And some more from the Umbrella Factory Museum

I’m sure my two different stories from the Easthope and area local history Museum, known as the Umbrella museum because it’s situated in what was an old nineteenth century umbrella factory, will come together at some point and make something longer, maybe a novel… Maybe I could use these ideas for Nanowrimo – the national Novel Writing Challenge this year. (it’s an online challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November)

The first strand of story is total fiction, a youngish man, David, becomes friendly with someone sharing his house who works at the museum; the curator, Malcolm, is  rather eccentric and David and the other house-mates are intrigued by him.

The second strand is totally different but also involves someone who works at the museum, Darius; Darius is happily married with three young children and he doesn’t realise that certain members of a book-club who meet in one of the public areas of the museum by the little café are fascinated by him – he’s young, virile, good-looking, and some of the ladies of a certain age always have an eye on him. he would be embarrassed if he knew!

This is the next part of the Malcolm story-line… but it may need quite a bit of rewriting!

A visit to the museum

After that it seemed that I bumped into Malcolm more frequently, and I actually began to wonder if he coincided coming out of his room when he heard me on the landing. We exchanged the usual sort of ‘all right, mate?’ ‘glad that rain’s stopped’ sort of pleasantries which made me feel like my granddad – I’d be talking about pruning the roses or the price of petrol next!

Then one day for no reason – or maybe I actually thought that maybe he was a bit lonely, I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee – I’d had an excruciatingly tedious day at work and needed caffeine. I wanted to dump my things and go straight back downstairs again for coffee then maybe a beer and chill with the others.

He thanked me as if I’d offered him something much more exciting – what a dull life he must lead. I said did he want to come down, or… but he said, yes, he’d come down… and so the pair of us went downstairs. I made coffee for everyone who was home, mentally thanking our landlord for the dishwasher as I found mugs. Coffee made and distributed, I slumped onto the settee, and he perched on the edge and I could see that the others wanted to make some crack, but restrained themselves. They restrained themselves until he finished his coffee and thanked me and went back to his room.

“Your new best friend, Dave!” Adam said and we had a laugh then turned on the telly to watch the footie while we decided which pizza to get from Domino’s.


 I suppose you might call it a quirk of fate – well you might, but actually I wouldn’t… it’s one of the things granddad would be more likely to say in one of his old stories… I’ve heard them all so often I could almost join in with the telling, but I never mind, he’s my granddad and that’s what granddad’s are for… anyway, quirk of fate or whatever, my boss asked me to drop something off at the local history museum, as it was ‘on my way home’. Well, actually, no it wasn’t.

I did think about just giving it to Malcolm when I saw him later, but no, the boss wanted it there tonight. I said the museum wouldn’t be open, but yes it would; his cousin was giving a talk on the buffalo of the Great Plains, and it was his cousin I had to deliver the package to.

I thought it would be mean not to say hello to my new friend Malcolm. I handed the big buff envelope to the boss’s cousin who  looked nothing like him, especially as he was actually dressed as a Native American, complete with  war paint. He asked me if i would stay for the talk, but regretfully I had a prior appointment… I didn’t say it was an appointment with the quiz team in the Lark.  I asked a museum person where I might find Malcolm and he directed me to the ‘stores’ where Malcolm was getting out the artefacts.

I was about to knock on the door when it flung open as I had my hand still up in the air. Malcolm looked astonished to see me.

“David! Thank goodness! I don’t l know what to do!”

He dragged me into the store-room. I was rather overwhelmed by the amount of objects in piles, in heaps, on tables, under tables, dusty and seemingly neglected, but he pulled me through a short passageway into a back room, more ‘artefacts’, probably junk to my ignorant eye, presided over by the sadly benign head of a buffalo, yes an actual buffalo – or is it a bison?

It was huge, absolutely massive, and a sort of grey colour… It was obviously dust, but in my imagination it was not just the musty motes from the museum store-room, but from the prairies of the Wild West.

It somehow didn’t look real, rather fluffy, its glass eyes dull… they needed polishing, but wouldn’t it be rather creepy, polishing a bison’s eyes, or is it a buffalo. I remember we did a project in history about the American west and all the things which could be made from the buffalo…

But my meandering thoughts about buffaloes and bison came to an abrupt and shocking full stop as I saw what Malcolm was pointing at. He had grabbed my arm and I could feel him trembling and was pointing with his other hand…

“It’s Margaret!” he exclaimed, a catch in his voice.

I’d never know what she looked like, no-one would ever see her face again. I’d not noticed her, transfixed by the dusty bison; she lay to the side of the room, what appeared to be a tomahawk in her hand, but her head, well, her head or what was left of it was beneath a squat but massive totem pole, and a rather nasty puddle of something pooled beneath her.

“Good grief…” I said.

Another episode from the old umbrella factory

I wrote a true story the other day, heavily disguised, so the actual people involved remain private; it was about a person who I know very well who I called Blaine, and in a fictitious location, The Easthope and Area Local History Museum, I transposed another real person as a fictional curator who I called Darius. I’ve changed everything about the people in my true story – I might even have changed genders! You won’t recognise these people, even if you knew them, but the facts of the story are absolutely true. My friend was telling me about another episode.

Georgie, an old friend of Blaine’s who didn’t visit Easthope very often called to say she was in town, looking at an exhibition at the museum on rope and rope-making, and could they meet for coffee… and maybe some cake!
It seemed an excellent idea, and with a little quiver of anticipation, in case Darius was working, Blaine agreed to meet her. Blaine thought she was a little early, as she strolled in; she had walked as it was a pleasant day and she thought she needed the exercise. However Georgie was already there, and to Blaine’s surprise and delight another friend was with her, Paddy, who she hadn’t seen for a very long time.
Paddy and Georgie were sitting at a table in the main café part of the museum – it was all open plan so visitors were walking all around; they had got a chair for her and it was facing them, and facing the window looking out into the little courtyard. In a way, Blaine was glad she had her back to the counter, and to the museum desk and little shop.
Blaine was so pleased to be with her two old friends and they chatted and laughed, and caught up with each other’s news, and with the latest on families and other friends. There were tables on either side of them, rather close in fact, but it didn’t matter, there was nothing private or confidential in what they were saying.
“I say young man,” said a rather sever looking woman on the ext table, her glasses perched on the end of her nose.
Someone came and stood beside Blaine to talk to the woman who was complaining about her coffee being too strong, and it was Darius.
He talked about the coffee, served from the café and took her cup away to get her tea instead.
“let’s go and look at the rope-making exhibition!” exclaimed Blaine and jumped up and got he coat and bag.
Her friends had finished their drinks and were ready to move to the upstairs gallery where ropes, rope makers and rope making were on display, and feeling embarrassed herself, Blaine hurried across the stairs before Darius could return with the tea.

I have used The Easthope and Area Local History Museum as a setting for my truly fictional story about Malcolm the curator – he really is an invention!

Malcolm’s room

It was the last part of the writing course I’ve been on yesterday; it has been so useful to meet other writers and talk and exchange ideas, and to be prompted to write differently.

Earlier on, maybe in week one, I write something about David, who shared a house with other people; opposite his room was Malcolm’s room, but he’d never had much to do with him until one evening Malcolm asked for help moving a piece of furniture. Yesterday it was suggested we write about a view from a window,and for some reason Malcolm and David came back into my mind:

Malcolm’s room was the same as mine except the other way round and also his window didn’t look out over the garden, it was on the side of the house and faced the wall of the house next door – just the blank brick wall. It was evening and his light was on but it must be a very dark room during the day… and boring, staring out at the dreary yellow Castair bricks.
It was actually really strange  to just be staring at… bricks! And dingy and depressing bricks! Together with his empty room it was a bit peculiar.
Poor guy, to have ended up in this room of all those in the house. I wanted to ask him why he hadn’t moved into my room when it was empty before I moved in.

This might actually develop into a story… but where it will go, I have no idea! I think David becomes fascinated by Malcolm who works as a curator in the Local History Museum in the old umbrella factory… Maybe it will mesh in with the true story I wrote earlier, where I disguised he real people and places by setting it in my imaginary museum!

A dazzling smile

This a true story which I heard from someone I know very well; I have changed all the details and concealed and changed the identities and locations of all; only the actual story line is as it was. I have called the main character Blaine, who, if you have read it, you might remember was the sister of someone in my novel ‘Farhom’. I’m imagining that Blaine is the person in my true story

The Easthope and Area Local History Museum was located in what had been the old umbrella factory; part of the building housed the museum, and was attached to community areas, a café, meeting rooms, and storage for all the items not on display. There was a suite of rooms housing records and archives, which anyone and any group could access – completing all the correct paperwork and through the proper channels of course! Another part of the building was undergoing development as a town art gallery, but funding was slow in coming through so the completion date was repeatedly delayed. There was also a proposal that the library should move from its cramped Victorian building at the other end of town and be accommodated at the other end; this would allow for all the modern facilities libraries now accommodated such as computers.

Blaine had first come to the museum when it opened with her husband Tom; he was very interested in rope making and knots for some reason, and the first exhibition had been about the local fishing industry over the last couple of hundred years. Because it was a special event in the ‘new’ museum, there were refreshments, and talks, and competitions and activities for children. Tom had wandered off and Blaine for some reason stopped to listen to a brief talk about bricks; the main brick producing area had been the local big town of Castair, but Easthope had also had brick kilns.

Blaine found that she was more interested in the man giving the talk than the bricks he was talking about. he was a lot younger than her, maybe fortyish, but she thought he was stunningly good-looking. Someone spoke her name and touched her arm and it was her friend, Penelope.

“Surely you’re not interested in bricks?” Penny whispered.

“No,” Blaine whispered back, “But I’m enjoying the view!” Penny looked mystified. “The guy who’s talking!”

The brief talk finished and the two women wandered away looking for their husbands. Blaine would have stopped to ask pointless questions about bricks just to chat to the handsome curator but it seemed silly. Penny hadn’t even noticed him, and when Blaine pointed to him, now moving chairs about for another longer talk in another area, Penny seemed perplexed at her interest; he looked quite ordinary to her.

After that, Blaine visited the museum as often as she could without it being ridiculous, and felt silly and school-girlish in her secret crush on the man who worked there. He was married, she learned somehow, married to the deputy of the local junior school where many, many years ago, Blaine’s two daughters had gone. He had three children, quite young, and his name was Darius.

Blaine’s book club started to meet in one of the alcoves of the museum café – the museum encouraged groups to come and use their space. Sometimes Darius would be working, but often not; Penny had once made some comment about him to the others, calling him Blaine’s ‘eye-candy’ – a term which she hated, and which made her feel ridiculous.

One afternoon, having spent all morning decorating the lounge, Blaine went out for a walk and fresh air. it began to rain and the nearest place was the museum so she hurried over and went to have a coffee and a piece of the café’s renowned lemon drizzle cake.

It was very busy, but she sat, a book on her table, reading as she always did when she was somewhere alone. A couple came, shared her table, then left, but it was still raining and Blaine didn’t fancy going back to the decorating.

She sensed someone near her, and there, clearing the coffee cups from her table was Darius.

“Hi!” she said, spontaneously.

He greeted her and grinned, a dazzling smile…

If you haven’t read Farholm, here is a link: