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Monday 15th January 2018.

Please send us your stories and poetry or other writing about your” Favourite writing” during December. We’ll post them here for all to enjoy.

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Not yet decided – all suggestions welcome.

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The Body Collector

This isn’t one of my true stories, this is the last part of a series of events which began before the war and only came to an end in the 1980’s. I often watch foreign TV series and saw one advertised called in English ‘The Body Collector‘ but in the original Dutch ‘De Zaak Menten’  (‘The Menten Case’)

It was released in 2016 but the true story began in 1976, when the Dutch  journalist and editor-in-chief of the newspaper De Telegraaf, Hans Knoop received an unexpected and mysterious phone call from an unknown man in Tel Aviv.  The call reveals information and accusations about a wealthy and well-known businessman and art collector, Pieter Menten and his art collection. Knoop begins to investigate the story and before long is drawn into a dangerous  chase for the truth. Menten was accused of stealing art from Jewish and other people during the war and massacring in person, up to a thousand innocent and unarmed civilians.

I knew nothing about it at all, though obviously I knew that various European people profited by the war and by the holocaust, and that many valuable possessions and property were stolen and even after the war there were protracted court cases as they tried to recover what had been stolen from them.

‘The Body Collector’ is a very understated and yet powerful piece of television. It is gripping and yet not sensationalist; the people are portrayed as very ordinary, and although Pieter Menten is played as a chilling monster, he is able to turn on the charm – which must have made it difficult for people who knew him in his post-war life to believe he could have been responsible for such horrors. The actor, Aus Greidanus is superb in the part, he seems to emanate menace; the other actors too a terrific, but Guy Clemens who plays the part of Knoop is excellent, he is the star but his performance is modest and low-key, the way his performances shows the frustration, his determination, his courage, his tenacity of the real Knoop is magnificent.

The action takes place in the 1970’s and 80’s and the way the era is portrayed – as well as flashbacks to the war years, is subtle and clever. The colours are slightly faded so when old footage is spliced in it all looks part of the whole – such clever production. I know many people struggle with subtitles, but this series is so brilliant, I really do recommend you watch it. It gives a great insight not just about was crimes – about which we are well-informed, but what happened after the are, the double-dealings, betrayals and collusion is actually shocking.

Here are some details:

Pieter Menten was born in 1899 into a wealthy Dutch family, and became involved his father’s business in Poland, developing an extensive export trade of Dutch products. He actually moved to live in East Galicia in 1923 and became a wealthy landowner and businessman. This was part of Poland at the time, but then became part of the Ukrainian S.S.R. Although he seemed an ordinary person, he harboured a deep hatred and grudge against a local Jewish businessman and his family. After various different episodes of his life he was in Poland in 1941 when the Nazis were occupying the country – but he was back not as a businessman or art dealer, but as a member of the SS. He was involved in and responsible for the slaughter of many people in Lvov and elsewhere, and those former neighbours in East Galicia, and other Jewish people in the area.
After the war, in a controversial trial the prosecution were unable to provide sufficient evidence and he was sentenced to a mere eight months for working as a Nazi interpreter. A couple of years later the Dutch government refused his extradition to Poland.It wasn’t until Hans Knoop began his investigation in 1976, that the case was reopened and Menten was brought to trial again – this time being sentenced to ten years in prison. However he was released due to a ‘technicality’ but on retrial he was sent to prison in 1980. He was released in 1985 and died of dementia in an old folks home… at the age of eighty-six…

Knoop had a very different life; he was born in 1943 in the Netherlands to Jewish parents who were in hiding from the Nazi occupiers. He became a reporter with De Telegraaf at the age of twenty and has pursued his career in journalism with tenacity, courage and commitment.

Here’s a very interesting article on the making of the series:

http://dramaquarterly.com/tag/the-body-collector/

… and more about Hans Knoop:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/hans-knoop/the-menten-affair/

Remembering Mary – (II)

Lois Elsden shares more about Mary Anning, an early palenotlogist, and Elizabeth Philpot her associate and friend, chronicled in one of Tracy Chevalier’s novels:

I mentioned last week that we had been reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, published in 2009 for our book club. We all loved it – which is unusual since quite often we all have different opinions of the books we read and I have to confess it is usually me who struggles with whatever has been chosen. As a group we decide on what to read and we try to vary the genres and types of books, often challenging ourselves with something out of our normal preference range!

Remarkable Creatures is the story of the famous nineteenth century fossil hunter, Mary Anning, a true story of a poor, ill-educated woman who became a remarkable creature herself. She and her family lived in Lyme Regis on the Jurassic coast where many fossils from different era have been found, and are still being found. Mary, born in 1799, learned from her father, a carpenter and cabinet-maker, how to spot specimens which could be sold to tourists to contribute to the poor family’s income. Mary became famous and discovered many amazing specimens, some of them huge, which had never been seen before but it is only in recent times that she has been properly credited with her discoveries.

The book is written in a first person  from two narrators, Mary herself and another real person, Elizabeth Philpot. Elizabeth and her sisters also lived in Lyme but came from a very different class from Mary, however they were united by their interest and fascination in palaeontology. In some books this swapping of narrators can be irritating, but Chevalier has caught their ‘voices’ just perfectly, subtly indicating the difference in class and education without exaggeration or being condescending to Mary.

This is the story not just of fossil hunting but the development of the relationship between the two women, even though Elizabeth was twenty years older than Mary. It explores the class system and how it wasn’t just Mary who suffered by being of the wrong class, Elizabeth and her sisters were also stuck painfully in the wrong part of society as it was then. The book also deals with the position of women, and even educated Miss Philpot was not given credit for discoveries she made and was excluded from debate and discussion because of her gender. This is woven into another thread, that of the acceptance of scientific evidence rather than adhering to the stories in the Bible. Creationism was being challenged before Darwin, before his proposition of the Origin of the Species. Chevalier has explained these debates (and prejudices) so clearly that it becomes quite exciting to see whether science and sense will override ignorance.

The story is so clearly and cleverly told, the descriptions so vivid, I was completely engrossed and carried along by it. The characters, though partially imagined, were so vivid and real, so believable that we in the book club all really cared what happened and how the difficulties between Mary and Elizabeth were played out and resolved.

Here is a link to Chevalier’s site – to give you a flavour!

http://www.tchevalier.com/remarkablecreatures/story/index.html

Here is a link to Lois’s genealogical mysteries which involve a different sort of excavation – family history research!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515579896&sr=1-7&keywords=lois+elsden

SADIE

To the casual passer-by, if they lifted their eyes from their phones, Sadie would have looked like any old woman sitting on a park bench and not worth a second glance.

To the regulars in the park, – the mothers exiting the Play Group, the elderly dog walkers, Sadie, being another regular, merited a nod, smile or even a ‘good morning’.

I say ‘park’ but really it was no more than a irregular rectangular municipal garden in the angle between the High Street and Station Road, and it’s diagonal path between the station Road entrance near both train and bus stations,  and the High Street,  made for a busy short cut.   The other diagonal path from the traffic lights at the junction led to a small playground for the tiny children.   The area was surrounded by a fence and well-maintained bushes.

Sadie sat on a bench where the diagonal paths crossed in the middle of the park, where there was a central flower bed.   She arrived, come rain or shine at 10.30 am and left punctually at 12.30.   If it was raining she produced a very large umbrella emblazoned with the words ‘Ryder Cup 1995’ so it was at least 15 years old.

She wore an eclectic array of clothing, in summer a faded print dress and a heavy knit cardigan in beige.   In winter this was supplemented by a tweed coat.   On her feet she always wore those black ankle boots with a zip up the front.   But Sadie loved scarves, and always wore one, or possibly two, carelessly thrown around her neck.   She carried a huge old brown leather bag from which she produced packets of seed she fed to the waiting pigeons and any other bird able to muscle their way in.

Nothing exceptional in that.   Sadie could have been any one of thousands of lonely old ladies who enjoyed a little outing to the local park in the hopes someone might stop and speak to them.   But Sadie had a secret that very few people knew about.   In fact, I think Jane and I were the only people to know.   Jane lived next door to Sadie and I lived next door to Jane in the row of Victorian workmen’s houses which were just behind the park in Chapel Lane.   Jane got to know Sadie one very cold winter, when she went round to make sure Sadie was OK, and that her pipes hadn’t frozen.   Sadie had invited her in for a cup of tea – the pipes were not frozen – and Jane said the interior of the cottage was amazing.     Jane invited Sadie round a couple of weeks later, and I came along too.   Jane and I are incorrigible nosey, and we were both fascinated by Sadie, and Jane’s report of the amazing interior.

A few days later we  were both round there one afternoon, and Jane saw a beautiful icon on the mantelpiece.

“Surely that is Russian?” she asked Sadie.

“Oh yes, I bought that when I was in Russia” Sadie replied.

“Are you Russian, then? “ I asked, jumping in with both feet, as usual.

“No, I was born in the Ukraine,    but I worked for a Russian company, and went to Moscow quite frequently.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Russia” said Jane, but I haven’t made it yet!”

“Tourists never see the real Russia” said Sadie.   “The Government makes sure that they only see what the Government wants them to see”.

Jane and I didn’t like to seem nosey, so we stopped asking questions, and just admired some of the Russian ornaments Sadie had.   But over the weeks, Sadie let drop a few things, and we pieced them together, and decided that whatever Sadie had been doing when the Communist Government was in power, come Perestroika, she was persona non grata.   One afternoon it became clear that Sadie worked in a Ukrainian Company on behalf of the Russian Government.   Sadie was, in fact, a spy.

“! was not one of those Hollywood style spies, or like James Bond” she laughed, when Jane actually asked her if she had been a spy.   “I would photograph documents and plans that the Russians were interested in and pass them on to my contact indirectly”.

Jane and I looked at each other.   Sadie had worked for the Communists!   How come she was living in England when spies like Guy Burgess had had to live the rest of their lives in Russia?

We decided it didn’t make any difference now.   Sadie was very friendly, and made the most gorgeous Russian cakes.   And she was our neighbour.   We would treat her like we would treat any other friendly neighbour, especiallyone who made those Russian pastries!

Gradually we found out more about Sadie.   She had been born Ekaterina Bublik, in East Ukraine.   She wanted to go to University, but family finances were too precarious, and as the oldest child, she had to start work.    Her family were very pro-Russia, and against the independence movement that was popular in West Ukraine, and she soon found a way of making more money, both for herself and for her family.

When the Communist Government fell, those who had been working for them were in a precarious position.    It was decided to ship Sadie out, and she found herself on a journey across the Bosphorous to Instanbul.    Here she was given a ‘husband’, an Englishman called Michael Davidson, and a European passport in the name of Sara Davidson, born in Germany as Sara Weber.   They travelled together to England, where Michael promptly left her, and Sadie (she said she didn’t like the name Sara, too Biblical) was quietly given the keys to the cottage in Chapel Lane which, Jane said, had been on the market for some time, at a ridiculous price.

And there it would have ended, apart from two events, or happenings.

I had been rather curious about Sadie’s punctuality in her visits to the park, and the fact she was there whatever the weather.      So I took to a bit of detective work, and watched Sadie for most days for a couple of weeks or so from where she couldn’t see me.

An elderly man used to come in the park every day, with a large old bag in his left hand.   He would walk down the path to the circular bed, and then take the path in front of whichever bench Sadie had chosen to sit on.  Occasionally he would stop in front of Sadie to light a cigarette, and quick as a flash, in a movement even a camera would have been hard to catch, Sadie slipped something in his bag.     He made no acknowledgement, and Sadie never looked at him.

It suddenly dawned on me that this only happened when Sadie was wearing her bright pink scarf with the red roses on.   What was going on?   Was Sadie still a spy, and who for?

The second event was the shock result of the Referendum on leaving Europe.   I know Sadie was worried as to her position.   She still had her false passport, but had never used it, having stayed in Britain since her arrival.   Jane and I had spoken to her about it, trying to help her to stop worrying, though we ourselves really didn’t know how it would affect her.

And then, one morning, she simply wasn’t there.   The house was shut up, and later that week a ‘For Sale’ notice appeared.    But both Jane and I had small parcels on our doorsteps.   Jane’s contained the icon she had seen, and a Faberge Egg she had always admired.   Mine contained another Faberge Egg, and one of those Russian dolls with little dolls inside.

