A lost story

Today Lois Elsden shares her thoughts on a lost story – not one she wrote and lost, but one she read, many years ago and cannot remember the title or who wrote it, but is just left with a vivid memory.

Some stories make a life-long impact, and sometimes those stories get lost – well, the story doesn’t, it stays in your head, but what it actually was, what it was called and who it was by is lost and you’re left with the problem of and how you could find it and reread it.
I’ve mentioned before a couple of books from my childhood, one which had two stories, one about an old car abandoned in an orchard, covered with moss and the number plate YAK 1 or ! YAK which did turn into a yak, and the other about a sweet-shop with a sinister owner who looked like an octopus and eventually turned into on, and who sold sweets from a jar called ‘widows and orphans’… quite a horrific and haunting story for children!
The adult book I have ‘lost’ was about a brother whose sister wore a bear mask at parties, and then began to wear it more and more; her personality changed and eventually she could only live wearing the mask, and killed herself in a skiing accident – sounds horrific, and I’ve never forgotten it… except for its title and author! There was one other, about a man who found a lost boy I think in a snowstorm, a very little boy, and they were cut off for days by the snow; for some reason the man (called Gordon, or Gord) didn’t hand the boy to the appropriate authorities but went on the run with him… another never forgotten but anonymous book!
A story which I have little hope of ever finding,, appeared in the Daily Telegraph newspaper Saturday magazine when they would feature a short story each week. I have a feeling that this story,possibly published in the 1970’s or maybe earlier, was set in South Africa. it was about a group of young people one summer, who were on holiday by the beach; they were probably about 14-16 years old, mainly or all boys, and it was told by one of them. A very beautiful and rather eccentric girl of the same age attached herself to the group; they were all rather alarmed by her (not as precocious as today’s teenagers!) and all rather fancied her as she was so attractive – in every way.
She became just one of the gang, hanging out, swimming, talking about rubbish, doing bored teenage stuff. She fell in love with the most unlikely one of the group, a fat boy nicknamed Fatty (he may have been Tubby I can’t quite remember) He was totally unable to cope with this and would just sit blushing and awkward as she sat beside him, or put her arm round him, or lent her head on his shoulder.
His friends were half-amused, half puzzled, very jealous and would tease him when she wasn’t there. They must have met and socialised in the boys’ room, or maybe it was like a dorm, because when Fatty wasn’t there, she would lie on his bed and put her head on his pillow, where he slept. The boys thought this was very odd… it ended when for some reason the girl left. Was she taken away by her parents? Did her holiday end? or did she – as I half-remember, drown, either accidentally or to kill herself? The narrator is an adult looking back, puzzling over the whole thing.
it was a haunting story – well, it certainly haunted me, and I would love to know who wrote it and to read it again…

© Lois Elsden 2017

Find Lois’s e-books, and her recently published paperback, ‘Radwinter‘, here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

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An interesting journey

It’s a week since Lois Elsden announced the publication of her first paperback, a publication of her e-book Radwinter. In her own blog, she wrote this, giving the background story to her exciting news:

The adventures of Thomas Radwinter are described as a journey – as he says “I followed the story of the Radwinters … and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”.  My adventures in publishing my book are also a journey!
I’ve always written, and since being grown-up (if I actually am!) I have tried again and again, times without number to find a publisher or an agent. Maybe I wasn’t lucky, maybe I hadn’t the right connections (actually I have no connections in the media/publishing world!) or maybe it was just one of those things, but I had no success… No success until I was able to write full-time and heard that it’s possible to publish e-books through Amazon… which is what I did:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

That was in 2011… for a while I’d had the idea of writing a story about four brothers, and had even found a family name, Radwinter… in the autumn of 2013 I took part in the on-line challenge, the National Novel Writing Month, the aim of which is to try to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November. I had my characters, I had a vague notion of writing about genealogical research, and the two things came together on November 1st… thirty days and over seventy thousand (70,000+ !!) words later and I was well on my way to my first Radwinter novel.
It was published in 2014, and unexpectedly it was followed by a sequel, and then three more in the series (the latest, Earthquake, published two months ago) I then discovered that I could self-publish my novels as paperbacks!!
To cut a not very long story short, a week ago I was thrilled to announce that a paperback edition of Radwinter is now available!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498553716&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Please let me know what you think of it and how you enjoy it… and here’s a secret, Thomas Radwinter is sorting out Radwinter VI at this very moment!

http://www.loiselsden.wordpress.com

YOU LOOKIN’ AT ME?

At our Creative Writing Group, we were given three disparate objects and told to write a story.   My objects were an office clerk, a security guard and a pair of binoculars.

This is the result!

“I think those Peregrine eggs have hatched” Kate squeaked excitedly as she lifted the heavy army-style binoculars to her eyes.

“Yes’, she said,’ I can see two chicks there!’

Rob came over, with his camera already fitted with a long lens and standing on a tripod.   Carefully he pulled down the vertical venetian blinds, and put the lens cautiously through one of the gaps.

‘You’re right’, he said .   I will be able to get some wonderful shots from here.   Maybe I can win a prize in the wildlife photographic competition.   That’s if the boss doesn’t come in unexpectedly’ he grinned.

‘She won’t ‘said Kate confidently, grinning back.  ‘I’ll dock your pay though for time away from your desk’.  And she laughed.

‘’What luck we were able to rent this room from your Uncle,’ Rob went on, I never thought we’d be able to start our Company up and watch Peregrines!’

‘Oh look, said Kate, ‘here comes the male bird with something for the chicks.   Its far too big for them, what will he do?

‘He’s pulling bits off and feeding them the tiny bits’ said Rob, ‘messy business it looks!’

Kate scanned the rest of the busy street with her binoculars.   Being ten floors up gave them a wonderful view over the other buildings.

Down below, a Security Guard noticed the binoculars scanning the buildings, and went inside the massive door, coming out with his own binoculars.   Seeing the camera lens poking through the blinds, he pointed it out to the black policeman guarding the Embassy door.   Not that it was a very big Embassy, being that of a small African State, and sharing the accommodation with a couple of other small African States, but these days you could never be too sure!

The Policeman spoke into his radio, and two more policemen came out, armed with lethal looking guns.   The Security Guard, whose name was Safra, and who was hoping he might be able to represent his small African State at Weight lifting in the next Olympic Games, pointed to the window, from where Kate was watching them, and marched across the road.   The three policemen followed him, but waited by the lift and at the foot of the stairs.

Safra bounded up the flights of stairs with no effort, and reached the tenth floor, where he turned towards the front of the building.   A door  by the landing window announced “TROBAKE  Please knock.”

Safra ignored the request and marched in

Kate and Rob stared at him in astonishment.

‘You are spying’ said Safra, making to grab the camera, which Rob had left ready to take more Peregrine photos.

Rob leapt up and grabbed the camera.   ‘Don’t you dare touch that!’ he said fiercely.    ‘That has got important photographs of the peregrines on it’.

Safra spoke into the radio clipped to his shoulder, in a foreign language.   In no time at all the first policeman arrived, bursting through the door, aiming his gun at Kate and Rob.

Kate was by now terrified, and Rob was trying to look calm and in charge.   He had a feeling that the Africans in front of him would not be impressed by a female boss.   Kate wasn’t going to argue.   Her knees felt like jelly and most un-boss-like.

‘We are not spies’ said Rob.   ‘Look, I am taking photographs of the peregrines which are nesting on the ledge of your building over there’.

‘Peregrines?’ asked Safra.  ‘What is peregrine?   I think you are spies.   You can see straight into our offices’.

The policeman spoke into his radio.    Two more police came out of the Embassy door and crossed the road.

‘Look’ said Rob desperately.   ‘This is a digital camera, I will show you the birds.’    He lit the screen on the camera and pointed to the shots he had taken of the peregrines nesting, and the ones he had taken of the two chicks..

‘We are Ornithologists’ he said, ‘we started our website business last year, and rent this room as our office.   We were thrilled to find the peregrines nesting on your building.   We didn’t even know it was an Embassy.’

Safra spoke to the policeman, and pointed to the camera.   The policeman stared at the birds, and a big smile lit his face.   ‘In my home these birds on arm and hunt’

‘Like falconry?’ asked Kate, who had recovered a little ‘With little hoods over the bird’, and she mimed a bird sitting on her wrist with a hood on.

The policeman beamed.   ‘Yes’ he said ‘bird go whoosh!’

After that there was no problem.   The three policemen and Rob studied his Bird Books, and the four of them decided that Falcons, in particular, Gyr Falcons, were the ones used in the Policemen’s native land, wherever that was.   Kate brought out 6 fairly reasonable mugs, and aided, or hindered by Safra, made some coffee, which they all drank, perched on the edges of desks, laughing and chatting, as far as they could in a mixture of English, French and sign language.

Eventually, the radio on the uniform of the biggest policeman could no longer be ignored, and they all picked up their guns, which they had parked by the door, and together with Safra, made their way downstairs.

Kate and Rob watched them cross the road and disappear into the big door of the multiple Embassies.

The peregrines, meanwhile, went on feeding their hungry chicks with what looked remarkably like pigeon.

© Gillian Peall

 

What do they look like? Finding faces…

Where do writers find their characters, how do they decide what they look like? Every writer probably does it differently… here is something one writer does; Lois Elsden explains:

The word ‘expression’ has several different meanings including –

  • The action of making known one’s thoughts or feelings
  • The conveying of feeling in a work of art or in the performance of a piece of music
  • A look on someone’s face that conveys a particular emotion
  • A word or phrase, especially an idiomatic one, used to convey an idea
  • A collection of symbols that jointly express a quantity
  • The production of something by pressing it out.
  • The appearance in a phenotype of a characteristic or effect attributed to a particular gene

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/expression

However the meaning I’m using is the expression on someone’s face, and ‘borrowing’ an expression is what I sometimes do as a writer! I don’t just mean the way someone has arranged their features, eyebrows down, eyebrows raised, quirky eyebrows, surprised eyebrows etc, or the type of smile, or what someone is doing with their eyes – although that is all part of the way a writer observes things and uses them.
I confess, I borrow whole faces – for example in my Radwinter stories, the inspiration for my characters. appearances came from:

  • Thomas – a Danish actor
  • Marcus – a well-known chef and restaurateur
  • Paul – a TV personality and baker
  • John – someone who works in my local bookshop
  • Kylie – a contestant on a cookery show
  • Justyna – someone who I used to teach English
  • Kim – a flower shop owner

It’s just their faces, you understand, which were the original inspiration, but those faces have changed as the characters develop in my stories.
To get back to expressions – sometimes I observe an expression on someone’s face which seems unexpected… unexpected in the situation or circumstances, unexpected because it seems different from their usual character, unexpected because it was private and I’ve glimpsed it accidentally… This makes me sound like a weird stalker type – honestly I’m not! I’ll give you some examples –

  • a happy family occasion, but a couple look tense and nervous – they assume jolly expressions when anyone else talks to them, but sitting at their table as the celebration goes on around them, their faces assume a different look
  • someone shakes hands with an acquaintance, a serious but pleasant greeting seems to follow; however as they turn away a look of malicious glee flashes across their face, just for a second
  • someone in a bar, comfortable, at ease, leaning on the counter and talking to friends, totally relaxed, laughing, joking, chatting; ever so often, when the conversation is with others, or while waiting for service, their gaze is directed into the other bar at two men talking together… then the face becomes still, the humour gone, a very focused look comes over their face
  • there’s someone in a café, just having a coffee and a sandwich, a pleasant, amiable look on their face as they look at their phone, glance through the menu or round the room at the pictures and photos on the walls. Their gaze comes to rest on something, whether it’s actually being looked at or another thought has come into their head, nothing to do with anything will never be known, but a surprised look seems to come over their features – they have thought of something, remembered something, realised something… so deep in thought that when someone comes to clear the table they hardly notice
  • the ceramic plaque in my featured image, what is the character looking at, is his mouth dropped open in surprise (pleasant or unpleasant) amazement, has he just thought of something or is he looking at something, is it a malign or benign expression?

These are just a few examples – it isn’t the person as such, or what they look like, it’s that look on their face, that expression which triggers some inspiration for me!

If you want to read about Thomas and his brothers, family and friends, the you can find my books on Amazon; the first in the Radwinter series has just been published as a paperback:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498122900&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

 

Tales from the Strangled Ferret Season 2. Episode 5.

Picture credit –  Hannah Tobin.

Tales from the Strangled Ferret Season 2. Episode 5.

Colin is getting better at taking the pith from the lemon slicing machine. George has been practicing hard on the violin that Jack bought cheap at an auction while looking at the painting of sunflowers that came in the same lot. Jack is happier because he seems to have sorted out most of the regular’s problems. Henry, Janet’s brother is as happy as a pig in muck working on George’s farm while she is looking forward to redesigning Lame’s ideas for modernising their cottage. George has a surprise for Jack.

*****

‘Where’s George?’ asked Jack as he walked into the 3B.

Colin looked up from the automatic lemon slicer where he was carefully taking the pith from between the tungsten tipped blades. ‘I haven’t seen him yet this evening, he’s probably playing his new Van Gogh violin while admiring the picture of the Stradivarius sunflowers hanging on his wall.’

Jack chuckled at the thought. He was a lot happier now that he seemed to have sorted out most of the Strangled Ferret’s customer’s problems. George had a working violin and more time to complete his PRINZ 2 project qualification now that Henry, Janet’s brother had taken over most of the work on George’s farm. Henry was loving the work, he hadn’t realised how much he would miss the farm work after he retired.

‘What about you, Colin? Are you still having problems with the French Dwile Flonkers?’

‘No, it’s going well now thanks Jack, especially since you sorted out a French name for the sport. Jeter de la Balai sounds just right and I have sent them a copy of the rules that you translated for me. There have been a couple of queries about the scoring system – what is the difference between a “wanton” a “morther” and a “ripper” for example, they lose a little in translation but we seem to have got it sorted out now. We have set the date and they are sending a full team with a couple of reserves. We have agreed that we will only use ‘Old Mouldy’ beer and their official taster is arriving tomorrow to check it and he is bringing some samples of their local bier in exchange for us to sample.’

‘What’s their local bier called?’ asked, Jack.

‘It’s called ‘Ancien Moisi’ but I haven’t yet worked out what that means.’

‘I think you’ve done very well Colin. Just let me know if you need any help.’

‘I’m OK at the moment, thanks Jack, but I’ll be sure to call on you if I get any problems. I’ve also arranged for the Flying Colours circus to set up on the common for the weekend that the french people are here.

‘That’s a great idea, Colin. I’m sure you will call on me, but just make sure you keep on taking the pith, out of that machine I mean. It cost us quite a bit of money. I don’t begrudge it after what happened to Ben but we need to care for it. Oh, here’s George. Hallo Maestro, how’s the fiddle playing coming along?’

‘You can laugh, but i think I am getting the hang of it and the timbre of the instrument is wonderful. I think that Van Gogh was pretty good at making violins, he certainly had a good ear.’

‘Yes, but only one I think?’ said Jack

‘What do you mean?’ asked George.

‘Vincent Willem van Gogh spent years of frustration trying to make a violin that sounded wonderful. He got into such a rage with himself over his inability to improve his violins that one day he sliced half his left ear off with a razor. Strangely enough, after that his violins got better and better. His frustration then was that he couldn’t sell them because he was now better known as a painter. But, never mind all that,’  said Jack. ‘More importantly, what are those four men in armour doing outside the pub with sketch pads and pencils?’

‘Haven’t you seen the date?’ asked George. ‘Last week was the Summer Solstice so now the knights are drawing Inn.’

‘I didn’t realise that, I’ve been so busy with other people’s problems.’

‘Yes, we know said George, ‘we really are grateful for all that you have done for us that we now call you “Jack of all trades.”

Thank you, but you forgot the second line, “Master of none”.’

‘That’s just not true, Jack, we know that whatever you do for us, you will do it to the best of your ability or find someone else who can do it better.’

‘Anyway, more importantly, how is all your practising with your violin coming on.?

‘Well that’s my big news. I’ve just come back from an audition for the Ferret Magna symphony orchestra.’

‘Wow, I didn’t even know you were going to try for that. What did you play and did you get a job?’ asked an astonished Jack.

‘I decided that, as the violin was sounding so good, I would be daring and play some Bach. I played the Chaconne in D minor from his second violin partita.’

‘What did they say?’

‘They said it was the best interpretation of the work they had ever heard. The leader said it was even better than the recital given by Itzhack Perlman in his famous performance at St John’s Smith Square London in 1978. They couldn’t believe the quality of the sound from the instrument. They demanded to know if it was made by Antonio Stradivari and where I got it from.’

‘ What did you tell them?’ asked Jack.

‘I told them the truth, that a friend gave it to me,’ said George. ‘They also said I should make sure it is kept in secure storage and insure it for two million pounds. I laughed at them and said I would be sure to look after it. They gave me a job, by the way. I start in August as their fourth violin with guaranteed fast track promotion if I carry on playing like that.’

‘Well, that’s fantastic George. I think that deserves a drink on the house all round, don’t you Colin?’

‘Well, err…’ Colin didn’t like to hear those dreadful words – on the house. I suppose it is a special occasion,’ he said grudgingly as he started pulling pints from the Old Mouldy pump.

Lame and Janet walked in just in time to get a free pint. They asked what all the fuss was about and Janet made George blush by giving him a congratulatory kiss. ‘What are you going to do about the farm and your PRINZ  2 course, George, now that a whole new career is opening up for you?’

‘Well, I intend to complete my PRINZ 2 project course as I only have four weeks to go. I need to talk to you two about finding a new project manager – I think it will take you at least six months to agree on the overall design so that is no real problem’

‘No, that’s not true, George,’ protested Janet. ‘I can swing Lame round to my way of thinking in less than two weeks.’

‘Good luck with that. I think Jack will be happy to take on the role of Project Manager – if you want him, that is. He will have plenty of free time now that he has sorted out everyone else’s problems. That leaves Henry working on my farm. How long do you think he will be happy working there?’

‘Until he drops, I think. I can’t see him making the mistake of retiring again.  Farming is his life.’

‘Well, there you are,’ said George. ‘By the time they want me to start with the orchestra, I will be as free as a bird.’

*****

‘We had a strange thing happen earlier on today Jack,’ confided Colin to Jack.

‘What was that then,’ asked Jack

‘One of the white horses belong to those knights outside wandered in the bar and asked for a pint. I was shocked as I’d not heard of a horse drinking beer before so, to make conversation, I said that we had some whisky on the shelf named after him.

‘You mean you had a talking horse in here and all you were worried about was the fact that he asked for a pint of beer?’ asked Jack incredulously.

‘Well no, He looked a bit sad so I asked him,”why the long face? Do you know what he said after I told him about the whisky?’

‘Course I don’t you idiot, I haven’t come across many talking horses.’

‘He said, ‘You’ve got some whisky here called Kevin?’

“I almost believe you Colin,’ grinned Jack.

‘I’ve been thinking about the Bean Race we’re organising for when our French colleagues come over.’ said Colin.

‘What’s the problem now?’ sighed Jack

‘No problem. Don’t worry Jack. I’m just sorting out the races in my head. So far I have got the Marathon  – Haricot à rames,  Half Marathon – Haricots cuits, 10K – Harriers and Children’s race – Frijoles saltarines. This would be followed by the Tournement Jeter de la Balai of course.’

‘All sounds good to me,’ grinned Jack. He wandered over to see George before he got dragged into more problems.

‘What do you think of the election, George?’ he asked

‘Seems like it was a waste of money for not much difference. I’m glad that Labour got in though – it should mean my pension is safe now.’

‘What do you mean? The Conservatives are the largest party and so they can have a go at forming a government.’

‘Really? Corbyn has been telling everyone that he won.’ said George. ‘Does that mean if I come second in a singles darts match, I can claim I won?’

‘I don’t think so George. You can try if you want to but I think you’ll end up buying the beer – talking of which…’

‘I bought the beer last week,’ protested George’

‘Yes, but that was last week, said Jack.’I think it’s your turn again.’

‘I wanted to talk to you about something,’ said George, desperate to change the subject.

‘Thirsty work talking you know George, I think I may be getting dehydrated’

‘Ok, I give in. Two pints of Old Mouldy please Colin, if you aren’t too busy taking the pith that is?’ called George across the bar.’

‘Coming up,’ said Colin. ’I’m done with pith taking for today.’ Jack walked over to the bar to collect the two pints and brought them back to George, who was sitting in his usual place by the, cold, fireplace.

‘Now then George,’ said Jack after a deep pull on his pint,’ what seems to be the problem?’

‘No problem, said George.’It’s just an idea I had and I wondered what you’d think of it.’

‘Go on then,’ encouraged Jack.’

‘I was thinking as how you were kind enough to get the van Gogh violin for me and how well that has turned out. I’m really grateful so I was thinking of donating that picture you got me of the sunflowers, by Stradivari, to the pub. I don’t really care for it but some people might like it if it was up on the wall here, with perhaps a small spotlight on it to show it off like. What do you think?’

‘I think it’s a great idea, George. Why don’t we put it up on the wall in here during the first International meeting of the Strangled Ferret Association. It could be part of the celebrations and be a marker for the occasion. It would be fine in here and we wouldn’t have to insure it because it’s worth almost nothing.’

‘OK, I’ll brush the dust off it and bring it in. It shouldn’t be difficult to knock up a bracket and get a spot lined up on it.’

‘Great. Thanks George.’ said Jack as he dropped the level of ale in his jar.

© Richard Kefford    2017                                                                             Eorðdraca

My Kindle books are on Amazon – Here

Slowly eat the soft earth.

You can’t catch the clouds in a net,

roll them up and stuff them in a cupboard,

like a winter duvet.

 

You can’t shut the wind off at source,

switch off the fan, and stop the draught.

If you try to find the beginning of the wind

you will only meet yourself again.

 

You can’t stop the sea coming in

and slowly eating the soft earth,

for it will only find another door.

 

The tides will come and go, deep green water,

hungry for entrance,

or a shining expanse of mud,

dark and deceptive.

 

The lifetimes we live are not forever,

however much we deny death.

The winds and the sea will see us go.

© Gillian Peall

CHAIN OF THOUGHT

 

Rosemary is for remembrance.

In France they cook it with roast lamb

A sprig tucked under the skin.

We drench ours in mint sauce,

Acid vinegar smothering the delicate flesh

But we are a nation of animal lovers

(So long as they are small and furry and don’t annoy us)

And we burnt those sheep and the lambs within

Their legs sticking stiffly from the flames.

The disease, you see, affected our agricultural economics.

The fells are cleared now of sheep

And I hear they are covered in flowers

Unseen since the sheep over-grazed their slopes

They evicted the crofters in favour of sheep

‘Woolly Gold’ the landowners called them

And the stone cottages have fallen down

Except where they have been refurbished

For human sheep, who love to flock

on holidays to places of natural beauty

Leaving them empty and dead out of season

The sons and daughters of village families

Have, perforce, to emigrate.   The prices

Are too high for them to bear

What do we, the common herd

Expect of our land?   To provide us

with food?  Or sanitised entertainment?

Easy access to gentle walks?

A theme park carefully planted

With ancient implements, ancient folk in funny dress?

Carefully laid-out paths for wheelchairs?

And guided trails to avoid getting lost?

(Or to keep the herd together?)

All threatened by climate change

Global warming, a new ice age

Depending on where the Gulf Stream goes

Made by us, as we use our cars

To take our under-exercised kids to school

Or do a massive shop at Supermarkets

For whom producers slave for pitiful pay

To give us cheap food and special offers

Fair Trade gives hope to those who labour

Education for their children, access to health

But do we care?   I doubt the majority do

Or even know.   Their news comes in easy

Sexy bites with juicy gossip and simple words.

Oh God, what have we done to your creation?

© Gillian Peall

This was written in 2001 when the foot and mouth disease was rife in England and Wales.     Burning pyres of cattle and sheep were seen throughout the land, footpaths were closed, tourism was checked, and it was a very sad time in the country.