|Marcus Clarke's Short Nottinghamshire
and Childhood Short Stories. (NEW STORIES COMING SOON)
I'm duel Heritage. West Bridgford and West Ham. Born in West Ham, London of a Cockney Dad. (Had TB died after a long illness in 1963). His family had worked on Covent Garden Market and were mostly grocers throughout the 19C. Though at least one is thought to have served at the Battle of Waterloo. Brought up in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. I'm told I'm descended from a 17C Sheriff of Nottingham (Thomas Walker 1666) on my mothers side. My Mother and her family share with me in having quite long arms. Something that has been useful to me as a Puppeteer and was no doubt useful to those of her namesake, nearly 150, who served with Henry V including at Agincourt (1415) as Archers.
In between the two I spent several years in Canada and English Orphanages.
I have always consider myself to be also Canadian.
|Left are pictures of me at home in
Canada with my adoptive Toronto family. (I'm the younger blond one) and
upper left is a picture
of me and my mum at Niagara Falls. Lower
right Me with our Toronto Neighbours and a paddling pool.
Right is a picture
of me shortly after arrival in England outside my first NCH
Orphanage in Sheringham with my new carer. It was here as a 4 year old
child that, rumbling something was afoot, I broke free from staff, ran
out onto the balcony and shouted, Mum! Only to see her walk silently
down the drive, pass through the gates and disappear. Right is a
recent picture of me outside that former Orphanage. Here I had my first
snowball fight. Sang 'there's a hole in my bucket dear Liza' in the
Christmas Show and saw the funniest thing ever. Someone actually walk
into a lamppost.
Top Left This is me in between Orphanages in a shop (probably Beatties) holding a Monkey. I tried to hold the Monkey like I was told to, facing camera, but he hated it. I understood why as I looked at him, as he looked at me. We were kinda the same, we even had the same expression on our faces. Bottom right Me and my Boys there 2014.
Beech (far right) was
my stepfather from 1964.
A Diver in the Royal Navy. He says he was the first man to Dive to
180ft. (Near right) Bernard with Ships Company HMS Carysfort. His
Father Fred Beech
(left) had served in
the Long Range Desert Patrol Group and was Lt.Col. J. 'Donny' Player's
Driver during WW2. With him when he was killed. When Bernard left the
Navy he worked at the Nottingham bicycle factory Raleigh. In almost
exactly the same fashion as Albert Finney in the Nottingham set film
'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.' Incidentally, I saw Albert Finney
in the play Orphans on Shaftsbury Avenue in the 1980's and when I later
bumped into him at the BBC I felt moved to tell him how brilliant I
thought he had been in it. He listened, put his hand firmly on my
shoulder, pulled me to him and said...... Well that's another story.
|My Last Day at School.
(West Bridgford Comprehensive)
I remember my last day at School well, I was 16 and it was Sports Day. There's only so much 'cheering on' and sneaking off for a fag that you can stand and by early afternoon I had decided to saunter off home.
Halfway down the School drive I was surprised to be confronted by the Rev. who addressed me by name.
Surprised because I didn't think he knew my name.
I had only ever attended one of his RE (Religious Education) lessons two years before.
He had pointlessly made me draw coloured crayon pictures of 'what ancient scrolls might look like' and so I had spent most of the class contriving an excuse to have my name removed from the register before the ink had properly and definitely dried upon it.
'I'm in the wrong class Sir!' had the ring of truth about it and seemed to do the trick. The following year I simply didn't register for RE in the first place and enjoyed an extra 'free period' in the Cloak Room as you couldn't properly be absent from classes you weren't registered for.
'Where are you going boy?' snapped the Rev's beady eyes sharply back into focus and my attention away from the Tarmac of the School Drive.
Sh...t! So near to the School gates too.
'Home Sir' I meekly replied.
'Home' The Rev pointed skywards, 'But It's not 3 O'clock yet! Come and see me when you come back next term,' he balked.
'Not coming back....' I mumbled into the breeze.
'Then.... I'll see you in Prison!' he said staring me down.
As I passed through the School gates I wondered about what the Rev had so meaningfully said to me.
Strange man I thought and then; 'Why would I want to visit you in Prison Rev?' would have been the really witty reply!
Ahhh The benefit of hindsight.
God Bless us all.
copyright Marcus Clarke 2007
|Policing and Corpsing.
As a teenager in West Bridgford I shared digs with a bunch of Bikers. Some argument had gone on between them resulting in one of the Motorbikes parked outside being vandalised. A Police complaint was generated. Something I thought was more middle class West Bridgford than 'Biker Code'. The first I knew of any of it was when we were all carted off to West Bridgford Police Station. While the others were individually placed in different interrogation rooms to, "spill the beans and blame one another" according to a passing Police Officer. I was sat down at a desk. Guarded by a Police Dog and invited by its officer handler to 'get my side of the story in first.' Telling me that, 'every chain was only as strong as the weakest link.' I really had no idea what any of this was about and certainly had no 'beans to spill'. So I quietly minded my own business and admired the large German Shepherd Police Dog sat next to me. I love big dogs. It was huge. Yet calm and tame. Thinking I might be able to stroke it my 'stupid logic' led me to ask the poorly phrased question. "Does it bite criminal people in the Police Station?" The handler replied "No. They usually fall down the stairs." This might be a Police joke? I kept my hands to myself. A Constable gave me a cup of water. I wondered if this was the famous good Cop, bad Cop routine? Ages later I was stood in a line of leather jackets in a top floor Police Station Office. Like schoolboys we nervously shuffled and coughed as we were 'told off'. Warned or whatever it was by a 'high ranking' Police Officer in white short sleeved shirt. He went on a bit. Bored I began looking around the room. For some reason my eyes settled on the two star and crowns on the high ranking Policeman's lapels. Interested I strained to pick out the detail. They reminded me of Lord Nelson's Templar style breast jewels and of my trip around his flagship. The Victory. My eyes drifted down from these to the middle of the desk where I saw his car keys. Attached to the keyring was a long piece of perspex. It was inlaid with the same two Police Crown thingamajig's that were on his lapel. I gagged. I can't explain why. But I found this absolutely hilarious. What followed was the worse corpsing I have ever had. Even the hairy bikers joined in. Though they didn't know what I was laughing at. It was infectious. The Policeman carried on in his quiet serious tones adding only a long wizened stare at us. The others were able to stifle their laughter but I just couldn't stop. It obviously wound the Policeman up because he suddenly stopped and began shouting at me, "stop it". "Shut up!" Becoming more and more agitated until he stood and shouted loudly in my face, "stop it or I'll throw you through that ......... window". That didn't help at all. I imagined my battered corpse landing with a thud and splat on the outside pavement. Shocking Old Lady Central Avenue Shoppers into clutching their chests and fainting. Scattering their dark brown wicker wheelie baskets with tartan covers off and out into the road. Cars swerving and mounting the pavement. Like a scene from some civil rights film. A Constable saw sense and just bundled me out of the station saying, "idiot".
"Thanks" I whispered.
Copyright Marcus Clarke 2011
From Victoria Rd. We could range quite widely. We could go over the Beckett School playing fields. Cut through the Allotments and reach the playing fields by the bottom of Wilford Lane. The Shooting Range. Mess about in the nearby bog. A flood plain wetland. Go down by the River Trent or go the other way around the back of the large new ASDA. Behind the ASDA began The Tip. A large Council landfill site that was always interesting to walk over. Sometimes we used it to get to the old brick yard by the bypass. It was a bit dangerous to cross. No fence. Smelly and very hot. Yes hot. I've never really understood why people imagine landfills to have rubbish in them that either remains there forever or slowly rots away. In my experience. They are simply improvised underground, incinerators. Certainly this site was. Walking over the cracked crusty earth surface was like walking over Volcanic Lava.
Through the heat cracks you could see the raging furnace below. "Spontaneous combustion" the Council tip man said. It blasted hot air straight in your face as you looked down into it. Occasionally it spat stuff out too. The fumes took your breath away. You had to keep moving or your rubber soles would melt. Never tried it in wellies but I think that would have been a disaster.
On this day though we were just setting out from Victoria Road to find our other friends. We found nobody at the Becket school Playing Field so we began to cut through the Allotments. The Allotments had straight and tidy well kept paths lined with hedges and the occasional fence. Sometimes you would see an Allotment gate open and someone in there digging. Mostly the Allotment keepers were polite. Thinking you were the kids of another keeper probably. You got just the occasional 'clear off you toerags', or 'this is private property'. As we rounded the main path corner we saw a man chopping logs on a tree stump. He had a massive axe. I remember it's bright half red and silver head. Its sharp blade and new wooden handle. 'Crack' it went as it landed splitting a log and burying itself into the tree stump. It remained there standing up. The man was middle ageish and thin with black hair. Bit gaunt. He looked at us and said 'small hands'. There's a bird trapped between the floorboards of my shed. Think you can get him out'? We followed him through the open Allotment garden gate and up the path towards an old dark grey Shed at the top. On three sides were thick Hedges and on the other, on the right, a chain link fence grown over at the bottom with weeds. It made up the border between the Allotment and the main path. As we entered the Shed the light slowly faded down. We heard the Shed door creak and then close behind us. Then the click of a latch and the rub of a bolt. The man turned and said. 'We're going to play a little game. Sit on the floor' As we did I looked at Jay and he me. The man started to sort through a wooden tray box of stuff. Light came through a small window and I looked around the Shed. There was a long Table that I was now sitting under. Jay was curled up in the opposite corner. The man stood by the door. I could see all manner of sharp implements and tools on the walls. Large rusty course saw blades stood out. Silently the man began to tie Jay up. First he tied his hands and then his feet. Then he tied me. He used old ripped rags. As he tied my wrists I remembered an old Cowboy Film I had seen where the hero, in a similar predicament, had crossed his wrists over and on top of one another. Stacking them to cause the bind to be overly long. I did the same thing. The man tied my wrists and feet and smirked saying 'quite loose that. Not at all tight. Alright'. Then he gagged us both with these horrible rags. And the gags were tight and smelly. Made you gag. As he turned to tackle Jay's clothing he stopped and looked back at me staring at him. He threw a coat over my head. I quickly managed to dislodge it. He looked at me again. Then went out of the Shed. As he did I turned my wrists over and wriggled my hands out of the bounds as quickly as I could. I pulled the gag off and untied my feet. Rushed to do the same with Jay before staggering, squinting out of the Shed door. I quickly scaled the chain link fence. I was well practiced at scaling chain link. Only way to get in to locked up Tennis Courts. Like a Marine up a scramble net I was. Sitting on the top avoiding the single line of barbed wire I could survey the whole scene. Jay suddenly stumbled out of the Shed door and scrambled up to me. He was shorter than I was. As I leaned down with my hand to reach his and pull him up I saw over the opposite hedge. A red and silver axe head bobbing along the top of it. Like a Shark fin on the ocean. The man was coming back. With an axe. 'Nutter.' I looked back at the Shed. Jay had left the Shed door open. 'oh no'. When the man reaches the allotment gate he'll see up to the Shed with its door open. Realise we've got out and nip around here and block our escape. Catch us! I took my hand away. With only half of my breathe but with my voices full fearful intensity I said, 'go back. Shut the door'. Jay froze and looked at me panicked and perplexed. 'Go back, shut the door'. I said again. He hesitated. I kept my hand high. Then he quickly dashed back and pushed the door to a close, turned and jumped up at me. I pulled him up and as he vaulted over the top his weight pulled me over the fence and we both fell and hit the ground on the other side. Just as the man rounded the corner and passed through the Allotment gate. Silently we lay on the hard path looking at him through the weeds and chain link. The man had the axe held high over his shoulder. Focused on the Shed door he trudged silently and solemnly towards it. Only he knew what he had in mind for us. We slowly backed up and sneaked away until we could break into a run and then we ran and we ran and we ran. Soon we ran out of breath and had to stop. Panting I lent on a front wall. I recognised the house I was looking at. It belonged to an Old Soldier. I had talked to him once of the 'Great War'. We needed help. I bashed on his door ignoring the bell and when he answered we poured out and over one another to tell our story, 'We've been tied up', 'gagged'. 'Look'. We showed our ties and the gags around our necks. 'Yeah and he's got an axe.' The Old Soldier stepped in his door and picked up the Phone then paused and put it down again. He gathered his Car keys and said 'I'll run you down to the Police Station'. He did too. What happened next is a matter of Police record. They told my Parents that we 'had a very narrow escape'. I didn't think about it though for years. We never became victims you see. It was just another kids scrape we got in and out of. I know Allotments are trendy but you couldn't give me one. I'd be worrying what I might dig up?
Copyright Marcus Clarke 2011
Film. The Warhorse.
Took my eldest Son Billy to see the Film Warhorse. My Grandfather and his Great Grandfather was in the Cavalry at the outbreak of the Great War. I remember him showing me his medals from the Battle of the Somme too. He moved in an awkward way dictated by the shrapnel still inside him. He died in agony in the '70's from the cancers induced by the small amount of Mustard Gas that he had ingested. His own sides'. ...
He was a brutally pragmatic man who's insensitivity caused a lot of problems in our family. My mother to run away from home at only 15 years of age and it was his idea to put me in an Orphanage, "less the child be spoilt." Some said he was more made that way than born. This film helped me see how that could be.
In my adolescence I had a school friend who was very well off. Well his parents were. They owned amusement arcades and night clubs in Nottingham. Had a Colour TV too. They were really nice people who were good to me and even took me on Holiday to Yarmouth with them. My Dad (Stepfather Bernard) had little time for them though. Said the father was a 'black marketeer' during the War. Bernard's own Dad had been John 'Donny' Players Driver during the War, was with him when he was killed and like his brother Fred, Bernard had done long proud service in the Royal Navy. My Mother, who now lives in the Meadows' Dad, Harry, had been at the Battle of the Somme, got gassed a bit too and her Brothers had all done service at El Alemein, Casino, D Day Malaya etc. So she sort of agreed. It troubled me this disparity between what I thought of my friends parents and what my parents thought of them. So one day in my friends Car I asked his father straight out if he'd really been in the Black Market during the War? This is how I remember his response. He said, 'Marcus. I was at Dunkirk at 18 and got shot in the leg. As they passed me back down the line on a stretcher I saw a bunch of young lads in a trench being handed out anti-tank rifles. I always remember the look on their faces. Their faces." Why? I asked. "Because the rifles were useless and they knew it. And what was going to happen to them when the German Tanks arrived.' He continued. 'I thought there and then. If they can do that to these young lads then up theirs. That's it. I've had it with them!' So that was the answer I got. One that, thankfully, I didn't understand for a very, very long time.
Doug Died today.
My Uncle Doug died today. So he won't be going back to his little flat in the Meadows. He ran through El Alemein's smoke with his rifle and bayonet. Was gunned down and got up again. Landed at Anzio and climbed up Casino. Walked silently through a Concentration Camp. Met a brother in Germany who'd fought his way there from Normandy. I'll remember the funny faces painted on eggs. The laughter.
A few years ago I decided I had Cancer. I had no symptoms which was annoying. There was only one kind of Cancer in my Family that I knew of. My Grandfather had died of Lung Cancer in the '70's. He had been gassed in WW1 though which was the probable cause. I had an Uncle who had also been diagnosed with Lung Cancer shortly after WW2. He had had a chunk of his lung cut out and went on to live another 50 years. Both had smoked as I had as a younger man and so when I had a cough that lasted more than 3 weeks, I decided that was it, I had lung Cancer. I promptly made an appointment with my Doctor. Typically the morning of the appointment my cough had gone. I kept the appointment anyway and there followed a bazaar conversation with my Doctor. Me "i've got Cancer". Her "what are your symptoms". Me, "haven't got any really but, I get an itch on my head when the Sun shines. Probably Skin Cancer that". "That's an old scar". she said and "because your hairs thinning the Sun is irritating it". (Scar tissue is irritated by the Sun apparently). "OK, I said. 'I have an itch right here in the middle of my chest where my shirt is open on sunny holidays. Bet thats Skin Cancer". "Thats a spot" she replied. "I've had a twisted ankle for 3 months" I added not realising how stupid that sounded. She looked and paused. Then asked me if I had ever had a |well man' test". "What's that?" Answered the question. I then had a lot of tests which showed me to be in rude health apart from a slightly raised PSA. Prostate Specific Antigen. A biopsy was the norm and I duly went to the City Hospital for the procedure. What I didn't expect a week later was a Prostate Cancer diagnosis. Frankly I had never considered myself to be mortal. Let alone thought that one day I could die. So this was a real shock. My wife Helena was with me and as ever was incredibly sensible and supportive. Of the options available we went for the one nearest to a cure. Surgical removal of my Prostate. I have a young family and so longevity is a priority. (It leaves you infertile). The Surgeon and team inspired masses of confidence though my coping mechanisms for my ADHD (that's another story) fell apart a bit and I misunderstood some of the clinical information. I didn't listen properly. My main concern from the outset was the Anesthetist and me not waking up from the Anesthetic. Something I told him just before I passed out on the day of the operation. I wondered why he had put that thing in my arm.
I had made my funeral arrangements just in case. Deciding on "The first time ever I saw your face" by Roberta Flack as the Music. It being appropriate for all of my family. My wife Helena because the first time I saw her face was in a beautiful painting by her father. My Children of course as I was present at their births. (My Mother, who lives in the Meadows, probably wouldn't come anyway as she finds funerals depressing).
Now my God is a busy God whom I try not to bother much. He answers my prayers simply and straightforwardly. He can be a bit off hand. But I had gone to St. Peters Church in the City and prayed. Asking him to look after my young family should the Anesthetist and the not waking up thing happen. After a long pause he had said, "don't worry I'm gonna let you live". In an amused and slightly off hand manner. As I left the Church he'd added, "be good". So I slept soundly.
I woke up from the operation just as Helena arrived at visitor's time and a few days later I was sent home. The excellent Surgical Team completely happy with their exploits. I had asked that nobody be told of my diagnosis or treatment. (I can't stand people feeling sorry for me). Helena had obliged. Nobody suspected. I could have done without MRSA and the bad Urine infection that had me spending a few days hallucinating and shouting "fever, fever", like in some old Cowboy film but within a few weeks I was up. Within five weeks totally continent and soon back to almost normal. My excellent MP Chris Leslie helped me with Nottingham City Council's relentless, persistent Council Tax demands for my sick period, even though I was signed off sick and on ESA. Soon though I was back to work. Editing together some Video footage and scriptwriting.
I went back to St. Peters Church to thank God. Again he replied saying, "no problem". I asked him if he wanted me to do anything for him. He said, "no, don't worry, have fun". As I rose from my knees I noticed some burning candles and a collection box. I said, "I could put a quid in here if you like" to which he replied, "don't have to". I put a quid in the box anyway and left. As I reached the door and pulled the handle he added again, "be good".
I have been clear now for nearly three years.
How I seemed to know I had Cancer I cannot explain and I've had prayers to God answered in words to me as far back as I can remember. So I've no clarification to offer on that. My GP says her decision to give me tests was based on "instinct" and my Surgeons simply found it interesting.
Listen to yourself. Would be my only suggestion.
Nottingham's former Regional Screen Agency.
Much more could have been achieved with the public funds made available had they been delivered inclusively. I tried to enable that through due process as is my social responsibility. It was the most demoralising, depressing and wasteful experience of my life.
I Hear a Symphony, Diana Ross and the Supremes.
20th Century Boy,T.Rex.
Company, Rickie Lee Jones.
Come in from the cold, Joni Mitchell.
I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango) Grace Jones.
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Roberta Flack.
Carmen Act 1 Seguidilla, Bizet.
Don't go, please stay, the Drifters.
I'll Be Your Mirror, Nico and the Velvet Underground.
Clown Song from Act V Scene I Shakepeare's Twelfth Night.
Christmas Day 1963 found my 6-year-old self in the infirmary of my NCH Princess Alice Orphanage. I couldn't see a thing. I had a nasty eye infection, which they called conjunctivitis, and so I was wearing thick blacked out goggles. I had to wear them at all times to stop me from scratching my itchy eyes and spreading the disease. The ward was noisy with children eagerly anticipating their Christmas present. We got one each. They were donated and then wrapped up and were distributed at random by Matron. She didn't know what was inside. Marcus Clarke, Yes, resulted in a small package being dropped in my lap. I felt through the wrapping. It was long and thin with sticky-out bits at one end. I unwrapped it quickly and felt it properly. Exploring it with my hands I could tell it was hard plastic with one rounded pointy end and four fin like shapes sticking out at the other. It was a plastic Rocket! Christmas Rocket I called it. It was great. Christmas Rocket explored under the bedclothes flying through the crashing flannelet caverns only narrowly making it through. Christmas Rocket explored under the bed hanging from my dressing gown belt, down further into the space sea with splashing sound effects provided by my water jug, all the way to the sea bed and then up again. In and out of the iron tube bedstead chicane up and then down and crash into the big soft pillow of Saturn. Oh no! No damage but how to take off again. Half way along Christmas Rockets' side I found a little lift door that clicked up and down. Out came the crew, (really my walking fingers.) How to get Christmas Rocket upright? One of the crew found an interstellar fishing net, (really just one of my socks), it had probably fallen off a passing Space Trawler. Or maybe had had to be jettisoned after getting snagged on Clipboard at bottom of bed. Phew. Lucky escape Space Trawler. They put it over the nosecone of Christmas Rocket and as some of the crew pulled it to bring Christmas Rocket upright others pushed the big soft pillow of Saturn under it until Christmas Rocket was standing totally upright and ready for take off again. Back in the side door for the crew, click and with another click, blast off. Boxing day my blacked out goggles came off. Guess what? The clicking lift door was in fact a switch; under the fins at the bottom of Christmas Rocket was glass, then silver and then a bulb. Christmas Rocket was a torch. It shone brightly! Wow and phew, amazing that in all of that time of me playing with it and not being able to see, that I hadn't left it switched on and run the battery down. How lucky am I.
Nottingham's Creative Quarter.
Nottingham is designated by Government as a Science City with new City Deal styled funding allocated to support its growth delivered by, The Creative Quarter, (Nottingham Limited).
In 1976 I won a Christmas card design competition with a lino print image I made up of my future wife cradling a child. I didn't know that she was my future wife at the time of course and this was nearly 10 years before I first met her, or first saw her should I say. You see, I fell in love with Helena when I saw a painting of her and as happy chance would have it a few months later I actually met her. 30 years on we are still married and I still love her. Our children continue to remind us of the true nature and depth of love.
Star Trek's Kobayashi Maru scenario presents a no win situation which Kirk overcomes by changing the rules of the game so that he can win. This is considered original thinking by the Academy and by Kirk of having the virtue of simply never having been tried before. I think of such no win scenarios as a driver for political change. I don't believe in the no win scenario either.
In 2003 to fill a gap in my knowledge of History I decided to learn about the History of belief in Western Europe.
What I also learned was that it is almost impossible to understand British History and Culture, our Society today, without understanding Freemasonry's place in it.
|Marcus Clarke copyright 2012
I like your stories, because they are very interesting and have a nice attention to detail. They contain all the signs of someone who is a writer.
The details, certainly in terms of observation (the character in the police station was interesting because of his observations and the potential for comedy in a very serious situation) make the stories so much more than a list of events that occurred.Elaine Aldred
Nottingham University Creative and Professional Writers.
All of this pages contents are the personal views and memories of Marcus Clarke and the copyright of Marcus Clarke 2011