Saturday, 27 July 2013

Sarah's Cat - Flash Fiction

And now for something...well...different.
 Some time ago, I used to belong to a writers' website where a monthly flash fiction contest took place. It's a great discipline, defined as 'A unique type of story that has been whittled down to its essence whilst remaining a complete story, with plot, narrative, character/s, conflict, and resolution' (Vic Errington, Flash Fiction World)

So, with no more introduction, here's a 170 word effort of mine:

Behind her door, Sarah heard her mother’s screams, her father’s roars and the crash of broken glass.

            Beside her, the black cat purred as Sarah drew him to her. ‘Jasper, help me! He’ll come for me next, I know he will.’

The purring grew louder as the light cast shadows on the wall. Shadows of a child and her cat.

            Suddenly, the screams stopped. A door banged. Footsteps thudded closer and then he was outside the door. Sarah screwed her eyes shut. ‘Jasper, make him go away. Please make him go away.’

            On her knee, the cat shifted. His shadow grew and his purrs became growls.

            As the door flew open. Sarah dared to look and saw her father’s rage turn to fear and then terror as the beast roared and leaped.

The man’s screams set Sarah’s teeth rattling, but not for long. She smiled as the cat returned, lay down beside her and resumed his rhythmical purr. 

But Sarah knew things would never be quite the same again.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

This Is No Pussycat - It's The Beast of Bodmin Moor
 Conan Doyle had his Hound of the Baskervilles howling away on Dartmoor, yet a few short miles away lies the bleak and, at times, forbidding stretch of Bodmin Moor where, it is said, a giant panther-like creature roams, slaughtering livestock and terrifying all who set eyes on it.

Scientists will tell you it's all nonsense. One animal couldn't possibly survive like that. If it exists at all, it must be part of a sizeable breeding population and the environment simply couldn't sustain it. But the stories won't go away. Animals have been slaughtered, although official investigations have said there was nothing to indicate the presence of any exotic roaming animal, either there or anywhere else where these phenomena have been reported. But, since owning such an exotic species privately is illegal, if you lost your pet panther, would you report it to the authorities?

 On Bodmin, less than a week after the 1995 official Ministry report concluded that there was no evidence to show such an animal existed, a boy was out walking near the River Fowey when he came across a large feline skull, some ten centimetres long by eighteen centimetres wide. When examined by the Natural History Museum in London, they confirmed that, despite its missing lower jaw, it was the skull of a young male leopard. Excitement began to mount. 

It was shortlived. Detailed investigation showed the animal had died outside Britain. Also, within the skull was an eggcase belonging to a tropical cockroach. They found the skull had been cleanly sliced off and the skin scraped off with a knife - in exactly the fashion used for leopard skin rugs. Decomposition had set in recently, when it had been immersed in water. So, it was an imported rug, someone didn't like it and dumped it in the river. Excitement over. For now.

But the story wouldn't go away. All in all, between 1983 and 1998, sixty big cat sightings were reported in and around the area and, today, many local people firmly believe that, whatever the scientists say, a big cat population lives on Bodmin Moor. In October 1997, officials from Newquay Zoo identified pawprints found in mud as the fresh tracks of a puma and this was backed up by a photograph published soon after, which showed an adult puma - probably a pregnant female.
The sightings continue, along with much fuzzy and inconclusive video footage (some of which can be found on Youtube). Wildlife expert, Trevor Beer, who has spent many years studying big cat phenomena, maintains that there could now be as many as twenty, roaming around the Moor. Those who have heard the animal say it makes the sort of hissing and growling sounds you would expect from a panther or puma, but it also emits a horrendous scream - like that of a terrified woman.

It is perhaps fitting that such a legendary beast should inhabit such a magical and mystical landscape. It has ancient stone circles to wander amongst and tracts of land shaped like signs of the zodiac. Knights Templar once met here and the now defunct mines were reported to be full of demons...

Monday, 8 July 2013

Confession Time - At The Summer Sun Awards!


In between trying to keep Lady Fury in order and rounding up pirates (which I imagine is rather like herding cats who've been at the rum barrel), the creative and talented writer, Shehanne Moore, created the Summer Sun Awards and I am delighted to say that I have been awarded one by another creative and talented writer - Noelle Clark!
Thank you, Noelle.

All I have to do is display the sunny logo (done!) and make 8 secret confessions - I mean answer 8 questions. So, here goes:

 1.  Favourite song with summer in the title or the words (give the words)

Not easy to pick just one, when there are so many. I mean, three quarters of all the Beach Boys songs are either about summer or exude summer - and that's just for starters. Anyway, I've settled on this one, which I love: 'Summer Fling' by k.d. lang. It also contains one of my favourite lyrics - "We ran on the beach with Kennedy flair". Says it all really. 

"Early morning mid July,
Anticipation's making me high,
The smell of Sunday in our hair,

We ran on the beach, with Kennedy flair,
Sweet, sweet burn of sun and summer wind,
And you my friend, my new found thing, 
My summer fling"

2.  Favourite book about summer

'Moominsummer Madness' by Tove Jansson. A children's book that works equally well for adults (well, I think so, anyway)

3.  Favourite hot summer film

'The Seven Year Itch'. I am a huge fan of Marilyn Monroe and never tire of watching this film.

4.  Favourite summer memory

As a 6 year old, the day I was handed a shoe box, with loads of airholes punched in it. Inside the box was the tiniest jet black kitten with huge blue eyes. She was a two week old orphan as her mother had been run over by a tractor. I named her Penny and that little scrap lived to be 19 years old. My later cats have had a lot to live up to!

5.  Favourite summer holiday destination

Orkney. The islands have a unique and magical atmosphere

6.  What books will be in your suitcase this summer?

Noelle Clark's Let Angels Fly is on my Kindle and then Stephen King's latest, Joyland and Martin Millar's The Anxiety of Kalix The Werewolf is published in August, so I must read that. I love his quirky characters and original storylines (honestly, you've never met a werewolf like Kalix!)

7.  What's your likely destination this summer?

We've already been to Cornwall (as can be seen from three earlier entries on my blog including this one). In a few weeks we're going to Hay on Wye for a few days of books, books, books!

8.  What hottie would you most like to be sharing the hot days and long nights with this summer?

 If I was single, Christian Bale would be a definite contender. But I'm a faithful sort of girl, so I'll stick with my husband!

Right, that's enough about me, here are the 8 people I've nominated. They've all got fabulous blogs, so why not pop on over and take a peek?

Julia Kavan
Susan Roebuck
Ute Carbone
Jianne Carlo
Brinda Berry
Ally Shields
Elin Gregory
Jerrie Alexander

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Theatrical Ghosts of Liverpool

 Liverpool is a fascinating city with a long and, at times, chequered history. But there is no denying the massive contribution it has made to the Arts - in music (not just The Beatles!), comedy, painting, poetry, plays, novels, and it even has its own film studios.

It also boasts a rich theatrical tradition and it would seem that at least some of those who have visited or worked behind the scenes at the Empire, Royal Court, Playhouse and others, decided not to leave. Even after their mortal coil had long been thrown off.

Here's a brief introduction to a few of the most colourful characters you may encounter...
The Empire is so haunted, it was featured in that stalwart of this blog -  Most Haunted. A sad little girl of around ten years old, in Victorian dress, has been often sighted late at night in the Stalls Bar area. Sometimes she is crying and, on a number of occasions, she has been seen being dragged away by a man with dark eyes. When anyone has tried to intervene, the pair have just vanished before their eyes. The Empire (opened in 1925) is built on the site of a previous theatre and the theory goes that the little girl fell from the circle to the stalls in that earlier building and was killed.

Staying with the Empire for a moment, one of the dressing rooms was haunted by an apparition which would appear as a black shadow in the mirror opposite the doorway. The room itself had an unnaturally cold atmosphere and spooked so many people that it was eventually converted into a large wardrobe in 1998.

The famous Playhouse Theatre, which helped launch the careers of actors such as Michael Redgrave, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Anthony Hopkins, boasts a rich collection of ghostly visitors. In 1999, it underwent major refurbishment but electricians found their work hampered by mischievous spirits that would turn on taps and slam heavy doors that the workmen could barely open. They also reported a strange and scary presence in the basement. So spooked were they at one point that they downed tools and refused to carry on!
In 1996, when the theatre was empty, actress Pauline Daniels reported seeing a woman sitting in seat A5 in the theatre's gallery level. She wasn't the first. This is reputedly the ghost of a former cleaner called Elizabeth who is said to have been carrying out her duties when the building was a music hall.  In 1897, she was cleaning the stage when the heavy safety curtain came down and hit her. She was knocked off balance and fell into the orchestra pit, breaking her neck. But was it an accident? At the time, the curtain needed someone to operate it. Maybe Elizabeth returns to try and find her murderer...

Also, if you see a classy looking lady, wearing an old fashioned grey coat and hood, moving between the stalls coffee bar and seating area, you may just have witnessed the famous Grey Lady. She may not be alone either. This is a busy place for ghosts from the early 1900s. A man, in Edwardian frock coat and top hat, is often seen pacing up and down, possibly looking for his daughter, who ran away from her well-to-do home, to join a repertory company.
Not to be outdone, the Royal Court has a resident ghost too. He is called Les and is a former caretaker. He's a bit clumsy though and is often blamed when things are mysteriously knocked over or broken. The poor man died on the roof when he was clearing out the grids one freezing cold day. He slipped and broke his leg. Unable to summon help, he died there, from exposure.

Finally, we have the Everyman Theatre. A multi million pound refurbishment and renovation of this building has just been 'topped off' and it will be interesting to see if they have managed to exorcise the infamous 'Ghost that Smells of Wee'. I kid you not. This spirit leaves behind the distinctive pong of men's...well...urine actually.
No matter what measures were taken to fumigate and deep clean the affected area, this ghost regularly left a terrible stench at the back of the auditorium and in the men's toilets. Staff reported seeing shadows in those toilets last thing at night and, after the electricity had been turned off for the night, the sound of hand driers switching on and off has been heard. Flashing lights have also been seen in there.

The moral of this story is, when you go out for a night at the theatre in Liverpool, be careful where you sit and who you talk to. And that lady in the grey coat may not be what she seems...


Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres
Liverpool Empire Theatre
Royal Court Theatre