Do You Believe in Ghosts?

I have never been able to make my mind up about Ghosts and as a writer of spooky stories and things that go bump in the night this may seem a little odd, (but then I am a little odd). I think I may have had a few supernatural experiences; sometimes a place or building seems to me to resonate with times and people of the past – the battlefield at Culloden in Scotland was one such place; other times I have thought I saw someone or something out of the corner of my eye that just shouldn’t and couldn’t be there. Maybe there is a rational explanation:

1. Over-enthusiastic imbibing of alcohol
2. Over-heated imagination
3. Fatigue

There is just one experience where my rational jury is still out.

I was fifteen at the time and on an exchange holiday in France. I was thoroughly miserable at the time suffering an outbreak of teenage angst. After another day of trying and failing dismally to “fit in” with the crowd of posh teenagers on the beach who formed the circle of friends of my exchange family, I went to bed sore, sunburned and sniffing snuffles of self-pity. I shared my bedroom with Arianne, the seven year old daughter of the family with whom I was staying.

Sometime during the night I woke up. In the corner of the room was a huge ‘peacock’ chair, one of those woven basket-work affairs like a throne, and sitting in the chair was my Gran of whom I was very fond and who had died earlier in the year. She looked at me, smiled and said “don’t worry love, it’ll be alright, just be yourself.” Then she seemed to fade away. It was all very calm and not a bit scary.

I would probably have put this down to a half-waking dream or subconscious thoughts of my Gran were it not for the fact that my roommate, little Arianne asked me in the morning who the nice lady was that I was talking to in the night – the one sitting in the chair. “She had a kind face.”

My Grandmother

My Grandmother

Now umpty years later as I am writing spooky stories I still wonder – was it a ghost who came to comfort me? I don’t know but whatever it or who it was, my French exchange holiday took a turn for the better.

What about you? Do you believe in or are you a sceptic?

Short Story, Novella or Novel?

That was the week that was. Last Tuesday the editor’s report on my spooky stories came in, threw me a complete curve and left me in a tizzy – my poor synapses working overtime.

It started well –
“Like your style and what you’ve done with the stories”
“Very good writer, stories have real merit.”

Oh goodness I was having a warm fuzzy glow moment (actually a bit tearful) of pride.

I read on. She took each story in turn, made some very helpful suggestions and complimentary comments and the fuzzy glow began to turn into a flush to rival any of those crappy menopausal ones.

I arrived at the last few paragraphs. Here’s where the kicker came in. She suggested in effect that I turn the collection into a novella or even a novel.

“What” I shrieked at the computer screen. I’m writing short stories. I can’t do novels not even short ones. I have the evidence to prove it – three half written very dead ones mouldering away in a drawer somewhere.

But the damage was done. Stealthily at first, my brain woke up; then gathering speed it zigged and zagged through a zillion different scenarios. Ideas came; ideas went. What if? What if? Oh yes I could do this or that or even this and that. After a week of serious brooding I felt like one of those stupid chickens trying to hatch a pot egg. I used up a ream of paper drawing out scenes, new chapters, the mechanisms I could use, the new characters I could develop.

Hatching a pot egg

In the end I took last weekend off and painted a lambris clad (tongue and groove) ceiling a fetching chalky white. There was method in my madness because to paint lambris well you need to pay attention – all those little grooves that a roller misses have to be painted in by hand. It’s a boring job but takes my mind off more meaningful things and I’m working on the principle that my brain will be free to rove around on its own, unfettered by my attempts to coax and corral it.

For two days, whilst I played Michaelangelo and lay on my back painting the ceiling (sadly with no Sistine Chapel effects) I left Richard, my possible protagonist festering in the Nonesuch Club – a very unusual and select establishment. Will he emerge shoe-horned into a short story? Shall I give him more air time and expand him into a novella or shall I go for the big time novel?

I haven’t the faintest idea – the pot egg hasn’t hatched yet. I think I’ll go find another ceiling to paint.

Confessions of an Indie Author

With the, no doubt temporary, spirit of New Year zeal slugging its way through my hardening arteries I thought I’d review my writing progress over the past year. One book published and another on its way – not bad perhaps except for the niggling thought that if I managed my time better I could do more. Now, in an earlier incarnation, I wrote a book called Time for Your Life – all about how to make time to do the things you want to do as well as the things you have to do. It contains pearls of wisdom about how to deal with procrastination and displacement activities (P&D/A)- Time Thieves I called them. Here I’ll let you into a secret it’s a book on the lines ‘do as I say not as I do’. When it comes to the process of writing all my pearls about P&D/A scatter before the swine.

