…“Somewhere in the dark bowels of that formidable fortress our Dearly Beloved Leader is held captive,” says Don.
“I wonder how he’s getting on?” say I.
“He’ll be fine, he’s very resilient” says Don, “It is though, now we’re here, tempting to break him out.”
“And how would we be doing that?”
“Didn’t I tell you that I am a master of the oriental arts,” says Don leaving off from his fish and chips to assume kung fu hands.
“What oriental arts… Origami?”
“We shouldn’t be laughing.”
“We have been given our brief,” says Don. “We just have to have faith, that’s all and humour definitely helps with faith.”
Laughter helps with a lot of things… it certainly helped with the writing of But ‘n’ Ben, where we chose to cast ‘Ben’ into the dungeons of Bakewell Gaol for his complicity in ‘Wen’s’ nefarious scheme to re-site an ancient stone. There is, to be fair, nothing wrong with a writer, or even a pair of them, putting their characters in impossible situations.
It gets a tad more difficult when those characters bear some resemblance to real people. Especially when they, the real people, are aware of the fact. You have the potential to stir up a hornet’s nest. You have to trust that they can see and understand the dividing line between reality and fiction. It is no secret that Wen, Don and Ben are loosely based upon reality… very loosely at times, I might add… and the real ‘Ben’ could well have taken exception to being thrown in prison. He is, after all the founder of the Silent Eye…
Instead, when we asked him to write a series of poems in the character of Ben, he rose manfully to the challenge, penning the Ballad of Bakewell Gaol, a three-part poem, for inclusion in the books. He also, and quite independently, began to write Ben’s personal story from the depths of the gaol on his own blog.
We do dreadful things to our DBL… you should see what we have planned for him at the April workshop… and he enters into the spirit of fun with great humour and generosity of spirit. So Stuart France and I would publicly like to thank Steve Tanham, our DBL, for Ben’s Bit, for the poems… and for the laughter that makes all things right in friendship.
We’re still looking forward to April though…
Part One of the Ballad of Bakewell Gaol by Steve Tanham – with apologies to Oscar Wilde.
It is as though I am not here
My life is seen as fake
A documentary, a life on film
Four walls, a bed, a tray, a cake
As though I watch like they who wait
For me to break, to break to break . . .
I did not eat my Bakewell tart
The gaoler’s jest can rot
Come maggot crawl between the bars
And leave your cell while trails are hot
And pass the grave of what you were
And nod to what is not.
A hole it is where once there stood
A mis-homed ancient cross
So fleet of foot were they who played
The thief-to-be pick’d with a toss
Of metal spinning to his doom
As fated coin chimed out his loss.
The fated coin called out his name
The grinning twins were pleased
Now gaping hole and ‘old church pole’
As evidence most foul is eased
Across the broad page – those who judged
And found you most diseased.
So maggot – former pillar tall
Of their community
Examined, tried, and now your kind
Demand they end your liberty
A pillory they have prepared
For public’s careful scrutiny.
The gaoler raps upon the door
The maggot – golem, dropped, forgotten
Instead my fingers grip the coin
Our one remaining thing free-gotten
The gaoler lets me keep it safe
Like Bakewell tart, to taunt us, often.
“Lights out m’lod,” he sniggers loud
Lights out with no delay
It does not pay to anger those
Whose switch is lightening of your day
The darkness closes in my box
Which sees him on his way.
But once he leaves, cold moonlight’s kiss
Streams in from twixt the bars
And out-breath slackens tendons taut
As silence in the darkness mars
My plans, the harsh, the psychopath
Who plays with lives who toy with ours.
No longer can I strain to hold the me
That rages – vengeance flakes
I sink to knees grown used to cold
And eloquently drip and quake
Upon a floor, with bed, and mirror
And in the morning, extra cake.
For once Don was right… it was all Wen’s fault. If only Ben had not insisted on going back for the gun…
Don and Wen should hand themselves in and share the fate of their co-conspirator; it would be the noble thing to do.
Does this course of action appeal to our intrepid duo?
Not on your Nelly…
As Ben languishes in the dank cells of Bakewell Gaol, Don and Wen hit the road. Their headlong dash for freedom takes them northwards, where they are beset by a host of ‘Orphan Stones’ clamouring to be led back home… But they are not alone; the mysterious Black Shade is not the only thing stalking them as they blaze their customary trail through the signs, seals and sacred sites of Old Albion…
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