Tribute to Lessing – Anne’s book – extract #auto fiction – work in progress#Writer#Wednesday#Historical Fiction

All over the world people are expressing their creativity.

It is exactly as Karl Marx expressed it somewhere. Everyone is capable of creativity.

On WordPress gardeners write their daily blogs, and on Whattpad 14 and 15 year olds write out their thinly disguised lives.

Anne has rejected a TA placement; she has told herself she will be kinder to herself. The immeasurable stress caused by assimilating the role of a sick and absent LSA, not once this year but 3 times, has taken its toll on her. She feels sick now when the agency rings her, and as was the case with the old stress every time he put in an application for the child benefit, she can feel the roots of her hair tingling. She has not left the agency in case she should lose this job.

Anne realises that all her life she has struggled to remember consecutive and sequential steps, and that she has compensated for this by putting in overtime and going over procedures where there are several consecutive actions (like using the Epos till), several times until she had memorised them.

She had usually been in a position of responsibility; a manager or a key holder, and so no-one noticed; or at least, understood; when she was training once, a manager had told her that she was making the other managers look bad. It was true that she had always compensated by doing an hour or two free overtime; the book work took her a while, and she needed complete silence. Yet she had never known others didn’t, until she had the opportunity to observe a friend who volunteered tackle the book work for her while she dealt with an impromptu last minute donation to the charity she worked for. Her friend had a weakness; he had made an error and not noticed it. Anne’s attention to detail, she knew was world class. But who cared? It was so easy to make errors that nobody noticed, or that went overlooked. There were errors in Jane Eyre and Mr Stink, and several Penguin poetry publications. Nobody seemed to care.

She felt disgusted with herself for not being able to work for a solid year and earn a regular income. She felt under huge pressure, even though Jim had told her she only needed to contribute to the bills; her precarious predicament meant that she didn’t dare pay him too much in case she and to borrow it back. The car kept breaking down and last year it had cost £1000.

Jim had persuaded her not to sell the car and leant her the money, but she could feel the tension after a year of only managing to contribute a few hundred pounds.

She had talent. She was a graduate. She had got up at 6 am for 6 months, driven 60 miles a day for 2 months, supported struggling pupils, and she felt as though all her hard work had gone unnoticed. The last place had called her in to the office at the end of her placement and told her that they couldn’t afford to pay her. She’d offered to work part time.

Sometimes, on the days she didn’t work, it was a struggle to get out of bed.

She would have got a job in a cafe, but she was in her early 50s and now it was hard work lifting the trays into the dishwasher. She lifted weights at home every day, but her arms just weren’t as strong as they used to be.

Anne read her work back.

It all sounds like excuses, she thought. And then reminded herself of all the bike rides she had been on, trying to stay motivated, and the blog she had written for a year to keep her mind active while she rewrote her PhD application. She was writing 2 books as well, but how this world didn’t seem to value anything unless it made you money. And Anne was barely making enough money to do anything more than take her children out for the occasional meal or tea, pick them up from the next county, or visit them and her mother for a day out. She knew how important it was to eat well, after that year that she had barely eaten a thing whilst studying and binged on cake, just to keep paying the council tax and the rent to the landlady, putting on so much weight that Jim had begun to follow skinny women in jeans around. She was spending the rest of the money on that, when she had it.

God had said it was a sin not to use your talents, and God knew she was at least attempting to do that.

Trump had apparently, in so far as you could believe the news in today’s “Fake News” era, rejected globalisation. Trump’s rhetoric made her feel sick. She admired his work ethic, it was similar to her own – when she had work. But to reject globalisation; with the internet. How was this even possible? Anyone who had read John Donne or Hemmingway must know that no man is an island.

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On Perspective

I’ve been thinking a great deal about perspective. The other day a colleague was telling me about her plans for the weekend and happened to mention her mother. She told me her mother was old and then told me she was in her 70s. My mother won’t mind me telling you that she is in her 70s also, except l don’t see her as old. I see her as young.

The topic of age comes up a great deal as people often assume l am much younger than l am. They don’t always say this in a complimentary way; sometimes they do so subtly by referring to relatives who had their children young. I didn’t, have my children young; at least then- in the 1980s, it wasn’t considered young. I was beginning to think I’d been left on the shelf when, at, 22 years of age, l got married. I’d already bought my dress, and had been planning it for a few years with our local priest.  Almost a year later l gave birth to my first child.

I don’t always give away my age. I’ve noticed that people can have ingrained prejudices based on age. Really age has nothing to do with a great many things, often perspective and experience are the real teachers; this is why I’m not in a hurry to share my age with people. I don’t want to be defined by it.

Still some times l am tempted, especially when it is inferred that l was a teen mum. I wasn’t. I was a respectably married twenty something. The irony of the previous sentence is not lost on me; l realise that in writing it, l may well be projecting society’s prejudices against young mums onto young mums just as they have been projected on to me.

I happen to be good at picking up new concepts digitally; my friend who is the same age as me doesn’t like social media and isn’t as good with the internet. We both went to the same  university as mature students at the same time, still our attitudes to technology are different. This suggests that it is our nature that made us what we are with regard to tech, and neither experience nor age has anything to do with this.

What do you do when you “do” or “read” English? – and something about American urban novels.

I am continually surprised to learn that many people have no concept of what an English Literature degree entails. Although, perhaps this is true of most degrees. I certainly had very little help from my careers officer when leaving secondary education, who didn’t know what to do with me when I presented myself to him and told him I was creative.

Twenty five years later I embarked on an English Literature degree, which later morphed into English and American studies, as we were reading American literature and learning about people like Jacob Riis, an American reporter and social reformer, and reading books such as Sister Carrie; a remarkable American “urban” novel which demonstrates the art of pretending or assuming a new identity, born out of success and hard work, and the problems that go with becoming a consumer, climbing the social ladder, and leaving your petty and small past behind you for greater things; I write this with my tongue firmly in my cheek. I took this degree part-time and ended up spending 5 years commuting into Winchester as a mature student….it is just as well I am a nomad.

My sister was recently interested to learn that whilst at The University of Winchester reading English, I read theory and therefore read people like Freud and Jung, and became interested in psychology.

My favourite theorist is probably Roland Barthes. I once accidently made off with a book of his that I had been reading in the library, as it was on 23 hour loan only and was like gold dust; I completely forgot that I had it in my hand and the alarms didn’t go off. I think I was bewitched by it…. I found Structuralism a creative and interesting way to interrogate literature. Although I deliberately avoided writing all my essays from this perspective so that I could gain experience in other areas, this method certainly informed my debut novel, Bertha’s Journal: A Perfect Immelman Turn.

 

Essay Review of Dorthy L. Sayers’s Gaudy Night written as an undergrad

The sense of place in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Gaudy Night is constructed right at the beginning when Harriet Vane returns to her old college at Oxford: Shrewsbury.

The preface to the 1975 edition contains an apology to Oxford for tarnishing its reputation by giving it a new college: Shrewsbury, and by placing it in the setting of a conspiracy, and disorder. The most striking thing about this apology is the reference to giving it over 150 pupils, as though this in itself were the ultimate transgression. This is interesting. The fact that Dorothy L. Sayers apologises at all is interesting in itself – but for the number of pupils—? This suggests that she is reinforcing the subject within the book of class difference and inequality. The message here seems to be that this kind of education is the privilege of the few and that the masses, can never truly represent the selective status of Oxford.

The subject of sex and the idea of the objectification of women is one which is also addressed early on with the invention of the college, Shrewsbury. The prefix shrew suggests reference to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, a play which has been criticised for its misogyny. Harriet Vane is returning to Shrewsbury College. It is as though she has not learnt enough in the real world and has to return to her old school to learn more truths, more lessons. The shrew here has not yet been tamed, and it is striking the way in which this is played out throughout the denouement of Sayers’s detective novel. Harriet Vane is pursued by Peter Death Bredon Wimsy: an eligible bachelor, educated at Balliol Oxford and the son of a duke. A man with manners and patience, a man with work with which he occupies himself; not a clingy man, which a woman of letters might find suffocating, (Harriet has been described as writing a book). And yet Harriet manages to evade Peter’s references to marriage, and to live in sin with him, or so it seems. This book is very much progressive, it seems in its treatment of Harriet who is incredibly free in one sense, sexually, because with her very respectable status comes the implication that she will not commit the transgression of sex outside marriage, which in 1935, when the book was published, was still very much frowned upon. The character appears to have agency, and choice here in the denouement; she is free to spend time with Peter. And yet Harriet comments at one point that if she were carrying on with a man in secret that she would not be foolish enough to do it at Oxford.

Athough Harriet is embarking on a life in which she is free to chose her freinds and to use her time as she wishes, Harriet is treated very much as a child on arrival at Oxford. The Dean calls her a ‘good girl’ because she has labelled her gown. The women are described as forgetful and weak-minded, disorganised beings. Everything about the acts of transgression—the papers which are strewn about the college unseen, the ransacked library, the broken chess set, suggest resistance to the age-old tradition of Oxford; suggest an underlying problem with the façade of respectability. The chess set vandalism being a metaphor for the ultimate attack on a methodical mind, mirrors Harriet Vane’s oscillation between her heart and her head, between romance and the pull of  the seriousness of Oxford.

The rubbish dump at Somerville Christ Church, which Sayers does not apologise for and says it is real, suggests that there is some truth here which demands our scrutiny as readers. Sayers (an Oxford graduate herself), describes a distinct lack of privacy as Harriet Vane dresses for the evening, and has to withdraw into the shadows when her roommate appears. This seems positively primitive and is incongruent with the chaste attitude she is supposed to exude as a single woman.

Jung’s animus is at work here in the aggressive attitude of Anne Robinson, formerly Anne Wilson whose husband was deprived of his MA by Miss. De Vine and who subsequently committed suicide, widowing Anne and compelling her to take up domestic service to keep her children out of the poor house.

Anne Robinson’s crimes are hysterical crimes, crimes against the intellect, crimes, as she herself suggests, designed to confuse and make a mockery of the academic women at Shrewsbury; women, she believes, should love their men no matter what. And she derides Peter and Harriet for not being capable of sustaining–what she views as–a committed (married) relationship. Peter, she says, father’s other men’s children rather than sustaining a loving marriage, which demands sacrifice and commitment, and Harriet is a fool for stringing him along.

The whole book (thinly disguised as detective fiction, or deliberately breaking the bounds of the clue-puzzle genre), is a look at the freedom of academic life and the sacrifices it seems to demand.

I read this work for the first time in my final year at The University of Winchester. I had always loved detective fiction and crime fiction, decades previously, particularly Agatha Christie and the creation of Sherlock Holmes, and Raymond Chandler’s prose, although at the time I had no idea that this genre was considered literature and no concept of the theory on the subject. The module was very enlightening and enjoyable, and introduced me to Dorothy L. Sayers and a great deal of theory on the subject.

On Beauty and Identity

hermionelaake

On Beauty and Identity
For many years I have enjoyed, if that is the right word, good looks. I am sceptical about whether or not it is possible to enjoy being beautiful since my experience of this has been largely a negative one.
I was inspired to write this partly by listening to Will Self begin a podcast, for radio 4’s programme entitled A Point of View, with a negative suggestion about beauty; I suspect that Will Self would have gone on to oppose this negative view, since with most lectures, which we were taught as undergraduates, the speaker provides the thesis and then the antithesis, which is usually the opposite of his original stance at the beginning of his lecture, which is the point of lectures, or good essays; they are exploratory. I will make no specific reference to Will Self’s lecture here because I didn’t listen to it…

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Raduaun Nassar A Cup of Rage – Review

 

The way in which this story was written was interesting and novel, because there few full stops; just one at the end of every chapter. The problem was that the full stops were needed in the areas where there was tension. In reality tension creates pauses, sometimes so profound that you actually stop living a full life; this is why the full stops are such an essential part of prose; for me it is thus in the sentences in Ernest Hemmingway’s work or, for example with the beginning of Out of Africa, “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong hills.” This sentence has stayed with me since I first read it aged about 20 years. It is incredibly powerful. The sentences that follow it are equally so; I’ll leave them for you to find. It is perhaps unfair of me to juxtapose one book against another just because of the punctuation; and yet I have come to understand how important punctuation is as you write; and since Nassar must be making a point by excluding punctuation, it is this aspect of the writing that the reader tends to notice. For the first few chapters, and particularly the erotic ones, the lack of punctuation was exciting and enhancing and drove the prose forward, adding to its eroticism. This was not the case for every chapter, and I would have liked the writer to have used the full stops to show the pauses that anger and aggression place in us. Somebody said that we are often the person we were when something monumental happens in our lives, a loss, a divorce, that sort of thing; when this happens it is as if the world stops; of course for everyone else it carries on; I wanted stops, pauses, in the places in this story where there was tension and jealousy and anger.

I googled the opening sentence from Out of Africa because the first page of my book is missing; I think probably because I kept returning to it. I stumbled upon this wonderful page which adds to the discussion about sentences, and thought I’d include the link here for you:

https://readtowritebooks.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/out-of-africa-a-love-story/

On reflection, having read Christine’s blog, I think that it is worth reading A Cup of Rage as an exercise in learning what punctuation can add to story…

The Wolf’s Perspective

INT. CAFÉ – DAY.
A middle-aged man (of around 50), Sits on a two-seater sofa in Costa, facing a young woman. The table contains her handbag and a carrier bag of food and presents.
I just wanted to eat you; it had been so long since I saw you; all those days you were with him; he just appeared; took over; your new daddy; the handsome, strong woodcutter in the forest, always on hand to rescue you; I couldn’t get a word in; I couldn’t get near you; you understand me don’t you? I wanted you inside here; right beside me. Would you like a cup of coffee? You can’t just sit here and not drink coffee. Ok. I’ll be back in a minute.
Father moves towards the bar and till, and disappears for a while in a queue.
FATHER (continued)
Do you like sugar?
DAUGHTER
I’ll get it. Would you like some?

Daughter moves over to a small area adjacent to their table, which contains sugars, its proximity enables them to continue the conversation.
FATHER
(Laughs loudly).
Me? Yeah. I like 8. Give me 8. That stuff is undrinkable without it. It’s vile. All these people. They just want to judge you. You’d think they’d never had a dirty thought in their lives.

Daughter moves back to the sofa and hands the sugar to her father.
FATHER
(slurping coffee – burst into tears)
I am glad he was there though. It was a good thing he was there to get you out. Hey Bertha. He’s a good man isn’t he? I’m sorry Bertha. I can’t control myself sometimes. I don’t want to see you because I have to prepare you know. It takes me days sometimes.
DAUGHTER
Are your eyes ok? They look odd. Let’s go dad – back to your flat.
INT. HALLWAY – NIGHT.
FATHER
There. Take your shoes off. Leave them by the door. Would you like some biscuits? They’re custard creams. There. Take two. I’m sorry it’s so small here. I don’t sleep on that bed. It’s Sue’s bed. I don’t sleep with her. She just likes me to be here, you know. There’s that bell again. It’s so loud. You can’t turn it off you see, it serves all the flats. You were such an ugly baby you know. Your mother was beautiful, and when I took you to see your aunt (she lived on the other side of the forest in that chocolate-box cottage), she said you would be a great beauty. So you’ve got a boyfriend hey. Do you have a sexual relationship with him? Don’t answer that. I’m going to give you a chance to talk in a moment.
INT. BEDSIT – NIGHT
Father moves into a small living room. There is a bed pushed against one wall, and a sofa and kitchenette.
FATHER (Continued)
There’s humpty dumpty. Look at him. He’s been with me for years. I used to have more photographs. I had to get rid of them when I moved. You can’t keep things. How’s your mother? How are your sisters? Kara, Samantha, Sarah? Let me see, and Beth? She’s alright is she? And Tony, and little Gertrude? She must have grown so much. Little Gerti.
DAUGHTER
They’re all fine. Kara has moved out. She lives in The New Forest. There’s a lovely brook that runs through it, and wild horses.
FATHER
She’s all right is she? Funny girl, Pum Pum. That’ll be Sue. She rings me up every hour. She’s probably on the bus. Yes, hello. Hello Sue. Yes. Right. You’re on the bus. Right. Yes. Bye Sue. Bye.
DAUGHTER
How is your hearing? It seems better than I remembered it. I thought you had a hearing aid. I wanted to ask you dad, where did grandad live?
FATHER
Grandad? What do you want to know about him for? My mother was a wonderful woman. She never understood me. I was so horrible to her. I never got the chance to tell her I loved her. She died you see. It’s time for supper. That’s what she said, ‘It’s time for supper,’ and then she died. That’s the door. Just wait there would you Bertha?
Father moves towards the hallway, and opens the front door.
Hello Sue. Take your shoes off would you? Leave them there. I expect you’re hungry. It’s time for supper.
DAUGHTER
Daddy? Your teeth are bigger than I remember them.

My Friend Alien

My Friend Alien
By Hermione Laake
Chapter One
I’ve got a friend and he’s an alien. He takes me out every night.
Oh yeah?
Oh yeah!
Where? To his planet of course; where did you think, the North Pole?
If you think I’m going to tell you where his planet is you’ve got another thing coming. I’m not. Why? Well because we don’t want his planet invaded by a lot of Eartians. Yes you, you’re the Eartians.
Let’s just say it’s a long way away; a very, long, way away. I know this isn’t 1969 and you expect a little more information. That’s what I told Freddie. Now don’t laugh. That’s his name. Well why shouldn’t he have a name like that? Because aliens don’t have names like
Freddie they have names like Megaranthian. Well, when I told Freddie that he burst out laughing. Then he asked me my name. I told him it was James. He looked very puzzled.
Ok, Ok, so you want to know exactly how many millions of miles away Freddie’s planet is. I’ll tell you. It’s four times as far away as Pluto is from the sun. That makes it 23, 656 million kilometres away. Well roughly. That’s what Freddie tells me anyway.
Is Freddie a friendly alien? Well let’s just say very. The last time he came to earth he saw a couple French kissing and he decided to try it out on me. No warning or anything. That was it. Suddenly my jaw was locked on to his. Now I know what it feels like to be a cement mixer. Yuk. I hope it’s not that bad when I eventually pluck up the courage to kiss a girl.
It all started one night when I couldn’t sleep. I went over to the window and stared up at the night sky trying to focus and find Orion’s Belt. Orion’s Belt is always the easiest constellation to find in the sky, because of the three stars that run in a straight line so perfectly through it. But I digress. I was staring and there was this red dot in the sky. I hardly noticed it at first. Then it got bigger and bigger and it was coming straight at me. I shut my eyes and tried to refocus. By that time it was coming at me so fast it was frightening. It was like when you look through a magnifying glass at something and try and touch it at the same time. The glass plays tricks with your eyes.
All of a sudden this weird boy climbs out of thin air. No space ship or anything. He just appeared in front of me and said, ‘can I visit?’ I couldn’t exactly refuse. I’ve read about how we’ve sent peace messages into space in case there is intelligent life out there. That thought was going through my head, including the thought that it was better than looking at Orion’s Belt, and what would the alien do to me if I said no? That and a hundred and one other pictures flashed through my head, including the one of me and several presidents at a summit meeting. They were all shaking their heads and saying something. I smiled diplomatically
until my translator told me what it was, ‘you just shouldn’t have said no to the alien.’ I was about to reply, when they all rushed over to the window. We were in a space ship, orbiting Earth. Whatever they were looking at, it looked good. Huge boulders flew at the ship, reds, blues and oranges shot out of a round, black mass. But his was not alien fireworks display. This was my last vision of my planet; Planet Earth—exploding.
I decided to be friendly. I smiled. The next thing I knew he was sitting on the window ledge next to me, his feet hanging over the edge. I didn’t like to remind him that there was a 20 foot drop, besides anyone who can just appear like that from nowhere must be able to handle almost anything.
I mumbled, ‘hello.’ He smiled a strange slow smile. His face seemed uncomfortable with it. Of course mum picked that very moment to burst into my room. She doesn’t always remember to knock. I almost fell out the window.
Mum walked straight over to the window, yanked me in with one hand and slammed the window shut with the other. When mum had finished walking around my room picking things up, and telling me my room was a tip she left. I dashed to the window. For one awful moment I thought I was going to see green alien blood on the patio. I threw the window up and peered downwards. An icy hand grabbed the back of my neck and tweaked it. It was the alien. ‘You like that don’t you?’
Creepy. I quickly made the huge mental leap required to decipher that he was referring to mum tweaking my neck before she left the room, if that is, he is a he, I thought. I was just wondering whether to tell him that mum had given me a more friendly tweak than that, a sort of, I remember when I used to change your nappies and crawl around the floor on all fours with you, kind of tweak, and that she was ever so slightly less of an alien than he was, when my neck began to seize up. The alien was staring at it with a peculiar horrified expression on
