My agent asked for an extract or three, so here are a few outtakes from what has been described by some as my ’work’ and by others as my ‘verbal meanderings’. If you can spare a moment to sit down at the side of life’s manic highway and avail yourself of a sampling that might just possibly make you leap to your feet again with a cry of “I want to read the rest of it now please, where can I get it?” then I’d not only be right chuffed but very likely clap you on the back and stand you a beer and ask to hear the story of your life.
Extract: Chapter 1-3
“SOMETHING’S BROKEN THROUGH THE DIMENSIONS…”
“Something’s broken through the dimensions,” the aii guy was raving-not-waving where he shuddered and shivered in the back of the taxicab as it pulled away from St. Pancras Station. “It must be stopped,” he rasped, “it’s lashing out in panic…like a bear in a pit…hardly knows what it’s doing yet…it will learn more of its powers as it goes along…it’s here to kill, though I don’t know who or what or why…don’t know if I can face these things any more…thought those days gone forever.”
“Sure, sure,” Savannah Marlowe lulled lullingly like a lullaby to a fractious infant, not caring if her honey-blonded pixie might be getting out of shape around her bespectacled pretty-if-she-cared-to-make-it face golden by courtesy of her lovely African American dad, having realised that before starting swinging overhand punches and underhanded uppercuts at said lovely dad, ultra-anxious Mom or whoever else she suspected might have untethered this frantic antic and set him bounding in her wake on her arrival in the big L, she couldn’t just fret, forget, then let this disorientated chancer with the disconcertingly perceptive knowledge about her calmly – or, in his case, not so calmly – roll off into the gasoline fumes of a warm afternoon in the land of Shakespeare, the Beatles and Ed Sheeran without knowing how he knew these things.
It had started less than a half-hour ago on the Eurostar from Paris as it rushed through the gleaming golds and peaceful greens of serene Kent countryside on that blue-sky day towards the end of an English August, when the five-foot-five American from Wisconsin, aged 16, in pink denim jacket over a white tee above blue cargo pants, was absorbing first impressions of dingle-dell England with its sun-twinkled townlets and dinky fields dotted with stock-still horses and browsing cows when what had seemed a freak reflection in the train window was seen to be a pair of phantom eyes peering in at her with scalp-freezing intensity, floating ever closer and larger, seeing into everything she was and would ever be. She’d screamed, but the scream stayed in her mind because her throat had stopped working, and it came to her that she’d ceased to breathe and was frozen with such terror as she’d never known, because what was happening was more impossible than ice-blocks in a furnace or tap-dancing turtles keeping in step, and she squeezed her own eyes shut in hopeless hope that the darkness would spin her into an oblivion from which she would wake to find herself back in Kansas in good old monochrome with Toto the dog and it had all been a…
Now Savannah wasn’t sure whether she had a dying duck, a candidate for the psych ward or a queen-sized helping of both on her hands as, instead of taking in the sights of this mighty city with its vehicles on the wrong side of the road, she was keeping her focus on the swole soul with the features of a movie-groovy and the physique of a high school jock who’d overdone the press-ups and was sadly badly madly flawed by some form of something inviting the attentions of men in white coats with soothing voices.
“I’d forgotten the power of venomous spirits entering this physical plane,” he babbled as she loosened his necktie, “and the supernormal abilities they give to the person they inhabit…” His archaic phraseology cranked up in volume. “Horrific and hideous things are happening all over the world,” he croaked. “If I tuned into a fraction of them it would melt my brain…but this has found me.”
While on the Eurostar that half hour earlier, three carriages behind where Savannah sat trembling with eyes so tightly shut it would take more than a devastated prayer about that fenestrated glare to prise them open again, the babbling rent-a-rant in the taxi had been lying back in his carriage seat in such silent stillness he might have been dead but for a restlessness beneath closed eyelids betraying a preternatural alertness, as an animal in the wild sleeps, ready to spring into action with all senses flaring. He looked no more than seventeen and his thick black hair was parted in post-modern style, his sunbronzed face as stare-at-able as a teenaged Tyrone Power’s crossed with a Justin Bieber’s, and although he would have heard of the once-famous film star and might even have known him, the latter could have been the name of a fashion house sprung up when he wasn’t around any more. Nor would the seemingly groovy snoozer have imagined for a moment he had any looks whatsoever, and had anything of the kind been suggested he would’ve thought his ‘leg was being pulled’, as he might have put it with his old-style manner of, er, putting things.
He wore a new charcoal-coloured suit and lavender silk shirt with azure necktie and matching triangle of linen blooming from the upper pocket, bought in Paris the previous day by the to him novel method of presenting a small oblong card with electronic attributes and a code number his bank on the Boulevard des Italiens had given him once he’d traced its present-day location and gone through the processes of identification only made possible by a covert visit to a top-secret section of the British Embassy. For one of the last times he’d been in that city was in 1925 to see Mistinguett, who sang charmingly off-key and danced with flash and dash at the Moulin Rouge, the only woman ever to cause his feelings to stray from his one great love who’d died when they’d both been too young for the buds of romance to open, let alone flower. Picasso and Hemingway had been there that evening and, her boyfriend Maurice Chevalier being elsewhere on a theatrical tour, the charmante chanteuse was delightedly flattered on intuiting the beginnings of such feelings in the apparently wildly young psychic, for he looked scarcely out of childhood then though her senior by four years and having been a deadly flying ace in the Great War.
On the rack above this vision was wedged an antiquated portmanteau, its dark-brown leather covered in faded labels, from the Queen Mary to New York Harbour, the Île de France to Le Havre, flight tags from Imperial Airways planes from Croydon Airport, travel stickers for the Hotel d’Angleterre in Cairo, Raffles Hotel in Singapore, all of which being, his fellow passengers might have thought as they glanced at the dated trilby hat, the affectations of a youthful enthusiast visiting London for some 1930s themed event.
When the Eurostar pulled into St. Pancras International at 1.30 p.m., Savannah took down her holdall and hoisted her backpack on still-not-completely unthawed shoulders, her first-time-in-London thrill-chill flawed by jumpiness, twitchiness and a few other nesses besides. Stepping down to the platform and joining the passengers towards the exit, a nervous instinct made her glance round to glimpse an ancient-looking leather bag swinging in a holiday-mahoganied hand. With an uneasy feeling of being followed she upped the action, and the footfalls that went with the bag quickened too. Reaching the main concourse, she stopped and turned, ready to shout or scream or something like that.
No one was there.
Hearing a quiet cough, Savannah turned again.
First meeting with DandiDaemon (to be worked into an essay or could be a story. Sozzo about the writing – if you hate it you’re pretty well going to have to hate me too : )
He was leaning against a pillar, six feet high and lean of build, maybe a year older than herself, not so much snack as gulp-ulping three-courses with coffee and liqueur to follow, in shiny suit, silk tie and gleaming shoes, hair trim under a rakishly tilted hat of a kind actors covered their wigs with in old movies on TCM, and those same black-fringed eyes she’d thought she’d seen outside the train window were doing the same again, lapis lazuli shot through with glowing viridian in a face sun-darkened as a Spaniard’s, teeth white and even as an orthodontist’s demo as the lips drew back in a smile that could have contributed to global warming, incongruous lines at the corners of mouth and eyes hinting at hardships endured and depths of compassion and toughness evolved over inhuman chasms of time.
But that of course couldn’t be, because come what may or may not, this guy was so obviously jeune even springtime was whiskery and April in Paris was getting ready for Kris Kringle to get his boots stuck in the chimney.
“I don’t know how you do that trick with the eyes in the window,” Savannah articulated carefully. “Some kind of projection device you’ve been playing with? Well I hope you had fun, it sure was creepy.” She took off the pink-rimmed glasses she wore to correct the astigmatism she’d been born with, afraid she was making an award-winning yooper of herself for saying insane things to unknown boys who looked like princes you bumped into in fairytale glades during storytime when you were little, and she polished the lenses while rummaging through the jumble of thoughts and sub-thoughts plummeting though her feverish brain-cells, one of which being to put as much distance between herself and this joker in as short as possible a time. So she hooked the specs back on and fixed him with what she hoped resembled a censorious glare through emerald eyes bequeathed by her maternal great-great-grammy emigrated from Ireland full many a foot-clattering ceilidh ago. “If you think infantile pranks like that are funny,” she sort of snapped in a snappish sort of way that didn’t quite come off, “I can assure you they’re not. Now go play someplace else and leave me alone!” She felt her cheeks heat as her indignation grew along with her sense of daring for having spoken like that, and still he said nothing but kept his tranquil gaze steadily on her, a slight frown between sable brow-arches, and her rage dispersed like a sailboat at speed when the wind drops. “Who are you?” she finished lamely.
“Ah, the eternal question!” he quipped with buccaneering lilt. “Who of us ever really knows?” Her fabulously fit accoster straightened from the pillar with an agile unfolding of a dancerish physique, doffing the crumbly hat with an archaic bow, and the grin that did things to his perfectly formed features had the capacity to blind and enfeeble. “My name is Perchpole, Horatio Perchpole,” he announced, “one of those fine old English surnames doomed to vanish with the likes of Chaucer and Bytheseashore. When I finally kick the bucket it slumps into the grave with me; my only brother, Augustus, departed this dolorous yet joyous vale of tears and magnificent merriment without issue, you see.”
Savannah blinked. ‘Without issue’? Was he for real? No, he was a hologram, shimmering faintly and giving off invisible waves that thrummed through her bones like she was standing near an electricity pylon with signs saying ‘Keep Off’ and ‘Danger of Death’, with cartoon lightning zapping a matchstick man to proneness; she should break away before her hair caught fire or her ears starting flashing like neon lamps. So she got ready to run, and…
Meanwhile, in different typeface for differentiation and mood-change, here’s what was happening elsewhere at this same time, which Savannah’s strange stranger, surely stranger than even the strangest of strange strangers she’d ever not known yet, was about to connect with in a way impossible to explain.
A SCUZZY MUZZY LAD
A scuzzy muzzy lad emerged from behind bushes where he’d passed another queasily uneasy night and the first half of a heat-heavy day in the titchy tent he carried in a rain-eroded rucksack along with a staleing loaf and plastic water-bottle that leaked if he wasn’t careful (which he wasn’t), two pairs of socks, a battered box of tissues, a rumpled T and leccy razor with weakening battery to tease the stubble with ever-decreasing efficiency from increasingly gaunt cheeks on his hitchhike north to take an emergency job in his brother’s car repair shop in Knutsford because his life had fallen apart down down-in-the mouth south; some biscuits, a few apples scrumped from a tree a couple of villages ago, plus a discarded pair of holed tights inadvertently included in the haste of departure.
Now he was homeless, hopeless, feckless (not an ounce of feck anywhere), clueless, roofless, rootless, potless and just about everything-else-less except cloud, peer, stain or match, this was the military equivalent of sounding the retreat back to where he’d come from to regroup and tend the life-wounds he’d collected skirmishing with realities that had a habit of biting rather than righting. His name was Scotty Briggs, aged nineteen, a narrow-shouldered five-eight with a face like a non-too-bright pug dog topped by spikey hair the colour of a drowned mouse, and he’d been sloshed in the chops with a six-month driving ban after clocking up twelve points on clipping a red light on an empty road in broad daylight, which had cost him a fine that drained resources even scantier than the smiles on the face of the girl in the bank and lost him his job driving a van collecting spares, so he’d sold his wreck-on-wheels while it still had some small value, and his phone on eBay, and had given the meagre proceeds to his girlfriend Elvi, mother of his child and original owner of the sad holed tights, along with his debit card – more by way of flourish than practicality because the overdraft it carried didn’t so much have teeth as fangs – and would have given her his credit card too if she hadn’t already made him pay it off then stood over him while he’d cut it up with scissors before jumping up and down on the pieces, screaming.
He didn’t need telling he was about as useful to Elvi as a jar of pickled gherkins at an indigestion-sufferers’ reunion, now he was literally penniless and still only forty-something miles from where he’d started off from two nights before – or was it three? – after she’d slung him out, and…
Something weird happened.
His view of the world was shattered as if a builders’ wrecking ball had swung out of nowhere and smashed him on the side of his head, injecting his senses with a dazzling lightning bolt of a kind that splits trees with a massive crack, and as he thudded to his kneecaps the freckled face of a tiny red-headed girl appeared like a flashcut in a TV commercial in king-sized HD and stayed searing into his visual cortex till it became a negative image of itself and melted to blankness, and Scotty was blinking around at grass and trees again, launching his body upright to stand swaying, sun burning his neck while the businesslike nuzzling buzz of bees, the trilling and piping of boisterous birds and the baaaing and aaa-ing of sheepish sheep reasserted themselves. It must’ve been, he started to think in his non-too-precise way, a whatsitsname like double vision when you’re knackered or giant mushrooms rising up in the road just ahead when you’ve been driving through darkness for too too too too long, and…
COULD BE THE REASON SHE HADN’T MOVED YET
Could be the reason she hadn’t moved yet was because she felt sympathy for him in his all-too-obvious mental affliction, though his voice was deceptively rational and moderately deep, with a trace of cockney London laced with echoes of some far off America and touches of a refined kind of English from when buffers in top hats and spats nibbled cucumber sandwiches playing croquet with crinolined ladies on sedate summer lawns.
“Allow me to apologise,” he went on with the starched-up phraseology that went with his suit, “if ‘Fred’ was making a nuisance of himself back there.”
“Fred?” She shouldn’t have been talking to this retro fashion plate on legs, yet maybe her feet knew something her brain didn’t because they continued to stay where they were.
“My ‘free ranging etheric double’,” he explained. “We all of us have one, a doppelgänger or astral form. The trick is how to control it. In the 1840s a schoolteacher named Emilie Sagée had a fully visible one that followed her around like a ghostly twin and scared the wits out of her pupils; your President Lincoln often saw his beside him in the mirror mimicking his actions when he was shaving, and among others who could see theirs were the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, the French writer Guy de Maupassant…” He paused as if having distracted himself. “Ah, M’sieur de Maupassant,” his wistful murmur came, “how kindly he spoke to Chessie and I at the Summer Circus on the Champs Elysées that year, crouching down to talk to us.”
“I saw eyes!” she blurted out.
“That shouldn’t have happened,” he said regretfully. “‘Fred’ shouldn’t have anything visible or it gives the game away, and goes to show how rusty I’ve got.” A creepy thought occurred to Savannah, and a shocked expression at once distorted his features. “Heavens,” he gasped, “don’t even think it, young lady! ‘Fred’ would never go anywhere inappropriate, it would wake me in an instant. I only ever sent him out for military reconnaissance and detective work.”
At this, something Mr. Vogel had once discussed with them in Science began probing into Savannah’s head like a bank robber drilling through the wall of a vault, but she couldn’t develop the thought because he carried on talking. “Your vibrational frequency must’ve set him off again after all this time.”
“My vibrational what?”
“It’s like finding the precise wavelength on a radio by chance from among millions,” he sang on. “Yours is remarkably similar to a dear friend called Chessie’s, who walked the tightrope so boldly and picturesquely but had a rare but fatal fall while standing en pointe high above the circus ring in the manner of Zanfretta.”
While Savannah was thinking who or what Zanfretta is, was or might be, he continued to smile wistfully at her. “Long after Chessie’s physical death,” he resumed, “she could appear to me on a frequency remarkably close to yours – but I forgot how to do it…or couldn’t any more. At the time she died we were too young for anything more, yet she and I are bonded forever through time and space from previous incarnations.” He sighed again. “There has never been, nor could there ever be, anyone else for me.”
Was he having the cripes-sake ineffable effing effrontery to mark her card with a down-jabbing thumb? “I suppose you realise you’re not making a whole lot of sense?” Savannah remarked a touch hotly, edging away from him now her feet had decided to do something about the situation.
“The ability to project ‘Fred’ stopped with everything else when I was wounded at the end of the war,” he declared, seemingly unaware that his audience was on the retreat. “Except, perhaps oddly, for the healing and the ageing, so I’ve a terrible suspicion it could be starting again, what with ‘Fred’ going out on his own like that.” He faltered, then appeared to rally himself. “Which could be why I felt impelled to come back, though I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to face it this time and my strong feeling is I may be needing your help because I really don’t think I can’t do this one alone.”
“War? Help?” Savannah’s mind couldn’t connect with anything he was saying. Wasn’t he too juvenile to have been in the armed services? This was one delusional chowderhead she needed clear of quick, but her feet had stopped moving again. “What war might that be?” she found herself asking.
“The second one,” he went on, as if querying the statement himself.
“The second what?”
“World War. I was in the first one too, but came through that relatively unscathed despite having seen a fair bit of action, though the Red Baron nearly got me a couple of times, and I him.”
She should go. Now. She glanced round. Was his carer or minder anywhere near? Had he escaped from somewhere? The guy was clearly sick, sad and lost, Fifty-One-Fifty material. Might he actually be dangerous? “I have to go,” she said as politely as she could under the circumstances and, brushing past him, inadvertently brought her arm into contact with his hand, and he recoiled as if he’d touched an electric cable.
“This is your first visit to London,” he cried out, eyes saucering. “I’m seeing a lake…Michigan. You’re from…Wisconsin…studying Literature and History, will develop an interest in Journalism… Advertising appealed for a while…as did Publishing …but they lack the realities that interest you most…” – and he paused, his gaze alight with wonderment as the psychometric certainties poured into him for the first time since before the Werwolf bullet had laid him low.
Savannah wasn’t so much impressed by his words, which sounded pretty much the kind of stuff Mystical Martha might come up with on a damp day at the funfair having been pre-primed by someone who knew her, but that he was acting badly enough to be drummed out of drama school with a one-way bus ticket. “Your name’s a prairie…open spaces…,” he blustered on. “I’m getting subtropical…Savannah, yes. Born just before Christmas, your mother…intense, no Hortense, your father is…David – er, Davis…” he paused, gasping. “Now I’m seeing snow…ice…board…skis… your arm…the left one…robbery in the street…so cowardly a kick…it killed your dreams…”
She knew now for sure this was a set-up. No way could he know, unless he’d been told, how she’d been texting in her hometown last summer when a boy had mounted the sidewalk on a bike and grabbed at her phone, knocking her down and kicking her, trapping a nerve in her left elbow and putting an end to her hopes as a competitive skier and snowboarder. “How do you know about me?” she shouted above the station’s clamour. “I’ll ask you again, who are you?”
“I was once known as ‘DandiDaemon’,” he said, so quietly she hardly heard.
The Life and Times of a Doctor Who Dummy
eBook Published by Greenwave Editions, September 2014; Paperback Edition, February 2015
Extract from Chapter 7
A word about that room I slept in, for there was a story attached to it that fascinated Derek Martinus. I had a dressing gown which I would put on to nip up the corridor to the loo in the night if I needed to. Soon after our arrival, I did this after a session in the bar with the others, at around 2 a.m. I usually slept nude as the weather was still warm, and as I put the dressing gown on it became intensely cold. I tore the garment off with a feeling that if I didn’t do so I would freeze. Just to touch it chilled my hands to the bone so I threw it on the floor and, for some weird reason, jumped up and down on it, and the soles of my feet felt like ice when doing so. Staring at the crumpled gown in bewilderment, I backed away from it, put on my pyjamas in case I met anyone, and left the room.
On returning I peered across at the discarded dressing gown. ‘This is silly,’ I thought. So I removed my pyjamas, picked up the gown and put it on again with what might be called defiance. At once the freezing sensation spread over my shoulders and back again, so I clawed the garment off and hurled it across the room. Then I got back in bed, turned out the lamp and, after a bit more puzzled thought, was soon asleep.
Next day at breakfast I told my story. No, I hadn’t been drunk. Imagination? Possibly – everyone had their own theory. The girl who served us went and told the hotel proprietor, Mr. Hayter. As we dispersed from the breakfast room ready for another day’s filming, he came up to me with an air of apology. “I didn’t want to say anything,” he said. “I hoped you wouldn’t mind being in that room.”
“Why would I mind?” I asked.
“It’s the haunted room,” he went on. “We don’t like to advertise it.” I was staring at him. “Some time in the sixteen-forties, during the Civil War, a wounded Cavalier stayed in that room and died during the night. We’ve had reports in the past about guests experiencing odd sensations there, and some claim to have seen his shape standing by the window.”
I peered at Mr. Hayter, a pleasant man in middle age, balding and on the chubby side. Was he making this up? But he was absolutely serious. “If you’d like to change your room,” he offered, “I’ll make arrangements.”
“Oh no,” I said, “thanks all the same. I quite like the idea of sharing a room with a ghost.”
The Life and Times of a Doctor who Dummy PAGE
The Mystery of the Stolen Brides
Ebook published by Little, Brown Book Group on August 15th 2014 in their Crime Vault (click on the logo to go there).
Extract from Chapter 4
Charlotte turned to see the bed flooded with golden brightness and branded with the bars’ shadows. And she gave a gasp – for the bed curtains on this side were not quite closed, and through the gap she thought she glimpsed a shape.
Somehow she was moving, then drawing the dank bed-curtains wider. Dust-motes spiralled up from the counterpane that half-covered the girl who lay there. Her back was to Charlotte, and she wore a dress of blue satin. Her long dark hair spread shining like coal across the pillow, and she was very still.
Charlotte’s mind had ceased to function. She gripped the girl’s shoulder – wanting only to wake her, talk to her, share her terror. She gripped harder and shook. The satin seemed uncannily clammy beneath her fingers, and strangely ridged. She pulled more urgently – and a screech choked in her throat as, with a hissing sprawl, the figure rolled over on its back and a skull’s face leered up, sightless yet sighted somehow, into Charlotte’s own. She saw in paralysis of shock that shrivelled grapes were lodged in each eye-pit, giving the thing an intent stare. Black arched brows had been painted on to the bone of the forehead. Each cheek glistened with blobs of rouge, and around the grinning teeth shone blood-red waxen lines intended as lips. It wore a wig which had slid forward to give the face a terrifying raffish leer.
* * *
The Mystery of the Stolen Brides PAGE
Lavender Days: A life-affirming Anglo-American affaire in Provence
Extract from Chapter 1
With what felt like a thrill of daring he teased the red string free, opened the top and peered inside. Astonishingly, a fragrance of lavender seeped up from within and made his senses reel – even after all these years the smell was still strong. He dipped a hand inside and wonderingly drew out a small oval American football of foam rubber, a piece chewed off where a dog had once played with it. Stuck to the ball with stickytape was a piece of paper on which was written in a childish hand:
A few letters in their opened envelopes were in the bag too, written in a forward-sloping adult American hand. A small bulky book with the title ‘14,000 things to be happy about’ was wedged in as well. It seemed almost supernatural that, here in his flat, with a gloomy English early-winter afternoon outside, his nose should be tingling anew with the odour of lavender from that long-gone French summer.
Extract from Chapter 7
On we go on into the village on this enchanted day, and have a couple of rides on the dodgem cars there, great crazy fun. Then Kathryn drives us up into the mountains, glorious Provence scenery all around, towards a beautiful place called Gordes. We stop at a high spot and look down at the Abbaye de Sénanque, an ancient grey-bricked Cistercian abbey among fields of cultivated lavender, the scent of it, as in the garden at Jonquerettes, head-floatily strong.
On the way back Kathryn’s straw chapeau blows out through the open car window, so we stop at the roadside and she and Jodi go back to retrieve it. Chantal stays and talks to me, and teaches me how to say “Sud” (south) with a proper French accent: (“ssoood”), her lips pursed and face intent, a slight frown, glimpse of white teeth. I’m rewarded with a merry grin when I get it right and she cocks her head and looks at me like an approving teacher. My little language coach. She’s bought a bottle of lavender perfume and drenches herself and the car interior with it. I’ll never think of any of this, nor this part of the world, without thinking of lavender.
* * *
Lavender Days PAGE
The Unmaking of a Britflick
A memoir in diary form
Extract from Tuesday 20th August, 1977
Kat took me to the Hurlingham Club for lunch with eyesparkling jewellery and hair coiffed (she, not me). Says it’s to give me background, as this is the sort of place the Moon characters would frequent. In my old Burton’s suit with the split crotch I felt like Tom Courtenay mixing with the higher-ups in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, yet felt unexpectedly at home there, too. Can this mean, as my surname might suggest, that my forbears were once nobs? – or was it (as dear old Grandma Squire always insisted) just a cockney joke? Should ‘cockney’ have a capital ‘c’? (discuss) Cordon bleu nosh, with red wine. Again Kat paid, flapping off my pathetic gesture of bringing my age-cracked leather wallet apprehensively into the open, but there’s still no money on offer to start me writing. Am I expected to do it for nothing as a gesture of goodwill? (gosh, never thought of that.)
Extract from Friday 27th February, 1998
As this vision from an era of squonking cabs and horse-buses pushed out a leaflet-bearing hand, I was about to mutter ‘no thanks’ in the way we Brits have when thus accosted, when she stumbled and grabbed my arm to keep from falling, crumpling the exhortation to bring my films to Snappy Snaps, win a holiday on a Greek Island and live contentedly for the rest of my days.
“Sorry.” It was almost a sob. In a moment the contact was gone as she righted herself and looked me in the face, elevated from her five-feet-eight or so by the tottery heels. Her eyes on mine were wide jade pools hemmed with black lashes, expressive in a half-scared puzzled way as if imploring me to answer the question of how she had arrived here and what was she doing in this particular dimension of space and time? Her vivid Titian hair was topped by a floppy cap of dark green velvet, and hung to her shoulders in coils and curls.
She was gorgeous.
“Are you okay?” Silly question, she was perished.
“Yes. Thanks.” Silly answer. Her legs were trembling, a blueish tinge around her mouth. She looked about to collapse and the wind would send her Snappy Snaps leaflets blizzarding into the traffic.
“Would you like a coffee or something?”
* * *
The Unmaking of a Britflick PAGE
Mabel at Hastings
Extract from the Introduction
On the Saturday morning of August 2nd 1930 when Mabel Floyd picked up her best friend, Dorothy Carvill, from the King’s Head public house in Richmond where Dorrie’s parents were the licencees, to go off to Hastings for four weeks’ holiday, she was still 13 years old . . . In the Richmond and Twickenham Times published that day the ‘Twickenham’ type of quality houses, currently being built, are advertised at £945 Freehold each. On this the last day of Bentall’s sale a lady’s ‘Afternoon dress’ is down from 20 shillings (£1) to 5 shillings (25p). A made-to-measure suit can be had for 5 guineas (£5.25p) at Vivian Richfield’s on Hill Street.
Extract from August 17th 1930
When we were on the West Hill some boys ran away with our hats. Thought it attractive I suppose. Dorrie went after hers & socked one of them under the jaw, but missed. I went after mine. They ran away, & dropped the hat. It was all bent up. They waved a handkerchief to me. Afterwards we found out that it was Dorrie’s. If they hadn’t run away – cowards – I would have given them one each all round!
Mabel At Hastings PAGE
Extract from Chapter 1
The dustbin-cluttered back yard, dark and winter-cold, welcomed me with open lids, allowed me to be sick in it; bore with fortitude the merry shrieking noise that spilled out into it from three floors up. The keen air scythed into my lungs, refrigerating my head from the inside, cleared the fumes and double vision, settled the stomach. I was all ready for a refill.
Beaming cautiously I nipped back up to the Earls Court flat that throbbed with weaving bodies and thundering music. The Four Letters were climbing the Hit Parade for the first time, and were hurling a party to see how many extra birds they could get. I gazed on the scene with now morning-fresh eyes, seeing the famous spotty faces contorted in laughter or deep-thought, wallowing in the waves of tiny skirts and skin-tight pants whose occupants – or most of them – clung to all things male as the music slammed out to conquer conversation. The record by the Four Letters, I noticed, got a good airing every other time or so. I knew the words backwards now – those I could decipher.
Extract from Chapter 21
Cornlow and Mike came running up, shivering with the cold. A crowd of girls were jumping around them, and one of them came up and rubbed her breasts against me. I was just wondering what to do about this when a solid mass of blokes came up in the gloom, thrusting the squeaking girls aside. When the first blow hit me on the side of the face and the coloured lights spattered and swam in my brain, I felt resignation rather than surprise.
There was the sound of sudden screams, an impression of rapidly-moving bodies, and dark solid objects sending bolts of pain through me. I lost sight of the others in preservation of self, but knew when I saw them again that their faces wouldn’t be the same. It was a madhouse. I lashed out blindly, and tried to shout, but no words came. My head was full of shrieks, flaming rockets were shooting off behind my eyes – and then I was spinning backwards, the earth flung my feet away and slammed me in the back; and I was lying down watching the scene, and no one was hitting me any more.
Our attackers – and afterwards I reckoned there’d been at least a dozen – were squirming about on the ground, having been set on by hordes of girls, few of whom were over fifteen probably, who were kicking viciously or striking down at the leather-jerkined bodies with shoes deadly with stiletto heels. The other two groups had rushed up also, and were joining in with loud shouts and flying elbows. And I saw young, twisted Mike on the outskirts of the mêlée, belting the hell out of one of the toughies with no-longer-soft fists that he now realised could really hit as hard as James Bond’s or Batman’s.
* * *
Square One PAGE
Encouraged and inspired by Brian Rix RIP and Ray Cooney, Hot Property is my new yet traditional farcical comedy play, premiered on stage by the Roadwater Players, Director: Peter Jaques, 9-13 May 2017, at the Village Hall, Roadwater, Somerset.
(Tony sits and lays his head on the table and shuts his eyes. He doesn’t see DYMPHNA FLOOD enter. Very pretty, she wears a man’s dressing gown and over-large slippers, carrying a tray with two mugs of coffee and a sugar bowl)
(Tony jerks upright and gazes incredulously at Dymphna)
Do you take sugar?
Don’t sit there making owl-noises, drink up.
Get away from that window, someone’ll see you!
Tony staggers over and closes the curtains again, plunging them into semi gloom. He switches on the anglepoise lamp on the desk.
Did you know your front door’s open?
Don’t you start. I hardly know what I’m doing any more.
(he stares at her)
Who are you?
Don‘t you remember? Last night?
(Tony blinks, shaking his head)
What a performance!
Don’t worry, I managed to get the stain off.
The wine you slopped on your jacket. And wasn’t it a howl when you dropped the Busy Lizzie into the consommé? – talk about making a splash socially. (Tony continues to stare at her in stupefaction)
I did what?
You must remember? The party we went to after we dragged you out of that pub.
What was I doing in the Belvedere?
It’s where I first met my wife.
Yes, you were going on about her all evening. Karen, isn’t it?
I must’ve gone there to try and forget her. Like I said, I don’t know what I’m doing any more.
(he puts his face in his hands again)
C’mon, get that coffee down you.
I still don’t know who-who-who-…
Don’t start that again. Someone had to bring you home. We drew lots, I lost.
Thanks very much.
Your address was in your wallet, keys in your pocket. What a business it was getting you into bed.
Just wouldn’t come off.
Your socks, they seemed glued to your feet.
We didn’t, er…? Did we, er…?
I may be fairly open-minded but I draw the line at cuddling up to corpses. I found the spare room and slept in there.
I still don’t know who you are.
(he peers at her)
And why are you wearing my dressing gown and slippers?
Because you yawned in inglorious Technicolor all over my Betty Jackson.
Designer dress, cost a fortune.
It’s in your washer/dryer. Soon as it’s ready I can be on my way.
(Tony looks at his watch in fresh alarm)
But you’ve got to go NOW! Dalrymple’s due!
Who…? Or what…?
The landlord’s surveyor who’s about to complete the ruination of my life.
Can I stay and watch?
No you can’t.
Come on, I adore other people’s misery. What’s the problem?
(Tony holds his head again)
(the policeman peers round the door, reacts in surprise at seeing women there)
(Dymphna squeals. Karen whirls round)
You scared the life out of us. What…?
Begging your collective pardons, ladies, but the gentleman I spoke to earlier said there were none of the opposite gender here.
Well so there aren’t.
I can’t see any. Apart from him.
There’s, um, you.
But we’re not the opposite gender – you are.
Or so we must suppose – you can never be too sure these days.
I take it the gentleman filled you both in.
Perhaps you’d like to enlarge on that.
About the flasher.
Did you say what we thought you said?
Yes, Madam, Miss, Ms. A Flasher. Pops in and shows up through open doorways like this one.
Never shows down?
I beg your…?
You mean he shows up for a showdown?
(Dymphna and Karen cackle with laughter)
I can assure you this is a most serious matter.
Of course it is. Excuse us. What does he, er, look like?
Much the same as most other men I dare say.
She means, Constable, how will we recognise this man if he, er, shows up here – apart from his…
He does it so quick, in and out and gone again, no one’s really noticed yet.
(looking at each other)
Tell me about it!
So far witnesses have seen only a shadow flitting in and out of doorways. But we do know he usually sings ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ just before making his entrance.
Bit of a giveaway, isn’t it?
Well it’s different, I’ll give him that. That would certainly be a first for me.
Psychological profiling suggests—
Spare us the details, officer. And at least it puts Tony in the clear – he’s tone deaf.
(edging to door)
Right then – you’ll let me know if you see anything?
I’m sure we wouldn’t miss it if we did.
Glad you think so.
Here’s you thinking I’ve been bonking your husband –
(Dalrymple re-enters from the ante-room carrying a folded metal stepladder and his theodolite)
– but it’s not till he’s out of the house that I’m even in any danger of getting flashed at.
Tony jabs Karen’s ribs to say something. Reluctantly, she does.
But you did say how well we suited your cottage, Miss Savage.
Yes! We love to think of your parents in their first flush of passion there, and feel sure we can equal it. Springs creaking…
(Karen jabs him back)
…Spring speaking with honeysuckle-scented whispers through the loo door –
– er, victor ludorum in the game of love, your mother and father, I mean, triumphant in their rumpy-pump—
(trying to save it)
– ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall’ – remember that childish rhyme that used to tumble romantically from our mouths in our fun-filled foolishness, dearest?
I bet Miss Savage’s parents had their own secret little song, winsomely sweet, tripping from tingling tongues through lips numb from kissing, their adoring glances meeting across the f-f-flickering f-f-fireplace…
(Karen steps on his foot to stop him)
(side of mouth)
You’d better quit while you’re still behind.
This, um, cottage – where is it?
Oh you won’t have heard of the place.
It’s in a tiny Welsh village, I can hardly even say the name.
(Hawkins limbers up his mouth, licks his lips)
Are you sure you want to hear?
I’m sure my Welsh accent will be terrible.
I don’t mind.
Okay, let’s try… Ah…
(he inflates his chest and makes to say it. Pauses)
I ought to say really it’s more of a hamlet – without ‘to be or not to be’ thrown in. Haw haw.
What’s the bloody place called?
(wipes her cheek, starts to giggle)
Did you say Llanfihangel-nant-y-gof?
(wipes his cheek)
Yes, Llanfihangel-nant-y-gof! My goodness, you can say it too.
(wipes her cheek)
Ha ha ha. So I can!
(she giggles more)
It is a funny name, isn’t it!
It’s a lot funnier than you think.
(Karen’s laughter becomes hysterical and suddenly the place sounds like a parrot-house)
Hot Property PAGE
Accident-prone out-of-work singer Leanna re-invades the sanctity of her younger cousin Pippa who is struggling to make a living as a commercial artist. Five years ago they shared this same flat and parted acrimoniously.
Extract from Scene 3
LEANNA: I agree that when we shared before, I may have lacked a certain directional focus.
PIPPA: Or one iota of common sense.
LEANNA: But this is a different Leanna with drive, ambition and purpose who’s about to launch a bright new glittering career with an instrument that will accompany her soaring vocal dexterities.
PIPPA: An electric cattle-prod? Now, if you don’t mind…
LEANNA: I’m talking about (DRAMATICALLY) this.
SFX: RUSTLING SOUNDS AS LEANNA PULLS A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT FROM HER CASE.
PIPPA: What the hell’s that?
LEANNA: A ukulele.
SFX: A FEW STRUMS ON A WOODEN UKULELE.
LEANNA: (CONT’D) Four weeny strings, light and portable, yet mesmerisingly melodious. Children learn on it at school these days. It means ‘jumping flea’ in Hawaii where it comes from.
SFX: A FEW MORE STRUMS.
PIPPA: (APPREHENSIVELY) Is that why I’m scratching?
* * *
PIPPA: You’re not putting that poster on the wall? Who or what is it?
LEANNA: (WITH A SIGH) My George.
PIPPA: Your George? George who?
LEANNA: Formby, of course.
PIPPA: You mean you passed up the Peruvian yak breeder with halitosis for a man with a face like a gargoyle and teeth like Red Rum? How old is he?
LEANNA: (ANOTHER SIGH) A hundred and thirteen this very year.
PIPPA: Well, at least that’s twenty years younger than your boyfriend before last with the gorgonzola socks and armpits from hell.
LEANNA: (DREAMILY) George opened my eyes to a whole new world when he gave me the split stroke, roll stroke, double shuffle and rotating fan.
PIPPA: I hope he bought you dinner afterwards.
* * *
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