and the Body Snatchers
the famous characters from history all others in this book are fictitious
and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.
the close and up the stair
the house with Burke and Hare
the butcher, Hare's the thief
the boy who buys the beef.
was a dirty
grey cheerless day
and I pulled the collar of my fleece further up around my neck. A raggy
old pigeon walked across the cobbles, hunched up his feathers and gave us
his most pathetic look. It would have made a fortune for a beggar in the
back streets of Rabat. Roxie, face almost lost under her woolly red hat,
threw him one of her sweets. He pecked at it then turned away in disgust.
Racing pigeons are different of course, as different as a Formula One Ferrari from the postman's van and my mate Billy is planning on getting some. Old Mrs Coxon says he can have her henhouse for a ducket now that the fox has got her last two hens. And what with her having the pains when it is cold and wet she doesn't want to go outside to look after any new ones. All we have to do now is figure out how to get the henhouse back to Billy's place and convert it into a posh ducket. It is called ducket in Northumberland, doocot in Scotland and dovecot in England. In other words pigeon-house. Granny says in the olden days each estate had a high circular stone building where they kept the ancestors of today's racing pigeons. These pigeons were for the poor people to eat on special occasions and that is where the name came from. You didn't know that?
Some of the poor people preferred the taste of pheasant and salmon but if
they were caught they got hanged or even deported to Australia.
An old woman in a long brown
coat and a scarf around her head hobbled past.
"Not a bad day Mrs
"Very canny Mrs Ainsley,"
"We'll pay for it
mind," warned Mrs Ainsley in a voice loaded with threat and she
disappeared into the narrow passageway under the town hall.
"A lot of funny things have happened at the top of those
steps," said Granny turning back to us.
We peered up at the dirty old
sandstone steps with the dirty old black iron rail at the side which lead
to the dirty old brown wooden door of the town hall. It was opened every
Saturday morning to sell tea and cakes and out-door clothing.
We were standing in the little
market square, loaded down with plastic bags full of shopping from the
supermarket. We were waiting for Tom in his dirty old Land Rover to take
us home. Since the government had banned buses in villages we were
dependent on Tom and his rackety old transport or we would have starved to
"What sort of things
Roxie is my nosy ten year old
"Well for one thing they
used to read the Riot Act from there," Granny replied.
"Why did they have a riot
"Oh they had plenty riots
Pet," Granny answered. "Of course it was only about very serious
things like the Toon getting beat by Sunderland at football. The point is
they couldn't shoot anyone until they'd read the Riot Act. Then they could
let them have it."
We nodded in understanding at
the gravity of such a situation.
"My grandfather said his
grandfather saw Helen McDougall standing on those very steps when she
passed through on her way to Newcastle," said Granny sinisterly.
"Who was Helen McDougall?"
"She was William Burke's
girlfriend," said Granny. "And before you ask he was one half of
Burke and Hare."
"Who were Burke and
I wish Roxie hadn't asked. I wish to God I had never heard of them.