Audition

I thought we would wait in a much grander room than this, nothing to inspire my new stand up routine. But what a selection of odd bods here for the audition, plenty of material there. A few gals and chaps I recognize from the circuit, the third division circuit, ha ha. Hmm… some well known people from television, surely not as desperate as me for the job. I am banking on them choosing an unknown so He can’t be accused of favouritism or worse if they pick someone the press can dig up the dirt on.

Would you believe it, he’s certainly come dressed for the part, wonder who designs his dresses, looks like a cross between a wedding cake and a fifties party dress. Must be a wig with all those ringlets. I’ll tell you who’s not wearing a wig… Himself has just walked in, has he no pride, you would think he could comb his hair for once, better still have a hair cut; but come to think of it, he’s just right for this job and he should have some cracking politician jokes. But if they are looking for an all rounder I bet he can’t sing or play an instrument. That’s what I’m counting on and He does love music, though I’m not sure He’ll be keen on my harmonica, ukulele probably more up his street.

Wonder if we just present our routine or they tell us what they want. That’s what it would have been like in the old days…

‘Pray sing me something soothing, have you perchance a new ballade?’

If they didn’t like the melody it would be off to the tower… new topical jokes every day, not easy when you had to wait for a ship to sail in and a messenger on horseback. Much easier now with social media, but have to be quick off the mark with a fresh joke that hasn’t already been made by those political commentators on the news. Speaking of which, look who’s come in the room; he doesn’t need the job, unless he’s expecting to be sacked by the BBC. I suppose he would at least know where to draw the line, not like some of the stand ups. Politics, modern art, avoid family life…

Ah ha, that smart chap has returned with his clip board, still got a face like a wet Sunday. Then so have all the people in this room, like they are afraid to smile or crack a joke till they get in there.

Hell, he’s beckoning me to be first and look who’s giving me a thumbs up, patronising bastard, no doubt confident  he’s going to get the job. Well it’s not over till it’s over, maybe I’ll throw in a few jokes about the other applicants to be Jester at the Court of King Charles the Third.

Hambourne Noirish

Today’s tale carries on from Saturday’s story. As a newcomer to Hambourne, Charlotte could never have imagined that attending a few meetings of Happy Hambourne Creatives would have led to her being a possible murder suspect.

Charlotte felt three pairs of eyes piercing into her soul, surely she wouldn’t be one of the suspects, just because Robert Falstaff had been scathing about her novel languishing on Amazon Kindle and her blog.

There was an awkward pause then Erica suddenly started laughing.

‘Even poor Danny could not have thought of a murder or plot this bizarre.’

Charlotte was a little taken aback that there could be laughter so soon after Robert’s death, but at least the tension was broken and the attention taken off her.

‘Er… you mean Danny from the Happy Creatives group?’

‘Yes, he’s been rather quiet lately, but for years he’s been sending off scripts to the BBC, hoping to be the next Sunday night detective drama. He was always hoping Robert would put a word in for him, with all his supposed connections.’

‘Come on Erica, Mini’ said the third friend ‘time we all went, I don’t want to get a parking ticket.’

Charlotte found herself alone again, she should be going, but with all the morning’s drama she could not recall what she had planned to do after coffee, or was she planning to decide what to do while relaxing at the lovely Hambourne Refectory? She thought about poor Danny, rather a lost little soul she had felt, the couple of times she had seen him at the meetings. She could sympathize and now any hopes they both had of Robert introducing them to ‘someone’ at the BBC or on the literary scene were gone. Life was stranger than fiction, not just a cliché, but supposing it wasn’t. She imagined Danny thinking up a murder plot, wondering if it could realistically be played out and who better to try it out on than a man he resented, envied, even hated?

She stood up abruptly, checked her bag and made swiftly for the door, as if staff and customers might read her dangerous thoughts

Charlotte couldn’t leave those thoughts behind, but she could transfer them to her new heroine. As she walked through Hambourne Abbey’s graveyard the first chapter was already taking shape in her mind.

Recently widowed Lotte Lincoln had moved to the quaint town of Puddleminster looking for peace and quiet, but soon found herself investigating a murder. As a newcomer she had at first enjoyed wandering around exploring, enjoying the fresh frosty air as she strolled through the historic graveyard, popping into the local shops and admiring arts and crafts in the little gallery. But she was also lonely, peace and quiet wasn’t as soothing as she had anticipated, so she had begun to make more of an effort to chat to locals, little thinking this would soon lead to her being embroiled in a murder enquiry.

Charlotte mused upon the drama she could get Lotte involved in as she walked. The victim could be an artist, perhaps a woman so no one would think she had stolen a real life murder, in the unlikely event the novel would be published and actually read by residents of Hambourne. She suddenly found herself near Robert Falstaff’s little road, or she assumed the barricaded lane and heavy police presence indicated this was where he had lived. Now she was there it was impossible to see what was going on and she felt uncomfortable. As she turned to work out which way led to her little flat in the high street she almost bumped into a familiar figure.

‘Oh, em Daniel isn’t it, you probably don’t remember me, new in Hambourne, Charlotte, I went to a few meetings of the Happy Creatives…’

She felt herself rambling on in an effort to be friendly, to assuage her guilt for ever suspecting him of murder. The man looked awkward, then visibly pulled himself together.

‘Yes of course Charlotte, I remember you, that dreadful man making you feel so small, no way to treat newcomers… oh I shouldn’t be speaking ill of the dead.’

‘You heard the news then, of course I hardly knew him. I gather this must be the mu… where Robert lived?’

‘Yes, not exactly the first murder we’ve had, or at least there have been strange events in Hambourne… ‘ he looked up as a police officer approached ‘…anyway, I must be going.’

Danny made a hasty exit and Charlotte wondered why had he come to the crime scene. Her thoughts were interrupted by the policewoman.

‘Good morning, do you live nearby, are you trying to get to your home?’

Charlotte felt herself flushing.

‘No, yes, I mean I’m new in the town, just strolling around and got lost, I’ve got a flat in Hambourne Mews.’

She hadn’t intended to give away where she lived. The policewoman gave her a patronising look.

‘You were heading in the wrong direction, but Hambourne often has visitors flummoxed. So if you are new you probably didn’t know the victim.’

‘No, well only a little.’

Charlotte immediately regretted her words as the officer’s face lit up.

‘Ah, I hope you don’t mind giving me your name and address, we do need to interview everybody who knew him.’

Charlotte felt a mixture of fear and excitement. She might end up a suspect, but it would be interesting research for her novel, to discover what it was like to be interviewed about a crime. Everyone meant they were bound to talk to Daniel as well, she was sure he had been uncomfortable hanging around near police officers…

Saturday Short Story – Hambourne Noir

You may like to read the first tale about Charlotte in this blog.

ttps://tidalscribe.com/2022/08/18/thursday-tiny-tale-2053/

Charlotte found inspiration for her new novel much quicker than she expected, but not in a way she welcomed. News spread fast in Hambourne, but while Charlotte enjoyed listening to local gossip she rarely took it seriously. As a newcomer she had no idea who they were talking about most of the time.

But today, sitting in the Hambourne Abbey Refectory, her favourite coffee stop, she heard shocked whispers at the next table then felt the gaze of the three women fall upon her. One of them she thought she recognised as the timid ‘mouse woman’ from the Hambourne Happy Creatives. She pretended to be absorbed in her phone, though she had no messages.

‘Charlotte isn’t it, you were at the group last week.’

Mouse Woman was addressing her.

‘Yes, yes, er I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.’

‘That’s okay, not many people do and when you’re new it’s hard isn’t it.’

Charlotte was happy to meet her again, she had been friendly and unintimidating at last week’s meeting.

‘Come and join us’ said one of the other women, who did look intimidating.

Charlotte imagined that mouse woman would not have issued the invitation herself, now she looked pleased to have official approval of her new friend. Like being the new girl at school, Charlotte felt pathetically grateful to be admitted to the inner circle.

‘I’m afraid we have heard some dreadful news Charlotte’ said the intimidating lady. ‘I gather you were a friend of the gentleman in question.’

Charlotte thought this unlikely as she didn’t have any friends in Hambourne yet and certainly not of the gentleman variety.

‘Oh I don’t think …’

Mouse Woman could not contain her excitement ‘Robert Falstaff, murdered.’

‘Oh no, are you sure, I mean perhaps it was natural causes, heart attack, not a suicide…’

‘Definitely murder’ said the intimidating woman.

‘Are you sure Erica?’ said Mouse Woman.

‘Yes Mini, he could hardly have stuffed his screwed up manuscripts in his mouth and cut his own hands off.’

There was a collective gasp and Charlotte felt quite sick. Hambourne Noir, what sort of place had she chosen to live? Mini the Mouse, for a moment she stifled a giggle at her appropriate name, Mini now had colour in her cheeks and it was the liveliest Charlotte had seen her. She looked around the café, a few other tables were occupied.

‘It wasn’t on the local news this morning and nobody else appears to be talking about it.’

Erica looked affronted at her doubt. ‘I happen to live a few doors away from Robert. I stepped outside to see what on earth all the commotion was this morning and there was Trudy his cleaning lady sitting on the steps of the ambulance, aluminium blanket round her, just like a TV drama.’

‘Lucky to get an ambulance,’ interrupted Mini ‘with all these strikes and hold ups at A&E, old Mr Reeves had to wait fourteen hours with his hip…’

Erica frowned ‘…so to cut a long story short I went over to see if Trudy was alright and insisted the police officers let her come inside my house and get warm, have a proper cup of tea and be interviewed away from prying eyes.’

‘You’re not supposed to give hot tea for shock’ said Mini.

‘That was hot sweet tea when my mother was with St. John’s, I didn’t put sugar in.’

‘But what did she say?’ The others were all agog.

“The blood will never come out of that Persian rug, Mr. Falstaff would be horrified at the mess.” She kept saying that over and over.’

Charlotte was wondering how long Erica was going to drag out the drama and indignant that this dislikeable woman should be privy to all the action when it was Charlotte who was the writer.

‘So how did you find out what actually happened Erica?’

‘Large drop of brandy in the tea and luckily the WPC, not that they call them that these days, had a call on her radio and went out into the hall to answer so we couldn’t hear. Managed to get the words out of Trudy before the police woman ushered me out of my own sitting room…’ she paused for effect then enacted the cleaning lady’s words. “Blue, his face all blue… and purple, bloated, then I noticed his hands were missing, well not missing, just not attached to his arms, placed neatly on his writing desk can you believe it… trail of blood all over the Persian rug, family heirloom it was, not that he had anyone to pass it on to…”

‘So she said quite a lot then’ said Mini.

‘Oh she was in a state.’

‘But who would have done such a dreadful thing’ said Charlotte. ‘Where is it you live Erica?’ she added, wondering if she could walk home that way and catch a glimpse of the drama scene, not the body obviously, but take in the atmosphere.

‘Well shall we say he wasn’t loved by everyone in Hambourne.’

‘Indeed, he was very nasty to Charlotte at the creative group’ said Mini.

Charlotte felt three pairs of eyes piercing into her soul, surely she wouldn’t be one of the suspects, just because Robert Falstaff had been scathing about her novel languishing on Amazon Kindle and her blog.

Read what happens next in the new blog…

Read tales from the Hambourne Chronicles in this collection.

Nimis Excitatus Imagination

Are you suffering from the above medical condition?

 See how you score on this test to find out.

1 You visit Specsavers for an eye test and after subjecting your eyeballs to blasts of air, laser beams and snapshots of your retina, the optician says he will take you back downstairs where a staff member will hep you select new frames. He offers to go down the stairs first as your eyes are not back to normal yet. DO YOU SAY

A Thanks

B Oohh… has anyone fallen down the stairs?

C ( to yourself ) Ah ha, flash fiction idea ‘Derek could never have imagined that his first day as an optician would end in the death of one of his customers…

2 You are popping round the corner to the shops. Do you

A Toss your door keys in your pocket and grab your phone to pay with.

B Pack your backpack with the following – water bottle, face mask, full set of door keys, purse with cash in case all the computers are down at the shops, credit and debit cards in case you have to book a hotel overnight ( see comments further on ) … notepad and pen, emergency chocolate rations, Kindle or paperback, smart phone. The latter four items so you will be prepared in case you return to find your road in lockdown, because a mad gunman is holding your neighbour hostage or a gas explosion / helicopter crash has left the whole street flattened.

C Take your back pack as above and stand in the queue at the till ‘writing’ your next novel. ‘Glenda could never have imagined that a quick trip to the shops could turn into a five day siege that would change her life for ever.’

3 You receive a text message from a loved one. Be a bit late, stuck on M25 in dreadful weather. Do you reply

A Okay, I’ll hold back on dinner.

B Oh NO… Keep me updated, but don’t use your phone while you’re driving and stop at the services and wait till the weather’s cleared, but let me know what’s happening. Have U got enough food with U?

C Feel you body fill with dread and picture the news headlines Bank Holiday Motorway horror as family all killed in massive pile up.

4 A police officer / fireman rings your doorbell and simultaneously bangs on your front door. When you open the door he says. ‘No need to panic, but we are evacuating the whole street, NOW. Do you say

A Okay, just a false alarm no doubt, some nervous neighbour thinks they can smell gas ha ha?

B Oh my God, what about the dog, have I got time to grab my handbag…

C Feel a mixture of fear and elation. At last you are participating in real life, some drama to blog about, inspiration for that novel you are trying to start…

Now add up your score. 1 point for answer A. 3 points for answer B and 5 points for answer C.

If you scored 4 you are totally laid back and never suffer from stress.

8-12 points – well done for being prepared and sensible, but be careful not to become obsessed and over anxious.

16-20 points – you are suffering from Nimis Excitatus Imagination or in lay terms, an overactive imagination. There is no cure and it could lead to total insanity or becoming a best selling author.

Christmas Do

This will be the first Christmas Do for Caring Crafters since 2019 so let’s choose something everyone will enjoy. Did you all get my email?

I can’t do Wednesdays I’m playing every Wednesday evening.

So that won’t be a problem if we go for the afternoon tea.

We haven’t settled on that have we?

Out of those that replied to my email three quarters were for the afternoon.

A Christmas Do surely means turkey and crackers, why can’t we go back to The George?

Afternoon tea at The Refectory promises to be lovely and we have to think of Andrew.

…and Ian can’t drive at night with his eyes.

I don’t know if I can get the afternoon off, it’s our busiest time.

And I would have to get someone to pick the children up from school.

Suits me as long as it’s not a Thursday… or a Tuesday and Mondays I have to take Mother for her infusions.

I’m sure Andrew won’t mind if we go to the George, where is he anyway?

Therapist, he sent apologies, he’s doing very well.

Have they got a ramp at The Refectory?

Yes they have nice new toilets and super disabled since we used to meet there. So let’s have a show of hands… raise your hand if you would like to go to the Refectory for afternoon tea…. So that’s twelve For, five Against. Now, I’ll pass round the brochure with the seven different party selections.

£17.99, bloody hell, I know prices have gone up but…

The other selections are cheaper.

Yes, but they haven’t got samosas.

C selection has sausage rolls, will that do you Roger?

We might be able to wangle a discount if enough of us are going.

D £13.99 would suit you Di, looks like it’s vegetarian.

With tuna mayonnaise sandwiches!

So how about New for 22, Vegan Value… ‘cucumber curls with our delicious homemade yeast extract.’

That just means marmite sandwiches, if I’m going to have afternoon tea I want a decent ham doorstep.

‘You can’t expect Tim to come after a morning’s dog walking and survive on a humous finger sandwich.  How many clients have you got now Tim?

More now the winter weather is here, I have to do two rounds in the morning, large and unruly for two hours by the river, then handbag dogs round the park. Anyway, I think we should splash out on the dearest.

Not all of us have a big appetite, I don’t want to pay eighteen pounds for a cup of tea and cheese roll.

Do we have to book at all, can’t we just turn up and choose what we want, put a few tables together and hope they don’t notice?

Oh no, we want the Xmas tablecloths and crackers.

And a quiz.

Hang on, have you looked at the bottom line… groups of more than eight must book Christmas Afternoon Tea at The Refectory by 5th December.

Chatbot

My TV box is not working.

I am just a chatbox, I am putting you through to a human agent.

I am sorry we are experiencing delays with agent contacting you, we are experiencing a high level of compl… enquiries.

Do I have time to make a cup of tea?

Thankyou for your patience, an agent will be with you as soon as possible, but there may be a long wait.

Does that mean I have time to go to the toilet?

Thankyou for your patience, our customers are very important to us. So our agent can deal quickly with you can you answer sixteen security questions…What is your account number in roman numerals? How much was your last payment in $US?…

We are sorry to know you are experiencing a fault with your services. i see a clear note by our field technician working on site and they have given us a deadline to complete this. We can see there is a fault in the area causing it. As we making some improvements to our network at the moment, so we can make sure we’re giving you the best service possible. This means that you will be experiencing a loss of your Broadband, Voice and TV service(s) in the area for a short time. Everything should be back to normal today on 24th November 2022 09:00 broadband issue will be resolved completely

Today is 17th November…

 This will be complete fixed on 24th of November and most of the customers in your area are facing the same issue as our technicians are working on a damaged cable in the area and we aim to get this resolved soon, we would appreciate your patience regarding this

If there is work going on in the area, why don’t you email your customers to tell them?

 We’re sorry that you’re still experiencing intermittent problems with your Broadband in the ZX6 7XZ area. I am sorry my colleague must have missed out that. We expect our engineers to have this repaired as soon as possible. The estimated repair time is 24 NOV 2022 09:00 It s not only yours the Entire area is facing the same problem. We are working as hard as we can to fix this, however due to the complexities of the issue it may take for ever…

I’m not having problems with my internet, how do you think I’m talking to you? And I keep telling you the entire area is NOT facing the same problem! Okay, you are probably thinking why does she keep complaining when there are people in the world with far worse problems, after all I could have been flooded out, my house flattened by bombs or swept away in a larva flow, yes I am very lucky to have a roof over my head…

I have also cleared the upstream and downstream channels to make sure you are on the least congested band but we cannot guarantee a stable connection until the outage is fixed. I have also registered you for compensation for loss of services. Your patience ….

I thought it all worked by magic. I hope you know what you are doing…

So you can see the compensation applied on your account once the outage issue is cleared as this is applied by our backend team. I can understand how difficult it is to manage without internet even I have experienced the same from my service provider as well and know how frustrating it is. But I kindly request you to manage using mobile hotspot until then.

But it’s the TV box not my internet

We take pride to ensure our customer satisfaction unfortunately we have not met your expectations, Upon through review of your conversation we understand that its not what we follow as our values and standards.

I will come back later, I need chocolate.

We are denying to help you, The reason you are facing issues is because of an outage. We are working as hard as we to fix can this, however due to the complexities of the issue its taking us a little longer than normal. Once te outage is completed, service will be resumed and we make sure this is not repeated. Please be rest assured.

Thursday Tiny Tale – Pastoral Care

‘You’re listening to BBC Radio 4 and on ‘Sunday’ this morning we talk to one of the Church of England’s exorcists, the Reverend Nick De’Vilno. Rev, many people will be surprised to hear the church today still has exorcists.’

‘Actually we call it our deliverance ministry.’

‘Does the Church of England really believe people can be possessed?’

‘We believe some people genuinely believe they are possessed, “deliverance” is part of pastoral care: it is the ministry of liberating, freeing or delivering a person from a burden which they carry.’

‘But do you believe a person could really be possessed by demons or even The Devil himself?’

‘Our Lord talked about casting out demons, but that was the language his listeners would have understood.

‘So you don’t believe Jesus cast out demons into a herd of swine.’

‘I believe the poor man would have seen his troubled mind eased in a way he could understand.’

‘I understand the Archbishop has given permission for the makers of the popular podcast ‘It Really Happened’ to follow your ministry.’

‘Yes indeed, but if listeners are hoping for sensationalism or to be terrified, they will be sorely disappointed. They will hear about our working together with mental health practitioners to help those in need.’

‘Welcome to this week’s special podcast with me Robbie Danson. I am waiting outside a very ordinary suburban house with the Reverend Nick De’Vilno, an exorcist with the Church of England, or as he prefers, a member of the church’s deliverance ministry. Inside the house is the owner, who we shall call David, as that is his name and with him is a mental health specialist who works in close collaboration with the deliverance ministry. When she comes out she will tell us if it is appropriate for Nick to chat to David.’

‘Just chat at this stage Nick?’

‘Of course, this is essentially a pastoral visit.’

‘Ah, the front door is opening now, a young woman is stepping, no running…

‘Oh God help us, run Robbie, I’m not going back in there again, run, let’s get out of here Vicar… I h..hope you really have ggot God on your side…’

‘Wait, wait calm down dear.’

‘Don’t you****ing tell me to calm down, that poor mmman, it’s going to get him…’

‘Okay, okay, I’ll just pop in and talk to him, see, there he is at the door.’

This is Robbie Danson still here, things are really kicking off, the mental health worker has fled and Nick has gone to talk to David… let’s move closer so we can hear.’

‘It’s okay David, what is it you are afraid of…’

‘The television, it was IN the television, like it has been for weeks, nobody believed me, horrible, horrible…’

‘We believe you, are you sure it wasn’t a horror movie, you accidentally knocked the remote control onto another channel. Let’s go inside and check.’

‘I can’t, I can’t get away, but I wwon’t go back in there.’

‘It will be okay, if it’s in the television set it can’t hurt you, look. I’ll go in first…’

‘NOOO you mustn’t … it, it came OUT of the television…’

‘This is the BBC News at Six O’clock, here are the headlines.  A well know podcast has been widely criticised and The Archbishop of Canterbury is to make a statement shortly, after a member of the clergy and a parishioner he was trying to help, were both killed in an horrific unexplained accident.’

The Henchman

Benny ‘Biceps’ Bison, was it really him? Yes it had to be, even bigger than when he was in sixth form, but if there was any doubt in Julian’s mind that he had spotted Benny on his first visit to this new gym, it was dispelled when Benny extricated himself from some weird contraption and came striding over.

‘Hey Julie Ringlets, what brings you here? No need to ask what you are doing these days, you’re never off the news.’

Julian Ringlington, MP, new Minister for Levelling Down, forced a tight smile, perhaps it was not that great seeing Benny again.

‘Long time no see Benjamin, how are you these days?’

‘Never better, but what Are you doing here.’

‘Oh erm, looking round, thinking of changing gyms, is it good here, are you a regular?’

Julian had already decided this was one gym to avoid.

‘You could say that, I own it.’

After a comprehensive tour of the gym with Benny introducing every incomprehensible piece of computer controlled equipment, Julian found himself upstairs in the designer health bar sipping a green smoothie.

‘So Jules, how many ministries have you had this year? Wonder you could get out your front door with all those climate protesters when you were minister for the Environment, now every mob seems to be attacking you. Do you actually enjoy being a politician?

‘I would if I got a chance to make a difference and put all my ideas into action. Between press and protesters I feel I can hardly breathe, let alone speak.’

Julian wondered what was in the green smoothie that had loosened his tongue to confide in Ben, but then Benjamin Bison had been his best friend at school, or the closest thing he had to a friend at school.

Look Jules, I have had an amazing idea, we were always a good team at school, remember that time they were going to flush your head down the lav?’

Julian was hardly likely to forget, one of the many times Benny had rescued him.

‘What you need is a henchman; in my case a sort of cross between a personal trainer and a bodyguard, with a few more tricks up my sleeve than your security chaps are allowed.’

 Julian Ringlington was unsure exactly what the Portfolio for Minister for Levelling Down covered, but with a new found confidence he ploughed his own path and was soon in great demand on high and low brow radio and television.

‘…so that is why we are giving everyone living alone on a tight budget a dog. A dog on the sofa and the foot of your bed keeps you far warmer than an electric blanket or the gas fired central heating.’

‘And where will you get all the dogs from?’

‘Rescue centres are overfull, all the puppies people bought during lockdown and got fed up with. The dogs will be happy and it will also be good for the mental health of their new owners, keep them out of the doctors’ surgeries. It’s all win win.’

‘…so we intend to close down all schools for the winter and return to on line teaching, saving on staff costs and heating bills for school buildings.’

‘But then families will need to keep their heating on longer if the children are at home and they will miss out on school lunches.

‘No problem, the whole family can go to the free warm hubs and enjoy community meals.’

‘Can you guarantee enough of these hubs?’

‘Of course, we will be using all the empty school buildings…’

As more and more press and public gathered wherever Julian went, his new private secretary Benjamin Bison was at his side, parting the crowds like Moses and the Red Sea, ‘accidentally’ treading on toes or knocking large news  camera lens askew. Among press and politicians alike there was covert concern as to who this Benjamin Bison was, but everyone was too scared to enquire.

Monday Monologue – Fabian’s Fantoms

Fabian? It’s your mother. I know it comes up on your screen, but you do have to be careful who you’re talking to in your job. Yes, dead or alive and I am very much alive. Sorry I missed your Sunday night slot, but I was watching something good on television. But the good news is I have got the hang of BBC Sounds on my iPad and I managed to listen just now. Yes of course, I tell all my friends to listen in to Fabian’s Fantoms at midnight. Marcia wants to know if they’re all true, I told her you never fake the stories. Last night was true wasn’t it? I can’t believe they let you in to number ten…. Number Ten Downing Street… But you were, I listened to it.

Waterworks Cottage in Cumbria? My hearing’s not that bad, it was definitely you talking from Downing Street, nobody else could imitate your voice and I am hardly likely to forget you and the new Prime Minister in the Cabinet Room talking to all those dead Prime Ministers, Chancellors and Home Secretaries…. No not Richie Sunak, the one after that… hmm I was surprised we had yet another new PM, transgender too, or was it non-binary, what was their name, they had just changed it.

I am not playing a Halloween joke, the state of the planet is not a joke, no wonder those past great statesmen decided to manifest themselves and knock some sense into our leaders. Okay, if you don’t believe me look up BBC Sounds for yourself. I shall too, now I am beginning to wonder if I am going mad.

Here it is; episode 666 of Fabian’s Fantoms. Fabian joins the new Prime Minister to investigate their claims that 10 Downing Street is haunted by previous incumbents, broadcast live on Sunday night. Fabian, are you there, are you alright, you sound strange. Read further?

..Sunday night 29th October 2023, but that doesn’t make sense, just a mistake… Broadcast again on Tuesday midnight, 31st October 2023 as a tribute to Fabian Falstaff who died suddenly on Monday morning 30th October 2023.

Shocktober Tales – A Perfect Job

It sounded perfect, John’s dream job and a move to the countryside. Polly did not want to go, though she cheered up a little when we explained she didn’t have to leave her toys behind.

I’m not sure what I expected, I should have realised a secret research station would have a fence round it, a strong fence, an ugly fence that jarred with the surrounding landscape. When John said we would be living in the old lighthouse he forgot to mention it was inside the fence.

We had moved in such a hurry, John was caught up in the excitement of being head hunted and my head was in such a whirl I had not queried why they wanted him so urgently. My penniless sister was delighted to leave home and move into our house with her boyfriend and look after the cat.

The turning on to the private gravel road was not easy to find, but that added to the excitement of our journey. Bye Bye West London suburb, hello West Country. We weren’t even sure if we were in Devon, Cornwall or Somerset, but I didn’t care as autumn trees gave way to beautiful rugged moorland. The gravel road soon gave way to a bumpy track, but we knew we were going the right way as there were signs with large red writing at frequent intervals. 

PRIVATE LAND

THIS AREA IS COVERED BY CCTV

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE CLEARANCE TURN AROUND NOW

IF YOU ARE LOST PHONE THIS NUMBER IMMEDIATELY AND AWAIT INSTRUCTIONS

SECURITY PASSES NEEDED IN 100 YARDS

Perhaps I should have asked John what they actually did at the research station and what he was going to do. I fumbled in my bag for my phone, I wanted to send pictures of the signs and impress everyone back home. When John realised what I was doing he nearly ran the car off the track.

‘I told you we had to leave phones at home.’

‘We wouldn’t have found our way here without my smart phone.’

‘I thought you were following the map I gave you.

‘Map, how am I supposed to read that paper map.’

‘You’ll have to surrender your phone at the gate.’

You are joking, how am I supposed to live without it and how can Polly play her games?’

‘I thought you were looking forward to getting away from it all?’

‘That’s beside the point; what do they actually do here that is so secret?’

‘The whole point of secret research is that it is secret and the last people you tell are wives and little daughters.’

At last we reached a double set of huge gates with actual sentry boxes, it was rather exciting and I sneaked out my phone hoping I could get one quick shot of the guard, but a uniformed arm suddenly shot through the open window and grabbed my phone. Luckily Polly was asleep and missed this scary moment.

The decommissioned lighthouse was not as romantic as I had imagined, though inside it was quite homely. We could just about glimpse the sea from the tiny top window, no wonder it had not been a success as a lighthouse.

‘Unicorn doesn’t like this place Mummy.’

‘He’ll get used to it Polly, unicorns are very brave.’

‘Mummy’s right, tomorrow we can all go exploring.’

There was an inner fence around the research buildings and more security gates, there was enough land for a good walk, but I wanted to see the sea, take Polly down to the beach. John was as flummoxed as me. First thing to do was find some of John’s colleagues, discover who else lived here and where the shops were.

All my questions were met with loud guffaws from a chap who looked more like a trawlerman than a research scientist.

‘Shops… you did bring plenty of supplies? Beach… don’t you let your little one anywhere near the cliff edge. Nursery, pre school… well there are a couple of other kiddies around, but you best be asking Maggie.’

The soothing distant sounds of the sea on our first night were replaced by howling winds on the second. I didn’t know how John could sleep so soundly. I tip toed out to check on Polly. For a moment my blood ran cold, yes that saying is true. Polly was not in her bed, nor was Unicorn. With relief I saw her at the round window, face pressed against the glass, Unicorn had his horn squashed against the window.

‘Polly, you’ll get cold, come back to bed.

‘Mummy, Mummy, Unicorn likes it here now, he’s got a new friend, come and look, please.’

 I could see nothing but total darkness outside, the wind was even louder.

‘Oh, he’s gone, I hope he hasn’t flown away. Unicorn wants us to go outside and find him.’

‘No Polly we can’t go outside, it’s night time.’

‘Unicorn says he only comes out at night.’

‘Did you see an owl?’

‘No Mummy, don’t be silly, come outside and you will get a big surprise.’

We were supposed to be having adventures and on such a well guarded sight there could be no dangers lurking. Out we crept; Polly was not at all scared of the dark, even though she couldn’t sleep without a night light at home. I saw the glow first and assumed it was security coming round with torches and hoped we wouldn’t get told off.

‘Mummy, there he is.’

 Her hand gripped mine, but she was shaking with excitement not fear and pulling me towards the impossible sight.

‘I want to ride him, Unicorn wants a ride, can I go flying… come on Mummy, pleeese…’

Her hand slipped out of mine as she clung onto her cuddly Unicorn and darted towards the creature glowing in the dark. Its horn glowed pink, his flowing mane was rainbow colours… I almost laughed to see a racehorse size version of Polly’s cuddly unicorn, but unlike Polly’s toy this was a replica of the dream figure she wanted for Christmas, a winged unicorn. Finer than any plastic figure, he was magnificent, but what was I thinking, this wasn’t real, I must be dreaming. As I shook my head and tried to wake up I saw Polly was seated on his back, still clutching her cuddly toy.

Look Mummy we’re flying, bye bye Mummy…’

Gracefully the creature soared into the sky and was soon a tiny dot. I rushed back inside, I must have been sleep walking. Once I saw Polly safely asleep in bed then I would know it was a dream and how Polly and John would laugh in the morning when I told them my dream.

Polly’s bed was empty and cuddly Unicorn was gone.