It was at the Doncaster Sales, 

When I forked out £10, 000

On a chestnut colt bred to win

The St Ledger or The Derby,

Which then looked like a real bargain.

He stood proudly, Lot 109,

But what should one call a dancer

Who, with only tender training,

Could grace its way to dressage gold?

Unnameable, the perfect name.

The first ride out on the gallops,

Working with a top class sprinter,

Was living proof that God exists.

His noble head carriage was a 

Little too free, as if to say,

‘You’re going far too slow for me.’

The jockey then loosened the reins

And left the slow workhorse behind.

The hardest thing was to pull up

Unnameable, even uphill. 

We pitched him in at the deep end,

As a maiden in the Listed

Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot,

And left in ear plugs at the start

To drown out the crowd and fanfare,

But still he was like a coiled spring.

One could see how at 16 hands,

Stretching fully refined muscles

Among a field of green babies,

Unnameable was like a bull.

Unnameable leapt to the front

As thoughts turned to a few months hence,

Spending most of my prize money

At the Casino in Deauville

And cruising round the Baltic Sea.

When he approached the final bend

On the bridle five lengths in front,

Epsom was more than a pipedream . . .

But a few strides after he won

He broke down, tearing his tendon.

© 2020 AGP

The Burning Barn – Scene 14

Jacob arrived back at Jeremiah’s house. Jeremiah and his wife, Cheryl, were out for dinner and a concert, so Jacob took the time to look around Cesca’s room for hints and clues. Jacob took out his mobile phone and rang up DCI Simmonds, the chief inspector in Struttenlourne.


Hello DCI Simmonds, It’s Jacob Moraine.


Hello, m’lad, how are you?


I’m fine, thanks. Listen, do you mind if we have a little talk? There’s something else I’d like to tell you.


No problem. How are you keeping, m’lad?


Fine, fine, you get used to things after a while.


I’m glad to hear it. And your betting?


I won a few grand at the weekend, but generally more up than down.


Keep it up.


Eve’s much better now, since we last spoke. That must have been, what, a year ago?


That long ago? How time flies!


The reason I called concerns the whereabouts of Cesca Torlonia-Tollemache.


Oh. Her.


Yes, the banker’s daughter.


If I had a pound for every time she –


I know, I know.

DCI Simmonds sighed.


What is it this time?


We spent the weekend together in the Slip Anchor, near Holkham, and –

DCI Simmonds laughed.


Enough to frighten anyone. Sorry, go on.


When I woke up she’d gone. And her father knocked at the door five minutes later.


Caught in the act, eh?


We would have been, had … she left a note. I don’t know how much earlier. It stated: He knows. Stop him before you find me. Yours forever, your bride to be, Cesca.


Hmm … when was this? Yesterday?




And it’s taken you a day to call me?


Sorry, I … I’ve been staying with her parents. I couldn’t very well –


And how did Jeremiah take it?


Anxious. Very Anxious.


But not enough to call me. Probably wise, he’s wasted enough of my time over the years.


Besides, Cesca’s back in Oxford.


So, what’s the problem?


She’s missed three –


Yes, I knew about the first two.


And Jeremiah needs her back by the weekend, or  –


What do you … do you think he knows?

Jacob took out Elsa’s business card from his pocket.


That’s why I called you. I think … it’s only after I visited Elsa Wyler, Cesca’s therapist in Cambridge, that I –


Elsa Wyler? Let me write this down.


You’ll find her on Google, she works in Bateman Mews. Anyway, Cesca, by the sounds of it, broke down the last time … I reckon she’s ignoring Elsa.  Jeremiah knows something, so maybe Elsa does as well.


I’ve just seen Elsa’s profile. Well-educated, and trustworthy, from what I can tell.


I think she’s utterly adorable, but that’s … anyway, if you could interview the receptionist at the Slip Anchor, I’d be most grateful. She was the last person to see Cesca in this neck of the woods, and saw Jeremiah just before I did.


I see. Listen, as it happens, I’ve got the afternoon off tomorrow after a long, long shift. I’m visiting my mother in Thetford, so I’ll call in, OK? I’ll see if I can track down Cesca after that. I’d like to know why a banker’s daughter wouldn’t declare her address, too!


Thanks a million.


You’re welcome, m’lad. Before I go, a bit of fatherly advice.




Don’t marry someone who needs medical care, no matter how rich she is, when you can marry someone who’ll care for you, instead. Elsa seems a more reliable bed fellow!


Maybe. If Cesca thought that much of me, she’d have at least texted by now.

After Jacob hung up, he made a closer inspection of Cesca’s room. Cesca’s drawers and wardrobe were threadbare, only old, worn clothes remained. Likewise, there were no toiletries. Her study area was untouched and cluttered. There were prints on the walls – Böcklin, Friedrich, Stubbs and Blake. There were bookcases with books on paranormal studies and Jungian psychology, a Ouija board and a scratched, framed photo of Clara. Jacob opened it up so he could take a clearer look, and another picture fell out from underneath, a smaller, black + white picture of an unknown woman. Jacob put the smaller picture in his pocket and the larger picture back in its frame. He found Cesca’s diary under the bed and took photos of several recent entries.

© 2020 AGP

In the Forest of Lost Fortune

In the Forest of Lost Fortune cries

The one eyed owl of the reddened moon;

Sheltering under starry skies

Each night she hoots a banished tune.

Come thither her nocturnal fleet,

Trees uproot like a marching band;

Branches shake to her cosmic beat

Resounding deep throughout the land.

Under the twilight leaves change hue,

Flickering like a newborn flame;

Flaxen, violet, green and blue,

And many colours none can name.

Wavering fields of golden corn

Swirl to the rhythm in a trance,

Twirling round with a leaping fawn,

Breaking off in a scattered dance.

Dusk has been an orbiting friend,

Dawn returns like a wicked foe;

Down into soil the trees descend,

From seismic tides back down below.

Their time of roaming nearly spent,

Hours slide into minute frames;

The Guardians wail a long lament,

Anon sans cesse such fleeting flames.

Bluebells blossom, soft lays the dew,

Clouds break through with a parting glance;

Alas, if only someone knew

How nature guards the dead romance.

Two humans, like nomadic Huns,

Went hunting on a morning prowl;

Both wandered off with loaded guns,

On target for a flighty fowl.

© 2020 AGP

The Burning Barn – Chapter 13

Jacob arrived at Elsa’s place in time for afternoon tea. Elsa warmly hugged and kissed him thrice before welcoming him in. 


Come in, Jacob. Wow! Cesca never told me you were super cute.


Like all of Cesca’s besties.


I’m hardly her bestie.

Elsa guided Jacob through to the dining room. As he sat down, Elsa served out all the treats.


Do I get extra cake?


Ah, so that’s what you’re after? Of course, help yourself, but first you must try my award-winning sushi. The in-house catering team was super jealous at first, but now they request it every week!

Jacob took several bites of a Caterpillar Roll and gave Elsa the thumbs up.


Mmmm, this is scrumptious and nutritious. Where do you work?


As a therapist. The office is next door, but I often work as a freelancer. I’m still training and building up my clients. Cesca was my first. We see a lot of clients around our age, such a shame, but so rewarding when we give them some purpose in life. Not everyone takes our advice. Not least Cesca.


Fine line between being strong willed and pig headed, eh?


It’s not just that. She’s always hiding something, holding something back. I tell her constantly to open up, or we can’t help her, but it’s like she’s in denial of her schizophrenic symptoms. She takes medication but refuses injections, thinks her step-mum’s a witch and her dad’s paid off the police. Calls him The Hush.


Any truth in it?


Sadly not. She says she gets it all from the voices in her head, poor child. I don’t know how many. The main one’s called Beccia. Italian, apparently. 


And this never affects her studies?


No, that’s the strange thing. It’s like it’s localised, as if there’s an epicentric outbreak in Norfolk. It started when they moved up here. Sometimes she goes back to the Cotswolds, back home, on weekends. Then, her character is completely different. The last time I saw her she … she said she might go to Winchcombe before the month is out. When I asked her why, she snapped. It was, like, not just a tantrum, but a nerve-shaking, fist-clenching, teeth-rattling attack. I couldn’t handle her or restrain her. Luckily, we were in the garden, so I just went in and locked the door. She calmed down in the end. She used one of our many soothing techniques. The fresh air and the bouquet from our physic garden must have done her the world of good.


I’ve never seen Cesca flip. Strange, how little I know her.


Have some cake, that always cheers Cesca up.

Jacob took a bite from a slice of ginger cake.


This is so, so good. You’d have to pay top dollar for this in a restaurant. Are you sure you’re in the right profession?


Hmm … food as therapy? That could work. Anyway, I’ve an appointment in half an hour. So, I’ll have to love you and leave you. If you leave me your email address, I’ll send you the contact details for Cesca’s personal tutor. At least, I think he still is.

Jacob took out a scrap of paper and pen from his pocket, scribbled down his email address, and handed it to Elsa.




Could we go to the Cotswolds together? I mean, to search for Cesca’s …


Inner path? For sure! We’ll try Oxford first. It’s best she doesn’t know we’re looking for her, or … she’ll reach out to us when she wants to. I’m free from Thursday, I’ve annual leave to use up. You can stay tomorrow night, if you want? We’ll plan our approach.


Just the night?


Ah, your landlady chucked you out, I forgot. Listen, I could do with the rent, and the company.

Elsa moved closer to Jacob, placed an arm around him, and kissed his left cheek. Jacob kissed her nose in return.


You’re a lifesaver!


Um, yeah … that’s kind of what I do. I’m not saying we have to, you know … but I could at least give you a massage? It’ll help to take your mind off things.


Hmm … I guess.


Yay! You’re the best.

© 2020 AGP

Before the Duel

How could I have been such a fool

To land myself into a duel

With a master bearing the cross,

Sixteen showdowns without a loss.

His hands were too fast for the slain,

Each bullet lodged inside the brain.

He seeks from mistreated burghers

Vengeance for the sins of others.

Break-ins, looting and battery,

Brutal acts of adultery,

The coveting of mistresses,

All their former friend possesses,

The murdering of innocents,

Desecrating without repent

Church towers on the Sabbath Day

And other sins from those who stray

From the true path are censured by

A council of strange passers-by.

These folk, they hide behind his gun

And praise God when the deed is done.

It all began one misty night

When the winter moon reached its height.

From my hometown I ventured far,

Sampling strong ales from bar to bar

On my journey from west by north.

Only after the third or fourth

Had I noticed by my right side

The same lady sat down and cried.

I looked under my trilby hat

And saw that she was looking at

The pint of ale in my pale hand.

Over the tones of a jazz band

She raised her voice, ‘you’ve noticed me

At last,’ as she sipped a whiskey,

‘Won’t you kindly buy me a drink?

I don’t care what people will think.

I’m so lonesome, no one to love,

No man alive can I speak of.’

So I ordered a glass of wine,

A fine Riesling straight from the Rhine.

‘My last lover, shot in the head,

I saw him fall, alive now dead.

Why do you go rambling around?’

‘I lost myself, but now I’m found.’

We clinked glasses and gazed half blind

Into each others eyes. Behind,

The breeze drifted through the window

And caught her hair with a soft blow.

‘Shall we venture out to the dunes,’

She asked, ‘and lie under the moon?’

I drank my fill and took her hand,

We walked two miles to the dense sand

And kissed and talked and laughed and slept,

Her eyes lit up, no longer wept.

When I woke up, long after dawn,

All my pregnant hopes were unborn,

I scratched my head and realised

My hat was gone, I felt chastised,

Nor was she there, not a slight trace,

A stony man stood in her place.

‘You have slept with his Lord’s lover,

From that no man may recover,

The penalty for such a sin,’

The seconds snarled, twisting his chin

Before handing me a notice

Of which none called has yet dismissed,

‘Is to enter with God’s servant

A duel, I am its observant.

Will you prefer pistols or swords?’

‘Pistols,’ I shrugged, looking seawards.

‘Good choice, I’ll note your preference.’

As if it makes any difference.

‘Until time comes, I’ll leave you now.

If you survive, please make this vow . . .’

His voice trailed off in the sandstorm,

Dear Reader, so I can’t inform

You what he said, only that she

With whom I slept beside the sea

And who vanished into the mist

Belonged to the famed duellist.

I couldn’t sleep that afternoon

And went walking out on the dune,

Thinking when to pull my trigger,

Of who will be my grave digger,

Of the reaper that comes my way

And his lover to whom I pray.

I walked and walked until I saw

The duellist by the sea shore.

I hang my head and hurried back,

Running along the old dirt track

Where I’ll be shot. When I returned

To the inn where my head was turned,

There was a note on my doormat

And on my bed, my trilby hat!

On the note read: Please, don’t remove

The dense webbing, nor disapprove

Of my actions, my plan’s foolproof.

Wear your hat high, it’s bulletproof.

I’ll be waiting for you, don’t go

After you send his dust below.

© 2020 AGP

The Burning Barn – Scene 12

Next morning, Jeremiah showed Jacob around his cellar and his personal possession of arms and armoury.


And if she should refuse?


With my tools on offer, she shan’t refuse.


I wouldn’t dream of using these …


Try them out. Pretend there’s an enemy in front of you. Which one would you use?

Jacob tried out several and imagined, just for fun, using each on Jeremiah, who was aware of Jacob pointing a pistol, rifle, blunt instrument and poisoned dart at him, but ignorant of his intentions.


I’d use this blunt instrument if I’m behind the enemy, this shot gun from a nearby vantage point, this rifle from a distance … but for Cesca? To … pacify her as a last resort?


She must attend her appointment.


In that case … the poisoned dart is the safest option. Would there be any prints or records?




A small dosage, then. 0.02 milligrams could be enough to … to tranquilise … to numb her nerves.


For twelve hours, at least.


That buys us time.


Good. Find out her schedule, her tutors, her contacts, everything. If you get her back here by Saturday morning, I could get her booked in, while she’s still –

Just then, the butler, Howard, entered the cellar.


Telephone, Sir.


Tell them to wait. Who on earth –


For you, Mr Moraine, Sir. A young lady. Elsa, I believe.


Elsa? Must be the wrong number.


It’s alright, Jacob, I know her. One of Cesca’s friends. You’d better take it.


You can take the call in your room.


Very well.

Jacob walked out of the cellar and up to his room to answer Elsa’s phone call, unaware that Jeremiah was listening in on the conversation.


Hello? Jacob speaking.


Oh, hi. You don’t know me, but I’m a friend of Cesca’s.


Have you seen her? Is she safe?


That’s what I wanted to ask you. I’ve been trying to ring her for over an hour.


You and me both.


Oh? I thought you two were near Holkham together?


We were, but … yesterday … she … she’s gone –


Gone? Back to Oxford, right?




Only … she was meant to visit me for afternoon tea this afternoon, after her early morning lecture, and she’s not been in touch. Why would she leave so –


My guess is, avoiding the doctor’s.


Oh, that again. Honestly, she’s a very silly girl. She can’t keep running away. Especially not from me.


Which cafe were you –


I made it all myself. It’s our treat. We have it at the start of each semester. First one she’s missed. I overspent as well. Bloody typical.


Sounds like you’re pretty miffed.


Not … well, a little. I put a lot of work into it.


I wouldn’t want to go to waste. I’m sure I –


Oh, could you? That would be splendid! I’m in Cambridge. If you leave now, you might be here just in time, if you’re lucky.


I’ll be right over, I’ll just let Jeremiah, I mean –


He’ll let you come, I’m sure. As you leave the station, you cross Hills Road with the Botanical Gardens on your left. You continue down Bateman Street and my house is third on the left along Bateman Mews. It’s the one with a bright green door and ivy hanging down. You can’t miss it. I think the butler … Howard, is it? Yes. I hope he’s kept my business card. I’ll explain everything. See you later.


