Hello everyone! Thank you so much to Nell for letting me pop in today to tell you a bit more about my part of our collaborative World Naked Gardening Day project. Nell, Holly Day, K. L. Noone, Amy Spector and I have all written gay romance novellas based around World Naked Gardening Day, which happens on the first Saturday in May. This year it’s the 7th, which is when our stories happen to be released! You can read about all of them here.
Warning! Deep Water is a 16,300 gay romance set in the UK 1947, just after the worst winter in living memory and eighteen months after the end of the second world war. Let me tell you a bit about George, one of my main characters!
Description: Short hair. Brown eyes. Shorter than average and a bit pudgy round the middle. Nearly forty and feeling it.
Personality: Prefers flowers to people.
Occupation: Owns a flower nursery.
Habits/Mannerisms: Runs hand up through hair when frustrated. Doesn’t swear.
George served in the army during the war, although he didn’t have to join up because agriculture was a reserved occupation. However, he’d always worked with his parents on the family horticultural nursery and he desperately wanted to get away.
His parents were killed in a bombing raid on London when they’d gone up there for the day in 1942 and George is running the nursery with the help of some ex Land Army women. They kept the place going in the gap between his parents dying and him coming home. He’s sad about his parents but also a bit relieved they’re dead because they were sometimes emotionally abusive.
George is aware he has internalised homophobia. He has a convoluted belief that he doesn’t deserve good things because of both that and because of his sexuality, a sort of dual guilt from two different angles. His parents more or less beat it in to him that he owed them everything. They caught him with another boy when he was in his teens and they used it to keep him in line. The other boy was sent away and George never saw him agan.
During the story, it becomes clear to us that he is gradually coming to terms with his sexuality, a process that began when he left home to go to war. Meeting Peter and falling in love with him challenges George’s belief that he is somehow wrong for being queer and that queer people can’t have nice things.
George is a quiet, reliable person who just wants to get on with life and not have any drama. He spends a lot of time during the day hiding from his workforce and then comes out at night and spends time with the plants and with his dog, Polly. Part of his healing process when he meets Peter is that he becomes slightly more social again.
He’s never going to be going to social clubs or doing anything with crowds of people, but he begins to make quiet friendships and (I hope) we see him grow as the story progresses.
Without further ado, here’s some more about Warning! Deep Water. I hope you have as much fun reading it as we all have writing our stories.
Warning! Deep Water
It’s 1947. George is going through the motions, sowing seeds and tending plants and harvesting crops. The nursery went on without him perfectly well during the war and he spends a lot of time during the working day hiding from people and working on his own. In the evening he prowls round the place looking for odd jobs to do.
It’s been a long, cold winter and Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever get properly warm or clean again. Finding a place with heated greenhouses and plenty of nooks and crannies to kip in while he’s recovering from nasty flu was an enormous stroke of luck. He’s been here a few days now. The weather is beginning to warm up and he’s just realised there’s a huge reservoir of water in one of the greenhouses they use to water the plants. He’s become obsessed with getting in and having an all-over wash.
What will George do when he finds a scraggy ex-soldier bathing in his reservoir? What will Peter do? Is it time for them to both stop running from the past and settle down?
A Naked Gardening Day short story of 16,300 words.
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“You didn’t say you liked music,” Peter said, as they were sitting across the table from each other over a cup of tea, once he’d finally pulled himself away from the instrument and reverentially closed the keyboard.
“Well,” said Peter. “It didn’t come up, did it?” He paused. “Mother used to play a bit,” he said, eventually. “Not like that, though. Hymns, mostly. She was big on chapel.”
There was clearly a story there.
“It’s nice to hear it played,” George went on. “Instruments should be used, not just sat there as part of the furniture. And…,” he paused again and blushed, “And you play very well.”
“Well,” said Peter shuffling with embarrassment. “I learned as a nipper and just carried on with it. Dad wanted me to go and study somewhere, but I wanted to get out and earn. It would have taken the joy out of it if I’d had to pass exams and such.”
George nodded. “I can see that. And you’re good with your hands.” He blushed again and became very absorbed with mashing the tiny amount of butter left from the ration into his baked potato.
Peter coughed. “Well yes,” he said. He couldn’t help smiling a little at George, although he didn’t let him see. He forged on. He really didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. “I think mathematics and music sort of go together, you know? And I was always good with numbers as well…it’s a good trait in a joiner.”
George nodded, clearly feeling they were on less dangerous territory. “Yes,” he said. “There’s all sorts of things you can use maths for; but music is pretty rarefied, isn’t it?”
Peter nodded. “This way I get to keep the music and earn a living. There’s always work for a carpenter, like you said the other day.”
He gradually became less self-conscious about playing when George and Mrs Leland were in the house over the next few weeks. It made him feel like another piece of what made him a person was coming back to life.
What it didn’t do was make him any less confused about what was happening between him and George. Half the time he thought George was completely uninterested. But then something would happen that would make him reconsider. The comment about being good with his hands was a case in point. It was a perfectly commonplace thing to say and George shouldn’t have been embarrassed. But he had been. Which meant he’d thought of it in a context that might cause embarrassment.
Peter spent several very enjoyable hours spread over several evenings working through different variations of what the other man might have been thinking.
George was nobody’s Bogart. But he was decent-looking. Nice face, especially when he smiled. A bit soft round the middle, but otherwise hard muscled from the physical work he did day in, day out. Clever…did his own accounts. Liked music. Made Peter laugh with his dry commentary on things in the paper or local gossip and the social pickles the girls reported on in the break room.
Peter liked him a lot. And fancied him. After the third night of considering at length how he could demonstrate how good with his hands he actually was, he gave up pretending. He fancied George a lot.
About A. L. Lester
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.
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