Postcards from the Wilderness: Season of the Witch – Guest blog


The Season of The Witch, is one of my favourite movies because right from the beginning, it drops the viewer into the era of The Crusades.  An era that I find fascinating. Even though it’s a fantasy, it successfully comes across as believable. As usual, the critics took it all far too seriously.

From the beginning, it’s plain to see that the whole cast are playing this one, with the same historically accurate intent, as was displayed by The Python’s crew in, “The Life of Brian” and a good job they make of it too.


Claire Foy, who plays a) The girl, b) The witch and c) The demon, can hardly keep a straight face and with Nicolas Cage, (Behmen von Bleibruck) and Ron Perlman (Felson), playing opposite her and who can blame the poor girl. Nothing is underplayed in this film, the bad guys are just so wonderfully evil and conniving, that they make your toes curl on a regular basis. A prime example being the ‘God Crazed Preacher,’ who is seen raving on at the beginning of this movie. He is just a warm up act, one that sets the scene for the rest of this excellent film.

Anyway, let’s get back to the story.

The Hag scene,’ at the beginning of this film, is a classic and cannot be missed if you truly wish to understand, where this one is coming from.

It goes like this……….

Three women are accused of being witches and are paraded before the local priest, who not surprisingly lies to them and tricks them into confessing. Two of them, are quite normal looking, for the 13th century. You know how it goes, raggedy clothing and it’s yet another bad hair day all round, so they must be guilty, as charged!

Anyway, they object, as you would and protest their innocence but the other one is just a bit too ‘haggy’ and starts acting up. To no avail, all three of them meet a grisly end at the end of a rope.

‘Season of The Witch,’ offers the concept of purposeful and spiritual interference in daily life, which sets a tone of both good and evil. One side is trying to prevent a virulent demon driven plague from ravaging any more of the countryside and the other, doing its damnedest to prevent them from succeeding.


The introduction and inevitable interference of a standard model of hellfire preacher, as usual solves nothing. It only serves to make Behmen, more and more disillusioned, resulting in his desertion from The Army of God. Felson, never the smartest cookie in the tin, joins him in his act of contrition and hence, gets caught at the same time. Both naughty knights then get given the task of delivering The Girl to the Abbey of Severac and finding the cure to the Black Pestilence.

“Oh, that it was so simple.”

Alas, it is not exactly a cake ride. Behmen and his chum Felson, along with young wannabe a knight, Kay, have to handle an attack by a pack of CGI Wolves and negotiate the crossing of an extremely rickety bridge, in order to reach Severac, which, if they’d just stopped and looked up, they would have clearly seen in the distance.


With some great acting by the stars of the film, Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman and Claire Foy, plus a brilliantly complementary cast, this film, holds your attention from start to finish and manages, as all the best movies do, to compress time. It’s almost two hours long but seems to be much shorter, due, just like a book, to its excellent editing.

The final battle between the Demon and the surviving Teutons is to put it bluntly, quite hilarious and only Claire Foy and the now knighted sidekick, Kay survive to ride off into a scenic panorama.

The story never lingers anywhere for too long and the tale has a great pace with a climactic and deadly, demonic conclusion. It is this pace I think of when I write. The story never slows down, or backs away from a gruesome reality, which is quite a relief, during these days of warnings about everything.

Death, fear and adventure, with a thoughtful and considered finale. What more could you want from a movie?

Or, a book for that matter?

Whenever you choose to watch this one, you should always remember the simple truth that, “He’s not a Teutonic Knight, he’s just a very naughty boy, with a very recognisable sword” and like most of the best things in life, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.


In conclusion, ‘Season of The Witch,’ is one of those movies, that really sits well with a few pints of Guinness and/or something good to smoke.

Death Dances in the Shadows: Excerpt from Gideon’s Journal




I don’t know how much time has passed since I last made an entry in this log but it does seem like quite a long sojourn, ‘tween then and now. As the monastery wound down to nothing and slowly the protestant or catholic monks drifted away, or died, I found myself getting lost in the maintenance of the place. There were occasional high points in the passing decades but mostly, they seemed to have been fundamentally empty and easily forgettable times.           


 Millar, is the only constant as the years roll by, though nothing I say to him regarding his perverse nature in the almost ritual slaughter of his victims, ever seems to take effect. I use the word ‘slaughter’ to describe Millar’s preferred method of dispatch, due to the abattoirial nature of the whole thing. He carves them up, while revelling in the terror and excruciating agony he inflicts upon them, as he cuts away small strips of tender flesh from their convulsing bodies. He loves to hear them scream, as his razor-sharp finger nails pierce the top of their skull and he removes a tiny portion of their brain. This, he dangles in front of their horrified eyes and then ever so delicately, he drops it onto his slavering tongue and takes it into his hideous maw. Piece, by piece he strips the unfortunate victim’s flesh from their bones, taking great care not to let the living carcass die, before reaching in and taking hold of the still beating heart and ripping it out of the prey’s shattered chest.

I’ve observed this process many times over the years and it still makes me shudder. I think, it’s the length of time that he can keep the agony flowing through the veins of each individual, as he exquisitely tortures them for his own somewhat disturbing needs. Millar has made an art of sadistic behaviour. To be honest, it doesn’t do me any good to consider the paths that he walks to keep us both fed, after all these years of being marooned on this godforsaken island. The Lord Meklar chose to imprison his errant Son here and I am the fool, who agreed to watch over him. So, for as long as I live, I am also a prisoner on Ynys y Niwl.

A fisherman called at the island yesterday and from what I am hearing, England is at war with itself but it’s so long since we last had a visitor, the conflict could well be over by the time another stranger calls by. He mentioned that the people, are calling it ‘The Civil War,’ although actually it’s a battle about parliament and who controls it. It’s either The King, or the people and Millar reckons that it was ever so. It certainly isn’t my place to contradict his vastly superior lifespan and therefore, knowledge about such things. The death of the news bearer, was as unfortunate, as it was necessary.

Fish stored in a salt filled barrel, are only tolerable for a short time and then, thirst gets the better of us both and Millar is not the most patient, or tolerant creature at times of stress. He was demanding red meat and some turned up in a coracle. The fisherman, who only stopped on the island to see if he could catch enough fish to feed his family, never got the chance to find out. My seemingly generous offer of a fish and potato meal, completely lulled him into a false sense of security and I allowed him to finish the meagre feast before I nodded to Millar, who was hiding in the undergrowth and he stepped forward and began the long, drawn out demise of his prey.

I ate in Millar’s tower that night, which is to say, he ate and I just sat and watched as he carved up the fisherman and removed the portions, to the Ice House, which lies within the crystal cave hidden below Wyndwrayth.

Millar, is acting very strangely at the moment and he keeps on mentioning, some ancient object, which he calls ‘The Tears of Taklamakan.’ He reckons, that the Ruby Ring Lord Meklar gave me, along with the one he himself wears, are connected to ‘The Tears,’ in some curious way. However, seeing as how I have never seen these mysterious ‘Tears,’ I can offer nothing more on the subject, at this time.


Postcards from the Wastelands




I first bumped into Jericho Writers when searching online for agent contacts.  They were quite high on the list and I was instantly drawn to the idea of their Agent Match Search Engine.  Having spent a long time struggling to find suitable agents to contact using the more conventional means, like the Writers and Artists Yearbook, it seemed the perfect solution.

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However, that is not all Jericho has to offer.  Not by a long shot!

During the week of free access I received emails with information on how to go about contacting an agent and how to ensure you make your submission more likely to succeed, alongside examples and templates.  All invaluable insights into the nature of agency.

On becoming a member of Jericho writers you also have access to a wealth of information about publishing, writing and marketing that help you avoid pitfalls and increase your chances of success.

Additionally, Jericho writers give you access to editors, run writing courses and events where you can actually meet agents face to face.  They are committed to helping authors of all kinds; fiction, non fiction, screenwriters, experienced and those just starting up.  They give tips and advice on such things as coping with manuscript rejection and everything is written and laid out in such an easy straightforward manner that it’s a pleasure to read.

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Death Dances in the Shadows: Wyndwrayth Chapter 7 Excerpt.


“What do you want,” he barked as the door flew open, revealing a rather stern looking Clarissa Cleaver, who was apparently not ‘best pleased.’ As surprised as he was to see her, Nick held himself in check and instead of giving her both barrels, calmly smiled at his near neighbour and enquired politely if there was an emergency he could perhaps help with?

“No, no, I just thought that I would call by and mention the speed limit on the lake, which, with you being a relative newby, may not be aware that it is a maximum of ten mph. May I respectfully suggest, that maybe you could keep a check on your speed next time you venture out onto the water? We would hate to have to confiscate your boat.”

Nick, was not expecting that and his mouth fell open in response to her words. He was about to respond to her request, when she spun on her heels and headed brusquely off down the path, towards her vehicle and was gone before he could utter a single word in his own defence.

“Sorry,” he pitifully called to nobody, “I won’t do it again,” and unable to silence the devil within, he finished the statement with a rather sarcastic sounding, “promise.” A little voice called back, from what sounded like it was far away.

“Thank you, Mr. Swann, I’ll hold you to that.”

Conversation over, Nick turned and stepped back indoors, closed the door and mumbled something about Lady Cleaver’s remarkable ears to himself as, he made his way back towards the recliner and the remainder of his rudely disrupted doobie.

‘Fucking spooky, Man,’ he silently said to himself, as he took another toke on remains of the joint, inhaled and held his breath. Nick had met Clarissa Cleaver previously but never without Cuthbert being present. Nick clicked on Heddi and put Ynys y Niwl+Llyn Isaf – By-laws and restrictions, into the search engine and waited to see what turned up. There was only one response, on the screen before him.

“You’ve got to be joking,” he spluttered, as he repeated out loud the information on Heddi’s screen. A plume of sweet smoke exited his lungs, through his nose. “Ten miles an hour!” He gasped, “Fuck me, I could swim faster than that, when I was in Junior School!” Nick protested and having gotten over the initial shock of that revelation, he read on. “Shit,” he spluttered. “There’s even a rule about exceeding the permitted decibel levels, in the shore-side gardens.” His interest now piqued, Nick furtively read on, almost as if he were involved in a piece of espionage. A ridiculous mental picture, of a gang of adolescent youth’s in black leather jackets and ice blue jeans, racing up and down the lake on jetski’s, ruining the Lord and Lady Cleaver’s mid-summer lakeside party, enveloping their guests in clouds of exhaust fumes, came to mind. In his fantasy, there appeared to be great waves crashing down on the beach, sweeping all before them.

“Surf’s up,” he quietly stated, while casting a quick look out of the bay window at the lake outside. These unwarranted intrusions of distracting images, which came to him almost unbidden, often danced around in his head and held his attention. They had become more frequent, since he had lost his Mother but Nick, put it all down to a natural sort of trauma and was just, “riding it out.” If it continued over a long period, then he might look into the possibility of engaging a ‘shrink’ but right now, these interludes often did no more harm than making him smile and sometimes delayed him for a few moments.

“O.K, let’s carry on with this ramble through the roses and see what else turns up,” Nick muttered under his breath. As he read on and got further down this list, of what he decided, were mostly petty infractions of the Cleaver’s own vindictive prejudices made manifest, like the one about playing the radio too loudly while fishing. That was a gem of utter spite and from what he’d picked up from his foray’s in The Poacher’s Rest, was undoubtedly concocted in a fit of pique by Lady Cleaver, under the influence of a few Sherries. “She must have been well pissed, that night,” he joked as he read sub clause two, “The penalty for a second infraction of this rule, was the dispatching of the offending radio, to the bottom of the lake.” Nick looked at the words and just to be sure, read them again. “Christ, that really is a bit severe, if you ask me,” he said and broke into a fit of the giggles.

“Far out and solid, you crazy pop pickers,” Nick said theatrically, thrusting his arms out dramatically and then, he started to laugh out loud again. “These people are fucking crazy! Who do they think is going to wade through all these made up regulations and pay any heed them?” There were rules regarding almost everything. The one about being drunk, while ‘in charge of a vessel on The Lake,’ almost made him choke, when he read it. “How can you tell if somebody’s boating erratically,” he wheezed “and the concept of ‘on the spot fines’ levied by old Seth…….Jeeeeez!” Chuckled Nick. “I’m going through ‘Nothing to Declare,’ when I go out there,” he wheezed as a delicious picture of Lord Cuthbert, in a Nazi uniform, chasing Venezuela and him down the lake, sprang instantly into his consciousness. “Oh god, Man,” he laughingly wheezed “and to think that you bought this cottage, off those two idiots.” With that, he flopped back onto the Lazy Boy and put the last inch of his oft disrupted joint between his lips and re-lit it.


Postcards from the Wastelands: Pendle Hill


Some years ago, on a whim, my partner and I travelled to Pendle Hill to watch the dawn. For those unfamiliar with the location it is famous for the trial and execution of the Pendle Witches. It was the dawn of Samhain, the time when it is said that the interface between the worlds of the living and those of the dead are at their thinest. It seemed like a good idea at the time but we should have known better.


We set off around midnight in our old citroen, reaching our goal at around 2.30am and parking on the side of the road. The night was clear and crisp as we pulled on our coats and stared up at the Hill, our breath creating cobwebs of mist.


The Hill was a dark and strangely looming presence, rising steeply up before us. In high spirits we began to climb, yet each step felt heavier, our breathing more laboured, the Hill more forbidding. The silence oppressive.

We had hardly climbed any distance at all, when the first wisps of wind could be seen silently rippling gently through the grasses, that covered the body of the hill. We started to hear a soft whispering sound approaching from around the side of the Hill.  It grew steadily in volume, whistling as it approached our position. Then, like a screaming Banshee, it tore past us in a single, chilling gust and moved off towards the town of Pendle, which could be observed in the near distance.


Disconcerted yet determined, we climbed ever higher as the strange gusts of wind seemed to increase with every step we took towards the summit. About half way up the hill, we stopped and sat looking out over Pendle and the plains to the East. We poured ourselves a steaming mug of coffee, infused it with a nip of cognac and took in the moonlit view.



“Nothing…., no wind.”


Tapping the mug on a stone to dry it, we stood up and brushing the grass from our pants, turned to carry on. The first few steps seemed to alert the Banshee’s that we were moving again and the wind, started to blow once more but with increased icy ferocity. As each gust screamed past us we could hear more and more whispering voices and howls within it, sweeping down from above.


To me, these high-pitched disembodied cries sounded like distraught female voices, though my partner would later describe them as, “wailing witches.” Either way, it was obvious to both of us that the Hill did not want us there. About a third of the way from the top we stopped, turned around and began to make our way back down the Hill as the gloaming began.

The trip to Pendle Hill, had been intended, as something of a laugh but it turned out to be something else. We hardly spoke a word to each other, on the return trip but personally, I’ve never forgotten those disembodied screams, as they tore down that lonely hillside and dissipated in the grassland below.

Death Dances in the shadows: Wyndwrayth Chapter 6 excerpt


“I think that I prefer, “Wyndwrayth, rather than Wyndwryth,” Nick muttered into his beard and read on. The writer claimed that over the years, there had been many reports of a creature, occasionally seen on moonlit nights, flitting between the bushes in the undergrowth. However, when a search of the grounds had been undertaken by the staff, nothing had ever been found.  The author concluded that these stories regarding a haunting presence wandering around in the grounds, were just superstitious tales told to the families’ children, in order to scare them into being good at bedtime. Nevertheless intrigued, Nick read on. It appeared that many times the local children were told that if they made too much noise, the spirit of the lake would come and get them, carrying them away to its deep dark depths, never to be seen again! The description of this ‘shade,’ varied but it was nearly always described as small, thin and pale.

“Typical Celtic horror story,” murmured Nick, as an imagined vision flashed across his mind. “Jesus, I thought my parents were crazy! Those poor kids must have been utterly petrified.” There was more to read and research but right now, Nick fancied another joint before he ploughed on, “and a nice mug of Coffee wouldn’t go amiss right now,” he commented to Heddi, as he bookmarked the link and closed off the connection. He was two-thirds of the way through this latest information and after a relaxing break, he would be back at it, refreshed and raring to go.

Nowadays, his iPod contained close to five thousand titles, so the once simple act of choosing the correct music to match the moment, had become a lot more complicated. Calming down after a stint at Heddi’s wheel wasn’t the simplest of tasks, ‘Krautrock, or Classics?’ Nick asked himself as he made his way into the lounge, to roll another doobie. ‘Sit in front of the window, man and just take fifteen minutes to regroup before you carry on,’ his conscious mind said but it wasn’t going to be all that easy.

The house plans of Wyndwrayth, were his next topic on the list of exploration. The place had looked intriguingly constructed to Nick, as he’d stood in that entranceway with its knocker in his hand. Furthermore, there was that mysterious tower, rising up and piercing the ever-present single cloud of mist, hovering slightly above the roof of the main house.

Sitting in his recliner overlooking the lake, Nick took a sip of his coffee, waggled his foot to the music and lit his joint. The house, he mused, was around a thousand years old and it must have seen all sorts of changes in that time; ranging from the day that Olaf Gunderson had built his citadel to the dwelling abandoned by the bankrupt Richard Davis, who’d left the island, never to return in 1931. The island, it’s house, lake, lakeside land and properties had then been bought by the grandfather of the present Lord Cleaver, primarily for farming, just using the lake for its fishing rights. Its story was thus complete, nobody else had lived at ‘Y Wake Gwynt’ after the elegant but bankrupt Edwardian gentleman, departed at the start of the thirties.

In its time, the house had seen the fall of Llewelyn, the domination of Wales by the English and the bloody insurrection of Owen Glendower, followed by his mysterious disappearance. The Civil War, where a King lost his head and a huge empire was forged and then lost. Plus, two world wars, the first one had seen it turned into a hospice for returning shell shocked soldiers. “Now that’s what I call history! A citadel, a private home, a monastery and a hospice!” He excitedly exclaimed and slapped his hands down, hard on the leather armrest.

Nick couldn’t wait to get back to it but over the years, he had learnt to take things more slowly and steadily, rather than going at it like a bull in a china shop. ‘O.K, sit down, close your eyes and take in all that information. The house isn’t going anywhere, so just relax and anyway, what difference is an hour, or so going to make, really? You’re not getting paid for this one…..’

For twenty minutes, or so, Nick gazed across the water towards Ynys y Niwl, picturing the house sitting there on that island amidst the trees, brambles, thickets of bracken and lilac rhododendrons. The old Preseli, granite built house, ‘Wyndwrayth,’ had been deserted for decades and from what he had seen, would be for many more to come. It was hard to imagine Gayle and Harold renovating the place, or having it rebuilt as a restaurant, or something equally esoteric. ‘Wyndwrayth,’ in its brooding silence, fully occupied his mind and Nick found himself, both lost in the past and washed up in the stillness of the present. He’d learnt, that to get the most out of this kind of research work, it was often best to immerse yourself in the topic and just allow your imagination to roam free. Many time’s past, he had, using this method of transcendentalism, opened up whole new avenues of investigation, which from time to time, had resulted in a unique insight.

Later, back on Heddi, he opened section four of a house plan document, entitled ‘Inner Spaces.’ To his surprise, before him on the screen was a veritable maze of secret passageways, which appeared to lead from anywhere in the house, to anywhere else that you cared to go, without once being observed by anyone. ‘Wow! It’s like a honeycomb,’ Nick thought, observing there was barely a single wall which didn’t contain some form of hidden walkways or ‘priest hole.’

“I need some help here,” he murmured and Alan Turnbull’s name sprang into his mind. “He’ll know who to get hold of, so that I can start to understand the meaning of all these passageways.” Why such an intricate web should exist at all, was in itself a mystery, which Nick was determined to unravel the truth behind.

“This’ll be right up Alan’s street and it’ll give him something else to do, besides play with his train set,” he commented offhandedly to Heddi. “I’ll stick it in tonight’s e-mail and see what he makes of it.”

However, now Section five was catching his eye, it appeared to contain details regarding which levers to pull and buttons to press, to open and close all the hidden passageways distributed around this intriguing property. “Christ, it’s like a secret code. It’s going to take ages to decipher……. I need copies of all these plans,” he whispered. He searched around the cluttered desk, for some ink for his printer and loaded some paper.

This was simply exciting! Making sense of something, which on first viewing appeared to be utter indecipherable gibberish, was what Nick did best. His patience knew no bounds and he would dedicate vast swathes of time, to decrypting anything as enthralling as this was proving to be. ‘Looks like another double shift’s looming tonight, Mr. Swann,’ he thought as he reached for the print outs, grabbed a series of coloured pens and headed for his lazy boy. Resting his printouts on his lap tray, Nick settled into his leather recliner, turned towards the lake and started to use his coloured pens to trace pathways through the maze that was, Wyndwrayth.



Wyndwrayth: Gideon’s Journal 1538


Journal 1538

May 19th 1536, was I can suppose, the day that The King totally lost his reason. So, now it is our turn to feel his guilt, manifest in slaughter. Nearly all the monasteries in Wales have been destroyed, by order of King Henry! Only a few of the Welsh Fathers have chosen to remain, fleeing the kings’ retribution by seeking sanctuary on pin pricks of rock, like Ynys y Niwl.

Being forced to pass my days on this island, means there is some delay in the receipt of news of the world beyond. Only when somebody, usually another member of the same Order, reaches The Monastery that I hear any information about distant parts, it’s frustrating…

Indeed, it’s taken a couple of years for me to hear that King Henry has executed Queen Anne; chopped her head off no less!  If it wasn’t for that wet and bedraggled Monk in a faded blue cassock, who washed up on the island three days ago, I’d still be none the wiser. The Abbot doesn’t realise how much his fellow Brother’s like to gossip and I like to listen. However, those papist Monks who sought sanctuary in this old Viking refuge of Wyndwrayth, have mostly found only death, at the hands of Millar. I suppose I should have at least a modicum of sympathy for these poor souls but I don’t, the centuries of his slaughter have taken a toll on what little humanity I ever had.

The ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’ continues apace. Millar finds times like these, stimulating but I can hear the fear spreading by whispers in the cloister. Everybody knows that Henry’s men will be arriving on the shores of Llyn Isaf before the summer ends and then, what will be left of this place?

So much for the mercy of their Lord. If he exists at all?

I have read many of the brethren’s holiest books and concluded they are simply folk tales, like parents recite to their children, in essence, to teach and frighten them into obedience. They would have done better, to frighten them by telling them tales about The Millar of Souls, at least he is real! When all is said and done, their Bible is like many other holy books. Mystery meets cruelty in a clash of unprovable events and long forgotten people, in the hope of giving birth to another religious movement to challenge the power and orthodoxy of the last doctrine.

My years have taught me, that this process usually ends up with many more dead than both sides can afford to lose. Civil wars and conflicts often herald the decline of their civilisation. It seems this latest argument of power is between two codes of the same fantasy religion, ridiculous! 


 I rarely see Millar these days and in truth, I am not aware of what he does for the majority of the time, up there in his tower room. When the Monks were slaughtered by the King’s men and they left the island with their plunder, he seized that feature of Wyndwrayth for himself. He pleasured himself creating a couple of slaughter rooms, practically placed and within easily accessible locations in the tower.

I am becoming aware of his growing agitation, which usually indicates he smells the approach of a death and hence the opportunity to feed. Over the long years that I have been his guardian, I have learnt that this is the point where I have to keep my wits about me and be ever more vigilant. Up until now, I have found no limit to the true depths of his depravity. With each life he takes, he not only grows stronger but larger and more formidable. It is my place to keep control of him, to contain his size and strength, thus preventing his free reign of terror being unleashed upon the earth.

Well, at least I have a good spot to bury the corpses where the soil is soft and mercifully deep. I did try to keep score once but it all became far too pointless, so these days I just make educated guesses. My latest best guess is 410 souls, accumulated over our time on Ynys y Niwl. I’ve considered those numbers for quite a while and upon reflection, 410 is not too high a number for the years. So, maybe I’m not doing too bad a job when it comes to keeping the barrel lid on Millar’s homicidal tendencies.

I have realised during the passing of these endless years, Millar and myself are inexorably bound together, in a form of mutual dependency. The world we inhabit together, lies somewhere between ‘tick and tock.’ Neither in this world, nor out of it, neither alive nor dead.  An empty space furnished by imagination. We are sustained by Millar’s life force, which in turn is fed by his rather disgusting delight in slaughtering the innocent, preferably as slowly as possible, to extract the most horror and pain from his victims. He is like some monstrous, hairless, yet slimy feline, toying with his prey.

Millar seems content to live in his imaginary world within the tower, furnished by those memories of the souls he has taken. Over the years my skills at their manipulation has increased. I can now conjure up people for him to order and dispatch again and again. Those poor tormented souls will never be released.




Wyndwrayth: Chapter 5 excerpt



Sitting on his bed, Nick looked down at his little gut, which was slightly protruding from his splayed open dressing gown and sighed,

“Well this won’t do,” he casually observed and rose to go to the double wardrobe and choose some more useful clothing. He didn’t really have much choice to pick from, because whenever Nick found something comfortable and easy to wear, he had a rather annoying habit of buying several of the item and storing them in his giant wooden dresser. He reached into the nest of coat hangers and selected a washed-out denim shirt and a pair of soft blue elephant cords. ‘Hmm, jacket, or waistcoat,’ he mused and without much delay, withdrew his much-favoured leather bomber jacket, gave it a quick shake and then threw it on the bed.

“May I suggest, that Sir might like to complement this look, with a nice soft scarf, or maybe a hat of some kind?” He said, self mockingly and struck a hard man pose, one which Robert Mapplethorpe would have been pleased with. The whole concept made him chuckle, even as he attempted to see which of his options, best suited the planned day ahead.

“Well Sir, we’ve got a rather fetching blue scarf, or perhaps I can tempt Sir, with a navy cap?”

He was snapped back into reality, by the scrunching sound of a vehicle pulling into the car park by the lakeside. Out of sheer nosiness, Nick moved over to the bedroom window and getting up on his tip toes, just managed to see the top edge of the rest area. His restricted view didn’t stop him observing the arrival of Lady Cleaver in a Range Rover, which immediately decanted one of their farm workers. Nick lost track of him as he appeared to move towards the old Land Rover with box trailer, the one he’d noticed on his way to the pub last night. A moment or two later, he watched as Lady Cleaver left the car park in the Range Rover and sped off towards Kornwy village.

“You fancy a morning joint, eh Nickle-arse?” He asked himself, as he applied todays liberal ‘splash’ of patchouli oil to his wrists. “Just a little touch of ‘Hippie Juice’ for good luck,” he added, as he rubbed another dab of the Indian scent on his neck. “Yes! And why not,” he both asked and answered his own question as he headed downstairs to pour his coffee and roll a doobie.

Fully prepared he parked his arse on the leather seat in front of Heddi, ‘Now to see about that e-mail,’ he thought, taking another toke on his Joint. The communication, turned out to be Alan T’s monthly update on his life and as usual, Nick took the time to read it fully. ‘Altorro,’ had been following this particular path of writing a sort of blow, by blow account of his life, ever since Nick had relocated to Anglesey. He seemed determined, that they should never lose touch with each other again. So, they wrote and tried to get together for a natter, at least once a year. A task made much easier since Alan had changed his day job, from Head Honcho at The Central Library, to what he referred to as, The Chief Engineer on The Snowdon Mountain Railway.

‘I’ll write back tomorrow, man,’ he silently promised. There was also a piece of junk from somebody offering him an ‘Amazing Diet,’ which he summarily deleted after it made him think of hot crumpets. Nick headed for his bread bin, only to find his stash of crumpets had gone mouldy. ‘Dammit Nick, what a wastrel,’ he thought. ‘Hmm I bet I know who’ll have some and it’s a while since I caught up on the local gossip.  Maybe she knows about this Land Rover……Yes! Time for a trip to the Heath House!’ Nick threw on his Patchouli infested leather jacket, as he walked through the door.

Nearing the car park, he spotted the single bloke delivered by Lady Cleaver, in his overalls standing by the Land Rover, with its empty trailer still attached.

“Won’t start eh?” He offered, not waiting for an answer. “It’s the damp. It gets into everything around here.” The some-time mechanic, smiled back at him and muttered something about “damp starter plugs,” to which Nick simply offered, “I know the feeling,” continuing on his way with a wave.

Buckie spotted him and started barking as he opened the garden gate. “Not got anything for you today, I’m just looking for a drink this time…and a few crumpets.” The words had barely left his mouth, when Gayle opened the top of the door and called out,

“Black, two sugars? I’ve got some crumpets toasting if you want?” He’d been miles away and her intrusion, made him jump.

“Shit Gayle, you trying to kill me, or what?” he enquired, laughingly. “And the answer’s yes….., to both.” Nick called back, whilst rolling Buckie around on the grass and stroking his stomach.

Gayle soon appeared with the tray of crumpets and coffee, setting it down in the conseravatory and opening the door for him to come and sit with her. “Looks like this is our lucky day, old son,” he confided to Buckie, “play your cards right and we’ll both be winners,” he said quietly to the upside-down Cairn, who just continued squirming and wagging his tail.

“I knew you wouldn’t be far away, when I saw them come around to fix the Land Rover,” and before he was able to respond, she went on, “I called that bitch Lady Cleaver about it this morning. Knew it was one of theirs. That’s our car park and the new sign clearly says, ‘No Overnight Stays!’” She pulled a face, “They still act like they own the whole place.”

Gayle and Harold had bought their place from the Cleavers five years ago, on the understanding that they were going to sell the lake with the island and that the Heath’s, would have first refusal. They had spent a lot of money knocking down the old farmhouse and erecting their modern lakeside palace, in anticipation of purchasing the lake with the island and turning it into an exclusive hotel. Then, the Cleavers had announced that they had no intention of selling the lake, much to the annoyance of both Gayle and Harold.

“Do you think there’s something untoward going on, with Cuthbert down at the lake?” She asked and indicated to the car park, with her thumb.

“No, the man’s an idiot. I think we can forget about Cuthbert,” scoffed Nick, stuffing a crumpet in his mouth.

“Well, what about the Land Rover?” She replied curiously. Even though he couldn’t see the vehicle from here, he pointed out to her that the farm ‘mechanic’ was getting it started and it would soon be gone. “Hmm, I suppose so but you can’t be too careful these days…. ‘n anyway, I wouldn’t believe what that bitch said!” She retorted and sat back to drink her coffee.

“OK, what she said was probably true. It was just a problem getting it started after one of the farmhands stopped for a break, after delivering some sheep to one of the fields.” She sighed resignedly.

“Well there’s an empty trailer attached to the back of it you know,” he commented, reassuringly. “It would fit four sheep in nicely,” he added and smiled at Gayle, knowingly. Just at that moment there was the sound of an engine firing up and a pall of black smoke rose into the air. Moments later, they saw the offending vehicle heading off towards the Cleavers Estate dragging its empty trailer. Nick finished his last bite of crumpet, swilled it down with a final gulp of coffee and laid the empty mug, carefully on its provided coaster. Getting to his feet, he mumbled something about, “e-mailing one of his colleagues” and made his way directly towards the gate.

“Thanks for the refreshments, Gayle, I was just being nosey, that’s all,” he said as the gate swung open.

“I know you were and before you ask, yes, it was that obvious.” A now chagrined Nick, comically hung his head and purposefully winced,

“Oooh, right between the eyes, show a little mercy, won’t you?”

He was soon back home, still trying to put the remainder of his day into some sort of order. ‘Now for that e-mail,’ he thought and turned ‘Heddi’ on. ‘Hmm, joint first, Alan second,’ he added, rolled a quick one and lit it, before looking out of the window towards Ynys y Niwl and its mysterious mansion.

“It must have been nice living there once upon a time,” he opined. “All that quiet solitude and nothing to disturb the peace……” Nick continued privately postulating. ‘Bet he was an author,’ he mused, imaginatively filling in the gaps in his knowledge…“OK Altorro, let’s see what you’ve been up to then,” he commented as he headed back to the computer.

“Rack and Pinion y’all,” read the header, so as far as he could discern, it was genuine. “Yo bitch, how yer doin?” It read in utter comedic excess. “This bitch is doing fine,” Nick responded, in character as he sat down and reached for the ashtray. Alan’s frequent correspondences, which usually arrived at the start of each month, always had one thing going for them; they invariably had a solid vein of humour and intelligence running throughout. Plus, they always contained at least one intriguing concept to consider, or argue over if it came to it. During their school days, Nick and Alan Turnbull had been both bosom buddies and the bitterest of enemies, over some minor, though crucially important point of principal, be it political or ethical. Nick sat back in his chair, took a toke and read on. The next sentence, once again let him know, why Altorro and he had been friends for all these years. It simply read, “Mr. Swann, put down that joint and pay attention.” Nick, smiled affectionately and almost silently muttered,

“Fuck, am I that easy to predict?” Then, took another drag and began reading the e-mail carefully.

It seemed, that this year’s visit to Anglesey, which normally happened in the space between Santa calling and Hogmanay, was going to be delayed until mid-January because of Alan’s commitments to the railway.

“Funny, I was going to suggest that to you, when you called round,” Nick quietly said to the mail, on his screen. Then, so he wouldn’t forget, he made a note and stuck it on Heddi, for future use. ‘There’s too much going on at Christmas and things always seem to be rushed. If you call around, roughly on my birthday, you could stay here for a few days.’ Happy with that, he carried on reading and learnt all about what Alan was planning to do in his back garden. Then he ran across the question Alan wanted his opinion on: ‘Did he think, that there were too many Herons around for him to think of a pond with fish in it, or would that be simply too tempting for the beggars?’ Just exactly why Altorro thought he should know the answer to this one, was anyone’s guess. It was not a part of his everyday knowledge and was going to need some looking into before he replied, which was going to have to wait at least until this evening.

Nick’s Sunday’s had a certain routine and this one, had already been disrupted enough by his visit to Gayle’s. Normally, after Saturday night in The Poacher’s and a late get up in the morning, the day had planned itself. A bit of politics over the crumpets, followed by a game of Footie on the box and some relaxing music, while he planned for the week ahead. Any e-mailing of clients, or Alan in this case, was usually done after dinner, while some riveting serialised shit, was playing out in the background, on the T.V. He looked at his wrist watch, just to check the time, ‘two minutes to three, excellent!’ He picked up the stashbox, made his way into the lounge and turned the television on.

Due to his foresight in recording the game, he would not have to put up with the half time break, or the inane language and idiotic statements of the pundits. With the press of a button, half time would be eliminated and the game would continue unabated. Concentration was not something that normally worried Nick on a Sunday but the much-anticipated game, turned out to be a cold squib, dominated by two defences that totally stymied both attacks.

“Well this is tedious, they should have offered these idiots a point each and sent them home,” he commented with twenty minutes still on the clock. Nick thought about turning the game off but instead, chose to mute the sound and put the stereo on. “Best of both worlds,” he commented to nobody in particular and sat himself down again. ‘I could always have a look, for the name of that house,’ Nick proposed, as he rose and made his way over to the window. As he approached, the island came more clearly into view and he stopped to take a good look at Ynys y Niwl, floating on the calm water.

“Let’s check you out….” Nick, muttered and moved to the computer. He typed the name of the island into the search engine section and clicked. It was the fifth topic raised, after all the translation tools and Wikipedia entries had been discounted. ‘Ynys y Niwl. Unpopulated island on Llyn Isaf in Anglesey.’ Was all that the search engine could come up with.

However, further down the listings, there was more. Like the Welsh to English translation and its various meanings. Disappointingly, there seemed to be nothing that may lead to information about the forgotten house. Just as Nick was about to lose interest and go back to the boring football match, a map came to his attention. Again, he clicked and lo and behold, when the thing popped up, it was an old surveyors ground plan from 1726, which had been submitted when new owners had applied to alter its name from Wyndwrayth, to the Welsh, Y Wake Gwynt.

“Yes,” he exclaimed, “there it is, Y Wake Gwynt! That’s the name of the place” Now, Nick was intrigued. He had been living on Anglesey for over three years and had picked up quite a bit of the Welsh language but ‘Wyndwrayth,’ was a different tongue. “I wonder what the origin of that one is,” he asked the empty room and yawned. “Oof, time to relax,” he commented, stretching.

‘Wyndwrayth, can wait until this evening, along with the e-mail to Alan,’ he decided.  It would be an interesting item to raise later and it just might give him something to get his teeth into. Feeling well satisfied with himself, Nick clicked ‘Heddi’ off and sat himself down once more, in front of the television, reached over for the Cognac decanter and his stashbox.

“Ahh, it’s Sunday ‘n you done good, kid,” he said to himself, in a terrible Brooklyn accent, as he poured three fingers of the brown liquid into his glass. Then between sips, he stuck the cigarette papers together and placed them on the lid, before loading and rolling the doobie. ‘Two birds with one stone,’ he thought as he took a sip, then lit the joint and closed his eyes, letting the music carry him away, on an aromatic cloud.