Tag Archive | Writing

The Lonely Man – part two.


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Tom listened to Martin chatting away.  He knew what Martin was trying to do, but it wasn’t working.  Nevertheless he appreciated the effort and tried hard to give back a little of the kindness that Martin was sharing with him.  Martin droned on and Tom attempted a smile, but soon he was lost in his thoughts again and his coffee turned cold and the sun went in behind a cloud.

He remembered happier times in his life and tried to recapture the moments.  We all do that, don’t we?  A certain smell of flowers, grass even or perfume can take us back to our childhood or a time when the colours of our life were brighter and sounds were clearer, summers were longer.  Tom remembered the smell of a field where he used to play as a child with a group of friends. In that time he was closer to the ground. Sometimes crawling along on his tummy like a soldier and all the small animals were right in front of his nose.  Mice and voles scuttled away and the pungent smell of the weeds and flowers in such close proximity filled his mind with their presence.

‘So Tom, Tamsin and I would love it if you came over to our place on Sunday and shared our barbecue.  What do you think? Some of her friends will be there too.’

Tom smiled a little.  He appreciated the thought and ‘hell, why not. He had nothing to lose and everything to gain.’

‘Thanks Martin.  I’d love to come.  What time do you suggest?’

‘Whenever you’re ready Tom. Just turn up – late afternoon would be ideal.’

‘P

Ok mate. I’ll see you there; oh and thanks…’

Martin returned to his own table feeling pleased.  Well, it’s a start, at least he thought.

 

Over by the window, her cake now finished, Pat brushed the crumbs from her blouse and reached down to get her handbag so she could check her face in the small mirror, which was a gift from her late husband.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw Mick coming towards her so she aborted the mirror and went for her handkerchief instead. It wouldn’t do for Mick to think she was vain.  It was two years since Pat’s husband, Dick Clark, died. Every day that passed since Pat found herself thinking about him.  Sometimes the thoughts made her laugh or smile as memories came back, but more often she felt a tear in her eye at a reminder of some past event that they shared together.  Now though she must move on in life.  It was time to look ahead, not back.  There could be new memories to come, but they would need a little encouragement. She was still attractive and she still had much to give and wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to go to the theatre with now and then or out on one of those inviting day trips she kept reading about in the daily paper.

Take that nice young man in the corner for instance, the one with the striped jumper. He shouldn’t be looking so down and depressed.  What could have happened to him?  Perhaps he’s lost his job or failed his exams? Maybe his girlfriend has finished with him.  He looked well cared for.  Perhaps he’s been living at home and now he’s been told he has to move out.  We all have our problems, thought Pat.

She looked up into Mick’s kind, smiling face.  He wanted to know if she had enjoyed the cake and if today was a special occasion.

‘Yes, it’s my birthday today,’ she told him, ‘so I thought I’d give myself a treat.’

Mick smiled broadly and replied ‘Well we can’t let this day go without celebrating, how about another cup of coffee, on the house?’

to be continued …

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ps Yesterday I noticed that someone from The Faulkland Islands had looked at my Blog. I want to say ‘welcome’ to that person in particular because as you all may know, The Faulkland Islands belongs to Britain, even though it is on the far corner of the world. I was delighted to see that one of our own had found my Blog. It made my day.

Oma

The Lonely Man


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The sun is shining in the Paradise City. A man enters a cafe that smells of happiness. Friends are seated at adjacent tables and they look up as he comes in. They smile when they recognise him, but he seems preoccupied. A chain of worries hangs around his neck and weighs heavy on his already strained shoulders. He buys a coffee and takes it to a seat in the corner where the sun cannot reach and taking a spoon he adds sugar and begins stirring, seeing only the world through the steam and fog of loneliness that his mind cannot shift…

The man in the cafe, the lonely man, was not young any-more, although not old either. He had seen many birthdays come and go and not all in the Paradise City. One of his friends stood up and came across, heading for the table in the corner where the sun didn’t shine. He wore a smile and a cloak of greeting as his hand came up and touched his forehead briefly.

The man in the corner, the lonely man, looked fuzzy today, not quite all there, lost in the mist. A flicker of warmth appeared in his eyes. He looked up, then down again, watching the swirling coffee as it whirl pooled around the spoon.

“What’s up?” asked the friend.

