Today’s guest poster is Harry Nicholson. I met Harry on Goodreads and was very impressed by the quality of his writing. And his poetry. And his artwork. The following post showcases his evocative prose, selections from ‘Tom Fleck,’ a novel. –Jeff Guenther
The story of an unknown man.
Introduction: “When I was tapping out Morse in the pitching wireless cabins of tropical steamers in the 1950’s, story-telling was not in my mind. A career in television studios might have brought it about – thirty years working with stories in pictures soaks the mind with images. These days, in a valley below the moorlands of North Yorkshire, I have more time to imagine at leisure. My first tale is about a humble farm labourer and his struggles to be free in Tudor England.”
“The landscape of the story, Northern England, is peopled by the descendants of Celts absorbed by Anglo-Saxons, themselves in turn subsumed under the rule of the Danes. This mixed people supplied the foot-soldiers who had to stand and fight to maintain the frontiers set by their conquering Norman overlords. Across those borders drawn by kings, they often faced their own kind. I chose the dramatic year 1513 to tell their story; it is the year of the great battle of Flodden Field, where James IV of Scotland met his death.” –Harry Nicholson
Fragments of Tom’s world:
A line of five cows now straggled around him as they made their way home for milking. Tails swishing at flies, they sauntered along carefully, nursing the weight of full udders. The cattle gazed with soft eyes – they knew him well. One or two paused to spatter the track with cow-clap in a companionable manner. Meg trotted behind at a safe distance, herding the heels. He strode between the kine, happy to pull into his nostrils the warm belches of fermented grass.
He grimaced as he neared the cow byre, it looked like a broken-backed ship. Could he manage on his own? While he was fit, Dad had done his best with running repairs – but now . . . A lump came to his throat. Those walls were bulging – the wattle-and-daub giving way. The thatch should have had new reeds last year. That eastern end, leaning where the ground had gone soft with ages of cattle piss . . . It needed a good fettling. Only the thick back wall held the building together. Those long-forgotten men had sense, building onto the wall of the ruined chapel. He stopped by the lean-to. Just this morning he’d patched it where the bull had smashed his head through. The auld lad got restless when he caught the scent of his cows ambling past twice a day.
Tom reached the middle of the byre’s front and pushed against the planks of the only door. The cracked leather hinges groaned. He stooped beneath the lintel with his load of firewood and ducked as a cluster of fledgling swallows flew to the opening. They fluttered around his head, then darted into the open air. Their parents swooped, chortling from the byre’s sagging ridge in greeting. Once inside, he turned to the right and set down his burden. The cattle followed, but turned to the left . . .
Harry Nicholson grew up in Hartlepool, County Durham, England, from where his family have fished since the 16th C. His first career was as radio officer in the merchant navy, followed by television studio work. Since retirement, he has devoted himself to art, poetry and the teaching of meditation.