his face. ‘I will have to make some, ah alterations,’ he said. He held his hand over my neck for a few moments and then released it. My hands, automatically, reached up for my neck. I couldn’t feel it. I began to panic. Well wouldn’t you? I raced over to the mirror. What was all this rubbish about being nice to aliens? I didn’t have a neck anymore and I didn’t have any weapons. Well, apart from that huge shield dad and I had spent half the holiday making. I wished it was metal.
‘You’re wishing that shield was metal. But you don’t need any defence. Your neck will be back to normal in a few minutes. I have just performed a, what do you call it?—a ration, I think.’
‘A what—?’ I opened the cupboard door and looked in the mirror. My neck was still there but it was shrouded in green light, a perfect match for the colour my face was turning. Somehow I didn’t have much faith in an alien boy turned surgeon who didn’t even know the correct word for operation. I ran in to the toilet and locked the door.
That was our first meeting. My neck returned to normal quite quickly as the alien had promised. But it took me a long time to come out of that toilet.
After that Freddie just kept turning up. He didn’t even wait for me to open my window and look out. I suppose he thought he’d got past that barrier. He would just turn up in my room whenever he felt like it. I soon got used to having him around.
Chapter Two
The first time I took Freddie to school I said he was my cousin. Well I couldn’t very well tell them he was from Galaxiana, could I? That would start a mini revolution. Somehow I didn’t think I’d get much history done if I said anything about there being other planets with living beings on them in the cosmos. Or perhaps it was the thought that I might have to do overtime re-learning history.
I could feel Jeremy’s eyes boring through the back of my neck all through maths. He cornered me as soon as we went out onto the field.
‘Your friend’s got weird ears, Boden,’ he said. (He always calls me by my surname because he thinks it annoys me.)
I’d warned Freddie about him already, and he was ready. He walked straight up to Jeremy. I think everyone thought he was going to hit him. But he didn’t. He just put his arm round his
shoulder. ‘I like you Jeremy. You’re quite cool. I hear you’re a wicked goalie. Why don’t you show me a few tricks?’
There was a deathly silence while everyone waited to see what would happen. Then the two of them marched off towards the football pitch. Jeremy had this really self-satisfied look on his face, but it faded a bit when Freddie tuned and threw me the football. ‘Aim a few goals at us James, will you?’
Freddie was really good. He didn’t show off at all. He let Jeremy show off his talent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jeremy smile, except when he was being sarcastic. I stood back a bit and let him enjoy Freddie’s company. I can see Freddie whenever I like.
Jeremy isn’t very good at saying sorry. On the way out of school, he shouted after me. Freddie was nowhere to be seen. He’s got this habit of disappearing. My heart was in my mouth again. But it was all right, just his way of apologising. ‘Your cousin is Ok.’
I felt quite good after that, as though I wouldn’t have to worry about Jeremy being on my back all the time anymore.
When I got home Freddie was lying on the sofa reading a book. He has to travel home by means other than a bus, otherwise I’d have to give up my pocket money for his fare. He was eating this huge glittery chew. I dived on him. ‘You’ve got a slinar again. Come on share it.’
Of course I knew that I didn’t have a hope of making Freddie do anything he didn’t want to. He just put up an invisible force field between us and sat there savouring every mouthful.
‘What else did you get?’ I asked changing the subject. ‘Did your dad give you any of those comics?’
He threw me a pile of comics. Of course he’d already read them all. I lay on the bed for a whole hour totally engrossed. When my ears finally switched on I realised that mum must have been calling me and she was already at the top of the stairs. Freddie zapped the magazines from under my nose and turned himself into a poster. My mouth was wide open. I didn’t know he could do that. Mum opened the door. ‘Have you been playing with those caps again James, it stinks in here? Come on I’ve been calling you for ten minutes. You must be on another planet.’
That made Freddie laugh. He could see the funny side of that joke. Laughing has an odd effect on him when he’s transformed. I ran and stood in front of the poster. But mum had already whizzed out of the room.
‘You could have told me Freddie,’ I whispered through gritted teeth. Freddie could be very unhelpful at times. He enjoyed having a laugh at my expense. Now I would have to eat cold dinner. ‘And you could have come on the bus too, if I’d known you could do that—incognito.’
‘I don’t like it. It’s quite uncomfortable, you know.’
Chapter Three
It’s difficult to go to school sometimes when Freddie is in my bedroom messing about with my pin ball machine. It’s a good thing that I can turn the sound down. If I can get near it that is. Freddie has this habit of suspending it in mid-air, and holding on to it like a steering wheel. He says it gives him better control. When I get home my room will be a complete tip and he’ll be nowhere to be found. Then I’ll have to start on my homework. It’s not as though Freddie can help me with it either. He is completely puzzled by maths and he can’t read a word of English. He just mimics my voice.
I took him on holiday to France last year. That is I took my poster with me. Mum couldn’t understand it. But she couldn’t argue, as it didn’t take up much space.
It was great having Freddie around on holiday. Sometimes I feel like going out and being adventurous. Mum and dad don’t mind if I venture out along the beaten track but it is great to have some company.
We were staying on a small farm and the roads were really quiet. We’d been for a drive to the next village the day before, so I knew the way. But on foot it seemed to take forever. A man came out of his house and gave us some strawberries. Then we got to the top of the hill.
‘It would be nice to look down from here,’ Freddie said.
‘Yes, but there isn’t a high spot.’
Freddie pointed to a place over our heads. It just looked like blue sky to me. ‘Now there is.’
I could just make out a thin silver line that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Freddie grabbed my hand and jumped. My feet lifted off the ground. Just as I felt a tug, which would have been when I started to fall back to earth—(you know the gravity thing), my arm became taught and Freddie’s grip tightened around my hand. I was pulled up into the air and onto a virtually invisible platform. It was incredible, better than standing on top of a tall building because there was nothing blocking our view anywhere. Freddie was always saving up these tricks. He probably didn’t do it deliberately. There were just so many things he could do that I couldn’t. They would just happen. Then he would look at the excitement on my face and say, ‘you can’t do this.’ On the way home we passed the bakers. Freddie just marched in and asked for something in perfect French. ‘Merci Beaucoup. Mes parents habitant a Clermont Dessou. Au revoir.’
My concentration drifted. Soon we were on our way again and munching on croissants.
‘What did you say?’
‘I said we were staying in the holiday farm and could she send croissants over next weekend as well.’
‘Freddie! What am I going to tell mum and dad?’
‘Just tell them you got hungry and you thought they might like some croissants at the weekend. They won’t mind. They’ll be pleased that your French has improved. You’re on holiday.’
Freddie was right as usual. Mum and dad didn’t mind. After they had looked at each other in amazement, they actually said, ‘well done.’
One night I was woken at about 3: am by a strange tickling sensation on my eyes. I woke trying to push the feather away but there was no feather, only Freddie looking down at me. ‘I’m scared,’ he said.
I sat up. He’d got my attention. ‘You’re scared!’ I said in disbelief. ‘Yes. This strange shadow keeps following me.’
‘Where?’
‘I just left base and started walking and there it was there ahead of me again. I can’t quite make out what it is.’
Before I was properly dressed Freddie had handed me a small black box. ‘This is for you. It will get you to Galaxiana and home again. You’re going to help me, right?’
That was how Freddie got me to go to Galaxiana without even thinking about the consequences. I was just worried about this alien ghost that kept following him around.
Before I even realised it I was sitting on my window ledge in the middle of the night and then I was, sort of, skiing though space. We started off really fast, shooting up and leaving our globe behind, then we were approaching another similar globe, slowly.
Galaxiana is very much like our world in some ways, only they think they’re more advanced, most of those of them that believe that there is another planet out there are not really interested. They think we’re vastly inferior to them.
What happened about the ghost? Oh the ghost. Well it was a bit like that story where Winnie the Pooh—or is it Piglet?—goes round and round a tree following dubious footsteps. They turn out to be his own, or their own. We walked round and round his house. My neck was getting little goose bumps on the back. I was sure there was something in front of us.
I discovered that Freddie had a ghost. Not a shadow, but a ghost, a sort of extra body darting about in front of him. It was something to do with him visiting earth. His doctor zapped it away. I wonder where all the stuff they zap goes. Freddie tells me it vaporises. I started wondering about all the things I’d like to zap away. But Freddie says only doctors have the power.