Archive | August, 2015

PIFCO THE PONY’S BELL

27 Aug

PIFCO THE PONY’S BELL

Pony photo: Cute Pony cool-pony.jpg

Pifco the pony wanted a bell.

His wasn’t the easiest of lives because he was used to take human girls for rides down the lanes near where he lived, and some of them were pretty nasty creatures, mostly unintentionally.

There was, for instance, Mirabelle who almost smelt faintly of urine, and there’s nothing Pifco hated more than the smell of human urine. It was truly nauseous and one day, without thinking, Pifco even bolted down the street without his rider in order to escape the pong. Yet in other ways Mirabelle could be kindly, and she always had a pocket full of sugar cubes with her. The trouble was, though, the all-pervasive stink that came with Mirabelle somehow managed to find its way into her sugar cubes, and some of them were, frankly, much too acrid for a delicate pony like Pifco to enjoy.

Then there was Daisy-May. Daisy-May had the kind of voice that sent humans mad and it had a worse effect on ponies like Pifco. It shrieked and whined and sometimes managed to enter registers so high that it was beyond human hearing. And that maddened peace-loving creatures like Pifco and made him stamp his feet and threaten to throw his rider, that rider being Daisy-May. But only threaten: Pifco was really a very kind pony.

I suppose I should mention Christina, especially as this story is partly about her. She came from the largest house in the area, the one at the top of the hill and rumoured to have seventeen bedrooms, though Christina wasn’t the kind of girl to count them. She was a superior person, and knew it. Everything about her was best, or even better than best, and she made sure everyone knew it, though the truth was very different from her haughty ways might suggest.

So she was unlikely to ever ride a pony shared by what she saw as lesser girls, but she did because (and Pifco soon realised this) her big house with its brocaded curtains was like a stable without any straw. It was all appearance. All prettiness on the outside and deckchairs inside. All stucco walls with pretty wooden beams outdoors and black and white television indoors. And Christina, when she saw just how easily Pifco (by the twitch of his ears) could see through the pretence that was her whole life couldn’t help being spiteful and cruel. She was the worst of the riders and if Pifco hadn’t felt sorry for her he might have thrown her more than once.

Pifco wanted a change in the way he lived his life. He wanted people to know when he was happy and aware when he was miserable, but the silly creatures that were human beings didn’t seem able to understand the clearest messages that he sent them.

Then one day a fire engine went past him, doing a phenomenal speed on its way to the big house at the top of the hill. At the time there was nobody out for a ride on him and he was allowed to saunter down the lanes in total freedom because, well, he’d arranged it for people to put absolute trust in him. He wasn’t going to go where he wasn’t supposed to go, and his owner knew that. She was a kindly and understanding old lady with a nice voice, no smell of urine anywhere about her and not one spiteful habit.

The fire engine went at such a speed it even made Pifco jump, but it had warned him. It had a bell, the sort that clangs in a cracked and discordant way, and it rang like mad as it approached the pony. A fireman on board the machine was frantically yanking it backwards and forwards using a short leather strap attached to it. And as the bell clamoured and crashed the fire engine raced past Pifco.

At the top of the hill it stopped and from his position half way up the hill Pifco could see Christina wailing and gnashing her pretty white teeth and waving her arms, and he could see the spirals of smoke leaking out of the big house and the bright yellow and gold flames mixed with black smoke jumping out of the chimneys. The house was on fire! At least, its chimneys were!

He watched as a fireman unrolled a long hosepipe and made to go into the house.

“You can’t go in there!” Pifco heard the horrid Christina warble. “You might see the deckchair where papa sits!”

Papa was her father, a plump and tweedy man who always needed a shave and who carried a walking stick even though he was perfectly capable of walking without one, but he did need something to poke poor people with as he passed them by, not really understanding that if you took his big house away he would be seen as the poorest of the lot.

The fireman ignored Christina, knowing her for the little bitch that she was, and took his hose into the house and started squirting water over everything. It was just as well, he thought, that everything wasn’t really very much!

