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One of the most volatile mixtures that can be created in a bar is the blend of off-duty servicemen, single women and liquor.

Alf Boxall and Jessica Harkness.

Their relationship was unusual.

She was twenty-four. He was fifteen years old when she was born and is now eight years married. They met at the Clifton Gardens Hotel through friends and a relationship followed.

Which ended when he was posted north.

This ending, which was significant, she marked with a signpost. Something chosen.

Her inscribed Rubaiyat.

Twelve months passed.

He came home on leave. Home to his wife. Home to the hotel across the harbour.

Jessica there.

A child nine months later.

The most volatile mixture that can be created in a bar is the blend of a serviceman on short leave, a woman and liquor.


“… We observed some women at the place where the men came down from, they would not come near us, but peep’d from behind the rocks and trees.

When the Boats put off, the men began dancing and laughing, and when we were far enough off to bring the women into sight. The women held their arms extended over their heads, got on their legs and danced until we were some distance off, then followed us upon the rocks as far as the boats went along that shore.”

Chowder Bay. 1779.


Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before

I swore – but was I sober when I swore ?

And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand

My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.




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