Chapter One. #blog-my-book.
Dan—Don’t Do It!
It’s 1853 in South Wales, in the powerful Empire of Great Britain. My story explains why my life unfolded as it has—how the triumphs, humiliations, positives and negatives that shaped the globe shaped my life.
I blame the Welsh Revival as the cause of my problems leading to this situation.
Bewildered, unable to comprehend my circumstances, I blink against the sunlight, slapping my face to wake up. How is it possible I am lying on my back across a rocky ledge, with one arm dangling over a cliff and one leg stretched out in an acute angle, with no recollection of what lead to this situation?
This is totally weird!
From where I lie, the view extends across the horizon many miles out to sea. Below, the turbulent Atlantic Ocean rushes towards the Goodrich Peninsula. On the eastern side, the Pembrokeshire valleys are thrashed by the prevailing wind speeding across the hills. Eastwards, steep pastures create zigzag patterns, bending this way and that across the rolling green-grassed valleys of the Welsh countryside.
The fishing town and ferry port of Fishguard are pummelled by the winds. To the east is the village of Nevern.
This is the predicament: how did I reach this rocky extrusion, and how will I get off it?
My body hurts, especially the top of my head. I feel where it is throbbing, after discovering dried blood congealed on my chin—this being another injury after falling head first on the rocky surface and landing on the outcrop.
Beads of perspiration sliding into my eyes are making me blink as I attempt to lift my leg. It responds; fortunately, it is not broken.
My scratched fingers touch where my jaw is aching, possibly bruised by the fall. There is rough, prickly stubble on my chin, which makes me I wonder when my face last felt the blade. I remember that I didn’t shave last night—too tired to do so. The recollection brings relief, as memories are returning.
High above, gulls and terns soaring in the wind are squawking. The noise is disturbing because of the loudness and persistence. There is something strange or surreal about the eerie screeching that is playing through my head. Is it a seabird or something else?
It’s something undefinable, as unknown forces that I don’t understand are playing with my head and challenging my sanity. It’s like hearing voices, and it becomes another weird experience. It’s as if something or someone is demanding my attention. Perhaps it’s a ghost or spirit?
It can’t be, as I don’t believe in ghostly existences.
Despite this, a surreal sound is reverberating inside my head. I’m becoming overwhelmed with confusion and quite disorientated. A voice pierces the confusion, reaching my mind, calling, ‘Daniel!’ Warily, my eyes comb the cliffs and rocks, looking for the person who is attempting to attract my attention. I survey the hills in the distant valley. No one is in view.
Again, the entity calls, ‘Daniel . . . Daniel Mathews . . .’
What You Sow You Reap
The sowing began in Clavering Town, in England, in the year of our Lord 1857. In hindsight, some of the things that I share, I regret. But once begun, there is no going backwards.
While walking to work, I overhear the following statement, ‘Have a gazer at that gorgeous piece of skirt!’
I turn away, blushing, aware I’m the only woman on the street. The unshaven, brawny Essex lad who has made the comment flatters my ego.
His friends turn in my direction, ogling me while I daintily glide along the cobbled street. My new leather pumps noiselessly step forwards, as if I were oating on air.
I pass the three louts, appearing to ignore them. Their dishevelled appearance and loud-mouthed comments speak loudly of their class—ruffians who should be in the slum areas, not hanging about on a Clavering main street.
I am aware the fragrance of lavender water dabbed on my wrists and neck might reach them now that I am ahead of them. The scent smells fresh and youthful to me. I contemplate what it conveys to them. I increase my pace, careful on the uneven road. I must not embarrass myself by tripping in front of them.
They are following me. I snigger. I can see, out of the corner of my eye, that they are poking each other. I lift my skirt and hasten my pace, determined to keep ahead, petticoats now showing beneath the gabardine skirt.
‘Quite the looker that one,’ smirks the first lad with bedraggled hair. His Essex accent is rough and his clothes are shabby—he’s not in the least refined.
‘You haven’t a chance, man. She’s not from the scrubs like you,’ the second one says with a sly smile.
‘Watch out, Buddy, or I’ll get you where it hurts,’ sneers the first lout, jerking at the braces of his high-waist britches, which already appear to be too short.
The third, with a smug leer, challenges his cronies, ‘Get me alone with that lassie, and I’ll show her a good time, aye.’
His dungarees are corduroy, the fabric faded and worn thin. On his head, he wears a tartan tam-o’-shanter, as many Scottish young men might if they have any association with the Scottish military regiments.
I turn away, keeping my distance. Still they follow.
‘A good time, eh? I could give her a riot of a time!’ taunts the first. ‘Why would she choose you, Mackenzie? English lassies aren’t into pipes and jigs and one or two flings.’
‘You haven’t seen me jig with a lassie yet, aye, that’s da truth.’
‘I don’t ever want to see you at it, believe me!’
The three cronies are level with me, swaggering along the street, trying to attract my attention. Their eyes are leering and gawking as I glide along.
I avert my eyes from them. Their taunts are rude, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable on the street now. I am quite pleased when I reach the millinery boutique’s door. With a hard push of my gloved hand, it opens and closes behind me with a thud.
I am safe.
I beckon my friend Becky, urging her to join me at the window. We hide behind the nets, peering through the lace. ‘What’s happening, Charlotte?’ Her tone is hushed, hand to her throat. ’What are we looking at?’
I point to the lads loitering on the pavement. ‘See those louts out there. Shush now, or they will hear us!’ . . .