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a forbearing of her mother’s marriage to George, who had various relatives in Aberdeen and from where his family had originally made its roots.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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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 85… An old Friend… Part Two

Please, tell me of Bridget, I loved those little stories that she told us. Did you keep in touch with her’, asked Esme.

Celia became solemn in that moment, then said: ‘As far as I know, Bridget developed Polio when she was Eighteen, something to do with the swimming baths that she loved to frequent. All I know is that her family took her back to Cork, I tried writing to them, but they never replied.’

‘Perhaps, just perhaps, they were too sad.’ Esme said thoughtfully, and she reflected on her dear missed friend until Celia broke into her thoughts.

‘Well, maybe things were a little better than I imagined. There was talk from some school friends, that she had married an Irishman who was keen on Golf, and that she managed her disability very well, with a walking stick no less, and a great deal of bravery. She even learned to play golf. But, perhaps, it was all just a rumour.’ she sighed.

‘Well, lets hope it’s true, and that she’s doing the best for herself.’ Charles felt that was the positive thing to say. Then asked, ‘Are you living comfortably, I image you must be, and quite resigned perhaps?’ He knew Celia to be of strong character and felt the question was not out of place.

‘Well, I have comfortable rooms in Camden Town and until now, the rent for this accommodation has been satisfactory, but lately, my very kind landlord, who’s wife has been very sick has had to increase his charges to pay for her care, and this has left me short of Robin’s allowance, so I’m not quite sure about my next move, perhaps find some rooms better suited to my disposition or find an occupation of sorts, although, my schooling never gave me much preparation for that situation, other than being a wife and a lady hostess.’

Esme spoke first. ‘Our highly rated educations did not really equip us, any of us, for the real world. My awakening was with Charles, I learnt so much with him, and since my so-called education, he has always been by my side. Celia, I want you to be close to us. I want you to stay here with us. I don’t want you looking for cheap lodgings. You are to stay with us.’

‘That’s very kind of both of you. But you don’t have the room. There are many of you here already, and besides, you don’t want an old school friend hanging around and reminding you of our younger days, now do you?’

‘Look Celia.’ Charles spoke sincerely. ‘Toby and Barney are moving on. They want to open their own small camera shop in Tooting, they have already inspected the premises and are quite satisfied, and besides, we would love to have you here. You won’t be in the way, and if you like you can take over their old room and their duties in the shop. What do you say?’

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 84… An old friend… Part One

Charles often wondered if they would see or even feel the presence of their beloved Rebecca ever again, time took its place and life seemed to move on at a respectable if not enjoyable pace. As the business, in the little studio shop, gathered itself, Charles and Esme found more time to be together, and then one day in an early, cold December, a young lady entered their little shop in Bayswater.

Celia Tickle was a life long school friend of Esme, and they had many adventures together. This reunion was quite outstanding, she had walked into the shop quite courageously and just quite a lady. Charles of course, knew Celia, and there was much to talk about, so they took themselves into the small parlour at the rear of the shop.

There was talk of the schooldays and lots more. Esme and Charles listened with great interest.

‘I don’t suppose you know I married, yes…  Another school friend, well perhaps you did not, you both have been so busy and I have followed your adventures in our local paper.

‘That’s wonderful news Celia.’ Esme and Charles chorused together and Esme blushed with the slight embarrassment for not keeping in touch.

I also followed Herbert’s rise to his present good fortune,’ she said with delight ‘ That’s how I knew where to find you both.’

Esme spoke quietly for a moment. ‘I once had a dream, at least, I’m sure it was a dream. We were all together. ‘We were all together on some adventure, then the scene dissolved and I was standing outside Charles home, and I don’t know how or why. Tell me, did you marry a school friend from one of our adventures.?’

‘Yes, I did, his name was Robin, Robin Masters, and we had a wonderful time in the four years that we were together. He was a painter, an artist, a potter, he drew wonderful pictures of me and of many others. His success was remarkable. He was loving and caring, and thankfully, he left me a small legacy from the short years we had together and that gets me through the bad times and the memories.’

‘Can we help.’ Esme asked thoughtfully. We will help in any way we can Celia, you know that, you only have to ask.’

Celia read Esme’s thoughts carefully. Then suddenly broke into tears, I’m sorry’, she sobbed. I didn’t come here to disrupt your lives in any way, please forgive me Esme, I know you have this gift, both of you, a way of going beyond our normal lives and into the darkness beyond, I have read and heard the rumours, that you, have a way, of reaching the spirit world, that is far from our normal understanding and far from our perception of what lies in the darkness and for the destiny of all of us.’

Charles and Esme looked at each other with open faces, and thoughts crossed both their minds. “This was a friend in trouble”


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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 83… A New Beginning… Part Two

It had become a long dry summer that year, and as the months trickled by, the little corner shop became a hub-bub of thriving activity. There was plenty for everyone to do. Business was booming and whilst Toby and Barney kept busy, simply just running the appointments book and answering the many telephone calls, fitting in some studio sittings and all of the passport photo requests, they had even found time to introduce some retailing into the shop in the form of new camera sales.

Charles was quite busy with his commissions, aside from his regular work photographing many of the young hopefuls to the Theatre world, local dignitaries came his way, in ever increasing numbers.

‘If it goes on like this much longer.’ he remarked to Esme one day. ‘We shall have to take on extra staff.’

“Herby” too, had seen an upturn in his fortunes, “bigger names” were slowly adding to his books, so much so, that he was now able to leave his shabby office in Brick Lane and move to more comfortable surroundings in “The Peoples Palace” on the Mile End Road… And from where he “Lorded” as he had never “Lorded” before!

Charles often thought of the relationship they all had with Rebecca, and quietly, in his own mind, he attributed everyone’s happiness and success to her intervention within their lives.

“One day Rebecca,” he told himself. “I’m sure you’ll find a way back to us, and we will be able to thank you properly”‘ With that in mind, he lifted his head and looked toward a darkened heavenly sky and a most certain world beyond.


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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 82… A New Beginning… Part One

It was around the time of Esme’s mother’s funeral that things came to a head, just a little. Constance had been ill for some time, at first thought to be just a mild cough and chill, but that later turned to Influenza. Although, she had distanced herself from her daughter and that of Charles, the blow was never the less traumatic for Esme. Her mother had long since written her daughter from her Will, which never quite surprised Charles, for he was never forgiven for drawing Esme away from the clutches of some rich suitor. A thought, in Charles mind, that was comforted by the fact he had rescued her from an insane husband.

As with funerals, it rained that afternoon in Highgate Cemetery. The small group of mourners wore regular black with matching umbrellas, then slowly walked to the main gates and the waiting cars and taxis.

Charles was deep in thought, then spoke quietly. ‘I realise you mother had never forgiven you for being in love with me, a tradesman’, He was looking into the face of Esme. ‘Perhaps, that was her only simple misgiving, that we should just think of, in all respect, and in all other ways, she was a good Mother and only wanted the best for you. She loved you dearly, that was for certain, and that’s how we will remember her.’

A tear dropped on Esme cheek, it ran down to her neck and disappeared below her clothing. ‘Charles, that very forgiving nature has been one of the many things I love you for. Mother never quite understood our relationship in its true light and perhaps we can forgive her. She had a different perspective on life and living, you and I, both see it now.’

The rain began to ease as they entered the pillared, darkened houses, that hedge-rowed the many streets of their cosy Bayswater, leading to the warm sanctuary of the small photo shop on the corner. They had solemnly attended ‘The Wake’ fashionably exercised at ‘The Ivy’ in that late afternoon and now both were very tired.

‘This is our home’, sighed Esme as they approached a quiet front door. ‘This is where we are safe from the world, this is where we are both one.’

Lights were out, the brothers had gone to bed, and they climbed the rickety staircase to their bedroom on the top floor, wishing that day would never come again.

‘There will be no more Rebecca, I think’ Esme remarked sleepily.

They curled in bed together. ‘Perhaps, just perhaps, you’re right.’ Charles head rested on his pillar, and the darkness of night sped towards dawn…



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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 81… Rebecca’s Help… Part 6

There was a time in Charles life, when much of this would have more meaning to him, but now, he knew that his dear friend had settlement, and that he had that same settlement within himself. The business now prospered as never before. The brothers, were very capable in their ways and worthy friends to have. They introduced new business to the photographer’s shop with so much vigour and endless loyalty. Charles, became very fond of this pair, and so did Esme. It was all a very workable team. They would take care of the day to day business in the shop, whilst Esme used her sharp mind on the facts and figures of bookkeeping. Meantime, Charles photographed the steady gathering ranks of his clients.

In was one night in late July, it had been a long day for all, and they had said their weary goodnights, Esme was tired out and fell asleep at once, surprisingly, in the stuffy heat of that particular evening.

A dream began to penetrated the sleep of Charles. In his mind there was no mistake. From that darkness, he knew it was Rebecca.

“Charles,” Her warm voice soaked his soul. “Charles… I cannot help you for much longer. You know, I think, that my time in your world is limited, you gave me the window, soon the darkness will engulf me completely. I thank you for what you have given me. You took  me from that burning building, A portal in your time that I am thankful for. Before I leave you forever, I want you to promise that you will never forget me, that you will always remember me…”

His thoughts interrupted her “I will be with you forever, but must you go, is there another way, perhaps there is another way.’

“There is no other way” Her voice was crying, and then the emotion led to a sudden thought with her. “Perhaps, there is another way, a forgotten path that was once told to me. A strange and mysterious path.” Then her voice was suddenly gone. Charles lay in a motionless state for some moments and his senses raced uncontrollably and in those darkening hours, he turned to a broken sleep, and the unknown…

To be continued later in the year…

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 80… Rebecca’s Help… Part five…

Those next few days in Charles and Esme life seem to change very many things forever. From Herbert, there was no mention of the formidable Mrs Plumb, it was if things had returned to a more stable situation. But there were questions that still seemed to remain in Charles mind. Questions that needed to be answered… He was no longer able to communicate with Rebecca it seemed, this had to be done thru a third party, in this case it was dear ‘Herby’ Had he been fooled, no that was not Rebecca’s way. He had taken her at her absolute word and she had appeared to Herby that was certain. She had given him back his life from those breath-taking waters. It was now clear in Charles mind that things had settled.

The following day had seen little change in everyone’s routine. Toby and Barney continued to run things in the shop, whilst Esme helped Charles finalise the monthly accounts for the business. Charles made a call to Herbert around lunchtime, but it seemed little had changed. There had been no sign of Mrs Plum’s presence.

“Perhaps, that’s a good thing” Charles thought to himself.

In his little bedroom, in his little office, Herbert was sound asleep. That night the darkness held a dream for him. The form of Rebecca came to him, and comforted him, saying he had nothing to fear. Her enciclement of his soul warmed him and slowly the image and the thoughts he had of Mrs Plum began to dissovel from his mind. Rebecca’s warming voice held a promise, that he would meet her within a time of her calling. That promise he would make good to her and with his devotion solely to her. ‘That is all I ask of you, and that is all.’ she added. His murmuring mind said “Yes” with warmed enthuse and the darkness closed his thoughts…


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