You’d have thought that with lockdown I’d have more time to read but sadly this hasn’t been the case and I’m so disappointed not to have been able to get to Mentoring Mr Singleman by Kim Sancreed as I think it looks great and I am glad it’s firmly on my TBR. However, I am thrilled to have an extract from Mentoring Mr Singleman to share today thanks to the team at Bookollective.
Published by Wildword, Mentoring Mr Singleman is available for purchase here.
Mentoring Mr Singleman
A witty, off-beat romance set in Cornwall.
New member of faculty Kate finds herself living below one of her colleagues in a converted engine house on the cliffs. Everyone can see they are made for each other, but he’s a little too in love with his surfing, and she’s a little too focused on her career. Under the merciless gaze of their students, Dave and Kate dance around each other through the highs and lows of a school term.
Will they manage to get out of the way of their own happy ending?
An Extract from Chapter 8 of
Mentoring Mr Singleman by Kim Sancreed.
Dave Singleman is at a weekend house-party – a reunion for a writing course that he attended back in the summer.
He found his way to the kitchen where a small knot of guests was negotiating a rotation of kettle, toaster, fridge and microwave.
“Morning all. I take it we just help ourselves.”
“Apparently so.” This was Colin, a lean, fit-looking ex-Marine in his early fifties who Dave remembered was writing a novel about mercenaries in Afghanistan. “Candice floated in earlier and waved her hand vaguely in the direction of the fridge and that cupboard, which is where most of the cereals are to be found. There’s bread and pastries in a basket on the table. She’s gone off to walk the dogs.”
Colin moved off with his croissants, walking on the balls of his feet, as if ready at any time to dive for cover. Dave moved to the front of the toaster queue where Marina, who he vaguely recalled was writing something bleak set in a Newcastle abattoir, was nursing a mug of black coffee.
“Any idea how this works?” The toaster had a set of controls that would have graced the dashboard of Howard Hughes’s speedboat.
“You press that one down first – then set the dial, then pop the bread in – there,”
“I don’t think I met Mr Candice last night. Is he here?”
“Henry’s been packed off to town for the weekend. Apparently he’s very understanding.”
“As in, he’s happy to have his home taken over by wannabe writers?”
“As in he and Candice lead parallel lives. I believe there may be others involved.”
“I see.” He paused to absorb this, connected it briefly with the little black number, the smokey, indecent chuckle. “We’re meeting at 11, is that right?”
“That’s the plan. Circle time to share where we’re all at with our writing, then free time until supper at 7, and after that we read from our work. Then – general hilarity.”
Dave’s toast popped up, looking much as toast did on emerging from more humble appliances. He reached for the butter.
“I’d better get some writing done then, or I’ll have nothing new to share. What about you?”
“I’ve made some progress.”
It transpired at the eleven o’clock sharing session that everyone except Dave had made progress. The body count had steadily risen in the crime thrillers; and the romances had all duly met their Act 2 setbacks. Candice’s pole dancing memoir continued to weave its sinuous course through the red-light districts of northern Europe. Even Nigel, the part-time taxidermist, whose pastoral novel set in the Lake District so far contained, to everyone’s disappointment, not a single scene of taxidermy, had added a chapter or two of cloudy wandering. Only Dave’s own novel remained stubbornly stalled, and he determined to spend that afternoon, which was looking wet anyway, at a table with his laptop.
Thinking back, Dave couldn’t remember when the wine started to flow. Around five, perhaps? He had toiled away diligently all afternoon, and had knocked off fifteen hundred words, leaving time to apply a bit of sparkle – it felt important to give a good account of himself. A coalition of the energetic had gone walking in the rain, arriving back dripping and noisily pleased with themselves. He remembered that distinctly enough. They had gone off to shower and returned in a mood to kickstart the evening. So yes, maybe around five.
The drinking had continued steadily through supper, which was served and efficiently cleared by two women drafted in from the village at Candice’s expense. Bottles were carried through to the lounge to accompany the reading, and port appeared too. The reading itself went by in something of a blur – he remembered Marina’s cool voice detailing a mechanical dismemberment, and finding Candice’s smoky depiction of a Hamburg brothel unsettlingly erotic. In the end Nigel’s gentle account of Wordsworthian ramblings – free of taxidermy as they were – had been rather welcome. His own contribution had not, he felt, stood out as being particularly remarkable.
Now they were playing some sophisticated variation of literary charades, the rules just a little too complex for the stage the evening had reached. Naomi, an athletic black girl from Birmingham, who didn’t drink, was miming earnestly in the middle of the floor, but the room was losing its focus, the shouted offers of a solution increasingly bizarre and apparently well off the mark. Candice put on some loud music and shimmied over to Dave, her wine glass in her hand. She pulled him to his feet, and others were starting to dance. Naomi gave up her miming, laughing. “It was Mrs Rochester!” Nobody seemed to care, and the port went round again.
Candice moved well, which, was not surprising, given her history. He did his best to keep up. He didn’t think he’d ever danced with a pole dancer before. He’d been missing out. She was, undeniably, quite sexy. Did it matter that she was a bit…well quite a bit really… older than him? Not in this day and age, he told himself firmly.
The tempo slowed, and now her arms were round his neck, his round her waist. He could feel her body through her dress. This didn’t feel entirely right, but he couldn’t quite remember why. He realised he was quite drunk, but told himself that this was just the writing life. A bit of Bohemia went with the territory…no…Bohemia was the territory. What was everybody else doing? What was Henry doing, right now as Dave slow-danced with his wife? There were others dancing, one or two close. My God surely it wasn’t going to turn into an orgy? He’d never been to an orgy, wasn’t sure he wanted…where were the Marines when you needed them?
The track finished and Candice held him close. Disengage, Singleman, disengage! She picked up the signal, flashed him a winning smile and unpeeled herself. He wandered off to find the toilet. Probably that was enough Bohemia for one evening.
He urinated noisily and as accurately as he could, leaning against one wall. He splashed water on his face and paused to look at himself in the mirror. There was lipstick on his cheek, and he wiped it off, but it felt like somebody else’s hand, or somebody else’s cheek. Bed. That was the answer. He just needed to gather himself. Just for a minute or so.
He drifted back into the lounge and raised a genial hand, but there was only a knot of three people in a corner, talking. The orgy had either lost its energy or moved to another room. He made his way to the stair, and set himself to the challenge of reaching his attic room. Such a long way up – such an unreasonably long way up. He reached the first floor and rested on the galleried landing. Why was he in one of those pokey garret rooms anyway? Perhaps because he was a proper writer. He made his way round and as he approached the more modest stair to the next level one of the doors opened, and Candice stood in the doorway. Beautiful, wise, Candice, generous hostess, whom he had perhaps unkindly spurned. Had he spurned her? He hoped not. She deserved not to be spurned. No woman of such elegance, such compact, erotic dignity, no woman who had lived as Candice had lived…
She took his hand and pulled him into the room.
“Just a goodnight kiss, darling.”
© Wildword publishing.
Now, of course, I want to know what happens next!
About Kim Sancreed
Kim Sancreed has been a teacher, freelance journalist, naval officer and weather forecaster.
Born and brought up near Glasgow, he first moved to Cornwall with his family in the 90s, and apart from a brief spell in the Midlands has lived, taught and written there ever since.
His work includes poetry, short stories, songs and general interest journalism, and has been anthologised (under a different name) with that of Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankine, and broadcast on Radio 4.
Apart from writing. Kim is a keen guitarist and Francophile. He enjoys sailing when he gets the chance and in the summer can occasionally be seen attempting to surf at Godrevy.
Mentoring Mr Singleman is his first full-length novel.
You can follow Kim on Twitter @kimsancreed and there’s more with these other bloggers too: