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Reaching Out

I’m surrounded by conundrums. I close my eyes and they float around in their little boxes with tags floating on the breeze of my mind. I dismissed a few during this mornings meditation because they are not important enough for action just yet. Some of those remaining are vexing. Challenges are fun but sometimes I hold up my hands and say, ‘I am not defeated but I could do with a few pointers.’

I will return to my need for pointers soon, one thing I find very exciting about writing is that I often find the answers to my questions as I write. The universe responds; it’s beautiful.

My publisher will not like this but I walk through a sticky mire in the dark and they don’t seem able, or willing to offer a helping hand. So, my philosophy is to reach out, discover where to go, and plot the course. Thanks to many wonderful people I’ve met on my journey as an author, I know where I need to go with some and the routes are planned. I use friend maps and they don’t lead me into any one-way streets.

Back to the conundrums . . . I must get my work out there and have identified several ways. Perhaps you can help?

  • I live in France but originate from the north west of England. Should I try to organise signing events in that part of the world or, go elsewhere? I’ve not lived in the north wet since 2003.
  • Waterstones and WH Smith say, ‘don’t contact store managers,’ true / false?
  • Does anybody want to talk to an unknown author?


Enough about my challenges, let’s move on to this weeks dusty file from an unknown author who I would love to reconnect with. I was a founding member of a writers group called, ‘Phoenix Writers’ in Blackburn, Lancashire in 2002/03. I’ve no idea how this file ended up on one of my hard drives but it’s a positive example of creativity with the potential of something great. All I can tell you about the author is her name was Pippa although I am sorry to say I don’t remember a Pippa back in 2003.

Anno Domini: 640

‘I never wanted to come here!’ He rubbed his stiffened hands, knuckles swollen by the  ‘Elves’ Curse’.   Now I’ m going to die here, Ithamar.’

Outside the wind whipped the rain against the wooden walls.  No hangings kept out the draughts, not even the vestige of a fire in the brazier warmed the bare cell.  I struggled to conceal my shivering. The hem of my sodden tunic dripped little puddles among the rushes and my leather boots squelched with every step.   On a peg by the door I hung the cloak I had clutched around me as I dashed from the nave where I was trying to teach some of the younger monks to achieve harmony in the alleluia magnus dominus.  I wiped my nose   on my sleeve, wincing as the rough fabric rasped across the flaked skin.  But it was always this way at Winterfylleth, getting soaked between church, refectory and cells, when even the pent roof around the cloister gave scant protection.

‘You’ll go back to the Holy City soon, Bishop.’  But I knew my words sounded hollow.  The old man looked frail.  The grey hair around his tonsure was sparse   and his long face was haggard making the big hooked nose more prominent than ever.  He breathed with a harsh rattle.   He’d never be able to withstand the rigours of the journey at this time of year.  The roads would be too clogged with mud for the ox carts to make much headway and even if he could reach the coast, no boat from the estuary would dare to set out in such rough seas.  It would be the same at Sheppey. Thanet and Dover.  The gulls had moved inland and stayed on the ground facing into the wind, a sure a sign of storms.    Even from Canterbury only a score of miles away there had been no messenger for a sennight.

‘And what’s worse I’ll never get my work finished. It’s too cold to write and too dark to see except for a few hours at midday.’  He gestured despairingly to the heaps of vellum strewn across the wooden trestle and underneath at the two iron-banded chests with large locks filled with even more.  For a man who denied himself every comfort, he was extravagant when it came to his books.  He trained a score of young monks every year to keep the craft alive and he had made me learn it a long time ago.   His love for learning was stronger than any of the Romans I’d known.   He’d brought the gospels of John and Mark for our church of Saint Andrew, but here in his cell he had all kinds of manuscripts, histories of his people, works of their philosophers and more and knew them all by heart; better than any scop with his lyre telling battle tales in the King’s hall.

Then there were all the ones he’d written himself, a record of all the doings of The Mission.  And of course The Book; he was the one who persuaded old Ethelburt to have his law-code written.

