Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Me and Buzz and Smilin' and Girls


1.Smilin'

Like I’m always tellin’ you, Buzz thought he was born with a tongue that had been stolen straight from the mouth of an angel and that nothin’ and no one could resist the stuff that floated out of that great big pie hole.

Except for Beccy Swizzle that is. Buzz could be havin’ one of those days when he could make a blind man smile and then he’d get to Beccy Swizzle and she was like a cold day in Minnesota.
“She ain’t got a heart, that one” said Buzz after his twentieth attempt to get Beccy smilin’.
“Maybe she ain’t got a brain, too,” he said, a little unkindly.

I’m thinkin’ that if she didn’t have a brain she’d be doin’ nothin’ but smilin’, the way Farmer George’s boy does ever since he was kicked in the head from Daisy the bull. Yeh, you heard right, a bull named Daisy. No wonder he kicked people in the head. Anyhoo I’m getting’ all confused now, what was it we were talkin’ about? Oh, yeh, Buzz and Beccy and the smilin’.

I heard from Tommy Kinder, who’d heard it from Beccy’s Maw’s best friend, that Beccy came from a family of folks who were missin’ muscles in their faces.  You could tell them the saddest story that a man (or woman) could ever tell and that family would just look at you mean, like.

So if this was true, then Buzz didn’t have a snowball’s chance of making Beccy or anyone with that blood, smile. And yeh, you can guess I never told Buzz that little bit of the story. I just bet him 5 bits that he couldn’t do it.
“You see if I don’t make her smile,” he said, real honest and mad, straight to my face.

I hate to take a man’s five bits but a bet’s a bet. Except I knew Buzz would never have the five bits to give me. Even if he did, his Maw would steal it out of his britches before he was awake.

That was the kinda Maw that she was.

Buzz felt that he needed to warm up to compete with Beccy and her sour face; the way one of those runners does in competitions. So Buzz would start the day smiling, and that included at school when he got into trouble from Miss Hoster for smilin’ when she was tellin’ the class all about her cat and how it had been hit by Old Creeky McGuire’s tractor.

He smiled even when he was eatin’ and I reckons, you should get some sort of medal to be able to do that stuff. Buzz is real talented in ways I ain’t sure if God meant him to be.

Anyhoo, Saturday morning and the dead faced Swizzle family are out and about goin’ here and there but you’d bet that they’d just come from a funeral or were goin’ to one.

Buzz stands right in the middle of the sidewalk and grins the biggest grin he’s ever grinned at the Swizzles. Boy, I didn’t know anyone’s mouth could go that wide (apart from the wide-mouthed-frog we got in our back yard).

You can see from the look on Beccy’s paw’s face that he ain’t too happy with Buzz threatin’ his kinsfolk with a stupid grin, and so Beccy’s paw steps forward to ask Buzz to move. But Buzz thinks that the paw is goin’ to hit him and steps back off the sidewalk, and tumbles face down into some horse manure.

Well, I ain’t so sure that the Swizzles do have a muscle problem in their faces,‘cause the way they laughed, you would have thought they were gonna burst.
And Buzz, well he wasn’t smilin’ anymore but I did give him his five bits, ‘cause he sure earned it.

love

2. Girls

I remember the first time that Buzz fell in love. It was with a pretty girl called Sally Watson. Buzz had just hit thirteen years of age and his hormones were fit to be tied. I mean those things were running around his body and making him feel all sorts of things – good and bad.

Sally Watson and her family had blown in from Minnesota the previous month and had caused  ructions all along Main Street, one way and another.

Her father had come to our little part of the world to ‘help his career’ - apparently he was a banker or something. Sally’s mother was the kind of woman who’d step on you to get somewhere else – I don’t mean to talk unkindly of the woman but she was real mean and ambitious. So Buzz hanging about their door wasn’t the kind of thing they were looking for. I reckon if Mister Watson had got it into his head to buy a gun then Buzz would be picking the pellets out of his bee-hind. I kid you not.

“I have just seen the most beautiful girl in the world,” was what he said that Wednesday.
“Who?”
“She’s a vision,” said Buzz. Let me tell you with a hand on my heart that Buzz never, ever said things like that before the hormones went crazy like.
“Who?”

Buzz shrugged his shoulders, ate a couple of my mom’s cookies and then remembered he was in love and a gave out a huge sigh.
“I am in love,” he said after lying down on my sofa.
“I hope it ain’t catchin’,” I said, not wanting to have to lie on people’s sofas or anythin’.
“She’s an angel.”
“Who?” I said again, remembering that he hadn’t told me nothin’.
“That new girl, the one whose family have moved into number seventeen, the house at the top of the hill, the one nearest Heaven,” he said. I kid you not, that’s what he said. Buzz, newly turned thirteen and he’s talking like....well a crazy kid.
I asked him if he had swallowed somethin’ real bad and Buzz said that it was just the breath of love. My stomach nearly dumped my breakfast on the sofa beside Buzz ‘cause that kind of talk makes a man feel kinda sick. I kid you not.

I left Buzz on the sofa to get better and went and played Cowboys and Injuns with the Hardy Twins who were only twelve and immune from love.

The next day I was walking to the Harper's place, up on Indian Ridge and I spots Buzz sitting outside the Watson's house, doing nothing else but looking at their windows with his hands under his chin and sighing. No idea why he kept sighing but he seemed to like it.
“You okay?” I asked.

He just nodded his head and wouldn’t turn to look at me, he just kept on looking at the house.
“She’s in there. My angel,” said Buzz.

It was then that Mister Watson stormed out the house and came up to me, real angry like.
“Are you related to this lunatic?” Mister Watson screamed, putting his face so close to mine that I could see the hairs up his nose.
“No sir, he’s my best friend in the whole world.”
“Do you know that friend of yours has been sitting outside our house all night,” said Mister Watson.
“I did not sir, but surely he ain’t causing trouble?” I said.
“You’d think? At least not until your lunatic friend started singing at 3 in the morning, at the top of his voice. What have you got to say to that?” Man was he angry.

I said that I didn’t know that Buzz could sing and that was when Mister Watson started chasin’ me down the hill. That man could run fast when he was angry.

The following morning I just happen to be looking out of my bedroom window getting ready for church when I saw Buzz getting chased up Main Street by Mister Watson in his Sunday best. Mister Watson that is, Buzz didn’t have a Sunday best.

I reckon the path of true love ain’t that easy as that English guy said, or maybe it was the Bible, I ain’t too sure.

I didn’t really see Buzz over the next two weeks, except when he was being chased by Mister Watson. I hung out with the rest of the town’s kids who were all safe from this love thing.

I remember that warm Saturday evening down by the stream, I saw Buzz sitting under the large Southern Magnolia. I thought he was laughin’ but he wasn’t, as I got closer I sees that he was cryin’ real hard.
“What’s up?”
“She loves another.”
“Who?”
“Sally Watson. She says she loves Jesus and she ain’t got time for me,” said Buzz, who was real heartbroken.
“What you gonna do?” I asked.

And he told me that he hadn’t a darned clue what he was going to do as there was no way he could compete with Jesus.

I guess he got that one right. The next day he came around to my place to eat all our food, like he usually did, but he looked a darned sight happier.

I asked him if he had decided what to do about Sally Watson and he said:
“Who?”


bobby stevenson 2016
bobby2

19 AND 16

The story of a 16-year-old boy from a Scottish island who seeks revenge. A journey which takes him from the '16 Uprising in Dublin to a heroism at the Somme.

Penny

                               1

St.Pols near Arras France, November 7th 1920.
There was a darkness of sorts by the time the two men entered the chapel. The Brigadier looked towards the older man who closed his eyes.
“This one”
The officer nodded that he understood, as the General lifted his hand from the Union flag. There was a gentle sadness in both their actions as they lowered the body into the wooden box, it could so easily have been one of them; yet neither noticed the silver chain with the blue medallion drop from the coffin. Unseen, it found its way into a crack.
They wouldn’t leave him on his own, not tonight; this poor soul had slept too long alone.
_________________

Four summers earlier that same chain and medallion clung to the neck of a boy stuffed to the brim with life. His name was Sammy Galbraith and he was living up to all of his sixteen summers.
“When I catch you and don’t think I won’t Galbraith, I will crack that stupid head of yours open, I swear to God I will”

The Reverend Winters was fifty-three, apparently God’s ambassador on earth and a bit of a horseman. He took an exception to his daughter’s affections being dallied with by the local boys, especially that Godless brute Sammy Galbraith.

Being on foot allowed Sammy more manoeuvrability. He managed to slip behind Old Shaker’s Rock and wait for the reverend to go riding past. A piercing sliver of sunlight found Sammy’s face; he lifted his head skywards and smiled as an eagle patrolled the warm thermals above.

By the time his pursuer realised he had lost the boy he was already riding towards what he considered the source of the problem, Sammy’s father.

Johnny Galbraith, who had only been thirty-two years old when he left his legs in a field in France, had a son of sixteen whom he loved and a wife who no longer cared if he lived nor died.

Before the war Johnny had been in complete charge of Lord Inverstark’s stables, now he wasn’t even in control of his own body. He sat in a wheelchair on the porch of the tied cottage, angry at life and always looking toward the mountains that were once his to conquer.

Their island was named Annshal and it sat about a mile off the mainland of western Scotland. As the sun sank below the Annshal Mountains, the silhouette of their peaks would assume the outline of an ancient soldier at rest with his spear by his side; he was known to the locals as The Sleeping Warrior.

The reverend’s horse came to a halt in front of Johnny, just as the soldier was contemplating whether returning from France had been a good thing, or  whether he should have been  left there and buried along with his legs.
“Your son has been pestering my daughter once again Galbraith, I will ask you, as I have done several times before - will you not control your lad?”
“Perhaps your daughter likes to be pestered Winters have you ever considered that?”
“I realise that the war has served you with a great injustice Mister Galbraith but you should tread with the utmost care in what you say and not judge all women by the standards of your own wife. I look forward to you having a word with your son.”

Johnny reached for the pistol he kept by his chair and pointed it above the reverend’s head.
“You wouldn’t shoot a man of God? Behave yourself man.”
Johnny fired the pistol into a tree.
“You’ll regret this”. The reverend already having turned his horse was riding away. “Mark my words Mister Galbraith, you will rue the day. Rue the day.”

At the age of thirty Fiona was still pretty, and anyone with eyes could see why Lord Inverstarck found her attractive.

It had started off innocently with Fiona covering Johnny’s work while he was away at war but it soon became something more between Fiona and the Laird (as the locals would refer to them in hushed tones). To be really  truthful, Fiona had attempted to make things work between her and Johnny after he came home. She knew he had been injured but he had failed in his letters to mention the missing legs. Even they were not the problem; the real concern was the darkness that now ate at Johnny’s heart. The night she’d left for good, he had threatened to kill them both. She had only walked in the door and his ever-present gun was pointing straight at her.

“Why are you so angry?” She’d never dared ask him that before but with a gun pointing at her head, she didn’t feel she had that much to lose. He said nothing and put the gun back by the side of his chair. She went into the room, packed a small case and as she walked past him, he grabbed her wrist. “I love you” he said.
“I know”. He freed her and she walked out.

Fiona was exercising the horses when she felt a shadow cross her eye line. She didn’t have to look up for she knew who it would be, who it always was, her son Sammy. They no longer talked he would just sit on the hill  and stare at her, something he did every day. She loved him but it had been such a long time since she had told him.
_________________

They had kept their word; he had been watched over every step of the way. The coffin had been placed in an oak casket and banded with iron and a medieval crusader’s sword.
The inscription read ‘A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 for King and Country’.

He would rest tonight in Victoria Station and tomorrow, the 11th of November 1920, he would travel to Westminster Abbey to lie at peace for ever.
_________________

Lord Inverstarck had expected to go directly to France. The troops had been stationary at the Somme for a very long time but there was also word that the Irish were planning an uprising and they wanted him at Dublin Castle before Easter, 1916. It was Fiona’s suggestion of a Ball in honour of his departing.
“You are the Laird and the islanders will want to have their goodbyes”.

She was right of course and he thanked God for Fiona but Inverstarck didn’t particularly care for the islanders or the island. He had been having a jolly time of it in London, living at the family apartments in Kensington, his plan had been to continue with the army for a few more years then move into banking. It had all been decided by Father while the boys were still at Harrow. Harry would take over the Lairdship of Annshal on his father’s death and Robert would remain at liberty.

No one had expected Harry to die so young.
So by default Robert was Lord Inverstarck and all that encompassed, most of which he had no taste or time for. Hereditary was hereditary and not even God could set that apart; to make the best of a problem was  Robert’s philosophy. Still, there were compensations, the estate (if you included the properties in London) was relatively well off and Fiona was proving herself to be a beautiful distraction. If they could only rid themselves of that annoying husband of hers and the troublesome brat she had given birth to, things might take a turn for the better.

With any luck, Ireland would keep Robert occupied and there would be no reason to travel to France. He could be back in Annshal and in Fiona’s arms by autumn.



castle
                                                    
                                                               2
Robert McAnders, Lord Inverstarck of Annshal, was to report to Dublin Castle by the 1st of April, 1916 and so the Ball was arranged for the previous Saturday.

It was a dark early afternoon and there were still several weeks to go before the clocks were changed. This was the first time it had been tried and it kept the British in step with the Germans who were both in a bid to save daylight.

It was one of the few things that would be saved that year.
Everyone on Annshal was invited to the Laird’s farewell and all were expected to attend, that included men without legs and their sons. The Farewell Ball was Fiona’s first real challenge in the House and there was much to prove to herself and to the others. Proof that she was worthy of being at the Laird’s side (and not just in his bed), that she was more than just a grooms’ wife with ambitions and that she would make a worthy spouse to Robert – if that chance ever arose.

These were strange times, very strange indeed, and the old ways were crumbling in the hands of the islanders. In the past Fiona would never have been allowed such an important task as to arrange a party. She would have only been a badly kept secret but things had changed and who really knew what the world would become when the war was finally over.

The Staff, under the charge of Fiona, had done their jobs well. Inverstarck House had never looked more beautiful than it did that night with its face scrubbed and brightened by the snow.The paths were marked by large torches which could be seen from a mile away. Those who had the means arrived by coach and the rest on foot. Men from the mainland, who were not at war, were also invited and most of them made the effort to see the Laird off to Ireland. Robert McAnders was an influential man and one to be respected. It did them no harm, if they ended up in Ireland, to have the ear of the one of the governors of Dublin Castle.

Whether overlooked or by intention, no one had sent a pony and trap to the Galbraith’s cottage. Sammy saw this as a sign that they should stay away but Johnny was determined that they make an appearance. This had been the way of things before the war and in his mind, it still was - nothing had changed.

Sammy pushed his father’s wheelchair in silence as the snow built up in front of the wheels. This made the effort to move his father very strenuous. The chair would grind to a halt, Sammy would shove and then everything, including them, would shudder forwards. His father ignored his son’s discomfort. His boy had legs and as such, he should make use of them.

There was a time when Johnny Galbraith had been popular and it had suited him to be that way. A sociable and thick-skinned man was the only way to deal with the landed gentry that was how they played the game.

When Johnny had been brought home, the House had sent some horse tack over to be cleaned, probably at the request of Fiona, but he had taken this as a patronising gesture. His depression started in France, as it may have done for many men, but Johnny had found that the act of just opening his eyes after sleep took every sinew in his body. The sharp stab of realisation which followed dreams was one of the most painful parts of his life. Johnny wondered how many condemned men found a temporary solace in sleep and then a pain in awakening that burned at their very souls.

Some men were born for war and took it with an ease and perhaps such men were stupid or brave – Johnny was neither of those. He looked into the eyes of the men who were still to go to war and he noted their pity. It was obvious they couldn’t comprehend his pain. To them, all he had done was make a wrong turning into the forest of darkness but if he would only swing around and chose a different path, it would lead him to back to the light. For those who know depression it is not about taking the wrong road, it is about the ground swallowing you up whole.

On the train journey home he would constantly stare down, always at the floor, never wanting to catch sight of someone smiling or even worse laughing, for in that lay contamination. He had to protect his anger. His anger helped him survive.

The drive in front of the House was not built to accommodate a wheelchair so Sammy pushed his father around to the back. It was here that the party was centred. The pipers stood in the snow playing a merry tune and would continue for several hours before they were allowed time in front of a large fire and a dram of whisky.  There was a blast of heat and the smell of drink as some of the Highland dancers reeled their way on to the snowy courtyard and back through the large door.

Inside the House Inverstarck held court, yet always circling within reach was Fiona who would not be presumptive enough to stand next to him.

In one corner of the ballroom were the Reverend Winters and his beautiful daughter, Isla. It had been the intention of the Reverend to keep her at home that evening but, as his wife had stated, if Isla was not exposed  to the more gentile society of Annshal then she would continue to make contact with the lower classes. The Reverend agreed but with one proviso, Isla was to move no more than two feet from his side.

What the Reverend Winters failed to observe was how much Sammy and Isla were in love. They had known each other almost all of their lives and instinctively knew what the other was thinking. She had seen other boys and he had kissed most of the other girls on the island, but in the end they always found each other, like magnets in a fog.

All Isla had to do was look towards a door and Sammy knew what she meant. She whispered something into her father’s ear and he reluctantly waved her away.
“Are you all right here father?” asked Sammy, never taking his eyes from Isla.
“Be quick Sammy, whatever it is, I don’t think my presence is much appreciated and keep away from that old goat Winters.”

Sammy found a large heating stone by one of the fires and placed it under his father’s chair, to hold it fast.
“I won’t be long.”
“See that you aren’t.” His father was decidedly agitated.
Isla and Sammy found sanctuary in a small cupboard in the upper floor and closed the door on all their problems.

There was much about that evening to keep Johnny looking at the well polished floor: people were dancing, smiling and laughing, everything that he had once enjoyed but had buried in France. Still, he had to be here even if it was only to see Fiona. When they say that war is expensive they rarely mean the ammunition.

Inverstarck was called upon to make a speech about how the estate was in safe hands, Johnny wondered if this meant Fiona.And then it happened, Robert McAnders called Fiona to his side. Whether it was his imminent departure or a foolish action fuelled by drink the result was the same. He was letting the world know that this was his woman and in front of her own husband. Even the Reverend’s jaw dropped.

What was going through Johnny’s mind could only be guessed at, but there he was sitting in his chair and pointing the gun at Inverstarck.

For a few moments no one moved then two things happened simultaneously. Fiona stood in front of Inverstarck whispering ‘he won’t shoot me’ and the other thing was a servant made a leap towards Johnny’s gun causing it to fire.

The blood gushed from Fiona’s chest as she fell.
In the cupboard on the upper floor, Sammy and Isla were so caught up in the act of making love that they were oblivious to the noise of the first gunshot.
They did not make that same mistake with the second one.

Cross

                                                   3
It was a crisp, cold November day and the crowd pulled in their coats tightly around them. A general silence descended as the coffin rolled by drawn by six horses on a gun carriage of the Royal Horse Artillery. As the cortege turned at Hyde Park Corner shoulders moved up and down and some sobbing escaped, a young voice cried out, ‘Goodbye Dad’.

When he arrived at Whitehall and after King George 5th unveiled the Cenotaph, there was a two-minute silence. Then he drifted homeward  to Westminster Abbey where he was carried to his final resting place guarded by one hundred holders of the Victoria Cross. Earth from several battlefields was placed in the grave including several barrel loads from Ypres; it would let him feel at home and in the Abbey, he need never be alone again.

For seven days his grave lay covered by a silk funeral pall. One week later, a temporary stone sealed his grave and on it was written:
"A British Warrior Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918 for King and Country. Greater Love Hath No Man Than This."

_________________

Only a handful turned up at the funeral, Isla was there of course and her father, who led the service, but most of the islanders stayed away. Not because they disliked Johnny but they felt it would displease Lord Inverstarck who had since left the island for Dublin. He had sent word to the hospital in Glasgow that Fiona should receive the best of care and that he would pay all her bills, and that was the end of that as far as Inverstarck was concerned.

Sammy was sad that he never got to say goodbye to his father. By the time both he and Isla had heard the gunshot and appeared in the ballroom, his mother’s wounds were being tended to and his father body was lying slumped over the chair bloodied and alone. No one was taking care of him. The ballroom had been cleared of everyone apart from Inverstarck and a few servants. It was obvious now that his father must have assumed he’d accidentally killed Fiona and then turned the gun on himself.

Sammy had an emptiness that gnawed at his stomach and finished in his heart. He felt alone and dizzy and he was just about to topple into the grave when Isla gripped his hand hard and pulled him back from the edge of  several dark things. One of those dark things was the thought he was having about killing Inverstarck.

Isla guided Sammy away from the Churchyard, holding his hand for the very first time in public. She looked at her father daring him to object but instead Winters cleared snow from Johnny Galbraith’s grave and let a tear fall from his eye. The minister was as only as strong as the enemies he had.

Sammy and Isla went back to his house and lay by the fire holding each other until the sun came up yet, peaceful as this was, nothing could erase the cancerous thought that was eating at his brain. He must kill the Laird, this, the man who had stolen his mother and caused his father’s death and who had fled to Ireland without visiting her in hospital in Glasgow. The Laird would be better off dead.
“Are you feeling happier my wee lamb?” asked Isla while stroking her boy's hair.
“I am now.”

Isla smiled, completely misunderstanding the comment.
_________________

On the first day alone 40,000 people had come to visit him when the Abbey doors finally closed at 11pm. By the following year there had been millions. On November the 11th, 1921 a slab of black Belgium marble was used to finally seal the tomb. Engraved on the marble, in brass made from melted ammunition, was a further inscription which ended with the lines:

“THEY BURIED HIM AMONG THE KINGS BECAUSE HE
HAD DONE GOOD TOWARD GOD AND TOWARD
HIS HOUSE”

Sleep well my friend, sleep well.
_________________

Isla had so much to tell Sammy yet his mind seemed to be elsewhere. He was agitated and continued to talk about leaving. She felt if the war continued as it had done he would be leaving soon enough.

A week after his father’s funeral, he did leave. There was a ferry that went from Glasgow to Dublin and called in at several islands on the way. It only stopped at Annshal once every three weeks and today was that day. Sammy packed his bag and wrote a letter to Isla. She would find it propped up beside the fireplace when she called looking for him. He took a Bible and a silver chain to which was attached a blue medallion. Sammy’s father had been given it by his mother to pass on to his sweetheart. His father, Johnny, had given it to Fiona who had left it at the cottage on the night she packed her bags.

He also wrote a letter to his mother, one he been composing most of the night. This too was to be left on the fireplace but when the time came, he ripped the letter in half and threw it onto the fire.

He lifted a shirt that belonged to his father, took in the smell of the man who was no more, then walked out of the cottage.He may have been too long looking around for as he arrived at the pier the ferry was already leaving.

If he didn’t go now, he knew that holding on to that much hate for several more weeks would destroy him. He swung his bag over his shoulder and ran as fast as he could. Sammy flew down the pier and when that ran out,  he jumped the ten or so feet to the edge of the paddle steamer. He just made it, and as the ferry was leaving the harbour, Sammy found himself holding on to the side of the boat for dear life.

“Give me your hand boy and I’ll help you up”.
Sammy couldn’t make the face out at first as the low winter sun was blinding his eyes.
“Come on now.”

Sammy reached out and caught the man’s hand. It was strong and it pulled him up the side of the ferry without a struggle.
“The name’s Shamus.” He said.
If only Sammy had listened to his instincts and not grabbed that hand.

bobby stevenson 2016

Arran
Photo of Annshal island taken by Tom Stevenson

The Great Film Fiasco of Shoreham Village



Now I know you’re going to say to me that you’ve heard this story before - okay I might have talked about it as having taken place in another village and in another time, but I was only trying to keep the guilty from being named – honest.

It all happened that one summer, the one in 1940, when the world was turned on its head and the good folks of Kent were waiting on the enemy to turn up at its door.

Let me say from the start that his story isn’t to do with the war, well not directly - I will leave those tales to folks who are worthy of telling them – no, this story is to do with Shoreham Village and about certain individuals who were about to try to cheer the village up.

Above the heads of those Shoreham folks that summer, the Battle of Britain was being fought out; friends and neighbours were sent off to war, and so it fell to one Ichabod Swithin to shoulder the burden of keeping the morale high within the parish.

Ichabod had tossed and turned several nights trying to think of some darned good idea that would be worthy of Shoreham and its inhabitants. He had once been a pianist and tune-smith for some of the well-known stage stars in the early 1900s and thought that perhaps a revival might be on the cards. However, when Ichabod went looking for his old chums he found that they were either dead or too old to tread the boards.

Ichabod almost gave up in his quest to lift the spirits of his Shoreham family - when one warm Saturday his grandson, Samuel came calling. The two of them were best of pals and enjoyed a pint of ale in the Crown, followed by a walk along the river – and it was here that Samuel let it be known to his grandfather that what he was doing was all ‘hush-hush’ and that he was enjoying it immensely.

Samuel asked his granddad why the old rascal he was looking so glum and Ichabod told him all about the problem he had with trying to cheer the village up.

“What if I could get you a film to show,” said Samuel.

“Like what?” Asked his grandfather.

Ichabod was thinking that perhaps they could show a few Charlie Chaplin reels and a cup of tea to follow. Surely that would do the trick? But Samuel had grander ideas.

“It would mean us getting our hands on a large projector and perhaps you could hang a large sheet from the stage,” said his grandson.

And that dear folks is how it happened. The following Friday evening was the allocated date and the film was to be shown to the good folks of Shoreham for a penny each.

Like all things in life, the best laid plans (and all that) went slightly off course.

Samuel had done Ichabod proud and had got his hands on a very famous film to show (it helped that Samuel worked in the propaganda department of the war effort – where they made movies to bolster the good people of Britain). The film was Gone With The Wind and it had only been released in Britain several weeks earlier.

The problem – and it was a problem – was that the film was four hours long and no one had that amount of time to spend – not with farming, feeding families and a war going on above their heads.

So it was decided by the council that they would show it in two parts; two hours on the Friday and two hours on the Saturday. That seemed like a practical solution and so everyone was happy.

That is, until the word got out, up and down the valley, that a grand film like Gone With The Wind was showing for a penny in Shoreham.

The queue reached all the way from the village hall to the railway station (which, to those who don’t know the place is about half a mile). There were a lot of disgruntled people that night – and what hurt Ichabod was that many who had gained entry to the film-showing weren’t from Shoreham.

Samuel came up with a plan to show the film in two parts the following Friday and Saturday as well. Ichabod was happy, as were the rest of the council.

Here is where it gets tricky – there was a big queue, if not a bigger one, on the Saturday night and some who got in, hadn’t seen the first part – and some had seen both parts. You’d think that would keep some of the people happy – you’d think – but no, folks started using the fact that they’d seen the Saturday night half to their advantage.

The first incident was when Old George Smith (who had been to the film on Friday) punched his best pal (who had been to the Friday and Saturday showing) in the face when he threatened to tell him the ending of the film.

The next big upset was when Egbert Cuthbert stood up in church the following day and told the congregation that if they didn’t give him the contents of the collection plates, he’d tell them all how the film finished. Big Sam, the farmer, manged to grab Egbert and throw him out the building before he got around to telling the good people anything important.

One masked man (everyone guessed it was Egbert again) was found to stand in the High Street and ask for money or else he’d tell them the whole of the story. Mrs Lupin battered the robber over the head with the Margaret Mitchell novel and said she’d already read Gone With The Wind, thank you very much, and she hurriedly moved on. 

Some of the Friday/Saturday night people were seen to huddle in little groups in the village shops and butchers – and they would look over at those who hadn’t seen the whole film with a look of pity.

If ever there was a way to divide a village, this was it and it wasn’t what Ichabod had wanted.

Things only got worse the following weekend, when they showed part one again - but there was an air raid on the Saturday and the whole thing was cancelled.

And that is why some folks are still not talking to each other in Shoreham – and why Ichabod ended up with a ninety-five year old tap dancer and Ichabod on the piano in the village hall.

It might not be Hollywood but frankly who’s giving a damn.



bobby stevenson 2016





Monday, 30 May 2016

UR : RU


U R Loved.
R U Loving?
U R Hope
R U Hoping?
U R Life
R U Living?
U R Given
R U Giving?
U R Taught
R U Teaching?
U R  Lucky
R U Sharing?



bobby stevenson 2016 





wee bobby

The Street With no Name



She lived on a street with no name; the street that is, not her. She was called Conchita and she had spent all her life on the no-name street.

When she was young her mother took her to a fair and there they met a fortune-teller who said that Conchita would never know real happiness. Her mother crossed the woman’s palm with a silver coin and thanked her.
 

So even at that tender age, Conchita never really held out any hope of finding a happy reason to exist.

But she did exist. She lived and breathed and hoped that it would be over one way or another, without too much pain.
 

Then one morning, when the sun was shining down carelessly on the street with no name, Conchita found herself smiling at nothing in particular.

This worried Conchita, this happiness certainly wasn’t for her – perhaps it was delivered to the wrong address, she thought. Mind you, in a street with no name it was an easy mistake to make.

So what Conchita did, was take her little bit of happiness that she had felt and cut it up into seven pieces – as there were that number of other houses in the same street.
The following morning, very early, she left a piece of happiness at each door and moved on. Each of the neighbors were surprised at the gift lying at their door and were curious as to who had left it.

