Saturday 23 December 2017

Ghost Stories on Christmas Eve

A small, grey-haired gentleman climbed the few steps and surveyed his auditorium. Rows of polished oak benches were neatly lined up before him and the stove towards the rear of the left-hand side was stoked, its heat beginning to fill the room and flow into the worn, wooden floor taking away the evening's chill. 

            From the inside pocket of his jacket he took a small book with a burgundy cover, and placed it upon the lectern. The honeyed smell of bees' wax that had been used to polish the pulpit's wooden frame rested in the air. Sitting down on a red velvet cushion he watched as seats began to fill until there was not a spare place to be had; any latecomers would have to stand.

            The clock on the wall struck seven and candles spluttered and flickered as they balanced along the dado rail, which ran along the top of the polished wainscot around the small chapel. He stood, cleared his throat and opened his book. Just as many Christmas Eve's before, he addressed the gathering.

            "Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that… Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail."

            He skipped the next paragraph and continued: "Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise?"

            Mr J. T. Hardy turned the pages, skipping some paragraphs and adding in some of his own words.

            Much of Stave One, Marley's Ghost, was crossed out in the book as was Stave Two, The First of the Three Spirits and the beginning of Stave Three, The Second of the Three Spirits. He turned to page fifty and read, not the words of Dickens, but his own.

            "Scrooge awoke in his own bedroom. There was no doubt about that. But in his own adjoining sitting room, into where he shuffled in his slippers, attracted by a clear light, there had undergone a surprising transformation."

            Page fifty-three gave a clear description of the second spirit, The Ghost of Christmas Present, in his green robe with white fur, but Mr Hardy chose not to give his audience the easy way to see this apparition, instead allowing them to use their imaginations to create their very own. This was their conscience that would speak to each of them independently and discretely.

            The pages of Stave Four, The Last of the Spirits was untouched and he read every word of Dickens's final twenty-four pages. When he concluded with: "It was always said of him [Scrooge] that he knew how to keep Christmas well. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!" the villagers rose to their feet and applauded the small, grey-haired man. Many had heard him tell the tale so many times before, others had heard it for the first time, and would hear it again, next Christmas Eve, until he could tell it no more.


A Christmas Carol was written in October 1843 when Charles Dickens was thirty-one, and published just before Christmas that year. Its message of love and trust was carried to fifteen thousand homes in its first year. It was also pirated almost immediately, but Dickens remedied that misdemeanour in a court of law. 

            My mother was one of the villagers (Seagrave in Leicestershire) who attended the reading of the story by Mr J. T. Hardy, which he did from the village chapel's pulpit each Christmas Eve for many years. She often told me of these annual readings and his widow gave the book he read from, with his annotations, to me when I was a child.

            I hope he is still entertaining Mum, and all the other villagers who loved his storytelling, in the next world. And you never know, Dickens himself might be joining in too.

God bless us, Every One!

Saturday 26 August 2017

UCAS 2018 - A Step-by-Step Guide

This up-dated guide for 2018 entry would be an enormous help to anyone preparing to apply to be an undergraduate at a university in the U.K. They would really benefit from reading this inexpensive book and it does exactly what it says on the cover - guide applicants every step of the way from registration through to sending off the completed form and accepting and declining offers.

It's affordable, accessible and indispensable for assisting with that step from sixth form to undergrad. It is full of tips and information in a straightforward, easy-to-follow guide. A small price for a huge piece of helpfulness.

I know from experience how stressful a time it can be for young people; I've even known students refuse chocolate treats because they were too worried about completing their UCAS form.

There are also endorsements and helpful comments from university lecturers.

The paperback version (£4.99) is available by clicking here and there are even some pages for your own notes.

The ebook is available (£1.99) for download to Kindle - or free if you have Kindle Unlimited. If you haven't got Kindle yet, you can easily get the Kindle app for your tablet or smart phone. 

Friday 7 July 2017

Bat Out of Hell - The Musical

 ‘A dystopian, underground extravaganza’

Jim Steinman originally wrote Bat Out Of Hell as a musical and Meatloaf’s album, released in 1977, has become one of the most successful of all time. Forty years later, the musical has been staged; it’s been worth the wait and musical theatre will never be the same again.

Steinman’s music rocks the auditorium from the very first second, as the show begins loudly and continues, fast paced and ‘in your face’ – where West Side Story meets Peter Pan – with attitude.

In a post-apocalyptic setting the tunnels under Obsidian are the homes of The Lost who live in a dystopian underground, where no one ages beyond eighteen. Something has affected their DNA and they shall never grow old. Nothing ever grows in this rotting old hole, and everything is stunted and lost.

The production kicks off with All Revved up and Nowhere To Go and the energy from every member of the cast is astounding.

Zahara and Jagwire deliver a powerful duet – Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad!

Falco, Obsidian’s Commander in Chief intends to ‘remove’ The Lost. He has a beautiful daughter, Raven, who is about to turn eighteen and her birthday party has not only an extravagant setting but an outrageous conclusion. Falco and his wife, Sloane remember their past when they experienced Paradise by the Dashboard Light – a truly stunning performance.

‘The sky looks down onto the sea; the sea looks up to the sky – nothing will happen.’

The rebellious leader of The Lost, Strat, falls in love with Raven – Oh, baby you're the only thing in this whole world that's pure and good and right even though she has been kept away from everything outside her home. For Crying Out Loud,  he needs to get her away. He discovers that remaining eighteen forever isn’t so idyllic – Raven will age!

Every Steinman song was delivered in an intoxicating way – speaking of intoxication, there’s the Pride of Obsidian lager to try On a Hot Summer Night – would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses? – Raven had to be asked a number of times before she gave the correct response.

I don’t think I have ever been to a theatre production where there was a standing ovation at the end of the first act. Exuberance and dynamism shone from every cast member who each gave a spectacular performance.

The orchestra was energising, bringing everyone together in clapping the rhythm of Modern Girl. The choreography was superb and faultless.

Motorbikes, crashing cars, fire, water, bats even – and, of course, the red scarf in Falco’s hand at the very end, when Strad would Do Anything for Love, was the subtle salute to Meatloaf’s championing Steinman’s brilliant musical works.

To see a trailer, the cast and creatives, the merchandise and more, just visit the website.

And don't forget to pick up your copy of The Obsidian Times.

The albums:

Giovanni Spano as Ledoux

On the way to the Coliseum
By the 'Bat Out of Hell window

All revved up and ready to go

Thursday 30 March 2017

New Short Story Anthology by Ruler’s Wit

Winter Tales 

Winter Tales anthology of seasonal short stories has been revised, up-dated and added to,  creating sixteen stories written by the same four authors as the first edition: Stephen Ashurst, Karen Ette, Melinda Ingram and Donna Shepherd plus a great new story from the pen of K. D. Parker.

The stories, some new, some re-written, all have a winter setting, which brings them together in a united theme, but each one is very different from the others. You will recognise some of the characters from earlier anthologies as they take up new adventures.

The stories:

Number Nine sees our historical time-travellers, Paige and Wesley, help an old man on the Feast of Stephen.

Promise of Adventure: Twelfth Night takes us back to 1662, or is it 2014? Contains a desperate woman, strange costumes and unusual meetings.

The Christmas Wish comes true for Erin as she visits a Christmas market.

One for the Road – and who took the charity tin? Was it the old tramp? And is it wise to have ‘one for the road’?

Mephisto Waltz – a dark, weird tale when a Christmas tree becomes sinister along with the music, and life will never be the same

New Year’s Resolutions – many make them, but starting over isn’t easy.

A Winter’s Tail – you can always rely on a cat to sort things out.

The Damage is Done  - you wouldn’t expect that to happen if you had just been shopping, or suspended from school.

The Single Present Remaining: a most unexpected present from Mike’s hidden past is revealed.

Stumped! The Cricket Club’s party didn’t end in the way Alfie had thought. And who was Santa that night?

Sledging – to somewhere a long time ago, and back.

Contained – a dark tale of kidnap and forced prostitution that Morgan fears she will never escape.

The Book in My Hand: Inspector Sandbach returns with another crime mystery to solve.

Candlemas: Will there ever be forgiveness for a child of the sixties?

Just Desserts: Hell hath no fury… especially when it freezes over.

A Photograph – the camera never lies, does it?

Also by Ruler's Wit:

     Spring Tales                                          Summer Tales                                               Autumn Tales