Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on the above date.
Present: Gill, Harry, Karen, Maria, Michele, Pip, Ian (chair).
Apologies: Adele, Jenny, Jonathan, Kaz, Lesley.
Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.
The meeting discussed Maria’s story, which she had written in Russian and then translated into English herself. It concerns Lucia, the lady of Kilton Castle, who befriended a troll living under a nearby bridge.
After the previous meeting at which Maria had read her story, the Chairman Ian had asked the whole group to critique and if possible proofread it before the present meeting. Maria thanked the group for the hard work they had put in on providing her with much-valued feedback.
Michele — read a further instalment of her novel in-progress: The Undesirables, set in Southern Africa during the Boer War, 1898-1902. It is July, 1901 in the British concentration camp, and Anna is cooking breakfast. The focus now shifts to the lives of the black women who feature large in the story, especially Mogau, who pre-war had been the cook on Anna’s farm.
When Michele had finished reading her piece, attention turned to the good work done by the Russian Red Cross in exposing the horrific conditions in the concentration camps.
Ian — carried on reading from his children’s story: The Last of the Time Cats.
Spookie the Cat comes home from Sunderland Museum, where the curator has translated for her the two ancient inscriptions she has copied down from the Egyptian cat statue she’s bought. He tells her the tomb owner’s name: Puss purr-Miau (Puss son-of Miau), the Last of the Nine Cats of Eternity. But while she was out at the museum, the cat statue has come to life and is now lying in front of the fire.
Spookie greets the Egyptian cat by name, and introduces herself. They find they have a lot in common. Spookie, who is 48.95% dead, (“but I’d rather you thought of me as 51.05% alive”) is delighted to meet someone who is 900% dead (100% dead for each of his 9 lives). Puss explains that 100% dead is an inescapable consequence of getting yourself mummified and encased in gold. He politely refuses Spookie’s offer of something to eat, explaining that mummification “does nothing for the appetite”.
Karen — recounted a story from her childhood. At the age of 4 she has an invisible friend called Muller, who often comes to tea, Mother dutifully laying a place for her. Muller lives in an abandoned Victorian mill next door, which she reveals to be a happy place. Mother has forbidden her to go inside the Mill, saying it is dangerous. Muller and the heroine go off on adventures together in glorious countryside full of gorgeous butterflies and jewelled flowers. One day, out of the blue, Muller waves goodbye, saying they won’t be seeing each other again. The heroine, devastated, creeps under barbed wire into the derelict mill in search of her lost friend. Hours later she is rescued from there by her distraught mother.
Harry — continues recounting the 1959 voyage of the SS Mahondra bound for India, on which he served as radio officer.
Passing ancient Carthage, an engine failure reduces the ship to half power and the ships astern begin to overtake her. They reach Malta, where the narrator recalls the WW2 Siege of Malta and the arrival of the stricken tanker Ohio, which docks with massive damage and half her crew dead, but with vital fuel for the beleaguered island.
The crew of the Mahondra dress to go ashore, for which they hail a luzza – a traditional craft with painted eyes.
Pip — continues her memoir of coming-of-age on a Caribbean island.
On South Caicos, radio communication with the outside world is primitive and fragile, but essential for storm warnings and other vital news. The heroine has sat her examinations in French and Spanish, for which she has studied by correspondence course. Her examination results arrive by radio, the news of which was deemed important enough to broadcast to the whole island. Unfortunately she has failed A-level Spanish and achieved only O-level French, so she feels shamed in front of all and sundry.
One day, out of curiosity she boards a boat for Haiti. This unhappy island is ruled at the time by Papa Doc and his henchmen, the infamous Tonton Macoutes. They dock at Cap-Haitien, and are driven by a suspiciously tonton-looking minder around town. It is dirty and run-down, with rubbish in the streets. The colonial-era buildings are crumbling and mutilated beggars are much in-evidence.
Ian recalled reading a novel by Graham Greene about the Tonton Macoutes, which evocatively described Haiti at the time. He conjectured it was called The Comedians.
Gill — Tommy has helped an old witch plus her jackdaw Merlot to escape from the care-home his granny resides in. They take the buzz to a Witches’ Convention in Glasgow, which entails a magical journey via the electricity network. There Tommy learns about the arch-villain Origon, whose scheme to destroy the Earth the convention is determined to thwart.
Tommy is gifted a black needle by Merlot. It is for his personal defence – but only to be used in dire need. At school Tommy has opted for woodwork, not needlework, so he feels a magic wand might have been more use. But Merlot explains that, in spite of what Tommy might have learned in Harry Potter, wands are obsolete nowadays.
The meeting closed at 1:15 PM.
Talk about multiple coincidences but the ex-spook Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington, born in Stockton-on-Tees, spent much time in Whitby (and Runswick Bay/Robin Hood’s Bay) in his life as well as Malta where he survived at least one murder attempt.
As recorded in the fact based autobiographical thriller Beyond Enkription, the first and only stand-alone novel published in The Burlington Files espionage series, Bill Fairclough also frequented the Turks & Caicos Islands and Haiti. He even followed in ex-spook Graham Greene’s footsteps by staying in Cap Haitien and Hôtel Oloffson in Port au Prince before escaping the TonTon Macoute only to be captured at the airport and tortured after a gun fight in a bordello.
We strongly recommend the Whitby Writers Group read Beyond Enkription (assuming you are all over eighteen) and pose any questions you might have to us. You never know but Bill Fairclough might even be persuaded to attend one of your meetings remotely or otherwise … if you liked and had questions about Beyond Enkription! Best see https://theburlingtonfiles.org and Google him or Beyond Enkription and The Burlington Files.
Thanks for that, “MI6”. Yes, we like spy stories, and we like people who cheerfully admit they’re writing fiction. Good luck with your book promotion!
1) TAKE CARE when clicking on 3rd-party links.
2) You can buy Bill’s book on Amazon here: https://amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Enkription-Burlington-Bill-Fairclough-ebook/dp/B00KBA75DE/ref=sr_1_1