MORE to BROWSE - Pages that might be of Interest

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Ten Minute Tales THE RETURN TO LOCH SHIEL by Richard Tearle

Ten Minute Tales
For your entertainment
a different Ten Minute Tale* every day
(except Friday when we have Novel Conversations)

by Richard Tearle
Loch Shiel and the Monument

Summer 1966
After a week camping in the shadow of Ben Nevis, the three London boys decided to move on and take the train from Fort William to the end of the line at Mallaig in the Western Highlands of Scotland.
   The train moved unhurriedly along the line, lurching around some of the tighter curves. Whether by luck or due to the Scottish sense of hospitality they would never know, but they found themselves in prime seats: the last carriage had once been used on a crack express train service between London and Edinburgh. The rear of the coach sloped outwards and sported two large windows. The three friends had been allocated three of the four seats that faced outwards thus, combined with the normal windows either side, gave a panoramic view of the countryside.
   They had watched Ben Nevis disappear into the distance.  Ray Turner, sixteen years old, was enthralled. Never had he seen such a beautiful land.
He felt a tap on is shoulder. He turned and was confronted by a smiling woman. 'If ye look to your right, ye'll see Loch Shiel and the Monument.'
   Ray shifted his position. The train was crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct, though he did not know the name of it then. From a high vantage point, he looked down. The loch, clear and blue, sparkling in the sunshine, reflecting the few clouds in the sky stretched out in the distance, tapering into a 'V' shape,  hills on each shore like protecting soldiers. It was magnificent and took his breath away.
   'See the Monument?' the woman asked, pointing to a spot on the near shore.
   He saw a round tower, crenelated, with what looked like a small figure standing inside them.
   'It's where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard,' the woman explained with more than a touch of pride in her voice. '1745. The Jacobite rebellion. Och, here's ma stop. Nice to have met you, young man. Enjoy your stay in our wonderful country.' And she was gone.
   Ray turned back to the view. The train was slowing but even so the sight was gone all too quickly. The Guard called out 'Glenfinnan! Glenfinnan Station!'
One day I will return, Ray vowed.

'You ready, Dad?' Denise called from downstairs.
   'Just coming' Ray shouted back. For the third time – at least – he checked his rucksack. All was there as it should be. The camera had not sneaked out of the bag!
   Outside, Denise's partner, Andy, was already waiting in the car, engine running, picnic bag nestling on the back seat. Ray opened the back door.
   'In the front, Ray,' Andy called over his shoulder. Despite a half-hearted protest, Ray climbed in.
   'How long will it take?' he asked as he buckled his seat belt.
   'From Lennoxtown to Glenfinnan? Two, maybe three hours. We'll go to the bottom of Loch Lomond, follow the western shore and then on into the Highlands. You'll love this!'
   He would. Spending time with his daughter and Andy had proved the best holiday of his life so far. They had taken him to Stirling Castle, The Wallace Monument and the Kelpies so far. The camera had been busy and Ray had ensure that he had charged it fully the night before.
    'Look,' said Ray, 'I really appreciate this. It's a long way and …'
  'Away with you,' Andy laughed. 'It's my pleasure to show off my homeland to you.  Tell you what, we'll stop off at Glenfinnan station first: maybe there'll be a train coming. It's a steam line now, y'know.'
Ray did. One of the most picturesque heritage lines in the world. Ray settled back in his seat.
   They made a couple of stops on the way; at Tarbet towards the north of Loch Lomond where pipers were on hand to play tourists onto the loch's cruise ship and then at Fort William for petrol and a comfort break. Ray was amazed at the knowledge Andy displayed about his country. Ray could sense the delight in the Scotsman's tone.
   The road from Fort William followed the railway line most of the way to Glenfinnan. Andy parked the car in the station car park and they made their way onto the platform. There they found a small museum and a tentative enquiry elicited the fact that there were, in fact, two trains due in about the following half hour. Denise suggested a coffee in the converted coach.
   Time passed quickly and soon they were out in the sunshine again, waiting for the first train which could be heard approaching, the beat of the cylinders clearly audible in the still air.
   Camera ready, Ray snapped two or three shots as the Stanier Black 5 seemingly strolled into the platform, eased to a steady and controlled halt and blew excess steam from the cylinders. It was a thrilling sight, one seen only rarely since his childhood. On that trip fifty years ago, steam had been replaced, the line's regular locomotives condemned to the scrap lines and the cutter's torch. A few more snaps and Ray expected the train to move off. But he was mistaken. The tracks merged into a single line beyond Glenfinnan station and this train could not move until the southbound train had arrived. Ray realised only too late that he was on the wrong platform; the approaching train would be obscured and the footbridge was now at the other end of the platform.
   The arriving train gave a whistle. A Thompson B1 running tender first. Such was Ray's position and the curvature of the track that he could not get a decent picture. Never mind: when the train stopped, he would have plenty of time to cross the lines via the footbridge and get some nice photos.
    Except the train did not stop.
  Albeit at a very slow speed, it passed straight through and the opportunity was missed.
   As the first train departed, Andy suggested that they walk to the loch less than a quarter of a mile down the hill whilst he took the car down to the visitor centre car park.
   'So many memories,' Ray murmured to Denise as they strolled down the hill.
   'Are you enjoying yourself, Dad?'
   Ray smiled. 'You have no idea how much!'
   She hooked her arm in his. 'I'm glad. That's what you're here for.'
   Ray smiled at his daughter. 'I don't want to go home – you know that?'
   Denise laughed. 'I can understand that.'
   The trees to their right disappeared and the loch suddenly appeared.
   'They filmed some of Highlander here, you know.'
   Ray nodded absently. He did know, but he was captivated by the sight of the shimmering waters and the dancing sunlight.
   Andy gave them a toot and a wave as he drove past. The visitor centre was on their left and they watched as Andy turned in.
   'You go on,' Denise said. 'I'll meet Andy and we'll follow you down.'
   Ray turned to his right, square on to the loch's edge some fifty yards away. 'Loch Shiel, you are beautiful,' he said out loud but directed at no one. 'I promised I'd be back and here I am.'
   At ground level, it seemed even more striking than the last time he had seen it from high up on the famous viaduct, sliding by as the train had shown but a teasing glimpse of it.
   And there was the monument. The very same monument that he viewed only so briefly fifty years before. The place where Bonnie Prince Charlie had landed and launched his ill-fated rebellion. There it stood.
Surrounded by scaffolding and swathed in a canvas covering.

© Richard Tearle

(Photo by the author)

*length may vary! 

Join Us Every Friday 

for something different:
an interview with a fictional character!

Monday 30 March 2020

Ten Minute Tales - a special contribution by Riley and Kieran

Ten Minute Tales
For your entertainment
a different Ten Minute Tale* every day
(except Friday when we have Novel Conversations)

Yesterday on Radio Devon, I listened to an interview with two super young lads, Kieran and Riley, (and their aunt) who decided to write some short stories to entertain their grandparents and friends who are isolated at home. I contacted the boys' mum (via Radio Devon) and asked if they would each like to send me a story to post on our Ten Minute Tales ... so please welcome Kieran and Riley ...

Nuclear Explosion 

Once upon a time there lived a venomous scary  fierce velociraptor called Max and his hobbies were eating, travelling & fighting. He lived on Mars with  Dino Candy. 

One steaming hot day Max woke up early to find a new planet to live on so he scrambled out of his cramped house and took a look  through his microscope and said,  “Where to go? Of course - planet Earth!
    So he went to pack  his suitcase. Inside he packed 53 pieces of Dino Candy and his tooth brush then he got  into his space machine and set off. 

Hours  later he was  there but … he  had crash landed in a  volcano. There was a weird truck and it exploded into medeums and then exploded again and made the volcano erupt. 
   And all that happened to Max  was …a scar. 

the end

© Kierran

Velo’s Tale

Far up in space, there lived a fearsome velociraptor called Velo, who lived on Mars. 
   One day he was so bored and hot he decided to visit another planet.
   “Now, where to visit?” thought Velo, looking on his planet radar.  “Aha!” planet Earth! Well, why don’t we have a looksie?”
   And with that he got into his starfighter and headed for Earth.

On Earth, people reported seeing a strange object heading towards Earth. It was even on the news. An hour later, Velo’s futuristic starfighter had gently landed on Earth. The front of the star ship opened to reveal Velo. He looked like a terrible, feathered beast with claws and sharp, massive fangs.

Immediately, people wanted to get rid of this extinct animal. So, some scientists tried. First, they strapped him to a giant hook. Then they lowered him above a nuclear reactor of a nuclear power station. Then, on the count of 3, they dropped him into the reactor.
  At first, they thought he was gone. But then… the unspeakable happened. Velo survived.
    Velo looked as if he had transformed when being nuclearized. His arms were muscular and stronger, and his eyes glowed a frightening red. 
    “You’re goanna pays for that!” boomed Velo.

   Then a heroic, heavy-hearted army commander said,  “I’ll take you on. But let’s make a deal. If I win, you go back to wherever you came from. But if you win you get to live here.” 
   And he clambered into his super tank the fight begun. The fight was an epic and destructive battle. The battle went on for hours on end. 
   Velo was rapidly punching the tank, the commander was firing missiles at him. In the end Velo was hit in the face by a missile and he was defeated: “Sorry for harming you, I’ll go back  to Mars.” 
   So, Velo flew back to Mars and the people of Earth lived peacefully.

© Riley

weren't they brilliant stories?
Authors in the making!

<Previous Story .... Next ...>

*length may vary! 

Join Us Every Friday 

for something different:
an interview with a fictional character!

Sunday 29 March 2020

Ten Minute Tales Candlemass by Erica Laine

go to Front Page for the latest story 

Ten Minute Tales
For your entertainment
a different Ten Minute Tale* every day
(except Friday when we have Novel Conversations)

by Erica Lainé

Lino, old sinks, tatty bits of curtain and carpet, the skip was nearly full. 12 Ormistone Grove was being converted, refurbished, done up, gentrified, whatever you wanted to call it, the house was being stripped of years of cheap wallpaper and hurriedly slapped on paint. Disgusting heaps of rubbish were being carted away in black sacks and no one was scavenging at the skip in search of something to recycle or upcycle. Nothing was salvageable.
The builders had already started on the roof, relaying the slates and repointing around the chimneys. Joe and Anna watched, the house was theirs, bought at auction, in itself a tense and difficult time but the hammer fell to them on their final bid, and now to clear out the place and turn it into the family dream home. Anna squeezed Joe’s arm and he nudged her in return.
‘Let’s go and look at the ground floor again, I want to imagine the kitchen.’
They picked their way up to the front door and stood in the hall. Depressingly dirty and dingy, not even a bulb in the socket that dangled at the end of some dodgy looking flex. Joe made another note to himself to bring some light bulbs next time. Anna was in the kitchen at the back, peering out of the window at the overgrown shrubs.
‘It’s difficult to know what was planted and meant and what’s just put itself there.’
‘The buddleia and sycamore, surely self-sown, must get those out.’
‘Have to wait, the ground’s so frozen, too hard to dig now, and anyway the garden is last on the list, we’ll do it all when the builders have gone.’
They began pacing the rooms, measuring for curtains, debating about colours, stamping on floorboards and knocking on walls.
She watched from the ceiling, her thumb in her mouth, the other hand twiddling with her hair, something she always did when anxious. All the furniture had gone including her favourite sofa that smelt of dogs. Two used to live in the house and were friendly beasts that had never bothered her, not like that cat, which waited to pounce on her and scratch her if it could. She had been glad when it had disappeared under a speeding delivery van.
The house had been so noisy once, she’d lost count of the people who lived here, one family had people everywhere, maids in the attics, a boot boy in the cellar and endless guests, it had been a difficult time when she was trying to find her way in this world. Then after that there had been children upstairs who let her play with their toys. It was one of them who had given her her name, she’s a little Angel, he’d said, and the others agreed, that was just what she was. Not that she answered to it, she never came when they called, that was her rule. But those children had grown up and gone away. She had not really missed them, but the next family were horrible, always shouting and crying and there were no toys at all. Just one big black book that they had to read every day. The words they read out hurt her ears, so she had flitted down into the cellar and stayed there with the mice. It seemed a good place to stay because planes were bombing all the houses and no one was upstairs, they’d left for the country. One bomb fell nearby and cracked a side wall, so when all that confusion stopped, the house was sold off. Underpinning seemed to be the word everyone used when viewing the house, for some reason this word made her giggle, she liked the sound of it and the feel in her mouth when she said it, underpin, pin under… that is what happened to some of the people in the street, they’d been pinned under that brick wall. And the house had been sold to a man in a camel coat who talked about bed sitting rooms and short term tenants.
Angel thought about the problems that came to the house after that, so many people trying to live in the carved up rooms, and very few of them were sympathetic. She had taken a small sweet revenge on them all, missing jewellery, torn clothes, broken furniture, and mouldy food. Then there had been silence and emptiness for a few years, not too bad really but now everything she knew was gone. It was Candlemass tomorrow, in the old days they used to put ashes on the roof to guard against spirits but there was so much work going on up there she doubted if that would happen, just as well. But only the cornice up here and in the other rooms seemed safe, she would stay out of the way for now and see what was going to happen to her house.
The summer solstice came, a balmy breezy June when Joe and Anna and the baby moved in. The house so clean and gleaming, every wall fresh, every floor sanded and polished, every window washed and bright. A careful mix of furniture placed in rooms that smelt of lavender and beeswax, vintage chairs and a dresser given to them by a great aunt, now in the kitchen full of Anna’s collection of Poole pottery. The house belonged to them and they had made it theirs.
Betsy had a room at the back of the house, all soft colours and a painted frieze of rabbits. There was a musical box that played Für Elise, which soothed her to sleep. Angel curled up under her cot; she knew about cots, lots of babies in this house had slept in cots.
‘The musical box,’ said Anna, ‘I hear it playing at all sorts of odd times, do you think it has a fault, or some sort of repeat function we don’t know about?’
‘Hardly, have you still got the receipt? We could take it back and get another one if it bothers you. I don’t suppose Betsy’s playing with it?’
They both laughed. Fond indulgent parents they might be but nine month old babies can’t wind up music boxes.
‘And her teddy bear, have you noticed? It’s always under her cot in the morning in exactly the same place; I know Betsy throws her toys out but for it to be in exactly the same place every morning is very odd.’
12 Ormistone Grove was a highly desirable house now, not that wreck which had been bomb damaged, trashed and battered. House prices were soaring in the capital, too many people chasing too few properties.
‘We could sell you know, realise the gain, make some money and get something bigger, especially if we have more children, it might be something to look at.’
’But we’ve hardly settled in, let’s enjoy a few years here first. I want Betsy to go to the local nursery when my maternity leave is up, everyone tells me how good it is and you know how I am about leaving her.’
That night Betsy wailed and was inconsolable, her cheeks flushed and red.
‘Teething again, she’s always snotty when she teethes.’
Angel sat under the cot and tried to soothe Betsy with little whispers of ‘there there’ and wondered why they didn’t give her a spoon of laudanum, always the best thing for teething.
A long weekend had been earmarked for the garden and coming home early on a Thursday, Joe found Anna in the living room with a ladder and a long handled feather duster, working at the cornice.
‘I thought I saw something up here, it must have been a trick of the light. Whatever it was has disappeared now.’
‘Come on. Let's have a glass of wine and think about the weekend, we need to work out a plan of action for the garden.’
They dug and cleared the borders, pulling out weeds and suckers of plum and sycamore while Betsy rolled about on the checked wool rug, watching Angel bounce along the branches of the cherry tree.
‘She loves it in the garden, and aren’t we lucky with the weather, after that miserable winter this is the best summer ever.’
At the end of the garden, near the boundary fence Joe wanted to build a shed so he dug out an area to be the place for the concrete slab. He came into the kitchen where Anna was feeding Betsy in her highchair.
 ‘Look at this,’ and he unfolded a square of cloth to show a wooden box about the size of a large shoe box.
 ‘Buried treasure?’
 ‘Maybe, shall we open it?’
 He was already lifting off the lid and there they were, a huddle of bones, some scraps of linen and lace and a penny dated 1889.
 Angel peered over his shoulder, so that was where her bones had got to, and that was the nightgown that her mother had made. The penny was for her birth year. Well, a birth and a death year.
 Joe and Anna re-buried the box near the cherry tree, Anna was insistent that it did not go back under the concrete slab; too much like a criminal gang killing she shuddered. They had decided not to tell anyone about the box and its contents but just to make sure it had a good peaceful resting place. Secretly Joe was glad not to tell anyone, it might affect the property value which was soaring.
 Angel sat on the roof as they dug the hole for the box; she had been in the kitchen sampling Anna's cupcakes, only a few crumbs to be licked off her fingers. She didn't mind where the box ended up, she had never needed or wanted those bones. The only thing she had ever cared about was her house.

