Welcome to the first post and blog of The Wælcyrie of Carr Naze.
I suppose you are wondering what the word/term ‘ Wælcyrie’ actually means – well it’s the Old English for ‘Sorceress’ .
Or a Witch.
It can also means female demon, a malevolent one at that! Though I’m not really that nasty, well maybe first thing in the morning, but as long as I am fed tea – 2 cups – and BIG breakfast cups, oh preferably Earl Grey and the cups need to be china, then I am usually okay.
Oh yes it does sound a little like the word ‘Valkyrie’… It’s similar and there is some crossover.
The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.So people can’t sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!
And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.
Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!’ and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.
It was a cloudy here on the east coast when we went out to pay our respects to the Harvest Moon. She was hidden from us to begin with, but we waited, as she slowly came out from behind the cloud, reflecting on the sea and the wet sand, as the tide had turned. For a few moments, it felt like the whole earth had held their breath, as she coyly glanced down upon 2 small people watching in awe and anticipation. He silver trail, melted on the receding waves as they danced and sang for her. Then she touched the wet sand, which in state of undress, shuddered. Then as quickly as she came, and hiding her modesty, she moved on, back behind the clouds rising higher, away form outstretched hands.
She was a little late this year as usually the Harvest Moon is seen at the end of September. Indeed her appearance in October is quite rare,; the last time was in 1990 and the next time it happens will be in 2020.
Why is She called ‘Harvest Moon’? Well the Harvest Moon was the one falling the closest to the Autumn Equinox.
The moon rises at this time close to the setting of the sun. Her light is so bright that before the use of automation and machinery , farmers were traditionally able to use Her light to gather in the last of the harvest.
After the harvest was all in, the workers would head back to the barn where there were fed a Harvest supper was fed to those who had been out in the field. A great feats of ale or Cider, meat, cakes was served and celebration of the harvest would continue to the early hour. The need for a harvest to be gathered in successfully meant to our ancestors survival over the coming winter months. In England, a Corn dolly would be made with the last sheaf of the corn as it was believed the spirit of the field was chased into as the corn was cut.
The Dolly would then be kept until the following year. It held a place of honour at the feast, and would be key sometime on the door of the barn, of even in the thatch of the barn till the following year, to ensure that a good harvest.
In medieval England, a Harvest Queen would be selected, a young girl would be chosen and then decorated with ribbons, the last of the summer flowers from the fields, and of course corn. She would be paraded through the village on a wagon which had also been decorated.
“As we were returning to our inn, we happened to meet some country people celebrating their Harvest Home; their last load of corn they crown with flowers, having besides an image richly dressed, by which, perhaps, they would signify Ceres; this they keep moving about, while men and women, men and maid servants, riding through the streets in the cart, shout as loud as they can till they arrive at the barn.”
“I have seen in some places an image appareled in great finery crowned with flowers, a sheaf of corn placed under her arm and a scythe in her hand, carried out of the village in the morning of the concluding reaping day, with music and much clamour of the reapers, into the field where it stands fixed on a pole all day, and when the reaping is done it is brought home in like manner. This they call the Harvest Queen and it represents the Roman Ceres”
Although perhas she is more a memory from our ancestors, the Anglo Saxons, and the Goddess Nerthus,
And then there is of course John Barleycorn, who is, of course, a metaphor for the spirit of grain, who is gown and cut down, and made into ale and whisky. The tale of John Barleycorn goes back at least till the 1500’s where it is found in the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568.
However, Sir James Frazer, suggests in his work The Golden Bower, argues that it goes back even earlier. He suggest that is is evidence of the pagan past of our ancestors. Katherine Herbert, in her book Looking for the Lost Gods of England, suggests that the Anglo Saxon god of agriculture Beowa, or Bēow , and who’s name is thought to be the inspiration for the titular character in the epic poem Beowulf, , is also a direct link to John Barleycorn.
At Hærfest, it is a time to gather in our own personal harvests. To look back on the past year to re evaluate maybe what has gone before, to reap what we have sown; to keep and give thanks to the Gods for that which has been good, to let go of that which serves no purpose.
We moved here just as the harvest was starting to be gathered in the fields surrounding us, and as the month has passed we have watched as the harvest as been fully gather in.
Last night and over the next few days we will give thanks to the Gods for all has come to pass; to honour and remember and give thanks for the seeds we have sown, to raise our glass , and enjoy the fruits before the coming winter months and the darkness.
When as the prince of angels puffed with pride
stirred his seditious spirits to rebel:
God chose for chief, his champion Michael:
and gave him charge the host of Heaven to guide.
And when the angels of the rebel’s side
vanquished in battle from their glory fell,
the pride of Heaven became the drake of hell,
and in the dungeon of despair was tied.
This dragon since let loose, God’s church assailed,
and she by help of Michael’s sword prevailed.
Who ever tried adventures like this knight?
Which general of Heaven, hell overthrew;
for such a lady as God’s spouse did fight:
and such a monster as the devil subdue.
Suddenly I heard a growling like a dozen dogs ahead, walking nearer I switched on my torch and was confronted by a huge neck, six yards in front of me, rearing up 8ft. high! The head was a startling sight- huge eyes like saucers, glaring at me, the creatures mouth was a foot wide and neck would be a yard around. The monster appeared as startled as I was. Shining my torch along the ground I saw a body about 30ft. long. I thought this was no place for me and from a distance I threw stones at the creature. It moved away growling fiercely and I saw the huge black body had two humps on it an four short legs with huge flappers on them. I could not see any tail. It moved quickly, rolling from side to side, and went into the sea. From the cliff top I looked down and saw two eyes like torch lights shining out to sea 300 yards away. It was a most gruesome and thrilling experience. I have seen big animals abroad, but nothing like this.”
Wilkinson Herbert , coastguard in which he says he saw a sea monster whilst walking on the beach at Filey. Daily Telegraph on 1 March 1934
How to kill a dragon – well here at Carr Naze , just like the good folk of Filey of yore, we feed it Parkin, a wonderful sticky cake, that sticks it teeth together.
“I was having sex withmy girlfriend when
she started her period.
I dumped that bitch immediately.”
Dear nameless dummy on Twitter:
You’re the reason my daughter cried funeral tears
When she started her period.
The sudden grief all young girls feel
After matriculation from childhood and
The induction into a reality that they’ll have to negotiate
People like you and you’re disdain
For what a woman’s body can do.
Herein begins an anatomy lesson infused with feminist politics
Because I hate you.
There’s a thing…called a uterus.
It sheds itself every 28 days or so
Or in my case every 23 days
(I’ve always been a rule breaker).
That’s the anatomy part.
The feminist politic part is that women
Know how to let things go, How to let a dying thing leave…
She has never been a great fan of social media, nor used it as often as she should. She knew about it of course but it had never held much fascination to her, and she had not felt the need to engage with it, until she had read that post. Until she had seen the picture.
The picture had made her literally stop in her tracks. She was walking the dog around the park, when she received a message to check her tweeter . The link to the picture lead her to web page, as these things do.
She had hurried back home and pulled the web page up on the laptop and read it again and again and again. It was full of so many long ramblings, indeed that’s what they were nonsensical ‘ramblings’. On and on, un-cohesive and which most of the time did not make sense. The term ‘Verbal Diarrhoea ‘ came to mind.
Now, she had to admit that she was not averse to ramblings herself, at times. Indeed Charles had once said that was one of the things he loved about her; that and her ability to go off in tangents. But these ‘ramblings ‘ appeared to be of someone who had perhaps in a past life partaken of and/or sniffed a little too much. . . well you know what. And was as mad as, well, as mad as the ‘proverbial.’
Indeed when she looked closer at the ‘ramblings’ she saw that the writer, she couldn’t bring herself to call her an author, was called Hattie .
Alicewondered. Could this be the same ‘Hattie’?
Surely it couldn’t be, could it? Not after all this time. Perhaps she was just related, in that localised way. It was a common ‘ish’ name, especially with families from that area.
Alicelooked closer at the photograph, faded as it was, it was of a young woman with dark hair, signing what appeared to be a book, and dressed in rather vintage looking clothes. Or is was an old photograph. The type of old photograph that people use when they have not aged as well as they could have wished for. Then she looked closer at the wordings, the turn of phrase. She realised that it was indeed the same ’proverbial’ one. The one as mad as, the one she had known, well met, all those years ago.
Alicetold herself, she has not really ‘known’ her, their paths had crossed at a sort of tea party she had been invited too many years ago. She hadn’t really wanted to go, but you know what it is when you are a newish author; you have to get out there and meet people. One of the publishers was a friend of Charles and she was advised that it would be in her best interest and that of her work to make a good impression.
Archie Hare had been a university colleague of Charles when he was up at Oxford. Archie was actually the Most Honourable Archibald Hare of Listowel; a Marquis. But the family fortunes were sadly depleted and so after having to sell of the family silver due to Inheritance tax, and much of the lands, he had decided to drop the title and concentrate on what he loved best. Burke and of course books.
Archie Hare had ended up in Oxford studying as an undergrad as had all of his forbears , but he had then remained in the cloistered city. He continued as a student there, spending time between parties getting his Masters, and his doctorate. Finally, he was offered a a fellowship , before realising that life was too short and that if he was not careful he would end up like many other professors he new, alone and sitting in dusty room, just him a battered arm chair and his books.
