The Thyme-Travelling Chef: Part 4

Jason ended up in the present-day MustardChef kitchen, with its gleaming utensils and shining jars of fresh food. He breathed a sigh of relief. One improvement had been made already. Before he even thought about checking that Tia and Stephen were alive and well and not in a horrifying cradle-snatching relationship, Jason knelt down and opened his oven.

His eyes began to well up with tears of joy: the Beef Wellington was perfect. It was golden brown, the pastry was shiny on top and Jason could hear the succulent meat gently bubbling underneath. He hurriedly turned off the oven and threw a scrap of foil over the top to prevent the pastry browning any further.

Emerging from underneath the counter top, Jason breathed a sigh of relief and wiped the joyful tears from his eyes. His dish was exquisite and he stood a real chance of winning his heat and proceeding to the next round. In a few weeks, he could even be crowned (with a chef’s toque, of course) the winner of the fourth series of MustardChef.

“Excuse me,” a voice said from just behind Jason’s left shoulder, “Who are you?”

Jason didn’t recognize the voice at all. It sounded as if it came from a young male teenager, and there were certainly none of those in the kitchen. Jason turned slowly, so very slowly, to see the person behind him.

It was a seventeen-year-old boy in flared 1980s trousers and a knitted vest.

He was holding a small child in a puffy pink dress at arm’s length.

“I think she’s done a poo,” he said, turning his nose up and pointing the baby in Jason’s direction. Jason took a step backwards.

“Who are you?!” he shrieked.

“I asked you first,” baby-wielding youth retorted.

“Jason, and don’t you give me that baby! I don’t want it.”

“Well I’m not changing her nappy; she stinks! I’m a budding chef, not a nanny.”

The cogs in Jason’s brain whirred so fast they almost crashed. “Who-who did you say you were?”

“I didn’t. I’d shake your hand but this is in the way. I’m Weston Rosenblum, and this is Tia.”

Jason nodded. “Excuse me,” he said and made a run for it, but he didn’t get far because another child appeared in his way, gabbling at him in a foreign language, fear in her eyes. Jason recognized her as a mini-version of one of the production crew.

“That’s Filsan,” Weston explained, “I don’t understand a word she says but she’s from Somalia, apparently.” Filsan started screaming. Weston raised his voice to shout over her. “The kids are a bit scared; we just sort of appeared here, as if we’d been drugged and kidnapped. The adults are busy planning how to get out but it’s difficult to explain to the children, and we don’t know how long we’ll be here. Filsan seems to get on with one of the other girls, Angela, but she’s a bit…” he trailed off.

“Odd? Crazy? Terrifying?” Jason asked.

Weston just nodded.

“How old would you say she is?”

“Twelve, I think.”

Jason did a quick calculation. If Weston was seventeen and Angela twelve, that would make him six-years-old in this bizarre parallel time zone. Except he wasn’t, he was still 23 – and very confused. He bent down to double-check his precious Beef Wellington while Weston skipped around the kitchens telling everyone that the newcomer might just be their savior.

“I still need someone to change Tia’s nappy!” Weston barked, “I am so not touching it. Stephen? Please?”

Jason’s ears pricked up.

“Lord, no!” Stephen wrinkled his nose, although in his 52-year-old state he was ironically less wrinkled than Jason knew him to be. “I’m not touching that! There is a reason I never had children, you know. Disgusting things. Euch!”

You might think differently were you a bit younger and she a bit older, mused Jason.

“And could someone please control that demon child!” Stephen shouted. For a hideous moment, Jason thought maybe the cantankerous old man was referring to Filsan, with her dark skin and incomprehensible language, but then it dawned on him that he must mean Angela. Well, the girl was setting herself up for it, marching around the room in a witch fancy-dress costume, complete with pointed black hat and a wand of some sort. Jason was now standing up, watching the show unfold. He decided to go and join his fellow contestants, judges and crew – maybe he could get Angela to stop being so weird.

No sooner had Jason introduced himself to and shaken the hand of Stephen than Angela launched herself at him.

If you don’t send me home right now I’m going to turn you into a chocolate bunny!” She screeched, brandishing a sharp skewer.

Jason shirked away. “Don’t you point that skewer at me!”

“It’s not a skewer,” Angela replied darkly, “it’s a magic wand. Duh!” Out of the corner of his eye, Jason distinctly saw both Weston and Stephen shudder.

“Tickety-boo!” Angela cried, hitting Jason on the head with the skewer-wand. Unsurprisingly, he remained human. 17-year-old Weston Rosenblum rolled his eyes.

“Ooow! Goddammitangela!” Jason shouted, rubbing his head.

Weston snorted derisively. “Tickety-boo? That’s your magic word?!”

Angela pouted and turned the skewer on him. “If you insult the power of my magic one more time I will turn you into a…” She looked around the room for inspiration, “Giant wooden spoon!”

“Okay,” said Jason, feeling it was time to step in. “Okay, please don’t do that. Don’t– what?!” Someone was tugging at his apron strings from behind. Jason turned to see Filsan with chocolate all around her mouth. She had, by the looks of it, just bitten the ears off of a small chocolate rabbit. Jason screamed. His nerves had been shot to pieces by the day’s events. Angela burst into a demonic chuckle.

“See,” Stephen screamed, “DEVIL CHILD!”

Filsan and baby Tia burst into tears.

“All right, that’s ENOUGH!!!” Jason shouted even more noisily over the crying, “I’ve had it with these shenanigans! Everyone follow me; we’re getting out of this kitchen!”

The Thyme-Travelling Chef: Part 3

Five minutes earlier, the puff pastry was still black rather than golden. Sighing, Jason went back in time one more minute. He arrived in the past full of hopeful anticipation, which was dashed from him when he peeked inside the oven. Still burnt.

“Goddammit,” Jason said.

One more minute. And another. And another. Jason was getting exhausted – time travel wasn’t an easy task. It took huge amounts of energy, concentration and willpower.

Arriving back in the kitchen with eight minutes to go on the timer, Jason opened the oven and frowned. The pastry was now not cooked enough! He rolled his eyes and stood up, deciding to wait it out and stay awake until the Beef Wellington was properly cooked.

But as he stood up and looked over the counter, Jason realized that the burnt dish was the least of his worries: the room was empty! The contestants and presenters had all disappeared into thin air. Pots bubbled over on hubs and timers went off with no one to see to them. Jason’s heart rate quickened in terror. What on earth had he done?!

Being in such a state already, it was no surprise that when something tugged at the bottom of his trouser leg, Jason screamed and leapt two feet into the air.

“Ga,” the trouser-tugger said.

Jason looked down cautiously and saw at his feet not a monster, not an alien, not a deadly creature, but a baby.

“Ga,” it said, and began sucking on a spatula.

Jason stood rooted to the spot. Very, very slowly he managed to turn his head enough to face the production crew. Seeing no one at eye height, he lowered his gaze.

“Fffffffffffffffffffffffffff…!” Jason screamed. Babies! Babies everywhere! Two bouncing on the directors’ chairs. One climbing the camera. Two sucking on the boom. Three screaming blue murder in a corner.

Jason ran around the room in a frenzy. Weston and Miles were babies. Sylvia was a baby. Angela was a weird-looking baby. All the other contestants were babies.

“Think fast, think fast!” Jason muttered to himself, “What have I done?!”

The only solution that occurred to him was to go about 30 years into the future and turn everyone into an adult again, so he did just that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the perfect solution Jason had thought it would be.

In reality, the ages of the MustardChef cast and crew varied hugely, from Tia, the 16-year-old work experience girl, to Stephen, the 67-year-old contestant who liked to moan about how the present wasn’t ‘like the good old days’. Turning everyone into a 30-year-old would prevent the screaming and nappy-soiling Jason was currently facing, but leaping so far into the future proved to be a very bad idea.

On arrival, the first thing that hit was the stench. In fact, it was so bad that Jason didn’t actually want to open his eyes to see his surroundings, but he did.

And then he screamed louder than he had when the baby touched his leg.

“Eeeeeeeaaaaaaaargh!!!”

The kitchen was unrecognisable. With the passing of 30 years, all the bulbs had broken and so the room was eerily dark. The only light came in through the dirty, shattered skylights, which had let a lot of rain in. Moss grew on the floor and up the walls. Everywhere Jason looked, once he plucked up the courage to explore, was crumbling and slimy.

All the food had gone rancid and the pots of herbs and bowls of fruit were unrecognizable. Jason held his breath. He came across an oven with the door hinges snapped and peered into it. He recognized his baby blue casserole dish immediately; it took much longer for him to realise that the thing inside it was his Beef Wellington.

“It’s hell on earth here, mate.” A voice behind him said quietly. Jason gulped and turned. “How did you even get here?”

“I…” Jason feebly pointed towards the door. Then he turned to face it and saw it had been boarded up with rotting wood. He approached the man, who was wearing a grey, shredded MustardChef apron and little else. Curled up next to the man was a skinny woman in a similar apron. She had her eyes closed and she looked in pain.

“Who are you?” Jason asked them.

The man laughed. “I should be asking you that! I’m Stephen, and this is Tia. We took our names from the aprons we arrived in.”

“When did you ‘arrive’?”

Tia burst out laughing. Quickly the laugh turned into a hacking cough. Stephen pulled her closer and stroked her long, tangled hair.

“We’ve been here all our lives. Born in the kitchen as babies and still here, locked in, watching it crumble around us. Occasionally we send someone out for supplies. They rarely come back.”

“It’s scary out there…” Tia whispered.

“It’s scary in here, too!” Jason pointed out.

Stephen shrugged. “You get used to it. This is home for us. Some of us haven’t survived. We’re all 30 now and to tell you the truth, I don’t think Tia’s going to make it much longer. And when she dies… Oh, I don’t know. She’s my rock. The only thing that’s ever kept me going.”

Tia offered a weak smile.

“When people die…” Jason trailed off.

“We bury them under the floorboards,” Stephen pre-empted.

Jason clapped his hand to his mouth, desperate not to throw up. The smell was already disgusting – knowing it came from dead bodies was horrifying.

“I will get you out of here, I promise!” Jason told them firmly, and clamped his eyes shut. He had no clear destination in mind, which made time-travelling a risky business, but he reasoned that wherever he ended up would be better than where he was, in ‘hell on earth’ as a 30-year-old Stephen had put it.

 

Ooh… Things get better (and worse) in the next part!

A Rambling… about Writing

Just a quick post to apologise for not posting an instalment of The Thyme-Travelling Chef recently! I have actually written enough to post but haven’t had the time to check it over. Rest assured, Jason is still slaving away in the MustardChef kitchen, desperately trying to unburn his Beef Wellington. I know how he feels, having spent the weekend accidentally grilling everything I put in the oven (FYI, you can grill fishcakes but not croissants…)

Anyway, I’ve had a busy time recently doing lots of boring writing! I handed in my dissertation, which was a mere 14,630 words. We were told ad nauseam how it would be the longest thing we would ever write, but for someone with an unfinished 60,000-word novel sitting on her laptop it wasn’t so daunting. And now I am in the process of writing my last ever Geography essay, so forgive me for neglecting my hobbies for another week or two.

EHR x

The Thyme-Travelling Chef: Part 2

Things are hotting up in the MustardChef kitchen…

“Welcome to the fourth series of MustardChef!” Weston declared.

“In this first round we have six contestants, all eager to move on to the quarter and semi-finals, and hopefully clinch the big prize: a guaranteed job – working under Weston Rosenblum – at his triple-Michelin-starred restaurant in Berkshire, the Plump Goose.” Miles added. “The competition will be tough, the meat hopefully will not be!”

“Let’s meet the contestants,” Weston said.

The camera swung towards the first contestant. She said her name, her age, and where she was from.

Jason’s nerves began to emerge.

The second and third contestants did their introductions.

Jason’s hands were shaking and his teeth were chattering.

The camera swung into his face.

“H-hello,” he stuttered, “I’m 23, from Jason, aged Manchester. Oh no…” Jason gulped. He had fluffed his lines, how mortifying. The camera crew began to snigger. Red with embarrassment, Jason screwed up his eyes, watched the fireworks, then reopened them. The camera was back on contestant two.

Jason took several deep breaths. “Jason, 23, Manchester,” he chanted under his breath, “Jason, 23, Manchester.”

The camera swung into his face once more, although for the cameraman and everyone else watching, it was still the first time.

“Hi,” Jason enunciated confidently, “My name’s Jason. I’m 23 and I’m from Manchester.”

The camera moved on contentedly. Jason breathed a sigh of relief and smirked.

Once the fifth and sixth contestants had made their introductions the competition started.

Miles announced, “Your first challenge is to create a pastry-based meat dish–”

“Or a meat-based pastry dish…” Weston said.

“Indeed,” Miles coughed. “We will be looking for perfectly cooked, tender meat and golden, buttery pastry. You have two hours, starting…”

Weston and Miles began their signature move of looking at each other before turning to the camera and shouting, “Now!” in unison.

Suddenly, the room was bustling. Extra cameras appeared to track each contestant’s every movement, and the contestants threw themselves into the action. Jason whipped out his Beef Wellington recipe from his apron pocket and bent down to find the ingredients in his personal mini fridge.

Across the room, Weston and Miles were accosting another contestant.

“Angela,” Miles said dramatically, “what are you making for us?”

“Well Miles,” Angela replied in an overly posh voice she was definitely putting on for the camera, “I am creating a salmon en croute for you.”

Weston frowned. “Salmon isn’t exactly a meat, is it Angela?”

“Oh but I don’t eat meat, so salmon will have to do. Meat is terribly bad for you – my father died of heart disease; he was very overweight.”

“I’m sorry to hear–“

“He also had deep vein thrombosis,” Angela told them sincerely, bowing her head.

Miles and Weston laughed nervously before backing away. Angela was a bit weird.

Jason looked up, having retrieved his beef from the fridge, and saw Miles and Weston coming over to him. He hastily grabbed a handful of thyme from the pot behind the sink in an attempt to look professional.

“Hi, Jason,” Weston said. Jason blushed at hearing his hero say his name.

“Hello!”

“What are you going to create today?”

“I’m making a Beef Wellington with thyme.”

“Thyme?” Weston remarked.

“Yes,” Jason replied, biting his lip, “I’m a big fan of thyme. I know a little trick for it as well, shall I tell you?”

“Go on…” Miles said.

Jason took his handful of herbs over to the microwave. “If you put them in the microwave for just a few seconds before throwing them into the recipe, it heats the thyme up and more flavour is released. My mum taught me that.”

Weston turned to the nearest camera. “You heard it here first, ladies and gents: put your thyme in the microwave.”

Jason smiled.

“You could even call it a thyme-machine!” Miles said.

The smile fell from Jason’s face. He was uncomfortable talking about the whole time travel thing. It was something he liked to keep under wraps. Only his mother, father (from whom he had inherited the gene) and his twin sister knew about it. Luckily for Jason, Miles was embarrassed by his terrible pun.

“Make sure that gets cut,” he snapped at the director, who nodded obediently.

“We’ll leave you to get on with it,” Weston said hurriedly.

“Thanks,” said Jason, and he set to, bustling about the kitchen.

He had made his famous Beef Wellington a hundred times before. It was his signature dish, adored by friends and family. One of his friends had even created a Facebook page for it, which had 31 likes. It wouldn’t have been a hard task to make it once more for the judges, except for one thing: Jason was determined to make this dish perfect.

He didn’t want it to be delicious, or fantastic, or mouthwatering, or any of those other complimentary adjectives. No, he wanted this Beef Wellington to be the best he’d ever made.

Jason’s whole future and dreams of becoming a chef rested on this recipe. If he could wow the judges enough in the first round, he’d be a shoe-in for the finals. Therefore, he had spared no expense (granted, it was the television programme’s money) on his ingredients. The beef was a fine, British fillet sourced from a local farm. The prosciutto Jason had decided to use for the wrapping was the best and dearest Italy itself had to offer. The duxelles was to be made with Japanese matsutake mushrooms and white truffles. The white wine, of which only one-seventh of the bottle was to be used, cost £36.99. The puff pastry had saffron rolled into it.

Jason wasn’t only splashing out on his ingredients, but his efforts, too. As the contestants only had two hours to cook in the studio, they had been allowed to prepare their pastry beforehand. Jason had been up all night making six batches of saffron-infused pastry, until one came out just right. Jason now extracted said lump of pastry from the refrigerator.

“Wow,” said Weston from behind Jason’s back, “That pastry looks divine.”

“It’s puff,” Jason said, not thinking again.

“What are the red splodges?” Miles asked.

“Saffron.”

Weston wolf-whistled. “Do you have any other special, secret ingredients?”

“For the pastry or in general?” Jason asked. He had come to realise that the cameras would cut out anything he said that was overly stupid. All he really had to worry about was the Beef Wellington.

“In general,” Miles explained.

“Well, yes, actually,” Jason said proudly, “I do. There are two things I swear by for a lot of my recipes: Himalayan Pink Salt and 18-year-aged balsamic vinegar.”

Miles laughed. “That’s useful if you’re making fish and chips, I guess.”

“I think you can expect something somewhat fancier from me today,” Jason replied curtly. The presenters wandered off and Jason breathed a sigh of relief. He was glad that they hadn’t asked where the vinegar had come from. The truth was, Jason had completely forgotten to buy any and had had to age his own that morning, dropping it off in 1970 and returning an hour later (in 1988) to pick it up. The salt he had bought in Waitrose.

Jason laboured over his dish for 50 minutes, rolling the pastry until it was wafer thin and folding it back up again, to achieve the crumbliest, puffiest texture. He seasoned the meat with his microwaved thyme and fancy salt, and an array of other herbs and spices. He had to make the duxelles twice (resisting the urge to turn back the clock) because the first one didn’t reach Jason’s discerning standards.

He felt himself becoming a little obsessed with the pursuit of perfection…

Finally, it was time to put the food in the oven. Jason wiped away the sweat from his brow as he slumped to the floor in relief. He set the oven timer and was contemplating shutting his eyes when he heard Miles and Weston talking to Angela again.

“What’s your job, Ange?” Weston asked her.

Without looking up from her salmon, meat-impostor, Angela grinned. “I’m a witch!”

Miles took a step backwards. “A- a what?!”

“A witch. I actually own a shop selling witchcraft merchandise. Potions, wands, healing stones, incense, cauldrons, voodoo dolls… that sort of thing.”

“V-voodoo dolls?” Miles turned to the camera and started making throat-slitting actions. The cameraman hurriedly turned away and filmed Sylvia instead, who was making a duck, brie and cinnamon pie. Angela was just too weird. While Jason giggled silently, Miles went backstage to hyperventilate and Weston went to speak to Sylvia.

Forty minutes passed, and Jason awoke from his accidental nap to hear the oven timer beeping. He leapt up, grabbed his oven mitts from the counter and flung open the oven door. The scent of beef and thyme was overwhelming. Jason’s mouth watered as he pulled out the…

Burnt Beef Wellington.

It was burnt. Black on top with bits of charred herb sitting at the bottom of the dish.

Jason gulped. Immediately he knew what he was going to do, whether it was advisable or not. He closed his eyes tight, and rewound the past five minutes.

 

Don’t miss what happens next! Stay tuned for the next instalment.

The Thyme-Travelling Chef: Part 1

A while ago, Mr Boyfriend dreamt that he was a time-travelling chef. We challenged me to turn this bizarre idea into a short story. Seeing as I don’t do short, it’s quite long already and not finished. But here’s the first bit – a teaser, if you will.

 

Click! Thud! Went the letterbox as the envelope dropped onto the mat below. In the kitchen, Jason nearly choked on a spoonful of soggy bran flakes in his haste to get to the front door.

“Could this really be it?” He asked himself, milk dripping down his chin, “Finally?”

Jason knelt down, the sharp bits of the welcome mat digging into his bare knees, leaving tiny red grazes. He ripped open the envelope, read the first two lines, and watched in horror as a drop of milk splashed onto the page. Jason blinked at the ruined page. He had wanted to frame this letter, this golden ticket, and now it was ruined by remnants of breakfast. Frowning, Jason placed the letter back into the envelope and squeezed his eyes shut. 

Whilst to everyone else Jason looked like a man squatting by his front door in a T-shirt and tartan underpants, inside his head there was a magnificent fireworks display. Red and blue and green and silver bursts of light exploded on the inside of his eyelids, getting more intense the harder Jason shut his eyes. After a good ten seconds, the light show faded to white, then grey, then black. He opened his eyes hesitantly, peering at the envelope. It was back exactly where he had picked it up the first time. The flap was perfectly sealed. Jason lifted the edge of his t shirt to wipe his mouth and picked up the envelope once more, eagerly ripping it open. He smiled as he saw the pristine white page, untouched by milk or bran flake.

 

Dear Mr Jason Dreever,

Congratulations! We are delighted to inform you that you have been selected to appear as a contestant on the next televised series of MustardChef. The first competition and filming session will be on Thursday. We look forward to meeting you at the studios then.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Susan Schiff

 

Jason read the letter six times before it all sank in. He was going to be on TV! On a cooking show! He would meet his culinary heroes! His dreams were about to come true!

It was all a bit much to take in. Jason wandered back to his bedroom, clutching the letter, and climbed into bed, with all good intentions of starting  his day afresh that evening and making it into work on time.

Thursday came around very quickly, mostly because Jason skipped Tuesday and Wednesday in his haste to get to the television studios. The bright lights of Michelin-stardom were too enticing to wait for in the proper manner.

Dressed in brand new Chinos and a pressed blue shirt, Jason arrived on foot at the television studios. He was greeted by a middle-aged blonde woman at the desk.

“Hello,” she said in a thick South African accent, “are you here for MustardChef?”

“Yes, I’m Jason Dreever,” Jason said, holding out his hand. The woman shook it.

“Jason, yiss” (her accent meant that this was how she pronounced the word ‘yes’), “you got my letter then! I’m always so worried they’ll get lost in the mail!” She chuckled.

Jason smiled nervously. “You must be Mrs Schiff.”

“Oh, please, call me Sue,” she replied. “Follow me and we’ll get you all togged up for the show!”

Jason was hurried along the corridors into the makeup department and promptly forced into a large leather chair. He greeted the man and woman on either side of him silently, with a friendly raise of his eyebrows. They were his rivals, the ones standing in the way of his future career as a celebrated chef; he didn’t want to get too pally with them.

A young woman with a beehive hair-do, who introduced herself as Claudia, set upon Jason with a giant powder brush and a pair of tweezers. Jason screamed as she plucked a single hair from the top of his nose.

“Argh! My eyebrows! What are you doing? I need them!”

Claudia laughed. “Relax! That was just one hair. I haven’t waxed them off, you know. Look!” she shoved the tweezers clutching their solitary black hair into Jason’s face. He recoiled. Claudia laughed again.

The assault on his face went on for half an hour. When Claudia smudged the mascara and jabbed Jason’s eye with the brush, he resisted the temptation to go back and let her have another go. Instead, he let her douse the area with make-up remover and wipe away his tears with an earbud.

Make-up applied, Jason was helped into his starched white apron. One corner had the yellow MustardChef logo emblazoned on it, the other was occupied by his name badge.

“Jason Dreever, you are the winner of MustardChef!” he whispered to himself as he stood in front of the mirror, gazing proudly at his reflection. In his mind’s eye, he could see himself as a little boy, running around in his mother’s apron, a white paper chef’s hat on his head. Jason made sure not to close his eyes whilst remembering this, lest he be accidentally transported back in time and come face-to-face with his eight-year-old self. Things like that could prove disastrous.

“Contestants?” a man with a clapperboard said. “Would you please come into the studio and take your places.”

Jason grinned. His fellow contestants grinned back. There was so much nervous excitement in the air. It was thrilling. One female contestant was actually squealing with excitement as they made their way into the kitchen.

It was just as Jason had imagined it. Six granite counters, each equipped with a butler’s sink and a large hob and oven. Stainless steel utensils shone in their pots. Glinting pans hung from racks suspended from the ceiling. Jars of multi-coloured spices and potted herbs lined the backs of all the counters.

And at the front of the studio, standing warrior-like in front of a large kitchen island, were the two presenters; one, Weston Rosenblum, the owner of several Michelin-starred establishments, the other, Miles Boren, celebrated food critic.

Jason gulped in admiration as he set eyes on them.

“Silence, please!” Clapperboard-man shouted, “And… action!”

 

If you enjoyed it, look out for the next instalment coming very soon! 🙂

6 years!

Yesterday evening was very special to me, not just because of the fabulous ball I went to with my friends and boyfriend, but because last night (23rd March 2014) marks 6 years exactly since I started writing seriously. 6 years – you could say – since novel-writing took over my life. And looking back, I’m very glad it did!

I remember the event with alarming clarity. It was the day after our house-warming party, and we’d just finished a supper of leftover canapés. While my parents watched some film that I seem to recall involved aeroplanes, I went upstairs to the family computer and opened a Word document that I still have in some form today.

At the time, I’d been having some ‘trouble’, shall we call it, at school. For a few days, I’d been turning real people into exaggerated characters in my head, changing names and looks and sometimes whole personalities to create a dramatic, witty, wonderful version of my dull classroom. 

On 23rd March 2008, I sat down and wrote the first four pages of the book. It didn’t have a name or a plot. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. But it was fun, and it was a beautiful release from reality. I remember printing off the pages, shutting down the computer and trotting to the kitchen with them. I sat at the table and I was so proud of what I’d written!

Over half a decade on, that book still isn’t finished and I don’t think it ever will be. It’s changed plot and form so many times I’ve lost count, and more to the point, those ‘school problems’ are distant memories now. Occasionally I flick through the book and I genuinely can’t remember who the characters were meant to be – or if they were based on real people at all!

Now I’ve got about 6 books on the go and most of them are set to be finished. Here’s to the next 6 years of writing!!!

Meet Milly II

“‘Dulford Police Department has been chosen to participate in a trial run of a new justice system. The experimental programme will run in six boroughs of Greater Manchester for a period of at least nine months. The aims of the programme are to: one, cut down on the time taken between arrest and sentencing; two, reduce the length of trials and hearings; three, reduce the costs associated with sentencing criminals; and four, increase the dialogue and relationship between the police force and criminals, to gain respect from the community and remove the idea of police as ‘the enemy’.’ Tough stuff…” Paul sighed.

“What does that last aim mean? I thought the police were meant to be the enemy of the criminals. Surely that’s the whole damn point of us!”

“Not any more, clearly.” Paul continued, “‘In your role of Community Defence Worker’ – that’s you…”

“Flashy!” Milly replied sarcastically.

“‘You will be working on the side of the defence. Your role is to be involved with the defendant and support their appointed lawyers by taking on small parts of the caseload. Community Defence Workers are not expected to take an active role in the court. Instead, your task is to fully explain to the defendant the process before and after both the hearing and the trial, and to talk them through all other processes associated with their arrest and sentencing. A Community Defence Worker’s professional duty to their client will end officially at the point of their sentence beginning.’” Paul lowered the handbook and examined Milly’s facial expression. It looked a lot like his: confused, horrified and wary.

“Sounds like a load of bullshit,” Milly said, “I’m not sure I’m going to get out of this alive. And guess what?”

“What?” said Paul, chuckling to himself.

“My first case is a murder. Talk about throwing me in the deep end!”

Paul gasped. “A murder?! What’s a crime like that doing in the experimental programme, I wonder. Surely they ought to practise on smaller, less serious cases. You know, petty theft and punch-ups in alleyways. That sort of thing. But not murder!”

Milly shrugged. She turned to look towards the office entrance and her heart leapt into her throat “Ooh, watch out,” she gulped, “DJ Angie’s here. Come to check up on me, I should expect.”

Paul swivelled to inspect her. Angela Hillard was without a doubt the most formidable district judge on the circuit. She was strict, cruel and vicious with her punishments. She had been known to make seasoned criminals start sobbing in the docks with just one glare of her cold green eyes.

Although it was usual for a district judge to spend all of their time in the courthouse, presiding over cases and taking long coffee breaks, DJ Angie (as she hated to be called), often got bored dealing with the criminals over the road in the county courtrooms and made a trip over to the police station to converse with the people who had sent the good-for-nothings over to her in the first place. On this occasion, however, she appeared to have something more on her mind than casual conversation and free biscuits. Her close friend Superintendent Harman had let slip that today was Juliet Milligan’s first day in her new role as Community Defence Worker, and Angela was keen to check out the specially crafted punishment.

She couldn’t wait to see what the young policewoman was having to put up with as her penalty for sleeping with her husband whilst Milly herself was a witness in the case Angela was presiding over. The whole business had been rather a nasty affair, in more ways than one. As soon as the sordid truth tumbled out, the judgement Angela had made was overturned. Apparently, the fact that the witness had been involved with the judge’s husband meant that it was far too risky that the defendant’s penalty had reflected Angela’s anger. With the courts and Superintendent Harman on her side, DJ Angela managed to get off scot-free, with just her injured dignity and marriage as a reminder. Milly had not been so lucky. Rather than simply dismiss her, her superiors had seen fit to punish her in their own, creative way… so here she was.

And here DJ Angela was, come to check up on the woman she liked to refer to as ‘floozy little tart’.

“Juliet Milligan!” she said with a self-satisfied flourish as she brushed past the desk.

“Angie…” Milly muttered, lowering her gaze. No one ever called the DJ ‘Angie’ to her face, but then again no one ever called Milly by her full name.

“This is your new space then, eh? It looks… nice,” Angela purred. Justice may have been served, but she was still eager to make life a misery for Milly.

“I won’t be here for long.”

“How good to see you out of uniform! You look just like a little office worker.”

“Your husband preferred me as a nurse!” Milly snapped.

“Whoa!” Paul said, jumping out of his seat and placing himself between the two seething women. “She didn’t mean that!” he said to one of them, “You didn’t mean that,” he told the other.

“Yes I did!” they both replied. Actually, the more they all thought about it, it was a curious thing that Milly had been allowed out of uniform. Usually that was something that went hand-in-hand with moving up the ranks. Clearly the borough had so little faith in their experimental programme that they thought letting the band of Community Defence Workers wear any police force insignia would just increase their disgrace when the whole programme went tits up.

“Look, let’s not let this get out of hand,” reasoned Paul, “Angela, you shouldn’t be here. You don’t work here. I think it’s time for you to finish up your coffee break and go back across the road. Milly, don’t get yourself worked up. You’re in enough trouble as it is.”

“Ah, the voice of reason,” said Angela, “Fair enough. I’ll be off. Enjoy your new job, Juliet. I will be back in to see how you’re getting on.” She grinned then, as if she were really enjoying the performance, and promptly left the office. The people who worked at the desks along the wall could watch her strutting across the street and a few yards down the pavement, back into the courthouse.

Milly took a deep breath and wriggled uncomfortably in her chair. “I’m exhausted already!” she told Paul.

He looked at the large clock on the wall. “Better buck up Mills, your first client is arriving in about half an hour. I wonder who has the unenviable task of going downstairs to fetch him!”

Paul Sanderson was going to regret saying that.

Meet Milly

Firstly, sorry I haven’t posted in a while!

Secondly, Mummy R told me off for centring everything… I am sincerely sorry; I didn’t realise it was so annnoying. So behold, a snippet of Chapter 2 of “Milligan” in which we meet the main character – and it’s left-aligned!

Juliet Simone ‘Milly’ Milligan had never been quite so unkeen to start a new job. With a disdainful snarl on her face, she unpacked her box of stationery and desktop bric-a-brac onto her new desk in the large office space on the third floor of the police station where she worked. She was used to moving up in the world! She was never the sort of person to stay still and let life pass her by. She had ambitions and drive and, so far, success.

Until now.

Milly had allowed herself to get demoted as punishment for something she really shouldn’t have done.

She sighed as she tipped her miniature cactus onto the corner of the small desk. She knew how lucky she was, really. If everyone involved had taken the matter a little less personally, and not decided to deal with it themselves in the most ghastly way they could think of, Milly might have been facing a jail sentence for perverting the course of justice.

Instead, she had been stuck in an experimental department on reduced pay, with the threat of the sack should she refuse the position.

Milly was proud but not stupid. She had accepted the alternative punishment with grace and as much dignity as she could muster, and here she was on her first day in the new office. As she lowered herself into her swivel chair she already missed being out on the streets surrounded by all the action.

“Cheer up!” a disembodied voice called out. Milly looked up to see her best friend and colleague, Paul Sanderson, who had parked himself in the chair opposite Milly that her clients would soon be occupying. “It could be worse, you know. You’ve got off lightly.”

“I know,” Milly groaned, “but that doesn’t make this any easier. Or less embarrassing.” She leaned across the desk dramatically and grabbed Paul’s hands. “Help me get through this!”

He laughed. “I will, I promise. Hey, one perk of your new job is that I’m sitting right across the office from you. You can always come over if you need a pep talk or some advice.”

“Don’t patronise me, Mister I’m-going-to-be-commissioner-within-ten-years. I don’t need that right now.”

“Oh Milly, don’t be so maudlin! This is just a minor setback. You’ll climb up the ladder again, you just have to give it time. You’re a great policewoman.”

“Precisely!” Milly said, ducking under the desk to switch on the shiny new computer she had been given. “I’m meant to be out there, catching criminals. Driving at 100 miles per hour. Being visible! Not stuck in some office job. I should be on the streets, in uniform, actually serving the community. That’s where I’m meant to be.”

Paul snorted. “You think I don’t serve the community? I do nothing when I’m sitting behind my desk?”

“No, I didn’t say that…”

“I’ll have you know, if I didn’t spend time doing paperwork – if I spent all my time sat in the passenger seat of a police car – no one would ever actually get caught. How would any of us know who or what to look for?” His voice softened. “Oh, Mills. I know you didn’t mean it like that. I know you’re upset. But listen, good will come out of this. Once Superintendent Harman thinks you’ve learned your lesson and Angela’s calmed down a bit, they’ll send you straight back up the ranks.”

Milly quailed at the naming of her new worst enemy. Angela Hillard was the district judge and she was the reason Milly was in trouble.

Well, her husband was.

Or rather, what Milly had done with Angela’s husband was the reason she was in trouble.

Milly shuddered at the thought.

“You don’t have much crap, do you?” Paul asked as he surveyed Milly’s rather bare desk.

She shrugged. “Just my cactus and stapler to keep me company. Hey, any news on that name plate I asked for? Am I getting one?”

Now it was Paul’s turned to shrug. “I can chase it up for you if you like, but I would put money on the assumption that you’re not getting one.”

“I just want people to know my name up here.”

“But the sign won’t say your name, will it! It’ll say Juliet Milligan, which you’ll hate, because then everyone up here will start calling you Julie and Jules, and you’ll go mad explaining that actually you’d much rather have them call you Milly, and they’ll all say “Milly Milligan – haha!” and you’ll get annoyed. I know you. And I also know the admin staff in this place, and they’ll never sanction having a nickname put on a name plate, let alone a ridiculous one like yours.”

“I just want something to brighten up this shit of a menial desk job. Oh God, this had better be temporary!”

Paul wrung his hands in frustration at his friend’s defeatism. “Oh, quit it, Mills! It’s just a bloody punishment! Like being in detention at work.”

“But an experimental department though? I understand the reason behind mind-numbing desk work, but this?! They could have put me on long shifts downstairs at least.” Milly thumped her hands against the desk and slumped forward in her chair. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be doing. What’s my job description again?”

“Well that I can tell you,” Paul replied. He rummaged through the papers on Milly’s desk and pulled out a small handbook, which he started to read from…

TO BE CONTINUED!

 

 

What do you want?

Hey readers! (All, like, 5 of you at the moment…)

I want people to want to read this blog – so tell me what you want me to post! Do you want to see more of Wednesday’s book, or something from another of my creations, or do you want me to write a poem? Maybe you want to know more about how, what, when, where, who, why I write? Tell me! I’d really appreciate your input.

EHR x

Milligan – Chapter One

OK, I’m feeling brave, so I’m going to post the whole first chapter of the book I’ve thoughtfully named ‘Milligan’ after the surname of the main character. I’m not going to tell you what happens in this book, just read and enjoy! 😀

At night in Cornerstone Park, the pride and joy of Dulford, a nondescript suburb of Greater Manchester, the wail of police sirens was a common sound. The park was known throughout the area as a typical scene of crime, and the night that the woman who would soon become known as Manchester’s Lady Arsonist went on her so-called rampage was no different.

Spike hurtled along the litter-strewn path, through the overgrown playing fields, bypassing the play area which abandoned children long ago in favour of sullen teenagers, who swing their 12-stone bodies on the children’s swings and then blame the authorities when they break.

The only sound breaking through the cacophony of sirens and eerie snapping and rustling of twigs was the cry of a baby from the back bedroom of a terraced house that backed onto the park.

Suddenly, the playground entrance gate swung open and Spike tore through it and down the path. In her hooded top and layers of baggy, tatty clothing and scuffed trainers she didn’t even appear obviously male or female, but that was the idea. Living as she did, she preferred her clothing to not give away her identity. The hood of her jacket was hiding a long, tangled mane of jet black hair and a potentially very pretty face.

Spike was panting with exertion by the time the sound of car doors slamming and the voices of the police chasing after her became audible. “Fuck!” she cried out and swerved along the scrubby pathway, heading towards the abandoned gatehouse. The windows were bricked up and the doorway was secured with a thick piece of graffitied plasterboard.

As Spike fumbled with the edges of the plasterboard in an attempt to force entry into the gatehouse, it started to rain. Raindrops the size of acorns pelted her shoulders and ran down her clothes. Spike was soaked within seconds as she hammered desperately on the door. “Fuckin’ hell, let me in!” she cried out, revealing a worn, husky voice, aged by the cold and damp and a lifetime of substance abuse.

It wasn’t fair! She hadn’t done the crime she was being chased down for and now she couldn’t get away, no matter how hard she tried. It had been like that her whole life.

The police were yelling after Spike now at the top of their voices and they were coming closer. With one final shove and shriek the plasterboard covering the doorway burst through and Spike stumbled into the relative safety and dryness of the gatehouse.

She felt pretty happy standing knee deep in dry leaves and other questionable detritus until… “Urgh!” she said, “What the fuck is that smell?!” The smell of mould, alcohol and stale urine was overpowering. It seemed that the gatehouse had been used as a hideout from the police and the weather many times before. The scuttle and squeak of rats was also much in evidence.

Spike quickly propped up the plasterboard against the doorway and leaned against the wall to catch her breath through the grubby sleeve she had pressed against her offended nose. She rummaged around in her jacket pocket for a lighter so that she could see her surroundings properly and got the shock of her life.

Spike let out a muffled shriek of alarm as she noticed the aged, wheezing man slumped in the corner, surrounded by empty glass bottles. He was wearing a filthy woolly hat with more holes in it than stitches, and his clothes were in tatters. Actually, he was sporting an outfit similar to Spike’s, albeit a lot dirtier.

He looked up at the stranger who had invaded his private space and groaned at her fearsomely.

“Sorry,” Spike muttered insincerely, “I just need a place to hide out from the coppers – I ain’t gonna be here long.”

The tramp’s enraged moaning grew louder and he began to wave an empty bottle of cheap vodka over his head. As he did so, the foul scent exuding from him seemed to become stronger. Spike was forced to cough.

Then, she looked down and realised that the rats she could hear were closer than she had previously thought. They surrounded her feet and were swarming all over the recumbent man in the corner. Not just surrounding, in fact.

They were eating him. Gnawing away at the rotting flesh of his exposed left foot.

Spike screamed uncontrollably and set the paralysed old tramp into a frenzy. He shuffled over to her on his bottom, moaning and groaning with pain and confusion as he did so. There was as much left of his brain as there was of his masticated left foot.

He managed to grip his gnarled hand around Spike’s ankle and she shrieked again. This time though she dropped the lighter she was wielding in her fright and disgust. The tramp’s alcohol-soaked clothes went up like a bonfire.

Both of them were powerless to stop it as he yelled in pain and she stayed rooted to the spot, paralysed in terror at what she had accidentally done.

The evening was not turning out well for her.

In a moment of lucidity amongst her panic, and catching sight of the pile of jerry cans in the far corner of the gatehouse, Spike realised that she had to get out. The flames were starting to spread rapidly through the two feet of dried foliage littering the floor.

But it wasn’t the fire’s plan for her to get out in safety. Just as she reached the doorway and heaved the plasterboard aside – dropping it straight onto the flaming tramp – the whole floor caught light and the gatehouse exploded.

The only sound Spike could hear as she was thrown across the pathway and into the flowerbed on the other side was the policemen who had finally caught up with her, just at the wrong time.

“Jesus Christ!” one of them exclaimed as he watched the gatehouse go up in flames, “He’s over there! Call an ambulance!”

The two of them ran over to stand by her side and beat out the few, small flames that were singing her jacket. They were all grateful for the heavy rain; had she not been soaked through, the night would have ended very differently for Spike.

“My God,” said the other policeman, “It’s a woman, isn’t it? That’s not our man – what the fuck is her business out here?”

The first policeman rolled Spike over and checked her pulse. “Arsonist, isn’t she? Out for a cheap thrill at our expense. A Lady Arsonist.” He leaned in right over Spike’s face and stared at her accusingly.

Just before Spike lost consciousness, she heard the last words that would be spoken to her for a while:

“You’re under arrest!”

Fucking hell, she thought to herself as she lay in the dirt, I’m really in trouble this time…