The trouble with that big house was that it was very old and tinder-dry and the flames spread, and when it got either too hot or too dangerous for the fireman he dragged his hose back out into the open and shrugged his shoulders and turned his tap off. This was one house that was going to burn right down to the ground. He could tell that. He had been a fireman for long enough to learn the signs. And he was right.

The fire burned down to the ground, and the fireman muttered sad little homilies to Christina and her Papa, and drove his fire engine back down the hill, smiling slightly to himself.

And Pifco, at that moment, realised that he, like the fir engine, should have a bell. He would be able to warn smelly girls not to smell, whiney girls not to whine and plain nasty girls not to be nasty. Yes, he needed that bell!

Which is why he was to be seen in the little village shop, taking up just about all the space provided for customers, and nuzzling politely against a middle-sized brass bell that was on sale for only five pounds.

And, yes, he did have five pounds!

© Peter Rogerson 27.08.15

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THE CHANGE OF LIFE

26 Aug

THE CHANGE OF LIFE

SINKHOLE photo: citrus wma 7-3-11 IMG_2761.jpg
When Jeffrey Spangle was fourteen he had an experience that changed his life for ever, and for ever is an awfully long time for anything to be changed.
He was on his way to school (a mild comprehensive in the suburbs with quite a lot of green, trees and grass and plants and stuff, all round) when he fell into a hole that hadn’t been there yesterday. Nor had it, in his own experience, ever been there before.
Yet it had. Before he was born. Thousands of years before he was born. Millions even.
It was an old hole that had been covered up by a thin layer of time and he was the first (and only) person unfortunate enough to be not looking where he was going properly when he fell into it.
When he got into it, really deep down so that he was a mass of bruises and, fortunately, no broken bones, he found himself in the kind of place most fourteen year old lads might relish finding themselves in if (and note that if) they were deeply involved in the sort of computer game that deals with alien places and holes in the ground.
“Where in the name of everything am I?” he asked himself in a hoarse teenage whisper. And he might well ask that question because, although he had fallen into an unsuspected hole the things that his rapidly adjusting eyes saw had nothing to do with the inside of a hole.
He felt, indeed, a bit like Alice might have felt when she tumbled down a rabbit hole, but that was fictional and as far as Jeffrey was concerned he was not.
There was a room, nicely and accurately carved into the solid rock with lovely smooth walls that seemed mirrored like marble and a solid-looking table in the middle of it and then any light left behind faded to blackness towards the corners.
“I was wondering when you would come,” murmured a voice from the shadows, for there were shadows, as I said, every corner of the room was clothed in shadows.
“Who…?” he croaked, wanting to ask who was there but unable to by the time he’d completed the first syllable.
“Who am I? That’s a broad question! And a long one!” whispered the voice. “I’m surprised you managed to find the will to ask such a question so soon after tumbling into Errifice.”
He had never heard of Errifice before, and he’d been good at geography at the mild comprehensive school he attended.
“Who…?” he repeated, the same question stumbling to silence at the end of the first syllable yet again.
“I’m Angel Eyes – rendered in your language,” sighed the voice, still wrapped in shadows. “I’ve been here so long it’s a miracle we didn’t meet before… but I suppose the sink hole took too long to implode and bring you to me. Tell me: are you the King?”
“What a ridiculous question,” thought Jeffery, “schoolboys aren’t ever kings, not even prince schoolboys, and I’m still at school and I’m a boy so ergo I’m a schoolboy and certainly no prince.”
“No,” he replied, and much to his own surprise managed a few more syllables. “Boys aren’t ever kings,” he added, shaking his head.
“Oh. How disappointing. And to think I was hoping to meet a King at the very least after all this time,” shivered the voice. “I’ve been in Errifice ever so long, unbelievably long if you must know, and I thought it must be about time I met a real live King, especially seeing as I’m a Princess…”
And there was a rustling sound and the Princess emerged from the shadows.
And what a princess! He’d seen a nudey-book showing monochrome images of undressed bored-looking models that his dad had somehow kept secretly from his own boyhood, and even though he had managed to feel some excitement from the sight of retouched bosoms and faded-out naughty bits he’d never dreamed that a Princess could look anything like as eye-catching as this naked delight, despite her colour.
For a start, she had green skin. And not the kind of green that might be mistaken for any other colour. It was, to his mind, greener than the cricket square at school, and the groundsman made sure that was very green. And it was nothing like the wishy-washy green his dad had painted his bedroom, pastel he called it but it was the colour of bad dreams. No this Princess (and he didn’t question that was what she was) had a perfectly toned green about her.
Besides that he found himself becoming excited in a way he secretly enjoyed because she was beautiful. There could be no doubt about it. Take away the green, replace it with a more normal skin colour – white or black would do – and he would have accounted her as beautiful.
“Why are you clad in fabric?” she asked. “I don’t see why you need be clad in fabric when the temperature is controlled so perfectly…?”
And he noticed it was pleasantly warm in this down-a-hole underground place. He could feel warmth in a slight breeze that swirled around and past him.
“It’s my school uniform,” he replied. Syllables were coming much more easily now that he could see the person he was talking to. “Why are you green?” he added, thinking it might be his turn to ask a question.
“It’s the copper in my blood,” sighed the Princess. “I can see your blood is based on iron,” she added. “But mine is copper.”
“Oh,” he replied, not understanding properly, biology not being one of his best subjects.
“Where am I?” he asked, and she giggled. It was a lovely sound, that giggle.
“You’re in Errifice,” she said, quietly. “We’ve been here since my people crash-landed quite a long time ago. We built this world beneath the ground because of the big creatures. They frightened our forefathers, the way they stomped around and had vicious battles and made the whole world seem to shake. So we delved down here and waited.”
“What for?” asked Jeffrey, suddenly too interested to stop himself from being nosey even though his mother had told him times-many that his curiosity would be the death of him.
“For the big creatures to go somewhere else, I suppose,” she sniffed. “But it was a mistake. By the time the giant creatures had gone we had become so adapted to being underground that going above, into the air and all the nasty rain and mists and fogs would totally destroy us! It’s what turned us green! Some tried and never came back. So we’re here for the duration.”
“We?” he asked. “How many are you?”
“Oh,” she smiled, “there’s only me. No, by we I meant you and me. The two of us. We’ll breed, of course, create a family, have loads of children, I’ve always wanted children, sweet emerald little ankle-biters. Yes, you and I, we, are here for the duration all right. It’ll be fun, you know.”
And that’s what happened.
That’s what changed Jeffrey Spangle’s life for ever after the council filled the sink-hole with rubble and concreted it over.
© Peter Rogerson 26.08.15

THE PERFECT LIFE

24 Aug

THE PERFECT LIFE

arbour photo: arbour DSC00002.jpgIt had been the perfect life. At least, the last few years of it had been. Jenny-May knew that, and so did Terrence Sparks. They had met in their middle years, almost by accident if the truth were to be told, and had gelled together so well it seemed, to friends, that they had always been together.

And the years had passed as years do.

Leading to this afternoon on this day, sitting in this arbour under this sun, smiling and whispering and being the two they had been for their perfect lives together.

And Tommy and Hilda had come by. Tommy was his son (from a previous marriage that had been nothing like as perfect) and Hilda was the love of Tommy’s life. Tommy and Hilda called fairly often, though not as often as they might. After all, they had lives of their own to lead. Terrence explained this to Jenny-May and Jenny-May thought she understood.

“Have a sweet, sir,” smiled Hilda, proffering a plastic bag of brightly coloured delights. “And you, Jenny-May,” she had added with the sweetest smile.

And Terrence and Jenny-May took a sweet each and smiled and cooed and sucked the sweetness from the confection. They were lovely sweets, orange flavoured (which Terrence preferred whilst Jenny-May merely liked, and they sat back in the sun and it beamed its warmth on them.

“You look happy, dad,” murmured Tommy.

“We are,” sighed Terrence, and it was the truth. He had never felt happier, having the love of his life right next to him under the sun in their floral bower and his son, the fruit of his past loins right there with him. “This is the very best of life,” he added, “having you here, son, with your lovely Hilda – and my darling Jenny-May to make things perfect. And the flowers all around us, the fragrant blooms, those roses by the archway, the grass beneath our chairs, everything so perfect I could almost weep with the joy of living…”

“I’m so pleased, dad,” murmured Tommy, casting a momentary glance at Hilda.

Then the two younger people left, having, as Terrence knew, their own lives to live, their own things to do and their own plans to make.

“Those were strange sweets,” whispered Jenny-May, thoughtfully.

“Orange,” sighed Terrence. “They know how much I like orange sweets.”

“Happiness is,” sighed Jenny-May, and she leaned towards Terrence and laid her head on his shoulder. “I love you,” she whispered.

“And I love you,” replied Terrence, because he did and no matter how many times he said it he knew that it simply had to be said one more time. Then he moved his head round, and kissed her gently on the cheek.

“I’m so tired,” whispered Jenny-May. “It must be the heat, under the sun, on this lovely day.”

“Come to me,” sighed Terence, “Rest your head on me, my sweetness. And together we may doze off, don’t you think? Together, under the sun, shaded by the old plum tree – we may get some shut-eye.”

She snuggled into him and rested one hand on his knee. Then she closed her eyes and let the glorious day flow over her, the bright sun grow dark as a shadow from inside her covered it up. And Terrence snuggled into her and rested one hand on her knee and did likewise.

“I love you,” he whispered, and the bright sun dimmed for him as it had dimmed for her.

And they rested, touched each other as the sun slowly went down, skin on skin, cold skin on cold skin, together. And they were still. Still like the dead are still, though the warm rays of a black sun still bathed them and its radiance shimmered in their fragrant arbour and touched, briefly, the departure of their perfect life.

Meanwhile, on the street outside Tommy held his Hilda by one hand.

“I guess they were nice sweets,” he said, squeezing her fingers.

“Delicious,” she replied, “And undetectably toxic….”

© Peter Rogerson 24.08.15

SOPHIE’S VOICE

18 Aug

SOPHIE’S VOICE

derbyshire dales photo: Somewhere in Derbyshire Dales DFE5A41F-49D7-4BBE-9E4A-074A3FDE504D-5514-0000072FF44FD165.jpg

By the time Tommy was seven he knew he wanted to be a romantic hero. He had read lots of stories, some of them fluffy and happy and others grotesque and gross, and he loved all of them. He had fallen in love with lacy princesses with peaches-and-cream complexions, run his immature fingers through their golden locks and looked deep into their perfect eyes, he’d fought savage man-eating tigers on the plains of Africa where no mortal being was safe, he’d climbed freezing and jagged mountains until his fingers fell off in the cold. He had read about every kind of romantic hero the planet had spawned, and by the time he was seven he wanted to be one of them.

It wasn’t until he was in his teens, though, that he got his chance.

The school he went to was taken on a school camp. Not the whole school – that would have been silly, there being above five hundred pupils altogether, but just his class. He was excited. Of course he was what teenage boy wouldn’t be excited, what with there being fifteen girls in the class, and only fourteen boys? It meant that even the spottiest, smelliest and most loathsome boy would stand a chance of getting at least one clandestine cuddle when no-one was looking. It stood to reason: the mathematics showed that.

The camp was to be in the most picturesque corner of Derbyshire, England, not far from the most beautiful of idle rivers – and the weather forecast was optimistic. The weather-girl, his weather girl if the truth of what went on inside his head was to be told, had stood in front of her weather-map during the breakfast television news, and waved a delicious hand at little suns just about everywhere.

She was Sophie and the main reason for him watching the weather forecast. His experience of the opposite sex, besides princesses with long and fragrant hair that teased his fingers as they drifted through it, was his mother, whom he had once adored and now found rather annoying because she insisted there should be rules in life. And when Sophie came out with pictures of bright sunlight and explained wonderful summer temperatures in that silky voice of hers, he became aware of a mysterious and exceptionally pleasant stirring in his loins.

“Sophie,” he whispered when his parents were out of the room, “Sophie, you are perfection … there can be no woman anywhere on the Earth more beautiful than you … I wish I knew you, in the flesh, face to face, smile to smile…”

But he knew that he didn’t know her, and it was that very knowledge that fed his love of romantic heroes and created, in the planet of his brain, a wonderful, beautiful and highly personal world in which he was a magnificent lover and she was his goddess.

“The future looks warm and bright and beautiful,” she sighed at him, smiling that special smile of hers just for him, and then the image faded to be replaced by a newscaster grimly going about his duty of reporting wars and the pains of human chaos as the headlines of the day.

“Sophie,” he sighed, and went furtively to the toilet.

Everyone who goes camping or otherwise holidaying there finds Derbyshire to be beautiful if they look at the right parts of it, and the dales with their varying shades of the Earth itself, complete with rivers that glide serenely along, have wonderful names like Dovedale and Wolfcotesdale. As soon as he saw the camp-site Tommy fell in love with nature. And that fondness increased tenfold when he and half a dozen other boys sat in their enormous tent as dark fell and discussed the girls.

It seemed that everyone, himself included, knew a great deal more about girls than he believed could ever be possible. The things he’d done himself were, he thought, incredible and made the mind boggle as he explained them. After all, he found himself, whilst remembering the weather forecasts and the way its presenter made him feel, recounting escapades that he’d had with Sophie along dark streets on darker nights. He even called her Sophie in his glassy-eyed reconstructions of an impossible past, and much to his own delight he found himself gaining a reputation (totally unearned) as a Romeo.

He was creating a make-believe world and populating it with a real flesh-and-blood woman, and thrilling his classmates with descriptions of flesh that he’d never actually seen and certainly had no chance of touching. But the dark early nights called for bold stories, and he knew how to produce them.

But it was on the third night of the camp Sophie let him down. Unbelievably, her erotically-charged promise of unending sunshine was proved to be a lie!

He had almost swooned as she had, on the television back home, promised a week of endless sunshine, of arid conditions perfect for tents and camping, and here, on the third night and in reality, a storm broke out. And what a storm. Lightning flashed, brilliant through the walls of the boys’ tent, and thunder crashed, louder than the bombs falling on Flanders in Biggles books.

Sophie had made no mention of storms and certainly not of a storm like this. There had been no jagged flashes or crashes on her map, and her smile had spoken only of sunshine.

“I’m scared,” muttered one boy, squeezing as close as he could to another boy, for comfort rather than sex.

“Well, I’m not,” growled another, trying to sound macho, and failing as a particularly bright flash illuminated the fear on his face.

“It’ll be over soon enough,” murmured Tommy, displaying a great deal more confidence than he felt.

“It’s all right for you to say that!” whispered a different boy. “I usually like storms with thunder and lightning, but this is … scary.” A crash of thunder confirmed the terror in his voice as he yelped the last word.

“It’s only weather,” suggested Tommy, “It’ll be sunny again tomorrow.”

“Says you!” scoffed a fresh voice in a meteorological lull, and a new shape formed by the tent entrance, feminine and fragrant like a fairy story princess.

“And says Sophie,” breathed Tommy to himself, suddenly knowing that voice better than he knew his own.

“Says me,” gloated the princess, “Says me indeed.”

Six pairs of teenage eyes turned to look into the shadows where the voice had come from, but were too slow because an angry jagged spear of brilliance cut down into the tent, through the fragile canvas, and slashed magnificently into Tommy’s flesh, taking his life and filling the tent with the acrid stench of burning flesh.

“Sunny again tomorrow,” grinned Sophie as the storm petered out, “I guess the boy was right!”

And she walked back into the wild black world, holding someone by the hand and whispering sweet nothings to the rain-swept night.

© Peter Rogerson 18.08.15

THE DISPOSSESSED.

11 Aug

THE DISPOSSESSED.

Calais Migrants photo calais-migrants_zpsmqyndyq7.jpgBefore you stop reading this on the mistaken assumption I’m having another blast at organised religion, let me say that I’m not. Well, not exactly: I’m using organised religion as an indicator of a particular virulent human frailty.

Christianity, Judaism, Islam and any other god-centred religion you might be able to think of have long histories, and they have only persisted down so many centuries because of the way all societies introduce very young children to them – here in the UK to Christianity and elsewhere to other monotheistic faiths. Belief is often indestructible and persists for lifetimes in many people. And although the gods those religions are centred on are purely imaginary forces devises so long ago we can’t imagine the hugeness of the time since their conception without difficulty, they’re still there trapped in the minds of many.

Enough said about religion, then. So you may read on!!

There’s another force at work that depends on the same aforementioned frailty, this time using the constant drip-drip-drip of repetition to encourage large sections of the population to believe falsehoods.

And that force is in the pages of some sections of the press.

Take the poor unfortunate migrants lurking in Calais for example. For many of them it’s a last hope for any kind of life away from murder and butchery. They want somewhere they can live where they won’t wake up every morning wondering if this is to be the day of the long knives, when they die in a pool of their own blood. And they’ve made a terrifyingly long journey against immense odds in order to get there. People-smugglers have probably taken their last few coins and they’re without wealth or income. The conditions they live in would make a dog turn his nose up. You’ve probably seen them as you’ve entered or left France by train or ferry.

And some elements of the brave British press (helped hugely by our xenophobic Tory government in the language it chooses to use to describe them) are making an issue of their misery. Groups of right-wing pseudo-nazis are clamouring for their demise. There’s not a brain-cell at work that isn’t fuelled by irrational and inhuman hatred (how can anyone be so scared of the already dispossessed?), and the greatest shame is those brain-cells call their owners British. And don’t one or two of the newspapers love them!

Without mentioning a particular newspaper, you’ll know which one I mean. And its constant drip-drip of hatred has worked into the minds of long-term readers. It’s only human to be influenced: we can’t, I suspect, help it. Our ability to learn from others has created a technological society that I wouldn’t have dreamed possible in my own childhood. And the corner of the crass press that I’m alluding to has grabbed (maybe consciously, maybe unwittingly) that desire to absorb ideas from others and twisted it. What are in reality lonely and lost cousins of ours are painted as a threat. We’re told they want no more than to take from us, without giving anything in return. It’s happened before, by the way, and the migrants, once accepted, gave hugely then as these would in the future.

Anyway, too many of us read the lies, week after week, year after year, and learn to hate.

And who do we hate?

The homeless and dispossessed and utterly powerless, that’s who.

© Peter Rogerson 11.08.15

JOURNEY WITH A STRANGER -5

6 Aug

JOURNEY WITH A STRANGER -5

The next day, early, Maria and her mother were awake and anxiously looking out to see if the man Lambert Mason and his extravagant car were going to pick them up. Since the previous day they’d both had doubts and had even concluded that maybe they should forget all about him and his outrageous story and carry on with life as they had planned. People who trailed their pauper’s route through life didn’t have outrageous things happening to them.

“He won’t come, you know,” murmured Mrs Bigelow knowingly. “He was trying to have us on, and it nearly worked. He must have thought we were born yesterday!”

“He seemed all right to me,” said Maria quietly, “though maybe even bad people can seem all right sometimes.”

“I didn’t trust him,” replied her mother, “with that fancy car of his, what’s he doing interfering with folks like us? I mean, we know our place and that place ain’t in fancy cars…”

But it was to be in a Rolls Royce because no sooner had Enid decided she knew her place in creation than the shiny saloon Rolls Royce pulled silently up by their front gate and Lambert Mason eased himself out. He was still dressed in the chauffeur’s uniform, with its peaked cap, and he smiled as he walked swiftly towards the front door. Maria had it open before he got there.

“Are we ready?” he asked.

Maria nodded, and smiled back at him. “We didn’t know… well, I did, but mummy was doubtful,” she said.

“Doubtful?” asked Lambert quietly.

“I’ve learned not to be too trusting,” declared Enid as she pushed past Maria. “Come on, girl, if we’re going let’s be gone,” she added, indicating the small suitcase they had packed between them. Then she locked the door and tucked its key into her purse.

The three of them made their way to the large car and climbed in, Maria in the back and her mother next to the driver at the front. Like a silent beast the car slid forwards and as far as they knew not a soul had noticed them.

“I’d better explain some things,” said Lambert as they left the small town where they lived behind them and sped through open countryside. “I’m not really a chauffeur,” he added, winking at Enid. “But I suppose you guessed that. It’s amazing where a servant can get whilst a gentleman would be quickly noticed and talked about. So I find it convenient to make believe I’m employed by some important toff whereas, in reality, this is my own car.”

“You must be very rich,” ventured Maria from the back seat. He smiled, and nodded, though Maria didn’t notice from her seat behind him.

“I’m comfortable,” he murmured. “But I’m lucky. I was born, as they put it, with a silver spoon in my mouth, but lounging around or doing a nonsense job in the family business isn’t my idea of living!”

“Doing a nonsense job?” asked Maria.

“My family business is jewellery,” sighed Lambert. “We’re goldsmiths and there’s plenty of money to be made in that business, believe you me! And my father expected me to join the family firm when I left school, and I did for a while. You’ve no idea how mind-numbingly boring it is, though, and I was training to be little more than an office clerk. Then, and sadly, my father died and everyone expected me to take the reins and business would carry on as normal, but I couldn’t stand the idea! There were plenty of skilled goldsmiths working for us and I promoted the best one to company director, took enough money to be comfortable on, and set up my own business as a private detective. I used to love stories of murder and mayhem and solving puzzles!”

“And that’s why you’re here?” asked Maria, leaning forward until she was sitting on the edge of her seat. “Are you on your first case?” she added.

He laughed at that. “Not at all!” he replied. “It was a slow business, getting a reputation for reliability. My first few cases involved following indiscreet wives or husbands and procuring evidence of infidelity. And that was almost worse than working in the office back at the family business, I can assure you. But slowly my name got passed round, and then someone high up in the Government, a Minister of State, got to hear of me, and I landed my current assignment.”

“A minister?” exclaimed Enid, crossing herself.

“Not of the church but of the State!” laughed Lambert. “And that’s why I’m here. The police are interested in one of the Benson sidelines, one that’s far from pleasant. They’ve been tipped off that he has got an unhealthy relationship with the emerging powers in Germany and finances some of their more extreme and unpleasant activities.”

“Germany? Mr Hitler?” asked Maria, almost gasping.

“Him, certainly, amongst others,” nodded Lambert. “The thing is, if the police are ordered to investigate Benson then they’ll have to be rather too public about it, and the Government doesn’t want that to happen. They want the present peace to continue for ever, and they’re afraid, and probably rightly, that there could be another war if Hitler thought that one of his allies was being looked at closely. So that’s where I come into it. I’ve got to bring Benson down in a way that makes it look as if it was his own fault and nothing to do with His Majesty or his Government.”

“Tell me about my dad,” put in Maria. “Mum and I have every right to know what it is you saw when you said he was killed.”

“I was going to come to that,” nodded Lambert. “Let me tell you a bit about the Benson family. They have (or had) a daughter…”

“Jenna,” agreed Maria.

“Well when Jenna was born something went wrong and she ended up damaged,” said Lambert. “It was in 1920 and at the time the family was in Germany. The Great War was only recently over and there was a great deal of poverty, and Benson wanted to do business with the Germans. You see, his business is in cotton and it can only expand if people want to buy things made out of cotton. But if there’s poverty in a country there’s never much money left over after the table has been provided for, and people learn to make do with what they’ve got and mend it when it wears out rather than buy new things.”

“What’s that got to do with Jenna?” asked Enid, frowning.

“Jenna was born in a German nursing home, and the doctors there were experimenting with new ways of making childbirth painless, but they couldn’t afford to experiment much until Benson arrived on the scene and offered them money if they could help his wife in childbirth. You see, she’d had the worst possible time when the boy was born…”

“Luke,” sighed Enid. “He’s a rum ‘un,” she added.

“He was a rum one when he was born too,” agreed Lambert, “and his mother got close to dying having him. She was very ill and they say she hasn’t recovered properly, not even now. Benson would have done anything to make her second go at childbirth easier, and he funded an experimental drug and procedure in the German hospital. She still had a bad time, but this time so did the baby, and Jenna was born damaged. There’s something wrong with her brain.”

“You still haven’t said what it had to do with my father,” protested Maria impatiently.

“I will. Be patient. You see, Benson found that he was in thrall to an element of the new German elite when he got back into England. They as good as blackmailed him, saying that when there was more wealth in the country nobody in Germany would ever be allowed to buy any of his cotton goods unless he said absolutely nothing about the birth of his daughter. It was a top secret and nothing whatsoever to do with worse things we hear are happening in that country, in the field of eugenics.”

“What’s eug… whatsit?” asked Maria.

“A branch of science that studies the best future for human life,” muttered Lambert. “In America they have experimented with the extermination of what they look on as inadequate human beings, and it has been followed up in Germany more recently. But the thing is, the doctors in German knew that Jenna was feeble-minded and it didn’t matter one jot to them that they had caused it. And they’ve got Benson in thrall because they say she’ll be the first to be shown into the gas chambers when their science spreads around the world and gets accepted everywhere.

He sighed deeply.

“Unless, that is, Benson pays up,” he added. “And that’s where your father comes in, Maria. Somehow he discovered the truth and that meant he had to go!”

© Peter Rogerson 06.08.15

MIGRANTS IN CALAIS

4 Aug

CALAIS MIGRANTS photo: migrants AP534393128096-1074x483_zpspn0k7och.jpg
“If you have never moved to a new country to find work, your forebears certainly did. Go back far enough in your family, my family or any family on this planet and you will find that our common ancestors were migrants. In hating them, we hate ourselves.”

Thus concludes an article from the online Guardian by Nick Cohen. He’s discussing the migrants gathered at Calais who would dearly like to come here and live amongst us, but who are being turned away with few even considered by immigration authorities for visas.

And he makes a point worth repeating. In our country we have a press that is partially vitriolic when they discuss migrants, men, women and even children who have left desperately cruel persecution in order to find a better life somewhere. And the life they’re living in Calais is far from ideal despite the humanist and sympathetic generosity of some French people. But that life, scurrying between the dunes in a tatty home-made camp, is better than the life they have left.

Many have settled in other European countries. It is favourite for we in the UK, separated from the mainland by sometimes angry seas, to point out that they should have sought refuge in the first safe country they entered after leaving home, and it is only favourite because we can’t be that. We’re an island and in order to get here the poor wretches must have passed through other safe countries. It’s a let-off for us.

Some of the press makes glorious news out of how they want to soak us of our generosity, get free housing, get free medical care, get free education, and on top of that cash handouts. They forget we’re not that generous. Far from it. We leave them dying at our borders when at least some of them should be offered the dignity of a safe place to rest their heads.

The reality is they’re human beings like us, of our flesh and blood, and if anyone has ever needed help they do.

Read that quote again: “If you have never moved to a new country to find work, your forebears certainly did. Go back far enough in your family, my family or any family on this planet and you will find that our common ancestors were migrants. In hating them, we hate ourselves.”

And, you know, I’m ashamed of us.