Letters from Ontopof Abroad by Sandfish Minnow

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Letters from Ontopof Abroad
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Letters from Ontopof Abroad
From: richie-theatre@hotmail.com

To: everyone



OK. Here we go.. Hiya Everybody Peeps..
Well, for those of you that don't know,Laura. and I have parted.
It all came to a head two weeks ago when, for various reasons Laura decided that after 12 years she would be happier without my company.
After the usual pleadings I accepted her decision and started to try and get my head around my future life..when..I received an unexpected e-mail from America. A wonderful friend called me and asked if the relationship was truly over. When I replied in the affirmative I was told.."Well honey, you better get your ass over here, cos I'll have ya.!
So, to cut a long story short, here I am sitting in a duplex in Murphysboro, Illinois, USA totally smitten and in love with Miss Jackie.
My flight is booked to return to the UK on March 21st 2007 but if all goes according to plan I won't be coming back.
We are living here together for a month.and.if we still feel the same about each other we will marry.
She works for the Sheriffs office here and strings can be pulled it seems.
I flew into Nashville on Thursday where Miss Jackie was standing with arms open wide and after a suitable overnight pause at a Motel ( just to make sure we meant it) hee hee , we sailed off across the Tennessee countryside to Interstate 24 and ended up here in Southern Illinois.
We drove on into Kentucky and over the vast Ohio river into Illinois. Here we stopped for a while in Metropolis..yes it IS the home of Superman as the statue in the town square attests. We were visiting Miss Jackie's favourite recreation spot The Riverboat Casino. A genuine riverboat moored in the Ohio where Miss Jackie showed me her brother Mike's sure fire way of turning $100 into $150..she's gonna kill him next time they meet ha ha ha..where I was introduced to huge shots of JacknCoke at $3.50 per shot.that's like £1.75 a drink.
I sat and watched in awe as Heartland America poured bountiful $$$$ into the most concentrated display of neon and glitz I had ever seen.
On we journeyed, considerably pocket lighter on the folding stuff and a few miles later pulled into Miss Jackies hometown of Murphysboro.
Its beautiful..its really quite indescribable but trust me, I'll try.
Woods and lakes, rolling low hills but it's the buildings.every home is different..each house in a block is individual and sssooo varied, from little shacks to big gothic Victorian mansions (known locally as Painted Ladies). All higgldy piggldy but no gardens AT ALL! just grass and some shrubs around the houses..no fences or any way of seeing the property boundaries.
I can hear the lonely wail of freight trains passing from where I sit as I type...little restaurants no larger than shacks where you can get a whole meal for as little as $5..thats like £2.50 !!!!and GOOD food I am told.
Whatever did I do to deserve her? well I dunno but this is happening RIGHT NOW and I'm loving every minute of it.
I'll try to keep everyone up to date . and instead of being called 'Letter from America' Miss Jackie has suggested 'Letters from Ontopof Abroad' heh heh heh.

OK watch this space for more developments but our lives seem complete and content and we can't see any reason for that to change ..wish us both love and luck please and I'll be in touch ..God Bless and take care . Richie ...




Chapter 1


It's just as well we can't see what the future holds for us or I would probably have curled up in bed again and pretended to be dead on January 8th .
Unfortunately no portent of the next few days appeared so I got up.
Laura was already downstairs making coffee and I gratefully sipped at the mug of strong cafetiere she passed me.
"OK love I'm off to work" She said, slipping on her coat.
" Yep have a good one babe, I've got a theatre meeting this afternoon but I'll still be here at lunchtime, See you then, love you"
"Love you too babe, laters".

Right, first things first, switch on the computer. Both Laura and I were hopeless Internet junkies and had been for years.
We were and still are, administrators on an online Poker site Triplejack.com owned and run by a very good friend of ours in Denver USA Scott, otherwise known by his internet name Zenblender,
I'm Supercrew on the 'Net and Laura is, well, lets stick with Laura for now.
We were also closely involved with a virtual world site Secondlife.com where we separately owned large area's of land and I had a club streaming 24hr Techno music, but enough of that for now.

OK, where's that Bashment download punisher1989 was going to send me?
Hhhmmm nothing in my e-mails, better MSN him if he's online".
Then I remembered that punisher1989 was on Laura's laptop.
Right, I'll just switch hers on and copy his MSN to mine......... and that's when my life went a bit tits up.
As soon as I saw what popped up on the screen I rang her office
"I've just switched on your laptop and there's a message from firespawn staring me right in the face, I don't know what to say to you, I really don't". With that I put down the phone.

Now, you may think that it was the intimacy of the message to my partner of 12 years that had upset me but no. It was the fact that she was having conversations with the only person on Secondlife.com that I and several other people including Laura knew to be a thoroughly bad lot.
He was a scripter, which means that he was able to write basic computer programs. He used this skill in Secondlife to control peoples avatars ( the virtual body given to everybody on the site). That type of control is a rather nasty and invasive method of internet abuse.
I sat there stunned and angry, wondering what on earth Laura thought she was doing involving herself with such a mean character when the door opened and she walked in.
She sat back in the armchair and before I could open my mouth she spoke the words that were about to change my life drastically.
"I'll be perfectly honest with you Richie, I want you out and I want you out right now"!
I never saw it coming or I would have ducked and knowing Laura as well as I did I knew she meant it!
Of course I tried to argue but to no avail.
The rental house was in her name so if it came to a legal argument I didn't have a leg to stand on, anyway I knew that Laura had made her mind up so out of the door I went.
It was January, it was cold, it was raining and I was stunned.

Eventually I rang Laura. "Look babe, I'm soaking wet, freezing cold and my hearts broken, I've got nowhere to go and I can't face anyone. Please let me back in, I'll go straight to the spare room and stay there but please at least give me some dignity in this".
Fair play to her, she grudgingly agreed. Before returning I bought myself a large bottle of vodka and once inside the spare room I tipped alcohol down my throat for the first time in 5 years and that night I drank myself to sleep.

The next day I made a start on assembling my possessions but still with no idea as to my future.
Around lunchtime I went out, saw one or two folks and explained what had happened. They were as stunned almost as I had been.
My theatre work, I was and still am Technical Director of Red Kite Theatre our Community Youth Theatre here in Hay and my responsibility. for the Hay Christmas lights kept me very busy and very much in the public eye. We are both well known people in this town of around 2000 souls and I think people were genuinely upset to see my grief.

I met Ruth in High Town and she could see I was in trouble. After explaining as best I could her reaction was immediate.
"Well Richie you better come straight out to Llanigon and live with us"!
"Well that is so kind of you Ruth but hadn't you better consult with Paul first"?
" Certainly not, I know Paul's mind and he would be the first to offer if he was here right now. You go and collect what you need and get out there, the door will be open. Use Tim's old room now he's moved out. Richie it will be a pleasure to have you for as long as you want to stay, Our house is huge. You won't be in the way at all"
I was very grateful and immediately threw as much gear as was practicable into the back of the theatre van and headed the two miles out of town to the house.

It wasn't until the next day that I was able to get my computer running and back online and I remember being rather reluctant to sign in. As I said earlier Laura and I were avid net surfers and I knew that many people throughout the internet world would have noticed my absence, I also knew that Laura would have been online and that I was going to get bombarded with questions. I really didn't feel up to it all.
That's exactly what happened. All that day I was answering so many sympathetic but repetitious questions from well meaning friends, trying to explain the unexplainable and still with so much confusion as to why Laura had made her move so forcefully.

World time differences meant that it was evening before America got off work and online and there, all of a sudden was QueenofSpades calling me on MSN.
"Supercrew, is this true that you and Laura have split"
"Yes I'm afraid it is".
" Is there any way that you could get back together"?
" Not a chance, I've done my pleading but that's the end for us"
" Well then honey, you better get your ass into gear and get over here cos I'll have ya, if you'll have me that is".
I'm sure everything went still and my heart stopped slightly, This woman from 5000 miles away had spoken straight from her soul and she meant it

I had better explain that QueenofSpades was a whole lot more than a chance internet acquaintance. She was also an administrator on Triplejack.com and as well as playing poker together we had developed a strong online friendship.
We spoke daily, telling each other about our lives and generally chatting about nothing in particular but that summer I had started to organize poker tournaments here in the UK on behalf of Triplejack.com and they were very successful. Triplejack is a no money site, the games are strictly for fun and the site is family orientated. There is a cussing filter in place and our job as admins is really to keep the site polite, safe and cheat free. We all have a lot of respect for Zenblender the site creator who has put so much time, effort and real hard cash into what at first started as an interesting hobby that ran alongside his fulltime job as an internet game creator for a Texas company.
I had organized T,shirts posters, place mats, lighting and sound for the first 'TJ' UK party which was held at Barbiequeens home in Pagham Hampshire. Barbiequeen is Laura's real life sister.
That autumn I decided to organize a Christmas bash at a nearby Hotel, Baskerville Hall which stands a couple of miles outside Hay and is actually the place that Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, using the family name but changing the setting to the wilds of Dartmoor.
When QueenofSpades heard about the party she immediately booked a flight to the UK, as did Zenblender and I picked them both up from Gatwick.
Zens flight landed some half an hour after Queenie's and I took great delight in showing them the English countryside as we boweled towards Wales in the theatre transit van.
Zen stayed in the flat above Laura's office while Queenie stayed with us. We had Triplejack players arriving from all over the country and, and by 9 pm on Saturday the tourney was in full swing with everyone having put the real faces to the internet names.
I think we still agree that 'maneatingbrick' has the most inventive, especially for such an unassuming and gentle nice guy. As I recall the final tournament was won by '5treeter' but then '5' usually did win the tourneys, great player as he is.
The point is that QueenofSpades or Jackie to give her her real life name had stayed in our home and had seen me as I was, not some nebulous internet avatar, although contrary to popular belief it is actually very hard to keep up a personality pretence for any length of time on the Net. Liars usually trip over themselves sooner or later and we were expert at detecting fraudsters by then.
She has since said that had she not met me in real life and stayed with us there was no way that she would have made the offer to me that she did.
All of a sudden my life had taken a completely unforeseen turn, I was heading for Illinois to be with a woman of 52, mother, grandmother, loving, kind, and as I knew, a very fun person to be with, also as seen at Baskerville Hall, this gal knew how to party, Oh boy can she party when the mood takes her.
Another thing that has to be mentioned is the fact that she was working within the Jackson County Sheriffs Department and had been for the last eighteen years.
She had worked in several capacities but was currently the senior 911 operator. She had partnered a detective for 6 yrs and her last partner was an ex army drill sergeant turned police officer who had seen front line action in Vietnam.
I on the other hand was a dedicated old hippie who had just completed twenty years as a backline technician with this countries top session musicians. I had worked with everyone from Madonna to The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I too knew how to party but in slightly different ways to Miss Jackie...now this was going to be an interesting partnership.

The first thing I needed was money and I had no savings, however I had just received a cheque for the second half of the Christmas lights and although Laura was entitled to half it was still enough for my flight and a few hundred left over but that wasn't enough. I couldn't turn up on Jacks doorstep virtually penniless so I was just going to have to sell everything I could.
The first things to go were my power tools. Good quality ones as well, that raised a few hundred, plus my pride and joy, my lathe, an old British model built in the 60's when we still produced some of the best tools in the world, that soon found a quick and eager buyer. Then my musical instruments that I had collected over the years and lastly my books.
Hay-on-Wye is known as the book capital of the World and with over 30 bookshops I would have no trouble selling my collection, Laura manages three bookshops in Hay and it was her boss Derek who bought mine. To sell my climbing books hurt a lot but worse was to see my collection of Buddhist books go. I have had several passions in my life, one was surfing, another was and still is climbing but by far the greatest was my Buddhist practice, oh well, a good teaching of non attachment, so off they all went.
I started giving away stuff to whoever showed an interest because as far as I was concerned I was leaving, never to return. Even if things didn't work out with Jacks I thought at the time that I could never return to Hay, the pain was still too immediate.
After a week of selling, giving and dumping I had amassed the grand sum of fifteen hundred quid, by no means a fortune but enough for my airfare and a sizable sum to pay my way for a while in America, I also knew what a favorable exchange rate we enjoy with the USA. I booked my flight for Jan 17th and waited.

During this time Laura and I had reached a point where we could speak sensibly about our breakup and she told me how she had just gradually fallen out of love with me, she spoke of this regretfully and told me what a nice person I was and how she really had to do a lot of soul searching before telling me to leave, of course I believed her, why would I not?
Jacks on the other hand took a much more suspicious attitude to the break up and, without telling me ran an investigation on the internet. Her sheriffs training has provided her with a very keen insight into human motivations and behavior, she rarely takes people at face value and in this instance she was right.

She called me on the Friday before I left and said " Honey I don't want to upset you but you really need to look at this"
At first I refused to look but she persisted and eventually I did. What I saw stopped me dead in my tracks. Laura and firespawn had been together as man and wife for three months.
They had got married on the internet and had plotted my demise for the coming weekend and it was pure bad luck on Laura's part that I happened to look for punisher1989's MSN on that Monday morning.
That explained something that had been troubling me all week. Apart from my initial upset on the day she finished with me I had taken the situation calmly but Laura had seemed very tight and nervous which puzzled me. I was being gentle over the breakup so her apparent fear seemed strange. Now though I got it, She was terrified that I would find out about them before my departure.
My world crashed around me all over again, this partner of mine that I thought I knew so well turned into a calculating stranger in my eyes. The pain was so intense I actually wondered how a human body could continue when the brain felt such grief.
I didn't see Laura that weekend but on Monday morning I called first thing to her office. When I opened the door she looked up and the colour literally drained from her face . All I said was " Yes Laura I know about you and firespawn". Then I turned around and walked from the building not wanting to see or hear from her ever again in my life.
The next day I left for London and stayed with friends until my flight on Thursday.



During the course of my career in the music business I had traveled and worked extensively in Europe but an American tour had always eluded me so this was a big adventure for me quite apart from the new relationship that was about to begin.
I boarded the American Airlines flight and took my seat. As the stewardess allotted to our section of the plane approached down the aisle I looked up and was confronted by an almost exact replica of Tina Turner. "Wow" said I to myself "This is the real deal" Don't ask me why I was so impressed, I had met and worked with plenty of our colonialist cousins before but for some reason that first sight made a strong and lasting impression on me.

The flight cruised out across the Atlantic and sitting in my seat I reflected on all that had passed over the last two weeks and on all that was before me in my new life. The pain was still very strong but in that crystal clear blue sky with the vastness of the ocean below me I felt the suffering of the last days wash off my shoulders and recede behind me into the grey of the past.
Ahead lay sunshine and clarity. This feeling was very strong and actually physical. It was all OK, God was in the heavens and all was right with the World.. A huge feeling of cleanliness and relief, whatever the future held I was done with the past.
I settled back in my seat and the next time Tina passed I ordered a glass of fine Californian wine and mused on the wonders of this life. Who can tell what will happen? Who can see what turns life takes? I was content. I wouldn't have traded places with a single human being on the planet.


I had been warned that American officials can be very suspicious and overbearing but I was happily confident that I would breeze through the entry procedure so after landing I took my place in the queue quite calmly, just wanting to get in and onto my next flight which left in an hour. Plenty of time I told myself confidently.
Oh silly boy, you are just about to enter the most security conscious country in the world!! Ha ha ha.

The official beckoned me forward with an upraised index finger.
"Your name please"
"OK, and your destination"?
"What is the purpose of your visit"?
"Oh I'm just about to go and live with a woman I met on the internet" smile smile!
No of course I didn't say anything as foolish. I might be daft but I'm not THAT daft!
My reply that I was going to Illinois to visit a friend 'Who work's for the sheriffs dept' should have satisfied him as to my honorable intentions but all was not going to be so easy for me.
"I see you have a lot of climbing equipment with you"
It was tied all over both of my rucksacks.
"Yes I'm a climber, I thought I would take in some cliffs during my stay" smile again.
"Your going to Illinois"!
"Yes indeed"...More smiles although my jaw was starting to ache.
"Buddy there is NO climbing in Illinois its FLAT"!
Shit, this guys just going to lock me in a room and put me on the next flight back!
"Well my friend, Who works for the SHERIFFS DEPT told me there was some good climbing in her area"
I was getting really nervous, this guy hadn't taken his eyes off me but I noticed that even as he was giving me the hard time he was still stamping things and taping his keyboard, maybe it was all going to be OK after all.
He turned a few pages of my passport and I saw the final and magical stamp come down. He handed the document back to me and with a twinkle in his eye and a slight smile, said "Welcome to America Richard, have a good time"
"You Bastard!!! You really had me going then and you knew it"!
Actually what I did say was "Thank you very much" and walked on into the Land of the Free.

OK that's that hurdle over, now I'm in and it feels great, just Customs to clear and still three quarters of an hour to catch my domestic to Nashville, it's a doddle. Jacks here I come love.


Feeling elated I headed for Customs. Nothing to be worried about there, all I had was the standard allowance of 200 cigarettes as a present for Jacks.
Oh poor foolish Englishman. Within seconds of joining the short queue I was picked out and directed into a secure area where the whole process started again, only this time more intensely.
Climbing Equipment? Illinois?? FLAT Buddy !!! Hhhmmmm !!!
This time in addition to the disbelieving questioning he rooted through my carry on bag and emerged clutching my birth certificate.
Why do you have this with you ?
"Well when my friend visited me in the UK she was advised to take her birth certificate as well as her passport, I thought it might be sensible to follow her example"
HHHhhmmmmmm !!!
He finally finished rummaging through my baggage and holding my passport raised between finger and thumb ordered me to follow him. We arrived at a door which he proceeded to unlock and motioning me through handed my passport to me and this time with a bigger smile repeated the line of his colleague " Welcome to America Richard "
I don't believe it, double stitch up! Oh mate, do these guys enjoy their jobs!
But that was truly it, I was standing back on the concourse but with only twenty minutes to find my flight to Nashville.
OK quick quick where am I going? Right, just follow everyone and keep an eye out for the correct signs.
What's this? Another queue and this time a massive one, I don't believe this, its for another security check, shoe's off, the lot. But I've just got off an international flight and so has everyone else in this queue, we've had all this frisking already. This is security gone nuts!

I thought the preceding officers were laconic but these guys won the couldn't care less award of the century.
An officer stood at the head of the queue and gradually allowed a short trickle of travelers through to take their places at the end of three more queue's. With around ten X-ray machines in the area only three were manned and this with several hundred people awaiting processing. Most looked probably as I did. In a major state of panic! The one poor man who rushed to the front of the queue begging to be allowed through to catch his imminent flight was rudely ordered to the back of the line again.
When I finally cleared security the clock was telling me that my plane had taken off five minute's ago.
Resignation, no need to rush now, I've missed it.
Will there be another flight tonight?
Will Jacks realize what has happened?
Will she still show up if I can't fly till tomorrow?
All those worries crowded in on my silly brain.
I found my transfer across the airport, a bus. Jumping on board I saw it was already crowded but the driver showed no sign of moving off.
Next to me a youngish guy groaned " Ten minutes, I've only got ten minutes ".
He was an Englishman just arrived from Paris and heading God knows where. We commiserated with each other over our misfortune and after a good five minutes the driver slowly pulled away.
I assumed we were going to drive around the perimeter but no way. Our current Stirling Moss of the bus lanes headed directly across the airport. Planes were taxiing in front of us , each side of us and behind us. Every so often the driver pulled up and waited as a monster rolled past, its wing stretching and flexing above us.
Now I know what he was doing was perfectly safe but I'm simply not used to being driven between moving aircraft in a diddy little squishy bus and it was an interesting experience.

As soon as the bus pulled up people began crushing off and heading quickly in every direction.
I took my time, strolling through the lounge until I reached a display screen and looked for my departed flight. What? Delayed for two hours? I hurried to my gate and made enquiries. It was true, the flight had been delayed by severe weather further North and would be departing around 9.30 pm.
All was safe, Jacks would know of the delay and would be waiting for me.
I suddenly felt very hungry now the uncertainty was over. Right then, I'm in America so what can I eat that is so totally American that I will know for sure I've arrived... No! not MacDonald's.
I headed for the nearest bar and ordered my first cold America beer and of course Pastrami on Rye.

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Letters from Ontopof Abroad

From: richie-theatre@hotmail.com



To: everyone







OK. Here we go.. Hiya Everybody Peeps..

Well, for those of you that don't know,Laura. and I have parted.

It all came to a head two weeks ago when, for various reasons Laura decided that after 12 years she would be happier without my company.

After the usual pleadings I accepted her decision and started to try and get my head around my future life..when..I received an unexpected e-mail from America. A wonderful friend called me and asked if the relationship was truly over. When I replied in the affirmative I was told.."Well honey, you better get your ass over here, cos I'll have ya.!

So, to cut a long story short, here I am sitting in a duplex in Murphysboro, Illinois, USA totally smitten and in love with Miss Jackie.

My flight is booked to return to the UK on March 21st 2007 but if all goes according to plan I won't be coming back.

We are living here together for a month.and.if we still feel the same about each other we will marry.

She works for the Sheriffs office here and strings can be pulled it seems.

I flew into Nashville on Thursday where Miss Jackie was standing with arms open wide and after a suitable overnight pause at a Motel ( just to make sure we meant it) hee hee , we sailed off across the Tennessee countryside to Interstate 24 and ended up here in Southern Illinois.

We drove on into Kentucky and over the vast Ohio river into Illinois. Here we stopped for a while in Metropolis..yes it IS the home of Superman as the statue in the town square attests. We were visiting Miss Jackie's favourite recreation spot The Riverboat Casino. A genuine riverboat moored in the Ohio where Miss Jackie showed me her brother Mike's sure fire way of turning $100 into $150..she's gonna kill him next time they meet ha ha ha..where I was introduced to huge shots of JacknCoke at $3.50 per shot.that's like £1.75 a drink.

I sat and watched in awe as Heartland America poured bountiful $$$$ into the most concentrated display of neon and glitz I had ever seen.

On we journeyed, considerably pocket lighter on the folding stuff and a few miles later pulled into Miss Jackies hometown of Murphysboro.

Its beautiful..its really quite indescribable but trust me, I'll try.

Woods and lakes, rolling low hills but it's the buildings.every home is different..each house in a block is individual and sssooo varied, from little shacks to big gothic Victorian mansions (known locally as Painted Ladies). All higgldy piggldy but no gardens AT ALL! just grass and some shrubs around the houses..no fences or any way of seeing the property boundaries.

I can hear the lonely wail of freight trains passing from where I sit as I type...little restaurants no larger than shacks where you can get a whole meal for as little as $5..thats like £2.50 !!!!and GOOD food I am told.

Whatever did I do to deserve her? well I dunno but this is happening RIGHT NOW and I'm loving every minute of it.

I'll try to keep everyone up to date . and instead of being called 'Letter from America' Miss Jackie has suggested 'Letters from Ontopof Abroad' heh heh heh.



OK watch this space for more developments but our lives seem complete and content and we can't see any reason for that to change ..wish us both love and luck please and I'll be in touch ..God Bless and take care . Richie ...









Chapter 1





It's just as well we can't see what the future holds for us or I would probably have curled up in bed again and pretended to be dead on January 8th .

Unfortunately no portent of the next few days appeared so I got up.

Laura was already downstairs making coffee and I gratefully sipped at the mug of strong cafetiere she passed me.

"OK love I'm off to work" She said, slipping on her coat.

" Yep have a good one babe, I've got a theatre meeting this afternoon but I'll still be here at lunchtime, See you then, love you"

"Love you too babe, laters".



Right, first things first, switch on the computer. Both Laura and I were hopeless Internet junkies and had been for years.

We were and still are, administrators on an online Poker site Triplejack.com owned and run by a very good friend of ours in Denver USA Scott, otherwise known by his internet name Zenblender,

I'm Supercrew on the 'Net and Laura is, well, lets stick with Laura for now.

We were also closely involved with a virtual world site Secondlife.com where we separately owned large area's of land and I had a club streaming 24hr Techno music, but enough of that for now.



OK, where's that Bashment download punisher1989 was going to send me?

Hhhmmm nothing in my e-mails, better MSN him if he's online".

Then I remembered that punisher1989 was on Laura's laptop.

Right, I'll just switch hers on and copy his MSN to mine......... and that's when my life went a bit tits up.

As soon as I saw what popped up on the screen I rang her office

"I've just switched on your laptop and there's a message from firespawn staring me right in the face, I don't know what to say to you, I really don't". With that I put down the phone.



Now, you may think that it was the intimacy of the message to my partner of 12 years that had upset me but no. It was the fact that she was having conversations with the only person on Secondlife.com that I and several other people including Laura knew to be a thoroughly bad lot.

He was a scripter, which means that he was able to write basic computer programs. He used this skill in Secondlife to control peoples avatars ( the virtual body given to everybody on the site). That type of control is a rather nasty and invasive method of internet abuse.

I sat there stunned and angry, wondering what on earth Laura thought she was doing involving herself with such a mean character when the door opened and she walked in.

She sat back in the armchair and before I could open my mouth she spoke the words that were about to change my life drastically.

"I'll be perfectly honest with you Richie, I want you out and I want you out right now"!

I never saw it coming or I would have ducked and knowing Laura as well as I did I knew she meant it!

Of course I tried to argue but to no avail.

The rental house was in her name so if it came to a legal argument I didn't have a leg to stand on, anyway I knew that Laura had made her mind up so out of the door I went.

It was January, it was cold, it was raining and I was stunned.



Eventually I rang Laura. "Look babe, I'm soaking wet, freezing cold and my hearts broken, I've got nowhere to go and I can't face anyone. Please let me back in, I'll go straight to the spare room and stay there but please at least give me some dignity in this".

Fair play to her, she grudgingly agreed. Before returning I bought myself a large bottle of vodka and once inside the spare room I tipped alcohol down my throat for the first time in 5 years and that night I drank myself to sleep.



The next day I made a start on assembling my possessions but still with no idea as to my future.

Around lunchtime I went out, saw one or two folks and explained what had happened. They were as stunned almost as I had been.

My theatre work, I was and still am Technical Director of Red Kite Theatre our Community Youth Theatre here in Hay and my responsibility. for the Hay Christmas lights kept me very busy and very much in the public eye. We are both well known people in this town of around 2000 souls and I think people were genuinely upset to see my grief.



I met Ruth in High Town and she could see I was in trouble. After explaining as best I could her reaction was immediate.

"Well Richie you better come straight out to Llanigon and live with us"!

"Well that is so kind of you Ruth but hadn't you better consult with Paul first"?

" Certainly not, I know Paul's mind and he would be the first to offer if he was here right now. You go and collect what you need and get out there, the door will be open. Use Tim's old room now he's moved out. Richie it will be a pleasure to have you for as long as you want to stay, Our house is huge. You won't be in the way at all"

I was very grateful and immediately threw as much gear as was practicable into the back of the theatre van and headed the two miles out of town to the house.



It wasn't until the next day that I was able to get my computer running and back online and I remember being rather reluctant to sign in. As I said earlier Laura and I were avid net surfers and I knew that many people throughout the internet world would have noticed my absence, I also knew that Laura would have been online and that I was going to get bombarded with questions. I really didn't feel up to it all.

That's exactly what happened. All that day I was answering so many sympathetic but repetitious questions from well meaning friends, trying to explain the unexplainable and still with so much confusion as to why Laura had made her move so forcefully.



World time differences meant that it was evening before America got off work and online and there, all of a sudden was QueenofSpades calling me on MSN.

"Supercrew, is this true that you and Laura have split"

"Yes I'm afraid it is".

" Is there any way that you could get back together"?

" Not a chance, I've done my pleading but that's the end for us"

" Well then honey, you better get your ass into gear and get over here cos I'll have ya, if you'll have me that is".

I'm sure everything went still and my heart stopped slightly, This woman from 5000 miles away had spoken straight from her soul and she meant it



I had better explain that QueenofSpades was a whole lot more than a chance internet acquaintance. She was also an administrator on Triplejack.com and as well as playing poker together we had developed a strong online friendship.

We spoke daily, telling each other about our lives and generally chatting about nothing in particular but that summer I had started to organize poker tournaments here in the UK on behalf of Triplejack.com and they were very successful. Triplejack is a no money site, the games are strictly for fun and the site is family orientated. There is a cussing filter in place and our job as admins is really to keep the site polite, safe and cheat free. We all have a lot of respect for Zenblender the site creator who has put so much time, effort and real hard cash into what at first started as an interesting hobby that ran alongside his fulltime job as an internet game creator for a Texas company.

I had organized T,shirts posters, place mats, lighting and sound for the first 'TJ' UK party which was held at Barbiequeens home in Pagham Hampshire. Barbiequeen is Laura's real life sister.

That autumn I decided to organize a Christmas bash at a nearby Hotel, Baskerville Hall which stands a couple of miles outside Hay and is actually the place that Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, using the family name but changing the setting to the wilds of Dartmoor.

When QueenofSpades heard about the party she immediately booked a flight to the UK, as did Zenblender and I picked them both up from Gatwick.

Zens flight landed some half an hour after Queenie's and I took great delight in showing them the English countryside as we boweled towards Wales in the theatre transit van.

Zen stayed in the flat above Laura's office while Queenie stayed with us. We had Triplejack players arriving from all over the country and, and by 9 pm on Saturday the tourney was in full swing with everyone having put the real faces to the internet names.

I think we still agree that 'maneatingbrick' has the most inventive, especially for such an unassuming and gentle nice guy. As I recall the final tournament was won by '5treeter' but then '5' usually did win the tourneys, great player as he is.

The point is that QueenofSpades or Jackie to give her her real life name had stayed in our home and had seen me as I was, not some nebulous internet avatar, although contrary to popular belief it is actually very hard to keep up a personality pretence for any length of time on the Net. Liars usually trip over themselves sooner or later and we were expert at detecting fraudsters by then.

She has since said that had she not met me in real life and stayed with us there was no way that she would have made the offer to me that she did.

All of a sudden my life had taken a completely unforeseen turn, I was heading for Illinois to be with a woman of 52, mother, grandmother, loving, kind, and as I knew, a very fun person to be with, also as seen at Baskerville Hall, this gal knew how to party, Oh boy can she party when the mood takes her.

Another thing that has to be mentioned is the fact that she was working within the Jackson County Sheriffs Department and had been for the last eighteen years.

She had worked in several capacities but was currently the senior 911 operator. She had partnered a detective for 6 yrs and her last partner was an ex army drill sergeant turned police officer who had seen front line action in Vietnam.

I on the other hand was a dedicated old hippie who had just completed twenty years as a backline technician with this countries top session musicians. I had worked with everyone from Madonna to The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I too knew how to party but in slightly different ways to Miss Jackie...now this was going to be an interesting partnership.



The first thing I needed was money and I had no savings, however I had just received a cheque for the second half of the Christmas lights and although Laura was entitled to half it was still enough for my flight and a few hundred left over but that wasn't enough. I couldn't turn up on Jacks doorstep virtually penniless so I was just going to have to sell everything I could.

The first things to go were my power tools. Good quality ones as well, that raised a few hundred, plus my pride and joy, my lathe, an old British model built in the 60's when we still produced some of the best tools in the world, that soon found a quick and eager buyer. Then my musical instruments that I had collected over the years and lastly my books.

Hay-on-Wye is known as the book capital of the World and with over 30 bookshops I would have no trouble selling my collection, Laura manages three bookshops in Hay and it was her boss Derek who bought mine. To sell my climbing books hurt a lot but worse was to see my collection of Buddhist books go. I have had several passions in my life, one was surfing, another was and still is climbing but by far the greatest was my Buddhist practice, oh well, a good teaching of non attachment, so off they all went.

I started giving away stuff to whoever showed an interest because as far as I was concerned I was leaving, never to return. Even if things didn't work out with Jacks I thought at the time that I could never return to Hay, the pain was still too immediate.

After a week of selling, giving and dumping I had amassed the grand sum of fifteen hundred quid, by no means a fortune but enough for my airfare and a sizable sum to pay my way for a while in America, I also knew what a favorable exchange rate we enjoy with the USA. I booked my flight for Jan 17th and waited.



During this time Laura and I had reached a point where we could speak sensibly about our breakup and she told me how she had just gradually fallen out of love with me, she spoke of this regretfully and told me what a nice person I was and how she really had to do a lot of soul searching before telling me to leave, of course I believed her, why would I not?

Jacks on the other hand took a much more suspicious attitude to the break up and, without telling me ran an investigation on the internet. Her sheriffs training has provided her with a very keen insight into human motivations and behavior, she rarely takes people at face value and in this instance she was right.



She called me on the Friday before I left and said " Honey I don't want to upset you but you really need to look at this"

At first I refused to look but she persisted and eventually I did. What I saw stopped me dead in my tracks. Laura and firespawn had been together as man and wife for three months.

They had got married on the internet and had plotted my demise for the coming weekend and it was pure bad luck on Laura's part that I happened to look for punisher1989's MSN on that Monday morning.

That explained something that had been troubling me all week. Apart from my initial upset on the day she finished with me I had taken the situation calmly but Laura had seemed very tight and nervous which puzzled me. I was being gentle over the breakup so her apparent fear seemed strange. Now though I got it, She was terrified that I would find out about them before my departure.

My world crashed around me all over again, this partner of mine that I thought I knew so well turned into a calculating stranger in my eyes. The pain was so intense I actually wondered how a human body could continue when the brain felt such grief.

I didn't see Laura that weekend but on Monday morning I called first thing to her office. When I opened the door she looked up and the colour literally drained from her face . All I said was " Yes Laura I know about you and firespawn". Then I turned around and walked from the building not wanting to see or hear from her ever again in my life.

The next day I left for London and stayed with friends until my flight on Thursday.







During the course of my career in the music business I had traveled and worked extensively in Europe but an American tour had always eluded me so this was a big adventure for me quite apart from the new relationship that was about to begin.

I boarded the American Airlines flight and took my seat. As the stewardess allotted to our section of the plane approached down the aisle I looked up and was confronted by an almost exact replica of Tina Turner. "Wow" said I to myself "This is the real deal" Don't ask me why I was so impressed, I had met and worked with plenty of our colonialist cousins before but for some reason that first sight made a strong and lasting impression on me.



The flight cruised out across the Atlantic and sitting in my seat I reflected on all that had passed over the last two weeks and on all that was before me in my new life. The pain was still very strong but in that crystal clear blue sky with the vastness of the ocean below me I felt the suffering of the last days wash off my shoulders and recede behind me into the grey of the past.

Ahead lay sunshine and clarity. This feeling was very strong and actually physical. It was all OK, God was in the heavens and all was right with the World.. A huge feeling of cleanliness and relief, whatever the future held I was done with the past.

I settled back in my seat and the next time Tina passed I ordered a glass of fine Californian wine and mused on the wonders of this life. Who can tell what will happen? Who can see what turns life takes? I was content. I wouldn't have traded places with a single human being on the planet.





I had been warned that American officials can be very suspicious and overbearing but I was happily confident that I would breeze through the entry procedure so after landing I took my place in the queue quite calmly, just wanting to get in and onto my next flight which left in an hour. Plenty of time I told myself confidently.

Oh silly boy, you are just about to enter the most security conscious country in the world!! Ha ha ha.



The official beckoned me forward with an upraised index finger.

"Your name please"

"OK, and your destination"?

"What is the purpose of your visit"?

"Oh I'm just about to go and live with a woman I met on the internet" smile smile!

No of course I didn't say anything as foolish. I might be daft but I'm not THAT daft!

My reply that I was going to Illinois to visit a friend 'Who work's for the sheriffs dept' should have satisfied him as to my honorable intentions but all was not going to be so easy for me.

"I see you have a lot of climbing equipment with you"

It was tied all over both of my rucksacks.

"Yes I'm a climber, I thought I would take in some cliffs during my stay" smile again.

"Your going to Illinois"!

"Yes indeed"...More smiles although my jaw was starting to ache.

"Buddy there is NO climbing in Illinois its FLAT"!

Shit, this guys just going to lock me in a room and put me on the next flight back!

"Well my friend, Who works for the SHERIFFS DEPT told me there was some good climbing in her area"

I was getting really nervous, this guy hadn't taken his eyes off me but I noticed that even as he was giving me the hard time he was still stamping things and taping his keyboard, maybe it was all going to be OK after all.

He turned a few pages of my passport and I saw the final and magical stamp come down. He handed the document back to me and with a twinkle in his eye and a slight smile, said "Welcome to America Richard, have a good time"

"You Bastard!!! You really had me going then and you knew it"!

Actually what I did say was "Thank you very much" and walked on into the Land of the Free.



OK that's that hurdle over, now I'm in and it feels great, just Customs to clear and still three quarters of an hour to catch my domestic to Nashville, it's a doddle. Jacks here I come love.





Feeling elated I headed for Customs. Nothing to be worried about there, all I had was the standard allowance of 200 cigarettes as a present for Jacks.

Oh poor foolish Englishman. Within seconds of joining the short queue I was picked out and directed into a secure area where the whole process started again, only this time more intensely.

Climbing Equipment? Illinois?? FLAT Buddy !!! Hhhmmmm !!!

This time in addition to the disbelieving questioning he rooted through my carry on bag and emerged clutching my birth certificate.

Why do you have this with you ?

"Well when my friend visited me in the UK she was advised to take her birth certificate as well as her passport, I thought it might be sensible to follow her example"

HHHhhmmmmmm !!!

He finally finished rummaging through my baggage and holding my passport raised between finger and thumb ordered me to follow him. We arrived at a door which he proceeded to unlock and motioning me through handed my passport to me and this time with a bigger smile repeated the line of his colleague " Welcome to America Richard "

I don't believe it, double stitch up! Oh mate, do these guys enjoy their jobs!

But that was truly it, I was standing back on the concourse but with only twenty minutes to find my flight to Nashville.

OK quick quick where am I going? Right, just follow everyone and keep an eye out for the correct signs.

What's this? Another queue and this time a massive one, I don't believe this, its for another security check, shoe's off, the lot. But I've just got off an international flight and so has everyone else in this queue, we've had all this frisking already. This is security gone nuts!



I thought the preceding officers were laconic but these guys won the couldn't care less award of the century.

An officer stood at the head of the queue and gradually allowed a short trickle of travelers through to take their places at the end of three more queue's. With around ten X-ray machines in the area only three were manned and this with several hundred people awaiting processing. Most looked probably as I did. In a major state of panic! The one poor man who rushed to the front of the queue begging to be allowed through to catch his imminent flight was rudely ordered to the back of the line again.

When I finally cleared security the clock was telling me that my plane had taken off five minute's ago.

Resignation, no need to rush now, I've missed it.

Will there be another flight tonight?

Will Jacks realize what has happened?

Will she still show up if I can't fly till tomorrow?

All those worries crowded in on my silly brain.

I found my transfer across the airport, a bus. Jumping on board I saw it was already crowded but the driver showed no sign of moving off.

Next to me a youngish guy groaned " Ten minutes, I've only got ten minutes ".

He was an Englishman just arrived from Paris and heading God knows where. We commiserated with each other over our misfortune and after a good five minutes the driver slowly pulled away.

I assumed we were going to drive around the perimeter but no way. Our current Stirling Moss of the bus lanes headed directly across the airport. Planes were taxiing in front of us , each side of us and behind us. Every so often the driver pulled up and waited as a monster rolled past, its wing stretching and flexing above us.

Now I know what he was doing was perfectly safe but I'm simply not used to being driven between moving aircraft in a diddy little squishy bus and it was an interesting experience.



As soon as the bus pulled up people began crushing off and heading quickly in every direction.

I took my time, strolling through the lounge until I reached a display screen and looked for my departed flight. What? Delayed for two hours? I hurried to my gate and made enquiries. It was true, the flight had been delayed by severe weather further North and would be departing around 9.30 pm.

All was safe, Jacks would know of the delay and would be waiting for me.

I suddenly felt very hungry now the uncertainty was over. Right then, I'm in America so what can I eat that is so totally American that I will know for sure I've arrived... No! not MacDonald's.

I headed for the nearest bar and ordered my first cold America beer and of course Pastrami on Rye.

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