Dragons for Sale

Well no…not really, because dragons don’t exist – as far as we know…or do they?

We dragons are promoting our books – 22 to choose from

Novels, Short stories, Serials, Poetry and Travel memoirs.

Please click on the name of the author whose work you would like to see and perhaps buy. If you do decide to buy one, perhaps you would be kind enough to let us know what you think of it, by writing a review?

Thank you.

 

Brimdraca / Lois        –     Lois

Eorodraca / Richard  –    Richard

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ROCK AND ROLL’S FIRST CASUALTIES 

We’re going back and revisiting Bari Sparshott’s popular stories… and here it’s all about rock ‘n roll!

ROCK AND ROLL’S FIRST CASUALTIES 

Until about 1953 people were either children, or adults. Teenagers were created in the 1950’s. By the end of that decade, certain standards had arisen by which you were judged. Possession of a motorbike was a good thing, as also was ownership and proficiency with a musical instrument, preferably a guitar. I personally played the drums, or, more accurately, drum, and was usually employed at weekends accompanying my father, a pianist, in various pubs and clubs around the district. As time went on I acquired a small tom-tom and what passed as a bass drum to go with the snare drum and cymbal I had been given on my 9th birthday.

At this point we fast forward to 1961 when, established in a Surrey grammar school, an event occurred which really did change my life.  At 9am every morning there took place an Assembly of all 900 boys in an area about the size of three squash courts. On stage would be the be-robed staff, and on the floor would be we boys, first years at the front, sixth form at the back, prefects down the sides to keep us in order—and all under the control of the Deputy Head in his role as Parade Sergeant Major.

At 9-05am, the Headmaster, robed additionally in his hood, would flounce on to the stage and begin the school day with one of his several rants. It was assumed that all in front of him would be not just Christian, but Anglican. Post-rant we would sing a hymn and then the “Late Boys” would be allowed in. These would be Catholics, Jews, and anybody who happened actually to be late. After various notices and Sports News we would then be shepherded out, line by line, to begin the day’s education.

The morning I am describing began in similar vein, except that in the silence immediately preceding the arrival of the Head, a voice hissed “Sparshott!” I turned but could see no obvious source, until it said again “Sparshott!”. Spotting the utterer, I responded: “What?” At which point a far louder “SPARSHOTT!” was heard, followed by “See me after assembly!” The Parade Sergeant Major had spoken! Another detention? Yes, as it turned out, but never mind.

At break I sought the caller of my name, and discovered a fairly short boy, whom I had noticed kicking a tennis ball around the playground. In a rugby-playing school like ours, this was tantamount to eating a bacon butty in a synagogue. Another feature of this boy was his hair, held together with a cosmetic preparation called Tru-Gel, a more determined version of Brylcreem, which came in a tube.

”Do you play drums?” he asked. A positive reply resulted in the follow-up: “Do you want to join a group?” (They were not called “bands” in those days.) “Yes” I said, or rather “YESSS!”

“Good. We’ve got a practice tonight if you can make it.)

“OK, Where is it?”

“My house, opposite the Drill Hall, yellow door; you can’t miss it”

“7-ish?”

“Yes, that’s OK.”

 

So that night, I met and became a member of The Wanderers. Crammed into Glen’s bedroom (for such was his name, I discovered before leaving school) were various other boys of about .our age. One, Robert, I recognised from school, but there were two others, Alfie and Dave, who were older than us and were already working for a living. Glen and Robert took it in turns to play lead guitar, an arrangement that would create endless argument in years to come.

Next to the fireplace in Glen’s bedroom was a snare drum, with a split head.

“Whose is that?” I asked.

“Oh, it was Don Benniman’s, our last drummer. He left it behind one night, next to the fire, and it burst! About 3 in the morning, it was, Lights went on, all over the place. People thought somebody’d been shot!”

I vowed never to leave my drums in Glen’s bedroom. They would come with me, and go home with me, despite the inconvenience of carrying a drum kit on a bus.

(A word of explanation:- Drumheads, not skins, as some people insist on calling them, were made of calfskin for many years, until the more expensive, but more economic, plastic heads were imported from the USA, where they had been invented in 1956. Calfskins are susceptible to heat and humidity, and usually tighten up with temperature. For this reason, they should be slackened off after playing. Not always easy to remember, as Don discovered.)

 The other two older members of the group were a continuing source of fascination for us “grammar hogs”. Alfie was a butcher, and a good day’s business would result in strong meaty odours pervading our practice room. Dave was a strong, silent type, who was, in many ways, the prototype for Stuart Sutcliffe, the Beatles bassist before Paul McCartney took over, after Sutcliffe’s death. He was never heard on stage, because he never plugged in, having no amplifier to plug into, just a lead that trailed away to somewhere at the back of the stage. But, to be fair, he did go to the expense of equipping his impressive 6-string guitar with four bass-strings, so that it “looked right.” This was to be a short-lived measure, for one memorable night at a youth club, there came a fearful “KKKKRRRUNCHHHH!” as his guitar neck gave up the unequal struggle with the forces being exerted upon it. That was, as I remember, the end of Dave’s involvement with The Wanderers.

Alfie, on the other hand, had a monumental stage presence. He had, shall we say, an uncultured voice, even for rock and roll, but he could certainly be heard. He could be experienced too, as it happens. He had obtained a lead for his microphone that was fully 30 metres long. This enabled him to come down from what passed for the stage, and advance across the floor, herding the audience before him into the far corner, where he would sing AT them, rather than TO them.

When Dave left, guitar-less,  Alfie felt obliged to go with him. It was the end of an era. Like the rest of us, they had been born before the National Health Service had been created, and their parents’ dietary ignorance was plain to see—they were both vitamin D deficient. Alfie was bow-legged, and Dave was knock-kneed. As they walked away down the street for the last time, they spelt “OX!”

©Bari W. Sparshott 2018

Into the dying afternoon

This is an excerpt from Lois Elsden’s  book, Lucky Portbraddon:

Alex had arranged to meet Alison at the Leesbrook Hotel, neutral territory. She brought Jess with her and it rather irritated him, as if she should need a bodyguard! But to be fair to Jess, she went and sat in the conservatory surrounded by towering palms and bromeliads while Alex and Alison sat at a low table in the bay window of the lounge.

Alex ordered cream tea, tiny sandwiches, a cake stand of fancies and miniature scones and wafer thin biscuits. Alex had a parallel conversation running in his head. ‘Alison, you look lovely.’ ‘Thank you, Alex, you’re looking well, but rather pale, are you taking care of yourself…’ But of course the real conversation wasn’t like that.

Alison had her hair tied back in a jaunty pony-tail and was wearing less make-up than she used to. He noticed a scatter of pale freckles across her nose. She was quite big now and he wondered how pregnant she was; he couldn’t ask, but terrible calculations and their implication banged in his head like a migraine. Had she slept with Antoine while she was still living him? When had Alex last made love to her, could her child be his child?

Unlike Antoine, he’d never had difficulty in fathering children; his first wife had two pregnancies, both ending in early miscarriage, and Alison had lost a child at ten weeks between Bella and Cressie… seven children… he could have had seven children…

“Sorry, Alison, what did you say?” his mind had drifted and he was gazing absentmindedly at her knees, remembering how he used to love to run his hand…. no, stop, stop! He flushed.

“Are you alright, Alex? You don’t look well?” she asked and he was pathetically touched by her concern, even if it was only common politeness.

She sat back and sipped her tea as if distancing herself from the sympathy she seemed to have shown. Alex felt wounded and looked out of the window at the autumn garden. It looked dreary and sad, and somehow shabby… a little how Alex felt himself

“How is your writing going?” she was merely making conversation before they began to discuss what they were here for.

“Very well, actually… I use Noah’s spare room, I’m writing in long hand, I can’t quite believe how well it’s going… but of course, you don’t really want to know, do you? You’re not really interested at all, are you?” he stared at her.

Now she looked out of the window, looking slightly bored; her face was a little plumper, her rounded cheek and full mouth were utterly enchanting to Alex and he ached with a bitter love and desire.

“So,” she said softly. “So what are we going to do about Bella?”

“So what do you want, Alison?”

“She is determined she wants to leave me and live with you. It’s all she talks about, it upsets her… it upsets me too.”

“Yes, I can understand that. So what should we do? What do you want?”

“What do you think, Alex? Don’t keep asking what I want, it’s not about me!” She was very angry.

He held his tongue, jaw clenched, breathing slowly trying to calm himself. He was almost overwhelmed with emotion and very near to tears. All he wanted was for his family to be reunited. There would be no recriminations, no blame, and whoever was the father, the unborn child was a Portbraddon.

“How about if we try Bella staying with me part of the week and with you the other part? I’m going to be living in Easthope, I won’t be far from the school, and not that far from you if there’s a problem.”

She set down her tea-cup forcefully so the dregs slopped into the saucer and the spoon tumbled to the floor. “And what about Ella and Cressie? What about your other daughters, or don’t you care about them?”

“Of course I care about them! I love them, adore them, I’d give my life for them! How dare you suggest anything else!” and annoyingly tears sprung into his eyes. Alison apologised then leant forward and took up a couple of sandwiches. “I’m more than happy to have all three girls, if that’s what you mean. It would be the next best thing to – ” and a tear rolled down his cheek.

Alison looked away as if embarrassed but when she looked back there were tears in her eyes too.

“Let’s just talk about Bella for the moment,” she said gently. “Yes… as you suggest, let’s try her staying with you for part of the week.”