OK, I look forward to it.

Jacob hung up and walked out of his room.



Howard rushed up the stairs.


Yes, Sir.


Do you have –

Howard passed him Elsa’s business card.


You take care of everything!


When will you be back, Sir?


In time for dinner.


Remember that you’ll be eating alone.


Hmm? Oh yes, they’re at a concert, that’s right. See you tonight.

Jacob walked down the stairs to the hallway and fetched his shoes. Jeremiah, who heard the whole conversation, greeted him


I’m off to Cambridge. Afternoon tea, you know. Enjoy the concert.


We’ll try to. Give my regards to Elsa.

© 2020 AGP

The Shattered Particles

A soul is like the shattered particles,

The scant atoms from the Mirror of God;

Fragmented and scattered like His debris,

Lying dormant inside all living forms.

As if melted and blown in a furnace,

Solidified and cooled in our bodies,

It reflects and refracts eternal light,

And rewards its owners with golden gifts.

Reborn in our neurons, it animates

The thoughts and willpower of creative

Artists, leaders, physicists, radicals,

Doctors, inventors and philosophers.

Released from impulses and distractions

Like a network of sharp electric sparks,

It unlocks the door to enlightenment

And guides human reason to greater heights.

© 2020 AGP

Eternal Motion

We’re almost there – the bend of the river 

Where you often perform your weightless dance.

How does the sequence go? Ah yes, I know,

Each time is so organic and divine.

You twirl as the water wraps round your hair

And dive down to the depths without a splash.

You swim as the current takes you along, 

Ever forward, onward without return.

You sing in praise of nature in motion,

Unadorned harmonies heard in forests,

The cyclical rebirth of life each year

And the sweetness of amber and nectar.


And yet, I sense a melancholy strain

This time when we arrive at the river.

Your dance is weighed down by the force of the

Onrushing stream. Your arms cannot withstand

The flow. You sing of cyclical decay,

Of the invisible threats to our life,

Of the animals in burning forests

And the toxins contained in food and drink.


For the first time you claim that God might be

Only impermanence personified.

It frightens me. What about our visions,

When we’re closest to the removing the veil?

You sigh and say: ‘Even our dreams will fade.

Each sleep is one step closer to the last.’

© 2020 AGP

The Burning Barn – Scene 11

Jeremiah, his wife, Cheryl, and Jacob were sitting down at the table, enjoying their roast gammon. The butler, Howard, served their every whim.


Fill the glasses will you, Howard. To the brim, this time.


Yes, Sir.

Howard refilled the glasses with Beaujolais, as requested.


As I was saying, Jacob, my boy, the bank’s been in my family for two hundred years, and only now have we branched out from Struttenlourne.


Was it always the same name?


No. The Tollemaches were the founders and original operators. Then, my great-great grandfather married an Italian from the Torlonia banking family. And so, we merged about one hundred and fifty years ago.


My hubby’s very well-bred, don’t you think? Especially when he’s –


Would you like another potato? I’ve got plenty.




Howard, do the honours.


Yes, Sir.

Howard served Jacob more potatoes.


Cesca’s well-bred, too.


Hah! Only on my hubby’s side. Her mother was just a common whore. Had no sense of breeding, cheap slut.


Excuse my wife’s colourful expressions of her … she doesn’t like anyone mentioning –


I weaned her and raised her, and she still calls me Steppy. I told you all along there’s something wrong with that degenerate child.


Howard, please excuse my wife from the table.


Right you are, Sir. Same as usual. Come this way, Madam.

Cheryl stood up, chucked her handkerchief on the table and spat on her plat in disgust.


Degenerate, she is. Warped and –


That’s enough!


I’m sorry I raised the matter.


Don’t be. I’m not one to hide how I feel. That’s for well-breds, indeed!

Cheryl stormed out of the room.


You see what I married? Howard, bring us whiskey and cheese in about twenty minutes time. We’ll be in the smoking chamber.


Blended, extra mature, just like your wife, right away, Sir.


I’m fond of you, Howard. You’ve obeyed my orders for, how long, twenty years?


Twenty-five, Sir.


And not one complaint?


Not a bother, Sir, you’ve been as good as gold.


Why can’t my wife behave like you?


It’s the booze, Sir. I never touch it, and she’s always sloshed.


Quite so. I should have married –


Will that be all, Sir?


Oh, yes, Howard.

Howard left the room.


So, what’s the reason –


Jacob, my boy, I have a confession to make. My wife is … partly correct. I mean, Cesca has mental health issues. These are under control, don’t worry. With the right medication, it won’t affect your relationship, but … that’s why her doctor’s meeting is so important. I fear for her. She could really suffer if her dopamine levels are too low, or there’s a reduction in the expression of glutamate. 


She’s been fine with me.


I don’t doubt it, but are you sure it was her … her voice, her thoughts responding? I don’t want to alarm you, but … she likes role-playing, you know, personalising different emotional states. It’s her way of dealing with it, I guess. I don’t know how to handle her, I really don’t. I try to humour her, to play along, but she … she sees things I can’t see. Maybe things you can’t see, either. Supposing she had one of her episodes last night, and this was followed by a blackout, and now a relapse … oh, I dread to think of it! 


Couldn’t she have the injection in Oxford, if I can find her?


If you can. She’s very evasive and withdrawn when she’s at her lowest state. As I said, she didn’t exactly say where she’s staying, but maybe going back to Oxford Uni is not a bad thing. She’s normally so focused, fixated even, in her studies that she forgets everything else. She’s on course for a First and not tutor has ever raised any concerns. All the same, I would like you to find her and bring her back to the doctor’s by the weekend. It’s urgent, as the doctors won’t allow another missed appointment. You’ve already been recompensed.


Oh, you mean the fifty grand? I see …


Think of it as a wedding present – once she’s treated.

They shook hands and nodded their heads in agreement.

© AGP 2020

A Funeral

A procession of solemn folk in black

Walk through the gates under a gothic arch.

Lines of mourners, spread out in double file,

Prepare their hearts for a funeral march

To the strains of a marching band playing

A cheerless dirge and monotonic airs.

The notes flutter in the chill air, swaying

In a boisterous breeze through the cobbled lanes.

The crowd follow the priest, two men burning

Incense mixed with water, and corpse bearers

Who carry the coffin before turning

Past a tearful salute of seafarers.

Of the deceased much do they remember,

Up to the point when he died on his eighth

Journey. Other cloaked men follow, members

Of the mysterious Catholic faith,

Figures of mystic form, dressed in

Bright white regardless of the occasion.

Unblemished, not a single drop of sin

Has stained or bleached those robes of salvation.

On his headstone will be inscribed these words:

Our time on earth is but a small buffer,

Before we’re called to the hallowed carriage.

Though I’m buried, it’s you who will suffer.

After the burial, a young preacher

Warns of hellfire and torments yet to come:

“Life, then, prior to our exhumation,

Is an exam which only the pure pass,

Not judged by wealth, fame or adulation,

In fact, most fail just like fools in a farce.

We’re reminded of our bleak fate

Each time we glance upon a new coffin,

As thoughts turn to the rusty churchyard gate

And when it’s time for us to move on in.

No more to breathe, allowed to rest in peace,

While a new babe is born to take our place,

The plight of mortal life will never cease –

Except for the few who live by God’s Grace.

Why do human beings strive for a peak

If the grave is mankind’s ultimate goal?

They lack in self control, their will is weak,

They shall be burnt, scattered without a soul.”

The mourners take no heed of his kind words

And leave before the end. They walk down to

The pub, make merry in the memory

Of the deceased, and flirt with long-lost friends

Behind their lovers’ backs. They raise their pints

And laugh at the deceased’s exploits at sea,

Many of which are too rude to repeat.

© 2020 AGP