Part of my job has always been to bring a love of reading and books to the pupils in my school, as well as the awesome power of storytelling. Seeing young minds getting to grips with the amazing ways writers creating images in the reader mind - those well placed words and phrases which paint pictures without you even realising it.
I have always been an avid reader of a wide range of genres - detective stories, horror, science-fiction and fantasy and have been spurred into writing for myself over the last few years. I have also started to branch out into writing children's fiction and poetry.
As a writer, I have entered and won a number of flash fiction competitions.
Every time I sit in front of my computer, I relish the opportunity to create for others the worlds that I was lucky enough to grow up with. I like the idea of piecing together the disparate parts of a story to create a finished piece, and the sense of achievement when you manage to figure out the next step for your main character!
When the Warrington children find themselves dealing with a new Nanny AND a dentist with more than just teeth on his mind, they're going to have to pull together more than ever before...
The night was cold and stormy. The sky was moonless, although the clouds hung so heavy that even if the moon has been full, it would have struggled to cast any light on the streets below.
Jim snuggled down behind the wheel of his black cab, reading his newspaper, glad to be out of the rain. On a night like this the airport was a good place to pick up customers. The rain had emptied most of the town centres of late night fares, but the airport always guaranteed a steady stream of cash. Even better, thought Jim with a smile on his face, most of the passengers were either too jet-lagged or too foreign to notice if he put his prices up or took the long way round.
He picked his nose idly as he turned to the sports pages. All of a sudden, he felt a prickling sensation at the back of his neck and he turned to glance out of his window.
With a start which nearly caused him to swallow his chewing gum, Jim realised someone was standing next to his cab, looking in. He wondered how long the gentleman had been standing there as he wound the window down. He squinted as splashes of rain pattered onto his face.
"You want a cab, guv?" He asked. The gentleman nodded. He had no umbrella, nor was he trying to shelter himself from the pouring rain in any way. Rivulets of water dribbled down his face, but produced no reaction. He appeared to be steaming slightly in the cold air.
"Don't blame yer, night like this" replied Jim, indicating the passenger door with a nod of his head.
The gentleman climbed in, placing a long thin wooden box down onto the seat beside him. The gentleman was tall, pale and slim, dressed in a smart black suit which was creased from travelling.
"Where to, guv?" Asked Jim.
The gentleman wordlessly handed over a folded piece of paper which Jim unfolded, and read. It was somewhere in West Drayton, barely eleven minutes away. Such a small fare it was hardly worth warming the engine. However, …
Jim sucked at his teeth and chuckled. “Are you local?” he asked, hoping the answer would be ‘no’. Hoping he would be able to stretch this short hop out over half an hour and add an extra ‘going out in the rain’ surcharge on top of the already over-priced fare.
Slowly and calmly the gentleman leaned forward in his seat until Jim could see his dark eyes clearly in the rear-view mirror. He spoke, and his voice was rich and deep, grabbing Jim's brain by the lobes in an icy grip.
"No, I am not local, have travelled many miles. You will take me to my destination directly. You will not argue."
Now it was Jim's turn to nod silently. Somewhere at the back of his brain a very real, very ancient instinct began to stir. An instinct which said that it would be a very good idea if Jim took this gentleman to his destination as quickly as possible. Sweat dripping down his face, he put the cab into gear and pulled away from the kerb. The first flickers of lightning danced through the clouds.
An hour or so later, a black cab pulled up outside of a semi-detached house just outside of West London. The passenger door swung open and the tall, pale gentleman in the smart suit climbed out of the car. He reached back inside for the long wooden case and made his way towards the house. He did not turn back to pay for his journey, but Jim the cabbie didn't argue.
He didn't argue because he was now dead.
Strangely, this didn't stop him from driving away...
Miss De Silvas wasn’t coming back.
During a recent trip back to her native Portugal to visit her family and friends, she had fallen madly in love with an air traffic controller from Porto de Mόs. In her resignation postcard to Mr Warrington she explained that, as much as she had enjoyed her time as au pair to his three children over the last few years, it was now time for her to begin planning her future as wife and mother, and could therefore not be returning to their little home in Surbiton.
“That’s a bit of a pickle,” muttered Mr Warrington, reading the postcard over the breakfast table.
Theo watched his father from the other side of the table, mouthful of cornflakes froze mid-munch. He and his siblings had liked Miss De Silvas. She had been kind and fair and had let the children do what they wanted, within reason. She had looked after them before and after school and during the holidays for the past year, and it was sad that she wouldn’t be coming back. I just hope that air traffic controller is worth it, thought Theo, before a frightening thought gripped him. The Easter holidays were only a week away. Mr Warrington worked full time in the city, and so with no au pair to look after them during the holiday, it looked like the Warrington children – Theo, Isabella and Henry – would most likely be shipped off to stay with ghastly Aunt June for two whole weeks!
It wasn’t that Aunt June was particularly mean or nasty, but she lived in the middle of nowhere and believed in a fibre-rich diet and brisk walks as a form of entertainment. Miss De Silvas, on the other hand, had promised them a trip to the local waterpark.
“I’ll put an advert in the paper for another au pair,” said Mr Warrington, putting down the postcard, “but we’ll be pushed to get one before the end of the week. I’d better call Aunt June just in case and see if she’s free to look after you over Easter.”
“You don’t have to bother Aunt June,” Theo exclaimed. “Issy and I are old enough to look after each other and Henry.” He smiled across the table. “After all, dad, aren’t you always telling us that when you were my age you already had two part-time jobs and had to pay nan and grandad rent?”
Mr Warrington looked up at his son. He loved his children deeply, but they were a bit of a puzzle to him, like a tricky maths problem or a crossword he couldn’t solve.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready for school?” he asked his son.
“It’s Saturday,” Theo replied, but Mr Warrington had already returned his attention to his paper. It was the local newspaper, and Theo stared at the front page thoughtfully for a moment. It seemed to have been completely given over to advertising the upcoming Dental Health Month. The paper promised it would all be ‘good, clean fun’, but Theo was hard-pressed to find anything that looked even remotely sane in the list of upcoming events, let alone ‘fun’. A thought suddenly entered his head.
“But why do we have to get someone to look after us?” he asked. “Is this because of the fire?”
“Yes, Theo. Yes, it is,” replied his dad, from behind the paper.
In Theo’s defence it had been a very small fire, completely accidental and his dad wouldn’t even have known about it if he had been successful in scrubbing the scorch marks out of the carpet. As it was, he had had his allowance stopped for two months, the hamster was now seeing a therapist twice a month and Mr Warrington decided that his children should never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, be left unsupervised.
With that, the conversation appeared to be over. Theo watched his dad eat his breakfast in silence for a moment or two, before deciding to go upstairs and tell his brother and sister the bad news about Miss De Silvas and their prospective high-fibre holiday.
“Henry!” scolded Isabella, pushing her younger brother off the edge of the bed with her foot.
“Well, he’s right, it IS poop!” muttered Theo.
“Don’t you think I don’t know that?” his sister replied, leaning over to press her foot on Henry’s back, holding him down in annoyed submission against her bedroom carpet. “Why isn’t she coming back?”
Theo explained about the postcard they had received, and Miss De Silvas’ future plans with the Portuguese air traffic controller.
“Eurgh, why would anyone want to get married?” asked Henry, getting back up and adjusting his glasses. Since it was Saturday, and Miss De Silvas’ absence had left them au pair-less and relatively unsupervised, Isabella had persuaded her younger brother to allow her to practice her makeup skills on him, on the promise of a chocolate bar in the near future.
“I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about, toad-boy,” said Isabella, pushing him to the floor again with her foot.
Isabella, recently turned 10, was actually rather fond of her brothers. She looked at Henry, six, as an easily bribed playmate, and since Theo was in the year above her at school she was able to copy from his old exercise books when doing her homework.
“Do you think dad will get another au pair?” asked Henry from the floor.
Theo nodded. “Well, it’s either that or dad starts spending time with us. I can’t see that happening, can you?”
His brother and sister looked glum for a moment. Suddenly, a look of horror crossed Isabella’s face as she realised something.
“Thee…… we will get a new au pair before the holiday, won’t we?” she asked quietly. She stared at the solemn expression on her brother’s face. “Does this mean that we have to stay at Aunt Jane’s over Easter?” Theo nodded again, and Isabella slumped back onto her bed.
“But… but she lives in the middle of nowhere!” wailed Henry in despair.
Isabella looked at her older brother. “Why do we even have to get another au pair anyway? Doesn’t dad trust us?” She thought for a moment. “This is because of the fires, isn’t it?”
“Ssh!” hissed Theo. “He only knows about one of them…”
Isabella shook her head. “That poor hamster,” she said.
The Warringtons lived at Number 34 Taffeta Rise - a nice little semi-detached house in leafy West Drayton, just close enough to the City for Mr Warrington to commute into work every morning, but not so close that you could wave at the Queen as she sat on the loo in Buckingham Palace.
There was a small garden front and back, mostly given over to grass and straggly flowerbeds since Mr Warrington was not ‘the gardening type’. The children would mooch out into the garden during the warmer months, the older ones tapping away at their video games, Henry, the youngest, lifting up clumps of dirt and poking at the worms underneath.
The house had been a happy one for many years. It had been a house of happiness when Mr and Mrs Warrington had bought it shortly after they were married. It had been a house of joy when Theo had come along a few years later, and a house of laughter when Isabella had arrived a year after that. By the time Henry came to be born the house was one of blissful contentment.
In the all-too-short space of a year their lives changed dramatically. All three Warrington children – along with their father – were left with a hole in their lives which drained away the laughter like dirty washing up water down a plughole, leaving behind a scummy detritus of sadness and anger. The family had shut down, closed ranks and - with their father now working harder than ever in order to keep the family afloat - the children had found themselves increasingly on their own.
Live-In Nanny Wanted
Three adorable, well-behaved children ages five to ten.
We are looking for someone reliable and well-organised who can carry out light housekeeping duties, including laundry and providing nutritional meals.
Candidates must be experienced, and encourage the children to broaden their horizons, take part in outdoor pursuits and develop creative skills.
All applicants welcome.
“You don’t live in a lighthouse,” said Jakob.
“That’s a good point, Jakob. And….?” replied Theo through a mouthful of mashed potato. They were sat in the school dining hall eating their lunch, and he had brought a copy of the local paper which contained his father’s advert.
“So, why does it say they need to look after a lighthouse?”
Theo read the advert again. “No, light housekeeping means stuff like washing up or ironing. Things like that.”
“Oh,” murmured Jakob. There was a pause as both boys lapsed into silence. Suddenly, Jakob spoke up again:
“I just remembered,” he said, rummaging around in his schoolbag. “Dad brought back something really cool this time…”
Jakob was Theo’s closest friend, which, considering there weren’t all that close, wasn’t really saying much. Jakob and his adoptive father had moved into the same street as the Warringtons four years ago. As far as Theo knew there was no ‘mum’ at home, and he of all people knew that this was probably a delicate subject.
When Jakob had arrived at Mayfair Street Primary, Theo had been assigned as his ‘buddy’ to help show him around the school. The irony of this being, of course, that children weren’t actually allowed around the school on their own, so the two boys had ended up mooching around the playground in circles at breaktimes, and at the end of the day ad decided that it was probably easier to stay friends than put up with the awkwardness of never speaking to each other again.
The boys were very different. Jakob was small where Theo was tall, Jakob sickly and thin, whereas Theo was stocky and healthy as a horse with a bottle of multivitamins. Even their skin colour was different, although there was probably nothing else on Earth the same shade of pale yellowy-grey as Jakob, at least nothing that wasn’t hiding under a rock at the bottom of someone’s garden.
Another thing about Jakob was that he was seemingly allergic to everything. Nuts, eggs, grass pollen, tree pollen, flower pollen, pine, apples, pineapples, all were on his list of things which could kill him in seconds, and he spent most of the summer months confined to his house just in case his eyeballs shrivelled up and fell out of his head. At least, that was what he said.
But there were some very important positives when it came to being friends with Jakob. One of them was the fact that his father was a professor of anthropology who worked at one of the big museums in London. This meant that he often spent long periods of time in other countries studying ancient civilizations. Whenever he came home, however, he always brought with him some strange and interesting artefact to share with his son, who would then bring it into school to show Theo. There had been drinking cups studded with precious jewels, bones and teeth from an ancient burial site, strange wooden carvings said to have mystical powers, and one time, a genuine shrunken head.
Apart from a brief glimpse of a tall, stern-looking man through a gap in the front door once, Theo had never seen Jakob’s father, but the never-ending parade of coolness which Jakob seemed to bring into school was enough for him to compare him with his own dad. And compared with a shrunken head, Mr Warrington couldn’t hope to compete. These mysterious items drew the boys’ imagination more than any computer game or television programme could ever hope to.
Jakob pulled something coiled and dully golden out of his bag and placed it on the table between them. It was a long grubby-looking golden chain. On the end hung a cube like a large dice made of the same material, with a single dark red stone set in each face.
"Cool, what is it?" Theo asked.
"Dad came back from some village in Eastern Europe with one of the professors from the university there and she had this with her. They’re putting this thing on display up at the museum..." Jakob paused for a moment, "or something like that. I wasn't really listening."
Theo held the chain and golden cube in the palm of his hand, marvelling at the way it glimmered in the light, despite being covered in what looked like centuries worth of grime.
"Is it worth a lot of money?" He asked.
His friend nodded. "It must be, it's an antique. I think it's solid gold, although dad said it didn't matter because it was more important than mere money."
Both boys shook their heads in despair at the strangeness of parental priorities, such as something being more important than money, or brushing your teeth instead of playing computer games.
"But here's the weirdest thing," said Jakob quietly. "You feel how heavy it is?"
Theo nodded, weighing the object in the palm of his hand.
"Well, put it on," Jakob continued "and it doesn't weigh anything at all! Try it!"
Theo looked at his friend. There was a moment of silence. "Jakob, I am not wearing a necklace in the middle of the school hall."
Before Jakob could reply, however, a dark figure blocked the gloomy sunlight, casting a shadow to fall across both boys.
The other reason that Theo liked having Jakob around was at least it meant that he had someone to talk to at break times, and someone to sit next to in class. Without him, he would have been on his own, and more likely to be noticed by Devin Aamonson and his gang.
Devin Aamonson was, without a doubt, the toughest eleven-year-old there had ever been. Rumour had it that he had to shave every morning to avoid sprouting a thick wiry beard down to his knees by lunchtime. He was the sort of child that seemed like he had been built in a laboratory somewhere just so that local mothers could have someone to warn their children about. He gathered hangers-on like moths to a particularly grimy flame, and had once reduced a supply teacher to tears simply by being in the next room.
He came slouching through the dining hall towards the two boys.
“Why’ve you got a necklace?” he grunted, one thick, sausage-like finger pointing towards the chain that Theo held.
“What necklace?” asked Theo nervously, giving it quickly back to Jakob who tried unsuccessfully to stuff it back into his bag.
“You goin’ out tonight?” Devin chuckled loud enough to draw the attention of the other diners in the hall. “Are you makin’ yourself look all pretty? Putting on your best jewell’ry?” He reached forward and snatched the golden chain out of Jakob’s grasp.
“Not bad,” he smiled, showing off is blackened and generally absent teeth. “I hope you’ve got a matchin’ handbag!”
“Come on, give it back, Devin,” pleaded Theo, looking over at the dinner lady who had taken notice of the group of children gathering around them and had started to slowly approach them. “It belongs to his dad…”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Theo realised his mistake. Devin held the chain up high above his head and hooted with laughter. “Oh, it’s his dad’s necklace, is it? Oh well, that’s alright then! I didn’t realise that it was his daddy’s necklace, or I would have been more careful with it!” He opened his hand and let the chain fall. Weighed down by the jewelled cube that hung from it, the necklace hit the dining room floor with a heavy-sounding crack.
“No!” Jakob looked ashen-faced at the necklace, almost frozen in shock. Theo got up from his seat and bent down to pick it up off the floor. As he took hold of the chain, however, Devin put his foot over it, preventing him from picking it up. Theo looked up at the bully.
“Get your foot off it, Devin.” He muttered.
“Make me,” came the reply, so quiet it was almost a whisper.
Theo was not a large boy, but he did have surprise on his side. Taking the chain in one hand, he grabbed hold of Devin’s ankle with the other, and pulled as hard as he could as he stood up. It would have been nice if this had sent Devin sprawling to the floor, but unfortunately it just sent him stumbling back a few steps. His eyes shone with rage as he stared at Theo, who handed the chain back to Jakob. With a roar of anger, Devin rushed towards him, both hands out, and shoved Theo over the bench and onto floor. Startled, and not a little sore, he looked up to see Devin looming over him, one foot drawn back, ready to kick him while he was down…
“Theo! Devin! My office! Now!” the voice rang out clear and loud around the dining hall, sending shivers of fear down the spines of all the children within ear shot – and a few of the teachers as well. Mr Mudlark, the headteacher, stood in the doorway, pink spots of anger in the middle of each of his cheeks. Without looking at each other, Devin and Theo made their way sheepishly towards him.
Some teachers are, without a doubt, pros when it comes to dealing with schoolyard problems. Fair and measured, they listen to all sides before bringing down judgement upon the situation which allows for reparation and building bridges, while still ensuring that justice is seen to be done in the eyes of all involved.
Mr Mudlark was not one of those teachers. He thought he was, but he wasn’t. What he was, was an unhelpful mix of irritation and nervousness all rolled into one and then covered in a thin layer of a ‘conflict resolution’ seminar half-remembered from his teacher training back in 1996. He was a small, balding man with a thin, wispy beard. He only seemed to have two settings to his voice – shouting, or speaking in a quiet croaky whisper. The pupils in his school – and some of the teachers – wondered if he was part frog
He gestured for the two boys to sit down in front of his desk and smiled a smile which didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Boys.” He croaked. “I have an awful lot of work to do, I really don’t want to spend the rest of my day dealing with this. Tell me what happened. Theo? Devin?”
There was a pause, as each boy wondered which of them would be the first one to break. In the end, it was Devin.
“It wasn’t me. He pushed me over!” he grunted.
Theo couldn’t believe his ears. He gaped – actually gaped – in shock. “You started it!” he yelped.
Mudlark frowned. “Theo, you don’t need to shout.”
Theo shook his head. “But he started it, Sir! He came up to me and Jakob and started messing around with Jakob’s stuff and wouldn’t give it back!”
“What stuff was it?” the headteacher asked.
“Erm…” Theo could feel a blush creeping behind his ears and onto his cheeks. “A necklace thing?”
Mr Mudlark looked blankly at Theo, then at Devin, then back at Theo. “You were arguing,” he said, slowly over-pronouncing each word for effect, “over a necklace?”
From next to him, Theo heard Devin give the tiniest little snigger. He looked up and could see the amused disbelief crinkling at the edge of Mudlark’s eyes. He could feel the anger bubbling away inside him.
Theo knew it sounded stupid. He knew the fact that his (best?) friend had brought a necklace into school was really weird. But it wasn’t fair: Why should the school bully get to pick on them just because he thought he could get away with it? Why should the headteacher be able to make him feel like an idiot just for standing up and trying to protect someone from being picked on?
He couldn’t shift the feeling of helpless anger; of gross unfairness at the whole situation.
It seemed to be a familiar feeling these days.
“Now, if you feel someone is being unkind to you, what should you have done?” Mudlark asked patronisingly.
“Told a teacher,” mumbled Theo.
Mr Mudlark beamed as if he had just made some exciting new scientific discovery. “Exactly!” he turned to Devin. “Now Devin, you know you shouldn’t have taken this…necklace…of Theo’s, don’t you?”
Theo couldn’t bring himself to turn his head and look at Devin’s gormless smug face. “It was wrong of me.” He said, hanging his head in mock shame. “I’m sorry.”
“Good, good!” exclaimed Mr Mudlark now looking like someone who had made an exciting new scientific discovery which not only cured male pattern baldness, but that also predicted the winning lottery numbers and produced jam doughnuts out of thin air. “It’s so helpful to talk these things through, isn’t it boys? And Theo? Do you have anything to say?”
Theo looked at Mr Mudlark and then at Devin. The fire bubbled away in his belly, threatening to fill him completely, all the way to the tips of his fingers and toes. He suddenly realised he did have something to say. Something he wanted to say very much.
So he said it.
It wasn’t very polite.