My son said to me recently that I was boring. I smiled and said “It’s good to be boring sometimes, would you like to hear a story?” This stalled his pre-bedtime meltdown and he nodded enthusiastically, story-time was one of our favourite pastimes. “Yes please Daddy, is it one of your made up ones?”
“Sort of, it’s actually a true story about something that happened to me a long time ago”
So as we sat in the warmth of our holiday cottage in Cornwall I recounted to him the tale of my last visit to Cornwall……
How It Began
“But I am Rex Manning” I repeated impatiently. The lady on the other end of the phone line sighed and explained to me for the fifth time that she could not re-set my broadband password over the phone but she would do it for me if I sent my request via email. I took another deep breath, “if I could access my emails I would do that, but as I have explained about a thousand times, I cannot access my emails or the internet because I have fucking forgotten my password and need you to re-set it” I slammed the phone down and slumped onto my hotel bed. So much for not losing my temper. I grumpily turned the TV on and fumed silently for a few minutes, I was an expert in Norse mythology but I had always fancied myself as a writer, so I guess I had no one to blame but myself for this crummy assignment. After a few well received academic papers had been published I had stumbled into journalism. It was a decent profession in many ways, and despite the recent bad publicity about phone hacking, there was still a lot of integrity to be found within the craft of creating a well researched piece of investigative journalism. That said, this trip to Cornwall was unlikely to result in anything of note, whichever way I dressed it up it was a “local angle” story and just filler. The editor, ever eager to make use of my expertise in “legends and stuff”, had decided that a story on Cornish legends was right up my street. The story I had been sent to cover was on the Piskies of Bodmin, essentially Cornwall’s version of pixies. Old Bob was a great editor but he seemed to think my doctorate was in Big Foot studies and this was about as far away from Pulitzer winning journalism as I could get. I was dreading getting stuck with some local nutter who wanted to discuss giants and the time he fucked a mermaid.
I glumly sipped my scotch and coke and contemplated how I wound up here, my friends thought I had wilfully sabotaged my career just to piss my parents off. They had expected some distinguished career as a professor and I had been gleeful when I informed them that I wanted to try journalism for a while and then maybe write fantasy novels. I could still recall the look on mother’s face the day I told her I had taken a job at “the Journal”. That mental picture cheered me up slightly and I began to think of inventive angles in which I could take this story, perhaps I could look at the folk tale “Peter and the Piskies” and compare that with the modern-day Piskie “sightings”. As with the recent beasts and wild cat phenomenon people tended to get really carried away with the idea of a local legend being true and that had certainly been the case with the spate of people in Bodmin claiming to have seen Piskies on the moor. I was thinking that mass hysteria was another angle I could go with for the article, I mean bloody pixies, give me a break, at least with the wild cats or big foot it gave you something interesting to work with but tiny little people who live in toadstools was the stuff of kid’s cartoons.
I quickly jotted down some notes in my pad and was feeling surprisingly enthusiastic about tomorrow and the thought of getting stuck into the interviews and then writing the article. I took the TV remote and surfed the channels and eventually came across Peter Cushing battling a hell hound upon a foggy moor, very apt I smiled to myself. I was just dozing off in the company of Sherlock Holmes when I heard a knock at the door. I got up to answer but when I opened the door I was confronted with an empty corridor and as I turned to go back inside I noticed a letter on the floor. I picked it up and went back into my room, I opened up the letter and read the following message;
Dear Dr Manning,
I understand you’ve come about our little problem.
Meet me a St. Michael’s Mount Castle tomorrow at 2pm. I have some very important information for you.
An Interested Party.
I was intrigued, perhaps this assignment was going to be a lot more interesting after all…
A Cornish Tale – Part 2, coming soon..
An excellent opening and I’d like to read more sooner rather than later. You invoked the sense of place well, and managed to slot in a lot of back story without it turning into a boring list. Nice bit of writing!
Thank you, the feedback means a lot and is really useful. Part 2 should be online Monday and will hopefully see an increase in the pace as things start to happen 🙂