Cheese shortbread – sort of

In the very first Radwinter novel, entitled… Radwinter, Thomas, the main character is chatting with his brother’s fiancée, Ruthie about the range of shortbread she has produced –

I asked her about the millionaire’s strawberry shortbread, she’d tried it again with cherries and some almonds in the biscuit and flaked almonds on top… the olives and wine arrived, Ruthie tasted it and said it was lovely, and so it was…

I have such a sweet tooth I told her I’d liked the strawberry shortbread.

“Perhaps you could do a range, the strawberry one, and the cherry, and then… well the caramel made me think of banoffee… so could you do a banana one?” then I felt stupid because she went glazed.

She pulled out a note-book and began to scribble furiously. “Don’t mind me, I just have to write it down while it’s in my head! Brilliant idea, Thomas, any other thoughts?”

“Well not everyone’s got a sweet tooth… how about a cheese one?” the thought just leapt into my head and out of my mouth and I blushed at how stupid it sounded.

She stared at me as if I was mad. She grabbed her wine and took a swig then went back to her notebook.

“Genius, you are a taste genius,” she said scribbling madly.

Later Thomas writes to her:

I asked about the shortbread and suddenly I found I’d written a whole paragraph about it. I’d become a bit fixated on the idea of a savoury millionaire’s shortbread; the shortbread part was ok, cheese, nuts, mustard, seeds, that was fine… but what about the caramel?

You couldn’t have a savoury caramel, unless you put peanut butter in it which is popular… I’d had some really nice peanut butter ice-cream at a food fair Rebecca and I went to. But supposing you just took the idea of having a sweet layer… maybe quince jelly, maybe a sort of syrupy chutney? Maybe a pomegranate sort of jelly stuff? But then what could you do with the top… it has to be chocolate… but chocolate and cheese? Chocolate and peanut butter and cheese? It doesn’t sound right even if you use chilli chocolate… so I was stumped on the chocolate, but I’d give it some more thought.

I’ve never taken up on Thomas’s idea of either savoury shortbread, or a savoury millionaire’s shortbread… but I did come across this recipe:

Cheese shortbread – sort of

 

  • 8 oz strong cheddar.
  • 4 oz cold butter,  cubed
  • 7 oz plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp paprika or cayenne
  1. rub the dry ingredients together and then add the egg and pull together very lightly into a soft dough OR/
  2. put everything into a food processor and blend in bursts until it’s like breadcrumbs – don’t over work – then pull together into a soft dough
  3. roll into small balls – you should get about 30-40; flatten them slightly as you put them onto a lined baking tray
  4. bake for 10 minutes, at 400˚F, 220˚C, gas mark 8, until golden brown – they will puff up a little
  5. cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

This doesn’t sound like the shortbread Thomas had in mind, but they do sound tasty!

Here is a link to Radwinter in paperback or for Kindle, and you can find out what other ideas Thomas has:

http://amzn.eu/0R6bnUv

Taras Radwinski to see Mr. Swarbrick

The main character of my Radwinter stories, Thomas gets himself – as he would say – ‘into some pickles’ . From being a very nervous and unconfident person he undergoes a personality change – or maybe becomes the real him when he marries and becomes a father. Here he takes his friend Hollis with him on a mission to recover what’s owed to his brothers, calling himself Radwinski

I left the car in Portsmouth… the parking would be a lot but I didn’t want to risk taking our car over. Hollis was wearing dark trousers, a rather tight longish black jacket in an old-fashioned style and a white collarless shirt… he looked rather like how I imagined a Lutheran minister or a Russian priest with his long beard and mournful face. We hadn’t spoken much to each other… what did we have in common to converse about? Barely anything. However, I did detect a certain contained excitement as we got on the hovercraft…

The taxi dropped us at Swarbrick’s gate and I arranged for the driver to pick us up in an hour, just down the road. I gave her a rather hefty tip, and a quick puppy eye, and she said all right me duck.

The great thing about Hollis was that he asked me nothing; he was a silent, and I have to say, a very reassuring presence beside me as we walked up the drive. My thirteen year old self would have been astounded if he could have known this, had he been able to see into the future.

The door was opened by the pale, weak looking old man.

“Taras Radwinski to see Mr. Swarbrick,” I said firmly.

“Ah, yes, of course, and you are…?” he gazed anxiously at Hollis.

“This is Father Spyridon,” I told him and felt a quiver of something from Hollis but I knew his impassive face would give nothing away.

We were led through to where Mr. Swarbrick waited, and I turned to the pale man and effectively dismissed him. I introduced ‘Father Spyridon’ and when Swarbrick, looking taken aback asked in what capacity he was here, I told him that he was ‘my spiritual adviser’… why on earth do I say such ludicrous things? Really… this was serious… I could get arrested… gulp…

I organised a couple of chairs for Hollis and me in front of the desk; then, and I hadn’t planned this, I took out my phone, fiddled with it as if I was turning on some app, and laid it on the table between us.

I told myself I was doing it for my brothers, I was doing it for us…

I had explained everything to Swarbrick before, I said; I’d asked him to do what he should… but he hadn’t and now I coldly laid down in black and white exactly what he had to do, what he had to give me and what I would do if he didn’t…

“I don’t believe you, I’m calling the police…” he bleated… I hope he didn’t have a heart attack or anything, that would be very awkward.

I stood up and picked up Swarbrick’s phone and dialled.

“Oh good, morning, is that Hampshire Police, I wonder if you could tell me who I should speak to as regards the suspected misappropriation or misuse of money or property, financial irregularities, you know…”

I handed the phone to Swarbrick who stammered and bumbled and eventually put the phone down.

“I will go to the police Swarbrick,” I said seriously as I sat again, and Hollis nodded lugubriously but in a way which was really quite intimidating…

“Maybe we could come to some compromise…”

“No, we are not going to come to some compromise. I have told you what I want, and I’m not threatening you, I am telling you; if I don’t get it within a week, that is by the Monday – and I don’t mean the Tuesday – if I haven’t received what I want, then I will be calling the police, and this time I will speak to them.”

Hollis leant down towards me and murmured “Check-mate, Thomas,” and then to my surprise crossed himself, and what struck me more was that he did it the eastern way, right to left with his three fingers together, not the left to right catholic way.

“Thank you, Father,” I said out loud and he inclined his head slightly.

Something in this had disturbed Swarbrick because he was staring at us, his eyes bulging.

I stood up and held out my hand which he was very reluctant to shake. His hand was sweaty and trembling. He was even more reluctant to shake Hollis’s hand, and looked as if he had been cursed when Hollis impassively murmured ‘bless you, my son’ in a strangely threatening way.

Without another word we left Swarbrick; the pale man was hovering in the hall and we said goodbye and shook his hand too, and again Hollis blessed him menacingly.

We walked down the drive without speaking and then I turned and took out my phone and took a photo of the house, I don’t know why.

We went through the impressive gates and walked along in silence until we saw the taxi waiting for us. Hollis asked why I’d taken the photo… I wasn’t sure, sometimes I do things without knowing why I do them. He said he thought it showed them that we weren’t scarpering… that we meant business… I didn’t like the sound of that… did he mean I might be suggesting I would show the photo of the house to someone who might come along and ’help’ Swarbrick to make up his mind?… Oh dear…

Hollis made a strange noise as he got in the car and I realised he was laughing.

“Father Spyridon, I must remember that,” he said and chuckled some more.

If you want to find out how Hollis and Thomas came to this, and what happened next, and whether Swarbrick does give him what is owed, then here is a link to my book ‘Beyond Hope’:

http://amzn.eu/5OoeNQw

 

My 2017: March

After the travels and excitement of January and February, March was a quieter month – although we did travel to Portsmouth for a college reunion which was great fun. On that weekend we took several taxis, and each driver was an interesting person with great stories to tell, a Syrian who seemed to make it rain wherever he went on holiday, an Albanian who was passionate about Charles Dickens, a bloke who had a great interest in the art and life of L.S.Lowery and another who told us about the history of Gosport. We had our usual classes (creative writing, family history writing, French, modern art, ukulele, rock band, book clubs etc) and our usual little trips out and about to different places, including National Trust properties.

From a writing point of view, March was when I finished my latest Radwinter novel, and although I didn’t publish it until April, I wrote this about the series:

I’m not sure when I first thought I might write about a family of brothers, but I know why I did. I’m forever saying about strangers in the pub, people in the street, faces on the TV, ‘gosh doesn’t s/he look just like so-and-so‘; I thought I identified a similarity in the faces of a TV baker, a famous chef, and a bloke who works in our local bookshop; mostly it was something about the eyes, and the unnerving stare (although bookshop bloke has a friendly stare) The thought of writing about them came and went until I was out with my cousin and we were driving through Essex, not far from the pretty town of Saffron Walden when we saw a sign to the village of Radwinter – and I had my name!

This was some time ago, and over several years I played about with ideas and thoughts and then in 2013 began to write what became the first book in an unexpected series, about the Radwinter family. The narrator was a new arrival, a fourth brother who looked nothing like them, When I started writing, I little knew that there would be a whole series of books, and now I’m just doing the final editing of number 5!

  1. Radwinter – Thomas Radwinter goes in search of his family roots; using the internet he traces his family back to war-torn eastern Europe, and follows their journey from arriving in England in the 1830’s, across southern England. However, the more he finds out about his family’s past, the more he sees his own family, his brothers and his wife differently. His relationship with them changes… and he begins to understand his own character, and to find out as much about his present life as his family’s history. https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1490867200&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden
  2. Magick – Encouraged by his success in discovering his Radwinter ancestors, Thomas Radwinter sets out to investigate his maternal line, starting with the mysterious and alcoholic Sylvia. His life has been somewhat dysfunctional, but now, gaining confidence through his new loving relationship with a beautiful young woman and her son, he is able to confront his own past.
    His genealogical searches take him into the tragic histories of his family and other ordinary people who lived and worked under the appalling conditions of the Victorian age. His skills in finding people from the past encourage a friend to beg him to try and trace her long-lost daughter, a woman, who, it seems does not want to be found. He accepts her request, little realising this will lead him into danger.
    Then the father of his partner’s son arrives; he’s come for his boy…       https://www.amazon.co.uk/MAGICK-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00OHV4MR0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1490867200&sr=8-3&keywords=lois+elsden
  3. Raddy and Syl – Thomas Radwinter continues his journey into his ancestor’s history; he has followed his paternal line of the Radwinters, “and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”.
    He traced his maternal ancestry, the Magicks, “I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you”.
    Now he has to find the history of those closest to him, “in my Radwinter story I found some amazing truths about myself. My childhood was difficult to say the least, and when I started to follow the Magick story, I had to begin to face my past, and confront some of my fears and nightmares. To finish my story I have to look at Sylvia Magick and her husband Edward Radwinter, the people who brought me up… sort of… I think of them now as Syl and Raddy, because it’s easier and less painful.”
    During his search Thomas also seeks a woman who vanished seemingly into thin air from a car stopped at a road junction, and he tries to solve the mystery of Badruddin, the Moroccan an elderly female client brought back from a cruise…
    Thomas little thinks that he may be risking his life to find these different truths.   https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADDY-SYL-RADWINTER-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00WAN0YD8/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1490867200&sr=8-6&keywords=lois+elsden
  4. Beyond Hope – Beyond Hope is the fourth in the series of books following the life and genealogical investigations of Thomas Radwinter; in previous stories he has followed family’s history back several centuries and also found some uncomfortable and very painful truths in more recent times.
    In ‘Beyond Hope’, Thomas decides to share with his three brothers what he has learned about their mother and father… but telling the truth can be damaging, the truth can hurt, and as Thomas later reflects, “I know at first hand, a very, very painful first hand, how old secrets have the power to wound and how sometimes those dogs snoozing away should be left doing exactly that, sleeping dogs should sometimes just be let lie.”
    His revelations cause the close family ties to be tested which doesn’t help Thomas as he struggles with the other commissions he is being paid to undertake; he has been asked by a very elderly lady to find out who leaves lilies on a grave she visits, he has undertaken to investigate a mysterious lama who has a dangerous power over a hard-working teacher and devoted father, and he continues his search for the daughter of a friend who has become involved with a very dangerous man… And all the while his own little family has to face difficult decisions. The fall-out between Thomas and his brothers may only be healed if he can find out what happened to their father who disappeared thirty years ago. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Hope-Radwinter-Book-4-ebook/dp/B01AKU9XMK/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1490867200&sr=8-4&keywords=lois+elsden
  5. Earthquake – (published April 2017) Thomas Radwinter’s life seems settled and content as he juggles working as a free-lance solicitor, genealogist and house husband. However a new arrival in the family puts extra pressure on him as he has to balance looking after them and earning some money. A commission from an elderly gentleman to investigate a mysterious death at a little boarding school in 1931 seems intriguing and harmless; a haunted hotel he’s asked to visit seems just to be over-imaginative guests and maybe a less than honest manager. However, during his investigations he has to confront a violent verger, an unbalanced conchologist and a very strange friend from the past… Thomas took on his commissions, little realising when he began his investigation that he would be putting his life and that of a friend in serious danger… “I tried to work out what was going on, and what to do, and what might happen to us – trying my hardest to keep my thoughts well away from a terminal conclusion to events… ” https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1514650978&sr=8-3&keywords=lois+elsden

