Bad Boy

I sometimes get asked whether there’s anything I’d change about my life if I could live it again.This is hard. Apart from the problem of analysing five decades of adult life on the spur of the moment, my response would depend on who’s asking the question and why.

The last person to ask (between mouthfuls of home-made steak and kidney pie, and completely out of the blue) was my 94 year old mum. Earlier I’d asked how often she thought of dad who’d died eight years before. She’d replied, ‘Every day,’ and seemed glad to talk about him for a while. Perhaps, buoyed by this, she’d felt confident to ask me something equally personal. Or maybe she’d realised that even though I’m still ‘her boy’, at 67 I too have a life story to tap into. Anyway, feeling as unprepared as ever and not wishing to offend someone so key to my upbringing, I bumbled a suitable response.

She then gave her own answer to the question by hinting at my behaviour as an angry late-teen fifty years earlier. Perhaps this had been nagging her ever since – one of life’s blemishes she wanted to clear up. To prevent the steak and kidney pie from getting cold, I found it easiest to (rather belatedly) acknowledge any former wrongdoing whilst insisting that my happiness today was the sum total of all experiences, good and bad, throughout life.

There really is very little I would change. In each phase I’ve risen (or fallen) to the opportunities presented, and not looked back. I wasn’t disappointed at being expelled from school (and nearly from home), and I liked my early jobs in bars and bakeries, farms and fisheries. For the first time I had money, new friends and a sense of independence – just what I needed at the time. And later, when I decided to go to university, I wasn’t worried about getting a particular grade or not knowing what I wanted to do afterwards or why I’d chosen economics in the first place. More than anything I was, and still am, stimulated by travel – building a picture of what’s ‘out there’ and revelling in the unpredictable situations travel gives rise to. When at one stage I felt the need to ‘belong’ to an organisation, I happily drifted into paper-pushing in high-rise blocks. And at 40 I did the best thing of all – setting up and running a successful Bed and Breakfast in Shropshire, greeting and pleasing hundreds of lovely visitors and becoming my own boss.

Other than to work for myself, I had no career goals or vocation. I certainly wasn’t cunning or conforming enough to be a corporate success and would ultimately have hated myself for becoming like some of the people I shunned. A steadier path would no doubt have pleased my parents, whose perceived straightness I vehemently rejected in my youth. I’m now accepting of this as having come from a military-minded father himself raised in Victorian ways, and at least it created a secure environment from which I could express myself and prepare for the independence I craved. We each find our own way, and I’m happy with the route I chose.

Nor would I have changed much about my personal life. Two marriages and a number of other serious relationships, interspersed with extended periods alone, were all good in their time. Even my unhappiest live-in relationship served to convince me that I preferred living by myself – for as long as I can remember I’ve been content in my own company. And I feel privileged, following an early adulthood during which I professed a desire for anything but a family, to have landed up with such a lovely daughter.

I’ve often wished that, as a younger adult discovering sex and sexuality and finding my place in life, I’d already had the knowledge and self-assurance that only came later. I might have offered greater respect to certain people and sought fairer treatment from others. But it’s chicken and egg. Without the maturing effect of exploration, learning from each success and failure – each delightful do and disappointing don’t – I might not feel so at ease with life now.

Bad Boy 1966

Bad Boy 1966

But if only I could eradicate some specific incidents from that fraught period of 16 to 18 …

Bad things I did – which really don’t matter now except that they’re a blot, like a tiny chip on a valuable old vase. Mum had alluded only to my general teenage behaviour, but these other ‘things’ are for me alone to know – and be haunted by.

Of course, if someone plied me with copious amounts of alcohol, fine cuisine and other favours, I might spill.

Or am I being bad suggesting this?

Copyright © Paul Costello October 2015

Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8



Internet dating laid bare in this unflinching comedy-drama
click mouse heart
Exposing matching sites in such an entertaining way makes them far less embarrassing to own up to, says Olla Poltescu
From the off CLICK.COM gallops into the world of internet dating with Paul Smith’s  side-splitting portrayals of farmer Geoff and outrageous medallion man Donald – ‘don’t call me Donny or I’ll mimic The Osmonds’.
Recently divorced Hannah bats aside the attention of these suitors only to leave a void for other suspect characters, Vivienne Evans’ accomplished performance exposing the dilemma of a jilted woman intent on getting a life.
Janet, Deirdre and the cloying Betty, through dates with Harvey (a solid performance by promising Giles Lantos), show that problems finding a suitable partner are felt equally by both genders; I sensed a clear ‘there but for the grace of God’ murmur filtering around a crowded Bosbury Parish Hall.
With online matching sites firmly in the dating mainstream, I’d wondered what I could learn from this preview of aspiring local playwright Paul Costello’s new comedy-drama. Any doubts evaporated when, no spring chicken myself, I found it addressing the particular plight of women of a certain age; knowing nods across the room told me I was not alone. Hannah’s experiences place the sensitivity of ‘mature’ people in stark perspective. Not for them the ‘find-follow-and possibly forget’ formula that young generations arguably see as the norm; more one of a longing driven by hope eternal.
Despite its priceless humour, CLICK.COM never becomes a gratuitous exposé of dodgy dating and people behaving badly. When things aren’t going quite as they should a clever counterplot develops which, with the play’s reassuring romantic undertone, keeps the audience feeling as optimistic as feisty Hannah.
The notion of being supported by trusted others is particularly helpful. Hannah’s daughter Ellie, expertly played byHettie Guilding, (‘just chill, mum’) will be recognised by mothers across the land. The tough role of Sarah, Hannah’s fragile friend and confidante, is superbly delivered by Hilary Benoit, and even Hannah’s taxi driver (Dave Pollard) offers sound moral support.
As the plot unravels through a beautifully-worked, Ayckbournish piece of farce, it becomes clear that no-one can guarantee true love running smooth and has no absolute right that it should. Director Bob Maynard’s refreshingly funny production of this true-to-life drama undoubtedly gets that message across.
CLICK .COM is showing at Bosbury Parish Hall, near Ledbury                                     
Friday 24th/Saturday 25th July at 7.30pm    (£10)                                                           
Online:  In Person: Ledbury Books and Maps, 20 High Street, Ledbury 


From the team that brought you last year’s hit comedy Terms and Conditions Apply, a new comedy drama:   – a frolic through the highs and lows of online dating

With clever use of skittish humour and farce, this original comedy drama explores the place of online matching sites in finding a partner. With particular reference to mature people and the risks for women, offers a playful insight into the benefits and pitfalls of a pursuit where emotions, whether joy or despair, are driven by hope eternal. poster

‘… side-splitting farce’

‘… a preposterous yet cautionary story line – look, learn and inevitably laugh!’

‘… truly outrageous characters’

‘… a cheeky tale with an undercurrent of pure romance’

Tickets now on sale:
In Person:   Ledbury Books and Maps, 20 High Street, Ledbury


Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8


Princess Ida – a Layman’s Guide

Dear Readers

In the tongue-in-cheek style that Gilbert and Sullivan musicals so richly deserve, here’s my take on the show I’m in at Hereford Courtyard Theatre, March 19th – 22nd.

I have to say that the music in Princess Ida is far better than any other G&S show I’ve performed in. It seems that by this stage in their partnership Sullivan, a serious composer, had grown tired of producing the fluffy music Gilbert’s lyrics usually called for, and sought a greater challenge. The resulting score has strong classical undertones – shades of Handel and Bach as well as grander operatic sections. The chorus lines are a joy to sing and the plaintive melodies in the principals’ songs wonderful to listen to. I hope you find the same.

Princess Ida Poster



And here’s a thing. For the first time in my life, at the tender age of 66, with cowboy legs  and a dodgy limp, I shall be wearing tights and Speedos – once I’ve found out what those are. If you’re a million miles away you’re safe! But if you live closer, you might just feel tempted to check it out!

So this is the storyline …


Act 1 – King Hildebrand’s Palace

Princess Ida and Prince Hilarion got married when she was one year old and he was two – as you do. The deal was that they’d get together properly twenty years later. That day has come, and Hilarion waits uneasily with his dad King Hildebrand and his mates Cyril and Florian for signs of Ida’s arrival in their kingdom.

