Posts tagged ‘ghost stories’

26/11/2018

The Ghosts We All Become

Ghosts don’t simply haunt houses. Indeed, few do. Most hang around in tales, waiting to be summoned by their telling. They lived lives as people do, and gradually, over the years, begin to populate the myths and stories of a shared inheritance. They are the ghosts most of us recognise. They are our hauntings. Indeed, they are the ghosts we all become.

Buying and Selling

Back in the 18th Century my ghosts – the ghosts in question here – started a lucrative trade as cattle drovers. They were hill farmers in the Yorkshire Dales, centered above Airton. Their enterprise grew in scale through the end of that century, until it had become one of the largest such businesses in the country. It ended in dramatic fashion in 1841, in a complex and somewhat acrimonious inheritance dispute, settled in the House of Lords.

The business involved buying cheap cattle in Ireland, transporting them to Galloway, where they were pastured on the land of a local Laird. They were then driven to the family’s land in the Dales. Here, they spent a season, before  being driven south to graze in the North Fens, near Boston in Lincolnshire. Here they would fatten before the final leg of their drive, to markets around London. In all, this journey increased the value of these cattle fourfold. It was an enormously profitable business.

This story took place amidst the upheavals of The Enclosures Act. The North Fens were as yet only partly drained, and so – being of little worth – were still “Common” land (that is, unenclosed). At the same time, the South Fens, from Kings Lynn to Peterborough, were Enclosed. This left the ordinary, landless, property-less with  a profound sense of loss. The poet John Clare wrote of this brutal severance with such power. Commoners, without vote, entitlement or voice were simply denied access to that which had sustained them for generations. The land was simply robbed from them, by the flick of a pen.

john clare

Meanwhile, a few miles to the north, my ghosts used the little remaining open access land to their advantage. One of three brothers was set up as the local parish priest, thus ensuring they had grazing rights  for the family. When the patriarch of the family passed away in the late 1830s, the inheritance was to be split between the three sons. This was when the fights began.

Slipping Away

Much of the earned money had been of the “cash-in-hand” variety, making agreement as to the net worth difficult, to say the least. Added to this, there was a trail of creditors all across three countries, who demanded their share. The three brothers were also not in agreement as to the rightness of their personal share. In order to settle the various disputes over what was an enormous amount of money, the Lords appointed Sir Joseph Banks, the famous explorer and naturalist, to investigate. His report, which is now in an archive in San Francisco, was placed before the House of Lords in 1841. In began a slow decline and dispersal of the inheritance.

joseph banks

A couple of centuries later, I’m sat here, half an hour away from the fields on which my ancestor ghosts fed their cattle. Most of the villages around here have streets named after them. I can hardly step out of my house without some reminder of their lives. They are names, activities, scandals and history. They are the kind of ghosts we all know. That they were living, fearing, loving, substantial people is, now, almost impossible to conceive.

And yet, somewhere, there is a patch of ground that is partly comprised of their bones. And here, holding this pen, is a man who is, in part, a continuation of their spirit. I will become, with them, another ghost.

Ghosts

Ghosts and Other Tales, a collection of twenty five short stories set in and around the Craven District, is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle version.

26/11/2018

The Ghosts We All Become

Ghosts don’t simply haunt houses. Indeed, few do. Most hang around in tales, waiting to be summoned by their telling. They lived lives as people do, and gradually, over the years, begin to populate the myths and stories of a shared inheritance. They are the ghosts most of us recognise. They are our hauntings. Indeed, they are the ghosts we all become.

Buying and Selling

Back in the 18th Century my ghosts – the ghosts in question here – started a lucrative trade as cattle drovers. They were hill farmers in the Yorkshire Dales, centered above Airton. Their enterprise grew in scale through the end of that century, until it had become one of the largest such businesses in the country. It ended in dramatic fashion in 1841, in a complex and somewhat acrimonious inheritance dispute, settled in the House of Lords.

The business involved buying cheap cattle in Ireland, transporting them to Galloway, where they were pastured on the land of a local Laird. They were then driven to the family’s land in the Dales. Here, they spent a season, before  being driven south to graze in the North Fens, near Boston in Lincolnshire. Here they would fatten before the final leg of their drive, to markets around London. In all, this journey increased the value of these cattle fourfold. It was an enormously profitable business.

This story took place amidst the upheavals of The Enclosures Act. The North Fens were as yet only partly drained, and so – being of little worth – were still “Common” land (that is, unenclosed). At the same time, the South Fens, from Kings Lynn to Peterborough, were Enclosed. This left the ordinary, landless, property-less with  a profound sense of loss. The poet John Clare wrote of this brutal severance with such power. Commoners, without vote, entitlement or voice were simply denied access to that which had sustained them for generations. The land was simply robbed from them, by the flick of a pen.

john clare

Meanwhile, a few miles to the north, my ghosts used the little remaining open access land to their advantage. One of three brothers was set up as the local parish priest, thus ensuring they had grazing rights  for the family. When the patriarch of the family passed away in the late 1830s, the inheritance was to be split between the three sons. This was when the fights began.

Slipping Away

Much of the earned money had been of the “cash-in-hand” variety, making agreement as to the net worth difficult, to say the least. Added to this, there was a trail of creditors all across three countries, who demanded their share. The three brothers were also not in agreement as to the rightness of their personal share. In order to settle the various disputes over what was an enormous amount of money, the Lords appointed Sir Joseph Banks, the famous explorer and naturalist, to investigate. His report, which is now in an archive in San Francisco, was placed before the House of Lords in 1841. In began a slow decline and dispersal of the inheritance.

joseph banks

A couple of centuries later, I’m sat here, half an hour away from the fields on which my ancestor ghosts fed their cattle. Most of the villages around here have streets named after them. I can hardly step out of my house without some reminder of their lives. They are names, activities, scandals and history. They are the kind of ghosts we all know. That they were living, fearing, loving, substantial people is, now, almost impossible to conceive.

And yet, somewhere, there is a patch of ground that is partly comprised of their bones. And here, holding this pen, is a man who is, in part, a continuation of their spirit. I will become, with them, another ghost.

Ghosts

Ghosts and Other Tales, a collection of twenty five short stories set in and around the Craven District, is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle version.

08/10/2018

Five Quotes

“And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”

Ursula le Guin – The Dispossessed

“There is no end to the deceits of the past.”

Vernon Lee – Limbo and Other Essays

“Can the beautiful be sad? Is beauty inseparable from the ephemeral and hence from mourning? Or else is the beautiful object the one that tirelessly returns following destructions and wars in order to bear witness that there is survival after death, that immortality is possible?”

Julia Kristeva – Black  Sun

“The generation of atmosphere, the aura of the uncanny, is one of the most important secrets of magic. It contributes to the willing suspension of disbelief, the feeling that, within the circle, or in the presence of the magical shrine, anything may happen.”

Doreen Valiente – An ABC of Witchcraft, Past and Present

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

Pema Chodron –When Things Fall Apart

 

Five quotes to hold in mind when reading Ghosts and Other Tales (released on 26th October 2018).

Images by Gavin R Jones, with fragments from stories in Ghosts and Other Tales.

16/04/2018

Pinhaw: Center of This World

Pinhaw1

Pinhaw is the center of this world. Around it the hills, the valleys, the clouds and the skylarks wheel. To the North are the Yorkshire Dales, to the West the Irish Sea, South  are the fells of Lancashire, East the moors and towns of West Yorkshire. On one side is the village of Lothersdale, on the other Gargrave (the two villages in which my parents were raised). It is the center of all the Tales I write, whether explicitly or no.

Pinhaw2

Paradoxically, it is a marginal place. It sits on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is at the far end of a ridge of hills which raise near Preston in the west (including Pendle and Wheets). It overlooks both the Aire and the Ribble valleys – the former heading to the North Sea far to the East, the latter empties into the Irish Sea.

Pinhaw3

For all of these reasons, Pinhaw is at the center of things. The curlew know this. They nest in the sedge by the peat pools, and call to the sun as it rises on spring mornings. They know the people who built the stone walls all those years ago. They know them and they know their spirits. They watch them, as they gather to beat the boundaries away from this – the center of their world.

pinhaw5

16/04/2018

Pinhaw: Center of This World

Pinhaw1

Pinhaw is the center of this world. Around it the hills, the valleys, the clouds and the skylarks wheel. To the North are the Yorkshire Dales, to the West the Irish Sea, South  are the fells of Lancashire, East the moors and towns of West Yorkshire. On one side is the village of Lothersdale, on the other Gargrave (the two villages in which my parents were raised). It is the center of all the Tales I write, whether explicitly or no.

Pinhaw2

Paradoxically, it is a marginal place. It sits on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is at the far end of a ridge of hills which raise near Preston in the west (including Pendle and Wheets). It overlooks both the Aire and the Ribble valleys – the former heading to the North Sea far to the East, the latter empties into the Irish Sea.

Pinhaw3

For all of these reasons, Pinhaw is at the center of things. The curlew know this. They nest in the sedge by the peat pools, and call to the sun as it rises on spring mornings. They know the people who built the stone walls all those years ago. They know them and they know their spirits. They watch them, as they gather to beat the boundaries away from this – the center of their world.

pinhaw5

10/04/2018

Ghosts of the River Wharfe

The River Wharfe between Appletreewick and the Strid is one of the most beautiful and iconic stretches of water in the British Isles. It features in a number of my tales, especially “Summer Dusk” in Abandon Hope and “Descending, or Falling” in the final pamphlet, The Wedding Invitation.

river wharfe

The river valleys of the Yorkshire Dales function as a kind of destination in these tales. For the central characters in “Summer Dusk” it is a place of final freedom, of oneness with nature. In “Descending, or Falling” it becomes a resting place of a different nature.

A river is rarely seen as an image of destination. It passes through the country, it is a conduit, something to travel. It is the metaphor of a continuing journey or of learning. The unique nature of the Yorkshire Dales makes this conventional reading less persuasive.

wharfe roots

The rivers are at the heart of the Dales. They are crossed, they are a focus, they are at the center of villages, they feed the fields and are fed by the moors. They define the valleys which they follow, but which were not made by them (being glacial). Few people actually travel down them.

Barden, at the center of this stretch of the Wharfe, has as a timeless quality about it. It has castle ruins, an 18th Century bridge, a Late Victorian Gothic aquaduct. On the river mandarin ducks, dipper and kingfishers can be seen. The woods around the river hold roe deer and woodcock. In the skies above red kite, osprey and sparrowhawk wheel. In spring the flowers are incredible. In the autumn, the mists melt the trees and the moors into one.

barden aquaduct

It is not surprising that this idyllic and yet atmospheric river is full of ghosts. They gather, they rise, free and eternally in peace. This is their resting place.

04/04/2018

Loneliness

Loneliness is a companion as tangible as a veil. It shrouds the world of interaction, of closeness and of companionship, leaving nothing but truth for the lonely to face.

On the moors, with the wind blowing in strong from the west, rain showers gusting through you, it is possible to feel vulnerable, isolated with your frailties laid bare. But loneliness… loneliness is something you carry within. The towns and villages, teeming with summer tourists, are as lonely a place as the wildest peak.

Many of the characters in my tales, both living and passed, are lonely. They live their lives alone, and understand that we all die our own death, and face it alone. The circumstances that bring each character to their loneliness may differ, but it is how they face that realization that, to a lesser or greater extent, defines them.

In “Annabel” (the opening story of The Wedding Invitation: Vol. 3 of Ghosts and Other Tales), loneliness is the central theme. For the narrator, the fact that Alice – the main protagonist – lives on her own, without (obvious) friends or family, in a remote cottage is the very definition of loneliness. The narrator sees it as a common problem for many older people in such a rural community, as indeed it is. For Alice, though, loneliness is not defined by isolation. Loneliness for her is being separated from that which she loves. It is the division of the soul.

You are alone, in a forest on the darkest night of the year. All around you are the sounds of creatures in amongst the branches. You cannot see the path in front of you clearly. You slip on the tree roots. You are alone.

You wake, and the sounds you thought were creatures in the night, were the beeping of the life support machines all around you, and the sounds of the nurses and doctors, trying their best for you. They are out there.

You are alone.

(Photographs copyright Gavin Jones)