‘If family saga’s and dual time novels are your thing, you’d be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable one than Unspoken. It’s got drama, love, intrigue, revenge and secrets – so basically everything you need for a captivating read and that’s exactly what I thought it was.’
Amy rushed into the factory and found the foreman in the stock room, tallying the different bales of cotton materials that the machinists would be working on that week.
‘Sorry I’m late, Mr Pilling, but there’s been a burglary over the road. There’s a detective at the staff entrance who would like a word with you.’
The foreman checked his pocket watch.
‘Ten minutes late, you know the rules, you’ll be docked fifteen and if it happens again this month, you’ll lose a full hour.’
‘No buts, no excuses. Get to your machine now or you’ll be docked thirty minutes and receive a verbal warning. You can make up for this morning’s tardiness in your lunch break.’
Amy walked quickly to the staff changing area, took off her big coat and hung it on a peg along with her hat. Then she took a pinafore from her locker and wrapped it around her body, tying it off at the back. She hurried through to the factory floor and slumped down on her seat, before letting out a deep sigh and reaching down to her side to pick out her first garment of the day.
‘It’s not like you to be so slack,’ said Dora, who worked the machine next to Amy.
‘I was assisting the police with their inquiries,’ replied Amy, knowing that it would be the talk of the workshop before morning break. She smiled to herself and slid the part-finished cotton dress onto the plate of the overlocking machine and pressed her foot onto the pedal.
Amy was a diligent, hard working machinist and soon made up the time lost. When the bin on her left was almost empty, she called for the runner to bring her a new supply of dresses from the cutting room. By lunchtime her finished bin had been emptied twice and she was in front of her daily target.
To keep on the right side of Mr Pilling, Amy stayed at her machine for an extra fifteen minutes before heading off for lunch. By the time she reached the canteen, the other workers had eaten their sandwiches and were mostly sipping hot tea while they gossiped and lit cigarettes.
Amy bought a cup of tea and a buttered scone at the counter and not liking the smoky atmosphere of the canteen, she took her tray into the changing room, pulled a twice-read magazine from her locker and sat down to peruse the stills from the latest Hollywood movies.
After eating her scone, she stood up to shake the crumbs from her pinafore. There were a couple of stubborn ones stuck to her bosom, so she rubbed at them to shake them loose.
‘Let me give you a hand with that,’ said a voice she recognised instantly.
‘I’ll manage, thanks, Mr Handley.’ Amy forced a laugh and brushed down her clothes again. Before she could turn to face him, his hands came around her sides and he squeezed hard on her breasts.
‘You can call me Edward when there’s no one around. Ooh, you do have a nice pair, Amy.’ His breath felt hot on the back of her neck.
Amy struggled to move away but his grip was too strong. The next thing she knew, one of his hands had found its way up her dress.
‘GET OFF ME!’ Amy shouted and twisted in his loosened grip.
‘Come on, Amy, you know you like it.’ He pulled one leg back and kicked the door shut. His hand reached the bare area at the top of her stockings. She shoved her hips forwards before his groping fingers found their intended target.
‘Don’t struggle. You tried to defend your honour, so you can relax now. I won’t hurt you.’ His fingers pushed inside the elastic at the leg of her knickers.
Amy bent over and pushed her backside into him as hard as she could. Her movement caused him to lurch forwards, and as he straightened, her sharp elbow caught him in the throat. He fell back clutching at it, struggling to breath.
Amy left the cup and plate on the bench and hurried past the gasping factory owner’s son.
‘Never try anything like that again, or I’ll kill you,’ she spat.
Amy tore open the door, marched back to the canteen and dragged out a seat next to Carole, one of her closest friends at work.
Carole took one look at the furious Amy. It took her seconds to work out what had happened.
Amy stuck out her chin, bit her bottom lip and nodded quickly. ‘He caught me in the locker room.’
‘The filthy bastard needs teaching a lesson,’ said Carole with a frown. ‘It’s not right, he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it just because he’s the boss’s son.’
‘He grabbed my chest, then shoved his hand up my skirt. I was lucky to get away this time,’ Amy wiped away an angry tear. ‘He’s picked on me once too often.’ She thought for a moment. ‘I met a police detective this morning. He seemed a nice man, I wonder what he’d make of Edward sodding Handley? Surely there’s something the law can do to stop him.’
Carole patted her hand.
‘They won’t do anything, love. Don’t get your hopes up. Men, especially rich men, can do what they want with the likes of us.’
Amy sniffed and turned her hand over to squeeze Carole’s.
‘I know. But it’s wrong. Why do they allow them to get away with it?’
‘Men looking after other men,’ said Carole, sadly. ‘It’s always been the same.’
‘I’d report him but it would probably end up with me being sacked,’ said Amy. ‘I don’t really fancy working at Goodman’s, they’re slave drivers.’
‘Do your best to forget about it and don’t get caught alone again,’ advised Carole. ‘He tends to pick on a different girl every week. He’s left me alone since I kicked his shins.’
‘I elbowed him in the throat,’ said Amy. ‘I left him in a heap, choking.’
‘Good!’ replied Carole. ‘It’s the least he deserves.’
Ten minutes later, Amy nudged Carole and flicked her head in the direction of the canteen door.
‘Here he is, Wandering Handley himself,’ said Carole, loud enough for half the employees in the room to hear.
If he heard the remark himself, Edward Handley didn’t seem to be bothered by it. He shot a look of anger at Amy, then made a beeline to the table where the trainee machinists, most of them fifteen or sixteen years old, were sitting. He pulled out a chair, put a foot on it, smoothed back his creamed, black hair, and leaned over the table to make a comment to a girl called Ronnie, who laughed aloud and looked around to see if her friends had got the joke. The other girls, already wary of Edward, got to their feet and made their way out of the canteen.
‘Come on, Ronnie,’ called a tall girl named, Jennifer. ‘We’re on cutting duties this afternoon. Frigid Freda will be after you.’
Freda Brownlow was the factory’s skills instructor and was the owner of a sharp tongue and a fiery temper. She was nicknamed Frigid Freda because she was still single, at forty.
Ronnie stood up as Edward whispered something into her ear. She giggled, then pushed a soft hand into his chest. ‘Oh, you,’ she chuckled.
Edward turned around to see if the older girls on Amy’s table had noticed, to a woman they ignored his look and chatting between themselves, made their way out of the canteen.
Amy checked the clock and realising she had time to visit the lavatory before resuming her shift, hurried to the toilet block and let herself into a cubicle. When she came out, Edward was standing with his back to her, an arm around Ronnie’s shoulder and he was again whispering something in her ear. Amy was tempted to cough, or make some sort of noise to distract him, but after her run-in with him in the locker room, she decided not to play with fire and walked quietly back to her machine.
When Ronnie hurried across the shop floor a few minutes later, she was blushing, but had a huge grin on her face. Ignoring the caustic remarks aimed in her direction, she weaved a path through the machines to the cutting room where she knew Frigid Freda would be waiting.
The next morning, Amy stomped, slipped, slithered and skated her way along the mostly frozen pavement and walked through the factory gates. The maintenance team, who usually spent their time repairing broken machines, or setting up new ones, had spread half a ton of salt over the frozen yard in an attempt to avoid the three broken arms that had occurred during the previous winter. At the staff entrance, Amy noticed a huddle of male figures, who were speaking to each employee as they entered the building. Among them were three uniformed policemen and Detective Sergeant Bodkin.
Mr Pilling, the foreman, stood, like Lord Muck, snapping out instructions and directing the workers with a long arm.
‘Go straight to the locker room, then onto your machine. Do not linger, and keep away from the maintenance room.
‘Go straight to the secretary’s office. Keep away from the maintenance room.
‘Go directly to the cutting room, stay away from maintenance.’
As Amy reached the big, double door, Bodkin took her arm and pulled her to one side.
‘So, Miss Marple, we meet again.’
‘What’s going on?’ asked Amy.
‘We’re keeping an open mind at the moment, but a serious incident has occurred inside the factory.’
‘A serious incident…Oh, my goodness… Something’s happened in the maintenance room, hasn’t it? Is that why we aren’t allowed in there?’ Amy put her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide.
‘I’m not at liberty to—’
‘Divulge that information,’ Amy interrupted the detective. ‘Come on, Bodkin, I’ll find out the moment I get into the changing room anyway. You may as well tell me now.’
Bodkin took her arm again and led her away from the group of people at the door.
‘Fair enough, Miss… Amy. It’s the owner’s son. Edward Handley, he’s lying on the floor of the repair shop, and he’s stone dead.’
A Thousand Years of Division.
The village of Kirkby Sutton is a conglomerate and an enigma. Formed by the merging of two villages that had outgrown their ability to remain separate as an entity, it nevertheless retains two extremely different and specific identities. One half, as its name suggests, is built around the church and is a, (mainly), well-to-do, haven of respectability, with its Georgian Manor, leafy, wide-verged streets, lined with large, detached houses, driveways, off road parking and a library. There is also a small 1960s estate, a mix of private, three bedroomed, privately-owned houses, with an enclave of housing association tenants bolted on for political expediency.
Down the hill, the other half of the village contains a higgledy-piggledy, hotchpotch of stone cottages, modern, town houses and rows of Victorian terraces, originally built for the employees at the local lace factory, brewery and estate workers, who made the short trip up the road, to toil on the farms of Lord Beresford on the other side of the village. Nowadays, the descendants of those workers still live in the red brick terraces, but are employed by industries in the nearby cities of Nottingham and Derby.
The rivalry of its residents compares to any found in much larger towns and cities. You would be hard pressed to find as much animosity at a local Derby football match in Liverpool or Manchester. The annual village fair, which includes a fiercely fought, tug-of-war competition, held on a boozy bank holiday weekend, regularly turns violent. For years, a police sergeant from the small town of Higton, was paid to referee the event, but when the ageing sergeant retired and the police station was closed down to save money in the 1950s, the residents were left to sort out their own mess, so a committee, made up of the vicar’s wife and a group of teetotal residents from both sides, sat in sober judgment over the proceedings. To this day, the committee still rules on complaints and accusations made by one side against the other. Most of the grievances are easily dismissed, but on a few occasions, a vote has to be taken with the chairperson, a lady with no connection to either side of the village, holding the casting vote.
Sutton is the older part of the village and dates back to Saxon times. Its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon term for South town, (village, or enclosure.) It was built on the plain at the bottom of a long slope, on the bend of a fast-flowing stream. They built a timber church, which, in bad winters, became a flood plain. Sick of paddling to church for their religious instruction, they erected another one, higher up the slope, using the soggy timbers from their original construction.
A hundred or so years later the Danes arrived, but instead of rape and pillage, the Vikings merely appropriated the land around the church and began to farm it. This community became known as Kirkby, or, the settlement by the church. Over time, the Danish intruders, became Christianised, improved the church building, and appointed one of their own number, a man from the nearby town of Derby, as priest. They reluctantly allowed their near neighbours to attend religious ceremonies, in an effort to re-Christianise the local population, who had, by now, become almost universally, heathen.
The church was rebuilt in stone during the thirteenth century, when the new Lord of the Manor, a distant relative of King Henry 111, was granted all of the lands around the area. Residents of Sutton sent emissaries to their new lord demanding a church of their own. The lord’s response was to add an extra tax on the ungrateful villagers, a tax that the residents of Kirkby were excused. The Sutton inhabitants were outraged and set about building a church of their own on the site of the original timber church, but on the eve of its consecration, it mysteriously burned down. A second attempt was made a year later but with the same result. Suttononians smelled a rat, and protested outside the stone church at Kirkby before Evensong. The parish priest dismissed their grievances and told them in no uncertain terms, that both instances of arson, were acts of an angry God, and if they didn’t start attending his sermons, they would be branded heretics and burned at the stake.
This threat worked to a degree, but there was always an undercurrent of hostility inside the parish.
Sutton attempted to build their own church on no less than twelve occasions over the following two hundred years with the same fiery result. When, at last, an Abbey was built on their half of the divide in the late 15th century, their joy was unbridled. That joy was soon to be bridled again, however, as in 1538 under instructions from Henry V111, the building was demolished and the land and possessions, seized by the crown.
Sutton decided that God really didn’t intend them to have a church and reluctantly fell in with their Kirkby hosts, which was a good job really, as a hundred or so years later, administrators decided that it was too much of the job administering two villages, so they combined them in a covenant and changed its name to Kirkby Sutton. The villagers only found out about it at the next census, and by then it was too late to do anything about it.
The villages expanded in the 18th century to accommodate the newly built mill on the Sutton side of the boundary, and the mill owner’s needs on the Kirkby side. New dwellings to house the relatives and administrators of the fledgling industry were built in Kirkby, whilst rows of stone cottages were erected in Sutton, meaning the dividing line between the two halves became ever closer.
When the mill closed in the mid-Victorian era, it was turned into a lace factory. Next door, the new owners also built a tannery. These budding entrepreneurs were soon followed by Barton’s Brewery, who took the crystal-clear waters of the stream to make their distinctively flavoured ales. Four streets of terraced housing were built on the southern edge of Sutton. The dwellings came complete with individual, outdoor lavatories and a series of communal water pumps. The larger houses of Kirkby, in general, became equipped with their own water supplies, albeit fed from a pump in the kitchens. This led to a near riot one summer, when, fuelled by a small outbreak of cholera in Sutton, the residents crossed the border, (a line of skinny, pine trees,) and begged their richer, and less smelly, neighbours for clean water. The gentry refused, so fuelled by the cheap, but strong, ale, supplied by the new Barton’s Brewery public house, the Suttononian men, invaded the North and smashed up the main pumping station that fed the privately-owned houses. The newly-formed, Borough Police Force were summoned, the riot was quelled and a raid was made on ‘suspect’ houses in Sutton. Several arrests were made, including that of a wheelchair bound lady of 75 years who hadn’t left her home in a decade.
During the first world war, an uneasy peace ensued with both sides of the village losing men in the fields of Flanders. When the war was over, it was decided that a small cenotaph would be built. The Kirkbyans wanted it to be outside the church. The Suttonians, outside the Tannery. A compromise was arrived at and the stone cenotaph was built on the dividing line between the two halves of the village. By now, this line was imaginary, as houses had been erected on both sides, and a tarmac road ran straight through the middle, connecting to a main road at the top end of Kirkby. An uninformed, outsider, would never have known the villages had ever been separate.
Typically, a row ensued over which side of the construction the names of dead would be carved into, so, sensibly, for once, the Sutton names were carved, facing the south and the Kirkby ones facing the north. Every year, on armistice day, the residents line up on either side of the tribute to remember their own. Villagers divided, even in death.
This story begins in the early 1950s.
pond is teaming with wildlife at the moment. We have Koi Carp, Goldfish, a
couple of Green Tench and a few dozen newts, frogs and toads. I also have two
energetic Springer Spaniels. Both of them are accomplished frogger’s, Molly, my
black and white Springer, could frog for England at the ‘frogging Olympics’ if
such an entity existed.
She is so accomplished that she sometimes comes trotting
into the house with three frogs at a time, her mouth gently but firmly closed
over fat bodies, leaving a tangle of green legs hanging out of the sides.
Usually though, it’s only one unfortunate creature that has been caught unaware
s as it came out of hiding, thinking it’s safe to go about catching dinner.
Maisie, my liver and white Springer, isn’t quite as
adept at catching them, though she could still be an international at the
event. She likes to see them jump, so she’ll give them a whack with her paw,
then chase after them and repeat the exercise until they are steered in the direction
of the pond. She knows they live there; she saw them in the bottom when we dug
it out a month or two back.
Once the escapee is back in its watery gaol, she’ll go in search of another,
looking under shrubs, stones and bits of old log we have scattered about the
Occasionally she’ll pick one up and trot around the
garden with it. If we spot her, a quick ‘leave’ will see her cough up the
absconding prisoner. She will then guard it carefully until we, the warders,
stroll up to return the inmate to its watery cell.
Molly doesn’t give up her prize anywhere near as
easily. She is a hoarder, a collector, an expert on the species. It really
doesn’t matter if she has a frog or a foul-tasting toad. Once they are caught,
they don’t get released until they been carefully inspected, catalogued, sized
and sexed. We always groan when we see her with one, as we know what a tough
job we have ahead of us, trying to negotiate a ransom.
I’ve just been listening to Dad and Gran arguing about Brexit, or should I say, the lack of it. Remember I told you about all the arguments in our house when we first had the referendum back in 2016? Well, we’re still having the same old rows. It’s like Groundpig day. No one has changed their opinion in the slightest. Dad still thinks we should stay in the European Union and that everyone who wants to leave is a racist, insular, narrow minded, myopic Nazi. Gran said that was a compliment and reckons Dad is a weak minded, spineless, yellow bellied. commie traitor and should be shot as a Quisling collaborator.
I didn’t get why Gran bought up the fact that Dad enjoys
taking part in pub quizzes during a political argument, so I looked the word up
on Google and it seems that Quisling was a Norwegian bloke who took the side of
the Nazis in the war. That puzzled me a bit, because if both their arguments are
correct, they should be on the same side.
Even Mum gets involved at times. She said that If four ex-Prime
Ministers and that nice Nick Clegg, who was nearly Prime Minister, think we
should stay in the EU, then it’s good enough for her. She’s worried that if we leave,
she might not be able to spend the 20 Euro note, left over from the day out to
France she had with the Clicking Needles, knitters’ group, last year.
I’m a bit worried about it all too if I’m honest, I mean, if
we leave Europe, we won’t belong to a continent anymore and it will cost a
fortune to reprint all those atlases. Anyway, I want to go to Malaga this
summer and if we aren’t in Europe I could be classed as stateless, like that
ISIS bride, and that might make it a bit tricky until we sort all the maps out.
It began with a trivial moment of carelessness, but the shockwaves that reverberate from this seemingly insignificant incident, spread far and wide.
Ed and his heavily pregnant wife Mary are on an errand for Ed’s ailing father before the pair depart for warmer climes. But the winter of 1962 comes early and one innocuous event and a hastily taken decision will have devastating consequences for the family of young Rose Gorton. Mary’s already fragile mental state is put under further stress while Ed tries to make sense of events that are spiralling massively, Out of Control.
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