When he was in his mid 40’s, he and Burke had met at one of his sister’s parties and hit it of straight away. Burke however was still a member of the ‘Faith’, and had, as such , other obligations. So they created the publishing company, giving birth to reasons to spend time together with no questions asked.
Archie had given up his tenure in Oxford and moved to London as soon as possible. He had chosen to live below the small shop that he and Burke had rented. The basement flat was at times damp, but it was dark and private. It had a separate entrance and he, and Burke, could come and go as they pleased without being overlooked. Above the shop was the office, where the publishing firm was based.
One day, in those early hours, the ones which linger silently before the chorus of the last birds in the city had got their selves together, Archie and and Burke were on their way back to the flat after a delicious night in Soho. They wandered, arm in arm, whispering and giggling with delight, intoxicated by each other and that which they had consumed. When, as they turned the corner, they bumped into Charles, who himself was hurrying back from some late business deal.
Burke insisted that Archie invite Charles back to the flat for morning coffee, after all they were old friends and Burke wanted to know more about Archie’s old friends. Archie, tried to persuade Burke that Charles had somewhere to go, such as home, and that he was tired and didn’t need to come back to listen to there boring conversation. Burke disagreed and said it would be great to catch up on old times, he insisted. He put his arm through Charles and led him down the dark alley to the back door of the shop and into the flat.
Charles left the flat a few hours later not sure exactly what had happened. The streets now busy with early morning commuters. He had texted Alice the evening before too say that he was not going to make it home that night as he had a lot off work that he need to get done for the up coming deadline. Alice understood, she always did. She was dependable like that. When he had bumped into Archie and his friend, he had every intention of trying to get back to his office, for a shower and change of clothes. But Burke had been very persuasive and there was something about him that intrigued Charles.
He and Archie went back many years, they had shared and kept each others secrets. He was surprised to see that Archie was so happy. he had never been a happy boy or a happy student. How he had got his undergraduate degree or his Master etc always amused Charles. He wasn’t sure where the money had come from for starters, but that was not something gentlemen discussed. The Old Boy Network was alive and kicking as always.
Before he had left the flat that morning Charles had told Archie and Burke about his wife, about Alice. He told them how she was an author, or wanted to be. He told them all about how they had met. She had had been a ‘office angel’ at his office and he had been enchanted by her. He told them about the whirlwind romance, the great sex and the society wedding. But after 7 years or so and how after despite trying, things were not working out as he had wanted, or as he had planned. However, he loved her, and she loved him. Well, he admitted, he loved her like you love a pet, if that made sense. He told them that he loved her in that familiar way that you do an old Labrador bitch. The one who will be every faithful, but is a bit dull. And, he told them, coyly, that life has a way of moving on, if they knew what he meant. They had nodded, and smiled at each other. He continued to add that he took his marriage vows to Alice very seriously, and that he had all intentions of remaining married; he supported her to do what she wanted to do and she left him to do what he needed to do. And she wasn’t that bad. She looked after their home, managed everything for him; he was away a lot. Oh and she wrote . She wasn’t that bad at it either. Charles looked at Archie and smile. He had a favour to ask, after all he owed him a favour or two, especially now.
Archie had agreed to read a couple of Alice’s manuscripts and had been impressed enough to sign her up.
Archie was a tall slender man, with light brown hair, smartly dressed in what could only be described as a eccentric manor. He favoured Edwardian dress, he knew not why, but had embraced it when Burke had commented on how it much it flattered him. Burke of course, with his wild white hair, and piercing blue eyes preferring the long black clothes of the Raven. Archie’s hair was precisely cut in a way to hide what Alicethought were rather large ears. Indeed she had noticed him at times checking to make sure that the hair was not a smidgen out of place. And he was not as bombastic as Charles had made out. Indeed, she found him to be quite delightful when he was on his own. Alice never actually got to meet Mr Burke, he preferred to spend most of his time in the Dublin Office according to Archie, digging up things and finding new ‘authors’. Archie laughed and asked her if she had read much of the work of Foucault? She had looked at him perplexed and he whispered to her ‘ all authors are writers, but not all writers are authors’. He chucked to himself as he walked away muttering indeed, Mr Burke seems to have an amazing aptitude to digging up these ‘peculiar auteur’.
