My to read pile had been tall before but being in isolation had made the tower seem never ending which was just how I wanted it to be!
My to read pile had been tall before but being in isolation had made the tower seem never ending which was just how I wanted it to be!
It was a grim task but I had volunteered to help my family clear out a distant relation’s home. I hadn’t know Bill Dalton existed until a second cousin of my mum reached out and told her that his uncle had died and he knew my mum was an antique dealer. Did she want to come and do a house clearance?
Bill had been an organised hoarder so the task of going through things wasn’t that hard, just long.
Whilst my mum and her second cousin were inspecting a collection of figurine women dressed in 1800’s ballgowns, I decided to open a corner cupboard that had yet been touched.
The door creaked like it hadn’t been opened in awhile. Inside, stacked on the small shelves were pile and piles of notebooks. There was a range of leather, paper and hardback covers all looked well use and the lined sheets yellowing. The notebooks were all tied together string in small groups. It was a strange sight.
‘What’s all this?’ I called over my shoulder.
My mum and her second cousin came to look.
‘I don’t know….’ he trailed.
‘Pull one out,’ my mum said.
I pulled the smallest stack of notebooks out and undid the string around them. Picking up the top one which was like a hardback diary, I opened it.
‘It looks like a novel…’ I said.
I handed it to the second cousin then passed another one to my mum and gripped a third for myself. We read quietly for a few moments.
‘I didn’t know him well,’ the second cousin broke the silence , guilt and sadness in his voice.
‘It looks like this is a whole novel, handwritten and with corrections at the sides,’ my mum muttered.
‘Are all of these novels? Surely he didn’t write these, maybe he copied them or translated them or something?’ I said.
‘I don’t think they all are. Look at those, they say diary with the years.’ the second cousin pointed out.
I pulled out that stack, untied them and picked up the top one. He was right, it was a diary and each day page was carefully filled in.
‘Do you think there’s anything important in these?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know,’ the second cousin said, ‘do you think you could go through them and find out?’
‘I’ll try,’ I said.
All of the notebooks turned out to either be yearly diaries which Bill had recorded his life in, full novels which Bill himself had written, short stories, ideas and drawings, reflections on things and details of locations and characters.
There was a lot to go through but none of it was important paperwork. I didn’t want Bill’s life to fade and so with the family’s permission and years of work; I finally held one of Bill’s officially published novels in my hands.
I hope he is pleased.
Upon opening the book, she let out the waterfall of words that were trapped inside. They filled her head and took her on a journey through the pages. A part of her vanished into that world. She walked with the characters and listened to their conversations. Her thoughts judged them and her feelings rode the waves of emotions.
The plot carved its way, twisting this and that, giving up the secrets like a shipwreck. Soon, things waxed to climax then waned as the rush of words settled. The tided went fully out and the pages became empty before her.
The book was over but the characters would remain with her.
I didn’t explore the rest of the manor. Hungry and tiredness stalled me. I opened the tin labelled tomato soup. It seemed okay inside, so I put into a pan and close to the fire to warm.
Taking the workman’s boots off and placing them close by, I turned to check on King. He had decided to lay down and rest for a few minutes. He seemed content and warm enough.
I took off the sleeping bag, feeling warm enough from the fire just to be in my underwear. I stirred the soup with a spoon and tasted it. There was a slight metallic ting and it was still cold. Putting it closer into the fire, I picked up the empty tin and looked for used by date.
It was hard as the label had worn but then I picked out some numbers and it seemed the date was over six years ago. Pushing the tin away, I frowned at the red soup and decided if it was boiled then it would be fine. I needed to eat.
Sipping some of the water, I listened to the manor creaking in the storm. The sea could really be heard now, added by the gale force winds into the sides of the island. I couldn’t hear the rain it was too lost.
Listening to the manor move made me think about ghosts. I didn’t believe despite the stories I had heard. There was a woman in grey who was seen from one of the upstairs window. Was she Lady Elizabeth? There was also a baby heard crying – the infant son she had lost or another child? The sounds of someone walking around and wailing had also been heard.
I looked up at the ceiling as if a expecting a ghost to appear. Laughing in my head, I check on the soup then picked up one of the books. It was from the 1800’s, on science of a sort. It was hard to read and I didn’t understand it. I placed it down and picked up another one;
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Laughing out loud at the how weird this was, I opened the yellow pages and wondered how old was this book? I found the date; 1831. So, it was early but it didn’t mean anything else to me. I had never read it, just seen the movies. I had the time now. I flipped the pages and saw it was illustrated. The ink pictures were very detailed and dark.
It was hard reading but I got through three or four pages and then my soup was ready. I poured it into a bowl because the pan was too hot to eat out of. The soup was warming and there was still that taste of metal in the background but it was good enough to get the rest of the chill out me and settle my stomach.
When I had finished, I checked on King. I had nothing to give him and he had enough water. He was too quiet. Even in his stable he wasn’t like this but he’d been in shock and made cold by the sea water. Still though…
‘Are you feeling all right, King?’ I whispered to him.
He nuzzled into me, searching for an apple or carrot. I give him more snacks then he should have.
‘Sorry, I have nothing.’
He snorted and moved away, flickering his tail about. He searched around the floor, sniffing here and there. He took a drink of water then seemed to settle again.
I felt guilty I couldn’t take care of him any better. perhaps, I should have gotten some of the rotten hay from that stable at least then he would have had something. How much harm could that have done him though? Yes, it was wise not to.
Leaving him, I made a sort of nest on one of the chairs then stacked up the fire and got settled for sleep. I was surprisingly tried. The room was now hot, my stomach full and I was drained after the fall and roaming the manor.
Sleep came to me and I dreamt of strange things; of falling into the sea and finding the manor at the bottom. I was walking in the graveyard and there were baby and child coffins everywhere. Then I was trying to get out of the manor but it was like a maze and I couldn’t escape.
King woke me by pressing his nose into my face. I stirred and reached for him but he had stepped away. I sat up and saw the fire had gone out.
‘What time is it? I had weird dreams,’ I told King.
I drank some water and put the workmen’s boots on. Crossing the hall, I went outside and saw it was daytime. The sky still dark but the storm had passed. I hurried back in, dressed and put King’s tack on.
I took him outside and he was more then happy to start eating whatever greenery he could. Leaving him to it, I went down the driveway and got to the edge of the causeway. The sea was still covering the way. The waves chopping and churning over the rocks. I couldn’t tell if the tide was going out or not but I really hoped it was.
Remembering my phone, I hurried back inside and snatched it up. I tried turning it on but the screen stayed black. Sinking onto the armchair, I wondered what to do. Tears came to my eyes and wiped them away. Thoughts tumbled in my head and it wasn’t until my eyes forced on Frankenstein that I came back to my sense.
I gathered the book and the other five up. I placed them in the basket and took that outside then I went back in and got some fresh water for King and some for myself. I had found some empty glass jars in the kitchen and I used this to make bottles of water. Once again I search for food but found nothing.
I grab a sleeping bag and did think about open another tin but decided against it. We need to get off the island as soon as we could. Going outside again, I saw that King was happy with his breakfast, also the fresh air was perking him up. Setting the water jars into the basket, I looked at him in the daylight and saw that there was some tenderness to his legs which meant he had some cuts and bruises.
‘Well, you could have gotten off worse,’ I said to him, I’m going to keep an eye on the tide. Don’t wander off.’
Taking the basket, I went to the end of the driveway and looked for a good place to sit. I wasn’t worried about losing King as I was at the only way off the island. I zipped up the sleeping bag and placed that on the wet grass. I sat down on and watched the sea rocking back and forth. Then I pulled out Frankenstein and read some more.
The tide eventually went out. The Grey Causeway appearing from under the waves. The sky was clearing and the sun was out warming things up. I drank some water then put that and the book in the basket. I abandoned the sleeping bag and went to find King. He hadn’t wondered far.
I decided not to mount him but led him across the Causeway. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to risk him falling again but even if he did it was safer, I was worried about his legs. He seemed to be walking if a little slower and he’s quietness worried me. It was like all the wildness had been knocked out him and he had become meek and over tame.
The Grey Causeway was wet and slipping with large pools in every gap between in the rocks. I saw crabs and other creatures about and seaweed masking the rocks. I watched my step and made sure that the rein’s were loose and that King wasn’t walking too close behind me. My riding boots didn’t have a great grip on them and they weren’t made for rough walking.
I watched the sea lapping at the Causeway. The waves were topped with white and were dark blue, green underneath. I couldn’t see the bottom but at least it was still going out. I had to keep my eyes down and it seemed we were walking the Causeway forever. The basket was heavy in my hand and I put it up into the crook of my elbow or I switched hand with King’s reins.
For a few moments, I thought we were never going to leave the island but as I stopped to get my breath, I saw we had made a lot of distance from the manor and the beach was close now. This helped to push me on and I did pick up my pace as the tide had been out for longer the closer we got to the end.
At last, my feet and King’s hoofs hit the sand.
‘We made it back,’ I cried and rubbed King’s muzzle and head.
We stopped for a longer break. I drink some water and shared some with King. I sat in the damp sand and King stood beside me. I watched the sea and the distant island. Clouds were forming again and the sun was playing peek-a-boo. It was going to rain again.
‘Let’s go home,’ I said and got up.
Picking up the basket and leading King on again, we walked along the beach.
She had only read in books and seen in movies what a dystopia setting could be like but now she felt as if she was really living that experience.
Everywhere was closed, streets were empty and everyone was staying inside as the lock down directed them to do.
She looked out of her window at once busy roads and shops and couldn’t help but think how quiet it was as if anything had stopped.
I promised myself this year I wouldn’t buy anymore books. The bookcases and shelves were bowing under the weight of so many books, they wouldn’t take anymore. I had moved on to filling storage boxes and then to piling books on the floor by my bed, sofa and desk.
Most people held maps of how to get to places in their memories, I had a map of where each book was in my house instead. If there was one title I wanted to read, I was able to go to the room and shelf or box or bookcase it was in and after browsing through, locate it.
Most of the time, I took my next book from a current reading pile and moved through them that way. When I went out, the book came too and so I was never without one. There was something comforting about the weight of a book in your bag and also if you needed to wait you could read for a bit.
I had calculated I had enough new books and ones I wanted to re-read that I didn’t need to buy anymore books for a few years. So, I thought to try and read what I had and save the money I would have spent on something else. So began my new year resolution.
Within a month I had broken it. There were two books I wanted that I had missed the release of. I brought them and told myself to get back on track. Another two months later and I went to an art and craft fair. I meet an self-published writer who hadn’t sold a book all day. I felt bad and so brought his book and also another which had been on my list for awhile.
I told the writer of my book buying ban and thought it a hard task to do. I agreed and said this was the second time I had broken it now but I was determined to keep trying. I told myself if temptation came again I was to turn away.
It didn’t work! A few weeks later, I found another book I couldn’t live without and had to buy it. A new addition to my library and other world to escape into when I got around to it.
Why couldn’t I stick to my ban? Why did I have no self control? Why was I so addicted?
I pressed a book to my face and breathed in deeply, loving the ink stained pages and weight in my hands. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t stop, I needed more books.
Some books were normal and others where not. Those books took you to places you could never come back from.
It’s always strange waking up on the first of a new year. You think things will have changed but nothing has. I can imagine the number of people who woke up this morning and got on with their New Year resolutions.
Diets, give up smoking, stop drinking, save money, start a family, get a new job, whatever people choice to do. I didn’t pick anything. There was nothing I can think of that I want to achieve this year. I guess that makes me boring but no one has actually asked me so I haven’t had to make anything up.
I guess I would have said that I wanted to go on a diet and that one with the shakes I had seen on the TV the other day was what I was going to do.
Or maybe, I might have said that I wanted to take up a real difficult hobby like leather or metal working.
How long can you wait to decided what your resolution is going to be? How did it all come about anyway and why is there pressure to have one?
I don’t know. I guess I should just pick in case I’m asked. Someone at work is bound to want to know.
So, my 2020 resolution will be to give up buying books for the year.
That’s harsh and different but useful to me. I have a library of books to read and not buying any new ones will save some money that could be nice to use to go on holiday with.
People loved the sea and they loved coming to see it but most of them didn’t stay so only a few knew what it was like to live on the coastline during winter. And it wasn’t all just ‘look at how the sea is raging and how flooded the harbour is!’
It was a dangerous time of year and I having spent my whole life in a Cornwall fishing town knew it well. We had been flooded, power failures, cliffs had fallen to the sea, people had drowned in riptides or huge waves, boats had been dashed like rotten wood on rocks and the harbour warning bells were always ringing.
From my attic bedroom as I lay in my bed trying to sleep, I didn’t need to look out of the wind to see that a storm was beginning. I could hear the wind like the blades of a helicopter whipping everything it could pull up into a tornado. What sounded like a tree branch bumped along the roof then was gone.
The rain hammered on the slates like men breaking stones in the quarry a few miles away. The windows rattled, dripping and water stained. There was a knocking as hailstones joined in, the ice chips bouncing away as they hit.
The sea was making the most noise as if in competition with everything else. All that separated my house from the sea was a road and a wall. I could clearly hear the waves bashing the flood defences and trying to climb the wall.
Wondering if we would be flooded, I rolled over and tried to sleep again. It wasn’t the storm keeping me awake, I was use to the weather. It wasn’t the night light casting multi-coloured stars on to the ceiling and wall, that was meant to help. No, it was my phobia of the dark.
Nyctophobia, it was called. I was on a never ending cycle of things to try and help me or cure me. It came and went, some months were easier, sometimes of the week were better then other but winter was the hardest to get through. It was dark for most of the day and my mind was never at rest from the fear of what might be waiting in that darkness.
Giving up sleeping, I turned the light and read my book. It was strange but I loved horror stories and true horror things. I liked reading about the supernatural, ghosts were one of my favourite subjects – fact or fiction. Tonight, though I was reading about true witches starting from the earliest historical records to now-ish.
Of course, I realise how ironic this is because loving horror and being afraid of the dark don’t go together! Some people said that reading and watching horror themed things was the cause of my problems but there was more to it then that. It wasn’t that I believed the things in the horror books and films could be waiting in the darkness to grab me, it was more that in the dark you didn’t know what was truly there.
The dark made you think something was something else, objects had hidden depths, people looked different and sounds were also changed. I knew there were no real monsters out there, just humans who became like them. Perhaps, there were ghosts but I believed they weren’t like the fiction stories said.
I read and read, sometimes dozing off then reading back a paragraph until it grew light outside.
Free at last, I wrapped up warm and went outside, despite the storm. Everything lashed around me; the wind, the rain, the sea, it was like a surge of nature at war with just me.
I went to the wall and looked down. The sea was high, over the rock breakers and every wave was splashing over the wall top. It wouldn’t be long till sea water was pooling across the road.
Salt stung my eyes and water coated me. The wind buffeted me and I couldn’t stay long. I walked along stopping when a wave came over, not that getting wet by it would make me any drier!
My head cleared, my fears left and I felt easier. Not much was open in town partly due to it being Sunday, not tourist season and the storm. I passed a few cafes, an arcade and bingo hall, shops who’s shutters rattled like teeth. I went to the harbour and watched the boats riding the sea like a roller coaster.
Hi everyone, December is finally here and soon another year will be over!
Merry Christmas to you all and thank you for supporting my writing this year.
My goal for 2020 is to reach 1,000 followers.
I currently have over 700, so I know it’s achievable. Please help me by sharing my blog so I can reach as many new followers as possible. This achievement would make me so happy. Thank you for your help in advice.
On a side note; please don’t worry if some days are missing short stories. December of course is a busy month for everyone!
Also, I still have an eye infection from last month and I’m currently starting with a cold. I have a weak immune system and I’m on a immune suppressant medication. So some days, I’m just too ill to write, so please bear with me during those days.
I do have a few other goals for 2020 but only one of them is blog related; I want to launch a new blog about my long term health condition. I have put this off for years because it’s one of those ’embarrassing’ conditions and I’ve never been sure about how I feel about sharing things but I really want to do it as I think it’ll help myself and other people. I’ll be posting links when I launch it in the new year.
One of my other goals is not to buy any books and put that money and some more into saving for my wedding. – I buy books like other women buy clothes, shoes, handbags etc! I have a huge reading pile that will see me through 2020 if not 2021! So no more books for now. Going to be so hard but I need to save for my wedding and that’s super important.
I won’t bore you with the other goals and this post is too long all ready!
I hope you have a great December and continue to enjoy my stories.
Thanks again, Hayley .R. Hardman.
The little and large things making my life delicious!
Writing Fiction and Running Miles! That goes together, right?