And that was it.   The house was taken by a young couple who both worked and were out all day, and Jane and I were still incorrigibly nosey, and often thought about Sadie.

But the next Christmas Jane received a Christmas card with a Russian stamp.    Inside it said ‘To Jane and Molly, with love and thanks.

© Gillian Peall

 

 

 

 

 

The whistle

The whistle

All machinery eventually becomes uneconomic to maintain so it is scrapped and replaced with a new model. This was always the case with steam locomotives. It is 13th April 1958. The last of the Brighton – built Atlantic Class H2 No 32424 Beach Head is on the last trip from Newhaven docks to Brighton. This resulted in a lot of interest from people, usually men, who had a fondness for the steam locomotive. This was either because they were generally interested in the history of the age of steam or they could remember their childhood obsession with train spotting or they could remember when the annual holiday meant travelling on a steam train. A journey that always involved getting to board the train early then a walk up the platform to check on what loco was going to take us all that distance. This usually involved a chat with the engine driver and lots of questions from a fascinated boy. The engine driver was usually a fellow enthusiast who would happily tell you all about the loco he was going to drive. If you were very lucky, you would be invited onto the footplate, to enter the special world that was warm and smelled of coal and warm steam. This, to me, was the best part of the holiday.

My Dad used to work for the railway as an accountant in an office that overlooked Brighton Station. He was also a railway enthusiast so kept me in touch with all that was going on at the Southern Railway.

In 1905, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway works at Brighton built a locomotive that was named Beachy Head.  This locomotive carried out various general mixed traffic duties until 13th April 1958 when it was the last of the “H2 Marsh Atlantics” in service. It was destined to be cut up and scrapped at Eastleigh

Dad somehow managed to hear about this and bought the whistle. It then languished in our attic, just wrapped in an old piece of brown paper and stored with all the other junk that accumulated.

When I was a small boy, this was a magic place to me. The only access was through a trapdoor. There were no stairs so a step ladder had to be brought in from the garden shed and then Dad would climb the steps and swing himself up into the attic with the help of a length of rope that was knotted around one of the roof beams.  Dad would lower the end of the rope and I would sit in the bowline knot fashioned in the end of it. He would then hoist me up. There was only a small area that was boarded, the rest had the curls of  plaster that had been troweled up from below onto and between the laths. Everything up there was covered in dirt and dust as the roof was not felted, the tiles just lay on the laths so dirt was continually blown in. I saw the whistle one day when I was poking around and asked Dad what it was. “It’s just rubbish really, it’s just an old engine whistle.” I don’t think he really meant this as, if so, why had he bothered to buy it and keep it?

My Dad died in 1974 and things were left just as they were until, one day, my Mother decided that the attic should be cleared, “to make things easier for you when I’m gone,’ she said. This was a practical thought but a little disconcerting! Anyway, the grandchildren got together and had a working Sunday to clear the loft. I claimed the whistle and my G G Grandfather’s wooden tool box – he worked on the railway at Nyeland in South Wales as a carpenter. One of the first jobs for a carpenter apprentice was to construct his own toolbox. This was it! I also gained two of my G G G Grandfather’s planes – on the other side of the family – he was a wheelwright in Bassingbourne in Cambridgeshire. One was a long shooting plane and the other had a curved base so was a plane for finishing the inside of the wheel frame before the spokes were fitted.

Back to the whistle. I got it home. It was a mess. It probably looked OK on top of the boiler of a dirty coal dust and smoke encrusted steam locomotive but I wasn’t happy with this so determined to clean it up. Luckily, I had a workshop and a wood-turning lathe so I turned up some jigs so that I could turn it on the lathe. I then polished the brass whistle until it gleamed! I also made a turned and varnished stand from mahogany and mounted the whistle. It looked great.

