Sunday, October 28, 2007

Leida and the Swan

The phone rang. It was my sometimes Marketing Manager. He sounded cheerful. 'Hi Joseph - did you see the review?'

'Yes I did, Mark', I said, flatly.

'Not bad, eh? Should boost sales a bit'

'I doubt it - that reviewer described my writing as "car-crash literature". Who wants to buy into that?'

'She also said it would make an "excellent" gift. Christmas is sown up, my friend. So, what have you been up to? Haven't heard from you for ages. Was your phone off or something? I was trying to get hold of you last week.'

'It's a long story. Have you seen the blog recently?'

'Aah, not as such Joseph. I've been rather busy trying to keep things going here. Very hectic at the moment. So, anything interesting?'

'If you really want to know I suggest you read the last few entries and phone me back.'

'OK. Will do. Stand by'

Thirty minutes later the phone rang again.


'Hello Mark.'

'You got yourself into some deep doo doo there mate, for sure for sure. But here we are talking on the phone, so I guess it all worked out in the end, yeah?'

'yes and no. Do you want to hear what happened?'


OK. Well, the next day was a Monday. I went down to have breakfast as usual with Mrs T, but she wasn't there. All I found was a note which told me that she would be back in the afternoon. I assumed that she must have been called away, so I had breakfast and went outdoors. I was tidying up one of the rose beds about an hour later when it started raining, and I popped indoors to get a waterproof. It was then that I heard a a muffled scream coming from upstairs. This struck me as odd in a number of ways, not least because the house should have been empty...'

'It was the housekeeper!' exclaimed my quick witted Marketing Manager

'Not as such. I walked inside to hear another scream, and quickly ascertained that the noises were coming from the first floor landing. Ascending the stairs, I heard what sounded like a moan coming from the gallery.'

'Oh yeah, let me guess they were all...'

'As you can imagine, my curiosity was piqued. So anyways, I walked down the landing and put my ear to the door. I'd never been inside myself, but Dolores had told me how it was full of erotic artefacts. Of course, she'd never been inside herself, being a bit of prude...

'Too much information my friend!'

'Sorry. I just...anyway - I tried the door and to my complete suprise it opened. The first thing I hear - before I can even get my head round the door to see what's going on - is someone swearing very loudly. Next thing - loud footsteps of someone running towards the door. I barely get my head out of the way before - bang - the door's slammed shut.'

'Ooh, could have been nasty...'

'Messy, for sure. My first instinct is to call the police. But then I think about my previous encounters with them and suggest to myself that might not be the best idea. Also, I didn't have my phone, and I'd never seen a landline in the house. So then I think about running from the place, but have no idea whether that security guard would be watching.'

'Let me guess, you tried the door again?'

'How did you guess?'

'You have a knack of launching yourself into unsustainable situations on the pretext of acting rationally, but really as a result of your intrinsic inability to correctly understand the warning signs.'

'Er, do I? Anyways, I had to really, to find out what was going on. So I turned the handle and opened the door. This time, no swearing. I peek inside and see the contents of the gallery. You ever been to a museum of erotic artefacts, Mark?'

'No, not many of them in Cambridge, as it happens.'

'Well anyways, it was full of what you might expect. Statues, phallic symbols, paintings, etcerea. Moderately interesting if you are into that kind of thing, I guess. Now, like you I expected something to be going on in that very room. But no. Whatever was taking place was happening beyond the gallery. You see, Mark, there was a door at the other end that closed as I stepped into the gallery. I just had to find out...'

'You are either braver or more foolish than me, Joseph.'

'I jogged through the gallery - stopping I must admit, but only once, to admire an original painting of Leida and the Swan - you know the one where..'

'I am aware of the story.'

'Of course. It was a very fine painting - very graphic but very well painted. Anyways, not what I was there for, so I moved on, and finally reached the second door. It was unlocked!'

'No shit - it's like they wanted you to follow them...'

'Well - let's see. So I try the door, and it opens into a completely dark room. I can't see anything for a moment, but then a candle is lit and the whole scene is laid out in front of me...'

'Huh? What scene?'

'OK - how do I describe it - you've seen those old horror films, yes, where the hapless maiden is laid out on a sacrificial altar whilst the high priest is poised with his dagger to make the sacrifice?
'Good wasn't...was it?'

'No. Not quite. But Mrs T was there, lying on a bed, and Stonemason was standing over her, carrying a knife. He was also holding what appeared to be a watermelon. Without even acknowledging my presence, he stabs the watermelon three times and let's the juices dribble onto Mrs T - who, by the way, is fully clothed and in no way restrained.'

'Er, right...'

'He then points directly at me and says - and this is exactly what he says - "Approach, stranger, and make the sign of the order in remedy of the original sin". Do you mean me? I say to him, assuming he must have mistaken me for someone else. At which point he looks over at me and shouts "What the f**k are you doing here?". The door was open, I say. At which point he throws the melon in my direction and tells me to f-off. His aim was so good that the melon caught me right on the forehead, and I fall backwards out of the door. To my complete and utter suprise the back of my head doesn't strike the actual floor, but the knees of someone standing immediately behind me.'

'Good grief...'

'As I fall on the ground I hear the word 'arseschlok' and realise I've just hit the knees of the chef. He bends over and hauls me up to my feet. By this time both Mrs T and Stonemason have left their positions in the room and are standing in front of me. They don't look happy. Stonemason then says to the chef 'You are late, you German idiot. To which the chef says " ja, sorry master - I had food from village Indian last night and today got some bad diarrohea and could not leave the toilet". Mrs T then points at me and says 'he's ruined it. He's seen it, and ruined it. We cannot continue. Under rule 27c, if any employee witnesses the remedy of the original sin, we are tainted once again and must scatter to the four corners of the Founder's Field.'

'A cult!' exclaimed my excited marketing manager.

'Exactly that, Mark. I knew something was up all the time I was living there, but just couldn't put my finger on it. Now, there I was, the central figure in the dissolution of their order.'

'So what happened next?'

They started talking amongs themselves about what to do. This clearly hadn't happened before, and none of them knew what it meant to scatter to the founder's field. Or where the field was. They started getting annoyed and pointed at me a lot. Stonemason suggested they take me with them, wherever they went. I told them that would count as kidnap, to which Mrs T said - "how do you think the rest of us got into this?". Finally, the chef says "This is a complete arseschlok. I'm leaving. Anyone going to stop me?". To which Stonemason says "Under rule 19a, no employee is allowed...". But he doesn't get any futher because the chef punches him to the ground and runs off. Stonemason gets up and thinks about running after the chef, but then Mrs T says "I've had enough aswell. Let's just leave. The owner won't bother to look for us". So then Stonemason holds up his hands and says "OK, that's it. We can't break the rules, so we must disband. Well done, McCrumble. You were destined to join us, but by some unfortunate twist of fate originating from a dodgy curry, you have destroyed us. Leave, before I change my mind. Your belongings are in my room. Tell no-one what you have seen here, or we'll be back.'

'But you're telling me!'

'I'm telling the whole world, Mark. I mean, it was hardly normal up there. They were going to actually kidnap me! I also know they won't be coming back in a hurry.'

'How come?'

'Well, I didn't hang around. I went upstairs for my things, then went to the security hut for my phone. It was on Stonemason's desk, alongside copy of the house rules. I picked both up. Rule 28b clearly states that once the ritual has been tainted, the fellows of the order may never visit the site again.'

'Phew, that was a lucky escape then!'

'Yep. Fortunately Dolores believed my story - I met her on my way out as she was on her way in to start cleaning, and explained everything. She didn't go into work, not surprisingly.'

'So you are back with your family?'

'For now, at least. Penniless again. Dolores remarked at one point that we'd still have an income if I'd let them kidnap me. Well, must go. The twins want me to watch their archery practice. Bye.'

So yes, dear reader. As you may have deduced, I have finally returned to the barn, after uncovering a cult within the manor. I am going to endeavour to put my marriage back onto the right tracks. Dolores has put me on probation, but really I think she might be just a little glad to see me home again. How do I know? Because when I got to telling her what was inside the museum of erotica, I didn't manage to finish my description of Leida and the Swan...


Friday, October 26, 2007

The TCS review

Hello all

Before I continue with the previous story, I bring notice that The Cambridge Student has posted a favourable review of the book. You can read their review here:

TCS review of McCrumble

If you have arrived here after reading the review, welcome. Do not be alarmed if you don't quite understand what is going on. I have trouble working things out most of the time, so we already have something in common. The best thing I can suggest is that you buy the book, then start reading the archives from Sept 06 onwards to find out what happened next.

best wishes


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tea for two

Hello all

Sorry for the rather abrupt end to the last post. I was in my room at the time, and heard footsteps in the corridor. It was all I could do to scroll down and press publish (remember, I am using a mobile phone with a small screen) before the door opened. Moments later, the phone was confiscated.

In case this soounds a little confusing, let me tell the story in chronological terms, picking up at the point where I was contemplating how long it would take me to sprint for the border. I was just about to set off when a rather large man grabbed the collar of my shirt and hauled me off my feet. I had no idea there was even a security guard on the premises, let alone that I had been stalked by cctv from the moment I left the second floor landing. This was explained to me as I was marched back at speed towards the house. But rather than entering, I was taken round the back and into one of the stable buildings. On the other side of a door I had never noticed was a security post, complete with a bank of monitors, a bed and kitchenette. I was told to sit down by the security guard, who then, somewhat unexepectedly, offered me a cup of tea.

'Dr Joseph McCrumble, I presume?', he said, handing me the mug. 'Sorry, no milk or sugar.'

The fact that the man knew my name was an additional surprise. 'Er, yes, and, er, no problem. And, er, you are?', I said, hestitantly.

'Stonemason.' said the guard, checking the monitors as he spoke. 'As in, that is my name, not what I do. I am the security guard here, in case you were wondering.'

'It did cross my mind', I said dryly. 'So what am I doing in here?'

'It is my job to interrogate trespassers. The owner is very fond of his privacy.'

'But I wasn't trespassing. I'm staying here as a gardener whilst I sort out my...'

'I am aware of your position, Dr McCrumble. Dolores told us what was happening between the two of you, so we agreed to let you in under the rules of the house. You are quite a good gardener, by the way.'

'She did? I mean, thanks.'

'Rule 19a states that no employee shall venture onto the grounds at the weekends without the permission of the owner. You were therefore trespassing.'

'OK...', I said, wondering where this was leading.

'Under rule 19a, employees observed trespassing are to be confined to quarters and rendered unable to communicate with the outside world until such time as the owner is convinced that there has been no breach of privacy.' As the security guard spoke, he began to roll his shirt-sleeves upwards.

Upon hearing and seeing this, my mind immediately focused on keeping calm and not revealing that I had a mobile phone about my person. It was located in my jeans' pocket, and I knew that Stonemason would only need to exercise a light frisking to bring about its confiscation. Somehow, I had to offload the mobile to somewhere I could retrieve it unnoticed after the search. Looking briefly around me, I could not see many obvious hiding places. To my left was the kitchenette, and I figured that if I could make a distraction, I could perhaps deposit the phone in the sink. It was a slightly risky venture, but the only viable option from where I was sitting.

It would have to be a fairly major distraction, or else I would not have sufficient time to wrestle the phone from my (slightly tight) jeans pockets and place it quietly amongst the pots and pans. Stonemason's attention had been caught by something on the screens. I was holding a cup of tea. Now, I'm no electrician, but I do know that tea and television monitors don't mix very well. Especially when a cup is thrown at the screens.

'What the...', cried the security guard as the lukewarm brown liquid spilled over the monitors. He looked round at me with a mixture of confusion and menace. I shrugged my shoulders.

'Sorry, it was a spasm. I get them under stressful conditions. Wait I'll get a cloth.' With that, I stopped waving my right arm around, stood up and turned towards the kitchenette, my left hand on my pocket containing the phone.

'Sit down Dr McCrumble', said Stonemason firmly. 'I'll get it.'

My heart skipped a beat, and momentarily I thought my opportunity lost. But fortunately the security guard had to search amongst the pots and pans to find his cloth, during which time I could retrieve the phone from my jeans' pocket. Stonemason then moved over to the monitors to wipe the screens. I stood up again and placed the phone carefully in the pans.

'What are you doing?' said the security guard, wiping a screen.

'I'm, er, getting another cloth. That's not doing the job properly.'

'Yes it is. It's worked fine. Sit down', said Stonemason impatiently, clearly upset by the incident. Momentarily I was pleased to see him agitated, but an image of him taking out his irration during the forthcoming search popped into my head, and I felt suddenly uneasy once again. 'Right, now no more spasms, or I'll have to tie you to the chair', he said.

'Sure, I won't move at all.'

'Yes you will. Stand up. I need to frisk you for communication devices. Do you have any you want to hand over before I search you?'


'It will look better if I report to the owner that you voluntarily submitted any devices.'

'None to submit, Mr Stonemason', I said confidently. 'Search away.'

The (slightly too rough in my opinion) frisking lasted only a couple of minutes and of course revealed nothing. Retrieving the phone was straightforward, as it was within easy reach of where I was standing, and I just had to wait for the security guard to turn away for a moment, which he did to pick up his coat. Victory is mine, I thought as I was taken back to house and up to my room. Stonemason told me not to leave the room until further notice.

The first thing I did was send a text message to Dolores, explaining what had happened. She sent a one-word response, suggesting by her choice of word that she might have considered my excuse to be slightly, or perhaps completely 'pathetic'.

I spent last Sunday confined to quarters, and wrote that last blog entry before Stonemason entered, confiscated the phone on the spot and left me totally cut-off from civilisation. Why I wasn't fired, and ejected from the manor on the spot, I couldn't work out. I asked Stonemason that very question as he was leaving the room, but he didn't answer. I was left without any answer until a couple of days later when the whole sordid picture of what was going on in the manor house was finally revealed....

*******TO BE CONTINUED!!******

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Hello all

The weeks rumble by, and I am still here at the Manor house. Fortunately I have discovered how to blog from my mobile phone, so at least I can keep in touch with the outside world - albeit slowly as I have never learnt how to use my opposable thumbs to any great effect when it comes to texting.

This week I receieved a message from Dolores that she was going to allow me a home visit. I was initially overwhelmed with positive emotion at the prospect, but then it dawned on me that I was probably just going to see how things had changed for the better in my absence. Each time I talk with my wife she tells me how much better behaved the twins are, how she has adapted to not having me around. She says she misses me, but I'm beginning to think that is just the natural grief that comes with any separation. So it was with some trepidation that I prepared for my first encounter with my family in over a month.

Dolores said she would see me yesterday (Saturday). My heart sank a little, for normally I would be penned in my small room at the top of the house under rule 18b - no unauthorised staff movements in the house at the weekend. To escape from my room would mean passing through the living quarters of the owner (who visits evey weekend with his wife and two teenage boys). Unlike the housekeeper, they have no particular schedule, and I hear the boys running around the house at all hours of the day. Luckily, they never bother entering the attic, as there is nothing up here of interest except the stash of surfboards in my room. As we are at least twenty miles from the nearest wave, and I know from the housekeeper that they never visit the seaside, it is unlikely the surfboards are going to be used any day soon.

Anyways, I decided after careful analysis of the situation that I would attempt an escape at 1300 hrs - the time when the family usually begin their lunch in the dining room. I knew I could, by treading very lightly on all fours, exit through a back door at the opposite end of the hallway without being seen. Normally I don't crawl anywhere, but in this case I knew there was no choice, as a large mirror hung in the hall would reflect my image into the eyes of the owner, sitting at the top of the table, if I was upright.

At 1pm I descended from the attic onto the second floor landing. The emotive aroma of a roast-beef dinner caught me unawares, and I was immediately transported in my mind back to the last time I had enjoyed a proper lunch with my own family, many weeks ago. The effect was so strong that I was unable to supress a tear, which I wiped away with my shirt sleeve before declaring to myself that nothing was going to stop me being re-united with the people I love.

Oh so quietly I descended the stairs onto the first floor landing, leant over the banister. and watched as the weekend chef carried a tureen into the dining room. Over the babble of conversation I heard a deep foreign voice (indeterminate origin) thank the chef by his first name (Anton). I then heard the chef reply in a crisp german accent, in terms which surprised me. Now, I'm not well up on how the other half live, nor do I have much insight into how the nouveau riche treat their staff, but is it generally true that a chef (complete with mushroom hat) would, having served up the first course, thank his boss with the words 'You are most welcome, Sir', barking out the last word as if on parade in front of a sargeant major, before clicking his heels and exiting the room?

As if this wasn't surprising enough, I then heard, quite distinctly, the chef say the word 'arschelok' in an angry whisper as he entered the kitchen (for those of you who are unaware of the vulgar words available in the German language, I will provide a literal translation - the word 'arschelok' is equivalent to our moderate term of insult 'areshole'). This short outburst was quickly followed by the sound of metal striking metal - a sound loud enough to reach both the dining room and the first floor landing.

The owner must have heard the chef, but the babble of conversation continued without interruption. Curious, I thought to myself as I slowly descended the stairs. This was the second hint that relations between the owner and his staff were somewhat unusual. Making a mental note to find out more, I stepped off the last step and onto the floor. Down one end of the hall I could see the entrance to the kitchen. Inside the kitchen was the chef, lighting up a cigarette before leaning out of a window to smoke it. Immediately to my right was the entrance to the dining room. From my position at the bottom of the stair I could neither see nor be seen by the occupants. Opposite and to the left was the mirror.

Taking a deep breath, I adopted a crouching stance and moved into the hall, turning left. My exit was about ten metres away, on my left. On approaching the mirror I went down onto my belly and crawled, commando style, until I was sure I was clear. A quick glance behind me confirmed that the chef was still smoking his cigarette, so I once again adopted a crouching position until I reached the door. Standing up, I tried the handle. It moved silently downwards, and I was able to push the door open without making a sound. On the other side was a small vestibule, with a key in the door. Holding my breath, I turned the key and opened the door.

Freedom! I said to myself as I strode from the house, gulping down the fresh autumnal air. Just half a kilometre away was my beloved wife, my children and my research assistant, all eagerly waiting for my triumphant return. There was to be no more separation. I was going to re-unite the family, re-ignite my marriage. Just half a kilometre. Three hundred metres to the end of the drive, then another 200 metres to the barn. I reckoned I could cover the distance in less than 3 minutes if I sprinted.

Notice I said 'was'. There is a good reason for this, but you'll have to wait until next time I get the chance to blog before I can tell you. I am about to have my room searched, and it is likely they will find my phone. Actually, I can hear

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Me and Mrs T

Hello all

Still living in my small room at the manor house, spending my working days in the garden for a pittance (the minimum wage does not apply here, apparently). True to human nature, I have adapted to my new situation, and begun to find solutions to my problems. The strain of the abulution issue has now been, er, eased, by the provision of a bed-pan which I keep in the second-floor landing. This happened after I was forced to confront the housekeeper with the ridiculousness of my situation. She was reasonably sympathetic, but adamant that the rules of the owner were non-negotiable.

'Does he not allow you any latitude?', I asked one morning over breakfast.

'No he does not', she replied, swirling her weak tea with the handle of a bread-knife.

'And that is OK by you?', I asked, determined to soften her attitude with a display of empathy.

'The owner was very kind in allowing me to stay here on a permanent basis', she said queietly after a short pause. 'For my part I agreed to follow the house rules to the letter. If that were not the case, the whole house would fall into rack and ruin very quickly, on account of the owner not actually being here most of the time. There are those in the village who would see themselves sitting at the dining table, you know. One small slip, and it could happen, just like that.'

Each time she spoke in her soft Suffolk accent, her bony fingers would clench as if she were in pain. She would not look me in the eye, but instead focused on the action of her swirling tea. I did sense, at that point, that perhaps all was not well at the manor, but my attempts to probe deeper were immediately frustated by the chiming of the kitchen clock. 'Time for work', said the housekeeper quickly, rising from the table, leaving her full cup of tea behind.

'Your tea, Mrs T...', I said, smiling and holding the cup out to her.

'Too much milk', she said sternly. 'I was talking too long and it went cold because there was too much milk. Now, you get to the garden.'

I left the kitchen in a good mood. Despite having taken breafast with Mrs T every morning for the past few weeks, this was the first time we had managed to break the ice. You see, the house rule about fraternisation bewtween staff extends to casual conversation at the dinner table. This is, apparently, to reduce the risk of factions emerging within the staff that could undermine the authority of the owner in his absence.

Dolores was distinctly unenthused about my theory. 'Frankly, Joseph, I don't care if they are at war with each other. I'm more interested in saving our marriage, aren't you?'

'Yes darling of course. I just, er, so - how are the twins?'

'They are behaving remarkably well. I'm beginning to think that sending them to boarding school was perhaps at the root of many of their problems.'

'Er, right. Good. But, I would remind you, darling, that they volunteered to go to boarding school, on account of our inadequate parenting.'

'Ravel is teaching them survival skills. Next week they want to go and spend a night with him in the wood.'

'Good good. I'm sure it's all good for their development. What about the baby?'

'He's fine. Doesn't seem to miss you I'm afraid. Come to think of it, neither...'

I was forced to interject at this point, lest I found out that I was completely superfluous to requirements. Later, whilst removing some weeds from the main drive, I reflected on recent conversations with my wife, and came to the conclusion that all the evidence pointed to the conclusion that I have, indeed, been replaced by Ravel. Not in the strictest marital sense, but in terms of support for Dolores. Should I allow this to continue, I summised, I might find it harder to justify returning home...

J Mcc