Home About Six: Part Eleven

This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 980 words.

As the water from the shower head cascaded over her face and body, Anita could hardly believe that a week had passed since Mike had gone missing. Last night had been bad. Restless with indigestion, and the baby seemed to have shifted onto her bladder, so she had been up a few times to pee. Twenty-eight weeks pregnant tomorrow, only twelve more to go to the due date. And so much to take in, as well as to deal with.

Her first stop that morning was at the bank. She asked to see someone privately, and had to sit waiting for almost an hour until an adviser was free. The young woman listened patiently as everything was explained. Husband missing, the money worries, what to do about bills, how to access cash. When she was sure that the customer had stopped talking, she nodded, deliberately placing a concerned look on her face.

“I do sympathise, Mrs Hollis. However, you do not have a joint bank account, and your husband has not given you power of attorney to access his. I’m sorry to tell you that I cannot discuss his banking or finances with you. It is simply not allowed. Not only is it against bank rules, it is contrary to the Financial Services Act, so technically illegal. But you are also a customer, and have been for some time. I am sure if you experience any financial problems, we will be happy to extend your overdraft, or perhaps you could apply for a loan? What do you earn at the moment?”

Anita pointed at the large bump on her abdomen. “I gave up work on Mike’s suggestion, when I got pregnant. I am not earning anything, and depended on him completely”. She could feel the tears forming, and fought against them. The woman was wearing a name badge, ‘Joan Hall’. Anita tried another approach. “Joan, you can see the situation I am in. Isn’t there someone who can transfer some money from Mike’s account to mine? You don’t have to tell me how much is in it, or anything about it. But I can prove we are married, and I will soon need extra money for the baby stuff”.

But her face was set. “I can only repeat what I have just told you. Perhaps family members could help you out with some cash? Or maybe you should consult a solicitor?” Angry now, but feeling deflated, Anita stood up. “Well thanks for nothing, Joan. A solicitor? How am I supposed to pay for that? So much for being a loyal customer of your bloody bank!” With that, she picked up her shoulder bag and stormed out. The tears came once she had got into her car, and she waited until they stopped before driving home.

Claudia rang in the afternoon, and told her that Betsy was much improved. “She is already having some physio, Nita. Her speech is slurred, but they are sure it will improve with therapy”. Although she didn’t want to burden her friend with her own troubles, Anita couldn’t stop herself telling her about the money, and the issues at the bank that morning. “Christ, Nita, you should have said something. Come on, I’m your best friend. Text me your sort code and account number, and I will transfer a thousand today. When that runs out let me know. We made a huge profit on the London house, and Betsy doesn’t even touch her pension at the moment. You must tell me whenever you need anything, promise me. And what that woman said about a solicitor made sense. Contact the guy who did the house sale, you must remember who it was. See what advice he can give you”.

Although she was feeling guilty now, Anita didn’t refuse the offer. She knew she would need it. “Thanks so much, Claude. What would I do without you? You will get it back once this mess is all sorted, I promise you. Give my love to Betsy when you see her”. It was only a temporary reprieve if Mike didn’t reappear, but a very welcome one.

The name of the solicitor was still on her contacts, so she rang the office and made an appointment for the next morning. Still suffering with indigestion, she knew she had to eat something, so made a big bowl of porridge with honey stirred into it. That was comforting, just what she needed after the stress of the day.

It seemed impossible not to think about all that was happening. She was missing Mike badly, even though her anger against him was building. One moment she was sure something terrible had happened, as he would never have left her in this awful situation. But then she started to imagine that he had just walked out on her for someone else. Uncaring, unconcerned, leaving without a thought for her, or their unborn baby. Still, the anger was actually a positive thing. It made her stronger. If she imagined that Mike was gone, and she was on her own now, it provided the incentive to get on with trying to sort her life out.

I was getting close to six, and she got ready to watch the evening news. You never knew if something might turn up, some report of a man found somewhere, having lost his memory. As she picked up the remote control, there was a loud knocking on the front door. They weren’t using the doorbell.

Three people were outside. One of them was a woman; middle-aged, short hair, and a stern expression. The other two were men, dressed in dark suits and looking blankly at her. The woman held up a sheet of paper, and spoke in a loud voice.

“Anita Hollis? We have a warrant to search this house. Please sit down, and do not touch anything”.

Home About Six: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 947 words.

Anita was confused. “MI6? What, you mean like spies and stuff, James Bond? That’s crazy. Mike is just a hard-working glue salesman. Why would he ever be mixed up in anything like that?” Jane Dawes thought about her words. “I’m not saying he is mixed up in anything, but not everyone has someone like Judith Harley in their contacts list, that’s for sure. And what about Susan Judd? Have you ever heard her name mentioned? She used her home phone to call his mobile. When I checked her out, she was definitely secret squirrel, and I am talking ‘no information disclosed’ here. I can see I am going to end up being called in over my search history at work, but I guarantee they will tell me sod-all”.