It appeared that Hattie was one of them. She was a local girl, in that she lived close to where Burke had once lived and had worked for most of his life. Her family had known Burke’s family since time immemorial, and there had been whispers of ‘family relationship’, but Archie had dismissed it, he knew Burke to well. However, Burke had insisted that Archie had given the girl a go. And her work did not appear that bad. Though, if he was honest, he had not read it nor was likely too, so he had passed it to the young office girl, who he had recently employed. A small quite girl, mousy in appearance with rather none descriptive coloured hair which hung down her back in a rather unfashionable manner. She had appeared to like it. She had told him that it was a little clumsy in places, not well edited as such, but was not too bad but that they may make some profit from it, for them and the ‘author’. They needed the cash as he was well aware, and as was Burke. Hare was not sure what was happening to all the funds, that was not his department, but he knew things were tight, and ‘needs must where the devil drives’ as his father was fond of saying. So Hare had agreed, a contact was drawn up, and he even offered his services as an editor; but she had almost angrily refused, saying she already had an editor, a member of her family, who she believed had done ‘ a grand job’. Hare had told Burke he was not happy with it but Burke had insisted they give it a go. Hare had to admit that he was uncomfortable as the contents were also not what they normally considered, but for Burke he let it go. They were branching out into the metaphysical genre, as that was where the new money appeared to be. This, it seemed was a semi-autobiographical story of a mysterious family, one with historical links to the folk law of Ireland and he thought to himself what the hell, he would give it a go, what had he too loose.
Alicemade herself a coffee, and sat at the kitchen table. Indeed ‘the proverbial one’ and that actual tea party, how could she forget? The tea party had been a much talked about and well publicised event. Archie had insisted that she come. He had been emphatic about it.
Charles couldn’t make it, he was away, as usual, but Archie insisted she would be fine. She hadn’t seen Archie for a while before the due date of the said party; she had been busy trying to get her novel completed. He had cancelled the lunch dates they had made to discuss her work, and the times she had bumped into him at various parties, he had, so it seemed, almost purposely avoided her. She had noticed that he was as not as well kept as he had previous been, he looked a little hollow faced, and kept scratching the back of his ears. Alice had heard on the grapevine, and as much as she hated gossip sometimes it was good to know, that Burke’s visits back to the office had started to wane, and she wondered if this had affected him more that he wanted to let on. Alice had realised when Archie had talked about his partner that there was more to it than just a business arrangement, but she was too polite to say so. And well, what two older gentlemen like Archie and Burke did was their own business.
So she had found it very strange when the white invitation had appeared at her house. It had been hand delivered. Archie use to just call her, or text her and let her know when and where. This was much more formal and again not Archie’s usual style.
Alicehad made her way across the town for the Tea Party. The Map had arrived a few days after her RSVP had been returned. The Tea Party was held in one of the most bizarre and difficult places to get to she had ever known.
She has travelled up and down escalators, tube stations, a maze of tunnels and then streets and lanes to an area of London she was not very familiar with. By the time she got there it was almost 5.55pm . The Invitation had stated that it the tea party was to start at 6pm sharp . It was a strange time for a tea party in her book; she preferred tea and cakes around 4pm. This, however, she told herself, was not her tea party and was, she had to remind herself, a book launch or meet the author kind of thing. Or so she thought. She wasn’t, if she was truthful, not entirely sure.
The Tea Party, according to the invitation was to take place in a small building next to The Ferryman’s seat on the South side of the River. She had never heard of the Ferryman’s seat, and had to look it up. She had found that it was close to The Globe theatre. No one was exactly sure how long it had been there and how old it was but it was supposed to be the place where the Ferrymen rested in-between taking passengers back and forth over the River Thames in the 1700’s. The South of the Thames at that time was a lawless place, full of brothers, dens of other unspeakable iniquity and bear baiting. Indeed the seat itself was to be found on a street called Bear Street, where the last pit was located.
As Alice walked down aptly named Bear Street, the light was starting to fade , the streets were empty and a cold chill touched Alice’s nerve. Alicesaw that on her right, in the midst of the new up and upcoming buildings, a small dark and dingy Georgian house sat back against the river. At the side was an even smaller wooden arched doorway. Alice stopped outside and looked up and down the now deserted streets. The yellow of the lights seemed to cast shadows of those who had once wandered up and down plying their trades as well as those who preyed upon them. Aliceshivered and knocked and waited. The door was opened slowly by a slight mousy looking woman. It was a woman; though Alice initially thought it was a child. The woman could not have been more than 4 feet tall, with long grey whiskery hair than hung down her back like rats tails. She was dressed in what Alice could only consider was miss match of various styles and periods.
The mouse like woman/child asked in a voice so quietly that Alice strained to hear, if she could help. Alice looked at the invitation and read out the ‘password’. The mouse like woman asked her to come in and Alicefollowed her down a long dark corridor to the back of the house and into what had maybe once been a kitchen. Then the woman turned and to Alice’samazement they went down a number of rough cut stone steps, and into the entrance to cellar. On the left side was yet another old small wooden door, with oversized hinges and large lock. Alicewas sure she could hear the sound of water, and the air smelt of death and dampness. The mouse like woman turned as she could hear Alice’s thoughts and fear and introduced herself as Donna. Donna had a soft Irish lilt to her voice. Alice offer her hand out the woman, who seemed to flinch as she did so. The woman then let out, what Alice could only imagine was some kind of nervous laugh. Shaking her head, Donna answered she did not shake hands as she was always scared of catching a cold. Then turning to the right, she ushered Alicethrough an old and rather dirty long dark velvet curtain and into what appeared to be a room to with a rather long table down the centre. The lighting was mainly candles, though there was the occasional electric rig looking very much out of place. To the side of the table were a number of various styles of chairs, each a different size and colour and at the end what one could only described a rather garish throne on which the dark haired woman, who was later to be introduced to Aliceas Hattie, was seated. On the walls, there were a number of images of Hattie, signing something, or looking mysteriously into a crystal ball. There also appeared to be a number of pseudo Gothic emblems, very badly designed and painted hanging of the wall. Alicewas later to learn, that these had also created by Hattie . At the end of the table was a large coat of Arms which hung precariously over the throne. Alice looked at the coat of arms and thought she had seen it somewhere before, but she couldn’t just think where exactly.
Archie ran up to Aliceas soon as he saw that she had entered the room and hugged her. She was so surprised by the significant change in his appearance. He seemed a shadow of himself. He was very thin, his clothes, appeared dirty and he smelled of something that she was not quite sure off. What was most striking was that he seemed to be under the influences of something. She initially thought he may have been drunk. Too much port or claret. He was always fond of claret, a throwback, he would say, to his genetic disposition. But this was something else, something different, strange even.
Archie ushered Alicedown the room to the end of the table. ‘Sit here’, he said, pulling out a rather small and comical chair. Alice hesitated and then sat down. Archie came and sat next to her pulling his chair up very close.
Alicelooked around. Donna had also taken a seat that the other side of the table in a much larger chair, and giving more emphasis to the impression that she was a mouselike.
‘Are we expecting anyone else?’ She looked at her watch it was 6pm, and at the empty seats.
‘Well yes and no…’ Archie replied nervously, looking at Hattie and then at the door.
‘ I invited lots of people, I promised Hattie that I would invite all of the best people, all the most influential people I know and of course all of the finest writer. Yourself included. I asked them here so that Hattie could meet them and they Her, but sadly so many have other appointments or so it seems, and are unable to make it. I asked Charles if he could persuade you to come, and he said he would try. I know he is away and I thought it would be wonderful for you to finally meet Hattie as she is so very special, so extraordinary, and of course beautiful, so beautiful…’ Archie signed longingly as he gazed up at Hattie. Then as if he had just remembered that Alice was there, he added, ‘And she is interested in the same kind of work you are . Aren’t you my dear? ‘ Archie looked again adoringly at Hattie, who seemed to be glaring intensely at Alice.
Archie continued ‘You know, she writes about the same kinds of things as you do, and has a very similar story to yourself. I mean a similar background. I am sure you would have so much in common and she adores your writing. Don’t you my dear?’
Archie quickly glanced at Hattie, who smiled in that way a snake does just before they devour their prey.
‘She has read all your work, indeed she reads them all for me, not just yours of course but all the metaphysical authors we now have on our books. I find it very hard to understand you know. As Hattie says, it’s not my kind of thing, and well it makes me have a headache. Yes a headache I seem to have a started to have, have a lot of those since, well since,. . . well’.
Archie took a deep breath, ‘Well, we won’t go into all that but since those days, those dark dark days’, Archie swallowed hard as he fought to stop the sob, ‘ Since those days Hattie has been wonderful to me. She looks after me and she is such as a dear, she makes me such wonderful tea’s and elixirs, magical elixirs and they do help they really do. Yes they do.’
‘Would you like a glass of wine or something?’ Archie reached out for a bottle on the table and started to fill Alicetea cup. A rather brown thick liquid came out.
‘It’s mean to look like tea’, he giggled like a school boy who has just got the joke. ‘Hattie thought it would be delightful and rather funny to just serve drinks that look like tea. You understand, what with it being a Tea Party. There are also cakes. Donna get the cakes! You will have a piece of cake wont’ you Alice? Hattie ordered them herself. She has some wonderful family you know; they have their fingers in lots of pies. Here and back home in Ireland… yes very influential in the area they work in. Oh and the do such good work. Did you know that Hattie is also a gifted, yes gifted psychic, healer an even dare I say it?’ Archie looked form side to side for some unknown enemy and then turned to Alice and whispered, ‘Witch!’ He laughed out and loud, and bellowed across there room ‘There I’ve said it.’ Before giggling again catching his breath.
