Friday, April 17, 2015

Ghosts of Women


The supernatural has always fascinated me even as a child. It is in these tender years, when your imagination hasn't been suppressed by all the social rules that are constantly being driven into your brain by your elders, holds you in its firm grasp.

Plastic windmills, balloons, cars, trams, grandpa’s pipe and grandmother's mop all catch your eye and assume another purpose.

The mop becomes a witch’s broomstick, the pipe a funnel of a steam train, and balloons take on the image of the balloons that come out of the mouths of the comic strip characters you love. All those words floating in the sky.

My greatest fascination was the sea.

Its ebb and flow, its highs and lows and I spent many a day in my childhood enthralled by its majestic beauty. One day it was like a still pond, another it was crashing over the breakwaters and the promenade and making its way into houses close to the beach. On those days nothing stood in its way.

In later life pictures of the massive tsunami that engulfed Malaysia and reached right across the Indian Ocean to the coast of South Africa, reminded me of the childhood floods we’d had in Cleveleys.

The rush for sandbags, the opening of all the doors so that the invading water would carry on its sweet way, the clutching of my pet rabbits and holding them in my arms on top of the coal bunker in our backyard. All these memories come surging back.

“Ah ya sure everythin’s on ya list?” said my grandmother, And don’t forget Dewhursts and mek sure ‘Arry serve ya, not t’other one that give ya bad sausages!”

It  could’ve been a Tuesday or a Wednesday morning I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter. Shopping list orders varied little from day to day as rationing was still on, except that Mondays were always milk tokens.

Come to think of it, it must have Tuesday because I remember visiting the dairy yesterday and talking to Jimmy Fisher about Mathew’s goal on Saturday.

A glance at the list told me my first port of call would be the butchers to return the sausages that were off. Then down to the chemist for some cotton wool, granddad’s ears were bad again; up Nutter Road to get some brussel sprouts and then back home. I reckoned on forgetting the Home & Colonial, I knew there was some butter in the larder and I hated margarine so I wasn’t going to buy it. I could have it all done in an hour or so leaving me plenty of time to see her while she was still in.

I tried to visit her everyday, some were easily arranged others more difficult.

The shopping done, I made a fast exit out the back pantry; I didn’t want to get collared into cleaning out the pidgin loft. I’d done it at the weekend. Why couldn’t those bloody pidgins clean up their own mess? And whether or not they had a clean loft it didn’t improve their racing ability. Granddad hadn’t had a winner for over a year.

It was a clear, crisp winter’s morning and I knew that at eleven thirty she came in. I walked headlong into the whistling wind down Victoria Road and could hear her calling; her arms of fine silk flailing against the concrete wall that kept her imprisoned. Fifty yards away I could feel her, her cool spray like aftershave on my face.  I struggled up the rise to the promenade and there she was.

Grey, black, green, blue and white battering the wall that kept her enclosed. She wrapped her mammoth body around the breakwaters positioned to lessen her destructive force.

I stood anchored to the spot, still and silent, leaning into the wind and stared out over the expanse. I took a quick slug from Toddie to keep the cold away. Thank God I was alone; no other bloody fool has come up today. I watched.

Occasionally she sank back, gathering strength, pausing. It was in those pauses. Short and deep, that she talked to me about things to come. Of hearts I’d break and of loves I’d loose. A fully grown woman and she talked to me, an eight year old child.

It was well into the afternoon when I left, or rather she left me. The wind had dropped and the golden sand stretched far out. The harsh winter sun was getting lower, shadows long, the mounds of sand left by the fishermen digging for worms looked like mountains in the low light of the setting sun. On the distant shoreline a lone Alsatian ran to and fro barking at her gentle ripples. She laughed and murmured softly to me, “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“So will I,” I replied.

It was dark when I got home. The only light on was in the kitchen, I knew Nan would be there squeezing a last cup of tea from the pot and that Pop would be snoring peacefully in his armchair. “Good for his constitution,” he used to say. I’d have to wake him for the six o’ clock news on the wireless otherwise there be a riot.

“Ya Mam’s gone t’ theatre, said I’ve gota get ya tea.” As she heaped her third spoon of sugar into her well brewed tea, “It’s ont’ table and wake Pop he’ll be furious if he misses t’news!”

How did I know all this was going to happen?

I switched on the lounge light, stoked up the fire, woke Pop and sat down to my bread and dripping. I was into my third slice when Nan shuffled in with my cup of tea, I knew it would be weak but I smiled and thanked her.

The wireless cackled in the background, something about a General Nasser and the Suez Canal. Pop belched, “He’s gone and dunit now; wilt be a war again!” he said scratching his paunch.

I was miles away with my brain working overtime; Ma will be home late probably with a hangover so that means I’ll have to do the shopping again tomorrow. It was the Kenn Dodd Christmas season at the opera house and they always had a jar afterwards at Yate’s Wine Lodge.

Wednesdays were always hell. I’d have to cycle out to Stannah for the farm eggs, deliver Aunt Anne and Aunty Edna theirs. This used to really piss me off because they weren’t real aunties and they never gave me anything for delivering the eggs. It would be eleven o’clock I would have to go to the Home & Colonial to get the margarine that I conveniently forgotten today.

The new super-market was a twice weekly visit and with Christmas only three weeks away I knew I’d have a long list. A quick look at the Evening Gazette told me high tide was at eleven forty five, I had to be there. My mind was in turmoil. I said a quick goodnight to Nan and Pop and wandered off up the corridor to my room. As I closed the door I heard.

Pop say, “Ah dunno know what’s wrong with that lad?”

Little did they know.

A quarter to one in the afternoon, I managed it. She was more at peace than yesterday so I walked northwards along the prom and occasionally we exchanged a few words. Time dissolved and I was at Rossal Sands as dusk began to fall.

“I need you,” I whispered, “I need you.”

“I know,” she replied, “so come and take me.”

“Ya what?” my voice cracking.

“Walk into me and over me, I’m yours,” she crooned.

And so I did. On that icy cold December evening she gently licked my feet, caressed my legs and folded her arms around my chest and whispered, “I’m yours, yours, yours……..yours.”

 Many years have now passed. The things she spoke of I have felt. Different shores have welcomed me and kept me fed, watered and Toddie has nearly always been full, but in no bed anywhere have I found that woman.

When I returned home for my mother’s funeral I sat in the afternoon throwing pebbles in that forgotten beach far out into her swelling bosom.

“Your’e back.”

“Yep,” I said.

“Why?” she growled as though I’d offended her, “I told you you’d travel far, on me and over me, What makes you return?”

“I needed to see you again.”

“Listen Cess you’re a child, a child of fantasy, you’ll find me across the world, in habours, inlets, coves in all guises, hot cold, warm, inviting, loving, destructive.”

“I know, I know,” I cried, “but I want you all.”


Маргарита Гуминенко said...

I with great pleasure read your blog. I very much like your stories.
Unfortunately, I badly know English.
Your short stories are magnificent! You write very figuratively. Your story is filled with poetry. You could allow me to translate this poem about the sea into Russian?
I have the site "Literature and Life".
I want to publish remarkable stories which you write, on my web-site. I will make it if you resolve, and I will put working links to your blog.
If you don't allow me to make it, I will read your stories in yours blog, and all the same I will hotly thank you for that you write! Thanks!

Sue Simpson said...

Reading your story was like a trip down memory lane, I remember the sea coming down Ellerbeck Road and engulfing our gardens, stopping just short of the front doorstep. Keep the stories coming.

Hans Pienaar said...

Reminds me somehow of some Ted Hughes poems. Who made the sandbags?

Sir Cess Poole said...

That's the hell of a compliment Hans. Thanks! Not his Missus Sylvia?
Couple of comments on other stories also compare my writing to poetry. Weird I don't see thst. Thanks for sharing too on your F/b limeline.

Sir Cess Poole said...

Thanks again
Looked at your page. But Afraid I can't read Russian, I think that's wahat it is.
Yes by all means translate the blog stories and put a link to your followers. I thank you.

Маргарита Гуминенко said...

Many thanks, Ron!
I will try to translate something into English, especially for you.
Unfortunately, online translators badly do the translation from Russian into English. But negligence of online translators gives incentive to learn English.

Vicki Bawcombe said...

Love your story, thank you Sir Cess!
Look forward to more.

Sir Cess Poole said...

Thanx for all the comments on the story. Please look at the other blogs.

Маргарита Гуминенко said...

Dear Ron! I am pleased to inform you that finally translated into Russian your wonderful story! It is published here:
If you have any comments, I will fix everything.
Thank you very much!

Sir Cess Poole said...

Thank you Maggie. I'm afaid as Shakespeare says, "It's all greek to me!". But you involvement explains why I've suddenly got over thirty views in Russia. Thank you again.

Маргарита Гуминенко said...

Dear Ron!
My friends really liked your story! I want to translate into Russian and other your memories. Would you like to suggest one of your stories that you like the most? I want to give you new fans from Russia.
Thanks, Ron.

Sir Cess Poole said...

Hi Maggie, Thank you. I think "The Attic" as it has an Eastern European feel and "I Dare" the bicyle trip to Pilling Sands. I remember the trip vividly. I must have crossed Pilling sands at leadst twenty times in my cycling days.. Thaks again.

Маргарита Гуминенко said...

Thank you, Ron! I'll start with these stories.

Maggie Storey said...

I'm always moved.