However, one things I am good it is making lists so I thought I’d share with you my top P&D/A activities.

1. Wandering down to the kitchen to make coffee and fossick for a snack. I drink so much coffee that I need to pee regularly hence creating two D/As at once. Smart eh?
2. Read the social media and snarl at all those peppy people who always have something to say for themselves
3. Play on-line solitaire in the belief it will at least keep one part of my brain working whilst the rest is AWOL
4. Check sales figures for my book Close to the Edge hoping that any change will motivate me. When these haven’t changed I resort to 1 above.
5. Do some housework which also helps to work off the few calories added by indulging in 1 above.
6. Look up rude words in my French dictionary so I can swear fluently at the be-pimpled adolescent who cut me up on the bend the other day.
7. Sit in the garden and pretend to think – my favourite when the weather is good.
8. Re-read (it’s called editing I think) for the zillioneth time the hundred words I have written and agonise over commas, full-stops, semi-colons.
9. Light up an illicit cigarette with my head hanging out of the window hoping the shutter won’t fall down and guillotine my outstretched neck.
10. The very last resort – do some unnecessary ironing – like the hems on towels that curl up after I’ve washed and dried them.

So there you have it – confessions of an indie author – all perfectly rational of course. How many of them do you share with me? Even better have you any to add that I could adopt?

Happy New Year everyone.

It’s a Wrap!

Just typed THE END on the last page of (working title) “Between Heaven and Earth” – seven strange tales of the supernatural – ghosties, ghoulies and things that go bump in the night…well actually no, I’ve not got a bump in the night tale – well not of a supernatural kind anyway. I’m one day behind schedule and if hadn’t been for a raucous party last night I’d have been right on time which is a rare thing for me.

I don’t know why I suddenly found myself writing spooky stories – they just jostled for space in my head like a litter of unruly puppies waiting to make a dash for freedom . But it’s been fun even though, from time to time, I found myself thinking ‘lady you have a seriously bizarre imagination’… which is probably true.

It’s taken me nine months to complete them – just over 30000 words in all. I don’t know (or care really) whether that’s good going but given a summer filled with close encounters of the social kind and a fair bit of decorating and renovation, I’m satisfied.

Now there’s a decision to be made – self-publish or seek the elusive holy grail of “trad” publishing. Haven’t decided yet – I’ll wait until my editor gets back to me. However,just in case I go for the indie route can anyone out there recommend a good cover designer? Please e-mail me if so.

So that’s it for this year. Let the festivities begin and all of you who have taken the trouble to follow me over the past year have a happy and peaceful holiday time with your families and friends.

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Where to go in search of a New Idea?

Where do ideas for stories come from? Probably a stupid question for a writer to ask but I plead insanity. I suppose the answer is everywhere-imagination, experience, observation, music, books, films and the eternal question”what if?”

As I put the finishing touches to a collection of spooky short stories (to be launched on the world ere long) I began to notice how many of these factors had crept in sometimes almost uninvited.

There are two local legends that form the basis of “The Siren” and “The Shoemaker”. Snippets from newspapers added to the former and gave me the plot for “No Ordinary Cat”.

Places where I have lived or visited in the UK and in France have provided the settings, and imagination allowed me to demolish a house here and there and move a church up a hill.

My own life experiences and people I have met snuck into “Toussaint” and “Sukie”. A recent experience of being blocked as a writer – not able to string two…er…two…um…thingys, you know, words, like, together – gave me the theme for “The Nonesuch Club” as did the words of the song ‘Hotel California’.

I’ve played Frankenstein and used a few traits or characteristics of people I know or have met to populate the stories with my very own monsters. No! Really, I didn’t mean that everyone I know/have met is a monster…well not all of them perhaps.