“Thank you,” he said meekly.

She took another couple of the tiny bite-size sandwiches and a little cake. Alex poured more tea and they sat in silence for a little while.

“How about if she is with you during the week, and comes back home on Friday for the weekend?”

Alex was astonished, it was more than he’d expected from her. “That would be wonderful, thank you so much, darling!”

Alison sipped her tea, looking out into the garden; was Antoine out there, Alex wondered, was that why she kept gazing out? He looked into the dying afternoon but there was no-one… He could see Alison reflected in the window.

“I wonder, Alison… when could I see Ella and Cressie?” he was humble

She picked up the plate of sandwiches and began to eat them methodically. “Maybe if you collected them after lunch on Sunday and dropped them off at bed-time and Bella could go back with you?”

Not enough, not nearly enough… but he would accept it…

“We’ll see how it works… let Bella settle and decide where she really wants to live,” Alison plainly thought her daughter would change her mind and return to her. “This is not necessarily a permanent arrangement. Knowing her she’ll probably want to come back to me and her sisters…”

“Thank you, Alison. I miss them so much, sometimes I can’t bear it – “

“Yes, well, I’m sorry…” she clearly wasn’t.

He wanted to take her hand to help her from the chair as she struggled to her feet but he daren’t touch her. He wanted to press his face to her hand and beg her not to leave, not to go…

He watched her walk away, so elegant. He picked up her scarf and held it to her face… Every sort of emotion flooded and he could have burst into tears right then, he wanted to eat the scarf, stuff it into his mouth, tear off his clothes and rub it over his body. He held it against his eyes and the silk was wet with his tears. He moaned out loud, sobs rising in his throat… he choked them back, and put the scarf down, embarrassed by his loss of control.

Jess was staring at him from the entrance to the conservatory… He turned to gaze out of the window, utterly humiliated. Was Antoine out there in the dusk, staring into the brightly lit room, seeing Alex in his agony? Did he feel guilty, did he pity Alex? Or was it the old competitiveness, did he feel triumphant, the winner in this sordid war?

Alison returned looking calm and unruffled; she’d retouched her lipstick, a pretty pale strawberry colour.

“I’m sorry you’re so upset,” she replied, picking up the plate of biscuits.

“It’s not too bad most of the time, but sometimes I just get overwhelmed,” he was grateful for her pity, how much lower could he sink?

“How’s Noah, how’s his face?” she asked. “He’s been wonderful with the boys, they adore him.”

“He is wonderful, he’s my rock, I don’t know how I’d have managed… His face is ok, I wanted him to have plastic surgery… but he won’t… ” Alex drank some tea. It was cold. “He has a band you know, he’s so talented – he sings, plays weird instruments, writes the music… I’m amazed, I never guessed.”

“Are you seeing anyone?” Alison asked, looking at him for the first time since she’d returned.

“Not really, I’ve taken a girl from the estate agent’s out a couple of times… but… but… ” he sighed and said no more. Nadifa could not be more of a contrast to Alison, in appearance, in intellect and character, almost the polar opposite… but that wasn’t why he’d asked her out.

“And Ismène? Are you seeing her as well?”

“Not in that way… She’s a friend, that’s all, a friend… My life is shit, you know? Shit.”

The garden had become invisible, all Alex could see was the reflection of the room. He wondered if Jess was still watching him, wondered if she would tell Alison what she’d observed.

They discussed arrangements, and Bella would come and stay with him at Noah’s. Alison was attacking the scones now, eating the cream and jam with a spoon from their little glass dishes. There was something erotic about the tip of the spoon sliding between her lips, the glimpse of her tongue, the slow blink as she ate.

Alex felt sick.

“Please don’t stare at me,” Alison said quietly. He blushed and apologised, embarrassed again.

To his surprise she suggested he pick up Bella the next day, but he mustn’t spoil her, he must keep her routines.

“Oh yes, doing homework, eating up her dinner, going to bed at the right time, all that sort of thing. I’ll do whatever you say, darling.”

The endearments were irritating her, he could see and she told him rather severely that this arrangement wasn’t a holiday for Bella and he dared ask if perhaps, maybe, when he had moved into the house in Dark Fort Drive, if the other two might be allowed to stay. He had every right to see his children, but he wanted Alison’s approval.

In a quiet voice he asked when the baby was due; she looked at him suspiciously.

“I’m only being interested, I just wondered…” his voice trailed away.” I shouldn’t have asked.”

He was staring at her ankle, she wanted to turn her knees so he wouldn’t be able to but that would have been too obvious. He was so sad she saw, she felt guilty and it made her cross.

“I guess you don’t know if it’s a boy or girl?”

“Actually, Alex, we’re expecting twins,” she replied coolly and turned to look out of the window into the darkness again. She didn’t want to see his expression, but of course he was reflected in the glass. He was heartbroken.

He was silent. He looked so young, younger than his years; he’d had so many tragedies in his life, his parents, his son, his failed marriages… but she hardened her heart.

She picked up the last couple of cakes, and then struggled to her feet; he reached to help her but she pretended she didn’t notice.

They began to move towards the entrance where Jess was waiting, eyeing him venomously as if he’d done something wrong.

“Alison, my only desire is for the girls to be happy – and for you to be happy too… Alison I – “

“Don’t! Whatever it is, don’t say it, I don’t want to hear it.”

Stung he looked away.

“OK, so you don’t want to hear it, so how about letting me hear something. Are your babies mine? Or were you screwing him when we were still together?” he turned to her and suddenly he was angry, strong and fierce. He wasn’t weak at all, he just loved her.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” she snapped. “Goodbye – and don’t walk with me, I’m going home, I don’t need you to walk with me to the car.”

“Or anywhere – you don’t need me at all, do you?”

He grabbed her by both arms and kissed her swiftly then thrust her away and marched past her, past her sister and out into the car park. It was only when he had reached the distant overflow parking area that he remembered he’d left his car at home and had taken a taxi. He strode on until he was among the trees. A branch whipped across his face and he began to cry.

Copywrite ©Lois Elsden

If you want to find out how Alex and Alison came to be in this situation and what happens to them after this meeting, here is a link to Lucky Portbraddon:

http://amzn.eu/4uUAySB

If you have not read Lois’s other books, follow this link:

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

Another trip round Ebbor Gorge

We’re sharing again an adventure from Eorðraca which was first published two years ago:

It promised to be a fine day, great for a day out in the country, where should we go?Paul suggested Ebbor Gorge. He wanted to go back to the place we had been to so many times during his childhood and he wanted to take his children there. We discussed if the gorge would be a little extreme for the youngest –  three year old girl. Paul said he would carry her if necessary up through the steep bits so we decided we would go for it. We piled in the car and off we went. We soon got caught up in some sort of cycle event so we had a crawl up through Burrington Combe at cycling speed – a good chance to admire the rocks on each side and identify the different formations and age of the rocks. ( Only a geologist would see a traffic jam as a rock spotting opportunity ).

We turned off at the head of the gorge and headed for Priddy. As we passed through Velvet Bottom we passed another group of cyclists who were obviously serious as they had numbers on their bikes. We strolled through Priddy, admiring the cavers preparing to descend into the earth. The first good day of summer and they go and bury themselves. You can never tell with troglodytes but I suppose they save on sun cream. We saw that the sheep hurdle cage had been rebuilt on the green and the Queen Vic. had tents out for the summer crowds. Made a note for the return journey…

Passed Deer Leap and admired the misty view over the levels. No dragons seen.

Rolled down the hill and then into the Ebbor Gorge car park. Everyone piled out of the car, the children rushed around, very exited. Started the long climb down the steps. Stopped to look at the limestone Ebbor Overthrust on the right and admired the calcite fault intrusions – well, some of us did.

Carried on down the steps, crossed the old market garden to the bridge over the stream running on the surface over the impermeable sandstone beds – younger than the limestones above so proving the huge earth movements over the millennia that resulted in the famous Ebbor thrust. We checked for trolls but none were hiding under the bridge as we clattered over. We now played I spy as we walked along the path – who could spot a bear first? Strangely enough, the children saw one first, standing menacingly on a hillock to the left of the path. They seemed to be disappointed that it wasn’t a real one, I was relieved

We had reached the crossroads, straight on for a walk down the valley or left for the challenges of the Gorge?

Left of course! We start climbing. The footpath squeezes between the stingers, hart’s tongue ferns clump along the dark, closing walls. The breeze has dropped to nothing, here in the depths of the valley. The valley walls close in some more and steepen into rock faces. The path is wet, a trickle of water, even in mid July. The air is moist, epiphytic bromiads frolic on the lower branches of the ancient ashes. Lichens cover the damp bark. The footpath turns rocky, limestone clasts, polished by the innumerable pilgrims come to worship nature in all her glory. We pass the scree slopes that ramp up the cliffs to the caves, home to bears in the ice ages that are now long gone. We turn over the brechia of the screes and find crinoid fossils, evidence of the birth of the limestones in shallow supersaturated seas 340 million years ago.

The path grows steeper still, changing from a hiking path to a climbing route as it passes through ancient plunge pools and up through – now dry – waterfalls that used to carry water from the ancient melts during the solifluction summers of the Anglian and Devensian glacial times. We clamber up,  trying to stop gasping for breath, trying to convince the children that it is not too steep for them, trying to think they can manage it on their own without asking their father for a carry.