Searching for Ida

Searching for Ida

Sadly, the only people who turn up are Ida’s dad King Gama and her three stupid brothers Arac, Guron and Scynthius. There’s obviously history between the two Kings – they’re like chalk and cheese and bicker a lot. Gama proudly announces that Ida won’t be coming because she’s dedicated to running a university called Castle Adamant – exclusively for girls. He tells Hilarion there might still be a chance if he went and asked Ida nicely, whereas Hildebrand demands that Ida come at once or he’ll send his men over to storm the Castle.

Hilarion and his pals are convinced they can entice Ida to come. With Cyril excited at the thought of a uni with a hundred girls, the three of them head off to do their best, while Hildebrand holds Gama and his sons hostage, threatening the worst if anything goes wrong with the mission.

Act 2 – Grounds of Castle Adamant

Lady Psyche shares with the girl graduates her knowledge of Classics and her disdain for men, while Lady Blanche administers the day’s punishments. They all rise in awe for Princess Ida, who theatrically rejoices in her calling. Lady Blanche doesn’t like Ida’s style, and thinks she should be running the place.

Behaving like overgrown schoolboys, Hilarion, Cyril and Florian sneak in unnoticed and happen across some women’s robes in which to disguise themselves.

They bump into Princess Ida, and find the disguise works well, though Cyril’s excitability is clearly putting the venture at risk. A greater threat arises when they happen across Lady Psyche whom Florian recognises as his sister.

They share their plan with her and also, unwittingly, with Melissa who overhears the conversation. Both are sworn to secrecy, but Lady Blanche wheedles the secret out of Melissa (her daughter), who persuades her mum to keep quiet by pointing out that if Princess Ida did leave with Hilarion, she could fulfil her ambition of running the uni.

Over lunch, Cyril has a bit too much Pinot Grigio and gives the game away. Ida goes berserk when she finds men have invaded her territory, but in the middle of a hissy fit falls off a bridge and has to be rescued from the river by Hilarion.

Ida shows no mercy

Ida shows no mercy

In any other story it might have ended there, happy ever after. But not for Ida. With no hint of gratitude, and in spite of Hilarion declaring his undying love for her, she has the three men bound and taken away.

Now she’s started something! Suddenly the castle walls are stormed by King Hildebrand and his soldiers, carrying in their train Ida’s three brothers, still in chains. He reiterates his demands, threatening to top the prisoners if she doesn’t release Hilarion and fulfil her obligation to love, honour and obey him as a wife. But Ida is defiant to the last and the story is left hanging on a very delicate thread indeed.

Act 3 – Courtyard of Castle Adamant

A fight seems inevitable, and the girl graduates take up arms. But they’re torn between their anti-men principles and softer womanly feelings. Ida is disappointed at the lack of support and scorns the girls, saying she’ll take the soldiers on by herself if necessary.

King Gama arrives, technically still a prisoner but sent by Hildebrand to say that Ida’s three brothers should fight Hilarion and his friends, with the outcome determining Ida’s future. Arac, Guron and Scynthius come in looking despondent and not at all fit to fight. Hilarion, Cyril and Florian, much to Gama’s delight, arrive looking even more unlikely in their girlie garb.Princess Ida Poster

A fight kicks off – and the girlie men have it! Ida is now stranded. With Lady Blanche waiting in the wings and Cyril and Florian clearly of more than passing interest to the girls, will the Princess fight on alone or does she fancy Prince Hilarion more than she’s been making out?

Paul Costello ©  February 2014 



UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello. Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!


Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

Postcard from Torquay

Dear Uncle Harry.

I’m on a short break in the English Riviera – a grand name embracing the likes of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham.

And what better way to spend my first day than a boat trip from Torquay? With the weather set fair, mackerel fishing seemed a good idea, and from the fierce competition for a two-hour trip I picked a vessel called Wave Rider – rather romantic I thought.

A mile out, my suspicions were aroused when the captain – called Ahab according to the name emblazoned across his stained tee shirt – began layering up with woolly sweaters and oilskins and removing the component parts of what looked like harpoon equipment from a box near the bow.

‘Are we looking for giant octopus too?’ I asked, feigning interest.

‘No-o mate,’ he said, with gnarly know-how. ‘Whales – if we can find the migration path.’

‘Oh,’ I said, going along with a joke that was clearly part of his patter, especially for soft southern targets like me. ‘That’s all right then.’