In one house, the woman picked up the piece of happiness and showed it to her husband. He just grunted and she said that he wouldn't know happiness if hit him in the face.
And that is what she did, she threw the happiness at him which bounced off his head, out of the window and was never seen again. Five of the other houses did much the same, they either swept the happiness under the carpet or used it as a doormat until it was no more.

Only one, a little old woman by the name of Estelle, took the piece of happiness in and fed it and nurtured it. She never took it for granted and bit by bit it grew. When it had grown to a large size, she wrapped it up and took it along the street to Conchita’s house.

Outside Estelle left the happiness and a note – ‘Dear Conchita, I knew it was you who gave away your happiness, but we can’t use other people’s happiness for ourselves, we have to take care of our own. It made me happy to look after a little bit of your happiness and watch it grow. I now return it for you to enjoy.’

Conchita took the package in and realized that there were kind people in the world who wouldn’t take your happiness for granted.

And that was when Conchita realized also, that only you can make your happiness grow and that it isn’t the responsibility of others.

bobby stevenson 2016
bobby2 wee bobby

Be Happy, Pal


Be happy, pal,
Don’t just
Smile for others
The years are eaten up that way,
And the emptiness will lie beyond
When those you smile to
Go away.

I know you’re young
And won’t have time
To understand what I have to say  -
Just don’t
Sell your soul
For the sake of others
Accept yourself in every way.

bobby stevenson 2016
bobby2 wee bobby

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Photograph of Me




The kid in the middle, the one hiding, was Gene, he got shot in some war, somewhere. It was the only thing he ever did that anyone was ever proud of. 
Gene spent most of his life hiding and blaming others.

The one on the right was Jackson. He was my best bud – I mean the kind of pal who would lay down his life for you, give you the last cent in his pocket – there ain’t too many of them who crossed my path. Jackson was the mouthy one, the one who knew what to do, the one who never stopped eating and the one who always wore his brother’s hand-me-downs.

The day this photo was taken was my fourteenth birthday – that’s me on the left – my ma had given me 50 cents to get the guys some hotdogs. I had wanted a bike but I knew, given the way things were, hotdogs were as good as it was gonna get.

My pa had gone to see a friend in a downtown store on one sunny morning and had never returned. It was like that for many of the guys on my street. I was convinced that the fathers who had disappeared all went to some town, upstate and swapped stories.

I remember being on watch at the kitchen window for months waiting on his return. Some days I would knock on doors and ask if anyone had seen my pa. Some slammed the door in my face, others kinda giggled and said that I should ask some woman or other. Seemed my pa liked to hang about with women called ‘Belle’ or ‘Busty’. Maybe if my ma had changed her name from Edith to something else, he might have stayed.

I never did see him again, although I heard once when I was down south, that a man answering his description had been involved in some robbery or other, and the guy who told me was sure that the man I was talking about had been shot cold dead. That’s the way he said it, ‘cold dead’ and a shiver ran right through me, making me think that he was probably right.

My ma had good days and bad ones. There were times when she’d take to her bed on account that the ‘darkness’ had taken her over, and when she was like that there weren’t much I could do except sit with her and hold her hand.

I meant to mention that I had a younger brother, Teddy and he was the kinda guy who was born all growed up. I mean Teddy dealt with all the money (or lack of it) and Teddy was the one who looked after me and my ma. His head was always screwed right on. When Teddy was old enough, and sure that I was gonna survive, he joined the Army and all. Last I heard from him he was a Major, married with two kids and was expecting to retire real soon.

Me and Jackson ran the streets for a few more years after the photo was taken, but then he found God in a gutter in Tallahassee, and became a preacher who toured the panhandle with an old truck and a tent. I hope he did get to Heaven, I really do, and I hope his angel wings ain’t no hand-me-downs either.

As for me, I didn’t do much that was special except look after my ma as the darkness, which didn’t just take her over but in the end, devoured her – god rest her soul – was eventually laid to rest. I guess there are a million of us out there who have done work like that and we don’t have no medals to show for it.
We are the walking wounded and we just keep putting one foot in front of the other – a kinda secret society that don’t have no special handshakes, but we can see the scars in each other’s eyes.

And the reason I show you this photo today, is for a simple reason - it was the only one that was ever took of me. I kid you not.

bobby stevenson 2016
bobby2 wee bobby

Be Kind



The night of him looking at the stars was the night that everything changed.

That night as the planets danced overhead, a thought grabbed him and then shot right up his nose and into his brain, almost taking his breath away.

Here he was abandoned in Space, a traveller - and whatever the dimensions of this universe there could only be so many travellers.

He had no idea what brought him or sent him to this place , but whatever he was going through was unique – perhaps what he was experiencing really meant something.

There was a reason for his existing.
If that was true, then everyone else he knew or met or saw was travelling too – all of them wound up by the same key and sent on a path with little decision on their part as to the path they should take.

If they had been moulded by a god - that woman in the bakery, or the postman, or the kid who always cried, then there would have been  angels at their births – but even if their heart,or their existence or their imagination was just an accident of the universe – they were still unique, still special, still a traveller.

So whether he jumped to conclusions or jumped to attention or jumped out-of-the-way, he told himself to remember – no one, that he could see, had asked to be a traveller.
Be kind.
 
bobby stevenson 2016
"we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars..."

An Extremely Stupid Story


So there‘s me and Fatboy strolling down the Kings Road and he says he’s just seen The Who.

“Where?” I ask him. ‘Cause I’m thinking he must mean he’s seen them at one of this city’s fine rock ‘n’ roll venues – you know, like the O2 or Hammersmith Palais.
“No...no...you’ve missed them,” Fatboy tells me. “They must have disappeared into a shop”.
“Like Tesco?” I ask him my friend, sarcastically.
“Don’t be stupid. Do you see a Tesco?” He asks me.
“So you’re telling me, you’ve just seen The Who, all of them out shopping together?”
“And your problem is?” He sneers back.
“All of them?”
“All of them.”
“Including Keith Moon?” I ask, drawing him into a trap.
“Including Keith Moon,” he assures me.
“But he’s dead,” I say with a ‘that’s one to me, stick that in your pipe and smoke it’ kind of look, “And so’s the bass player,” I add with a final flourish.

Fatboy continues walking up Kings Road ahead of me and I’m ‘oh, ho’, he must be in a huff. Then he stops, looks around and says...
“You are a tit and a Scottish tit at that.”

Then he disappears into a shop where he’s probably continuing to purse The Who.
Okay, me and Fatboy have had our sticky moments but we’ve had some of life’s great adventures, as well.

One fine summer’s day, me and the kid were heading down to a pub at London Bridge to me meet some journalist  or other – Steve someone - as Fatboy  wants to tell him a few of our stories, and believe me we’ve got more than a few to tell.

Me and FB are the first in this rather Dickensian pub, I have a rather cheeky wee Italian beer and he has a MilkyWay  Vodka – now you’re sitting there thinking ‘what’s a Milky Way Vodka’ and I would have to tell you that it’s a Milky Way bar and vodka. Now if you don’t mind, can I get on with the story?

So this “Media Guy” - yes I did just make rabbit signs with my fingers. This “Media Guy” fails to show but instead in walks this rather charming and smelly wee man by the name of Cuthbert, something we find out after we’ve bought him his third Milky Way Vodka. Curiosity had gotten the better of him and he asked what Fatboy was imbibing (that’s the way Cuthbert talks).

And the end of a quite charming and yet heavy session Cuthbert, Fatboy and myself retire to Cuthbert’s set of apartments just off Zampa road.
Turns out that Cuthbert is both an alien and a Millwall supporter. Yeh, you heard me right, a Millwall supporter. It seems that he’s been here for years waiting on the mother ship to take him back home and while he was waiting, he thought he would take in a game of footie to while away the hours. He is an official member of the Neil Harris fan club.

Apparently Cuthbert has been here, on earth, for a good wee while and has known all the great and the good. For instance, when Millwall first started up as a proper football club in 1885, Cuthbert was there watching all the early footie matches. It was at one of those games that he met the great writer Robert Louis Stevenson (or Scottish Bob as Cuthbert called him) – Cuthbert swears that it was him who gave Scottish Bob the idea of writing Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde – on account of Cuthbert’s temper.

It was apparently Cuthbert’s temper that got him into trouble more than once. In 1888, when Millwall were having a particularly bad season Cuthbert found himself walking around the East End with a good drink in him. Aliens aren’t that good at drinking apparently and well, he would wake up in the morning covered in blood and with surgical equipment beside him.
“You get drunk a few times and they start calling you Jack the Ripper”
Fatboy said it sounded better than Cuthbert the Ripper and we all had to agree.

So where is all this going to end with Cuthbert?
Well Cuthbert says he’s staying on in Earth until Millwall win the FA Cup.
We’ll see.

bobby stevenson 2016  COYL!!!!


Friday, 27 May 2016

Weird Town




One
Sandyway Beach was a little town with no more ambition than the frogs which sang it to sleep at night. It hadn’t really changed that much in the two hundred years it had been in existence, but it was still a nice little place to be born, live ,and die in.

Visitors were few and far between given that it was so far off the beaten track; the ones who did turn up tended to be lost or pretended they were when they found they’d driven all that way just to turn up in that little town.

But if you could see the beauty in the place and not ask too much out of life then it was a perfect place to waste away your days.
Wars had been declared and settled, rulers had come and gone, storms had kicked up a fuss and died down again, and not of those things ever touched Sandyway Beach.

Perhaps the universe was saving up all the town’s triumphs and disasters for one throw of the dice and perhaps that throw came in the shape of Clive Otterman.

Clive had once been a strong, fit man who could take on anything and come good, but little by little, bit by bit, life kicked the crap out of him until he held up his heart in surrender and decided to see out his days just sitting by the sea. He felt that life wouldn’t come looking for him under these circumstances; it would pass over him like the angels in the Bible and smite some other sucker.

I guess Clive had always underestimated life - in the way that we all do - because fate doesn’t always attack in big slashes and stabs - sometimes it kills by a thousand cuts and fate wasn’t quite done with Clive yet.

He’d lived long enough to know that life sometimes worked in mysterious way, truly mysterious ways – not Biblical, just those little surprises which sometimes happened at the right time to the right people. That’s what occurred with Tommy Speak, who was the man who lived on the beach and whom life had decided was ready for a little miracle.

If one word was used to describe Tommy it was ‘ordinary’ – in the way that all animals clinging to a rock circling the Sun are ordinary. His school report called him a normal kid - nothing outstanding. His Geography teacher had written ‘ordinary’ and left it at that. Except what is ordinary today could have been considered exceptional many years before. If an ordinary man had stood in the middle of the American Civil War with a camera/phone he would have been considered anything but ordinary. But look what you’ve made me do - I’m well off the story. So just believe me when I tell you that Tommy was the most ordinary person you could ever meet.

Then Tommy met Clive and the rest, as they say, is one huge, confusing mess. I’m not telling you here and now that Clive and Tommy were somehow called on by Heaven to do what they did, I’m just trying to say that from where I was standing it very much looked that way.

Two
Tommy never really asked for normal in his life, it was just the way he was put together and I never really knew if Tommy was just plain lucky or if the universe liked him so much that it gave him a helping hand from time to time.

One night, just before he headed back to the beach, Tommy lifted what he thought was his jacket - but in fact it turned out to be the jacket of one Jeremiah Andrews. I think that the fact the label inside said ‘Property of Jeremiah Andrews’ would have been a giveaway.

That was the evening of the Grand Night Dance. Everyone in town had been at the hall for a jig to thank the Founding Fathers for putting Sandyway Beach exactly where it should be – in the perfect location. Needless to say, Tommy had been drinking Archie’s famous Crab Beach Brew and this left him with the feeling that he could take on the world.

There had been stories passed around town for years about the kind of business that Jeremiah was operating; it covered everything from diamond smuggling to selling donkey meat to the Mexicans and everything in between. To be truthful, those were actually some of the better Jeremiah stories; as the others would have made your hair stand on end – assuming that you had hair,that is.

Tommy swayed and swaggered his way down the cliff path towards the beach, something he had accomplished in many conditions (sometimes it was him, sometimes it was the weather, sometimes it was both). He could do it with his eyes closed and he normally did, but this night he had a strange feeling that he was being watched. I think most folks have got that ability to know when pair of eyes are drilling into the back of their heads.

Suddenly right in front of him, like an apparition, was Everard Smithton.
“Howdee, Tomaso,” as that was the way Everard liked to talk.
“You almost made my hair turn white, Everard,” screamed Tommy who didn’t have any hair.
“Sorry Tomaso but I hate walking back this way alone, especially with that thing on the loose,” said Everard in an accent that was hard to pinpoint (and  I’m talking about a continent, never mind narrowing it down to a country).
“What thing?” Asked Tommy, who actually wasn’t really caring.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got a smoke?” Asked Everard.

Now here’s the funny thing, Tommy didn’t smoke but he immediately reached into the top pocket of Jeremiah’s jacket and there were cigarettes and a lighter.
“Well I’ll be....” said Tommy and handed the stuff over to Everard.
“Much obliged,” said Everard as he lit his cigarette.

The two of them were just jumping from the last rock on the sandy beach when the thing that had gotten loose moved towards them.
“What are those two eyes?” Asked Everard, nervously
“Well, my guess is that they’re two eyes,” said Tommy sarcastically (Crab Brew always made him sarcastic).

Then the moonlight caught the animal full on. It was a leopard which had escaped from Fanny’s Victorian Circus which was exhibiting at Seapoint, two towns over. The leopard was stealthy crawling towards them, the way that cats do just before they go in for the kill.

As the leopard started to charge, Tommy went into the right pocket of Jeremiah’s jacket and there was a pistol which he pulled out and shot at the leopard. Tommy missed but the leopard wasn’t hanging around to try again.
“Well I’ll be..” said Tommy.

When they got to Everard’s caravan, they said goodnight and Tommy and his pistol headed for his home on the beach.

On the other side of town, Jeremiah Andrews was just getting out of his truck when a large leopard jumped him. He went into his right pocket to get his pistol and the last thing that went through his mind was: why had he just pulled out a half-eaten sandwich (one that Tommy had left in his jacket for the walk home). By the time Jeremiah got to hospital he was stone cold dead.

As Tommy entered his boat-on-the-beach which he called home, he put his hand in his left pocket thinking the key would be there and in fact found several thousand dollars all tied up with string.
“We’ll I’ll be...” said Tommy, realising this had been one of his better days.


Clive Otterman was not a shy man, nor a man who had been known to be the crazy one in a group. He was just a guy who, it could be said - had lived, and then one day when he was long dead someone would say, 'I wonders what ever happened to that Clive Letterman?' then the guy who asked the question would sip his drink and forget why he asked.

Now to be forgotten ain't a bad thing, it ain't a bad thing at all, but each of us would like to think that maybe just once in a while someone would have a thought about you and perhaps smile or even shed a tear that you were long gone.

There was a box under Clive Otterman's bed where he kept his quiet desperation. It wasn't something that he took out in public to be stared and pointed and poked at, nope, Clive's desperation was kept well buried and he found that bringing it out in the middle of the night was the best solution.

Each of us lives a kind of desperate life, unless you're real stupid and you don't question a single thing (there are folks who say that not questioning is the happiest way to live, but I would have to question that - yeh, that was me being ironic). What I'm trying to say about Clive was that he could get a little addicted to feeling desperate and when he wasn't feeling desperate, he would start to worry about not having something to worry him - wow, when you start down the irony path, it gets hard to put the brakes on.

Desperation fuelled him, he needed to worry to work, or move, or do things which meant that when he was happy, he was the laziest sonofabitch that ever sat on his bee-hind.

I guess what I 'm really trying to tell you, is that Clive was born with his collar turned up, his head down and was just spending time waiting on his death without hurting anyone else or himself. You'd think that life would say that was a reason to leave the poor sucker alone and let him get on with it - but you'd be wrong. Life had put a tick next to his name the way the Revenue people do and that could only mean one thing - trouble.

The night that Clive and Tommy came together in the universe, I guess the planets were in some sort of weird alignment but come together they did.  Clive had been down on the beach filling his lungs with good sea air before he planned to go too bed when he heard a gunshot and a man shouting 'We'll I'll be...' in a manner that suggested that the man’s nose was bleeding.

Clive ran to the little boat house on the beach expecting to find a dead lover and someone with a revolver standing over the body. Instead he found Tommy who had just shot the tip of his nose off with his careless use of a firearm.
"We'll I'll be, if tat ain't the weirdest ting...,"  Tommy was talking through his bleeding nose and it made him sound comical.
"I was so sure there weren't anymore bullets in the ting..."
"Seems you were wrong," said Clive forgetting about his quiet desperation for a few minutes.
"Do you see the end of my nose anywhere?" Tommy asked.
"Well there's a question I didn't think I was gonna be asked when I got out ma bed this morning," said Clive who looked down and found the end of Tommy's nose.
"Is this it?" Said Clive proudly holding the nose tip aloft.
"Dat's an olive, I tink," Said Tommy who wasn't about to have an olive stitched on to the end of his nose.
"Then I guess you blew the end of your nose to the four corners of this room."
"Are you saying ma nose has vaporized?" Asked Tommy.
"I guess I am, by the way my name is Clive, Clive Otterman and you are?"
"In a lot of pain," said Tommy in a sort of smarty pants way.
"I'm going to take you to the hos-pee-tal right now and then we are going to become good friends, I can feel it," Said Clive in a genuine way.
"You would do dat for me, take me to the hop-i-tal?" Said Tommy with tears in his eyes. 

And so that was the night that Clive and Tommy became the best of buds, although it wasn't going to be an easy friendship nor a particularly uneventful one but then Angels and their friendships never are.

bobby stevenson 2016