…and here is a link to my other books, Farholm, Flipside, Loving Judah, Lucky Portbraddon, Night Vision, The Double Act and The Stalking of Rosa Czekov

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

 

A writing list

A writing chum told me has made a 2018 writing list – things he intends to tackle next year… I’ve got some priorities in my head, but as for a list, well, I hadn’t thought of it… so what would be on my list should I make one?

I think it goes without saying that I will continue to write here, sharing my thoughts, ideas, memories and my writing. I must also get back seriously or seriously get back to finishing my next Radwinter novel, which has been marooned three-quarter way through since the beginning of November when I tackled the national Novel Writing challenge of completing 50,000 words in a month. So finish Thomas Radwinter’s next story provisionally entitled ‘Saltpans‘, and I have an idea for another for later on in the year probably called ‘Alone‘. On the Radwinter front, I also want to publish as paperbacks at least two of my e-books, ‘Magick’ and ‘Raddy and Syl‘, and if all goes extremely well, then also ‘Beyond Hope‘.

In January and February I must prepare for a talk and two workshops I’m giving in February; the talk is on writing about family history, as I mentioned yesterday, and the workshops are on the process of writing and blogging.

I also have my unfinished stories – ‘Gus’, ‘Dancing in the Road’, ‘And the River…’, ‘Hamazasb and the Missing Shoe‘, and a couple of other bits of writing I started. There is also the story I began this year for NaNoWriMo, about Milla. Of those, I think there’s only a couple which I might actually tackle, others are very much on the back burner, as well as some I wrote many years ago which would need a total re-write.

I have completed five NaNoWriMo challenges, every year since 2013; they have been a great way to really get to grips with a new story, but they are also a great drain on time… the idea is also quite additive, though, will I be able to resist the challenge? Or maybe should I use it to get to grips with ‘Alone’? That actually is a good idea!!

I mentioned at the start my commitment to writing here; I also share another blog with two writing friends (which is actually open to anyone to contribute to!) From that we published an anthology last year and are hoping to publish a second next year. That is more a case of pulling together already written pieces rather than creating anything new but it still involves work. On our other blog we have challenged ourselves to write about subjects from a list we discovered with seventy-three suggestions of topics. We are doing really well with it, and have had a thought that maybe they could be edited and published – in three volumes!! There would just be too many words for one book!

So that I guess is my writing list… but then of course, something new, a whole new story might bob into my mind!! Inspiration happens in the most unlikely places and with the most unexpected ideas!

So, maybe like my friend I should write a list… should it be a calendar/diary/timetable?

  1. January – finish first draft of ‘Saltpans‘, prepare for family history talk and writing workshops. Begin to edit ‘Magic’ for paperback publication
  2. February – deliver family history talk and writing workshops, work on editing ‘Saltpans‘, also continue to edit ‘Magick‘ as a paperback – this takes much longer than you might think!
  3. March – prepare and publish ‘Saltpans‘, prepare first draft of seventy-three blog anthology, book I.
  4. April – work on ‘seventy-three’ maybe start thinking about next story for me – perhaps ‘Dancing in the Road’, but maybe something new will spring into my mind! Publish ‘Magick’ as a paperback’ and start of paperback editing of ‘Raddy and Syl’.
  5. May – publish ’73’, continue work on whatever new/old thing I’m writing
  6. June – writing, writing, writing, publish ‘Raddy and Syl‘ paperback, start preparing ‘Beyond Hope’ as a paperback
  7. July – more writing, writing, writing, continue with ‘Beyond Hope‘ paperback
  8. August – as for July but publish new paperback
  9. September – complete whatever I started new in April (maybe it will have got to the editing stage by now) Begin to look at second anthology with my two writing friends, to publish November/December
  10. October  – ditto September
  11. November – new Nano challenge, but also some light editing and pulling together of the April book, publish anthology II with friends
  12. December – maybe publish new book? Maybe continue what I started as Nano?

Writing it down like this makes 2018 look a massive challenge – however, a lot of it is editing and working on old things. This year I have felt that creativity has been pushed into the corner by other stuff I’ve been doing; I really want to make sure it isn’t the same in 2018. It’s all about balance.

2017 has been a great year, and I’ll write about in the next few days, but if I have any resolution for next year, it is what I mentioned above – find balance!

Inspector Graham’s mystery

Here’s a sneak preview of the mystery Thomas Radwinter is commissioned to ‘investigate’…

Inspector Graham’s mystery

If I had to tell you what Inspector Graham looked like I’d struggle… he’s got brownish greyish hair, a normal sort of handsome-ish  face, brownish sort of eyes, not particularly tall but not particularly short. Inspector Graham isn’t fat or thin, just sort of, well, normal… he wears smart grey suits… well, every time I’ve seen him he does, and he has a pleasant but ordinary voice with no particular accent, or funny way of speaking… he’s just ordinary… and I guess for a policeman that’s an advantage… I guess you don’t always want to announce your profession…

I don’t get any sense of his character either, but I have the feeling he knows a bit about me… we first met when I was a witness to a man attacking someone,  and since then I seem to have got myself in various pickles which ended up with me making statements and being interviewed by the police…

But the task he has set me – commissioned me, this task, I think, is something outside his police work… so is it something personal?

Inspector Graham’s file was all about a girl known as Shelly… including documents from the police, which I’m sure he wasn’t meant to have… what a great deal of trust he was placing in me…

So when he was telling me about Shelly Beach, she was a person not place where the kids and I play by the sea… For a moment I thought how unfair her parents, Mr. and Mrs Beach had been to call her that, but as I began to unpick the files, all became clear.

There were newspaper cuttings, seemingly every item in the local press, the Strand Argos and the Castair Courier, plus there were loads of printouts from the national newspapers too…

You see, a local woman who had been out early walking her dog, had come across this young woman lying washed up on the beach at Strand. She was unconscious, but when an ambulance came and she was whisked off to hospital, thankfully she was found to be unhurt, although suffering slightly from the cold.

There was a Sunday paper magazine article about her, which was told in a rather dramatic way, and it mentioned similar people who had been found with lost memories… Yes, you see, this girl had completely lost her memory. She didn’t know who she was, where she had come from, or even her name… hence Shelly.

© Lois Elsden 2017

This is an excerpt from my next Radwinter novel which I hope will be published next spring. The idea of a ‘found’ rather than ‘missing’ person has been with me for a long time. In our newspaper there used to be a copy of an old article reprinted from a hundred years ago. One of these was about a young woman who was found washed up on a beach suffering from amnesia. I have played around with this idea and now I’m writing about Shelly Beach.

Here’s a link to my other Radwinter stories, and my other e-books and paperbacks:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsden%2Caps%2C136&crid=4L0WBWNYOEUG

Christmas books

A week to go until the big day, Christmas!!! Just in case you’re struggling for gifts, here are a few ideas. I recommend the following, not just because my friend is responsible, but because I know it would be a  great and  welcome gifts!

A book by my friend Andrew Simpson charts the development of his area of Manchester, from a small rural village of little more than a few rams and cottages, to a town, and now a suburb of the great city of Manchester. Even if you don’t know the area, the development seen through the eyes and experiences of the people who lived there, some of whose descendants still live there, is absolutely fascinating. Andrew has a great ‘voice’ and he tells the story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy vividly.

This is the Amazon blurb:

This richly illustrated history explores every aspect of life in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. Drawing on contemporary accounts, Government documents, newspaper reports, antiquarian books and recent academic work, it debunks many myths about the town – and unearths some surprising truths along the way. Local historian Andrew Simpson takes the reader to the rural cottages and houses of the past, many of which disappeared only recently and some which are still local landmarks today. Revealing the close links between rural communities and the city, and with chapters on farming, local industries, shops and pubs, health, wealth and poverty, children, housework and housing, churches, entertainments and sports, crime, politics and all manner of other topics, it will delight residents and visitors alike.

… and here is a link –

http://amzn.eu/559AS06

Andrew has written other interesting books which I’m sure would make good Christmas presents.

If I were to blow my own trumpet and recommend from the books I have written, then as a gift, my paperback ‘Radwinter’ is set during the autumn and winter of 2013; in my Radwinter world it was a winter of snow and bad weather… in this excerpt it’s Christmas Eve and Thomas, worried about a friend who lives near a river prone to flooding, catches a bus:

“I’m not sure how far we’ll get, the weather’s closing in,” the bus driver said, but he sounded pretty nonchalant so I said I’d keep my fingers crossed.

I sat on the front seat behind the luggage rack and stared into the darkness as we left the bus station. It was a double-decker and was rocked by the wind and I heard a little scream behind me. Two elderly ladies were sitting further back.

“I’m sure we’ll be fine!” I called to them.

“I hope we don’t get stuck in a snowdrift,” one of them replied.

“Or blown over the cliff,” her friend added… thank you ladies for your cheerful thoughts.

The driver was whistling though, and although we were going slowly, and the bus rocked from time to time, he didn’t seem concerned as we chugged along the coast road and then up to Castle Point. I had to use my inhaler a couple of times, I was struggling, so anxious about so many things and I wished I’d brought my reindeer.

“Are we nearly there, young man?” one of the old ladies called.

“Not far now!” I called back and then the bus skidded and slithered and the driver shouted ‘oh fuck!’ and the old ladies screamed, but then we were moving downhill slowly and steadily.

I got up and went back to the old girls who were clutching each other and clearly terrified. I sat down by them and turned sideways in my seat.

“Don’t worry, we’re nearly there, the driver will get us safely to Easthope,” I told them.

I began to chat to them about Christmas and shopping, and presents, and they rallied and chatted back. They were sisters and good friends too; their husbands were at home and they’d gone shopping in Strand and had treated themselves to a fish supper. Now they were regretting having stayed so late. I told them that when they were safely home, sitting by their fires with a cup of tea, they’d think it a great adventure.

“Glass of wine, young man, glass of wine,” one of them said and we were laughing as the bus drew up on the High Street.

We all thanked the driver, who seemed untroubled by the adventure. I asked the ladies how they were getting home but they said they only lived a little way away, down Byron Street. I didn’t like the idea of them struggling through what was now a blizzard, so I insisted on them each taking my arm and I walked them slowly home, just hoping I didn’t slip over and bring us all down in a heap

© Lois Elsden 2017

If you think this would make a great present, here is a link:

http://amzn.eu/bXW1cd2

Into the freezing night

We had a brief glimpse of a few snow flakes, they settled  for a few minutes and then slipped away leaving everything wet… and now it’s raining. It really isn’t very wintry from a snow point of view! In my first Radwinter novel, the season changes from late a summer, through autumn, into a harsh and very snowy winter. Thomas has met his friends in the Lark for quiz night, and now they are about to get into a taxi to take them home through a raging blizzard.

There was a blast of a car horn and we stumbled out of the pub, into the freezing night to find our transport to take us home.

Out of the whirling blizzard a figure jumped at me; it was Kylie, grabbing my arm and pulling at me, shouting that I had to help. I tried to ask her what the matter was as the taxi driver honked his horn, Leo and John were already inside.

“Please Thomas, I’m begging you!” she shouted. “There’s an old man, I can’t help him!”

I waved at the taxi to drive on but John bobbed out asking if I was OK. I told him to go, I’d get another taxi, and they zoomed off into the night as Kylie pulled me along.

She was saying something about a tramp and as we turned off the High Street and went over the bridge towards Mill Lane she shouted above the wind that there was an old tramp, collapsed in the snow. I would have gone straight past him; he was huddled against the curving wall of the bridge where it went down to the River Hope. He was just a snow-covered lump; I squatted down beside him and was enveloped in the stink of urine, cheap booze and old clothes, and considering how cold he was, he must be powerfully filthy.

“Hey, old chap, what are you doing here?” I asked, shining the light from my phone on him.

Kylie crouched beside him and wiped his face with her bare hand and that simple gesture made me suddenly feel a huge lurch of affection for her. She had so little herself and yet she had so much compassion.

“Are you ill? Do you feel alright?”

He opened an eye and squinted at me from under his snow encrusted brows. He mumbled that he was going home but just needed a little rest.

“Where are you going?” I asked. He couldn’t stay here. “Come on, old man, tell us where you live and we’ll get you home.”

He began to sing ‘I was born under a wandering star’, in a quavery drunken voice.

“Let’s get you onto your feet and we’ll see what we can do,” I took his arm and Kylie took the other and we managed, with much slipping and nearly falling over, to get him upright. He was a little fellow and must be wearing a bundle of clothes because although he was very stout he didn’t weigh much.

He lurched against me and despite the reek of him I held on to keep him upright. He was very cold and was shaking but he began to sing again. I tried to ask him where he lived or where he was going, but he was obviously just a tramp or street person. Kylie was clutching the other side of him to keep him from falling over and for once she had nothing to say.

“Ring the police,” I told her and gave her my phone; we couldn’t stay here and however charitable Kylie was making me feel I wasn’t going to take this old fellow home with me. “I’m going to take him over there,” and I indicated the doorway of the empty shop on the corner of the street, one more little business which had folded.

I tried to get him to move, but his legs kept buckling so in the end I had to wrap his stinking arm round me neck, put an arm round his back and virtually carry him over to the doorway where I let him subside into a heap.

“Got a couple o’ coppers for an old man?” he wheezed and then started coughing. With any luck a couple of coppers would arrive in a police van and take him off to a nice comfy police cell for the night.

Kylie hurried over to us; her face a pale blob. The police weren’t interested if he wasn’t doing any harm to anyone; they’d said their cells were full, that if we thought he was ill or hurt, we should ring an ambulance and get him taken to hospital but otherwise there was a night shelter in Strand for rough sleepers.

“What are we going to do, Thomas?” she asked, not sounding like herself at all.

If you want to find out what happens to the old tramp, to Thomas and to Kylie, you can find out in my paperback, Radwinter, or in the Kindle version… here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1513203593&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden