Tag Archives: English

On This Day – Horror of the Moors and the Independence Day

The English Bible

Ancient Bible

1536 King Henry VIII ordered that English language Bibles be placed in every church.

Lord Protector

1659 English Restoration: A faction of the British Army removed Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.

Post Stamps

A 1841 printing on pale blue paper

1840 The first postage stamps, the ‘Penny Black’ and two-penny ‘blues’, which were the brainchild of Roland Hill, officially went on sale in Britain.

King George V

Full-length portrait in oils of George V

1910: Following the death of King Edward VII, George V acceded to the throne. He celebrated his Silver Jubilee with Queen Mary in 1935.

A Short Mile

1954 Roger Bannister, a 25 year old British medical student, became the first man to run a mile in less than four minute (at the Iffley Road Sports Ground, Oxford). His time was 3 minute 59.4 seconds.

Cod Wars


1959 Icelandic gunboats fire lived ammunition at British trawlers during a Cod War between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights in the North Sea.

TV Wedding

Princess Margaret and her husband, the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, wave from Buckingham Palace on their wedding day, 6 May 1960.

1960 Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, married Anthony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey in London. It was the first televised royal wedding and was watched by more than 20 million viewers.

Double First

1961 The first football team to achieve the double (FA Cup and League champions), was Tottenham Hotspur led by Danny Blanchflower when they beat Leicester City 2-0 to win the Cup at Wembley.

Moors Murderers

File:Moors Murderers.jpg

1966 At Chester Crown Court, ‘Moors murderers’ Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were found guilty of torturing and killing several children before burying their bodies on the moors north of Manchester.

Busy Tone

1990 London telephone codes changed to 071 and 081 (replacing 01).

The Channel Tunnel

1994 The Queen and France’s President Francois Mitterrand formally opened the Channel Tunnel during two elaborate ceremonies in France and Britain.

Independence Day


1997 The Bank of England was given independence from political control. It was the most significant change in its 300-year history.


1999 In an historic vote, electors in Scotland and Wales went to the polls to chose their representatives for the newly-devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

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Posted by on 06/05/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 50












The Hales kept away, aloof and inviolate in their role of chief mourners. A funny little couple with faces like two sprouting potatoes and dressed very much alike were the first to ask if Grant expected any more murders. Oh, no, Grant most certainly didn’t expect any more murders. Mr. and Mrs… er…, they supplied a name but not very clearly, they needn’t worry at all. Statistically, Northamptonshire was one of the safest areas to live in. It went from there. Mostly about unreported burglaries and the uncouth youth of today, nothing like it used to be. Mrs. Powell asked if Grant thought thatCheshirechap would know Lennie Unsworth’s whereabouts. Yes, Grant was confident Mr. Humberside would be able to offer significant help with that line of inquiry.

Bloody hell. Humberside’s capture and return to theUKmust have been already splashed all over the news. BloodyCarlton.

‘Well, wherever she is, Lennie won’t be coming back to any lead parts again, that’s for sure.’

‘How’s that, Mrs. Powell?’

‘Haven’t you heard, Inspector? This place is closing after the next show when the lease runs out. Can’t pay the rent. Not now that Fran’s gone. The Masters woman’s been making some noises but she’s got no money of her own and I can’t see her husband paying for it. But, she’s got what she wanted. Hale cast her as Salome. Apparently, my accent was too much of the Fens. I ask you. It’s been twenty years and more since I’ve left the Fens. My Hugh and I celebrated our twentieth in June.’

The potato couple said they had been thinking of switching over to the Wellingborough Operatic anyhow; he had a lovely baritone. Someone said the Operatic was good but a bit old fashioned for his taste and he himself was joining a writers’ group. He was a creative type.

Grant thought he could see the top of Emma’s head or the curve of the neck on several occasions, but the room was quite crowded by now.

‘You wanted to talk to me, I believe, Inspector. What’s the poor little me accused of?’

Some voices can do that. Everyone else stopped talking and slowly moved away. There was far more of Alicia Masters outside her dress than in. Did she know this was meant to be a wake?



‘You coming, Sir?’ Rav Singh returned into the house.

‘In a minute. We’ll follow yout in in my car.’

‘How’s the albatross?’

Grant turned towards the crystal mirror in a baroque frame and tapped his own shoulder. ‘I can’t see any. Can you?’

Singh laughed. ‘Neither can I. See you at the Station.’ He turned to leave, then laughed again. ‘There’s been a turn-up back at the ranch. You’ll never believe this. Monica, the Super’s secretary, eloped yesterday.’

‘Don’t be an idiot, Rav. Women of Monica’s age and disposition don’t elope.’

