Back in school we had to read John Steinbeck’s book ‘Of Mice and Men.’ It was two books in one, the other was ‘Cannery Row’ which rapidly became my favourite Steinbeck book. There isn’t really anything that you’d call a plot, there’s people and places and stories which just seem to happen. But there again, once you know an area, the stories just come.
If I walk out of my back door, take the lane right, cross three or four fields (I’ll be purposely vague here) I’ll come to where my Father said the old ‘Tossing School’ used to be held. You’ll have heard of ‘pitch and toss’ or ‘Two up’ as our Australian friends call it. The working man’s gambling game.
My Dad told the tale from when he was in farm service on a farm four or more fields to the other side of the ‘Tossing School’. One Saturday he’d finished work later than everyone else and went into the house to get washed and changed before going out that evening. Back then all the ‘men’ slept in the one attic room. As he was washing; one of the other men came and proceeded to empty money out of his pockets, boots, gaiters and shirt. He’d been to the tossing school and had got lucky. He’d come back to ‘bank’ his winnings before going back for another go. Dad helped him count the money. There was about thirty pounds there, (they would have been on between two and three pounds a week.) and apart from a few ten shilling notes, it was all in coin.
I remember ten years ago, one of the metal detectorists telling me he’d come across a lot of pennies scattered over a small area which is shielded by the hedges on three sides, so I guess he’d found at least one site.
If I keep walking past the tossing school and drop down to another lane; I’m not far from the farm where my Dad was in farm service. He and another lad had gone into Barrow one night and somehow they’d missed the last bus home. My Dad shrugged and assumed they’d just walk the couple of miles home. (It wasn’t unusual, when he got engaged to my Mum, he spent too much on the engagement ring and they didn’t have the money left for the bus fare so they walked four miles home that time as well.) But I digress; on this occasion his companion had other ideas.
“We’ll get a taxi.”
I don’t suppose Dad would have been more surprised if it had been suggested they flew. Farm labourers didn’t have money for taxis.
Anyway he allowed himself to be persuaded. Before they got in his mate said, “Stick with me and keep your eyes open.”
Dad was nothing loathe, never having ridden in one before.
When the taxi got to the bend in the lane just across there, Dad’s mate said; “Just slow down here, it’s a bit tricky.” As the driver did, the mate had the door open and was out. Dad hurriedly followed and they climbed over a gate and disappeared into a field. From there it was only a five minute walk across fields home.
I’ve a mate who’s a taxi driver and when I tell that story his eyes water. But then he has his own tale. One of the drivers who works for the same firm he does got a call on the radio to collect a chap from a certain house. He collected the chap who wanted to call in at a specific corner shop and then go on somewhere else. The guy, wearing his hoodie, went into the shop, and the driver sat with engine (and meter) running. Five minutes later the fare came out of the shop, got into the taxi and gave the driver the final destination where the driver dropped him off.
Then he got a message over the radio, “George, can you come into the office please.”
So George drove to the office where he’s met by the Police. His fare had robbed the shop, taking the money from the till and had made a clean getaway.
Except that the CCTV had provided the taxi’s number plate.
And the driver not only knew where he’d picked up and dropped the fare, he knew him because he was a regular.
And it turned out that the fare had paid by credit card when he’d booked the taxi.
I’m only a writer; I’m not allowed to make stuff like that up.
As I said, I make stuff up
As a reviewer commented, “I am a keen reader of the fantasy genre and looked forward to reading this book. The story is engaging and there’s lots of action, some humour and a little pathos. The characters all worked well for me, especially Benor, Cartographer (and much else!) The story deals with a land which has its own races of people, its own herds of animals and I found it interesting to imagine this other world which is in many ways an equivalent of our medieval world. There’s plenty of intrigue here and the story has potential for a sequel.
Jim Webster has an engaging story telling style and a good knowledge of this genre. His writing has a gentle humour which comes naturally from the characters and their dialogue. It’s not played for belly-laughs but is very effective. There were some real gems, which I very much enjoyed. ‘He spat on the floor and missed’ really tickled me! I look forward to more of the same.”