Please Help

I promise to write a proper blog post very, very soon, but in the meanwhile could you wonderful readers please help me? I created a small trailer for one of my books a while back and it’s in competition for the international trailer festival.

I need a good few votes to push it up the rankings:

 

http://bit.ly/19xBVXa

 

I will happily return favours, where possible and legal, to anyone who helps:)

 

Thank you in advance and have a good, safe Christmas!

Mind melt

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to lose my job. I experienced many thoughts and emotions as  reult of this but one of the outstanding ones was “woo-hoo, I can now concentrate on my writing”. This was, predictably, not to be.

Although I managed to get some short stories written and a number of novels started, I didn’t actually complete very much. I can put this down to two core reasons: one would be that I had no real concept of time and therefore had no deadline by which to complete my work, nothing was pressing and so I had no driver.

Secondly, of the short stories I did complete and went on to submit to websites, I had perhaps not the reaction I’d wanted (although I’m not sure exactly what I did actually expect).

There’s the over-optimistic vision of having agents bang down your day on finding your work online, which is not going to happen… there is hope that you will write something submit it, and wake up the next day in a life of brian style scenario where people shout your name and beg you for further words of wisdom. This is equally deluded but still it would be quite nice to find happening. Finally, there’s the long slow potboiler in which you become some sort of Sugarman character where you are actually unaware of your growing popularity and then people hunt you down for a documentary that tries to find out who this dark, shadowy, revolutionary figure is.

None of these things happened. I did, however, foolishly pay an amount of money to a (apparently established and respected) website to get my work published, only for it to be rejected. I should have paid attention to my own advice of never paying reviewers, agents, publishers and so on. Additionally, where I was published, the reviews only seemed to be provided by other authors and therefore seemed to smile through their words with knives behind their backs. A horrid experience.

My Twitter followers have remained quite static in number, and the only extra followers seem to be other authors intent on advertising their latest efforts to me: another author! The point being what exactly? Surely they should be hunting down bookclubs and reading groups? Coca Cola, to my knowledge, don’t go to Pepsico every week and try to get vending machines installed, the same logic can be applied here. Very, very bizarre thinking.

I will continue working on books soon, and I can’t pretend I haven’t learned anything these past months, but my intention was to write something more optimistic and forward thinking rather than the cynical tomes that are currently sitting in my head waiting to see daylight, or moonlight.

The Dead Famous pt 2 seems more likely than ever, but I had hoped to tell my cat story first. Oh, well, c’est la guerre.

Trillers (Part 2)

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Josiah Neuwirth looked out over his land. It had been another good day and the harvest this year would be sure to see his family through the winter. The previous year had seen tremendous snowfall, Josiah and his wife May had lost the youngest of their four children to hunger and prayed that God would stay his hand with the other three this year.
The sun began to set, Josiah heard May calling him to eat and he started off down the hill to the farmhouse. As he made his first steps he was stopped in his tracks. In the distant woods struck a clear blue line of lightning.

If a fire started in the woods it might spread to the crops, he quickly got some water from the rain barrel, grabbed a sack to beat the ground with, and ran off into the woods.

Upon his arrival, there was no fire, in fact no sign that a lightning strike had happened at all. He smelt no smoke on the air and, scratching his head in confusion, turned back to the house and was stopped there. In front of him stood a bizarre looking man, smiling. His clothes were not known to him, his skin was clean, perhaps a foreign dignitary? He had no time to consider more. The man stopped smiling, stepped towards Josiah and calmly stuck a knife into his throat.

Gurgling on the blood, Josiah fell to his knees as the stranger stabbed him again, and again, and again. Calmly, the man wiped the blade on a pocket handkerchief, put it into a side bag, and walked off into the woods, leaving Josiah’s body to be discovered by his wife a few hours later.

The town gathered together in the square and Josiah’s body was carried into a nearby house for examination by a representative of the Governor’s office. It was the first violent death in the town since the French and Indian War and the event was sketched for the local records. It was this image that was seen, almost four hundred years later, by the researchers at TEID.
The picture was not exceptional but for one thing: in among the crowd stood a man quite unlike the others. There, clearly with mid-22nd century attire, was Gerald Key.

Gerald was known to the authorities as a killer with a long and seemingly random history of attacks and slayings and then, all of a sudden, he wasn’t. Gerald had always hated his parents and, after bouncing around through time killing as randomly as he ever had, he then took his final trip to kill them when they had first met when young.  He pointed a gun towards them as they kissed, both were instantly killed and, just as quickly, Gerald disappeared. He would never exist, his crimes would never be know as they had never happened. It was the perfect crime.

Only luck and chance ensured that the machines still existed, and the time machines flew in and out of the past causing havoc, appearing to farmers in the midwest of the 1940’s who now reported seeing UFO’s. The spinning arrival of the machines lead to massive unexplained circles appearing in crops all over the globe, but this was the least of the problems, the biggest problem lay in the people that would follow in Gerald’s wake, despite their never having known about him. They were the Trillers.

Picture by Christian Meyn

Trillers (Part 1)

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By the mid-22nd century, time travel had become a mundane and everyday reality. When the phenomenon had first been introduced to the mass consciousness due to a theft of documents by a government employee, massive steps had been proposed to limit the possibly detrimental effects of what would likely become a hugely popular social pastime. An international committee, after much deliberation and the investment of a great deal of working hours and taxpayers money, eventually decided on three rules of time travel:

1) Do nothing to affect the social development of the people of the time
2) Do nothing to deliberately invoke a change to events in the future, particularly for perceived personal gain
3) Behave with no emotion as emotion breeds emotion in others and so can affect events

As soon as the committee announced these rules to an eagerly listening world, researchers at TEID (Time Effect Investigation Department, a team set up to monitor the behaviour of it’s citizens by researching past documents) began to find that the rules weren’t perhaps as effective as they had hoped. Time travelling citizens trying to behave without emotion were being viewed with high suspicion in Nazi Germany, the witch hunting eras of the late 17th century and the vampire fearing villages of mediaeval Slavic Europe. All of these unfortunate souls were being summarily tortured, executed, and were failing to return home from their trips.
They also found it impossible to not affect social development as travellers ended up in the bars and public houses of times throughout history, invariably became drunk and opinionated, and ended up either instigating or, in some exceptional cases, getting a little carried away and leading entire revolutionary movements.

Lastly, it was quickly realised that it was impossible to not have an affect on future events as a whole anyway as the person’s mere arrival and subsequent existence in the past occupied space and therefore had instigated a change by just moving the air particles, anything over and above that would cause a more obvious chain reaction (such as stopping traffic at a road crossing or feeding an animal) and so it was deemed impossible to enforce any of the laws they had worked so tirelessly to create.
At this point a press conference was set up to announce this failure, one journalist pointed out the impossibility of enforcing such laws due to the nature of time travel anyway and, after a lot of silence and shoe gazing, the scientists and international representatives decided to disband and research something that could be controlled instead, with no doubt at all, such as wormhole leaping.

Despite the best efforts of authorities to restrict the sale of time travel machines, a huge black market was predicted, then materialised, and then once one particuarly entrepreneurial individual, Jiff Beaner, had gone three hundred years into the future and bought not only all the books on the history of time travel so as to learn all the industrial lessons of his competitiors to come, but also returning in a much bigger time machine with (after a few trips) parts enough for a time machine manufacturing unit from the future as well, mass production kicked into play and the time machine was now in 63% of all households by the end of the first manufacturing year alone. Naturally, Jiff was soon outdone by another who carried out exactly the same plan as Jiff had and outdid him overnight. Not only did the competitor have all of Jiff’s ideas for the next three hundred years but he also had a manufacturing unit three hundred years newer. Then someone outdid that man, and so it went on ad taedium.

Time Travel became a standard leisure activity, people beamed from here to there, and the world continued (as far as they knew) the same as it always had.

Then, not long afterwards, a researcher at TEID came across something that would change the public’s perspective of time travel completely. It was a man called Gerald Keys, he had travelled to 18th century colonial America, and there for no reason yet apparent, he had killed sombeody.

Photo by usamedeniz

Stone’s Flow

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A short story I wrote this morning:

Out from the mists that surrounded Stone’s Flow rode eight horsemen. At their head was a recruiting sergeant. He called for all men of age to step forwards and to fight for the South. John Blenny was 17 and, with his mother, Hannah, gripping at his arm, he stayed back as he watched his friends and kin gradually step forward over the hours, fetching what belongings they could take, kissed their loved ones goodbye and headed off to fulfill their duty.
As they followed the horses out of the village, the mists swirled and embraced the men one by one, until only a wall of twisting grey remained. The village had been struck by a pox only a year before, brought by a visiting cousin, the children quickly became feverous and, one by one, perished along with some of the menfolk. Two miscarriages had ensured this generation was not to continue and many feared for the future of the settlement. Now the remaining men were being taken away, a final nail in the coffin, it seemed.

The mists stilled. A silence descended on the village, what was there to be said? One by one the womenfolk went back to their homes and duties. John stared out towards the woodland, felt again the tug of his mother’s hand, and went back to the house. The work would not do itself.

Evelyn had known John for always. Everyone in the village of Stone’s Flow knew each other, but Evelyn knew John especially. She had watched him when they played as children, his hair curling up over his collar. She had watched when he first went into the fields with his father and had slipped in the dirt while trying to push the plough. She had watched as he stood by his father’s graveside, the preacher casting handfuls of dirt onto the coffin and John had shed only a single tear. She had watched as he turned into the house instead of going away to fight, and she had been able to breathe again, knowing that for now at least, he would be safe.

Not long afterwards, Hannah was struck by a fever and, despite John’s best efforts, she passed and was buried in the churchyard alongside her husband. Evelyn had stopped by to help with the house during these hard times and, as youngsters do, John and Evelyn grew affectionate for each other. They would have chosen a better time to be together, but decided to see it as a gift from God and were married soon afterwards on John’s eighteenth birthday.

They moved into Evelyn’s house as it had better stabling and decided to sell John’s childhood home as soon as the war was over.
John worked the fields with his horse Firefly while Evelyn kept the house, they had simple needs and wanted for nothing. Each morning Evelyn brought John food and, as she walked away, he never tired of watching her golden hair catch the sunlight, or of her loving look as she smiled over her shoulder at him.

The war, however, still thirsted for more soldiers and, soon enough, now that John was of age he was called up to fight in his local regiment. He gathered what belongings he could, kissed Evelyn goodbye and swore he would return to her, no matter what might pass.

Evelyn stared emotionless as he walked off into the mists, and was gone.

The weeks following were hard. She knew nothing of the fields and, with no men about, the village slowly began to fall into disrepair, but the womenfolk got by.They looked out for each other and nobody wanted for food or warmth. They even set aside enough to have a harvest festival and danced and, for a short while at least, forgot the tragedies that had befallen them.

The next morning, things changed.

A rumbling could be heard from across the hills, a murmur at first, but then loud enough to awaken the villagers and to know that something was coming and, without speaking a word to each other, somehow all new that a testing time was headed their way.
Panic gripped the animals of the village, Firefly particularly kicked and started within his stable, breaking free of the ropes that bound him and smashing threw the doors, he ran out and bolted into the woods away from the sound.
The mists swirled, and in rode a score of battle worn and bloodied union soldiers on horseback. Their uniforms were muddied and their faces wore the emotional badges that only warfare can award. Their eyes had the humanity taken from them, and they would give no pity nor charity to any who crossed their path.
“Sergeant, secure the church and find stabling. Corporal McLellan, fetch supplies from the stores, the rest of you make camp in the churchyard, we’ll stay here and move on in the morning.” The Captain moved slowly and deliberately forwards, he eyed the women as they rushed out to see what was unravelling before them, he saw Evelyn particularly. Her hair caught the early morning sun, her face, although a little swollen from the night’s air, still showed her natural beauty and he noticed, as men of his type were wont to, her figure beneath her night gown, flowing downwards but out over her womanly hips.
He had been among the filth of the battlefield, the ground had run with the blood of his men and the previous years had sapped away any elements of humanity that he might once have had. He could no longer be called a man and cared nothing for other people’s wishes. He was going to take her, no matter what.

As the villagers tried to carry out their normal daily work, the men raided the stores to their own satisfaction, taking all the liquor that had been stored away for Christmas and packing their horses with ammunition and dried goods. They had no intention of recompensing the locals for their losses, and no-one was to ask them for anything as any communication might have brought danger to them all.
It turned out that their caution would only delay, not stay, the inevitable actions of their visitors. As the liquor slowly drained away, so did the men get louder, rowdier, more volatile and unpredictable in their actions. They kicked at the women rushing to their homes from the cattle sheds and laughed as Evelyn, carrying what piglets she could to her home for safekeeping, slipped in the mud and fell to her face to the squeals of the piglets and the drunken soldiers. The captain sat in the churchyard by his tent, bottle in hand, and said nothing. He just stared.

All went to their houses and battered down their hatches in a token attempt to keep themselves safe from danger, but as one o clock in the morning passed, these minor defences would prove their worthlessness. Evelyn was awoken by a shrieking on the far side of the village, and then another in her neighbour’s parlour, continuing to the street. Panic.
She had no time to consider where her rifle might be, the door blew open with a smash and the Captain marched in, bottle in hand, and dragged her off to his tent, and her fate.

Morning. The sun rose and shone threw the mists piercing at any gaps like a probing sword. The soldiers had left before first light. Doors lay open, some off their top hinges. The street was strewn with ripped clothes, drag marks in the mud, broken bottles, traces of blood. Silence hung in the air

There was no point in discussing what had happened, the women walked, broken and drained, back to their homes. Their eyes were soulless, their bodies broken, their spirits crushed and cast aside. This was what war had brought to them.

Village life is regular with a predictable monotony, and this is exactly the routine that the women of Stone’s Flow fell back into. There was no need for meetings, no need to reach out to the world, it would do no good, and who would listen? The world apparently had troubles of it’s own. The war continued, but no news of it reached the village. Their lives descended into the grey.

Two years would go by before the mists would part again, a wanderer returned. Out of the woods walked John, now twenty years old, not just a man but a man of the world. He had fought through as best he could, one bullet had taken his cap and another passed through his shoulder but a slap of the iron by a quick thinking field surgeon had cauterized the wound and no infection had taken root. His company had been decimated and, although he had to return to the front within the week, he looked forward to sleeping in his own bed again, washing his body with fresh water from the stream, holding Evelyn, if only for a short while.

The village was silent, the women peaked cautiously at John through the shutters as he walked down the centre road. Although two years had passed, the broken bottles remained strewn about the place, the church door left open with no pastor to put things right. It was not the place he had grown up in, and loved, and gone away to protect. “Fight there so we don’t have to fight here”.

Evelyn stepped out of the house, John approached the porch and, without saying a word, he stepped inside, Evelyn followed. His kit hit the floor, his boots came off, and they both lay down on the bed, staring, and then sleeping.

The fields were in danger of falling fallow. A man’s work continues, and duty is duty.

The plough had not seen work these past years and was in danger of falling into uselessness. A sharpening stone and some hard work, and the plough was back to a good state.

The morning was crisp and fresh, but not so cold that a man could pretend that a field would not need working. But there were no horses, not even cows to pull the weight. John called, and again, and then a whistle. Slowly, Firefly cautiously stepped out of the woods. A second whistle and, pricking up his ears, Firefly ran with abandon to John, letting him groom him with his hands.

He had survived, somehow, but was wasted and his ribs and hips were visible. This pained John but work had to be done, he fed Firefly with what grain he could find and, after a drink from the stream, put him to work in the field. The straps around his head had rotted with damp and had to be replaced with what rope John could find, it would hurt the horse if he used it for too long, but with good breaks from time to time, he felt it would have to do. By now the womenfolk had gathered in number and watched as John went up and down the field until Firefly frothed at the mouth with exhaustion, it would be enough for this one day. Evelyn watched as John led him to the stable, she was sorry that she hadn’t looked after him properly in those early days, but was glad that all had worked out for the better. Firefly would be ok and, more importantly, so was John.

On the third day of field work, there was movement in the village. Union soldiers had returned and the womenfolk were nowhere to be seen. As the Unionists went from house to house searching for provisions, John quietly loosened Firefly’s harnessing and sent him into the woods. There was a rifle at Evelyn’s but he was out in the open. The only way to it was through the mists and round the village, arriving there at night while the soldiers might be asleep.

Twenty men had ridden into Stone’s Flow those years before, now only eight remained, apparently having deserted these past years and survived on the spoils of their deeds.

Night fell, and John stole his way into Evelyn’s house. There she was, silent and watching, as John found the rifle, loaded it, and with extra ammunition crept out into the night.

The first soldier, a drunken sentry, fell to John’s knife. A second to a rifle shot which alerted the others to his presence. They swiftly gathered and headed towards the sound of the firing. John went back towards Evelyn, and waited. No lights inside gave away his presence and an open side window gave him a clear sight of all the men as they slowly, foolishly, made their way in a line towards him. Unexpectedly, they stopped.

The women looked on, Evelyn waited, John, cocked his rifle.

“I don’t know who you are” shouted the captain, “but if you come out now we’ll kill you nice and quickly, if you don’t come out…”

A bead of sweat ran down John’s forehead, he wiped it from his eyes and steadied his now shaking aim.

“If you don’t come out, well’ we’ll just burn you out and then kill you anyway, just like we did to the womenfolk here last time. You hear me? What’s it gonna be?”

John paused, Evelyn had been everything to him.Two years of fighting had told him that conversation meant death, he fired a bullet straight through the Captains forehead. His men’s horses jolted as John fired again and again, reloading, and then heading out of the building and taking good aim at the now fleeing Unionists. One by one he picked them off, one by one their blood ran into the mud of Stone’s Flow.

The next morning, John dragged the soldiers’ corpses to the churchyard. There, inside the church, he founded the piled corpses of the women. Long dead, but bloodstains on their dresses and undergarments were still distinct. Rings on their fingers had been ripped away, some fingers removed where they would not give easily. In the middle of the pile was a mop of matted but still golden hair, there lay Evelyn.

John had heard of the icy steel of the bayonet, how it felt to those who had survived it, he remembered how the bolt of the bullet hitting his shoulder had felt. He had felt the shockwaves of exploding cannonballs. All this was nothing to the wave of coldness, utter grief, it sucked all energy from him and he fell to his knees, crying so hard that no sound came out. He put Evelyn’s hair to his cheek and sobbed a stream, a river, a torrent, until he passed to sleep from being drained so hard.
The next morning, John dug a pit and threw in the soldiers’ bodies. Throughout the day, he dug graves, shallow as they were, for each of the women and erected a cross for each. He dowsed the soldiers in the remaining liquor and cast a match on them.
Lastly, he carried out his Evelyn, sweet Evelyn. He laid her in a sheet, kissed her good night, and wrapped her bound. As he slowly shoveled the earth onto her corpse, a single tear ran down his cheek, he swept it aside, and rammed home a cross to her pathetic grave.

Out of the mist stepped Firefly, somehow he had sensed that John now needed him again, and John, stroking Firefly’s nose and taking the rope harnessing from his head, climbed up to ride into the mists, rope in hand. The grey wall enveloped them as the bodies burned behind them.

Evelyn stood waiting, John walked out of the mist and they rushed to each other’s arms. The women looked on as the young lovers held hands and walked into the house, together away from the dangers.

John was home at last.

Making the book into a short film

I had an idea, after making a book trailer, that I should develop the trailer into a short film in order to promote the book story a bit more but also just to have a good time spent with friends while making it.

Having no idea whatsoever how to make a short film, I started out by watching a few on youtube to see how the story structure differed from full length films, how they looked (of course that varied from picture to picture) and then what sort of reaction tehy’d had from the comments posted by viewers.

I then went about writing the screenplay, albeit an adapted one to suit the length of the film which I judged to be around ten minutes long, once compelted, so as to ensure I put over the bulk of the idea behind the story without revealing everything but also without boring the viewers to death.

I already had a camera but it wasn’t good enough for what I wanted to achieve. It was a canon 450d which has no filming capability unless attached to a computer with specific software. This proved a bit of a pain when filiming my original book trailer so bought a 650d to replace it and also invested in a basic LED light, a tripod, and two lenses to improve the look of the film.

The thing is, when you’re learning as you go along, you’re going to make mistakes and just do what you can to make thing look as fluid and clean as possible in look. This included props and locations.

The book itself is based in a newspaper office so I was lucky enough to get permission to film at an accountancy firm in Helsinki (where I live). To make it look as much like a newspaper office as possible, I made some mock up papers and printed them out (I used this site, it’s really easy to use: https://arthr.newspaperclub.com/#).
I also made some fake memo’s to leave around the desks and planned to film as late in teh day as possible so it looked like it was early in the morning.
Another scene was to be filmed on the metro so I obtained filming permission from the city for this, I also got permission to film in a bar for a party scene and planned to mock up my own apartment as a mortuary for another.

All in all it’s been hard work and taken time but I hope the end product will be worth it. At the beginning of September I’m going to the US on holiday and will take loads of hard copies of my book and also plan to take a number of USB sticks holding a copy of the short film, the book trailer, a txt and doc copy of my book, plus a small promotional cv of who I am and what I’m hoping for.

I have absoltuely no idea if any of this will pay off, but if you don’t try, you don’t and will never know if you could have done.
I’ve kept my budget incredibly low, if anyone needs advice on how I did this, feel free to ask :)

Here goes nothing, yikes!

Free book – The Dead Famous: Chapter 1

At the moment this blog finds me in the middle of pre-production on a short film version of my book, so in the meanwhile I’m going to start posting the book here, chapter by chapter. I hope it brings at least some of you some reading pleasure :)

Chapter 1

It’s Friday, it’s five to five and it’s Crackerjack!”

I suppose I knew, from the very first camera I held, that my calling in life had been found. Although my path to photographic success was sometimes blocked by idiots intent on my downfall, I managed to strive through with my sanity thankfully intact and my goals largely achieved. Which is more than I can say for the idiots.

Destiny deemed my future to be in journalism, specialising in the reported stories of actors and film-folk in general. Their world appeared to be solely of glamour and riches. Unlike those great people, however, I was not born into a rich family myself.

Our name of Montague was a moniker that had become associated with adventure and great landowners over the years due to the efforts of the more dramatic offshoots of the family. The Montagues had fought battles alongside Kings, ventured overseas to cross great lands in the name of trade and empire. Geoffrey Montague, my father, had descended twelve generations ago from Robert Montague. While the rest of his brothers were sturdy warrior types, Robert had been a weak and ineffectual addition to the family who had not entered the clergy as so many of the younger siblings did in those times. Not being deemed fit to join the exploits abroad with his brothers, he decided to put all of his inherited money into a type of seed drill which did nothing to move the agricultural development of England forwards and simply failed tremendously along with Robert’s heart just six months later, leaving behind an only son to continue his line.

Yes, the name brought with it none of the expected associations, and centuries passed so that we were as detached from the line as you can imagine, and it therefore meant little to me other than when signing cheques or knowing if letters had been delivered to the correct desk when working.

The impression is given from the result of this unfortunate history that we were perhaps poor, which is not particularly the truth. My family lived comfortably enough and wanted for very little. Our home was a large terraced house in a leafy suburb of North London, our neighbours house to one side had been burned out in a mystery fire and the owners had never been successfully traced so it stood and remained a sorry looking scorched husk, unsold and unloved. The house to the other side was owned by a local businessman who had made good with his life and moved to sunnier climes, apparently in such haste that he had quite forgotten to sell or even board up his property and so that also was left abandoned. Thankfully it never caught the eyes of opportunistic squatters and after a while even the postman stopped making deliveries there, so we appreciated the relative peace this lack of neighbours brought us.

I wanted for nothing as a child. My mother, Katherine, was doting and my father supportive. I can’t say if being an only child affected the way that they treated me, nor if there would have been more or even less love had been more children in the family, as I had no way of comparing my situation I had no point of reference and therefore never missed any alternative life. You can’t miss what you don’t know.

Life passed me by uneventfully, there are no Tom Brown style stories from my time at school, there were no eccentric aunts constantly visiting us and there were no local children for me to go off on wild boyhood adventures with. I enjoyed playing with my Cowboys and Indian toys as I watched the television serials and, every month or so as a treat, my parents would take me to the local Odeon cinema to watch a film, a time I always looked forward to and later treasured. The films were always full of glamour and, when filmed in Technicolor, revealed the world they moved in all the more to me. It was as far from our north London home as you could get.

Nothing really happened until perhaps my seventh year when my Mother, who had enjoyed apparently good health until then, became suddenly ill and died, all within a matter of a few weeks.

A problem exists when you’re young, it seems that there are so many things to learn around and about you of a physical nature, that you tend to have the more emotional or intangible parts of life just pass you by. It’s possible to arrive at a workplace when in your adult life, and notice that a colleague is having what is often described as a bad day, or that your lover or partner is “under the weather”, but this does not apply to children, they only know that they are being ignored and so are unintentionally selfish. So, even though I state that my Mother had died within a matter of weeks, what I should say is that within these few weeks I felt my life disrupted and my Mother was present in my life a lot less.

My Father would often be running around with bags packed for overnight hospital stays and our previously quiet household now became thrown into a comparative chaos. I did not know why, or how it had happened. There was no time for explanation and, in the days after her death, very few words came from my father who quietly dressed me and sent me off to school, or simply disappeared to cry behind closed doors while I tried my best to continue playing in the hallway outside.

As time passed by, I spent more and more time alone with the television and all the stars on it’s warm, glowing screen as my babysitter while my father made all the necessary arrangements for the funeral.

A week went by and what I could only view as chaos once again entered our home. My Mother’s family had been Irish Catholic and insisted on all the traditions of a funeral as they saw it. Our sitting room was turned into an exhibition area for my Mother and her coffin, the family milling around pretending to pay what they thought were respects as my father rushed from person to person filling glasses while they commented on our house although they had never, as far as I could recall, visited before.

At one point my father lifted me up to see my Mother lying in state, naturally quite still and wearing clothes I hadn’t seen her wear before. The thought occurred to me that they’d perhaps switched her with a doppelganger and that my Mother was elsewhere avoiding the raucous cacophony of this rabble. Oh, how I envied her.

The coffin itself was just like in the cowboy adventure serials I had been watching, with half the lid laid closed and the other half open to display her to the room, appearing to me just like the saloon bar doors I’d seen, it all seemed so bizarre.

As my Father lifted me down to the floor again, an apparently drunk uncle interrupted the moment. We’d never had alcohol in the house as both my parents were teetotal, but our extended family always liked a drink (or so I’d heard) and so my Father had felt inclined to make them welcome by obtaining a stock of various liquors, beers and wines for the leering herd, something he now found himself beginning to regret.

The Uncle, with one hand on the coffin for support, drunkenly slurred a few poorly chosen words of pity and condolences into my Father’s ear, but as he did so he lost his balance completely, falling to the floor and dragging the coffin with it. My Mother’s corpse fell to the ground. Whatever had been blocking up her nose for appearance’s sake suddenly popped out like champagne corks, followed by a slow glut of thick, black liquid, oozing onto our until recently very clean carpet.

My Mother had been a calm and graceful lady in life, and as people gathered her corpse back into the coffin, I knew that not only was this not my Mother, but also that respect or fear of death existed neither here in the house nor in the minds or eyes of the onlookers to this ghastly affair.

As people may find understandable, the death of my Mother hit my father quite terribly and, although he had never been the most energetic of people in my eyes, he never seemed to recapture what little vibrancy his character had previously enjoyed after the events previously described. Life drifted into a monotony of making sure I was ready for school, fed when necessary, and then ready for bed at night. Weekends passed with little excitement, mainly concentrating around household chores or the necessities of everyday existence such as fetching groceries or cleaning certain stubborn stains out of carpets.

The death of his own mother not more than two years later strangely seemed to return him back to a more alert existence, with him apparently enjoying life that little more. Part of this newfound energy was directed towards myself and the few interests I had; noting my fascination with the television set, he obtained tickets for us to view a filming of the then well known BBC children’s entertainment show Crackerjack.

The programme, presented at that time by one Eamonn Andrews (a friendly appearing gentlemen, well suited as all television presenters were, and with an endearing Dublin accent) involved pitting a number of school children, fully uniformed, against each other in a series of increasingly inane challenges mixed alongside what were considered to be questions of general knowledge. At the end of the programme the lucky contestants had the chance to return back to school with a much-coveted Crackerjack pencil. I heard many years later that there was a minor black market among TV staff in the trade of these pencils and so, to stifle this market, the pencils were placed under strict lock and key, only to be given to those deemed worthy on the show itself and to absolutely nobody else, not even the presenter.

Yes, the whole show was, with hindsight, lowbrow, patronising and pointless. I never missed an episode and I really wanted that pencil.

Before we left for the broadcast, while busying myself with getting dressed when my father called me downstairs to see something he’d picked up that day. With a smile on his face that I’d not seen for a long time, he handed me a box. On opening it, I found inside a shiny new camera. It had been a good amount of time since I’d received any sort of present, never mind one to this level. Absolutely overjoyed I pawed over it with eager hands as my father explained as best he could how it worked, although I was far too absorbed with the moment to take in his advice.

I insisted on taking it to the BBC studios with us in my school satchel and once inside we were treated to what I thought was an amazing spectacle of entertainment. Not only could one experience the cheering audience, the cameras at work, the lights, experience the songs, but best of all, I could see the presenter Eamonn Andrews himself in the flesh. At last, the line I had perceived between myself and the reality of these people had gone. They weren’t just flickering images on a muffled television, they were breathing and living, and it was all there for me. I knew it was something I had to somehow be part of and surround myself with, although I couldn’t at that time possibly perceive how or under what circumstances that might occur, as later developing years would reveal to me.

Once filming had completed and we were politely yet forcefully asked to leave the studio, I overheard a family discussing the whereabouts of the stage exit and their plans to seemingly ambush Mr. Andrews for an autograph on his exiting the studio complex. I tugged at my father’s jacket and begged for him to let me wait as well and, camera in hand, we found our way towards the stage door and waited patiently with one or two other families for it to open. After around an hour had passed and my father checking his watch with increasing impatience, he finally suggested to me that it was most likely that Mr. Andrews had either left via another exit or we had simply missed him, whatever had happened it didn’t change the fact that we had to catch our bus home before the services stopped.

Downhearted and tired, I took my father’s hand and walked with him to the bus stop. Presently, the bus arrived and we took our seats for the journey home. After only perhaps a minute or so of travelling, a very large car appeared to be blocking the road ahead. It’s bonnet lay open with a chauffeur tinkering around the steaming engine within. As we stopped to let traffic on the other side of the road pass us by, who should jump on board our bus but Mr. Andrews himself, apparently frustrated at his broken down vehicle and, like us, desperate to get home.

I was fixated in awe at this now all too real character and begged my father to bother him for a photograph. With hindsight I suppose he was tired after performing the show but agreed to my request and even took interest in my camera. He came across as such a pleasant gentleman I quite forgot, and now chose to disregard, any negatively cautious warnings about never meeting one’s heroes and now swore to meet as many as possible. I was sure that not only would they be as charming and gracious as Mr. Andrews now appeared to me but also that my hopes had been met and also exceeded.

He descended from the bus before us and I watched as he faded into the distance while the bus sped us home. I spent the rest of that journey gazing at my camera in satisfied bemusement with my father smiling contentedly at a job well done. Days after that eventful evening, I had been so desperate to see my photograph that I had busied myself in successfully filling the rest of the camera film with random shots of the house, the garden, some children playing outside my house in the street, anything to get it finished. My father had by now framed our tickets for Crackerjack and put them on display in the upstairs hall. Only a week later I had received back my new prints and the picture of Mr. Andrews now took pride of place framed upon my bedroom wall.

This was much better than any Crackerjack ticket or even a pencil. I was happy.

Ken Lukowiak

from warrior to worrier

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