Swimming with a mermaid.
From Monday to Friday Peter performs without fail the same, ridgid, early morning ritual before setting off to work.
Once the shower and the extremely close shave with an open razor from the newly acquired Ancient Mariner shaving kit is completed, he stands for a few moments until he hears the toaster click in time with the kettle switching off.
Poised like a Samurai warrior in his black kimono, the closed blade is carefully and respectfully placed in its blue lined sandalwood box complete with fine bone handled badger hair brush, a selection of orange and lemon soaps labelled for the ' Man of the World.'
He emerges from the kitchen balancing with outstretched arms a large mug of mashed tea, one thick slice of still smoking burnt toast coated with yak butter and makes his way through to the lounge.
Like a stork he tip toes carefully through the generous pile of the new beige carpet.
Mindful of crumbs he sets the tea and toast to one side and picks up the binoculars as he always does each morning.
Scanning the bay he counts aloud the small ships that have arrived overnight seeking shelter from the pending gales.
'...Five, six...' he mumbles becoming louder and more incoherent with each count.
' Sevvv, eighhh, ninnn...'
'What, on earth...are you babbling on about Peter, ?...Have you heard a single word I said ? she snaps with irritation.
'Sorry...emm...what...what...did you say ?'
'Listen to me Peter...for the last half hour I have been unable to get any sense from you this morning...all I hear is some gibberish, blah, blah, blah, it's as if you are speaking in tongues or something...!'
'I'm sorry, what was that you...you...... '?
' Never mind...I'll be back late tonight...!' she snarls with exasperation.
The front door slams hard as usual sending a tremor vibrating along the walls.
Minutes later he watches as she skids the dust shrouded car along the gravel driveway and out into the metallic mass of seething crawling commuters.
Peter sighs and wonders why they stay together, perhaps it's his obsessive compulsion disorder he thinks, plus the other new emerging traits of behaviour that seem to annoy her.
Maybe that's why she is always working late.
He lets out another sigh, coughs twice, takes three sharp sips of tea followed by four bites of toast, then returns to study a new arrival in the bay.
A huge whaling factory ship, a tired faded blue and red hull, worn and battered with countless years at sea and marked by long deep scars of rust that trail from bow to stern.
The name Verkhoyansk just discernable through the peeling paint.
As it swings gently on its anchor Peter wishes he could sail away on it when the wind turns.
Sail away to a new beginning, a new adventure... anything to escape from his dull unfulfilling job in the insurance complaints department.
He shudders at the thought of another day there.
The company is in the process of merging with another giant conglomerate, he hopes that after after twenty-five of compliance with the firm he will be offered redundancy, various deals were being talked about and today he may be lucky.
Natural wastage was a label HR bandied around amidst the union and management statements.
He often felt like a piece of wastage, like the flotsam and jetsam that's adrift at sea.
Nothing more than a commodity to be discarded after years of service.
Peter always takes the coast path to work, an hours walk at most, often stopping to gather up a small stone or a shell, anything of interest to enhance the nautical theme that surrounds his desk.
Today he will ask for a transfer to the marine side of the insurance business instead of requesting redundancy.
Quite why he had never thought of a transfer before seemed strange, the thought of a career change at his age was, somehow appropriate.
With a smile and a piece of driftwood in hand he continues along the narrowing footpath towards the cliff steps that spiral upwards to the main road.
Half way up he pauses at the last viewpoint, breathing in the last sounds and smells of the sea, a temporary delay before facing the angry roar of traffic and exhaust fumes.
A klaxon blasts, the harsh sound sending gulls scattering to the cliffs.
Yellow clad figures dash to and fro around the deck of a ship.
It was the Verkhoyansk, rope ladders dropping to meet a fluorescent orange life boat.
The sudden movement in the water catches his attention in the small cove below,
Seals he hopes, and waits for another sighting.
A spray of water erupts, a head appears, then an arm thrashing wildly.
He leaps down the steps, over the cliff edge sliding and tumbling down the bank to the waters edge.
In the dark water he makes contact and drags the water logged retching shape to safety.
A young girl, wrapping his jacket around the shivering figure he cradles her in his arms and gently rocks back and forth quietly singing.
She wakes and smiles, the song is one she seems to know and understand, she smiles as if they had met somewhere before.
As the morning sun began to seep into frozen bones the shivering stopped.
The deathly ice blue face melting away leaving a bloom of soft pink.
' From the Verkhoyansk'? he asked.
She nodded a yes, her eyes filling with tears.
' I'm Peter'
'I am Mishka, and you are...my Peter the Great...' she replied smiling and closed her eyes.
He never heard the ambulance arrive.
As the crew approached they stopped to listen as he turned with girl in his arms still singing.
'Are you from the ship?' they ask puzzled.
'No' with a shake of his head
'Only...we both thought...you were..?'
That evening Peter sat alone watching the TV idly stirring a fish casserole meal.
'Almost drowned'! said the reporter.
'....saved by a passerby who refused to give his name or details to the ambulance crew...the police believe he may be an asylum seeker who also jumped ship...the young woman has made a good recovery and was returned to her ship...!'
He switches off the TV as she comes into the room.
'Well then Peter...what did you scrounge up from the beach this morning...more rubbish as usual I suppose?'
'I fell in love with a mermaid ' he replies.
'What...? Really Peter I think you need to see a doctor or something...first this morning...all that blah, blah...and now mermaids...!'
'Yes...a beautiful mermaid ' his hand holding a lock of black hair that smells sweetly of seaweed.
He turns to look out of the window, the Verhoyansk had slipped anchor.