Friday, 10 July 2009

Oop north

I must thank the various railway companies with whom I travelled for giving me the opportunity to taste the delights of so many provincial railway stations. Halifax, Wakefield, Leeds, Peterborough - their names are like some roll call of heroes from days of yore. And it has taken me a mere forty-three and three quarter hours to get home.

I do not get to the North so very often. The architecture is so wonderfully grim, of course. Rain-polished cobbles. Soot-blackened mill chimneys. Windswept car parks. But the people are so friendly.

To each other.

I am joking of course. They are not friendly at all.

I am joking again of course. Oh dear, Franz has warned me never to attempt humour and yet I will persist. The people of 'the North' are wonderful folk. I could listen to their amusing accents for many minutes without growing in the least bit fatigued. I mean that most sincerely. Mr Priestley himself hails from 'the North' and it seems not to have held him back so very much. A certain coarseness of manners remains, it is true - but I am perhaps a little old-fashioned in that regard. I'm sure that manners do not matter at all when you are 'prodding' strangers on 'Facebook'.

And so Franz and I say one last 'Ay oop, lass,' to all my northern friends as we retreat once more to the quietude of Pity's End.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

I marvel at the efficiency of modern rail travel

I am making good time on my return journey from Halifax, a small town in the north country between Leeds and Glasgow. The speed of modern travel is breathtaking and I will almost certainly - weather allowing - be home by the day after tomorrow. I had decided to go to Halifax having learned that Mr Priestley had been nominated for the Calderdale Children's Book of the Year award.

Mr Priestley's book, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, has been nominated for several awards but so far, he has not managed to win one. Not one. This award proved to be no different. It is embarrassing to be connected to such a person and have my name associated with his rejected work, but there is nothing I can do it seems.

I stayed at the same hotel as Mr Priestley but of course he will not acknowledge me in public. He likes to maintain the fiction that he invented these tales and I am contractually obliged to play along. Franz and I ate in the hotel dining room and listened to Mr Priestley taking credit for the children's stories. Franz became very agitated.

Calm yourself, Franz, I said. The time will come. The time will most definitely come.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


I hear that Mr Priestley is off to Oundle School today. I knew a boy who boarded there many years ago. He told me a story that chilled me to the bone. It was a tale so terrible, so ghastly, that I can hardly bear to recall it even as I sit here in the security of my study at Pity's End, a cup of Earl Grey cradled in my lap.

This boy - Bernard Taylor was his name - told me that one evening he had been reading alone in the library when he had looked out of a nearby window (the library overlooked the churchyard apparently) and had been horrified to see -

But Franz has reminded me that I promised Bernard that I would not repeat that particular tale for fear of permanently upsetting the present young boarders at the school. Franz is quite correct. I did make that promise. Sadly.

I shall leave you to imagine what it was that Bernard saw. Suffice it to say that the poor boy had never fully recovered from the experience and was given to much involuntary twitching and whimpering.