Wednesday, 13 June 2012

And Another Thing

At the summit of the steps a landing decorated in mosaic vines leaves and bunches of grapes sheltered under the anonymity of a porch awning supported by mock Doric pillars made of Portland stone in common with the façade in general.  But then that was the norm for this curved terrace of fine upstanding houses.  
The road was not actually called a crescent - in that it did not actually include the word ‘crescent’ within its name – but a crescent it surely was, by any description.  Indeed, in some ways there was little to distinguish this house from any other of the multi-story Georgian or early Regency townhouses that went to make up the crescent, other than this particular house possessed what amounted to an extra story.  This addition was a later afterthought that would not have seen light of day had it been mooted in the modern era of ‘conservation areas’ and ‘listed buildings’ and planning committees.  
As it was, the line of three wood-surround dormer windows extending out from the sloping grey slate roof had been an ill advised late-ninetieth centaury addition.  And even then, back in that era, more than one palm had had to be greased with silver, or so the story went.  The age-darkened iron bars covering the front of each must have looked every bit as incongruous then as they did in the present and surely had never been as obviously justifiable as those covering the basement level windows.  But if questions had ever been raised, then those misgivings too had presumably been eased in a similar manner, for that jail-house style adaptation had clearly survived all criticism to that very day.  
Once upon a time, perhaps fifty or sixty years previously, a pretty snub-nosed worried little face might have momentarily appeared at one of those windows, ghostly pale, her sun-starved complexion like porridge, the flounced white pinafore over the sailor-suit style school dress at odds with her teenaged years.  Maybe she would have glanced urgently about with nervous watery blue eyes, her pig-tailed head twisting this way and that as if desperate to take in as much detail as possible of the world beyond, perhaps committing to memory the broad-leafed London Plane trees, the orange-grey scudding clouds, the smoke from the earthenware chimneypots, the cluster of pigeons foraging around the granite kerbside and the gutter and all the rest most would take for granted, if not disregard.  
Perhaps a gaunt thin-lipped face would have appeared behind her from the shadows topped by a no-nonsense bun and riding above the stiff white collar of a dense black heavyweight satin dress, a silver fob watch pined glinting to the breast.  A thin yet firm hand emerging from a tight-buttoned starched white cuff might well have appeared on the sad-faced waif’s shoulder, meaning to turn her about.  And perhaps, just perhaps - if the window, opening inwards, happened to be ajar – two sets of slender white-knuckled fingers might have momentarily tightened around two of those vertical, blackened, iron bars, transiently resisting being turned away, before surrendering to the weight of the uniformed woman’s authority as much as to her physical strength.   
Then, if the window had indeed been left ajar, after a justifiable pause there might have wafted from up there along the roofline the sounds of sharp-tongued scolding – and of soft-spoken crest-fallen apology.  Then maybe there would have come the scraping of a chair and the squeaking opening of a particularly stiff drawer, then perhaps a series of hissing, swooping and swishing sounds - culminating in one terminating in an almighty sharp crack like a showman’s whip or a starting pistol going off… and a girl’s high-pitched scream.   Then another… and another… and another… A never – ending sequence of nerve-stretching angst spaced out perhaps five seconds apart.  
Then the window might have been slammed shut.  But it might well have been that the words and intentions would still have reached the outside, if all were quiet enough:  
“If the street out there is too distracting for you to concentrate, we’ll just have to do something about it.  We’ll have the shutters closed from now on, and a nice big heavy padlock to make sure you don’t fiddle with them – and we’ll have the curtains pulled across I think; it’s bright enough in here for you with the gaslight on.” 
What could a girl of Alison’s age and background know of such ghosts and memories - or any others living thereabouts - now that so much time had passed?  After all, such goings-on were hardly likely to have been documented - and all there was to show for such conjecture now was the glassy blank black empty look given those high attic windows by the fact that behind those panes, very solid, very heavy, hinged shutters were to this day padlocked across.   


Ray said...

As always you present a stunning image. I can imagine it all as if i am present.

thank you

Anonymous said...

I'm late commenting on this because I've been away. Places to go. Things to do.

Sometimes places carry memories of things that have happened there. I've experienced this a time or two. No doubt a lot has happened in this place that has left behind a definite scary vibe.

The Non Victorian Chick

Toyntanen said...

Hi Ray! I aim to please! Saying that, in all seriousness it is that scene-setting sort of thing that is partly what I set out to remedy in the genre - or rather the lack of it. There are exceptions of course, and to those authors go my apologies, (do you like the use of the 'Oxford Comma' there?) but generally the tale just gets straight down to the 'nitty-gritty' or at best you get a sketchy raison d'etre aimed at bolstering the events that follow.

Hi to you too 'Non-Victorian Girl'! Always reliable for insightful feedback! The tale is based on the first ever book I bought in the idiom and that I found so frustrating in the manner that it came so close (so many times) without actually managing to fully press any of the relevant buttons. Then right at the end - just when it looked as though it was getting serious / interesting - it committed the cardinal sin (in my eyes) of 'turning the tables'. NO! NO! NO! Never rescue the heroine! Never, ever! No! NOT EVER! ... Phew! (Message to self: Calm down. dear!)

Sorry I digress (I'm also pissed - that means 'hammered' here in Angle-Land, i.e too many ales... can you have too many?). With apologies to Richard Manston/ R.T Mason or whoever (from 1980s Janus 'Whips Incorporated' et al - use the search facility embedded in the right hand sidebar to find) I decided to incorporate the idea that the action takes place in one of the establishments he mentions, but around 100 years on or so. Of course that idea immediately opens up the prospect of all sorts of spectral flashbacks and the possibility that some sort of residual corrupting influence hangs in the air - largely in the mind of the reader though; I don't have time to truly do it justice.

I am down in Brighton on the UK's South Coast by the way, having taken part in the annual London to Brighton cycle ride yesterday. To those that know the route and the killer hill at the end of it (Ditchling Beacon. on the South Downs) I once again got up the hill.. but only just! A racing bike doesn't posses that low cog the mountain-bikers can drop into and at a shocking 55 years of age it's all getting a bit much! Right knee swollen, right foot ditto and bike gearing system shot..

So here I sit in the Brighton branch of that alcoholics' friend, Wetherspoons, loading up on local ale.

Anyone local, pop in and buy that long-haired heavy metal man in the corner a pint - he needs one!

Anonymous said...

I agree. No rescue. It's cheating the reader. If you're going to have the girl in the trap then have it MEAN something. Otherwise, you've just been jerking people around for 347 pages, or whatever.

Actually, if you even have a rescuer character, then the time spent on them, whether the rescue ever comes off or not, is taking time, energy and focus away from the girl and the trap, and it's really killing the tension and intensity in the story.

As for that pint, I tried slipping it int the floppy drive and attaching it to e-mail, but it didn't work. And now the computer is acting weird.

The Non Victorian Chick

Toyntanen said...

Hi Non-Victorian chick!

Pints make act weird too. Apparently so weird I have to be sent home! Well, that is what happened yesterday! I went up the bar to get just one more pint coz I could still walk and talk and stuff and they had the temerity to say that I couldn't!!! I'd had enough already! What are they EFFing barmaids or doctors? And there was one particular cute one with blue streaks in her blond hair and uber-cutesy accent (Linconshire apparently) that I'd taken quite a shine to... perhaps that was the problem!!! Nahh! Don't be silly, she's bound to have fancied me... unless she's batting for the other team.... Hmmm! That's it! It is Brighton after all!!!

I just heard that Amazon et al don't like the cover of the new book - the one with the drugs in the open hand. A real pity about that coz I really like pissing about with the art-work side of things, so much so that the writing side of it can be a bit of an excuse at times.

As I may have pointed out, I'm down in Brighton on the UK's south coast sitting in the Wetherspoons in the high street, so hopefully I'll get a little writing done. I came down on the London - Brighton cycle ride and stayed coz its sunny and cheap.. Really scuzzy guest house but only 24 squids per night!

The main problem is that although I can add comments to the blog I can't produce a full-blown blog entry since Google updated the way Blogger works with this computer. I'm knocking back pints of 'Old Thumper' and the other problem is how much longer they'll let me continue before the insist on trying to save me from myself!

Anonymous said...

Back when we were discussing the new book cover, I didn't really think about what the Morality Guardians would think of the cover, but now that you mention it, I'm not really surprised. It's pretty weird to think that a book cover is going to cause people to use drugs, or that it should be taken as approving or advocating drugs. Because like they say, you can't even judge a book by its cover anyway. Yes, drugs are a problem. No, cracking down on book covers is not an intelligent rsponse to that problem. Fifty years from now they'll be writing books about the Great Drug Panic, trying to figure how how America made such a continent wide ass of itself.

The Non Victorian Chick