Over the last two weeks I have shared excerpts from my novels about Thomas Radwinter who traces his family history, and then later investigates other people’s stories, and not just genealogical ones, but mysteries in their everyday lives.
For the next month I am going to share excerpts from my other novels, starting with the opening chapter of ‘Farholm’, the first novel I published:
Friday 27th September
If this bloody boat hits one more bloody wave then I am going to throw up.
It hit a wave. She held on….
Which is more than the woman next to her did.
With a groan of despair, the green faced woman vomited all over the legs and feet of the man sitting beside her.
Ignoring the potential danger of such a move, Deke hoisted herself on her crutches and lurched to the side, shoving a fat boy out of the way. She hung over the rail, clinging onto the slippery edge, staring down into the slick sliding grey green water.
A half-remembered line from childhood sang in her mind ‘the great grey green greasy Limpopo.’ Oh my God, and her stomach churned and heaved. She retched and her mouth flooded with saliva, and sweat stood up on her top lip.
Deke held on and stared towards the horizon and the island.
She shut her eyes.
She was beneath water looking up and there was someone between her and the sun, holding her down, holding her down.
She opened her eyes and opened her mouth to gulp air.
She was on the ferry to Farholm Island.
I could swim there, it’s so near I could swim there. Keep looking at the bird shit stained cliffs, keep your eye on a fixed point.
The island was maybe a half dozen miles long humped up at one end like the shoulders of a beast and dropping down towards the east where the crested tail twisted round enclosing the harbour.
She could hear the angry voices of the spew soaked man and the green-faced woman’s husband.
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” one of them yelled, interspersing his words with expletives.
“I don’t bloody know and I don’t bloody care!” yelled the other.
Deke risked looking over her shoulder. A half-naked man was striding barefoot towards the back of the boat where the toilets were. The woman’s husband was holding out a pair of jeans at arm’s length, his wife still puking into a pair of trainers she held in her lap. It was so bizarre that Deke laughed, and then the port side rose up towards her on a huge wave then smacked back down and Deke gagged and turned away to hang over the gunwale, her crutches, heavy, awkward wooden props, slipping from her.
Her throat constricted and her stomach churned. She closed her eyes again and the vision flashed, under the water, under the water, holding her breath and under the water as she was held down.
“No, bugger it no,” and she opened her eyes, controlling the desire to throw up and clung on, staring at the rocky cliffs which hardly looked any closer.
“Want a mint?” said someone.
“Thanks,” she replied through gritted teeth, not daring to shift her gaze from the land ahead.
“Nearly there, only twenty minutes,” the man who had handed her the mint restored the crutches to her. He was big and blond and had a red scarf tied round his head. He looked like a pirate. He walked off and up the companionway to the bridge.
The rolling stopped as the boat turned and headed straight at the little harbour. Deke stared at the huddle of buildings beyond the harbour and the single storey cottages spaced around the bay towards the end of the island where the castle was. Above the clustered buildings was the church, its graveyard spilling down the hillside, the gravestones like a congregation standing waiting for a sermon to commence. On the western side of the harbour the land gradually rose into steep cliffs and there were only a couple of buildings, the last appeared to be a Swiss Chalet with brightly coloured flags hanging limply over the balustrade.
Her eyes filled and she sucked hard on the mint, thinking of the dozens of times she had crossed the English Channel or had been sailing and never once felt as awful as she did now in this forty minute crossing. She had vomited this morning at the thought of coming here, throwing up with nervous dread; now was trying not to be sick again.
Her view was blocked as someone pushed between her and the fat boy. It was the man who had been spewed on. His legs and feet were bare, the blond hairs snaking over them glistening where he had washed. His face was set and angry, he was not amused.
“Watch where you’re putting your feet, you little get,” he snapped at the fat boy.
“Don’t you speak to my son like that,” the boy’s mother snapped back.
The boat turned again and rolled as it hit a large wave and spray flew over them and the line at the gunwale staggered, mother, boy, man and Deke and her crutches went again and she couldn’t keep upright and she slipped and fell onto the swimming deck.
Oh let this end, let this end or let me die.
The man heaved her to her feet and the boy retrieved her crutches and then they were into the harbour and chugging peacefully across still water.
“Oh thank God we’re here!” Deke exclaimed to the man as she thanked him.
He didn’t reply but marched back to the seats and picked up his backpack and swung it onto his shoulder.
“What the hell do you want me to do with these jeans and trainers?” asked the green woman’s husband angrily.
There was a grinding screech as the boat drove up onto the slipway and a shudder as the ramp crashed down.
Deke waited for the first rush of passengers to pass before she hobbled her way to the chair where she had left her bags. There were no fixed seats, only metal and plastic chairs, reminiscent of school. She looked round for the young woman who had helped her board. She caught sight of a bright pink top and shining silver blond hair as the girl walked up the slipway beside the bare-legged man who’d pushed himself to the front. Women and children first? He didn’t care, what a pig.
Everyone was shoving to get off, most of them holiday makers, eager to get onto firm land. Deke let them go, there was no point in trying to negotiate her way until there was room to manoeuvre. She watched the families gather their children, the seasick to gather themselves. Now she felt reluctant; coming here was stupid, the whole scheme, conceived in anger, planned with revenge in mind seemed a bitter and futile gesture.
She sunk into a trance, staring back across the channel towards the mainland, and when she blinked the boat was empty.
She couldn’t manage her two bags at the same time. The taxi driver had carried them from the flat and then to the station where a guard took over. At the other end he had helped her to another taxi and the driver had organized her at the ferry terminal.
She took her bag and held it awkwardly, trying to grasp the crutch. She couldn’t do it so she tried to manage with one crutch like Long John Silver. The bag was too big and it unbalanced her. Why had she not realised this? It had been so easy when taxi drivers and railway guards and the silver haired girl who had helped her. She would have to leave the bag, get ashore and try to find someone she could send back for it. She stood on one leg to get her backpack over her shoulders. The straps interfered with the crutches but she would have to put up with the pain.
The tip of one of the crutches skidded in a pool of sick. She swore obscenely. Right, god damn it, she would leave both bags, get off this sodding boat and send someone to get her things. She slid the pack off her shoulder onto one of the seats.
“You still here?” it was the blond sailor who had given her a mint just in time to save her from projectile vomiting into the water. “I’ll give you a hand, m’dear. I’ve just got to wash down the deck then I’ll be with you.”
She sat where he directed and watched him with the hose and brush. He whistled as he sluiced the deck, glancing up at her every so often. He finished, reeled the hose, stowed the brush and then ran up the companionway.
He was back in a few minutes with a couple of men.
“See you in a couple of hours!” he cried to the other two and slung Deke’s backpack over one shoulder and picked up the bag.
With his free hand he grasped Deke’s elbow firmly and helped her towards the open front of the boat. She staggered as the boat rocked and the ferrule of her crutch slipped on the deck.
Her companion stopped as she steadied herself. Deke staggered again and bit off an exclamation as she put weight on her left foot. The man slid the backpack onto the deck and dropped her bag. Without warning he swung Deke into his arms, her crutches, still wedged under her arms, sticking out preposterously. There were shouts of laughter from the other men and ribald comments.
Deke was carried off the boat and set down on the concrete slipway.
“I’ll get your bags,” and he strolled back onto the boat grinning at the catcalls and insinuations.
Deke was embarrassed and angry. How dare he make a fool of her! On the other hand, at least she was off the boat.
Here is a link to Farholm:
… and here is a link to my other e-books: