When I met a guy online, arranging to meet on Eastbourne seafront one sunny Saturday a couple of years ago, little did I know that he would be the inspiration for my next novel. He was a web designer, at least that’s what it said on his profile. But in the coming weeks ahead the persona of successful businessman and entrepreneur was shattered, as I began to find out, little by little about the shadier side to his life and as the weeks went by I knew that the destructive side to his life had to be told. It was a story of great interest.
Reading my Kindle on a bench overlooking the sea his shadow stepped in front of me blocking the sun. They say that you make up your mind about someone in the first few minutes of meeting and that was certainly the case with Barry. He was slim, good looking with a warm, friendly smile and instantly likeable. As we strolled towards the cafe the conversation felt relaxed and unlike so many men I’ve met, he wasn’t bombarding me with his own life, wasn’t an arrogant bragging type, but instead asked lots of questions and seemed genuinely interested in my life. Later on, I realised why this was. He was trying to deflect from his own life. He didn’t want to scare me off. The thread between us, in those early days, was as fragile as a spider’s web.
Slipping into easy chat we walked along the seafront towards the next cafe where we had a cheese toastie. The seafront was a riot of bloated seagulls screeching around our table, children on scooters whizzing past, everybody sunning themselves before autumn set in. I often wonder, if the weather had been terrible that day would we have met at all?
The hours flew by. We talked about anything and everything. Passing a stand along the shopping parade a salesman stepped out in front of Barry. I don’t know what he was selling but Barry waved him away with a laugh, ‘sorry mate, I’ve got zero credit rating.’ I thought he was joking to get rid of the salesman so I asked what he meant and found out that he’d been made bankrupt several years ago. I won’t go into why he was made bankrupt, those details will remain private, but I remember feeling very shocked and this was my first alarm bell of the day. Being made bankrupt suggested to me a level of recklessness, poor planning, someone who can’t handle their accounts or make proper business decisions. I’ve always been careful with money, I’m risk averse and being with someone like this long term wouldn’t be for me. In fact, I found the idea scary. If they could sink themselves, they’d sink me with them. But the sun and the sea and the salient conversation kissed my concerns away. I asked him lots of questions about what had happened and why he’d been made bankrupt and piecing things together it made some sense to me. The events in his life at that time were desperately sad and gave me some understanding of why it had happened.
From that point on I had the impression that he was struggling for money, or still recovering from the bankruptcy so I offered to pay for lunch. When he didn’t protest I knew my suspicions were correct. He didn’t tell me that he was broke, he didn’t need to, I just knew that he was. But I was warming to him and that wasn’t going to put me off.
It was past eleven when we left the cosy pub nestled in the Meads village and began the walk down the hill towards my car. My hand slipped into his and I knew we’d meet again. In my head, I was planning to cancel a weekend away with a friend the following weekend. It’s important to keep the momentum going when you first meet someone and clear your diary. We stopped to look at the full moon making a milky pathway across the inky sea through the evergreens. This part of Eastbourne is so beautiful and it was a perfect evening. It was a romantic moment but we didn’t kiss. Weeks later we both said we’d wanted to but kissing wasn’t for first dates.
Our first date is in ‘Gambling Broke Us.’ It was the best first date I’ve ever had.
Thank you for reading part 1 of this 4 part blog about Barry and me, the inspiration for the book. You can read the novel FREE on Kindle Unlimited or it’s £1.99 on Amazon and also in paperback on Amazon.
This is a 4 part blog. Here is the link to part 2:
Link to ‘Gambling Broke Us’:
If you are affected by gambling you may find the following links helpful: