Published in 2014 by BONDGATE GREEN.

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2 Published in 2014 by BONDGATE GREEN. Copyright Charlie Mellor Charlie Mellor has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. All Rights reserved. No part of this sample chapter may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. 2

3 About the Book A darkly comic true story about obsessive infatuation, revealing the depths to which people can sink, before they realise they re in too deep For years, all Charlie Mellor wanted was to meet the alluring Pennie Fenton. Unfortunately for him, this wish came true. Captivation with the corrupting Miss Fenton soon developed into an overpowering obsession which sent his life spiralling out of control and jeopardised everything he held dear. It was because of Miss Fenton that he lost touch with his family and friends, got involved with the occult, upset members of the Greek Underworld and even volunteered one of his own fingers to be crushed by a sadistic stranger. Before he could free himself from her curious charms, he would need to acknowledge her real identity and expose the deep, dark secret she had kept hidden from him. Only then, would he find the courage to rebuild himself through a bizarre appearance on national television, where in front of millions of viewers, he would abandon all dignity and reveal the full extent of his downfall. This candid tale chronicles one man s epic struggle to free himself from a cruel and manipulative companion. Peppered with black humour, it unveils the damaging impact of an unyielding obsession. Positioned as an offbeat tale of misplaced mesmerisation, the memoir taps into the universal themes of temptation, desire and infatuation. It includes irreverent observations on life, loss and the enormous void between these two. Only at the end of the book do readers see that nothing is quite what it seems and this is in fact, a modern day parable about the redeeming power of love. 3

4 Contents 1. The End Has a Start 2. Here s the Church and Here s the Steeple 3. The Shores of Lake Wobegon 4. Indelible Pen 5. Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre 6. The Primacy Effect 7. Cold Iron 8. Blast from the Past 9. The Bosom of Suburbia 10. Dancing at the Edge of the Precipice 11. Buried Treasures 12. The Pennie Drops 13. Oh Captain, My Captain 14. My Own Worst Enemy 15. Fate, Against Your Will 16. In The Grip 17. Alarm Bells 18. Sins of the Father 19. Never Falls Far 20. The Magic of Television 21. Past Tense 22. As I See it Now 4

5 A wise man hath his foibles, as well as a fool...the foibles of the one are known to himself, and concealed from the world; the foibles of the other... John Mason (1818) 5

6 1 The End Has a Start O f all my many foibles, the unconditional regard I had for Penelope Fenton was without doubt the worst. Oh, there were others - numerous little idiosyncrasies and peculiarities - but it was always the burgeoning interest in Pennie that would prove to be my greatest undoing. She introduced me to the best and worst of times, to the funniest, wildest encounters I can remember and at the same time, managed to fill every part of me with an overwhelming sense of dread. Ultimately, Pennie brought me to my knobbly knees, to the point where I was willing to surrender anything for just one more encounter with her. It was because of Pennie that I turned my back on my wife and children, lost touch with many of my good friends, got involved with the occult, fell out with members of the Greek Underworld and even volunteered one of my own fingers to be crushed by a sadistic stranger. I first met her many years ago as an impressionable teen, but got to know her much better as a gullible adult when the two of us would go on to become practically inseparable. As our acquaintance grew, she demanded an unquestioning and absolute loyalty. I was told by others who knew her well, that if you were able to manage her incessant demands, she was capable of 6

7 being a formidable ally. Unfortunately, I rarely saw this side. Instead, for me, she was always unyielding and unappeasable - a strict and merciless companion who insisted on complete obedience. Before I knew it, every choice I made and every action I took depended on her approval. Of all the questionable decisions made during the course of our tempestuous thirty-year relationship, agreeing to appear on a seemingly respectable television show was by far the most ludicrous. By complying with this particular request, I was forced to abandon all dignity and unwittingly reveal the extent of my downfall not only to myself, but also to millions of unsuspecting viewers. It would be wrong to suggest that Pennie dragged me kicking and screaming to the television studios on what would become the most deplorable of days, but it was certainly down to her that I felt obliged to get involved with that programme in the first place. I can still hear her whispering in my ear, What an opportunity Go on do it you ll be good at it You ll enjoy taking part I think you should jump at the chance You deserve this Imagine all the exposure this will bring for your business, all the money you could make It will help us to see even more of each other. On the day of the actual filming, I travelled by train to the TV studios in Kent; it was a long and difficult journey, not made any easier by the fact that I hadn t 7

8 seen Pennie for two weeks and couldn t get her out of my mind. What should have been a great opportunity for some time-out to consider what I wanted to say and how I wanted to present myself; was instead spent thinking about the best way to get in touch with my old flame as soon as the ordeal was over. Arriving at the studios, I met up with a mate called Nigel Flitton, who d only just agreed to accompany me on the show. Nigel couldn t stand Pennie but had decided to take part after being impressed by the calibre of the well-known guests who d previously appeared on the programme. It was clear that we were both a little tense. Nigel was ill at ease because, well, he was built that way and wasn t exactly the easiest going person in the world. For me, it was because somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew it was vital to present a favourable impression of myself to the outside world yet conscious I was at my least equipped to do so. The studio s formidable reception area was filled with framed photographs of famous faces from yesteryear. We both took time to study the memorabilia on display along the succession of narrow corridors, daring every so often to take a peek at preparations for other programmes which were underway. Before being escorted to make-up we were invited to the green room for a buffet lunch and an opportunity to meet the uberserious production team. How long has it taken you to get here then? one of them eventually said, not even bothering to turn his head towards me. 8

9 Just over forty-four years, I quipped. Nervously nibbling at the sandwiches, we watched as previous editions of the prime-time show, were being replayed over and over again. Nigel and I thought it funny that seemingly rational people were suddenly transformed into gibbering idiots, the second they were placed in front of the television cameras. Ushered into make-up, we listened with interest to gossip about other high profile projects which the chirpy staff had worked on. I loved hearing the humorous stories they told about having to pander to the requests of various self-absorbed celebrities who d once sat in the very chair I was now parked in. Their anecdotes were almost enough to distract me from just how drawn and pasty I looked as make-up was plastered on to my gaunt and somewhat lifeless skin. Misjudging the affability of the make-up assistant assigned to me, I attempted to make light of the unfamiliar situation. Now look here my good lady, you really will need to pick up the pace and work your magic. Myself and my associate Mr Flitton are about to record an important show which will be transmitted through the wonders of wireless technology into millions of homes, I said. Pardon me? she said. Chop-chop. It was a rather early start this morning, so I implore you to pay particular attention to the unsightly dark rings located under my normally sparkling eyes, I added, in a deliberately autocratic 9

10 manner, thinking this would be an amusing way to demonstrate empathy with the stories she d shared. I do beseech you, sir, she replied in an intentionally facetious tone, Stop issuing instructions and let me undertake the duties I have been employed to provide. Sitting upright in the make-up chair, trying hard to avoid eye contact with the now uncommunicative make-up lady as she aggressively jabbed at the bags under my eyes, it had dawned on me that I knew absolutely nothing probably less than anyone I d ever met, about the very topic we were here to explore. Obsessing about Pennie all the way here had meant that I hadn t bothered with any planning for the day and so, as the last layers of concealer were being applied, I began to worry that my lack of preparation was about to be made public. By the time we were ejected from the now silent make-up room and ushered into the enormous Studio 5 for our induction briefing, I was in a terrible state. I d not slept properly for days and ended up guzzling three or four large cups of complimentary coffee, which probably only added to my disorientated state. As unhelpfully high levels of cortisol poured into my system to combat the stress, most of what followed was pretty much a blur. I vaguely remember wiping my palms on the sides of my trousers as my stomach turned to acid just before we were taken on a whistle-stop tour of the set. At some point, we were introduced to another four guests who 10

11 were booked to appear on the show with us two bubbly young women who had something to do with the leisure industry and two men from a top-notch university who looked only slightly less jittery than I felt. Next, we met our host, a well-meaning but obsequious man, someone who d publically admitted to a little facial muscle freezing once in a while. He flounced over and introduced himself in a perfunctory fashion, underlining the fact that this was his show and each of us would be judged on the calibre of the contributions we provided. The thought of being held to account by millions of the British public filled me with horror. To make matters worse, we were informed that because of timing restrictions there would be no opportunity for a rehearsal prior to the filming of today s show. Instead of being told to relax and enjoy the experience, we were collectively briefed in militaristic fashion by the self-important production team. We were instructed how to respond, what to say, where to stand and even how much eye contact to offer each other. If we intended to speak directly to our host, we must always end our response with his name to illustrate the apparent rapport between us. It was all stiflingly prescriptive. Pennie had always encouraged me to distrust authority figures of any kind and so the more I thought we were being talked at, the less inclined I was to listen. I totally misheard where I was supposed to wait and nearly fell out with an officious sound technician 11

12 over where the microphone should be positioned on my shirt. As more and more requirements for the afternoon piled up, I started to regret my decision to take part in the programme. Trapped in the bowels of Studio 5 and caught by the unforgiving dazzle of the piercing spotlights, I could see that it was going to be impossible to project the favourable impression of myself I had hoped to. As someone who was overly concerned about how they were perceived by others, it was incredible that I ever let Pennie convince me that taking part would be a good idea. The corrupting Miss Fenton was well aware of how self-conscious I had become in recent months. She had witnessed the dramatic decline in my confidence and had been present during the recent panic attacks. Yet here I was centre stage, at a loss for words, miked-up, caked in layers of make-up, wearing my most embarrassed expression and about to be presented to millions of viewers. It was humiliating. Then again, Pennie was always incredibly skilful at getting me to do things I didn t really want to. She enjoyed exposing the inadequacies of others and gained pleasure from putting people into positions where they d make a fool of themselves. Most of my friends, including Nigel, had fallen out with her because of these mind games, but I d been besotted with her for far too long to be able to resist her curious charms. I knew full well that during the course of our unconventional relationship, Pennie had deliberately undermined many of my relationships; had 12

13 compromised my career and had even stolen most of my family s savings. Yet despite her many attempts to dismantle the things I held dear, I continued to be intoxicated. Her manipulation was exquisite. Desperate for greater approval, I welcomed her advice and agreed to all of her outlandish suggestions. In the months building up to the show, she d influenced some of the most important decisions I d ever made and had successfully persuaded me that she was the only support I needed during difficult times. Now, at my most vulnerable, when I needed her most, crumbling under the greatest pressure I could remember feeling, I felt alone and exposed. Without my unreliable assistant to lean on, I was terrified that everyone would see me wobble and fall. Unable to process the magnitude of what lay ahead, my eyes flitted around, eventually locking onto a roaming camera, which appeared to be moving into position, only three feet in front of where I was standing. Jolted back into reality by this beast of a machine, I had no choice but to take notice of what was happening in the studio. Catching a glimpse of my own distorted image in the camera s convex lens, I was forced to see myself head-on, and I have to say, I didn t like what I saw. This was the closest I d been in over a decade to witnessing the full impact of my illicit affair with Pennie, to recognising the consequences of all the dubious decisions I d made and to acknowledging the scale of the contempt I now had for myself. At this 13

14 unbearable moment, it dawned on me that I had finally reached the tipping point I d feared for so long. As our not-so-humble host slithered alongside the imposing camera with cue cards in hand, I knew I was at the very epicentre of my own lowest point. It was the strangest experience almost spiritual. Here at the nadir, I was motionless, frozen by my own inertia in a place where time literally stood still. With all eyes on me, I was as detached from the outside world as anyone could ever be. Surrounded by what I would later discover to be the largest live audience on British television, I saw for the very first time the person my family and friends must have seen for years: the washed-up, sallow, spineless shell of a man who, for ages, had let both himself and everyone he cared about down. This was the most atrocious I would ever feel. Feeling completely alone and with the ubiquitous Miss Fenton nowhere to be seen, my pitiful defences collapsed and I had no option but to admit that here on national television, I was defeated. While an appreciative audience gleefully cheered and clapped, the presenter bounced up and down and the harassed production assistants chased madly around in the background; all I could think was, How the hell have I ended up here? (end of sample, for more information about the author and contact details, please see below) 14

15 Reader Reviews Cohesive and heartfelt. A confident and well-crafted book. Amusing and engaging. Full of intrigue the hints at the drama to come work well to build to an absolute shock for the reader. The twist in the plot is both clever and unexpected. Quirky, funny and surprisingly touching. Mellor writes with a deft hand, his comedy has a light, wry touch, combined with a self-depreciating sense of irony that is utterly endearing. Acerbic, absurd and addictive. Conclusive proof that the truth really is stranger than fiction. An excellent narrative controlled and skilful. Full of wry, offbeat observations about the human condition. 15

16 About the Author Charlie Mellor was born in Lancashire in the UK, loves spicy fajitas, stand-up comedy and vinyl. A recovering catholic, he now lives in Lincolnshire with his wife and four children. Prior to his current job in training and development, he worked in the publishing industry, designing headlines for regional newspapers. He would like it known that he no longer sees Pennie Fenton. She is not welcome at his house or in the general proximity of anyone he cares about. Because of her legacy, he has reluctantly been forced to change the names of many people in this book in order to place them outside Pennie s circle of influence. While it has taken Charlie until now to build up sufficient courage to admit to others that he knew her well; he can appreciate that many of his friends remain incredibly uncomfortable with such a declaration. He understands that for some, the cost of such a disclosure, would, even in these enlightened times, be far too great. 16