Archive for November, 2005


Posted in gothic, morecambe, werewolves vampires and ghoulies on November 28, 2005 by Khlari

OK, what have I been up to in Goth World over the last few weeks? Well, on Friday boyfriend and I went to see the fantabulous ‘Zombina and the Skeletones’ play at the Farmers Arms. Dirty surf-goth fities kitsch noise. Most excellent!

This Friday is the meeting of Sanctuary, 8.30 at the Morecambe Hotel, which I’m sure we’ll be heading off to, then on Saturday the Sanctuary Christmas Party……should be fun.

Check out the links to find out more!!!!


She Walks…..

Posted in creative / writing, gothic, morecambe, werewolves vampires and ghoulies on November 28, 2005 by Khlari

This is another piece, this time a piece of poetry, that I wrote with vampires in mind for the Sanctuary magazine. It is the first poetry I have written in ages, which is quite strange, as when I started writing I was a poet first and foremost…. It is predicatably gothic…..

She Walks…..

She walks in beauty through the night,
Her face emits a ghostly light.
The cloak, a shining carapace,
Then she is gone without a trace.

She walks in silence through the graves,
The lovely face, that slays, not saves,
The cloak, a fragile carapace,
Hides her dark secret from this place.

She walks in search through the town
The moonlight glinting on her gown,
The cloak, a deathly carapace,
To cover her rapacious face.

She walks in pursuit through the gate,
He knows now that it is too late,
Her cloak, a spider carapace,
Reveals to him her preying face.

She walks in victory though the wood
Slowly then lets fall the hood
The cloak, a tattered carapace
Hides no more the bloodstained face.

She walks in beauty through the night,
Her face emits a ghostly light.
The cloak, a shining carapace,
Then she is gone without a trace.

Another crazed rambling- Night School

Posted in creative / writing, gothic, werewolves vampires and ghoulies on November 28, 2005 by Khlari

This is a piece of work that came about by accident this weekend. I was chatting with some friends from Sanctuary, the Morecamber Goth/Pagan/Alternative group, and they said that they were looking for suitably vampy contributions to the Sanctuary magazine……this was the result.

Night School

There is no Careers Service for vampires, which is remarkably inconvenient. Given our particular problems in the employment area, not to mention the exceptional length of our careers, you would think that someone would have come up with something by now. They’ve had enough time. Be honest, what would you do in my position?

Of course, you do hear on the grapevine about more or less successful vampire career paths. There is the itsy-bitsy daylight problem to deal with. This means of course that we are confined to evening posts, not necessarily the most profitable, nor those that lead to the best victims. Would you fancy spending eternity cleaning offices at night? I’d say that was purgatory rather than eternity.

There have been rumours about nightclub impresarios (though I can tell you that Peter Stringfellow is definitely not among them, any decent vampire would be ashamed to look like that). Showbusiness counts many, though alas we can’t do matinées. There have of course been a few celebrated rock singers, now long ‘retired’, though occasionally spotted and splashed across the pages of the ‘National Enquirer’. We may not have much of a reflection, but we still photograph quite well. They really need to be more careful, can you imagine the effect on a mortal when they bump into Jim Morrison in Asda?

I prefer a quieter life, none of this high-profile nonsense for me. Of course, when I was younger, it was good fun, but these days it’s just too tedious having to disappear for decades. It took me a while to decide, of course, but with several hundred years work experience behind you, it gets easier.

I decided that the academic life was for me. University lecturers have a quiet life, and I could quite simply teach in the evenings. The twenty-first century is so convenient for the children of the night. Evening classes, for those too busy to study in the day, and online classes, where the only place my students see me is in cyberspace. The paranoia of this century also serves us well, all the allergies and intolerances are so convenient. Hence my ‘transformation’, into poor light-sensitive Miss _______. No daytime meetings for me, and employment legislation obliges them to schedule my classes after dark. A few bogus medical reports, change the century on a few of my qualifications, and there you are.

It gives me wonderful opportunities for trying fresh foreign ‘dishes’ when I go to Istanbul or Athens for sabbaticals and lecture tours. Some of those European students make a refreshing change to the taste-buds from my usual fare. I do still have to move from time to time, but I have been in this quiet northern city for quite a few years now. You could say I have a captive audience of juicy prey. Students disappear so easily. Some might ‘go to India to discover themselves’, some might ‘fall’ from their accommodation, some simply vanish without trace. It’s all quite easy to achieve, if you plan it well. Teaching staff that become a little too interested in my pursuits sometimes join them.

You must be wondering by now what I teach? Quite easy, Literature. It’s so much easier to talk about the motivation of the authors when you hung around with them in the 18th Century. My speciality? Gothic Literature, of course, perfect to cover any of my little eccentricites. Shelley, Mary and Byron were particular favourites of mine, we had some wild times telling ghost stories up at the Villa Diodati. But that Polidori was a real nuisance, I don’t think I need to explain to you what I was obliged to do with him. ‘The Vampyre’, indeed, telling my life to the world and his best friend.

Poe was, on the other hand, an absolute gentleman. he knew enough of the truth to spin a good tale, but had manners enough to veil it in the telling. You might just recognise some of my little details though, enough to be intriguing but not enough to be too informative. He was one who I wished had stayed around a little longer. I tried to persuade him of course, but the only thing he wanted to do was resurrect his mother, which as you know is beyond even my powers. Wouldn’t let me save him. Silly Edgar.

Paris at that time was much more fun. At least they had a great nightlife. I drank absinthe and danced around Montmartre with Baudelaire and Rimbaud, and you can spot me in a few of the paintings of the time. Toulouse-Lautrec had a bit of a passion for me. That’s why I had to go in the end, too much absinthe and opium in the air and Van Gogh, Lautrec and Gauguin slugging it out over me. They say I was the reason Vincent went over the edge in the end. He was never good at handling the truth, I was only trying to give him the chance to carry on painting. He had promise, such a pity.

Bram Stoker, on the other hand, just wanted to know too much. That man was the reason that I had to spend the first years of the last century lying low. I don’t know why I trusted him, I really don’t. I think that it was the Irish charm really. That foolish man nearly blew it all apart, I am sure that the demise of my kind can be traced back to that awful book. His sticky end though, was honestly nothing to do with me. Not really.

Luckily, I planted enough red herrings to ensure our survival. I love garlic, and can pass any number of crucifixes without a second glance. I’m not that naïve.

These days, I very rarely encounter another of my kind. Those of us still around are those tactful enough to be virtually undetectable. There are far too many people writing about ‘typical vampires’ to be too flamboyant. You don’t meet many Lestats these days. I hope that Anne Rice is watching her back, New Orleans never was a good place to upset the undead.

Tonight is Wednesday, and the start of the new academic year. I meet my new students tonight. Most of those who choose to study my course are sufficiently ‘alternative’ that my eccentricities are commonplace to them. Black clothes, flowing black hair and silver jewellery are the staples of my students, as they are mine. These are not people who would willingly study Wordsworth, and I don’t blame them. He was such a boring little man that I wouldn’t have offered him eternal life. His reality was tedious enough to resemble eternity already, but with none of the fun. I digress.

Here they come now, my band of misfits, Gothic Literature 432, 2005-6. It’s funny how fashion turns around. The boys have hair as long as the girls again these days. They file in, in their flowing dark clothes, with their New Rocks and dyed hair. I keep abreast of fashion, of course. Have you any idea what a boon the net is to the average vampire’s wardrobe?

They awkwardly shuffle into their seats, and look towards me for inspiration. Having taken the register, I begin to tell them in the usual fashion my particular programme for the year. Then the door crashes open. In walks a tall young man with flowing black hair, followed by a diminutive girl in a black cloak. Nothing unusual in here. I ask them to see me after the class.

I really don’t know how I continued to teach for the next hour. I was so cross. Sometimes an hour can seem like eternity, even to a three hundred-year old vampire. Finally, I dismissed the students, and closed the door behind them. I took up my register, trying not to laugh.

“So- exactly why were you late, Gary and Melanie?” I said, finally looking them in the face.
“Gary? Melanie? Oh for goodness’ sake.” I couldn’t stifle my laughter any longer. “ Gary Byron and Melanie Shelley? Couldn’t you do any better than that, after three hundred years practice?”

We hugged, still laughing. The joke is that history has recorded it’s suspicions about Lord George Byron and vampirism. But they got it all wrong. It was Mary Shelley, or Melanie as I suppose I must now call her. She was the founder of our little colony, she brought back her little secret from a trip to the east with Percy Shelley. Poor Percy just annoyed her that little bit too much to be saved. Polidori was just jealous that he was the only one never asked to join. Byron had to pull that stunt of pretending to be drowned in the Hellespont, as usual he was putting it about too much already that he had eternal life. Mary was never as careless as George, she covered her tracks with Frankenstein, who would suspect someone of the two sins? Creating monsters and vampirism, and from such a lady? Clever girl. I learned much from her.

Though I do suppose it will be really hard to teach Frankenstein this year, with the author staring me in the face over the top of her Penguin paperback every Wednesday night. Though if ‘Gary’ Byron thinks I am studying any of his appalling poetry, he must be joking. Always too full of his own sexiness and self-importance. It might do him good to learn from someone else for a change, after three hundred years.

A bit too foreign….

Posted in creative / writing, France on November 24, 2005 by Khlari

Well, back from the M.A. course……last night, among other things, my story Div C'hoarazed was discussed. Then, it was universally decided to be 'too foreign'. Some complainants were more vociferous than others. Apparently the very 'foreignness' and all the 'peculiar names' made the plot impossible to follow. even though, in the same sentence, I have explained these 'funny names', and 'funny words'. Can't win.

I didn't footnote them, thought that that would be too confusing. I thought that I would make life simple by having the character repeat themselves in English. This also shows the repetitive Breton way of speaking. Hell, I can't win. I get told that my stories are too French. Now they are just plain too foreign

I find it hard to write about domestic bliss. To be honest, I have known too little of it to be confident with the atmosphere. I can't set every story I write in London, Manchester or Hebden Bridge. Apart from that I know nothing about comfortable middle-England, never having managed to be a part of it. My value system is a variant, because my life has been a variant. That is not wrong, merely different. A lot of my stories are about 'the outsider', whether the Breton Le Bodeo, or just a wanderer. That's the way they come out, not by artifice and design, but just because that is the story that wishes to be told.

Everyone's life experience is very different. Yes, to a lot of people, mine may be a little peculiar. It is, however, going to reflect itself in my writing. Someone else's known is obviously my 'known'. I would never attempt to write a novel set in America unless I had been there or was in the position to afford a bloody good researcher. I write where I have been and things I have seen, and the stories that weave around these.

A story is unchanged, whether the lead character is called Tomiko or Jane, Erwan or John. The essential qualities of truth and tale-telling are not culture and name dependent. You just need to WANT to see those things………

I must, I must, improve my….writing

Posted in creative / writing on November 21, 2005 by Khlari

Well, I am finally trying to take the advice of my good friend Mr Spicy Cauldron, and use this blog as a writing diary. So, I can bare my writing soul live on the net….agh!

I guess that this is my chance to reflect on myself as a writer. Where have I come from, where am I going, how am I progressing??? Goodness knows. I have written since I was a little girl, for years though I really only wrote poetry. I have begun now to move into prose as a medium of choice, skirting somewhere along the long-short-story and short-novella route. I think that's just because I'm too chicken to begin to call anything I am writing part of a novel……

I wrote from childhood really non-stop until the age of 28, including a few short creative writing courses, then the Community Arts course (Which is where Andy Spicy Cauldron and I met).
Then I moved to France, and when I left, I lost most things I possessed, including the precious file full of writing, some of which dated back to when I was 11 or 12.

In France between work and motherhood, and the strains of a difficult relationship, I never seemed to get time to write. It is only really since I came back to England in 2003 that I have had 'room of my own' and time of my own to start again. I find, unbeknown to myself, that my writing style has completely changed overnight. I also find that my writing seems to write itself, in a way. I am directed by it, it is not directed by me, it seems to find its own path.

My writing has always been a kind of catharsis, in very simple ways as a teenager, for the chagrins of love and the troubles of stroppy adolescence. Now it is something much deeper, my way of working through all the black dogs and demons in my head, making sense of them and of myself.

Obviously, a lot of people, my family included, see me as completely deranged for wishing to pursue this. They can't understand why it is important, or they think that it is something that you should have grown out of, a childish thing to be put aside when you are being a 'grown-up'.
I love the look on peoples' faces when you tell them what the MA is in. Lots of lame jokes about being the next Helen Fielding, or a look of total incomprehension. This is part of me, part of who I am, like my silly clothes, my strange musical taste, or my obsession for Sylvia Plath. When it is taken away, part of me has gone, and I don't think I will ever let anyone do that to me again……

The Two Sisters

Posted in creative / writing, France on November 15, 2005 by Khlari

This is another piece of work for the M.A. course. My remit was to write something purely fictional, not a piece of life writing, something that could be identified as pure fiction.

I took some memories of Brittany, and also its folklore, and wound them togther to come up with the following, set in small-town Brittany………… Any resemblance between the lead character and my ex-mother-in-law, is, of course, purely incidental………

Div C’hoarazed –The Two Sisters
As the bells rang out across the town square, Ninie looked up from her knitting and motioned to Néné.
“That’ll be Monsieur Serandour. I said he wasn’t long for this world”
Néné grunted assent, head bowed to her crochet. They sat on the worn armchairs with the crocheted cushions in the window of the house on the Place St. Sauveur. The light was fading, and they had lit the lamp that illuminated the window to the square, for the shutters were still open, and the shadowy pink geraniums were still tapping the glass outside.
Ninie continued.
“I said that Sévérine would be the death of him. Those old men never listen.”
“But she was only five years younger than him-“ Néné began hesitantly.
“Baah non, that’s what she said, Mark my words, there’ll be a new one there by All Saints Day. These flighty pieces are all the same. Another one to add to her list.”

Across the square in Hubert’s café, James looked over to see the charming vision of the two ladies working by the lit window, as he had every night since his arrival in Haut-Cozenay. He felt the depth of his own loneliness, seeing this intimate scene replayed nightly until the smaller of the two women hobbled outside to bring the metal bar across the blue-painted shutters, and hide the ladies and the geraniums from his view.

It emphasized his own isolation from this small community. It seemed like looking onto a lost memory, but was it a real memory, or just an idyll of a time, which for him, had never been.
“Another?” Hubert called along the bar.
“No thank you. I must be going. Good night. ” James fastened his overcoat against the rapidly cooling night, and ducked his tall form under the low archway of the cafe and out into the blue-tinged twilight. Behind him he could hear Hubert and the regulars calling out ‘good- nights’ as he walked across the cobbled square and up the Rue de l’Eglise on his way home.

Home. Now that was a strange concept. Since when had Ar-Ty Kozh become home? He had reached his front door, low like all in Haut-Cozenay, and as he turned his key, he automatically ducked his head under the date of 1498 carved in the weathered stone.

Morning dawned bright, as bright as it ever did in October in this part of Brittany. Ninie and Néné were up early, as ever, Néné furiously scrubbing the worn step in front of Div C’hoarazed, while Ninie alternately rubbed the window panes with a duster and tweaked the already perfect geraniums to within an inch of their lives. At Div C’hoarazed nothing was out of place, from the lace that hung at the windows to the freshly picked out 1698 above the door.

As he crossed the square from the baker’s, James could not help but notice the form of Ninie as she scrubbed at some imaginary stain on the window. She was younger than he, and alone at that age, with no-one but Néné for company. Such a waste! She was an attractive woman still, a little severe, in the local style, but with a neat figure amplified only by that of Néné by her side, easily twice her size.

He saw the Kure Guivarc’h coming out of the church. Div C’hoarazed stood two doors away from the giant edifice, garlanded with triskels, proof to the world that Brittany was once great in his own right. The Kure Guivarc’h was another.
“Demat, Gwreg ar’Le Flohic, Gwreg ar Kerguelen” he said, raising his hat to the women as he passed. The Kure, part of the local Breton militia, didn’t miss an opportunity to use Breton whenever he could. Much to the amusement of the locals, who dismissed him as ‘Brezhoneg Kernevad- someone from Cornwall’, but only when he was out of earshot.

He heard amusement rise from Ninie and Néné, but only when the Kure had passed safely into Hubert’s cafe. Kures still demanded a certain amount of respects in these parts, however eccentric. The weak sun made Ninie Kerguelen’s fair hair glow, and he was struck by how youthful she looked in the light of day.

Later that day, he again took up his post at the window of Tempus Fugit, Hubert’s little cafe across the square. There were more cafes in Haut-Cozenay than shops, but after a careful process of elimination, he had settled on this one. He had once asked Hubert why his cafe had such a strange name.
“Eh bien,” said Hubert, scratching his head, “because it’s written above the door.”
It was, carved just above the date. Little changed with time in Haut-Cozenay.

As night fell, the sisters lit their lamp, and began their tranquil vigil by the window. James found himself smiling as he watched them knitting and chatting in the golden light, offering him a window on their lives. He was a shy man, but he knew he had waited long enough.

“Hubert,” he began, “what do you know of Madame Kerguelen and her sister?”
Hubert guffawed. “That’s never her sister, Néné Le Flohic is her c’hoar-kaer, her sister by marriage only.”
“So how do they come to be living together?”
“That’s a very long story. Néné Le Flohic is a little simple, so maybe it is better to be living with Ninie Kerguelen than shut up at Plougernevel, gast!”
Another voice came along the long wooden counter.
“And maybe she’s not, Hubert Gicquel.”
James recognised this as the voice of Gwenole Le Goff, the fishmonger.
Hubert intervened “Leave the poor old Mamm-gozh alone, Le Goff!”
But Le Goff did not want to be silenced. “Mamm-gozh ar gwall” then noticing James, translating, “an evil grandmother. You know nothing about it Hubé Gicquel, you were away at school at Quintin.”
James moved, disquieted, back to his window seat. There were many disputes around here, over sheep, but sometimes over women, and he did not wish to join in. Behind him the conversation rose and fell, now in French, but peppered with the guttural sounds of swearing in Breton, he heard ‘monetg’an diaoul’, go to the devil, more than once. He preferred to sit and watch the gilded Ninie at her window, spinning her webs of delight with her sister-in law. He wove Ninie into his dream of France, the dream he had brought to Haut-Cozenay with him when Mado died so unexpectedly. When Néné hobbled out to close the shutters, his vision was clipped once more, and he picked his way back home along the Rue de l’Eglise.

