In memorium

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By Laura Driver

 
The sun streamed through the stained glass window casting a myriad of colour across the dreary black outfit Evie had laid out on the bed. Once dressed she gazed into the full length mirror; the dark circles under her eyes, her lank hair and badly fitted jacket confirmed that today she would be saying goodbye to the only person who had ever really understood her.
Staring out of the train window she looked across the glorious green landscape whizzing past. She’d grown up here, she and her brother had spent endless hours climbing trees and exploring. It was a happy time, they’d had an idyllic childhood, but that was before John had got involved in all that stuff with the police.
Exactly two weeks ago Evie had been summoned to her parents’ house where she was told the horrific news. Her brother had committed suicide by jumping off a suspension bridge, his body had never been recovered.
Today was a memorial service, a wretched attempt to say goodbye, Evie didn’t see the point without a body.
The church loomed at the end of the path where her relatives gathered, a mob of black-clad, sniffling miseries. The tinny chime of Evie’s phone alerted her to a text, she stopped and rummaged in her bag for her mobile.
The text message was from an unknown number and as her eyes flitted over it she froze, dropping her handbag, the contents spilling at her feet. Evie’s heart was thumping out of her chest. Her family, a mere few metres away, looked at her with confusion. She didn’t know what to do, she looked down at her phone again, her hand shaking.
The text read “They’ll never find a body because I’m not dead”

****

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This piece is a guest post by my daughter Laura Driver who has joined the writing group that I attend. It is her first fictional story. I began writing by contributing memoirs -stories about her childhood and mine – to her blog http://www.arewenearlythereyetmummy.com. Joining the creative writing group mentored by James Nash forced me out of my ‘memoir’ comfort zone and I have composed poems and written fiction. I hope that through membership of the group Laura too will develop her writing talent.

Worlds apart

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Jim Evans is sat in a compartment of a train travelling from Manchester to Leeds. It is 1949. He is sat in a corner. The train stops at a station and Jeremy Knight enters the compartment. Evans is dressed in a drab gabardine coat, Knight is dressed in a pinstripe business suit.

Knight: Morning! … By Jove nearly missed the bloody train.
Evans: (Looks up and nods, looks back at book)
Knight: (Casually throws briefcase on seat, sits, legs out legs crossed at feet, arrogantly looks around)
Knight: Good book?
Evans: What? (Trying to avoid conversion)
Knight: Your book. 1984. Just published isn’t it? Think it’ll ever happen, eh?
Evans: Doubt it.
Knight: Come on, who knows for certain! Nobody saw old Adolf coming. Gosh, hundred years ago people would never have imagined we would be flying about in planes.
Evans: You may be right (Discouraging tone of voice)
Knight: I’ve been in a plane, y’know.
Evans: Really (Tired voice)
Knight: A Lancaster bomber. Not flying. In a factory near Leeds, place called Yeadon. It was during the war; my father’s company supplied the Perspex bomb aimers window. A cupola they called it. Big vacuum formed bubble. Difficult to make, I can tell you. Anyway, we were on a visit to the factory and the chaps let me go into a plane. I remember lying there looking down, thinking, y’know, how jolly exciting it must have been, flying in a Lanc.
Evans: (Looks at Knight contemptuously)
Knight: Never saw action myself, too young; but did my National Service. I’m in the company now, Sales Director. Just been to Coventry to try and interest car companies in Perspex and plastics. It’s the place to go. They’re all there: Hillman, Humber, Triumph, Jaguar. The company couldn’t keep up with demand during the war, but now, well, we need to find other markets. It’s tough.
Evans: I can imagine.
Knight: You know the problem I have?
Evans: I couldn’t possibly guess.
Knight: My age. You know how old I am?
Evans: I’ve no idea.
Knight: 23. Twenty three years old. The people at the car plants can’t believe I’m a director, that I know what I’m talking about. The amount of travelling, the hours I’m on the road. Mary, that’s my wife, says I’m her hero!
Evans: I’m sure you are.
Knight: So, what do you do, for a living I mean.
Evans: I’m in entertainment. Cinema.
Knight: Gosh. How interesting. Doing what?
Evans: A projectionist.
Knight: Ah, em, jolly good.(Embarrassed. Changes the subject) So, em, were you in the war? Army, Navy?
Evans: Bomber Command. (The train pulls into the station, Evans closes his book) I skippered one of the Lancs you were playing in. I was just 23 then. You wouldn’t believe it would you.
Knight: Gosh.
Evans: And, no, it wasn’t ‘jolly exciting”. Good day. (Leaves the carriage)

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Our mentor James Nash arrange for the acclaimed playwright Julie Wilson – Bokowiec to give a talk about theatre craft and writing plays to our writing group; a brilliant and illuminating session.
Our task for the week was to write a short scene.

Years ago, I read about an RAF bomber crew member who shortly after the end of the war, saw the pilot of his plane, the man who had been responsible for the Lancaster bomber and the lives of his crew, working in a cinema foyer. During the war the pilot would have been in his early twenties. The responsibilities and risks were awesome. Almost fifty percent of bomber crews died. Roughly 55,000 young men.

Evans is my war hero trapped in a train compartment with Knight the young braggadocio businessman.

 

 

 

Where the heart is.

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Sitting at a table in the Melkem Megab Restaurant you might think you are somewhere in Africa; but then you look out onto the drab streets of Harehills in Leeds. The restaurant offers authentic cuisine for the city’s Ethiopian community.

Over a traditional meal of lamb eaten with our fingers I listen to 30 year old Yosef describe his childhood in Ethiopia. He is the son of an Eritrean mother and an Ethiopian father; two countries at constant loggerheads and occasionally at war, ever since Eritrea became independent from its larger neighbour.

He spoke with obvious pride about the rich culture and history of his country, so I asked the obvious question: “Why did you leave Ethiopia?”

“I was conscripted to fight in a war I did not believe in.” He said, then tried to explain the Byzantine politics of the two countries and how he had conflicting loyalties.

I wanted to know how he arrived in the UK.

“I escaped and crossed the border into Sudan. People helped me travel to Libya, for money of course. I was taken to Italy by boat where I worked for a little time before travelling to the UK.”

“Was it dangerous, Yosef?” I asked, thinking of the recent images on the news.

“This was 13 years ago, it was safer then. There were not as many refugees as there are now.”
I was interested in why, after all this time, he had not taken British nationality.

“I will go home. I am saving money to buy a shop in Aksum, my hometown. It is in the highlands in the north. It is beautiful.” he says wistfully, gazing out at the red brick terraced houses and cobble grey sky.

“It sounds a great place and good plan.” I say.

Yosef smiles. “Yes, I miss Ethiopia, my homeland.”

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The prompt or task given to my writing group was to write a short piece in the form of an interview. I decided to draw on a conversation that I had  in a restaurant with an Ethiopian friend , Yosef Alemayo. This longing for their homeland is often expressed by many Africans that I know. Luwam a lovely and gracious woman said to me ” You do not understand, this is not my country, my language, my home. It is painful too painful!”