‘To be a truly Christian King you must have your laws codified.’   But it was the thought of having something no other king in these islands had that appealed to the old trickster.  It was hard work because he agreed to write it in the folk tongue.  He could write the script of the Book language so fast that that his hands flew across the page like the wind blowing across a cornfield but he had to find ways of putting our sounds down.  ‘Yours isn’t a civilised tongue, it’s a pain in the throat, he used to joke! He even used some of our runic shapes but I don’t think he knew about their magic.

‘I must finish my history.  I promised….’ A bout of coughing interrupted him.

‘I’ll get the women to prepare you a draught elderberry and horehound and put in some juniper to ease the pain of the elf arrows that slice into your joints.’

‘As you wish, but first you must help me, Ithamar.’

‘Father Paulinus, what can I do?’

I’d known this man for nigh on forty years, almost from the day he first came to our land.  If it hadn’t been for him I’d still be scratching a living in some woodland clearing, or dead of starvation these many years.

‘You can write the Book language almost as well as I can.  I can’t use these wretched fingers but at least I can tell you what to put down. ‘He clutched at the strangely carved cross hanging round his neck.  Where it came from I knew not but it was precious to him.

I thought of all the tasks that awaited me.   As second in command of all the monks in our little settlement of Rochester, most of the organisation fell on me, reading the Offices, preparing for the services, attempting to convert more of the locals and the administration, seeing that there was enough food, dealing with the messengers of the King    I had precious little spare time.  What he was asking of me was no small task.  Obedience Ithamar!  I reminded myself again of the Rule of Benedict, acceptance without complaint.

And as always curiosity got the better of me.

‘The facts are all recorded in the chronicles on the Easter Tables in Canterbury.’ I began.

‘Facts, yes!  But those are the bare bones of what has happened like the branches of winter trees.  If you just see those, you do not understand what the trees look like in the full splendour of summer, decked with the thousands of leaves that dance with the wind.  So it is with the lives of men.  Facts don’t tell of the feelings, the motives of men.    He taught me that.  He could tell a tale that could make you catch your breath with wonder.  I swore to him I’d set it down and the people we knew deserve that.  We can’t let the memory of what they dreamed, fade.’  His voice trailed off.

I was a plain man, never one to miss an opportunity if it would help me to be the first Jute to become a bishop.

‘If I will scribe for you then I’ll need more light and some warmth to keep my fingers from stiffening.   I’m not as young as I was.  We need a room with plenty of wall sconces and hanging bowls – and a decent fire.’

‘So be it.  Whatever you need.  The great darkness is coming.  The Lombards still threaten the Holy City of Peter and the Huns push ever westward. The lands where Our Saviour walked seized by the follower of a new prophet from the sands of the desert.  We must tell our story.  Why else are we here?  To show the good deeds of men as an example and to the wicked as a warning.’

He looked at me with a desperate expression.

‘Besides I must finish it and give it to her.  I must see her once more before I die.’

And I did not have to ask whom he meant.

Dusty Files Episode 1

Deep in the recesses of my old hard drives and notebooks some strange files lurk and all carry my name as the author. I’ve dusted them down and present them here for your reading pleasure (or not). Yet reading these causes me to celebrate the wonder of human development when I look back and try to remember what my writing felt like then, compared to today.

As much as I live for today, the past serves as an informant, it is what I have become today. Aside from the philosophising, some of the dusty files I have rediscovered have potential as stand-alone works while others may well be swallowed into something greater.

As with every feature here at Beyond The Pyre, you are very welcome to add some of your own dusty files with a link back to you. Go on, dust them down, it’s a great experience.

The 4001st Hole

‘They said there were four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire in the 1960’s. Well, I can tell you that there were never four thousand holes in Blackburn; I know that because I was responsible for counting them and I don’t make mistakes. There was four thousand and one to be precise and would you believe it, they missed the most important hole that made its’ way from the street to the subterraway ever.

OK, you might argue that they didn’t actually miss the hole in question and that in fact they had included it in their total and had missed another one. Not true; I know that too because I followed them as they counted because I needed to employ an assistant and wondered if one of six applicants might be up to the job. They didn’t get the job because they proved to me that they could only see what everybody else sees and they had no capacity for spotting the special.’

‘What are you talking about, Bron? There are holes all over the place. The council or the utility people are always digging them. And, and, what’s a subterraway?’

‘It’s just a word to describe the underground routes around the globe and yes, they are always digging holes my friend but there’s a lot less now than there was in the 60’s. Anyway, I am not talking about any old hole. These are special. Imagine them as doors to other places that help you to travel almost at the speed of light to just about anywhere you want to go on the planet. Come on, I’ll show you what I mean.’

‘Have you been drinking, Bron? No, no, I know what it is. You been taking those two for one offers on ecstasy that they were on about on the news. You’ve frazzled your brain. I keep telling you to stay away from that stuff.’

‘I’ve not had any stuff and I’m offering you a rare chance to see something very unique. Now are you coming or not?’

With a resigned tut and thoughts of here we go again, Eric followed Bron through the shopping centre to the site of the old fire station where he suddenly grabbed Eric’s arm roughly and before he had a chance to say ouch, he found himself spitting sand from his mouth on a starlit beach in Goa.

Two hippies sitting nearby giggled and marvelled at the strength of the joint they had been enjoying while Bron encouraged the astounded Eric to keep his raincoat on and lead him away from the hippies after filling in the hole they had left. As they walked up the beach, Bron explained how they had come to be in Goa and how a network of subterraways connected the entire planet.

Eric felt sick. The skin on his face felt too tight and it hurt, as did every muscle in his body. He looked for familiar signs listened for familiar voices, looked for familiar shops, nothing was familiar and the sickly feeling turned to reality that Bron said would be washed away when the tide came in.

‘Here, eat this friend.’ Bron gave Eric an apple that he had picked up from Thompson’s on the way to the fire station. ‘It will get rid of that taste in your mouth and will put some of the sugar back that you lost on the journey. You see travelling at the speed we just did takes it out of you when you are not used to it.’

Eric still looked sick. ‘Why can’t I take my mac off?’

‘Trust me, you will need it in a minute,’ Bron said matter of factly and before Eric could utter another word he caught a glimpse of Bron’s arm and hand which held his before he felt himself being violently jerked through the sand. Several whooshing sounds and one very loud pop later, they appeared on a ledge beneath an ear-shattering waterfall near Ingleton, North Yorkshire.

‘I want to go home now. Please take me home,’ Eric simpered.

‘I have just given you the trip of a lifetime.’

‘If you carry on putting me through this I will have no life. I don’t know which part of me belongs where, I feel sick, I don’t know whether this is a dream, am I going insane or what!’

‘Most people would be thrilled.’

‘Yeah right.’ Eric was getting some of his usual confidence back. He walked forward, away from Bron who stood with his back to the wall in an attempt to keep dry. The force of the waterfall caught Eric squarely on the shoulders and forced him off the ledge into the pool some twenty feet below. Bron leaped off the ledge and joined him in the water, much to the amusement of several walkers who were enjoying a quiet picnic on a rare sunny day in the dales.

‘Take my hand and hold your breath,’ Bron yelled above the roar of the water.

‘No. I won’t, you are not going to get me again. I just want to go home.’

Before Eric could protest any further, Bron grabbed him and with unusual strength for a man with the appearance of Mr Punyverse, he pulled Eric to a dark shape at the bottom of the pool. Needless to say, the shape was a actually a hole and following another instant of body punishment, they appeared at the site of the old fire station in Blackburn where Eric stormed off, squelching his way through bemused shoppers. Bron was nowhere to be seen and when he got home, Eric felt sick again when he heard the newsreader say that the emergency services in Ingleton were baffled when two men disappeared.


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