The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Final Episode 92… A New Life for Herbert and Linda…

It was the wedding of the year. It was Herbert and Linda’s time. Caxton Hall presented the perfect place for the ceremony and of course, the reception later was held in somewhat style with sumptuous foods from both London and Paris served to the 40 and more attenders at The Kings Head. Photography was very much on Charles mind and everyone was pictured at least a dozen times. Celebrations went on into the early hours. Linda having been given special permission from the Police.

The following days witnessed a bevy of wedding pictures hung from the interior walls of The Kings Head and much to the pleasure of Charles and Gabby’s skills. Having Herby’ and Linda more or less, on the doorstep, was something exciting for everyone, although, Herbert never neglected his role as an agent for The Peoples Palace and subsequently, enjoyed his participation in the running of The Kings Head.

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A deleted scene from ‘The Shriving…’

Posted on 17/12/2008 by Patrick

Esme sat within the glow of the coals, their red heat penetrated the pores of her skin and warmed the white of her bones. She stared long and hard into the glass of whisky as if it were full of a thousand nettles, and finding no reason to swallow the liquid her mind moved over matters best with the gradient carefulness of an undertaker’s assistant… A deleted scene from ‘The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp’ from 2008

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Summer Days…

I think we all remember with great affection those warm summer days and evenings, when we would sit and talk and laugh with dear friends and loved ones… And we can perhaps look forward to those days once more…

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A Little Rest Time… For Adrian Callaghan…

It’s Adrian’s dedicated hard work that keeps my website up and running…. Thanks Aige (SEE IMAGE)

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 91… A Gathered Reunion…

From a distance things seemed ok to Charles, but his mind was concerned for his dear friend ‘Herby’ His rather singular lifestyle worried Charles somewhat and he noticed at times his friend would become quite middling in his thoughts, and although he was surrounded by much activity at The Peoples Palace, nevertheless, he seemed unhappy within himself.

‘Ever considered marriage?’ Charles ventured on one occasion, a partner and friend would be a good thing, as we are all getting older it may be a good choice.’

‘Look what happened before Charley. I’m just not cut out for that sort of business.’ He looked rather sheepish with his answer.

‘Come on, it doesn’t have to be like that Herby. Mrs Plum, well that was not for you, a complete misunderstanding that you were not responsible for. Look, she just wanted a replacement husband. It was not true love, and it was not for you, you are, after all, my dearest friend, and believe me, I speak the truth.’

Herbert’s faith in Charles was unshakeable, his friend made sense to him.

With a reluctant smile he said: ‘Yes you are right, and yes you are right! he added with a gathered enthusiasm.

‘What we all need Herby, is a slap up meal at The Kings Head. We could all do with that! I’ll invite the girls and Gabby. Now you choose an evening when you’re free and I will book a table.’

It was the following Tuesday evening which suited everyone. A table for five had been acquired with drinks laid out and set up for a fine carvery.

A toast was first made to Herby in recognition of his fine management of The Peoples Palace to which he sat rather shyly, but found courage to thank all those present for their undying friendship and loyalty. Then it was time for the finest roast Beef with crackling, roast potatoes and a huge choice of steamed buttered vegetables, washed down at first with honeyed Mead and then some of the best French wine.

Francoise, or Linda, as she was known to the gathered group, was of French and English parentage and she was the proud proprietor of The Kings Head. She knew Charles well for he was a regular in her establishment and she knew his friends too. Her real secret was that she could offer the very best French wine and could cook the best roast beef in London.

During the meal she sat with them, enjoying their company, and much of the chit-chat and offering her input that all enjoyed. Charles had photographed her many times surrounded by her profession in order to promote the well being of The Kings Head. In her early thirties with soft light olive skin and a chatty rounded face, she was the perfect host.

It was clear as the evening progressed that she was taking a deal of interest in the beloved Herby’ finding his likeable gentle manner to her taste. She smiled at his way of telling little stories across the dinner table of his exploits in the world of show business. ‘Being an Agent ain’t all roses.’ he added. There was clearly a coming together for the two of them.


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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 90… A Close Encounter…

Charles continued to wonder at the remarkable colour images that Gabby began to produce, colour chemicals worked well with the new American Ansco film and print paper, costs were high, and as yet Eastman had only pioneered the use of colour slide film known as Kodachrome which had to be sent to a selected laboratory for special treatment. However, and much to everyone’s surprise and delight, public interest was high, and it began to pay off.

That particular Saturday morning had began with the feeling that Celia would cope in the weekend absence of Esme. She was capable and trusted and a valued school friend. It was during the morning that Charles began to see images of others that were foreign to him. The leader of Walthamstow Council had been duly pictured in his official robes, and then the strangeness began as he drove to his next appointment in Wimbledon.

It seemed to be faces and outlines of people he thought he knew, but really did not. Could they be real or just in his mind. He felt threatened when the car took him down a long and winding country road that he had no recollection of. What was happening, had his mind gone completely. He forced his thoughts back to where he must be. But the same menace prevailed in momentary fragments. “I’m in some sort of trance” he told himself. Suddenly,  the car faced a large tree that brought him to a thundering full stop, his head reasted for a few moments on the sterring wheel. Something seemed to cross his right eyes, like a large black blob and beyond this small flashing lights appeared. He staggered from the car, seeing only half images, and made way to a petrol station some half mile down the road. He fell into the arms of a confused attendant, saying ‘Get me an Ambulance, please get me to a Hospital’

‘You have a detached Retina Mr. Hepworth, you will lose your eyesight, if we do not operate right away.’

Charles sat back from the examining eye of the Doctor. ‘Is this life threatening doctor.’ he asked curiously.

‘No,’ replied the specialist firmly. ‘But it is… Eye threatening.’

In those next two days. Celia had found Charles within the confines of the Moorefield’s Eye Hospital and that Monday morning, both Celia and Esme were by his bedside as he opened his eyes.

‘Hi girls,’ he said, with a dried voice. ‘What are you guy’s doing here?’ he chuckled. You are never around when I need you.’

‘You never need us when we’re around.’ Replied Esme with a smile.

Celia looked on and said: ‘ We all need you, very much. We really do. We want you back very soon. After all,’ she added: ‘Who could run such a successful and tight ship.’

Charles felt a gentle sleep was creeping over him.

It was around three or more weeks before his eyesight was proper to him. Esme diligently looked after him along with the recommended mediations given by the Hospital and slowly his eyesight began to improve.

One certain Monday morning arrived and with all the confidence of a fresh new world for Charles.

‘You will be taking your pictures once again.’ Esme said with a determined reassurance. You are here for all of us and that is something that will never change.’

‘You are completely right Esme, and I love you very much for it.’

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 89… A Final Visit…

The large colour photographs that began to appear in the windows of the Bayswater shop, begged and produced much interest. Gabby seemed quite happy and resigned within this new technology, he was satisfied with much of what was produced and settled to the role of assistant in both the darkroom and studio. He even found time to pop over to the brothers in their newly acquired premises in Tooting, offering some very sound advice and the colour facilities offered from the Bayswater shop, should it be needed, for the introduction of colour photography to Toby and Barney’s customers.

Toby and Barney, very welcomed this offer, it somehow, assured their long friendship with Charles would continue, they knew he could call on them whenever he wished.

It was Barney who first felt the effects of Rebecca’s last visit from the darkness beyond. She came in a dream, or was it, she knew the brothers were able to see into another dimension, and that was a gift she had offered to Charles and to Esme, and that, she was ever thankful for, but now that energy was failing, and the darkness was closing in for her.

The following day the Bayswater telephone rang, it was Barney’s excited voice, ‘I’ve had a dream Charles. Yes, don’t be sceptical. Rebecca came to me, and told me, her energy has nearly gone and she could not reach you, it just required too much of her strength. She said something very strange. We all have to look toward a north wind, and then, in that moment, she was gone…’

‘Barney!  Barney!’ cried Charles, but the phone was dead…

Charles pondered for a few moments, it was on a Saturday morning. He had a number of commitments that day, some that just would not wait. Celia would have to cope with the situation, she must find out if Barney was ok and if he needed support. Yes, Celia, would be fine to deal with the issue and she would have answers on his return later that day.

It was the Friday before, when Esme had decided to travel by train and settle some of her mother’s estate in Scotland, a forbearing of her mother’s marriage to George, who had various relatives in Aberdeen and from where his family had originally made its roots. Those matters simply had to be attended too.

Esme delt with much of her parents affairs as was financially possible and within Constance’s stuffy trustees who seemed only dead set on feathering their own nests, but it was  done, and Esme returned that very Sunday evening on the overnight sleeper from Glasgow to London, then taxied to her beloved Bayswater on a dismal and wet Monday morning.

She was cold, tired out and hungry and raindrops ran down the windows of the corner shop as she hesitantly placed her overnight bag on the shop floor and looked at Celia. ‘What’s wrong.’ she asked.

Celia’s look was pale and her voice was uncertain.

‘It’s Charles.’ she replied unsteadily. ‘He has not been seen all weekend!’



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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 88… A Social Invitation…

The palatial grand building that was Lloyds Bank and set squarely and most regally on the northern entry to London’s Bayswater, was hosted by a very helpful and thoughtful, Mr. Friendly, a name, thought Charles, to be well suited in the man’s disposition. They were well accustomed to each other, as local Bank’s are, and considered themselves to be somewhat of friends. John Friendly was older in years than Charles, but that was of no matter, an unstinting man in his financial support for what he considered was a good business risk for the bank.

‘You have always made good returns on your account Charles.’ he stated quite openly. They sat within a panelled office and he poured a small glass of dry Sherry and offered it to his client. ‘I imagine this is not just a social visit Charles. I imagine you need my support, to expand perhaps, then you know you have my full support.’

‘That’s wonderful John. Look, we must get together for an evening meal. I would like to bring you over to The Kings Head, It’s rumoured, they now have an excellent Angus fillet steak to offer, along with some fine Scottish malts, and do please bring Lidia, we would all love to see her again.’

Lidia was John’s daughter, this competent man, had lost his wife two years before, in the terrible outbreak of TB that threatened a nation. In those dark days, Charles had stood by a graveside with a complete loss of reason, like all others, that mourned that day, for a very special person, in those middle years of her life.

With John’s support, Charles found much of what was needed from Wallace Heaton of Bond Street. A progressive photographic retailer who prided on stocking the latest developments of that particular industry. A colour enlarger, complete with its drawer of primary colour filters, and much of the powdered chemicals for picture production. This was all duly installed in the brick outhouse darkroom at the back of the premises in Bayswater and was much to Gabby’s delight.




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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 87… Herby’s New Self…

‘Well, Herby, I just wanted to check with you that business between us can be just as interesting as it has been in the past, because, I have this idea to move into colour photographs and that means capital investment, so I have to talk to the Bank.

‘Charley, whatever move you make, is good for me too, you know that. I’m sure colour pictures will go down a treat here at The Peoples Palace, after all, we’ve all got to move with the times, that so true, no Charley, you go right ahead and expand, it can only be good for both of us.’

Herbert sat behind a large mahogany desk, strewn with umpteen papers, and a festoon of drawers occupied his side of things. He puffed away confidently on a large brown coloured cigar with its bandana wrap still in place.

Charles suddenly realised. ‘You’ve taken ‘Elocution Lessens’ Herby, well done, I new something was quite different.’

‘Well, I thought it might improve my image with the clients, as I’ve now got big names to handle.’ He looked somewhat shy, knowing Charles was an old friend.

‘That’s great Herby, but I shall miss the old Herby.’

‘Have a glass of wine Charley.’ Herbert brandished his new found self. It’s a fine Sauternes, you will enjoy it.’

‘I’m sure, I will Herby, and here’s too you, my fine fellow, and may we both prosper and always look after those persons that are near and dear to us.’

‘We will drink to that Charley, we will drink to that.’ He paused for a moment, then added, ‘There’s a singing competition coming up, just for locals, you understand, but it would be nice for you to try out your colour pictures on that evening.’ His left eye winked affectionately. ‘It would be good for ‘The Palace’ to display those pictures you take, here in the foyer before the winner is announced, could be a boozy affair, what do you say Charlie, will you do it?’

‘Usual rates?

Usual rates!

Charles smiled to himself as he left Herby’s office. The New ‘Herby’, that was something to get your head around.

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 86…  Old and New Friends…

Celia became an enthusiastic member of this small family of friends. She stayed at The Kings Head, opposite the shop, whilst Toby and Barney made their preparations for departure. Everything was highly amicable, and all parted on good terms. The brothers asked Charles to recommend them, whenever he could, and he assured them they would have his backing and that of ‘Herby’.

Celia handled her new role with confidence. She dressed well in clothes that suited her slim figure and good looks, was smart on the phone, and handled even difficult customers with ease. The business was busy. Celia kept the shop together. Esme ran all of the admin, but now it was time for Charles to have some help.

‘You must have some help Charles,’ Esme declared, ‘You just can’t go on day and night, taking pictures by day and printing the photographs at night. It’s too much, it’s about time you had an assistant. You need someone in the darkroom.’

It was ‘Gabby’, who turned up, one bright morning, in reply to Charles advertisement for an assistant in the West London Gazette. A sandaled youth, around twenty years of age, and pronouncing a small, if not unattractive, reddish beard, in fact, he was bestowed with a handsome shock of red hair. Gabrielle and Charles liked one another from the word go. ‘Gabby was most interested in the new colour processes coming forward, and felt this may be the way forward.

‘After all’ he said, ‘The Americans are starting to use these processes in their cinema films, such as the likes of George Eastman’s multi-layered colour film and Technicolor’s three colour process.’

‘Look, I know, George Eastman’s Kodak company are about to launch a colour film for family cameras, remarked Charles, ‘But how do we ourselves, turn what we take into colour pictures, when all said an done, we must surely need some very special equipment?’

‘We certainly do Charles, if you can get me the right equipment, I can colour print for you. I’ve studied the American’s well and some French and British pioneers. Give me the chance Charles, and I will prove it to you that it would be good for business.’ Gabby had a conviction that was very obvious of its merits.

‘Look Charles.’ he continued, Please forgive me for saying. To-day, if someone wants a colour photograph, you have to pay a brush artist to vaguely colour a black and white print simply from your recall. That’s not the future, it will never be!

Gabby’s words resonated within Charles thoughts. Gabby was right, yes, this was the time to move forward, and also, a time to call on his old friend ‘Herby’ for a little chat and then perhaps, a visit to his local bank.


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