WORKHOUSE TALES   

Image provided by Gressenhall Workhouse

WORKHOUSE TALES

by John Yeo 

MR POTTS REPORT

He started on the work gang I am associated with, Roger East, he called himself. A rough, dirty incredibly offensive fellow who would truck no nonsense from anyone. He worked hard, he played hard and he swore volubly and offensively at anyone who crossed him. I have heard tell he struck someone with a spade, severely injuring them, hence he had arrived at the workhouse on his release from prison.

   He was sadly uneducated and spoke in monosyllabic sentences. Yet the Guardians thought the world of him. He was second in charge of the institutional farm and by golly his clothes reeked of cow manure. A harsh hard man who worked alone in all weathers, a survivor, who lived hard and always slept alone on the floor of the dormitory in the clothes he stood up in.

    My colleague in the records office had no prior information on him whatsoever. He had been released from prison into the workhouse to get sustenance and all his earnings were squandered on drink. A legalised life sentence of interminable work with shelter provided. A permanent institutionalised inmate. A man who would be dismissed with nothing at the end of his working life or his working abilities.

ROGER EAST’S STORY

     I am Roger East from Norfolk in East Anglia. It’s been a rough ten years since I left the army. I was a Signalman in the Royal Signals for two years. I got on well there. After I had completed my basic training. I was shipped off to fight in the Crimean war for a year, before I was hit in the leg by a sniper in the battle of Balaclava and returned home to a base job. At the end of two years I was discharged into civvy street, with a limp, wearing a standard demob suit and very little money. I got digs, but the money quickly ran out, and I found myself living by my wits. I drifted around doing odd jobs for a while, mainly on farms. My spare money went on drink in the local pubs, I enjoyed supping a few pints. I got into a few scrapes over the next few months. I would doss down where I could, sleeping in empty railway carriages in the goods yard, there were quite a few of us sleeping there, with nowhere else to go.

    Some nights a gang of youngsters began to jeer at the people sleeping in the carriages, and one old fellow was severely beaten. I carried my spade everywhere, then about a week later I was approached and the gang began to push me around. I picked up my spade and wrapped it around the head of the biggest lout, then I began swinging around at the rest of the gang. They ran for it carrying the injured leader with them, I never gave chase, I was too breathless to bother. 

    The next night the police arrived and arrested me for assault. I was hauled into court and the magistrate sent me to prison for six months. I survived the rough violent days and nights in prison, the conditions were harsh and the days dragged by. 

     As it became near my time for release, I was up before the Governor for an interview, there was another man in the office at the same time, who introduced himself as Mr Potts.

      “Well East, you will be leaving us soon. What are your plans? Where will you go?” Asked the Governor. 

     “I dunno yet, I will find work I suppose.” I said.

     “That’s not good enough East, I think you will be destitute and living on the streets, of the parish. I am going to recommend you to be detained in the workhouse at Gressenhall, where you will work for food and shelter, until you have somewhere to go.”

       “I am not sure I like the sound of that Sir, but I will give it a try.” I replied helplessly, I knew there would be no sense in arguing.

       “Good! Mr Potts here is a Guardian from Gressenhall and he will look after you and escort you to your new home. I don’t want to see you back here again. Good luck to you!”

       “Thank you Sir.” I responded with a great deal of apprehension.

   That’s how I finished up here in the ‘Spike,’ I can look after myself, but the conditions here are not much better than jail. The food is simple, basic bread and gruel, with beans for a treat. We are not allowed out at all and drink is strictly forbidden. I have been allocated a job on the farm and I look after the animals, lately I have been shunned by some of the other workers who say I smell of cow muck. I never worried about that as I don’t mix with people very well anyway. I was tricked by the Guardians who sent me to the sick bay, where I was forcibly scrubbed by three other workhouse inmates. I will deal with them individually later.

   I have been made second in command on the farm now and I can save a bit of the money I never see. I was able to get hold of some money from the office to buy soap and toothpaste, but my friend who visits the farm sneaked in some drink for me and I gave the money to him.

    I am not sure where I would go if I didn’t live here now, or what I would do. I have become a forgotten nobody, serving a legalised life sentence of interminable work, with shelter provided. A permanently institutionalised number. A man who will probably be dismissed with nothing at the end of my working life or abilities.

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved 

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JOHN PLUMMER ~ A WORKHOUSE TALE

This is one of the stories I put together on a Creative Writing Day at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse in Norfolk.

OBJECTS AND INMATES

I concentrated on JOHN PLUMMER, Writing from this brief introduction.

“John Plummer decided he wanted to. Become a tramp when he turned 16 in 1938. The Guardians didn’t want John to do this as he would be dependant on the workhouse system. This would cost taxpayers’ money. They found John a job but he ran away. He was brought back to the workhouse and sent to Wallingford Farm Training School.”   

JOHN PLUMMER ~ THE INHALER

by John Yeo

  I have been forcibly returned here to take part in a training course at Wallingford Farm Training School.

 I was on the road for a while before they caught up with me, at least I will be working in the open air. I couldn’t stand working in that bloody factory any more! I ran away. I have developed this chesty cough now and I have to regularly attend the sickbay. The nurse says I have to use this strange china thing whenever I get clogged up with mucus. Apparently it is filled with hot water and I breathe it in before I go to bed at night or in the morning, before I go to work. I slept rough for the time I was on the road and the Matron thinks that is where I became ill, from the damp and cold. I spoke to the Doctor when he visited last.

      “What happened to me?” I asked.

  “You are a victim of your own stupidity.” Replied the Doctor.

    “Me stupid? Never. At least I got free from the chemicals that were swirling around that factory.”

    “You will have to continue to use the inhaler morning and night in future. The fresh air working on the farm will do you good. I will see you again in a month.”

  I like working outside but I do have this chesty cough that keeps me awake at night, I have to take the inhaler to bed now. The man in the next bed didn’t wake up today. They took him away and he disappeared. I think he died of TB, someone said it is a curse of the age.

 It is my birthday next week. I will be seventeen. 


Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved 

A prompt response for INSPIRATION MONDAY ~ “LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT”

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Image © Copyright John and Margaret

A prompt response for INSPIRATION MONDAY ~ “LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT”
Posted on February 27th 2016 by John Yeo
A prompt response for Inspiration Monday

http://bekindrewrite.com/2016/02/22/inspiration-monday-love-at-first-fight/

PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT

by John Yeo

     The ship had sailed away from Southampton on a long voyage to the Caribbean. I have never experienced this type of holiday before, and I was  keen to find a way to pass the time during the interminable days at sea.

    “I think I would like to learn Bridge,”  I said to the Social Hostess, when I went to collect my copy of the morning crossword puzzle and the quiz. “I have never played the game before and it will be a rewarding way to kill some time while we are at sea.”

    “That’s a good idea.” Said, Angela the friendly crew member on duty. “Just turn up and introduce yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are an absolute beginner, the Bridge tutor is friendly and you are certain to fit in.”

      “Thanks Angela, I will let you know how I get on.”

   I was early, for the Bridge session and I made my way outside on deck to sit and do my crossword. This was definitely wistful thinking as I soon became aware of the gusty winds outside on deck. The ship was miles out at sea and the waves were high rolling, and foam topped. The view on all sides of the ship was exactly the same, broiling grey-blue waves on a moving sea reaching out to a far distant horizon. The cloudy sky was broken by a few patches of blue, revealed by the wind-blown clouds racing across. I was astonished at how few seabirds there were, until one of the crew informed me that the birds were usually seen close to the shore.

    The only visible thing was a distant spot on the horizon, I asked my new found friend the crew member. “Is that another passenger ship in the distance?”

    “No Sir, that is probably a container vessel, on the way to the docks.”

   “However can you know what that is from this distance?  I asked.

   “Ah! We only usually see cargo vessels on this route, if that was another passenger ship the Captain would have informed everyone over the loudspeakers.”

   “Thanks for your help.” I said.

     “You are welcome!”  Was the friendly response“

  I made my way to the card-room where I was full of questions. Would I like this mysterious card game? Would I be able to pick the basics up quickly enough to be able to take part in a serious game? The Bridge tutor bustled up to me as soon as I entered, a friendly looking, middle aged lady with piercing brown eyes, looking over a pair of brown plastic spectacles, smiling broadly she said.

     “Good Morning, and welcome have you played this game before? I’m Cheryl and this is my husband Bill. What is your name?”

     I was overwhelmed with the warmth of this friendly greeting, and as Bill shook my hand, I replied. “I’m John, and No! I am an absolute beginner. I would like to learn the basics to enable me to play when I return home.”

   “Of course John, welcome!” Said Bill, “You have come to the right place, luckily we have three people here who are looking for someone to make up a four, let me introduce you to Jen and Lew, and their travelling companion May.”

  I shook hands with Lew, a tall portly man, with a bald head and a friendly manner.

      Jen responded with a welcoming smile and said, “Sit down, John.” I liked Jen instantly, her dark hair and very brown eyes gave her an open but wary look.

    I smiled and nodded as I took a seat at the table, opposite May. “I’m sorry to say that I am a total beginner, I have never played this game before.”

  Lew responded and said, “Don’t worry Jen and I have played a little before, but May is learning, you are welcome to join us.”

  Cheryl bustled up towards our table and said. “May I suggest that you play men against ladies that will put one absolute beginner, up against another, together with one of the more experienced players?”

    I found myself paired up with Lew against Jen and May. Then total card war broke out as the game began. Closely followed and supervised by the two tutors, Cheryl and Bill. I have never experienced a card battle like this before. I found myself getting exasperated looks from Lew as I bidded wrongly and made many amateurish errors. I could see May was getting by, but she was also overcome by the tension of this fight to the finish.

The ladies won hands down, and Lew was rather peeved, I could see it in his demeanour.

I found myself warming to May, her total genuine attitude, her bright blue eyes and blonde hair, and her smiling personality. We arranged to meet later for tea.

Drinking Camomile tea in the cafe and discussing the philosophy of non-verbal communication, we rapidly fell head over heels in love at first fight.

We never played Bridge again!

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.

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http://bekindrewrite.com

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (15)

Dr Dickus house“A body suddenly crashed through a plate glass window at the Brigadiers house.”
This cryptic message arrived as the raid on “The Jumping Frog” commenced. The team were waiting for a signal from the Brigadier via Marg, when news came that his deputy Colonel Tom, would take command. Tossing grenades to create a diversion, the attack began. Dickus was located in a penthouse and detained, six guards were slaughtered as Bella’s squad attacked.
Marg cuffed Dickus and left the building with Bella, boarding a helicopter piloted by Colonel Tom. Dickus was chained in a warehouse and left in the care of Bella.
Colonel Tom and Marg urgently flew to the Brigadiers house, there had been a raid by Police Commandos using ropes to smash their way in through the windows.
They located the Brigadier and whisked him off in the helicopter to safety.
Then came devastating news, Dickus had escaped, killing Bella and the guards.
A message painted on the wall in blood…………..

(150 words)

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved

PICTURE IT AND WRITE ~ AUTHENTIC ARGUMENT

This is a latest Picture it and Write prompt from Emilia’s blog ~23rd February 

https://ermiliablog.wordpress.com

mason-jar-makeup

As usual the image is supplied and credited by Emilia

Today I thought I would combine my blog Post with an exercise in Writing Practice from here

http://thewritepractice.com/conditional-sentences

 

Conditional Sentences


“A conditional sentence is a sentence that describes a hypothetical situation, like an action or event, and the result of that situation.

Confused? Here’s an easy way to think about it: a conditional sentence can usually use the words “if” and “then.”

 

Here’s an example: from me based on my Prompt response to follow

IF modern makeup is used in a Shakespeare play, THEN it can’t be called an authentic performance.

AUTHENTIC ARGUMENT

by John Yeo

 

A letter received by a would-be Hamlet.

 

THE AUTHENTIC SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Stratford-Upon-Avon.

 

Dear Sir.

 We are pleased to inform you that your application to play Hamlet in our current production has been successful. In view of your extensive past experience of playing this role, and the excellent performance you treated us to at the interview. Please report to the director at the theatre next Wednesday morning, where you will meet the rest of the cast.

Yours faithfully,

 

Wednesday at the Authentic theatre

“Hello Luvvies, wonderful to meet you all, I am here to replace your leading man, I hear he is not very well, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m William! I understand if we have a successful informal rehearsal first, then we can have a full dress rehearsal this afternoon.”

 “That’s right William, Grab a stool and start following the lines when we begin, you were very impressive during the interview, everyone was amazed at the way you read your lines from memory.”

 

    Later in the pub, the talk is all about the wonderful, trouble free rehearsal of the morning and the full dress rehearsal to follow, this afternoon.

 “William have another good home brewed stout! Sorry they don’t serve sack here, perhaps if we ask them to order some especially for you, then you can enjoy it while you are working here!”

  “Fine thanks! I won’t have another drink now. If I drink too much then I will be heady this afternoon.” Replied William.

 Back at the theatre, William is shown to the star’s dressing room. “Here are your costumes they are made to an authentic Elizabethan design. Good job you are the same build as our previous leading man. The makeup artiste will be along shortly.”

    “WHAT! I was under the impression this was an authentic production. Shakespeare would never have applied modern day makeup. I am not a circus clown man!  I would like to see the Director.” Shouted William irritably. “Get him at once!”

  “Yes Sir!” Said the stage hand.

 The Director arrived and was stunned to hear about this turn of events.

William shouted at him, before he could open his mouth.  “IF I am expected to have this muck applied to my face, THEN I refuse to play the part.

 I will refer this non-authenticity to the trades description department of the Lord Chancellor’s Office.

mason-jar-makeup

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All Rights Reserved.

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SHELTER

This is a piece of FLASH FICTION based on this photograph that was taken on a walk we enjoyed in Sheringham Park

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Image © Copyright ~ John and Margaret

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SHELTER

by John Yeo

     The nights draw in fast around here, I had planned to go further into the forest, the darkness descended so fast. I was on an extraordinary trek through this green woody forest with my camping equipment and a metal detector. I was following a foggy, cloudy, series of clues that would enable me to uncover some fabled Iceni artefacts, from the time the legendary Queen Boudicca walked this land. Suddenly as the darkness enveloped everywhere, the trail became obscured, I tripped over a fallen branch and fell heavily to the ground. I tried to get up, but my ankle had twisted, I could feel pain that sent me crashing to the ground again. I reached for my mobile telephone, but there was no signal, and the charge was very low.

     I was unable to put the tent up, I crawled along the trail in the darkness for a few yards until I came across a natural shelter. An arbor of branches that formed a makeshift roof, much like a natural woody cave. I crawled inside and soon the energy-sapping result of my efforts became apparent and I suddenly fell into a deep sleep. Then it rained, first a drizzle, then a more persistent shower followed by a crash of thunder. I woke to find the drips penetrating my little arbor and running down my face. Suddenly I froze as I could hear the sounds of panting breath and whimpering sounds from the low growing branches at the side of my arbor. I held my breath as I could sense danger, when a low warning growl informed me that I was not alone. I knew I was unable to move very quickly so I remained as still as possible, I was absolutely at the mercy of whatever was sharing my arbor.

    The storm passed over and I could hear movement at the back of my shelter. I lay still, and to my surprise a Muntjac deer suddenly bolted for the gap, as a family of foxes left by a small gap at the back of the shelter.

     When morning broke, I crawled outside and found my rucksack, lying just where I had left it by the trail. I found some matches and lit a fire trying to attract attention. Within an hour I was rescued and taken to hospital by an air ambulance.

    There is a level of unknown communication between all forms of life. We are in this thing together, until hunger drives us apart to kill for food.

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved

A prompt response for INSPIRATION MONDAY ~ “DIURNAL DREAM”

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Image © Copyright ~ John and Margaret

A prompt response for INSPIRATION MONDAY ~ “DIURNAL DREAM
Posted on February 20th, 2016 by John Yeo
A prompt response for Inspiration Monday

http://bekindrewrite.com/2016/02/08/inspiration-monday-quiet-light/

DIURNAL DREAM

by John Yeo

        “I tell you we all do it!  All we have to do is keep straight faces. Try not to laugh out loud will you, they will never understand. I will put the ideas together that you provide, and take the credit, yet we both know they are your ideas, not mine or perhaps they are a mixture of both.”

 This was expressed by the visible side. The aspect that was responsible for the germination expression and growth of the ideas generated by the combined power of both sides of the equation that was very briefly present for a few microseconds at dawn, and a few microseconds at dusk.

        “OK! If the nocturnal variation stays within the parameters of the night our diurnal dreams can be continued throughout the night. The nocturnal part of an idea is just an ongoing variation, the end result of a diurnal dream continuing throughout the period when the physical side is prone, asleep and inactive.”  

   The visible ongoing diurnal aspect of the double equation pointed out.  

 “There is an aspect of this coming together. The ultimate coming together to bring the two aspects of a dream into a single entity, that is largely unnoticed and usually ignored and this is the period of diurnal dreaming that takes place when both sides are incredibly bored. Take the average mind wandering away from a droning vocal rendition of obvious facts that are getting relayed and replayed continuously. As in the following…”

 

DIURNAL DREAMING

by John Yeo

The lecture was long and intricately constructed,

Of facts that had been stitched together again.

In a cycle of repetition to set the mind drifting

Looking out the window at the pouring rain.

I like the look of the flaxen haired girl on a cycle,

I believe there is life on the other side.

Would you believe if the world was two sided

Dreams could be split in two.

 ~

The culmination of the interpretation, is that

Dreams are an ongoing fantastical spread,

Of nocturnal desire flooding diurnal dreams

With ideas that could never be shattered.

That girl with the flaxen hair has become

A part of my personal individual stream

In a world that is very well grounded

She is now a part of a diurnal dream.

 

Copyright. © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved