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Released December 3rd 2021
144 pages/ Short Stories
Blurb: Set in the North East of England, these are dark, dangerous and witty tales of a close-knit community. Here, neighbours have sharp tongues, suspicious minds and hidden talents. This a place where money doesn’t grow on trees and where women and girls endure a damn sight more than anyone should have to. But kindness can still come from unexpected quarters...
From story 'Mr Singer's Empire'
“I’ll just give it a once-over,” the man said. “Call us Victor, by the way. I don’t like to be too formal.”
“Eee, well, I don’t know, Mister,” her Mam said.
“It was the full service you were after, eh?” His words were freighted with a meaning Sheena couldn’t quite identify but knew she didn’t like.
“Why, that’s what I thought. It hasn’t been used for a long time,” her Mam replied.
“No man about the house, eh?”
Her Mam hesitated. “No, I’m a widow.”
“It’s a joke, pet. No offence.”
Her Mam looked at him sourly. “Shall I put the kettle on, then, while you see what the matter is.”
The man ran his hand through his hair.
“I’m not interested in tea, pet. Do you get me drift?”
Sheena strained to getter a better look. It was hard to tell, but her Mam seemed to be confused. This was a phenomenon rarely seen and never discussed.
“Why, you’d better get straight on with it, then,” her Mam said.
The man leaned closer in to her and placed his hand on her arm. Sheena saw her Mam bridle.
“I’m not really interested in the machine either, pet. What is it? Some antiquated thing you’ve had in a cupboard gathering dust?”
“It was me mother’s machine,” her Mam said. “There’s many a canny thing been made on that in its day: me Da’s shirts for one, and the bairns’ clothes for Sunday school, even my wedding dress come to that. Me mother took very good care of it when she was alive.” Sheena could see her Mam’s eyes glittering in the yellow glow from the scullery.
“So what is it then, a treadle?”
“No, it’s not. It’s a manual. It’s got a shuttle case that looks like bullet…”
“That’s called a boat shuttle, pet,” the man said.
“…and it’s got a decorative plate on the end, above where the needle is.”
“It’s probably a 127,” the man said. “Worthless, man. Ye know, Mr Singer produced masses of these things. The British Empire’s full of them. You can be sure there’s nothing special about yours.”
Again, Sheena got that sense of something being said that was not a matter of the words that were actually spoken.
From story 'Tenterhooks'
The row had started at about eight o’clock, after the bairns had been put to bed, with Bridget McTierney sobbing. It was a low plangent crooning that made Norman feel queasy. It went on for an age until Brendan McTierney had had enough of it too.
“Stop your racket!” he yelled. “There’s no point.”
“But she’s my sister,” moaned Bridget, “I can’t not... if I don’t go to her wedding?”
“Well, what do you expect me...?”
“But...” Bridget moaned some more.
“... do what you bloody well please: you know I won’t be going.”
“Did you not see the way the little hoyt ...?”
“Don’t talk about my sister like that!”
“I’m not putting up with it... airs and graces. Coming over here... Tongues’ll never stop wagging.”
“What else should they come in,” coughed Bridget, caught in a sob. “It’s theirs. What else is a car for?”
“...come on the bus like anybody else.”
“On a Sunday? ...from Jesmond? Are you daft?”
“Don’t you dare call me “daft”.”
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