Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Love Letter

It’s been a slow but steady falling-in-love: the best kind as each tryst reveals a little more—a happy debriding revealing the smoothest of fleshy detail, an elegant striptease.

This new love started years ago. Things that were dear to you when you were young lose their appeal when new horizons open up. Then you come full circle and you seek out the familiar and it shows itself to you with a hint here and a detail there.

This love sees inside my soul and exposes me—reveals my inner mechanisms and sets forth a chain reaction with a hint and a nudge to make me fully alive.

Love is a chemical reaction, it’s true. It’s biological, physical, sensual. The dark, damp scent of the basement takes me back to my grandparents’ house and the thrill of exploring the cellar and feeling the cool stone against my bare summer arms.


Forget the grand central staircase, it’s ascending the back stairs, the polished wood smell and the precariousness of the steep steps that transport me to schooldays in another grand house not so far from here.

You know what it’s like when you are in love: any little gesture, remark or observation magnifies and metamorphoses of its own accord into some grand symbol. On my first day back there was talk in the lift of a book of guidance for mankind, here, in this place, a world within a world, thousands of miles and hundreds of years from its origin. There can be no greater sign than this.

Explore further and there’s a whole other world beyond the house. This one goes on forever. Its magic is revealed in the quiet of a frosty morning or just the long, grey hush of winter. Many of its inhabitants are rare and retiring but so fired up on pheromones and hormones the place makes you, you feel them looking out for you alone from the branches of the trees, protective, and calling from miles away a welcome or a warning of trouble.

It’s on the cusp now of bursting into full springtime glory. The days may still be chilly, but the light is more generous, and green shoots are showing through, there are red, black and green buds on the delicate branches, and a sense of hope as the life cycle returns to the beginning. There’s no joy greater than anticipating joy.

Yes, it is a new beginning, and this love is liniment for a bruised soul. It’s a gentle, powerful love, protective and restorative, engrained with the stories of those who have loved before me and ready for a thousand more…

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Winter's Tale

There’s not just one tale in the winter edition of Vintage Script, but many—read all about them here…

Bankside Morning
Bernie Deehan
Bernie’s a magician when it comes to telling tales: he conjures up exquisite images of Thames-side London and its intriguing occupants in days gone by. ‘The quay was bustling with men. Crates and sacks were being lifted, link chains of iron hauled towards barges. Hoarse shouts filled the air like herons: black curses about the weights being moved, zealous young watermen advertising for trade.’ Bernie transports you so skilfully to his world that you can actually feel the chill of the mist rising from the Thames, your ears tingle with the coarse shouts of the men and the ripples of the water leave you mesmerised.

Activity on the Thames

An Emperor in Exile: Haile Selassie in Bath
Clare Reddaway

Clare’s article reads like a work of fiction: an emperor from a far-off land finds refuge in quintessentially English Bath. Here he sets up home in a Victorian villa, complete with entourage and dog Lulu, and takes daily constitutionals in the grounds or the town. ‘He was small at five foot four,’ says Clare, ‘but dignified, proud and sombre, always wearing dark suits, with a knee-length cape and a bowler or homburg hat’. He becomes a local celebrity, eventually returning to his homeland Ethiopia and was later declared the Messiah by Rastafarians. The best thing about this tall tale, apart from it being expertly written by Clare, is that it really is a true story!

The Voyage
Marie Gethins

A sad tale’s best for winter, they say, and Marie captures the plight of those affected by the sinking of the RMS Lusitania beautifully. She tells her story through a child’s eyes, and you can’t help but be moved by the details that make the story so real: the boy narrator’s hatred of peas and their soft middles, his comparison of the sinking ship with his tipped-up checkers board, and his depositing of Mother’s glove in his pocket for safekeeping.

Jennifer Falkner

Jennifer’s story couldn’t be better named: delicate, intricate and beautifully detailed. In her story, Padre Piaggio takes inspiration from the frame his mother would use to dry lace in his own elaborate task of transcribing rolls of ancient papyri. Like all the best tales, this one is full of mystery: what do the letters mean, where do they come from and what will they tell us about an ancient civilization destroyed by a force of nature?

The Big Red Hotel
Edward Clark
This tale, where Edward recounts the history of the Carlton Hotel (originally the Hotel Victoria) in Newmarket, Suffolk, is a treat for nostalgia fans. Edward adds a very personal touch when he says that during his army days, ‘…particularly in the fierce heat of Libya and Cyprus, I would sometimes recall the hotel’s unique ambience, the way it felt and looked just before morning opening: a clean coolness in the marble-floored foyer freighted with the smells of fresh beer and wax polish from the bars and the Winter Garden’s airy brightness contrasting with the deep shadows and filtered light of the wood-panelled billiard room, the snooker balls set resplendent on the brushed green cloth of the two tables’.

Sweet Tooth
Esther Cleverly

In this quirky love story barley-sugars and pink sugar mice conspire with the narrator to win the heart of an old-fashioned beauty. The relationship is strictly professional, but as addictive as the sweet stuff: ‘You know that back right molar, which has been giving me so much trouble? You remember everything you told me not to do? I did it all, and it was worth the pain, the extra fillings, the noxious sweetness of the gas, to gaze at your beautiful face from six inches’ distance as your warm fingers probed my gums, stroked my tongue’. Inventive newcomer Esther is certainly a one to watch!

Reading It Right
Gordon Phillips
A letter from railway pioneer George Stephenson detailing snippets from everyday life inspired Gordon’s song lyric The Tale of Betty Stephenson. Gordon explains the journey from letter to lyric and reproduces the words—in Geordie—here, along with the Stephenson letter. It’s a wonderful tale, revealing Gordon’s artistic journey and the fascinating background of one of the north-east’s most famous and influential historical figures.

Night Before Last
Eamonn Griffin

Eamonn sets the scene for the last night of Robert Hubert, the man who confessed to—and was hung for—starting the 1666 Great Fire. It’s Thomas and John who are on duty that night, watching him, and the double-act is as amusing as the story is intriguing (Hubert’s confession was puzzlingly false). Eamonn’s skill is hard to achieve: he leaves you with a satisfying ending, but still asking a thousand questions and wanting to come back for more!

God’s Vengeance
Sandy Norris

Sandy—who was inspired by the story behind the Mary Rose—transports us to sixteenth century Hampshire and takes us on the journey of a young lad as he steps into a new life aboard the ship. Sandy’s dazzling and detailed description (‘King Henry’s ships crowd the harbour and on land hundreds of soldiers’ tents are pitched outside the town’s ramparts. Foot soldiers queue to enter the gates and the sun glints on their pikes’) transports you in time and place, and chill you to the bone as battle commences…

From The Amazon to Bourneville: The History of Chocolate
Stephen Davis

Vintage Script would never get edited without copious amounts of chocolate, so it’s hard to think of a more apposite article! Stephen talks us through—with great mastery and reverence—the history of this life-enhancing substance, revealing many intriguing facts along the way. I was shocked to learn, for instance, that during the Spanish Armada, English sailors discarded cocoa found on captured Spanish ships, not realising its potential. There’s a happy ending, though, as Stephen tells us about the establishment of the Cadbury empire in humble Bourneville, a far cry from chocolate’s roots in the exotic Amazon.

Stepping Out
David Williams
Another happy ending in David’s story Stepping Out, as loyal but downtrodden Ella blossoms, becoming both transformed and the transformer of other people’s lives. Her pleasure is the reader’s: ‘She likes the feel of his hands, the right resting with the exact degree of tenderness in the small of her back, the left drawing hers slightly towards him, hinting at a desire to kiss her fingers’. David’s writing is always subtle and understated, with a deep understanding of character and motivation—a joy to read.

Voyage to India
Elinor Lobban

Another love story, with hints of the exotic, and just the right amount of suspense and romanticism: ‘The breeze blew a lock of hair across her cheek. He wanted to brush it away. He longed to kiss her but cared too much to compromise her’. Elinor leads the reader on a winding path with some ups and downs and will-they-won’t-theys and delights with an uplifting twist at the end.

The winter edition of Vintage Script is on sale now.