Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2015


updated it a wee bit

In 2015, some people will leave your life,
And new ones will enter.

In 2015, some dreams will vanish,
And others, not thought of, will come out of the sun,
Perhaps even make you smile.

In 2015, you’ll make mistakes,
And like always, you’ll survive them all,
Knowing a little more than you did before.

In 2015, you’ll win some things,
And others, you will lose.

In 2015, some friends will fail to understand you,
And some will grow to love you.

In 2015, you’ll get to know yourself a bit better,
Some things you'll learn, you’ll like,
And other things, you won’t.

And finally.......in 2015....learn to love yourself a little more,
And that will be all you’ll ever need.

Happy New Year!



bobby stevenson 2014

Monday, 29 December 2014

The House on Finnart Street


I partially used this story in one of the Coldharbour episodes. What follows is the actual tale – kind of. 


The house had belonged to a brewing family who had commissioned it to be built when Victoria was still on the throne. However, by the 1930s they had all scattered far and wide in the world and the house lay empty for several years.

It began to gain a reputation as the ‘haunted house’ and children would dare each other to look in the windows and not move for as long as they could. All it took was one of their pals to tap them on the shoulder and they would let out and almighty scream, followed by burst of laughter.

The house stood high on a hill and had a little tower which allowed a spectacular view of the river Clyde. On a good day a person could see as far as Glasgow and as far north as Loch Lomond. There was only a little garden to the rear as a cliff face limited the amount available to plant flowers.

To the front was a steep path which led down to Finnart Street and only provided enough room to allow a little lawn to be maintained.

The Thirties led into the war years and still the house had no occupants. That is, until a family from the down south moved to the area. The father’s work was to oversee shipbuilding on the Clyde as part of the war effort.

The man’s wife had one stipulation and that was that the house should have electricity. It was an amenity that the whole family had grown accustomed to in their leafy little Surrey town of Leatherhead.

The shipyard sent a couple of electricians to wire the house from top to bottom, and by the end of that week there was electric light available in the tower and an electric toaster in the kitchen - among other things, that is.

Two weeks later the family:  mother, father and two sons arrived to take up residence (however temporary) in their new abode.

It was just approaching dusk when the father tried the new electrical switches and to his disappointment, they would not work. Being late in the day, they decided to retire to the Tontine Hotel and come back in the daylight.

What they found the next morning shocked them. It wasn’t so much that the electricity had failed, but that the wiring had all been ripped out. Now I know what you’re thinking (much like the family did) that this was wartime and resources were scarce. Someone or several people had broken in and stolen the precious cables and fixtures.

There was no alternative but to stay on in the Tontine until a second lot of wiring took place. This is what happened and by the following week the house was ready to be occupied.

Except – and you might see what is coming – when the family arrived, the wiring had once again been removed hurriedly from the premises.

The father’s employers, the shipyard owners’, called in the local police to ascertain what had actually occurred in the house. It was done on the proviso that no findings were ever to be made public; after all, the country was at war and story like this would do nothing for morale.

What the police observed, and I suppose it should have been obvious, was that there was no sign of a break-in. Which meant that either the thief or thieves had keys or something more peculiar had happened.

The order was given to re-wire the house a third time but on this occasion, two members of the local constabulary hid themselves in the basement.

The theory was that perhaps there wasn’t someone trying to break in, rather there was someone trying to stop the family moving in.

In the middle of that night the two men could hear activity on the floors above. Both the police had guns given the unusual circumstances and because there was a war on.

Once the noise has settled down, the policemen crawled out of their hiding area to find that the wiring had once again been ripped out.

They could hear what sounded like two men in conversation in the tower of the house and so the police quietly climbed the stairs.

What they found in the tower was totally unexpected. Two Nazi spies, with binoculars, were watching the movement of all the ships in the Clyde Basin.

Of course the men were arrested and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp but the news of their arrest was never made public.

The story was told to my father by one of the electricians.

bobby stevenson 2014

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Haunting at Ba Bridge


Make of this story what you will. Some of it may be true, or none of it – you decide.

I guess I must have seen him but never really paid any attention.

Perhaps I should go back a bit and start at the beginning - in the summer of 1932, I retired from my teaching career at a school in Tunbridge Wells in Kent. I had given most of my life over to the profession and found myself comfortably off. But the big question was what to do with my time? I had never found the opportunity to marry and therefore had spent a long and glorious life as a bachelor, suiting myself and entertaining my own company every Christmas day.

It was with this in mind that I made the decision to go on a walking holiday in the Highlands of Scotland. It was a place we much visited as children and a place I had grown to love.

I took the train to Glasgow and spent a rather pleasant night at the Central Hotel, where I found several experts willing to share their recent travels in the north.  It was suggested that I travel to Tyndrum and there I was to alight and, over several days, walk to Fort William – a rather pretty little town on the banks of Loch Linnhe. 

It was suggested that I spend the first night at Tyndrum and perambulate the relatively short distance, via the Bridge of Orchy, to a small inn beside Loch Tulla.

I thanked my companions and early the next morning did as they suggested. As the train moved off from Crainlarich I noticed that it had started to snow and by the time we arrived at Tyndrum, it was almost lost in the white of a large storm.
A horse and trap managed to get me to the Tyndrum Hotel where, with the help of a large whisky, I managed to revive my outer regions. After an excellent night’s sleep, I had the option of staying put in my charming little Inn or facing the arctic conditions which awaited me outside. I decided on the latter, bearing in mind that the whole idea of this venture was to get some fresh air into my lungs.

I started out after a heart breakfast of porridge followed by black pudding and eggs.
It was as I started to climb up towards the Bridge of Orchy that I noticed another, fresh, and therefore recent, set of footprints in the snow. The light in that area made it difficult to see how far ahead my companion was, and so I put my head down against the weather and trudged on.

I arrived at the inn on the shores of Tulla, just as the dark was settling on the loch. I took off my boots and dried my socks at a glorious roaring fire in the bar. At first I thought I was alone in the room, until I saw a man sitting in the corner. I bid him a ‘good evening’ but to no response. I therefore deduced that the man was either deaf, asleep or found no need for another’s company. When I’d finished my whisky, I turned to find him gone.

That night the snow and wind battered at my window and in the morning I found that my path was covered in two to three feet of the stuff. The landlord of the inn had suggested that I stop in at the Blakmount Estate and let them know it was my intention to cross their lands on my way to Glencoe. The road through their lands was an old military one, built by General Wade as a means of transporting troops, Redcoats, to the garrison in Fort William.

The family at Blackmount were extremely pleasant and bid me a wonderful day’s walking. I intended to rest my head that night at the Kingshouse in Glencoe.

Now here is the strange thing, the family had informed me that I was the first that week to pass on Wade’s road, but as I started to walk I saw another set of footprints up ahead of me. Perhaps the gentleman in question had not bothered with the curtesy of asking for permission – it does happen with the city folks from time to time.

It was just as I got to Ba Bridge, that I noticed the footprints veered off up into the hills. The snow must have been up to four or five feet deep at that point and it didn’t look as if the owner of the footsteps had any particular boots to compensate.

I shielded my eyes to see where he could have possibly headed but the very strong sunlight on the snow made that exercise impossible. I walked as best I could on to the Kingshouse and reached there a little before 6pm.
After a rather hasty wash, I made myself comfortable at the bar and ordered a very large whisky. It was probably around my third large scotch when I saw a man, not unlike my companion of that afternoon, sitting in the corner. I was just about to ask the gentleman if he was indeed the walker when my attention was distracted by a large foreign gentleman attempting to shout at the barman in some exotic language. I presumed it was to make himself more understandable (a method, we Brits are not averse to), but by the time I turned back, the man in the corner was gone.
I could see that he had left a box of some description on the table. I had a look around the bar and noticed that no one else was looking in that direction and therefore I quietly made my way over to the corner.
I had one more look around before opening the box, and inside was a medal from the Great War; a casualty Military Cross awarded at Passchendaele. It seemed only right to hand it into the hotel reception, where they thanked me kindly but said they had no one of the description I had given, staying at the hotel. Probably a tourist in a motor car, they thought, who would possibly return on his way back.

And so I continued on to Fort William where I spent several splendid days walking up Ben Nevis and the surrounding hills, and ultimately celebrating a wonderful New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay as they call it in these parts).

There was nothing much to report until the spring of the following year, 1933. Glorious weather had been reported in the Scottish Highlands and since I was about to travel to India to start a new job, I felt that I should spend a few days re-tracing my steps staring at Tyndrum. This time in far more beneficial conditions.

I said farewell to my sister, and her son, whom I had been staying with in Chelsea, and set off on a beautiful steam train bound for the north.

After about an hour into the journey, I opened my haversack to find that my sister had packed some sandwiches and a bottle of beer for the trip. My godson had also tied a little package and placed it in beside the food. When I opened it, I could see that it was a medal, and that it was a casualty Military Cross from Passchendaele – it had been given to my godson by my sister’s father-in-law and now my godson wanted me to have it as a thank you for all the kindness I had shown.

It had originally been my plan, this time around, to take the path up from Ba Bridge where I had seen the gentleman climb, but there something about the mysterious man in the corner and the medal left on the table which made me change my mind.
Was it a warning?
I shall never know.
And yes, I did check at the Kingshouse to see if they still had the medal I had handed in the previous winter, but there was no record of it.

And here, dear friends is the most curious bit, there was a photograph of me which had been lying in the hotel storeroom.
One of the receptionist remembered the photograph and fetched it.
It was of me sitting at the Ba Bridge with the Military Cross held up for show.

I know for a fact I didn’t have that photograph taken and anyway who was holding the camera?


bobby stevenson 2014

Photo: http://www.highstgallery.co.uk/dallas7.html

Thursday, 25 December 2014

You, kill me.



She was the kinda gal who sashayed where ever she went. Always sashaying and flicking those hips from side to side. She was the best mover in town, everyone said so. Even the Reverend Gascoin, who was a sort of expert in these delicate things.

He enjoyed having opinions on worldly stuff, as long as his boss up above didn’t get to hear about it. I kinda think that the Rev didn’t really understand the Bible.

As for the gal, who was called Helen, she worked at the Teddy Coffee Shop; it was named after President Roosevelt. One day his automobile had a flat tire and he stopped in for a strong, black treacle drink. He apparently said it was the goddamn best cuppa coffee he had ever drunk. Had them serve it at his funeral, I heard. Not sure how true that is, either.

Still you gotta go with what you hear and make your own mind up. Thems the rules.

The cafĂ© was on a muddy, bumpy road just off the thruway, and the only folks that visited it, were there ‘cause it was accidental. But then the founding father probably took a wrong turn and just decided to stay.

The railway came through in ’86 - 1886 that is and folded thirty years later when the main investor, one General Wade took all the monies and disappeared to Bolivia, or at least that’s the story. Like I say, you can pick and choose what you believe of this short story.

So you’re gonna ask what was so unusual about Helen, the gal who liked to sashay? And you’d be correct to ask the question, ‘cause it’s an interesting one.

You see Helen was my grandmother and on her deathbed she told me a story. When she’d finished, she took one final guttural breath and kissed me and then the world goodbye.

And so I am gonna tell you the story exactly as she told it to me and you can make your own mind up:

“I was working in the Teddy on that particular day, the day when the two gentlemen came to call. It was unusual as we normally had only one customer at a time. But hey, you gotta take the money where you can get it. They didn’t arrive together which made me think that they were trying to have a meet without anyone else over-hearing, if you get what I’m saying. The both asked me what was the special for the day and I told them it was the mac and cheese. They both seemed happy with that. One of them was a real good-looking man with a New England way of talking and I when I walked across the floor, he mentioned that I had a nice real way of moving. I took that on board with both hands, I’ll tell ya. The other was a dark, strange looking fellow, who seemed to be keeping one eye on the door.
I was wiping the counter and that was when I heard the conversation they were having. And this is where I swear it got strange. The good looking man said that it was true that he was dying of cancer or something. I couldn’t quite hear as they would stop talking when I got close. I couldn’t keep asking if they wanted more coffee as it was starting to look strange. That was when the other asked when he would do it.

It seemed that one man was dying and he wanted the other, a hit man, to shoot the dying man, and that he’d get well paid. He just wasn’t to tell him when it would happen. ‘Let it be a surprise’, the good looking man said with a grin.

I remember they left a big tip and shook hands, then they drove off in separate cars and in different directions. It was only when I read the papers a few weeks later, that I realised that one of them was the president, and the other was some guy who shot him from a book depository.” 

bs2014

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Decision at the Bottom of the Stairs



The only thing that had surprised him was that the snow had fallen so early that year, and as he walked up Hope Street, he decided to take a tram as far as Charing Cross.
Glasgow was bitterly cold and even although he had on his brother’s best coat, it didn’t seem to keep out the freezing air.

He had intended to take the tram all the way to the Kelvin Hall, but he really needed time to think. He couldn’t get any of that at home, not with the way his mother and father were behaving.

As his mother helped tie his scarf, she kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear, that she knew he’d make the right decision. His father, on the other hand, had shown him a picture of his own father and said how proud he was of his son.

He had worked hard to get this opportunity, but what good would it do him if the world came crashing down around him?

He lit a Capstan cigarette as he entered Kelvingrove Park, and decided that by the time he had arrived at the bottom of the stairs, he would make his mind up, one way or another.

His younger brother was only 14 but he was now looking up to his big brother to do the right thing.

As the park rose up towards the Park Circus, it gave the walker a beautiful view of the west of Glasgow and most importantly, the university.

It was all he had ever wanted to do - to be a writer, and now he was walking towards Glasgow University in order to register for a BA in English. Or to be more accurate, they called it ‘matriculation’ up there, after all it was the fourth oldest English-speaking University in the world. It had been founded in 1451 and he was the first of his family to ever get so far.

As he walked down the snowy path, he lit another cigarette and stood looking over the city that he loved so much.

What was the point of learning, if you couldn’t defend yourself? He almost thought about tossing a coin, heads he went right to the university, or tails he went left and, well you know.

Of all the times he had picked to go to university, he had to pick this particular moment to do it. It was autumn 1939 and the world was turning on its head.

Did he go to university or would he sign up for the army?

He threw the smoke away and he almost slid as he hurried down the path. He had finally made his mind up as to what he was going to do - and he gentlly smiled as he walked towards the stairs.

bs2014