I was weak with fear – unable to move or run anywhere…

I have only written one novel (so far) set in a real location; Flipside which I published in 2013 is set in a small village on the outskirts of Oldham in Lancashire.  In the scene which I am sharing below,  although the flat above the shop where the main character Jaz lives is a complete fiction, everything else is a real location – the story is set in the early 1990’s so I guess some things might be different now if you went to visit it! However the little road leading down to the country park, the bridge and the bank are all true!!

Jaz is in a relationship with David, her brother Kiran’s partner. For an unknown reason, Kiran has fallen out with both Jaz and David but David has agree to meet him in the hope of patching things up. Jaz is alone in her flat when she hears the sound of someone moving around in the empty shop downstairs.

There was definitely someone moving around downstairs. It must be a relation of Miss Minnishin’s looking at her property. I left my work, pulled on my trainers and hurried downstairs and out and round to the front of the empty shop. The blinds were still down, there was no light and the door was locked.
I knocked without expectation of anyone hearing. They were probably in the back where there must be store rooms and perhaps an office. I walked back down the passageway, past my door and round into the alley. The windows in the back wall had bars across, everything in darkness. There was a bell push but I could hear nothing when I pressed so I rapped on the wooden door. I knocked again but there was no sign of life, whoever it was had gone without bothering to see me. The rent was paid until April and by then who knows where I might be.
The alley was cobbled but grass and weeds were everywhere, and judging by the number of empty cans this was a favourite haunt of local youth. It was cold and damp and I hadn’t bothered with my fleece. Chilly now, I gave up and walked back and turned the corner to go inside.
Someone was standing in the entrance of the passageway between the shop and the disused spiritualist church next door. He was outlined by the oblique light from the street lamp on Thomas Street, silhouetted in the orange glow. I stopped, startled and then alarmed.
It was David. I was dismayed he was back so soon, things hadn’t gone well with Kiran. I called his name but then he was gone. Things must have gone disastrously. I ran up the passageway and turned into Thornbrook Street but he’d vanished.
I was frightened. He was alright when he left the flat, so what had Kiran said or done? I ran past the shop front to the corner and glanced up and down Thomas Street. It was deserted, but I saw David moving away from Lees down past the cemetery.
He was walking swiftly, head down. I only hesitated a second and then began to run after him. I was out of breath by the time I passed the other deserted shop on the corner of Spring Lane, but I had to catch him. I trotted down the uneven pavement past the row of houses on the other side of the road, and then the big red brick house which had some connection to a vanished mill. I couldn’t see him as I came to the end of the cemetery wall and Hopkin Mill Close. I passed the old cottages which looked down over the pasture where horses grazed.
We’d walked down here a couple of times, holding hands and he’d told me about disappeared mills and farms and dairies and the history of this little green pocket.
I walked as fast as I could. It must be bad, it must be really bad. There were lights on at the farm, the house was on one side, a barn on the other; I continued down the narrow, pitted lane, taking care of the rough bumps and deep pot-holes in the unpaved surface.
I wasn’t going to catch him unless he stopped but I couldn’t leave him while he was so upset. I was nearly at the ford and I was the only one out on this foul damp night, not a single jogger or dog walker. I was very cold.
It was hopeless. I’d have to go home and wait until he came back. Why had he run away from me? It could only be that something so awful had happened between him and Kiran that he couldn’t face me and I wondered how fragile he really was.
I wearily stepped onto the little metal footbridge over the stream, the small beginning of the River Medlock. There was no sign of him continuing up towards the main road or striking either way along the footpaths through the Medlock Valley. I stood shivering, feeling sad and alone. I was overwhelmed with grief and lifted my face to look up into the misty sky as if to seek some comfort. All my feelings of loneliness and desolation returned and I had an urge to go back to the flat, pack a bag, find a taxi and go to the nearest station to flee south.
I turned back. Standing in the middle of the road staring down towards me was David. Suddenly, unaccountably I was frightened, I was frightened of David. Things Kiran had said, scraps of venom which had seemed impossible, unthinkable rushed into my mind. Angry, violent, frustrated, trained to kill.
I called his name again but he didn’t answer, just stood staring at me. I was really scared; he was so still, so motionless, standing ready and alert, on the balls of his feet. He stood beneath a light but I couldn’t see his face, shadowed and hidden by his hood.
Hood? David hadn’t got a hood on his jacket, I couldn’t think of anything he had with a hood. He only wore a cap and had gone to meet Kiran bare-headed.
This man wasn’t David, I could see now that he wasn’t. He was slimmer, perhaps even taller, but his legs were thin.
He’d been in the shop, or round the back, or in the hall leading to the stairs up to the flat and he’d stood looking at me standing in the passage. He’d hidden somewhere and watched and followed, and now he was standing in the road, staring at me.
I looked round. The road continued up towards Holts Lane where there were houses with lights on. I couldn’t run up there, even if I was being chased, it was too steep. I didn’t want to leave the road, it would be madness to follow the footpath by the stream, there were bushes and trees to be dragged under. Anyone out on the open grassy areas at this time of night in this miserable weather wouldn’t be bothered by a man and a woman, even if he was chasing her, or had hold of her, even if she was struggling and crying out for help… I was weak with fear, petrified, frozen, unable to move or run anywhere.
The silence split with shouting and raucous laughter and on the sky-line a group of youngsters were running around shouting, yelling, chasing, they must be from Holts Village. The headlights of a car bobbed down Sunny Bank, silhouetting the waiting man, illuminating me.
I leapt off the end of the bridge and into the ford and splashed along the stream and slipped and slithered my way up the bank. I ran up towards the noise of the teenagers, a welcome racket in the night. Falling and stumbling I struggled up steep steps towards them.
“Help! Help me!” I screamed.

Here is a link to Flipside – you can find out what happens to Jaz, and to David!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FLIPSIDE-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00FAZTZDI/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1507707203&sr=8-10&keywords=lois+elsden

Thursday’s afternoon tea… today is the day for Thor cake

Thursday is named after the god Thor… as it is afternoon tea week, and yesterday i shared a recipe for one cake, here is a story from a while ago, andFTERN a recipe for the appropriately named Thor’s cake to sit beside it on the cake stand:

I mentioned a little while ago, a delightful book by Alison Uttley. ‘Recipes From an Old farmhouse’, and one of cakes mentioned was the mysterious Thor cake… whether there is any connection with the Norse god I don’t know, but it is more likely that the word derives from Old English, þeorf, meaning plain… but candied peel, spices and treacle doesn’t sound a plain cake to me, especially with lashings of butter!  It was also called Thar cake by some people and originates in Derbyshire where it was made and eaten in the autumn, especially for Guy Fawkes Day. It is a very old recipe… and may even have been made to celebrate Halloween pre-Fawkes! The name also might be related to the word ‘parkin’, that gorgeous gingerbread made in the north of England!

In the north of England there used to be annual week’s holidays called Wakes Week; in Oldham where I lived for many years it was in the summer, last week in June, first in July, where traditionally the mills would be shut for the workers to have a well-deserved rest; in Derbyshire, according to Mrs Uttley it was in November and a fair would come to the village with swings and merry-go-rounds. This was when Thor Cake would be made and eaten as a morning snack, spread with butter.

Thor Cake… according to Alison Uttley:

  • ½ lb oatmeal
  • ½ butter
  • ½ lb Demerara sugar
  • 4 oz black treacle
  • ½ oz ground ginger
  • pinch of salt, mace and nutmeg
  • 4 oz candied peel
  • 1 egg
  1. Warm the butter and treacle together
  2. mix with the dry ingredients and the egg
  3. mix thoroughly then knead it like bread
  4. roll out to a thickness of about 2 inches
  5. place on a greased and lined tin
  6. cook for about ¾ hour at  190C, 375F, or gas mark 5 until the cake is done
  7. cut into slices as needed, butter, eat, enjoy!

I have seen other recipes where it is put in a loaf tin and then sliced when cold, but some of those recipes add self-raising flour… there are plenty of other recipes available if you’re interested, but this is Alison Uttley’s version! I am going to make it and I’ll let you know how it turns out!

 

Links to my afternoon tea stories:

https://loiselden.com/2017/08/13/treacle-scones/

https://loiselden.com/2017/08/14/afternoon-tea-week/

https://loiselden.com/2017/08/15/afternoon-tea-week-its-tuesday/

http://wp.me/p2hGAs-6BS

… and a link to my e-books and my recently published paperback, Radwinter:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

 

Who’s downstairs? The room below is empty!

Today I’m sharing an extract from my e-novel ‘Flipside’, published in 2013 and set in the Pennine town of Oldham. Here is part of the blurb: Jaz has moved from Bristol to be with her recently widowed brother; she is a teacher and she has moved from a high-flying head of faculty post in a top school to take a lowly temporary position in a challenging school in the north of England. She is up to the challenge, but she does not expect to find her life is in danger from a man who has already butchered three women; she has met the love of her life, but is he, could he possibly be, the murderer?

Jaz is at her flat, alone, marking her students’ work: ; David has gone out to meet Jaz’s brother Kiran – they were biusiness partners but now they have fallen out.

I dismissed the noise at first, then listened for it. It was outside; it came again. My flat was above a shop, a confectioners and more recently a flower shop. It had been empty for many years, there couldn’t be anyone downstairs. Blinds were pulled down over the windows and door, the adverts on the glass were for things I couldn’t even remember. Originally there must have been a way up from the shop to the living accommodation but there was no trace of that now, a door at the side of the building led into a small hall, then a staircase to a landing and my front door.

There was definitely someone moving around downstairs.  I left my work, pulled on my trainers and hurried downstairs and out and round to the front of the empty shop. The blinds were still down, there was no light and the door was locked.

I knocked without expectation of anyone hearing. They were probably in the back where there must be store rooms and perhaps an office. I walked back down the passageway, past my door and round into the alley. The windows in the back wall had bars across, everything in darkness. There was a bell push but I could hear nothing when I pressed so I rapped on the wooden door. I knocked again but there was no sign of life, whoever it was had gone without bothering to see me. The rent was paid until April and by then who knows where I might be.

The alley was cobbled but grass and weeds were everywhere, and judging by the number of empty cans this was a favourite haunt of local youth. It was cold and damp and I hadn’t bothered with my fleece. Chilly now, I gave up and walked back and turned the corner to go inside.

Someone was standing in the entrance of the passageway between the shop and the disused spiritualist church next door. He was outlined by the oblique light from the street lamp on Thomas Street, silhouetted in the orange glow. I stopped, startled and then alarmed.

It was David. I was dismayed he was back so soon, things hadn’t gone well with Kiran. I called his name but then he was gone. Things must have gone disastrously. I ran up the passageway and turned into Thornbrook Street but he’d vanished.

I was frightened. He was alright when he left the flat, so what had Kiran said or done? I ran past the shop front to the corner and glanced up and down Thomas Street. It was deserted, but I saw David moving away from Lees down past the cemetery.

He was walking swiftly, head down. I only hesitated a second and then began to run after him. I was out of breath by the time I passed the other deserted shop on the corner of Spring Lane, but I had to catch him. I trotted down the uneven pavement past the row of houses on the other side of the road, and then the big red brick house which had some connection to a vanished mill. I couldn’t see him as I came to the end of the cemetery wall and Hopkin Mill Close. I passed the old cottages which looked down over the pasture where horses grazed.

We’d walked down here a couple of times, holding hands and he’d told me about disappeared mills and farms and dairies and the history of this little green pocket.

I walked as fast as I could. It must be bad, it must be really bad. There were lights on at the farm, the house was on one side, a barn on the other; I continued down the narrow, pitted lane, taking care of the rough bumps and deep pot-holes in the unpaved surface.

I wasn’t going to catch him unless he stopped but I couldn’t leave him while he was so upset. I was nearly at the ford and I was the only one out on this foul damp night, not a single jogger or dog walker. I was very cold.

It was hopeless. I’d have to go home and wait until he came back. Why had he run away from me? It could only be that something so awful had happened between him and Kiran that he couldn’t face me and I wondered how fragile he really was.

I wearily stepped onto the little metal footbridge over the stream, the small beginning of the River Medlock. There was no sign of him continuing up towards the main road or striking either way along the footpaths through the Medlock Valley. I stood shivering, feeling sad and alone. I was overwhelmed with grief and lifted my face to look up into the misty sky as if to seek some comfort. All my feelings of loneliness and desolation returned and I had an urge to go back to the flat, pack a bag, find a taxi and go to the nearest station to flee south.

I turned back. Standing in the middle of the road staring down towards me was David. Suddenly, unaccountably I was frightened, I was frightened of David. Things Kiran had said, scraps of venom which had seemed impossible, unthinkable rushed into my mind. Angry, violent, frustrated, trained to kill.

I called his name again but he didn’t answer, just stood staring at me. I was really scared; he was so still, so motionless, standing ready and alert, on the balls of his feet. He stood beneath a light but I couldn’t see his face, shadowed and hidden by his hood.

Hood? David hadn’t got a hood on his jacket, I couldn’t think of anything he had with a hood. He only wore a cap and had gone to meet Kiran bare-headed.

This man wasn’t David, I could see now that he wasn’t. He was slimmer, perhaps even taller, but his legs were thin.

He’d been in the shop, or round the back, or in the hall leading to the stairs up to the flat and he’d stood looking at me standing in the passage. He’d hidden somewhere and watched and followed, and now he was standing in the road, staring at me.

I looked round. The road continued up towards Holts Lane where there were houses with lights on. I couldn’t run up there, even if I was being chased, it was too steep. I didn’t want to leave the road, it would be madness to follow the footpath by the stream, there were bushes and trees to be dragged under. Anyone out on the open grassy areas at this time of night in this miserable weather wouldn’t be bothered by a man and a woman, even if he was chasing her, or had hold of her, even if she was struggling and crying out for help… I was weak with fear, petrified, frozen, unable to move or run anywhere

Setting the scene in a familiar place

I have only written one novel which is set in a real place as opposed to an imaginary one. In Flipside the action takes place in Oldham in the actual area where I lived for nearly fifteen years, Lees. I made up roads, and pubs and two schools and café, and most importantly an old mill,  but the real library featured in several scenes, the cemetery, a country walk, some actual pubs… In some ways I found it straightforward, because describing the area only needed me to walk out of the door and wander round the village, or get in the car and river out onto the moors. However, there were things which I had to be very careful about… it was no use saying it would take ten minutes to walk somewhere if really it took half an hour. I had to make sure that geographically certain things were possible. In my imaginary locations I can add in extra roads, create shortcuts, build motorways if I want!

I have just started reading a book called As The Crow Flies by Damian Boyd which is set here in Somerset! The first scene takes place in Cheddar, just ten miles away. The main character goes for walks in places I’ve walked, lives in a town I’ve often visited, and there are references to all sorts of local things. I have only just started reading it, so I don’t know if he actually visits our town of Weston-super-Mare, but there are seven books in the series so it’s likely that at some point our little seaside town will get a mention!

It got me thinking… our little village is really interesting and full of character (and full of characters!) it would be quite a challenge to me to write something set right here. Because the main road from Weston going south now bypasses the village, it’s quite a quiet place; people only come into the village to go to the schools, or the pubs, or the village shop, or the churches or physiotherapist, or the restaurant or café or go to the boatyard, or go along the hideous new cycle track, or walk down to the beach or walk up over the hill. It’s a busy little place with lots of village activities, so there is plenty of scope for an adventure… However, because it is quite a small place, I would worry that people might think a character I describe is a real person, that quite accidentally I have a plot line which is similar to a real event…

A dilemma… maybe I won’t use our little village in fiction, maybe I will just content myself with writing about it here!

here is a link to my novels – apart from Flipside, all are set in a completely imaginary place!

Moving house…

No we are not going to be moving house, but someone near and dear to us is. Moving is such a nightmare – not the getting the new place which is so exciting, nor saying goodbye to the old place which is sometimes left with regret, sometimes with relief, sometimes with a mix of the two, but the actual physical packing up of stuff is the nightmare, and moving it out and then in, and then unpacking!

If you are moving somewhere bigger it is not such a problem… if you are moving somewhere smaller it definitely is! But whether it’s bigger, or smaller, the sorting out of everything, throwing away/giving away/recycling/charity shop donating/tip taking to… sorting stuff out, not getting side-tracked by reminiscing/reading a book you forgot you had/looking at old photos/making yet another cup of tea, trying to pack cleverly (I have to admit, brag even, that I am amazing at packing stuff, whether it’s shopping or luggage for holiday, or the boot of the car, I am brilliant!) and not running out of energy, enthusiasm, patience…

I’ve moved many times in my life – the first I can’t really remember, when I was fourteen and the family moved from a two bedroom flat into a three bedroom semi-detached house. The garden was a jungle and I remember that, I remember there was a lot of renovation needing doing, and that my sister and I had our own rooms for the first time. I can barely remember it, to be honest, I know I had wallpaper with Egyptian pictures on it and hieroglyphs… but the move, no, I can’t remember!

Two years later we were on the move again – and this time from the east of the country to the west. I really don’t remember it at all, because I wasn’t there; I was on holiday with cousins for the whole of the summer holiday – maybe to get me out of the way! So when I came home, I came home to a new place, a bungalow on a hill…

The next move for me, though not for the family, was to Manchester to do my degree. I was there for three years, and moved from flat to flat many times – five times I think! of course, then I was mostly moving clothes and bedding, and a few bits and pieces of cookery equipment, books and LPs. Then there were a series of moves round Manchester, mostly in rented accommodation, but then into a flat I was buying and then a move out of the city to Oldham. I only really remember one of those moves… we were moving out of a house, literally round the corner to another house; we’d hired a van to move all the furniture which I was driving… load the van, drive round the corner, unload the van, drive back, reload etc. etc… boy was it exhausting!!

Eventually after another move in Oldham, we moved down here to Somerset… This time it wasn’t me on my own, but with a husband and two small children! I’ve written about it elsewhere, and i do remember it – the moving that is, I don’t remember the packing up or the unpacking! Maybe it is just as well!

So to our dear house-movers, good luck next week, we will do all we can to help!!

 

Beamers and twisters

Every job, craft and industry has its own language – sometimes the terms are easy to understand, sometimes they sound like something completely different from what they are, and sometimes there is absolutely no clue as to what they could possibly be.

I was writing about a family history recently and the family I was investigating had lived in Oldham, where I used to live, and had been in the cotton industry – working in one of the many mills. When I looked their occupations I had no idea what they might be, but eventually came across an interesting page which explained all.

Bobbin carrier and bobbin maker, yes easy! So do beamers, beam twisters and beam warpers make twist and warp beams? Well, obviously not, in fact a beam is a huge bobbin, the beamer takes cones of thread by the hundred and organises them to make the warp ready for weaving, so that should explain that… well sort of.

Mule spinner, scutcher, self-actor minder, slasher, stripper and grinder, throstle spinner, and twist winder… just some of the terms to conjure with!

As you might imagine there were different areas of the mill (factory) where different operations took place, including the winding room, weaving shed, card room, workshop and warehouse. Included in the list of occupations were the half-timers…

A child who spent half the day at school and the other half earning money in a mill. Typically they would start work at 6 am, work in the mill until 1 pm, then go to school until 4 pm. It was quite common for them to fall asleep during lessons.

What’s shocking about that is that in those mills there were a sort of regulation for children working there – in the sweatshops and mills of far away countries where even tiny children labour, there is no regulation at all. We might not be directly responsible for employing them, but every time we buy a cheap item of clothing from one of those places, that is exactly what we are doing.

http://www.andrewalston.co.uk/cottonindustryjobs.html

Fuggan and apple dickie

I was wandering through my recipe books as I often do, and came across something called fuggan… I’d never heard of it before, but it’s Cornish, and is a simple but no doubt delicious  pastry with currants or other dried fruit. When I looked it up to find out more about it I came across an Arthur Fuggan, living in Oldham which I know well as I lived there for many years.

Arthur was born in 1864, and in the 1891 census he was living with his sister Matilda, her husband, his mother, and a niece. Oldham was one of the most famous and important cotton-spinning towns in the nineteenth century and so it was so surprise to see that Matilda was a cotton speed tenter.  Her husband was a pianist and when I saw that Arthur was a self actor minder I thought that he must be something to do with being on the stage… However, the word ‘minder’ made me wonder as I know that was a job in the cotton industry. I was right; a self actor minder is someone who ‘minded’ a ‘self actor’, or “operates a self-acting spinning mule, patented by Richard Roberts, which could be operated by semi-skilled personnel.” A tenter is merely someone who tents or tends a spinning machine in a factory. Arthur doesn’t appear again in the census, not by that name anyway, but there seem to be families of Fuggans living in other countries, particularly the USA

Back to the fuggan…  when I looked further into the edible fuggans, it seems there is also a meat fuggan, which is just meat and pastry; as far as I can gather the pastry is made into a longish fat lump, split down the middle, the seasoned, finely chopped meat is put in and the pastry moulded round it . Somewhere else I found that it was usually pork and sometimes had potatoes as well. It is baked in the oven and I guess might taste quite nice and  a way I  would think of making a small amount of meat go between a family. Apparently, the top of it was patterned with cross-hatched marks, representing the fishing nets of the men who were out at sea, no doubt looking forward to their tasty fuggan when they got home!

And so apple dickie… Similar, it seems to a fuggan, a Cornish pastry with chopped apple mixed into it and baked!