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Maggots (posted on: 21-01-08)
Just a bit of fun.

Dillwyn Prat likes pushing people around. He's the charge-hand electrician at the factory and he thinks he's management. Well, he isn't. Trouble is, he's moved into Old George's house so Kevin and me, we can't avoid him any more like we do at work. You see, we had an arrangement with George. Well, not really an arrangement. We always take a short cut to the Griffin through his garden. Over the back fence and out the front. Saves us having to take the long way round. And George never complained, not after the first couple of weeks. Anyway, soon after George had buggered off in the wooden box, in moved Pratface and right away he starts carrying on like he owns the place. 'Oi! What do you think you're playing at?' he yelled when he saw us come over the fence. We tried to explain about the arrangement with George but could he see sense? Could he buggery. 'Right of way? What do you mean, right of way? You can't have right of way through people's gardens. Not through mine, anyway. That's for sure.' After that, every time we went over the fence, he'd be there giving us a mouthful. Then the stupid dog next door would join in and by the time we'd run through to the front there'd be a right bloody racket and Mary Twirl at number seven would threaten to phone the council and the police and the papers. 'You can phone the Houses of bleeding Parliament for all I care,' I told her. 'We've got a right of way, so stuff you.' Stupid cow. Things came to a head when Pratface put barbed wire along the top of his fence and we had to go back and get Kevin's Dad's wire cutters. Trouble was, of course, it took about half an hour to cut the barbed wire down. And we thought that because The Prat wasn't there shouting the odds, he must be out. But the cunning old sod was in the house and he'd phoned the fuzz. So there was this police car waiting at the front with its blue lights flashing. It didn't look too good for us at first cause it was Sergeant Nicker Norris, the same bugger who collared my Dad that time. But then, who gets out of the other side? Only Dippy Danny Meakin. He's done it. He's really gone and done it joined the fuzz, the daft prick, and there he is in his stupid new uniform with his stick-out ears stopping his helmet dropping down over his nose. I nearly pissed myself laughing. The Prat came out of his house smirking all over his face. 'These are the two culprits, officer,' he says, trying to sound posh and important. 'What are we supposed to have done now?' says Kevin as if we'd just come out of Sunday School. That was when Mary Twirl came over, getting all steamed up as usual. 'Arrest them,' she says. 'Arrest them, officer. They're a menace. Always up to no good. Always coming out of the pub drunk and making all the dogs bark. Every bloody dog for miles around, barking their bloody heads off and it's all down to them two. So just arrest them. And chuck the key away.' Like I said before, she's a stupid cow. Anyway, Nicker was no fool and he said wasn't going to collar anybody just for taking a short cut. Well, Pratface nearly went mental. 'Broken no laws?' he says. 'How do you make that out? Broken no laws? They've only cut down the barbed wire I spent all afternoon putting up.' 'Barbed wire, sir?' says Nicker. 'That's not really a good idea now, is it?' And Kevin lifts up his arm and he's got this long scratch from his elbow to his wrist and it's dripping blood. 'What've you done there?' says Nicker. 'Caught it on that stupid prat's barbed wire. It's like Strangeways' bleeding exercise yard back there.' That was inspired. Absolutely inspired, cause Norris the Nicker says, 'Well now, young man, I trust you're not going to sue this gentleman. You wouldn't do that, would you.' 'No, I don't suppose so,' says Kevin. 'I should think not. A bit of compromise all round. That's what we need. Compromise and common sense. That's just the thing to sort out neighbours' little tiffs. So I'll be on my way.' Off they went and left Pratface and Mary Twirl muttering about what a fat lot of use the police are. Me and Kevin, we carried on to the Griffin and Kevin says that as we'd got his Dad's wire cutters, we might as well stop by at the building site on the way home. You'd have thought Pratface would've learned his lesson after that, but oh no. Not him. Fair enough, he didn't put the barbed wire back. But what he did do was pile all his rubbish in the narrow gap between his shed and the house. When we climbed over it Kevin put his foot right through one of the plastic bags and got a great big gob of kitchen slops all over his shoe. Looked like he'd stepped in a pile of elephant puke. Well, that made him really mad so he lobbed a couple of the bags over the fence into next door's garden. Of course, the stupid dog starts barking so we had to leg it before the earache brigade started up again. We decided we'd got to do something about it. Kevin said why not borrow a car from the estate and use it to make a nice big gap in his fence? He can't help being stupid he gets it from his gran. I tried to explain that what we needed to do was make sure that we never do anything that was actually illegal. KeepThe Nicker on our side. Besides, I'd already had this great idea. Actually I'd had it for ages. Just didn't have the need to try it out before. It was a trick I learned when my Dad tried to get me interested in fishing. Now I reckon fishing is for pillocks but I did discover a very useful thing about maggots. Well, it was my Mam who discovered it really. See, if you keep your maggots in the airing cupboard, or anywhere, for that matter, you need to make sure that the lid is on the tub properly. Especially if you go away on holiday and still have some maggots up there. My Mam went spare when we got home and found the place full of flies. But I knew there would be a use for this one day. 'What we want is a nice big tub of maggots from Fat Walter's fishing tackle shop.' 'Eh? Why?' says Kevin, 'If it's fish we're after, why don't we just nick some from the market? Save all the bother.' 'Cause it's not fish we're after. It's maggots.' Kevin didn't have a clue, but he's not all that bright, really. 'We keep them for a bit till they've gone nice and crispy cause that's when they're nearly ready to sort of germinate.' 'Oh, I get it,' says Kevin. But he didn't, so I had to explain carefully how we wait till the factory shut-down and Pratface has gone on his holidays. Then lob a handful into his greenhouse, his shed, any windows we can open. Some into the back of his car so he's got company when he drives home. And then we just wait and have a good laugh cause he'll have flies everywhere. So we got the maggots a few days before the factory closed for holiday week but we couldn't keep them at my place, of course, cause I didn't want my Dad thinking I was going to go fishing with him. No way. And I wouldn't trust Kevin to look after them. His daft sister would probably think they were miniature prawns and put them in a curry. (Gives me an idea, that does.) So we persuaded Kirsty at the Griffin to keep them in the cellar till we were ready. The timing would have been perfect. Except that Pratface didn't go on holiday. No, of course, not. He's an electrician, isn't he, so he's on maintenance all through shut-down week. Still, with the cellar being nice and cold, there'd be plenty of time before the crispy maggots turned into flies. They'd last another week. But still Pratface didn't go away and we had to keep on waiting. So we decided, of course, that we couldn't wait any longer and we'd have to do what we could while Pratface was still around. It was Thursday, karaoke night, and there were lots of folk in the main bar. I got the drinks and asked Kirsty to fetch our tub from the cellar. 'Sure. Soon as I've got a minute,' she says. 'I'll bring it over.' 'So what's the plan now?' says Kevin. 'Better just get his car open and put the lot in there.' By the time Kirsty came over with the tub, we'd had about four or five pints and the pub was pretty full. She pushed her way through the crowd and put the tub down on the table. 'You'd better get it out of here,' she said. 'There's something very odd. It's sort of humming. What is it you've got in there, anyway?' 'Maggots,' says Kevin. 'Maggots! You've had me keeping bloody maggots for you? If I'd known that For God's sake, take them away!' 'It's nothing to worry about. They're harmless. Look.' And the daft pillock pulled the lid off. I've never seen a pub empty as fast as the Griffin did that night. Flies everywhere. Buzzing and crawling and flying and getting into everything and everybody screaming and beer going all over the place. And the karaoke machine still going but nobody singing. And there's Kevin sitting spread out in the corner looking like he's been shot. So there's only me and Kevin and millions of flies and then Molly, the landlady, comes across. You can tell when Molly's angry cause she whispers. 'You two,' she said, really quiet. 'You're barred. For a very very long time.' 'You know what?' said Kevin after we'd climbed back over Pratface's fence. 'It all worked out in the end when you think about it, 'How do you make that out?' 'Well, look at it this way. We'll have to start going to the Nag's Head.' 'I guess so.' 'So we'll not need the short cut any more.' 'I suppose you're right. It all worked out in the end. And, after all, we can find another short cut. Have to be careful, though.' 'Why?' 'Cause Dippy Danny's Grandad lives somewhere near the Nag's Head.'
Archived comments for Maggots
Claire on 21-01-2008
Hi there, I found this highly amusing, fast paced and those maggots disgusting! Glad it all worked out for them in the end, in a way...

Author's Reply:
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Rob C

e-griff on 27-01-2008
this was a great comic story, nicely paced and with a good balance between the believable and the comic.

Could these two turn into an occasional series?

Author's Reply:

Sooz on 02-02-2008
Perfect, actually laughed when he opened the lid. Though I did sympathise I have similar problems with crickets and locust on an on-going basis. Very Max and Paddy ... you have got to keep these two and use them again. Brilliant.

Author's Reply:

WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3 (posted on: 18-01-08)
Tom buys the cottage and moves in.

Chapter 3 As soon as Tom arrived, Mary Denny appeared at her front door. 'Here, Tom,' she called, 'there's been somebody looking for you. Poking round, he was and peering in through your windows. Right little Nosey Parker, he was. Came knocking on my door and asked me did I know where you were. Young fellow, good looking sort of chap I suppose but I can't say that I liked the look of him myself. So I told him I didn't know where you were. Well, I didn't, did I? I don't know where you keep that boat of yours.' 'No, of course not. Well, I expect there'll be all sorts of folk looking around until it's sold. Hope so, at any rate,' Tom replied. 'Yes, well I hope you know what you're doing.' 'Sure. Anyway, thanks for keeping an eye on the place for me.' What he meant, of course, was Nosey Parker yourself. 'Oh, right-oh, then,' said Mary. He went inside and made a pot of tea whilst waiting for the estate agent. By the time the second couple had seen around the house he felt drained. None of them had shown any sign of real interest so he wasn't convinced when Mrs Johnson said, 'I think we might have a sale there,' after the second couple had left. 'There is someone else, though. I've booked him in for half past nine tomorrow. I trust that's suitable?' 'Sure,' Tom agreed. It meant he would have to stay overnight. No real problem with that although he was a bit uncertain about leaving Melanie to her own devices on the boat. He had no way of getting a message to her. Just have to hope for the best and trust he wouldn't return to find he'd been pushed out by a crowd of squatters. He should never have... Well never mind. But he shouldn't. Mrs Johnson arrived early the next day with the prospective buyer. He was youngish, with a dark complexion and straight black hair and was perhaps in his early thirties. Tom thought his pale blue jeans and close fitting white tee-shirt were intended to show off his physique and he took an instant dislike to him. 'Harrison,' said the man, holding out his hand. Tom thought he detected a raising of Mrs Johnson's eyebrows at the mention of the name and didn't respond to the offered handshake. Immediately he felt bad about that. There was no need for rudeness. The man was a potential buyer, after all. Harrison appeared to take a far keener interest in the house and even its contents than had any of the previous day's viewers. He needed to look into every cupboard and behind every item of furniture. Upstairs, Tom got the impression he was trying to visualise who might have used the bedrooms and the bathroom. He asked for a ladder to look into the loft. And then, presumably satisfied that he seen all he needed to see, he turned his attention to Tom. 'Vacant possession when?' 'Pretty soon, actually. I'll soon be completing the purchase of my new place.' 'Doesn't depend on selling this first?' 'No.' 'Moving up-market?' 'Kearsall. Got a cottage near the forest.' 'Right.' He turned to Mrs Johnson. 'Okay, then, Marian, I'll be in touch. Ciao.' It was late morning when he got back to Foxton Bank and, not having had any breakfast, he went straight to the Cotton Tree for an early lunch. But he also wanted to make a phone call because he was curious about Harrison. There was something about him, he couldn't say what, that bothered him and he'd been wondering about the person Mary Denny had seen. Nosey neighbours did have their uses. 'Mrs Johnson? Tom Westwood here. Just making some notes. I like to, well... The chap who came around this morning, tell me again, what was his name?' 'Colin Tudge.' That was what he had guessed but the rest he could only invent. He needed to speak with Melanie and not be fobbed of with, 'Best you don't know about it.' But Melanie was not around. She had taken the bike again but had not left a note this time. He locked up immediately, drove down to Hartsmere and parked just off the road where the village school had once stood. From there he took the footpath through the forest that would bring him out at Ashton Moss. A short distance into the forest he turned down a narrow muddy track leading off to the left and followed it for a hundred yards or so until the path began to descend into a peaty hollow and the ground became very boggy. It always had been a wellies-essential hollow when he used to come here with his Gran looking for mushrooms, and he knew that it was even boggier now so that he would have to turn back and go the long way round. But he had to come because it was a special place. He retraced his steps and skirted the hollow until the pines gave way to mixed broadleaved woodland and the track began to rise steeply and seemed to head towards the sky beyond the trees. At the top he emerged from the trees to the open space that had always been treeless. At the far side a leaning row of bare Lombardy poplars marked the edge of Ashton Moss and the line of the railway and in front of the poplars was the cottage that would soon be his own. For a moment it was thirty years earlier and he'd come to meet Susan. Melanie moved out that weekend. She returned on Friday evening as bouncy as she had been after her previous excursion, but still saying nothing about what she had been doing. It was none of Tom's business, of course, but he was beginning to get suspicious. 'I saw someone you know whilst I was back home,' he said. 'Oh?' 'Colin Tudge.' 'What the...? Where?' She sounded a little worried. 'He came to look at my house. Made out he might want to buy.' 'Bastard. I'm surprised he had the nerve. You didn't tell him anything, did you?' 'Nothing at all.' 'Good. If he shows up again, don't let on you know me, where I am or anything.' 'I thought he was your friend.' She grinned. 'He was. Once.' 'What's the problem? Anything you can tell me? Anything I can help with?' 'No, nothing. He's history. Will be by the time I've done. Tell you what, though,' she said, brightening up. 'You can drop me off at the station in the morning cause I'm going back to Manchester.' 'Got somewhere decent to go?' 'Sure have. Got fixed up with someone else. So Colin Tudge can whistle. I'll find him when I need to.' Before taking the train on Saturday morning, Melanie asked Tom to take her to the cottage on Ashton Moss. He parked in the Station yard and they took the footpath between the railway line and the edge of the forest where the birches were already full of catkins. After about a quarter of a mile the path emerged at the bridge directly opposite the cottage. 'There it is,' he said proudly. Melanie said nothing at first. She seemed to shudder. 'I can't go any closer,' she said at last. 'Funny. I did a few weeks ago. But I can't now.' 'I expect I'll get to know where Alan is before long. I'll let you know, if you still want.' When he turned to look at her she was crying silently. 'He was a fucking bastard.' * On the day that Tom moved into the cottage there was a white BMW lurking in the lane beyond the railway bridge. It reminded him of a blue Rover which had once lurked just there over thirty years before. For a moment, he thought that maybe the same stupidity was going to break out all over again. Of course it wasn't but what did become of Susan? He never found out and probably never would. Calling himself an old fool, he carried on to the cottage and opened up in readiness for the removal van. It took a lot of manoeuvring to get the van round that bend and over the bridge onto the forest road. As soon as it was done the BMW drove away. Tom wondered if it had anything to do with Colin Tudge. Looking for Melanie? Well, he wouldn't find her here. Had she given up on the idea of trying to find Alan Ridley, or would she show up again? Three days later Tom was sitting at an upstairs front window. The forest was almost completely green again, except for a still leafless ash which rose above the birches along the forest edge of the Moss. Tom was watching a short-eared owl perched on top of a fence post . He glanced at his watch. It had been there motionless for almost half an hour. Suddenly it took off and headed low above the Moss towards the trees. A fraction of a second later the sound which had startled it reached Tom. A car door banging. He glanced down the lane. The BMW which he'd seen before was parked near the bridge and the driver was walking slowly towards the cottage. He couldn't be sure from this distance but he thought it looked like Colin Tudge. A little while later when he paused at the gate, there was no mistaking him. Tom didn't go downstairs right away. He waited and watched as Tudge hesitated by the gate, looking this way and that before coming through and approaching the door. Then Tom went down. 'Well, isn't it strange who chances along this lonely way. Mr Tudge, isn't it?' The visitor smiled thinly. 'You going to let me in, then?' Tom turned and his visitor followed him into the kitchen. 'Getting a bit worried about a mutual acquaintance. That's what it is, Tom. Don't mind if I call you Tom, do you? No, course not. Me, I'm Colin.' 'How do you know my name?' 'Done my homework, Tommy boy. Always pays to know just who you're dealing with. Know what I mean? Anyway, about this chick...' he stopped suddenly and it appeared as though he had seen something behind Tom. 'Look, I don't know where you come into this, but... Well, what I mean is...' Tom turned around to see what was bothering Tudge. He had forgotten to put his air rifle away after bringing home the rabbit he'd taken earlier in the day. 'Wondered if you might have... well, like, maybe you've seen her?' 'Who?' 'Come on, Tommy boy. You know who we're talking about. The chick you picked up that night back in Lostock. Took her to your boat. That was a bit, sort of Well, get my drift? Just tell me where she is.' 'Why do you want to find her?' 'Listen, Tommy boy, I know all about you. I know where you live, where you work. I know about that boat of yours. But I don't know why you've got yourself involved with Mel, so I'm warning you...' He paused. 'No, let me put it this way why does an old geezer like you pick up a kid like Mel? Get my drift? We're getting a bit worried about her, see. And I promised her old queen that I'd keep an eye on her. Make sure she's OK. So I don't want to have to tell her folks that the last I heard of her she was with some dodgy looking geezer who's old enough to be her father and who keeps a shooter on his kitchen table. Now do you remember where she is?' 'Haven't a clue.' 'Well, OK, then. I'll believe you for now, Tommy boy.' He took a business card from a plastic wallet and placed it on the table beside the air rifle. 'Phone me if she shows up.' Tudge turned on his heel and walked to the door. 'Ciao,' he called before pulling it shut behind him. Tom watched as the BMW turned in the lane and drove away. What was all that about? Probably nothing much. Tudge was just a poser , wasn't he? But what about Melanie? Was she likely ever to show up again? Tom really wanted to just dismiss it all from his mind and get on with settling into the cottage. Somehow, though, he suspected that was asking a bit too much.
Archived comments for WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3
Sooz on 18-01-2008
WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3
Nice read, all going well.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Sooz.
Rob C

writeagain on 20-01-2008
WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3
I tink I've missed an earlier part of this, but that didn't make any difference to this section.

Nicely-written, and the mystery's building well. That Colin Tudge seems like a nasty piece of work - good characterisation there. I'm looking forward to the next part.


Author's Reply:
Thanks for your comment, Liz. You're quite right - Tudge isn't the nicest guy in the story.
Rob C

e-griff on 20-01-2008
WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3
Just a few comments:

I'm still labouring under the (apparent) misapprehension that Tom bought the cottage from Alan Ridley, so why can't he contact him?

In this episode, it was not at all clear to me how Mrs Nosey Parker (Mary) knew the man was called Colin Tudge. I assumed Harrison was the same 'young man' who Nosey had seen the day before, but she didn't mention his name then - which she would have done if she'd known. I realised (raised eyebrow) that Harrison was not his name, but ... it's just pretty woolly and incomplete.

In the opening dialogue, you have the next door neighbour finishing the conversation off with something entirely inessential to the story (before Tom goes into the cottage) - you don't need things like that - it's better to move the story along than logically complete dialogue - this is a general point to watch out for (useless words) and keeping dialogue focussed on the plot, not 'natural' in a wider sense.

There was quite a bit of walking in the country - I wonder how much of that is needed. Certainly when he went to the place where he needed wellies - and obviously knew that before he went there - but he went there because it was a 'special place', but then turned back and went round it - I was lost - what was the point of that excursion? Frankly it annoyed me ..

anyway - onward and onward 🙂 the plot itself seems to be developing well.

Author's Reply:
I put my reply in the wrong box - it's down below as next comment

Rivington on 20-01-2008
WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3
Thanks for your comments, Griff.
Er... I'm not sure how I could have given the impression that Tom's neighbour knew Tudge's name. She doesn't - it's the estate agent who does. I thought that was reasonably clear, but if not I'll have to make it clearer.
And yes, I see that I'll have to make it a bit clearer that it's John Ridley who sold the cottatge, not his brother Alan who hasn't been around for a while.
I take a different view about some of the things which you describe as inessential to the story. To me locations and characters are important and need to be developed - though not overdone, of course - even before their relevance to the basic plot becomes apparent.
(BTW the route which Tom takes through the forest here in this fictionalised location is the same route which I frequently take in the real place. Except that wellies are of no use now because the hollow has now been cleared and rewetted to restore an ancient peat bog.)
Rob C

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 20-01-2008
WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3
oh yes, it was the estate agent. You are right, I missed it!

on the wellies/hollow - reality has nowt to do with fictional stories - make it REAL fictionally.


Author's Reply:

Ginger on 25-01-2008
WANIAY The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage. Chapter 3
Nice chapter, you're adding some more mystery, and it's all flowing well. Looking forward to more!


Author's Reply:

WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage (posted on: 07-01-08)
I'm pitching in here with chapter two. I posted the first chapter on 3/12 before I'd decided to join in the waniay thing. The story so far, for those who missed ch 1: Tom Westwood is looking to return to the area where he grew up. 19 year-old Melanie has come looking for him because she has been told he might be able to help her find Alan Ridley, her father whom she clearly despises. Alan's sister Susan, whom Melanie knew nothing about, had been Tom's girlfriend but he knows nothing of what became of any of the family since he and Susan split up.

Chapter 2 Tom had planned to drive into Frodsham the next morning to start house-hunting. But meeting Melanie had set him thinking about Susan. What had become of her? He used to think about her every day at first. And mope. And people would tell him to forget about her. She'd dropped him it happens to us all, they said. You'll get over it, they said. Fat lot they knew about it. But he did get over it. She'd been leaned upon by her family to break it off, he was sure of that, but she wasn't going to change her mind and he wasn't going to try getting past that bloody awful brother of hers. Thinking about her again, though, even after all these years, he went in the opposite direction and parked near the new caf at Kearsall Station. He took the path which skirted the forest and brought him out at Ashton Moss. In front of him was Snig's Foot Cottage. The original building, a tiny timber-framed and lime-washed brick structure, leaned drunkenly against the red-brick gable of the newer house. A sale board pricked Tom's curiosity so he walked round to the back where Mrs Ridley's flower garden used to be. There was a new two-storey extension with its own front door. Much bigger now than Tom needed. He walked a few yards down the lane at the back to the old sawmill where Old John Ridley used to store his building materials. Looking back to the house, Tom tried to recall which had been Susan's bedroom window, where she would often be looking out as he cycled up to the front gate. Why not...? The idea was mad. Quite mad. But he would look no further that was the house he would buy. He knew it already. That isolated place between the gentle slopes of Alvanley Hill and the forest, with just the occasional train to remind him of the bustle of elsewhere. He made a note of the estate agent's number and then set off along the path through the forest towards the village. He rang Estelle from the pub when he went for a meal. 'Are you sure that's a good idea?' 'Don't see why not. After all, that other stuff, well, it's a long time ago.' 'I'm sure it is, dear. Now, Tom, there's something you should know. There's someone been hanging around your house. A thin, rather shabby girl. I found her in your greenhouse this morning and I think she might have been sleeping there. Says she knows you. Her name's Melanie.' 'Oh God, no. It's, er... Well, it's Melanie.' He told Estelle briefly how he had found her. 'Lying in a puddle, unconscious? So you took her home. Just like that. Like some stray cat?' 'There's more to it. She'd come looking for me. See, she's Alan Ridley's daughter and she's, well, trying to trace her roots, I suppose.' 'Tom, what are you getting yourself into?' 'Nothing at all. So, Estelle, can you just leave her? Tell her I'll see her when I'm back. And if you can, could you, well, make sure she's got whatever she needs? And, look, if I decide to go ahead with Snig's Foot Cottage, I'll be back straight away to put Dad's place on the market.' He had hoped to persuade Estelle to be available to show prospective buyers around the house, but with Melanie and God knows who else having taken up residence in the greenhouse, he couldn't risk it. He could imagine what Estelle would say. 'The squatters? No they're not included in the sale. My nephew will take them with him when he moves out. He is planning to leave the fuchsias though.' He arrived home about midday on Wednesday and before he was out of his car, Mary Denny, his neighbour, was there. 'Now listen to me, Tom,' she said. 'I'm saying this for your own good so don't take me wrong. It's that young floozy Goodness knows what you think you're doing, but I'll tell you this your old Dad would never have stood for it. Not for one minute. You've got to get her out of there or there'll be goodness knows how many more of them before you know it. And this is a respectable neighbourhood. Out, that's what I say. No messing, just get her out. Anyway, did you have a nice little break?' 'Yes, thank you, Mary.' 'And you had such lovely weather for it. Boating again, was it?' 'That's right, Mary.' 'You're a lucky man, Tom. Me and Harold, we were going to go on a cruise once. You know, Mediterranean and all those places. But we thought it might not be advisable with his leg. That's when we went to Scarborough. So you won't forget, will you? Get that little floozy out before this neighbourhood goes right down the drain. It's not much to ask now, is it?' Melanie quite cheerfully loaded her things into the boot of Tom's car. 'You know what?' she said, 'You're a decent guy really.' 'So where can I take you? What about...?'' 'First, I need to go back to the squat. That bastard Colin Tudge locked me out and dumped all my stuff outside. God knows where Anna's gone.' Tom assumed that she had things still to collect but, in fact, everything was already in the boot of his car. She just needed to check that it really wasn't possible any longer to force an entry. She kicked the unyielding door. 'Well, fuck you, then, Colin Tudge.' And they left. 'Left something behind?' Tom asked. 'Anything important?' 'Nothing.' 'So, er...?' 'You wouldn't understand.' He didn't. 'Well OK then. Now do you want me to get my Aunt to take you round to the women's shelter?' 'Oh come off it, Tom. Is that what this was all about? You're kicking me out just like Tudge did?' 'So where do you want to go?' 'Can't I just stay with you?' No, she couldn't, of course. 'I'll think of something.' he said. But all he could think of was the small cabin on Estelle's boat. For two days Melanie stayed on the boat. Yes, her mother did still live nearby but no, Melanie was not going to go back there and just don't ask why. She would have to move on fairly soon, of course. He didn't want it getting back to the lab that he was living on a boat with a nineteen year-old girl. Another few days, though, wouldn't hurt. He shrugged it off got on with the business of buying the cottage. On Friday morning the agent told him that Ridley had accepted his offer for the house so he drove down to Kearsall and took a good walk around the Moss and had then lunch at the Station caf. By the time he got back there was no sign of Melanie or of the bike he kept on the boat. She'd left a note in the galley: 'I've borrowed your bike to get to the station. Gone to Manchester to sort something out. xxxMel.' So was that it? Had she moved on at last? He made himself a pot of tea and settled down to watch the news before taking a walk along the tow-path to the Cotton Tree for a meal and to ring Estelle. He would go and pick up the bike in the morning. As the news was ending, however, there was a bumping and banging on the bow apron. Then footsteps along the roof and a thump into the cockpit. The door burst open and in came Melanie, grinning broadly. 'Hi, Tom. I'm back.' She replaced the bike's padlock key on its hook. 'Have you had any dinner yet?' 'No,' he replied wondering how he was ever going to find a home for this little stray. 'I was just about to...' 'Let's go down to that pub, the Cotton Thing. And this time, I'm paying.' 'You've had a good day?' 'Could say that. Cashed in some insurance.' 'OK. Let's go then, and you can tell me about it.' 'Nope. Best you don't know,' Melanie replied and then, maybe thinking she had said the wrong thing, she added, 'But don't worry. I've not done anything I shouldn't have done.' They went into the Cotton Tree and took a table in the window overlooking the river. 'So tell me what you've been doing while I was in Manchester.' 'I bought a house.' 'Oh wow, just like that. You went out and bought a house? Let me guess it's some god-forsaken place in the forest. Right?' Tom smiled. 'Right. A place you know actually. Snig's Foot Cottage.' 'Bloody hell, Tom, you're weird. You've bought the Snig? That really is... Well, it is. Really. Bloody hell, I can't get my head round this. Kept quiet about it, didn't you? You'll have to get it exorcised, you know, or whatever it is they do with creepy places. God, imagine that - the ghost of my old man spooking around the place.' 'I don't suppose he's a ghost yet.' 'No. Better not be. He still owes me, the bastard. Anyway forget that, I'm going to the bar to order, so what do you want?' While they were waiting for their meal Tom went to phone Estelle and discovered that the estate agent had arranged a couple of viewings the next afternoon. No, he didn't need her to show them round. He could be there and back before early evening. 'But I'll probably take you up on that offer after the weekend when I'm back at work.' Back at work, yes. He really did need to persuade Melanie to move on.
Archived comments for WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Ginger on 07-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
I like the way this is going. Having Melanie hanging around - the stray - is very effective, and you've made her very comfortable in Tom's company.
One thing to work on, is the dialogue. In some places you need to add a beat (a pause in the dialogue as the speaker scratches their arm, or does something appropriate to the conversation). You've got them in in some places, but in others, you have bulky bits of dialogue.
Hope this helps!

Author's Reply:
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Rob C

writeagain on 07-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Hi Rivington

I loved this opening. Just the right balance of interplay between the various characters and enough intrigue to keep your reader's interest. Nicely written and I'm grateful to you for taking the trouble to space it out properly. Makes for much more comfortble reading.

I can't think of any useful criticism here. Just keep on with it. I'll be looking out for the next bit.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the encouragement
Rob C

SugarMama34 on 07-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Hi Rob,

I have enjoyed reading this as much as I did your first chapter. It intrigues me and I'm wondering what is it with Melaine. I think that there is more than meets the eye with this, but I'm looking forward to finding out. I found this quite refreshing to read and looking forward to the next chapter.

Lis'. xx

Author's Reply:
Thanks Lis' for commenting. Yes, there's more than has met the eye so far.
Rob C

delph_ambi on 07-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
An enjoyable read. Well paced. Plenty happening. First few lines were distracting with too many sentences starting with 'But' or 'And', but I've no doubt you'll edit some of them out when you do the fine tuning.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for this. Yes, you're right about the buts and ands - always have to edit for the verbal ticks and mannerisms!
Rob C

e-griff on 07-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
I had to go back to part one and skim it again before reading this as I didn't quite remember it.

Now I may have missed it, but who is this Estelle he keeps phoning? - ahah! in chap two it turns out to be his aunt! Huzzah! From the 'dad's house' I first guessed it was his sister, but really I think you should establish the relationship when you first introduce the character in part 1 -that's good practice, like names.

I didn't find much to carp about. 'Much bigger now than needed' was fairly sloppy, disconnected writing, and even as we interpret it, it's not clear if it's the extension or the whole house that's too big - and why the 'now'? It implies he is downsizing in some way. In fact - why is he selling the other house? I checked back and there doesn't seem to be a rationale at all. Background that needs filling in, I think.

The only other sloppy bit was 'where she would often be looking out' - and this also recalls to me what I said about chap 1, which was about sometimes using too many useless words.

I think the character of Melanie is working well. But I was confused by the relationships - she leaves a note for him and says she wants to know about Alan Ridley. He buys the bloke's house, and tells her that, but she doesn't ask him where he is, etc. Nothing is made or inferred about this, so I wonder what is going on. Doesn't seem natural.

I'm now confused about where this story should start. I feel strongly that, given the title and the focus of the story, the novel should open on him coming across the cottage and deciding to buy it, with the rest filled in after. But that is quite a radical change. It's what I would do, though. Because that's where the other focus, Susan, comes in (I'm assuming we'll hear more of her in some way).

Anyway. that's enough from me 🙂 John G

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 07-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Thanks, John, for these very useful comments. I see your point about where the story should start - in fact, the early and very different version of the story does begin with Tom deciding to buy the cottage. In this version the connection with Manchester is much more important. But I think I can see how to establish the link with the cottage and the title in chapter one.
Rob C

Author's Reply:

Sooz on 15-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
I'm still liking this story very much, but I don't think it flows as well as the first chapter. The thing with Melanie isn't really ringing true. An established sucsessful man just taking a girl in like that seems a bit far fetched. I think it needs more explanation.

Other than that I really enjoyed it, love the title ... and I used to live in Elton, the next village to Frodsham.

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 17-01-2008
WANIAY2 The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Thanks for your comments - on this one and the previous chapter. I take your point about Melanie/Tom and I'll probably do a bit of adjustment here when I come to edit. I do see Melanie as a somewhat pushy sort of person who will elbow her way into wherever she wants to be. Tom is a fairly easy-going character who can often be all too easily pushed around.

Author's Reply:

The Girl at Snig's Foot Cottage (posted on: 03-12-07)
This is the opening chapter of my current novel. It's a major reworking of one which I finished about four years ago and chapter one introduces a character who didn't appear in the original but who is central to this version.

Chapter 1 There was a note through Tom's door when he got home from work. 'If you are the Tom Westwood who used to live near Kearsall Forest, I need to see you. Urgent. It's about someone we both used to know. I'll be in the Swan tonight and don't worry, I'll recognise you. If you can't make it I'll call at your place sometime. M. Carr.' Ignore it, that's what he thought. Anywhere else, maybe, but not the Swan. Too crowded, too noisy, too young. But he was curious about it. Of course he was, so he called in there for just one quick drink. Nobody approached him so he didn't hang around. After a couple of pints in the Griffin, he took the short cut across the Leisure Centre car park and along the unlit footpath behind the library. That was where he stumbled upon the girl lying beside the path. Dead? Injured? No, just hopelessly drunk. She had probably been there for some time because she was soaked through even though it had stopped raining long before then. He would have called for help but the phone outside the post office had been vandalised. Nothing for it but take her home and call for help from there. He knew he shouldn't, but what else could he do? She could barely stand and he had to half carry, half drag her the quarter mile home. He fumbled with the gate whilst still trying to support her. Mrs Denny, his neighbour, brought her wheelie bin out. 'Evening,' she said and managed to fill the one word with enough disapproval for a whole orgy of unrighteousness. As Tom unlocked his front door and dragged the girl inside he could imagine Mrs Denny chunnering away to her husband. 'Look at him,' she'd be saying. 'His dear old Dad, fine chapel man that he was, scarcely cold in his grave and there's himself staggering home drunk with a little floosie young enough to be his daughter. Absolute disgrace, that's what it is. Absolute disgrace. Thank goodness he'll be moving soon.' 'Yes, indeed,' Tom muttered to himself. 'Thank goodness for that.' He carefully lowered the girl into an armchair and went to the phone. But now that he'd got her home, phoning emergency services didn't seem the right thing to do. Not at all. He could imagine the questions they'd ask and he'd give the impression he knew more than he was saying. He knew he would. Better just cover her up for warmth and let her sleep it off. Except that she was shivering violently. She really did need to get out of those wet clothes. But she was far too drunk to help herself... He woke early the following morning and went downstairs straight away. There was a lot of tidying up to do before the estate agent arrived to do the valuation. The girl's clothes were dry so he took them into the front room where she was still sleeping on the sofa. That wasn't a good idea, was it? Getting her out of those things. It might have been a better idea to have phoned Estelle. Yes, of course, that's what he ought to have done - phoned Estelle. He shook the girl gently. 'Time to get up,' he said. No reply. He tried again, a little louder. He shook her slightly. 'Piss off,' she grunted and rolled over. The blanket fell to the floor. He picked it up and covered her. 'Come on, you need to get up. I'll make some coffee while you get dressed. And then I'll drop you off somewhere. But you need to hurry.' 'Piss off.' She came into the kitchen while he was making coffee and toast. 'Where am I?' she asked nervously. 'Well, you're here at my place. Not far from where I found you last night. You were, er, well, out of it.' 'Where's Anna?' 'No idea. You were on your own. Where had you been?' 'In the Swan. I was meeting this guy and Anna said don't go alone. Hope she's all right.' 'Well, I expect you'll see her soon enough. Now why don't you have some breakfast? Then I'll drive you home if you like. I'm sure everything will look a lot clearer after a quiet morning to shake off, well... I mean, you must've had a skinful last night.' 'No way. Had one. Had to make it last all evening, as always. Then Colin came in with this really creepy mate of his and they bought us one. Anna must have gone with him, but I don't really remember. Bloody hell, you don't think he drugged us, do you?' 'Did he try to make you go somewhere with him?' 'God knows.' And that was the full extent of her story. A few minutes later the doorbell rang. It was the estate agent. 'Morning, Mr Westwood. Marian Johnson, to do a valuation.' 'Bloody hell,' said the girl in the living room. Once Mrs Johnson had finished Tom needed to pack himself some things, lock up and drive to Foxton Bank. He was going to spend a couple of weeks on Estelle's boat and he wanted to be there in time to get a replacement gas bottle for the heater. Already it was midday and the girl was curled up on the sofa looking as if she intended to stay as long as possible. 'So, er, sorry but I don't know your name. Can I give you a lift somewhere?' 'You're Tom Westwood, aren't you? I remember now. Saw you on your way out so I came after you, but you'd disappeared.' 'So how did you know me?' 'Saw you the other day. You were just getting home when I came looking for you. Only I bottled out.' 'Maybe you'd better tell me what you wanted.' 'It was this weird old guy in the forest. Called himself Tosser. Anyway, he told me about you.' It made a little bit of sense. 'Sure he said Tosser? Not Thos? Thos Povey?' 'Could be. Oh bloody hell, right. They used to warn me about him. My Grandma always said don't go into the forest on my own cause Thos Povey would get me.' 'Your Grandma? So who are you?' 'Right, well, it's like this. You used to live in Kearsall once, right? Anyway Tosser, Thos, or whoever he is, said you knew the Ridley family. That's who I'm looking for. Alan Ridley, actually. He used to be my Dad.' 'Used to be? What does that mean?' 'What that means, Mister Smartarse, is he used to be my Dad till my Mum and me walked out and she divorced him. Which is why my name's not Ridley. Left that behind with all the other crap. I'm Melanie Carr now. Anyway, you've got to tell me what you know about them. Like where are they now? Do you know?' 'Haven't a clue. Sorry. It's about thirty years since I knew them. Susan, that's Alan's and John's young sister, was my first girlfriend.' 'Sister? There was no sister. I remember John. There was him and my Mum and Dad and my older brother and my Grandma. John lived in Northwich and the rest of us lived in the forest house at Ashton Moss. But there was no sister. I would have remembered.' 'Susan was real right enough. About ten years younger than Alan. Same age as me.' 'Bloody hell. She must have got out of it years before I was born. What was she like? Was she a complete prat like the rest of them? Too bloody holy to be decent.' 'That's how the brothers were. I'd agree with you there. But Susan was different. So why do you want to find Alan now?' 'Cause he owes me, that's why.' 'I take it you've tried calling at the house?' 'Sure. Nobody around. That's when I met this Thos Povey geezer and he said ask you.' 'Sorry I can't help you.' 'Oh well, never mind. I'll catch up with the bastard eventually.' Melanie agreed reluctantly, Tom thought to let him drive her back home. And home turned out to be a squat in the old Horeb Chapel which someone had started to convert to flats and then abandoned. Melanie reckoned it was pretty good really no gas or electricity but a lot better than the railway arches. And better than putting up her tent in the park and being moved on every night which was a pain in the arse. Tom felt a twinge of guilt when he drove away. He wished he could have helped her a bit more. And leaving her at the old chapel didn't feel right. If he hadn't been going to Foxton Bank to stay on Estelle's narrowboat he might have been tempted to offer her a room for a couple of nights. But no, the chapel was fine. It was what she wanted. Much later than he had intended he set off, but at least he would be there in plenty of time for a meal and a couple of pints in the Cotton Tree.
Archived comments for The Girl at Snig's Foot Cottage
e-griff on 04-12-2007
The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
copied to print - will get back to you on it, promise. G

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 04-12-2007
The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Thanks, Griff. See you later, then.

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 05-12-2007
The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage

general impressions - I felt this started engagingly, and hotted up with the girl and the conversation - building up the situation well, and with good 'show' through the dialogue, rather than a narrative or monologue 'tell'. I felt interested in the story and what would develop next.

I found it generally literate and fluent, picky old me didn't grind to a halt once - just a few glancing things which I'll mention below.

Overall, although the girl's dialogue was natural and in character, I felt Tom's came over a little stilted eg: - 'That's how the brothers were. I'd agree with you there'

This leads me onto my next wee gripe - extra words that clog the reading. In the above, the 'I'd agree with you there' is entirely superfluous. You just said they were like that. It might be valid if Tom were an ageing librarian who spoke in that way - but we assume he's just a modern, fairly normal man.

Watch for unneeded words - a few more examples:
'he was curious (about it) -- here it's not even clear what 'it' is either.
'not long before (then)'
'(I take it) you've tried calling at the house?'
'Sorry I can't help (you)'
of course it's not an absolute rule to cut these out - it depends on you - as I've said, sometimes they will give flavour to a character. (But not here, IMO).

another thing I noticed was too much knowledge. When you write from a point of view (POV), you must stick strictly to what the character observes and can know first hand.
So: 'she asked nervously' is impossible. You might describe some tangible thing (quavering voice/lowered eyes/hesitation) but simply stating it is not good style. The addition of adverbs to 'said' is also dangerous - as in 'he said knowingly' Whereas 'said quickly' (it's observable by the character) is okay 🙂

other small things:
chunnering - chuntering?
'Once Mrs Johnson had finished' - one: she hasn't said she is 'Mrs' so we don't know that (Tom may, but this is the narrator speaking). And introducing names - when she'll probably disappear - is wasting the reader's memory - I'd call her 'the estate agent' - if she turns up again later, then you can say 'Marian Johnson, the estate agent' to remind us.

awkward phrase 'needed to pack himself some things'

and the sentence near the end starting with 'Much later' uncharacteristically lacks grammar

Phew! I hope that's not to much 🙂 --- once I sit down with a pen and stuff, I'm away.

The actual incidences of the things I've mentioned are quite few in fact, so my general impressions of this were good.

hope this helps

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 05-12-2007
The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Thanks, Griff, for this detailed and very helpful crit. I'll bear these points in mind when I do the next edit.

Author's Reply:

SugarMama34 on 06-01-2008
The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Hi Rivington,

A good start to a story, you had me hooked straight away so I had to read on. I found it quite interesting and I thought the dialogue worked well as did the characters. I look forward to reading more of this as you progress with it. Hope my comments are of some help.
Sorry I can't give you advanced crit like e-griff but I don't feel I have the knowlege to do so as I'm still learning myself.

Lis'. xx

Author's Reply:
Thanks for your encouraging response, Lisa. More follows soon.

Ginger on 07-01-2008
The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
This is an intriguing read. I have to agree with Griff, the plot did pick up more once he met the girl. The first few paragraphs felt like the short version, and that we (the readers) were hurried through. Could they be expanded into proper scenes?

Author's Reply:
Thanks for your comments, Lisa. You're quite right about the opening paras. It's a cut down version of the original opening when I thought the whole thing was going in a different direction. I'll work on it some more.
Rob C

Sooz on 15-01-2008
The Girl at Snigs Foot Cottage
Another one with a cracking start. Enjoyed it very much. The characters were engaging and believeable. Looking forward to reading more.

Author's Reply:

An Old Photograph (posted on: 11-04-05)
A happy discovery when returning, after a very long absence, to a place where I had spent a lot time during my childhood.

An Old Photograph

Places shrink with the passing of time. The station yard at the edge of the forest was a lot smaller than it used to be fifty years ago when I spent so much time there as a child. It was shorter and narrower. That was not just a trick of perspective and memory. The sparse bushes between the former vegetable gardens and the railway siding are now a dense thicket which has narrowed the approach to the new parking area. And the wide sweep of gravelled road outside the ticket office has been enclosed behind a wooden fence and set out with picnic tables for the use of caf patrons only.

The familiar entrance to the main building opened into a room I had never known. It should have been only half the size with parcels and cases stacked along one wall and a steelyard near the corner. There should have been a ticket window where Reg would sell you a ticket to anywhere in Britain. And there should have been posters advertising Blackpool, Bridlington, Bovril and Players Weights. Who could have dreamed of knocking out the wall to open up the porters' very private cosy smoky room and create this caf with all these tables and chairs salvaged from now modernised homes? We ordered our meal and went through to the far end where Grandad spent many an hour with his friends playing cards and filling the air with tobacco smoke.

Here and there around the room were various pieces of railway memorabilia and much of it had no connection with this place. Name plates from places I never knew as a child. Photographs of famous steam engines which had never travelled this route. There were just a few bits and pieces which appeared to have a local provenance but the caf was too crowded to examine anything closely.

From there we walked down the station yard towards the cottage at the far end. Ahead and to the right, beyond the railway line, was the forest but a high chain link fence along the track closed off the short cut we used to take across the lines. The cottage was barely recognisable. It was a humble railwayman's home when Uncle Arthur and Auntie Betty lived there. But who lives there now? Who built that enormous extension, double garage and stables to the rear?

As I looked across the fenced garden at the side, I tried to visualise the much older cottage which had also stood there and which had been demolished forty years ago. As I did so, I suddenly recognised a photograph which I had glimpsed fleetingly as we left the caf. The sepia print high on the wall amongst all those other things - it was my Gran's old house, surely? 'Let's take a walk through the forest and then have another pot of tea,' I suggested. 'There's a picture in the caf that I need to take a closer look at.'

A close look, however, was impossible. The caf was still crowded and a family group were sitting at the table below where the picture hung so, trying not to be intrusive, it was difficult to see any details clearly. Besides, the photograph was small and rather battered. It was unmistakably my Gran's cottage, but who were all those people posing for the camera?

The busy staff couldn't help. It was just some old photograph found amongst the various odds and ends now displayed around the place. I could write to the manager if I wanted. He might know a bit more about it. Excited but frustrated, we left and drove home to South Wales.

Without much hope of learning anything more about that photograph, I tried an internet search for pictures of old Cheshire. And there it was, on the first site I found, amongst the collection of old prints offered for sale by a company near Chester. The thumbnail was too small to reveal much detail and impossible to enlarge successfully but I ordered a copy right away.

Some days later it arrived and at last I can see it properly. There are two girls, aged about eleven and twelve. My Aunts Betty and Molly though which is which I cannot tell. Behind them is their rather older sister, Edith, who died very young, and she's nursing her baby daughter, Jessie, who grew up as one of the sisters and whom we all still call Auntie Jessie even though she's our cousin. Beside the girls, looking elegant and dignified, with exactly the same hairstyle she favoured when I knew her years later as a very old lady, is my Gran. And, almost hiding behind her skirt, the little girl of about seven is my mother.

Rob Crompton

Archived comments for An Old Photograph
glennie on 2005-04-13 05:18:15
Re: An Old Photograph
Roy, I usually only read short stories but I enjoyed this; memories are so important. I returned to the village where my grand parents once lived to find the house where I'd spent so much time as a chlid had been demolished. All that are left are the memories, you have a photograph. Glen.

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 2005-04-13 10:56:49
Re: An Old Photograph
I'm sorry it took me so long to get round to this - it really did bring a tear to the eye. Beautifully written, and so nostalgic - the power of old images is so strong, especially one which has such personal memories for you. An absolutely enchanting read, especially foir someone like myself who's never lost his love of anything to do with railways.

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-13 13:23:08
Re: An Old Photograph
Glennie, Thanks for your appreciation. I've been jotting down various notes and other odds and ends arising from several visits to this place since then. All part of setting the scene for my next novel.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-13 14:37:51
Re: An Old Photograph
Thaksk for your comment and thanks for selecting it as a hot story. Much appreciated.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

margot on 2005-04-13 22:42:05
Re: An Old Photograph
aahh the trip down memory lane can be hazardous, painful and pleasurable. thank you for sharing - you've persuaded me that's the journey is worthwhile. Margot

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-14 10:20:14
Re: An Old Photograph
worthwhile indeed. Thanks for your comment.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

The Forest (posted on: 11-04-05)
Another discovery on the same occasion referred to in my article, 'An Old Photograph.' I was not so happy about this discovery but I've been back on several occasions and now I've been won over. The place has matured and I like it. But it's not like it was when I was a kid.

Go carefully into the forest,
Leave the track carefully, warily, scarily,
Storybook people live in the wood.

Go silently into the forest,
Feel the breeze silently, whispering, whispering,
Trees telling stories, singing songs of the wood.

Go moonlit into the forest,
Wait in the moonlight when shuffling, snuffling,
Badgers are scuffling deep in the wood.

Go skipping into the forest,
Down the bank skipping, hopping and stopping,
Looking for mushrooms down in the wood.

Go slowly into the forest,
Round the bend sadly, wistfully wondering
How did it happen? Such a vast clearing, flooded.
And the path to my childhood ends at the water's edge where trees are dying.

Archived comments for The Forest
teifii on 2005-04-11 12:44:55
Re: The Forest
Lovely. The earlier verses are a perfect description of how the forest feels. The last one sad, but it sounds from your blurb as if the end result was not too bad.
Round here we have a lot of Forestry Commission land [which Mrs T was prposing to sell before, thank God, she got the push] and from time to time great swathes are cut down. It always seems a terrible crime but then as the years pass a new forest appears and meantime buzzards and eveb red kite hang over it and perch at the edge. Also I'm happy to see that they no longer cut down all but leave self seeded birch and mountain ash etc.
Anyway I really like your poem.

Author's Reply:

shangri-la on 2005-04-11 12:51:36
Re: The Forest
I really liked the progression of this piece...starts out cautious like a child exploring for the first time and leads to confident light heartedness 'Go skipping into the forest..' That last line is excellent and really hits hard, so sad.

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-11 13:16:03
Re: The Forest
Thanks for the comments, Daff. I love to see the buzzards and red kite. The red kite especially seem to me a wonderful symbol of hope.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-11 13:20:47
Re: The Forest
Thanks for your comment. The first time I saw that lake I was devastated. But I can see now that it might be a good thing because it has become reasonably well established and is a good haven for wildfowl. But it's not the forest I used to know.
Ron Crompton

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-12 15:13:16
Re: The Forest
Thanks, Trevor. Looking for mushrooms by rabbit warrens?? Well, I suppose it could be but that's another story. The whole area was riddled with rabbit warrens - this was long before myxamitosis. My grandparents, being almost completely self sufficient grew all their own veg and fruit. And rabbit was just about the only meat we ate.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 2005-04-12 16:21:20
Re: The Forest
Excellent - you caught the child-like mood so well early on, and the last line was superb. No-where can ever be the same - even if it is, it's not as we remember it, is it? We can't recapture that first impression - but we can learn to still enjoy, if on a different level. Got me all nostalgic now....

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-13 14:40:41
Re: The Forest
Thanks, Roy.

Author's Reply:

Bradene on 2005-04-14 10:35:59
Re: The Forest
A lovely haunting poem happy yet sad too, I liked it a lot Love val x

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-14 11:46:41
Re: The Forest
Thanks for your comment. Happy and sad at the same time - that's about it. That's nostalgia, of course.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

Emerald on 2005-04-14 19:21:25
Re: The Forest
Sometimes it is hard to adjust our childhood memories of a place to how it is now. I loved the sense of wonderment you wove into this poem and the sadness at change. A lovely poem


Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-04-15 11:34:15
Re: The Forest
Thanks for commenting. Even with that huge lake and the open sky where there used to be tree tops, it's still an enchanting place. I'm sure I'll get used to it and begin to bore people with, "I rememeber when..."
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

eddiesolo on 2005-08-08 14:27:17
Re: The Forest
Wonderful piece, a tentative couple of stanzas that help guide you into the piece.

Good write and well done on the nib.


Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-08-08 14:36:16
Re: The Forest
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

SugarMama34 on 22-04-2007
The Forest
Hello Rivington,

I see you are a fellow Welshie from South Wales, like myself.
I liked the poem, it has a freshness to it and a hint of magic too. Some of my best childhood memories were spent exploring 'Millwood' as a child, so I could relate to this well. I liked the imagery of the badgers and picking mushrooms. It's a shame when our childhood ends but at least we have our memories. A lovely poem with good imagery and flow.

Author's Reply:

Billy PIckering's Inventions (posted on: 04-03-05)
It's not very PC and contains bad language.
Rob Crompton

We had this really great idea, me and my mate Big Dave. It isn't a scam or anything like that. It's all perfectly legit and it's going to earn us a fair bit of dosh as well as getting Billy Pickering a bit of what's owing to him. Now, I know what you're thinking who'd want to bother with Billy Pickering? OK, so he's a barmy sod, I'll give you that. But what people don't realise is that Billy Pickering is a genius. In fact, he is the guy who would have invented the electric egg whisk if they weren't in the shops already when he got the idea. Yes, and a lot more besides, so think about that.

I'll admit that when we were at school me and Big Dave were just as bad as some of the others, well Dave was. Used to make fun of Billy something rotten but so did Snoopy Chadwick, our teacher. You'd think a teacher would give a guy a bit of encouragement, but not Snoopy. There was one time when Billy said he was planning to be an inventor when he left school, and Snoopy said to him, 'You, invent things? You'll be lucky if they let you sweep floors in the Co-op, you daft little pillock.' That's no way to speak to someone who's going to be famous.

Anyway, after me and Dave had started working at the drive-in chippy, Billy heard about this inventors' club at the Nag's Head. Actually, it was Dave who told him about it. What it was, was just a group of lads who Dave knew from Saint Geoffrey's youth club but they were all real inventors. So Billy came into the Nag one Friday night and he went up to these guys. 'Hi, fellers,' he said, 'Can I join the inventors' club?' For some reason Dave started pissing himself laughing and so did the inventors.

I could hear what Billy was telling these guys cause we were just at the next table and, believe me, it was bloody impressive. Don't know what those other gits thought was so funny about it. See, Billy had already invented a lot of stuff so he was a long way ahead of the others. A long way. I mean, it was Billy who had invented the ball point pen and that's what convinced me he was some sort of genius. When you think about it, he would only have been a little kid when he did that one, cause ball point pens have been around for as long as I can remember. My Grandad had one when I was at Gasworks Lane Infants School. And Billy Pickering had invented it.

Anyway, that's all a long time ago. Tracey, that's Dave's Mam, got done for soliciting and some other stuff so his little sisters got taken into care. And Dave, of course, had to give up his job cause there was nobody at home to get him out of bed in time to get to work. So the only way he could earn a few notes was to do a bit of lifting. I tried to help him by looking out for shopkeepers and all that, but selling knocked-off crisps in the pub wasn't really the best way to earn the price of a skinful. The miserable old cow at the Nag even barred him, would you believe. Fine bloody way to treat a guy who's pissed out of his skull every time he gets the chance.

So that's when I got this really great idea. Dave was trying to cadge the price of pint from me and I said, 'It's a pity Billy Pickering had to go and live with his Gran. You could have asked him to invent you a lifter. Knock off a few expensive things. Know what I mean?'

'What's a lifter?' says Dave.

'How the bloody hell should I know? I'm not the inventor, am I?.'

Anyway, I was on my way for a few jars so I said I'd buy Dave one. Trouble was, of course, we couldn't go to the Nag or the Griffin or even the Drooping Donkey with Dave being barred just about everywhere. Had to try the Rocket for goodness' sake which meant there'd be nobody to fob Dave off onto. So yours truly would be paying all bleeding night.

'Do you think Billy really did invent all those things?' said Dave after a while.

'Course he did. Wouldn't have said so if he hadn't actually done it, would he?' Course he wouldn't for goodness' sake. His Gran's a Sally Army woman, after all.

'So why isn't he loaded then? Tell me that.' He's got this thing about being loaded, has Big Dave, ever since he's been signing on at the Job Centre.

'Well I don't know why he's skint like the rest of us, do I? Probably been ripped off. It's what happens when you invent things, if you're not careful.'

So I got to thinking about it. 'That's it,' I said. 'The poor sod's been ripped off. Every time he invents something, some other bastard jumps in and nicks his idea. Gets it made and in the shops, and before Billy can start earning the rip-off merchants are raking it all in. So that's where we come in. There's big money in this, believe me. Drink up. We're going round to Billy's Gran's.'

'You mean we rip off some inventions from him?'

'No, you daft pillock. We get him what's due to him and earn ourselves a big cut in the process.'

'Oh right. I get it,' said Dave, swilling down the rest of his beer. 'We go round the shops and make the bastards pay up. Great idea.' He can be a bit gormless at times so I didn't put him right. Just told him to keep his gob shut when we got to old Ma Pickering's place.

She's a bit of a witch, is Billy's Gran. Used to go round the pubs on a Friday night wearing that daft hat and selling her papers, and looking like she was going to get her mate Gentle Jesus to zap you if you didn't put something in her can. That's why we dropped Billy when his Mam got fed up with him and made him go and live with the old bat. But it was worth risking it this time cause we were onto something pretty good.

When we knocked at the door Dave thought the old crone would chase us away, but she didn't. She just stood there and smiled. You get this feeling that she's standing right over you like a sodding school teacher, but she isn't cause she's only five foot tall. 'Hello, boys,' she said almost like an ordinary person.

I got straight to the point. 'Can your Billy come out?'

'Oh I don't think so. I don't think Billy wants to mix with the likes of you two. But you'd better come in.'

I'd not been inside there before and I don't think Dave had either, so we didn't really know what to expect. She took us into the parlour and made us sit down on the sofa. 'Now then, boys, would you like a cup of tea? Oh no, I'll tell you what, I've got some lemonade. I know you young lads prefer lemonade.'

'Actually, I'd rather have' Dave started but I shut him up before he could finish.

It was ages before Ma Pickering came back and then she'd forgotten all about the lemonade. Which was a good thing really cause whenever Dave has a fizzy drink he always burps really loud and says, 'Better a burp now than a fart later.' He can't help it. It's just how he is but I don't think Billy's Gran would like that.

She stood in front of us and stared at Dave. 'You've grown, you have. Quite a big boy now, aren't you?' Then she looked at me and muttered, 'As for you No, never mind.'

'So can we see Billy, then?' I asked, but she ignored me.

'I remember your Mam, young David. Had high hopes for her at one time, I did. You didn't know that, did you?'

'No, Mrs Pickering.' I reckoned it was OK to let him say things like that.

'Aye,' the old biddy went on. 'I used to give her a Young Soldier every Friday night in the Griffin.'

'Bloody hell, Mrs Pickering,' Dave blurted out, 'you mean you was on the'

'Shut up, you daft pillock,' I said, only just in time. 'She's talking about her papers. That's right isn't it, Mrs Pickering? Aye, them was the days. Doing the War Cry crossword in the smoky.' Actually, I really do remember that cause I started going to the Griff with my Dad when I was about fourteen. And him and his mate would sometimes try the crossword and ask me about the really hard clues cause I could still remember one or two things from Sunday School.

Ma Pickering buggered off to the kitchen again saying something about getting some scones. Anyway, instead of just waiting like two gormless little prats, I thought we should tell her we'd got to see Billy. Followed her into the kitchen, I did, and I said, 'Right then, Mrs Pickering, we'll just go on up to Billy's room. Upstairs is it?'

'Oh no,' she said. 'Billy's not here. He's gone back to live with his Mam.'

Well, that was nearly a whole bloody night wasted but we just had time to shoot off to his Mam's and then get back to the Rocket before closing time. But Billy wasn't at his Mam's place either. At least she's not as bad as the old crone, she didn't keep us hanging around. Just said, 'No he's not here. So you can piss off.'

We tried again the next day and the next. And it was the same every time. So I told his Mam what we were after and said we needed a list of all his inventions so we can sell his story to the papers and get him what was owing. For some reason she must have thought we were taking the piss like we used to, cause she started screaming and shouting at us to bugger off back to the funny farm where we belonged. And Dave said, 'It's your Billy what belongs in the funny farm, not us.'

I don't think she liked that very much. She said if we went back again she's set the dog on us. It's only a stupid little Jack Russell but I've seen what it picks up when's it's scavenging round the back of the market. I don't want those teeth in my arse, I can tell you.

'So what do we do now?' said Dave when we got back to the Rocket.

'We'll just have to try and remember all the things he told us about.'

Trouble was, I could only think of electric egg whisks and biros. Dave said there was those things for shaving the knobbly bits off woolly jumpers like his Mam got from the gadget catalogue. And then it all started coming back to us. So we got a serviette from Kylie behind the bar and wrote them all down in a long list with 'Billy Pickering's Inventions' at the top. When we'd written down everything we could think of Dave said why don't we include something really big and special. Make it look as good as possible. It wasn't a bad idea really, considering Dave's usually a bit thick. We looked round the bar and I spotted the juke box. So that went down as well. Which is possible, of course. You've got to admit it.

All I'm waiting for now is for Polly Stevens to get back to me. She's the clever chick that Snoopy Chadwick used to drool over. Not that he ever let it show, of course. Anyway, she's working in the office at the Gazette so I went in there and told her we'd got this cracking story to sell so could she give Man-about-Town the nod and let me know what he thinks. Said we'd give him three days and then we'll sell it to the Daily Mail. That was a couple of weeks ago but I'll give them a bit longer. He must be on an undercover job cause when I phoned Polly to remind her about it she just said he was chasing Russian spies in the benefit office so don't phone again. Sounds really exciting.

Dave's going to miss out on the big pay-off if he doesn't get back here soon. Buggered off to Catterick, he did. Said after what Ma Pickering had told him he reckoned one of the guys in the barracks there must be his old man. And he's got a point. You've got to admit it.

Archived comments for Billy PIckering's Inventions
Hazy on 2005-03-04 18:53:05
Re: Billy PIckering's Inventions
I reckon the length of this is putting some off reading... I really enjoyed it, glad I found the time, eventually!

Take care, and thanks for an amusing read 🙂

Hazy x

Author's Reply:

thehaven on 2005-03-05 09:11:46
Re: Billy PIckering's Inventions
Cracking read and well worth the effort.My only reservation is the final para.I felt it was rushed and a bit vague.Otherwise a good read.


Author's Reply:

Bunderlin - chapter two (posted on: 28-02-05)
This is the second chapter of my novel but the action takes place many years before the opening chapter's events.

Chapter Two

'I'll take it to Mrs Bundy,' Martin said resolutely, even though Colin and his young sister said he ought not. 'She'll know what to do. We can't just leave it here.'

He picked up the injured cat and began to walk towards the goat lady's house. 'Martin! Just put it in her garden and then come away,' suggested Colin, probably torn between wanting to help the animal and not wanting to upset his little sister who was still young enough to believe that this lady with the funny voice and the story book hairdo was a witch.

Martin took no notice and went boldly through the gate and up to the strange detached house next to the school. Well, the house wasn't strange exactly although it did look dark and forbidding. It was the people who lived there, Mrs Bundy and Old Bundy. Like a sinister couple from a fairy story. His Dad was quite friendly with Mrs Bundy and always stopped for a chat on the way to and from his allotment, so Martin had grown out of the silly ideas of the infant school about this odd couple, but he still felt a bit nervous and excited as he went through the gate and up to the dark green door. The heavy ginger cat squirmed in his grasp but didn't try to escape. Martin knocked quite softly almost hoping that nobody would hear. But the dog heard and began to bark in his deep growling voice. The cat writhed again but Martin held on to it.

Presently the door creaked open and Mrs Bundy appeared. She wore a long flowered skirt and a blue blouse with the sleeves rolled up. Her long brown hair was plaited and tied in grubby white ribbons. She looked down at Martin and smiled and he knew that really she was quite friendly. But somehow, he wasn't quite sure.

'Please, Mrs Bundy, it's this cat. He's hurt. Can you help him?'

She opened the door wider. 'Bring him inside.' Warily, he followed her into the front room of the house where she took the cat from him. She felt his injured leg, not too gently, Martin thought as the cat yowled loudly and the dog in the back of the house started barking again. 'He is your cat?' Mrs Bundy asked.

Martin shrugged his shoulders. 'Don't know whose he is. Just found him outside.'

'I will look after him for you and he will get better. You will come and se him next week?'

Martin promised to return in a few days and Mrs Bundy showed him to the door.

Word quickly spread around the class that Martin had been inside the goat lady's house. Classmates kept coming to him and asking what it was like in there and what she had done and said, and did she really have a cauldron hanging over the fire? In truth he could barely recall what the room was like because he had been too preoccupied with the cat. There had been dark pictures all over the walls and two grandfather clocks facing each other across the room and ticking completely out of harmony, but more than that he had not noticed.

He called at the house several times over the following weeks to visit the cat. But as the cat recovered and began to wander further about the house and the surrounding area, Martin's visits remained confined to the front room with the dark landscapes and the two tall clocks. He was aware that there were more animal members of Mrs Bundy's household but, other than the goats, which had a habit of climbing on the outbuildings at the back, and Kaspar, the Alsatian, who seemed to have befriended the nameless cat, he never got a good look at any of them. He only ever heard them scrabbling about behind the high fence at the back and, occasionally, what may have been the braying of a donkey. But he neither saw nor heard Old Bundy and began to wonder if perhaps the old man was as mythical as the witch's cauldron.

When eventually Martin did meet the rest of the menagerie, it was the climbing wandering goats that brought it about. It was a Thursday afternoon and the class, some of them at least, were listening to their teacher reading from Huckleberry Finn. Suddenly a young voice called out, 'Goats, sir! Sir, sir! Mrs Bundy's goats are in the playground.'

The teacher removed his glasses and looked around the class to see who had interrupted his reading. 'I'm sure they are doing no harm. Just ignore them.' But the distraction was too much and Mr Jenkins and Mark Twain between them could not compete for the attention of the class with two small goats hungrily feeding on the bushes and plants growing around the edge of the playground. He put the book down and walked over to the window to take a look for himself. 'All right then. I think this is a job for you, Martin. You'd better run along and ask Mrs Bundy to retrieve her animals.'

He ran across the playground, out through the main gates and down Barton Lane to the now familiar house next to the school. 'Mrs Bundy, it's your goats,' he said when she came to the door. 'They're in the playground eating the flowers.'

'Oh my naughty children. Always they are up to mischief. Wait there.' She disappeared into the house and returned a moment later with two leather dog leads. 'Come with me. We must tell them to come home.'

She took Martin by the hand and walked briskly to the playground where the two small brown and white goats were greedily eating the wallflowers. She approached them slowly but they seemed unconcerned or unaware until she came fairly close. Then, each time she took a step closer, they would move slowly a little further away, keeping all the time just out of her reach.

Suddenly a shrill voice called out from behind them, 'Get those animals out of this playground! Do you hear me? Get your animals away from here! This is a school, not a farmyard.'

'Who is that?' Mrs Bundy asked.

'It's the headmistress. Mrs Scattergood.'

Mrs Bundy handed the two leads to Martin and walked slowly towards the door where the headmistress was standing observing this outrageous intrusion into her realm. 'Yes, I have come here to bring my little ones home. You will let me go and get them, please?'

'Yes, of course, woman. Go and take them away. And you come back into school, Martin.'

Mrs Bundy grasped his hand again. 'No. Please, I need my little goatherd. You come with me.' Even Mrs Scattergood didn't argue.

By this time the two animals had split up. One was just disappearing round the far end of the building towards the playing field at the rear whilst the other had progressed to the geraniums. Mrs Bundy sent Martin to one end of the border and she went to the other whilst the goat was browsing unconcerned in the middle. 'Now, you come slowly this way.' He walked towards the animal and Mrs Bundy began to call softly, 'Viddy, viddy viddy. Hier mein Liebchen. Viddy, viddy, viddy.' Again the animal began to move just out of her reach, but then he saw Martin and stopped. He took one more mouthful of geraniums, turned and walked towards Mrs Bundy. She clipped one of the leads onto his collar and led him away like an obedient dog, beckoning Martin to follow to the playing field.

The other goat, however, was at the far side of the field and Martin
supposed that this one would be much more difficult to catch. 'Ach, leave her,' said Mrs Bundy. 'I will send Kaspar.' With that she picked up the goat at her side. 'Du musst mit mich zu Hause,' she said as she laid him across her shoulders like a scarf and walked out of the playground with the goat chewing at her ribbons. Martin waited to see what would happen next.

In a few minutes Mrs Bundy appeared at the fence where a gap opened from the lane behind the houses onto the playing field. Then Kaspar came through the gap, ran across the field towards the goat,
and stopped about thirty yards away from it. He watched it intently. When the goat moved, the dog moved in the same direction, inching a little closer all the time. When the two animals were about ten yards apart the goat began to run towards the house and the dog followed. They disappeared through the gap in the fence and Martin returned to the classroom.

On his way home that afternoon, Martin turned into the lane between the playground and the houses intending to take the short cut by the allotments. Mrs Bundy, was in her front garden cutting back some overgrown bushes. She looked up as he approached and called to him, 'Come here! I want to show you something.' She let him in through the side gate in the high fence. 'You want to see my other animals? Come with me.'

At one end of the garden were two ramshackle sheds and an Anderson shelter. Along the far side were what appeared to be various feeding troughs and an old zinc bath full of water. In the middle of the garden a donkey was standing motionless, facing the house and just looking at nothing. Suddenly a small reddish coloured pig ran out of the Anderson shelter squealing and shrieking and began to crash around the troughs. It sounded as though it was in terrible pain. 'What's wrong with it?' asked Martin.

'He's hungry. Come with me. I will show you what we do.'

He followed her into the kitchen and so did the pig. In the corner was a arge copper boiler like the one his mother used for washing clothes. Mrs Bundy lifted the hinged lid and stirred the thick soupy smelling contents with a big stick that looked like an old rounders bat. She picked up a jug and began to fill a bucket. The pig squealed louder and louder. She filled up one of the troughs and the pig and his more docile mate set about noisily and messily emptying it.

'Now come with me. I will give you some lemonade.'

He followed her back into the house and she showed him into a large room adjoining the kitchen. There were cardboard boxes piled up everywhere, leaving just enough space to move between them. By the window was a dining table with boxes and cases crammed underneath it and more stacked on top. Only the sideboard and the mantelpiece were free of boxes. On these were displayed a huge collection of clocks. Clocks of every description: carriage clocks, bracket clocks, cheap alarm clocks, an enormous black and gold clock which seemed to Martin to be in the shape of the Town Hall with its great columns at the front entrance. And on the walls all around the room were an assortment of cuckoo clocks.

He had been staring open mouthed for several minutes at all the clocks before he realised that there was somebody else in the room. In the shadows of the corner between the fireplace and the window a young man was sitting in a leather armchair with the ginger cat on his knee. Martin couldn't really tell how old he would be; he was a grown up but not nearly as old as people's dads. Maybe about the same age as Jean, his big sister. He was big, bigger than Mrs Bundy, and had a wispy ginger beard. He seemed to be gazing fixedly at the ceiling. 'Hello,' said Martin and went to stroke the cat.

The young man made no response but continued staring absent mindedly. Kaspar was lying on the rug at his feet whilst a black and white kitten played games with his tail. Mrs Bundy came into the room and handed Martin a glass of her home made lemonade. 'A drink for my little goatherd,' she said.

'Please, Mrs Bundy, why have you got so many clocks?'

She laughed. 'My Franz. He makes the cuckoo clocks. Always he is making clocks. And people bring him clocks to mend.'

He drank the lemonade and looked for somewhere to put the glass down. 'I'll have to go now. My Mam will get cross if I'm late home.' He said goodbye to the young man in the armchair but still he made no response. Outside, the pigs had finished their feed and were basking in the spring sunshine. One of the goats was on top of the Anderson shelter eating leaves from the overhanging trees and the donkey was now standing motionless facing the troughs and just looking at nothing.

As Mrs Bundy was letting Martin out at the back gate, Father Spencer cycled slowly past on his way from the allotments, his cassock gathered around his knees. He looked from Martin to Mrs Bundy, and from Mrs Bundy to Martin and, without a word, rode on. Before Martin reached the road, he saw that the elderly vicar was cycling towards the main school building.

The following day, as Martin's class were marching in single file back to their classroom after morning playtime, a familiar shrill voice called out, 'Martin Latham! Come to my office.' It was Mrs Scattergood. He followed her up the stairs to that part of the school which pupils only ever saw if they had been caught in some particularly dreadful wrongdoing. On this occasion, however, the headmistress did not appear at first to be especially angry.

'Now then, Martin,' she began as she seated herself at her desk, 'are you going to tell me about yesterday?'

'Yes, Miss.' He thought she winced when he addressed her as 'Miss' but he could do no other. When first she had come to Barton Lane Primary School two years before, she had tried to insist upon being addressed as 'Ma'am' as befit her position as head of the school. But Martin, in his innocence, had protested in front of the whole school at morning assembly, 'But, Miss, you're not my Mam so I can't call you Mam.' And so she remained 'Miss' just like the newest and youngest recruit to the school staff.

'Well?' she prompted.

'Please, Miss, what am I to tell you about?'

'Why did you go to that animal woman's house?'

'Mr Jenkins told me to go. Her goats were in the playground and they were eating the flowers.'

'Yes, I know about that,' she said impatiently, 'I mean after school. You were seen there after school, so tell me why you had gone back.'

'She asked me to go in and see her animals.'

'And then what?'

'She fed the pigs.'

'Yes, and then?'

'Gave me some lemonade.'

'What else?'

'That's all really, Miss.'

'Are you sure?'

'Yes, Miss.'

'Absolutely sure?'

'Yes, Miss.'

'Very well, then. Now listen to me, Martin. You are not to go in there again. Do you understand me?'

'No, Miss. Why can't I go in there if I want to?'

It was not the response that Mrs Scattergood expected. 'Because these people are not to be trusted,' she snapped angrily. 'Do you hear me?'

'But she's quite nice really,' Martin protested.

'Don't you dare answer me back! Those people are not 'quite nice really.' Do you realise that while your father was away fighting in the war, there were some people who had to be taken away for fear they were Nazi spies? You know what that means, don't you?

'Yes, Miss.'

'People who wanted this country defeated in the war. And Mr, what's his name? Anyway, him, he was one of them. So don't you dare tell me they are 'quite nice really' because they are not.'

'But my Mam and Dad let me go there.'

'Enough! I will have no more of this!' She took a ruler from her drawer. 'Hold out your hands.' She hit him hard, twice on each palm. 'Now go back to your classroom and don't you dare let me see you ever again going into that house. Go on, away with you.'

On his way back to school after lunch time, Martin saw Mrs Scattergood coming out of Mrs Bundy's front gate, looking very righteous and satisfied. He would have tried to avoid her, but it was too late. She looked down at him and said, 'She won't trouble you again, Martin. I've seen to that.'

He thought that perhaps he was supposed to say, 'Thank you,' but he would not. Mrs Scattergood strode on to school.

On the way home that afternoon, he took his usual short cut along the lane and when he came to Mrs Bundy's side gate, it was slightly ajar. She looked out as he drew near. 'Your teacher, she is not a bad woman. One day she might understand. You must do what she tells you. I know bad people. Really bad people, but they are not here. Cannot hurt us any more.' She handed him a small cardboard box. 'This is yours. You are still my friend, no matter if teachers tell you not to come.'

'I'm sorry, Mrs Bundy.'

'You must go home. Always you can wave to my goats when you walk in the lane. And your cat, he will watch for you.'

'And I'll listen for the donkey.'

He walked home sadly and told his mother what had happened. 'Don't worry too much about it,' she said. 'You can always visit her again when you start at the Grammar School. Now then, what's in the box?'

He opened it and took out a cuckoo clock. 'Oh, it's just like the one we gave Jean for her room in college,' said his mother. 'Your Dad bought it in town. Now then, where shall we put it?'

A few days later everyone filed into the school hall for morning assembly but Mrs Scattergood was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Mr Jenkins came to the platform and announced solemnly that the Headmistress had been taken into hospital and would be away from school for a few weeks. In the meantime he would stand in as Deputy Head. 'Quiet!' he shouted as the assembled school seemed about to erupt into cheering. 'We will sing hymn number twelve, New Every Morning.'

At the end of the afternoon Martin approached Mr Jenkins on his way out of the classroom. 'Sir, is it all right if I go and see Mrs Bundy's goats on the way home?'

'Of course it is. You don't have to ask me. Never have done before.'

'Thank you, sir.'

He stopped by occasionally over the next few weeks and helped to feed the pigs. Konrad, the donkey, soon became accustomed to him appearing at the gate and would slowly approach and nuzzle him, waiting for the titbits which Mrs Bundy let him feed to him. Like the Alsatian, he held an honoured position in this strange household. Kaspar and Konrad were the only two animals who had been given names. Even the ginger cat remained unchristened. Mrs Bundy always spoke of him as Martin's cat so perhaps he should give it a name. 'Mrs Bundy,' he said one day, 'I think I should like to call my cat Prowler.'

In those few weeks when he was free again to visit Mrs Bundy, Martin never went further into the house than the kitchen and never set eyes again on the silent young man inside, nor on Old Bundy.

It was coming towards the end of term when all of Martin's class would leave Barton Lane for good. Everyone supposed that Mrs Scattergood would not return now until after the summer holidays and all the class were quite openly glad to think that they had already seen the last of her. One Friday, however, when Mr Jenkins was dismissing them at the end of the afternoon, he announced to the departing rabble, 'You will all be very glad to learn that Mrs Scattergood will be back on Monday. So I want you all to let it be clear how orderly and disciplined you have remained in her absence. No fighting in the playground, no rampaging through the streets, no talking in the school corridors or you will send the poor lady straight back to hospital. And we don't want that, now do we?'

On Monday morning gloom descended on the school. Mrs Scattergood, who had arrived very early, as was her habit, came into the playground a few minutes before the whistle was due. Some children noticed her in the doorway and became rather more subdued and orderly but a group of boys who were marching around bellowing an assortment of playground chants had not seen her. As they came to where she was standing they began to chant, 'Webster cuts your hair, Webster cuts your hair, ee eye addio, Webster cuts your hair.' Some nearby who were aware of what was happening were hoping against hope that they would not chant the next verse. But they did. 'Creepy grabs your bum, Creepy grabs your bum, ee eye addio, Creepy grabs your bum.' The Headmistress grabbed the boys and hauled them off to her study.

Morning assembly was a little late starting. Everybody was waiting for the Headmistress to come in but she did not. Mr Jenkins slipped out and returned a few minutes later with four boys whom he sent to join the rest of their class. Then Mrs Scattergood marched in, took her place at the lectern and glared at the assembled school. 'It has become immediately apparent,' she began sternly, 'that during my absence discipline in this school has suffered greatly. I will not have it. This morning I have heard the most appalling language in the playground. I will not have it. Now let me tell you this - things have got to change. And let me warn you that you must be very careful out of school. There are bad people around. Very bad people. But there are bad children as well and when bad children start going to bad people terrible things can happen.' Martin had thought at first that this was just about the chanting in the playground but now he supposed it was also about him going to visit Mrs Bundy. He tried to hide behind the boy in front of him. 'So you must be very careful. Do I make myself clear? Very well, we'll say no more about it. But think on. We will now sing hymn number twelve, New Every Morning.'

On the way home that afternoon, he waved to one of the goats which was standing on top of the Anderson shelter and looking into the lane. But he did not go in through the gate.

Archived comments for Bunderlin - chapter two
Jen_Christabel on 2005-03-01 11:07:13
Re: Bunderlin - chapter two
I liked this very much and am now off to read the first chapter!

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-03-01 13:23:19
Re: Bunderlin - chapter two
Thanks, JayCee
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

A Good Turn for Father Mike (posted on: 28-01-05)
A short story inspired by a footpath under the dual carriageway which I drive over every day.
Rob Crompton

Freddy said we could do it so that was it, really. I mean, he knows about these things, so if he says it's OK, it's OK. Simple as that. I would have to drive the trucks and he would bring a JCB, because Freddy can drive a JCB, you see. And he would get the rest of the lads to give a hand with picks and shovels. He reckoned we could do it on a Friday night before it got dark.

It was Father Mike wanted it done. He's the new guy at St Brenda's. Decent chap really, better than the miserable old geezer they had before and he deserves a break, does Father Mike. So Freddy thought we'd help him out as a nice sort of surprise for him. Sort the vandals out good and proper, that's what the idea was. See, they are always messing around, smashing windows in the church hall, painting graffiti and leaving empty cans all over the place.

They come off the estate, you see. Through the subway underneath the motorway and get tanked up in the Griffin. Then they're into Father Mike's church yard where nobody can see what they're up to. And afterwards, they bugger off back to the estate and nobody knows who's done what. And I should know, cause my lad's one of them. We live on the estate, you see. Anyway, Father Mike said, 'If only they'd block up the footpath under the road, it would keep the little sods out and there's be none of this trouble.' Well, not in so many words, but that's what he meant. And he was right, of course. It stands to reason.

Well, Freddy got it organised and we did the job on the Friday of bank holiday weekend. The two trucks were in the lay-by waiting for me when I got there. You don't realise how big those things are till you get into them. Absolutely enormous they were, and both of them loaded up with huge great rocks like Freddy said they would be. I would never have thought we needed that much stone but Freddy knows what he's doing so I guessed it would be all right.

Anyway, I left my Sierra in the lay-by and got into the cab of the first truck. It's only really like driving a car, just a bit bigger, that's all. Mind you, it was a bit scary, I can tell you. I think I must have demolished a couple of bollards on the way round the roundabout, but they can take a fair bit of banging about, those trucks. Getting along the footpath towards the subway was the really tricky bit. The ground was so soft it felt like I was all over the place. Made a bit of a mess, actually. But not to worry about that because the grass will soon grow back again. And the Council will come along and repair the fence eventually.

Freddy and the guys were waiting for me when I got there. After a bit of practice I managed to reverse the truck right up to the subway but I had to get Freddy to show me how to work the tip-up. My licence doesn't really include these big things, you see. Actually, it doesn't even include the Sierra. Well, it does, but not until I get it back in December. We got the stone dumped in a pile and Freddy started with the JCB while I took the truck back and got the other one.

By this time, I'd got the hang of driving the thing. So I got to thinking how we couldn't possibly need all of the stone that Freddy had laid on for us, and how Sheila had been on at me for ages to make her a rock garden at the front of our house. I reckoned I could just nip home on the way back with the second load and drop a bit of stone in front of the house.

So that's what I did. Maybe I left a bit too much because Sheila came out and started giving me some very bad earache about it, the ungrateful cow. But like I said, Dozy Mary next door would probably like a rock garden as well. It would be a nice surprise for her when she comes out of hospital. And once I've rebuilt the garden wall, it'll be just perfect.

When I got back to the subway Freddy and the lads had already got the first lot of stone piled up with just a couple of feet of the subway showing at the top. Gormless Geoff was swinging at a big boulder with a pickaxe and some other guy was shovelling up the bits. 'Hey, did you used to do this when you were in Parkhurst?' shouted Gormless. I just ignored him, the stupid bugger. I swung the truck round and started to back it up and I would have got it right this time, but Freddy got down from the JCB and came across.

'Do you know what I think we should do with this lot?' he said.

'No. What?' says I.

'We should drop it in from above.'

'And how the bloody hell do you suppose we can do that?'

'Easy,' says Freddy. 'Take it up on to the motorway and drop it down from the hard shoulder.'

Now I know Freddy's the expert, but he can be a bit of a barmy git at times and I told him so.

'No, come on,' he says, 'All you've got to do is get as close as you can to the barrier and tip it over the top.'

'And he was right, really. Always is. Because the way I saw it was this - if we dumped it down below it would take all night to get the job done. Probably have to go and get a different JCB to reach high enough. But if we did it Freddy's way we would be finished in time for a few jars in the Griffin. So we did it Freddy's way, but I still think he's a barmy git even if he does know what he's doing. Mind you, I have to hold up my hands and admit that I wouldn't even have thought of trying the job in the first place.

So back I went with the truck and on to the motorway. It scared the pants off me when I heard a police car coming up behind with its siren blaring. Luckily it went straight past, so I guessed that meant the motorway copper for that bit of road was going to be elsewhere for at least half an hour. So that was pretty fortunate, really. Father Mike's Boss must have been smiling down on us.

I wasn't too sure exactly where the subway went under the road. When I got to the signs for the next turn off I realised I'd gone too far, so I pulled onto the hard shoulder and started reversing. Terrified one poor sod in an old Lada but I soon got the hang of keeping it straight.

When I got to the subway there was a problem. The barrier was right up against the hard shoulder so there wasn't enough room to get into position to drop the load over the side without sticking right out into the second lane. I reckoned clever clogs Freddy would have to sort this one out so I called him to come up.

He took one look at the situation and then started trying to flag someone down. What the bloody hell is he up to now? I wondered. Well, it soon became clear. A couple of girls in a Fiesta stopped and he got them to reverse a short way in the slow lane, would you believe, and stop there with their park anywhere flashers going. That gave me room to angle the truck so that I could drop most of the stone over the barrier and onto the top of the pile below.

'Perfect,' said Freddy. 'Won't even have to do any shovelling. Nice work.' He reckoned it would be OK to leave the few bits of stone that had fallen on the hard shoulder. Well, more than a few bits actually. Then he tried to fix up a date with the girls in the Fiesta before they drove off. OK, so they must have been a bit daft to stop in the first place, but they weren't that daft.

Freddy said it was probably best to leave the truck where it was rather than take a chance on driving further up the motorway and bringing it back through the village. There's one or two miserable old biddies who start moaning if anyone drives over their precious roadside flower beds. So Freddy said he would give me a lift back to the lay-by in the JCB and we'd meet the rest of the guys in the Griffin.

'Like how the bloody hell do we get to the Griffin now?' said Gormless Geoff.

'OK, we'll go to the Horseshoe,' said Freddy.

But that was no good either because most of us have been barred from the Horseshoe since we made the new way out of the car park. So we ended up trying the Bluebell. It was a shame really that we couldn't go to the Griffin because it would have been nice to have seen Father Mike so we could tell him he'd have no more trouble from the estate. But the job was done and that was the main thing.

'Mind you,' said Freddy, 'if we was to get a load of ready-mix and pour that in from the top, it would stop the Council coming along and clearing all our stone away.'

Archived comments for A Good Turn for Father Mike
Michel on 2005-01-28 14:29:10
Re: A Good Turn for Father Mike
Clever and amusing - with good, easy style and a great ending. I enjoyed this.

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-01-28 19:34:03
Re: A Good Turn for Father Mike
Thanks for your comment. I've done two or three in a similar style. Might do some more whilst I'm working up to a new novel.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

Gerry on 2005-01-28 20:53:20
Re: A Good Turn for Father Mike
Riv---I enjoyed this read too. Well written and amusing...


Author's Reply:

Kazzmoss on 2005-01-29 18:21:46
Re: A Good Turn for Father Mike
It had disaster written all over it, such a funny story, I could just imagine it! - Kaz

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-01-31 00:27:42
Re: A Good Turn for Father Mike
Very funny - and nice to see someone taking a stand against all these vandals ... 😉

Author's Reply:

Bunderlin (posted on: 24-01-05)
This is the prologue of a novel which I have recently completed. Any comments would be apprreciated.
Rob Crompton

'Why am I doing this?' Martin Latham asked himself as he pulled up behind the white van which had parked outside the vacant shop. He should have been firm, should have insisted that there was really no need to hurry. The trouble was, the contractor working on his new place was taking his time and what was originally supposed to be a two month job now looked like dragging on for six months. A delay like that would lose them a sale. But it was only a fortnight since he'd reluctantly agreed to move out - it shouldn't have happened so quickly. At times he suspected that Julia had got it all lined up ready for the agent to approach him with the offer of this flat as soon as he dropped the first hint that he might be willing make temporary arrangements. So she must have been going round the estate agents on his behalf - why worry? It was, after all, too good to miss even though it was in the grotty part of the town centre with its run-down shops and dowdy pubs and cafes. It was convenient, spacious and available - with no deposit and a low rent.

'Bit of a come down, Squire,' said the driver as he and his mate carried Martin's desk into the flat above the shop.

'Just a stopgap,' Martin responded defensively. 'As soon as my new place is ready I'll be out of here.' He tried to sound casual but the man's remark stung and he resented feeling that he had to explain to a complete stranger why he was moving to this dingy place from the house he'd worked so long and hard for. It didn't help that the man hardly listened. Ah well, he told himself, at least the move meant that he would be able to carry on with his research undisturbed until the start of next term. That was the secret - turn it all to good account. And within a few weeks it will all be behind him.

It took no more than half an hour for the men to finish unloading the few pieces of furniture and when they had gone Martin heaved a sigh of relief and sat down to take in his new surroundings. How many other transient tenants had stared at these walls and felt as deflated he did at that moment? What pictures and posters had brightened up these dismal walls? Who else had sat in that room and resolved to move on as soon as possible? As he looked around he noticed a greeting card on the mantelpiece and groaned thinking that it was probably from Julia. Dear, sweet Julia - she could be insufferably decent and civilised at times. But it wasn't from her. 'The photos will be ready next week,' it said inside. A little odd, he thought. No to, no from, and he had no idea who could have sent it. After a moment's reflection he guessed that it must have been intended for someone else, the previous occupant, perhaps, or somebody whose plans to take the flat had maybe fallen through so, feeling even more deflated, he dropped it into the waste bin and forgot all about it.

He unpacked the small selection of his books and papers - the rest were in packing cases in his sister Jean's garage - and arranged them on the shelf unit by his desk. He set up his computer and felt a little brighter when it emitted a bleep as it came to life and brighter still when he opened the file on The Exilic Origins of Proto-Daniel and left the title page on the screen as he went to sort out his kitchen and prepare himself a meal. It jumped back onto the screen later that evening when he nudged the mouse as he returned after a couple of pints in the Wheatsheaf just around the corner. It didn't nag at his conscience now because he would have the chance at last to get on with it and complete it before the start of term.

On Monday morning another card dropped through his letterbox and this one included a photo processing receipt. 'You can collect the photos from Ann Bates's shop,' said the note inside. But still there was no indication of the sender and nothing to convince Martin that it was not meant for someone else.

He began to make himself some breakfast but was interrupted by a loud hammering at the street door. He turned out the grill and went down the dismal stairs to be greeted by Emma, his daughter, whom he had not expected to see for another few days.

'Hi, Dad. Take this, will you. It weighs a ton,' she said, slipping from underneath a rucksack almost as big as herself. He took the enormous baggage and led the way upstairs and into the living room where Emma flopped into an armchair. 'Something smells good. Am I in time? I'd just love a bacon sandwich. But don't worry I'm not stopping. On the way to the station, actually. Well, eventually. Don't suppose you could give me lift?'

'Yes, of course I will. When do you need to be there?'

'Not until tomorrow. About one o'clock. And we need to pick up Sally on the way. She's at her folk's place in Farnworth. And, by the way, Mum says will you have Samson.'

'But I can't have the dog here. There's no garden for a start. And your mother's got all that space for him.'

'Not any more, she hasn't. She's moving in with Barry, remember? Anyway, I said I'd collect him later today so it's too late to say no.'

Emma tucked in to a bacon and egg sandwich whilst Martin made himself some toast. 'It's nice, this place. It'd suit me. If I was planning on coming back, which I'm not, of course.'

'Have you got any ideas yet for after finals?'

'Come off it, Dad, that's months off. I'm not even beginning to think about it yet. I'll make us a coffee. Don't suppose you've got any decaff, have you? But not to worry, I've got a jar somewhere in here.' She began to search in the many pockets of her rucksack.

'Try the cupboard first. You'll find some in there.'

'Oh, right. Tell you what, when I've had this drink, can you drop me off at Auntie Jean's? I want to see this new Shetland pony she's got. I'll pick Samson up on the way back. And you'd better give me a key in case you go out.'

He handed her the spare key as she started to poke about among the clutter which was already beginning to accumulate on the mantelpiece.

'Give me a tenner as well and I'll get us something nice for supper.' She picked up the card which had arrived that morning. 'I'll get these photos for you while I'm at it.'

'But I'm not sure that they're anything to do with me.'

'Course they are. Must be. No one else lives here do they? You'd better give me another fiver. No, make it ten.'

Emma returned late that afternoon with Samson, a brown and white bull terrier with a black patch over one eye. He was reluctant to come into the flat at first and had to be almost dragged up the stairs. But when he saw Martin he went wild with excitement. It should have been great to have the dog around but Martin groaned inwardly at the prospect of trying to exercise him adequately, particularly once the new term began.

'I'll get supper for us tonight,' said Emma breezily. 'Hope you like Thai food. Well, you'll have to, cause that's what I've got. Anyway, come and look at these photos. Don't know why you go to that Bates's place. Right at the far end of Chorley Road, for goodness' sake. How many photo shops do you have to pass to get there? I suppose you fancy Mrs Bates. Is that it?'

'Don't be daft. I don't even know the woman. Or her shop. They're not even my photos, remember?'

'If you say so. But they've got your name on the packet so let's take a look at them.'

One by one, Martin took them from the packet and handed them to Emma after a quick glance. 'There's nothing special here. Just general views from round and about the town centre and the park. One or two from a bit further afield.' The last one surprised him. 'Oh. This one's, er'

'What is it?'

'Well, here, take a look.'

She took it from him and examined it carefully. It was a picture of Martin himself at the front door, probably on the day that he moved in.

'So what do you suppose this is about?'

'Haven't a clue.'
'Well, maybe if we have another close look at them all we might spot something. So here goes. First one.' She put the picture on the table in front of him. 'Tell me about it.'

'It's the bandstand in the park. Looks a bit dilapidated now. There's nothing else. Trees in the distance.'

'And this one.' She began to spread them out on the table.

'The rose gardens and the old cafe. Some of these are prints off old negatives, of course. It's ages since the cafe was demolished. And the bandstand as well, come to think of it.'

'What about this one?'

'Shops on Chorley Road. Recent, I should think.'

More shops, Saint James's Church, Victoria Square, Barton Lane School, a reservoir, probably Rumbold Lake. 'Oh wait a minute. Some of these ring bells, not all of them, but some of them do. So I think I might know whose photos these are. Yes, of course I do.' It was the lake which had brought it back to him. 'I recall an afternoon, it's a long time ago now, when I stood on the spot where that picture was taken. I guess it must have been the chap I was with then who took these. Looks like he's back in circulation.'

'And he's been looking for you?'

'Watching and waiting, I should say, knowing him.'

'So, tell me about him. Why doesn't he just knock and say, Hi, remember me? Come to that, why would he want to look you up again after however many years?'

'That I would like to know. First time I met him was when I was at primary school. Came across him again round about the time I started at University but he never had a clue that I was the kid who knew his mother years before. The last I saw of him was in Strangeways shortly after he'd begun a life sentence for murder. I'd given evidence against him.'

Archived comments for Bunderlin
shadow on 2005-01-25 16:10:04
Re: Bunderlin
Interesting, good hook at the end - why is it a prologue rather than chapter 1? Readable, though a few sentences a bit overlong eg ' He set up his computer and felt a little brighter when it emitted a bleep as it came to life and brighter still when he
opened the file on The Exilic Origins of Proto-Daniel and left the title page on the screen as he went to sort out his kitchen and prepare himself a meal.'

The first para I thought could do with simplifying a bit. I had to read it twice to get the gist - do you need all that detail on contractors etc? But the basic situation came over clearly, and the mystery was well set up - I definitely want to know what's going on.

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-01-26 12:37:08
Re: Bunderlin
Thanks for your comment. I take your point about simplifying the first para. The info needs to be there because it's all tied in with how Martin has been manipulated (or has he?) into moving into that particular flat.
Prologue or Chapter One? Actually, it is chapter one and that's how it's headed in the ms. So why did I call it a prologue? Mainly because chapter two is the beginning of a sustantial section which tells the story of how Martin came to know Bunderlin in the first place, and of events leading up to his imprisonment. And the following section picks up the story from where chapter one leaves off.
Might post more later.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

AnthonyEvans on 2005-02-24 21:34:06
Re: Bunderlin
dear rivington, i agree with shadow on this, i too had to read that first paragraph a couple of times and i still don't quite get it.

i think this piece is well told, flows smoothly. it's intriguing and the characterization is good, i partic. like the daughter's pushiness.

i'm not sure martin would be as relaxed about the photos as he is once he figures out who they are from. and i'm not sure he would tell his daughter. you could leave some of this up in the air.

small things dept. 'as deflated as' in para 3.

best wishes, anthony.

Author's Reply:

Rivington on 2005-02-26 11:28:09
Re: Bunderlin
Thanks for your comments. On reflection, I think you are right about that first para, so I've simplified it to make it read a bit better.
As to why Martin seems to be fairly relaxed when he realises who is responsible for the photos - that's part of the story. But a bit of hesitation and some probing from Emma before he adds the final comment about the guy having done time for arson would improve things. So, thanks.
I'll post the next chapter - which goes right back to the beginning and introduces the story of Martin's involvement with Bunderlin.
Rob Crompton

Author's Reply:

Jen_Christabel on 2005-03-01 11:18:27
Re: Bunderlin
Very enjoyable, and set up well for further chapters.

Author's Reply: