If you’d care to spare a moment to sit down at the side of life’s manic highway and avail yourself of a sampling that might make you leap to your feet with a cry of “I want to read the rest of it now!” I’d very likely clap you on the back and stand you a beer.
“If all the various kinds of supernormal cognition were exercised by a single person, their possessor would excite the stupefied amazement of other men. Yet such a being, superhuman to our ideas, is a logical possibility.”
Dr. Eugène Osty
Director of the Institute Métapsychic Internationale
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 was 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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