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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 16:48 Thread Starter
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The Gretchibald

Ok i am not a recognised writer and never had anything published or anything but thought during these lockdown times some of you might enjoy the story of The Gretchibald , and I would be happy for critique.( a little children's story wot I wrote and obviously where I got my MHF name ) Don't be afraid to comment 'rubbish' or whatever . PS the characters and everything in the story is true , well nearly.
It's about the relationship between me and a family friend , a little girl called Joss who lives on a farm by a mountain.


Ok here we go with chapter 1.

The Gretchibald
Chapter one
Joss sat bored by the window, her elbows on the sill, her face neatly cupped in her hands. There wasn’t much to look at, just a few fields and some sheep before the base of Misty Mountain blocked the view. On some days she could see nearly halfway up the mountain before the mist started, but not today. It had rained hard all night , the noise of the rain pelting on the conservatory roof had kept her awake for most of the night, she didn’t nod off until after four which meant she slept through breakfast and didn’t wake up till midday.
It was dull, overcast and still raining, not heavy but the sort of drizzle that soaks a person through in minutes, the sort of rain that makes Misty Mountain more misty than usual. “I won’t be going out today” she thought to herself, “maybe play the Wii or surf the net but first I need something to eat”. Joss was always hungry.
“I’m hungry” she said pushing open the kitchen door expecting her Mum to be there, but she wasn’t, just a note on the table that read “Joss, had to work at the pub make yourself something to eat , stuff in the fridge, back about five, Mum”.
Now Joss was sixteen but cooking was something she just didn’t do, along with cleaning or anything else that felt remotely like work so she looked out the kitchen window into the yard to see if Dad was there. Dad was a soft touch for Joss, she was the baby of the family, Daddy’s little girl, oh yeah she knew how to wrap him around her little finger any time she wanted. Like last summer when she wanted that expensive ski holiday in the Alps and Mum said no ‘cos she’d already had three other holiday trips that year, it only took ten minutes on Daddy’s knee and the holiday was booked.
Dad wasn’t there , the tractor was gone from the yard and it was so quiet, for an instant Joss forgot food and realised she was alone in the house. She was not afraid, Joss was never afraid, in fact that boldness to do anything, go anywhere had got her into more trouble than enough in the past. Her Dad referred to this trait as self confidence, her mother as
stupidity. Loneliness, not fear, is what she felt. This house which used to buzz with people and noise, where a person could never really get any privacy, had become as quiet as a church. The house to herself, wasn’t that what she wanted, what she’d wished for all her life, to get rid of those bossy, self opinionated, selfish, bullying horrible twins.
Now being the youngest sister in any family has its advantages and disadvantages but being the younger sister to two overbearing, domineering twin sisters seemed to Joss to have only disadvantages, especially since they were the infamous Rainey Twins. Now there’s a book just waiting to be written, but for now they were gone.
Joss remembered that day at the airport when they waved them off to University , Mum ,Dad and brother Stephen all with tears in their eyes ; Joss did her best to look the same but inwardly it was like having ten birthdays all rolled into one, she couldn’t wait to get back home to claim everything, change everything, do what she wanted , when she wanted, the big bedroom for starters and no more waiting for the shower , no squeezing into the car, no more twins leftovers…. the list was endless.
A rumbling in the belly brought Joss out of her daydream as she realised she still hadn’t had anything to eat yet so, still in her jammies, she grabbed the usual Joss snack and sat down at the table to devour it. The Crunchie bar tasted good as always and something about the way it reacted with the Coke when swilled around the inside of her mouth gave it that special sensation which made it Joss’s favourite. As she sat there pondering on what other concoctions she might try she heard the sound of footsteps coming across the gravel path towards the French doors.
“Anybody in”, she knew that voice, it was old Alan.
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Last edited by Gretchibald; 11-12-2020 at 16:57.
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 21:23
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Well, I'm interested to know what happens to Joss.

Although, in my head, I had her at around 10 or 12yrs old and was surprised she was 16. Tho I guess she wouldn't be left on her own by Mum if she was younger!
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 21:42 Thread Starter
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yes maybe she should be about 13 . Easily changed , I like that.


The Gretchibald - Chapter two------ The Stories
Sure enough there he was standing at the French doors with his hand on the pane peering in the window. The same old green wellies, the same old faded parka, the same old walking pole, his unkempt hair soaking wet and hanging over his face. “God he looks like an old tramp” she thought “ I wonder if he goes to bed in those clothes and does he ever take a bath”, but quickly she shouted a reply from her hiding spot beside the door, “There’s no one here but me and I’m in me jammies.”
“Oh it’s you Joss Baby, I’m just going for my walk , I’ll call in on my way back down the mountain”
Joss Baby ! how she hated being called that; oh he had other names for her as well Gertrude, Matilda, Joss the Toss, Joss the Boss, Doris—did he think it was flattering to be compared to a hundred year old wrinkly film star, why couldn’t he just say Josslyn.
“OK” she shouted, and when she thought it was safe she peaked out through the window and watched him trudge across the sodden field towards the mountain. “He looks fit enough for an eighty year old” she thought “I’ll give him that much”
Now Old Alan had been a friend of the family for years, when he was younger he used to play a guitar and sing in Joss’s mum’s pub with his daughter Zolene. Joss never thought much of Old Alan’s talents but Zolene was something else, it was obvious that she was destined for better things than singing in pubs, and sure enough she became something of a star and appears regularly on TV and Joss is always quick to tell everyone that she and Zolene are very close friends.
Unfortunately the rise to fame of Zolene marked the demise of Old Alan, without Zolene he wasn’t much of a crowd puller and eventually became more of an embarrassment than an attraction and so was replaced by younger talent. He hasn’t played in years, but back then he used to give guitar lessons and at that time Joss’s sisters took a notion to learn, and of course what the twins wanted the twins got, another thing that got up Joss’s nose but anyhow that’s how the Rainey’s got to know and become friends with Old Alan. Over the course of some years, Pamela, Joss’s mum would faithfully once a week take the twins to Old Alan’s house for guitar lessons. Joss was never really interested but being nosey, would always tag along to make sure she wasn’t missing out on anything. If nothing else her and old Alan had one thing in common, their love of sweets.

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 21:44 Thread Starter
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The Gretchibald - Chapter 2 ..cont.. Sometimes Zolene would take the twins for their lesson and Joss would have to sit in another room with Old Alan. Joss loved this for she was only eight or nine at the time and loved stories and if there was one thing that Old Alan was good at , besides eating sweets, it was story telling. No matter what the topic of conversation turned to, the old boy had a story to tell about it. He lived in an old farm with lots of outhouses and sheds and he told Joss that she should never go into one of them at night as a man had hanged himself there and his ghost still haunted the place. He took her out to that shed one night and scared her senseless by showing her the rope still hanging from the rafters.
Then there was the time he was out fishing by the Maidens lighthouse one summers evening listening to the seals calling to each other on the rocks but one particular seal was more tuneful than the others , it was just getting dark but old Alan put the boat in as close to the rocks as he dared to get a closer look , that’s when he seen the Silkie; ( look it up on Google); and then there’s the one about him and his mates messing about down by the wee river on the Brustin Braes. There were five of them and they were all about thirteen at the time and had been there all afternoon. The river was brown in full flood and they were able to ride it in old tin bath that a farmer had left out as a watering trough for cattle, and one of the boys was swinging from an overhanging branch when it broke and he plunged straight into the deepest part of the river, they were having such good fun they never noticed it starting to get dark. So there they were walking up the road home laughing and talking about the fun they’d had. At the entrance to Workman’s farm and without warning or prompt they all stopped dead and looked left . There on top of the milk churn stand and sitting on a milk churn was a very small old woman wearing a shawl around her, not a word was spoken and the boys took three more steps forward and once again all stopped dead only this time they looked right—there she was again that same old woman sitting under the hedge. The boys took off up the hill holding on to each others coat tails least one would get left behind. Old Alan told Joss that this was a Banshee. (Look it up)
Then there was the painting. You see for some strange reason as Old Alan has grown even older and most old people either go bald or at least grey, Old Alan’s hair has remained for the most part black. Old Alan says that he never actually gets any older. He tells the story of having his portrait painted by a sorcerer when he was about forty and that the portrait grows older but he never does. He told Joss that the painting was in his attic under a canvas cover and that if the light ever got at it, he would immediately revert to his true age.
Oh Old Alan never ran out of stories, each one more incredible than the last and of course he insisted that they were all true.
Joss used to sit wide eyed and mouth open as Old Alan told his stories and embellished them in such a way that to an eight year old, they were all completely believable. All, that was, except one story, the story of the Gretchibald, even at that tender age Joss found this one totally laughable and unbelievable. The story is a bit long winded to tell in its entirety here but basically it’s about the day Old Alan met the Gretchibald near the top of Ireland’s Holy mountain, Croagh Patrick.
What’s a Gretchibald I hear you ask, well according to Old Alan it’s the Irish version of the abominable snowman or bigfoot only twice as big, twice as ugly and twice as vicious and again according to Old Alan no one has ever seen one and lived to tell the tale, that is of course except him! Now you can understand why, even without hearing the whole story, that Joss immediately dismissed this story as a complete fabrication, a fairy story.

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 21:47 Thread Starter
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The Gretchibald - more chapter 2
As Joss started to grow up she began to look on all of the stories as fairy tales and yet at the back of her mind there was always this little doubt that some of them at least might have some truth attached to them. She did not like this, there was no room for grey areas and maybes in Joss’s life, she made it that way. A thing either was or it wasn’t, it was the same even at school; Pamela tells of a day when the teacher was trying to talk about some theory but Joss couldn’t accept that, “Well, is it true?” she said standing up,
. “It’s a theory” the teacher retorted,”
“So it’s not true then” she said ,
“Well it might be, but it can’t be proven” said the teacher.
“What sort of an answer is that, is it true or not?” said Joss
“Are you trying to be funny” said the teacher.
“If I was trying to be funny, I’d crack a joke” said Joss
“Now you’re being cheeky, do you want to see the Head” said the teacher
“Why would anyone want to see the Head, I just want to know if it’s true “said Joss
“Just sit down and shut up, you’re disrupting the class “
But Joss wouldn’t sit down or shut up and that little episode was one of many which eventually led to a two week suspension from school. Of course Joss being Joss wasn’t one bit bothered about it and just enjoyed the time off.
So it isn’t hard to imagine the sort of badgering that Joss gave Old Alan over the years. Her, always insisting that the stories were all lies and that he should just come clean and admit it and him sticking to his guns that they were all true even the one about the Gretchibald. It was like when the Irresistible Force meets the Immovable object, another theory that didn’t go down well in the Joss camp. She simply stated that as the force was irresistible it would shatter the object as to an irresistible force there was no such thing as an immovable object--- and that was that! No more argument no debate, case closed.
She hated the fact that she was now sixteen years old and even though she said that all the stories were rubbish, a little bit of her still believed a little bit of them. She put this down to brainwashing by Old Alan when she was just a little girl. It was like when her mum and dad told her about the tooth fairy, she had no reason to disbelieve, she put her milk teeth below the pillow like all the other children and was delighted to get the money the next day. Years later when they confessed there was no such thing as a tooth fairy, she wasn’t heartbroken or disappointed, she just laughed and said she’d guessed that anyway, but was still glad that her parents had told her the truth about it.
Try as she might she could never get Old Alan to admit the truth. The final straw was when she was about fourteen and he tried to tell her about the dangers of Misty Mountain. The one directly behind her house. There were real dangers there of course; her father and grandfather had instilled them into her as a little girl. She knew about the swampy bits at the bottom of the mountain, the sharp steep rocks and the slippy slimy weed that made them death traps, the mist that enveloped the mountain without warning, the flash floods, the icy cold, the sudden darkness that gave the mountain it’s name, the fierce winds and the giant hailstones that could kill a cow. She knew all this and more but Old Alan had to go one step further…
“A what?” exclaimed Joss.
“A Shoat”, said Old Alan with a very serious expression on his face, there are loads of them living on the mountain.

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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 22:07 Thread Starter
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had enough yet Jean ?

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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 23:00
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You're a bit hard on yourself Alan!

I hadn't thought about where your MH name came from - now I know!
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-12-2020, 07:17
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I though old Alan was 80 years old, if so Zolene must be getting on in years as well.
16 seems young enough for Joss otherwise I don’t think it would concern her about how old Alan looked if he was her friend.
Now I want to know what a shoat is although I might be guessing right,

Carry on

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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-12-2020, 07:47
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It's like a Gruffalo Jan.

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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-12-2020, 12:09 Thread Starter
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You're right the ages don't make sense . The shoat ?

“What the hell’s a Shoat” asked Joss rolling her eyes, her hand on her hip, as if to say I’m not going to believe this but tell me anyway.
“ Well” said Alan, “ many years ago conditions on the mountain weren’t as bad as they are now and there’s some good grazing higher up, so farmers used to keep some stock on it during the summer, sheep , goats, cattle and even a few horses. It was tough going rounding them up though and as conditions worsened over the years it became impossible for men to get up there, many a farmer suffered broken bones trying. So they trained sheep dogs do the roundups but conditions kept getting worse and in the end, the dogs that were sent up the mountain were never seen again.”
“But what about the Shoats” interrupted Joss.
“I’m coming to that” said Alan “you see, with nothing being able to get up the mountain and nothing being able to get off it, the animals up there were marooned and over time they all started breeding with each other. The first hybrids I came across were the Shoats – a cross between a sheep and a goat, and maybe a bit of dog in there as well.. They look a bit like those Lamas you would see in the Himalayas or the Zoo only they are nasty beasties and will attack without warning. You don’t want to come face to face with one of those on the mountain, but there’s even worse things than that up there”.
“ Don’t tell me” said Joss waving her hands in front of her face, “ I’ve heard enough rubbish , anyway I know it’s rubbish ‘cos if nobody can get up or down the mountain then you can’t either --- ha, got you there”
“I told you before” said Alan “I know a secret path”
“Here we go again” said Joss
“No, it’s true” replied Alan “the first part is getting through the swamp safely and I discovered that if you step only where the little purple flowers grow, you only sink to about your ankles. Then for the slimy rocks, the trick here is not to climb over them but to go under them. The big rocks I mean, they’re about the size of a small car and when they fell from the mountain thousands of years ago they landed against each other so that there are tunnels beneath them, if you know the way. You can’t see the entrances now because of all the slime weed hanging over them, but I know where they are.”
By this time Joss had already started humming a pop song loudly while pretending to look interested in a painting hanging on the wall.
“ Joss” , old Alan said in a commanding voice, “ you would be wise to pay attention to this”
There he goes again thought Joss, adding little bits on to make it sound more believable, trying to brainwash me.
“Look old man “, Joss replied “ I’m sixteen not six , too old for your silly stories anymore”
“ Really” replied Old Alan, “ then what do you think those are ?” pointing to a strange set of animal horns on the wall.
“ Whatever” she replied.

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