‘Oh and Alice, as I am sure you know, Hattie does so many fabulous shows for charity; she raises thousands of pounds – sorry I mean Euros for children’s charities, and various animal shelters. She has held such amazing Balls for all the best people and well Alice, you know me, well I hope you do, I would not have believed in any of it until I met Hattie, and then…’ Archie seemed to almost grab the last breath. ‘Well what can I say she has changed my life and that of many more. She is so well known and respected. I am sure you have heard and know of her. Especially in your kind of circles you work in. ‘
Archie then stood up, please with his innuendo and ran around the table and sat next to Donna, who had returned from somewhere with a plate full of cakes.
Alicesat in disbelief, for all the years she has known Archie, though to honest it wasn’t that many, she has never heard him speak so much or so fast. Or behave in such an odd way.
‘Hattie is so good to me and such a help now that ….’
Hattie looked at Archie and he stopped mid sentence, then he looked at Alice.
‘I do love you hair where do you get it done?’
Alicewas thrown of guard.. she stuttered ‘I go to a local salon, in Oxford, near to the college…’
‘Ahh,’ Hattie replied ‘ That perhaps why it’s so desperately in need of a trim’. You know with your salon being so far away, it can’t be easy to get to, and to have it “done”, especially when you are going to events such as this. I can always give you the number of mine, he is such a darling and so expensive, well you get what you pay for don’t you. Especially these day, in a town such as this, full of charlatans’.
Alicenoticed that Hattie also had an Irish accent, a broader accent than that of the mouse and harder. Not as well educated, she would have guessed. But Hattie was working on it, the odd word had the clipped middle class English as she tried to add some depth to her voice.
Alicethanked Hattie, and said that it was fine, and that she was due to see her hairdresser in the following weeks and all would be sorted. Alice then wondered why she felt the need to explain herself to this, what she now had decided was a rather horrid woman. Alice had never been one to quickly decide what kind of person someone was on their first conversation, but there was something about this woman that unnerved her. She wanted to leave, but she was not quite sure how to get out .
‘Suit yourself,’ Hattie answered, ‘I’m only trying to help one of my dear Archie’s up and coming.. or so he says. You are an ‘up and coming’ aren’t you? I have read some of your work, and well I have to say, it needs something doing with it but I am sure you know what with you husband being who and what he is we can come to some sort of arrangement. We are looking at helping people self-publish, a small fee for our time and a certain % of the sales. I know it’s not the same as you are used to, but I am sure we can do a deal for you, under the circumstances. Obviously as things being as they are, with you and Charles, and I am so sorry to hear what about, well you and I know what men are like and under the circumstances, we will be happy to help you. Of course I, that is, we, will need full copyright over any of the work you have already published with us. But we can sort that out at a later date.’
Alicesat in disbelief and looked across at Archie who it was in a world of his own oblivious to what Hattie was saying to her. And Donna seemed to be asleep.
Alicelooked directly at Hattie and said ‘I am not sure what you mean?’
Hattie grinned. ‘Oh I am sure you do my dear’
‘ Oh has Archie told you our good news ? It seems that Burke and Hare are to be no more and we are to have our own little publishing house. Isn’t that nice don’t you think. And of course we will be taking up Mr Hare’s title again now that I am here to help him. It adds that bit of grandeur .’
Alicesat in disbelief, not sure what she was hearing.
‘Have a drink my dear and a cake?’
‘No thank you, ‘ Alicesaid, struggling to get to her feet. ‘It’s time I left, I need to leave. I have another appointment.’
‘Do you?’ said Hattie, laughing ‘Where would you have an appointment?’
Alicefelt her knees buckle as she struggled to pull herself together.
Hattie laughed and lifted a glass, Archie rose and poured her a drink of some red liquid he had in his pockets..
‘Are you sure you won’t have a drink or two? Asked Hattie as Alice, pushed herself up. ‘No? Oh well… Arche it seems our guest needs to leave.’
Arche glared at Alice.
Why ? why do you need to leave? You don’t really I know you don’t. What have you got to leave for. Charles is way on ‘business’ again isn’t he?’ Archie laughed loudly, ‘Yes away on “business”, with that nice little secretary of his, just like you. She’s the same age as you too, except she has more going for her, not a dried up shrivelled piece of shit like you…She will let him bend her over desks, she will let him do all those lovely perverted things you no longer let him do.. and she loves it, she begs him and screams for him.’
Alicegasped and ran to the door… Archie screamed after her’ ‘You’re finished you know that! You work was never any good; I only published you as a favour for Charles!!’
Aliceheard the laughter as she scrambled up the stairs and into the cold starless night.
Aliceshuddered as she remembered that night; it was like a dream, a nightmare.
Indeed she came to find that what Archie had told her was true, re Charles and the secretary.
