Cabin 22 – Part 2



Jill shut the door behind her, and squealed with excitement! At 14 she was grown up enough to have a cabin to herself, and not have to share with Mum and Dad anymore. Her brothers, Ben and Don, had moaned that they had to share a cabin, and said they should have one each too, but Jill didn’t think they meant it, they just liked to argue.

She quickly unpacked and hung her clothes in the dresser, then looked around to see where she could hide her drawing paper and pencils. She never left them in sight in case one of her brothers found them, or, even worse, Mum or Dad. She sighed. No one would understand the fascination she found in her drawing; she knew that, so she never shared this secret passion with anyone. Dad worked long hours in a factory, and Mum worked in the local grocery store. She had it drummed into her from an early age that it was important to get a job and make money. Hard work was all that counted, and she had studied hard so to get good grades in Math and English so that she could get a well-paid job in an office one day.

No, Jill knows that her passion fro drawing was a waste of time, but still, in the quiet moments of the night, she dreamt of drawing and art and longed for the time when she could steal a few minutes with her book and pencils. She picked up the journal on the table next to the bed and was momentarily disappointed to see only one entry in it, and that it was a very short one about some old couple. But the mention of a bridge over a stream interested her; now that would be a good idea for a drawing.

Without further thought, she gathered up her paper and pencils and headed down to the stream. Only when she was half way there did it occur to her that maybe she should have told someone where she was going. Then she realized she’d left her phone back in the cabin, but it was too late to go back now. In any case, she was sure she’d be back before anyone noticed her absence.


It was about that time that Ben and Don were getting ready to go to the beach. The sea was a 20-minute walk away, 15 if you ran, and the boys were keen to get there as soon as possible. Just as they were packing up, Mum came and told them to knock on their sister’s door, and see if she wanted to go as well. They grumbled a bit; Jill was OK, but she was a girl, and always wanted to stop and look at things along the way. So when they knocked and got no answer, they weren’t too upset.

“Should we go and tell Mum?” Ben asked his brother.

“No, we were told to knock, and we did,” Don answered. “Now let’s see who can get in the water first!”

With that, he was off at a fast run, and Ben had to scramble to catch up. By the time they had gotten to the beach, breathless and excited, they had forgotten all about Jill and just concentrated on having fun.


About an hour later, Mum tapped on Jill’s door too. She didn’t get an answer, so she peeked round the door, and saw that Jill had unpacked but was not in the room. Mum smiled, thinking that Jill had gone off with the boys to the beach. She did worry about Jill sometimes, just recently she seemed to be preoccupied, and always having her nose in a book, or staring off into the distance. Jill was a sensible, hard working girl and was doing really well in the academic subjects at school, but Mum felt that something was troubling her daughter. She was hoping that this time away from the regular day-to-day routine would bring her out of it, whatever “it” was.

She went back to her own cabin and found her husband busily cleaning the barbecue grill, ready for tonight’s supper. Here was another one who could not stop working, she thought, not for the first time. She was proud of him, of course, and amazed at the hours he put in at the factory. Still, it would be nice if he would relax a bit sometimes, not everything had to be about work.


Meanwhile, Jill had discovered the perfect spot for her drawing. She had found the bridge over the stream that she had read about in the journal, and thought it was full of action, and yet calming at the same time. Jill looked around and found somewhere to sit, with her back to an old gnarled oak tree. The location also had the advantage that anyone walking along the path would not be able to see her, so she was sure there would be no interruptions.

Soon she was entirely focused on her work, trying to get the reflections and the shadows just right, even though they kept changing by the minute. As she sat, the sun filtering through the treetops had a mesmerizing effect, and a gentle warm breeze further relaxed her. She tried a number of times to capture the essence of what she was seeing, each time being pleased but unsatisfied at the same time. The warm sun had a soothing effect on her, and without being entirely aware of it, she slipped into a deep sleep.


“Where are the kids?” Dad asked, fretting over the fire in the barbecue. “I’m just about ready to start cooking.”

“They all went down to the beach; I’m sure they will be back soon,” Mum reassured him. Just then the Don came running along the pathway, closely followed by Ben, who was eager to show off the dead fish they had found on the shore.

“Where’s Jill?” Mum asked, looking back along the path.

“Oh, she wasn’t with us,” Ben said.

“What do you mean?” Mum said, suddenly concerned.

“Well we knocked like you said, but she didn’t answer, so we went without her.”

“Oh, I expect she’s back in her cabin enjoying the quite,” Mum said, “I’ll just go check on her.”

Within a few moments, she was back. “She’s not there, and her phone is on the counter. Dad, where is she? Where’s my Jill?” Mum was trying desperately to keep calm, despite thoughts of her baby girl being abducted and murdered, or worse, while she had just been enjoying the sun.

“Now, let’s get this straight,” Dad took over, “exactly who saw Jill last and where?” He quickly found out that the last anyone had seen his daughter was when she had taken her bags to her cabin, several hours ago.

“OK, there is no need for anyone to panic” Dad tried to reassure his increasingly tearful wife and overexcited sons. “Mum, you go to the office and let them know what’s happened, and then came back here in case she turns up. I’ll go and search the woods. Don, Ben, you go back along the beach road, maybe she followed you and you missed her. Call me if you find her, but come straight back here if you don’t, is that clear?”

The boys said they understood and set off, calling Jill’s name every few minutes, Mum ran to the office, and Dad ventured into the forest. He met a few people coming the other way, but none of them had seen a young girl, and his grip on the composure he had tried to show the family was slowly ebbing away. His phone rang, and it was just his wife reporting that the boys were back, but with no news. He told her to get them to try around the campsite and hung up. He had reached a bridge over a stream and was unsure what to do next. He was not a religious man, but as he sttod there he suddenly found himself praying with all his heart that his little girl was safe. He called Jill’s name for the hundredth time, and then held his breath; had he heard a reply?


In her dream, Jill was floating along a red river on a golden sailboat, the wind gently wafting the sails. Someone far away was calling her name, over and over, and she idly wondered how to bring her boat to shore. Then the voice was nearer, and Jill became aware that the red was not a river but the sun setting across the valley. She started to wake slowly, groggily wondering where she was, and then suddenly she was jolted awake by the sound of her father’s voice calling her name.

“Dad?” she said unsteadily, raising from her vantage point, but still unsure if she was asleep or awake.

When Dad spotted movement, he ran towards the old oak tree, more in hope than expectation. Then he saw her, his beloved daughter, standing in a clearing surrounded by papers. He gathered her up in his arms, and for the first time in her young life, Jill saw her father cry.

“Oh Jill, thank God you’re safe. We were so worried!”

He held her in his arms, and then noticed the papers that the wind was starting to blow around. “And what are there?” he asked, picking one and studying it.

“Oh, it’s nothing” Jill tried to stop him looking, but he picked up a few of her sketches and looked them over. “I know it’s silly; I need to study and get qualifications so I can get a proper job, just like you and Mum. It’s just that, well, this is what I love to do. I love sketching, drawing, all that art stuff. But it’s stupid, I know.” She blushed and looked away, as her father reached for the remaining pages and studied them.

“Stupid?” he said. “These aren’t stupid; these are excellent. I tell you what would be stupid, and that would be not pursuing your talent.”

“But Dad, how can I make money doing this? If you’ve taught me one thing, it’s the importance of hard work and diligence.”

“And you think being an artist isn’t hard work?” Dad looked at his young daughter, no longer the baby he had once held in his arms, and not quite a woman yet. A thousand memories came to mind all in an instant, and he sat down on the soft earth, patting the ground for Jill to sit next to him.

“Let me tell you a story.” He started as Jill looked at him in amazement. “When I was a young kid, maybe a year or two younger than you, I dreamt of being an actor. I just loved the whole thing about being on stage, I was in all the drama at school, and nagged my Mum and Dad to take me to all the plays that were on in anywhere in town. Then when it came time for me to take exams, my English teacher said I had talent, and suggested I go on to drama school.

“I wanted that with all my heart, but Dad had just passed away, and Ma, your Grandma, she was struggling to bring us kids up and keep us fed. As the eldest of the boys, I decided that I needed to get a job and earn some money, but I vowed to carry on acting, and to go to drama school when I could.”