Of all the stories in the collection the hardest to write was “Boy with Harmonica”. That was the one that blocked me. Whilst the story is set in a village almost on my doorstep which I’ve come to know well (the village not the doorstep…well that too I suppose) I could not create the characters – a small band of Maquis (French resistance fighters during WWII) and a troop of Germans.The story was there but the characters were hiding in the shadows. So I read first-hand accounts of the German Occupation of this part of France; I walked the woods around the village where I wanted the story to unfold and criss-crossed the village streets and alleyways until I was sure I’d get arrested for loitering with intent. But they came, those characters, they slipped out of the shadows and onto the page. It was the hardest story of the collection to write yet, in spite of that (or perhaps because of it) it is one of my favourites.

Add to all these factors a large dollop of my weird and just occasionally wonderful imagination and a bunch of stories are born.

Simple eh?

The Mill House

Can a place hold an imprint of past events? Is it possible for a house to hold, in its stone and mortar the memories of tragedies unfolded there? Here’s a story for you; it’s a long and sad one, so you have been warned.

In a village near where I live stands an old mill house and the ruins of its mill. The house is decaying. Blank windows curtained with thick ivy look out over the maize fields. In parts the roof has yielded to the elements and inside, garlands of cobwebs hang from every corner, swaying in the slightest draught to release a powdery cloud of ancient flour dust.

It was not always so.

More than a century ago the mill ground the flour for the village and the river that rushed past offered here and there a quiet pool where women could do their laundry and gossip about those things that are left unsaid when men are around.

Now the miller and his wife had a daughter; she was about eight or nine; pretty, with long brown hair and dark eyes that more often than not sparkled with mischief. Let’s call her Rosie.

One particular washing day, whilst her mother and some village women scrubbed and rubbed their smalls, Rosie wandered off upstream, bored with all the chatter. Some time later one of the women called out:
“Hey, who’s lost their bloomers?” and pointed to a white bundle floating gently towards them. Amidst the laughter Rosie’s mother looked around, a stab of fear in her heart.
“Rosie? Where’s Rosie?” she cried.
As the bundle drifted into the washing pool a slight current caught it up, rolling it over.
The mother’s anguished scream pierced the air as she looked at the bundle for floating face upward, bright eyes forever closed, was little Rosie.

And the villagers said “what a tragedy”.

Afterwards, the miller’s wife unable to support life at the mill moved away to a nearby town. The miller however stayed on, grimly working. Over the next ten years he became slovenly and careless in his work; the village folk took their corn elsewhere and he spent his days sitting in the mill with a skin of wine for company. One day, on a whim, he decided to set the grindstones to work again. The rusting machinery groaned into action and the massive round stones began to turn when there was a loud crack and one of the stones split into three. The miller stumbled to his feet as one of the pieces crashed down onto the floor. As it fell a floorboard sprang up on its end, hitting the miller a tremendous blow on his forehead. He lay insensible for two days before one his neighbours found him. He drifted in and out of consciousness for a further week until with his last breaths, he cursed the day he ever came to the mill.

And the villagers said “what a tragedy for the family.”

That however, is not the end of the tale. For more than twenty years the house stood empty despite the miller’s heir, a distant cousin, offering it for let. True, two of three families came to live there but stayed only a short while. Then, a friend of the cousin moved in – a middle-aged lady who had fallen on hard times. She arrived, despite her penury, well-dressed and as plump as a Christmas goose. However, as the months passed by, the fat fell away and her clothes hung shapelessly. She grew thinner and thinner; hollow-cheeked and with dark purple shadows beneath the eyes. Eventually, one wild night, she let go of her life.

The doctors said “cancer” but the villagers whispered “it’s a cursed place”.

The years rolled forward and the mill house was again left to itself and the cousin who owned it despaired of ever selling it or putting it to good use. The roof of the mill fell in and the walls quickly followed. The house itself began to crumble as the voracious beetles set to their work. Yet, in spite of its condition a new tenant did come forward and the cousin hastily made some repairs.

The newcomer, a widow with one son, came from the north, full of common-sense and practicality. No doubt she heard the village whispers – “a cursed house –holds nothing but misfortune for all who live there – it’s an evil place” but her northern nous dismissed all that. It seemed as though all went well for a couple of years. Then the widow’s son arrived home from his work in the local textile mill and announced:
“Ma mère, I’ve joined the Legion.”
His mother stared blankly for a moment before screeching:
“You’ve done what?”
“I’ve joined the Foreign Legion.”

Well she screamed and drummed her heels but the lad was adamant. Some days later he left to attend his medical examination which included vaccinations necessary for Legionnaires serving overseas. When he returned that evening he complained of feeling unwell and took himself off to his bed. In the morning, hearing no sound of activity from her son’s room, the widow bundled out of bed to wake him. She opened his bedroom door and gasped. There he lay, paralysed, unable to move a limb or to speak. Only his eyes moved and these, wide with fear, fixed on his mother. The widow called an ambulance and for weeks the lad remained in hospital as the doctors puzzled over him. The widow’s son never made it into the Legion.

After his death the doctors said it was a rare and violent reaction to the vaccinations.
And the villagers whispered “there’s something bad about that house; it’s cursed.”

Now the house moved into the ownership of yet another scion of that almost forgotten miller’s family. This heir was a townsman with no interest in a place in the country. He removed temptation from the village kids by boarding up the windows and padlocking the doors before leaving the place to its own devices. More years slipped by and the townsman, nearing retirement, decided to pep up his pension pot by letting out the house to the tourists who were beginning to travel to the region. After a lick and spittle clean-up he was fortunate to secure a long-term tenant willing to pay what seemed like an extraordinarily silly amount of rent.

“I want peace and quiet” the tenant drawled (he was an American) “and I’m willing to pay for it but don’t you be bugging me for more.”

Quickly pocketing the proffered cash the townsman took himself off. The American lived quietly and was scarcely seen, heard or known of, in the village. This new generation of villagers paid no heed to the old wives tales and whispers, yet now and again a few of the old folk, gossiping in the late afternoon sun would ask “is he still there do you know?” and whisper “there’s something evil about that place.”

It came as no surprise to them to learn that a year or so after his arrival, the American was found dead in a ditch in front of the mill house with the back of his head stove in. The murder is logged today as “unsolved” and the house is abandoned.

Was this just a concatenation of tragic events?
Or can a house resonate with the horror and tragedy of the past to shape the lives and deaths of those who occupy it?

Author’s denial
None of these events actually happened – well not all of them;
Mill House doesn’t exist – well not really.
This is merely a piece of whimsy on my part whilst playing around with an idea for another short story.

Or is it?

The Desperate DoZen

Only twelve desperate days to go before the BIG MOVE. I wish I could say I was in a state of grace and serenity as I glide from my English life to my new French one.  Did I say glide – I mean stagger, lurch and stumble.  The awesome bureaucratic machine that is French administration with its insatiable appetite for papers (preferably bearing the expensive insignia of a notaire or English solicitor) and requests for documents that are currently unobtainable, has already given me a couple of hors d’oeuvres to swallow. I need to open a bank account? I need a utility bill to do this. I can’t have a utility bill until I’m sent one. When will that be? Oh a couple of months and then I must pay by cheque. But I haven’t a bank account. Open one. Need a utility bill. Soooooper.

Still it’ll give me the opportunity to practise for my Zen mastership.

Actually so much is happening at once that I do need that inner calm. My local history book “Close to the Edge” is completed, edited and just awaiting a few permissions for some of the older photos. One of the publishers I approached is making all the right noises but is still havering so I’m looking again at self-publishing, Print on Demand and all that jazz. If anyone who reads this has any experience of using Lightning Source I’d be really pleased to hear from them. The idea of marketing a book from 1000 miles away seems a little daunting but since I’ve got to come back to the UK for day job work every now and again, I’m sure it’s possible.

In the meantime I’m moving on to my next keep-me-in-Blanquette (fizzy wine, local to my new home to those that don’t know) book. I enjoy writing these short quirky history books. My original idea was to develop them alongside fiction that I want to write to help pay the bills. It’s a bit of a cop out in some ways because the non-fiction is easier to write and sell, although not in huge quantities. But I do think that maybe I’m avoiding something here. My track record in fiction writing is limited to a few short stories and a radio play.  Lurking in a drawer I have four half-finished novels where I’ve run out of steam or gotten a bit bored with them. Basically I think I’m a coward and won’t face up to the possibility that I’m a crap fiction writer. My head teems with ideas and I’m pretty good at visualising scenes and situations; dialogue runs well for me too. I often walk on the beach, in character as it were, creating pretty good dialogue (to the amusement of many a dog walker) but the minute I try to write it all down, pouf! The gremlins that live in the dust balls under the bed steal it all away whilst I’m asleep.

