The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 70… Rebecca’s Spell… (Part Four)… Sisters of Heaven

They approached the archway silently, careful their feet made no sound. The archway that would take them to that large oak door. They had all secretly told themselves that they would run if the man seen earlier, opened the door to their knocking.

‘What are we doing,’ whispered Charles, ‘We must be completely mad!’

It was Bridget who knocked loudly on the door. The others took a step back. They waited for what seemed a life-time, and then the door opened slowly to a woman wearing a Nun’s habit. She was a person of small statue, with somewhat rounded features and a very welcoming smile.

She looked upon the six. Then in a moment of recognition, said: ‘Yes, you must be from the school. We know all about your given free time. Your Head Mistress wrote us an interesting letter saying that some of you will want to visit us.’

Heads were turned to Bridget.

‘Come in, you are most welcome. The Sisters have hot porridge for you as a mid morning warmer.’ She pushed the door wider and beckoned them in. ‘You must tell us of this little adventure of yours.’ She then walked ahead of them.

‘Adventure? What’s that on her head, haven’t seen that on a Nun before,’ whispered Celia.

Bridget looked at her friend somewhat hopelessly. ‘It’s called a Wimple, silly. It’s worn by those that hold on to the traditions of the past.’

‘I suppose you would know that!’ replied Celia indignantly.

The others grinned.

Beyond the doorway led to a long corridor with a number of adjoining rooms, some with doors ajar, some closed.

‘Those doors that are closed are sisters finishing their private meditation,’ explained the nun, noting the exploring look of the group. ‘This way to our dinning chamber.’

She led them into a large room built of stone blocks, down its centre was a long oak table, that could possibly seat around thirty persons, thought Charles.

‘Please take a seat all of you. Two of our Sisters will attend you shortly, but do not ask them questions, they have taken a vow of silence. I am the only sister nominated to speak to outsiders. Now, I have another duty to perform and will be back soon.’

Once alone, the table was full of whispers.

‘They sound cranky to me,’ said Celia.

‘There’re up to no good,’ remarked Bridget, ‘I told you so.’

‘Oh come on girls,’ Charles broke in. ‘It’s just their order. We haven’t seen anything suspicious have we? After all, Bridget said if they wear a wimple it means they follow the old ways.’

‘Dark and devious ways, I bet,’ offered Bridget. ‘Alright, I know you all think I’m a bit way off on this. Ok, it’s just me. I feel things that others don’t!’

‘A bit!’ scoffed Celia.

‘It’s ok, as Bridget says, we’re all friends here,’ remarked Charles trying for calm. It’s alright you know Bridget, you don’t have to explain.’

At that moment two sisters entered the chamber. Each carrying a tray of bowls, three to each, steaming it looked with porridge. The bowls were carefully placed in front of each of them and when Barney remarked how tasty it looked, the sister said nothing. Both sisters then left the room as quietly as they had entered.

‘Well, lets tuck in folks. It’s hospitality of a gracious kind.’ The others looked at Charles as if knowing this was an approval to raising spoons to the bowls.

It was Barney who first realised honey had been added to this light porridge. ‘They must have their own Apiary,’ he surmised. ‘My Grandfather kept Bees you know, couldn’t stand them myself, always buzzing and stinging.’

‘You’re funny,’ remarked Bridget with a smile. She liked this young man with his gentle awareness. Something quite different to her own makeup, she thought.

They finished the porridge some time before the first sister returned. She asked if they had enjoyed it, to which they all agreed. Then, she told them her name was Sister Ann and would show them, if they wished, the various undertakings of their order.

To this, the group were unanimous.

“Now, we will get to the bottom of things” Opportunity suddenly raced through Bridget’s mind.