Shaking her head in disbelief, Anita started to get annoyed. “Jane, I have never heard of any Susan Judd either. This is all getting too silly for words. The point is, as I see it, that it isn’t helping us find out where Mike is. Shouldn’t you do a broadcast on the TV news or something? I could put an advert in the newspapers, or speak to journalists about all this. It’s a mystery I know, but it seems to be getting too convoluted. My husband is missing, and all I am hearing is lists of names”. Jane was sympathetic, but realised Anita wasn’t considering the implications of this news.

“It’s not that simple, I’m afraid. We have all the usual missing person stuff in place, but we can’t start mentioning those contact names, not when some of them might go underground as a result. I have Constable Soni going over everything to do with the names we can trace. She’s very good, and I’m sure she will dig deep. But we have no decent CCTV images of Mike anywhere. The last confirmed sighting of his car on CCTV was at a motorway services on the way to Portsmouth. He only stopped for petrol, then nothing. Where his car was found isn’t covered on camera, and the approaches into the city don’t show up his car at all. It’s as if it was taken there by helicopter or something, and dropped into the street. My best guess is that it was taken there inside a larger vehicle, and off-loaded in plain sight. I don’t actually think Mike went to that city at all”.

Jane packed her stuff away, and stood up. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you something more positive, Anita. It is still early days as far as missing persons go, and we are doing our best for you. But we have a backlog of other cases to work on too, and not that many staff. I will be sure to let you know as soon as I have anything new. Meanwhile, you have to try to take care of your health, for the sake of you and the baby”.

When the detective had left, Anita tried Claudia’s mobile. She was going to tell her all the crazy stuff about the secret service, and see if Claude could shed any light on it. After all, she had known him at university, and might remember a name or two from his past. “Nita, great news! Betsy is awake! She came round in the early hours. Not speaking yet, but she knows who I am, and smiled at me. I’m just having a coffee in the hospital canteen. Are you alright, love?” Given the good news, Anita didn’t want to go into all that other stuff now. Best to let Claude enjoy the moment. “That’s great news, Claude. I just rang to check how she was. Please give her my love”.

Something else had occurred to her, and she rang Mike’s boss, Ian Winkowski. “Mrs Hollis, how can I help you? Do you have news of Mike?” She had thought about what to say, and repeated it as if from a script. “No, nothing new at the moment. He is still listed as missing. The reason I am phoning is to ask about his pay. I don’t know how it works, you know, when someone is missing. Will he still get paid?” He had obviously been prepared for this to be asked.

“Well, he is absent, and since he rang in sick, we ar treating it as that for one week. After that, we would usually need a medical certificate. I appreciate that the circumstances are exceptional, but we cannot continue to pay someone indefinitely, when they are not here. I would say that I will allow him paid holiday leave. That is thirty days for the year, added to one week counted as being off sick. After that, I will keep his job open for three months, in the hope he returns. But after that thirty days, I am afraid he will no longer be paid”.

After thanking him, she hung up, her mind ticking over.

Something else suddenly popped into her brain. Even if Mike got that thirty days pay, she wouldn’t be able to access his bank account, to draw it out or transfer it to hers. She knew there were some savings, but not how much. And they were in accounts in Mike’s name too. Beginning to get really worried, she got her i-pad, and logged in to her own online banking. It was no surprise to discover that she only had just over four hundred in her account. Hopefully, Mike’s arrangements would continue to pay the regular bills, but she didn’t have a clue how much was in his main account.

Once her cash ran out, she would have to depend on her credit card.

Film Review: ‘1917’

‘1917’ (2019)
***No spoilers***

It is not often that I get to see a current film that has just been released in the cinema. But I thought this WW1 epic from Sam Mendes warranted a trip into town to see it on the big screen.

Sadly, my local 3-screen cinema decided to show the film in Screen 3, the smallest one they have. I complained to the ticket lady, saying it should be on Screen One, with has a conventional big-screen experience. She advised me that they were still showing ‘Frozen 2’ on that screen, as ‘It is more popular than war films’.

I suppose that’s what I get for living in Norfolk!

‘1917’ is a war film, set during the latter half of WW1. It has attracted much critical acclaim, and hundreds of positive reviews. I have seen it described as ‘The best war film ever made’, and also ‘A Masterpiece’. For me, it was neither of those. But it is still an excellent film, and well-worth seeing.

The main reason I say that is because the film is shot in an unusual way, and also contains some powerful imagery that will stay in your mind. For those of us used to seeing WW1 films that show huge sweeping frontal attacks, or the effect of shelling on terrified combatants, Mendes offers something different.

Two junior-ranking soldiers are tasked with an incredibly difficult mission. They must get through the abandoned enemy trenches, and past a town still occupied by the Germans. Near that town is a wood, where a British regiment is waiting to attack. That attack must be cancelled, as they are walking into a trap, and will be massacred. There is a reason why one of the soldiers has been chosen. His older brother is serving with the doomed regiment, and that will give him the incentive to get the job done.

From that point on, we follow the journey of the two young men. We do this in a way that makes us feel we are there. The camera is close in on the leads. Face to face, just behind them, or off to the side. It really does feel at times as if you are a ‘third soldier’, as you experience everything in what feels like real time, in one take.