I looked around at the twenty or so other passengers. Worryingly, half of them were now also kitted out with cold weather gear and heavy duty waterproofs, while the rest of us were in flimsy summer clothes, skin gleaming with Factor 50 Nivea Sun Lotion to protect against the strong midday sun and brisk sea air.

‘How about some coloured feathers to catch the mackerel?’ I said, uncertain of my ground and aware that my short shorts and white Matalan tee shirt with “COOL AT 65” on the back might be inadequate for whaling on the high seas.

‘Aa-rr, this is all you need,’ said Ahab, tapping the harpoon affectionately. ‘People don’t read the small print, you see. It’s Silver Flash for mackerel. This is Wave Rider – we’re whaling.’

Other mackerel fishers overheard our conversation, some vigorously contesting the legality of the small print, others cowering on their slatted seats, muttering about never seeing their loved-ones again.

‘Don’t worry,’ Ahab said, after keeping us on tenterhooks another hour. ‘A mackerel relief boat will be along later.’

By the time the mackerel transfer arrived, Wave Rider was plunging into the troughs and surging to the peaks of a strong Atlantic swell. Land had long since disappeared and Ahab’s assistant, Ishmael, was in a raised basket on top of the cabin looking out to sea with a brass telescope.

From time to time he’d cry, ‘Thar she blows!’ making us rush to one side before he invariably added, ‘Sorry, just an iceberg,’ or, ‘Only kidding,’ staring at us madly with what we later found out was a glass eye – which being the one he used for the telescope didn’t bode well for serious whale catching at the business end of the trip.

Back on the quayside, having finally tamed a few mackerel, I was ready for supper and a pint of Doombar. Set on the harbour front, Wetherspoons seemed a good bet. Outside, all seemed well as I passed the cordoned area where people were tucking into spicy chicken wings and breaded Camembert bites washed down with, perhaps, San Miguel or spritzer.

Inside was different. Unlike the usual dominant clusters of men with thinning hair and agitated stammering, I found the entire seating and bar areas occupied by stocky, bearded gentlemen in yellow oilskins and black sou’westers.

‘Aa-rr, DOOMbaa-rr!’ went the call down the length of a bar where staff must have had the dickens of a job remembering who they were serving.

‘Aa-rr, DOOmbaa-rr!’ echoed the seated many, as they clinked pints to celebrate another day at sea. ‘Aa-rr DOOMbaa-rr!’

Having bought a pint of the pub’s favourite beer and ordered a Right Whale Fillet with Seaweed Sauce I sat in the corner, feeling underdressed yet fascinated by what I saw unfolding. Several yellow people stood up alongside each other forming a line with outstretched arms resting on their neighbours’ shoulders. Others joined in, pushing back chairs to make space, and eventually there were forty in the row, with the men at the two extremities stretching out their free arm in an exaggerated fashion. Then at a given signal, in unison, the forty shouted:

‘And it was THIS long!’

No wonder Wetherspoon’s Tim Martin, ever the man to spot a perfect tag, had called this former trading exchange The Giant Sperm!

Now, back in the B&B, I’m planning the rest of my stay. I might try Paignton Pier tomorrow. According to the leaflet, this was once popular with anglers, but with local Councils seeking to increase revenue, fishing was banned and the staging at the end adapted for carrying out sentences imposed by local magistrates. Apparently, for minor offences a lesser sentence of being strapped to the stanchions at low tide and freed when the sea reaches neck height is common; whilst for more serious cases there are boards that extend over the sea electronically at high tide, with individuals ‘walking the plank’ or, for gang crimes, several villains jumping at the same time – a sort of synchronised sentencing. Hopefully there are still tickets on sale for the ten o’clock (high tide) sitting. I’m told the two grandstands fill quite quickly.

And on Friday I shall check out the Golden Hind in Brixham harbour. Whereas this replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon was once at a fixed mooring for day trippers to pore over, it now offers full day excursions to the French coastline, where passengers in period costume can fire live ammo from the ship’s refurbished cannons, and give the residents of Brest and St Malo something to think about. I really fancy this! It sounds so much more hands-on (and probably warmer!) than the whaling trip I got caught up in.

Uncle, I’m SO impressed by the locals’ willingness to diversify, and make use of the rich maritime resources that endow this area. It’s the kind of initiative the Tory government would be proud of in these troubled times. But sadly, I fear it won’t live up to some of your tales about the merchant navy!

Best wishes – Paul


Utterly front cover - final 30.5.13

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

A fabulous holiday read!


Utterly Undiscovered – Murder on the Dance Floor

Extract from my forthcoming book Utterly Undiscovered.

Rebuilding my life, I arrive at the Friday Night Club ready to tap into the ‘singles’ scene:

Nonchalantly joining the check-in queue, as if I had a lifetime’s experience of this sort of thing, I gave my name and address and one pound fifty to a brittle-looking woman with upright hair sat in a cubicle with rows of coat racks and hangers, beyond which was a dark cavernous room normally used for conferences and training. Desperately needing a pint of anything, and another, but knowing my security for the evening was the option to drive away if I didn’t like it, I settled for an orange juice and lemonade, and shuffled off towards the round, twelve-seater tables. If this had been a conference, and the room brightly lit with water jugs and tumblers, and everyone had tidy name badges and an agenda, I’d have felt at home, ready to trigger conversation with the delegate lucky enough to sit next to me. Right now, I sensed it was going to be a long, dry evening.

On the opposite side of my sparsely occupied table, too far away to speak, were two people of indeterminate sex – not hermaphrodites as such, just it was too dark to tell. I sat alone, rehearsing the opening gambit I might use once someone was close enough.

‘Do you come here often?’ No – they might have heard that before.

‘Is this your first time?’ No – they might think it a bit forward, or pervy.

‘Hello-oo – is there anybody there?’ No – they might think I’m taking the piss, or ill.

I feel more alone than before I arrived. There’s something end-of-wedding about the place – a handbag and a couple of half-pint tumblers looking lost on the white table cloths, and a scattering of folk who’ve run out of conversation and aren’t sure when to leave. From what I’ve seen, there are four women to every man. That perks me up but it also feels unnatural, even threatening. At least the apparent age range of thirty five to fifty appeals, and there are plenty arriving.

‘If I come again, I must get here later,’ I think.

After a few conversational skirmishes, I’m escorted to the dance floor by a posse of women, thankfully more gentle than Downy and her mates all those years ago. The group dancing seems very jolly. The ageing DJ works the crowd, emptying the floor with progressively undanceable stuff then fostering a surge from the tables with a winning song. Since you can’t see or hear properly, conversation between dances is fraught. I come away from the club with Dance the Night Away by the Mavericks ringing through my head, to which we’d all joined in the chorus. By golly, I had a darn good time.

Paul Costello © January 2013

You can read more of my ‘singular’ experiences in:

Utterly Undiscovered          Out spring 2013  

Fineleaf Editions

ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2


Utterly Undiscovered – But Found Under My Bed!

I drag out a dusty box from under my bed.

Inside are seventeen year’s memories of Cricklewood Cottage, all the richer for maturing another five.

–       A breakfast menu – as enticing as ever

–       Magazine articles about the garden

–       Our first business card – rustic in the extreme

–       A sketch map for Garden Open days

–       Lyrical descriptions of where to eat locally

–       And the fattest prize of all – a thinning, brown A4 envelope, bulging with torn-off reminders of people and peculiarities:

  •  the weird, wonderful and downright wicked;
  •  the good, bad and decidedly ugly;
  •  and the sad or straightforwardly silly.

Now all brought together in my charming and humorous Bed and Breakfast memoir:

Utterly Undiscovered

A jagged page torn from a small, lined notebook said: ‘48 hours – they haven’t stopped’. As you’ll see from the extract, this amorous couple found their way into the chapter called Love Nest:

Another time I received a lunchtime call from a man wanting a double room. Pushing aside my helpful information about room and price, his only concern was did it have a double bed and was it free now. It was a quiet time of year, and with all three rooms unoccupied his trade was welcome. Arriving at three o’clock, the couple retired directly to the Bow Room and, apart from one brief absence for pizza, didn’t emerge for forty eight hours. Apparently the man was a builder from across the hills in Church Stretton and had a reputation for “finding” women and whisking them off at short notice – although how Geoff knew that I really don’t know. The cottage resounded to their special brand of entertainment, and I was honoured to have been part of his exciting lifestyle.

Paul Costello © November 2012

Utterly Undiscovered          Out early spring 2013

ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2