It was the first real voice the man had heard all week…

The lonely man, let’s call him Tom, was wearing jeans and a striped sweater, which suited him, thought the grey haired lady in her early sixties. She had chosen to sit at a table by the window where the sun streamed in and sent sparks of light from her knife. Carefully she cut her cake in half and lifted a portion of it to her mouth. The cake was a treat because it was her birthday and she wanted to spoil herself. To go with it she had a large coffee mocha, but that turned out to be a mistake because she found it sickly. She persevered, determined to enjoy her special day, which was just beginning. She looked across at Tom, whose friend was now seated opposite him, attempting to engage the sadness in Tom’s eyes with some lively conversation.
The owner of the Humming Bird cafe looked around at the tables to see how many were occupied on such a sunny morning in Paradise City. He noted with satisfaction that almost all the tables were hosting. The sun always brings out the customers, he thought as he mopped up a spillage on the counter. Next he checked to see how many regulars were present. There in the corner was Tom, looking sad and preoccupied, talking and listening to his friend Martin, who always seemed to have an entourage. Opposite and by the window sat Pat, eating a cake and stroking her newly coiffured grey hair. It must be a special occasion, thought Mick and he made up his mind to ask her what it could be. Mick was a widower and so much of his social life revolved around his work. Wiping his hands on a tea towel attached to his apron, he made his way towards Pat’s sunny table…

 

to be cont’d …

Spring Comes to Primrose Primary School


 

This is chapter one of the sequel to ‘Murder in the School’, which is available in the Kindle Store as an e-book. You can buy it here:

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Spring Comes to Primrose Primary School

Chapter 1

Saturday March 12th 1999.

“Take that, you bitch,” came a voice full of hate, and Ms Althea Gardner, the Head Teacher of Primrose Primary School, in the urban sprawl known as Langwitch, came crashing down in the shower cubicle in the corner of her newly appointed office. As she fell, she gashed her leg and hurt her back.   Her assailant used the same statuette, which Althea herself had used to despatch her friend and lover Alex during the Christmas holidays.  The attacker rendered a blow to the side of Althea’s head, which caused her to black out as she fell. She was left for dead.  However, the blow didn’t kill her and her attacker ran off before Althea came round.

Previously…

Just before Christmas, Althea Gardner, Head teacher of Primrose Primary School in Langwitch,  discovered that her paramour, Alex, was cheating on her with a mystery lover. Althea became empowered with rage and struck out at Alex with a statuette, causing her to fall down dead at her feet in the Head teacher’s office.  It was a crime of passion.

To hide the body was a top priority and Althea achieved that by dragging it across the playground and into the boiler house, using a key she had stolen from the Caretaker’s keying.  Gerald, the caretaker, was the only person who went in to the boiler house as a rule and he couldn’t get in because he couldn’t find his key.

After Christmas, Gerald used a ladder to climb up and look through the little window into the boiler house and there he saw the body of an unidentifiable woman (Alex) in the gloom.  Gerald loved going into the boiler house to be on his own and wouldn’t accept that the body would rob him of his privacy so he made plans to get rid of it.  Painstakingly he chopped it up and burnt it in the furnace, then cleared up every trace, or so he thought, and pretended nothing had ever happened.  So far he had got away with it…but the Ka of Alex Simmons was still around causing mischief.

Althea Gardner had many enemies in the school.  She swept in with an electric broom in September 1998 and using modern management techniques, commenced the instigation of a total “shake-up” of the existing staff.  One by one she bullied the staff until they left, but there was another motive for Althea’s arrival at Primrose Primary School.  She was placed there to effect the total destruction of the school so that in January, when the school inspectors arrived, the school would be seen to fail and then be closed.  If the school was closed, the Local Education Authority would save a lot of money and if Althea was successful in closing the school, whilst appearing to make it succeed and improve, then she would be given a prestigious job in the office next door to her lover, Alex.

In the short while between September  and Christmas, Alex fell in love with her boss, the Officer in Charge of Governors, and together they were plotting to leave Langwitch together. When Althea discovered that Alex was being unfaithful, she lost all sense of reason and put an end to Alex.

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Now – March 1999.

As Althea regained consciousness, she found herself, naked and very shaken, slumped awkwardly at the base of the cubicle with water running over her bruised body.  For a short while she wondered where she was, remembering an outdoor shower in Marrakech, where she had spent some happy times with Alex in years gone by.

“Where am I?  What the hell…Oh my God, I’m bleeding and my head, oh my head…”

She pulled her thoughts together and sat up painfully.  Her leg hurt and the gash on the front shin, was quite deep and bleeding.  She grabbed a towel and started mopping.  There is no doubt that Althea collected enemies like some people collect stamps in the short time since September, when she first arrived at Primrose Primary School. Any one of these enemies could have been responsible for the attack.

As she sat in a wet, feeble heap with the large white towel against her wounds, her eyes scanned her large office.  She could see her desk and on it she could see the mail.  Amongst the mail was the dreaded result of the Ofsted Inspection, which had taken place at the beginning of January.  The Ofsted inspectors had descended upon the school like an unkindness of ravens and caused stress and distress in every classroom of the school.  Althea clawed herself up into a standing position and made her way over to the desk.  She felt quite fizzy and dizzy.

“I must get some clothes on; where is my underwear, where did I put it?”

Althea was confused.

“Where is my dress, ah, there it is.  I wish my leg would stop bleeding.  It’s turned the towel red…”

She rambled on, shivering from shock and cold.

“Someone hit me, who would do that? I haven’t got any enemies.”

But she had, lots of them.

When she was dressed, Althea sat in her chair at the desk and tried to restore her composure.  She routed through the aggression of post on the desk, looking for the envelope containing the inspection results.

“Have we passed the inspection?  What good would that be, now that Alex is dead?  We had such plans, such wonderful plans for our future and now, whether the school passes or fails, and there is no future for Alex, no future for me. How I am undone! Why did I let my temper get the better of me? Alex, forgive me, darling Alex, I didn’t mean to kill you. Please Alex, please, please.”

Althea started sobbing. Tears washed through her fingers as finally, the enormity of the situation she found herself in, crashed into her thoughts.

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The letter was at the bottom of the pile of mail. Althea picked it up but as she did so she felt her consciousness slipping before she could open it.  She slithered to the floor and lay still.  By the time she was found, the parents and protestors had all departed from the school field leaving a mountain of litter behind them.

The dignitaries had gone home and peace reigned once more at Primrose Primary School, or did it?  Hardly!  It was Mrs. Wales, the General Assistant, who discovered Althea in her office.

“Ms Gardner, the field is clear… oh hell, what has happened in here? Althea, what’s wrong?”

Mrs. Wales rushed across to the prone body of Althea Gardner and saw the blood on her head and her leg.  She was horrified.  It was obvious that Althea had been attacked.

“Somebody has hit her but who and what with?”

She looked around the room and saw the statuette lying on the floor by the shower cubicle.

“Better not touch it,” she thought.

She telephoned for an ambulance because she didn’t like the look of the Head Teacher.  She was concussed and needed expert attention.  Mrs. Wales stayed with her until the ambulance came and then accompanied her in the ambulance to the Accident and Emergency Department of Langwitch General Hospital.

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The protest was over. Parents and protestors, campaigning to prevent the school field being sold off by the council, returned to their homes.

Mrs. Manipulator, the full time secretary, picked up the letters on Ms. Gardner’ desk and opened them.  She opened the letter with the Ofsted crest on it and spread out the report on the desk.  She scanned it quickly and said:

“Oh, oh, oh!”

She ran down the corridor to find Mrs. Phillips, the Deputy Headteacher.

“Mrs. Phillips, Mrs. Phillips, it’s arrived, it’s here, the results.”

Her high-heeled shoes clip clopped on the highly polished floor of the school corridor as she ran to deliver the important letter.

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Comment: So what will the letter say? Will the school pass it’s Ofsted Inspection? What do you think? and has Ms Gardner, the Headteacher got her comeuppence at last?

As in life, not everything is that simple, is it! Not every murderer is caught and sometimes one murder creates the perfect conditions for another.

Bertie’s House


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Some of you will have noticed the above picture on my sidebar. It concerns my book ‘Bertie’s House‘, which I wrote under the pseudonym Amanda Marigold.

If you click the link, it will take you to the Amazon store where you can buy the book.

I started writing ‘Bertie’s House’ when I kept a rabbit called Bertie. The book concerns the adventures which Bertie has along with his other animal friends who live in the same street.

Here’s an excerpt:

Chapter One

A very private person

Once upon a sunny day Bertie sat in his house and surveyed the world around him.  He was on his own as usual, but it had its compensations.  There was nobody to argue with and nobody to tell him what to do and, if he felt like it, he could close his eyes and have a little sleep and nobody would complain.  The housework could wait.  It was much too nice a day to worry about cleaning and who was there to care whether he changed his bed or not?

Belinda was playing in the street.  Despite the weather, she was dressed in her black coat with a fur collar.  She ran in and out of the bushes chasing shadows and playing hide and seek with the sun.  Perhaps she would soon have a snack and then play some more but before she could make up her mind, something dramatic happened…

A fluffy white cloud suddenly turned black and it started to rain.

Belinda didn’t like getting wet so she ran across the road to Bertie’s house and hid inside his shed.  From the doorway she could see how comfortable Bertie was, but she knew she could not get inside his house because the door was locked.  Bertie’s door was only opened once a day and that was in the early morning.  He was a very private person.’

This is a children’s book, but it works for adults too, just so long as you enjoy the simple things in life.

I hope you buy it and enjoy it and if you do, I wouldn’t mind some more reviews on it?

Oma

The Jug


Once upon a time there was a little old woman, who lived in a cottage at the side of a wood. The country she lived in was far away on the other side of the rainbow. All the houses there were crooked. They had crooked chimneys and crooked walls and crooked doors. The doors were there to shut some people in and other people out and to hide secrets.

In her cottage, the little old woman kept a ginger cat and a deaf, black dog for company. She was getting even older than old and very frail. She was so old that she was nearly dead, but not quite. She still had a sparkle in her eye. You could see the sparkle if you looked really closely at her. It twinkled when she saw children or the berries on the blackberry bush.

In her front room, a sunbeam shone through the windowpane and illuminated a large jug on the mantelpiece. It was the only thing in the cottage which was not crooked. On the side of it were an elephant and a camel. The elephant’s nose was holding on to the camel’s tail and the camel held the tip of the elephant’s tail in its mouth.

“Phew, it is hot when the sun shines on my back,” said the elephant.

“Well, move round a bit!” said the camel.

“You know very well that I can’t,” replied the elephant.

“It’s all right for you. I’m always in the shade,” the camel said.

“You wouldn’t like it if you had the sun burning your bottom all morning.”

“I love the sun. I am meant to be in the sun all day,” boasted the camel. “Stop moaning. Anyway, what do you mean you are meant to be in the sun all day? I am supposed to be in the desert, where the sun shines all day and it is very hot, but I’ve never been there. I can only dream of it.”

“I’m supposed to be on the plains of Africa, not standing on this jug all day and night,” lamented the elephant. If you could have one wish, what would it be?”

The beautiful camel smiled to herself on the other side of the jug.

“It would be nice to see your dear face at last, my friend. After all these years of loving you, I’ve never once seen your face.”

“You haven’t missed much. It is a huge, ugly face and I have a long nose like a staircase. If I could only see your face, I too would be a happy elephant.”

The old woman had three sons, who came to visit her as often as they could, which wasn’t very often. When they came she wore her best clothes and washed herself until she was squeaky-clean because she didn’t want them to think that she couldn’t look after herself properly. If they thought that, the decision may have to be made to put her in a home for elderly people. The last time the sons came to see her, the subject had come up in the conversation and the eldest one, Michael, had told her: –

“The time for you to consider going in to a home is when you think you are ready or when you can no longer dust that old jug up there on the mantelpiece by yourself. Whichever comes first? That will be the time.”

The large wooden clock on the shelf ticked loudly – tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

“And that’s another thing,” complained the camel. “I’m fed up with that clock chiming every fifteen minutes. It hurts my ears. They are delicate, my ears are, and they can’t stand that noise. It goes right through me.”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it? The noise hurts my ears much more than yours.”

“And why would that be?”

“Because my ears are very, very big.”

“Oh, you’re boasting again, aren’t you? Everything you’ve got is bigger than mine, you keep saying. Anyway my friend, you haven’t got humps like me.”

“Humps, what humps? You have the humps a lot of the time and that’s because you can’t get off the shelf.”

“No, I mean real humps. I have real humps for storing water. They sit on my back like two hills.”

“Ha, ha, ha. That’s a real joke. You have a vivid imagination.”

“And so have you – a nose as long as a staircase, whatever next!”

The old lady loved chocolates. She especially liked the sort of chocolates, which contained raspberry cream or liquid toffee. Her false teeth would nip into the crisp outer coating of the chocolate and open it up, allowing the liquid centre to flow out over her tongue, covering all her taste buds with happiness.

It was ten o’clock in the morning and the doorbell was ringing.

‘I’d better go and answer it,’ she thought. ‘It might be the laundryman.’

It wasn’t the laundryman. He was delayed in an apricot traffic jam. On the doorstep stood a couple of well-dressed young men wearing suits and looking very smart. The old lady looked through the spy hole in her front door and saw the young men.

‘Looks like church workers,’ she thought.

Carefully she lifted the chain and opened the door a little. One of the well-dressed young men stepped forward and smiled.

“Good morning. Sorry to trouble you. We’re looking for Betty. Is this her house?”

“No, it isn’t, I’m afraid.” The old lady stepped out of her cottage and slowly walked down the path to the gate leaning on the arm of one of the young men.

“That’s where Betty lives,” she said and pointed down the road. “Just there, three cottages down. Can you see? It’s the one with the green door.”

What she hadn’t realised was that, while she was talking to one of the young men, the other one was inside her cottage, helping himself to her best handbag and all of its contents. When she came back indoors, she realised she had been tricked. Her best handbag had gone and with it a great deal of money, which she had been putting aside to buy some Christmas presents.

‘I’ll make myself a cup of tea,’ she said to the dog in a trembly voice but he didn’t hear her because he was old and deaf. He slept on in his basket, dreaming of when he was younger, chasing rabbits over the hills. ‘Yes, that’s what I’ll do. A nice cup of tea will calm my nerves.’

She tottered into the kitchenette and took down the old tin where she kept the loose tea. As she tried to lift off the lid, her hands began to shake. She put two spoons of tea in her little teapot and flicked the switch on the kettle but she had forgotten to fill it up with water and after a little while it went “bang” and blew up.

The little old woman sat down in her chair and a big teardrop rolled down her papery cheek. She wiped it away with a pretty white handkerchief, which smelled of lilies of the valley. On the table beside her chair was a little photograph frame containing a picture of her husband who had died many years ago. He smiled at her through the glass, which protected his face.

The elephant from his position on the mantelpiece watched all these events.

“That’s not fair, is it?” he said to his friend the camel. “She didn’t deserve that.”

“No, it most certainly is not,” replied the camel.

The wind rustled in the plane tree, which towered over the cottage. The sun came out from behind a cloud and shone through the window, illuminating the dust on the shelf.

‘I’ll get the duster,’ said the little old woman. With the duster in her right hand, she reached up to dust the shelf but her hand was trembling so much that she knocked the jug right over. It rocked and spun and then “crash”. It fell to the floor and broke in two!

Now, at last, the two companions could look each other in the eye.

“You are very handsome,” remarked the camel.

“And you are very pretty,” replied the elephant.

“All these years I have longed to see your face and imagined in my mind what you may look like and you don’t look a bit like I thought you would.”

The elephant regarded the camel’s large eyes with her long eyelashes, designed to keep the sand out of her eyes in a sandstorm. The camel noticed the elephant’s enormous grey ears, which were designed to flap and keep the elephant cool on the plains of Africa.

“What will become of us now, do you think?”

The old woman stooped down and picked up the two pieces of the jug and set them side by side on the shelf so they could look each other in the eye.

‘I’ll explain that the cat did it,’ she decided, ‘otherwise they’ll put me in that old people’s home, saying I can’t cope. I won’t mention the burglary either because that will go against me.’

When her son came to see her at the end of the week, he noticed the broken jug on the shelf.

“Mum, I’ve been thinking,’ he started.

“It’s all right, son. I know what you’re going to say. I’m ready to go. You make the arrangements.”

“No, what I was going to say was…Pam and I have been talking and we’ve decided between us that we can’t live another day without that jug over there. We’ve always admired it and now we want to own it ourselves and, of course, you’ll have to come with it when we move it to our own crooked house on the plains in Africa, because it will need dusting every day to keep it bright.”

The old woman smiled a smile, which reached right across her face and the crooked, broken jug on the shelf shimmered in the sunshine.

This story was written by Oma, writing as Amanda Marigold

By Amanda Marigold

All Rights Reserved

Amanda Marigold reserves the right to be named as the author of this work under the Copyright, Designs & Patent Act 1988.

Copyright November 2010.

The Archdeacon’s Bottle of Gin


The Archdeacon laid aside his Sudoku puzzle, stretched and looked out of his study window to see if his 10 a.m. appointment was coming up the tree-lined road.  It was summertime and the mature lime trees were in full leaf, looking beautiful as always, but making it difficult for parkers to get out of their cars in the confined spaces.  The trees had grown to their full size, their roots causing the paving stones on the path to lift and separate.  It really could be quite dangerous.  I must ring the council and let them know, thought the Archdeacon, nobly reaching towards his old, oak desk to retrieve a pen so he could write himself a reminder note.

This particular Archdeacon was missing his parish; the beautiful church overlooking the town, the commodious rectory and most of all, his flock.  It was a large parish and a lot of thank you letters to write once he had accepted the promotion from Rector and Rural Dean to Archdeacon three years previously.

The Bishop had assured him that he was ‘just the man for the job’ and this was borne out by the number of phone calls to ‘see how he was getting on’, that he received in the six months after he left.  An Archdeacon no longer has a parish of his own.  He lives in a church house; in this case a beautiful one, built to a high standard in the 1920’s and he is responsible for the whole archdeaconry.  Archdeaconries vary in size.  Our particular Archdeacon is in charge of an archdeaconry with nine deaneries in it and each deanery has up to twenty-nine parishes in it, all with their own Vicar, Priest-in-charge or Rector.  That’s three hundred churches, up to three hundred Vicars and six hundred Church Wardens.  That’s a lot of responsibility so the Bishop has to be very careful that he does pick the ‘right man for the job’.

Of course with all the cut-backs, sometimes one Vicar has to cover up to four churches, but that would mainly be in the country districts.

The Archdeacon’s house is situated in the centre of a busy town although you would never know it if you took your tea on the lawn in his well- manicured back garden. A gardener was employed to come once a week and keep the weeds under control. In reality he did much more than that, assuming that he was storing up points in heaven for when he eventually parked his lawn-mower in St. Peter’s garden shed.

The hierarchy of the Church of England is very rigid and so once you get the call to higher office, off you go. Mostly Vicars move on every so many years, each time taking on a larger parish, until they are deemed experienced and responsible enough to become a Rural Dean.  This post extends their duties as Rector of their own parish and prepares them for future promotions.

