It’s a raid, nobody move!

Here is an excerpt from my novel, The Stalking of Rosa Czekov;  Rosa had gone to the bank on just a very ordinary day when things take an unexpected turn.

Be aware – this excerpt contains strong language:

“It’s a raid!” someone shouted and the queue swung round to see two men standing in the doorway pointing guns at them. “It’s a raid, nobody move!”
Time expanded and everything happened so slowly that Rosa could observe each tiny detail. One man was taller but they both had scarves wrapped round their faces and baseball caps pulled low. He’s on something, a distant part of her mind told her as she stared at the brilliant eyes of the smaller one. The other man’s dark eyes were wide as if alarmed at what he was doing and his skin shone with sweat.
“Go go go!” shouted the smaller one, and the other ran to the counter and shoved a gun forward with one hand, a bag at the cashier with the other.
Then everything snapped back to normal speed as an old man at the front of the queue wielded his walking stick and struck the gunman with an audible crack on the head. There was the deafening sound of a gunshot and a prolonged screaming. Rosa spun round even as she crouched; the mad-eyed man had grabbed the young mother by the throat and was poking the gun into her face. The child was screaming and hysterical, clinging to her mother’s legs.
“Stay still, don’t move, I’ll kill the bitch!”
“Don’t do anything stupid,” said a man behind Rosa.
“Anything stupid? Anything fucking stupid?” and the gunman yanked the woman backwards and her coat opened and her pregnant belly protruded.
Very slowly Rosa stood up.
“Take me,” said Rosa’s voice. “Take me, she’s got the child. Take me, I won’t struggle.”
She moved her arms away from her body in an appealing and harmless gesture. The woman was screeching ear-piercing shrieks, her howls like nails down a blackboard.
“Take me,” said Rosa again and slowly she walked to the gunman who unbelievably backed away.
She looked into his eyes. They were grey and pebbly, the whites completely red, sheened as if with glycerine drops and they were mad and wide and unreasoning.
“Take me,” and she stepped forward again and shut her eyes.
She opened them as someone shoved against her and fell. The pregnant woman was pushed so violently she tumbled to the floor and Rosa was grabbed. He had an arm round her waist, holding her to him and something hard and brutal was shoved beneath her jaw so painfully that she nearly cried out.
A single blue flash played across the ceiling; there had been no sirens but the police were outside.
“No-one move!” he screamed so loudly that Rosa’s ear hurt.
No-one moved. Rosa could smell him. Sweat and Calvin Kline and a sweet unidentifiable smell, some strange body odour.
“We’re getting out!” he yelled and wrenched her round so they faced the door.
Through the glass they could see the white of police vehicles and running blue shapes of policemen.
“Shit, shit, fucking shit!”
In her head Rosa said, let me go, put your gun down and let me go, lie on the floor and let me go and they won’t shoot you.
He pushed her forward so she was against the door, the gun tight to her throat, her head tipped awkwardly. The street outside was cleared of people and there was a line of police cars and men in navy with strange caps and black sticks. Except they weren’t black sticks they were guns.
He was swearing continuously, the words running into one long stream of expletive.
“Right bitch you’re gonna open the door and we’re goin’ out and we’re gonna get a car and we’re gonna drive. Right bitch, right bitch.”
Gerry had called her a right bitch.
For a moment Rosa didn’t realise that he meant her to open the door but it was locked.
“Open the door, open the fucking door or she gets it!” he screamed and there was a chorus from behind “Open the door! Open the door, he’ll kill her, open the door!” as the other customers begged for her life.
It clicked unlocked and she pulled it open, her hands slipping, as wet as if she’d dipped them in a pool of sweat and tears. The air outside was icy and peculiarly silent.
“Put the gun down,” a calm voice came through a megaphone. “Put the gun down and you’ll be alright.”
Put the gun down, put the gun down said Rosa inside her head. She was pushed forward and stumbled as they went down a kerb.
“I wanna car an a million pounds!”
He was holding her so tightly, pressing her so close against him she could feel his heart.
“Put the gun down and no-one will get hurt and we can talk -”
“Fuck talk! I wanna car an a million pounds!”
Rosa looked at the sky; the clouds were moving very fast, like a speeded up film. She leant back to escape the pressure of the gun and the man staggered. He began to say something and the pressure eased and in her peripheral vision she saw the barrel wave and then there was a loud plopping noise and the retort of a gun and she was showered in a hot crimson stream.
Hot rain? Hot red rain?
The arm around her waist fell away and she sensed the man moving back and then she knew what was dripping off her hair and eyelashes, what was streaming across her mouth and down her chin, with a metallic stink of gore. It was his blood, he’d shot himself.
But standing facing her, a gun to his shoulder, staring down the barrel at her was a policeman, his blue eyes so wide they seemed to start from his head. She stared back at him and slowly raised her arms, held them out beseechingly to the man in blue with the gun.
He didn’t move, nor did she, even as other officers approached and kicked away a weapon. And only then did she let herself be ushered to an ambulance, looking  over her shoulder at the marksman, his gun lowered now, staring back at her, his mouth dropped open as if he was about to cry.

© Lois Elsden 2018

The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – Rosa Czekov is an ordinary person who, through an extraordinary act of courage, brings herself to public attention. Rosa is modest and private, and this unwelcome publicity attracts a stalker who makes her life a misery and brings her to the verge of a breakdown.
Her cousin, Tyche Kane, has a mission to discover who is tormenting Rosa and bring him or her to retribution. In the course of her pursuit, Tyche uncovers many secrets in an effort to prove Rosa was not just imagining her persecutor.However, her quest not only puts her own life at risk, but endangers Rosa’s friends and family and leads to the murder of someone very close to her.

My useful madani

Having just used my madani again I thought I would share a couple of posts I wrote about it:

2014 –

One of our students from our English conversation class, brought all us teachers a present from a trip home to Pakistan. I don’t know what this kitchen tool is called, and I have never seen on anywhere else but it is so useful!
For a while I didn’t use, it just sat in the wooden tub where all the spoons, whisks and stirrers are, but one day I was having problem with lumps… I can’t remember now whether they were lumps in custard or white sauce or cheese sauce, but I had lumps. I picked up this thingmy and put it into the sauce then rubbed the spindle between my hands as if I was trying to light a fire with a piece of wood. I rolled it vigorously then gave the sauce a stir… lump free! It was amazing, so easy, so quick, so effective.
I use it frequently now, especially with soups, or when I’m trying to thicken something and I want it to be smooth and lovely. I could imagine if you were making hot chocolate in the old-fashioned way, or a milk shake or smoothy type of drink, then this would be really handy. If ever you see one, definitely buy it… you’ll be amazed at how good it is, and it doesn’t use any power except muscle-power!

2017 –

Several years ago, a very kind Pakistani friend brought a gift back from her trip to see her family in Pakistan. She was one of the people in our social English group and she brought gifts for all of us leaders/teachers.
Our presents were something we had never seen before, but we thanked her warmly. It was a kitchen implement, rather attractive looking, with a long slender wooden handle and the head was wooden, about the size of a large orange cut in half, with segments removed. We were all a little puzzled, delighted, but puzzled… however when I got mine home I soon found out how to use it!
It is endlessly useful to

  • to make sure sauces don’t go lumpy or too thick/thin
  • to blend/whisk and stir/agitate soups/gravy while  cooking
  • to mash potatoes
  • to press things through a sieve, or to squeeze the juice/liquor for something e.g. vegetables for soup, fruit for desserts
  • to stir and break up stuff
  • to crush nuts, dry bread for breadcrumbs, get lumps out of sugar/flour/other dried goods
  • loads more things which I can’t just call to mind!

I have only just found out what it’s called, it’s a madani! Sometimes it is spelled mathani but it’s the same thing!

Isn’t this an attractive tool – and so useful! if you live near any Asian shops you might be able to get one! So easy to use, no electricity! I think it is only Available on Amazon India, but if you can access that, here is a link:

While you are on Amazon, you might want to have a look what else is available – and newly available is my novel Radwinter now in paperback!

Bold, brave, beautiful – and on a bike

I am so fortunate to have an amazing family of cousins and they are all brilliant… This is a little story about my cousin Zoë . Her father was my handsome, dashing and charismatic uncle, Alan; when I was a child whenever he came to visit, usually arriving in a sports car, he would bound in, ‘hello you girls!‘ and he would always be full of funny stories. Alan was a great adventurer, and when I was older he told me about his travels in Turkey and Spain.

His daughter Zoë has inherited his sense of adventure and has travelled far and wide on a motorbike. Writing must also be in the genes, because like me she’s written books – hers are of the different places she visited in the USA. Zoe is bold, brave and  beautiful; her first trip was in 2012, starting in Boston and covering more than 8,000 km on a classic Triumph Bonneville.  That wasn’t enough for adventurous Zoë ; her next trip was round the  Baja California and the Atlantic coast, down through Florida, Alabama and Georgia. For the last (but not latest) journey Zoë abandoned her bikes and took an old truck through Baja California.

Now she has embarked on a new journey – round New Zealand! She is there right now and looks as if she is having a most fabulous time. On her own, just her and the bike, she’s travelling all around this amazing country; no doubt she will share her adventures in another book.

You can find more here:

If you are on Instagram, you can find Zoë :

… and to find her books here is a link:

MY featured image isn’t one of Zoë’s bikes… just one I saw while I was in the States!

A Glimpse Behind the Curtain (ii)

This the story of my great-grandmother, Lois, imagining her life in 1911…

If you had knocked on the door of 27 Kilburn Priory, some time in 1911, no doubt a neat and polite maid would have opened it and enquired your business. If you were a stranger then maybe she would have taken your card and withdrawn to find out if Mrs Walford was receiving. If you were a friend, or maybe a relative – Mrs Walford’s sister Sarah for example, then you would have been shown in and welcomed.

You would have been received into a comfortable home, with a piano, bookcases full of books, pictures and paintings on the wall. Your hostess would have been gentile and polite, warm and welcoming. However, if you were a new acquaintance, you might have detected a certain reserve; maybe she is wondering how much you know… or do you know… or maybe you know nothing.

Mrs Walford was born Lois Penney in 1853 in a pretty little village in Cambridgeshire. Her father was a basket maker in the days when baskets weren’t the small domestic items we use today, but often huge – like the plastic  and alloy  containers industry and logistics now use. No doubt her father worked on a small scale, but later his son, Lois’s brother had a factory in the Midlands. So, Lois came from an upwardly mobile family, typically Victorian with nine brothers and sisters, and a half-brother and sister.

Somehow Lois met a man further up the social scale, a man not just from a different class, not just born in another country on the other side of the world, but a man who was a Jew. His family were very wealthy and his cousins mixed with the highest people in society including royalty, musicians such as Rossini and Arthur Sullivan, industrialists and financiers, and writers such as Oscar Wilde. How did Lois and Louis meet? He had recently arrived from Tasmania where he had been born and brought up, he was eight years older than she and now worked in the City, dealing mainly in wool. So how did they meet?

In this story, set in 1911, it doesn’t really matter where or how Louis and Lois met and fell in love. There were many reasons why they couldn’t marry, mainly it is supposed, because he was Jewish and she was a Gentile. His family were very religious nd much respected in the synagogues they attended. Louis died tragically after they had been together for maybe seventeen years… been together because they weren’t married and  lived almost as man and wife with the five children, George, Horace, Ida, Edward and Nelson.

On his death she would have been destitute except for the charity of Louis’s mother and family… but a distant charity; the children when young went to visit their grandmother in her John Nash built house on Regent’s Park, or one of Louis’s brothers, and they would come home with money for Lois. She was no doubt set up in a house in Windermere Avenue in Willesden, and then in the  house in Kilburn Priory.

The children must have known that their parents did not marry; the children must have known that their mother was not Jewish – and it is probable that while their father was alive they were brought up with Jewish traditions too.  The two younger boys probably did not remember their father very well, although their were several paintings of him in the house. After Louis’s mother died, the children were all baptised into the Church of England – maybe Lois was religious, maybe she thought being Jewish was not an advantage for children without a father.

Which was the worse thing in respectable England in 1911 – being illegitimate or being Jewish? Certainly having five illegitimate children would have shocked and horrified Lois’s neighbours had they known. To them she would have seemed the most respectable of women, to be admired for her fine family she was bringing up alone, and brought up to be the epitome of well-mannered, courteous, successful and accomplished young people.

Behind the respectable curtain there must have been a secret shame, a defiant pride in having the courage to be with the man she loved, and a continual anxiety in case anyone discovered her secret. She must have worried for her daughter Ida, would she find a husband, who would look after and support her?

Lois must have been a strong and determined woman; in our family her name is a by-word for good manners and ‘proper’ behaviour  – ‘Grandma Walford wouldn’t like it!‘ In her photos she is unsmiling… but she must have been a very loving mother, as her children became in turn loving parents. I am proud that I was given her name.

Ida, her brother Horace and his fiancée, Lottie

The forest dark

Here’s another wonderful poem by the little known poet, Walter Turner. If you’re interested in genealogy, it’s quite interesting to look up censuses and see details of ‘famous’ people’s lives.

Walter came to England from Melbourne, Australia in 1907 and he appears in the 1911 census. He is living at 43, Hugh Street, near Hanover Square with his mother, now a widow, Alice May Turner. She is only forty years old, so she was eighteen when she gave birth to Walter. Her occupation is ‘musician – pianist’… I wonder if she remarried? Her name is so common, without any other information it’s impossible to find out. As well as Walter, a merchant’s clerk, they have a visitor, a thirty year old  actor named Emile Louis Meyrat from Port Augusta, also in Australia. He’s married, but his wife isn’t with him on the night of the census. Also residing in the house is Caroline Hassett Haase, an Australian actress aged twenty-six; she comes from Melbourne, so maybe she knew the Turners when they still lived there. Another ex-Melbourne resident is a young shipping clerk, William Beaumont H. Morris who is twenty-eight. What fun the young people might have had in Mrs Turner’s home, two actors, a musician and two young clerks… I’m sure they had splendid musical evenings!

The Caves of Auvergne

He carved the red deer and the bull
Upon the smooth cave rock,
Returned from war with belly full,
And scarred with many a knock,
He carved the red deer and the bull
Upon the smooth cave rock.

The stars flew by the cave’s wide door,
The clouds wild trumpets blew,
Trees rose in wild dreams from the floor,
Flowers with dream faces grew
Up to the sky, and softly hung
Golden and white and blue.

The woman ground her heap or corn,
Her heart a guarded fire;
The wind played in his trembling soul
Like a hand upon a lyre,
The wind drew faintly on the stone
Symbols of his desire:

The red deer of the forest dark,
Whose antlers cut the ky,
That vanishes into the mirk
And like a dream flits by,
And by an arrow slain at last
Is but the wind’s dark body.

The bull that stands in marshy lakes
As motionless and still
As a dark rock jutting from a plain
Without a tree or hill;
The bull that is the sign of life
Its sombre, phallic will.

And from the dead, white eyes of them
The wind springs up anew,
It blows upon the trembling heart,
And bull and deer renew
Their flitting life in the dim past
When the dead Hunter drew.

I sit beside him in the night,
And, fingering his red stone,
I chase through endless forests dark
Seeking that thing unknown,
That which is not red deer or bull,
But which by them was shown;

By those stiff shapes in which he drew
His soul’s exalted cry,
When flying down the forest dark
He slew and knew not why,
When he was filled with song, and strength
Flowed to him from the sky.

The wind blows from red deer and bull,
The clouds wild trumpets blare,
Trees rise in wild dreams from the earth,
Flowers with dream faces stare,
O Hunter, your own shadow stands
Within your forest lair!

Walter J. Turner 1884 – 1947


In one of my old recipe books there is a section on drinks – brewing and making them as well as combining them in cocktails and other mixes. One of the drinks which is mentioned is ratafià… well, I’ve heard of it, and I think I assumed I knew what it was… I think I thought it was had an almond flavour; however when I came to investigate further it seems that it’s made not from almonds but from cherry stones or peach stones – and if you’ve ever cracked one and eaten the kernel you’ll know they do taste almondy. However, I think they are quite dangerous, because the almondy flavouring comes from a chemical which can produce cyanide (I think I have this right, chemistry was not my strong subject at school, in fact I gave it up when I was fourteen – and we weren’t ever taught about cyanide in fruit pips and stones) Apparently you would have to eat several hundred cherry pits before they harmed you… I remember now that I came across ratafià when I inherited some cake flavourings, and it was among them, but I don’t think I ever used it.

So ratafià the drink…  in Molise and Abruzzo in Italy, ratafià is made from a mixture of fresh cherries and Montepulciano Di Abruzzo wine; as I like both cherries and the wine, this sounds like a perfect and delicious combination! There is another ratafià (which makes it a little confusing) which is a home-made drink using fruit or vegetables (sounds strange – I wonder which ones?) herbs,  wine, and  vodka oh and sugar. Everything is mixed together and refrigerated to mature for a month or so before being strained into a clean container. I think I would like to try some that someone else had made before having a go myself!

If I did decide to make some, I think I might follow Ambrose Heath’s recipe:

Apricot or Peach Ratafia

  • 25 ripe apricots or peaches
  • ½ lb white sugar
  • 8 cloves
  • a piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 pints brandy
  1. prepare the fruit – cut into pieces, crack stones and extract kernel, blanch and grind
  2. put fruit, ground kernels and all other ingredients into a jar with a tight lid
  3. leave for 3 weeks, shaking the jar regularly
  4. strain and pour into clean bottles

It is a lot of brandy… maybe I would try with half measures!

I have no pictures of peaches, apricots or cherries, so my featured image is a cherry tree!

Accidental soya beans

For some reason I was in a hurry getting dinner ready. I was doing a simple dish, a pea and ham risotto and all went well; I fried some finely chopped red and green pepper and onion (is that a mirepoix?) added cubes of home-cooked ham, added the rice and stock… and for some reason the rice took ages to cook and the family were getting hungry! For those who like it, I did a stir-fry to go on the side, and all was going well so time to add the peas (I’d already checked we had some, and yes we did, petits poix and garden peas)

I grabbed the bag of garden peas, thinking to leave the tiny ones for a different meal. I poured some  into the rice and oh horror! They weren’t peas at all but soya beans – which would have been ok except two people hate soya beans. Now I know you will be saying beggars can’t be choosers, or people should be grateful for small mercies even if the small mercies are soya beans, but I’m a mummy, so I fished the all out and put them into the stir fry. Then I found the peas, and all was well.

Soya beans aren’t anything I was familiar with as a child, or even when I was a hungry and hard-up student – I think they would have featured in my diet then, for sure, because not only are they cheap but they are full of protein! In actual fact, just writing about me being a student linked with soya beans, I did come across them. One of our friends had a brother who was several years older than us, and we thought quite glamorous. He had a friend Dax who was even more glamorous and did all sorts of exciting things. Dax went to the States and not only did he go to the Grand Canyon where the soles of his so-called desert boots melted, but he discovered soya beans and brought some back with him. Our friend ended up with them – they were the dried sort, and I remember us cooking them for literally hours and hours (when we had a gas meter which we had to feed with shillings) I don’t remember them ever becoming edible…

This is what Wikipedia has to say:

Glycine max – soybean  or soya bean, is a species of legume native to East Asia…  soybean products, such as textured vegetable protein (TVP), are ingredients in many meat and dairy substitutes.The beans contain significant amounts of phytic acid, dietary minerals and B vitamins… Traditional non-fermented food uses of soybeans include soy milk…  and tofu. Fermented soy foods include soy sauce… The main countries growing soybeans are the United States (32% ), Brazil (31%) and Argentina (18%)

They do sound very good for you but I really don’t like them. I was excited when the green undried ones became available, but I don’t like them either…

Thinking of Dax reminds me of another story about him involving a cat, an old lady and a trip to Tesco’s…