The weaver of words – Joyce Janes

They were camping in the village, a group of them friends from school and their parents, they met every few months. George loved these weekends it was the best of everything his mates and mum and dad.  Dad worked away all week so he looked forward to these times when the three of them could be together.
He loved the freedom of camping, playing and running around with his friends, fresh air and listening to spooky sounds in the night trying to guess what they were.
On the first night, as usual, they all met in the local pub for a meal.  The bar overlooked a large garden area with climbing frame, a tree house and a vast area to play in, it was perfect.
Parents were relaxed, the working week finished, tents and trailers set up, they were ready to enjoy the break.  The kids were going wild glad to be free after a gruelling week at school.
When the food was ready mum called George in.
‘Lets sit over here,’ he shouted to Harry his best friend. They took their plates over to an empty table in the corner of the room.
George assumed the others would come over to join them but they didn’t.
‘What’s up with them?’ he asked Harry.
‘Don’t know, I heard Jenny tell Mark it was too dark and cold over here.’
‘Bet she just wants to be next to them, frightened of missing something,’ George pointed with his knife towards the adults and laughed, ‘I like it here.’
As soon as they finished eating Harry jumped up, ‘come on G lets go back out.’
George looked at his friend but suddenly tiredness overwhelmed him and running around outside was the last thing he wanted to do.
‘You go I’ll come out in a bit.’
He slumped down on his seat and looked into the fire.  How could they say it was cold in this corner?  He was warm, not hot, just right.  He was so relaxed he felt as if he could melt into the seat and the thought of leaving the fire to run around outside in the cool night air did not appeal to him.  He had no intention of moving.
The flames were hypnotic, flicking and trembling.
‘It warms my old bones, warms me to me core,’ the old man said.
George hadn’t even seen him approach but he smiled, ‘it is warming,’ he agreed, ‘I like it, I love watching the fire.’
‘I’m George,’ said the man holding out his hand.
George shook it and smiled, ‘I’m George as well that’s weird.’
‘This was my house, my fireplace.’
‘Really? How did it end up being a pub?’
‘Oh it was years ago lad, long before you were born,’ the man chuckled.
‘I was rich beyond my wildest dreams, richer even than that, but I never realised at the time, never realised what I had and by the time I did, it was too late.’
He paused and George waited.
‘Squandered it I did, squandered everything.’
As he spoke the old mans eyes filled with tears.
George stared at him not knowing what to say.
‘What happened?’
‘I was somebody then, people treated me with respect, you know listened to me I had what you would call clout back then.’
He turned to look at George, ‘‘I had talent as well but, instead of using it as I should, I wasted it.’

                     Head in the clouds has he who bears no burden.

‘Some would say it was no more than I deserved, they could be right.’ he chuckled.  You my boy are looking at a prize fool.’
‘Nobody gives me the time of day now, look at em, they just ignore me.  That’s what happens when you come down in the world.  Friends disappear, well most of um anyway.’
‘My friends wouldn’t do that,’ George exclaimed.
‘That lot,’ the man scanned the room, ‘well you’d best appreciate em in that case.’
George smiled he couldn’t decide if this man was being serious.
‘Fame and fortune is not all it’s cracked up to be,’ the old man told him.
‘Were you famous?’
‘Famous?  I guess I was in these parts anyway.  I was a bard, a tale teller, a weaver of words.’
The man sat back on the seat staring into the distance and George knew he was recalling days gone by.
He waited a while then asked ‘Do you still write?  Do you write stories or poems?’
The man looked into the young face, a boy eager to dredge up a past he tried to forget.
He took a deep breath paused then

                  Terrors of time gone by, words spoken in haste, pain thrust out at will.  

                  The warrior with flaming eyes waits for battles lost.

The old man began to relate his tale and George listened captivated by this silken voice leading him through a complicated web of intrigue.  He told of inheritance, murder and deceit and his own part in the deterioration of the family fortune.
‘I wrote from morning to night, I wrote about everything chivalry, legend, nature, people, events anything.  My head was in the clouds it always has been.’
Things had changed for George when his father was murdered in mysterious circumstances. As eldest son, aged only 19, he became the local landowner responsible for his family and the well being of the whole village.
An artist, a wordsmith by nature his thoughts were ruled by imagination and his talents lay elsewhere.  Sadly he did not possess the qualities necessary to run an estate.
He appointed a steward and handed all responsibility to him. With full control the man took advantage and, instead of investing profits, he siphoned funds away.
Over a number of years land and buildings were sold until eventually there was nothing left.
Instead of nurturing the inheritance left in his charge the family watched helpless as George allowed his legacy to be eroded away.
The day came when nothing remained to support the family, they were destitute.

                 Condemn me not? Be not my judge as I grieve and pine away.

Young George was horrified as the old man completed his tale.

‘Come on, it’s time to go to the tent.’

His dad was standing over him hand on his shoulder.
George looked around, ‘where did he go?’
‘Who?’ asked his dad.
‘George, of course, the old man.’
‘I don’t know who you mean come on we are going now.’
The boy was amazed how had the old man moved so fast, where had he gone?
The landlord came over collecting glasses.
‘Where did he go?  The poet, the storyteller?’ asked George.
The landlord smiled and shook his head, ‘not another.’ he said, ‘You’re going to tell me you saw old George aren’t you?’
‘I did, he was here just now, we were talking.’
‘Oh lad if I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that old tale I be rich beyond my wildest dreams.’
He paused ‘listen there’s some say the pub is haunted by the old guy who used to own land around here but that was a couple of hundred years ago so I don’t pay much call to it.
Now off you go your dad is waiting.  And don’t you be having nightmares about ghosts and coming here tomorrow blaming me.’
George followed his dad but took one more look at the old poets corner.
He knew what he had seen.

Joyce Janes writer for children

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