Here are some fabulous characters created in response to the creative writing activity – all inspired by a feature of people’s local area. You can see that some have the participant’s original idea alongside a ‘translation’ into a dramatic monologue version; others were written in monologue form by the participants themselves. You can also listen to each of the five stories as a mini audio-sketch – so why not sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit and give yourself a little ‘radio’ treat! The voices you will hear are those of Lynn Whitehead and Tim Welton The full text of each monologue is printed below the brief descriptions and audio recordings.
This piece was written as a dramatic monologue by Dee from Beyton. It is set in 1878 when the school first opened and the character she has created is Beattie Nunn, the school-mistress. The man ‘Beattie’ talks about was real and did actually pass through the village.
Jacquie from Bury created this old teacher visiting a fictional ‘Open Garden’ inspired by the plaque she found when dismantling a greenhouse.
The stories in full
The Beyton School House. Beattie Nunn, Schoolmistress Beyton School. October 1878
Beattie Nunn is 28 years old, a spinster, and is delighted to be the first schoolmistress at the brand new school on Beyton Green.
“Oh good afternoon Mrs Cocksedge. Thank you for your kind gift of the fruitcake that you sent to my lodgings at the farm. It was delicious and very kind of you.”
“Yes, thank you for asking, I am settling in well I think and the good news is that the distemper has finally dried on the schoolroom walls! I was concerned for a while that we would not be able to open in time, but all is well now.
I am finding it quite difficult keeping all of the 40 children in school though. There is always “Sorry Miss but my Mam needed me to see to the babies” from the girls and “Me Dad wanted another hand in the field yesterday” from the boys!
“Yes, I had heard about Mr Weston, The Perambulist, passing through the village tomorrow. Do you know that he is an American and has walked the length and breadth of America! Very difficult with their Civil War having just ended I should think. He is only walking from Cambridge to Ipswich today I believe. He is doing it for a wager this time, but does take part in races all over Europe!”
“Yes, I agree. I thought I would have the children make paper flags and take them up to the Forge to wave as he passes by. Mabel Palmer and 2 of the other big girls will help to make sure those naughty boys don’t misbehave. I have the measure of them already! I must confess though that I am somewhat curious to see him myself. I hear he is a fine figure of a man!
“Well, I must be on my way home for supper Mrs Cocksedge. Mrs Bloomfield has promised a lovely hot pot and Jam roly-poly for supper.
“Good Day to you, and thank you again for the cake.”
The Estate: My thoughts are of two people. One is George, an old man in 1978. He used to work on the Moreton Hall farms which belong to Moreton Hall (now the school on Mount Road). He has just heard that the farmland has been sold off to build a new housing estate. He is devastated, as he loves the countryside and he can’t bear to think that it will be destroyed by these new houses. His cottage, which is on the land concerned, will be demolished and he will be moved, he has heard, into a flat in town. The thought of this makes him unbearably depressed. Even though he is retired, he still thinks of the land as his and he loves to walk across the wide open spaces where he used to work; his despair at losing it all is tangible. He says: –
“Not sure I can believe it really, Sal. I worked every inch of that farm in my day and I know what you’re going to say – rose coloured spectacles and all that – but thass such a beautiful view and I’ve been here most of my life.
“It says here in the letter what they’ll give me a flat in town. Ha! If I’d ha’ wanted to live in the town I would’ve gone there under my own steam, wouldn’t I?
“Who are all these people what are going to live in the new houses anyway? They won’t have a clue about what they’re destroying. When they’re parking their flashy cars on their flashy driveways, will they give a second thought to all the centuries of seasons – the sowings and reapings buried away under their feet?
“I dunno. I just don’t know.”
The second person lives in 2019. She is Rachel, a young woman, with a young family and she and her husband have just bought one of the newest houses to be built on the Moreton Hall estate on Shackeroo Road. It is their first purchased home together and she is thrilled by the quiet road, lovely neighbours and the garden the children can play in. She thinks her great grandfather used to work as a farmer in this area, in fact she thinks she remembers being told the farm stretched right up to where her house now stands. She can’t imagine this, she just loves her little estate with the children’s play park and the railway line and the bus stop nearby. There is even going to be an Aldi built opposite quite soon. How exciting that will be; a real little town within a town. She says: –
“Go on, touch the wall, Jason? You have to touch the wall because that’s OUR wall. Our very own wall. And so is this one and this one and this one! They’re all ours!
“27 Shackeroo Road. It really is such a brilliant name – Oh my god, the children will have a hilarious time trying to spell it once they’re old enough to try. Shakeroo!
Come on, come on…outside all of you. Come on – we’re going to plant our feet and grow here.
“It’s funny to think that this is where old Pop worked, innit Jason?
“Grandad reckons the farm Pop lived on must have been right underneath here. All those sowings and reapings right underneath our feet. See over there, Fleur? That’s the park – just over the road. And there’s where we can get the bus into town. And that’s where Aldi is going to be so we can go and buy as many crisps and chocolate buttons as we can carry. I bet Pop would have loved our little house.”
The Tree: I was coming home from a theatre production on a very cold frosty night; the air was still.
I approached a bend in the road! In my headlights I could see a large tree. The tree seemed to have a man and some children standing under its large branches! The man seemed to be holding a large rugby ball.
I had passed this tree hundreds of times before tonight. I stopped the car and walked over to the beautiful large gnarled trunk. I touched the tree, only to realise that the people were actually depicted in the trunk of the tree; the frost had highlighted their shapes! Some of the children were sitting. One of the children seemed to have a shortened leg with no foot.
I wanted to know more about the tree and it’s history. I found out from an old resident in the village that the lane next to the tree used to be called Cripples Lane. I intended to find out more about the folk in the tree the next day.
Woman: “Well I couldn’t believe it. I mean NOW, in the cold light of day, I can see it’s just the way the tree twists… you know, with that kind of rotted away bit in the middle of the trunk, but honestly in the dark last night, well, it was … it just was … a man standing right there by the side of Cangles Road.
“There were children just behind him. Three of them – two standing up and one sitting. Looking at it now, I can’t even see why I could see that but… their faces were really jolly – like they’d been having a joke, you know?
“The man was holding something – a ball, it looked like. I don’t know. It wasn’t scary or anything. Just really clear as I drove up to the corner there. I was on my way home from the theatre – but it was only the panto, so I don’t think it had put ideas in my head!
(laughs a little)
“The sitting-down child looked like it had only one leg – or at least only one foot? Yes, one foot was missing. But look – in the light it’s just wood and bark and crevices and well … just … tree. I spoke to old Mrs Glenister about it this morning – you know what she’s like – she’d have me believe it’s the elves or the pixies or something.
“Although it’s funny…she did mention that the road was once called Cripples Lane – not a word you hear much now, eh? Thank goodness they changed it. But … I don’t know. I guess it was just the way the frost had formed on the trunk and was reflecting in the headlights and that. I don’t know …”
“Good day, I am Walter, I am standing next the well of the schoolhouse. This week I am water monitor (whispers) for my sins. Miss tied the tin mug on a piece of string to my trousers. I am skinny after graftin’ all winter, so the cup, it pulls ’em down.
The mister kept me too long catching the piglets. These lug ‘olles still burn where they was cuffed; look at it, it’s fat an’ sore … Mr Pickles says it will be blue by the morrow. My cheeks sting from Miss McCreedy’s split cane, she don’t like the lateness of us urchins. Says it is ungratefulness, that breeds tardy children. Miss pulls her arm high when dishin’ out punishment. I ‘ave hot ears, a hot backside and the rest o’ me is freezin’.
The water monitor ain’t so nice in the cold, when you already done a day’s work before you get to the raggedy school. I stamp my boots, to get the chill off. Then I show my strength, like a strongman. Liftin’ the lid, turnin’ the handle, I hoist the bucket an’ fill the cup for thirty mouths. It is man’s work, specially when yer fingers is blue with cold.
I saw him once … that strongman, ain’t that the truth, with these very eyes I seen. In Piccadilly, Grandma took me … ‘The Harveys Freak Show’, not many of these raggedy kids as been, I will not forget that day.
We is taught writin’, readin’ an’ ‘rithmatic. Miss McCready bangs a tune with her laced boots against the wooden floor, she keeps time as we chant like the old monks in the Abbey did, tho we chant tables and godly sayins. Miss says ‘cleanliness is next to godliness, and ‘the mills of God grind slowly’. Those words make us raggedys fearful, so we are good. The reverend puts the fear of God into us … for us own good, of course. God’s word is so loud he makes the slates rattle.
My sister Winnie got ‘er legs caned, four strokes, for peeing with fright. Miss called her filth, an’ stood her on the desk so all could see her shame.
When she is six, Winnie will be graftin’, too, the numbers will be needed then. I works ‘ard every day, at harvest it’s all night, till my eyes pain with the dust of it. Mister gives our house and small ‘oldin’ as wage. So here we lives, we works and does family proud. When I have curled bones, and no teeth or hair, this well will still stand … next to the school ‘ouse. Another spinster will be Mistress. I know this for sure, as there ain’t none over fifty in the church yard.
The Pebble Plaque
“Goodness me – it’s very different. The trees have taken over since we lived here – I remember putting that lilac in as a little sapling. Now look!
“Yes, you’ve done a lovely job on it – it’s … er … it’s quite an oasis. It’s wonderful that you’ve opened up your garden for everyone.
“Ha! I see my greenhouse didn’t stand the test of time
” ….oh you’ve only just dismantled it?<
“Well, I’m surprised it lasted that long to be honest. I’m not the greatest of handy-men.
“I wonder if … yes … it’s revealed our little artwork, I see.
(He goes over to examine a little plaque of pebbles set into the wall)
“It … oh, look at me …
(embarrassedly wipes a corner of his eye).
“Our son put that there. We’d planned to put the greenhouse up and he decided to leave a secret legacy hidden behind it. He said it would be like a time capsule.
“And I guess … he was right. Nineteen Seventy Five.
“He was obsessed with collecting pebbles. These all came from different beach holidays. He always had a couple in his pocket whenever we came home. There were more shells originally too – funny how this one mussel kept its shine isn’t it?
“You know … I had one of those machines – all the rage at one time. Like a kind of mini- tumble dryer that you put the pebbles in so that they polished each other as it tumbled. You’ll be too young to remember, I expect. I had it in my classroom for a few months but it was so noisy the Headmaster said it wasn’t really possible to run it there. So it came home and made its massive row here instead. Bit of a fad really, but Edward loved it. We were treading on polished stones all over the place for months.
“Nineteen Seventy Five.
“He’d have been … what … fifty five? Fifty six now, if he’d …
“Well! I mustn’t keep you. You’ve got a queue of people wanting to look round. It is a beautiful garden.”