On the edge of a pond,

Today I’m going to share an excerpt from the first e-book I published, Farholm. The story takes place over two weeks – Deke goes to Farholm Island where her late husband lived as a boy to try and find out more about the man she married; when he was killed in a road accident she discovered he had secrets which affected her after his death. When she gets to Farholm, she meets Michael who also has a particular reason for staying on the island.

In this excerpt, Michael and Deke have travelled up to an old village up in the hills which has become an alternative community, the members adopting new names and following a seemingly harmless ecological/Mother Natural/Earth religion. Deke and Michael have a terrible row and she storms out of the little studio where they have been looking at paintings and photographs, into a dense fog. As Deke is on crutches because she has a broken ankle, it is possibly not the most sensible thing to do…

Deke hobbled swiftly down the stable, flung open the door and rushed out into the fog, she would go back to the cafe and phone Tom or Barbara Crewe or Sean, anyone to rescue her, to take her back to her cottage and she would pack and run away. She blundered on and she heard Michael somewhere calling her, his voice oddly directionless in the obscurity. She came up against a wall and followed it, passing an unlit window and came to a door. She banged but there was no response, it wasn’t the cafe. Michael was still calling her name and then she heard other voices. Quite close at hand a woman said

“Who is it?”

“It’s me, Deke,” she answered because the voice sounded familiar.

“Where are you?”

Deke stumbled on to where the woman seemed to be. There was grass beneath her feet, she had strayed out of the confines of the village. She was very frightened. Something moved in the fog in front of her and thankfully she hurried towards it only to collide with a startled cow. She turned and tried to go back the way she had come. She had no idea which way she was facing, towards the village or away and into the hidden wilderness.

“Where are you?” said the woman again.

“Here.”

She stumbled on and suddenly her crutch sunk into mud. She was on the edge of a pond, the pond she had seen in the photo of the children. She had staggered into the cow trampled ooze and  slithered and stuck, her crutches pushing down into the smelly slime.

“I’m by the pond,” she called, her voice sharp with panic and fear. Deke looked across the dull grey water and could just make out a clump of reeds.

She was shoved violently and she slipped and fell with a great splash. She floundered and thrashed desperately as a foot pressed down on her back, between her shoulder blades. Then suddenly it was gone and she turned onto her back, hacking and coughing as she tried to sit up. Then the pond seemed full of other people and she was pulled up, hawking and spitting.

“Oh stars and moon! Are you alright?” Lark was wrapping her tartan around Deke  and there was a chorus of concern from the others who had appeared. Michael had pulled her out. Had he pushed her in?

If you want to find out why Deke and Michael were in the village, who pushed her into the pond and tried to drown her, and what happened next, here is a link to Farholm:

The real Farholm Island

Farholm Island is completely imaginary but all the same it is very vivid in my mind and I hope will become so in my readers’ minds. The holm part of the name means island ; thinking of the word ‘far’ conjures remoteness or distance…. although Farholm is not that distant from land.

Holm or holme crops up in place names all around Britain, such as towns like Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk and Holmfirth not so near the sea in Yorkshire, and is Scandinavian in origin. A quick visit to Wikipedia will give many examples and a Google trawl will bring more information on the Viking connections. From the beach near the village where I live, two holms are clearly visible, Steep Holm and Flat Holm; neither of these islands are anything like Farholm.

“The island was maybe a half dozen miles long humped at one end like the shoulders of a beast and dropping down towards the east where the wood crested tail twisted round enclosing the harbour.” This was Deke’s first view of the island as she approached it on the ferry but she got to know it very well over the next two weeks.

“A huddle of buildings hunched beyond the harbour, then single storey cottages spaced around the bay towards the castle at the end of Farholm. On the hill above the clustered buildings, stood the church, its graveyard spilling down the hillside, the gravestones like a congregation standing waiting for a sermon. On the western side of the harbour the land gradually rose to steep cliffs; there were a couple of buildings, the last like a Swiss chalet with brightly coloured flags hanging limply over the balustrade.”

There is a small village on Farholm, little more than a hamlet clustered round the harbour, then along the coast road are holiday cottages. Up on the rest of the island are isolated farms earning their living from sheep and tourists. There is a ruined castle, two lighthouses, a disused windmill, a hippy commune and a bird sanctuary. The island and the sea around it are teaming with wildlife, birds such as puffins, gulls, kittiwakes, guillemots, oystercatchers and fulmars nest along the cliffs and seals play around the rock pools. Porpoises and dolphins can be spotted in the sea which is fished by the islanders.

Farholm is a rugged and beautiful place but you need to read my story to discover what Deke finds there.