Jill looked with new eyes at her Dad. She had always thought of him as someone so down-to-earth and practical, and now it seemed that he had dreams too.

“And then I met your Mum and got wed, and you kiddos came along. Not that I would have changed any of it, but still, sometimes in the middle of the night, I wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to drama school.”

“But the point is” Dad took a deep breath, got to his feet, and held out his free hand to Jill, the other one still holding tight to the drawings, “I’m not going to let you throw away the chance of using this talent of yours. Stop double guessing yourself, and be proud of your talent, I am!”

Just then his phone rang. “Oh, it’s your Mum, here, you answer it, tell her you’re OK.”

All the way to the cabins Jill and Dad talked about drawing and art classes, and when they got back, she told everyone that she had fallen asleep while drawing, and showed them her pictures.

For the rest of the week she spent many happy hours drawing, and when it came to packing to go home, Dad drove into town and brought her a portfolio case to carry her pictures. As she scanned the cabin one last time before leaving, she saw the journal, and just had enough time to scrawl an entry.


Cabin 22 Journal.

June 19.

This is the first time I get to stay in a cabin by myself, and that means I get to write in the journal too! I am 15, well, almost, I will be later this year, and I am Jillian Mary Robertson, I have two older brothers, who are a pain, but I love them anyway. Mum and Dad are here too in one of the other cabins, and Ben and Don have one to themselves. Oh! Ben and Don are my brothers, and I’m called Jill, not Jillian, that is just my given name.

This is a magical place, and something about the magic has rubbed off on me this week! I have discovered that I am not a misfit, that I have Talent, and that it is OK to dream. My Dad is an amazing man, who gave up so much for us and I love him more than anyone in the whole wide world.


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Cabin 22 – part one

Bill & Mary


Bill looked up from his paper and saw that Mary was staring at nothing, with a faraway look in her eyes. “What’s up ol’ girl?” he said.

“Oh nothing much, just remembering the old days, and the good times we’ve had. Look, they have a new journal, what shall I write?”

“I’m surprised they still keep up that tradition!” Bill replied with a chuckle. “Yes, we’ve certainly made some memories over the years, haven’t we? And maybe we can make some more tonight!”

“Bill!” Mary shouted, trying to sound annoyed, but smiling at the same time. That was her Bill, a lot older now, but still a kid at heart.


She remembered back to her 16-year-old self who had come with her parents to join in a family party. They had had smaller vacations before, but nothing as grand as staying in cabins in the woods. As an only child, she spent much of her time alone but was just at the age where she was starting to come out of her shell emotionally.

Bill had been with another family party, and the two groups kept running into each other, as they hiked the trails, played on the sand, and swam in the sea. Bill told her later that he had spotted her right from the start, but she certainly had not been looking for anything other than a fun time with her family. One evening Mary was walking alone along the “sunset trail” when she caught her heel on the overgrown path and found herself slipping down a grassy bank towards the stream. Mary was sure that nothing could stop her fall when suddenly strong hands grabbed her, and there was Bill. He had seen her stumble as he was fishing the stream and ran to help her, getting there just before she would have fallen in the water.

She had been totally embarrassed; not only to fall, but by the fact that this handsome young man had saved her, and was now holding onto her, maybe for longer than was strictly necessary. However, she felt safe in his arms and gratefully agreed when he offered to walk her back to her cabin.

The rest of the vacation seemed to fly by. Mary discovered that Bill was a year older than her, and was going to join his father at the family manufacturing company in the East End of London. They took long walks together and talked nonstop. The younger children in both families giggled when they saw them hand in hand, and Mary’s Mum remarked how her little girl was growing up fast.

Soon, however, they were packing up to go home, and Mary was convinced in her heart that they would never meet again. After all, he lived in London and had a job to go to, while she was in a tiny village in Yorkshire. She was still at school and was sure that the attractions of London would soon divert Bill’s thoughts from her.

But Bill said he would write to her, and Mary relented at the last moment, and let him kiss her on the lips, a parting kiss as they embraced for what Mary was sure would be the last time.


“Do you remember our first kiss?” Bill’s words broke into her thoughts, and once again she was surprised at how her inner reflections and Bills words seemed to sync together.

