Tuesday, 22 November 2016

[Northspell 15] A walk through the city

She slid herself off the edge, remembering at the last minute to bend her knees like Arkel had taught her when they were climbing in the caves. It still hurt though, and she'd scraped all the palms of her hands. She got shakily to her feet and stumbled to the corner. She heard Arkel's voice muffled in the doorway, and then it fell silent. The street was dark, so she shuffled forward, feeling her way along the wall with her sore hands outstretched. The doorway was even darker than the street, and she hesitated before stepping into it.

"Ow!"

She stood on something moving on the ground. The thing stood up. The face was at the same height as her own. She looked into the eyes of her double, and saw frightened recognition there.

"Why are you following me around?" It hissed.


Sunday, 20 November 2016

[Northspell 14] Dreaming Reality

There was more light in the centre of the room, as a strange boy was holding up a stick, the end wrapped in some greasy rags that had been set alight. He was an older boy, taller and more heavily built than either Gia and Arkel.

"Put that light out, Toban" she heard Gia say. "Your eyes will get used to the dark eventually."

"Hey, I don't spend half my time scurrying around in the dark like you tunnel rats," he said defensively.

Gia sighed. "Just put it out, Toban." she said wearily.

"Toban's afraid of the daark, Toban's afraid of the daaaaark...!" Arkel crowed, and Irena imagined him capering around like he usually did, constantly moving.

There was a scuffle, and a sharp yelp from Arkel, and the torch light was extinguished.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

[Glory Brats] Bee and Zed


He heard her rattle at the door handle, and then the noise of her rummaging amongst the shelves on either side of the small storage area that he knew was there. There was a crash, the sound of smashing glass, and she emerged after a few moments, gripping her arm tight, blood seeping out from under her fingers.

Zed's eye's widened. "You're hurt!

"Yes, smartboy. Can you fix it?" She leant against the wall and slid to a crouch on the floor, cradling her arm against her chest.

Friday, 11 November 2016

[Northspell 13] Exploring

The hideout seemed to have once been part of a larget network of tunnels, as other passages led off the main chamber, but these had mostly been blocked off by rubble or securely boarded up.

"What's behind this one?" she asked, banging on the wood and trying to peer inbetween the slats to the gloom beyond. Arkel sauntered over and kicked at the boards with a dusty foot.

"Dunno," he said, "Never been able to get the boards off. 'Sides, Gia says it's dangerous to go wandering off in these places."

"That's right," Gia said, chucking a bag on the floor that clinked heavily as it hit the sandy ground, "You might fall down a mine shaft and never be seen again."


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Glory Brats fragments

Bee heard the thing on the floor cry out when she kicked it. She didn't expect that. The voice echoed in the long corridor. "What did you do that for?"

It was small, smaller than she was. She crouched down on the tiled floor. "You were in my way."

She stretched her hands into the space where it should be and grasped a wrist. It tried to pull away, but she was stronger than it. "Stop wriggling. I want to see what you look like."

She felt hands tug at the band around her eyes, so she calmly twisted her head out of the way.

"But you can't see with that on..."

"Figure of speech." She ran her fingers over the short stubbled hair on top of the head, then moved down the face, feeling the blink and brush of  eyelashes. When she reached the elbow on the left side of the body she stopped, puzzled. The thing was suddenly very still and she drew her hands away. "What's wrong with your arm?"

"Nothing."

"Yes there is, it's--"

"What's wrong with your eyes?"

The corridor was very quiet. She stood up, and heard the small thing shuffling.

"I'm Bee. What are you?"

"Ze...Zed."

"Well Zed, shall we get out of here?"

"We..?"

"You, me. Two of us. We. I don't want to stay here, do you?"

"No?"

"Right then, let's move."

***

Adee stood on his bed and took a flying leap onto the chair at the other side of the room. At least, that was the idea. He didn't quite make it. Without stopping to brush himself down, he cannoned into the door and burst out into the corridor, hitting the opposite wall. Clapping one hand to his bruised forehead, a slow smile broke across his pale face. "Coool..."

He ran to the door at the end of the hallway and kicked it open. He found himself in another dimly lit space, and squinted his eyes to see better in the gloom. The door nearest him had a faint glow of light  coming through a pane of glass set into the frame. He headed for this door, rubbing his bare feet on the soft floor covering. Drawing his foot back to kick again, he suddenly paused, and gave the door a quick shove. It swung open, and he pushed it harder so that the handle hit against the wall with a dull bang. He padded around the desk in the centre of the room and gave the chair an experimental push. It twirled around and a smile brightened his face again. Jumping onto the seat, he kicked at the desk and pushed off with his feet, spinning the chair round and round, his legs swinging out with the momentum.

***

Em crawled out from under her bed and ran to the door. She looked up at the handle, but it was too high for her to reach. Looking around the room, she fixed her eyes on the chair in the corner. It was sturdy, with heavy weights in the bottom to stop it toppling over, but by pushing her whole weight against it, she managed to get it over to the door. She scrambled onto the seat, and flopped over the back of the chair, her head tilted back. She huffed and puffed, and noticed the emergency lights flickering behind a grate in the ceiling. She shifted her eyes from the lights, to the door handle, to the top of the door frame, and finally to the gap in the grate that allowed it to open when something needed fixed.

Flexing her little fingers, she perched on the chair, braced her foot on the solid bit of the door handle, and stretched as far as she could. She grasped the edge of the door frame with her left hand and reached out with the other facing upward towards the grate. The tips of her fingers caught at the gap and she gave it a tug. It seemed securely fastened, so she tightened her grip and swung her other hand over to join it. The sudden extra weight of her small body made the grate come loose, and it lurched down on its hinges, taking her with it. Her legs hit off the back of the chair, but she held on to the grate with both hands and drew her knees towards her chest. She straightened her legs and tried to catch her feet on the edge of the shaft, grazing her heels in the process. Determined, she moved her hands to the other side of the grate and twisted her body round. She then used the holes in the grate to climb until her fingers felt cold smooth metal underneath. By that time, she could hook her toes into the grate and pushed upwards, hauling herself into the shaft. She perched in the opening, looking down onto the tiled floor.

Monday, 7 November 2016

[Northspell 12] a den of thieves


"Don't spend it all at once, chickens..." the woman said as she closed the door behind them.

"Spend it on what?" Gia grumbled, shoving her coin into a pouch sewn onto the inside of her tunic sleeve.

"I like it. It's pretty." Irena said, rubbing her fingers over the raised surface of the metal. "But what do I do with it?"

Gia looked at her in astonishment, while Arkel was doubled over with laughter. "You're joking, right?"

Irena narrowed her eyes. "I don't make jokes."

Gia shrugged. "Whatever. You exchange it for things you want."

"Food!" Arkel said, straightening up and patting his stomach, "You can get lots of food with it."


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sundays at school; a class rebellion; school in wartime

'Our sunday walk at Wellington, sunday afternoons, was either around to Belleisle Conservatory and back along the beach, or the other way. When we were older we were allowed to go ourselves. We used to go to Rozelle House for our Guide activities. I joined the Guides during the war, so I never got to go camping. '

'Sunday night was when we all sat down to write our letters home, to our parents. Miss Garret the music teacher -'Gertie' - was the vice-principal, or 'second in command' - she took all our letters unsealed and read through them, for spelling, punctuation, and to check that we weren't saying anything derogatory about the school or teachers.'

'And when we were fourteen, we thought it wasn't fair that our letters should be read, so we - a group of us - went to Miss Carter, the headmistress, and asked her if we could seal our own envelopes. Miss Carter hadn't known that our letters were read, and told us to send them up next week sealed. It got to the next sunday, and we sealed our letters, and Gertie said "Girls! Who told you to seal your letters?" "Miss Carter" we replied, and Gertie wasn't very pleased.'

'Only one time, I remember, during the war, we could see a great glow in the sky in the distance from the dorm room window, when Clydebank was burning. That was the only time we spent down in the big hall, during the bombing. Four nights we spent down there. We lay on our matresses on the floor. It's quite a big entrance hall, once you go up the steps and through the door. I think most of us were in the hall, all cuddled up with one another. But some might have been in the dining room, all the big downstairs rooms. But wartime never really touched this part of the country. Oh we had false alarms and all the rest of it...'

'I  remember one time I'd been to the dentist, and I was sent home to rest because I was feeling a bit woozy from the sedation. I was in my bed, and I saw a plane over the sea, out the window, so I got up to look. I thought 'that plane's not flying right', and it got lower and lower and one wing tip just dipped in the sea, and the plane tumbled over and was down. It was over the weekend and they tried to lift it, but they couldn't, not til the monday. The pilot was still in the cockpit when they found him.'

Friday, 4 November 2016

Churches, maypoles, and the dangers of lochs - stories from my grandma

'The parish church that we went to when we were at school had box pews. You would go into the pew and you could shut the door. Each pew had its own door. No one could see what you were up to! Well, I suppose the rector could have, when he gave his sermon, so we never played up when he was there. There was the remnants of a - I think it must have been a bishop - in the church, 300 years old, at least that's what we were told.'

'The last year of school, we were allowed to go and help decorate for the harvest festival. That was how we got up on the roof, and to see the priesthole - it was on the way up to the roof. It was so small. You climbed up a wee stair in the church, into what was the priesthole. And then I think you must have gone up the stairs, further up the stairs to the roof.'

 'It was a lovely day and you could see for miles and miles. I don't think many people were allowed up there. We only got up because we were with the school and helping with the harvest festival.'

'I remember one or two May Days in the village, with the maypole, and the dancing. They don't have them very much now. That was way back in '44 or '45. But they had the maypole up, on Astbury Green - the village green. And we watched the kids dancing around the maypole, winding in and out of the ribbons. As usual they had - they called it a rectory down there, but it was just a church manse really - as usual it was as big as they could make them!' [the implication being that rectors always had large families.]

'It was a lovely old church. I presume it's still functioning, but who knows in this day it might not be. There's so many old churches closing.'

'I remember one half term I went home with this girl called Casey Gant. She lived in Nottingham, and we thought it would be fun to go out on the river in a rowing boat. Casey's father spotted us on the river, the river Trent, and we were in trouble. We didn't realise we were in trouble, [but] there was a wier approaching. Casey's father was in his factory office, and saw us, and sent a motor boat to get us, and Casey got in trouble for taking us on the river.'

'So between that and Loch Lomond it's lucky I'm here at all! Oh that Loch Lomond was a terror. I think I was only about sixteen at the time (don't put that down! - well, if you must...). We'd gone up to Inverbeg. Inverbeg was quite a big place for the Youth Hostel Association and things like that. It was a beautiful calm day, and the lady I was with, her husband was a captain in the navy, and she was left at Inverbeg with the wee boy. And she said to me, 'Jean, can you row?' I said, 'A wee bit.'

'So we rowed over to Inverdenham, and we had afternoon tea. And between times a storm had blown up. I'll never know how we got back over to the river at Inverbeg. We had to go right up the side and back again. Boy was I glad to see the river at Inverbeg!'

'So that's why I have a fear of the Scottish lochs.'

Thursday, 19 May 2016

across the fields for afternoon tea - stories from my grandma's photo album

Darvel, Aug. 1933



"That was taken at my grandmother's house. She was Jean --Jeanie. Mum's name was Annie, and she hated it, she hated the Annie, so she changed it to Anne and it stuck. She was called after her Aunt Annie." 

"Grannie had a wee greenhouse at the back, you know - a wee lean-to against the wall at the lane. Oh, I used to go up the hill at Darvel, what we called the Pond Brae --there was two ponds for curling and skating right up the top-- I used to go up to get tomato plants for my grannie. There was a nursery up there -- little thinking of my future with greenhouses and tomato plants!"

"These two were my mum and dad. That's when they were on their world tour -- they were away for about six months. I stayed with grannie."

"Now that was Prestwick shore. We came down to there for a month in the summer. We stayed in a hotel beside the station, near the golfcourse. That's me walking down the golfcourse side with an ice-cream. Now that doll came from Japan. It had a wee stand. And those dresses were from when we had dancing displays [at school]."

"We had picnics at Loudon Hill. Can you see my wee dog there? A wee black scotty dog called Exya. I called her that because she was born on the day of the Glasgow Exhibition opening. She was a lovely dog."

"That's Dickie - she was the head girl of the school --Great Moreton. Her cat was called Tito, after the Yugoslav president at the time. That's Mirelle, Jessie and myself --we were all around sixteen. I was wearing my winter coat from Great Moreton. It was a big country house. It had been made into a school. I went there from Wellington in 1944; I was there for two years. It was a nice school. But shortly after I'd left, Mrs Butterworth moved the school to Robie Hall. There's a big picture upstairs of the whole school. There was a tower, and the last year, four of us slept in the tower, and nobody bothered us because there was quite a narrow stair to come up. There was an empty room above us, and we would sit up there and smoke --and the odd glass of sherry!"

"Old Moreton Hall is a National Trust building now. On a sunday the prefects were allowed to walk across the fields to have afternoon tea in the dining room. When the rising bell went we had to get up and ring a bell around the dormitories to get all the other little horrors up. It was an actual bell --a handbell."

"Once we had a 'spider dance' --don't ask me why it was called that-- in a part of the building round the corner from the entrance, and the headmistress was asked, probably the last term we were there. We were all walking back round the path...this bedroom window went up and Ms Paton the maths teacher, she called out: "Girls! What are you doing up at this time of the night?" And a small voice was raised from the middle of the crowd: "It's alright, Ms Paton. I am with the girls." It was Ms Butterworth [the headmistress]. And SLAM, down went the window. She cracked the glass! I don't think we were very popular with Ms Paton after that..."

"That's Margaret Macfarlane and me, and Ms Jeffrey from Wellington. She was an awful clever girl. Anything she touched, she was good. That must have been before I left Wellington. We were doing our Saturday shopping in Ayr, but we had to have a teacher with us."

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

granny came to meet us - stories from my grandma's photo album

"Mum started that [photo] album for me when I was knee high to a grasshopper. I don't know who that first one is, on the beach. I never got around to asking gran...your great gran."

"That's Lizzie the maid, and me. That's me and my grandmother - at grannie's back door. I still have that pram cover; used by all of our three, and you. These were all taken at grannie's back door in Darvel. We stayed with granny for a while. I don't know much more about Lizzie. We had her with us for quite some time. She came to help more or less with me. She was a maid and she was my nanny. Maids in those days all wore uniforms, like that. If you were a maid in a house, that was your uniform."

"I never knew my grandfathers: my grandfather or my step-grandfather. That's why...my granny had two names...she was Mrs More, and then she was Watthews. He came from Nottingham actually, from the lace industry. And in those days...I think he wanted my grandmother as a sort of housekeeper to live in, and in those days a lady didn't stay with a gentleman unless they were married - so they got married!"

"This one's in Hendon, 1929. I was one then. I can still remember the name of the house in St Albans - that's it there: Tregenna. That's a clothespole with a kangaroo tied to it - a plastic kangaroo. I don't know why - probably my toy. I couldn't tell you how long we stayed there for, probably about a year."

"That's on the beach in San Francisco. We had to wear sunhats, oh yes, everyone wore hats. The girl is June Prince - she was the daughter of some friends' of my parents in San Francisco. She looked after me, oh she was a good bit older than me obviously."

"That's the patio of the house in Sausalito. And that was the garden. Yes, I had a [peddle] motorcar! That was my motorcar. I think it was green. That was a lovely pram, the wicker one. Dimples was an American doll. I must have been about two years old when I got her. When we came back from America, we got off the train at Kilmarnock...Granny came to meet us. The porter handed Dimples out the train and granny was quoted as saying, "Annie never telt me about this yin!" She thought there was another [child] she didn't know about."

"That was when we were coming home on a boat called the Annie Johnson, crossing the carribean sea. And that was me in the swimming pool on board. Not like the posh ones you have nowadays. There's a picture of me with two sharks in the background, which the captain said had to be overboard by the following morning. I don't know who caught them - one of the crew probably. That's the purser with me. I'm chewing a sweetie in my cheek -probably he gave me a chewy caramel."

"I'll tell you something. I loved that pool. They would come to get me out, and I'd paddle over to the other side - I was naughty! The pool was about 6 feet deep, I couldn't touch the bottom. I don't know where my mother was, but probably the purser came and got me out - eventually!"

"That's the garden at granny's house, and that's the factory behind the greenhouse, the lace factory. My grandfather was a lace designer. I used to go into the factory, nip up the stairs to his room -he had his own office- and he would fling me a bit of the special squared paper saying, "Draw me a design, Jean." And I had a great time colouring." [Jean McCallum, March 2016]