Life then carried on until a friend of mine, a railway nut, asked me if I had seen the news from the Bluebell Railway? They were building a locomotive from scratch. They thought this was possible because they had come across a suitable railway locomotive steam boiler being used in a woodworking factory in Maldon, Essex in 1987. The project was launched in 2000 by Terry Cole,  who was the chairman of the Bluebell Rail way Preservation Society when the boiler was purchased , decided to relaunch the project as a reconstruction of No 32424 Beachy Head, the last Atlantic type locomotive in active service in the UK. A team was gathered, sponsors were contacted and it all seemed doable – albeit everyone recognised that there would be major difficulties, not least the fact that heavy engineering companies were now few and far between in the UK so some parts may have to be made overseas. What a sad result from what used to be the ‘workshop of the world’ that invented and developed the railway transport system.

A more detailed description of the first years of the project to 2010 can be read in    “ Heritage Railway ”  No. 134 17 March 2010. There is also a newsletter that can be obtained from the Bluebell Railway and a web site with the up to date news at:

http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/locos/atlantic/

As time rolled on I thought about the whistle and thought back to the time when my Dad had said, in answer to my question of ‘what engine did it come from?’ It’s from Beachy Head.

By this time I had done some family history research and worked my way through a bunch of family papers. One thing I found was a slip of paper that referred to, “ a whistle from locomotive No 32424 Beachy Head for Mr HBE Kefford, Accounts office, Brighton from Eastleigh via passenger train.” I put 2 and 2 together and realised that I had an original part of the locomotive that could be incorporated into the proposed reconstruction.

I contacted Terry and asked if he would be interested? To say that he nearly took my hand off was an understatement. He was delighted that we were happy to donate it as they had only come across two other original parts, one was the main regulator lever, the other was the registration name plate that would be fitted on the cab roof – and now the whistle!

He mentioned that the 50th Anniversary of the last run of the loco on 13th April 1958 was coming up so would we be happy to attend a presentation on 13th April 2008. I said yes and that I would like my mother to present it in my Dad’s name as he had had the forethought to rescue it in the first place.

Beachy Head 2

This was all agreed and my mother, sister, myself and the rest of the clan went to Sheffield Park station for the presentation in the ‘Atlantic Shed.’. It was all kept secret until the day. The whistle was formally handed over and then fitted to a compressed air hose and the spine tingling sound of a steam whistle was heard again after a silence of 50 years.

IMG_0002

My Mother was 90 last year so we all tried to think of something special we could do to give her an unforgettable birthday celebration. We were stumped until my niece suggested something on the Bluebell Railway. We investigated and ended up having high tea on the train during the return trip from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes. It was a really wonderful day. The icing on the birthday cake was that all the coaches on the train had names. The coach we were in was called Ashdown, named after Ashdown Forest. My mother’s maiden name is Ashdown so, of course we teased her by saying that we had the coach especially named for her birthday.

Beachy Head 3

The build continues in spite of all the difficulties. The question everyone asks is, “When is the first steam?”. The answer the team always gives is, “ about 4 hours after the fire is lit.

© Richard Kefford    2018                                                                            Eorðdraca

My Kindle books are on Amazon – https://tinyurl.com/y7lxzejx

The Drove – Harry and Liz

This is the next instalment in the linked stories by Stephen Andrews – a vividly told interwoven group of tales taking place near and around a Drove in Norfolk.

The Drove

Harry and Liz

 Harry opened the kitchen door and let his dog in after their early morning walk.
‘Is that you Harry? Did you see anyone? ’ There wasa rattleof cups and saucers.‘Tea?’
‘Yes please Liz.’ He sat down after giving the dog its food.
Oh you look hot.’
‘Yes I am a bit, you need a coat on first thing but once the sun comes out. I only saw one person today a young boy who was heading towards Bossington. He didn’t look too happy.’
‘Oh dear’ said Liz.
‘Liz, look at this?’ Harry lifted his boot up and wiggled a finger at her through a hole in the sole.
‘Don’t you wiggle your finger at me,’laughed Liz, we’ll go into Wighton as soon as we’ve had our cuppa.’

 Harry and Liz Arbon are a happy, laid back couple who have just celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Quietly and no fuss. They had retired recently from Wighton a small market town fifteen miles away. They are very happy in their new two bed bungalow which backs onto the Drove. The deciding factor was the views over the open countryside, stretching three miles or so to Bossington village.
Harry and Liz were for forty years foster parents and were much revered to the extent of being awarded a MBE for services to the community. Harry had also been a handyman and gardener, sometimes unpaid. Liz was a well-known helper at any charity or community fund raising events.
 Their teenage whirlwind romance was the gossip of the town. Liz’s dad was the Mayor at the time, so friends and foes alike, took great delight in gossiping about the early pregnancy. Three months after the wedding Liz delivered twins boys. They all fitted snugly into a rented two bed terrace house in Wighton, not far from Liz’s mum and dad’s.
Their lives revolved around the boys and their only disappointment was they couldn’t have any more children.
The boys were ten when tragedy struck. The school bus taking their class to a local pantomime skidded off the road into a deep gully. The two boys and the driver were the only ones killed. It was Harry and Liz’s constant question, ‘why our boys’ because the rest of the class, teachers and helpers all escaped with minor injuries.
 Life for Liz and Harry had stopped. No-one could mollify their grief. They sunk into a joint depression feeding off each other. Liz’s mum and dad tried and tried to reach in and pull them out of that black hole.

 It was six months later when Liz’s dad acting on his wife’s suggestion, took them to the local Social Services Children’s Centre, where a ‘Fun Day’ had been arranged for children in foster care. These events were really to help parents choose a child they would like to adopt but Liz and Harry had not even had an initial interview. Special permission had given to Liz’s dad. They were not keen to go but mum insisted. With the best will in the world they did not look like prospective parents wanting to adopt.
The Social Care Worker who gave permission was not confident of success especially as ‘due process’ had not been completed. As she keenly observed Liz and Harry when they quietly walked round and began to engage the youngsters, it became obvious they were enthralled. There was much laughter here, animated conversations there. The children, unbeknown to them were repairing Liz and Harry’s spirit. Could it be, she thought, have they the magic touch?
The Social Care Worker rang Liz’s dad and told him how impressed she was of their ability to be accepted by all the children. He replied I’m sure you will be hearing from them very soon. When he told his wife, she smiled and said, it was very kind of her to allow the visit in the first place and thank God the experience has changed them. I now feel confident they have accepted the boy’s deaths and are now looking to the future.’
A second tragedy happened whilst they were being considered as foster parents. Liz’s dad died of a sudden heart attack. He had not been well for quite a while but like all men, ignored the symptoms. In his Will he enclosed a ‘Wish List’ which stated that he and his wife would be over-joyed if Harry and Liz would move into the family home. He also added that as foster parents, you’ll need plenty of room, and six bedrooms and an acre of garden should do you nicely. He wrote that he was proud of them both and that he was confident they would be the best foster parents ever.
The start of their fostering career coincided with the second anniversary of the twins’ death. They had already moved in with Liz’s mum. They found it difficult at first even with the help of Liz’s mum but they soon became highly respected foster parents.

***

 ‘Oh now you’ve finished your tea, Harry, can we stop at the village shop on the way to Wighton to replace your ‘holy’ boots, chuckled Liz. ‘I want to buy some Fox’s Mints I have a sudden craving.’
‘O.K.’ laughed Harry,’Fox’s Glacier Mints it is.’

When Liz was waiting for Mr. Khan to finish weighing the sweets he asked ‘have you heard about the young boy who’s gone missing?’
‘No said Liz, but Harry said he saw a youngster walking along the Drove towards Bossington who he thought look none too happy.’
After paying; Mr. Khan accompanied her to the car to ask Harry to describe the boy and what time it was he saw him.
When Harry had told him, he said, ‘Oh I think that may be him, I’ll pass the information onto the boy’s uncle. Like you, he’s only just moved into the village, about a week ago and the boy was staying there to help with the decorating.’

They had bought Harry’s boots and were on their way to get a cup of coffee when they heard someone shout.
‘Liz, Harry fancy seeing you here, of all days.’
They looked round and who should be standing in the doorway of the Children Social Services Office but Avantika, their old boss.
‘Avantika what a surprise, how are you and what do you mean by of all days?’ said Liz?’
‘You both look great, come and have a cup of coffee,’ enthused Avantika and led the way down the road to a café.
‘Not her office then,’. whispered Liz,’somethings up she’s never done this before.’
They sat with their coffee and a selection of delicious cakes, no expense spared. Avantika having quickly gone through the niceties of politeness, suddenly stopped, looked at each of them  in turn and said ‘I am in the most horrendous muddle and only you can solve it! I have to place a seventeen year old in temporary care until he is eighteen. He has had a troubled life and needs a quiet, calm and firm hand such as yours.
Harry said incredulously, ‘Us? We are retired and more importantly too old.’
Despite protestations they ended up agreeing to a very, very short period of care for David Thompson, who answer only to Daggers.

***

Avantika and Daggers were to arrive by nine a.m. but it was nearly mid-day before they came. No explanation was given and Avantika exited rather too quickly. Daggers travelled light, he only had one paper carrier bag so was soon settled into the spare bedroom and told lunch would be ready in about fifteen minutes.
Daggers dressed all in black leather with black tattoos of knives on his forearms. His hair was also black but not just black, shiny jet black. It was long, all the way to his waist. His disposition was tense and you felt he was not with you but in a place somewhere else. His eyes were scarily blank. You asked a question such as, ‘do you like cottage pie?’ You waited but there was no sign that the question had entered that scary place.
‘Good’ he eventually said.
Harry tried to engage Daggers in conversation but with no success.Liz dished up.
‘I cook,’  he said abruptly without emotion, ‘I cook.’
‘Oh great,’ said Liz,’if you let me know what you would like to cook, I will get the ingredients for you.’
Dagger sat down, picked up his knife and fork and said ‘good.’

The next day Daggers had a late breakfast followed by an even later lunch and then, Liz helped him to gather all the ingredients for his vegetable stew he wanted to make. He was peeling and chopping the carrots, when there was a sudden loud banging at the front door. Liz immediately ran to the door wondering what the emergency was.
The slim young man exclaimed ‘I am so sorry, I never for one moment thought your door knocker would be so loud’.
Liz laughed, ‘that’s o.k. What can I do for you?’
‘Oh, oh right, I had better introduce myself, I’m Baxter Tipton, my nephew was reported missing, so I’ve come to thank you for your help.’
Liz smiled and said ‘Come in, come in.’
When Daggers heard the stentorious banging he froze with his hands half-raised and the chopping knife still in his right hand. He thought it must be the police, come to arrest him because of the recent fight he had been in. Baxter seeing Daggers went towards him to shake his hand, Daggers swiped his hand away mistaking him as a C.I.D. Officer.
A red gush of volatile blood streamed out, spilling over the prepared vegetables. The forgotten knife was extremely sharp. The fountain of blood frightened Daggers into panic mode, he swung his arm back resulting in the knife slicing Baxter’s neck.
Liz screamed and backed out of the kitchen into the hall, opened the front door and ran in panic round the bungalow into the back garden. There she found Harry, pushed him behind a large shrub so they could not be seen, hugging him whilst explaining in a hoarse whisper what had happened.
Harry kept calm extricating himself from Liz’s tight grip so he could get his phone out of his pocket and fifteen minutes or so later police sirens could be heard. Liz and Harry kept hidden although they assumed Daggers would have made a run for it, as he had not come after them.

 When an armed police officer came bursting into the back garden, Liz and Harry came out of hiding. They were loudly ordered to lay on the ground. A few minutes later a senior police officer came and told them they could get up.

***

At Wighton Police Station they were questioned and a statement was typed up and signed. They were only given a cup of tea and a biscuit even though.it was after midnight before they were released. It was  only just before their release that they were told that Baxter Tipton and Daggers were both dead.
Harry and Liz were traumatized to the point of incoherent thoughts and sleeplessness. They kept saying ‘Daggers must have taken his own life. Such a terrible waste of life of both Baxter and Daggers’
How Mrs. Tipton must feel they just couldn’t imagine.

When they read the Wighton Echo three days later, it was headline news. Stories about David ‘Daggers’ Thompson,  Baxter Tipton, the thirteen year old Tom Bossington and sadly themselves. Where they got the information from they did not know, they certainly had not spoken to anyone other than the police. It also reported that an enquiry, was to be held into why David Thompson was put into inappropriate care. The Council announced that Avantika Collins has been suspended whilst an enquiry was being held.

© Stephen Andrews – December 2017

 

Remembering Mary – (I)

Impressed by a novel she had just read, Lois Elsden thought back to when she first ‘met’ a remarkable woman and pioneer palaeontologist:

I’m sure there are many marvellous people called Mary, but the one I’m thinking about is Mary Anning. I first ‘met’ Mary many years ago when I first began teaching; the school I was at had an integrated humanities course, matching English, history and geography syllabus. It started with the creation of the earth – the scientific theory, looking at the formation of rocks and geology, and the first creatures which lived on this planet. For the eleven-year-olds I was teaching, the best bit was when we reached the dinosaurs; to accompany the geology we read a book called ‘Mary Anning’s Treasures’ by Helen Bush which I think is out of print now. This told the true story of a poor young girl, the same age as my students who helped the family income by finding fossils along the Dorset coast near Lyme Regis with her father who was also a carpenter and cabinet-maker. What they found they sold to tourists.

It was a great story but I don’t remember where it ended, with Mary still as a girl, or Mary as an adult and a respected fossil hunter? I often thought of Mary Anning over the years when any mention was made on the news of a new and exciting find, and also when we visited Lyme Regis. Mary was born in 1799 into a poor family, but she rose to become famous across Europe and North America. She had a remarkable career and became respected for her ability to find and recognise and excavate (with the help of labourers) many huge fossilised remains of dinosaurs, including  the first ever ichthyosaur and two complete plesiosaurs and many, many more over her long career. She had a long career but a short life, dying at the age of forty-seven. She was just a very ordinary poor ill-educated girl with no advantages in life but became highly respected in the world of science – even though she never made her fortune.

You may not be able to read Helen Bush’s book, but you can read Tracy Chevalier’s excellent novel ‘Remarkable Creatures’, which I’ve just read for one of my book clubs. This is the story of Mary Anning told by her and also by the character of Elizabeth Philpot a gentile lady who shared an interest in fossils. It is a story which doesn’t just cover the finding and collecting of specimens, but the position of women in society, the class system, religious beliefs and prejudice, and the relationship of the two women who were so far apart through age and class and education and yet became friends. If you haven’t yet read it I do recommend it, even if you aren’t interested in fossils! Without exception everyone in the book club enjoyed it – and that’s really saying something!

Here is a link to Tracy Chevalier’s novel:

http://www.tchevalier.com/10-rc/100-remarkable-creatures

… and to Lyme Regis Museum which has much of interest about fossils, fossil hunters and Mary Anning:

http://www.lymeregismuseum.co.uk/collection/mary-anning/

and to Lois Elsden’s genealogical mysteries – none of which feature Lyme Regis or Mary Anning but which d examine a different sort of excavation, into a family’s history:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515579896&sr=1-7&keywords=lois+elsden

WHEN THE ROMANS CAME

We was doing fine and dandy

till them blasted Romans came.

With their great big shields and helmet,

They all looked much the same!

 

We put our huts and families

atop of great big hills,

the kiddies used to fetch the water,

we call ‘em Jacks and Jills.

 

But them silly Romans, dressed

in flimsy little skirts

started building great big camps,

and roads, wiv piles of dirt.

 

They pushed us off our hilltops

and said we owed ‘em taxes.

“Blow that,” said Boudica, well riled,

“I’ll chop ‘em up wiv axes”!

 

She won that round, and laid ‘em low,

but it didn’t do much good.

They still kept coming, built their towns

wiv stones, not nice warm wood!

 

And now we’ve got all Romanised

wiv togas and fancy floors.

But most of us know better

and wear woolly vests and drawers!

 

The little ‘uns speak Latin,

and count the Roman way,

I, II and III

but its hard to take away!

 

Some, the more hotheaded ones,

headed out towards the west,

and got together in a band,

well, I suppose that they knows best.

 

Me, I’ll take the easy road

and join ‘em while they’re here.

Their wine ain’t half got a kick in it,

its better than our beer!

I wrote this a few years ago for a party/entertainment with an archaeology group I belonged to.   It made them laugh – maybe it will make you laugh! GP

 

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