The concluding part of the first ever Isabel Instance tale. The story so far: Isabel, librarian and friend to the dead, and her deceased associate Aelfric Fouracre, are investigating the curious case of Gary Simmons, who has put his mother Maureen in the freezer. Gary believes that they are angels: he is wrong. Isabel is a death investigator. Ael is – well. A death tourist, perhaps…
Isabel Instance and Aelfric Fouracre go through the usual procedure with the ghost of Maureen Simmons. Isabel tells her earnestly, over and over, that she is dead. This kind of quiet repetition, she and Ael have found, seems the best bet for successful communication, and accepting the fact of death is the first and most important step towards the light. Then Isabel talks about the light itself, again gently repeating her words. Finally Ael gives his speech about what the light signifies: ascension… Continue reading
The story so far: Isabel Instance, librarian and friend to the dead, and her deceased associate Aelfric Fouracre, are investigating the curious case of Gary Simmons, who has put his mother Maureen in the freezer. Gary, who is a little confused, is under the mistaken impression that they are angels – an impression Ael has not been quick to correct.
It takes a while to settle Gary. He keeps looking at Aelfric Fouracre and crossing himself, muttering, “Praise be.” Eventually Isabel Instance has him sitting down in one of the plastic chairs, with Maureen’s ghost still by his side. Ael perches his buttocks fastidiously on the little sofa, and Isabel joins him. The arm of the sofa is covered with stains whose origins she tries not to consider. Ael takes out his notebook, and starts doodling. Once he’s looked around, he leaves most of the talking to Isabel, noting… Continue reading
Lovely people: hello. I know I said I was leaving this blog to Isabel, but then along came last night and an evening full of Good Things, so I have popped back temporarily, in between instalments of La Instance, to make note.
So last night I was at the Club at the Ivy. I should say that with debonair insouciance to give the impression that my life consists of nothing but rounds of trendy clubs populated by elegant people who smile in recognition and relief at my entrance; but there is too much of the country boy in me for that, sadly, so I will say it with starry-eyed delight instead.
I was there for an event run by the splendid Byte the Book, who bring together publishers and agents and writers and literary types in general, and I was speaking along with James Wills, managing director at Watson,… Continue reading
The story so far: Isabel Instance, librarian and friend to the dead, and her deceased associate Aelfric Fouracre, are investigating the curious case of Gary Simmons, who has put his mother Maureen in the freezer.
The inside of Gary Simmon’s house smells like an old store cupboard. The radiators are on full, and the warm air is thick and sour. The whole place has been neatly filleted: furniture turned upside down and pushed back against the walls, drawers removed and their contents stacked on the floor. “Police?” Isabel Instance asks Aelfric Fouracre.
“Might have been,” he says. “Or that might have been Gary Simmon’s handiwork. I have a feeling he might not prove entirely stable.”
They make their way down the hall. At the back is a closed door. From behind it comes the familiar sound of spiritual complaint: a doleful, hollow wailing. The sound is garbled, but sustains… Continue reading
The story so far: Isabel Instance, librarian and friend to the dead, and her deceased associate Aelfric Fouracre, are investigating the curious case of Gary Simmons, who has put his mother in the freezer.
Finding the street isn’t hard: it’s sealed off halfway down. By the barrier is a cluster of police officers with round cheeks and flat eyes. There is also a television van, and a handful of onlookers. There isn’t much for them to onlook. The little crowd has a restless, peevish air, as if they know this too, and are insulted by the ease with which they are being entertained. Isabel Instance turns the van round and finds a space some distance away.
“How are we going to do this, then?” she asks, unfastening her seatbelt. “The usual?”
Aelfric Fouracre nods. He reaches into his pocket and produces name badges for them both. He procured them… Continue reading
The story so far: Isabel Instance, librarian and friend to the dead, and her deceased associate Aelfric Fouracre are investigating the curious case of Gary Simmons, who has put his mother in the freezer.
Aelfric Fouracre is the only really alive dead person Isabel Instance has met – he is marvellously unique, as he regularly likes to remind her. She’s seen ghosts before, ever since she was a child, but never one openly visible to the general public, able to touch, to smoke in a way he wrongly imagines is French and debonair, and generally to all intents and purposes be indistinguishable from someone who is alive – apart from lacking a certain radiance, a certain bright colourful edge, which must be what people call auras, Isabel supposes, and which she’d probably be able to see properly if she concentrated. She refuses to do so, however. It’s bad enough… Continue reading
Isabel Instance and Aelfric Fouracre edge slowly through the perpetual Cambridge rush hour, traffic light to traffic light. Between each green Isabel floors the accelerator to keep up with the other vehicles on the road. The van’s splendid indifference to the throttle is the main reason she owns it. At an early stage of adult life Isabel reluctantly acknowledged two facts. The first: she loved speed. The second: she was an appalling driver. Buying the slowest possible vehicle was self-preservation.
As they approach Mill Road Ael stirs himself for the first time. “We can’t stop, I’m afraid.”
Isabel looks at him. She’s been driving them to her flat, three rooms in the roof of a terrace house out near Brookfields. This is their routine. Ael finds the case, using, so he claims, his network – a group of mysterious would-be spies communicating via cryptic classified ads in local papers. Isabel… Continue reading
Isabel Instance sits in the driver’s seat of her badly parked van, watching passers-by on Trumpington Street. It’s warm, too warm for March: sticky and airless. A day of unexpected sweat and unprovoked aggression. The pavement is narrow and the people mostly fretful, refusing to give way graciously. Not that the tourists or the students notice. They bump along chattering carelessly to one another, leaving dons and pensioners like affronted statues in their wake. Isabel reflects ruefully that she feels more sympathy for the statues than for the youth flowing heedless around them. She really must be getting old.
Aelfric Fouracre is late as usual. She has waited for Aelfric far too often for any one lifetime – not that this is a concept he can ever really understand, given how little time means to him. Lifetime even less. She yawns, stretches. Alongside the van a sweaty man in a… Continue reading
Lovely subscribers, browsers-by, Google spiders and mindless spambots: hello. It has been a long time since I last blogged (an ugly word, like most ham-fisted neologisms; but then what can you expect given that it derives from the word log, which itself may have been created as an inarticulate grunt intended to convey the sense of something strangely massive).
For much of the time during which I have been not blogging, I have been having a sit, and for some of this time I have also been having a think. As a result of these thinkings I have made a decision, which is this: I am no longer going to fill this blog with random musings loosely connected to words. Not because I don’t like randomly musing on words. I am, after all, a man who has told a room full of incredulous adolescents that it is fun to… Continue reading
This post has a simple and easily defined aim: today we identify everything that is wrong with the world, and how to fix it. And in honour of the forthcoming US elections, we do so in terms that have an American, almost political flavour.
Now I know you may be thinking that, as ambitions go, this is on the bold side: but hear me out. The great problem of modern society is not inequality, nor debt, nor crime, nor lack of social cohesion; it isn’t TV, nor even Jimmy Savile; it is neither the yoof, nor the tottering ranks of the elderly. It is happiness. Specifically: the pursuit of it, as laid out in the US Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right of mankind.
The phrase ‘pursuit of happiness’ has sunk deep roots in the modern consciousness, to the extent that to challenge it sounds either miserabilist… Continue reading