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Old habits die hard it is said. A habit, this author slipped into was that of reading four books, at one time. That Forest Gump’s mother said to him – “life is like a box of chocolates,” might apply in author’s case with regard to book reading, in that of sampling a number. A book that appears interesting to read at seven thirty in the morning, can lose appeal by the afternoon, and another is started. Nothing wrong with the book. Interesting to read, earlier, with progress made to chapter four, for example. Almost ,like a fine wine, put away, to enjoy again, at a future date. Another book started. A process that can lead to the four book stage, as mentioned. Eventually all are read!
This is a theme that the author has written about before. Only, now in a form of reverse engineering, with writing. There’s a poem, short story, novel and play started. The poem is fourth, in a series. The short story, a topic about cooking. Novel, a sequel to Galactic Mission and the play, is an adaptation, of a novel. The play should probably be completed first. “The plays the thing,” is a much quoted line from Shakespeare and could apply, but without the novel’s publication then there might not have been the story available for adaptation. Meanwhile, the novel is moving forward. At the point where, plans are made for a return to earth for the group, now on Mars, at Chapter 16.
Galactic Mission, its prequel, was first published in 2017. In between, River Escape, Mists of Time and Persuasion’s Price have been published. A three year gap and space exploration goes forward. Here’s hoping, Mars isn’t colonized, before author’s sequel to Galactic Mission is completed!!
At URL amazon.com/author/grantsam
The ship’s return to New Jersey, was memorable in another way, that’s apart from the winter weather experienced. Proximity to cold, made apparent, on entry to New York Harbour, where sizeable ice chunks could be seen floating down from the upper reaches of the Hudson. Even with head gear and ear muffs , it was bitterly cold, in that wheelhouse. Open bridge doors funneled blasts of cold air in. A raised wooden plinth, gave view of a whitened fore deck and tank tops. Occasional black streaks, still visible down the grey sided turrets, of the tank tops, running forward, either side of the deck. Now, that rust crinkled fordeck, white not red. Port side from the central wheelman’s position, a snow carpet lay on the coconut matted wheelhouse deck. Shoe prints from First Mate, John Thirsk, disturbed freshly fallen snow, when he walked across the wheelhouse and out on to the port side bridge. Hands clasped, head raised, he called toward the Monkey Island, above.
“Lookout – you can come down and keep watch here.” Now, no need for a lookout, within the harbour, but he would be available to run errands. Captain Stevens, entered the wheelhouse, at this point and his first words were,
“Shut down to half, Mister , will you? Pilot’s on the way.” In his hand, a typed message, with company headed logo, from the Radio Officer. Second and Third Mate were addressed as Mister, by Captain Steven’s, when they were on watch. A more emphatic “Mr Mate, employed when a pilot or visitors were in the wheelhouse. A favourite question, I’d noted was.
‘Where are we Mister?‘ With arrival on the bridge, but not this time. For which, the officer of the watch needed to calculate distance run and give a position. A trick question, I’d decided, because Captain Stevens, used to walk the dividers along the pencilled course line, on the chart, and establish the ship’s estimated position, himself, before asking the question!
John Thirsk, on hearing the Captain’s order, re – entered the wheelhouse. Pulled the electrically operated telegraph back, past half speed marker and then into position, whilst calling out –
‘Half – speed, it is then,’
A delay of ten seconds followed, before it ceased buzzing, which suggested that the third engineer was caught unawares and not that near to the control panel. I raised my eyes upwards, from the giro compass, to view a boxed section of the new build Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which was moving out of view, above. Twin wires, reached high in the sky, above the ship, across from Staten Island to Brooklyn. Over a nine month voyage contract, each three – week gap between ship departure and return, saw new construction development. Before the Humber bridge was built, this bridge was the largest single span in the world.
What made this trip from Tampico to Bayonne, New Jersey memorable? Apart from the cold and from the other six return visits? A major contribution was definitely that the crew jumped ship two weeks earlier, enticed to stay ashore, by the siren voices and company of Mexican senoritas, perhaps? That event, together with a first association with extreme cold, made arrival in Bayonne, memorable. I need to give some back story.
Back, in the tropical warmth of Tampico, the Bosun was sent into town, after cargo load by Captain Stevens, to warn, the deck crew that he would leave without them, if they didn’t return immediately. This to no avail. Bosun Jones was far too pleasant an individual for a ship’s Bosun. A small, dapper, Welshman, who wore a red and white spotted neck tie with neatly pressed denim jacket and jeans. Make no mistake, a valued crew member, in that he was a trained hairdresser. Even, maybe a contributor to the crew being made welcome ashore, through their locks being well shorn? But, in his day job, as Bosun he was far too pleasant an individual to control the crowd, on board, let alone ashore! The nature of the situation was revealed on his return, after he was sent by Captain Stevens to fetch the crowd (crew) from a bar. He ran back, along the wooden jetty, in opened neck check shirt, best go ashore jeans and polished brown shoes, waving his arms. The boat deck was no more than fifteen feet above the jetty, with a cargo of 12,000 tons of boiler oil loaded. When he caught sight of Captain Stevens capped and epauleted in white tropical uniform above, Bosun Jones stopped running and with his right arm held up, gave a hand wave, much like you would wave on a friend’s departure, whilst on a train platform. A wave, which seemed inappropriate, given the situation.
‘Captain, Captain,’ he called out. We, that’s Peter, the junior apprentice and myself were close to where the Bosun was, at main deck level and could hear gasps and gulps, as he gathered himself, for another attempt, which was started but interrupted by Captain Steven’s call back of –
‘What is it Bosun?’ A reply in a deep, relaxed, but also impatient voice.
‘Captain, Captain – they’re not coming back.’
‘Do you want to stay then Bosun?’
‘No Captain, but they won’ leave the bar.’
‘Well, you best get on board then Bosun.’
Assistance was given, at the bow and stern, to winch ropes and springs aboard and secure tugs by the Saloon Steward, Galley Boy and two engineers.
With an absence of crew, save the Bosun and Deck Boy, it meant that Peter and myself did virtually turn and turnabout, in steering the ship back to Bayonne, New Jersey.
Once tied up alongside, rat guards fitted to lines ashore, covers lashed on lifeboats and a Stars and Stripes courtesy flag hoisted, I stood down, until the midnight to midday deck watch.
At about ten next morning, I was on deck when three yellow cabs appeared at the end of the jetty, having foolishly grabbed, a metal stair rail gloveless and with temperature drop, severe enough to hand freeze – skin was ripped from palm of said hand. Tiredness seeped into the eyes at the end of each watch that winter, and it became understandable, how falling asleep could lead to hypothermia, in such conditions. Half hourly trips, to swab pumps in the relative warmth of the pump room, a welcome break from the cold!
—And the yellow cabs? They were the twelve returning crew members, flown back from Mexica, courtesy of the shipping agent.
Captain Stevens, called out
‘Welcome aboard lads.’ They were each logged a month’s pay to cover costs, but didn’t appear to be at all disgruntled by this. Most said it was well worth it and were in better spirits for the remainder of the trip.
Foot notes to story: A few nautical names.
Monkey Island. This is a decked island above the wheelhouse. A magnetic compass is customarily housed there plus a copper tubed voice pipe for the lookout to report lights, as they appear or anything of interest. For example -‘Light twenty degrees on starboard bow.’
Crowd. Reference to the deck crew collectively under the Bosun.
Spring – A wire rope which is secured running aft from the bow to a bollard and forward at the ship’s stern. Hence, the name spring. These two wires can more effectively hold the ship alongside than the splayed out ropes. A wire rope (spring) is usually also employed for tug work.
Rat Guard. A circle of aluminium which comes apart to circle a rope or spring to prevent rats running ashore from the ship when dockside. Conversely, it could be said a way of stopping rats getting aboard from dockside!
Courtesy Flag. This flag, is as suggested – a national flag of the port visited.
Hoisted on the foremast. Cargo liners, served aboard, would have the flag attached to a bamboo cane to make a good display, going into port. Oil tankers, ore carriers etc… tended to be less punctilious about flag display.
Parcels badly wrapped; cards with little or no address; damp patches that seep from bottles, smashed when poorly wrapped and poultry with a label around its neck. Before that melee from future time, Parque floor will be prepared with increased floor fittings. Optimization of space, where more drop bags are hooked in place for letter bundle and packet dispatch to London districts, Scotland and overseas. A back room opened with sorting frames, for cards and letters, to cope with high volumes. which will need to be broken down into regions and counties before bundled into bags. Installation of another stamp cancelling machine to handle Christmas cards.
Now, before that cry of “have you got the Christmas spirit, yet?” And well away from another seasonal question – “Are we at the peak, yet?” (followed by a management walk past with an offer of Quality Street from a family sized tin, to frazzled post people, with some snaffling a few) – New rotas, will need displaying, entitled “Christmas Pressure.” 0430 start to 1400 finish.
A twenty – minute break, after delivery completion, which when exceeded, could lead to wage deduction. Two – night staff, allocated to sort inward letters, from 2000 to 0500 and at the start of Christmas pressure, City Office to supply lease hire vans. Preparation is all.
Students and temporary staff recruited to deliver on foot or by bike. That back room with sort frames filled with temporary sorters. Mainly, women to assist in breakdown of outward mail. Supervised by Postmen Higher Grade, who will make random checks! Time plates removed from post boxes two weeks in advance, and a dedicated van driver, then to circulate the town, to clear all boxes, through each day. Individual,walk post people, by then no longer required to carry keys to clear pillar boxes.
Historical village arrangements, into play, where certain sub post offices from out of sixty villages will supply a post person. A farmer, student or villager put forward by a sub-postmaster or mistress. Where, during the year , a rural postman might deliver to maybe four or five villages, delivery pouches for that individual village dropped, ar allocated sub post office. Delivery time still stretched, for the rural post person, once count dowh begins toward Christmas Eve. Now, well past those times in 1878, when postal customers were requested to post early on Christmas Eve, to ensure delivery on Christmas day.
Main business recipients of mail, in the town centre, will be listed and offered an opportunity to collect their own mail at 0830. Banks, Building societies, travel agents and other premises.
Delays, inevitable with high volumes of Christmas post. Days soon to be identified, in the count down to the final delivery day on Christmas Eve, with outer labelling on dispatch bags for day 20, 19, 18 etc…
In the City, the Lord Mayor, finally shown around to see how the mail has “all,” been cleared. Perhaps only a rumour that delayed postal bags are stationed in a skip to sit, in a lift, between floors.
Promotekdbook.com was this author’s first site which gave recognition to one of his novels. Dancing on the Beach by Sam Grant. It’s important to state by Sam Grant, because there’s a non fiction book of the same name. Non fiction writer posted to thank Sam Grant for his publication of Dancing on the Beach, because it helped her sales. That’s really a theme running through authors and writers group, a need to assist one another in obtaining readership.
There can be a specific readership, that an author expects to attract, but readers from varied walks of life are hoped for. Dancing on the Beach—“by Sam Grant,” was voted most popular read on promotekdbook.com. Membership was about 20,000. Now, believe its over 60,000.
Understandably, setting up membership on promotional sites does mean that, as a writer, time is taken away from “real,” creative writing. Vis-à-vis, short story, novel, poem or play. Author, believes it’s necessary to promote online when opportunity presents itself. Not every site makes an impact! That is a – like, or comment, but visibility/ presence has the possibility that a photo or description might appeal to a viewer skimming through.
A recent site has placed Sam Grant as a top contributor. That’s a sure sign that the author is not completing as much “real,” writing as he should be!
To date, surprise, surprise several seafaring sites have posted likes and comments about maritime novels – Atlantic Hijack and River Escape. Facebook readers in Australia have posted likes for River Escape today.
Genre specific is important and the author searches to see whether his novel fits into a niche within a promotional site. However, sometimes randomness can bring results.
Latest review venture, is an approach to a magazine, to see if Persuasion’s Price might have appeal to their readership. Sea Breezes very kindly gave a good review to both maritime novels, which spiked interest. That, the two novels, are set in past decades possibly assisted sales. Eras, and storyline set in aspic, so to speak. Modern, 21st Century novels need to include technology for relevance – smart phones, iPads, texts, emails etc… But technology moves swiftly on and can quickly date modern script and technology. Crime series like the Sweeny, on television appear very dated, in perception, of police activity, dialogue and of course, clothing. Perhaps, they should be seen as archive material, and probably will be, almost in the way that Charlie Chaplin was a lead into talking movies.
Conclusion, is that free promotional sites can assist in gaining presence for an author’s novel in the digital age, but reviews are the more powerful medium. Newspaper, magazine and radio novel review sites. BBC Somerset Radio has messaged to say that there might be a slot, sometime, in the future. Author, was very pleased to receive a reply. One step up from a tick at the end of message!!
‘ You’ve all met Jim,’ said Chris. ‘Raced fourteen footers, in a swimming pool.’ That’s right isn’t it Jim?’ I smiled good humouredly. Chris was Vice Commodore. A grizzled old timer, sat on a stool, further down the bar said,
‘Got a lot to learn about tides, then Jim.’ We, that’s me and Chris, were standing at the bar waiting whilst the steward topped off a glass of Guinness. A staccato, of dart board hits, with background score calls, interrupted our banter.
‘Don’t suppose you’ve gybed in a force five, like then ?’ My accuser smiled for his companion’s benefit. I replied with,
‘We raced on a reservoir. Still, caught some squalls, though Getting used to coastal sailing, It’ll take time.’ I wasn’t a regular at the sail club bar. Armchairs in well worn leather were positioned around coffee tables by each of three windows, which looked on to harbour and bay. Framed photos of “J” Class yachts, dotted on walls evoked grander days. Perhaps an owner’s butler or footman might have doubled up as crew? A sailmaker and carpenter, most likely employed to maintain each yacht. Not that I would’ve qualified, then, for membership. Now, if you owned a dinghy with mast and sail they – that’s the race committee, would be keen to nab that boat’s owner for membership. But I wasn’t, just at the club house, for subsidized beer, but there to meet with Chris, in the role of social secretary. At a recent club meeting I was elected. Proposed by Chris and seconded by crew member Julie. Chris, moved to turn away from my adversary.
‘Don’t take too much notice of old Bill. He talks the talk. Bit of an arm chair sailor these days.’
‘Thanks,’ I said to both Chris and the bar Steward, with the arrival of the Guinness.
‘You know how it began? Why we needed to leave the beach? Don’t you?’
‘Not sure,’ I said. I’d decided to be politic and pretend that I didn’t know the reason. We walked from the bar , to sit in arm chairs, which overlooked the harbour surround.
‘It was headlined in the Herald and the editor, a club member! That in itself caused a storm, continued Chris. I could see through from our window the flip of a yacht’s mainsail , as it tacked across to get clear of the harbour wall.
‘A storm,’ I repeated.
‘Yes. “Holidaymaker killed on beach with race gun,” were the Herald’s evening headlines. And the best of it – Herald’s chief editor is a yacht club member!’
‘Our race gun fired a blank cartridge from the club house and a holidaymaker, asleep in a deck chair, coincidentally died of a heart attack. It read like he’d been shot – such rubbish! A ten minute race start gun just happened to be fired. His wife saw that he was having difficulty breathing and first aid was attempted by St John’s, but he was dead on arrival at hospital. A coroner’s report said he’d an existing heart condition. With the amount of alcohol in his system plus strong sun, ripe for a heart attack. No mention of a start gun! All thanks, to that one headline, the damage was done, Jim. Club received a letter from the Town Clerk. Basically said, “if we wanted to continue with yacht races our start platform and gun would need to be away from the beach area.” Even, we were affecting deck chair and ice cream sales. Where does the nonsense come from, I ask you? But anyway the solution lies in that we’ve got a plot of land and can build a new starting hut up in the hills, and it will overlook the bay. Need funds for materials; wood panelling, bricks, cement, electrical fittings etc… no problem with a working party – members will help out.’
‘I guess that’s where I come in with the Garden Party?’
‘Spot on Jim, spot on.’
At the next committee social meeting, I got straight to the point.
‘Does anyone know of a member with a large garden – suitable to hold a garden party?’ Stan Wilkins, who assisted youngsters with boat maintenance raised a hand.
‘Yes Stan.’ Pockets of” meet and greet talk,” were still in progress.
‘Listen up.’ I raised my voice to get attention. Once chat subsided, I said.
‘Please continue Stan.’
‘There’s the Stewarts, Mr Chairman. Help out aboard Jalopy Jane (guard boat). Mrs Stewart said she’d heard about council’s decision to ban the start gun. Wished she could help. Just thinking they’ve a sizeable lawn and a smaller one. Cherry trees give shade, like. Sheltered, away from the road. Plenty enough space for tents and, like. I go around, Mr Chairman, to tidy the garden. Can mention it, but she’s the one to ask. Colonel’s putty in her hands.’
‘Much appreciated Stan, for that. If you’d mention it. Perhaps, you could get back and I’ll take it from there? Folk do often like to visit other people’s gardens.’ It was this that got the ball rolling, so to speak. Dave Trant, supplier of fairground stalls and attractions came in with,
‘I’ll assist with stalls and child rides, Mr Chairman. That’s provided members help out with labour.’ This was great news.
‘That’s very generous of you Dave,’I said. Others offerred assistance. Marcia, more social member than sailing , said that she could fortune tell. Read palms, Give tea leaf forcasts for a bob. Sixpence could go to the fund.
‘Thank you Marcia,’ I said. ‘That will add some mystique to proceedings.’
Others suggested raffles. A numbered entrance programme with a top prize of family tickets to seaside shows was suggested for appeal to holidaymakers.
‘We need someone of note, to open the fete, don’t we?’ Chris came in with this question toward the end of the meeting.
Ian Hurst, editor of the Herald, perhaps in an effort to redeem himself from landing the club in it, so to speak, in the first place, said
‘I can likely get Dick West,( well known radio presenter and member), to cut the tape. Herald can meet a fee, provided we get a mention, that is.’ This led to spotaneous clapping. Chris gave a thumbs up when I looked in his direction. Discussions were well advanced considering that the venue was not , as yet, available.
Apart fom Marcia’s crystal ball forcast type of offer, there was a Magic Spinning Arrow. Where the magic came in was not fully explained? An arrow on a table revolved around forty numbers. Prizes given, on numbers stopped at. A large open ended tent for a Coconut Shy. Similarly, for a Crazy Kitchen. Basically, dressers stacked with crockery seconds, for punters to throw wooden balls at. An activity advertised, as of appeal to housewives and mothers, alike! Candy floss, pop corn, vanilla and strawberry ice cream. Both cornets and wafers. Plus a couple of army surplus tea urns. Bottles of Camp coffee, for those few visitors, who might prefer coffee. A Tombola stall, with pink and yellow raffle tickets. Club members asked to contribute prizes. With war rationing still in operation donations – mainly of back cupboard items, like tinned tapioca, stewed prunes, apples and pears. Committee funded donations were premium prizes like, small boxes of chocolates, jars of boiled sweets, and half bottles of whisky and rum. Items sought after, with rationing not fully over.
At the meeting’s end, I said,
‘It’s looking good. Let’s hope by next Tuesday, I can return with positive news about the party venue. Meeting adjourned.’
There was a race on Wednesday and Julie my crew, a florist said that she’d taken a nosy look at the garden after delivering flowers to Edenhurst. I’d said that Stan was sounding Mrs Stewart out.
‘It’s a two- tiered garden.; said Julie. ‘A path circles the house . Then there’re steps down. Paths at each end lead to lawns. It’s rather grand, Jim.’
‘Not too grand for a sailing club garden party?
‘No, shouldn’t think so. Will there be a yacht. I mean on a trailer?
‘Good idea. We could rig out a National. Might encourage new members, with members in attendance to give advice, I replied.
‘It would be great if Colonel and Mrs Stewart agree to open their garden for the club. Wouldn’t it?’
‘Will you be going?’ I asked Julie.
‘Maybe,’ she said. ‘When is it?’
‘First Saturday in September, I expect.’
On Thursday, Mrs Alexandra Stewart, after a gardening visit from Stan, left a message at the club house.
‘Could I manage afternoon tea on Saturday?’ the club secretary enquired. To which I replied, “Yes,” and thanked her for the invitation.
On arrival, I pressed the outer door bell and heard back – chimes from further into the building. An inner porch door opened. A struggle followed with the front door and I assisted with a push and fell forward when the door gave up its fight to stay closed. Mrs Stewart’s hand briefly, caught my shoulder and withdrew.
‘We really must get this seen to. So good of you to come around James.’ Mrs Alexandra Stewart was a young woman, in her late twenties, I guessed, whom, I had assumed to be Colonel Stewart’s daughter or niece, when I first met her with the Colonel, aboard a guard boat.
‘Reginald’s in the garden, but do come in, won’t you?’ A thirty – foot hall, with a reception area, to one side, fronted three doors and stairway. With a corridor, which led to a kitchen, farther in. I tried not to look awe struck by the house and its spaciousness.
‘We mainly use the library. If you’d like to follow me, James.’ Alexandra picked up a handbell. Its tinkle, saw a green baize door open and an aproned middle- aged woman appear.
‘Martha, we’ll have tea in the library.’
‘Yes, Mam, and the Colonel will he be–?’
‘Give him a call, will you please Martha. I expect he’s on the lawn with the bees.’
‘Right Mam, I’ll do that now.’ We entered the library, which displayed a high ceilinged room with walled bookcase, nearly floor, to ceiling filled with books. Sofa and chairs were grouped around a black marble fireplace.
‘Do take a seat, won’t you James.’ I choose to sit at the end of the sofa.
‘There he is!’ Alexandra, was by the window. I got up to look. Colonel Stewart was lifting a netted bee guard, whilst Martha undeterred by the bees , talked and at the same time, pointed toward the library window.
‘How many hives are there?’ I asked.
‘Six on the small lawn, James, but they’ll will need to be moved, to the kitchen garden. Perhaps, you could assist Reginald, after tea. There’s a spare bee guard. Not allergic to bees are you?’
‘No,’ I said. I wasn’t sure what the club secretary had said, about the garden party, but it seemed like a fait accompli, by the reaction from Alexandra Stewart.
‘You’ll, no doubt need to set up stalls, in advance. That’s if our garden is suitable?’
‘Oh, yes, very much so,’ I replied.
After tea, I assisted the Colonel, to gently wheel each hive, nestled on a boarded pram chassis, away from the small lawn and across and up to a kitchen garden. I said.
‘It’s very good of you and Mrs Stewart to open up the garden, like this.’
‘Like, to do our bit,’ the Colonel replied. ‘There’re outside facilities. Perhaps the men could use these and the women our staff kitchen toilet.’
‘Yes, that would be fine.’ I said.
‘We’ve no children, Jim, and Alexandra likes the social side of membership, probably more than the yachting.’
‘Every bit as important to have a thriving social membership, Colonel.’ I thanked him, again for the opportunity to stage the fund raising garden party there.
‘You’ll need to set up. Can this be managed on the Friday before?’
‘I’m sure it can Colonel,’ I replied. ‘I’ll make sure it can.’
I met up with Julie, at the Stewarts’ Garden, on the Saturday of the party.
‘You decided to come then?’ I queried and tried to appear disinterested.
‘Alexandra, wanted to know if I would assist James.’
‘In what way?’ I asked. Since I was the organizer this semed an appropriate question.
‘Assist you James.’
‘Alexandra, didn’t mention this to me? To do what?’
‘We’re to meet Dick West. He’s due arrival from the radio station, shortly. You are the social secretary James!’
‘Right. And to do what, exactly?’
‘Apparently, they know one another. We’re to escort him to the front door, so he can “freshen up,” is how Alexandra put it. That’s before he cuts the ribbon. He’ll also need a few bob, from club funds, to spend on the stalls.’
‘Okay, that seems reasonable. Worth it if he attracts visitors.’
We were standing on the path, above the main garden. A mixture of cigarette smoke and cheap perfume floated up from garden party stalls below. Although, the official opening was not until eleven, most of the stalls were in action. Through a break in the hedge, I could see a queue formed around the calor gas fired tea urns. It was ten thirty when the Austin Sheerline swept up the driveway and Julie said,
‘That could be Dick West.’ Eyes lit up. Minor celebrities can lead to excitement from followers. By the time we reached the front entrance, Dick West, whom I’d met at the yacht club was standing alongside the chauffeur driven car, which presumably belonged to the radio station.
‘Good morning,’ I said. good of you to come Dick.’ He walked towards us.
‘Jim, Jim from the club, isn’t it?’ He knew full well who I was!
‘Yes, we’re tasked to be greeters.’ Julie, all smiles when she said.
‘Alexandra, said that you can freshen up in the house.’
‘And the fete officially opens at eleven?’ Dick asked.
‘Yep, but you can cut the tape earlier, if you like.’ I smiled pleasantly. It was now ten thirty – five. The front door, was held open with a black door stop in the shape of a yacht, when Julie pressed on the door bell. Moments later, inside the porch a glass panelled door, opened, between dimpled glass windows. Mrs Alexandra Stewart spotted Dick West immediatley.
‘So good of you to break off from your busy schedule, to visit us Dick.’
‘Not at all, Alexie, it’s my pleasure.’
‘Dick won’t be long. You two alright, waiting?’ This was more statement than question. I sat opposite Julie on hard- oak chairs, either side of the mosaiced red and blue tiled porch. It was at this point, when Julie’s star – struck feelings for Dick might have eneded. Through, dimpled glass windows Mrs Stewart and DickWest were seen to be clamped together, like starved lovers, before disappearance from sight, into an adjacent hall space.
Twenty minutes must have passed, before they reappeared. Mrs Stewart’s flushed face appeared when the inner door opened.
‘It’s five to eleven. You’ll just be in time,’ she said , more to Dick than to us.
Down in th garden, Dick prepared to cut the white tape, with garden shears and called out.
‘I’m delighted to declare this Sail Garden Fete open.’ White tape stretched across a small trailer end to end. A large poster beach scene painted by Marcia, for background.
Dick. was accompanied around the Garden Party stalls by Julie and myself. At twelve a car returned. The chauffeur appeared down the steps and then followed waves from Dick, before being whisked back to the radio studio for an evening show.
A cloudy start, probably encouraged visitors, who would otherwise have sunnied themselves on beaches. Mid – aftenoon and the sun did break through. I was, I remember, sat on a stool inside Marcia’s conical fortune telling tent.
Apparently,’ she said, ‘romance was on the horizon for me and it involved an aquaintance, but I needed to up my game.’ No one specifically mentioned, though. Marcia, moved on to future financial matters. I only heard the words,
‘A promotion might be due,’ when a woman shrieked. Flinging open the tent, I went outside. The woman, in question, ran across the main lawn, pulling at her hair. Others nearby away from Marcia’s tent, were smacking arms and legs. The Colonel appeared with a smoke diffusser. Lit newspaper, in a bellows type machine puffed smoke amongst the crowd. Bees had swarmed. Two separate trails of buzzing queen bee followers, weaved their way across the lawn and made for tree branches at the far end of the garden, and intermingled with people in their flight path. Perhaps. it was the less ardent follower bees, which attached themselves to the wisps of candy floss, held by now, screaming children. Of more distress, to women visitors, others, was bee hair entanglement. Hair spray, perhaps, an attraction, like sugar, in candy floss.
There was a rush up steps away from the garden. Mrs Stewart opened, a large window, which led into a room with blue carpets and curtains. Within fifteen minutes there was no one left in the garden. This large room became like a caualty ward, for those with bee stings and others distressed about the bee swarms.
I asssited Julie, to dab with blue pads and Dettol, those who were bitten on arms, legs or neck. Fortunately, no one was bitten near the eyes or in the mouth.
Moans and complaints lessened when the Colonel offered sips of brandy or gin if they preferred to casualities from bee stings. Fortunately, nobody present, was allergic to bee stings.
Ian Hurst, chief editor, for the Herald, recommended our entrepreneurial skills employed to raise funds, for the new start hut, in the Herald’s sports column. No mention made about two bee swarms, which brought the garden party to an end. His earlier damaging headlines, perhaps, now forgiven by sail club members.
There was a frost across house tops on arrrival. With a start time of nine oclock the market floor soon filled with visitors. Overhead blow heaters, in the main hall, gave respite from the outside cold. The Cheese and Grain restaurant adjacent to the hall soon received a brisk trade with hot beverages. Later, with hot meals and with both visitors and some stall holders taking advantage of a meal being prepared.
Stalls reflected a wide interest from – jewellery, ornaments, second hand books, puzzles, furniture, collectors watches, prints, collector antique guns, toys through to a variety of tools and equipment. Aware of cut price offers for earlier Sam Grant Books online the author prices new books below retail price. At a previous market, the author was challenged by one visitor that his books were new and retail at £6.99; £7.99, £8.99 with a hard cover edition at £9.99. But the author pointed out that all new books are sold at two pounds below retail price when the author is present to sign copies etc… which was on this occasion. Dancing on the Beach, for example is sold for about three pounds less than shop retail price of £8.99. Newest novel Persuasion’s Price was selling for £5; instead of £6.99.
Interest was mainly for action sea novels, Atlantic Hijack and River Escape. Several lengthy discussions ensued with former seafarers and other visitors to the market, whose relatives were in the merchant service. One visitor said that her father would have been really interested in the sea novels, but died earlier in the year. However, readership for Sam Grant books includes a young adult market. Two novels, for instance, are listed as young adult and the author hopes that although the sea novels are set in earlier decades, their story and character portrayal will still appeal to a young audience of reader. Quite possibly in fifty years time this earlier time in history will be of interest ! A time just before containerization took over as a main transporter for cargo. And also when super tankers were a fairly new phenomenon. Ships then carried a variety of crew members to maintain and run them. Deck, engineering and catering officers and crew. Also, a ship’s carpenter. Crews numbered over fifty personnel. Today, although the ships will be larger, crew numbers can be in the twenties. Yes. progress in efficency it can be said, but something lost in the way of character and overall interest, where a two week stay in port was needed to discharge and then re- load that new outward bound cargo.
One visitor was keenly interested in that she had visited Argentina and Chile and related to the experiences the author remembers of his varied voyages to the Latin American continent back in the nineteen – sixties. Also, a non fiction publisher kindly stopped to offer advice about how to make contact with readers.
The author sold copies, which augmented with sales of children’s activity crayons, stickers and erasers etc. Also a few sharpie pens. Stall hire charge was nearly covered from sales. This market attendance was ticked as a good result by the author. Cards were handed out which list details of books with their ISBN. Opportunity to showcase author’s books are sparse and as has been noted by advertisement attempts, you can need at least five outings, before the message in an advert, permeates the viewers conscious mind sufficiently, to motivate a move toward a possible purchase!
Pink blosom, daubed an avenue of cherry trees, caught in still air; near silence save for a buzz of spring bees. Yes, I remember this from that visit to Bradhurst Abbey. It all began with that good feeling of being alive to nature’s resplendant new life. I later promised Brother Daniel not to divulge my experiences at the Abbey, but after the Abbot’s message said that he’d passed away, I decided to write an account of my visit, in spring of 2018. I can only imagine that you’re reading or listening to this because I listed it among “unexplained phenomena,” but wanted to remain true to Brother Daniel’s request whilst still alive. Yes, account of my visit to the Abbey released by someone’s delve into documents, must give the event – ” a somewhat ghostly manner.” What follows is a faithful account. My hope is that it’s clearly understood, my promise to Daniel not broken explicitly by me , at least whilst alive. After, this introductory note, there should follow a recorded account of my visit to the Abbey. It was written a week after Brother Daniel’s death and stored away, in a file, under “unexplained phenomena.”
A Visit to Bradhurst Abbey – Spring, 2018.
My employer, “Brandon’s Wines for the Connoisseur, ” booked the Abbey’s Conference Hall later. Monks through the centuries had developed a thriving tonic wine business and constructed a visitor’s area. Angus Cameron, Brandon’s Chairman negotiated a contract to purchase wines and it made sense to take advantage of a discount, should the company need delegations to be held. Latterly, I was no longer responsible for conference organization, on account of my promotion to marketing manager for Asian exports. This account more a memoir of an extraordinary event, than to record the reason behind my visit to Bradhurst Abbey.
It was later, but in accord with previous determination of mine, that worship of good and evil can exist side by side. This reasoning, on recall that a terraced house next to a cathedral was where occult practices were enacted. I declined an invitation, then, to attend a meeting, because I considered dark forces might choose to camp adjacent to this place of religious gathering. A demonic plan, could have been set up, to hook stragglers, away from a cathedral’s luminosity. But, I’m ahead of myself. This encounter at the Abbey, started after an email from aformentioned Brother Daniel. A message from the Abbey’s office began with -“Good morning, Blessings to you, Andrew.” Not really, out of the ordinary. A greeting from a man dedicated to Christ’s service. In fact, quite refreshing from a plain -“Good Morning,” or even “Hi,” or “Hi, Andy.” Brandon’s company secretary, pre-booked my visit for three that friday.
-“If, this is unsuitable, please feel free to suggest another day?” were Brother Daniel’s words. But, this sounded good. End of week and I might be able to sample some of the famous Abbey wine. He continued, by emphasising that I should be sure to ask for him by name. i.e. “Brother Daniel.” And that bookings for the conference hall could only be arranged through him. Attached was a brochure with venue photos, plus additional blurb about the Abbey’s history. At the message’s end Daniel reiterated that I should stress that I was there to meet with him, which seemed reasonable enough and I thought nothing more about it, as I remember at the time.
Once through main gates, which led past the Abbey, I parked in a visitor’s area and followed the arrowed sign to reception. Climbed steps with railings festooned with white clematis through double doors. A mosaiced floor, patterned in red, black, blue and white tiles held my attention. On looking up and ahead I spotted a reception desk set apart from the expanse of the entrance hall, half expecting to meet with one or other of the brother monks, but inside the polished wood cubicle was a young woman, in a black suit and silk scarf, which I noticed was dotted with miniature prints of the Abbey. Apparently, hall and immediate area were contracted out to an agency.
I placed my lap top case on a chair next to reception and searched for a visiting card. At which point the Abbey receptionist swivelled away from a lit screen to face me.
‘Hi, Good afternoon and welcome to Bradhurst Abbey.’ Elfin like features broke into a smile beneath hair, plaited and pinned into position.
‘Are you here for the late afternoon guided tour?’ she asked.
‘No, but – hi. I’m here to meet with Brother Daniel – about a conference hall booking.’ I placed a visiting card through the window space. She got up and walked across to pick it up.
‘A very attractive spot you have here for a conference hall.’
‘Andrew Parkin,’ she read my name out. Looked back and across, as in confirmation of my photo. Satisfied that I was that person, she said,
‘Yes, it’s a very popular venue, this time of the year.’ and added, ‘all year around really. Daniel, said he’s expecting you. I’ll message to let him know you’re here,’ smiled, and returned to sit in front of the screen. This large entrance hall displayed illustrated maps. Exterior and interior views of the conference hall Also, photos of underground vaults and cellars. Across the left wall was an expanded photo of a vinery. Tonic wine making, dated back centuries at the abbey, but previously made with imported grapes and ingredients. A warming climate, I’d read in the brochure, encouraged the abbey to plant its own vineyard.
‘Mr Parkin.’ I turned to face the reception window.
‘Brother Daniel will be down shortly and has asked if you would kindly wait in the refectory.’
‘Through those doors across there. A raised hand pointed to the right. Self evident when I saw an illuminated sign which said “Refectory.”
‘Of course … and thanks for your help. Oh, is there a WI fi connection?’ Obviously, a frequently asked question, since a laminated board with details was produced for me to enter details, before I walked across to the refectory entrance. As I entered, I met with the smell of cooked food, but further in, masked by coffee aroma. A serving counter was set into the far wall with tray stacks at both ends. Visitors, were in the outer hall, but in the refectory just a group of four, were sat next to the serving area. I decided to sit at a table to the right of this group. Had I expected to see monks in cowls everywhere? Perhaps, yes, but this was an open day for visitors to the abbey. Maybe, they preferred to keep out of sight. I’d stopped at a service station for coffee and was not in need of one then. Totally absorbed on my iPad. I started to update on company financial matters when a deep, slowly spoken voice interrupted my concentration.
‘Brother Cuthbert. My name is Brother Cuthbert. You are here to reserve the conference hall?’
I looked up and across, totally unaware of anyone’s arrival. A monk now sat directly opposite. Hood or cowl, only just allowed, a view of grey blue eyes, furrowed forehead, nose and chin.
‘Yes, that’s right. You’re not Brother Daniel?’ I reached my hand out and back again. This monks fingers remained inter – locked across the table.
‘Brother Cuthbert. Keeper of the keys to all parts of the Abbey. It isn’t necessary to talk to or see anyone else,’ he replied. On reflection, probably a mistake, but I decided to go along with what was said and asked,
‘Can you show me around the conference hall then?’ A scrape of chairs saw the one remaining group of visitors get up and leave. We were then the only two in the refectory.
‘Yes, later, but the wine vaults are more interesting. Look,’ parted fingers freed a hand to reach down to waist level and lift a silver chain on to the table. A large key ring with multi – shaped keys, dropped from his hand. Sinewy fingers sorted, spread- eagled keys, before he chose a black and rusted ancient looking key and he pointed to a door in the refectory’s corner which I’d not noticed.
‘You can see the cellars and taste the wine before a visit to the conference hall.’ It was at this point that I stated Brother Daniel’s instructions.
‘But I’ve to meet Brother Daniel?’
‘That can be later.’ My iPad’s screen flickered and displayed a picture, which showed wooden cases of wine stacked across a wall. A stream ran mid- floor in what could have been a cellar. More of a concern was the light fade in the area immediately around our table.
‘You have a picture on your screen?’
‘Yes,’ which was dramatic in itself, but he continued.
‘I offer this once in a lifetime view of the wine vaults. Come with me and I will take you there.’ Already, this Brother Cuthbert was walking toward the door when a voice seemed to float into my thoughts.
‘Andrew walk away,’ was the message transmitted. And then again but more insistently,
‘Andrew walk away.’ But I glanced at the figure of Brother Cuthbert, who now turned to face me. Life lit eyes dimmed into dark orifices within a skull. A now hideous apparition raised an arm which displayed fleshless fingers and hand. This skeletal body in monk’s garb began to disintegrate into a vortex of swirled matter.
‘Do as I say and turn around – now Andrew. Do this now.’ I turned in the direction of this voice now released from within my head and into the room. Hands trembled as I turned. Grabbed iPad and walked, swirled in mist toward the sound of the voice.
‘Don’t look back.’ Every step lessened a python – like grip on my person Exerted from a force out of the apparition. Never more grateful to be greeted by a hand shake.
‘I apologise for keeping you waiting, Andrew.
‘What was that? I mean he/it? Said it was Brother Cuthbert?’ My questions ignored.
‘You seemed upset that’s why I called you.’
‘But, I saw a door?’
‘Imagination can play tricks, Andrew. Look there’s only wood panels. You appeared a bit lost. That’s why I called out. Worried that you hadn’t stuck with my message, but you have, so it’s okay now.’
‘I said it was you I wanted to see, but?’
‘ Shall we sit over here. Can I get you a coffee Andrew?’
‘Yes, but I didn’t seem able to stop following instructions from…’ Brother Daniel continued
‘That’s new. an Italian buyer who visited , vowed never to come back. But he never was going to. Died on an aircraft back to Milan. Apparently, a history of heart trouble. No connection with the abbey. Said he was invited to view cellars, which was strange. I always make a point to tell conference reps to see me first. I can’t see that there was any connection with his death. Ghostly appearances are very occasional. How do you like your coffee?’
‘Black,’ I said. Brother Daniel went to the refectory service area and picked up a tray.
It amazed me, it has to be said, that he made light of what happened. On returning we discussed requirements for the company delegation. Before I left I made a promise not to mention my visitation from Brother Cuthbert to anyone. Daniel’s parting words were.
‘We don’t mention that we have a ghost. Not always good for publicity. When brothers are similarly attired in the refectory, one might be a ghost, you never know. You do understand Andrew? Bad for publicity. You promise not to mention this to anyone outside of the abbey confines?’
I said yes, but went away convinced that I’d experienced manifestation of something evil and sinister, which inhabited the grounds and buildings of Buckhurst Abbey. I never returned and made an excuse not to be at that delegation or any held there. I didn’t suffer a heart attack, but a day later,in May, 2018, my hair changed from pepper and salt to white.
Every novel makes individual demand this author finds. Imagination can pitch characters into situations where unplanned research is needed. A plot is changed, because a better idea arises to take characters forward. Then, there’s cross reference back to prequel where memory of first story has partially been erased by other novels in between. Were certain characters in first novel just friends or had their relationship moved forward? There’s no doubt you have more than a blank sheet of paper to work with, provided you have a plot intention already in place for a sequel. At present two poems and two short stories have been completed whilst only six novel chapters of latest novel have been written.
Customarily poems have often previously mirrored a novels genre topic, but so far this hasn’t happened. Two short stories have been completed. One is a pastiche of the fifties era. Author’s childhood involved sailing, swimming and fishing from a pier and in row boats. Sailing figured high up the list where his father belonged to a Corinthian yacht club. A period looking back when a good many adults were greatly relieved that war was over. Boats sailed were in some classes self -built and launched from a beach. More sophisticated dinghies had national class status. Owners came from varied background. Professional persons competed alongside artisan and trades people. In war a number rose to high rank, but returned to work in a trade. Author, later realized that those film stars in the plethora of post war films were a pale imitation of true heroes who had now melted into ordinary civilian life. Many service personnel in the nineteen – fifties had endured and survived physically the trauma of war, but as is understood today, more appropriately mental scars run deep and are hard to heal. Author met seafarers who were several time survivors of torpedo and shell fire encounters when he was at sea in the nineteen-sixties. A humbling experience.
Candy floss and Pop corn is a story set in post war era. Respect between peoples of different backgrounds meant that people came together, because of shared circumstance in loss and injury of family and friends. Class hierarchy manifests in new and its older form, today. There did seem to be a partial truce, in the early nineteen – fifties when each social group celebrated its escape from that time when foreign power enslavement was a looming possibility. Better understanding between groups allowed for what was experienced and remembered with perhaps more appreciation for humorous and light hearted entertainment. Stringent health and safety would have most likely made a public garden party in the nineteen – fifties, as fictionally depicted, a no go area today.
A second short story – “Venue for a delegation,” is an updated reconfigured account of a story told to author’s school class by a retired headmaster. On reflection, he was possibly back teaching because he’d not long re-married and had a young daughter. Family commitment would have meant retirement postponed. The story was about Buckfast Abbey. Needles to say the author has changed the name of the abbey and the story bears only a slight similarity to the one related to our English class. There’s a plan to relate this story after Halloween is past.
Sam was delighted to be invited for interview on mtri.co.uk with Kowalski on Friday 18th October for a 2100 to 2300 Green Door show. The author enjoyed listening to an excellent selection of melodies and songs played during the evening coupled wth the knowledgeable and entertaining commentary from Kowalski. Sam has been privilleged to have successive radio interviews to talk about a novel or anthology publication with Kowalski, right back to 2014 with Atlantic Hijack.
Persuasion’s Price, Sam’s latest mystery thriller was the topic novel this time. Readings followed from lead in with talk about shipping and sea life experience. A shared interest for both interviewee and show presenter. Then an introductory read from epic poem Mists of Time. A hard cover edition for Mists of Time was published in August, following on from library interest for a paperback edition. This part poem read was made by the author, to set in place the rural setting for Persuasion’s Price. An espionage novel with secret service involvement.
Kowalski discussed the fact that part of the novel writng process for Sam Grant is the composition of poems, often about characters and situations within a novel. Perhaps that this should be named the Sam Grant novel writing technique? Author felt that he will not have been the first writer to have aligned story writing with poetry composition, but appreciated the interest and comment about his writing methodology. Quite often, there can be a lapse in dialogue flow and a poem can be a way to release further insight about a character or situation going forward. Also, that it is very satisfying, to develop a poem within the continual chapter flow required from novel writng. A breathing space, you might say for the novelist.
Chapter one, from Persuasion’s Price was read by Sam to set the scene for Linton Farm. A farm where a deal is struck to lease barns to a Russian family. Taras, the father smuggles drugs and gold, but son Anton is keen to legitimize his father’s business. Things hot up when the secret service get involved and even more sinister events unfold. A rural setting, interspersed with city life. A conflict situation of peoples from different worlds.