I went as Robinson Crusoe. Squaring my shoulders, opened the front door of Teynham Crescent. They were sitting round the wireless drinking tea.
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