We top out the last waterfall and sit on a clump of logs, kindly left for that purpose by English Nature. We look down the gorge at another hardy family struggling up behind us. We pretend it was easy as we sit and wait for our hearts to slow to their normal rhythm. We chat and congratulate the children for making it on their own with only an occasional boost and lift from their parents. Their chests swell with pride at the praise – well earned – I didn’t think they would manage it.

After a few minutes we stand up and slowly walk along the route that had turned back into a footpath. We follow it around the wood until it breaks free from the trees and ends at a fabulous view point on the top of Ebbor Cliffs – the classic stop for lunch – or at least a cup of hot tea in the winter from a thermos. We survey the Somerset levels spread out before us – still no dragons in sight –  but I imagine all those aspiring writers, scribbling away in their sheds and isolating rooms. Glastonbury Tor stands out from the plain, a remnant of the Blue Lias that had been scraped off the land leaving just the Tor as an outlier to remind every one how the landscape used to be.

It was now time to go. We climbed down the staircase to the valley floor, back to the bear and then all we had to do was climb up the steps back to where the car was waiting.

On the way back, we ‘noticed’ that the Queen Victoria in Priddy was open for business so we parked up, plonked the children in the garden with the wooden climbing castles, slides etc. while we went to get the ginger beer, cider and crisps.

A great way to spend a Sunday.

Eorðdraca

© Richard Kefford 2016

My Kindle books are on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Richard+Kefford

Flight of Fancy

In one of my writing groups we have a topic set to write about; several months ago, in fact almost six months ago I wrote a story about a watermill I’d visited, and introduced the characters of Clare Mason and an old school ‘friend’ but actual bully, Jenny-Lee Mapp. Since then, I’ve manage to contrive the next chapter of the story round whatever the topic set by my writing group – ‘Out of the Box’, ‘Time’, and this month, ‘Flight of Fancy’.

Here’s what I wrote:

It was quite by chance that Clare pulled into the little boatyard at Westope. She’d been driving at random, it was too nice a day to stay in but she couldn’t really decide what she wanted to do… She wasn’t in the mood for the beach, or the town, and walking in Camel Woods would draw her towards the watermill… and she didn’t want to go back there. She had no desire to ever meet Jenny-Lee and Darius again.

She’d been driving west along the coast road and had seen a sign which said coffee, ices, toilets… which seemed perfect. She pulled off the road and drove down into the parking area. There was an ice-cream van, a toilet block and a little shop. Well, she might visit all three.

Although it was so sunny there’d been a chill wind but now it had swung round and was warm and pleasant. She left her car, bought a cornet and wandered towards the sea. The beach here was empty apart from a few families sitting on towels, children in the water most of them in wet suits.  She walked along and then climbed a few yards into the sand dunes and sat, enjoying the sun and finishing her ice-cream.

She lay back after a while and dozed… strange scraps of dream floated, Jenny-Lee, Darius Mapp, the Button… and Clare Cherry, Clare Cherry was standing staring at her, sad, upset, almost accusing and hurt, hurt…

Clare sat up. Clare Cherry… They’d been best friends at their previous school, Clare had been small and dark, Clare Cherry tall and dark – they could have been sisters separated by a few years, instead they were friends the same age. And then they’d changed school and Jenny-Lee had become Clare Cherry’s best friend.

“Why are you upset? You left me? You became best friends with Jenny…” Clare spoke aloud, still half in the dream where Clare Cherry was looking at her, disappointed…

There was no-one around but she felt foolish. She stood and brushed the sand from her jeans and wandered back towards the carpark. The wind had changed again and it was too cool to sit.

She became aware of the evocative clanking of the halyards of the boats in the boatyard. The gate was wide open and she wandered in. It had once been a dream to have a boat, a child’s dream inspired by Swallows and Amazons, Treasure Island, The Riddle of the Sands… Before she and Clare had moved, their fathers’ work relocating, they’d often walked and cycled beside the river, taking picnics with them, cheese rolls and jam sandwiches and squash in bottles.

She hadn’t thought of this early part of her childhood for a long time, the blight and horror of the other school clouding her memories.

What happened to Clare Cherry? Where did she go? Clare had left that school after year eleven and gone to a sixth form college in another town – the hour and a half journey worth it so she never saw any of them again.

Now as she wandered among other people’s dreams, the boats they had bought to go adventuring but had left abandoned in the boatyard, she thought back to those cycle rides beside the river. Sometimes they left the bikes at home and walked…They would pretend that one of the houseboats or launches was theirs and they planned where to go and what to call it. In their childish minds they had crossed seas and oceans and found desert islands and adventure.

Beyond the small boatyard office was another yard with boats for sale and smiling to herself at her memories, Clare went to have a look and pretend she could afford one… well maybe she could, but she wouldn’t.

