Fitzalan at the garden party

My New Book

Meet Me Later.

Chapter 1

Saturday Evening

The Italian restaurant has the longest name I have ever encountered: ‘The Portobello Garden Arcade Italian Restaurant’. It had been raucous and bright. Outside, it is a typical London night but surprisingly free of traffic, typical of that end of Portobello Road. Notting Hill like some Mayfair streets sees an absence of cars after seven. I step to one side of the door to button my coat. Taking a cigarette from the pack, placing the filter in my mouth, I check to my left and, out of the corner of my eye, above the street, I see the railway bridge with its iron facing of bolts, like the Victorian, household water tank at my childhood home, looking like a painted metal screen, incongruous in that lovely road. It takes tube trains to and from Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park.

I am looking forward to getting home and unwinding a bit more with a Martello Tower and some Maren Davidsen on the speakers before bedtime with ‘Our Man in Havana’; rediscovering Graham Greene has been a joy. Getting home is the only thing on my mind.

That’s when I see him.

He looks just like me in 1993. Black Levi jeans, a brown Barbour jacket, a caramel cashmere sweater; Hilditch and Key white shirt and a pair of highly polished Loake, black brogues. At least that was what I had worn, and it seems, from where I stand, the outfit does not differ an iota. It was me, in the nineties, coming from Beach Blanket Babylon, The Portobello Dining Rooms or The Market Bar. He even looked as I had, rangy hair at the front, short at the back. It was uncanny. The spooky resemblance does not stop there, he walks like me, strutting confidently, a man on a mission, hurrying to meet a relative, a friend or a lover.

At the corner, I ask him for a light for my Marlboro, he pulls a vaping cylinder from his pocket; but being a gentleman, he also had a silver cigarette lighter that had belonged to his grandfather, a Zippo with his family crest embossed on its shell.

“Thanks,” I sigh, breathing the smoke out of the side of my mouth before inhaling deeply,

“I’m Mike. We know each other but I can’t think from where and I can’t remember your name embarrassingly”

“Really? What a coincidence, then, I’m Finn like a fish,” he replies putting his upright hand above his head as if impersonating the dorsal appendage of a great white whale, “you do look familiar, I’ll give you that, but I don’t know from where.”

“I need to talk to you,” I insist, taking another drag from my cigarette.

“I remember now, we’ve met before; it was at Patrick’s flat.”

“Sorry, I don’t remember, but if you know Patrick, that’s great.” he acknowledges, his original suspicion and scepticism ebbing away.

“Patrick and I are very close” I insist, trying to sound nonchalant and then a thought occurs to me, a little white lie might help, “it was he who wanted me to talk to you, don’t tell him I told you, though.”

“I’m late for a date but call your number on my phone and then you’ll be able to text me,” he suggested, handing me his Apple i-phone, which was, of course, the latest model.

“Great, we’ll arrange to meet in the next few weeks,” I assure him, tapping in my mobile number and waiting for my phone to actually ring, “thanks, enjoy your date.”

“Don’t worry, I intend to,” he quips, taking his phone back before disappearing into the night without a backward glance.

Being young is wonderful, all the opportunities and pleasures awaiting you in your youth.


Sunday flies by in a burst of activity. I cycle to Chelsea to work on creative writing with a client, then back home within half an hour to start a zoom after a quick slice of toast spread with Patum Peperium, which I adore due to its anchovy flavour.

After the Zoom, which lasts for two hours, I pedal over to Clapham for an hour of narrative modelling before returning home in fifteen minutes to settle in for three hours of teaching how figurative language adds to description.

All very satisfying.

Before bed, I have a ‘snupper’, a snack supper, the term first used by Suzi, my last girlfriend. Feeling exhausted, I only manage to read four pages of The Confidential Agent.

Monday is Circuit Training at 12:30 pm, which gives me a chance to work on my paperwork in the morning. It is one of the many days when I don’t write; and I resent that, but not enough to do anything about it. Trying to contemporise Dante’s Inferno while trying to keep a verse voice constant for the narrator; and the other characters is exhausting so a day off is always welcome. After the gym, I have the Food Bank to volunteer at; and then my evening Zooms that last until 8.30 pm when ‘University Challenge starts’.

As I step off the 319 bus, I sing to myself the old nursery rhyme: ‘Don’t know was made to know, don’t know was hung, don’t know was put in the oven until he was done’.

The pub is cosy, aren’t they all when the weather outside is less than clement? A roaring fire contravening everything we know about global warming crackles in the grate, releasing methane, carbon dioxide, and black carbon into the air.

We care about the environment, but climate change has not resulted in the millions upon millions of dispossessed individuals arriving on our shores demanding reparation and the water and food stolen from them by both drought and flood or asking us to feed and house their starving offspring, so we settle down by the fire.

I am carrying two pints, he selects a seat so I can slide one of the glasses towards him before settling into my chair. He sits back feeling at ease, shrugging out of his blue Barbour, watching me with curiosity. Noting his tasteful choice in Bengal stripe Jermyn Street shirt worn under a navy cashmere jacket, I raise my glass in salute and he follows suit.

I have planned so much of what I want to say to him, I lean forward, smiling, choosing my words carefully and begin.


A well respected author

Michael Fitzalan was born in Clapham, South London; where his mother had established a doctor’s surgery in a house which she filled with children.

With three sisters, two brothers and a library full of books; a love of literature was imbued in him from an early age.

Michael Fitzalan comes from Irish parents were doctors; and they settled on the West Side of Clapham Common and had six children in quick succession.

A story by Michael Fitzalan

Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *