This was a golfing week for me and my wife – playing four courses in six days. Three of the courses were in North Yorkshire: Rudding Park, Harrogate and Bracken Ghyll near Ilkley.
Bracken Ghyll has fantastic scenery all around with many of the views looking out towards Ilkley Moor.
Just the name Ilkley brings to mind the well-known folk song, ‘On Ilkla Moor, bar tat’ – which translates from Yorkshire dialect into English as ‘On Ilkley Moor without a hat’. The song goes on to outline the dire consequences of being caught out on the moor without a hat.
I found a use for this song in my latest book, The Circle Dance. One of the characters gets stuck on the moorland above Hebden Bridge when a sudden mist comes down. Phoebe is a crime writer, but has recently branched out into sci-fi/fantasy. Her prospective publisher has suggested some outdoor research might help to inject more atmosphere into her story. Now, while Phoebe isn’t a particularly likeable character, I didn’t want her to die on the moor.
Excerpt from Chapter 8
The mist descended from nowhere. One minute it was a bright, sunny day, the next she couldn’t see past her outstretched hand. The words of the song came into her mind “On Ilkla Moor bar tat,” which ended badly for someone she recalled, dying and getting eaten by worms. And all because they were out on the moor without a hat. She had brought a hat.
Phoebe shrugged the backpack off her shoulders and felt around in the main pocket for the nice red woolly hat with a bobble on top. She’d bought it only the day before in one of the local shops, thinking it might come in handy. It wasn’t an item of headwear she would normally be seen about in. Hat on, she felt better. No point in dying for the lack of a hat. Now she just had to remember which way it was to the road…
…Phoebe leant back against the rock and wondered how long she could survive on the meagre ration of a single pack of Kendal Mint Cake. It tasted vile. Why hadn’t she brought a Mars bar? She struggled out of her boots and sighed with relief. She couldn’t have walked another step with her ankles protesting in agony. She tossed the offending items away. No point dying with her boots on. But she wasn’t going to die. She had a hat.
Bloody Philip Pearlman. “Bring it to life,” he had said. Ha. Find a stone circle, feel the power. What she needed was power all right. A powerful light.
Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths. Stay calm. Stay in the zone. She’d read that somewhere. One of the self-help books she sometimes bought, thinking they would help. Help with what? Help being a better lover. Maybe that’s why Sasha was running after her ex. What did that computer nerd have that she didn’t?
Well, she wasn’t lost on top of a fucking moor for a start.
Maybe she could find some wood, start a fire. Oh yeah, she hadn’t made it through the first two Brownie sessions without wanting to nut Brown Owl. She was a little light on outdoor skills. She could write, however. Write a light, light a write. Shine a light, had she even remembered to bring a torch? A torch. A flaming piece of wood. With a torch she could set fire to the mist.
What was that bloody poem, one she had to learn in school? Oh yeah, that oft-quoted ode by Keats, “To Autumn.” She spoke the first two lines aloud, just wanting to hear her own voice, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…” All she could remember. That and giggling with her best friend over the word bosom. They thought mellow fruitfulness was pretty funny, too. How old were they? Thirteen.
Survival techniques, books she should have read. It wasn’t too late—she could Google it. She poked her phone and the screen lit up. Her connection with the world, the world of safety. No signal. Damn, damn, damn! She was going to die up here after all. Her epitaph could say—at least she wore a hat.
That girl from Game of Thrones, Arya. She comforted herself in dire situations by reciting the list of people she wanted to kill. Phoebe started with Philip Pearlman, Jamie Steele, the girl in Year 5 who pushed her over in the playground and stole her ice cream—hell, she’d forgotten her name. Her list of real people was too short. She’d have to resort to the fictional characters she killed off in her crime series.
Maybe it was the mint cake. She was starting to see shapes in the dark. Sheep? No, there it was again, just out of reach. Dancing giants, forming a ring of light.
One reviewer said “The strength of this (story) is that whilst there is romance, the whole story is infused with a strong dose of reality. You can believe that these characters could exist and that life rarely works out perfectly, but it can get pretty close for some.”
If you want to find out how things work out for Phoebe, just check out the book links here.
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The Starling Hill Trilogy: