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Monday, 23 May 2011

Raymond Nickford

Raymond Nickford


Raymond Nickford

To me, people are stranger than fiction and in many ways more fascinating.
Perhaps this is what first led me to a degree in Philosophy and Psychology from the University College of North Wales.
Souls - particularly troubled ones; the outsider, the lonely and any driven to extremity - have been indispensable for my paperback novels, now available in amazon.co.uk Kindle Ebooks including: "Aristo's Family," "Mister Kreasey's Demon" and "Twists in the Tale".
Barbara Erskine has commented on the "beautifully observed characters," the "intriguing and atmospheric scenes," and above all the suspense which made her "want to read on".
Some of my favourite authors are: Alfred Hitchcock, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Ian McEwan and Henry James.
Of my psychological suspense “A Child from the Wishing Well” due for publication at the end of 2011 and which can be previewed on authonomy.com, Candace Bowen, author of A Knight of Silence, has written:
“Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, the first scary movie I remember seeing was the 1965 Bette Davis movie, The Nanny. To this day, that movie has always stuck with me as one of the great psychological thrillers of all time. For me, A Child from the Wishing Well, is reminiscent of that movie.  Ruth, the music tutor, and Gerard strap you in, and take you on a psychological thrill-ride to the very end.”
You can view this book by CLICKING HERE

For any who share an interest in Alfred Hitchcock's films, I've started a simple blog on Facebook. To see it please CLICK HERE
I confess to a passion for plump, docile tabbies and  am utterly besotted with the music and life of the composer Edward Elgar"; my interest leading me each year to a cottage in the Malvern Hills and to the Three Choirs Festival and I'm a member of the Elgar Society.
I'm currently working on a fifth novel, another psychological suspense, "Prey to Her Madonna". Here, the intrigue moves between Madeira, an eerie French shrine, an English village and London
TWISTS IN THE TALE
Synopsis
A collection of psychological suspense, the supernatural and ghost stories, including a romance in the novella “A Face in a Corridor”.
Each story balances the eerie with a poignant theme centring around characters whose lives are driven to extremity and drawn on by the tantalising hope - sometimes delivered by fate or fortune - of happiness.
Stories
A Musical Calling - Schizophrenic Sam Baldock is given a day out - his last - at the Beethoven Museum in Vienna.
Father’s Helping Hand - Octogenarians Hubbald & Bros, piano tuners at their Old Chapel workshops, seem almost too kind when they choose to make a gift of a Steinway to their ‘favourite’ customer.
Family Tree - Mr Glossop might be a widower, his neighbours said, but it was time he poured acid on all those diseased roots. Was he really going to let his only son have the same degrading end as Mrs Glossop?
Voices of a Hypnotist - She had paid two weeks of her hard-earned salary to ease a phobia of spiders which she thought embarrassing for a nurse to have and now there was something she couldn’t quite trust in that voice; a hint of something nearer to Cockney than to Harley Street.
Nanny’s Friends - ‘She calls them her little friends,’ Suzy slurred. ‘Miss Harlow says that when it’s time for a doll to “stay” with her, she “prepares” eyes, really beauuuutiful eyes for it.’
The Parchment Recipes -Emily clung for life to the bric-a-brac which made a Mausoleum of her home; for sure, in everything Berny had touched, he still lived and somehow she would - she would reach out to him.
The Rum Barber’s Baby - Harry the barber was vast; a Sumo wrestler without the wrestle but it was only after two vandals had sprayed his shop window in boot-high capitals with I’M TOO FAT TO - - - - that he’d finally come to hate himself.
Novella – a romance
A Face in a Corridor - Can a paranoid stop himself from destroying she alone who might have loved him?
**********
Family Tree
Life was a bitch, Arnold thought. He'd been left with a stuttering son who seemed to have every allergy in the book and who had to be taught at home because of his “condition”. Recently he'd shown a worrying tendency to believe he was seeing things in the movements of the big yew which dominated the Glossops’ back garden.
The Illingworths at No.8 and the Goldthorpes at No.4 Clefton Pound Cottages were saying how “tragic” it was that his Eddy was being allowed to deteriorate - just as his mother had done after she'd been spotted from bedroom windows, still in her nightdress, gibbering something to the foot of the yew. It wasn't until one local newspaper had sensationalised the report of Rose's skeleton being found in a newly dug ditch around the roots, unusual forms of fungus hanging inside her empty rib cage, that neighbours had finally held back open gossip. Now  they "felt for" father and son, the two remaining Glossops, they said.
Eddy was shouting something from the top of the stairs. Arnold wondered how much longer he could hold off from going up to see the boy. For a moment he loathed Eddy. The boy’s indiscretion had prompted the neighbours to start up their scandal-mongering yet again. Equally bad, the honeymoon was over with the Illingworths and the Goldthorpes. They'd cliqued and allied with others in the neighbourhood to complain about the unhygienic mould from the Glossop house which was invading their own homes. Misses Illingworth wasn't going to see her little Carol scratching herself like Eddy after exposure to the airborne spores of all that soggy fungus which clung to the Glossops’ yew.
Eddy was  only  thirteen years and  yet  already he showed "Glossop Patch", as  they'd  christened it; the same unsightly bald patch; shaven hair and alopecia revealing the worm; the same his mother had been seen to claw and scratch so wildly before the worm - some said the tree - made her take her own life. Mister Glossop might be a widower, they said, but grief apart, it was high time he paid out to have acid poured on all those diseased roots. Was he going to allow his only son to have the same degrading end as misses Glossop?
‘P-p-please dad,’ Eddy's voice was contrite now, begging before the panic swelled. ‘P-p-pull them off me! Can't you see? They're hurting!’
He was pointing to the yew.
‘I saw - ’
The thought wilted, the boy spent from his last rally, able only to gob and sniff like a pig left to fend in its sty. Arnold watched Eddy rub and screw his knuckles into his eyes and when the tears finally came they channelled all the way down the boy’s sore-ridden cheeks on to the rank carpet which, these days, seemed to cry equally of decay. The sight pulled at Arnold. But he had to keep Eddy in that bedroom furthest from the party wall with the Illingworths.
It was nothing like the intense scalp-itching which usually kept Eddy scratching until in panic he rapped his knuckles on the bedroom wall to summon his Dad. This time he was clutching hand-over-hand the fleshy lip of his navel as if wanting to conceal from the worm itself that which had once joined him to his mother.
Arnold bent over Eddy's half-naked body which had shed its striped pyjama trousers as the boy had convulsed over the landing carpet. The top had come unbuttoned leaving him an absurd length of leg and trunk, his navel staring up at the ceiling where the pyjama jacket had peeled back. But Eddy’s hands... they were cupped over... over…
The image which so often returned had come again… Rose's empty rib cage flashed before Arnold. Eddy's hands were placed on the very same part of the body. Arnold recalled how a policeman with presence of mind had hugged the boy to himself so that Eddy couldn't see any more of the sodden fungus which had hung inside his mother.
Now, Arnold could only sway his fumbling fingers in the air above Eddy's shivering body.
‘Swaying...swaying now dad. Hurting!’ the boy began to complain, his hands leaving his navel to shield his eyes.
‘Jesus H. Christ boy! Don't you recognise your own father when you see him? If you'd open those eyes for once you'd see! I'm not a branch, I'm not a bloody tree and I'm not a fuck- ’ he edited the Anglo-Saxon, ‘fungus. Come on. Come on Eddy!’
Arnold tugged at the boy's elbows while his other hand searched his trouser pocket for two packets and a small brown bottle. It was routine now. The red capsule would ease the facial itching; the green was the griseofulvin to calm irritation from scalp sores and the Scopolamine...
He wants a special home dear, misses Illingworth's advice returned... That worm of his worries us all, mister Goldthorpe had said.
Arnold shook the bottle vigorously, shaking away the voices that burnt in his ears… Overdose, Scopolamine, 3000 milligrams, now!
But he knew that Glossops didn't die that way.
‘Was it... was it the tree Eddy? Are those branches...moving again?’ he asked, pinning the boy's arms back while he stuffed sedative through Eddy's lips too quickly for refusal. ‘You know as your dad knows, trees don't hurt. All they ask is God's own gentle rain. God's rain Eddy!’ he repeated, staring beyond the boy and out through the little oval window at the end of the landing where the night-blackened yew seemed to stare right back.
Eddy's arms lay limp now and Arnold went through the motions of patting the clump of spotted flesh before him. Glossops always stuck together, even if the front windows had to be shuttered. He draped the discarded pyjamas over Eddy who'd been unaware that his genitals were on show. Then bending nearer to inspect the extent of his scabby head, he frowned at the lie he had to tell.
‘You see? There's nothing hurting you son. Not one thing.’
Arnold had to turn. It had felt uncomfortable behind his back where the garden sometimes seemed to watch the rear of No. 6 through those two red poppies stained into the landing window. He couldn't count how many times he'd found Eddy kneeling on the landing, staring vacantly at the yew. The boy might as well have been worshipping - and for what? Those funeral people had assured Eddy his mother had been given a proper - if only low-budget - burial. The remains had been cleaned of fungus and respectfully arranged on the Municipal Cemetery side of the Glossops' border wall, close to the other Glossop graves.
‘Those roots aren't going nowhere,’ the workmen from the Environment had said, nudging Arnold’s elbow before meticulously loading away the acid which remained after poisoning the tree. Soon maybe Eddy would listen.
‘You don't see any neighbours around here bothering about their back gardens under dark,’ Arnold  explained  to Eddy. ‘It's still the same bloody place come morning - isn’t it! What do you expect to come out of that yew - pixies? Come on Edward. You're thirteen. Past pixies! Surely! Look lad, all that happens out there is that night puts a blanket over all our yews - just like you toss the quilt over - see? That’s all. Get yourself some sleep now.’
Eddy recognised the softening in his father's tone, felt those pyjamas being draped across him where he had been shivering. It was enough.
He crept back out on to the landing so that he could kneel and squint between the two dirty red poppies in the window pane and read the messages the moon carried from his mother in its pale light across the lawn and in the veil it seemed to gently lay across the yew where her remains were found. From each branch there was another branch, darker and still more splintered, pointing towards that lozenge of glass through which he stared, whispering, herald and harbinger in a pre-dawn breeze.
‘You see c-colour where a c-c-cat doesn't Dad, but that doesn't mean the c-colour isn't there. Well I see... shapes. Sometimes, in the big yew, when those branches move, they... mean!’ Eddy tried to explain at breakfast.
‘They “mean”,’ his father repeated dryly while trying to toss the eggs again.
I'm s-s-sorry if that's too much for you! M-mum would have understood! Eddy wanted to shout back, but the eggs had splattered on the floor instead of the pan and the boy kept his thoughts a secret to be shared with the yew as they came to him in the still night... as if from its roots.

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