A Creak On The Stairs

That creaking wasn’t normal. It wasn’t the house settling, or the wood moving with the temperature change. It wasn’t a half dreamt noise.

Someone was in the house.

Dan opened his eyes, saw the red glow from the alarm clock illuminating his half-empty glass of water. Moments ago he was drowsy, had finally shushed the heckling voices in his head. Now he was wide awake. Alert. He blinked and heard the scratching of his eyelids. So loud, it drowned out the sound he was trying to locate.

Holding still, not breathing, not blinking, willing his heart to stop pounding in his chest, just so he could listen to a noise that had already happened.

And there it was again.

It was the creaking of a stair.

A sound he knew so well from climbing them every day. He even knew which stair it was.

Maybe it was the cat.

He swished his foot under the covers, hoping it wouldn’t come to a stop against a slumbering feline mass. But there she was. Sleeping deeply where she always settled.

If it wasn’t Mitsy, then someone was in the house.

Another creak.

Had he left a window open? A door ajar? Had he been roused by the sound of breaking glass? Dan didn’t know, and all he could focus on was the panic rising in his chest, his heart thumping, and his tense breathing.

Almost against his will, he felt his legs swing out from under the duvet, felt his body sitting up, felt his hand reaching out into the dark. Felt his fingers curl around the nearest and only weapon.

His glass of water.

His feet sank into the deep carpet, and he crept to the door, mouth open to keep his breathing quiet – something he’d learned from a TV show maybe. He held the glass up, ready to strike with it.

When he turned the handle of the door, he winced as the loud clicking noise echoed around the house. Had the slow ascent of the stairs come to a halt? Had the noise alerted them?

He didn’t care.

Rage drove him on now.

He yanked the door open, throwing it to one side, as he bolted out onto the landing, moving fast along the passageway and around the corner to the top of the stairs.

And there, a dark human shape, standing there, arms crossed, foot tapping admonishment.

Dan looked at the shape, highlighted from one side by the moon through the window.

Dan was looking at himself.

And the other Dan didn’t look happy.

“Go back to bed you fat fuck,” said the Dan on the stairs. “You’ve got work in the morning.”

A Creak On The Stairs

The Development Paradox

Leigh-Anne didn’t have any friends, and it didn’t bother her one little bit. She played alone, indulging in elaborate fantasies that took her to worlds of her own making. The garden was her blank canvas, the small woods a few streets away was an empty notebook, and the little stream nearby sang its ideas to her.

She spent hours exploring these make believe places in her mind, skipping and spinning, poking sticks into holes, or just lying back and staring at the shapes in the clouds.

There was one tree though, gnarled, rotten, almost black, that was so ominous she daren’t go near it. Every day, she’d come to a halt, a few feet from dead trunk, and would fixate on it, until she shook away the weird feeling, and carried on with her flights of fancy.

As the summer days passed, she found she would stop just an inch or two closer to it each day, as if the courage to get nearer was growing inside, and one day, she was close enough to reach out and touch it. When her fingers brushed the decaying bark, it fell away and crumbled to dust in the breeze.

An ancient knot hole stared back at her. She leaned in, staring deep into the darkness, and something overcame her. She reached in, wincing and ready for the Witch’s hand that would inevitably drag her in to an evil realm from which she could never escape.

Instead, her fingers alighted on a small tubular canister, which when she pulled it out into the light, she saw was a small role of 35mm camera film.

Strange, but not weird enough to bother her, she slipped it into her pocket, and ran off to battle an army of dinosaurs who had invaded the small clearing in the woods.

That’s how Leigh-Anne remembered it. A vivid and clear memory, with a distinct odour that even now, twenty years later tickled at her nostrils.

She’d found that roll of film a few days ago, and spent the day on the internet working out how she could now get a defunct medium processed. And here it was, a thick envelope, emblazoned with big red letters screaming ‘do no bend’.

And inside, a pouch. Those pouches had been everywhere for a few years, stuffed with photographs that had long since been confined to the attics of the world.

She flipped it open and pulled out the stack of photos, still glossy, still slightly sticky.

It took her a moment to realise what she was seeing, even as she shuffled through the stack a few times.

It was her.

As a child.

In a wood.

Framed by a knot hole.

Staring out at her from inside the tree.

Getting closer and closer.

Until her hand covered the lens.

The Development Paradox

French, Saunders And Wogan

This is a great interview, from a 1984 episode of Wogan. It starts with the question he was always asking comedians at the time, and goes uphill from there. Dawn and Jennifer briefly mention the rescheduling of The Entertainers, which you can read about here.

I can’t help thinking they are improvising a sketch as they chat, and I wonder if this is a rare window into their writing process (before series 6 of the show).

It’s also great to see them dip in and out of stage sketches that they would have been doing at the time.

Nice to hear them talking about writing Girls On Top, quite a while before it finally made it to air.

Looks like this is from the episode that aired on 10th March 1984, and also featured Roger Cook and David Essex.

French, Saunders And Wogan