So do I take the easy road and conjure up a few more eclectic histories or do I bite the bullet and finish off one of the four unfinished opusses (yes, pedants, I know it’s not the plural of opus)? Perhaps the change of scene will do the trick. There again, perhaps the warm spring airs, the lure of the mountains and the scent of the garrigue will do for me entirely.

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A little peep at the new des.res.

It’s Never Plain Sailing

This morning I’m feeling a bit like one of the many wrecks to be found off the Holderness coast so I thought I’d share my pain with you and give you what might be the final tale from these shores. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen at sea even in favourable conditions.

It was just three weeks into the New Year of 1911 when the steam trawler SS Silverdale with nine hands aboard left the Port of Grimsby heading for the North Sea fishing grounds. A few days later, with a full catch in her hold, she began her homeward voyage arriving off Spurn Point early in the morning of 4th February. There she stopped for about an hour and waited for the tide. The weather was fine and clear; the sea was smooth.

Members of the Silverdale crew observed lights from other ships around this busy seaway where vessels made for the ports of Hull and Grimsby. Shortly after getting under way again to complete the last leg of their voyage back to Grimsby, they also heard blasts from a warning whistle and, almost immediately after, a loud crash. The Silverdale shuddered as the trawler Straton struck her amidships.

In the dark confusion that followed the Skipper George Grice shouts at the other trawler that the Silverdale was sinking and to come about for a rescue; Frank Foster, the chief engineer, knocked off his feet in the collision picks himself up and staggers onto deck calling out that the engine room was full of water; he and the mate, John Walling try to release the lifeboat but the stern of the Silverdale sinks quickly, in the space of just a couple of minutes and they find themselves in the freezing waters. The other crew members cling to wreckage, calling for help.

At the subsequent Court of Inquiry, the captain of the Straton, Daniel Jacob Joenson, stated he and his ship were returning from a voyage to the Faroes and heading homewards. When the ship arrived off Withernsea the Captain laid up there until around 4am when he gave the order to get the ship underway again, steaming at slow ahead. As the vessel approached Spurn he saw the lights of the Silverdale some half to a mile off and left the shelter of the wheelhouse to check his own side and masthead lights which he found to be burning brightly.

On returning to the wheelhouse he noticed that the Silverdale lights were showing much nearer and the vessel was on a course heading straight for the Straton. He sounded the warning whistle and, at the same time, rang down instructions to the engine room for full speed astern. However there was only just time to thrust the ship into reverse before the two vessels collided.

After the collision, the Straton re-bounded from the Silverdale and Joenson brought her about to look for survivors; other trawlers nearby steamed to the rescue alerted by the crew of the Spurn Lightship who sent up rockets and fired guns to attract their attention.

Of the Silverdale’s original nine-man crew only four survivors – Foster and Walling together with deck hand Robert Hicks who floated in the water clinging to a lifebuoy and James Wright the steward who clung to a deck fish pound board were picked up.

Of those lost, the Skipper was last seen heading for the wheelhouse and was presumed to have gone down with his ship and the four other crew members clung to wreckage for a short while but sadly succumbed to exhaustion and the dark, icy cold waters of the North Sea before they could be rescued.

The Inquiry concluded that both vessels, to different degrees had failed to comply with the Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea and that the Silverdale was not “navigated with proper and seamanlike care.” Despite some strictures laid upon the captain of the Straton the Court held the opinion that the loss of the Silverdale and some of its crew members was not caused by any “wrongful act or default of the Skipper of the Straton.”

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Stranger in a Strange Land

It’s getting nearer to the first day of my French adventure. Every room in the house is littered with cartons, tape and squidgy bubble wrap that I spend hours squashing, row by row with obsessive neatness. Here I sit like Dido in the ruins of Carthage amidst this devastation and wonder what the hell I’m doing, where I’m going and where I’ll end up. Well actually I know the answer to that – a tasty lump of worm food…but hopefully not for a good while yet.

These last preparations are all about decisions, what ifs, why not try…and any variation thereof.

There’s a period of limbo to deal with whilst I’m between houses and waiting for the money to transfer. Where do I go? Hotel? Friend’s sofa? Back seat of the car?

Do I take my car with me? Sell it here? buy a LH drive here or in France -where used cars are expensive?

How can I open a French bank account as soon as I get there when I won’t have any utility bills to brandish?

What if I…It goes on…and on.

There are so many decisions, choices, options and what-have-you that when I try to draw little coloured decision trees I end up with a London Underground map gone haywire.

Add to all that the realisation that what is known and familiar as a holiday destination suddenly becomes rather weird and foreign with bureaucratic dictats in a language so unlike the friendly “Salut, bonjour Toto, ça va?” of camping holidays. For a while at least I’ll be a “Stranger in a Strange Land” (thank you Mr Heinlein).

It’s only pre-emigration nerves I know that. As someone once   said “it’ll be alright on the night” although whether it was stage   or wedding-night fright I have no idea. Does anyone suffer from wedding-night fright these days I wonder? How  deliciously old-fashioned.

But all this palaver reminds me of the writing process (as I know it). All these ideas jostling for space in your head; characters half-forming and then disappearing without as much as a by-your-leave; plots that could go this-a-way or that-a way and, in my case, no-a-way and the minute you try to write anything down the ability to put pen to paper or digits to keyboard becomes unaccountably difficult, nay impossible until at the very least you’ve cleaned the car, re-decorated the house, ironed everything that could be pinned down and scorched and circumnavigated the globe twice. Displacement activity? What displacement activity?

However, to be serious a mo – you’re not getting rid of me. I’ll still be blogging here and will dazzle you with tales of the conquest of France – Sheila’s revenge for 1066 and a certain Duc de Normandie.

Now please excuse me. I have an article to write but I dropped a whole bag of birdseed on the drive this morning and I have to go and pick it all up, grain by grain…with chopsticks.

Let Modesty and Decorum be your Watchwords

If you were a member of a well-heeled eighteenth-century family in Yorkshire you may well have followed the advice of Dr Richard Russell(who wrote about these things) and headed for the Holderness coast for a restorative spell of sea bathing. When the cold grey waters of the North Sea had frozen you senseless you might have followed up your dip with a nauseous gulp of sea-water or sampled the local chalybeate spring water – all guaranteed to cure the colic, the melancholy, the vapours or whatever else ailed you.

To preserve modesty and decorum horse drawn bathing machines were provided for hire – mobile changing rooms that were hauled into the sea whilst within, ladies could shed the encumbrances of petticoats and pantaloons for a shift. The advent of the Miss Wet T-shirt competition was still some couple of hundred years off so these shifts were often made of a heavy material such as flannel or canvas, which ballooned out when wet to conceal a fair lady’s form and figure. Once suitably enveloped, the intrepid bather would emerge straight into the sea for the prescribed dose of three total immersions. She could then retire to the shelter of the bathing machine, modesty intact, to dry off and dress.

In this part of the world, the male of the species was permitted more licence and allowed to disport himself in his birthday suit provided he hired a boat, went off shore a little and dropped discreetly over the side.  However, those of a more modest disposition could cover the dangly bits with a pair of drawers.

Eventually, Victorian sensibilities took over, demanding more male modesty. Naked bathing was banned around 1861-2; men and women bathers were to be kept sixty feet apart (presumably so as not to shock or over-stimulate the weaker sex) and proprietors of bathing huts were required to provide suitable bathing attire for their clientele. Those who persisted in the pernicious practice of skinny-dipping were punished – like George Large who was discovered, all rosy pink and starkers, bathing in the sea at Hornsea. He was arrested and fined three shillings plus costs.

Bathing machines arrived in Hornsea around the beginning of the nineteenth century and the Marine Hotel opened its doors to welcome genteel visitors – none of your riff-raff wanted here y’know. Not to be outdone Aldbrough further down the coast followed suit and catered for its visitors’ needs at the Talbot Hotel and the Spa Inn. However in Bridlington, the citizens were a bit more forward-thinking and provided both warm and cold sea water baths, under cover, which gave the faint of heart all the benefits of sea bathing without actually having to brave the ocean itself.

By the end of the eighteenth century sea bathing had taken off and even received the royal seal of approval from George III who being somewhat nesh, gave it a go in the soft southern waters off Weymouth.

Of course the arrival of the railway to the Holderness coast spoilt it all for the wealthy sea-bathers bringing as it did crowded carriages of escapees from daily drudgery all seeking A Good Time. What had been an exclusive practice became common-place fun and games, requiring the rich to seek playgrounds elsewhere wherein to seek cures for their numerous, real or imaginary ills.

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