It wasn’t filmed in one take, or in real time, but seamless editing and great camera angles provide that impression for 90% of the film. One of my old friends suggested that this made it feel like a video game. I know what he means. If you have ever played a ‘first-person shooter’ game, it might feel like that. But it wasn’t so for me, and I just felt that it immersed the viewer in the action in a good way.

Concentrating first on the positives, I have to say that historical authenticity was very good indeed. Equipment, uniforms, weapons, all seemed accurate. The reconstruction of the trenches was superbly done, especially the way the film showed how much better the Germans were at constructing more solid and safer trench systems on their side of the line. Special effects are few, but well-done where they are used. Rotting corpses in shell-craters, the decaying carcasses of dead horses, and the tangled mess of the barbed wire. All totally convincing.

The star of the film is the landscape. The war-torn countryside of France, the blackened tree stumps, the desolation of the mud-filled No-Man’s Land, contrasted by the green and pleasnt fields beyond the area being fought over. Definitely the best I have ever seen on screen. A ruined French town, illuminated at night by flares that float slowly to the ground. A burning building making a sound like rushing water. All superb. This film is a treat for the eyes, and a directorial triumph.

Full marks for the casting too. The young male leads are played by George McKay and the fresh-faced Dean-Charles Chapman. McKay is particularly good, and obviously has a great future. Then there are the ‘big names’. Well-known British actors who are more than happy to have just a few minutes on screen. Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Daniel Mays, Richard Maddern, and many more. Each one makes the very best of their short scene, and leaves their own mark on the film overall.

So, on to what I was less impressed by.

Despite some wonderful, often eye-popping visuals, and a soundtrack that suited the film perfectly, I just didn’t believe the story. The whole concept of the plot felt contrived, and the fact that one of the soldiers is hoping to save his own brother felt unnecessarily sentimental to me. And that aspect was overplayed throughout, in my opinion. It felt as if Mendes had decided we needed something extra to make us interested in the film, and for us to be suitably invested in the characters. Well, I didn’t. It would have worked for me without that rather obvious sentimentality.

But that’s all. Just that one gripe.

This is a great film in most respects, with a dynamic cast all delivering, and the ‘one-take feel’ alone makes it worth watching.

If you are interested in films about WW1, I will add some links at the end.
Meanwhile, here’s a trailer for ‘1917’.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058263/
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050825/
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0020629/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regeneration_(1997_film)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1418646/
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022787/

Issues and Views

Yesterday, I had some frustrating issues with WordPress over logins, comments, and verification codes.

That generated five posts on this blog, as I expressed my frustrations, warned other bloggers, and finally told everyone it was resolved.

Late last night as I logged off my PC, I checked the stats on my blog for that day. Despite not having posted the episode of my fiction serial, and only posting about my blogging woes, I was amazed to see that it was my biggest day EVER for views on this blog, after more than seven years.

Well over 600 views in twelve hours, beating the previous busiest day by almost seventy views.

I cannot help but conclude that if you want to really boost your readership, then have a good moan about WordPress!

Fresh Start

After all my issues with WordPress today, they finally sorted it out, and even admitted that it was them. So not me, nor Microsoft then.

But by the time it got sorted, I had to take Ollie out, and then drive down to town to the cinema, to see ‘1917’.

I am just back, and found over 60 posts listed in my email. I am never going to be able to catch up with them, so have just deleted them all, I’m afraid.
I will do my best to answer all your comments on my posts though.

And there is no episode of “Home About Six’ today, either. Apologies to those reading that.

I will have a fresh start tomorrow morning, when hopefully WordPress will be stable.

Best wishes to everyone, Pete.

In case I go missing…

After a lot of very frustrating fiddling around with WordPress today, I finally managed to access the ‘Live Chat’ feature with their help desk that comes with my paid plan.
I explained the issues, and got this.

Ok thanks. We were experiencing some issues earlier today which could be related to that but they should be resolved now. Have you tried within the last half hour or so?
This seems to be related to the cookie information and or cache in your browser. By testing in the incognito window it uses a fresh browser with no cookies or cache. By logging out and logging back in it will refresh the cookies for WordPress.com in your browser.

If that doesn’t work it may be required to clear the cache and cookies in the browser

I was also directed to log in using an ‘Incognito’ window. That worked, and I was able to leave a test comment elsewhere.

I now have to log off the WordPress platform, and clear the cookies and cache.

I have low confidence that I will ever be allowed back.

So if that happens, it was nice knowing you all. 🙂

WP glitches, and ‘Anonymous’ comments

***Third post today already about issues with WordPress.***

I am now receiving blog comments from followers who are shown as ‘Anonymous’.

WordPress is picking and choosing who and where I am allowed to leave a comment.

I have over 40 posts in my inbox from blogs I follow that I cannot comment on, though it is allowing ‘Likes’, for some reason.

These regular glitches are not acceptable to me, especially as I have a paid plan for blogging on WP.

I am refusing to get stressed about it, but I am also sick and tired of WP doing this stuff.

They have little regard for their bloggers and ‘customers’, and never bother to let us know when they are experiencing these issues, or messing around behind the scenes and creating problems.

A message to you all at WordPress. “NOT GOOD ENOUGH. DO BETTER!”