‘She did.’

‘Who with?’

‘Samantha’s, the Super daughter’s, fiancée.’ Singh waved cheerily and walked off.


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Posted by on 24/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 49












The Word on Sunday and a few others ran it on the front page. The qualities varied from a small marginal item at the back to a couple of columns among other news from the Balkan war. The gist of it was the same. The British navy patrolling theAdriaticsearched a Turkish ship for evidence of supplies of arms to Bosnians. The ship was on a return trip and any evidence gathered was purely circumstantial, but they found a stowaway. The upshot was that Cedric Humberside, the hit and run driver in the baby Silcock case and later implicated in the brutal murder of Frances Swan and mysterious disappearance of the dead woman’s best friend, Helena Unsworth, a Hallbrook veterinary surgeon in the CroatianportofSplit, that very same Cedric Humberside was being brought back toBritainand justice. In addition to a very good photograph of Humberside, The Word scooped with a few more details. The British were to transport the prisoner toZagreb, the capital ofCroatia, in a military aircraft and escort him from there toLondonimmediately on the scheduled flight.

‘You know what that means, don’t you?’ Grant was fuming. ‘Carlton’s made sure that every single paparazzi in the country and his aunt are there to meet that plane.’

‘Let him have his fun. What’s the harm?’

‘I don’t know yet, but I’d have preferred a news blackout.’ It was no use taking it out on Debbie. She seemed livelier today. ‘You’ve consulted young Matthew on a number of points, I take it?’

‘A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. All in a good cause.’ Debbie grinned.  ‘Matthew doesn’t think there’s a way of breaking the PIN unless the card happened to fall into the hands of high tech professionals.’

‘So, what does that tell us?’

Debbie shrugged. ‘Apparently, there have been cases inAmericaof crooked bank clerks observing customers punch their PIN into the machine through security cameras and then accessing their account that way. Not likely in this case. The hole in the wall inSt. Albanshasn’t even got a camera. But, Mrs. Unsworth may have written her PIN actually on the card. Matthew says lots of people do that.’

‘As simple as that?’

‘Lighten up, Boss. Something about this case has got to be simple.’



The first thing Grant saw through the half-open door was an oversized shadow on the wall. The profile was grotesquely reminiscent of Miss Piggy with glasses.

‘I’ve told you,’ Jennifer Spriggs materialised by his side from thin air. ‘Just as I’ve been saying all along.’

Grant produced a card from his inside pocket. ‘Call this number, ask for Inspector Singh. We’ll need two cars. And Singh himself,’ he whispered.


‘Please.’ He reached back into the pocket to hand her his mobile but she had already pulled her own out of a fancifully beaded bag.

‘He’s mine, Grant. Mine!’ Spriggs literally gritted her teeth. ‘And don’t you forget that.’

‘I won’t.’


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Posted by on 23/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 48












Emma tried to reach Branton from the main road but was unceremoniously turned back by two boy policemen. She drove on, turned into a circular road, passed a burning car and a group of youngsters around it who mercifully ignored her, carried on past several semi-circular buildings that went under the collective name of Branton Crescents and reached the first tower block by driving along a narrow path between two long rows of lock-ups. Like all the others, the tower block had a name but most letters were missing. Among the graffiti she managed to make out a big letter N above the entrance door. At the bottom end of a side street on the right a turbulent crowd of bodies was pushing away towards some invisible target. The noise penetrating the tightly shut car windows sounded like singing. Cheering. There was a strong smell of smoke and the sky above the row of some ten or so two-story houses with their own small lawns was red. An ambulance appeared in her rear view mirror, its lights and siren on full blast. Screeching, it turned somewhere left. As she was leaving the last of the still working streetlights, Emma reached into the glove compartment and fixed her DOCTOR ON CALL plate onto the windscreen.

The road was littered with broken furniture, oil drums, overturned rubbish bins, cans and bottles. She put her long lights on and concentrated on driving.  Several quick moving figures ran across the road in front of her, disappearing into the darkness. She pressed the door locks down.  On two occasions she had to climb the pavement to get round the obstacles on the road. As she passed Block J a figure stepped in front of the car and she stopped with a jolt. She lowered the window only when her headlights caught the fluorescent yellow POLICE patch on his chest.

‘Is your visit absolutely necessary?’ He had seen the plate on the windscreen and she silently blessed her own foresight.

‘Of course, Constable. No one would come here tonight from choice.’

‘You’d be surprised. Where are you going?’

‘Block C.’

‘Follow me.’ The young PC dissolved into the darkness and within seconds she heard the engine of his motorbike, and the single, powerful beam of light came on. He was careering in front of her, turning right and left through the maze of concrete buildings and she followed the best she could. It took them ten minutes to reach Block C. It was mostly in darkness and looked deserted.

