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The Lantern Balcony

Paul Curtis

Dr Bartlett is an unlikely candidate for romance. In spite of a successful career in psychiatry, he feels a failure. He has so little gravitas that he is often mistaken for a patient. He irritates his peers by analysing everything and everyone, even their dreams. But worse: on the solid ground of his speciality, he assumes authority with patronising pompousness. To the groans of his colleagues, he produces a research paper: the catalyst for a bizarre adventure that brings him into contact with one of the most powerful women in the country - Penny.

Unsurprisingly, she is appalled by Bartlett, and the collision of their personalities causes him to disintegrate along the fault-lines of his insecurities, exposing his distrust of women and lack of self-esteem. But Bartlett has certain peculiarities of which he himself is unaware, and, at his lowest ebb, tormented by unrequited love, these enter the fray. In spite of his understanding of human behaviour, Penny's sphinx-like nature defeats his analysis: he has no insight into her conflicted behaviour.

One day, he receives a visitor - apparently a total stranger, and yet Bartlett's instincts twitch with familiarity. His adventures are not over.

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Paul Curtis is works director of a manufacturer of components for heavy vehicle and industrial brakes. His interests include animal welfare and East European and Russian history and literature. In the days of the Soviet Union, he travelled extensively behind the iron curtain, once being arrested and interrogated by the K.G.B.