© Erica Lainé 

*length may vary! 

Join Us Every Friday 

for something different:
an interview with a fictional character!

Ten Minute Tales : Confessions of a Tooth Fairy by Cryssa Bazos

go to Front Page for the latest story 
Ten Minute Tales
For your entertainment
a different Ten Minute Tale* every day
(except Friday when we have Novel Conversations)

© MSVG on VisualHunt / CC BY
Confessions of a Tooth Fairy
by Cryssa Bazos

Hi, my name is Tom, and I am an addict. I am hooked on teeth. 
   Just so we’re clear; all tooth fairies are users. Some are recreational while others are hard core. There was a time when I could take it or leave it, when hunting for teeth was a way to kick loose on a Saturday night. It started out as a few incisors here and there before I went for the hard stuff—molars. Soon, I was up to a ten molar a day habit.  I told myself I could walk away from it any time—but who wanted to? 
   Before I knew it, I was on a fast-paced roller coaster plummeting down the longest track. It didn’t matter, not after that first sweet hit of calcium, gritty like angel dust between my fingers. When I was sated, I told myself this would be the last time, but when night came, I grew edgy and looked for my next score.
   The calcium started to make me sloppy. One night, when I reached under a little girl’s pillow, her eyes snapped open.
   “You’re the tooth fairy, aren’t you?” She scrambled to a sitting position.
I was amazed at her composure. “What makes you think that?”
   “You’re taking my tooth.”
   “No, kid. I’m fluffing your pillow.” 
   “How much will you give me for it?” 
   She snatched her tooth and held it up in triumph. I had never seen such a beautiful pre-molar before in my life. Pearly white, it gleamed with a lustre that nearly made me weep. 
   “That’s some tooth kid,” I swallowed hard. 
  “I brush every day, morning and night. No cavities whatsoever.” She flashed a big smile, nearly blinding me. Its mate was loose, and I became lightheaded with the thought of getting the pair. I’d have to keep this house under wraps. There’s a guy in Christie Pitts who’d kill for a tooth like that.
   “Very nice. I can see you use the premium tartar fighting stuff with the whitening agent. How much do you want for it?”
   “Twenty bucks.” 
   “Are you crazy? How much money do you think tooth fairies have?”
   “There are other tooth fairies willing to pay.” 
   I immediately thought about the guy in Christie Pitts. 
   Licking my lips I said, “How about 5?” 
   I had to have the tooth—it was perfect. “There’s a flaw in it. I’ll give you 10, but I want dibs on the next one.”
   After getting a taste of those pearly whites, I was a mess. Where to get more in that condition? The answer came to me like a thunderbolt, and I almost flew into a wall. 
   The dentist!  
   I knew just the one. There was a busy practice on the Danforth where I liked to do some harmless window shopping. I had been watching this guy and could count on him to be lax. I caught him sneaking smokes in his office when he thought no one was looking. 
   That night, I flew up the stairway, quietly, in case some accountant was working late. The door was a cinch to pry open. If I was lucky, I could continue to raid this stash night after night. 
   I took a step forward, and then the blast hit my ears. I had tripped the damned alarm. Not to panic, I still had ten minutes before the cops got here, plenty of time to grab what I could and get out. I yanked open the drawer, and the light from the streetlamp shone on the glowing collection of teeth. I couldn’t breathe. There were so many types: large ones, smooth ones, teeth pitted and fractured with tiny lines. Teeth, splendiferous teeth, and they were all mine. The alarm still blared, a loud reminder to stop dawdling over the stash like a moonstruck fairy. I stuffed them into my canvas pouch. 
   My escape would have been perfect had I only factored in one critical detail—the nearest Tim’s was just down the street. The police came in under two minutes.
   “What do you think you’re doing?” the cop demanded, shining his flashlight on my face. I shielded my sensitive eyes. Tooth fairies have excellent night vision. Day vision, not so good. 
   “Come on,” his partner nudged me. “What’s your handle, guy? No use stalling. We’ll figure it out soon enough.”
    “Tom,” was all I gave him.
   “You’re in rough shape, Tom,” the cop said. “Scott, are you thinking what I am?”
   “Yea, pretty much,” the other nodded. “Tooth addict.” He started frisking me and before I could protest, he grabbed my precious bag. “Ah, man,” he whistled. “This is quite a haul. I think we’re way past a misdemeanour. Sure you’re not trafficking this shit?” 
   “Poor bastard. You know what you need, Tom? A good stint in rehab will sort you out.”
   I wanted to shout, I am not an addict, but thought if I kept my mouth shut and looked pitiful they would let me go. I even would have let them think I was an old guy in a red suit if it meant they would give me back my teeth. Well, the handcuffs killed that idea. 
   They took me to 55 Division and threw me into a holding cell with other miscreant fairies. One Selkie was drying out on a wooden bench, growling at the Sylph who poked at her to move. Any moment there would be a catfight, I was sure of it. Another fairy, a deranged Banshee, had been caught uttering death threats against the Councillor for Beaches-East York. Some issue about bicycle lanes. He wouldn’t stop shrieking. 
   It was a rough night. At first I gave the impression of cool disinterest but then the teeth kicked in. My mouth became dry and I couldn’t stop licking my parched lips. The sweats started just after midnight. The pain in my gut was the worst, like I had been kicked by a steel-toed construction boot.
   By the time they hauled me in front of the judge for my arraignment, I was a wreck. I clutched the wooden rail to keep the floor from heaving and didn’t hear one word the judge said. All I could do was stare at the Crown attorney. She had small, glittering teeth. 
   When called to give my plea, instead of the simple “Guilty” that my Legal Aid instructed, I lost my head and began spewing things that made him groan. I stood for tooth fairy rights everywhere. We were the downtrodden, the marginalized, our heritage criminalized. Our ancestors openly worshipped teeth, not driven underground to cower in shame. This was the government’s master plan to turn us all into freaks.  Tooth fairies should not be shunted to a dark corner reserved only for hobgoblins and gnomes. 
   My argument was riveting, it was inspiring, and it moved the Harpy to tears. Unfortunately, the judge didn’t feel the same way. 
   “May I conclude, councillor that your client has just pleaded guilty?” 
   My Legal Aid opened his mouth to rebut but snapped it shut. Nodding like a bobble toy, he replied, “Yes, your honour, he has.”
   “In that case, I don’t see a reason to delay this further. It’s clear to me what your client needs.” 
   Court ordered therapy. I have to sit around this stupid room with bad coffee and stale donuts listening to a bunch of guys commiserating over how much of a wreck they are, blaming their mothers for their failure. The Don Jail is starting to look pretty good. 
   There, I’ve done my spiel, done what they expected of me. I’ve spilled my guts. 
   But, you see, I’m not really an addict. I’m only humouring them.

© Cryssa Bazos 

*length may vary! 

Join Us Every Friday 

for something different:
an interview with a fictional character!

Saturday 28 March 2020

Ten Minute Tales : We Are The Champions by Richard Tearle

go to Front Page for the latest story 
Ten Minute Tales
For your entertainment
a different Ten Minute Tale* every day
(except Friday when we have Novel Conversations)

Richard Tearle

There is something strange about discovering that your new girlfriend's late father was your old PE teacher at school.
   As I'd left school some five years ago, I hadn't heard that he'd passed away and, to be honest, it had rather dampened the evening a little. I'd liked old Mr Ramsey (nicknamed 'Alf' by us schoolboys) and not just because he'd picked me for the school team. No, it was the fact that he was approachable, and always fair even when having to be harsh. Not that he got much trouble from us; we were healthy sixteen-year-old boys and most of us lived, breathed and dreamt football, so games afternoon once a week was like a half-day off to us. We had the whole afternoon because our school was in Crouch End, North London, and the playing fields were a distance off at Winchmore Hill. The school issued bus tickets to cover the fares to the ground and from there direct to home. Naturally, nearly all of our class (well, those of us who loved their football) were either Tottenham or Arsenal supporters and the rivalry was friendly  but always there. Mr Ramsey was a Manchester United supporter and the irony of his nickname was that the real Alf Ramsey was not only a Spurs player but the then manager of England's World Cup Winning team.
   I escorted Ginny home after our evening in the Red Lion with mutual friends broke up earlier than intended. I wasn't expecting it, but she invited me in; 'You can meet me mum before she goes off to work.'
   'Work?' I asked. At this time?'
   Ginny smiled. 'Mum's a nurse. At the General. Late shift tonight.'
   'Oh. I see'.
  I was introduced to Mrs Ramsey, who was fussing about, getting ready, but she still found time to shake my hand and make me a cup of tea. I said that I was very pleased to meet her and that I was sorry to hear about her husband. 'He was my sports master,' I added. She smiled and raised an eyebrow.
   'Were you one of his Subbuteo Boys?' she asked.
   'I was, yes!' 'Alf' had introduced a Subbuteo Club for after school and most of us were members. We had a league and cup competitions, spread out over the season. Just like the real thing! 'Alf' didn't take part, but would often play 'Exhibition Matches' if there were odd numbers and someone didn't have an opponent. He never lost.
   Ginny's mother left for work, saying 'Nice to meet you,' to me and a semi stern 'Not too late,mind, Ginny'.
   Ginny and I repaired to the living room to finish our tea and share a cigarette.
   'So you were one of Dad's Subbuteo Boys?' There was a hint of a smirk on her face.
   I nodded. I enthused that it was a great time for us where we could forget about the trauma's of school and the worries of homework or exams, but a time when we could let off a little steam. She listened without interrupting, her elbow resting on her knee and her hand cupping her chin.
   'He never lost,' I concluded, shaking my head.
   Ginny was silent, reflective, for a moment, finished off the cigarette and stubbed it out. 'There's a reason for that,' she said quietly.
   'He was bloody good at it,' I laughed.
   But Ginny shook her head. 'Not really.'
   I cocked my head to one side, the question unspoken.
   She seemed to be thinking about something. Stood up, said, 'Come with me.'
   I followed her up the stairs, wondering just for a moment. But no. Ginny pointed to a dangling cord and said, 'Just pull that for me, would you?'
   I did so. A loft ladder descended and she climbed up and scrambled through the now open trap door. She flicked a light switch on so that when I emerged intro the attic neon light illuminated the entire room.
   I gasped. In the centre of the room was a Subbuteo pitch laid out on the table. Not just any old Subbuteo pitch but one that was surrounded by a scale replica building of Old Trafford. Not the new one, but the old one as it was in the 1960s. She reached underneath the table and after a moment I thought to myself, Damn! Even the bloody floodlights work!
   'Fancy a game?' It was more of a dare than an innocent question.
   I shrugged. 'Why not?'
   Ginny turned and opened the top drawer of a chest that leaned against the wall. 'Who do you want to be?'
   'Spurs,' I replied automatically.
   Ginny smiled. 'of course!'
  She handed me a green box: inside an old-style team with the team colours printed on thick cellophane. I placed the tiny figures on the pristine pitch. She had her own team – Manchester United with their red and white colours – and named the figures as she lined them up. 'Gregg, Foulkes, Byrne, Colman Jones. Edwards, Berry, Whelan, Taylor, Viollet, Pegg.'
   I suppressed a smile: her face was a picture of concentration, tiny furrows creased her forehead.
   'Five minutes each way? You can kick off,' Ginny said.
   I was thrashed six-nil.
   'I'm a bit rusty.' Trying hard to cover my embarrassment. Ginny smiled condescendingly. Lined up the players again.
   'You come round here and play United.'
   I did as she said. After the fumbling during the first game, I found my form. Every pass was pin point. Every shot on target. 'Gregg' saved everything. I won five-nil.
   'Best of three?'
   I nodded, feeling a lot more confident. Seven-Nil. Tommy Taylor scored four goals and Duncan Edwards three.
   'Do you understand now?' Ginny asked.
   I shook my head. I didn't.
  'It wasn't Dad that never lost.' She pointed at the red team one by one. 'They never lost.' *

© Richard Tearle

*Manchester United have won more trophies than any other club in English football

<Previous Story .... Next ...>

*length may vary! 

Join Us Every Friday 

for something different:
an interview with a fictional character!

Friday 27 March 2020

A Novel Conversation with Katherine Pym and Lady Sara Kirke

Join Us Every Friday
To be a little different from the usual 
'meet the author' 
let's meet 

 Lady Sara Kirke

35184873. sy475

Q: Hello, I’m Helen, host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Katherine Pym’s novel Pillars of Avalon. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me. I am Lady Sara Kirke, and a leading role in Pillars of Avalon. Nothing to drink, thank you.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: Pillars is historical fiction, and about my husband and I, Sir David Kirke. We truly existed during the 17th century. I was born in London, while David was born in France to an Englishman and vintner.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both?)
A: I am a ‘goodie’ who will not bow down to my husband.

Q: Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: David is my husband, and we knew each other as children. He was given a Royal Letter of Marque to rampage the coast of Canada into New France, but when he returned with prisoners and Champlain, he was forced to return the prizes. It infuriated him, yet the king (King Charles I of England) would not tell him why. It took many years to learn the truth.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: The only novel. My author made it very final, although I must say, my name continues on to this day. I am considered the foremost North American female entrepreneur, and an annual award is given to Canadian women in my name. This is a very proud moment for me.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: My brother-in-law treats me very ill, yet I do not know the reason for it. Those scenes are difficult for me, especially when he verges on the violent.  

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: Our wedding, conducted from the Book of Common Prayer 1549. David’s growing fear and panic before the priest and congregation were quite humorous. Silly fellow. I don’t know what he could have been afraid of. After all, I’m not a harridan.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: Katherine Pym has written several historical fiction books set in the 17th century. The fact she found David and me was very fortuitous. She was tasked to produce a novel of historical Canada, Newfoundland, and through her research, my husband’s name popped up, then my name as an entrepreneur. It was an opportunity she could not pass by.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: Yes, and it is very different from her other works, based on ancient Sumer 5000 BCE. It is amazing how many scholarly papers are available, how kind the authors are when you contact them. Ancient Sumeria a fascinating time, a time if there was time travel, Katherine would pop into that time frame to see and feel and smell what truly went on.

Q: If your author was to host a dinner party what guests would she invite and why? Maximum nine guests – real, imaginary, alive or dead.
A : Considering her eclectic mind, she would like to talk to a few diverse people.

Benjamin Franklin as long as he controlled himself and did not play the bloody lecher.
Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis 1778.jpg

Winston Churchill. Katherine would be careful what she said so that he did not volley a cutting remark at her.

Churchill wearing a suit, standing and holding a chair

Queen Elizabeth I to see what she was really like, if she were in a constant state of annoyance because her gowns were too uncomfortable.

Marie Antoinette during her later years, before her arrest. Katherine considers Marie had more going on than met the eye.

Thank you Lady Kirke, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? 

CONNECT WITH Katherine Pym

Chapter 2, Pillars of Avalon by Katherine Pym, with Jude Pittman

The calm waters of morning had quickly changed. David stood in his cabin with his back to the leaded-light windows as rain pummelled the galleries. Lightning slashed and the crack of thunder made the ship shudder. Lewis leaned against the elaborate wall panelling while Thomas remained sullen and closed, as always. His eyes half shuttered, he folded his arms across his chest.
David smiled grimly. “The old devil, Champlain, is not pleased we sent fishermen to conduct our business. He wonders at greatly where we reached the conclusion that his small compound is in dire straits. He has plenty of foodstuffs and munitions, and welcomes an attack on his fort if we’ve the cods to do it.”
Lewis reached for the letter. “We don’t have enough men or gunfire to engage in a long battle with Québec.” He read the contents and grinned. “He’s a wily old fellow. I’d wager he’s lying.” He released the paper and it fluttered onto the table.
“What say you, Thomas?” His brother’s silence vexed him to the gut most days. “Don’t stand there like a damned stick. Give us your thoughts.”
“I agree with Lewis.”
“Which part?” David hollered. “Do you think they are in a troublesome brew or that Champlain is lying?”
“We aren’t equipped to fight him.”
David growled. He pressed his hands on either side of Champlain’s letter and studied the words. He looked for something hidden, a message that would give him a yea or nay. “I wish we could send someone up there.”
“We do not stink of bear fat and would be noticed immediately.”
David sliced a glance at Lewis, a merry droll and so much different from Thomas. He could only surmise their younger brother, who took after their grand-père and had been a difficult man, was made of the same ilk.
Frustrated Lady Fate may have deserted him, David straightened. “Then we shall weigh anchor and leave.” Thunder rumbled. “After this storm.”
Thomas stepped to the table and unrolled a map. “Let us find the French fleet. Summer is half over. They should be close.