“I was just thinking about that,” Mary replied. “What if I hadn’t let you kiss me, I wonder if you’d have written every week like you did.”

“Of course I would ol’ girl!” Bill replied, “You had me hooked the moment I first saw you!”

It was an odd sort of game they often played; “what if” this or that had happened, what would their lives have looked like. What if Bill’s father’s business had not gone bankrupt just six months after he started there, leaving him out of a job. What if he hadn’t traveled to her little village for a visit, and fallen in love with the place. What if he hadn’t found a job in the local car repair shop, which came with a caravan out back where he could live? What if he hadn’t been asked to go with her family again to Silver Oaks, and they hadn’t walked that day along the path by the stream?

“Tell you what ol’ girl, why don’t we talk a walk to our stream and the bridge? It’s early yet, and it’ll help us get an appetite for dinner.”

Mary agreed, and they put on their hiking boots and set off along the old familiar path.

“Remember when we came here that second year?” Bill said as they walked. As if Mary could ever forget it.


Her Dad was doing well on the farm, and for once they were in funds. Mary was due to head off to University in Brighton, and her Dad offered to talk them all to Silver Oaks again. By this time, Bill and Mary were “an item,” and he was invited to come along. Bill got to share a room with one of Mary’s cousins, and she had a cabin to herself.

Mary remembered how they had taken this walk all those years ago, and how when they reached the bridge, Bill had gotten down on one knee and asked her to be his bride.


“I wonder what would have happened if I’d said yes to you back then,” Mary said as they started down the path.

“We would have lived happily ever after,” Bill said without missing a beat.

“But we were happy anyway.” Mary countered.

“Yes, but it’s a different happy. And you broke my heart when you said no.” He said it without bitterness or self-pity. It was just a fact from the past, one that they had discussed often.

“Yes, but, I had been accepted for a degree course, and I wasn’t going to give that up. And before you say it, I know you didn’t ask me to give it up, but I knew it wouldn’t have worked.”

Bill stopped by a rustic fence to look down at the winding stream below, sparkling in the afternoon sun. “Well, what would have happened if I hadn’t fallen for Linda?”

“By ‘fallen for’ you mean ‘got her pregnant’ I think,” Mary said lightly, but still with an edge of hurt from years before.

Mary still remembered her feeling of betrayal when she heard the news that Bill was getting married, and the shock when, just five months later, they had their first child.

“That’s not fair,” Bill replied, but without the heat that these discussions had generated in years gone by. “You had turned me down and gone off to your studies, and Linda was, well, she was there. I admit we hadn’t planned on getting wed, but when we had to, we made the best of it.”

Mary’s heart softened as she heard the real concern in Bill’s voice. “I know,” she said, “and you did make the best of it. You were a great Dad.”

They walked in silence for a while, and then Mary said: “OK here’s a thought, what if I hadn’t gone to London to work in that bank, but came back home after I finished my degree.”

“Well, then you wouldn’t have married Robert, and you wouldn’t have had his babies. Of course, you might have had mine.” He looked over at Mary, worried that his words, although meant in a light-hearted way, might have hurt her.

“Ah yes, my Robert and your Linda, now if ever two people should have met,” she left the sentence uncompleted.

“They were just looking for different things.” Bill paused again. “If it hadn’t been for our vacations here, I don’t know what I would have done.”


Robert had been a senior executive in the Merchant Bank that Mary joined, and after the initial passion had faded away, their marriage became one of convenience for both of them. She got a lift up the social ladder, and a nicer place to live, and he got a smart and intelligent wife to stand by him at cocktail parties. The first time Mary found out about one of his affairs she cried for a week and threatened to leave, but she was already six months pregnant, so she resolved to accept the situation.


“If I had divorced him, I’m pretty sure he would have pulled out all the stops to get sole custody of Billy, and he had the money, he would have won.”

“Yes, that’s one ‘what if’ that we don’t want to think about,” Bill said.

“On the other hand, what if I’d not come to visit Mum and Dad when I did?” Mary wondered.


It had been when Billy was 3 and her second child, Jessica, just six months that their paths had crossed again. Robert and Mary had planned to take the children to visit with Mary’s Mum and Dad, but at the last moment Robert had ducked out. He said that there was a significant deal that he had to be in London to supervise. Mary suspected that the “deal” was, in reality, the young female intern that had just started at the bank, but she was past caring by that stage, as long as they were reasonably discreet about it.

On the drive down her car started to overheat, so she took it to the one repair place that was in her parent’s village to get them to look at it, only to find that Bill was now the owner. They caught up on the events in each other’s lives as Bill looked over the car, and he let slip that he was going to Silver Oaks in a couple of months, to do some fishing. Linda was staying home with the children, three of them now, and this was to be Bills first solo vacation for many years.

They reminisced about the place, and Mary started to feel wistful about the Norfolk coast. Her house in London was beautiful, but something about the woods and the open spaces seemed to be calling her. Without really knowing what she was doing, she got details of the dates Bill would be there and booked herself a cabin too.

Back in London, she started to question her decision. What was she doing, chasing half way across the country for some fantasy of a country idyll? But when she broached the topic with Robert he was all for it, and even suggested that they employ a nanny to look after the children while she was away.


“I remember that phone call I had from you!” Bill chuckled at the thought.

“Well, I wanted to be open and not raise your expectations.” She had thought it through and realized that Bill might have been expecting them to sleep together, so she called him and told him that they were just going as friends only, nothing more. She had meant it too; she had no intention of breaking her marriage vows or cheating on Robert, no matter how many times he cheated on her.


At Silver Oaks, they had a wonderful time of walking and relaxing, and each evening before going to their separate cabins they exchanged a kiss. Then on their last day, they went for one last walk. When they got to the bridge where Bill had proposed, they both stopped and stood wordlessly for a while. Then Bill let out a deep sigh and started to speak.

“Mary, I have to tell you something. I’m in love with you. Always was, always will be. I know it’s hopeless, you have your life in London, and I have my work and Linda and the children, but all you ever need to do is say the word, and I’ll come to you, whenever or wherever.” Bill stopped, trying to judge what Mary would do or say next. What she did blew him away.

“Oh, you silly man.” She said with tears starting to fall “I love you too, more than I can say.” She reached up and kissed him, and they stayed locked in that embrace for a long time. Then wordlessly they started to walk back to the cabins. Bill saw Mary to her door and kissed her briefly before turning to go to his cabin.


“What if I hadn’t invited you into my cabin that night?” Mary broke into their mutual thoughts.

“You know I often wonder that!” Bill replied. “I was so churned up inside that I might have come and pounded on your door in the middle of the night. Or maybe not, maybe I would have put it down to the magic of the setting, and we would never have seen each other again.”

As it was, she had called him back, and they spent that night together, their first night. In the morning they packed up and went their separate ways.

“You know, it amazes me that we didn’t even make arrangements to meet again!” Mary said.

“But we knew we would!” Bill replied, and Mary knew that it was true, neither of them could have lived with the thought of never seeing the other again, any more than they could with the idea of leaving their spouses.


And so it was that they got into a routine. Once a year, Bill went on a fishing trip, and it just so happened to be the same time that Mary would be having her break from town on the Norfolk coast. At first, they were circumspect about it, booking separate cabins and making sure that they were rarely seen in public together. After a while, they started to be more open, even reducing the cost by booking just one cabin. They never tired of Silver Oaks, and the place grew to have a special place in their hearts.

Eventually, Robert found a younger woman who was not content to be a mistress, and he divorced Mary. She moved back to Yorkshire to look after her father, who was now a widower. Only six months later, Linda got tired of the solitude of the small town and ran off to London. There she was swept off her feet by a young executive type, and soon Bill was single too. There was nothing to stop Mary and Bill getting together after that, except that there were different people, and had gotten used to living alone. Even so, once a year they took their trip to Silver Oaks.


“You know, I was thinking,” Bill said as they neared the bridge over the stream. “I’m 58 now, so we’ve been coming here for almost 40 years.”

Mary just smiled, there didn’t seem anything to say. No time for regrets no time now for ‘what-if.’

Then they were standing on the bridge, their bridge, side by side with the water trickling below them, and the trees making a silent canopy above. It truly was a magical place. Bill routed in his pocket and produced a small box, scuffed and slightly the worse for wear.

“39 years ago I asked you to marry me,” Bill said, and Mary gasped as he unsteadily got down on one knee, and opened the box to reveal a faded interior, with a ring sparking inside. “Do you think, this time, you might say yes?”



Cabin 22 Journal.

June 7

Oh, how exciting! I get to be the first person to write in the new journal for cabin 22!

Well let me see, what can I write? Well, Bill and I have been coming here almost every year for 40 years, and both of us just love it! It truly is a small piece of paradise that God left on this earth!

Bill and I met here, and he courted me here. He proposed to me on the bridge over the stream, but it was the wrong time, and I said no.

This time I said yes.


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Cabin 22 – new work in the making

A couple of months ago we had a really nice mini-vacation in a real log cabin in the woods in rural Illinois. In the cabin, they had a journal, which several visitors had written in over the past couple of years, and it was interesting to read all the various stories. A lot of them were simple “we had a lovely time in the woods” type of comments, but there were also some heart-warming ones, and you could tell from the handwriting that all ages had written in it.

This got me thinking about all the people that had stayed there and all the adventures that would have been pivoted in that simple journal entry. What leads up to them coming to the cabin, and would their future path be affected by this time in the woods?

This train of thought brings me to where I am now, starting a new novel, or rather, a series of stories all rooted in a single location, cabin 22 in the fictional “Silver Oaks Woods” in Norfolk, UK. So far, the stories that have told themselves in my head are funny, inspirational and romantic, but we will have to see what future guests record in the journal! For now, here is the opening.


Welcome to Silver Oaks Cabins


Romantic & Weekend Getaways


At Silver Oaks, our traditional, yet modern accommodation take you back to the good old days with 32 one-room log cabins all with gas fireplaces. Set among towering oaks, the cabins have beautiful hardwood floors and authentic rustic furnishings. There are 20 detached cabins with open-beamed ceilings. Another 12 cabins are built in groups of three under one roof. Each cabin offers a private entrance and bath, but there are interconnecting doors which make them ideal for large families. Pillows, blankets, and towels are provided. Modern conveniences include heat, air conditioning, phones, mini refrigerators, TVs and DVD Players. You may be relaxing in cabins in the forest, but you’ll be as comfortable as you are at home.

Conveniently located just over 100 miles north of London, we are surrounded by wonderful woodland, with many trails and hidden gems to explore. We are also just one mile from the fabulous North Norfolk coastline offering countless opportunities for water-based activates, or just to sit in the sand dunes and enjoy the scenery.

An old tradition, going back to our founders in 1938, is that each cabin has a journal. Please feel free to record your thoughts about your stay, and to read what others have shared with the community. Completed journals are preserved in our office library, going all the way back to the beginning, so do come along and browse through them!

Silver Oaks Cabins are open 365 days a year, so are perfect for a spring break, a summer vacation, an autumn getaway, or to beat the winter blues.


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December Release

Well, after nearly 2 months of proofing, editing, reviewing, and polishing December 1 mean that the publication of Being Tony has finally taken place!!! I’m still waiting the first proper print run to arrive here, but due to the miracle of technology, the book is already available online, and I was amazed to see that it pops up all over the world. Here’s the list that I have:














(I did actually have one of my books purchased from Japan, so maybe they will like this one too!)

Watch out for more details and updates when I get my books here!!!


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UPDATES: Book Blurb

Say hello to Tony, always quick with a joke, or a story, and always happy to meet you for a drink. In his time he’s worn many different hats. He’s been a son, a brother, a partner and a lover. He’s been a factory worker and a salesman, managed a pub and a bed shop. He’s driven Jaguar cars, been married and divorced. He’s had one night stands and long term relationships.

But he only ever really wanted one woman and one town.

This is Tony’s story, a patchwork of places, jobs and people, of ups and downs, but through all of it, Tony is always optimistic, and he is the one that can cope, whatever happens. And when he can’t, well, there is always his Jaguar and the open road, and sometimes there are friends around to help him remember who Tony is.


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UPDATES: Dedication Page



Dedicated to G, for all the reasons in the world.



“I never collected press clippings, but I imagine that if I had, there would be just a few that directly mentioned me, but a lot more that would have news which impacted me in a way that others wouldn’t know. Maybe, if one collected those news items together, one might get an idea about someone’s journey, a kind of paper trail of events that would lead one through the highways and byways of their life.”


Derek Knight, November 2016



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UPDATES: The Mansion

Lynn News:

Births Announcements

PLATT Congratulations to Mark and Samantha on the birth of BENJAMIN STUART on 2nd of June 1953, younger brother of ANTHONY JOHN



I always tell people that I grew up in a mansion, and like many of the things I say, it’s true in a general sense.

My father was a farm laborer, and my parents rented the gatehouse of a country mansion. The other buildings and most of the grounds were deserted back when I lived there. The mansion itself was impressive but was slowly crumbling because the owners didn’t have the money to keep it up.

I assume I had a room to myself until Ben was born, but I don’t actually remember a time before we shared a bedroom. Most of my early memories of home life are of the large kitchen, which always seemed to be cold even in the hottest of days. I have some good memories of it, but my most vivid ones are of sitting on the floor by the fire playing with Ben and hearing my parents from the other end of the room. Usually, it was just routine things, but sometimes their voices started to get louder, and when one of us tried to say something we were told to be quite because our parents were “trying to have a grown-up conversation.”

This often ended with Dad putting on his coat and going down to the village, with Mother noisily cleaning up the kitchen. Later, when Ben and I were in bed I’d hear Dad come back in, and sometimes the voices would carry on, but mostly there was silence for days afterward.

The cottage we lived in was about a mile from the sea, with nothing but rolling farmland between us and the sandy beach. The tide went out for miles, leaving a vast expanse of glistening sand, which made a fantastic playground for young kids. Ben and I were always finding something to explore, shells to dig up, and occasionally a dead fish or bird to examine.

The village of South Uppingham was about a mile in the other direction, and at the time, it seemed like the most exciting place in the world. Really it was just a little collection of cottages, a church, a couple of stores and three pubs. The market town of Lynn was another 15 miles away, but it might as well have been in a different country for all the relevance it had for us. Even so, every month Mother would go “up to town” and spend the day in the Lynn shops. Sometimes she took us, but I was happier wading barefoot in the sand pools than walking the streets of Lynn. Between us and Lynn, the resort of Hunstanton was the bright spot during the summer, always full of tourists and day-trippers up from the city. Us local kids preferred our own small area of the beach, where we could talk to the fishermen, play in the sand dunes and spend the long hot summer days just being happy to be alive.

One day Ben and I happened upon some driftwood on the shore and decided on a great adventure. Filled with some strange fantasy idea, I resolved that we would make a raft and sail across the sea to Germany. I’m not sure why Germany, maybe I’d heard a fisherman talk about the country, but it was an idea that stuck in my head. Ben was apprehensive at first, but I told him it would be OK, and that we could get some cake when we got there. He was happy at that, so we set about building our craft.

It took about 3 days to put together our makeshift boat, and we waited until the next high tide before pushing our craft into the waves. It was a calm sunny morning, and for a time it was fun as we floated gently along with a slight breeze. It wasn’t long before Ben started to complain about being hungry, and wanted to know when we would reach Germany and the cake I had promised him.

As the day wore on I realized that maybe it would take longer than I had thought to get to Germany, and I wished we had brought along something to drink. Eventually the sun began to set, and the adventure didn’t seem so much fun anymore. We were both soaked to the skin and starting to shiver violently when we saw one of the local fishing boats approaching.

Mother and Dad had discovered we had gone and reported us missing to the police, who, in turn, had alerted the local fishermen to keep an eye out. I remember how much the fishermen laughed when they pulled us out of our craft and the smell of fish as we sat there. I thought it strange when they gave me a cold drink to warm me up, but when I swallowed it, I thought my throat was on fire, and my gasps made the men laugh even more.

Needless to say, we were severely punished for our escapade, and I don’t think we were allowed out on the beach for many weeks after that. We had to go to the police and apologize for wasting their time and thank the fishermen for their kindness, but every time I started to explain about wanting to float to Germany they just started laughing all over again. Soon it became the talk of the village, and for a while, we were known as the German brothers.

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