It was all true, and at first she had been a broken woman.
Then a few years later, on her way home from work, she picked up a day or two old copy of the Times that someone had left on the bus seat next to her . A picture had caught her eye and the headline underneath it read ‘The Honourable Archibald Hare had recently married a Ms Hattie Ó Faoláin at Westminster Register office. It had been a small gathering of a few close family and friends.
Alice‘sheart lurched and then her stomach turned, she grabbed the paper and rang the bell to get off the bus.
She walked the last few stops home and back to her small flat.
Charles had offered her a decent pay out, she had tried to refuse, but her parents convinced her that she deserved and needed to take something. So she agreed to a small amount enough for a decent deposit on the flat. She took little else, but her books and of course the dog.
She had managed to find her keys and let herself in. Her large white dog, Bunnie , bounced down the hall to her; eager to smell her and eager to be fed. ‘Soon,’ she whispered as she made her way into the small kitchen. Turning on the light she pulled the stool to the counter and spread the paper out., ‘Soon, Bunnie, soon I just need to read this.’
She had never been much of a seamstress, thank goodness for the internet.
She had found the oversized gingerbread man pattern on line; she had downloaded it and printed it on the new printer he had insisted they had bought just a few months previously.
She had found one of his old shirts at the back of the wardrobe. One he had left, forgotten about, just as he had left and forgotten her. She had held it to herself when she had found it and smelled it; old habits. His odour still lingered. Once upon a time she would have worn it to bed, to keep him close to her. But not now.
Sitting on the bedroom floor, she placed the paper pattern on the back of the shirt and carefully cut around the distinctive shape. Then taking it to the dining room, where she had earlier threaded up the old singer sewing machine her grandmother had left her, she got to work. She sang to herself as she carefully placed the wrong sides together and stitched. She sang the song they’d had for their first dance, it was cheesy then and even more so now…
‘Never gonna to give you up,
Never goona run around and desert you.
Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you. . . ‘
Turning it the figure the right way round, she hummed as she used one his 2HB pencil to make sure she pushed the corners out. Finally, when she was happy with the shape, she laid it flat before carefully embroidering the face on.
She made sure she added the small freckle birth mark that he had above his top lip. His beauty spot she had called it. He had been embarrassed about it when he was younger, but she had always loved it.
He had initially hid it from her with a rather bad moustache, but she had managed to persuade him to shave it off and be proud of the ‘devil’s kiss’ as her grandmother had called it.
Swiftly she stuffed the figure with the remains of the of the shirt and a few other items she had judiciously chosen:
The small piece of paper with the distinctive marks.
The wax from the candle she had burnt slowly over the last few weeks.
The piece of his hair she had so carefully kept. She had cut the lock from him on their honeymoon, just after the first time they had made love. She had told him that she had wanted to keep it in her locket, close to her heart. He had found it sweet. He had whispered to her that it was ‘part of her charm’ and why he loved her so much, before he had kissed her and fallen asleep.
The tissue she had used to wipe herself after the last time he had come to see her. Make-up sex was the best he had always said. Except he had not come to make up but to tell her that he was moving on with his life. That included moving in with the mother of his new daughter.
She stitched the small figure up, leaving a small gap at the crotch, which she closed with an exquisite gold safety pin taken from her Grandmother’s sewing box.
For the next month she took the figure with her everywhere she went; even to her new job. She kept him in her draw, so that it was close to her. She made sure she slipped him into her bag when at lunch time she would walk to the Peace Gardens to eat her sandwiches out of the old green Tupperware box. the same box that she use to pack his lunch in when they were first married. She spoke to him, always laid a place for him, and offered him sips of his favourite wine and food.
At night she would take him to her bed and laid him by her side. Kissing him goodnight, making sure that his head rested on the pillow next to hers.
Then as the moon entered its final stage, she started to get the rest of the items that she needed together;
She filed a jam jar with the 50 year old Garrafeira Port they had brought back from Lisbon the year he had started work for himself.
A small pearl handled silver knife from the set they had been given as a wedding present; a family heirloom, his mother had said, one to be save and when the time was right, to be passed down’. He had never let her use it, even when they had friends or family over, just in case it got spoiled.
The bottle of plant food he had kept under the sink, for the tomatoes that they never got round to growing. She had checked the label and it was still in date, just.
And the small flowered print trowel he had bought her from the garden centre they use to go to for coffee and cake. Neither of them were any good at gardening and they use to laugh when they visited the centre, a private joke, that the real reason to visit was the devil’s chocolate cake .
And finally the Blackberries she had picked that morning. It would have been their wedding anniversary. He loved her home made Blackberry pies and her jewel like Blackberry Jam. She had always been, as he had always wanted, the Homemaker. Just like his mother. She became the woman who stayed at home,; who baked cakes and made jam for the WI ‘ And why not?’ he use to say. He made enough money so she did not have to work. He would tell her that they ‘were blessed’ because they could afford to do this. Wasn’t it what all her friends wanted to do? Indeed , it appeared so as they would all congratulate her and then bemoan that they had to continue to work after they had got married and after the children had arrived. The plan was, he had said, that she would be a stay at home mum. How wonderful that would be and what a wonderful childhood their children would have. But that never happened as much as they tried. Even after all the tests and the attempts, the numerous injections and hormones. It never happened. Not Once. Though according to the doctors there was no reason for it not to. His mother of course blamed her. He had tried to defend her, and they would laugh and say that well they had so much freedom now and they could take holidays whenever they wanted, and try and convince each other if they relaxed that it would happen, if they had faith. So she stayed at home, doing the ‘making’, keeping ‘the faith’ and waiting.
She brought the items upstairs where he laid anticipating on the bed they had shared. She removed the golden pin, opened the groin and popped in three of the biggest and most juicy blackberries she had picked. Three was his lucky number he used to tell her. Three’s a charm.
As she sewed the hole up, the dark purple stain kissed her fingertips; she hungrily licked off the juice.
The moon’s face was completely hidden as she placed the figure in the dark velvet bag. Placing it and the other items in the wicker basket she used for the cut flowers. She grabbed the dog lead from where it was always kept. He had always been a creature of Habit. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ And calling for the dog, she left the insignificant semi-detached and walked to the small urban park; just behind the new build executive estate.
The sound of the traffic faded away, as she opened the park gate and walked into the darkness. She made her way up the long avenue, until she came to the place where the path split into three. Behind the park sign post was the large oak tree. And behind it, a small enclosed woodland. She paused for a moment. Looking each way to make sure no one was following her. No other late night dog walkers, before dipping under the metal bar into the black shadow of the magnificent Oak. Opening her bag, she worked quickly, digging the hole and placing the figure in it. She kissed him goodbye one more time. Then taking the small knife she anointed him; his head, his heart and his groin. She poured over the wine and then the plant food. Covering him with the moist dark earth, and making sure he was too deep to be eaten by any passing rat, though that would be just too ironic, she crouched over the dark spot, lifted her skirt and pissed on him.
The dog sat and watched, patiently.
She sang to herself as she and the dog made their way back down the drive way and finally back to the warmth of the central heated house. That night she slept the best she had for months.
The year passed quickly, her first Yule alone, she didn’t mind too much, she kept herself busy. She volunteered for the local Homeless shelter and on Christmas day, she enjoyed feeding the many.
Throughout the dark months she kept herself busy; work was good, she enjoyed it, and when she got home, she would read, listen to the radio and occasionally watch films on the television.
Then came spring, and she felt the air start to clear around her. She relished the walk through the woodland and the park. Her heart felt the sap rising as life returned to the one sleeping giants that surrounded her and the nodding of the daffodils as they danced in the wind made her laugh.
Then came the summer, it was a truly typical English Summer; a warm and very wet June and July, then a hot ripening August. She and the dog continued to walk through the park, nodding to the Oak as they passed.
Behind the Oak, in the woodland, the brambles grew and grew, first the flowers, the sound of bees, and then the fruit. There was so much fruit. She picked buckets of the large ripe blackberries, leaving a touch of blood as payment in return. She made pies and jam, lots of it, giving it away to friends and family. Every one said how tasty the pies were. How the jam shone when you held the jar up to the light. She would smile and say that it wasn’t her, it was the blackberries themselves.
The news came at the end of September; he had been taken ill, some kind of growth in his groin. They were not sure what it was. They had mentioned cancer, but it wasn’t like any kind of cancer they had seen. A growth that resembled brambles, leaving purplish marks all over his lower body. He had died when the growth had got so bad that it had erupted through his left thigh, bursting his femoral artery. He had bled to death before the nurse had found him.
As his wife, still, even though they were separated, she had seen it as her duty to thank the doctors and nurses for all their hard work. She had dutifully sent the nurses on the ward a card, and some jars of homemade Blackberry jam of course, to say thank you.
At the funeral, as they had lowered the coffin into the freshly dug grave, she had politly stood to one side as his new partner had to be carried away. She had waited as the grave diggers had diligently covered the coffin and filled the hole with the consecrated soil. She had given them all a little something, a token of her appreciation of all their hard work. They all thanked her and said what a nice lady she was, even despite all that had happened to her. How gracious she had been.
As they left, she knelt at the grave side and buried a few of the dark ripe blackberries she had managed to collect before the funeral. It was late in the season she knew, but these had come from the small woodland, behind the back of the Oak tree and she knew that he would love them.