On reviews, being naïve and obtuse, and ‘swapping’ more than just stories

A couple of weeks back I received a highly-complimentary review on Flying With Cuckoos.Flying with Cuckoos It was an excellent review, written by someone calling themself Mirrani, and largely reviewed the work in glowing terms (Let’s face it, if the review had been anything less than complimentary I wouldn’t be telling you about it).

However, Mirrani did question a section in one of the early chapters, where I wrote about not realising that my adopted parents had never truly loved or wanted me. Mirrani found it hard to believe that anybody could be so obtuse.

I assured Mirrani, as I assure you now, that I can be, and often am that obtuse.

When The Folks at Fifty-Eight was published, someone accused me of writingsoft porn’ and someone else accused me of writing like Harold Robbins. I relished the Harold Robbins comparison, because, as Jann Robbins later reminded me, Harold Robbins is still the world’s most successful author, and, that aside, I’m a great admirer of the man and his work.

However, I was so surprised and upset by the soft porn accusation that I posted an answering comment on my website. You see, in my opinion, pornography has connotations of crudeness and vulgarity, and I don’t like to think of my writing as that.

Apart from any considerations of quality, I further object to the description because I’m also a bit of a prude and a little naïve.

Now, if you’ve read Flying with Cuckoos you will realise that I’m not entirely prudish or entirely naïve, but every once in a while a situation that illustrates the limitations of my apparent worldliness and sophistication will arise.


Just such a situation arose when my wife and I lived in Marbella. We had bought a villa in Nueva Andalucía, and had retained a quasi-friendship with the estate agent who handled the sale.

Oliver was the original lounge lizard. I’ll call him Oliver because he may still be operating in the area and I have no wish to embarrass. He was slightly overweight and aged somewhere between forty and sixty, although precisely where I could never tell. He boasted a lived-in face and silver-grey hair, and held a well-founded reputation for ‘entertaining’ lonely middle-aged ladies, of which Marbella boasts more than its share.

Oliver would appear at the villa, every now and then, for an impromptu lunch or drinks, and we always thought of him as something of a friend. However, we had never met his wife, despite him frequently suggesting such a meeting.

When the day finally arrived, we arranged to have dinner at a local restaurant, and so Oliver brought his wife up to the villa for pre-dinner drinks.

Jane, not her real name of course, was a little plain and a little loud, with a similarly indiscernible age. She joined me, out on the terrace, where we sat and drank sangria and watched the setting sun. The conversation was entirely small talk, and I thought her to be a perfectly normal and well-adjusted lady.

But then she turned toward me, and closely studied my reaction as she said. . .

“Well, you’ve passed; have I?”

I didn’t know quite what to say. I naïvely assumed that she must have been judging my suitability as a friend for her husband, or as an entertaining small-talker at dinner. It never occurred to me that there might be a more licentious explanation for her question, and so I merely smiled politely and nodded back at her before we all went out for a thoroughly forgettable dinner.

Puerto Banús

A few weeks, and three or four thoroughly forgettable dinners, later, we were in a Puerto Banus nightclub when her husband made a move on my wife, Pam, and sweet-old-fashioned Jane made a move on me. When Pam and I each conveyed our shock and abhorrence at such a sordid suggestion, Jane looked straight at me and said. . .

“What on earth is your problem?”

I looked back at her, in absolute astonishment, and said. “Let me see if I’ve got this right. . . Your husband is trying to seduce my wife, you’re trying to seduce me, and I’m the one with the problem?”

We left them there, in that sleazy second-line Puerto Banus night club, and never saw them again, but some time later, when we had each rediscovered our sense of humour, we thought about the incident, and all the overt signs that should have screamed a warning, and concluded that she did have a point.

It wasn’t that Pam and I were feeling strangely disappointed, at missing out on a life of casual sex with a succession of virtual strangers. It was because we really should have figured out their joint ulterior motive long before our debauched couple of middle-aged ‘swingers’ made their final, fatal, and irretrievable moves.

You see, my wanna-be swinging partner had been absolutely right. Not only do I have a problem with much of today’s casual twenty-first century morality, and emotional shallowness, but I also have a problem in seeing the ulterior motives and darker side of humankind.

I guess I always have, and I hope to goodness that I always will.

Have a good one.

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