I’m going to be busy over the next few days, and rather than leave an empty page, I’m sharing some of the short stories I’ve written – I have posted them before, but some time ago!
“I’m just taking all the clothes out to air, Pa!” called Ma, heaving several suitcases and bags out of the back door. “I’m going over to the common to spread them on the hedgerows!”
“Very good, Ma, I’m just getting all the pots together, they need a good burnish so I’m taking them over to the blacksmith!” Pa was putting all the cooking pans and pots in a big sack, organizing them by size so they took up less room. They were all going on the cart outside where Mr Nobbs’ borrowed donkey, Billy, stood patiently between the shafts. “Good girl Lily, good lass!” he said to his eldest daughter who was coming down the narrow stairs with a bundle of blankets wrapped in an old blue counterpane.
Lily nodded to her father, smiled and gave him a cheeky wink but said nothing. She’d done sterling work today; she had taken the young twins to Mrs Parkinson who was minding them for the day, on the way to taking young Robert and little Sally to school. She’d come home, emptied the clothes from the drawers into a clean sack her mother had washed two days ago, stripped the beds and wrapped everything together and pushing the sheets into pillowcases. There was a bumping sound from upstairs, her brother Sidney was trying to manoeuvre the old flock mattresses to get them downstairs. He’d muttered to Lily that he’d like to throw them out of the window, but Lily put her finger to her lips to hush him. He frowned, nodded, then laughed – he was a good natured boy and could see the funny side of most things.
Betty came into the kitchen, her sleeves rolled up, and announced in a rather loud voice that she’d given the front parlour a late spring clean and had packed all the best china to be taken outside for a proper wash. She’d rolled the rug and could Lily come and help her carry it outside for a beating. The two girls took it outside and loaded it onto the cart and then helped Ma arrange the rest of their possessions so they would only need one trip. Sidney took a break from all the activity and stood for a moment with Billy the donkey, feeding it a couple of carrots and rubbing between its ears.
Ma and Pa carried the kitchen table outside, and the girls brought the chairs, and it was loaded upside down with the chairs within its four legs, onto the laden cart. The family stopped for a moment and looked at each other. Without a word they communicated that they should check round the small cottage once more, before shutting the door for the last time. With some sadness – for they had lived happily here, they looked round their former home… they picked up the single slipper left under the bed, a saucer without cup sitting on a windowsill, a jam jar with a posy on the second step of the stairs and a well-read, much loved copy of The Pickwick Papers for some reason left on the windowsill of the small attic the little children had slept in.
Ma, Pa, Lily, Sidney and Betty stood in the kitchen for the last time looking round, each saying a silent goodbye to the little cottage. Ma picked up her battered copy of Eliza Acton’s recipe book, ‘Modern Cookery for Private Families’, which was sitting on the shelf by the fire, and the family left their former home, and shut the door behind them.
Ma and Pa climbed up on the seat of the cart, their children ready to walk to their new abode and there was a pause as they each had their own thoughts and memories.
“What-ho, Mr and Mrs Handyside!” It was Jolyon Dalrymple, youngest son of Sir Edvard Dalrymple, their landlord and local magistrate. “I see you’re off now, over to the other side of the village to your new home!”
“Yes indeed, Mr Dalrymple, sir,” replied Pa with admirable restraint. All he wanted was to slap the reins on the donkeys back and get going.
“If you ask me, all this talk about a boggart in your house is just a nonsense!”
No-one said that they hadn’t asked him, and if he had any idea about the trouble of living with a boggart caused he would have kept his posh moth well and truly closed.
“We’ll be on our way now, sir,” said Lily firmly, seeing the frown settling on her father’s brow and her mother’s lips pursing with fury.
“Boggarts! I ask you! Modern science eschews any such nonsense!” If looks could kill, Dalrymple would have dropped to the ground like a stone right then.
Lily took the donkey’s bridle and began to pull him, but Billy was unsettled, maybe by the bright yellow cravat Jolyon Dalrymple was sporting.
“There is no such thing as a boggart, Mr Loveday, no such thing! Any item going missing is merely carelessness, or maybe some light-fingered visiting friend! Things which are misplaced is just bad housekeeping!”
“If you please, sir,” Lily pulled more insistently on the bridle but it was the slap on the donkey’s rump from Betty which set it off, pulling the cart laden with all the Loveday’s possessions. To make its protest clear, the creature left a deposit in the yard, which the family were pleased to see Mr Dalrymple step in as he headed towards the cottage, no doubt to check they had taken nothing that was not theirs. He slid slightly and not one but both shiny Devon leather boots became coated in the donkey’s parting gift.
With all this kerfuffle and noise, no-one noticed a small, brown, rather gnarled creature clamber up the wheels and onto the cart and insert itself comfortably into the roll of carpet.
“Well, Boggart my lad, we’re off for an adventure,” it said to itself. “We’ve kept out the way of our family while they’ve been getting set to move houses, don’t want to be a nuisance, do we? They’ll be pleased with us for sure once we get settled in our new home.”
It settled down to read ‘The Pickwick Papers’, one of its favourite books, wriggling to get comfortable and somehow dislodging the cup-less saucer and Eliza Acton so they tumbled off the cart and lay abandoned in the muddy lane.
I may have mentioned our boggart, he’s been with us for a long time, in fact I think either he had adopted me before I was married but he was young and didn’t do very much, or he came with or at the same time as my husband moved in with me. I can’t really describe him to you, although the children used to draw pictures of him when they were young…
Perhaps I ought to explain. A boggart is a sort of sprite or gremlin-like creature who over the hundreds of years he has been documented is usually malevolent; however I think boggarts have had a bad press and really they are just trying to be helpful and I think they get fed up when they are blamed for things and become mischievous and naughty. Some people say boggarts don’t exist, that they are the same as fairies or goblins or pixies and are just imaginary creatures of folk-lore.
To be honest, when a boggart is trying to be helpful, he usually isn’t much help at all… you know when you find your missing keys in a strange place? It was probably the boggart trying to be helpful and tidy them away… or when you find another object in a peculiar place, your purse in the fridge, a saucepan in the car, a tea cup in the garden… there is a logical explanation, your boggart was trying to be helpful. Sometimes (well, often, actually) I look round our house and I wonder why it is so untidy… well, our boggart has obviously not got the least clue on how to be tidy, so when he is trying to organise things he just creates a chaos of random piles of stuff and all sorts of items spread all over the show.
Our boggart used to be particularly active in the children’s room, so to ‘thank‘ him the children would draw a picture of him and then they would help me tidy their things and the boggart would remain inactive for a while, no doubt admiring his portrait.
There are several places in the North of England named after boggarts, Boggart Hole Clough near Manchester, Boggart Bridge in Burnley and Boggarts Roaring Holes on the Yorkshire Moors. My featured image shows a gargoyle, and I just wonder if that is where the images of gargoyles came from, sprites and fairy-folk and maybe the boggarts… perhaps it was the stone-masons way of ‘thanking‘ them, by using their image in the abbeys and cathedrals and churches, to keep the boggarts away from their tools and not to try and help by ‘tidying’ them!
Now I’ve shared this news of boggarts, I’m sure you’ll recognize the fact of one having moved in when you see the tell-tale evidence of lost items appearing in strange places or where you’ve already looked, unexplained untidiness, or random organisation of your usually carefully arranged things. Don’t forget, the boggart is only trying to be helpful!