‘Most of the action is in the west crescents. I won’t be able to wait for you. Will you be all right?’ He did not turn the engine off and urgent noises were coming out of his radio.



The TV room was quite small, twice as long as it was wide and felt cushioned in. The ground floor of Little Manor featured a mix of stone flagged and parquet floors covered with rugs of one kind or another, depending on the nature of the room. The TV room was carpeted wall-to-wall and the heavy, lined curtains seemed to be permanently drawn together. Apart from the recliner, there was also a corner suite covered in something stripy, a line of bookcases with certain amount of unused space, a non-descript occasional table with a number of video cassettes on the bottom tier and, of course, a TV set on its own aluminium stand. With a small indoor aerial it would have looked more appropriate in a museum.

‘Lucky I’ve got my own upstairs,’ Angel whispered into Grant’s ear. ‘If one could get a sound on this set it would be probably taking in Middle English.’

Pippa giggled and said that her father would have probably never replaced his old set if it hadn’t broken down and he couldn’t watch golf any longer.

Not many people came to watch. According to Angel’s whispered report, Rufus’ first session of the evening involved Bunty Friel, the female Bunty as distinct from Bunty de Wilde. The one Andrew Retz used to call Female Bounty, based on the experience of a series of one-night stands over the period of four years. Virtually everyone had flocked in and the session had to be moved to the sitting room to accommodate the audience. With a little help from Rufus,Bethanyaka Bunty Friel travelled all the way back to the thirteenth century continentalEurope, exact location unspecified, to be burned to death at the stake.

‘I’d bet she and Rufus had rehearsed it over and over again beforehand,’ Angel concluded. ‘But Bunty’s agony was very convincing. The audience was deeply satisfied. I’ll give them that.’

Bella’s act was promising a lot less excitement and had to compete for attention with the arrival of fresh trays of food. Only a few sauntered in and most of those seemed more interested in the content of their own and everyone else’s plates.

‘Must be well over twenty per head,’ said someone Grant couldn’t see. ‘Have you been asked for any contribution yet?’

The answer was inaudible.

‘They make me sick,’ Angel grumbled louder that the politeness of a hostess should have allowed. ‘The Old Man has never asked anyone for a contribution. He does it all off his own back.’

‘Why?’ asked Grant.

‘Showing off,’ said Alex.

‘I wish Mr. Smithers would get on with it. Get it over and done with,’ Grant heard Ransome speak for the first time. He stood by the door as if he wasn’t sure he was welcome.

Rufus looked around, his eyes demanding silence.

‘Are you ready?’ he asked.

Bella nodded. The pendant on her chest was rising up and down fast.

Rufus bent over her and brought his golden medallion with emerald trimming closer to her. ‘You know who this is?’

She nodded again. ‘Stinky,’ she said.

‘And you want to travel back to say good bye to him?’

She hesitated a little but nodded eventually. ‘Yes, I suppose so.’


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Posted by on 22/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 47












Another two silent human shapes go past the door, taking no notice of her.

Emma straightens herself slowly, dips her hands into the tank again, presses them cold and wet on the sides of her neck, then on her temples. Then she dips another towel inside and takes it to her patient. There’s some comfort in looking after him. Like a trade-off.

She doesn’t even turn her head when yet another climber makes it through the window.

‘Good job I’ve done my keep-fit, isn’t it. This climb isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Twice in one night is over and above, to my way of thinking.’ Once inside, Debbie Jones takes off her dark headgear. In the moonlight, her hair looks like a mass of scrunched, silvery metal wire. ‘I’m meant to look after you. The fun’s about to start.’

‘Simon can get hurt,’ Emma objects mechanically.

‘The Boss will get hurt if we don’t do something soon,’ says Debbie calmly. ‘Dancer’s running out of steam.’  She walks over to the bed and puts on the bedside light.

‘Is that wise? The reflection can be seen on the grass.’ Emma’s confidence in this operation went with that stretcher. It tore the thin fabric of the cocoon she’s created for herself up here in this dark womb of lure and lore.

‘Don’t worry about that, love. How’s your patient doing?’

‘He’ll live.’ Emma wants to see this out without onlookers. Bloody hell, the last thing she needs now is to have to put on a brave face for an audience. ‘Nothing’s going to happen here, in this room. Your talents could be better employed someplace else in this operation.’



Dr. Bennett closed and locked the door to his study. The precaution aimed against casual intrusion. Even if someone had seen him going in, they would have been hardly likely to take much notice of him or wander what he was up to. Their host may have been spending unholy amounts of money each year for their pleasure and entertainment, but he himself had never figured in either in any way. For ten years now he’d been making sure to greet everyone individually on arrival and wish them a safe journey home on departure. In the meantime, he’d be careful never to impose himself on someone for longer than five or ten minutes, keep the conversation strictly limited to inquiries about their comfort and needs, except for smiling at the jokes and saying things as Very droll, Very amusing and How interesting when required.

Only about a week or so ago he had still considered the situation more of a challenge than a threat. With his skill in handling the tricky and the complex on a daily basis he quite naturally expected to find a solution at an acceptable price. A negotiated outcome. He still believed he could achieve the impossible.

But not any longer. The events had overtaken him, the were running away with him and there was damn all he could do.

After the lunch with Simon Hamilton Grant and a brief and pleasant chat with the hotel marketing manager about the dates and costs of an arts exhibition, he drove to Osney. It had been a long time since he visited the cemetery that contained an ever-increasing number of Lostao Crespos. The last time he’d been there was to attend Tita Inez’s funeral, only three months after her brother’s. Someone else must have taken over the care of the graves after Sara had left. They were kept neat and tidy. Deep purple and yellow pansies and small rose bushes thrived under the wayward shade of two ancient weeping willows.

Margot’s headstone was in the shape of the Virgin Mary with child sculpted out of white stone. Tito’s and Rosita’s choice, Gordon’s money.

He didn’t know what he came to the cemetery for. There’s never been anything for him here. He filled the vase made of heavy blue plastic with water from the nearby communal tap and arranged the yellow tulips in it the best he knew how. The vase was a little too tall and only the tips of the sword-like leaves were showing above the rim. He next removed a few leaves from the marble top and the white gravel that formed a path around the grave, wrapped them into the paper the flowers had come in and took it to the wire rubbish basket next to the tap. Back at the grave, he was at a loss. It felt appropriate to take his hat off but the small, narrow wooden bench that served both Margot and Inez was fully in the sun and his shoes were not made for long periods of walking or standing. In fact, his feet have never been designed for long periods of exertion. He compromised by taking his hat off while he said Our Father, the only prayer he knew all the words to, under the shade of the willows, then replaced it and walked around to the bench.


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Posted by on 21/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 46



It was a beautiful, balmy June night. The night of eighth of June 1978 to be precise. In his heart of hearts he knew he didn’t need to spend the night revising. But years of habit kept him reading. Hours went by. He sat by the open French window picking up the books and notes alternatively in a carefully pre-planned order.  It was just past midnight when he poured himself another cup of coffee. The biscuit tin was empty, so he made himself a piece of toast and spread Gabriella’s home made blackberry jam over it. Gabriella had said blackberry was good for the brain cells. Eve said brain cells my foot, and to watch out for constipation.

Then he tackled one of the more involved test cases. Buerk v Eastman and Son, the Monumental Stone Masons. The judge found for the masons even if they had put the stone on the wrong grave. The logic of the judgment was perfect if one could cite all the points of law in the right order.

He frowned at the noise growing louder from the direction of Nathan Brook. The term ‘love birds’ was total nonsense. Those creatures squabbled and fought as much as people. When he’d first moved into the flat, the squawking from the Nathan Grove side used to wake him up frequently at any time of night.


Little Manor, Spratton

Saturday, 24. 07. 1993

Jennifer Spriggs looked good in her black outfit. The minimum of makeup brought out the blueness of her eyes and the fullness of her lips. When Grant finally managed to track her down she looked bored stiff by Bunty de Wilde’s long and detailed narrative about his translations of legal and ecclesiastical manuscripts from medieval Flemish, but as soon as they were left on their own admitted that she’d been avoiding him on purpose.

‘It wouldn’t do for the two of us to be seen to confab too much. No one’s talking as it is,’ she grumbled.

‘Did you expect them to?’

She smiled and shook her head. It was a very pretty smile and a very pretty head. ‘It’s Gordon Bennett who’s let me down. I expected him to be either all over me or avoid me, but he’s doing neither. A perfect host. A little bit nervous and pernickety, jumpy and abstracted, but that’s it. Which perhaps shouldn’t surprise me. He’s been entertaining this lot since last night and has another twenty-four hours of it. Why is he doing it? Why the hassle, the expense? I know he’s got a bit of a reputation for showing off, but …’ she looked up at him questioningly. ‘Any bright ideas?’

‘Only very vague and most certainly not very bright,’ he smiled back at her. ‘This is the tenth anniversary of Marcus Smithers’ suicide. Dr. Bennett started these gatherings ten years ago. One can’t but wonder.’

‘It was a suicide,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘Of course, there’s suicide and then there’s suicide…’

‘Which is more or less what Rufus Smithers said. There’s certainly some method in his madness, but he’s not saying what it is. He’s talking of fortresses, moats and secret entrances.’

‘Probably just trying to rattle the old rattle snake,’ Spriggs dismissed Smithers with no hesitation. ‘I wish him luck. Bennett is cleverer than that.’

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Posted by on 20/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 45












Grant made a fast turn and drove to Pychley House.

‘I don’t understand.’ Soaked through, Unsworth was walking up and down the wooden porch at the back of the house. ‘Why are they doing this? They’re ruining the garden. What are they looking for? What bloody credit card?’

‘The officers are acting on information received, sir,’ said Debbie. ‘The Inspector and I are here on a completely different business.’

‘Your wife’s credit card, Mr. Unsworth. It’s been used.’ Grant would have preferred to conduct the conversation indoors, but Unsworth wasn’t offering.

Unsworth stopped in his tracks. ‘That means she’s alive and well. Where is she? Where was the card used?’

‘We don’t know where Mrs. Unsworth is.’ Grant produced a photocopy of the statement. ‘There’s a little problem, I’m afraid. The card’s been used in London, in Tower Hamlets to be exact, just before one o’clock in the afternoon of Friday, 16th October. If the convoy left at eleven in the morning as you’ve said, they should have been inDoverby that time, waiting for the ferry. Possibly even on the ferry if they’d planned it properly.’

Unsworth’s face was reddening in stages.

‘You told me you’d waved them off.’ Grant added when the vet failed to answer.

‘I wish I had. I wish to God I had.’ Unsworth resumed his walk, pacing around in a small, irregular circles.

‘Shall we go in? You could do with a cup of tea, sir,’ Debbie suggested quietly.

Unsworth nodded but continued his roaming at the same pace. ‘I didn’t wait. I was going to, but they were buggering about, waiting for someone, Lord knows who or what. Lennie knew I was pressed for time. She insisted that I should leave. She insisted.’



Dressed in light brown trousers made of heavy Shantung and a dark brown, short-sleeved noil shirt among a sea of dinner jackets and black ties, the gargoyle stood in the middle of the terrace, finishing a glass of red wine. The wavy, grizzled hair was collar length at the back, nonexistent at the top. The deficiency turned the once oval-shaped face into an asymmetrical triangle, with the eyebrows dominating over the button nose and large, full lips.

‘Ah,’ he raised the empty glass, ‘the prodigal returns. And,’ he bowed deeply to Pippa, getting hold of her hand and bringing it to his lips, ‘with a trophy wife on his arm. If I were les well mannered I’d say you two emitted an unmistakeable post-coital glow.’

‘We’ve got to talk, Alex.’ Somewhere along the way Grant had decided on start-as-you-mean-to-go-on approach.

Carroll winked at Pippa. ‘You’ll be glad to hear that his charm school has been closed down. Whatever’s made you marry a policeman, my lady?’

‘The prospect of a pension and long, lonely nights in front of the telly was too attractive to resist.’ Pippa took her time over freeing her hand, but free it she did. ‘I assume the padlock has been taken off the drinks cabinet by now?’

‘You assume right. Follow me.’

Simon let them walk off. Dr. Bennett in a black dinner jacket and a hat that looked dangerously like a boater appeared at the door and was heading in his direction in short, mincy steps and with a thin smile on his face. He had people with him, though, so Simon changed his mind and caught up with Alex and Pippa. Half way across the lawn Alex offered to re-introduce him to his soon to be ex-wife and her baby boyfriend. Angel, dressed in something much too short and embarrassingly low cut, and with a magnificent crown of hair surrounding a pasty, olive-shaped face, replied angrily that Casper Ransome was neither a baby nor her boyfriend. She stretched herself on her toes for a long, wet kiss on Grant’s cheek, and gave Pippa an undisguised once-over while waiting for introduction.

Several people, taking it in turns to shake his hand, pat him on the shoulder or plant kisses somewhere on or in the vicinity of his face, people who expected to be recognised, addressed him as HG, an abbreviation generated in the early years by Kevin Corrigan that had been generally accepted as Grant’s student identity. He was also told he looked well and wasn’t his wife lovely, absolutely lovely. The lovely wife was first hanging on his arm, repeating pleased to meet you and oh, I’ve heard so much about you to faces and names Grant was at pains to link and make sense of. Then she ebbed away and he was hearing himself say yes, it’s wonderful to be back, and you don’t seem to be doing badly yourself and returning backslaps and kisses as appropriate.


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Posted by on 19/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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