Sunday Serial #12

oliver twist
image credit By Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla from Sevilla, España ("Your are on the scent, are you, Nancy?") [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..


Louise had been both thrilled and apprehensive when Mrs Henshall had announced that, in order for the adult musicians to rehearse with the children in the school orchestra, there were to be extra rehearsals of “Oliver” in the village hall on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Louise had known that the grown-ups would be joining them for rehearsals at some point but hadn’t expected it to be quite so soon; and she’d desperately wanted her performance as Nancy to be perfect before exposing it to critical eyes. Now, she was wondering why she’d been so worried. She was having a wonderful time! The addition of the adults and their instruments had transformed the thin and scraping noises usually made by the school’s ten and eleven year old musicians into a wondrously full and sonorous sound. It seemed to ascend from the floor of the village hall, buoying her up and up on a musical thermal while the lyrics poured effortlessly out of her. It was truly magical, and she knew she’d never sung “As Long As He Needs Me” better. And then, when it had finished the whole orchestra had started applauding. All the kids in the cast and the choir had applauded too; even Jade, who’d looked really jealous. Then Mrs Henshall had called a short break. While they were all queuing up in the back room to get their coffees and orange squash some of the grown-ups had said really nice things about her acting and singing. Even old Mrs Phillips and Mr Rawson who’d come along to make the drinks had told her she had the best voice they’d ever heard. They said it was better than Kathy Kirby and Helen Shapiro put together, whoever they were. Still, it made Jade look even more sick. So that was all right.

Now she was watching Mrs Henshall rehearse the scene in which the Artful Dodger attempts to steal Mr Brownlow’s handkerchief and Oliver Twist gets caught and arrested for it. Eddie Arkwright, who was playing the Dodger, and Tim Bainton, who was Mr Brownlow, were both terrible actors, and she felt frustrated because Mrs Henshall didn’t stop them often enough to improve what they were doing. Mr Evans, the drama teacher at the youth theatre in Sandleton wouldn’t have let them get away with so much: he’d have been much harder on them. But she didn’t mind. Even though she wasn’t acting in the scene it was nice to sit and watch the rehearsal. Somehow it made her feel she belonged. It was great to feel part of this amazing thing they were all making. It made her feel normal, as though it was what she’d been born for and there was nothing else more important in the world.

But she couldn’t really concentrate much on what the other actors were doing because her mind kept twisting and turning like a swallow in flight. She kept thinking about all the work she’d just done in rehearsal; going over the bits she’d got right and delighting in her execution of the moves and the business, worrying about her timing and the things she’d failed to bring off successfully; for like all artists, young or old, she was a perfectionist and her curse was that she could never be satisfied. And yet, into all these stimulating thoughts an even more delicious one kept intruding: the thought that at last everything was going to change. Mum was going to tell dad they’d be leaving and going far away, never to return. And then they’d be free of Leefdale and all the lies and the pretending. The dreadful burden of secrecy would be lifted from her forever. This rare certainty made her feel gloriously happy and she was sure that everything was at last going to be wonderful.

How she loved the thought of change and the excitement of the new! That’s why she wanted to be an actor. You didn’t stay in one place: you toured with the play or musical and if you were a movie actor you filmed all over the world. She knew it was true because of the play on the radio. It was set in the olden days, in the Tudor period. All the other kids thought it was weird to like listening to plays on the radio. She didn’t care. It was lovely listening to the radio because you could make up your own pictures. There was nothing nicer than being alone in your own room, lying on the bed and listening to the different voices of characters that seemed to come from outer space. They changed in tone ever so slightly every time they spoke so that you knew exactly what they were thinking and feeling. The play on the radio had seemed as real to her as anything that had ever happened. A band of travelling players were going from place to place and every night they’d perform at another village or remote farm. It was lovely listening to the sound of the actors’ voices and the noise made by the wheels of the carts and the horses’ hooves as they travelled along from place to place. But the best noise, and the one she remembered most, was the sound of the footsteps crisply crunching over the ground when the actors arrived at a new place and made their way to the barn or the yard of the inn where they were going to do their show. Just listening to those footsteps made her feel wonderful things were going to happen. And all the time there was the strange Tudor music being played on instruments that sounded like recorders and drums but weren’t really proper recorders and drums at all, and were slightly off key and muffled. Travelling players! That’s what those actors were called and that’s what she wanted to be. Her whole life would be like that, now mum had promised to tell dad they were leaving. They wouldn’t go right away, of course. She’d do her part in “Oliver” first. But then, at the end of the term they’d be off. She’d leave Leefdale and never come back. She had to get away from Leefdale. Not just because of the secrecy and having to hide who you really were, and having to be careful all the time not to let on that Jade’s dad was your dad too and he secretly came round to see you and mum. She had to get away because only then would life change. She could feel the new life beckoning, tugging her off to endless possibilities. She was so glad mum was going to tell dad they were leaving. At last life was going to change for the better and she was going to be happy forever and the bullying would stop.

Read on with the free preview below.

The beautiful English village of Leefdale seems reassuringly tranquil. But appearances can be deceptive.

Sharon guards a dark family secret.

Barbara is fighting to save her marriage.

Zoe is trying to sort her life out.

Louise is desperate to be recognised for who she truly is . . .

Unaware of the profound effect it will have on her and the rest of the village, estate agent Sharon Makepiece arranges the sale of Leefdale’s Old Rectory to Dylan Bourne, an art therapist and professional artist.

The Old Rectory is the finest house in Leefdale. Its renowned gardens are crucial to village plans for winning the Magnificent Britain Gardening Competition for the fifth consecutive year.

Barbara Kellingford’s father, Major Howard Roberts, is chairman of both the parish council and the Magnificent Britain sub-committee. While Barbara struggles to hang on to her husband, a top Tory politician, her father is embroiled in a bruising struggle of his own with the new people at The Old Rectory.

Zoe Fitzgerald is a drama therapist. Her role is to change lives, yet it’s her own life which needs to change most.

Louise Makepiece is determined to realise her dreams. But first she has to force her mother to leave Leefdale!

Dylan Bourne’s new job is killing his Art. And his romantic obsession seems to be affecting his judgement.

Barbara Kellingford knows that time is running out to save her husband’s political career.
Meanwhile, the tabloids are circling.

Leefdale. A story of inclusion and exclusion; local and national politics; press intrusion; the healing power of Art and the complex nature of love.