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First pages

PROLOGUE

On Higher Ground

Easter, 2002

Brilliant dawn sunlight streamed across the landing from the boxroom window and was thrown into every corner of our bedroom by the dressing table’s triple mirror. The Almighty too, it seemed, was determined that Jessica and I should keep to our plan to get away early and explore the fell tops that we had admired from our upper windows, since moving to Reeth, North Yorkshire, nearly two years ago.

Two hours later, proudly astride the modest heap of gritstone that marks the southernmost summit of Fremington Edge, we marvelled at the bird’s-eye view of the entire town and the valley of the Upper Swale that had opened out beneath us. Our embrace tightened as we enjoyed a shared awareness that what we had to show for thirty-nine years of togetherness was bound up in that landscape. That weekend – and such occasions had become quite rare – all four of our children would be in that beautiful valley; the older three who lived and worked there and, for the next fortnight, the youngest, on Easter leave from university. Later on, Nab Cottage would be alive with love and laughter, as we revelled in yet another Sunday family dinner. And tonight, with three-day-old James joining the party, we’d have our first grandchild to celebrate. A bottle of vintage Burgundy had been breathing since Friday, which, with the topside, roasties and Yorkshire pudding, would be exquisite. With all this, a steady income and excellent health, not to mention us still hangin’ in there, could things get any better for yours truly, Harry Pickup?

I watched, intently, as a sizeable posse of motorcyclists set off from The Green and processed, in perfectly spaced single file, down the winding hill to Arkle Bridge and, thence, to Bridge End, where the Swale separates Reeth from its neighbour, Grinton. Here, the bikers swung right, to take the back road to Muker, where Jessica and I used to live, until the attraction of town-life comforts and convenience became too strong for her to resist. Beyond Muker, the road would quickly leave civilisation behind and follow a path of graceful arcs, across open moorland, towards Hawes and, as far as bikers were concerned, God’s own country. Being a fair-weather biker myself, I found myself wishing them good luck and God speed and that they return, intact.

Another, quite different, wish formed in my mind, as a flurry of breeze broke the calm and I watched in appreciation as Jessica’s blouse billowed about her shapely bosum. My thoughts soon got way ahead of themselves and the titillation was further sustained as my gaze was diverted across Arkle Beck to where a dozen or so horses and foals teased and chased each other around a broad pasture, beyond the Riddings Stud. Knowing full well that such carnal fantasies were doomed to remain unfulfilled, I reflected momentarily on two vivid images, from times past, that accounted for my lusting and which largely explained why it was that whenever Jessica and I were alone in the countryside – especially on a hilltop – I got the most consuming urge to coax her down into the lush grass, to lift her skirt around her waist and to make love to her, more beautifully and more lovingly than ever before.

As these desires were being suppressed – by now, a quite familiar process – a third image formed in my mind. The clearest of pictures, this, but, although linked both in time and content to the others, it was notably non-arousing. It was, nonetheless, the image into which I allowed both myself and Jessica to slide at that reflective moment.

September 1964, on a Pennine moor, East Lancashire

“Not here, please, Harry. Someone might come!”

Apart from the gentle lapping of the water against the reservoir’s edge and the melodious crying of the curlews, these softly spoken words were the only sounds to break the silence on this sunny, Sunday afternoon. Not surprising, really, since t’ Top Res was miles from anywhere and in the middle of an expanse of moorland, so rough and inhospitable that it attracted only the occasional fisherman or bird-watcher. I’d planned it that way. I knew where all the best spots were, if solitude was the prerequisite. In fact, I knew where every kind of best spot was, within a ten-mile radius of Bacup; again, not surprising, since fifteen years of intensive exploration, throughout childhood and adolescence, should give any curious, country-loving lad a fair knowledge of his surroundings.

Although softly spoken, Jessica’s rebuffs were unmistakeably firm. They needed to be, since an earlier encounter with Georgina, a Lakeland lass, had left an indelible mark on me and, more significantly, at that precise moment in my love-life, an unshakeable conviction that sex, especially outdoors and the higher the better, was cool. In fact, it was better than cool and I was intent on revisiting – and the sooner the better – the heaven that Georgina had whisked me to, a couple of years earlier.

It was not going to be an easy trip, for Jessica and Georgina could have come from two different planets, as far as their approach to loving, especially the physical kind of loving, was concerned. As for “someone might come”, although I had a clear and graphic picture of who thatought to be, “Chance ’d be a fine thing,” was my instinctive response to the rebuff and, needless to say, this fell on stony ground.

With Jessica’s staunchly religious upbringing, sex before marriage was as likely as the Pope himself becoming pregnant. Even heavy petting had to be campaigned for, as if life itself would fall apart without it. It was at times like these that I really thought it would. Here we were, on a glorious, late summer afternoon, with the sun glinting off the wavelets and not a soul to be seen. Could there have been a more perfect setting – or opportunity, for that matter – for a young man and woman to consummate their bond and demonstrate their undying love for each other, in the most telling and thrilling way imaginable? With such a barrage of lovely sights, sounds and smells invading the senses, how could Jessica not want to throw caution to the wind and show me how she felt? That’s assuming, of course, that she felt for me the same way that I felt for her. Hardly a minute went by, it seemed, without me wishing that she did or, if she didn’t, that one day, she would. I was well aware, from my occasional research in this area, that there were such things as hormones and adolescence to be taken into account and that I may have to wait a while, until things fell into place. Jessica was, after all, barely sixteen. Whatever her feelings, then, though, as far as getting what I fancied was concerned, at that particular time and place, it wasn’t to be – and I knew it.

I laid back, my eyes searching the heavens for solace. It didn’t take me long to find it. I’d been there many times. I’d tried other places, reflecting on other past relationships, but with nothing like the same gratification. I was eighty miles away, in a Lakeland village . . . . .

Chapter 1

Always keep the fuses well away from the dynamite . . . . .

Hartsop, Westmorland – a Background

Georgina Fisher was, indeed, different from most young women. And, as for hormonal hang-ups, if she’d ever had any, she must have flushed those down the toilet, long before our friendship blossomed. We fell in love during one momentous half-term holiday, amounting to no more than four days and as many evenings of each other’s company and spent by me, my parents and the rest of the family, in the picturesque hamlet of Hartsop, in the former county of Westmorland.

Twice a year, during the Easter and so-called September Break school holidays, we had the freedom of my grandmother’s exquisite home, Hillside, perched on the steep, west-facing fellside, overlooking the broad Patterdale valley and about a mile out of the village, above the rough track to the Beckstones hamlet, a further mile or so downstream. Georgina, on Lingy Crag, the breathtakingly vertiginous backdrop to the village, is the first of those two recurring images from my past. It’s from well over forty years back – Easter 1962 – and still crystal clear. I want it to remain like that, so special a part of my history does it retrieve.

Hartsop, then, was an idyllically quiet, scarcely visited hamlet, just off the A592 Penrith-to-Windermere road, where it begins its long and arduous ascent of Kirkstone Pass, at the head of Patterdale, the giant cleft in the Westmorland fells that contains the upper reach of Ullswater, which, at seven miles long, was – and still is, despite the best efforts of Manchester Water Works – the Lake District’s second-largest lake. Half-a-century on, this Lakeland gem remains unchanged, give or take the odd cattle-shed and a small car park for the serious fell-walker, and comprises two or three huddles of 17th century farm buildings and a couple of short terraces of lead miners’ cottages of similar age. I still happily recall those holiday visits, since they rank amongst the most telling and significant of my life’s otherwise quite ordinary benchmarks. In fact, pretty well everything of significance to my growing up seemed to happen during those few days-a-year, spent at Hartsop. It was, truly, a very special place – an extraordinary place.

My final visit, the one on which this story focuses, was Easter-time, 1962 – my A-levels looming large – when I looked forward to resuming the promising romance, begun the previous September, not with Georgina but with Hazel, her younger sister. She was about my age, fresh-faced and vivacious, and we had first met on the recreation ground – the rec’, as it was known – during a picnic stop, many holidays ago. Having been encouraged by my mother to “go and play on the swings and make friends with those nice-looking children”, I must have taken Mum’s wishes very much to heart, since, before long, Hazel and I felt the need to pay more attention to each other than the playground rides permitted. Soon the bowling hut took on a different meaning and from dusk ‘til curfew – nine o’clock sharp – we would have it all to ourselves.

I had always liked Hartsop, but now it had a new magic. The rest of the Pickup clan, too, looked forward to our twice-yearly visits to the Lakes, probably more than to our main holidays, which, in recent years, had become relatively unmemorable times, spent on the North Wales coast. All six of us, plus luggage, had somehow managed to cram into the Vauxhall Victor estate for the two-hour drive from Bacup, our Lancashire cotton-town home and, with it being Good Friday next day, we were making the journey on the Thursday evening, in order to beat the usual rush of Easter traffic. Even in the early 60’s, Ambleside – and certainly on a Good Friday – was best avoided. You can picture the scene, I’m sure:

There I am, on my way north, mentally ticking off each of the, by now, familiar landmarks along the pre-M6 route to The Lakes, my mind full of Hazel; and there’s Georgina – who wasn’t even supposed to be in the story, let alone become a principal character – watching, as the hour-hand on the living room clock crept, oh so slowly, towards VII. It’s now so close that she looks up to the minute-finger which, by comparison, seems to be racing towards the hour – and the chimes that will signal ‘action stations’. Where, how and why does she fit into the story?

To help explain these conundrums, let’s take a closer look at the players who, for the purposes of this exercise and as testimony to their latent capability, we will refer to asFusesand Dynamite,and at a brief history of events, in and around Hartsop, building up to my return, before Victor’ brings us any closer together. I think it worth mentioning that these aliases would have appealed to the, then, nearly eighteen year-old Harry Pickup, particularly; both for their ultimate appropriateness to the story, as well as their real-world connotations. My credentials, as listed hereunder, give the lie to my affinity with all things technical, whilst my interest in explosives might well be attributable to my love of Lakeland slate, as a building material and my fascination for the fiery way in which it is freed from the mountainsides.

Georgina, I’m sure, would also agree that the names have a good ring to them but, now, with the benefit of hindsight and ever mindful of our joint achievements, she would probably suggest Cowboys and Chernobyl as worthy alternatives.

In homage to another of my most characteristic and, I have to acknowledge, exasperating traits, namely my love of and apparent dependence on lists – be they cutting lists, operation lists, revision lists or shopping lists – as a preliminary step to practically every function in life, not to mention my often pedantic need for detail, I have opted to use a list type of format in presenting the ensuing thumbnail portraits of the story’s two key players.

A significant feature of the listing approach is the way in which it highlights the fact that, of the forty or so fields of comparison, in only two of these are Georgina and I actuallyalike. Admittedly, there are a number of areas in which we aresimilar,but only in ourstyleandcomplexion,are we truly alike. Whether or not this will have any bearing on our story will, doubtless, become clear as it unfolds.

 

The fuses . . .

 

Name: Georgina Fisher

Age:19¾

Date of birth:4 July (I.D, USA), 1941

Place of birth:at home (3 The Grain)

Living at: Hartsop, Patterdale, Westmorland

Mother:Elizabeth (nee Dawson)

Occupation: Shop Assistant

Age: 42

Known for:All-round, nice, friendly lady. The perfect mum

Father: Thomas

Occupation:Carpenter, most likely to be found up on a roof

Age: 45

Known for: Longest-ever holder of the winner’s trophy for the annual Ullswater swimming race, keen fell-runner, parental strictness

Siblings: Hazel (17¾ yrs); Philip (9)

Education: Queen Eliz.G S, Penrith

Date left school: July, 1959, nearly 2 years ago

Qualifications: A-level Art, Sociology, Maths

Other abilities:Debating, extremely fit and agile, artistic

Nature:Tolerant, thoughtful, romantic, tough

Character: Assured but unassuming, committed

Style: Dynamic, funny, inspirational

Strengths: Stunning looks, willpower

Weaknesses: Invaders from the south

Aims: To find Mr Right, have kids, be happy

Philosophy: Be sure, be bold and be prepared. Agnostic

Interests:Natural history, the mysteries of life, boys

Likes: The simple pleasures in life, security, solidness

Dislikes: Insincerity, uncertainty, selfishness, pretence

Employment: Secretary to a Penrith solicitor

Sports and pastimes: Keen school athlete, occasional running, reading.

