The idea of this bloggitude was to keep the pen flowing and stimulate other stuff. It’s working too well. I’ve been ensconcing myself (they can’t touch you for it) in the National Library of Scotland and writing almost fervently with a pencil (they actually confiscated my ballpoint and I had to ask for it back when I left, like a naughty boy) most days of the week.
And what have I writted? I’m glad you asked me that.
On the night before the night before the night before Christmas, I finished the first draft of the second part of the third novel, Knights in the Gardens of Spayne, about the unlikely progress of a rubbish soccer team, the overambitious attempts of a small town to put itself on the map, and the frustrated desires of the local lothario to bed the high-powered consultant who comes to help pursue that dream.
So, rather than waste too much time writing anything superfluous to that, I hereby present part two of chapter two of part one, to give you a taster.
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xxxThe town now known as Spayne features in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a nondescript patch of farmland called Peigne’s Stedde. Nondescript it may have been but in those days its owner was an ambitious Anglo Saxon known as ‘Pain’ by all his neighbours. His family motto being ‘Start at the bottom and then lick it’, as soon as he heard of the Norman invasion, he changed the spelling to the more Frenchified Peigne. He then travelled to London and hung around the court, sucking up to the new rulers until they married him off to a distant and equally annoying cousin of King William. Thus he was able to return home as a right royal Peigne and thus did the lands of his fiefdom wax and prosper and all that sort of stuff.
xxxCentury followed uninteresting century and a pleasant English Country Village grew up around the duckpond, the parish church of St Rantipole and the Peigne’s Arms Tavern and Coaching Inn. Feudalism and Frenchness fell out of fashion, the Lords of the Manor became the Local Squires and changed the spelling of their name back to Pain. Then to Payne, to avoid the obvious jokes. And then moved abroad when the Illiterate Yokels failed to notice the difference.
xxxIn the meantime, a civil servant, undertaking another census, asked one of the Illiterate Yokels for the name of the place but was confused by the incomprehensible accent of inebriation. “‘S Pain ye’sh’d ask.” “Spane, is it? How do you spell that?” “Eh? Why?” “Ah, Spayne. Thank you, Sir.”
xxxThen one day an Industrial Revolution appeared, followed closely by a Canal and a Railway Line. As the once distant town of Wyberton became an ever-nearer metropolis and more children refused to eat their greens, the old sprout fields to the South of the village now sprouted housing estates for the better-paid employees of the soap factories and flannel mills that kept an Empire clean behind the ears. To the North, newly rich merchants and estate agents built spacious Mock-Tudor Mansionettes with Prize Lawns and hawthorn hedges, while to the East the old hamlet of Spigwell grew in similar fashion. Once half a day’s walk across muddy fields, it was now separated from its neighbour only by Nogget’s Burn, a smelly, grey-green stream that joined the not-so-mighty River Wibble just West of the Big City.
xxxThe Twentieth Century saw a final growth spurt with the building of the Broxville council estate — and the Badger Hill football ground, the long-awaited permanent home for the Wanderers. Now the badgers were long gone but, thanks to the black and white strip of the team, the name lived on. The wealthier burghers to the North provided the board and the investment, while the workers to the South provided the spectators and the profits — and ate the burgers. Spayne had matured, if that is the word, into a typically mixed British Suburb. Two communities, united by a common disdain and resentment, but each dependent on the other.
xxxBut then came the decline of the once-loved team. As the Wanderers’ star sank, Wyberton Town’s rose. The city team had more money, more money meant better players, better players meant a bigger stadium. They might never have made it to the very top, or even tasted as much glory as the Nostalgic Granddads of Spayne had known, but they had a Firmer Financial Footing. And fans. Eventually, even the non-nostalgic supporters of Spayne deserted the Badgers, to climb aboard the 47 bus or the football specials (The Train from Spayne has Footie on the Brain!) and watch the Flannelers instead.
xxxAnd, just as the kids from the Broxville Estate no longer aspired to play in black and white, the Money Men from the Mock Tudor Mansionettes went the same way, no longer so generous in their support for a failing team. Eventually the Badger Hill Ground itself was sold off and became the Badger Hill Bathroom Emporium and the No Spayne, No Gayne fitness and tanning centre. The once proud team had become such an embarrassment, not to mention owing all that cash to Mr McBogle’s bank, they couldn’t find anywhere to play their home games. Attempts to book even a pitch in the local parks were met with mumbled excuses about special needs teams or donkey grazing rights.
xxxIn the earliest days of organised football, Spayne Wanderers got their name because, having no ground of their own, they played on any park or patch of ground available. And now, in the early years of the Twentyfirst Century, that name had once more become painfully appropriate.
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So now, as the Festering Season progresses into the terrifying darkness of 2017, the first 28,000 words are being proofread and scribbled on and thought about, but then really need to be buried in soft peat while I plan in more detail part III and maybe even draw maps of the area to check and ensure consistency. And maybe the early part of the New Year will be spent sending samples to agents and publishers.
Then when I return to them with a fresh eye, I may end up crossing most of it out while sobbing in despair. But hopefully enough will be salvaged to carry on to the hilariously satisfying conclusion(!).
And if you, gentle reader, want to get a fuller flavour, the whole thing can be found online! Yes, just click on this link here, to go to a page where you can find other links to click on, giving you a .pdf, a .mobi or a .epub version of the file, suitable for ereaders, tablets and even paper.
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Oh, by the way, I is doing a gig along with some Fringe friends tomorrow night, if any of youse buggers is in the Leith area of Edinburgh … silly pomes and songs in a great wee bar, feat. Woodstock Taylor, Max Scratchmann, Beverley Wright, Yours Truly and the Laird of Lounge himself, Martin Waugh. See ya!
Oh yes, and for those of you of a jollier and more sociable disposition than me, have a great Hogmanay.