An Inspector Calls

Here’s a little story I wrote at Holmfirth Writers on Monday.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

“Are you done, then?”

The Inspector – a wiry, sharp-suited man in his late 30’s – finished writing and put his notebook in his pocket.

“Not yet. I need to look at your yard.”

The two men walked round the corner into an alley, which broadened out to form a yard behind the building, lit only by the pale glow that filtered through the window blinds.

The Inspector looked at his companion, a bearded, rotund man with indeterminate stains on his Motorhead T-shirt.

“This belongs to your establishment, yes?”

The other man grinned uneasily. “Well, yeah, but other people are always dumping their rubbish here. Bastards!” He moved towards the assortment of bin bags and dustbins occupying the far side of the yard.

“No! Don’t touch anything. This is all potential evidence relevant to my investigation.”

“Right you are, Inspector.”

The Inspector spotted a dark, viscous liquid dripping from a drainpipe attached to the corner of the wall. He opened his briefcase and produced a small plastic bottle, which he held under the pipe to collect a few drips, then sealed it and put it in a transparent bag.

“For testing later,” he said. “This pipe seems to emanate from your property. Neighbours been using your sink too, have they?”

The two men now moved towards the dustbins. The Inspector picked up the first loose bin bag and began to open it. Then he stopped dead in his tracks. Stretching out from behind the nearest dustbin was a human hand. Quickly, he moved aside the bins and bags surrounding it to reveal a prone male figure, its curly brown hair stained with blood. It was quite still. The Inspector examined it briefly, but it remained limp and motionless. He turned to the other man.

“Is this man known to you?”

“Never seen ‘im before in me life.”

“Really?” The Inspector pointed to the body’s left hand, in which sat a half-eaten burger wrapped in paper. “I believe that’s one of yours, isn’t it?” Sure enough, the logo on the paper matched the one above the door of the building.

He glared at the other man. “Stay where you are, and don’t touch anything. I need to collect more evidence.” With his phone, he took a couple of dozen photos of the body, the drainpipe and the rest of the yard. From his case he retrieved some more plastic bottles, into which he put samples from various bin bags and the ground around the body. His notebook reappeared, and he filled several pages with writing.

“This is nothing to do with me,” pleaded the other man, a look of desperation on his face, “people are always wandering in here and dumping things. Don’t blame it on me.” The Inspector studiously ignored him.

As he was working, a seagull flew into the yard and landed on the head of the prone figure. It began to peck at the remains of the burger.

“Oi!” The noise came from the hitherto motionless figure. Its right arm now flailed wildly at the gull, which flew away. The head now lifted itself from the ground and stared at the other two men. “Who are you?” said the man on the floor, then an expression of horror came over his face and he vomited copiously on the ground. He staggered to his feet, looked at the burger in his hand and threw it into the nearest bin. Then he stumbled away, groaning.

“Well, that’s all right, then,” said the bearded man, hopefully.

“I don’t think so,” replied the Inspector. “Judging by what I’ve seen on this inspection, I’m not surprised your customers are throwing up. Your food is a hazard to human life. I’m closing you down.”

 

Life Imitates Art

Readers of this blog will know that over the past year I have been writing a novel about a woman’s relationship with her elderly father, who moves into a Care Home during the course of the book.  I am in the process of editing a draft now – watch this space for further news.

My own life has been echoing the plot of the novel during the last few weeks, as I have been helping my Mum move into Greenacres Residential Care Home, just down the road from my own home in Meltham, West Yorks.  Greenacres seems to be a very good place of its kind, as far as we can tell – it’s clean and pleasant, the staff seem competent and caring and we’ve heard good reports about it.  Mum seems to be settling in reasonably well so far, touch wood, though of course it’s a big upheaval for her.  She has got to know some other residents, and seems to like the food.  And its comforting to know that she is safe and well looked-after.

I hope Mum will be very happy at Greenacres. And I certainly hope that our experience doesn’t continue to follow the plot of the novel.  My character Herbert – who unlike Mum has dementia – thinks he’s in a POW camp and spends much of his time trying to escape!  You can get a flavour of this from a blog post I did a little while ago: https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/prisoner-of-memory/

So let’s hope that, in this instance, life doesn’t imitate art too closely!

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome, Katy

Today, I am delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Katy Johnson – who hosted me a few weeks ago.  Hi Katy, nice to see you again.

Hello Tim and thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog.

You’re very welcome.  I hear you have a book coming out soon.

Yes. My new psychological/coming-of-age novel The Silence is coming out on June 8th. I’m excited but also quite nervous! 

Tell us more …

Here’s what it’s about:

Can you ever truly escape your past? Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle – and a secret that could destroy everything. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992. A summer that ended in tragedy. The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity. In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did. But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open…

Sounds intriguing. Where did the idea come from?

I wrote The Silence because it was the book I wanted to read. I love stories about houses which harbour dark secrets and I love Italy. The part of Tuscany where I have had a house for fifteen years struck me as the perfect setting for this sort of story. Our house is nothing like Villa Leonida – it’s much smaller and we haven’t discovered any skeletons there but one was found at a nearby house which gave me the idea.

I’m working on another novel about Villa Leonida, this time revealing a secret that goes back to the Second World War.

The Silence is available to pre-order now on this link:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071D6JTMS/ref=cm_sw_r_an_am_at_ws_gb?ie=UTF8.

Come along to my virtual book launch on June 8th and find out more. For details

Click here

https://www.facebook.com/events/206556209850202/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited&action_history=null

I’ll be there!  Thanks for coming along today, Katy.  Very best wishes for your launch! 

Thank you Tim, I’ve enjoyed my visit to your blog. 

KJ pic.png

About the author: Katharine Johnson is a journalist with a passion for crime novels, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu). She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy. She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and madcap spaniel. She plays netball badly and is a National Trust room guide. 

Links

Website/blog https://katyjohnsonblog.wordpress.com.

Amazon author page https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBDYV1G

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Katharinejohnsonauthor/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/kjohnsonwrites

Crooked Cat author page 

http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/author-book/katharine-johnson/

Why Do Beautiful Days Hurt the Most?

A poignant post from Yvonne Marjot, with poems from Leonard Cohen and Philip Sydey.

The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet

800px-Temple_wood_2006

Temple Wood cairn in Kilmartin Glen, by Lnolan at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7247430

So… there I was, driving home from family visits in England. I crossed the border early in the morning, with a quick stop at Gretna for coffee and to say ‘hello’ to Scotland. I had errands to run in Glasgow, and ended up mid-afternoon on the last leg of the journey to catch my ferry, pushing on through torrential rain in a queue of cars all possibly heading for the same destination. Due to a road closure, I’d been forced to take the long way round, south from Inveraray to Lochgilphead, and then up the back road to Oban. The rain gradually eased and the sky lightened. I passed through an area of poor radio reception and pressed the CD button.

I hadn’t registered it consciously, but over the last few weeks I’ve…

View original post 1,054 more words

Poem on the Tube

Last week we had a short holiday in London.  Rosa loves to go there to indulge her love of art, and though I feel more at home among my northern hills, I can always find something to engage me on our trips to the capital.  I worked in central London for sixteen years, but I’ve worked my way through its museums and other interesting places much more thoroughly in the years since we moved north (also about sixteen, coincidentally).

It was a good little holiday, but on this trip I was reminded of one of the things I didn’t like about working in London.  Arriving at a tube station at half past five en route to Waterloo I found myself on a platform so full that there was barely room to move.  Then, when the train arrived, packed with people, the few who were able to get on it barely made a dent in the throng.  Somehow I managed to position myself in the right place to squeeze into the last bit of space on the next one.  For the next few minutes, I was then wedged, unable to move, between the door and half a dozen other people, through whom I had to push to get to the far door when the train stopped.

Anyway, all this reminded me of a poem I wrote a good few years ago when this was almost a daily occurrence ….

In a Tube Train

Forgive me; weight of numbers, not my will

imposed this man upon your private space.

My eyes have little choice but rest upon

this woman’s face that fills my whole perception.

I feel I know you: hollow cheeks and lines

too deep for one your age all speak to me

of sleepless nights and proud hopes long eroded

into sand. Upon the breath we share

I taste the sad perfume of love decaying.

I am a part of you; imprisoned, thumbnail

size, I stare back from your fishbowl eyes

that hold without possessing.

At last the train

sets free its captives, flesh recoils and lungs

receive the air denied them for so long.

You leave in haste, but at the door you stop,

look back, you realise. We were more close

than lovers. I was in your eyes ..

… and you in mine.

 

 

It’s an ill wind …

Here’s a light-hearted little piece I wrote at Holmfirth Writers a while back.  I can’t remember what the exercise was, exactly, but the idea behind the piece was that there is no event so terrible that you can’t find somebody or other who has reason to be glad it happened.

I stress that this is a work of fiction and the views expressed are not those of the author!

 

Thank God for the sinking of the Titanic!  Don’t get me wrong – it was a terrible shame all those people had to drown – but if one of them in particular, the Honourable Archibald Crenshaw, had not made his unscheduled trip to the bottom of the Atlantic, my grandmother would certainly have married him and doubtless given birth to a brood of Etonians rather than the rather more down to earth litter she and my grandfather eventually produced.

Thanks are also due to Gavrilo Princip for being so kind as to murder the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, for otherwise there would have been no First World War – or at least, not quite the same one that actually happened. And where on earth would we be without the First World War and especially, of course, the Battle of the Somme. It was only due to the skill of the German machine-gunner who shot him in the hip that my grandfather found himself in the hospital where he met his future wife, who after four and a half years had finally got over the watery demise of her previous fiance. I must say, the man’s accuracy was phenomenal. A couple of inches to the left and it would have been a mere flesh wound. A couple to the right and … well, let’s just say he wouldn’t have been in a position to father any children.

Moving on a bit, acknowledgements are also due to Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering. Were it not for the Blitz, my mother would not have been evacuated to Harrogate or encountered the shy, bespectacled youth she got to know there. Even then, things were touch and go for a while. He dithered for years, and hadn’t yet got round to asking her out by the time when, newly called-up, he was posted to the Far East and thus finally forced into action. But if the war had dragged on, who’s to say what would have happened? Would the nascent flame of love have been strong enough to survive a lengthy separation? Indeed, would my father have succeeded in avoiding the shells and bullets of the Japanese? So three cheers for the atomic bombs, I say! Had they not been dropped, I would not be here to tell this tale.

The Launch

Well, the launch of the paperback of Revolution Day on Monday went quite well in the end after a bit of a chaotic start.

I’d prepared a slide show, with pictures of a bunch of historical dictators whose lives and careers inspired my fictional character Carlos Almanzor, but the person who was supposed to be sorting the projector didn’t turn up. In my introduction, I had to tell people to imagine a picture of Colonel Gaddafi or whoever instead.  But at least this got me a few laughs, and the readings seemed to go down very well – with the considerable help of my wife Rosa and friends Mary and Sue, who shared between them the excerpts that were in the voice of Carlos’ estranged wife Juanita.  There were lots of questions afterwards, and I sold quite a few books.  My hosts, the Friends of Holmfirth Library and Tourist Information Centre, laid on plenty of wine and other refreshments which lubricated proceedings nicely.  All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, for me, and I hope for the audience too.

Many thanks to poet and painter David Coldwell for the pic; Rosa Mary and Sue for reading, FOHLATIC for hosting me, and to everyone who came along.

Here’s one of the excerpts that were featured in the event (read by Rosa, in this case).  Juanita contemplates the gate that has separated her from the outside world for sixteen years…

It is just a line on the ground, a slight change in colour between the asphalt on one side and the gravel on the other, a few metres away from the door of my house. The same weeds grow on both sides of the line. After rain, part of it is concealed by a puddle. When I was free, I crossed this line hundreds of times without noticing it, except when the wrought iron gate lay closed above it. But even the gate had little significance. It was never locked in those days; its opening and closing were the task of a couple of seconds. Walking over the line made no impact upon my consciousness other than a rather pleasant, fleeting sense of entering a place of peace, of refuge from the demands of public life. Or – when I was going the other way – an odd mix of apprehension and excitement as I prepared to get back to work.

The line has not changed in any way since then. It, and the gate itself – still the same gate, after all these years – continue to be ignored by all other forms of life but me. The birds fly over it. Snails and lizards move unhindered beneath it. My cat – how I envy her this – passes between the bars as if they were not there when she begins and ends her nightly prowlings. The gate is locked now, of course, but for the various men and occasional woman who come here for one purpose or another, that fact is of no consequence. They all have keys, and the act of unlocking it hardly delays their progress at all.

But for me, the line, and the gate above it, are now an impermeable barrier. I have crossed it no more than four times in sixteen years, under armed guard. The trees on the other side of the road beyond the gate do not look any different from the ones I remember, the ones I could have walked among and touched if I had wanted to. They are no further away, in space. But I no longer see them as real trees. To me, they are like a picture of trees or, when the wind blows, a movie of trees swaying to and fro. They are beyond the line, and all that is outside it has for years been slowly fading out of reality.

Revolution Day full