Height: 5 ft-7 in, fully grown

Weight: 9 st-3 lbs

Build: Slim, athletic, good figure

Complexion: Pale-skinned

Hair: Dark brown, reddish in sunlight

Eyes: Hazel-brown, i.e. chestnut brown at centre, riveting

Teeth: White, full set, even, neat

 

. . . . and the dynamite

 

Name:Harry Ingle Pickup

Age:16⅞

Date of birth: 12 May, 1944

Place of birth: Tong Mat. Hosp., Bacup

Living at: Bacup, near Rochdale, Lancashire

Mother:Marion (nee Graham)

Occupation: Housewife

Age: 45

Known for:Another perfect mum, when not too stressed

Father: George

Occupation:Industrial chemist, carbolic soap factory proprietor

Age: 48

Known for: Phenomenal patience and calmness

Siblings: Richard (18)

Thomas (15)

Catherine (11)

Education: Bacup & Rawtenstall G S

Date left school: Next July, on completion of A-levels

Qualifications:7 O-levels including Maths & English Language

Other abilities: Technical, creative, good agility and attention-to-detail

Nature: Self-questioning, curious, methodical, sensitive, romantic

Character: Modest, optimistic, forward-looking

Style: Dynamic, funny, inspirational

Strengths: Commitment to a task

Weaknesses: Emotionally immature

Aims: To be a woodwork teacher and marry Bridgette Bardot’s double

Philosophy: Discover what’s round the corner. Agnostic

Interests:Mountaineering, mysteries of the Universe, girls

Likes: Nature’s niceties, especially hills and birds, adventure

Dislikes:Extroverts, bullies, greed, uncertainty

Employment: Still at school but aims to be a woodwork teacher

Sports and pastimes: Good cross-country runner, cycling, making things in wood

Height: 5 ft-9 in and growing

Weight: 9 st-10 lbs

Build: Skinny, some muscle definition

Complexion: Pale-skinned

Hair: Mid-brown or ‘mousey-coloured’, unmanageable

Eyes: Green-hazel, i.e. slightly brown at centre, penetrating

Teeth: Creamy-white, bit uneven

 

If I had ever set eyes on these statistics, compared in the harsh light of day, I could have been forgiven for wondering what on earth Hazel saw in me, let alone Georgina, when there were two or three local boys, of a similar age and, apparently, at least as well-equipped, right there, in the village, and only too willing to take the hand of either of the Fisher girls.

The fact remains that, just half-a-year ago and regardless of the competition, Hazel had quite openly taken a shine to me and it wasn’t long before the entire village seemed to know about it. Even in my absence, with well-meaning enquiries, like “When’s Harry coming again?” an almost daily occurrence, a measure of celebrity status was already attaching itself to me; that’s how it felt, anyway. This didn’t worry me, for I knew that I’d at least six more months to get used to the idea, before having to confront ‘my public’ again; assuming, of course, that Hazel remained loyal.

But, unknown to me and the reason for this back-tracking, it was not Hazel who was excitedly counting down the minutes to my arrival, but Georgina and this, without doubt, was even less likely, given the circumstances of our first meeting and what an epic, that was!

 

Easter 1959, when I nearly pissed my pants

That would be six holiday visits or three calendar years earlier and I remember, only too clearly, how my younger brother, Thomas, and I had been chased across the football field and cornered by an angry lady who appeared to be about to lay into the pair of us.

One grey and, until then, uneventful afternoon, whilst looking for birds’ nests, we found ourselves on the opposite side of a hedge to Georgina, who was sat chatting with one of the local youths and we’d made the mistake of giggling at the sweet nothings, emanating from the preoccupied couple. Georgina instantly twigged that it was those nasty Pickups and, excusing herself from her friend, had crept round to the end of the hedge, before issuing her threat that “if we didn’t clear off, she’d belt us.” Knowing that both Tom and I could out-run all the other kids, I compounded our crime by retorting, “You’ll have to catch us first.” A moment or two later, on realising that she intended to do precisely that, the mother of all chases ensued. It was her confidence and apparent determination to carry out her threat that caused us, so readily, to turn tail and go like the clappers into what looked like acres of safe, open space.

But, with Georgina’s adrenalin-inducing taunts getting ever closer and ourselves grimly realising that there was no way out of the corner of the field into which we were headed, we knew that our number was up. We even lacked the strategic good sense to split up so that at least one of us might be spared whatever this towering figure of a woman had in mind. Once cornered, we turned to face our fate – Georgina’s panting chest, heaving just inches from my chin, yet another of the many images that will never escape my memory. To our huge relief, this turned out to be nothing worse than a good tongue-lashing about our “baby tricks” and a further warning that, “if there was a next time, we’d really get it!” The look on my and Tom’s faces must have told her that there would be no next time and, with that, she turned away, waving a dismissive arm, a clear gesture for us to clear-off. This we did, feeling very, very humble – and on the eve of my fifteenth birthday, too; just when I was sure that I was on the verge of manhood.

Georgina, too, felt immediately uncomfortable at having achieved such a terror-stricken response from the two visitors to the village, who, after all, made a welcome change and distraction from the local lads, for a few days of the year. Also, had she had such a confrontation with a couple of the locals, they would have stood their ground, knowing full well that her bark was much worse than her bite. But Tom and I weren’t to know that, were we? As she watched us head back across the rec’, towards the village, shoulders drooped and heads still bowed in humility, she resolved to go out of her way to rectify any damage she may have caused to relationships between herself and those nice Pickups.

So much for my first real encounter with Georgina; she the fierce bully, me the shamed miscreant; she an adult, nearing the end of her seventeenth year and blossoming, stunningly, into womanhood; me still a child, not yet fifteen and right in the middle of the awkward and uncertain phase, when I was supposed to be maturing. Maturing – there was little sign of it at that point.

The rest of my Easter at Hartsop passed pleasantly by and, much to my relief and surprise, the next time I met Georgina, on the lane outside her home, she gave me the nicest smile imaginable, followed by an equally nice apology, for scaring me and my ‘little’ brother the previous day. Whilst explaining that she’d only chased us because she couldn’t resist a challenge, her reassuringly friendly hand gripped my right arm, just on the bicep, in a way that got a reflex-like stiffening in response and, more memorably, a strange feeling, down in my groin.

Georgina couldn’t help but remark: “By the feel of that, I reckon it’s just as well we didn’t come to blows!” and, after a momentary pause, enthused, “Come on, I’ll race you to the rec’!”

– o –

Easter 1961, Gazette Exclusive - Fisher sisters promote tourism in Hartsop

Two more Septembers and two more Easters came and went, as the 1961 Easter-time break drew to a close – an earlyish one, that year, with Easter Day falling on the 2nd of April – with much the same routine activities and the usual smattering of adventures and escapades, in and around Hartsop. Evenings at the rec’ got better and longer, as I willingly became involved with the local community; two of its female members, in particular. One of brother Tom’s clearest and favourite recollections, whenever he and I meet up and lapse into reflecting on old times, is being both amused and intrigued when, during a brotherly aside as to how our respective holidays were progressing, I had seriously remarked: “They must mek ‘em different up ‘ere, or summat. It’s the way they look at yu”, before excitedly confiding, in a deep whisper: “It meks things happen, down there!”

Hazel and Georgina were the only girls in the village to qualify, both on the grounds of age and appearance, for my interest and to have them both, literally, queuing for my attention on the few days a year that I was there, was not a bad state of affairs; as was endorsed by siblings, Catherine and Thomas, who frequently voiced their incredulity at their brother’s Hartsop conquests. I thought that it must be my funny accent, rather than anything of a carnal nature, that attracted the Fisher girls to me but, whatever it was, I certainly wasn’t complaining. I knew that, with both me and Hazel nearing seventeen, this friendship was doing no end of good for my sexual awareness and that it was, without question, the key instrument towards the longed-for assurance that I was becoming a man. Erections were no longer confined to waking-up time and I could now share in the girl-centred joking and excitement that had been worrying me, about my best friend, Peter, for almost a year now.

But that’s about as far as it went, though; nothing more serious or life-shaping, at this stage of my development, than Hazel and Georgina making my holiday playtime more exciting, more fun and, without doubt, more memorable. I had to admit, however, that, at times, the power and intensity of the feelings – emotional and physical – that the girls could generate within me, had me bewildered, confused and uncertain as to what or where they may lead to. Hartsop was no longer merely a holiday venue. It had become an all-enveloping condition – the Hartsop syndrome, no less – into which I would eagerly look forward to lapsing, twice a year. The visits, the village and two of its inhabitants had become unbelievably special. And, now, like Peter, my paramount peer, I had a girlfriend but, judging from Peter’s Monday morning updates, a far sexier one.

Be that as it may, it would be both unfair and false to pretend that Georgina, even with her lowly ‘big sister of girlfriend’ status, was less important, at any point of my Hartsop experience, than Hazel. Where do you start to describe a young woman who, to this day, in my mind, epitomised everything good about the opposite sex?

For a start, she was just the one person – a single entity, if seen from a more materialistic viewpoint. She was just GEORGINA, in capital letters; a proper grown-up and, as always, in a class of her own; as people in every walk of life, from Penrith to Patterdale, would readily testify. She was an out-and-out super-heroine, possessing all the best bits of Joan of Arc, Lady Godiva, Mona Lisa and Wonderwoman and, on occasion, some bits of Beryl the Peril, too. Hollywood, not Hartsop would have been a more appropriate backdrop for her, as far as her looks and style went, anyway. As for her other skills, Hollywood would have been less prepared for those.

Any sport or ball-game that the village kids engaged in, Georgina seemed to excel at. Her running was so good that I had tripled my training, whilst, at football, whenever she got the ball, another goal, for her side, followed in a matter of seconds. The swings and other playground equipment had required special strengthening and were greased by the visiting groundsman every week, since Georgina had taken to using them as her personal outdoor gym. But, undaunted and despite my own lack of sporting and athletic prowess – apart from cross-country running, at which I did quite well – I responded readily to the endless challenges that Georgina threw down.

 

Brothers Water . . . it’s a lake, for crying out loud!

The biggest and most intimidating challenge of all, however, came when Georgina told me that she would have to take me – yes, the self-same Harry Pickup – swimming in Brothers Water, during my next visit. I clearly recall her saying, much to my relief, that, after a fairly hard winter and with melt-water still running off the higher fells, the lake was too cold for an Easter swim, that year. I well remember, too, that particular next visit – September, 1961 – approaching; filled with much fear and trepidation, for I’d never swum in a lake before, apart from the shallow end of Coniston Water … I’d only recently ventured out of the shallow end of Bacup public baths, for goodness sake! And she didn’t just mean a paddle and a splash in Brothers Water; she meant swim across it. It was a lake, for crying out loud; and didn’t she know how the lake had got its name? Not just one brother, but two, had perished in its murky depths. But I needn’t worry. “It’s not as wide as it looks and it’s great for swimming, ‘cos it drops away really steeply,” Georgina had assured me … trembling, I recall. “Deep enough to dive into,” she had added, enthusiastically, almost as an afterthought, having sensed my unease at the dark and deep images that ‘drops away’ had placed in my mind.

As September grew closer and since my life would soon depend on it, swimming practice, too, was trebled; the plunge pool of the Maden Public Baths – one of Bacup’s numerous Victorian treasures – becoming my very own Brothers Water in Rossendale, as I reeled off length after length, until I achieved my target of seventy-two lengths. I had spent all of five minutes, one evening, whilst walking my usual Rochdale Road route to the pool, doing the mental arithmetic to determine the number of lengths in a mile; having been assured by the attendant that the Bacup pool was twenty-five yards long. Never one to shy away from a head-maths problem, the first bit was easy, but resulted in the awkward number of 70.4 lengths that would, I reasoned – if my training swims weren’t to terminate mid-pool – require rounding up. If only life were so simple. “How could 71 possibly be an acceptable training target?” I argued, narrowly avoiding an inebriated collier, spilling out of the New Inn. “It’s a prime number, for heaven’s sake, which, by definition, can’t be broken down into equal sections or sub-targets, to assist in each week or month’s training.” By my very nature, particularly my pedantic penchant for systems and logic, I couldn’t possibly commit to a training programme, if the maths didn’t look right. On turning to see if the merry miner was managing to keep on the pavement, I concluded the debate by settling on the multi-divisible 72, as the most sensible and, therefore, the best swimming target; a decision further supported by the substantial and reassuring argument that the extra one-point-six lengths capability that it generated might, one day, make the difference between life and death. The mental images of my floundering, just yards off the far shore, brought Georgina’s ‘deep enough’ reference into horribly sharp focus. Two brothers drowning, there, was more than enough, thank-you. “How many lengths, tonight, then?” I wondered. “Six, eight … or nine, maybe. And, boy … isn’t seventy-two just perfect?” There’d be no holding me, now – now that the maths stacked up.

From whatever viewpoint, it seemed, be it football, swimming or turning the swings into rocket launch pads, Georgina was, quite simply, awesome, both in performance and appearance. As a measure of this, the entire village showed respect towards her; and affection, too, for she had time and warmth for whoever she bumped into and she would be the first to offer anyone a helping hand. She was, after all, the elder daughter of the popular Fisher family. It was only to be expected. To me, it seemed that she was the village heroine and just to walk, talk and play – or, rather, compete – with her, brought with it an instant acceptance by the locals. Without having told anyone my name, I now got “Mornin’, Harry” from all quarters, as I hoofed it down into the village, from Hillside.

Now that the first coat of Georgina’s portrait has been applied – the primer, shall we say and assuming you can cope with this outer-skin-first approach – let’s rejoin the brief chronology of the developing relationship between her and yours truly.

– o –

It was Easter 1961, you’ll recall, and, as always, the four day visit to Hartsop was passing by, all too quickly; especially so, with the recently intensified sexual chemistry that I was certain now existed between the Fisher girls and myself. Unlike the local girls, back home, Hazel and Georgina made me feel different – special, even – and I knew and rejoiced that these feelings were real manifestations of sexual attraction; yes, the real thing. Why this was easier to find in Hartsop than in Bacup, I couldn’t understand, but I certainly wasn’t grumbling about the phenomenon. But, as I was discovering, everything comes at a price, and now, with Victor fully-loaded for the return trip, for the first time, the prospect of leaving the Fisher sisters behind, in Hartsop – with me, eighty miles away in boring old Bacup – was more than living up to that maxim; it was a clear source of discomfort. In fact, it was more than just uncomfortable. I could feel it hurting. The concept of missing someone was new emotional territory and I knew that it was going to be a challenge.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Born in 1944, a ‘war baby’, and blessed with an insatiable curiosity. At school, my best skills were woodwork and creative writing; the best testimony to the latter being a remark by my history teacher that my essays made even the Franco-Prussian War interesting. Modest praise, granted, but nonetheless relevant to my goal as a writer. The end result is a still curious septuagenarian; enjoying my third marriage to a bewitching woman from the tropical rain forests and rice paddies of NE Thailand.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The inspiration was the chemistry that flourished between me and the Fisher sisters, especially Gina, with whom, although 3 years her junior, everything was so easy, so natural and so exciting. Where do you start to describe a young woman who epitomised everything good about the opposite sex?
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
Jack Reacher – One Shot, by Lee Child; The Song of Hiawatha, by H W Longfellow; Lake District Rock, by members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club committee
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I realised, many years ago, that my Hartsop memories were never going to die. Because they were so 'feel good' in their nature, it seemed only fair to get them down on paper for others to share.

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