What’s in the Crazy Bay today?

This gallery contains 11 photos.

My friends on Facebook will be familiar with the joys of the Crazy Bay, but I’ll take a minute to explain. There is a certain large supermarket near my writing hideaway in Aberdeenshire which has a section of shelving that defies description. Some of the items are reduced, but most are still full price – […]

At Your Party Be A Smarty…



Now, before I start off talking about ghost stories I feel I should make a confession – I am a complete wet-blanket when it comes to horror. Those who know me are well aware that I am petrified by anything zombie related, and anything gory or ultra-violent is completely out of the question for me. However, despite being a complete sceptic, I love and am completely fascinated by ghosts and the paranormal and always have been and I do love a good spooky chill!
My grandfather started me off on this as he was a remarkable man who saw the world through very different eyes. He explained to me the true dark nature of faeries and how you should fear them and never cross or upset them, and how you should always stay alert and watch for the things that exist only out of the corner of your eye. He was a superb storyteller and I wanted more than anything to be able to emulate that.
The very first stories I wrote were faerie tales and ghost stories and I distinctly remember my teacher having a very earnest talk with me about how he was worried about my “macabre obsessions” and how I should try to write more “sunny” stories. I did write stories filled with sunshine to please him, but I made careful note of the delicious word “macabre” and used it in my notebooks with relish from that day on. I read everything I could about ghosts and unexplained phenomena, scouring the library shelves for books on subjects like Victorian spiritualism, possession and haunted houses and lapping up gothic authors like Edgar Allan Poe and MR James. When I was ten years old the rather fierce librarian in school would not let me borrow Bram Stoker’s Dracula as she said it was too “scary for my age” and so I hid it in different places around the library popping back in every day to read a bit more
In 1976 the BBC launched a show called Rentaghost; I remember how excited I was by the title and how my mind raced with the possibilities of an employment agency for ghosts.

I did watch the show (I watched everything with ghosts in) but was slightly disappointed that the makers didn’t seize the opportunity to have a really spooky show with ghosts being sent out to tackle things that the living could not. I liked my ghosts with a lot more chain-clanking and spooky jumps and in Rentaghost they were more…well…spirited! I wrote a short story in one of my many notebooks about a far more serious agency of ghosts as a means of getting the story out of my head, and then I tucked it aside and forgot about it.

I continued to watch Rentaghost and loved it (despite it not really being spooky enough for me) as it was completely different from anything else I had ever seen and constantly came up with new and wonderfully crazy situations for the spectral staff of Mr Mumford’s agency. I’m still not sure how a panto horse managed to become a ghost (maybe a reader of this blog can enlighten me as to Dobbin’s origins) The series ran for a remarkable 58 episodes and continued for over eight years with Harold and Ethel Meaker taking over the agency from the second series. It was a charming and hilarious show and I have deeply fond memories it – even Mr Claypole! It had an impact on the nation too and lots more ghost stories and dramas for children followed. It seems that impact has lingered and now Studio Fox have bought the rights and Rentaghost is to be made into a Hollywood movie starring Ben Stiller as Fred Mumford. I wonder if he will have trouble with magical amulets that grant wishes or with the dragon in the cellar? I had not considered how important Rentaghost was to me, or the impact it had on my writing, until many decades later.

Ghosts and the paranormal became hugely fashionable in the 80s, and 1980 saw the launch of the magazine The Unexplained. Suddenly the paranormal was everywhere and the public’s ghostly obsession hit the mainstream in a way not seen since the days of Edwardian spiritualism. Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World tv show launched later that year…and I never looked back. Now I no longer had to write those sunny stories and could indulge my passion for the world that existed out of the corner of my eye. My writing was full of life beyond death, evil faeries snatching babies, strolling spirits busy reliving past horrors, ectoplasm and macabre gothic hauntings.
Decades later, and with a child of my own who loved a spooky tale, the ghostly agency returned to my thoughts. I began to write it up as new short story, but that was not nearly long enough and so it grew and grew until it became a full novel – Brotherhood of Shades – and the agency now seems nicely established.
I hope that one day I will be able to elegantly raise a shiver the way my grandfather could, but in the meantime I will need to hone my skills and continue to pay very careful attention to anything that attempts to slip through my field of vision…

This article was previously posted on the blog of fellow author Jon Mayhew – find out more about his superb work here… http://www.jonmayhew.co.uk/

Dawn Finch is the author of the ultra-modern ghost story Brotherhood of Shades published in e-edition by Harper Collins on October 15th 2012
Isbn – 978-0-00-748741-7



Ronald Searle….. R.I.P… chiz chiz

As a small child I bought two Molesworth books at a jumble sale and thought them to be the funniest thing I had ever read.  I grew up in a London overspill council estate and attended a grotty state school that should have had no resemblance to the public school system written about by Willans and Searle, but children are children and the parallels drawn then are still valid (and hilarious) today.

Decades later and I wrote this after a Skool Trip (!).  I post it now as an homage to these books that made me laugh out loud and the talent of the two men who created them. I still treasure my battered paperbacks of these almost forgotten classics and would love to see them republished to share again.

NB – names have been changed to protect the (not s0) innocent…….

Why Skool Trips Shud be avoyded.

 Firstly it is masters (chiz chiz) wot makes all the rools for skool trips. This meens that all must go on educashunal visits with monotonus regularity as it gives hedmasters an excuse to get other masters out of the building with lots of grubs and to get a quiet day at skool to examine pichers of ladies and smoke cigars.

As if this culd not get worse – then masters aktually even ask parents if they wuld like to cum too! There is the ushual parents who can not help but get involved in there little weeds skooling (fotherington-thomas and his mater who is there with spitty tishues to wipe his snotty nose in case a mummy gives him the willies ect) and then the parents who is so GUILTY about not doing anyfing else with thier ikkle dahlings for the rest of the skool year that they is FORCED by the good-lady-wife to cum along (“but husband” they say “you hav not done anyfing at all since ikkle sprogger 2 was born and so it is your dooty to do someting and in any case you can sleep on the sofa until you do. It is the skool trip or the summer fayr and that is a fayt wurse than death” So with grate reluctanse they go for skool trip wich is reelly bad becos they are angry and bad temperd far more than masters ever are.)

 Masters ask parents to get invovled so that they can hopefully sneak off to drink BEER and look at piktures of laydies and have a kwik smoke. This is foolish as all boys (and even gurls) kno that as soon as they arrive at the mooseum (or other educashunal place) they will run around like wild and untamed animals and all masters will be forced to follow around trying to catch them without the aid of a net.

 But first there is the jurney there. This is done in a large bus that can safly hold all of the said boys (and gurls). Keen maters and paters run up and down the isle trying to do up safty belts across the ikkle dahlings tummies (even tho masters think that a few loose teeth wuld improve the brats no end). Then, after Murphy 3 decide that she has had enuf hysterics and clingy mater has been removd from bus by fors, we are off to the mooseum.

Sum parents (and masters who hav not learnd anyfing yet about the horors of year five) want to start singing. So driver (who have learnd a grate deal after driving bus for lots of years) put on the radio and insted all grubs sing along. ninety nine bottls of beer on wall replacd with “I see you baby, shaking that ass” much to amusment of all except pater of Watson 2 who is too serius by far. Jurney interuptd twice with Eavis 2 and Hammond 3 being sick down own clothes. Masters roll eyes and pass a blak bin bag backward along seets grateful for the fakt that it is on grubs own cloths and so they dont have to clean seets – keen maters rush up and down like angry trapped wasps with cloth in hand. Eavis 2 has rooined own coat and so it ponk like anthing and and must go into blak bag to stop other grubs from beeing sick with the EXTREEM ponk.

 HURRAH – finaly arrive at moosuem and all rush out onto pavement and ask impotant q’s about visit (when can we eat lunch, where is toylet, can we go to shop yet) Masters attempt to prevent ikkle dahlings from being run down by large london taxis – parents look in shok after jurney and need some fresh air and tablets to ease alredy acking brayns.

 Long noysy crocodile of grubs led into mooseum by masters (who culd not care less and are looking for eskape root) and by parents who are poynting out intersting things along the way (excpet for Watson snr. who is mayking it all up as he goes to mayke self sound clever and impotant – he is expecting his group of ikkle dahlings to respond to militry rules and march like eeger weeds to his plan – he is so wrong – mor of him later)

Coats hung up in chaos that remind all of the time some brite spark thort it wuld be a gud idea to have jumble sale in hall and started a riot of grannies that is still talked about. Coats and lunch bags stuffed into cuburd that is far too small for purpos and all grubs are hurded like sheep into mooseum.

 There is no avoiding HIST as we all kno it is all around us and in the mooseum that is partikularly the case. All grubs have clip boards (or clip round the hed boards as master who thinks he is funny japes – chiz chiz – he do not larf when Hammond 2 bang own head over and over again until the noyse make master shout). Here is the HIST of the aynshunt egipshuns – which wuld be amayzing and brilliant if grubs were alowed to just look at mummies with bone sticking out but the educashun rools say that all must make good with clip boards and make (the wurse thing of all) NOTES. King 2 sa that this is not good and use paper insted to draw bone sticking out of mummy and point out in loud voyse that lady mummy has had lady bits painted onto the bandages and if he did that he wuld have been in SERIUS TRUBBLE and not have it put in a mooseum. Watson Snr is keen that his TEEM shuld finish all notes before everyon else and so is attempting to march grubs around as if is in army. (“stop here, we shall make notes from this exzibit, now this one ” ect) This meens that his TEEM (ahem) are in total disaray and are bored to TEARS – quite literaly as Hammond 2 hav already cryed twice and after beeing told to GROW-UP hav become inconsolabul (this is a wurd that wet parents lik very much as thier ikkle dahlings are inconsolabul about all manner of things from the seat in the skool toylet being a bit loos to the fakt that they is SCARED by the straynge gurl who sit on a table near to them in geog, div, eng ect – it is totally wet and most grubs are only inconsolable as long as mater is looking).

 Watson Snr. is trying to remayn calm but have removed jacket and rolled up sleevs and has gone as pale as fag ash on masters jumper so all kno that he is heading for the bottle as soon as the day is over and will never come along to such things again (“I do not care wife” he will sa when he get home “these grubs are evil incarnat and I am never going near that plac again even if I hav to sleep on the sofa for ever. Pass me that gin.”)

 After much listening to very keen master who kno all about aynshunt egipshuns and talk lots about stachues and the like – it is time for the wurs horror of all – the talk in the lektur theatre. Grubs all troop in and sit in first available seat like skool rools say – but mooseum lady hav other ideas and want to sho that she and not masters is in charge. All grubs stand up, chaynge seets, sit down again. Ten more mins waysted, masters still thinking about BEER. Lekture begin and is far wurs than all grubs (and masters) expected. Starts with some slides of mooseum ladys holiday in egipt and her trip on boat that can aparently tip up easily (altho no piktures of this happening – chiz) Then slides of very impresiv looking mummy that is heading for the x-ray all expose with bones. Grub from other skool rushed out of door to be sick as is delicate likkle flower and not tuff like us. Rest of lekture is spent with our grubs snapping heds backwards to see if any other weeds are sick each time somefing exciting shown on slides. One master fall asleep and hav to be prodded by other master each time hed roll forward and glasses slip off.

 Then is time for the best thing of all – LUNCH. Now all can examine most intersting thing in the mooseum – other grubs lunches. Patel 1 has best lunch of all – three choc bars, bag of crisps and large bottl of fizzy pop. Masters stop him then find out he is on other bus and let him go ahead as is “not-my-problem”. (masters hav already had row about one master who shuld be in charg but is not reely interestd and so hav gon off with small group and left others to tidy up mess – this meen that masters are not talkin to eech other)

 Then, even better if poss than lunch, SHOP. For many this is wot they came here for in 1st place. Smyth 1 hav trouble as hav thrown money away with end of lunch. Keen parent go and serch through bin bags until realize that Smyth 1 had money in pocket all along and is in shop with other grubs. Keen parent now less keen and go very quiet whilst go and find toylet to wash bin-ponk off hands.

 All grubs hav spent money on choc and small models of mummies with bones stickin out and have been kicked out of the shop for mayking far too much noyse and for making mess on the shelves. Back in noysy crocodile and marched out to bus to hed back to skool (chiz chiz for grubs – lowd hurrah from masters) All keen parents now much more quiet and happier to allow grubs to sing “I see you baby, shakin that ass” rather than hav anyfing more to say to them. No grubs sick, despite twice needing keen parents to run around again with week looking paper bags and tishus. One satsuma fly hole lenth of bus and strike driver in bak of hed.  Driver barely notices due to long experiense of driving grubs. Masters stand up and showt loud until all other grubs turn and all point at Martin 2 who hav thrown it. Martin 2 blub like weed and masters can not be bothered any more so he stop and sit down with smug face having got away with it.

 Masters sit at front of noysy bus and eat choc pretending not to hear noyse anymore as BEER is almost within reach.

Arrive bak at skool – no one is missing and so masters think that this is a gud thing, grubs less sure as hav always wanted to kno what wuld happen if someone went missing. Parents of weeds are alredy waiting in HUGE cars that look like small tank with too much crome. They stand and wayve at ikkle dahlings as if they have been away for MONTHS and not just the day – even tho they wuld not have seen them all day anyway. 2 parents look sad, hoping that thier grub wuld hav been lost.

 All are marched in noysy crocodile to the classroom where clip bords are piled in messy heep on the floor, bags are picked up by grubs and then pushed out of the dor into wayting arms of mater who hav been inconsolabul all day wondring if her ikkle dahling was sayfe on such a dangerus day out (!).

Masters retire kwikly to staff room in hope to avoid all wet parents who want to come and MOAN about somefing or other. All masters run home very fast to open BEER and lit smokes and look thru job pages of local paper in hope of eskape root from horror that is SKOOL TRIP.

This is wot all skool trips are like and so they shuld be avoyded at all costs…….


On holidays….

Not disasters….small difficulties.

I have recently greatly enjoyed Emma Kennedy’s book The Tent, The Bucket and Me, about her family’s disastrous attempts at camping in the 1970’s.  The book is hilariousl, but I feel that may be due in no small part to the similarities to my own family’s holidays in the same period – but this is something that has not ended.

My holiday disasters have become a source of great amusement to those around me (it is here that I cite the hotel/brothel in Havana, being stalked by Mariachi bands, the beetles that I did not realise were burrowing into my skin, the 12mile hike into the jungle only to discover that Tenko offered more in the way of comfort, and endless stories of abandonment and breakdowns…including the time our little VW camper decided to jettison most of the engine through the body of the vehicle in a spectacular engine explosion….) but most people do not realise that this started early in my life.

Having just returned from an uncharacteristically disaster free holiday in Romania (I’m not counting breaking down on a road across a vast plain of maize and sunflowers in blistering heat in a scene very reminiscent of North By Northwest. Yes, I did run about in the maize and watch for crop dusters. I’m also not counting the foot-long leech in the toilet because it wasn’t in mine – and the fishball soup is not really a disaster, I just didn’t eat it. I don’t trust river fish, they taste brown) I was thinking about past holidays.

During a family gathering, I was recently reminded of the many holiday disasters we had when I was a child and, because I may one day write them all up properly, I shall just list one here to provide proof that my holiday disasters are not a recent thing.

My father did tug-o-war. Now I’m not talking about half-a-dozen-drunk-dads-at-a fete kind of tug-o-war, this is the serious-competition-and-we’ll-tear-your-arms-off-given-half-a-chance variety.  As children, my sister and I were expected to accompany my mother as she showed support for this charming activity.

Needless to say, this devotion did not last long once the mud and flies began to settle over the makeshift campsite.  It was on such a trip to Dover that my mother had one of her characteristic snapping moments – also known as “Bugger This” moments.

It had been two days of tug, two days of screaming and sweaty men hurling expletives at each other over a sticky rope or over a sticky bar made of pasting tables in Dover, and my mother had enough. 

“Bugger this.” She said.  “We’re going to France.”


Now this was the 1970’s and France may well have been the fricking moon as far as I was concerned – in that I had seen it in books and had a pretty good idea of what it was like, but never actually thought I would get there.  But, when my mother got an idea in her head there was no point in arguing with her.  The Bartletts were going to France.

She didn’t tell my father (“no point in worrying him”) and so bright and early the next day we headed off down to the port and bought foot passenger tickets to another country.

I was prepared…I’d been to French Day at school (stripy tops, garlic strings, long bread and drippy cheese) and my French teacher (Monsieur Brynn – impossibly bushy eyebrows and very shifty – might just have been the eyebrows, but that’s another story) said that I was an excellent student, and so I had the lingo too…. I knew that the minute someone saw a monkey in a tree, or a grandmother left her spectacles in the park, I’d be right in there – oh, and I could ask for the menu and the train station too – so I was all set up.  I dressed in my three-quarter length trousers (a la Audrey Hepburn – if she was a gangly ten year old) and my favourite, yet impractical, stylish strappy sandals, and we headed off to France.

What I hadn’t learnt was the words  “mal de mer” – I had to learn that phrase the hard way, by tossing my food liberally and dramatically over the side of the boat and into any available receptacle for all of the 2 hour crossing, and I really do mean ALL of the crossing.  I had no idea that I would be so seasick, I was doubly shocked because I had always harboured (no pun intended) a dream of running away to sea and becoming a pirate – unless I was going to become Captain Greenface, that option was now lost to the waves.

Boulogne was not how I anticipated France to be. Where were the jolly men on bicycles with strings of garlic waving a cheery “bonjour” at me?  Where were the cafes with stripy tablecloths and smiling ladies pouring “vin rouge”?   No – Boulogne smelt of fish, and sick, but everything around me smelt of sick (including my sister’s shoes…).  The landscape was a seemingly endless run of warehouses and petrol garages, that smelt of fish.

Mother insisted that we take “French things” back home (a fact that filled me with horror because I was trying not to think of the boat back) and so we went to the supermarche.  Mother did later muse that perhaps it was not the wisest of things to do, drag a nauseated child around the cheese aisle of a large supermarket, but it was done.  We had to buy wine and cheese and stuff our day bags with it and head back to the boat.

So, there I was, bag full of cheese that was warming up nicely to create an aroma that hung around me like a sulphurous haze ,adding to the general pungent nature that my nausea had already given me, and I was dragged back onto the hell-boat home.  I asked if I could go down to the sea to “get some air before the boat” (real meaning = “can I chuck up in the open air a bit?”) and so was allowed to slide down a concrete slope towards the water.  A patch of slime/algae allowed me to rapidly increase my descent and to jam my foot behind a rock, thus tearing both foot and shoe in a flurry of dirt and blood.  My day was complete, but not over.

I know that my sister was with us, but can only remember her feet – for obvious reasons.  She seems to have taken part in this hellish day trip and remembers that she quite enjoyed the boat. I have no idea why.

I can’t remember the boat back, but know it involved my bag of cheese sliding up to hit me in the face every time I leant forward to empty my already empty stomach.  I can remember my mother and sister jauntily walking back for the bus after our French adventure.  I however stumbled with a bleeding foot and only one shoe (“not to worry,” my mother had said, “put this sock over it, it’s clean.”)

My first foray into foreign travel had started with me full of hopes and anticipation and excitement – and had ended with one shoe, a bloody foot, an overwhelming smell of cheese, lingering nausea and sick in my hair……… 

This was not the first holiday disaster (gale force winds sweeping our tent over a cliff and into the sea…. that came before tha) but it was the first time holiday disaster overseas…not the last by a very very long way, and on reflection this one is staggeringly minor compared to some that have happened since.

It has not stopped me however and I love to travel and would rather die with a head full of things that I’ve seen, than a full savings account.

A guide in Cuba put it well when he said that it was all about perspective and it was better not to think of them as disasters, but as “small difficulties” – easy to say but not so easy to remember when you are sleeping under a table and being pecked by chickens……..

But that’s (as they say) another story.

On that note, I’d better get my packing for Vegas finished….

As a footnote – I had to wait another 30 years to use one of Monsieur Brynn’s choice phrases. I was standing amongst the stunning ruins in Tikal in Guatemala and indulging two of my hobbies by taking photos of birds.  Two toucans were being very accommodating and cheerfully clacking their beaks as I photographed them. Some French tourists joined me staring up at them and, as they gathered, a little movement caught my eye and a small greenish shape rattle the branches and scared the toucans away. The tourists frowned and could not see what I was looking at.  I pointed and uttered a phrase I never thought that I’d actually have use for……….

“Regardez, le singe est dan l’arbre!”