Connie Bensley


Dearest, I’d love to have your Tina to stay — what are aunts for? — but I’m not sure if it can be managed just now. I know you’d like her to have a change of scene after that business with her maths tutor (has he gone back to his family now, by the way?)

Losing a Crown in the National Portrait Gallery

The cafe was full of connoisseurs of the scones. As he bit into his flapjack a sinister uncoupling took place and he felt the crown of a tooth jerk free — to be rescued behind a discreet paper napkin. Now the geography of his mouth was unfamiliar, harsh and sharp. No wonder those Tudors in

Sharing the Dog

The Dog share didn’t work out well in the end. For a start, Dog — no mean manipulator — cadged extra rations in Home A, so that Home B was obliged to act the disciplinarian. Then there was the quasi-polite dispute about the missed flea drops and the bitten house-guest. Goodwill flagged, and it was


The ferns around the badgers’ sett are dying down, and fine webs fret the brambles. By late afternoon the moon will glint on foxes’ eyes and owls rehearse sepulchral cries, and then the badgers start to rise like shadows from the ground.


Walking to the bus stop after a hospital visit, in an unfamiliar, dusty suburb, I pass a small park on the left with a stream which dives under the road, and here only a few feet away, by the water, is a heron — surely larger than life and with each feather accurately modelled. I

New Neighbour

The trellis between her garden and her new neighbour’s garden is heavy with passion flower, honeysuckle and roses, so that only rare glimpses can be seen through it — a blue flower, a splash of grass, a dark cuff. She calls out politely to welcome him to the neighbourhood. Weeks later, she calls out to

The Time of Shoring Up

After the years at the gym, the diets and the supplements, he comes — nevertheless — to the time of shoring up. Now he is under the aegis of the Holy Trinity of Dentistry, Cardiology and Urology whose gods must be placated and obeyed. He turns towards his bathroom reflection, to assess the state of

On the way to Plumpton

We pull up at Wivelsfield, under a blue sky, and glance out at the one figure on the platform: a mature, buxom woman in pink. Her arms are open wide, and a burly, moustachioed man climbs out of our carriage and gallops towards her embrace, burying his face in her yellow hair. When will they


Let’s celebrate the solitary meal: the serendipitous trawl through the fridge; the hopeful foray into the deep freeze, the obliging egg and — on a good day — the last hurrah of a cheesecake or a cold Jersey potato, pleading for release from its stiffening cocoon of mayonnaise. No waiting for a table here; all


Of course the bride’s dog came to the wedding and was allotted a chair at the top table at which he sat with a gloomy expression and a chewed satin bow. The groom fed him morsels of pheasant — laughing rather theatrically when his finger was nipped and the blood dyed his table napkin a


A tiny fly is moving over the page of my dull book this sultry evening, and it is my conceit that it has a message for me. It pauses on Rigoletto and, skirting pronouns and prepositions, lingers on the hyphen of orang-utan before a significant pirouette over rhubarb tart. When I wake up it is


Dear Lord Sugar, it’s been a sad week. A kind of bereavement, really. Today, a council employee in a yellow jacket climbed down from his municipal truck and flung into it my old friend of — what? — twenty years? We never needed passwords between us. It never told me bad news about my server

For the Time Being

Time slips away while we conjecture how to make best use of it. Waking late, the hours already sliding by, the day unplanned and shrinking. We’ll fill the time, anaesthetise the loss, The final hour will come and it will pass.

Don’t Look Back

No, let’s not look at the old photographs any more: our hair was so full and shiny then, and anyway we can’t tell all those babies apart now. And who was the woman in the lace blouse sitting on our sofa, with that basilisk stare? I don’t remember ever seeing her before. Let’s put the

Mr Dixon

I can’t think of anyone else still alive who knew him, and could reminisce with me about his special kindness, his panache — (ice-white shirts, cufflinks which, looking back, were just a trace too gleaming) his well-known love of the stage and his dramatic tours round the domain he cherished — the Department of Dental

Sometimes it’s Better to Give than to Receive

I can see your teeth clench with rage at the gift I have pressed on you, which manoeuvres you into the role of grateful recipient of my unctuously offered, expensively wrapped and poisonously unwelcome offering. It’s hard to say if you are smiling or snarling as you turn to extol the wrapping paper.

The breasts that launched Les Fleurs du Mal

This novel is based on the life of Charles Baudelaire and the relationship he enjoyed — or endured — with his Haiti-born mistress, his Black Venus, Jeanne Duval. We first see him in 1842, a young poet of 20, making his dandyish way through the slums of Paris to meet his friends at a cabaret

A Short Attachment

I was in love for a whole week after Episode One: Your voice so tender, so knowledgeable, your slender hands and feet. In Episode Two, doubts crept in. Were you hogging the camera or was it just that the camera loved your profile, your man-of-the-people T shirts, your breeze-ruffled hair? Episode Three opens with you


The bunting was hardly down, and the bones of the feast hardly buried in sand, when the prodigal son started to cause flurries of unease. He found the old place provincial; the servants over-familiar;  the close kin — well, he merely raised an eyebrow at the close kin. And yet, established in the best room,