 

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Author’s Note…

The Kings Head…

The Kings Head as it appears today on the Moscow road in Bayswater London. In my story “The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp” Charles Hepworth’s little photographic shop sat on the opposite corner facing this Public House. That site today is a small power relay station. I’ve spent many happy hours back in those days of researching for my story and had some wonderful chats and super food and drinks with the then present Landlady and her staff and I think just about most of the older family members have visited there over the years. I recall the Landlady saying to us on our last visit. “You must come back soon and not leave it so long.” Sadly, it has been too long now…

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Snap Around… Special Feature…

Now, when you have a granddaughter who can shoot pictures better than you. Well, you just gotta show her off! Bethany took these knock-out stills on her walks around Southend Essex… And they certainly deserve a showing right here…

A camera magazine, now long since vanished from the magazine shelves of the 60s & 70s was CREATIVE CAMERA. A glossy that specialised in this style of informal photography. Being a paid professional never really gave me the pleasure of indulgence in these highly private thoughts with your camera… 

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Author’s Note…Looking Back

For over 50 years I had communicated with American photographer Peter Gowland. He and his wife Alice often found time to write back to me on matters concerning the art of photography. Sadly, Peter died in 2010 at a good age, having spent a lifetime photographing some of the world’s top actors at his studio home in Santa Monica, California. Peter and Alice still have a wonderful and most interesting website, so just hit the link below, and enjoy. Peter was the son of silent movie actor Gibb Gowland and that in itself provided him with the introduction to much of the Hollywood Studios. Their website is a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of one man and his woman.

https://www.petergowland.com/

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 69… Rebecca’s Spell (Part Three)… The Woods

Memories of a lifestyle in Bayswater had fled from Esme’s mind, as if being mystically replaced by surroundings she now found herself in. She could not imagine any other existent lifestyle. This was where she belonged. This felt very natural to her. Here were her friends and here she was. There was simply nothing else.

After twenty minutes they came to a hilltop clearing that overlooked some disused and overgrown workings, long thought by the many locals of Mill Hill to be the ancient diggings of charcoal burners.

‘Disturbances of the ground would have created this vale,’ remarked Charles coldly. ‘They would be digging out trees, large ones.’

‘I don’t like this place,’ added Celia. ‘Please lets move on.’

The boys had introduced themselves firstly as friends of Charles and then gave their names as Barney and Toby. For a strange moment Esme felt they were familiar to her, at least in name only. Then the moment was gone and she shook away any recollection. Slowly, they moved away from their hilltop view and re-joined the pathway that led deeper into the woods. Overhead a strong sun began peer down, making its way through the tangled tops of trees and touching the mossy ground underfoot.

‘I think it smells of damp,’ remarked Celia looking rather glum.

‘Of course it does, silly.’ Bridget glanced at Celia. ‘That’s what woods do.’

The boys grinned.

‘Does this trail lead to the Convent, anyone know?’ asked Esme.

‘No, we have to find a sign and a path off in another direction,’ forwarded Bridget, who it seemed had badgered Miss Dyson for information before their departure.

After a further ten minutes walking they came across an old hand painted wooden sign that was nailed to a large oak. Celia brushed it gently to reveal the faded words: Sisters of Heaven. A path ran off to its left.

Celia’s eyes became fixed. ‘Well, I guess this is the way we go,’ she said cautiously.

The path was narrow, forcing them to walk in single file between knee high undergrowth, some of it wet with sticky dew that clung to the girls stocking legs and the boys shoes. Soon they arrived on a grassy plateau devoid of trees that slopped down to a rather old stone bricked building with an archway for its entrance and a low wall that appeared to surround it. Rising from the centre of this structure was a tall tower.

‘I bet that’s a bell tower,’ observed Charles, squinting up his eyes and wishing he had thought to bring along binoculars.

Beyond the archway they could just make out a large wooden door, the entrance to the convent presumably, a thought shared by everyone.

At that moment the door opened and a large man stretched himself in the cool morning air. The six of them slumped to the damp ground to avoid detection. The man yawned loudly as if he had just woken. It made Celia jump for a moment. He then spat at the ground, turned and walked back through the open door.

‘He looks a bit of brute,’ remarked Celia, who was never impressed with the masculine side of the human race.

‘Could he be a Gardener or Cook, observed Bridget. Although, he seems an unlikely person to have in a Convent. Perhaps he carries out the human sacrifices.’

‘Oh, do shut up,’ cried Celia.

‘Shush you two,’ Esme looked directly at Bridget. She was a dear friend who sometimes could be infuriating.

‘I say we go down there and have a poke around,’ prompted Barney.

‘What on earth for?’ Charles stared at him apprehensively.

Well, if Bridget thinks they are up to no good, it’s our duty to look into it.’

‘Our duty…It’s our duty to mind our own business!’

Suddenly Esme could see an assertive side to Charles. A side that she liked and respected. Am I failing in love she asked herself.

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 68… Rebecca’s Spell (Part Two)… Friends

Bridget Moynihan’s Irish parentage had given her the gift of wonderful and imaginative story telling and soon the three of them were plunged into another of her spellbinding tales of mystery and intrigue. They passed the plump butcher’s boy who waved from his delivery bike. ‘Do people really want meat at this time in the morning,’ remarked Celia, with a somewhat narrowed eye.

Bridget continued her tale of the secret sisters convent order that existed deep within the woods they were now heading for. ‘There are stories,’ she said: Of ritual sacrifice and other pagan practises.’

‘Come on,’ stated Celia ‘For goodness sake. These are Christian Nuns. ‘They have taken their vows.’

‘Taking to the order, does not mean they don’t have dark and foreboding secrets,’ replied Bridget with some sincere determination.

‘Ok.. Ok’ Celia gave way with a sigh.

Ahead of them and walking quite slowly, almost sauntering purposely were a group of three boys around their own ages. The outlined figure of one of the boys seemed familiar to Esme.

‘You know,’ she rejoiced. ‘I think that is Charles.’ The others thought the look on her face simply said it all.

‘You fancy him, don’t you,’ romanced Bridget eagerly. ‘I can see it in your eyes.’

‘Yes, come on, what’s afoot?’ asked Celia.

‘About 12 inches.’ smiled Esme, somewhat defensively.

Soon they had caught the boys up, and smiles, jokes and laughter hid the shyness of the moment. Esme was somewhat coy of Charles at first, preferring to smile gently as he spoke to her more so than the others. “He has a keen interest in me” she told herself “That was very clear.”

Their schools were really one large Victorian building divided into two, with a number of classrooms on the one hand for the girls, and on the other for the boys. The recreation rooms were shared by both and also the outdoor sports areas. It was within this scenario that Charles and Esme first became friendly.

Entering the woods and climbing over the rickety wooden style was easy going for those young legs. Here the path was well trodden and wide enough for them to walk in pairs. The boys teamed up with Celia and Bridget and Charles with Esme. The quiet of the woods made small talk redundant, replacing it with the gentle words brought forth of natural elements…

 

 

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Author’s Note…

The Invaders title screen.jpg

From Amazon.co.uk

Stretching across seven discs, and bringing together the entirety of its second season, this DVD collection of Invaders brings a welcome opportunity to check out a supreme slice of television science fiction from the 1960s.

Considering that four decades have past since it was first shown, Invaders holds up really very well, too. At the heart of it is the marvelous Roy Thinnes and his character, David Vincent, who realises that aliens have invaded, and are disguising themselves as human beings. And while in the first series he was frequently up against those who simply didn’t believe him at all, here he does find some who do think he’s telling the truth. That provides a good platform for the series, and allows it to cleverly evolve.

And that’s just what Invaders does. Courtesy of some skilled writing, and a real feeling of making the most of what they’ve got, the production team serve up some at-times really quite sinister and edgy episodes, with real intelligence to them. It sustains this for the vast bulk of the 26 episodes you get here, too.

Invaders may not have the profile of many science fiction series of old, but it’s ripe for rediscovery on the DVD market, and it really is something of a treat. Whether you’re new to it or not, it’s very much worth giving it a spin. Before someone inevitably remakes it… —Jon Foster

This Quinn Martin Production was borne ahead of its time. As a Si-Fi, it does not feature little green men from Mars or monsters with mutant heads. This is a much more sophisticated drama. If you are going to take over the Earth because your planet is dying, then you do that in a more controlled and integrated way. If you make opposition gentle, then you control your aims…  PGC

 

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Author’s Note…

Back to Back catch-up episodes of ‘The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp’ are available @ patrick-callaghan.blogspot.co.uk

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Snap Around…

You know, here in the South East of the UK we are still bathed, perhaps drenched is the word in a 1976 style heat wave, whilst our cousins in the North have their indecisive forecasts. We are thinking of you guys! This shot taken of the beautiful wildlife Lake of St. Albans Cathedral shows just how lucky or unlucky, depending on your thoughts, you can be. Well, for me, too much sun, is too much sun!

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 67…Rebecca’s Spell (Part One)…Awakening

Esme awoke that morning to the sound of her mother’s voice calling from downstairs. ‘Esme darling, your breakfast, it’s tea and toast, your favourite. You will be late for school if you don’t hurry. Would you also like some Porridge? Hurry now my sleepy.’

She wiped sleep from her eyes, stretched, and threw the bed covers back. She sat for moments on the edge of the bed, her feet just dangling near to the floor. Somehow, she felt this was unreal, that in her mind, she was looking through a veil that formed a mist inside her head. Her mother called again, the same strange message, to get up and dress. Dress for what she asked herself. Where is Charles. I should not be here, at home with my mother. No, this is all wrong. Something was very amiss. This must be a dream. It can’t be so.’

“It is so, for the present, Esme.” Rebecca’s gentle voice whispered inside her mind. This is my gift to you. I have given my gift to Charles, now you shall have that too. Please do not alarm yourself. You will enjoy a mirrored life, perhaps, that you would have preferred in your schooldays.”

At breakfast, the conversation turned to Esme’s leisure time. Constance poured a steaming cup of tea and offered it to her daughter. ‘Please add your milk darling. By the way, I see you are friendly with that young boy at Sandy Ridge. Frank and Hilda Hepworth’s Son. I think his name is Charles. Is that so?’ Her mother’s look was warm and without any real concern. ‘What I know of the family, he seems a nice boy. Have you been friends very long.’

‘Mother. He is just a school friend. A very kind and considerate person to be with.’ Esme blushed a little, her cheeks blossomed, her mother smiled.

‘I’m sure you are both responsible people.’ her mother added.

‘Then you have nothing to concern you.’ Esme spoke gently. Her hand touched her Mother’s across the white linen table cloth.

Emily came into the dinning room to clear things away and announced that Mr. Dobbs pony and trap was outside and ready to take Esme to school. Emily was very fond of Esme and they would often talk together in secret, of distant faraway lands of a rich and a handsome young Prince who would carry them off. It was fairy-tale and fun, and their imaginings would fill the hearts of two young romantic girls.

Mr. Dobbs was a kindly old man, perhaps near the same age as his faithful and hard working horse, it did seemed to Esme. They neared the school gates and Esme stepped down and was greeted by her two dearest school friends. Celia and Bridget!

‘Miss Dyson has said we may go on a Nature Trail this morning if we wish and by ourselves because the weather is so nice.’ Began an excited Celia.  ‘She does not want us inside the classrooms, only the leisure areas. She also said we were old enough to be responsible. But we have to be back for Lunch. Isn’t that wonderful!’

‘Well, said Esme, rather taken by surprise. ‘That sounds super.’ Something in the far distant of her thoughts gave her a moment of apprehension, then was gone.

‘I say we go and explore the woods. Got to be a nature trail there.’ cried Bridget. All three linked arms and smiling in their good fortune, set off in the direction of a new adventure.

 

 

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