The next morning, he was at the baker’s when he heard Ninie Kerguelen enter the shop behind him.
“Demat , Iwan Mahe” she said to the baker “Demat, Yann ar Morgan, Good morning, Mr Morgan.”
How did she know his name? He felt himself blush.
He struggled, with the tongue even more unfamiliar than French.
“Demat, Greg a Kerguelen.”
She smiled at him. “Gureg you say, gureg aar Kerguelen, but well done.”
She had a nice smile. This morning, she was wearing a frock of green wool that made him notice how green her eyes were. He decided to dare a response.
“I am obviously in need of some classes in Breton, Madame Kerguelen”
“We will have to see what we can do,” she laughed, and the bell jangled afresh as she made her way back out into the Place.

“Oh, that Ninie!” Mahé the baker was sighing. “Fifteen times I have proposed to her, and fifteen times she has said no. Never looked at another man since all the tragedy at Div C’hoarazed, never” he raised his floury palms to the heavens in mock despair.
“Oh yes, bad business, bad business, some even say that the Kerguelens are cursed, daonet. But I say she is an angel.”

James was getting more and more intrigued by all of this, and Ninie Kerguelen’s part in it. Saint or sinner, he had to find out.
He soon got his chance. As he walked past the church, there was a poster outside inviting everyone to a Fest-Noz a few days hence. It was to be held in the square, dancing, grog, and krampouezh. He kept his evening vigil at the cafe, willing the days to pass.

He was not alone in watching. Others were also watching him. At the back of the bar, big Gwenole le Goff was deep in conversation with the wizened little Konan Cairou, who still held a little farm up at Le Faöuet.
“She was beautiful as a girl, that Melusine le Korrigan, when she came down from St Ygeaux, or was it St Gilles-Pligeaux?” Old Cairou began elegaically.
“Ninie not from Cozenay then?” replied Le Goff, poking the fire.
“Baah non, she was from the villages. From nothing, the Korrigan lived twelve to a house with the pigs. But she was something different was Melusine, soon caught the eye of young Deniel Kerguelen.”

Le Goff looked puzzled. “But I thought she married Andreu? Who is this Deniel then?”
“That was the elder brother. Strong boy, until one day he fell from his motor-bicycle with Ninie on the back. Never woke up the next morning. Broke Grandma Kerguelen it did. She didn’t have the heart to stop her marrying Andreu after that. Six months later she joined Deniel in the vault.”

“So why is she still in Cozenay?” Le Goff had heard rumours, but never found anyone willing to confirm them. It was true that Cairou descended rarely enough into Cozenay these days. He reached into his pocket for his pipe, and settled down for a good tale.
“Ah, that’s a long story and part of it Néné le Flohic’s – Erenné le Flohic is the Kerguelen sister. Never a beauty, she married old Le Flohic late with the the farm up at Le Faöuet as a sweetener, she set to having babies but they were never quite right until Erwan arrived. She loved that boy, but he spent more time at Plougernevel than at home. Some say that’s where she should have been all along …”
“But what of Melusine? How does she come into this?”
“Having babies too, though everyone said they were like no Kerguelen they’d ever seen. First Deniel, then Loïc, then the baby Fañnch, all the image of Ninie, the green eyes, the pale hair.”

Old Cairou placed his empty beer glass on the table until Le Goff should fetch him another. Le Goff rose unwillingly, pulled into the story. As he paid the next two demis, the lights were gradually coming on across the Place St Sauveur as dusk fell.

“Le Flohic and Kerguelen went off to the wars, a lot of it about, Algeria, Indochina, every time they were on leave, a new baby. The Kerguelens flourished as the Le Flohics withered.”
“So what of Le Flohic? And the son?” Le Goff couldn’t understand how a family could just fade away. He had always suspected that Ninie of something, but this added a whole new depth to her depravity.

“There was some argument over the farm. Next thing Le Flohic’s found down the well. Mind you, he was a drunk, that one, and no gift to Néné anyway. So Erwan takes over the farm, only fifteen and not quite right in the head. Killed all the pigs and then himself, thought he had failed his mother. Should have kept him up at Plougernevel, they say he blew his own head off in the barn.”
Le Goff cut across him. “I knew about the husband, but not about all this..”
Old Cairou wheezed a laugh. “Oh, you’re long from finished yet- tragedy sticks to Ninie like a crepe to a pan.”

By now Hubert was listening, and all three fixed their sights on James, gazing across the square to the lights of Div C’hoarazed, and the forms of Ninie and Néné neatly framed between the darkening blue shutters.
“Nothing like an old fool-“ began Hubert
“There’s nothing like an English fool,” chucked Konan Cairou, now struggling to keep his beer down “With any luck, he might take her back with him. Stop him clogging up the cemetery with the rest of them”

Le Goff smoothed his thick black moustache. He had always wondered at the heavy population of Le Flohics and Kerguelens by the calvaire, with their marble angels and ceramic wreaths. Now he felt a little closer to understanding.

As the shutters of Div C’hoarazed closed, on the dot of nine, regular as clockwork, James too had developed that rhythm. But the cold wind that heralded James’ departure tonight signalled the arrival of a newcomer. “Joell Pouliguen?” wavered Old Cairou “Marz’an Doue, by the name of God, is it you Joell Pouliguen?”
“Konannen ar Cairou? Gast, thought you’d be long dead, bumped off by Intañvez Kerguelen many a year ago!”
Hubert was mystified “Pouliguen? But there’s no more Pouliguen in Cozenay, not for years.”
Old Cairou laughed. “This one escaped, off to seek his fortune up in Paris, imbecile!”
The newcomer butted in. “Still making the finest crepes this side of Montparnasse, Cairou!”
Hubert was even more puzzled now. “But who’s this Intañvez Kerguelen? Her son?”
Now it was the turn of the two old men to laugh “Intañvez du Kerguelen! The black widow Kerguelen.”
Pouliguen continued. “The merry widow still playing her dance, then Cairou?”

Many beers later, the shutters of the cafe closed, the fire rising high in the stone grate against the chill night, they were still ruminating the story.
Le Goff could not wait any longer. He had to ask.
“What happened then to old man Kerguelen?”
Pouliguen took up the story. “Found him, didn’t she, hanging from the rafters at Div C’hoarazed, in his own attic.”
Then Cairou followed on. “Took her an hour to ring the sapeurs-pompiers, and what a time to cut him down. Poor Andreu, knew him from a baby, and to see him so.”
“She wept for weeks and drove good Doctor Guegan half-mad with her tales of depression.” Pouligan alternated “Then old Néné Le Flohic hop out of Le Faöuet, up and sold, the Grandma’s house and all, and installed in Div C’hoarazed before her brother was cold in his shroud.”
“But why would he do it? It was his house was it not?” Le Goff chipped in “What could she have done to make him do such a thing?”
Pouliguen and Cairou’s faces fell. They looked deeply into their dark beer, in the darkening bar.
“There are some that say she knotted the rope herself-“ Pouliguen said, still staring at the table. “But I say it was words that killed him.”
“The worst. She told him that they were not his. Not Deniel, his first-born, he loved and carried everywhere with him, not the bright little Loïc, not his darling baby Fañnch.” Cairou intoned.
The men around the table looked solemn. Any man’s worst fear.
It was Le Goff that spoke it first “So the Kerguelen are no more. They die with Néné,”
Pouliguen sounded the final knell. “Yes. Bad business we said. She’d made sure that the boys gave up all rights before he died. One by one. Threatened to tell their father they were bastards. She had it all.”

It was the night of the fest-noz, and the town square shone with an icy beauty. The church overlooking all, like a glacial fairy palace. As James moved across the square he could hear the plaintive call of the biniou, the Breton bagpipes, and see the women in their traditional dress describing the complex circle dance of the An Dro. And through all of this, he could see Ninie Kerguelen. Her costume embroidered black and white, the bigouden on her head starched high, white and lacy, she seemed transfigured, from another age.

James stood by waiting with a warming rum grog in his hand. Across the circle, munching on their galettes, he was observed by Pouliguen, Le Goff, and Cairou.
“She’s coming in for the kill” whispered Le Goff between mouthfuls of galette.
James walked towards her, holding out the glass of steaming grog.
“Noz vat, Gwreg ar Kerguelen, Good evening Madame Kerguelen.”
“Noz vat, Yann ar Morgan, Good evening Mister Morgan.” she smiled, accepting the cup. “You really are becoming a kendervh a Berzh-Doue, a Breton cousin. They do say the Bretons and the English are closely related.”
“That’s what they say, Madame Kerguelen”
“Even your name, Mr Morgan – Mor for sea and gañ for born, born of the sea. You have green eyes too, very Breton”

Even his guardian angels had abandoned him. “He’s old enough to know what he wants, gast!” cried Hubert, taking another cider and admiring the buttocks of the youngest Le Clec’h girl. Le Goff was inclined to agree with him on both counts.
Cairou and Pouliguen were too busy talking about medical insurance and galette recipes to notice the departure of Madame Kerguelen and Mr Morgan.

They passed down the Rue de l’Eglise, then as they rounded the corner of the deserted Allée du Calvaire, Ninie suddenly grabbed him and pinned him against the wall.
“Do you think they’ve guessed?”
“Ninie darling, don’t be so ridiculous. What is there to link the nice English gentleman and the Black Widow? When I find poor dear Néné dead in her bed tonight, it will be such a shock that they will all worry for my health.”
“Rather like when I found dear sweet Mado drowned in her bathtub, poor thing.”
“You have rung the boys to say we will be out in a couple of weeks?”
“Just give me the time to sell up and I’m all yours.”
He now pulled her into his arms, the lace of her coiffe crinkling against the tweed of his jacket.
“I am the only match for you Ninie, and you for me. Now ,at long last, we get to enjoy it all.”
They walked slowly back to the immaculate house on the Place St Sauveur, and turned the key slowly in the lock.

Red Silk Roses

Posted in creative / writing on November 14, 2005 by Khlari

This is another one of my crazed ramblings from the MA course. We had to bring in an object which described us, then develop a piece of Life Writing around it…..this is what wrote itself for me……;

Red Silk Roses
Once a month, we used to go. I was bundled into my best scratchy woolly coat with the matching hat, and we set off to board the number 30 bus. My mother, in her ‘going-out-to-lunch’ clothes announcing to the bus conductor –
“One and a half to Harley Street please”.
He would then reel the purple-printed tickets from his little machine. They remained in my hot little hand for the rest of the journey.

We wound up through the Angel on the top deck of our red chariot, on to the West End, finally walking down the solemn paved street, up the stone steps, to the shiny black door. Even my mother had trouble ringing Professor Ridley’s doorbell. He was like a grandfather from a Dickens novel, all white moustache, fluffy hair and heavy jollity. But that didn’t make it hurt any less.

Every time he would unwind the bandages, then force my unwilling eye to do things. Then more eye drops. Left, right, concentrate, concentrate. My head was spinning with the effort, perching on the high stool with my Clarks-shod toes hanging in mid-air. More drops, more bandages, more pain. It was, however, worth it. The next part of the adventure would sustain me for weeks. We carried on along and across Wigmore Street. The stone facades were imposing, but I always disliked walking over the glass paving-stones which covered the former cellar-wells, terrified I would fall down.

Mikla Modes. Even the name has a faded 1950s feel to it. The shopfront was a monument to Art Deco, the name boldly swept in black across the white marble. My mother pushed the diagonal brass rail and we entered. Past the gorgeously draped mannequins, and the red gilded chairs. Everything was red, black, and white at Miki’s.
“Darlings” Mikla came running over. Even though she had been my mother’s boss for many years, she was even smaller than my mother, though as fair as my mother was dark. Tiny, bird-like, white-blonde hair with glittering blue eyes. Mikla hugged and kissed my mother and I enthusiastically.
“Patrizia! Let me look at you! Ach, you are too thin, where is my little Patrizia so pretty, so round? And my little leibchen, my little Claire? Come and let Miki see you”.
There was some head-shaking between the grown-ups at this point, over my head, with mutterings of doctors, hospitals and bandages. There was an unspoken rule that at this point I was allowed to play with Miki’s desk. The desk was made of scarlet Chinese lacquer, and at the time seemed as big as a house. When I was smaller I used to crawl under it, but now I loved to explore the many secret drawers nestled in-between the golden dragons and geishas on the surface. I needed to be patient while the bitter coffee was drunk with the almond biscuits and more grown-up whispering took place.

After what always seemed like an eternity, Mikla would seek me out in my hideaway.
“Do you vant to come downstairs and see ze girls?”
I could not move fast enough at this point, over the red carpet and behind the red velvet curtains, down the winding staircase to the cellar atelier, with its faint lights from the glass paving-stones in the ceiling.

The atelier was the nearest I came to fairyland, and in memory it still mingles strangely with Santa’s grotto in Selfridges. The girls, Hookie and Myffy couldn’t run to greet us. The tiniest, frailest, most bowed women that I have ever known; they must have been 80 even then. This is where the fun began. Shot silks, taffetas, organzas, silk crepes-de-chine, sumptuous velvets were lined around the walls of the cellar, each more gorgeous than the last. Next to these, sequinned fabrics, beaded satins, appliquéd diaphanous jewels. This is where ‘the girls’ really became girls. They would wind me with silks; crown me with velvets and flowing jewel-encrusted veils.

They would find me silk velvet flowers for my hair, ersatz jewels to adorn me, handbags in which to carry my dreams. I would forget briefly that I was the ugly duckling. In my glorious robes it no longer mattered what anyone thought. I would catch snatches of their laughing conversations over my head.
“Business? Ach, no-one has any longer style, they all dress from the British Home Stores”
“The duchesses, same, no eleganz, they are in the ready-mades, and the debutantes with the big bottoms in the jeans”

But for today, I was their Duchess. No customers ever spoiled our fun. But eventually, my mother would, by reminding me it was time to go and catch the bus home. From Myffy and Hookie I would receive prettily-wrapped bittersweet European chocolate.
But from Miki, it was always a part of herself. Delicate embroidered little purses, with mysterious foreign writing, impractical silk scarves “Schiaperelli pink, darling, not cerise…”
But my favourite of all were the flowers. Silk velvet or satin, soft, beautiful, impossible. I would cradle them in my hands like an amulet against encroaching reality on the darkening bus home. They represented the ‘leibchen’ of my dreams, not the bandaged stick-insect dismally reflected in the window of the rattling bus.

Over twenty years went by before I passed Miki’s again, after her death. Gone are the marble pillars, a fast food restaurant encased in shiny bright wipe-clean plastic stands in its place. I remembered the little tears that ‘the girls’ used to shed when they stood at the door to say goodbye. After all this time I asked my mother why this all happened.

The clues began to piece together.
“You do know that none of the girls were married”
I did. Miss Williams, Miss Hook and Miss Karzei. Though Miss Karzei had changed her name to Sloane. The stories gradually began to unravel.

Miss Hook had not become bent through the close work she did at the shop, as I had presumed. She was born that way, found on a doorstep, eked out a living as a milliner, eventually making her way to London for the botched back-street abortion that nearly killed her. Finally she found her way to Miki’s. She never left London again, after that.

Miss Williams had once shown me a faded photograph of her ‘beau’. What she hadn’t told me was that he had died in one war. Her parents had died in the other. Myfanwy took every penny she had and boarded a train to London. Myffy’s only family were Hookie and Miki. She never married.

“Do you remember, even when it was hot, how Miki always wore long sleeves?” I began to remember, and I remembered too the arm that she would pull away. Now I began to understand the significance of the bluish numbers I had once seen on her arm, before it was pulled back.

My mother continued:
“Miki came from a little village in White Russia. She had a large family until the Germans came and took them from one concentration camp to the other, then another, getting less numerous as time went on. First the parents, somewhere in Russia, then her sister Shprintza, somewhere in Poland, then her sister Tzipora taken off to Belsen….”
“What happened next?”
“Mikla and Shoshana were taken to Auschwitz. Somehow they managed to survive until the camp was liberated”

They came to England through the kindness of strangers; a Jewish relief organisation brought them both to London. I remember Shoshana very vaguely; she died when I was very small. But by then she was called Suzanna. Forgetting was an essential part of survival. I never knew what killed Suzanna.

“Sadness killed Suzanna, it killed them all in the end”. Shoshana and Mikla Karzei might have survived, but not completely. The pretty blondes came to the attention of a certain Dr Mengele, who wished to avoid the ‘miscegenation’ of Nazi troops with pretty Jewesses. So anyone like Mikla and Shoshana who could ‘pass for Christian’, he made sure they could never have children. Most of them died.
It killed Shoshana sooner, because she married, I think. She could never face the truth, and childlessness eventually drove her mad.

Now I began to wonder. What kept these women alive? They kept each other alive. They were a ‘family’ of sorts, of flotsam and jetsam, of found pieces. They were a symphony of damaged goods, of almosts and maybes. They survived through the vicarious enjoyment of others. The beauty of the things they made and the dresses they sold, the pleasure gained by others as they lived their lives wearing them, and brought just a little back to ‘the girls’.

Then I started to question how my mother fitted into all of this. How did her story thread between the complex lines of the ‘misses’? When my mother started to work there, in effect she was almost an orphan; her parents had emigrated, leaving her here. So another ‘almost’ there, the little sister, the little niece. I finally managed to get the other part of the story from my mother. I hadn’t known that before I was born, she had spent nine years childless, and had been told that she would remain so.

I was beginning to see the pattern. In the pattern was revealed my part in the story. I was the ersatz granddaughter to all ‘the girls’, I was the only continuation of the line. I now saw why everything was fairylike in that world. I was the dream-child in their heads, whatever my failings in reality. I now knew why they came to our house at Christmas, and why they cried when I went home.

They all died within three weeks of each other, when the shop finally closed, when elegance went out of fashion. Their story was at an end.

I looked in the looking-glass at the red velvet roses in my hair. The story was not over. I spin a crown into my hair, of hopes, dreams and fears, of my story interwoven with other, secret, histories. I wanted to wear them for all of these women, and for all of their untold, fractured lives. For the love of beauty that kept them sane, and their love for others that kept them alive.

Families are sometimes made, not born, and I like to think that a little of the blood of my extraordinary ersatz grandmothers runs in my veins. As Mikla once said to me ‘There are only three elegant colours in the world, liebchen, red, black, and white”.

Diese roten silk Rosen sind für Sie meine Omas.

These red silk roses are for you, my grandmothers.