is Sam Sterling?
is the pen name, alter ego, of Derek Fountaine. He was born in the middle of an
air raid on the north east coast of the
Isle of Wight
Sam was not a scholar. His first four years of schooling was at the hands of a
totally dysfunctional ‘School M’arm’ who was interested in the bright
sycophants only. Children with spirit or those that needed to apply a little
more effort, were, to her, a complete waste of time. Sam was in the latter
the age of ten, Sam – at another school and with another teacher –
discovered reading. This carried him through, five more schools till it was time
to shake off the chattels of childhood and enter the working world. This he did
as an apprentice Mechanic/Engineer.
1966 saw him
leave the land of his birth and resettle with his wife and two small children to
the South Island of New Zealand. In the mid seventies he turned his back on his
trade and became a telephonist, working shifts. In the long lonely shifts of
midnight till six in the morning, he started to write; poems, short stories, the
draft of a novel. After winning a prize on the local radio with a poem, Sam
started writing in earnest. Even taking part in an eight-week Creative Writing
course at his local polytech.
story flowed from his imagination. Two small magazines picked some of them up,
but publishers seemed reticent. Then in 2002 the BBC World Service selected one
of his stories and placed it in the fifteen finalists of their Short Story
Competition. The story was read on air in February 2003.
, in the Vanuata Group in 1994 and is now a permanent resident there.
(Read a sample)
Some say it is late summer, others, early autumn. But with this balmy spell,
Brian Moore mused as he looked into his empty coffee mug; it seemed totally
superfluous as to what season it was.
was sitting on his tiny veranda and the sobering thought came to him that within
a few short weeks, it would be November; cold, dark, dank days of drizzle and
rainstorms, often with the possible threat of snow.
eyes lifted and surveyed the Hampshire Downs in the distance, apart from a few
more houses in the way; it was the same view he remembered from his earliest
memories of life in Over Milton.
had been born in the cottage where he now lived. World War two had ended just a
few months before his arrival and his father, a reservist at the Air Ministry in
, had returned in time for the birth. Katie Moore, his mother, was a good deal
younger than her husband, also called Brian. Brian senior had been a career
soldier whose first wife, Carol, took their two children with her when she
absconded with a colour sergeant from the Black Watch and was last heard of in
young Brian often fantasized about his half siblings – a girl called Jessie
and a boy named Peter he was told – but never did meet them. They were
probably dead by now, he thought as he placed the mug on the veranda rail in
front of him and ran his eyes over the front of the cottage that, apparently,
his grandmother, like him, had been born in.
either she, or his mother, recognize it now, he had done so many renovations
since his retirement? His father had died whilst he was still at
. He left them well provided for and they were strongly urged by their solicitor
not to try and find the whereabouts of family number one. Being as he was a
wealthy man, lawsuits could spring up as to who was entitled to their share of
the loot. Though Katie was uncomfortable with the situation of two children in
the world not knowing their father was dead, she was persuaded by reason to go
along with things.
top of his class in maths every year he was at school, went on to
where he obtained a Masters degree in Maths and Finance and was headhunted by
the large banking houses.
she was upset at seeing him go, Katie persuaded him to further his career in a
world-wide banking group and his travels had started.
his eyes wandered over the Hampshire countryside as the sun sank almost to the
horizon. In half an hour it would be gone, but the twilight he knew would linger
for quite a while yet, not being fully dark till after nine-thirty. A thrush
broke into song somewhere off to his right and he smiled to himself. An ordinary
thrush in the evening, he thought, became a nightingale a few hours later. He
thought of some of the evenings he had seen and the sounds he had heard in his
, so like the view he was seeing now, even most of the birds had been imported
from The Old Country. Long twilights there also, a far cry from the
where the sun pulled the shades of night down with it as it as it sank into the
sea. Daylight to full dark in twenty minutes!
faithful being summoned from the minarets that dotted the skyline.
, a clinically clean city winding down to a quiet night time.
; just warming up to another raucous night.
He did not want to think of
he took his coffee mug through to his tiny kitchen and rinsed it out. He had
eaten a cheese and onion toasted sandwich for his meal, but that had been an
hour ago and he admonished himself that the crumb be-speckled plate was still on
the small table behind the kitchen door. He grabbed that and almost angrily
washed it. He looked around for something else to take his mind off
, but there was nothing needing to be done.
contemplated doing another hour or so in the workshop, but he had spent almost
all afternoon there. Instead he decided to take the Velo out for a spin, it was
almost a week since he had last done so.
was his pride and joy, a 1947 L.E. Velocette that he had found in a
neighbour’s back shed four years earlier. Apart from flat tyres and an
accumulation of dust, she was in reasonably good order. It took a good six
months of love and devotion, whiling away long winter months, to restore it to
pristine condition and on his first run out he had been stopped by two motorists
who wanted to offer him the sort of money that would pay off the national debt.
But of course he would never sell it, deciding once he became too old to ride,
he’d donate it to a local car museum with the proviso that it must never be
sold into private ownership.
remembered P.C. Denholm, from Romsey Police, used to ride the same sort of
machine round all the small villages in the area, when he was a primary
schoolboy. The policeman called it his ‘Noddy Bike’. The silent sound of it,
in contrast to the more popular bikes of that era, BSA Bantam, Francis Barnett,
or James; smoky, noisy things – really gripped his imagination. And here he
was a proud owner of one, quite possibly one of only half a dozen left in the
grabbed his helmet from the cupboard near the back door, and went out to the
garage. He pushed the bike out into the driveway, where he put it on the stand
before shutting the garage door. As usual, the Velo started first pull and he
purred out into the village, riding past several locals, some of whom gave him a
wave as he passed, others glared at him, almost hostilely. The fact he had been
born in Over Milton meant little to them, he had lived most of his adult life
overseas, only to return a little over a decade ago. This made him an
‘Outsider’ in some, luckily only a few, eyes.
crossed the bridge over Mason’s Stream, just past the Post Office and gunned
the one forty eight cc, horizontal water-cooled twin. Silently and effortlessly
it responded and headed toward Stockbridge. At the edge of the town he turned
sharp right and headed up the long drag of Winchester Hill. Two thirds of the
way to the top he eased it down into second gear and heard with pride the engine
making light work of the steepest rise. He crested the top of the hill and
shifting back up into top gear, allowed the engine to cruise quietly all the way
to the cross roads. Here he turned right and headed for home via the Sombournes.
again at the bridge over Mason’s Stream, Brian found himself on the same side
of the road as the ‘Straight Furrow’, the local pub. There had been two of
them when Brian had been a boy, but the ‘Rook and Raven’ had gone the way of
many small hostelries and was now a private house. On a whim he pulled into the
car park, kicked out the side stand and switched off the engine.
Donahue raised an eyebrow as the new customer walked in. Barry had lived in the
village for twenty years, being the Landlord of the
‘Straight Furrow’ for half that time, but, like Brian, was still regarded by
a few locals as a ‘foreigner’. His clear accentless and perfect
pronouncement of the English language completely belied his origins in
. But then was it so surprising? He had made a career as a newsreader back in
the days when radio abhorred any colloquial accent and had been a front man in
the early days of local television.
Brian,” he said as the customer approached the bar. “We do not see you in
acknowledged the greeting. “Just thought I was in the need of a good British
Pint,” he said, then added quickly; “Better make it a half pint.”
changed the big glass for one half the size and filled it from the pressurised
faucet. “The Great British Pint is just about a thing of the past, eh?”
customer grinned. “Not at all, I just don’t seem to be able to get used to
beer at room temperature after all the years spent in foreign climes.”
this ain’t real beer!”
looked over to the corner where Alf Jenkins sat in his usual chair with Jess,
his faithful black and tan dog, lying at his feet.
nodded at Barry, who grinned. “This is Gastonberry’s prize winning ale.
sniffed in derision. “When I were a nipper, we wouldn’t’a slopped this
concoction to bloody pigs. We ‘ad real beer in them days. Brewed proper loike.
Three months in an oak barrel. It were pulled outa there wi’ a proper pump.
Not these hally-miny-um barrels that squirts it out like sody water.”
nodded a thank you to Barry as he put the right change on the bar, then walked
over to Alf. “If the beer is as bad as you say,” he said with a grin, “why
do you still come in and quaff so much?”
bain’t be married, be you son?” Alf Jenkins was an old man; it seemed to
Brian the man had been old ever since he had known him.
shook his head. “I don’t see that has anything to do with beer.”
now, ‘spose you ‘ad the choice, loik, of spendin’ an hevenin’ at ‘ome
with my missus, or sippin’ lousy beer in this ‘ere pub wi’ Jess fer
company, Oi reckons you would settle for the beer hevery toime.”
a cynical old sod, Alf,” Brian told him. “Ever since I’ve known you, you
have been a portent of doom, gloom and despondency.”
don’ you go usin’ them long words on me young
, I’m still old enough to command respect you know,” he took a long pull at
his half-pint glass, sighed appreciatively, realised what he had done and
grimaced. “Oi still remembers you as a lad at village school you know.”
Brian said as he sipped his beer. “You used to deliver the milk in that old
Fordson van. We used to hear it coming from a mile away, rattling and clattering
up School Hill. It was always a surprise when you actually made it.”
van that,” he said as he gazed off into a well-remembered past. “Never ever
let me down; that old van.”
laughed. “Come on, you were forever under the bonnet doing something to it.”
he said. “It were just tender lovin’ care Oi gave it, it were loike a woman,
Oi ‘ad ter keep doin’ summat to it or it thought Oi didn’t care.”
took a pull at his beer. “And is being at the pub, drinking substandard beer,
letting the woman at home know you care for her?”
the missus ain’t a woman,” he answered in a cool serious voice. “She be a
there’s a difference?”
there be!” he said with emphasis. “A woman’s someone you woos; gives ‘em
flowers; tells ‘em things you don’t know yersel’. You cain’t do that wi’
be daft lad. You start treatin’ a wife loike a woman and she starts thinking
you bin up ter summat you hain’t supposed to.”
finished his beer and went over to refill his glass. “Did you hear Alf’s
philosophy on women and wives, Barry?”
it many times, Brian. That old reprobate has more philosophies than Plato. One
of these days I reckon I should write them all down; make a book of them.”
a splendid idea,” Brian said as he paid for his second half pint. “It would
probably be a best seller.”
Barry said sarcastically. “And
will have a Liberal Democrat Government.”
sound of a motor-cycle was heard outside, approaching slowly.
sounds loik Arthur Badesly’s bike.” Alf observed from his table in the
corner. “Wonder where ‘es bin?’
you can ask him if he comes in,” Brian said.
‘e’ll never come in ‘ere.”
knew Arthur Badesly from way back, the fellow had lived in the village all his
life, whereas Brian had moved away as soon as he went into university; only to
return to his parents’ small cottage when retirement loomed, fifteen years
ago. It was doubtful he had spoken to the man more than three times in that
does he not come in here?’ he asked the Landlord.
grinned. “Because of that stupid wager my predecessor, Dave Bateman
nodded; he recalled the story.
that cain’t be roight,” Alf said, head on one side, listening. “Alf’s
just done a U turn and is comin’ into the car park.”
other two men listened as the farmer’s motor-cycle came quietly to a
standstill and remained ticking over for a few moments before the engine died.
think he has parked beside my bike,” Brian said in a matter of fact tone
tell me we’s be goin’ to ‘ave a Bikie Convention ‘ere,” Alf said and
chuckled away at his own joke.
full minute ticked past, before the main door of the bar opened, and almost
apologetically Arthur Badesly popped his weather beaten face round the door. He
was a short man, barely five-feet five and his wiry frame showed not an ounce of
fat, but for all that, his arms and chest were powerful. Here was a man who was
not afraid of hard labour, a man who had worked all his life in the outdoors.
Arthur never wore a hat, or cap, his enormous head of black hair made any head
adornment totally superfluous.
evening Mr Badesly,” Barry greeted him warmly. “I doubt I have seen you here
before. Do come in,” he smiled at the man, then said as an aside to Brian;
“First you, now Arthur Badesly, what an exciting evening it is to be sure.”
The last few words were spoken in a broad Irish brogue.
fallen orf wagon then Arthur?” Alf Jenkins asked from the corner.
ain’t never bin on it,” Arthur muttered. “Just didn’t want ter end up
like you, ‘tis all,” he slowly made his way to the bar accompanied by Alf
chuckling in the background.
what is your pleasure Mr Badesly?” Barry asked.
ain’t much of a drinker, just an ‘alf of shandy please,” he then looked at
Brian. “And give Mr Moore ‘ere another of whatever ‘e be a drinkin’.”
placed his hand palm down across the top of his glass. “I’m on my last one,
thank you Arthur. But what’s with this ‘Mr Moore’ business, we were at
nodded. “Oi came in ‘ere ‘cuz I seen your bike outside, Oi got some very
himportant business Oi wants ter talk to you about,” he thanked Barry for the
shandy and pointed to a small table as far from everyone else as it was possible
to be. “Oi reckon we’d be better if’n we went over there.”
and Alf regarded them with mild interest as they made their way to the table. It
was a small table, and after Brian had seated himself, the farmer sat opposite
and leant forward, almost conspiratorially.
can I do for you Arthur?” Brian spoke slowly and evenly. Were he to make a
list of the top ten most unlikely people to seek him out, the man on the other
side of the table would be likely to occupy the first nine places.
got a …” Arthur paused. “A problem wi’ bees.”
he mumbled in the affirmative.
I haven’t had anything to do with bees for the best part of fifty years!”
Brian’s father used to be an apiarist, and he often helped with the hives.
he said, his disappointment was apparent. “You’m be t’only one I knows of
oo understands ‘em.”
have probably forgotten more than I ever knew.”
he said quickly. “But Oi reckons you knows more than anyone else Oi knows.”
His logic could not be argued with.
father once had three hives that swarmed simultaneously. He had been away on a
school trip at the time. They set up home in the local telephone box and
terrorised the village, so he had been told. It took his father and a couple of
other beekeepers from neighbouring villages, all day to remove them. About ten
people had been stung and it was made pretty clear after that that bees were not
something the village wanted in the future.
Arthur, you got a swarm or something.” His mind was racing He knew of a few
apiarists in Hampshire, could he call one of them to help? There was no way he
was going to tackle a swarm!
it be nothing loik tha’.” Another pause. “Look, I knows people in the
village don’t reckon much on me, an’ I also knows they thinks Oi’m daft.
Maybe Oi am.” There was an undertone to his voice that told Brian here was a
man under a lot of stress. “But if’n Oi don’t get someone to come an’
look at Myrtle’s bee, Oi’m goin’ to be more than daft. Oi tell ‘ee!”
was Arthur’s ten-year-old daughter. He and his wife, Iris, were well set into
a childless existence when out of the blue forty-four-year-old Iris was taken
into hospital with suspected cancer. This was diagnosed as a seven-month
pregnancy and the tongues in the village really went into overdrive. The local
publican, Dave Bateman, took bets on who the probable father was, no one bet on
Arthur. But when Myrtle put in an appearance and looked the image of her father,
all bets were off. Arthur heard about the wagers and never set foot in the
‘Straight Furrow’ again, till that evening.
want me to come and look at one bee?”
Brian tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice; he was not too successful.
was a tangible silence for several seconds, then; “Where’m there be one bee
there be more about.”
nodded ruefully to himself; bees are not called a sociable insect for nothing.
“Is there something special about this bee?” he asked. Into his mind came a
fleeting thought about the, so-called ‘African Killer Bees’.
almost inaudible sigh; did it contain a touch of amusement? “Oh, it be special
o’right. I bin lived in these ‘ere parts more’n sixty year. An’ I tell
‘e, Mr Moore, I hain’t seen nothing loik it.
Brian said to him. “We were at school together, remember, please drop the Mr
ignored the rebuke. “Loik Oi sez, if’n you don’t come an’ look at this
‘ere bee, I dunno what Oi’m supposed to do.”
was a note of desperation in the speaker; he was sweating slightly, though the
heat had gone from the evening by then. His whole body language told Brian that
his companion would rather not be having this conversation, would rather not be
in this hotel, but he was here and with a purpose, a very singular
he would not admit to it, especially to himself, a touch of boredom had started
to infiltrate Brian’s idyllic retirement. Having travelled round the world
more times than he could recall, the thought of sitting through another British
winter was not the highest point on his agenda. Something, a sixth sense
perhaps, seemed to be telling him this was important. “Okay, Arthur. I’ll
come over, is it convenient to follow you home now?”