Once our Archdeacon was in post, he became the Bishop’s right-hand man and he was quick to learn the intricacies of the job.  Apart from being the first point of call when one of his many Vicars had a problem, he was also responsible for the annual inspections of the many beautiful and ancient buildings that grace the English countryside in his own particular archdeaconry.

To help him in his daily work, he had a part-time secretary, to whom he gave the accolade ‘The Real Archdeacon’ because, in his humble opinion, she did all the work! This faithful soul kept all his appointments up to date, typed the many letters, organised the annual Visitation of Church Wardens and was always on hand to intercept telephone calls when she was able to shield her boss from the most unnecessary intrusions.  Perhaps her biggest task was sorting out the annual inspections.  There was just time in one day for the Archdeacon to do three inspections. However, with three hundred ancient buildings to visit, it was vital that all three were near to each other.  She couldn’t allow her Archdeacon to criss-cross the Deaneries in a haphazard fashion. Sounds easy? Well it wasn’t.  It was an almost impossible task, but one that the faithful secretary took in her stride.

August was approaching and with it came the Archdeacon’s birthday.  Each year the secretary bought him something he would really enjoy.  This year she decided to buy him a bottle of gin.  He can take it with him on holiday and drink it on the beach, she decided, feeling generous because the cost of the gin would make quite a hole in her weekly wage. He works so hard, he deserves it! She justified the cost to herself.

The secretary knew that the Archdeacon’s holiday with his wife and family was to coincide with his birthday the following week, so that night she stopped off at the local supermarket and bought the biggest bottle of gin she could afford and some pretty paper to wrap it in together with an appropriately sober birthday card.  As she wrapped the present up that evening, she pictured him opening it and relishing the partaking of it. This happy thought brought a smile to her face.

Next day she carried the present carefully in to work, setting it on his desk in a prominent position.  He’ll probably think it’s a bottle of Ribena, she surmised.  She wasn’t trying to curry favour; she was just grateful for her job, which gave her the opportunity to work flat out for four mornings a week and any extra hours she could manage for free. She didn’t work Fridays so this would be her last opportunity to wish the busy man a happy holiday and clear up all the many loose ends from his untidy desk before he made his departure the following Saturday.

The Archdeacon was surprised and pleased with the unexpected gift and after due thanks, he moved it to a safer place than his untidy desk, to a corner of the sideboard in the dining room.

‘Don’t forget to pack it, will you? It’s meant for you to enjoy while you’re away,’ said the secretary.

‘No, I certainly won’t,’ he replied.

The last morning passed in a flurry of letters dictated and typed.  Of course there were twice as many phone calls as usual and an emergency to deal with when suddenly a loud crash caused the Archdeacon to look out of his window. He watched in astonishment as a runaway car rolled down the hill without a driver and came to rest with a loud bang and a shattering of glass right against the front of a safely parked car further down the slope.

‘Oh my God!’ exclaimed the Archdeacon forgetfully.  ‘She must have forgotten to put the handbrake on when she parked it!’

‘She?’ replied the secretary quizzically.  ‘How do you know it was a she?’

The Archdeacon looked a tad embarrassed and sheepish when he realised he was being sexist.

‘Well whoever’s car it was that rolled into the other one, he’ll probably get away with it because from where I’m sitting it looks like the other car bashed into his!’ observed the secretary remembering that it was deemed the fault of the person behind when an accident such as this occurred.’

‘Maybe,’ replied the Archdeacon, hoping he wouldn’t be asked to be a witness. He refrained from calling the police, but remained on the alert for developments.

During the two weeks that the Archdeacon was away, his industrious secretary worked hard.  She got to grips with the mountain of filing and shredding and then set about sorting through the annual inspection returns.  There was a complicated spread-sheet to design, where in to show the results and a number of new Churchwardens’ Handbooks to send out.  This of course involved a lot of wrapping up and carrying of heavy boxes to the Post Office, which naturally she did after her working hours were over so as not to waste valuable time spent in the office doing more important things!

All the while she worked, the Archdeacon’s cat kept her company, leaving little presents under her desk for her to clear up when she got in each morning and once or twice an even larger and smellier present in the hallway or under the settee where even the longest broom handle was unable to reach.

The faithful secretary took all this in her stride and looked forward to the return of her boss and his family in due course.

On his return the Archdeacon was tanned and refreshed and full of his adventures at the seaside.  At coffee-time he showed his secretary the lovely photographs he’d taken on the beach, in front of the guest house and walking on the seafront, his family looking happy and relaxed complete with sun-hats and ice-creams.  The weather had been warm and pleasant and not too hot to take advantage of the beach whenever possible, he told her as she smoothed her lank hair away from her white cheeks, which had not seen the sun since the day the old King died.

‘It’s hard to get back in gear after two weeks away,’ sighed the Archdeacon as he picked up the mountain of mail that was waiting for him on his desk.

‘Indeed’, said the secretary.  She had been sure to sort the mail so that the most urgent letters to be answered were on the top of the pile.

‘Are there many e-mails?’ he asked, reaching for the dictating machine.

The secretary smiled encouragingly at him and opened up the Inbox containing the latest collection of e-mails.  Most of them were from the usual addresses: the Diocesan Office, the Bishop, several applications for appointments from the clergy.  One unusual address caught the diligent secretary’s eye.  It was from a guest house in Sandy Bay, where the Archdeacon and his family had spent the last two happy weeks.

‘Dear Archdeacon’, it read… ‘I am writing to thank you for the very generous gift of a large bottle of Gordon’s gin.  It was most unexpected and welcome and I want you to know how much Ted and I appreciate the gift.  After you left I found your mobile phone charger, which I will send on to you when I can get to the Post Office.  It may not be till the end of the week because my leg is playing up again, but I assure you, I’ll send it on as soon as I can.’

‘Well I never!’ exclaimed the secretary, her cheeks flushing with annoyance.  She carefully printed all the emails and took them in to the Archdeacon with the one from the guest house on the top.  The Archdeacon read that one first.

‘Damn!’ he exclaimed when he’d read it.

A Bible, which was perched precariously on the corner of his desk suddenly broke free of its constraints and fell with a thud to the floor causing the Archdeacon’s coffee cup to fly out of his hand and spill its hot contents all down his trousers.

‘Damn, damn, damn.’

The next day the Archdeacon was at a Property Meeting at the Diocesan Office.  His secretary arrived punctually in her office at 9 a.m. and sat down at her desk. She picked up the map of the nine deaneries, which was awaiting the planning of the annual church inspections. With her longest ruler she measured the distances between the churches taking care to make sure that the three daily inspections she was going to arrange were as far away from each other as possible. Then she started her list.

That should do it she thought as she stroked the Archdeacon’s cat behind its ears. The cat purred loudly.  Was that a smile on its face?

+++

This was an Archdeacon’s Story from Oma’s library.

Murder in the School – Chapter 1 – Introducing Mrs. Smithers


Chapter 1 -Introducing Mrs. Smithers

My last post concerned characters and the control of them. It’s not an easy subject. As a writer, it is easy to let your characters run away with your story so caution is needed to keep them contained.

Here I am posting the first chapter of my book ‘ Murder in the School’ , which is a murder mystery set in a school in a large, urban town. The book is available from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk as an e-book to read on the Kindle or on your computer. I’ll give you the link at the end of the post.

I am currently writing the sequel to ‘Murder in the School’, which will be called ‘Justice Will Prevail’. It should be finished around Christmas time.

In this first chapter we meet Mrs. Smithers, the school secretary, who has some secrets, which the reader will learn about as the story progresses. The other characters in this chapter are:

Ms Althea Gardner, the new Head Teacher

Mrs. Riglett, one of the parents and her son Georgie is also mentioned.

Mrs. Wales, the general assistant/medical lady

This first chapter is written in the first person. Mrs. Smithers is speaking to the reader and explaining how she felt when she first met the new Head Teacher, Althea Gardner. I have not flooded the first chapter with lots of characters for the reader to get confused about because when I am reading myself I like to get to know the characters slowly. That’s just my choice.  What is your opinion? Do you like to meet all the characters in one go? or do you prefer to be broken in gradually?

Although this is a mystery story, it is also a study of human behaviour in an institution, like a school. Therefore we have to wait a while for the murder to happen. If I was writing Crime Fiction, I suppose the murder would need to happen in Chapter One, in a dramatic way, so as to grab the reader’s attention immediately. That’s fine and it works on T.V. and films, but what is the hurry with a book? Let’s be a little patient and take time to get the feel of the school and what is happening there.

So here is Chapter One. I hope you enjoy reading it.

My name is Mrs. Smithers and I was a part-time school secretary at PrimrosePrimary School in the urban sprawl known as Langwitch.  My office was in the part of the building, which was formerly the InfantsSchool.  The Infant and JuniorSchools were amalgamated recently and a new Head teacher, Ms Gardner was appointed in charge.  Ms Gardner had been in post for three weeks and already she had instilled fear in the hearts of the staff throughout the school.  Even the goldfish in the tank in the foyer swam frenetically back and forth when she passed by.  The day after the first joint staff meeting Ms Gardner started her individual interviews.  She wanted to see me first and my appointment was for 9 a.m. in her office, which was in the larger, junior side of the school.

I spent a sleepless night tossing and turning in my bed worrying about the interview.  What was this all about I wondered?  Did she really want to get to know us all better or was there a hidden agenda?  Should I be forthcoming and friendly and open with her or would it be better to keep something back and show my more reserved side?

Dressed in a navy blue suit with a white blouse, I felt smart and perhaps if I didn’t say anything untoward, I thought, the interview should go smoothly.  Just as I was about to leave for the interview, the phone rang in the office.  I picked up the receiver.  It was one of our most irritating parents, Mrs. Riglett, phoning to explain that her Georgie was ill again and she intended to take him to the doctors that day but there weren’t any appointments till much later on so she was going to keep him indoors and give him lots of hot drinks and cool flannels……….! And…………! And …………..!

“Yes, yes, Mrs. Riglett” I almost shouted down the phone with exasperation.  “You’re doing the right thing and we look forward to seeing Georgie soon when he’s quite better and in the meantime, yes I will go and ask his teacher if she can look in his desk for his library book.  Now I must go.  Thank you for phoning, goodbye.”

I looked up at the big clock on the wall of my office; 9.10 a.m.  showed.  I was going to be late.  I really didn’t want to be late and now I would be.  I grabbed my handbag and ran.  The new administration block, joining the two schools, was not quite finished so I had to run across the car-park.  It was raining so when I got across to the far door my glasses were covered in rain spots and I couldn’t see much.  A large magpie observed me with pity from the overhang on the porch door.  “One for sorrow!” I thought.  The door swung shut behind me and there was Ms Gardner’s office with a new brass plaque on the door.  “A. Gardner” it said.  I wondered what the ‘A’ stood for.  I knocked politely on the door and heard her say, “Come in”.

Ms Gardner was wearing an exotic perfume, which put me in mind of the markets in Marakesh.  As usual she was immaculately dressed.  Today she was wearing a russet brown suit; in keeping with the season, I thought.  Two gold bracelets shone bright against her bronze skin; one on each wrist.  She was sitting in her chair, which was in front of her desk on a dais.  She motioned to the only other seat in the room, which was not on the dais and thus she had the advantage of the highest seat and an imposing position.  I had the advantage of being able to see what was on the wall behind her.  I looked for a picture or a photo to give me a clue what her background might be; nothing.  I looked at her desk, again nothing.  No past, I thought.  Nothing to give a clue as to what she held dear in her life.

“Now”, she said. “Tell me how you see your role in this school?”

“I have been a part-time school secretary over on the Infants side of the school for 13 years”; I began. “Since L.M.S. (Local Management of Schools) I have had to become adept at managing the school finances”, I explained.  “I enjoy the financial side of the job but it is difficult to concentrate on finances when I also need to keep jumping up and opening the door to visitors”.

Ever since the incident at Dunblane in Scotland, in 1996, when a deluded 43 year old man, Thomas Hamilton, massacred 16 children and a teacher, our main door has remained shut and locked.  No longer were visitors allowed in of their own choice and without an automatic opening system, it fell upon me to allow visitors to enter.  “

“I work well with Mrs. Wales, the General Assistant”, I continued. “ We would like to change our hours so that she does less hours and I do more.  That way we can cover the new responsibilities of the combined schools.  Mrs. Wales is very capable of tackling the office work and would welcome more responsibility and I would like to spend more time on the finances, perhaps combining that with library duties?  We thought that with our family commitments we could each work ¾ time.”  My voice tailed off as I saw Ms Gardner’s expression change from mild boredom to irritation.

“Impossible”, she said.  “Mrs. Wales is to be placed in the classroom as a teacher’s help and in the office what I want is a full-time efficient P.A.!”

I sat back on the chair realising that I had just blown it.  I had given Ms Gardner the ideal opportunity to get rid of me and by the same stroke she could demoralise Mrs. Wales by taking away the prestige of having her own room.  After fourteen years of loyal service Mrs Wales, capable Mrs. Wales, would lose the one special thing she had, the Welfare Room.  It was her domain and she reigned supreme in it.  Returning my thoughts to the present I heard Ms. Gardner say “Thank you Mrs Smithers, you may go back to the office now.”

I stood up and returned across the rainy car-park to my cosy little office on the Infant side of the building but I couldn’t get back in because I had forgotten my key to the main door in my haste to get to the interview on time.  I could see the key on the desk through the window.  Everyone was in the assembly hall so I had no alternative but to sit on the step and wait.  Now the tears came, mixing with the raindrops and splashing on the ground between my shoes.  Now I understood, my days at PrimrosePrimary School were numbered.  Whatever I had said to Ms Gardner, she would have given the opposite view.  Ms Gardner had other plans.  A shake-up was coming and we couldn’t do anything about it.  We were powerless, or were we?

When Mrs. Smithers returned home that afternoon she went straight to the cloakroom cupboard and took out her beautiful shiny besom.  “Time for a sweep”, she thought.  Her three black cats stretched their legs, gripping the carpet with their sharp claws and curling their tails around the broom and Mrs. Smithers’ legs and purrrrred with pleasure…….

If you want to buy the book, you can click on this link and it will take you straight to Amazon: I use a pseudonym, Amanda Marigold.