Witches, Devils, Broomsticks And A Little Bit Of Lurve

So what is this all about, then? What adult person with a brain in his/her head wants to read about things like witches? Burn 'em at the stake, that's what I hear you saying, but don't expect me to spend good money buying a download or a book and actually READ about them!

But it's not that bad, surely? Why should the kids have all the fun? After all, they've got Harry Potter and who have we got? Nobody, that's who!

So let's grab hold of Griselda Entwhistle and keep her for our adult selves.

Who is the Entshistle woman, though? Well, an octogenarian, she discovered rather late in life that for no obvious reason she had magical powers and at the same time developed a fascination for politics!

And the lurve bit? Well, if an old biddy can cast off the years and become a teens or twenties goddess, what might she choose to do with her time?

Don't believe me? Well - here's Chapter One as a free gratis sample from generous little me, just so you can find out.



Chapter One: Eighty-eight at Last

Griselda Entwhistle looked every bit the witch she pretended to be, particularly when small children knocked at her door demanding a “penny for the Guy” or a “trick or treat” or made any one of the other fiscal annual demands enjoyed by modern entrepreneurial children in an age when money seems to have become the only god worth worshipping. But then she abhorred pennies for the guy, tricks or treats and the whole carbuncle of detestable behaviour that had somehow got glued on to the underbelly of twenty-first century society. It was to her quite simply unadulterated begging and in her darker moments she proclaimed to anyone who happened to be around to hear that the beggars ought to be thrashed to within an inch of their obnoxious lives before thrown into the sea somewhere off Skegness.

As the years passed and she assumed the mantle of the elderly, with wrinkles etched onto wrinkles, short-sightedness threatening to blur a world that should be as beautiful as ever, and a tendency to look upon just about everything more modern than Queen Victoria’s coffin as new-fangled and unnecessary, she came to look more and more like one of those hags of yore who had terrorized the neighbourhood until an outraged group of righteous and godly souls burnt them at the stake before singing stirring songs about love, compassion and forgiveness to a confused deity.

At what precise moment the actual beginning of this saga took place is debatable. There are those who insist it was during a heavy bout of early twentieth century carnal misbehaviour leading to a frenzy of copulation between Griselda’s mother and unknown father during which Griselda was actually conceived (popular opinion being convinced that the said event occurred at the same time as Halloween. or failing that on a particularly nasty Friday the Thirteenth). This group of theorists support their thesis by pointing out that Griselda Entwhistle had been peculiar all her life despite the ridiculous elevation that had occurred during her later years, and there were amongst them some whose memories went back an awfully long time and who stated most clearly that even as a young woman in her twenties there had been no doubt that Griselda was a witch. But then, they were getting to be ancient themselves and may have been merely suffering from a succession of senior moments when they made such pronouncements.

Then there are those who are firmly of the opinion that the real beginning wasn’t until the end of the good woman’s eightieth-seventh year when she showed every sign of gaining strength rather than losing it to the ravages of time, which factor was popularly attributed to her obvious and vile liaison with Lucifer over some vital matter to do with the triumph of evil over good and the exchange of one rather battered soul for a long-sought for immortality.

At whatever point in time the beginning of this tale actually happened I’m going to bend in favour of the second-mentioned school of thought for practical reasons based entirely on the fact that the many chapters the author would require in his attempt at recording the good lady’s first eighty-seven years would be, though fascinating as a personalized history of the best part of the twentieth century, an unnecessary diversion from the more politically important part of this narrative. Suffice it to say that she commonly referred to in Swanspottle as The Crone had clearly been born (once upon a long time ago) and had lived since then in that village without drawing a great deal more attention to herself than did anyone else and without doing anything even slightly remarkable despite her obviously witch-like looks.

Griselda Entwhistle resided in a small cottage at the edge of the village (Swanspottle by name and antique by nature). The place might easily be mistaken for a hamlet by the undiscerning because it really was nothing at all compared to other collective habitations usually referred to as villages. A single lane meandered along its row of houses, all of which had been built an age earlier and bore every sign of imminent collapse.

There was a pub (of course) and the remains of a church, which still proclaimed to offer worshipful prayer each Sunday but which had never actually been visited by the righteous for that purpose in living memory, though a cleric had long been installed in the tiny vicarage by mistake. But he had a multitude of other callings, mostly to do with a trio of sisters by the name of McMudd who congregated with him in the village Crown and Anchor most nights with the intention of titillating their sensibilities once the drink had taken command of their wits.

The village was ancient, a legacy from finer days when serfs slaved at the behest of landed gentry in return for a roof over their heads and bread of sorts for their bellies. And whereas the entirety of the lands surrounding it had progressed with the turning of the years, Swanspottle hadn’t. There was still a Lord of the manor and he (fruitlessly) tried to exact medieval levies from what he looked on as his own personal fiefdom. But the people, though simple to the point of being ridiculous, were savvy enough to know that somewhere in the confusion of time that had passed since their collective memory began they must have earned some rights, so as a consequence of their assumptions and his stupidity Lord Pontewhistle was the poorest man in Swanspottle.

Now, though, the village had been extended and the new part (hastily erected around the time Victoria ascended the throne) was inhabited almost entirely by unfortunates who spent the greater part of their lives toiling in the Capital and who scurried to their tumble-down cottage country-homes for weekends of unremitting boredom when all that they could find to occupy themselves during inclement weather was to count their wads of cash and watch a tantalizing range of videos and DVDs depicting naked women of all imaginable hues engaged in any manner of unnatural acts on their enormous widescreen television sets.

So much for progress! The men and women of centuries earlier had no video machines and thus were forced to tolerate the perversity of human desires by employing serf-girls to perform grotesque rituals actually in the flesh, using real metal, wood and leather accessories, and within the confines of their more humble homes.

The twenty-first century men and women with second homes in Swanspottle might have felt soiled and diminished by their technologically advanced pornography, but their ancestors hadn’t felt anything of the kind as they had satisfied their serf-girls by ripping off bodices and laughing the nights away under the twin influences of strong mead and rampant sexual excess. And those serf-girls had mostly been quite happy too because even poor people back then had enjoyed fun of the flesh. It is quite understandable that modern man might be heard to bemoan dull technology and call for the return, for all is forgiven, of that sweet simplicity which was the past!

Griselda Entwhistle celebrated her eighty-eighth birthday in the Crown and Anchor, a lowly hostelry that still boasted the use of sawdust on the floor to absorb all spilt and allied (possibly expectorated) fluids. Every year on the anniversary of her birth she deigned to put in an appearance at the pub, though she hated most alcoholic beverages, unlike the majority of her neighbours.

She arrived with great aplomb, an expression of almost seraphic confidence etched onto her time-warn face and a smile on her withered lips that would have warmed the coldest of hearts had it not been for the exaggerated way she parked her broomstick.

Now, it is not the intention of the chronicler to give the impression that this broomstick was her means of transport or anything but a perfectly ordinary and utilitarian besom, though, truth to tell in an age when children absorb the unreal antics of H. Potter Esquire in really thick volumes of quite small print, it could almost be looked as a witchy accessory of the magical kind. A more accurate description would be to say it was her crutch, her support, the means she chose to give aid to her enfeebled limbs as she staggered home after a birthday session at the Crown and Anchor. We must not permit ourselves to misinterpret her apparent lack of wealth, however. She was no pauper, the price of a Zimmer-frame was certainly not beyond her miserable means, the truth being she had taken delivery of an expensive electrical wheel-chair type vehicle only a week earlier but disliked the ease with which it transported her aching bones, especially at top speed over cobbles, the bumps from which as she zoomed along serving to remind her painfully of the more unusual aspects of a long lost sexuality.

On this particular birthday she marched (or toddled, according to the way you look at things) down the track that meandered muddily through Swanspottle, leaning on her broomstick, its business end sticking into the air grotesquely above the tip of her pointed hat. Every so often she paused and glared (or stared through watery eyes, again according to your point of view) around her whilst she waited for strength to return to her exhausted legs.

Having arrived at the Crown and Anchor she lurched through the door, slipped on a patch of sawdust saturated with a dubious and odious bile-like liquid and slid (remaining, fortunately, in a more or less upright position) right up to the wooden bar. Her entrance may have lacked somewhat in style and grace but it had the dubious advantage of attracting universal attention.

The landlord was one Thomas, who claimed to be a Greek with an unpronounceable surname and whose skills in his chosen trade were roughly equal to the talent a myopic microbe might show whilst engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an enraged elephant who has just discovered that Mrs Jumbo, the apple of his beady eyes, has been unfaithful in a big way during the mating season.

In short, the Crown and Anchor was the sort of establishment that would have given cess-pits a bad name had it been one and to which no self-respecting person would dream of going within spitting-distance of for more than obvious reasons. So the place was invariably filled to bursting with genuine locals who perpetually hovered on the seedy side of the law and who absorbed large quantities of an especially crude cider at the same time, and were joined by the gin ‘n tonic brigade who spent weekdays in London offices and weekends “slumming it” at the Crown and Anchor, just for fun. Even Lord Pontewhistle was known to spend the odd seven evenings a week in his dark corner of the bar, keeping a beady eye on half-filled glasses that might prove in the fullness of time to be unclaimed by anyone else.

“What is it, duck?” asked Thomas in a most un-Greek voice, flicking a dead cockroach from the handle of the bitter pump with a practised twitch of what might either have been a tea-towel suffering from terminal filth or the oil-rag with which he wiped his car’s dip-stick whenever he bothered to check the engine over.

“Milk stout,” she spluttered, and half-collapsed towards the floor, hanging on (with long, bony fingers that looked as if they were on the point of dislocating) to a rail that ran the length of the bar (which was provided for that very purpose, the regulars being prone to falling down at some time most evenings).

“Been a long time,” he commented as he opened a bottle and fumbled for a glass on an unseen shelf underneath the bar.

“A whole year,” she replied, dragging herself upright. “Since my last birthday,” she added pointedly, putting a wheedling suggestion into the intonation of her voice.

“Your birthday, is it?” He sounded about as interested as a brain-damaged chimpanzee might at the prospect of being taught advanced mathematics by the ghost of Einstein himself.

“Eighty-Eighth,” she said, firmly.


“You’re only eighty-eight once,” she added unnecessarily.

“I doubt if I’ll be that old, even once.”

“That’s no way to talk, young man!”

“One pound ninety.”


“I dunno. I s’pose it’s the price the brewery says I have to charge, and that’s all there is to it.”

“No, I mean why do you doubt that you’ll ever be eighty-eight?”

“I dunno. Maybe it’s my blood pressure exacerbated by an extravagant life-style in search of ladies, but summat’s bound to take me orf before my time.”

“Mmmm. Then you should change your ways, young man. Look at me! Eighty-eight and as fit as I was ten, no twenty, years ago! I ought to be in Parliament! Why, with the brilliant sense of perception that courses through my ancient flesh I could well be Prime Minister!”

“You’re not the type,” he quipped, trying to make an intended insult sound like a compliment.

“Types don’t matter, sonny,” she muttered, adjusting her bottom on the stool with an uncharacteristically quick wiggle.

“Maybe they do,” he suggested as he wiped the bar in the sort of way that increased its state of filth rather than diminished it.

“They don’t, lad. I could become Prime Minister, easy as blinking, see if I couldn’t.”

He glared at her because in part he didn’t welcome her sort into his bar with anything less than a glare but mostly because he couldn’t stand politics of any kind. It was an unspoken rule of his that politics was not debated in the Crown and Anchor. It would have been unwritten as well, but he couldn’t write.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled and wandered off, and such was his enthusiasm to escape what he saw as a threatening lecture preparing to darken his evening that he forgot to take the one pound ninety for her drink. She sat down on a high barstool and started to gaze around her as she slipped a small handful of coins back into her capacious pocket.

I could do it, she whispered to herself, her lips barely moving, and I could do better than the jonnie we’ve got at the moment, what’s his name, Alistair Crump. He’s useless, he is, like they’ve all been useless. The only decent one was that woman and I’m sure as sure she had a drop of very peculiar blood in her veins!

The pub was full of the two breeds that frequented it. The Reverend Percy Sledgeright was there, he who always managed to get what he offensively called a bit of crumpet to do even more offensive things to his person when he thought nobody was looking, which was any time after his third pint. And there was always somebody looking, usually a whole host of somebodies.

Then there was Tom Coppley, an individual with the hugest stomach Griselda had ever seen, a growth which sagged down over the rope belt he always wore, covering his crotch to the point when it was constantly crushing any genitalia he had left after the shrinking effects of increasing age, spilling out of an off-white tee-shirt, dimpled, gross, pulsing as if endowed with a strange alien life of its own. And she knew as well as anyone else that it was more than a stomach. It was a lethal weapon that propelled vile liquids as if he was engaged in a dreadful chemical war against one and all, usually at ten o’clock of an evening, when its gross hugeness was full to overflowing but its owner wanted another pint.

Then, in his corner, almost but not quite hidden away, was Lord Pontewhistle who, as yet, had failed to commandeer an unwanted drink. Earlier his main occupation of the day had been to trawl the single street of Swanspottle looking for dropped coins, but he’d failed to find a single one so he was thirsty and getting thirstier. He sat there like a shadow, his long face statuesque as his eyes roved from table to table on an endless excursion into the land of unclaimed alcohol.

Behind that motley crew, also lost in shadows and consequently hidden from public scrutiny, stood the forlornly sad figure of Janine Stretchmark. Griselda had a soft spot for Janine, even stood talking to her in the lane outside the pub sometimes when the younger woman couldn’t get away in time. Janine lived next door to the pub and was quite often seen inside its alcoholic walls, looking desperately for a way out of her hell. And so far as she was concerned life was a hell, a bottomless pit of a hell, Griselda knew that.

The problem lay in Janine’s plumbing. She desperately wanted a family; a football-team of sons or a hockey-team of daughters or any combination of the two, she didn’t care which. Her upbringing had etched the dubious fact that a woman isn’t a woman unless she’s spent most of the second twenty years of her life almost endlessly pregnant, but her plumbing let her down. She’d had tests, loads and loads of tests, and when the results came back the doctors all did the same thing, they shook their heads with assumed sadness and told her to adopt. Her tubes were done for, useless, beyond repair. Always had been, from the day she’d been born. It was one of those things, an act of God, and had to be put up with in the same way as Tom Coppley had to put up with the enormity of his stomach or the Reverend Percy Sledgeright the smallness of his endlessly excited wedding tackle.

Griselda tried to turn round on her barstool to see what else might be worth a few moments of her time, but had forgotten the nature of barstools.

Generally they fall into one of two categories. They’re either superbly comfortable with everything about them absolutely right or they’re creations of the devil with everything terribly wrong. This was one of the latter breed. It had been put there as a thing of almost obscenely decorative beauty and not for clients to physically sit on. As a feature rather than a seat it had been designed to actually discourage people with normal (or even abnormal) bottoms from successfully sitting on it. Thomas had acquired it years earlier when he had been a young non-Greek, from a junk shop that was having a closing-down sale. Most of the furniture in the Crown and Anchor had come to its slovenly taproom that way.

Griselda found herself slipping off the stool. There was nothing she could do: slipping off was inevitable, as sure as the sun rising every day at dawn or Tom Coppley puking up at around ten every night. She slipped slowly, gracefully, in majestic flowing movement, down onto the sawdust, narrowly missing the remains of the said Tom Coppley’s stagnant and foul-smelling offering from a previous night, one, like many others, that hadn’t been cleaned away yet. Her frail old head hit a cast-iron foot-rail that ran the length of the bar with a sickening thud and a bony splintering sort of sound.

The lights and sparkles in the room shook and her head fell at a crazy angle. The uninitiated may have justifiably concluded that her neck was broken, that her skull might well be smashed in at least a dozen places and subsequently speculated that she was almost certainly dead.

But dead was one thing she most certainly wasn’t.

“The devil take ya all, help me up!” she shrieked to everyone and nobody, and by calling on an anti-god (which had nothing to do with intelligent meaning but was merely her normal mildest expletive) she finally started this story. The assembled gathering froze to the kind of silence schoolteachers can only dream of when as many eyes as could still focus turned in one animated movement and took in the grotesque sight of the old, old woman lying on the sawdust floor of the wretched pub and squawking her curses to their bloated faces.

And she cursed silently back at them, the shadow of her aquiline nose resting on a sea of confused souls that swayed in front of her like debris in a gently swelling ocean after a nasty shipwreck.

So there you have Chapter One. It may vary in small details from the published version because I'm an idiot who doesn't know when to save his files so all I've got are the pdf final proofs and a whole host of earlier versions.

But if you want to read more I've got a handy little link for you: try clicking here