A Cornish Tale – Part One

acornishtale

Prologue

My son said to me recently that I was boring. I smiled and said “It’s good to be boring sometimes, would you like to hear a story?” This stalled his pre-bedtime meltdown and he nodded enthusiastically, story-time was one of our favourite pastimes.  “Yes please Daddy, is it one of your made up ones?”

“Sort of, it’s actually a true story about something that happened to me a long time ago”

So as we sat in the warmth of our holiday cottage in Cornwall I recounted to him the tale of my last visit to Cornwall……

How It Began

“But I am Rex Manning” I repeated impatiently. The lady on the other end of the phone line sighed and explained to me for the fifth time that she could not re-set my broadband password over the phone but she would do it for me if I sent my request via email. I took another deep breath, “if I could access my emails I would do that, but as I have explained about a thousand times, I cannot access my emails or the internet because I have fucking forgotten my password and need you to re-set it” I slammed the phone down and slumped onto my hotel bed.

So much for not losing my temper. I grumpily turned the TV on and fumed silently for a few minutes, I was an expert in Norse mythology but I had always fancied myself as a writer, so I guess I had no one to blame but myself for this crummy assignment. After a few well received academic papers had been published I had stumbled into journalism. It was a decent profession in many ways, and despite the recent bad publicity about phone hacking, there was still a lot of integrity to be found within the craft of creating a well researched piece of investigative journalism. That said, this trip to Cornwall was unlikely to result in anything of note, whichever way I dressed it up it was a “local angle” story and just filler. The editor, ever eager to make use of my expertise in “legends and stuff”, had decided that a story on Cornish legends was right up my street. The story I had been sent to cover was on the Piskies of Bodmin, essentially Cornwall’s version of pixies. Old Bob was a great editor but he seemed to think my doctorate was in Big Foot studies and this was about as far away from Pulitzer winning journalism as I could get. I was dreading getting stuck with some local nutter who wanted to discuss giants and the time he fucked a mermaid.

I glumly sipped my scotch and coke and contemplated how I wound up here, my friends thought I had wilfully sabotaged my career just to piss my parents off. They had expected some distinguished career as a professor and I had been gleeful when I informed them that I wanted to try journalism for a while and then maybe write fantasy novels. I could still recall the look on mother’s face the day I told her I had taken a job at “the Journal”. That mental picture cheered me up slightly and I began to think of inventive angles in which I could take this story, perhaps I could look at the folk tale “Peter and the Piskies” and compare that with the modern-day Piskie “sightings”. As with the recent beasts and wild cat phenomenon people tended to get really carried away with the idea of a local legend being true and that had certainly been the case with the spate of people in Bodmin claiming to have seen Piskies on the moor. I was thinking that mass hysteria was another angle I could go with for the article, I mean bloody pixies, give me a break, at least with the wild cats or big foot it gave you something interesting to work with but tiny little people who live in toadstools was the stuff of kid’s cartoons.

I quickly jotted down some notes in my pad and was feeling surprisingly enthusiastic about tomorrow and the thought of getting stuck into the interviews and then writing the article. I took the TV remote and surfed the channels and eventually came across Peter Cushing battling a hell hound upon a foggy moor, very apt I smiled to myself. I was just dozing off in the company of Sherlock Holmes when I heard a knock at the door. I got up to answer but when I opened the door I was confronted with an empty corridor and as I turned to go back inside I noticed a letter on the floor. I picked it up and went back into my room, I opened up the letter and read the following message;

Dear Dr Manning,

I understand you’ve come about our little problem.

Meet me a St. Michael’s Mount Castle tomorrow at 2pm. I have some very important information for you.

Kind Regards

An Interested Party.

I was intrigued, perhaps this assignment was going to be a lot more interesting after all…

Copyright John de Gruyther 2013

India

lydney-grandad

 

Part One –

Looking out of the window of what they call a “care home”

You call it a hospital

Pick up the photograph

Oh to see the Ganges again, feel the ground of sun-soaked history beneath your toes

Himalayas the breath-taking backdrop to your everyday

Playing games at Tughluqabad Fort in Delhi, dreaming of Lakshmi Bai

Chai-Spiced air and sepia toned memories

It’s like looking into the eyes of your own future-past

Uttar Pradesh a long way back

Uttar Pradesh, shining indelibly

Uttar Pradesh a place you called home

 

Part 2

In a cold grey forest

Recollections hard to come by

British weather never acclimatised

Married a dentist in a west London registry office

From forts in Bombay to greengrocers in Acton

A train station in Lydney, such are life’s journeys

What were your thoughts on a cold day in May

thousands of miles away from early morning drills in the blistering sunshine

Met you but never knew you

Looking into photographic eyes

A dear sister gone, set free upon the wind, only her far off stare remains

The man who loved her also just a footnote on a family tree

 

 

Part Three

A familiar whisper talks to me in dream flecked shadows

There was a banjo you sometimes played

Scrambling up the stairs away from excited dogs

Dentistry equipment on a rack in the bathroom

Cars coated in iron

Hiding in cupboards, climbing over fences

Wooden ladybirds perched in a row, their gas-fired mantel a domestic throne

Questions never asked

I dream of your face

The last of your memories may have escaped

The white paint on the gate is still the same

but the years have faded it along with my face

Walking down the road we followed the hearse

A son holding a mother’s hand

You both came from far away

Strong and mythical

Now frail and small

In my imagination I hear Shāstriya Sangīt

Drifting over the banks

of a mighty famous river

Mighty river

now a lake full of ducks

I can see the rugby posts and hear the steam trains

The slide as tall as before

Every time I approach with a note-book

the chances seem further away

Close my eyes and hear distant drums

The warm sun is calling me back to my ancestral home

 

©John de Gruyther 2014

The Paisley Soul of a Stricken Man

John de Gruyther Blog

This is an excerpt from my novel The Paisley Soul of a Stricken Man

Chapter 12 – 1,893 Days Until The Crash

When I was growing up bereavement and grief became familiar companions to my family and for me I began to view these emotions as having their own distinct personalities. They were like animatronic crows, perched on the edge of every conversation, ready with a bitter put down designed to suck all the hope and joy out of life;

“Did you have a good day Eddie?” Mum inquired.

“Yes thanks Mum, I finally made it into the first 11 for the school team”

CAW – Look at im, happy iz ee, selfish bastard, when everyone is sad because iz grandad is dead, ee is going on about football CAW 

“That’s nice dear, I’ve had a bit of a low day, you know thinking about your Grandad”

 CAW – See ow selfish ee iz, why doesn’t he think fore e opens iz stupid mouth CAW

That’s how it felt all the time, every conversation turned back to the same incontrovertible fact. I could no longer enjoy the innocence of being young, it was time to grow up and be a man.

Pain and grief can infect our lives at anytime and it can turn people sour or change them for good. It changed my Mum, over the years she got better in the sense that she mentioned Grandad less. She superficially carried on and “got over” him, she completed the “grieving process” whatever the fuck that is.

But something inside of her was missing, she lost a piece of herself when her Dad died, and every time I saw her all I could see was the gap where Grandad used to be. That little sparkle in her eyes, a spark caused by years of untainted happiness, had now vanished. So for all my resentments and hang-ups, I always felt sad, sad for everything that had been lost and could never be found.

I would change all of that and I wasn’t going to simply paper over the gap in my families’ soul, I was going to fix it completely and bring my Grandfather back. This was it, this was when the plan started properly. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I was now long-lost Cousin Joe from Canada, and I knocked on my Grandparents’ door.

©John de Gruyther 2013

War (The Tall Man Chronicles)

War - Tall Man

This is an excerpt from my Tall Man Chronicles poetry collection;

War

Tall man stands alone
One
and two
eventually three
The names that man give to its foul deeds

Tall man forgotten but not gone
Mourns for the time when a brother
was a man, neighbour and friend

Now in a back yard
His knowledge
His peaceful eyes
A secret buried long ago

War is the great false prophet
Seductively promising
tithes of gold

Civilisations never too old to learn
and grow
Yet enlightenment from mechanised slavery seems so very far away

War

“Cark”, “Cark”

The crow’s sardonic refrain
Indifferent to man’s great folly
Vanity leading to oblivion,
sweet,
desolate,
empty,
barren oblivion
Will it arrive before all the pain

Copyright John de Gruyther 2014

Loxton’s Time-Travel Gift Certificate

John de Gruyther Blog

For his birthday this year his family got him a wonderful gift

A time-travel gift certificate

They’re all the rage

As he melted into the bath,

With just the steam, pleasant dripping sounds and his thoughts for company

He contemplated the ageing process

Thirty-Five, just a number

But it swam at him gloomily

How could he be Thirty-Five?

From 12 to now in a blinking of an eye

Still the same in so many ways, excited by Christmas and

Thrilled at the release of Star Wars Episode XVIII

In other ways all he felt was uncertainty and fear

What must it be like to be Sixty-Five?

A brilliant idea occured to him as he dwelt in the tub

There’s only one way to find out his future

Use the certificate and ask the only man who knows.

So he gets out of the bath, dries off and pulls on his Superman pyjamas and monster feet slippers

With trembling anticipation he picks up the card containing the certificate

“LOXTON’S TIME-TRAVEL GIFT CERTIFICATE

ONE DAY PASS – RETURN TRAVEL INCLUDED*

 

*PLEASE NOTE LOXTON LTD DOES NOT TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY HISTORICAL EVENTS ALTERED AND THE USE OF THIS PASS IN NO WAYS REFLECTS LOXTON’S ENDORSEMENT OF THE USE OF TIME TRAVEL”

 

He was delighted and choked up with emotion

When they gave him this present, so magnificent

The kids had outdone themselves this year

He could feel its significance

He had always wanted to try time-travel

Ever since he saw that film,

You know the one?

That film with the guy from the other thing

A time-travel gift certificate

He smiled to himself

Time travel had become so much more affordable these days

All he had to do to activate it was type in the code

So that’s what he did

And the portal opened, swirling lights before him

But before he stepped through the shimmering window in time

He pondered his mood of the last Four months

His every action feeling perfunctory

Being miserable and down in the dumps

What would he learn from his own future self?

He hoped for happy retirement

Holidays in the sun

He couldn’t envision it the way that life had become

His Dad was happy in his retirement days

Travelling about in his camper van

Seeing things he’d always wanted, a whole new life stretching out in front of him

Is what he had often heard him say

Dad was happy, so maybe he could be too

So he set the date and location

And stepped through the time-travelling doorway

And what did he see?

His own gravestone

Dead at 43

©John de Gruyther 2014