Saturday, 30 August 2014

A Haunted Past Life

A Haunted Past Life


Could a taxi journey change your life forever?
It does for Jen Rickmand.
Abused by her stepfather, Jen flees her childhood home with hopes of starting a new life. Struggling with agoraphobia, panic attacks, and concerns for her wellbeing, Jen finds comfort in the spirit world, developing connections with the paranormal that she never thought possible.
A simple taxi ride turns her life inside out when she finds herself transported back in time to 1965, where a husband and child await her. Despite her protestations, and her husband’s thinking concerns, Jen is desperate to return to 2011, but only if she can take her new daughter with her.
Horrified when she is suddenly whisked back to the future without her, Jen is torn between the two worlds. Will they eventually collide, allowing her to find the happiness she truly deserves?
A Haunted Past Life is an intriguing blend of spirits, ghosts, and time-travel with a heady mixture of love, tangled emotions, and relationships.

The Other Place Number 1 Supernatural Catergory! Kindle 77p  Reduced paperback price £4.87

    Number 1 in Supernatural Category

Number 1 Amazon Kindle Best Seller Supernatural
Chrissie James is a troubled soul: with family problems, unexplained phobias and a stalker to contend with, she seeks help with a hypnotherapist. Whilst in therapy, Chrissie discovers she has led a past life. 
Will living a previous life help Chrissie to discover the truth of what caused her fears and phobias, and will she find out who is stalking her? 
The Other Place is a paranormal mystery. Its many twists and turns will keep you guessing to the very end. 

Misty Blue 
This book is well worth a look for the sheer originality and compassion the author shows in her writing and in her characters. 

S Douthwaite 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I felt drawn in and invited into a lovely story with emotional twists, supernatural wonder and family values. I love the way the author cleverly dips the characters in and out a past life. The story really flows. I found this an unusual plot and very good, especially the ending. The Other Place is a very special place. 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Was life better back in the 1950s?

There's a journalist who works on the Express & Star newspaper who often writes that the 1950s were not as safe as today. He has to be kidding! He's of an age to remember the fifties, so I don't know what he goes on about.
Today we have to lock ourselves in our homes. Back in the fifties we hardly ever locked the door. Some people left the door key on string through the letterbox. Everyone knew this happened. Never once were we robbed. True, we didn't have any money, or anything valuable, that burglars could take, but in today's society you can get knocked out for fifty pence.
Neighbours would give you a shout when they went to the shops asking if you wanted any shopping. If you had a line of washing out they'd run across the terrace and tell you. If you were out they'd fetch it in for you. Not nowadays. They couldn't get it in anyway; our back gates are kept locked and bolted, our fences are too high. We're locked in because of the possible threat of robbers. Should you not take this action your insurers won't payout.
Communities were friendlier back then than today. If you were short, of say, even a couple of potatoes or a cup of sugar your neighbour would willingly share what they had. Shoud you be ill they’d come round and take your youngsters back to their place. Everyone knew their neighbours, not just next door but most of the street, this doesn't happen in today’s busy society. Possibly, because more women go out to work to help the family budget.
Not so many people had cars or money for holidays in the fifties. No-one had their own telephone, apart from the wealthy. If you were in trouble, a neighbour would run for the doctor or to the nearest phone box, if you had the pennies for the call. The same for the local police constable, this is something else that is missing in our society. In those times the local officer on the beat knew everyone by their Christian name, he knew where you lived. What happened? We got mobile.
Even back in the late 1960s and 1970s I knew many of the local police. Gradually they've faded from our streets and even the local police station is closed for much of the day. Not because the crime rate has gone down, it's because they can't afford to keep it open.
I'm not looking back with rose-tinted glasses either. I appreciate much of what we have nowadays as compared to back then. But I do miss the friendliness of those times. I never remember feeling afraid and having to lock not only the front door but the back door as well! Sure if the burglars are going to get in they will whatever you do to secure your home, but as mentioned earlier if you don't your insurance won't pay out.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A Haunted Past Life (Jen's Story) - Read the first six pages from Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

Early Years

‘Home,’ Jen Rickmand muttered, mopping the kitchen floor. ‘This isn’t a home; I’m just the unpaid char.’ She wondered why she had let herself be used and bullied for so long, allowing her stepfamily to eat away at her self-confidence to the extent that she now suffered from agoraphobia.
For years, anger bubbled beneath her calm exterior, but she hid it well. Whenever they picked on her, she would take a deep breath and count to ten. She never once retaliated; instead she would bite her tongue and tell herself not to give them the satisfaction of knowing they had got to her with their spiteful remarks.
Her stepsisters made her life a misery, commenting almost daily that she looked like a beanstalk and her hair was nothing but a frizzy mess. In fact, Jen was pretty, tall, and slim, with beautiful, long, naturally auburn hair.
Jen’s only escape from them had been her interest in the paranormal, unfortunately, they had found out about it by snooping in her bedroom. They made snide comments such as, ‘Fancy reading books about ghosts. Have you been talking to them? You idiot. You’re nuts, you are.’
She often heard them talking about her as she went about her chores.
Have you seen the mess she looks today, especially her hair?’ Thelma would ask of her sister Monica, who would laugh.
Yes, she looks like a haystack on fire, doesn’t she?’ Their spiteful laughter would drift into the kitchen where she would be preparing the evening meal or doing another household chore.
They would deliberately throw rubbish on the floor and then order her to pick it up. ‘Come on, you’re the cleaner, pick it up or we’ll tell our dad about you when he gets home.’ They knew the more they derided her, the more their father would favour them. And he did, buying them CDs and giving them money, making certain Jen was around when he handed them out.
Her stepfather was the worst; he would push her against the kitchen wall when no one was about, standing close to her, threatening with how he would make her regret her idleness. He would grab a handful of her hair and pull it hard, telling her if she yelled out, he would make her regret it one way or another. He was pure evil, she never doubted that one way or another, he would attack her if she wasn’t careful. Whenever he was around, she would appear even more meek and mild while doing what he said, presenting a serene exterior, but all the time seething at him, and deriding herself for being such a weakling. The truth was she lacked self-confidence; it had ebbed away like the outgoing tide over the years of torment and abusive comments.
Should Jen ever look as if she was going to retaliate, her mother would shake her head, knowing it would be the worst for Jen and herself if he was provoked.
Her father died when she was three years-old; she had vague memories of being whisked up high in the air, held by a strong pair of loving arms. How she wished he was still alive; their whole lives would have been entirely different if only she had known him. Her mother worked hard to bring her up and provide as many treats as she could so Jen never felt different to the other girls. When Jen was thirteen, her mother met a widower, Derek, with thirteen-year-old twins; Jen was bowled over when her mother married him, thinking they would be one big happy family. Only this didn’t happen and she quickly discovered she was the odd one out in her mother’s new marriage.
From the first day, she was expected to do all the household chores, including the cooking.
Jen never complained, she would come straight home from school and do the tasks her mother and stepfather had left for her. She was never allowed to have friends over or any type of social life. Even when she left school and started working in a bank, her home life remained the same. She was still head cook and cleaner; woe betide her if she missed a chore, her stepfather or sisters would be on to her immediately, calling her an idle slut. Gradually, her anxiety levels were so high that she began to experience panic attacks. Leaving the house became a problem and she had to force herself to go to work. It was almost a relief to be at home despite the bullying; at least it was a familiar world where routine existed.
She longed for approval; trying hard to meet her stepfather’s high standards, but sadly, she never achieved this. The harder she tried, the more he mocked her attempts, telling her she was, ‘thick and stupid’.
She knew she was neither, but would question herself. Was she stupid? Was she thick? She must be to put up with what she did. How many women of twenty-three came straight home from work and did everything in the house their mother should do, and put up with the daily tormenting and insults? At times, she wanted to rebel when yet another task was added to her list, but she didn’t, she simply plodded on and consequently, her confidence was at an all-time low.
Jen was fully aware that her unhappy home life had contributed to the awful anxiety she experienced. Her step-siblings’ taunts and jeers made matters worse. Although she disliked her home life intensely, she felt safer inside than out; she knew this was ridiculous as she wanted to escape her environment more than anything, but she didn’t have the confidence to try to find a way out of her situation.
She had never been allowed to have friends.
Her stepfather would tell her, ‘You have far too much work to do in the house,’ whenever she plucked up courage to ask if she could go out. Gradually as the years passed, she stopped asking and refused all social invitations.
Secretly, she agreed with her stepfather when he called her a loser, she must be or she would have left years ago, wouldn’t she?
This morning, as she cleaned the kitchen, she mulled over her years of servitude and suddenly decided, No more, I’m leaving.
As the words entered her head, her stepfather jabbed her in the back, telling her, ‘You’d better get this kitchen cleaned up and our dinner ready or else you’re for it!’ He then did something he had never done before. He began to stroke her hair. She was rigid with fear as his hands moved down her back. My God, this was terrible, the disgusting swine was getting fresh with her.
‘Get your filthy hands off me,’ she shouted at the top of her voice.
‘Come on, Jen, you know you’ve always fancied me.’ He pushed her up against the kitchen wall, his hands roaming around her body.
He was too strong for her to fight off. This was awful, he was going to rape her. What could she do? Why hadn’t she seen this coming? The more she tried to kick him, the harder he pushed her against the wall, ripping at her clothes, his hands clawing at her breasts. She was lost; she would rather be dead than take this from him, who she had hated for so long. As if from nowhere, she found the strength to give him an almighty shove and he staggered away from her, coming to rest by the kitchen table.
He looked at her. ‘God, you’re beautiful,’ he drooled.
She had nowhere to hide and she couldn’t go outside, her blouse and bra were in shreds, everyone would see her. If she went upstairs, he would follow her and get her on her bed.
‘You go outside if you dare - or scream,’ he sneered. ‘All the neighbours will know you’ve been chasing me for years. I’ll tell them what hot stuff you are. You might as well do it with me now while my family are out because I’ll have you soon enough and you know I will. I’ve seen some of the goods now and I mean to see and taste the rest.’ He salivated at his words.
‘Keep away from me,’ she yelled. ‘I’ll have the police on you!’ All the while, she was moving towards the kitchen door. She was terrified, her whole body trembling in fear, her heart racing. Please don’t let me faint, he’ll violate me here on the kitchen floor. He won’t care where he does it.
He laughed. ‘The police would never believe you. Like the neighbours, they would believe me! I’d tell them you begged me for it.’

She flung herself out of the kitchen door into the hall and ran upstairs. He caught up with her just as she opened her bedroom door.

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Choosing Your Psychic Pathway - Introduction and a taster of the first pages


This book gives an insight into how you can develop your psychic skills. It examines my involvement in the psychic world, and the ways and methods I discovered to help develop my psychic ability. There is a section on ghosts – including some ghostly tales that illustrate my points – tarot cards, mediums, time travel, and many more of the psychic sciences that I have discovered along the way.
There are discussions on all the above, allowing the reader to form their own opinions on whether they want to follow a particular pathway or not; it also shows how the various methods deployed by psychics may help improve their lifestyle.
For anyone who is new to the psychic world and wonders if they have psychic skills, this book can be used as a first-step introduction and will give an insight into how to proceed. There is advice on how to go about setting up as a psychic and how to avoid the pitfalls.
I have included my interpretation of the Tarot cards, dream interpretations, and other helpful suggestions as to how you can develop your psychic skills.
I have not gone into great detail with any of my ideas as I think it is far better that an individual chooses their own way of developing their skills and ideas. Too much information when a person is starting out can be confusing.
I hope the book gives the reader a clear insight into the different pathways of the psychic world.

Choosing Your Psychic Pathway

My Story

I saw my first ‘ghost’ when I was about 7 years of age. I was walking back to school after lunch, head down looking at the floor when, for some reason or other, I glanced up. Not far ahead of me, I saw a young girl around my own age walking in the same direction. She was dressed in a similar dress to the one I was wearing. I wondered who she was.
The street was deserted apart from the two of us. I tried walking faster to catch her up, but the distance between us remained the same. Try as I might, I couldn’t shorten the distance. It was strange to say the least.
I watched her intently, determined I was going to catch her up. I started to run and she promptly disappeared in front of my eyes.
I rubbed my eyes not believing that someone could disappear like that - but she had. I knew I had seen a ghost; there was no other explanation. This incident didn’t frighten me at all. Despite being young, or perhaps because of it, I accepted that ghosts existed. My family would have scoffed at me if I had told them, particularly my three brothers. So I kept the ‘girl ghost sighting’ to myself. I never found out who she was, but I have never forgotten her.
Over the years, my interest in ghosts deepened. I read everything I could on the subject. At times, I must admit I questioned whether I had actually seen a ghost and wondered if it had been my childish imagination. Who knows? But it began a life-long interest that has never diminished.
From the time I joined the library at an extremely young age, I read any books that contained ghost stories, both fiction and non-fiction; anything that had a ghost in it was food for my soul. Films, radio programmes, magazines, anything that contained a ‘ghostly reference’, I had to digest.
As I grew up, I began to see other ghosts; some I recognised, others I didn’t. However, asking around the family and giving descriptions of the ghosts I had seen, I would eventually discover who the ghostly apparitions were.
My research drew me to like-minded people and I would hear their fascinating stories of the ghosts they had seen. All this led me further down the path of the unexplained. The more I discovered, the more I wanted to know.
I discovered tarot cards and found they are a useful tool to help reach the ‘other side’, though I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying this unless in the hands of a professional reader with many years of experience. The same goes for the Ouija board; this can be a highly dangerous ‘game’ in the wrong hands.
The majority of people who see a ghost will only ever see the one, and others I have spoken to about their sightings are still scared many weeks down the line.
‘It was such a shock,’ is normally the first thing they say. I quite agree with them. If something disturbs you in the middle of the night, you may well first think you have burglars and are going to be battered to death, or you could even have a heart attack. Some ghosts have no respect for your finer feelings. After all, I should imagine there is no night or day to them. After all, they are on a higher spiritual plane than we are, or so we are told. Hence, disturbing your sleep is not going to worry them in any way whatsoever.
Of course, even if you recognise the spectre, it is still an almighty shock, but at least you have the assurance it’s not a murderer standing beside your bed. What if you don’t know your visitor? The first reaction, obviously, is to dive back beneath the duvet or head for the nearest exit. After all, being woken up in such an untimely manner is no joke, let alone being confronted by a ghost while you are still half-asleep. Yes, it can be scary, but if you can manage to keep calm by taking a few deep breaths and trying to stop shaking, take a peep. If the ghost hasn’t disappeared by this time, I think you’ll be surprised at just how ordinary the spirit will appear.
From my own experience, a ghost always looks real, but you do realise almost immediately that you are seeing a ghost. It is quite difficult to explain, but the image you perceive has an insubstantial look about it, not misty or ethereal; somehow, a sixth sense kicks in and you just know you are seeing a spirit being.
Of course, when you see a ghostly figure dressed in clothing of a different era, this quickly tells you that you aren’t actually witnessing a fancy dress party, but that something completely different is occurring.
In my opinion, there is definitely nothing to fear from a ghost. After all, they cannot hurt you, except perhaps emotionally, making you fearful and frightened.
The majority of older children that I know who have seen a ghost have run screaming into their parents’ bedrooms, shivering and shaking with fear - a perfectly natural reaction. However, in my research I have often read that youngsters see ghosts far more often than older people. The reasons quoted for this make sense; young children don’t have as many worries and concerns as their older siblings and parents do. They have more time to look around and soak up the atmosphere of their surroundings. Youngsters are far more able to tune into the psychic world and see ghosts.
I remember one day when one of my grandsons was about nine months old. he was sitting on his own on the lawn in the garden of his home. He was unaware that I was watching him through the window. As I watched, he suddenly seemed to spot someone and began chatting away to this invisible person, laughing and waving his arms about. His baby talk and laughter became louder as his excitement grew. Try as I might, I couldn’t see who he was talking to. Even the family dog ran into the house, as if he sensed something unreal was taking place.
It was a pity I couldn’t ask my grandson who he had been chatting to that summer afternoon, but he was far too young. All I could tell was that he was really enjoying the chat.
He hasn’t grown up to have any psychic powers, but he does have a great interest in psychic phenomena, and we’ve had many an interesting discussion about ghosts and other aspects of this intriguing science.
In this book, I have written about the things that I, and the people I know and trust, have tried and believe in.


Jenny Cockell’s book Yesterday’s Children details how she dreamt of a past life. The book describes her search for her family. Through her dreams and memories, and with the help of local maps and women’s groups, she finally tracks them down.
All in all, I was convinced that Jenny Cockell did experience reincarnation as it doesn’t seem possible that she could have imagined the whole scenario.
In fact, her book made me even more determined to try and discover more about this most intriguing subject.
One day I was researching regression on the Internet and came across a site that offered books and CDs on self-regression. Here was the opportunity I had been waiting for. I ordered Jenny’s book and CD straightaway. I have written further on in this book what happened when I investigated the subject.
A number of years ago, I went to a hypnotherapist for treatment for a problem I was having. It was a really uncomfortable incident, as I drifted back to my early childhood. I had been assured it would be a pleasant experience, but it was far from that. On regressing, I saw a group of men surrounding a coffin and remember feeling terribly upset. I wanted the sitting to end, but I hadn’t been given any key words beforehand should I need them to end the session. I did discover afterwards that the therapist wasn’t qualified.
Of course, that was my fault for not checking the register of hypnotherapists before going - a point well worth considering should you ever decide to visit a hypnotherapist.
I do remember years ago being enthralled by a hypnotherapist called Joe Keeton, who was an authority on regression. He undertook thousands of regressions, but never proved conclusively that anyone had led a past life.
Lots of children have imaginary friends. These are, of course, different to ghosts as they are simply figments of a child’s imagination. A child can call on their imaginary friend at any time, day or night – they are always there for them – whereas ghosts don’t appear to order. We cannot summon them; they appear when they choose. Imaginary friends can be called at will and instantly disposed of!
The imaginary friend is usually called upon by a lonely child, perhaps a child whose older sibling has started school, and they have been left behind. After always having company all day, every day, since the day they were born, they are suddenly alone with many empty hours to fill. No wonder they seek a new friend, and what could be easier than for a child with a fertile imagination to choose an imaginary friend. The friend can be of any age or gender the child chooses, they can look how the child wants them to appear, wear the clothing of their choice and even do the child’s bidding. What could be better? No arguments, a biddable friend who will do exactly as asked, play any game, share any storybook, or watch any TV programme the child chooses; in fact, the perfect friend. A friend who can be blamed for any misdemeanour the child has committed.

Angel Cards

These cards have increased in popularity in recent years, and I feel it is because they are easy to read.
I think they are a good starting point for anyone interested in reading the tarot or playing cards.
The cards I have are extremely well presented.
On the box, it says: ‘Daily Guidance from Your Angels. Oracle Cards, A 44-Card Deck and Guidebook’. Doreen Virtue is the author of the cards, and also many books.
The cards come with a book of instructions on how you set about your daily readings.
Each card has a beautiful picture covering about fifty percent of it. The meaning of the card is described at the bottom of the card.
Doreen gives a good explanation at the beginning of the booklet as to how to cleanse the cards and how to give yourself a daily reading.
The cards bring a good feeling when you hold them, and if you’re looking for good inspirational advice to start your day, these seem to be one way to go.
As a first step into the psychic world, these cards are excellent.
I also recommend reading An Angel Called My Name by Theresa Cheung.


I think it has been known for centuries that animals have developed strong instincts.
The majority of the dogs I have owned have been extremely sensitive. Coming from wolves, they are bound to carry the genes of the wild, and more often than not, they still use them.
Many dogs sense danger before we humans are even aware of a bad situation.
One of the dogs I owned, a German Shepherd called Connie, was extremely intuitive in certain situations. There was one particular place on our regular walk that she refused to walk past, and I always had to cross the road. I did some research on the area, but I as far as I could find, it had always been fields. There had never been a murder or anything disastrous happening in the locality, so I have always been at a loss as to why Connie reacted the way she did.
It is claimed that some cats are extra-perceptive and also sense changes in the weather and possible danger well before humans do.
Most animals can sense earthquakes before they occur; they certainly do not need instruments or anything to give them warnings.
I remember a particularly strong earthquake in our area a few years ago. The following morning there were no bird sounds for many hours afterwards; I didn’t hear a dog bark all day. Now that is very unusual to say the least.
I’ve heard that horses sense danger, and along with cats and dogs, they know when their owner is ill.
I’ve heard of dogs and cats detecting cancer in their owners before the owners are aware of it. In fact, they have saved their owners’ lives by being so sensitive. I understand certain breeds of dogs are being trained to do this.
I think it pays to watch our pets as they are able to see and hear far more than we can.
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Read The First Chapter of The Other Place

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Chapter 1

‘Oh, my bum feels so cold on this step, Sis; I’ll have to move or I’ll freeze me knickers off.’
Jumping up, twelve-year-old Chrissie James started running up and down the garden path, rubbing her backside trying to increase the circulation. Babs, her fourteen-year-old sister, doubled up laughing as she watched her sister’s antics. She called, ‘Pack it up or you’ll have the whole terrace laffing at you. Our mum will clip your ear’ole for showing us up if you ain’t careful. Mind the cat, you nearly tripped over her, ’er’ll be having ’er kittens soon, look at the size of ’er!’
Chrissie stopped dead; no way did she want to anger her mother. Their mum was someone to be reckoned with when she lost her temper.
Hearing footsteps coming up the path running between the back-to-back houses, they saw a tall, heavily built woman in her thirties advancing towards their gate. The woman had long black hair held back with hairgrips on either side of her face. What drew Babs’ attention more than anything was the slash of bright red lipstick the woman was wearing, giving her long, pale face a ghoulish look. Her blue eyes almost popping out of her head, Babs gave the woman a hard stare, which the woman returned with a wide smile, revealing the largest set of teeth the young girl had ever seen, and to make matters worse, they were smeared with lipstick. Babs froze for a minute then hurried back to her sister. Snuggling up beside Chrissie on the doorstep, the girls watched the woman push the gate open and proceed to walk up the path.
‘What’s up, Babs?’ Chrissie queried, wondering at her sister’s reaction to the stranger.
‘I don’t like the look of ’er, Chris. She gives me the creeps.’
By this time, the woman had reached them. ‘Your ma in?’ she demanded sharply in a strange-sounding accent.
They nodded, staring up at the woman’s mouth; the girls couldn’t take their eyes off her. ‘Tell ’er I’m ’ere then,’ the woman demanded impatiently. ‘I ain’t got all day, you know.’
Clutching her sister tightly, Babs yelled, ‘Mom, there’s a woman ’ere wants to see you.’
‘What now,’ a tired-sounding voice called irritably from the darkness within. ‘What ya been up to, our Babs?’
‘Nothing, Mom, an’ that’s the truth,’ Babs shrieked. ‘Ain’t dun nuffink, nor our Chrissie, honestly. This ’ere woman wants to see ya. Can she come in?’
‘I’m feeding ya brother. Bring her in for Gawd’s sake, then go to the corner shop for me. We need some bread.’
Leaping up, Babs motioned the woman into the small dark room.
Blinking her coal black eyes, the woman tried to adjust to the gloom. She saw a slim, blonde-haired woman feeding a baby boy of some eleven months with mashed potato, carrot, and milk, from a chipped, cream-coloured crock dish. Two old horsehair chairs in front of the fire had bits of fabric hanging in shreds beneath them. The pegged rug spread across the hearth in between the chairs had seen better days. However, as her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she couldn’t fault the young woman’s housekeeping skills, she was impressed by the cleanliness of the room. The room smelt of carbolic soap and Mansion Polish. She also noticed how sparkling clean the sash window was. This really surprised her as most of the houses up the terrace had rags and newspapers plugging up their broken window panes. The smoke produced by the coal fire normally put layers of dust over everything in sight and to see such a clean room in one of these houses was astonishing. She had been expecting a drab, run-down, dirty house, but instead she noticed even the towelling nappies airing on the fireguard gleamed white through the gloom. The fly paper hanging from the ceiling looked as if it was changed regularly, astonishing her as normally they were a revolting sight full to overflowing with dead flies.
‘Who are you and what do you want?’ Lily asked the woman directly, eyeing her up and down as she busily tried to keep up with the baby’s demand for his dinner.
‘I’m a friend of your ex-husband, he sent me to see ya, missus,’ she replied.
‘Ya what,’ the mother shrieked. ‘Him who I divorced some years ago for adultery and desertion.’
‘Err, yes, Mrs?’ Pausing on a stutter and stepping back, the woman licked her bright red lips nervously seeing the angry glint in Lily’s green eyes.
Slamming the spoon down angrily, adding yet another crack to the already chipped dish, the young woman clasped the baby to her chest as she demanded, ‘What the devil do you want? I finished with that cheat years ago. I told him, I never wanted to see or hear from him again.’
‘Erm,’ backing towards the door, the woman gabbled, ‘he told me to tell you, he’s willing to have the girls, missus, he says he’ll tek em off your ’ands. He has his own place down South, and if you like, they can come back with me.’
Her words were greeted with an almighty shriek. ‘Get out of here before I brain you. The ansa’s no, and don’t come anywhere near us again, and you can pass the message on to ’im as well’
The new arrival practically ran from the room, jumping down the step, and almost knocking the sisters over in her haste to escape. They heard the gate slam and the woman’s high heels tip-tapping down the paved path that ran between the houses.
‘Lily, Lily, my luv, are you okay?’ Nellie Garden, who lived across the way, came running into the front room. Nellie was a mother of six, aged between three months and seven years, and despite her surname, she wouldn’t know a flower from a weed. ‘I ’eard enuff to know ya must be very upset by all this, me babby.’
Nothing in the terrace could be kept secret. Whatever happened inside or outside the houses would be overheard and passed along the jungle telegraph within seconds.
Lily held baby Gregory tightly in her arms. ‘How dare he,’ she exclaimed in righteous anger. ‘The lying, cheating, no-good, deserting, yellow-bellied coward, how dare he.’ Then bursting into tears, she sobbed, ‘He wants to take me girls from me, Nellie. I knew ’ed try it on one day. He's not having them, no, he's not, never. He’s crafty, he only wants them so when they’re old enough, he can send them out to work and get money from them. He’s a wicked bugger, no mistaking.’
Nellie Garden wrapped her plump arms around the slim young woman. ‘Nay, luv, don’t fret, that slob won’t ever get your girls' cus I know as you’d never let him.’ Hugging Lily to her, she continued, ‘let me mek you a cuppa char, you’ll soon feel better.’ Turning to head into the tiny kitchen, she saw the front doorway was crammed with women, all listening intently to what was going on. ‘Come on now, you lot, stop being so nosy. The show’s over. Flapping a plump arm, she promptly slammed and locked the door.’
Suddenly, the letter flap rattled open and Babs called, ‘Mom, let us in please.’ Her voice travelled through the flap into the dark living room, alerting Lily to the fact her daughters were locked outside.
‘Thought you’d gone to the shop,’ she cried, flinging the door wide.
‘Ya d’ain’t give us any money, Mom.’
‘Ya could have had it on the slate for Gawd’s sake,’ Lily remonstrated. ‘Here y’are and I want the change as well.’ She shoved a few coins into the outstretched paw. Hesitating for a moment, she carried on, ‘Remember what I’m always telling ya, no speaking to strangers, right? And keep away from that Freddy down the terrace who’s got that there impetigo, I don’t want ya catching that.’
Nodding, both girls tripped lightly down the garden path, through the rickety gate, and turning right, they walked towards Mrs Chance’s corner shop.
‘That was awful, our Babs,’ Chrissie murmured. ‘I was so scared that ’er with the big teeth would take us away from our mom. I don’t wanna live with our real father. I hate him and always will for what he did.’ Tears started trickling down her pale face.
Stopping in her tracks, Babs gave her sibling a quick hug, saying firmly, ‘No one, just no one, will ever take us away from our mom. She wouldn’t let them, silly. She loves us, and step-father does too.’
Actually, Babs had always sensed from the word go that their stepfather positively disliked them. The feeling was mutual; she detested Alf Brown and wished her mom had never married him. Babs wasn’t going to say this to Chrissie as she didn’t want to worry her. Chrissie was younger than she was and of a much more vulnerable nature. She rarely, if ever, stuck up for herself, preferring always to turn the other cheek when someone had a go at her.


‘There’s something about him I dislike intensely.’ Babs had confided her misgivings about her stepfather to her best friend, Sandra.
‘What do you mean?’ Sandra asked, cocking her head to one side so her long dark hair fell in a shiny sweep down below her shoulders. Sandra never worried about having nits; she got the tooth comb out every night without fail and spent hours combing through the silky strands. She always said she would never cut it, despite the daily threat of nits that rampaged throughout the school.
‘Well, it’s like this,’ Babs replied, picking up a pretty flower-backed hairbrush and running it through her friend's hair. ‘Sometimes I catch him watching us with a really resentful look on his fat face, he meks sure Mom’s not in the room when he starts with his looks and nasty remarks though, he’s dead crafty is Alf Brown. He waits until she’s getting the dinner on or mekkin’ a cup of tea. Other times, when we’re eating, I get the feeling he's watching our every mouthful and totting up the cost.’ Then, passing the brush back to her friend, she continued, ‘I hate his podgy little hands as well. When I see him shoving his food into his mouth, I shudder. I can’t help it; he gives me the creeps, the slob.’
‘Gawd, stop worrying, girl, you’ll be getting married before you know it.’ On these words, Sandra let out a bellow of laughter, changing the subject smartly. ‘Here, let's see if we have enough material to make our new skirts for the dance.’ She was used to Babs's obsession with her stepfather’s ways.
Sandra much preferred to talk about herself as she considered she was the most important person in her world. She was going places, and in fact, she had told Babs on numerous occasions that she was going to be a famous film star. Really, she had no space inside her head except for herself. Sandra loved Sandra and she had plans.
In the main, Babs kept her feelings regarding her stepfather to herself. She knew her friend wasn’t really interested in hearing her sounding off about Alf, but at times she couldn’t help getting angry. It got it off her chest, and afterwards she could concentrate on Sandra’s latest plans to achieve fame.


Babs was reluctant to mention Alf to Chrissie. She didn’t want to upset her. What she didn’t realise was that Chrissie also experienced the same feelings, but was unwilling to mention them to her for exactly the same reasons. Alf frequently took Chrissie aside and told her she was stupid and a daftie, he would shout and threaten what he would do to her if she told anyone; he frightened her. She avoided him whenever she could. He revelled in dominating his youngest stepdaughter.
Bending down, Chrissie carefully tugged her ankle socks up as she didn’t want to make the holes in them any bigger, but they kept disappearing into her black lace-up shoes. She gave a little wriggle and a tug at her waistband.
‘What yer doing, Chris?’ Babs asked, smirking.
‘You know as well as I do,’ she giggled. ‘Me drawers keep slipping down. I wish our mom or you would tighten the elastic in them for me.’
‘I’ll do ’em tonight, come on, let’s hurry or Mom’ll be after us.’ As an afterthought, she asked, ‘You okay now?’
Nodding, Chrissie averted her eyes. She was thinking, No, I’m not really, but I can’t tell you about the ghost of the soldier who was following the woman with the big teeth ‘cus you didn’t see him. Holding hands, they made their way to the corner shop, each sister deep in their private thoughts.
Chrissie was thinking about Amelia, who at one time had been her best friend. She could tell her anything and know for certain not a word would ever be repeated to Babs or any other family member. The trouble was she hadn’t seen her for some time.
She had first met Amelia, or Amy for short, many years ago, after being shouted at and bullied by some lads in the school playground. As she walked home, a girl had suddenly popped up beside her, saying, ‘Hello, my name’s Amy, may I walk home with you?’ Nodding glumly, Chrissie had agreed. Much to her delight, her day brightened after looking into the smiling sea green eyes of her new friend. She thought how pretty she was and admired the way Amy’s blonde hair curled in long ringlets beneath her dark blue bonnet.
Wait a minute, she couldn’t understand why the girl was wearing a bonnet. Nobody wore a bonnet nowadays, except in picture books in the library, girls wore pixie hoods nowadays. Chrissie was puzzled by the girl's appearance as a whole. She wore a long blue dress, black button boots peeping out beneath her dress, and a dark blue short cape. Chrissie couldn’t remember seeing this girl in her school, but strangely enough she thought she recognised her. Casting a surreptitious glance at her new friend, she was greeted with a glowing smile, linking arms they skipped happily along the dusty pavement, chattering away as if they had known each other forever.
Amy always seemed to be around when Chrissie needed her. Whenever the school kids teased her in the playground, calling her lanky and ugly. Amy always visited her later and cheered her up.
Sometimes Alf cornered her in the kitchen when Lily was out and would pinch her hard at the top of her arms, where it wouldn’t show. Later on as if by magic Amy would sit beside her on the doorstep whispering words of comfort until she stopped crying.
A few of her fears had abated since her new friend had entered her life.


Giving her sister a squeeze, Babs followed her into Mrs Chance’s shop and they quickly made their way to the magazine and comic shelf.
‘Come on, girls, it’s not pocket money day.’
Mrs Chance’s voice brought them down to Earth fast, swiftly altering course, they made their way to the counter where much to their delight, the plump cuddly woman gave them each a stick of liquorice. One thing they both loved was to look at the shelves where the bright, shining jars of sweets stood, the best in their eyes was the jar of yellow kali. Chrissie’s mouth watered at the thought of it. She loved the wonderful fizzy taste as it exploded like shooting stars in her mouth. She couldn’t wait until Saturday when she could treat herself. Bab’s eyes took in the jars of barley sugar, bulls’ eyes, gobstoppers, mints, and other mouth-watering sweets and chocolates that she loved. She wished they were rich so she could buy every favourite sweet and comic she wanted. One day I will have everything I want, she told herself, paying for the loaf of bread and heading home.
‘Stop scuffing your pumps, our Chrissie, you know our mom will clip your ear if she catches ya doing it.’
Chrissie stopped immediately and together, arm in arm, the girls made their way home in the gathering twilight, chattering away like two sparrows about the sweets and comics they would buy on Saturday. The mention of Saturday reminded them of their favourite meal of the week: bubble and squeak with bacon, and the fat from the bacon poured over everything. How the sisters loved that meal. Just thinking about it made their mouths' water. Another favourite dinner was soused herrings. Bread and milk with sugar for breakfast was their all-time favourite, as were cocoa and sugar sandwiches for tea, or sometimes if they were lucky, condensed milk sandwiches. Not that they were always that well off to enjoy these treats, but on the rare occasions when it was put before them, the food was greeted with cheers.
Later that night, cuddled up beside each other in the old double bed they shared, their mother’s voice drifted upstairs, she was telling their stepfather about the day’s events.
Babs choked back the lump in her throat hearing her mom crying about their real father wanting them back.
‘How could he?’ Lily demanded of Alf, ‘He’s never even clapped eyes on Chrissie, and he only saw Babs a couple of times before he disappeared going off with any woman who would have him. He even had a couple of kids by one woman, that’s pretty disgusting in my book.’
Hearing her mom’s distress, Babs found she was having great difficulty in holding back her tears. My poor, poor Mom, she thought, trying not to cry aloud, she didn’t want to disturb Chrissie, who was fast asleep, beneath the old blankets and coats thrown over the top to keep them warm. Lily couldn’t afford an eiderdown for them. She had it so hard when he upped and left her. I can’t imagine what she went through having no money coming in and us two to look after. Thank goodness our Gran helped look after us while Mom went to work. What a brave woman Mom is. She could quite easily have put us in a home. Rubbing her eyes and drying her tears on the sheet, she heard Alf trying to comfort her mother.
‘There’s no way that scumbag would ever get custody of the girls. After all, I’m their legal guardian.’
‘Now that’s interesting,’ Babs speculated, ‘why didn’t he adopt us? Why a legal guardian, I wonder what that means?’ She fell into a deep sleep, her arm protectively wrapped around her sister.
Chrissie’s crying out awakened her. ‘There’s something moving in the bottom of the bed, Mom, Mom, come here.’ She was screaming even louder. ‘Come quickly, there’s something in our bed.’
‘Oh my God, Alf, wake up. Me girls are in trouble.’ Lily fumbled to pick up a candle and a box of matches then quickly ran into their bedroom where she lit the candle. She threw back the bedclothes. The sisters huddled together by the bedroom door.
Alf shoved them out of the way just as Lily squealed, ‘Oh no. The damn cat has had her kittens in the girls’ bed.’
Both girls shrieked loudly in alarm and ran into their mother’s bedroom, quickly pulling the grey army blankets back, they snuggled into the bottom of the bed.
‘Yuk. I feel sick,’ cried Chrissie.
Babs was more concerned as to the fate of the kittens. She knew her mother would drown them in a bucket of water. Lily had no choice really. They couldn’t afford to keep them. Babs shuddered, this time not with the cold, but at the thought of those poor dear little kittens dying in such a manner.
Hearing Greg starting to cry, Babs leapt out of bed and picked him up from his mattress on the floor, as they couldn’t afford a cot. She put him between her and Chrissie. There was no way they would sleep in their own bed that night.
Strangely, nothing more was said about the events of that day, but they became imprinted on the girls’ minds for all time. Years later, they often discussed the woman with the horse teeth and the horror of the cat having her kittens in their bed.


The girls liked to visit Birmingham City Centre, and before Lily married Alf, it was a favourite Saturday treat for the three of them to walk up Gooch Street and into town together. They enjoyed wandering around the stalls in the Bull Ring market listening to the traders shouting out their wares. The only things they disliked seeing were the rabbits, hares, and birds hanging up in the butchers’ stores. Seeing the dead creatures would bring a rush of tears to Chrissie’s eyes, and Babs would feel sick. The smell of the dead birds would also make them hold their noses. The worst was the fish market, how they disliked that! The dead eyes of the fish seemed to glare out at them accusingly as if blaming them for being killed. Chrissie would shudder in fright and hide her eyes, pictures of the beautiful creatures swimming free in crystal seas would fill her mind’s eye, she disliked this side of market life. If she could have avoided it, she would. She would avoid walking along the streets where the furry creatures were hung in the shop windows. The sight always made her cringe. At times, her imagination would run riot after she had eaten meat or fish, imagining that the creatures were actually alive inside her. She would feel sick at the thought of it. A nasty taste would linger in her mouth for days.
Lily would laugh at them when they complained about the smell of the fish saying, ‘Huh, you should smell the sauce factory, I’ve smelt it some days when you aint with me. I can tell you that vinegary smell nearly knocks your head off.’ The girls doubted it; they loved HP Sauce if ever they were lucky enough to have it. Their mom would water it down with vinegar or water to make it last longer. The same as she made the tea last and last by constantly refilling the teapot with hot water.
All the barrow boys loved Babs, her daintiness along with her striking blonde hair and blue eyes, drew their attention, and they would give her an apple or an orange, “for looking beautiful”. Lily would sniff, feeling sorry for her younger daughter, Chrissie, who rarely received a compliment. She did notice that Chrissie never seemed to mind. Chrissie just accepted that Babs was the good-looking one and always would be. Truth to tell, Chrissie didn’t mind, she preferred to remain in the background. Not that she was ugly, far from it; she had lovely thick, wavy, honey-blonde hair complimented by sea-green eyes. She was tall and well built, but Bab’s startling beauty overshadowed her every time.
Since Lily had married Alf, the girls stayed at home on a Saturday, looking after Greg, and cleaning the house while Lily went up town with Alf. Lily would occasionally buy them a small gift from Woolworth; sometimes it was a comic or sweets, just something to say she had thought about them while she was out. The girls treasured these gifts from their mom, but Babs often caught a gleam of resentment in Alf’s eyes when Lily gave them the gifts, although it was gone in a flash when he caught her gaze. Babs couldn’t wait for the day when she could leave home and Alf Brown behind.
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