Stories & Story Telling


 A Story 

Trevor’s Kiss

When I woke up Rael was bending over my bunk, shaking me. I sat straight up, stiff and cold.

“Is clear” he said.

Outside the wooden shack the morning mist was still thick and damp, but looking up I could see that there were patches of blue breaking through. The clouds had wrapped our mountain for three endless days, cold soaking curtains which had left us all huddling around the iron stove. Rael nodded to me, his intelligent face creased in its habitual frown.

“Today, Trevor’s Kiss”

Christo fried some bacon which we ate with rye bread rolls and tea. There was little gear to pack since this was only a scouting trip not a fully fledged expedition. I took only my normal case which I let Christo carry since there was no other use for his stocky shoulders. He was anxious if left idle as if afraid I would not pay him, but the smile never left his brown face. He spoke no English.

“Propadee!” he said “Balge knee!”

“He’s excited” I said to Rael.

“Yes,” he said, “Christo found this place. Many bat. No-one see before.”

Bats were my current concern. I was scouting for a wildlife film unit and had a few weeks to search the mountains for the most photogenic bat-caves. Like most wild areas of the wqorld I had found it too well-travelled already, everything known and seen and catalogued. But not Trevor’s Kiss. No-one but Christo had seen it for many years and no-one I spoke to had even heard of it.

We piled into the old blue land-rover and set off up the steep shale track. Below us the lower peaks were pushing through the mist into the sunshine, which was already hurtingly bright. The track went through scrubby bushes for several miles before climbing a series of steep zig-zags.  At the top of the ridge I expected a valley or another climb, but instead there was a small plateau on which sat a beautiful lake. It lay without a ripple like a sheet of stainless steel, surrounded by a green thicket, faithfully reversing the mountains which climbed on upwards, the snowy peaks nearest our eyes. The track led by the lake, not to it, and stopped in a rough circle.

“Can we go to the lake?”

Rael shook his head. “Much bite” he said.

Of course. Bats did not live on nothing. I set up the tripod and took some photographs. Christo was impatient. “Come,” he said, fidgeting and pacing. “Come. Propadee. Trevor’s Kiss.”

I packed up and Christo took my case once more. We set off up a steep path, which stopped at the stream that fed the lake.  There was a clear pool and we all drank the freezing water. I looked around, unable to see where to go next. Christo saw me looking and mocked my efforts, pantomiming looking round with his dark eyes, left, right, which way? His smile split wider as he jumped on a rock and started climbing up the stream-bed itself.

“Come”

There were enough rocks to keep our feet out of the water, though the climb took my breath away in the thin air. Soon I was panting.

“Can we rest? Is it far?”

“Rest,” said Rael. “Not long”

I sat on the cold stone while Christo foraged away upstream and Rael stood like a tree, his tall figure hunched over. I looked around. The mist had all burned away and the mountains were sharply beautiful. I could see the threads of streams in the deep valleys, the wooded hillsides, the bare uplands, the snowy peaks receding into haze. The silence was a presence, broken only by the occasional call of a kite far above. Heat soon turned to cold and I shivered.

“Trevor’s Kiss  – was it made by man?”

Rael nodded.

“A mine?”

“Small” said Rael.

“What would anyone mine up here?”

Christo was back and seemed to understand my question. “Silva” he said.

I hoped the miner had found plenty. What else could drive a man to live and work in such utter remoteness?

“Spanish?”

“English” said Rael.

“English” said Christo, “Balge knee. Propadee.” I turned to Rael but he only shrugged.

We left the stream-bed at last and tracked across a scree slope on a barely discernible path. It led to a further tumble of bare rocks, and I looked for a way up. But there was no need. Christo dropped my case and scampered ahead, beckoning us around the side of a huge boulder.

“Trevor’s Kiss” he declared.

The hole was not natural, perhaps a fissure worked by hand into an almost square entrance, four feet or so high. Inside was as dark as night, but the pile of droppings outside and the characteristic smell told of a medium-sized colony. I went to the entrance, looking immediately outwards, not in. I was imagining the show the bats would make as they poured out of this hole at dusk like smoke from burning oil.

Disappointment soaked into me. The colony was fine and the setting was good, but the arrangement of the rocks left no clear camera angle. The bats would have to climb up almost at once and disperse out of sight. What happened every night had all been seen before, and better. In the competitive world of natural history filming novelty was the only currency.

“See bat!”

Christo was almost dancing with pride. I assumed a look of delight and took the torch he was handing me.

The mine was not deep, fifty or sixty yards, stopping at a sheer face. It was higher inside where the crack worked up through the entrails of the mountain. The bats rustled overhead, and the smell was almost tangible. The colony was well-established. Had the forgotten miner worked amongst them or had he scared them away, only for them to return when he finally stumbled, defeated, back down the mountain? There were no human objects to tell the tale, no clues at all.

I came out again and put to Rael the question I had patiently waited to ask.

“Why Trevor’s Kiss?”

He spoke to Christo in his own language, and in answer Christo led us again to the mine entrance. He took out his knife and scratched the blunt side against a rock on the right-hand side. It was large and triangular, a reverse pyramid. Under the covering of dried stray droppings there were marks in the rock, and as I watched letters formed beneath his knife.  I stood still as he scraped away, cold seeping through my body. Christo finished his work and stood proudly back. He smiled broadly, then stared uncertainly as he saw my face.

“You know?” said Rael.

“I know” I said, hardly trusting my voice. I too was far from home. The letters fitted crudely into the shape of the stone were a labour of love, a work of many evenings with hammer and chisel around the fire after a hard day at the rock face. They spelt:

BAL JENNY

PROP  D

TREVAS-

KIS

There was a pride in it. At the top of the world was a place where he had been owned by no master. It was his own enterprise. One mountain, one Cornishman, and only hard work and good fortune to determine the outcome.

“Is good?” said Rael.

“Yes,” I said, “It was a man from my own country.”

“England” he said.

“Yes,” I said, “Near England.”

I took photographs of the mine to please the others, and some of the inscription to take home with me.

Below the light was already slanting, and purple shadows hid the valley floor. Silently we started back down the mountain.

 

Mike Sagar-Fenton

Seven Inches of Heaven

It starts with a ragged saxophone solo, its hook is played on woodblocks, cli-clik click click, before the clean sounding preppy American boys come in with “When (cli-click click click), when you smile, when you smile at me..”

I’m ashamed of it now of course but “When” by the Kalin Twins was my first 7-inch single and I’m stuck with the fact. I envy my sister who first fell for the Everly Brothers’  “All I Have to do Is Dream”, still worth a listen. But she had her moments of shame too, Pat Boone and, wow, Russ Conway. Sorry sis but we’ve all got our loads to bear.

But we were both delighted when the shellac single was displaced by the flimsy vinyl slice. 78s cracked, warped or melted at the slightest provocation. With the 7-inch single music really came of age. A song then, dear children, wasn’t just an electronic squirt into a plastic matchbox, it was a thing. You could give it to someone, wrapped up in pretty paper. You could possess it yourself, taking it out of its bag in front of your admiring and jealous friends. You could put it on your Christmas or birthday list. You could play it again and again and again until someone screamed at you to stop. You knew every inch of its seven, from the first exciting bite and rumble of the needle to the fade and the click of the auto-change. You couldn’t get enough of it.

To those brought up on “Henry Hall’s Guest Night” it was unthinkable that music could be so loud, so fast, played by unskilled teenage musicians, with words you couldn’t hear. You couldn’t hear the words! People said that with almost tears of incomprehension. The old men didn’t know, but the little girls understood, and us boys weren’t far behind. I still couldn’t tell you the lyrics of Eddie Cochran’s “C’Mon Everybody”, but the guitar riff is something my body will always remember.

We split into rival groups, if on parallel tracks. Beatles or Stones? Elvis or (gulp) Cliff? Yes, he was cool forty years before the Millennium Prayer made us retch, and we noted how he never made a bad b-side ( For evidence  “We Say Yeah”, “Put on Your Dancing Shoes”, “Do you Wanna Dance” and more). These things mattered.

In the 60s the world suddenly filled with ‘bands’ (not ‘groups’), who were too clever to be captured in seven inches, who demanded more space to solo and sneered at the 45 or the very idea of “Top of the Pops”. The empire struck back and Mums ‘n Dads annexed the charts with horrors like Ken Dodd and Petula Clark, culminating in the “Melody Maker’s” infamous headline “1967 – The Year of Englebert!”. Yes I remember it, and I was there.

In fact I was soon right there. In the face of the early 70s’ minging choice of Showaddywaddy and the Bee Gees at their most bat-like, I opened a record shop. I had served my apprenticeship in South London during the first reggae boom when dodgy characters would sell us sublime singles from the back of a van. The clientele in St Ives were somewhat more staid, demanding bands (brass of course) and choirs, but we kept the faith and added a Penzance shop to the empire of Chy-An-Stylus records. To counter the misery of the Osmonds and disco we ransacked the record company catalogues and installed a huge rack of 7-inch oldies which were amazingly still being pressed. Being fans ourselves we took no prisoners and kept no rubbish – every single single was a classic, and I can still hear the squeaks of casual summer visitors as they leafed through them with increasing joy.

The new age started with a frantic Sire 45 called “Blitzkreig Rock” by a band we’d never heard of called The Ramones. It could have been a one-off wonder – lots of great singles were – but soon afterwards a talented young percussionist by the name of Rat Scabies pounded an intro followed by a fuzzy riff at high speed with the simplest chords preceding a beautifully dumb set of lyrics. “New Rose” isn’t just one of my Desert Island Discs but a friend of my heart and the name of my boat. After the Damned came the deluge. Punk was pop not ‘Rawck’  and the single was its life-blood. To the horror of EMI, CBS, RCA, and other arrangements of letters, bands started pressing their own singles, grabbing a review in the NME and selling them to shops like mine, where your esteemed editor helped to feed them to the ravenous hordes. A punk band set up in our cellar. Kids started to make music not just consume it. It was an even more golden age than the 60s because anyone could play. Soon another huge rack of ‘new wave’ singles set up beside the oldies, customers danced and sang, and God was in his heaven.

And that was the peak, the start of the 45’s slow decline. Gonzo disco tunes needed more than seven inches to induce the necessary trance. 10” singles came out, then cassette singles, then CD singles, but it was never the same. Each was more bland than before. Hip-hop did away with singing, sampling did away with originality. The record business and I fell out and I walked, while the three-lettered corporations quietly took back the reins.

Pop music isn’t dead, in fact it’s hitting top form, but although you can hear it when you like, you can’t own it any more. On a top shelf at home is a line of 45s from the weird: – “We Found New Energy in Northampton” – to the mainstream: – “Dancing Queen”  – to the home-made:-  the original pressing of “Jilted John” – to the outright crazy, represented by the 1974 German Eurovision Song Contest entry “Ghengis Khan” – check it out, it’s great – adding up between them to a high water-mark in low culture, a blessing to the ears and above all a big smile on the face. .. a big smile on the face … a big smile on the face……kdunk, kdunk, kdunk, kdunk.

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