Memoirs
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Ghost Carp

Author: G. Jefferies

 

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On 16 June 1980, Chris Yates smashed the UK carp record with a 51.5 lb. leviathan from Redmire Pool in Herefordshire, England. For years as young inbetweeners in the late 80’s the awe of super sized carp remained an elusive fantasy with captures of significantly smaller fish restricted to all things under 5 lb. Big fish were the stuff of dreams, full of magic and unattainable mystery; at least until we found Crakemarsh Pool. An old estate lake sat in the grounds of an ancient abandoned manse crumbling in neglect and despair. One of those places that oozes history in surroundings filled with pre-history, barrows and Roman settlements. Where time bleeds into the present reminding us of it’s unstoppable march forwards deleting the past. The Hall itself seemed to have been there forever; extensively rebuilt in 1815 around an impressive staircase; a relic from a former 17th century house. Home to Lady Sheppard, then the Cavendish family with US troops billeted there during the second World War. By the time Yates did battle at Redmire the Hall had been abandoned and part demolished leaving it’s bones rising into the sky and roots lost in the undergrowth. Tales of hauntings were legion; although these were mostly hearsay and stemmed from nocturnal anglers in solitary vigils staring at a lake that settled into a dereliction in keeping with the Hall.

So came the night of monsters.

The day was one of those halcyon school summer holiday ones; looking back many were. When life will never get any better and the immortality of youth burned brightly. Even the rain days held magic, watching spray fizz through an antiquated fishing umbrella. The oldsters used mystic knowledge to ensure we remained.

“Fish is already wet young ‘un.”

Invariably they were retiring to vehicles at the time but over zealous enthusiasm never looked upon this as anything more than coincidence.

On this particular evening, sunlight was just clipping the tops of a copse on the west edge of the lake sending part of the water into darkness. The east side, where we now stood, held a shallow bay filled with lily pads with bright pink lotus flowers basking in the evening sun. Behind tractor engines were busy cutting hay, filling the fields with a golden dusty haze and scenting the air with the aroma of sweet fresh cut grass. It would not be long before the orange orb in the sky would pass beyond the trees and into the gap between stands where it would slowly sink beneath the horizon to be replaced by it’s lunar cousin; near full and ready to turn daylight into the domain of the nocturne. Already things were growing quiet. The wind had dropped leaving the lake still and filled with contemplation. To our right the bay curved into an arm leading towards the Hall where a small stream trickled into the main expanse of water. A jut of land separated this from another larger bay on the far side while to the left things thinned as another tranche of water led to a grilled outlet where the stream continued on it’s way; seemingly uninterested that above the ancient water course a lake had been dug.

It was now that the pads began moving.

“There” Steve was pointing at three megalodons cruising amidst the greenery.

Our free offerings of floating bread began to disappear. Taken gently with jaws opening just sub surface creating a vortex dragging the contents above into an abyss. Maybe not Yates sized but twenty pounders at least and the biggest fish we had ever seen. Mouths open in disbelief the adrenaline began it’s work turning legs weak and stomachs filling with lepidopterans. More bread was flicked out. Neither of us were aware the tractors had died, or that road noise under the dwindling sun had ceased. Even the chattering of Canada geese down by the stream exit dimmed as eyes became glued upon the disappearing freebies.

Time appeared to slow and curses were mouthed at the retiring sun throwing impenetrable reflections and glare onto the water in front. All too soon the shapes were lost and the pads ceased to move. It was now, somehow, dark. The beasts had taken two hours of life away in a moment while the world around had carried on; leaving us in temporal suspension before dumping us into the future. Suddenly the idyl had turned sinister. Our gear was on the outcrop of land between the two bays on the right. Slyly, the moon was casting silvery light onto it. Right on the end, where land met shallows and just before the causeway of bullrushes that ran toward the inlet. It felt like a trap. “Come here” said the spit; and yet the path to the right took us toward the skeletal Hall. Again the moon was playing games and shedding false light onto the arms of stonework rising above the surroundings. Oddly it looked more obvious at night than during the day when the undergrowth seemed to claw it back and conceal all. The water giants had claimed the rush of excitement. The manse was creating something darker; aided and abetted by the silence and illuminated by the eye in the sky. Even the geese were in a noiseless revery. Little wonder anglers went mad here and tales of the macabre filtered into overnight vigils.

The trek back to the safety of the spit began with torchlight trying to locate the path through nettles and undergrowth that somehow seemed taller and more dense by night. An owl hooted in the distance and was met by the bark of a fox. Nothing came from the Hall except intense shadow below and illuminated ruination above. Each step seemed eternally long. The ground opened with rabbit holes and ruts. In daylight these things seemed inconsequential. At night the entire place was rich in conspiracy. Even the air was chilling, reminding us that in twelve hours, should we not cease to exist, things would be safer. By now we were at the closest point to the ruin. To the left was a jump over the stream and we were on the peninsula. The moon upped it’s game as clouds moved on. Stars twinkled above and a track opened to the right amidst shoulder high vegetation. Tantalising saying

“go on, the Halls not so bad. Have a look. Not scared are you?”

We looked at each other. I was rather hoping Steve would say not tonight. On reflection I suspect he was thinking the same. As it turned out neither said anything so the path won. But for torches the way was masked in shadow and hidden from the lunar prankster by elderberry, gorse and brambles. Filled with dank earthy smells and dew dampened nettles. It started well. Rather broad, walking abreast we began with shadow falling in behind and quivering torches picking out patches here and there in front. Voices shrank to hushed whispers. Why I have no idea unless it was some subconscious effort not to wake the ghosts…or worse. Step by step the ground grew soggier, the vegetation denser and the path narrower. Single file. Unseen branches dragging across cheeks. The Hall lost amidst the ever thickening undergrowth. It felt like the closer we got the more reluctant the grounds were to let us in. Then we heard it. A shattering crash disrupted the silence. Resonating in the darkness. No doubt the revenants were waking. Pigeons spattered through the bushes to either side, disturbed from their roosts; ducks mewled in protest and a large black rat scuttled through the torch beam. It was enough to turn adventure into retreat. Running in the dark with torchlight bouncing an eerie path flickering over the ground, bouncing off leaf and twig. The sound of rustling coats and gasping of steamy breath. The stream was hurdled and the spit reached before we stood in front of the tackle, wheezing in the cold night air; sanctuary. It seemed that the ghostly noise had woken things up. Far out in the lake a carp crashed on the surface, the geese were muttering and the air seemed less opaque and more in the present. Time had begun again.

Line spooled off and the weighted silver foil makeshift bite indicator flew upwards disappearing into some reeds. Steve bent into a carp and the rod arched over ready to take on something that eclipsed all things before. Five minutes became ten. Worsened by the night and the uncertainty of playing a mighty adversary of the deep. At exactly three twenty two the rod straightened, the game ended and a straightened hook was reeled in.

We sat in silence until dawn began to stir. An unspoken obituary for the lost fish. Reflective on the nights events. In fishing, revisiting a secret undisturbed spot in which a mighty foe is defeated is often a beaten down relic on the next visit as the less conscious seek to chase down the magic. This place did the reverse. The path to the Hall became less public the deeper in you trod. Almost as if many had begun the very same journey but turned back and fled before the end with very few venturing deep enough to flatten the herbaceous guardians.

So it was the Hall and it’s lake held onto the unknown; their secrets intact.

Monsters still lived here.

***

Two decades later my very good friend Steve battled another monster. This time it was real and he lost. He passed away a few years ago. Nevertheless he still lives on in the memories and it was a privilege to have spent this night amidst the shadow of a Hall which I understand has been renovated and, presumably, exorcised. With it, no doubt, the monsters are all gone too. May they all rest in peace.

 

Β© G Jefferies and Fictionisfood, 2016. All rights reserved.

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Former research scientist the became the primary stay at home Dad for two children. Writing has always been factual in the previous life but always had a fascination with fiction but never been brave enough to develop it further. A comfort zone thing. Science writing is familiar, fiction is not. Hopefully the blog will provide more confidence and lead to a change in career writing from home around children!

96 Comments

    • Thanks Suzanne. I did a memoir writing course a while back and this was a result of an assignment on it. Never tried it before and the theme was challenging, but rewarding too. Loss is often hard, but I try not to forget the times before. Maybe I should write more of these. I’ve said before on this post that I’d like to do an anthology themed very much like this one.

        • I’ll put up the other one for ThrowBackThursday and you can tell me then if its worthy or not!!!

          Mind you, since doing this I’ve had a lot of thoughts on actually doing it. Its a project waiting to happen I think. Although I’ve a few other writing things to sort out first πŸ™‚

  1. Oh what a wonderful tribute to your friend. I’m sorry to hear he passed a few years ago. You are quite right though, he’ll live on your memories of him. And these memories seem quite strong x

    • Thanks Hayley. Sometimes its tough and focussing on the end is undervaluing everything that came before. We were both avid anglers and to say I’ve always wanted to do an anthology of memoirs there would be an understatement!

    • Thanks Rachael. I put this up while reflecting on another loss last weekend. I’m tempted to try an anthology of these in similar vein

        • Thanks Rachael, the comments are very supportive so it might be something I will add into my writing lists. I feel I know the direction already, which shows I’ve thought about it a lot really so no excuses!

    • Thank you for such a kind comment. I wrote this some time ago and it was not the easiest thing to do in all honesty. I did a follow up though called Of Wine, Nature and Elegies in Oak. That one had me considering an anthology!

    • Hi Matt, many apologies for the delay in replying. It got caught in the Askimet spam filter. I check that once a week now just in case.

      Thanks for the kind words. I’ve another like this called Of Wine, Nature and Elegies in Oak. Back in the day I’ve quite a few piscatorial and nature based memories that I’ve always wanted to put together in a book that doesn’t talk about how to fish, but how to experience the actual reasons why we do it. Something akin to Chris Yates and the ambience of what draws us into places that many people don’t get to see.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. They have rekindled the desire to do more.

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  3. noellekelly says

    A beautifully written tale and a perfect testament to your friend.

    • Thank you Noelle, its the partner to the other tribute to Steve; Of Wine, Nature and Elegies in Oak. One day I hope to write an anthology of similar memoirs πŸ™‚

  4. What a beautiful, if heart-tugging, companion piece to your other post about your friend. Your use of descriptive phrases is amazing – I felt I was walking through the scary underbrush right along with you. Excellent work, Gary!

    • You are too kind Traci. Obviously memories have already been walked so bringing them back to life I find easier; albeit challenging and sad sometimes!

  5. Loved this…the description and depth of detail took me right there.Wonderful tribute to your friend too πŸ™‚
    Are you going to write more along this line too? No pressure…lol…:)

    • I wrote two of these and have always wanted to do a memoir anthology, so the answer there is yes. Not sure when though as there are a few too many projects on the go at present 😱

        • Ha, ha. I was going to piece together the paranormal brothers for November and finish it off as a proper book. The memoirs were harder to write if I’m honest. It’s a totally different mental zone drawing those out and, obviously, quite personal…but November…which would you prefer done lol

          • LOL! Well, no contest! The brothers, it would have to be … and is that all right then? To put in something that you’ve already begun for November?

            • I think it depends how you view Nano. To me it’s an exercise in personal targets. If mine us to turn a mess into a novel then that’s my target. The short stories here are cases in point. They need fleshing out and restructuring to work. There’s also bits to re-write because The Bequest comes before those and the short stories have to tie in with things in that for continuity. I view it now as a new project for those reasons…obviously I need to know what actually happens to Conrad too 😱

              • I just wondered whether it had to be a totally new idea from scratch or if you could combine bits of previous things…
                Poor Conrad…do I really have to wait that long to find out what happens…

                • I think purist might think that, but I strongly doubt the majority just turn up on November 1st not prepared to start. In fact there’s a lead in period where you can plan, put up a blurb and cover image. The only constraint there is you cannot update the word counts until it actually begins. In my opinion most may well have started writing in advance and use the challenge as a target goal. Something to focus themselves with to achieve 50,000 words.
                  Good lord no, November might be the expansion and completion of my blog series as a book rather than string of short stories. Converting them might be harder that starting afresh. Conrad’s tale…well, at present I am compiling the chapters into my book template. I have two more to do and that gets me to chapter ten in first draft mode. There are five left to do so I’m hoping to have it done soon. 😊

                  • I see..thank you for the information…it’s just I had a couple of blog posts that would fit quite nicely with some things that I am considering. Was it the esteemed Mr.King that did a series of short stories all linked by one main character, or is it a common device?

                    • I’m not sure it’s really common as it happens although bloggers probably do. Whether they get turned into books is another matter though. The Gunslinger started as a short story and look where that led lol.
                      Oooh….am I seeing the seeds of a maybe NaNo starting to sprout 😊

                    • You do know, come August, I’m going to start seeking NaNo buddies to hook up with for the coming November. I rather think I shall be after you now πŸ‘»

                    • Never think of NaNo as a thing to fail at…just appeasing the wordless horror but there! Participating is about starting something. Set your own targets and see how it goes. Not every started story gets the gut feeling it’s going somewhere. Even that’s not a disaster because at least it’s been started to find out rather than left as a what if. I’m certain you will be useful too….I’ve now integrated the written 12 chapters into my manuscript so around 3 to 5 left to find out what happens to brother number three….you still want to beta read it?

                    • Ha, you may have great expectations about to be dashed onto the rocks of my despair!!!

                    • No..no..we’ll have no despair here! Positivity and crystals and creativity πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ We will have boulders of hope!

                    • You haven’t read it yet so I will heartily agree until is clicked 😁

                    • Until it is clicked?? Until send (as in manuscript email) is clicked….where did the word send go???

                    • Apparently it seems to have a mind all of its own 😱 Hmm, you directing back to God Strain lol

                    • Trouble with that one is that it’s pretty apocalyptic… I’d be pretty stuck for an ending of hope! Although a true AI story might be a better bet. I think I could do something round that. Although I’d have to up my writing pace somewhat with all the other projects in my slush pile 😱

                    • I know..I shall have to try and bit a little more disciplined… but when you have these ideas you have to seize them out of the ether and scribble them down for further development…

                    • Oh heck yes, notebooks and idea journals. Never leave home without one…although…hmm….reverse psychology…leave them behind and…IDEA…take them with you and no idea πŸ€” Might be some deep seated psychological trickery going on !

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    • Ahh..so, the solution is caffeine…is this what you refer to….I was told to drop that to assist in blood pressure lowering….oh such a conundrum is this πŸ€”

      • Oh no! Well, sugar usually works for me! (Very short term, of course! Then it’s nap time! Maybe not what you’re going for??)
        Hasn’t somebody invented a fake caffeine yet??

        • I’m actually cool with it…few minor headaches at first but now it’s all good 😊 Can’t say I miss it anymore either….does that have a scary rating ??

          • That’s wonderful that you quit cold turkey. (Why don’t we say hot chicken????)
            Fake caffeine would DEFINITELY have a scary rating of 10!! Just like fake sugar, etc is poison. πŸ™

            • Ha…gave up sugar decades ago too 😁 As far as I can make out its just coffee with no caffeine in at all…bit like camomile tea really….hot stuff which is OK after the adjustment phases πŸ€” No idea about origins of the phrase cold turkey…Google time πŸ€”

              • Wow! Caffeine AND sugar?? You are a man with an iron will!! And I’m sure you’re much healthier for it, too!
                (Go ahead, I’m too lazy to Google it, I just think up the questions. LOL)

                • Not really….I have more foibles to give up first…but small steps and ine at a time kind of thing….something about thanksgiving originations but to me that makes no logical sense apart from turkeys…..

                    • I never looked at it that way…I suppose they are…must decide on the next thing to stop doing πŸ€” Or…start doing….decisions, decisions !

                    • No no no….starting scheduling the schedule….that’s me and baby steps πŸ€” Although I have scheduled an orthodontist appointment for my eldest tomorrow….does that count ???

                    • Oh, sorry! Scheduling the starting of scheduling the schedules. Of course!!
                      And yes, any kind of scheduling at all counts!! As you say, baby steps! πŸ˜‰

                    • Can’t rush these things…and really it’s all prevaricating. My manuscript is due back this week….so if all goes shhh then that will be why…scary really πŸ€”

                    • You do 😱 But Rose is a bit different….one might suspect unexpected even πŸ€”

                    • My proofer said it was both sad and funny in places….and kept her page turning…I take that as fairly positive coming from someone who must read tonnes of manuscripts !!

                    • Thank you…I really needed a lift today and you’ve just fist pumped one for me 😊

  7. You sir, are an excellent writer! Chills up and down my arms, as y’all ran!
    Steve, what a great friend, what a great loss. You have written a wonderful eulogy for him.
    DEfinitely not really scary, a little spooky, but I wasn’t scared at all as me, just felt your terror!

    • Why, thank you so much…I like memoir writing in this particular style…I have another in mind about the day this chap went fishing for carp and caught a seagull….very strange that was. In fact there was considerable mirth back in those days. Mentioned on your blog the scary rating is for Ghost Walk…but it’s not on the blog yet 😁
      But..in serious mode…this was written two years ago. I found it very hard and very personal at the time..it took almost two years before I exposed this and its partner, Of Wine, Nature and Elegies in Oak. I did so with great trepidation because it not on,y exposed my writing, but also a good memory for a brilliant friend.

      • ohhh, well, I typed in ghost walk, and that’s what popped up. No wonder it wasn’t scary! lol
        You are very brave, and I know it was well received.
        Like I said, you are an excellent writer. I haven’t read all your other comments, but the ones I have, agree with me! Or, I agree with them. Whichever!

        • True, that one was a zero on the πŸ‘» rating! I have to say, when I read the comments I do get an urge to write an anthology along these adventures in nostalgia… I also think my writing writing is buried up under kindness now too πŸ™ƒ

          • Yes! An anthology of nostalgic memories is definitely called for!! Kindness is wonderful too, though!
            But enough already of the goody 2 shoes stuff! LOL JK!!

            • Decisions decisions…to anthologise, fictionalise or kindness and mindfulness….I need to apply the latter to develop the former πŸ€” Quite right….enough indeed…serious matters to attend to…the coffee mug is empty !!

                • Utter genius….why didn’t I think of that??? πŸ™ƒ Obviously decaf is no good for thinking !

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  9. So, this will come as no surprise, my friend…I found this fascinating, atmospheric (to say the least) and very, very suspenseful….I think I was holding my breath in some places (hoping to avoid detection given imagined/menacing nocturnal pursuers). You have such a fantastic way of bringing the settings to life…and, not just in a physical sense, but also in terms of how the setting is internalized and interpreted…so evocative…transports me to another world! And, it is so poignant to know that Steve fought/lost a second battle…you two were so alive the night you wrote of….super human in the way that we believe we are when we are young and death is an easily dismissed myth…thank you for sharing such a personal memory…you really did it justice…your writing is profoundly sincere…your talent, undeniable πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Truly 😊 As ever you are exceedingly generous with your feedback. I rather thought you’d get this after the nostalgic empathy discussion. I remember being asked about doing a memoir about two years ago. The whole idea stressed me out. Never done it, never tried to and those boxes in the mind were nailed shut. I do remember this epiphany tho…waking up thinking of that old Hall as it was in my day and then of the night we ventured towards it. The word monsters tied the vast carp in the lake to that spooky manse and the demise of Steve. It simply had to be written. It’s been a personal piece for a while but in January I decided to try and do things differently. Posting the memoirs has been liberating. The other tales are one thing but these being personal were another…scary….although I am now thinking of an anthology of memoirs such as these.nhave been for a while but the way in which you have all embraced this one is rather touching 😰

      Thank you my friend for the kind words. I truly appreciate it (and yes, I know…no Truly puns…sorry 😁)

  10. Hi Gary! I loved this first story. Very well written. I’m also digging the shades of green and gray, but the blue doesn’t seem to match me. I’d go with white or gray to make the blog look more modern and appealing. But that’s just my two cents. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you Bailey. Very personal recollection this ones do very real πŸ€•

      I am told I can write a bit..but art…er no… I quite like the green combination but agree the blue might be over powering. I will give the white or grey a trial in the morning and tag back on the daily post for feedback on colour scheme. Spot the next art related problem….book covers lol.

  11. Great post, Gary! Welcome to the world of blogging. It’s a great community of encouraging folks. I hope to see you at Janice’s party. πŸ™‚

  12. Hi Gary, wow, that was an incredible story! Very well written I enjoyed it. If you like, I can make some recommendations about your site. Just message me on FB sometime and we can chat! So nice to meet you!

    • Hi Carolann, very kind of you to visit , read and comment πŸ™‚

      Very personal memory this one, written a while back but only just had the courage to post it. Will try and find you on Facebook but it might be easier to find me…as far as I know there are no other Gary Jefferies with the cartoon dinosaur…or click the author page link in my contacts here and it should route you in directly. Love to hear your suggestions…although I’m still new at blogging (January this year in reality). Be good to link up !

      Addendum…found your page but I can’t get the message button to respond πŸ€”

  13. Hi Gary,
    Thanks for inviting me to look at your site. I like the shades of green. As a matter of fact, my last site, Reflections, used these colors. I went and introduced myself to Ripples… who also commented on your post. I am having a blog party in three hours. Come on over and introduce yourself. You might find some new readers.
    Janice

    • Hi Jance,

      Thanks for looking. The whole layout before didn’t quite work for me. This one seems more in keeping. Blog party sound different. Never heard of that before which is not hard really…goes with newbie turf lol. If I get sorted in time I’ll try and find you!

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