The Bloodstick Chronicles

Bloodstick is presented here only, and can be read nowhere else.

Chapter One - The Emails

Email from Andy Taylor dated 18th February 2018:
        Hi, me and the boys are wondering if you would be interested in doing a story on the band. We sort of think it’s time we sort of told our story.
         Regards Andy.

My reply dated 20th Feb:
        Hello Mr Taylor. Thanks for your mail. With respect, I’m probably not the person you need, although over the years I have been in several bands, until your message arrived, I hadn’t really heard much about your band, Bloodstick. (Quite an understatement but I was trying to be kind.) I’m not even sure I am the right person to cover your story, I’m a writer not a journalist. I hope you can find someone that can do your story justice and if I can come up with a name, I will forward the contact to you.

His reply dated 27th Feb:
        If you don’t want to do it that’s cool but we wanted a writer. We were thinking of having it made into a book, and we also wanted someone who lived fairly close so you could get to know us and the music. It’s not something we know how to do on our own.

        At this point my emails ceased. I’m not one to miss out on an idea for a good story, but writing a book about a band no one has heard of was a non-starter. Over the next few days however, the band began to haunt me. It seemed wherever I looked, wherever I went, Bloodstick reared its ugly head and made me wonder if I had been cursed by the band. So, I began to ask around. It was then I began to see the way these people worked. Bloodstick had never been visible, obvious or mainstream. They were like lava, forming a crust as they hit the cool air, but moving slowly, imperceptibly underneath, unseen, unnoticed. In their own way, they were musical tectonic plates, slowly sliding together until they crashed into something with voluble activity. Yes, I have probably waxed too lyrical about them, but they were beginning to get under my skin, and when I received another email from Andy on the 11th March asking if I had seen his previous mail, stupidly, I said I would like to meet him. That’s when I made the mistake in asking him how to reach him. I asked for his phone number but he explained on the email that there was no signal for mobile phones where they were and so there was no point. He did tell me the name of the village though, Kindale.

        ‘Don’t go to Wester Kindale though, it’s just Kindale proper, you need,’ he informed me. 'Turn off the A9, four-hundred metres and turn left down a single lane track, first right and up the hill to the post box. Straight on for three miles, past a sign saying, ‘fresh eggs’…’
You know the sort of thing. I told him not to bother, I would find it on Google Maps. That didn’t work. It seemed Google had never heard of Kindale either. I emailed him for the full address. He wrote back that he didn’t know the postcode but the address was ‘The Old Manse, Hunchback Lane, Kindale.’ I scowled at the email, whoever called anywhere ‘Hunchback Lane’? I was beginning to feel this whole thing was some kind of windup. Nevertheless, I arranged to meet up with him in the village café around noon on the 3rd of May.

        It was clear I was going have to print off the email with the directions and I taped it to the dashboard and set off down the A9 until I found the turn off. I followed the directions that seemed straight forward enough but I soon began to regret the journey. The A9 was the last time I saw a decent road, and apart from several houses along the single-track lane along the Strath, habitation was rare. I must have been no more than three miles from the coast as I caught sight of the sea in the distance as a wound my way along the dubious track. I crested a hill and the view to the west was fabulous but the road then turned into a dirt track and plummeted down the hill to a twinkling burn in the bottom.

The burn turned out to be a considerable river as I got closer, which was disconcerting as I had to cross a ford. Once across the water, (which was not as easy as it may seem,) I continued up yet another rise as the road surface improved.
By the time I came to a tee junction, it was a reasonable, single track road once more. I could see a sign barring my way and with only a right or left turn available, I stopped the car and got out to examine the sign. To the left it announced Wester Kindale as just half a mile away, which was odd as the road ran straight down a long hill for at least half a mile, but no settlement could be seen.
To the right, where the sign said Easter Kindale, the road was flat but turned sharply into a plantation and so the village which was signed as being three miles away, could not yet be glimpsed. There was however, no evidence of ‘Kindale proper’. It was then I saw an old man walking from the direction of Easter Kindale and so I waited for him to pass.
         ‘Good afternoon, could you tell me where Kindale is please?’ I asked. The man frowned at me and pointed to the sign. He began to walk the way I had come shaking his head slightly as he hobbled off. I imagined him saying under his breath ‘bloody tourists’, but I doubt any tourists had ever found Kindale. Then I began to wonder where the man was heading for as I had seen little masquerading as possible destinations, for at least eight miles or so. I then returned my gaze to the sign and decided that heading to Easter Kindale was the best option.

          As soon as I was round the bend and out of the plantation, I could see a scattered settlement ahead. It couldn’t be Easter Kindale as I had travelled less than a mile so I assumed it to be ‘Kindale proper’.
        For an isolated village, Kindale seemed to be well provided for, with several shops and what seemed to be a public house. I parked the car and looked around, my eye stopping on the stone-built, detached shop announcing grocer, and Post Office. It was there I saw the legend, 'Kindale Post Office.' My destination finally reached, I scanned the village and looked for the café. Yes I was a little late, but I guessed that Andy wouldn’t be hard to miss in a small settlement like Kindale. The first shop I saw took me aback, the sign above the window announced, ‘Sikly Hair - Hair Salon’ and I assumed a spelling error was the culprit rather than a hypochondriac hairdresser.

The next sign gave no such ambiguity. The ‘Slice of Soup’ café had what seemed like a well-cared for sign with another smaller sign saying ‘All Day Breakfasts served until noon only’. I was beginning to wonder if Kindale was a film set for a remake of a Whisky Galore type of comedy but looking at the passers-by, that certainly wasn’t the case. I then noticed what was no more than a dirt track leading from the high street, it did indeed say Hunchback Lane. Closer inspection showed that a very careful alteration had been performed with white and then black paint as previous lettering could be seen underneath.

Tentatively, I entered the café, assuming rightly or wrongly, it was the only such establishment in the village. Fortunately, it looked clean and well run. In one of the window seats sat a person I assumed to be Andy. He was staring down as his untouched coffee with what I would have said was a blank expression, but due to him wearing sunglasses on a dull day, and indoors, I couldn’t see his expression and so I sat.
        ‘You Andy?’ I asked. He nodded, gave a brief smile and we shook hands.
        ‘Yeah, glad you could make it, you want a coffee?’ he asked and I nodded. When the coffee arrived, I sipped it carefully, wondering if it would taste of liquorice or washing up liquid, but, it was good coffee and I relaxed a little. Andy was a slim man in his early fifties with a full head of dark hair that was probably coloured. He had a pleasant manner and spoke with an educated Scottish accent that had probably originated in the borders.
        ‘I thought Hunchback Lane was a bit of a joke when I saw it on your email,’ I smiled. For a second he hesitated, then the realisation struck and he nodded.
         ‘Oh, that, it was originally Pinchbeck Lane,’ he explained, ‘and the council used to come and repaint it, but it never stayed as Pinchbeck for long. Punchbag, Lunchpack and Pinchme Lane have all been previous names, but it’s been Hunchback for so long, even the Post Office call it that now.’

My next question would get right to the route of why I was there.
         ‘So you want a book writing about the band?’ He stared back down to the coffee and shrugged.
         ‘Yeah, we talked about it a lot. Our manager told us that there wasn’t the buzz on the streets anymore, she said we should get our arses in gear and do something about it.’
         ‘Your manager?’ I asked. It was a surprise, I just couldn’t see anyone managing such a band, or maybe a none-band had a none-manager.
         ‘Yeah,’ nodded Andy, ‘we don’t really want to do it, but we can see her point.’ It was my turn to shrug, I had the distinct impression that the band, and probably even the manger, were somewhat deluded to how popular this band actually were. I decided on a subtle approach.
         ‘But isn’t a book going to make you mainstream?’ I asked but it didn’t have the effect I was looking for. He pointed at me over his cold coffee.
         ‘And that’s what we think,’ he agreed, ‘mainstream is exactly what we said, and I’d rather play golf than be mainstream.’
         ‘Golf is mainstream,’ I assured him.
         ‘Yeah,’ he nodded, 'but I hate golf and the comparison had to be something I hated to make the point.’
         ‘Couldn’t it have been something you hated but not mainstream, it would have had more impact?’ I asked. He thought about this and nodded slowly.
         ‘I see what you mean,’ he agreed, ‘but most things I hate are mainstream.’ He seemed to be putting more thought into the idea. 'I’d rather go heather surfing than be mainstream?’ he asked as if looking for agreement.
         ‘I have no idea what heather surfing is,’ I answered, ‘so I can’t say.’
         ‘Heather surfing is where you get a plastic tea tray or similar and surf down a steep hill,’ he explained then added, ‘on heather.’
         ‘So why do you hate it?’ I asked, thinking that it certainly wasn’t mainstream but probably exciting.
         ‘Well, ‘cos I came off the tray and lacerated my arse so bad I was in hospital for it. I had to tell the nurses I came off my bike,’ he frowned.
         ‘Why cover it up, it seems like an extreme sport?’ I mused.
         ‘Yeah, it is,’ he nodded but seemed slightly embarrassed about the affair. He then explained after leaning forward and speaking with a whisper. ‘I have this thing,’ he began, ‘when I’m with pretty women.’ He stopped and looked around the empty café. ‘I can’t tell the truth, the shrinks say it’s something I may grow out of.’ I looked at this man, who was probably too old to grow out of anything but life itself, and wondered if he was quite insane. But then, I analysed the conversation I was having with him and wondered if Kindale was influencing me too. He continued. ‘Every time I’m with a pretty woman, I just tell the biggest porkies.’ He leaned back in his chair as if the conversation hadn’t happened.
         ‘Oh,’ was all I said and raised my brows. ‘Not heard of that before.’
         ‘I’m special.’ He nodded.
         ‘You are,’ I thought, but said no more about it and added, 'so tell me more about your ideas.’ He seemed to become a little more relaxed and as we spoke he was more animated.
         ‘Well, after the band discussed the options, nothing appealed to us and just as a laugh I said we ought to have a documentary made about us. Jock, he’s the guitarist,’ Andy looked up at me realising I may not know the rest of the band, ‘said that maybe not a documentary, but we could have a book about us. Not a biography, but a sort of diary, something that followed our story.’
         ‘A chronicle.’ I suggested.
         ‘Yeah, maybe that too,’ he replied, ‘and the more we thought about it, the more it made sense. When we told the manager, she said that it would take ages to complete and she needed something straight away.’ He looked at me a little sheepishly, as if there was something he wasn’t saying. ‘We told her that was tough, we weren’t doing interviews or having photoshoots so we compromised. We would do a short, low key interview with a local paper and then we would get someone to write the book.’ He looked up from his cold coffee and behind the dark glasses I assumed he was staring at me.
         ‘Why me?’ I asked.
         ‘Jock had read something of yours and he gave it to our manager. It was she that agreed you were ideal,’ he shrugged.

I didn’t quite know what to make of this, maybe it was a compliment. If the musician in question had been Jeff Beck or Nik Kershaw, maybe it would have meant something, but Bloodstick? And then, there was the manager. Probably some aging, bored housewife who had fond memories of going to see Status Quo in her youth, trying to rekindle a flawed memory of how she always wanted to be in the music business.
         ‘For someone like me who doesn’t know much about you,’ I began, ‘you are going to have to sit for interviews anyway.’ I could see with his body language, this was the part that he hadn’t mentioned.
         ‘Well,’ he announced and began to shift in his seat, ‘what we all thought…’ and then he bagan to squirm. It isn’t a word I would normally use in any situation but at that moment there is nothing I can think of that would adequately describe his actions. It’s like this,’ he began anew, ‘we all thought that the only way for you to truly get to know us is…’ there was a long pause and for the first time he removed his sunglasses. His eyes were brown, almost black, but they had a pleading look. ‘Well,’ he tried again, ‘you should follow us for a year.’ He replaced the sunglasses. I’m not sure my jaw actually dropped, but it felt like it had. I recovered and finished my coffee and stood.
         ‘Nice to meet you Andy,’ I lied, ‘but I have a great deal to do.’ I headed for the door. ‘I’ll think over your offer,’ I lied again and left the building.

To be Continued...

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Bloodstick and the Bloodstick Chronicles are copyright of Tricky Imp Publishing and Peter Gray | © Tricky Imp 2020.