Friday, 27 March 2009

A Potted History of the Parallel World of Fekenham

Another thought I had for my presentation to publishers, was to add an overview of the world of Fekenham; sort of a background history to the events that had occurred that made Albion (and not Great Britain) the home of Fekenham Swarberry. In my mind, this parallel world is very similar to our own but with some significant differences. One being the sight of airships flying overhead with garish adverts on the sides, the use of canals in Albion and the fact that World War Two never happened. The intention is to whet the appetite of publishers or literary agents so that they can visualise a series of books that have a background and a future to them.

A Potted History of the Parallel World of Fekenham

Dear readers,

As the long-suffering among you, those who have followed these tales since Fekenham first came into being in the spring of 2005, will recall, Fekenham was originally a blog. Quite a successful one I might add that managed to attract one thousand viewers a week. Of course, the run of the blog was only short; lasting just nine months but it gave me the impetus to take the tales to the next logical stage: that of a novel. Of course writing for a blog is totally different to writing a novel. A blog post should not be too long as all that will do is to scare the readers off as no one really wants to spend vast amounts of time reading a single blog post. The best posts are those that are short, sharp and to the point. Certain changes had to be made when taking the tales to the novel stage. Chapters could be extended wherever necessary and characterisation could really kick in. But after awhile of going over the story’s I had written, being helped along the way by the able Vance Roberts who not only edited my work but re-directed me in some areas and corrected my English in others, it struck me that a novel wasn’t the only way to take Fekenham. It seemed to me, as alterations were made and then book two begun, that Fekenham was not only a bloody good tale as a novel but that it also had the potential to be an animation. I am a big fan of the Japanese animators Studio Ghibli who have taken the art of animation to new and staggering heights. I wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to create a British animation company; one that could equal anything the Japanese or Americans could make. I wanted, and still want, to use The Village Tales of Fekenham Swarberry to be the forerunner in such an enterprise. Only time will tell if I can achieve those dreams.

Now, you may have noticed a great many similarities between the Albion of the Fekenham Tales and the country we fondly know as England. Of course, England exists in our plane whereas Albion doesn’t. Here then is a brief outline of the differences between the two and how they came to be.

1. The History

One fine morning as Napoleon Bonaparte was tucking into his third croissant he accidentally broke the wind. That is he farted. It was a silent fart, without scent and therefore relatively pleasant; well, as pleasant as a fart from the bottom of one of the world’s most infamous generals can be. It was a double-barrelled fart and one that was to change the course of universal history for as the wind escaped the bottom of Napoleon, something odd and irreversible happened. The wind of the fart split into two with such a violence that, momentarily the earth’s axis was tilted. As this happened so another, mirror image world appeared: one that was exactly the same in virtually every way but with one or two differences that only became apparent to the casual observer as time progressed.

Napoleon, or should I say Napoleons, finished breakfast and went off to fight whatever battle he was involved in at the time and eventually, as we all know, ended up exiled. One Napoleon had a single son who died at an early age; the other Napoleon was followed by a string of Napoleon’s all of whom led the French and for many years to come.

You see how momentous the breaking of wind can be? Napoleon A, for want of a better name, was exiled and died with a single son who himself, died shortly after. Although this line continued on and exists to this day, the glory of Empire and conquest pretty much fizzled out. Napoleon B though, not only gave birth to a single son but also a grandson and a whole host of like-minded individual emperors who waged war in Europe for nearly one hundred years. It was Napoleon VI who had Kaiser Wilhelm assassinated in nineteen fourteen and who then, along with the Italians, waged war on Germany and the rest of Europe. Queen Victoria, or rather her son as the good Queen was seriously ill and near to death, became outraged and unhappy at the murder of their relative and sent the Empire to war against the French. The Great War was fought from nineteen fourteen until nineteen eighteen and ended with the overthrow of Napoleon and the dissolution of the French Empire. The Americans fed up with the constant warmongering of the European Monarchies, applied huge pressure on the governments of Europe to dissolve all Royal Houses. With one single exception the European governments, along with their respective Monarchies agreed. The Russian, French, Italian and many other Royal families conceded to the notion of a Republic and by nineteen twenty-one-a single European state was created.

This meant that there now existed, in this parallel world, three super powers. America, Europe and Imperial China. The old British Empire was in a state of collapse. The Irish situation was going from bad to worse with a large body of the Irish, quite rightly, wanting to break free of Imperial rule. Britain itself, having just fought and won yet another war was financially down on its knees and the pressure from both America and federal Europe to bring massive changes to its constitution was proving unbearable. George V, in a moment of supreme political genius, called together the members of parliament and laid down his vision of how the new Great Britain should be. Give the Irish their independence. Make them a sovereign state but offer them inclusion in a New Britain. Not an Imperial Britain but rather one made up of equal component parts: Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales. He argued that history had always referred to the British Isles as a collective and that the unique geographical makeup of the islands should not simply be ignored. He proposed that each nation state should govern itself but would work within an agreed political framework to maintain the long history and relationship of the four while enabling each nation to remain uniquely close yet sovereign to themselves. The New Britain should be called by the ancient Roman name of Albion. Following an unprecedented meeting with Irish militant Padraig Pierce, primarily to discuss a peace initiative along with the matter of The Irish Republic; it was agreed that Ireland should become a republic. Free of British rule. Following this and along with subsequent meetings with both the Welsh and Scots, the fellowship of Albion was created. The four nations would meet once a year using a rotating parliamentary system whereby each of the home countries would meet at the respective parliaments of the sovereign nation: London, Dublin, Edinburgh, and Cardiff. A new flag would be created to symbolise this new accord and the old Union Jack be done away with. Then, with another stroke of genius, all the old colonial nations: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India etc, (a total of some fifty-three nations) that had been the backbone of the British Empire were also given political autonomy. It was declared that no nation state would sit at the head of this Commonwealth; that it was a political union and as such would promote the rule of law, individual liberty, free trade, democracy, egalitarianism, multilateralism and world peace. The symbol of this free association would be George V, King of England; although this position served merely as a figurehead and carried with it no political power. This act garnered together what can only be described as the fourth super power although it had no political motivations to be such a power but by virtue of the countries involved acted more as a balance within the world scheme of things. So, by nineteen twenty-four the world had, effectively, four super powers: America, Europe, Imperial China and The Commonwealth.
Imperial China had ostracised itself from the rest of the world in nineteen fifteen. Whilst the Great War was being fought in Europe and the world was watching with anxious eyes the result of the combat, Yuan Shikai assumed power within the fading Empire and placed himself at the head of China declaring it the New Chinese Empire. Shikai only remained in power for a year and was replaced by his brother-in-law, Li Yuanhong. Yuanhong was a ruthless autocrat who ruled with a fist of iron from nineteen sixteen until his death in nineteen twenty-eight. A succession of Emperors followed most notably Sun Xueliang who set the Imperial upon the trail of conquest. It was Sun Xueliang who sent his troops into Mongolia in nineteen thirty. It was a war which lasted for three years and resulted in many deaths but with Imperial China as the eventual victors. This spread of Chinese Imperialism continued and in nineteen thirty-nine China invaded Korea. Another long war ensued. From nineteen thirty-nine until nineteen forty-three when China withdrew. The withdrawal, however, was only temporary and China invaded again in nineteen forty-six. Unable to defend itself against such a powerful force the Koreans called upon neighbouring Japan to aid them. Japan, a solid friend and trading partner with America, in turn, called upon the help of the United States of America. The war raged from nineteen forty-six until nineteen fifty-four with China once again being the victors in that they took Korea. Within the space of five years, China invaded again, though this time it was Vietnam and Cambodia. Again the United States joined in and again the war was protracted, lasting for seventeen years. In truth, there was no victor but popular American opinion was against the war and so the United States made a strategic withdrawal. Now Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia all came under the rule of Imperial China. From nineteen seventy-five until two thousand and five peace remained in the east then, in two thousand and seven, China invaded Thailand. This act was seen as not only an infringement of a nation’s liberty but also as a threat to Burma and therefore India who are neighbours and political allies to Burma. A year later, having conquered Thailand, China pushed on into Burma. As a senior member of The Commonwealth, India declared war on Imperial China. The United States, Europe, and The Commonwealth all formed an alliance against the Chinese throwing their collective weight behind India: a second great war was looming.

2. Albion

In the world of Fekenham, England not only has its traditional counties but also a series of regional areas that contain the existing counties within its boundaries. Scotland and Wales too have similar regions. The regions of England are these:

Wessex. Is made up of ten counties and one island
Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire.
Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire, Isle of Wight.

Anglia. Is made up of five counties
Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex.

Northumbria. Is made up of eleven counties
Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, Cumbria, Northumberland

Mercia. Is made up seven counties
Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire.

Triumbria. Is made up of three counties and is the only region without a historical name.
Surrey, Sussex, and Kent

Another odd aspect of this otherworldly Earth is the differences it has in terms of transport. Albion still has canals that run up and down its length which still carry cargo to and from the industrial areas. This is still the preferred mode of transport as motorways, although they exist, are only for cars to travel on. The larger Lorries that work on the continent are banned from the roads of Albion as governmental laws prohibit vehicles over a certain size and weight from travelling on the Queens highways. Airships too are often seen and are used for both transporting cargo over short-haul distances and are also a method used by passengers wishing to fly to Europe. During the Great, War airships played a huge part in ‘Little’ Napoleons downfall. These airships can be seen from the ground and many a child goes out at weekends to do a bit of airship spotting as the adverts on the underbelly of the ships are numbered.
One of the great advancements since the Great War has been the modern railways. This groundbreaking development is used throughout the known world and was created and designed by engineers in Albion where modern trains travel at speeds of up to one hundred and twenty miles an hour. Many of these trains run from England into Wales, Scotland and, by means of two large bridges (one in Scotland and the other in Wales) into Ireland. The Martin Shea Bridge is world famous and attracts tourist from all over the globe.

All in all, there will be at least five books in the saga. Here is the synopsis to the first three:

Book One: The Snatch-Kiss Affair

Way back in the seventies before Verity Lambush became the school headmistress she was a woman of insatiable appetites with one of her many conquests being the local vicar, Elvis Linkthorpe (pot head and whisky aficionado). Unbeknown to the vicar, Verity fell pregnant but due to her financial circumstances gave her baby up for adoption. She keeps this secret well hidden until, thirty years on, the one person who knows all threatens to reveal all. Is Cybil Lovelock the couple’s illegitimate love child?

One day, as the events surrounding Miss Lambush’s past, uncurl, Myrtle the cow accidentally sets free a goat which wanders off and begins to steal and eat odd bits of clothing from the villagers’ washing lines. The village newspaper wrongly suggests it is some vile pervert whereupon the locals themselves take this up, accusing Major Lillycrap of the heinous crime. A trap is set by Brigadier Largepiece and Ernie Stallworthy along with Victor Clapp who make sure that justice is undone.

As the tangled mess of Verity’s history comes to light so a feud, a long time in the brewing, comes to the fore The Frog and Radiator are the favourite haunts of the folk of Fekenham and is far more popular than its respective competitors The Fish and Firkin and The Duck and Dragon. Arnold Purenose of The Duck and Olive Lunarbell of The Fish collaborate. Plots are hatched and plans are made but all comes unglued as The Pub Wars commence.

Entrepreneur Rupert Snatch-Kiss moves into the region buying up the old Crust Manor and its land, as it has for many centuries: the ancient woods of Fekit. He turns the Manor into a hotel while the forest is torn down to be replaced by a golf course. The villagers rebel at the sudden onslaught of corporate shenanigans and all hell breaks loose as they battle to save their village and its history. One long weekend, over the Eostre Festival, the townsfolk dig up the ancient oak that sits alongside Mendip Lane. They work through the night, careful not to harm the roots and then, using various modes of transport, cart the tree to the newly made golf course where they plant it along with a line of privet that effectively cuts the golf course in two. Upon discovering it, Snatch-Kiss explodes with indignation but the villagers are not adverse to blackmail.

Book one ends with victory over Snatch-Kiss, a double wedding, a teenage fumble in the graveyard and the promise of a village trip by charabanc to France.

Book Two: Charabanc to Cherbourg

Having recovered from the horrible business with Rupert Snatch-Kiss, Arthur Bentwhistle organises a trip to France. The trip is beset with problems right from the start as, due to some legal matters that need completing, Verity Lambush and Ralph Ramhard have to follow on in Ralph’s car once the legalities are completed. Unfortunately, and to make matters worse, Arthur fouls up the head count when organising the coach and under books by three seats. Arthur volunteers to drive to France in his car and take Brigadier Largepiece and Reverend Linkthorpe with him.

At the port of Poole, Ralph and Verity discover a lorry that has been parked in an odd area. Upon investigation, they discover that it has a cargo of illegal Orientals who are trying to escape from Imperial China. Both Ralph and Mildred are caught by the hoodlums who are driving the lorry and are bundled into the back. A desperate situation needs desperate measures and Mildred is more than equipped to deal with the situation in her inimitable way.

Being the first to arrive in Cherbourg, Arthur, The Brigadier and the vicar see a French fishing boat whereupon Elvis Linkthorpe, the vicar, takes it upon himself to see if he can get some fish for a meal from the fishermen. His French is awful and having insulted the French fishermen, who think he is a lunatic, manages to get a parcel of fresh fish from them. The trio of friends then drive off but get lost and decide to break into a disused Gites. Tired and hungry they dismantle some of the furniture and start a small fire to cook the fish. Having fallen asleep, they awake to see the fire has spread up the walls and along the floor; they flee from the Gites in haste. As they drive off, leaving the Gites ablaze, they see the French Fire brigade hurtling down the road. Still weary, the three men attempt to find a hotel to rest. Eventually, they come across what they believe to be a hotel but is, in fact, a bordello. Sin, sacrilege, and French frolics follow with a police chase across France.

While this is all going on, the charabanc wends its way to La Rochelle. During the course of the journey, we discover that The Sisters Merryfeather (not sisters at all) used to have a career back in the sixties as Private Investigators and tell Julie Twist, mother of Billy, of the case of the notorious Big D and the series of deaths that surrounded him. Meanwhile, Ruth Crabtree bored of life and bored of the villager’s idle chatter, is given a book to read by acclaimed author Camilla Drew. The book is ‘Murder on the Train to Torquay’ and features her heroine Lorna Lustkitten. A novel most horrid written with English most florid.

Back in Fekenham, Parminter Fullcock, chairman of Fullcock’s Farm Machinery and Implements, finds his workforce are enraged due to failing business and he is faced with a strike. How on earth can he resolve all the issues facing him?

All five-story threads neatly come together as pandemonium sweeps through France, with a trio of men fleeing the police while wearing dresses; two newlyweds colliding with dangerous criminals and a revolting set of union men set to throw out their boss.

Book Three: Ghosts of the Past

Sketch only at this stage.

Ethel Blowvalve buys a pig, names it Blodwyn and takes it for walks on a lead.

Lupini Bentwhistle returns to Fekenham and Arthur’s life. Olive Lunarbell and Arthur part while Delores Dewhip returns to Fekenham.

The Lord of the Manor returns and takes up residence with Brigadier Largepiece at Trimpton House. The ghost of Vivian Lillycrap returns to haunt the Brigadier.

Suzanne Beaufont moves into Fekenham and into Vicar Linkthorpe’s vestry.

Cybil Lovelock starts her book of children’s poetry. Cyril gets promoted to sergeant.

Ernie Stallworthy romances Martha Horncluff.

Rupert Snatch-Kiss runs for office as the Tory candidate for Senior Councilman of Wessex while Parminter Fullcock opposes him as the Whig candidate.

Imperial China invades Thailand.

Billy Twist turns fifteen and starts dating Sally Braganza-Smythe.

Porcine problems and ghosts in the vaults: The Tales of Fekenham continue.

Some of the villagers who helped with the writing of this book,,

Ethel Blowvalve – Plump and matronly, she looks remarkably like a later day Peggy Mount. Ethel has an arse the size of a small country and breasts that could smother a short man. Ethel owns a pig that she takes out for walks; the pigs name is Blodwyn and woe betides anyone who should be daft enough to say anything slightly untoward as Ethel has a tongue like a razor wire.

Arthur Bentwhistle – Arthur is the publican and landlord of The Frog and Radiator. A randy, old devil of a man; perhaps not the best looking of chaps as he has a nose like a rotting potato and yet pulls barmaids as easily as he pulls pints. Arthur believes his liaisons are a well-kept secret but his long-suffering wife, Lupini, knows more than she lets on.

Brigadier Largepiece – Largepiece is a retired military gent who is an upstanding pillar of the community and as smart as polished silver. He fought in the second Indochina war where he won a chest full of medals. He is one of the oldest members of the village but his past is as dark and mysterious and shocking as it is shrouded by the fogs of time.

Verity Lambush – The local school headmistress whose reputation as a disciplinarian is quite formidable but, as her diaries prove, also has some dark secrets and, in her youth, a voracious sexual appetite. Her conquests include many a schoolmaster and also the local vicar.

Ralph Ramhard – A wealthy, retired American lawyer who has chosen Fekenham as his home. He once practised law in New York City and was one of its most successful legal practitioners but now he only wants the quiet life and to sweep Verity over his threshold.

The Right Reverend Elvis Linkthorpe – Whisky aficionado and pot head with a hippy-liberal attitude to faith and the church. A fact that his parishioners love but his diocese are unsure of. A man of pure intent although the lust he has in his loins for Delores Dewhip, the local barmaid, is far from pure. He once had a fling with Mildred Pierce and although denies it, still has certain feelings for her.

Cybil Lovelock – Postmistress and poetess whose works often appear in the local newspaper. She is sexy as sin and warm as summer. She fancies the pants off of the local policeman, Cyril Updike and hopes, if he could only stop messing up his words, perhaps he could tell he feels the same and ask her out on a date.

Millie Meade – The Bakers wife and local gossip. If there is gossip to be told then she is the lady to tell it. She knows the local news as it happens and spreads it as quick and as thick as warm butter. Just don’t ask her to keep a secret.

Ted Sandpip – Lock keeper and canal warden. A solitary man, now in his fifties, who yearns for the glorious past to transport him back to when it was good and also yearns for a love of his own to accompany him on his dream journey.

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