There was a small launch, a cabin cruiser, definitely quite old and quite cheap – compared to the others and it looked just like… Clare’s mind was suddenly full of a particular memory which she’d forgotten since she was twelve. She and Clare Cherry had seen the cabin cruiser they were going to buy in their dreams, it was old and needed some love but they imagined what colour they would pant it, imagined what covers they would have on their bunks, what they would cook on the little stove they imagined inside.

It was totally foolish, but Clare went back to the boatyard office. A friendly young woman knew the little boat she was describing.

“I didn’t even see what the name was on the front,” Clare said.

“Bow, the name is on the bow!” And they both laughed.

“Here we are, a bargain, £2,700 but they might take an offer, it’s been for sale quite a while… over a year now.”

She handed Clare a sheet with a picture of the boat and its details… The Flight of Fancy…

Clare thought her heart stopped for a moment. Surely this couldn’t be the same one, surely it couldn’t? The boat she and Clare had loved was The Flight of Fancy…

The young woman was telling her about it… it was eighteen years old, so no… no, it wasn’t hers and Clare’s boat which had been on the river in her childhood… but it was… it was what? Creepy? Spooky? Or just a coincidence which told her to buy the little cruiser?

“If you are interested, I can give the owners a call?”

“Yes, yes, I think I might be…”

“They’re local people, Jenny and Darius Mapp.”

© Lois Elsden 2018

Maybe one day this will become a book… here is a link to my novels and paperbacks:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_9?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsd%2Caps%2C143&crid=1JDB80CXEH6XH

Mr Khan’s Village Shop

We are very pleased to bring you another story in Stephen Andrews series of interconnected tales, The Drove. We have met Mr Khan before, now we find out more about him and his family:

The Drove

Mr Khan’s Village Shop

Halim and Chandri Khan bought the Boughton village shop in 2014.  Halim was born in Bradford and was the eldest son of Atiksh Khan who immigrated to the U.K. in 1965 to escape the fighting in Kashmir. Pakistan and India have been disputing ownership of Kashmir for many a long year, and still are.

Halim joined TESCO supermarkets straight after his ‘A’ levels and worked his way through the ranks to Assistant Manager. He was well thought of at TESCO and was destine for a managerial post. When he was forty he did something his family could not believe, he immigrated to the fenland village of Boughton. His father, brothers and uncles tried to talk him out of the move. They could not understand why he should want to leave his family, community and mosque, for they knew not where. When they eventually looked on a map they exclaimed, “It’s miles away from a mosque or a decent football club.”

The family may have been against the move but when the time came, gave him full hearted support; because like his name, Halim was a mild and gentle man. His dad was so proud of his son because he was so well respected by Muslim and Christian alike. Standing outside their now empty, first home there were sad farewells by all. An onlooker could be mistaken in thinking they were going to the other side of the world.

It was early June when Halim along with his wife Chandri, and his teenage sons Amin and Himadric with his beautiful fourteen year old daughter Kavita.got into a large white van. On its sides it had in large letters, ‘Mr Khan’s Village Shop’. There were tears and waves as they set off followed by their removal van.

It was mid-afternoon in late May when they reached Boughton and luckily the weather was fine and warm for April. When they sat down for their first meal they were exhausted and they still had the beds to make. Kavita said how good it was for the lady next door to bring us tea and biscuits. They all agreed and Kavita went on to say she’d over-heard another lady say to her “Do they drink tea?” The tea lady replied, “of course they do they invented it, didn’t they?” They all laughed and Chandri said “there you are you see, we are already well thought of.”

What made Halim make the move was never said in Bradford but privately to Chandri, as they got into bed, he said with gravitas, “I always liked the thought of living in a foreign country without the need to learn another language.” Chandri laughed and taking her husband in her arms said “and so have I.”

Boughton unlike Bossington was growing, fast. There was a very large estate on both sides of the Wighton road, and they were also building houses and bungalows along the old drover’s road. The population has now reached three thousand people and only one shop. Mr Khan’s Village Shop.

With his two sons at university and a daughter in sixth form it was Halim and Chandris’ life to be busy. The shop and now Post Office was opened from seven a.m. till ten at night, but neither of them appeared flustered or busy they were calm and full of smiles. In the first year their Yorkshire accents brought many a smile.

They were soon fixtures in the life of the village. The hub where gossip as well as good information could be found. Unfortunately, in 2018 a murder was committed and he, Mr Khan had innocently given an address to Baxter Tipton, who upon going there, was mistakenly killed.

© Stephen Andrews 2018

 

 

 

 

 

WILMA

Wilma hated winter now.    Particularly an English winter on the East Coast.   Wet, rainy, never any snow to speak of, and winds that blew straight off the sea. But it had been unseasonably cold that week and a little snow had fallen, making the street sparkle.    Wilma remembered her childhood winters in Holland, when the dykes and canals froze, and everyone got their skates on, and swooped along. It seemed so long ago, those very cold winters soon after the Second World War when the dykes and canals were snow- and ice- bound, the sun shone in a blue sky and she skated along the canals.   She felt as though she was flying as she sped along the ice,  her thin body wrapped up as best she could against the cold, her breath streaming  behind her in a little cloud.

But love had come into her life in the shape of a handsome Englishman, with bright blue eyes, curly fair hair and a love of sailing.    He took Wilma off to his home in Essex, and introduced her to sailing.   She loved it.   The wide open sea, big skies and the feel of speed under your body reminded her of her beloved skating.

But now she found old age a burden.   Alone since Michael had died, and unable to get out without difficulty and pain, she stayed in the same house he had brought her to when they married.   A small Victorian terraced house, with two and a half bedrooms, as Wilma thought of the box room, and a cold cellar beneath, it was enough for their needs.

Wilma sat in her chair and dreamed.   Her memories seemed all that she had now.   She was never very sure which day it was now, programmes on the TV confused her, and as she didn’t like the screen looking at her, she put a cloth over it.    She didn’t have a microwave, but enjoyed making a cup of tea.  The milkman left her milk and bread, and a few groceries if she remembered to leave a note.   And often even if she didn’t.   He called for his money every week, and she handed him her purse for him to take the right amount.    He kept an eye on her, as he did all his very elderly customers.

As she sat in her armchair every day, the past, and her childhood in particular, were more real to her than the present.   Invariably her thoughts turned to skating. How she had loved it!   The speed, and the sense of having a body that could almost fly!   A time to forget the worries and deprivations of those difficult times.   She saw the windmills by the dykes, the small farms dotted around the countryside.   The little farm her mother and brothers struggled to keep going after her father was killed.   Skating had helped her forget those worries, to feel herself transported back to a happier time.   She longed to skate again.    Gently she fell asleep, as she so often did.

Suddenly she awoke, confused.   Where was she?  Where were her skates?   Surely it was cold enough for the dykes to have frozen?   Ah! She had put them in the cellar.    Struggling out of her chair, she shuffled into the kitchen and opened the cellar door, with some difficulty.   Peering down, it seemed rather dark, but she was sure her skates were down there.   She started down the stone steps, but her old worn slippers slipped and tripped her and she fell heavily down the flight of steps.

Her unconscious mind swooped and skated along the dyke towards the windmill.  Children waved as she did a little pirouette for their admiration and applause as she raced by.

She thought she could hear her mother calling.

“Wilma, come on Wilma”

“Wake up, Wilma”,

“Wilma, come on, dear”.

But Wilma was never to wake up.   She passed the windmill, and although her legs were tiring a bit, she drove along towards the light at the end of the dyke.

© Gillian Peall

 

 

 

 

Contest

Continuing to step up to the challenge of writing 73 blogs from a list of random suggestions for blogging, Lois has written a short story about contests and competitions:

“Martin! Martin! This gentleman wants some self-tapping washer-head screws, he wants six but I said they usually come in packs of five or ten!”
Scowling, Martin turned back from the door where he had been glaring through the glass, across the crossroads to the opposite corner of the junction.
“Yes, sir,” and his expression changed from fierce to friendly as he asked for details of the particular screws wanted.
Having gone into the further room and shown the customer, a small rotund man, his selection of loose screws with his usual joke, and found six screws for ‘the gentleman’ which he sold for the price of five, which was still cheaper than the packets Annette had offered, his humour was restored. A ten minute conversation with the small round man about screw heads, countersunk or otherwise and he was feeling quite cheery and said if Annette put the kettle on he would go and buy something to go with their cuppa.
He left the shop and the old-fashioned bell dinged in its friendly way and he glanced across the junction again. The traffic for the moment was stationary to let pedestrians cross, not that there were any. Martin sighed; well, he would ignore it.
He stopped for a moment to attend to the basket attached to the safety railings, to nip off some dead pansy heads and dying leaves, and to pull out a couple of errant weeds. Once their miniature daffodils came into flower it would look wonderful; they were ‘tete-a-tete‘ and promised a lovely show. He’d made the mistake one year of putting in grape hyacinths – their colour was wonderful but they completely took over.
There was a toot of a horn and he raised his hand to wave at whoever  was passing by and then trotted across the road to the other corner even though the lights were still red. He stopped to admire Virginia’s basket attached to the railings outside her shop. Being in full sun for most of the day, keeping her basket well watered was a challenge, which Virginia had met full on – sempervivum, and clumps of  sisyrinchiums now twinkling with their small star-shaped blue flowers.
“Hello Martin, admiring my houseleeks?” Virginia had been washing her windows and advanced bucket and cloth in hand. Martin and Annette used to ponder endlessly why she wasn’t roasted in the leather gear she wore – she always looked as if she was about to jump on her bike and roar off somewhere. Annette had once remarked on it to her and Virginia said it was all part of having a bike gear shop, you had to look the part.
Martin stopped and had a pleasant few minutes asking about the succulents, Othello, Green Dragon  and a few flowering varieties due to bloom in the next couple of weeks.
“What do you think of over there?” Martin nodded across the road.
Virginia looked towards the shed shop but  didn’t seem to see what he meant.
“Look at their basket!”
Virginia still seemed puzzled but at that moment a huge man in  jeans, boots and a leather waistcoat and not much else called to her.
“You open for business, love, or should I just nick what I want?”
Virginia said cheerio to Martin and went to attend to her grinning customer.

