Sunday Serial #12

oliver twist

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 …..

CHAPTER FIVE

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.

#Throwback Thursday #BookReview Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall @JennyWorstall

For several years I wrote a book blog and accumulated comments on a wealth of really good reads.

I saw on Twitter that Renee at It’s Book Talk started using the #ThrowbackThursday meme as a way to share books that are old favourites or have been waiting to be read for a long time.

I decided to visit my old book reviews and re-post my favourites here on 3sixtyfiveblog for #ThrowbackThursday.

So far I’ve included

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns

Kings and Queens by TerryTyler

and

Blood-Tied by Wendy Percival

This week it’s Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall, a romantic comedy with some unusual twists.

From the Amazon book description:

‘Make a Joyful Noise’ (Sing with the Choir Book 1), is the sparkling tale of a choir preparing for a very special Christmas performance of “Belshazzar’s Feast”.

We meet a host of characters who are mercilessly sent up by the author: Lucy the staggeringly trusting young music teacher, Tristan the lecherous anti-hero, Miss Greymitt the ageing and slightly arthritic choir pianist, Steve the handsome and trustworthy bass, Claire the shameless and scheming temptress, and singers with nothing but resonance between their ears.

Just as all does not run smoothly for King Belshazzar or the inhabitants of Babylon in Walton’s music, so the characters in the novel suffer from hopeless yearnings, romantic misunderstandings and the unfortunate consequences of their own misguided actions.

All is sharply and wittily observed in a delightful mix of romance, music and humour.

My Review from Indie Bookworm

This is an ideal holiday book and I read most of it sitting in the garden in the sunshine enjoying the sound of the bees in the honeysuckle and a glass or two of chilled white wine.

Lucy is a newly qualified secondary school music teacher who is struggling with her classes; she is also struggling to establish her social life in a new town. She has been introduced to the local choral society and has fallen for ageing Lothario, Tristan, the choir conductor. Meanwhile fellow choir member and history teacher, Steve, has fallen for her. A typical love story triangle which is developed to a fairly predictable ending.

What makes the book different and interesting is its background in the choir. They are working on a special piece for the Christmas concert: Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton. The author has cleverly used lines from the text of the piece (mainly The Book of Daniel and Psalm 137 put together by Osbert Sitwell) to head up the chapters of the book. I hadn’t listened to Belshazzar’s Feast for years and downloaded it from iTunes; I’d forgotten what splendid music it is. It was very fashionable back in the seventies to use some of it for “inspiration” in school drama classes and with justification. In places it is loud, rumbustious and raucous but thoroughly enjoyable. It has a complicated score and poor Miss Greymitt, the choir’s rehearsal accompanist, understandably struggles with it.

I read on her Author page that Jenny Worstall is a teacher and this shows in her understanding of poor Lucy’s struggles in the classroom. However I’m not sure that these days there would be so much understanding of her difficulties by senior management; Lucy’s department head is kind, considerate and supportive and constantly making allowances for her poor performance. But this “niceness” epitomises the book and makes it a charming read. If you’re fed up with the current trend to place young women into sexually submissive, sado-masochistic, fetish fantasy scenarios you’ll really enjoy Make a Joyful Noise. Lucy is actually shocked when Tristan says “damn” and gives her a full frontal peck on the cheek and the worst insult she comes up with is to call her rival for Tristan’s affection, Miss Custard Cream.

As well as Miss Greymitt there’s a full cast of supporting characters ranging from Lucy’s absentee mother, her bossy older sister and cute ballet dancing nieces to slightly acerbic flatmate and staffroom soulmate Julia.

I enjoyed reading Make a Joyful Noise; it’s pleasant and easy to read and if it happens to be more typical British summer weather and you want something to take your mind off cold, wet and miserable then this book would be just fine.

Click Free Preview below to start reading straightaway!

 

 

Sunday Serial #11

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 …..

Zoe picked up Parker and Lund’s property details and scanned them to remind herself why she’d previously objected to the rectory. Suddenly, on the back she saw something she’d missed before: Dylan’s sketch of Sharon Makepiece. Zoe held it up for Dylan to see.

‘Who’s this?’

The shock of seeing Sharon’s image in such incongruous surroundings made Dylan start.

‘It’s the estate agent who showed me round.’

‘I hope it’s not the reason you prefer The Old Rectory?’

Everyone laughed.

Zoe returned her attention to the property details. ‘Yes, I can see why you like it. In some ways it’s just what we want.’

Dylan leaned forward in anticipation of her qualification. ‘But?’

‘It’s right in the centre of a village!’

‘What’s wrong with that?’

Zoe sat back and folded her arms. ‘Don’t you see it as a potential source of conflict?’

‘No. Why should it be?’

‘Come on! This place Leefdale is an up market village full of smug little Englanders who think they’re the bees’ knees because for years they’ve won some poxy gardening contest. They’re hardly going to be delighted when we fill their exquisite rectory with inner city yobbos.’

Eric grinned and affected shock. ‘They’re not yobbos!’

Zoe sighed patiently. ‘Of course, they’re not. We all agree on that. But that’s how they’d be seen by the inhabitants of Leefdale.’

Toni wrinkled her eyebrows satirically. ‘That’s very defeatist of you. Why should these Leefdale people be insulated from reality?’

‘Ordinarily I’d agree. But by basing ourselves in the rectory I think we’d be giving ourselves and the kids unnecessary grief.’

‘So, to avoid that we have to hide them away. Is that what you’re saying?’ said Charles.

‘No, I’m not!’

‘Yes, you are,’ said Dylan. ‘That’s why you prefer Cold Dale Farm. It’s isolated and off the beaten track. The perfect place to hide them away!’

Zoe sighed and treated him to one of her “I’ve been unjustly misunderstood” looks. ‘I don’t want to hide them away. It’s just that I don’t want them put under any unnecessary pressure. They’ve all had crap experiences one way or another. The time they spend with us should be a period of relative tranquillity.’

‘Tranquillity yes. Isolation no!’ said Dylan. ‘Of course we want to provide them with a secure environment. But security isn’t just about feeling safe. It’s about having the confidence to go out and deal with the world as it is.’

‘I quite agree,’ said Charles, who had to be at Heathrow at 7.30am. ‘If they don’t get involved with a community how are they going to have any sense of social inclusion?’

‘I’m sorry. Did I get something wrong here?’ said Eric. ‘I thought the idea was that through art we were putting them on the path to being healed.’

‘Sure,’ said Dylan, ‘that’s part of what we’re trying to do…’

‘A big part, I hope!’ said Eric. He threw Zoe a look.

‘Yes. A very big part,’ said Dylan. ‘But not the only part. There’s also a social dimension to the work we do. Look, the people I met in Leefdale seemed very reasonable. I don’t think they’ll give us a problem. Anyway, I’m sure we can pre-empt any antagonism by involving the clients in the Magnificent Britain Competition.’

‘Now, that’s an excellent idea,’ said Charles.

‘I think it’s crap,’ said Zoe ‘Why should we let these Leefdale people dictate our agenda?’

‘Because we want the clients to feel included,’ said Dylan.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Zoe, ‘I still think Cold Dale Farm is much more suitable.’

Eric shook his head. ‘It’s very small.’

‘Nonsense. It’s got tons of land,’ said Zoe.

‘It has. But the house itself is tiny. We don’t need lots of land but we do need a good-sized house. And Leefdale’s rectory is huge.’

Zoe gave him a sharp look. ‘You weren’t interested in the rectory until Dylan suggested it.’

Eric looked slightly sheepish.

‘But Eric’s right,’ Dylan said. ‘I’ve seen the accommodation at Cold Dale Farm. There’s not much space for art and drama studios.’

‘But with all that land surely we could build an arts block?’ Zoe persisted.

Dylan shook his head. ‘Not unless we can talk the price right down.’

Eric laughed. ‘Would they come down a hundred thousand?’

‘That’s what they’d have to do,’ said Charles. ‘Otherwise, it’s way beyond our price limit. After all, I have to ensure that the Trust gets value for money. I’m sorry Zoe, but at that price I don’t think we’d be able to afford purpose-built studios. We need to just move in.’

Zoe grimaced. ‘It’s such a shame. The kids would love a big open space like that. They’d experience a real sense of freedom. And we could build a huge sculpture park.’

Dylan and Charles exchanged a knowing look. The creation of a sculpture park was Zoe’s obsession. Unfortunately, none of the units she’d worked in had ever possessed sufficient land to make her dream a reality.

‘Leefdale rectory’s back garden is big enough for one,’ Dylan told Zoe, helpfully.

But Zoe was adamant. ‘There’s not as much as land there as at Cold Dale Farm.’
Persistence was in Zoe’s genes. It had brought her great grandparents out of Poland at the height of the Pogroms when all their neighbours were telling them it was a mistake to leave. Their foresight had saved themselves and their descendants from Auschwitz, and ultimately enabled Zoe to be born. Zoe’s Catholic great grandparents had fled Northern Ireland for America in the 1890s but had pledged to return, and, indeed, had done so when the Irish Free State had been established. Zoe had told Dylan all this when they’d been lovers. He reflected on it now.

‘Cold Dale Farm’s too isolated,’ said Toni, who was impatient for a decision.

‘I agree,’ said Dylan, again surprising himself. Hadn’t he always said he preferred isolation?

‘All right,’ said Zoe. ‘You’re obviously not having Cold Dale Farm. But I do think that before we make a decision on any of these properties we should all be given the opportunity to go and view them.’

‘I don’t think we can do that, Zoe,’ said Charles.

‘Why not?’

‘You know very well why. We promised all the interested parties we’d be up and running by the summer. By the time we’ve viewed all the properties separately the one we finally decide on might have been sold to someone else. We need to make a decision now.’

‘But how can we make a decision if we haven’t seen the properties?’

‘We agreed to delegate the task to Dylan,’ said Toni. Behind her glasses her light grey eyes regarded Zoe scornfully. ‘I was perfectly OK with that. He is, after all, our team leader and he seems to have gone into everything very thoroughly. We must trust his judgement.’

Zoe was a drama therapist and an expert in assertion techniques. Reasonably but firmly she said, ‘I don’t mistrust Dylan’s judgement, but as we’re the ones who’ll be working there I do think we’re entitled to see what the conditions are like for ourselves.’

‘You could have come up to Yorkshire with me,’ said Dylan. ‘I invited all of you.’

Zoe’s expression became slightly tense. ‘I explained in the clearest terms why I couldn’t possibly do that.’

Dylan said, ‘That’s right. You did.’

But had it really been so impossible for her to renege on her speaking engagement at the drama therapists’ conference? He doubted it. Actually, in the circumstances he couldn’t understand why Zoe was going to be working with them at all. It was several months since he’d engineered the ending of their affair. His handling of the break-up had been clumsy and callous and it had come as a devastating shock to Zoe who, until then, had been completely unaware of his disenchantment with their relationship. In the months afterwards, although they’d continued as colleagues they’d barely spoken; and when Dylan was promoted team leader and assigned to establish the new East Yorkshire Inclusion Unit, he’d assumed they would never work together again. He was therefore staggered when Zoe applied for a place in his new team. What kind of a person after a break-up applies to work alongside their ex? It was so unusual he’d wondered if she’d done it deliberately to provoke him. At Charles’ insistence (and against his own better judgement) he’d agreed to appoint her. Of course, Charles may have taken a different view if he’d known that she and Dylan had once been lovers and of the acrimony with which they’d parted; but it wasn’t even suspected, by him or anyone else within the confines of their professional world. Yet why was Zoe kicking up such a fuss about the properties now, at this late stage? Could it be she was having second thoughts about working with him and was trying to wriggle out of her commitment to the new unit? He hoped so.

Zoe turned to Eric. ‘Don’t you think we should go and see for ourselves what these places are like?’

‘Hey, I’m cool,’ said Eric. ‘I was happy to leave it to Dylan.’ He wiggled his finger archly at Zoe in a faux reprimand. ‘So you can leave me out of this.’

Zoe grinned and tapped him lightly on the thigh.

Zoe and Eric? Dylan thought. Zoe and Eric? Surely not?

‘Look, I’m going to the states tomorrow, remember?’ said Charles. ‘I’m sorry but we’ve got to make a decision tonight.’

Their discussions continued until well after midnight. Eventually, Lord Sandleton, an experienced chairman and committee man, persuaded everyone to reduce the properties to a short list of two, which was then put to the vote. The Old Rectory at Leefdale received Dylan and Toni’s votes. Predictably Zoe voted for Cold Dale Farm. Dylan found it significant that Eric did too. Lord Sandleton exercised his casting vote in favour of The Old Rectory. It was decided to make an offer of £495,000 for the property.
Dylan, Eric, Toni and Zoe left the apartment together. In the street, all four lingered briefly around Dylan’s motorcycle. Toni offered Zoe a lift home.

‘No thanks,’ said Zoe. ‘Eric’s giving me one.’ She said goodbye, turned to go and then turned back to Dylan. ‘Well, you got what you wanted, as ever. I just hope it turns out all right. I’ve got a really bad feeling about it.’

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.