Monthly Archives: December 2014

Dear Bainbridge – Chapter Four – by Georgina Ramsey

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Bainbridge cover

(* Chapter Three was posted on 24th December 2014)

I watch the other creatures solemnly crawl back into their graves as the night-time hours come to a close.  This time, I won’t be joining them. I’m not going back into the darkness of the earth to reconnect with my bones. No, this time I’m staying above ground.

As I sit next to my plot in the middle of the cemetery, an eerie silence overwhelms me. Closing my eyes, I think about Joel and Betsy, and what they did for me. I say a special prayer for Joel, hoping that he recovers soon and goes on to find eternal peace, and then I send out all the love in my heart for beautiful Betsy.

With positive vibrations running through my soul, I open my eyes to see Myrtle walking by. I gather my thoughts. She hesitates before reaching her grave, turning to look back at me, and I think she understands what I need to do. I force out a smile for her, but it’s without any shred of happiness. She nods back in response with a slow blink of her eyes, and then slowly, she disappears into the earth. As the tip of her tail vanishes from view, I know that she’s gone. I try to hold onto her image in my mind, and lost in that moment of time, I forget my own woes, instead, imagining a happy, carefree life just like Myrtle’s. A life, I imagine, where we would all live to a ripe old age and would be held in comforting arms when our last breath chooses its time to leave our bodies. I sigh; for me, it wasn’t to be.

“Sleep tight, boyo.” The melodic words rolling off Alwen’s tongue break my trance. “See you at dusk.”

“What?” I turn to see her stood there. “Sorry, Alwen,” I say, shaking my head free from its fuzzy thoughts, “I was miles away.”

“I said…” she pauses, looking at me with her beautiful, brown, quizzical eyes. “Are you okay, boyo? You look troubled.”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Alwen,” I reply, but another careless sigh slips out.

She walks towards me and sits down in the snow. I watch as snowflakes fall, landing onto her nose momentarily, and then disappearing through the body of her spirit as she speaks, “Ignore the mob, boyo.”

“I wish I could, but… but… I’ll be fine.” I sigh again. “I just have something I have to do.”

“Nothing that will get you into trouble, I hope.”

“No, that’s not my style.” I let out a quiet laugh. “But I can’t stay here any longer.”

Alwen gasps; her eyes widen and her eyebrows rise as she asks, “What do you mean? Don’t be daft, boyo, you can’t leave us.”

We sit together and look up at the full moon. Straggly clouds crawl past in the sky as I try to explain how I feel. “… but remember, Alwen, there are some good creatures here, like you, Myrtle, Jim, the kittens. It’s just that many of the others don’t want me here. I don’t belong.”

“No, boyo, don’t let them win,” she cries. “You have as much right to be here as any of us.”

“I wish that was true!” I say, resting a reassuring paw on her back. “Thanks, Alwen, for everything you have done for me. I don’t think I’d have lasted this long without you, but I do have to go. Nothing should last forever. If it did, we would never value its real beauty… like the snowflakes falling now. Each and every flake is perfect, but it is only blessed that way for a small amount of time. Then it disappears. It’s up to us to value the beauty it once held and to appreciate the way it made us feel. That’s how I will remember all of you. I truly know how beautiful my friends are and how you have all made me feel while I have been here.”

“Where will you go?” she asks.

“I need to find Betsy.” A warm feeling embraces me as I say her name.

“But you might not find her, boyo. She may not still be alive!”

“I know.” Inside it hurts me to even think of that, but I don’t let on. “I will keep looking for her until I know for sure. I left her without saying goodbye.”

“Like you’re leaving us?”

“What?” I step back, shaking my head. “No! It’s not the same, Alwen, I promise.”

“What about Myrtle, boyo? You know how fond she is of you.”

“Please look after her for me.”

“You know I will.” A glistening tear rolls from her eye and down her muzzle; looking like a small frozen diamond, it stops as it catches on her whiskers. I wipe it away carefully with my paw. “Look at me!” she says. “Alwen doesn’t cry; she’s made of sturdy stuff! I’m being daft, aren’t I?”

“No you’re not.”

“It’s just that I’d never had anyone to look after before, boyo. I was a working dog and the farmer worked me hard, herding sheep – and I was good at it, I may add – but the animals never wanted me near them. They used to run when I came close. When I woke for the first time in the cemetery, the creatures here didn’t do that and it felt nice.”

“Oh, Alwen,” my voice cracks, “I am going to miss you so much.”

As I huddle into her, she goes on, “The Boss is jealous of you, boyo. You have something he can only dream of.”

“Really!” I laugh. “And what’s that? A tail?”

“No,” she chuckles. “He’ll swipe you away if he hears you mocking him. No, boyo, you have class.”

“Well, class hasn’t got me anywhere, so far.”

“It has. I think it’s made you into a perfect version of you and I wouldn’t change you for the world – you’re my little snowflake.” She smiles and a twinkle lights up her eyes. “Anyway,” straightening her back, she takes a deep breath and asks, “What are you going to do when you find her? If you ever find her, that is.”

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”

“Then I suggest you do, boyo!” As Alwen speaks, I can see great wisdom in her face.

“I belong in Betsy’s arms, though.” I feel that warm embrace once more, and an idea overwhelms me. I jump up, excitedly. “Why don’t you come with me?”

“I can’t come with you, boyo. This place is my home now, and Myrtle’s family come here to visit her grave all the time, so she can’t leave.”

“I understand,” I say, slumping back down, as a prick of sorrow stabs at my heart. “Then you, at least, understand why I have to go.”

“Yes, boyo, I do.” As Alwen speaks, her tears show no sign of stopping. “But promise me one thing.”

“Anything.”

“If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you’ll come back here to Myrtle and I.”

I offer a reassuring smile.

“When will you leave?” she asks.

“I’m leaving soon. I’m waiting for dawn.” An owl, in the tree above, hoots a warning that morning is approaching.

“But, boyo, that’s… that’s really soon!”

“I know.” I look up to the sky; it’s beginning to lighten. “It’s the best time to leave. By that time, all of the souls of the other creatures will have returned to their bones.”

“What if you’re seen?”

“By who? A human has never seen me yet, Alwen. I don’t have enough power in my soul to show myself to them, and I don’t suppose I ever will. My soul isn’t whole; it’s like it’s missing something.”

“Your soul isn’t missing a thing, Bainbridge.”

“Hey,” my eyes widen, “you called me by my name!”

“I suppose I did, boyo.”

“Alwen, please say goodbye to Myrtle from me.”

“I will, but she’ll be so sad to hear you’ve gone.”

“That’s why it’s easier I do it this way, Alwen. You and Myrtle are very special to me. I love you both dearly.”

“I know,” she exhales, defeated, “but you have to find Betsy, I understand. I’ll make sure your grave is looked after and I won’t let the others know where you’ve gone.”

“Thanks, Alwen.” I lean in to give her one last hug.  Looking around, I say, “You’re the last to return to your grave. The morning dawn is here now, so you’d better retire before sunrise.”

“I will.” She pats me on the back. “I’ll miss you, boyo.”

“Same here, old girl.”

“Don’t forget us, boyo,” she says as we touch noses.

I close my eyes and her sweet, soothing melodies play in my mind. “I could never forget you,” I whisper.

With my eyes still closed, I wait for what seems like an eternity. When I open them again, the sun is rising in the sky and Alwen has gone.

Chapter 5 will be available to read from 28th January 2015

Dear Bainbridge – Chapter Three – by Georgina Ramsey

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Bainbridge cover

(* Chapter Two was posted on 30th November 2014)

It’s now late November. The moonlight bounces off the snow-capped gravestones, filling the cemetery with a white wintery sparkle. The black ravens sink into the virgin snow as they land, looking for food, leaving little trails of footsteps as they go. We are expecting another heavy snow flurry tonight, which will add to the inch already on the ground, and it’s a sure sign that Christmas is on the way.

Sitting on top of my gravestone, I take a deep breath, close my eyes and smile to myself. Christmas. That used to be a wonderful occasion. Beautiful colours adorned the great house and Betsy’s father would drag a large tree in from outside, which the family would decorate with baubles, lights and tinsel. I would watch, patiently, knowing that when they went to bed, I would pull it all down and do my best to decorate the floor! The smell of turkey cooking would send my taste buds into a tingle and the fires would be stoked to heat the large rooms. A feeling of peace and harmony would wrap itself around the house as the family and staff would merrily sing through the season. But the singing has long stopped. It’s not peace and harmony I feel any more, and tonight the scent of moss and damp wood in the cemetery is layered with something else. Hidden beneath the winter sparkle, there is a feeling of apprehension around and the creatures seem on edge.

“Bainbridge.” Winston’s puffs out his cheeks as he calls my name. “The Boss wants us all to meet at Max’s grave in five minutes.”

“Dalmatian Max?”

“No, Max the Dachshund! Why would we ever want to hold a meeting at Dalmatian Max’s grave? Have you seen it? It should be condemned; it’s crumbling and falling down.”

“Well, he has been dead a long time! What’s the meeting for, anyway?” I ask, jumping down onto the soft snow covering the ground.

“It’s not for me to say, but you’ll see. The Boss wants everyone to find out the news together, so don’t be late!”

Winston seems genuine. He isn’t trying to intimidate or antagonise, so when I see the other creatures beginning to walk over to the meeting point, I follow them, and we all converge. A murmur is travelling around the crowd as we sit and wait.

Alwen stands by my side. “What’s going on?” I whisper to her.

“Not sure, boyo.” Her voice is jubilant. “But I’m hoping for good news.”

“Like what?”

“Not sure, but we could do with some.”

Myrtle edges in close to me. “What’s happening, Bainbridge?”

“I don’t know. The Boss has some news for us. That’s all I know.”

Winston jumps on top of Max’s grave. “Sshh!” he shouts. “… Everyone be quiet.” The crowd continues to mutter. “QUIET!” he demands. “The Boss needs silence.” Looking around the crowd, his eyes narrow. “He has a very important announcement.” With that, Winston bows his head and side steps to make way for The Boss who, slinking into position, addresses the masses.

“Thank you all for coming at such short notice. Unfortunately, I bring bad news.”

A gasp snakes its way around us. “Oh no,” whispers Myrtle. “What do you think has happened?”

“I don’t know,” I reply quietly.

“It’s Joel,” The Boss says. My heart sinks hearing his name. “He has been taken ill and has had what humans call a stroke.”

“Isn’t a stroke good?” Jim asks. “I used to love being stroked.”

“No!” The Boss replies harshly, “I believe it’s not the same for humans.”

“So what’s a human stroke?” Sam asks.

“I don’t honestly know, Sam, but I understand that it’s bad.”

Alwen pushes her way through the gathering of creatures to ask, “How do you know this, boyo?” Looking up at The Boss, tears fill her eyes as we wait for his answer.

“I overheard two of the wardens discussing it this evening. They were locking up the mausoleum and talking about how short staffed they were.”

“Is Joel going to pull through?” I ask.

“I don’t know, Bainbridge. The only information I have at this moment in time is that Joel is seriously ill in hospital.” Panic runs through us all. “Quiet!” The Boss calls us to attention. “As soon as I have any further information, I will tell you. I promise you that.”

“I can’t believe it, Bainbridge,” says Myrtle. “He seemed like such a strong man for his age.”

“Yes,” I reply, “and he loved his job.” Looking over to the corner, I see the kittens huddled together, crying. “This place won’t be the same without him, Myrtle. We all love him dearly. Look… I even think The Boss will miss him if he doesn’t make it through this thing they are calling a stroke. I’ve never heard emotion in The Boss’ voice before.”

The Boss continues, “… so tonight, we will all stay together as one, and hold a ceremony for Joel. We will pray for him a speedy recovery. I would like each and every one of us to say a special word about him.”

“I’m not sure I can,” whimpers Polly from the comfort of her brothers’ arms.

“You must. We all must.” The Boss looks around. “I will begin…” Clearing his throat, he looks up towards the night sky. Flakes of soft snow begin to fall delicately to the ground. “The thing I treasure most about Joel is he never judges us. No matter what we’ve done wrong in our lives, he lets that go. Take Tyson, given the lethal injection for attacking a sheep, but Joel doesn’t criticise. And Daisy, she was given the lethal for urinating on her owner’s new sofa, but again, he doesn’t judge her misadventures. He looks after each one of our graves with the same level of care.”

“He has,” chips in Tyson. “I regret what I did. I made plenty of mistakes in life, but Joel makes the afterlife easier for each and every one of us. He keeps us company and reminds us just how good humans can be.”

“Yes,” says Polly. “I thought humans were bad. I was scared of what they could do, but he is so kind. He loves us creatures.”

A lump forms in my throat. “Excuse me.” I step forward. “Please can I say a few words?”

“Bainbridge?” The Boss’ eyes widen. “You want to speak now?”

“I do.” I look around. “If that’s okay with everyone else?”

A sea of nods runs around the crowd. I jump onto the gravestone. With a deep breath, I say, “I know some of you don’t like me.” I can see shame in the eyes of many creatures as I speak. “You think I’m too posh for this place and I don’t belong here, with all of you, because I’m a bit… what’s the word?“

“La-di-da!” crows Winston. Many in the crowd snicker at this.

“Yes, la-di-da.” I stand proud, throwing him a scowl. ”But what you’re saying about Joel is right. He never cared whether we were from wealth, were poor, black, white, or…” I look towards poor Penelope the Poodle “… green!”

“Oi, leave it out!” she cries. “I can’t help it. It was the wrong dye at the salon! Stupid young girl didn’t know her pastel pink from her pea purée!”

“Anyway,” I go on, “the fact is that we can all learn something from Joel. We need to come together and be there for one another, like he has been for us.”

“Here, here, boyo!”

“Thanks, Alwen.” I nod. “What do you think?” I look at the stunned faces looking up at me.

“Bainbridge,” The Boss moves into my line of vision, “tonight there is a truce for Joel, but things between us haven’t changed. You are still from the wrong side of town. This cemetery is for the west side animals. You will never be one of us.”

“But I didn’t choose where I lived,” I look down at my fur, “and I didn’t choose what I look like.”

“No, but you are who you are. Born and bred, you are Bainbridge, and you will always be different.”

“Yes,” shouts Winston. “Go back where you belong. You shouldn’t be in our cemetery. You should be in St Augustine’s with the others!”

I look at Alwen and Myrtle. They are too embarrassed to look at me. It hurts my heart because I thought I had their support at least.

Chapter 4 will be available to read from 31st December 2014

A review of Mary Wood’s ‘Time Passes Time’ by the Book Gremlin

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When you pick up one of Mary Wood’s novels, do not expect a light-hearted historical fiction that will tickle your heart and hug you with warmth. No, prepare your mind to be slapped with the grim reality of life.

Time Passes Time is a voyeuristic glimpse at a segment of Theresa Crompton’s life that will leave you with a bittersweet taste because of the intensity of the plot and the traumas she is faced with. The backdrop to this story is the Second World War and a British woman, battling her demons, who has given up her illegitimate child and joined the Special Operations Executive as a spy. She is assigned to a mission, assisting the Resistance and, during this time, she falls in love with a Jewish man, Pierre Rueben, who is running one of the Resistance groups. They fall in love and have a son out of wedlock, but will their relationship survive the war? Again, it seems nothing is straightforward for Theresa and circumstances cruelly take away her chance of happiness. These aren’t spoilers because at the very beginning you understand Theresa has suffered emotional, sexual and physical brutality during her lifetime and the novel pulls you through her struggles, making clear why a mental breakdown was likely for her.

The story is set over two time periods. It is, as stated, partly set during the Second World War, but also the 1960s, which is where the tale actually begins. Theresa, now a middle-aged woman, has been mugged and her memoirs stolen. These happen to land in the hands of another woman, who is disabled and much younger, and who, after reading through them, becomes intrigued by Theresa’s life. The memoirs also give this young lady the courage and hope that she so dearly needs.

This is a complex story about the lives of several characters and how they intertwine over a significant period of history. It’s a dark tale about bravery and sacrifices made along the way. You do get a feel for Theresa Crompton and most will empathise with the cause of her mental breakdown. She is an intriguing character. She is bold, flirtatious, deceitful, and shutting off her family and the world around her whilst seeking excitement, but she is also looking for true love and stability. In Pierre, she hopes she has found it.

I knew somebody who was in the French Resistance, so the content of the book hit home and fascinated me, as I’m sure it will others. Mary Wood’s book is, as stated, a work of fiction, but I’ve heard just how horrific it was for those involved, and I do believe Mary portrays this well.

For a reader, the ending of a book often closes chapters within the lives of characters, but they also provide the opportunity to leave the reader wondering of the possible futures in store for those they have now become attached to. For the characters, their futures are, as yet, unmapped in the mind of the reader, offering up countless possibilities. Mary Wood achieves this superbly in Time Passes Time and I am not going to even hint at how she does this, but it’s safe to say I was not expecting what happened.

Time Passes Time is a book of real social history full of guilty secrets, unspoken taboos, regrets, and a family torn apart and deprived of each other’s love and company. Mary Wood is a fantastic storyteller and is not scared to tackle sensitive topics, which some readers, who enjoy the idealistic romance of historical fiction, may find uncomfortable.  This book is full to the rafters of drama, chaos, emotion and leaves you, until the very last page, on the seat of your chair.

A review of Mark Jones’ ‘The Bees Who Made Cheese’ by the Book Gremlet (the Book Gremlin’s child, Age 11 1/4)

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Bees and cheese pic

This was the first book by Mark Jones that I’ve ever read, but hope it isn’t the last. It was bought for me for my Kindle when The Book Gremlin saw somebody recommending it. I thought it was brilliant and the illustrations by Felix Joyce were amazing. The pictures perfectly captured the story and the people/animals in it.

The idea of bees making cheese really interested me because it goes against what I’ve been taught in school. I don’t think anyone has ever written a book about bees making cheese before, and I think Mark Jones has a really good imagination and knows what kind of stories children like to read. His descriptions are fantastic and, I’m not just saying this, I liked the whole book and can’t think of how it could be improved. It made me laugh so much. Plus, it is only short, which means you can read it in one night or on a journey.

My favourite characters are obviously the bees. They all have names beginning with B, such as Blossom and Brenda, which I thought was a nice touch. I also like Reverend Pringle because of how excited he gets, and I think Old Farmer Hardacre’s grumpiness is amusing. The little details throughout the story are really good, like the farmer making black and white cheese! The character who I didn’t like was the beekeeper, but I’m sure you will understand why when you read the book. When you do, you will see just how selfish he is. He is lazy and makes the bees do all the work for him. He’s not a nice person. I have too many favourite parts of the story to mention, but the bit that made me laugh the loudest involved a dog at the end. I won’t give away what happened, but it was so funny.

This book is an excellent story for children. It’s probably aimed at young children, but I’m eleven and loved it. I also think it will appeal to both boys and girls. I can’t wait to read more by this author.