“Martin, you have to stop being so obsessed with it!” Annette had cashed up, cleaned the counters, swept and hoovered the floors, dusted a few shelves she noticed had escaped her attention earlier, cleared everything away which needed clearing away, tidied the kitchen… and Martin had been at the shop door, staring across the junction at the shed shop… or the basket attached to the safety railings round the corner.
“I fancy a curry tonight – I was just looking across at the Moonflower, actually… Lamb vindaloo?”
No you weren’t looking at the Moonflower, Annette thought but with a sigh said yes, lamb vindaloo with parathas today not rice… She would walk home and lay the table and get everything ready if Martin would shut up the shop and get the take-away
The flower basket watered, the shop all locked up, the alarms set and Martin waited to cross the road, still frowning across at the shed shop. It’s door was still open – open at this time of year let alone this time of night, and the banner across the upper floor still flapped its luminous orange and yellow message – CHEAP SHEDS! SHEDLOADS!!!
Munir was standing outside the Moonflower enjoying his customary cigar.
“Greetings, Martin! Lamb vindaloo, butter chicken, mixed starters chappatis and rice?”
“Good evening Munir, I’ve been admiring your basket,” and Martin lent over to sniff the herbs. “All the different colour leaves… very effective.”
“Not as colourful as yours, but once the thyme starts flowering and this miniature lavender, it should look alright. Shame we can’t use them – I don’t fancy all the traffic fumes!”
“Yes I think we’ve put on a good show… all except one,” and Martin nodded meaningfully across the road to the shed shop.
Munir courteously opened the door to the restaurant and Martin went in for his usual glass of Bangla beer and maybe a few too many handfuls of spicy peanuts and channa…
Martin wanted to moan about the shed shop basket but Munir was called away.  There was another couple sitting, no doubt waiting for  their take-away, but Martin didn’t know them so there was no point in talking to them about the problem…
The door opened and the couple looked up and greeted the man who came in. They were saying something about their shed, how pleased they were and how good the blokes had been who had erected it and blah blah blah but luckily their meal arrived and they jumped up and departed.
“Hello, Martin! I thought I saw you come in here! I thought I might treat myself to a bit of the old Ruby Murray tonight!”
Martin was fuming. “Hello, Philip,” he would be courteous, and he wouldn’t mention the basket.
Munir came through and greeted Philip politely, handing him a menu and the door bell jangled and Virginia walked in. How fortuitous! Now was the time! With them all here!  Martin stood up ready to say something but Philip was introducing himself to Virginia.
“I know I’ve been here a month now, but really I should have popped across to say hello,” he was saying, shaking her hand. Before Martin could manage to start a conversation about the baskets somehow Philip had suggested that he and Virginia had dinner together and they went into the restaurant leaving Munir opening more bottles of Bangla.
Munir’s brother Tanvir came from the kitchen with Martin’s meal, I’ve put in a box of our new  kakori kebabs and mint chutney for you and Annette to try, on the house!  and before he knew it Martin was standing by the traffic lights waiting for the pedestrian crossing to operate.
The lights changed and suddenly he set off across the road, not to his hardware shop corner but to the shed shop corner. He glared at the plastic flowers stuck in the polystyrene blocks in the basket… Plastic flowers, plastic flowers!
He looked back across the road; Virginia and Philip were sitting by the window and he waved a menu at Martin.
The day after the plastic flowers had appeared in the basket, which was the day after Philip had taken over the shed shop, Martin had marched across the road. He had been so enraged that he couldn’t now remember all he had said, but he remembered waving his arms about ‘look at Virginia’s succulents and Munir’s herbs! Look at my spring display! And what have you got, plastic flowers! Plastic flowers – and they’re not even in season!! Dahlias!!
Philip had smiled, unmoved. His words were etched in Martin’s mind…  well, brother, from the day we were born, you five minutes after me, everything has been a competition for you, hasn’t it. Even flower baskets have become a contest between us… well, I like my plastic flowers, so there! and he’d stuck out his tongue at his twin.

© Lois Elsden 2017