Fifteen Minute Read 2014

The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and Transdev in Harrogate have joined forced to produce this exclusive Fifteen Minute Read for users of its distinctive 36 route bus services.

With just fifteen minutes between 36 services between Leeds, Harrogate and Ripon most of the day Monday to Friday – and even less at peak times – with the help of our Fifteen Minute Read the minutes between services will seem to disappear completely.

About the story

Working with Discover Ripon, Visit Harrogate, and Transdev, Julia Crouch appeared as Harrogate International Festivals’ Writer-in-Residence for a week in November 2013, celebrating the 36 bus between Ripon and Leeds, and all of the fantastic attractions, history and stories on the route.

Julia worked with drivers, schools, local interest groups and the wider community to collect memories and inspire stories and poetry from all sections of the local area.

The story is about a fictional crime writer, Celia Fairweather, who is invited to become writer in residence on the no. 36 bus, and she visits all of the places our WIR went to. However, she is really Julia Crouch’s evil alter-ego, and gets up to no good whatsoever!

There are other stories too, you know…

A short story by Julia Crouch

Other Stories

You may think I had a privileged life, being a Lady and all that, But do you understand how BORING it can be? However wealthy you’re born, you are not allowed any of it. You have nothing to call your own, you have no means of independence. You are sold by your father – or, in my case step-father – to your husband. And then you have nowhere to run, no matter what you are like, no matter what you really want to do, no matter who you really are.

I lose count of the years that I’ve been here in my stepfather’s cinnamon drawing room.

Josh Reynolds caught me like this, and, to be honest, I don’t think he could have done it better.

People say that I stand here looking impatient. As if I’m waiting for the next thing to happen.

And indeed, that’s how I was all my life: I never could keep still.

It was the night of January 3rd, 2011.

The hornblower was enjoying a well-earned break from his duties. As he sat in the luxury cabin he and Mrs Hornblower had taken for their Caribbean cruise, trying to enjoy the beer the steward had brought for him (which was not a patch on what he liked to drink back home), he marvelled at the weight of responsibility he had shouldered for seven whole years carrying on the nightly ritual on the market square without a miss for (he believed) one thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine years.

It was the end of a long, long day, and Christine was more weary than usual because of Holly the new girl’s mishap. While cleaning the upstairs Pamper Suite, the clumsy young thing had managed to upset one of the masseuse’s trolleys. The full range of expensive essential oils it had contained tumbled to the tile floor, entirely covering it with shattered glass and staining oils and filling the room with an unbalanced, nauseating blend of odour that was more stink than scent. The damage stretched to several hundred pounds, while also rendering the whole room unusable.

Christine had sent the weeping girl home and, short staffed and with the spa fully booked for the day, had shut the Pamper Suite down, offering gift vouchers and a free Turkish Bath session to the three disappointed clients who turned up for pre-booked aromatherapy massages. It would need a full deep clean before it could once more accept bare-footed, sensitive-nosed customers.

Her heart and head heavy with all the sadness of a gilded, yet broken life, Alicia sighs, and shimmers. Then a sudden interruption startles her.

She turns to see Dorothy, who has frozen in the doorway, looking towards her but not at her, not quite.

‘Is that you, Poor Lady Alicia?’ Dorothy says, as usual.

‘It is me,’ Alicia says, but, as usual, no one hears. She bows her head, gracious as ever, and disappears.

My name is Jane. I’m eight years old and I live in a workhouse. The year is 1830 and I have been here for four weeks. My mother and father are also in the workhouse but I’ve only seen them twice. When we first came here the people cut off all my hair and took away my dolly.
I live in a dormitory with lots of other children, and I share my bed with two other girls, which keeps me nice and warm.

We have to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning.

Ripon was an awful camp – huts – dirty blankets – in fact, he knew it, WAR once more. Farewell Books, Sonnets, Letters, friends, fires, oysters, antique-shops.

Training again.

And here he was, twenty-five this very day, and older than he had ever been, or ever felt.