Fiction Fursday/A Trip to Belgium Part One

Hello, friends! It’s been a while, and it’s also late and I for that I apologise. I reckon I’ve got a writing routine sorted out once again and I’m feeling positive about my various projects. I’m actually gearing up to take part in NaNoWriMo this year, which is exciting!

Today’s story was prompted by Esther Newton. Esther suggested that I write a story where a man goes to sleep and wakes up 100 years in the past. What happens to him and whether or not he returns was to be left up to me. Well, the historian in me awoke with excitement at the prospect and I started brainstorming right away! As I began writing out my ideas, I soon came to the realisation that the story could not be contained to one blog post, and so I plan on writing it in three parts. The subject matter will be dark at times, and I will do my best to treat it with tact and research my ideas as much as I can. So, thank you, Esther, for such an inspiring prompt!

Here is Part One of my story. I hope you enjoy the beginning of this tale.

P.S. If you would like to get involved and suggest a prompt for me to use in the future, please feel free to do so and leave a comment below!

 

A Trip to Belgium

Part One: 1916

By Adam Dixon

 

Derek draped his red tie over the back of his chair and stretched. He was pleased with his day’s work and he had no doubt that his client would be too. He could almost hear the old crone rasping down the telephone in delight once he told her that her accounts were all in order. Then would come the much-deserved praise and Derek would once again justify the hefty quarterly bonuses he was receiving. He rubbed his stomach, thinking of the fine meals he would soon be enjoying, courtesy of the company, of course.

“I’ll have to get on with it and book a flight, soon,” Derek said to himself, sitting on his wide bed as he undid his trousers. He kicked off his expensive shoes and wriggled out of his clothes, lying back luxuriously with a deep sigh.

“Where to this time?” he mused, scratching at his five o’clock shadow. He’d see to that in the morning, it didn’t pay for his clients to see him unshaven. “I can’t believe Rome was five months ago already!” He smiled at the thought of his holiday, remembering the bustling streets with their exquisite architecture and the fragrant restaurants beckoning to him. He stared up at his custom light fittings and ran a hand through his greying hair.

“Germany this time? No…France? Yeah…France would be nice! Or Belgium! I could visit Antwerp again, maybe with a trip to Bruges somewhere along the line!” He chuckled at the thought of the raised eyebrows when he told his colleagues his choice. They would have chosen Paris, or continued on to Spain. Derek liked to be different; he thought it made him seem interesting. For a moment, Derek’s mind slipped and he wondered if he should invite Sandra to come with him, but he dispelled it angrily. He traced the ring-less finger on his left hand, blocking out the wounds which were still hurting even after five years.

“I ought to do something for mum, too,” Derek thought, refusing to think about Sandra. “Maybe I’ll pay for her to get her roof fixed…I ought to have done that weeks ago…” Derek felt guilty and promised himself that he would do just that on his next payday. Yawning, Derek shuffled around until he had slipped under his duvet. Sleep claimed him quickly, and he didn’t bother to turn out the light.

 

“Derek Webley, get up this instant!” A shrill voice shouted in Derek’s ear. He jerked awake, squinting as daylight poured in through the open curtains. Confused and a little afraid, Derek sat up. An old woman dressed in simple clothing of a woollen blouse and a long, ragged dress bustled about his room, her slippers scuffing the floorboards. Floorboards? Derek’s room had a cream carpet…

“You left the bleedin’ candle on as well! You’ll set the house alight one of these days!” the woman continued, gesturing towards a melted stump of candlewax on his desk. Derek frowned. How had that gotten there? He noticed with shock that his room looked completely different. It was the same large size, but the walls were missing the decadent paintings and the tasteful blue wallpaper. His bed was smaller too, the duvet replaced by a single, creased blanket and the memory-foam mattress gone in favour of an inch-thick monstrosity of discomfort. Derek was perplexed, and then he recognised the intruder as she turned towards him.

“Mum, what are you doing here? What’s going on?” Derek spluttered. His eyes flicked towards her clothes. “And what are you wearing?!”

“None of your lip now, Derek!” his mother scolded, wrenching open his wardrobe and pulling out a shirt and trousers. “Here you are, put these on. Quickly!” She tossed the clothes at Derek, who was staring in disbelief. He touched the clothes and snorted.

“I can’t go anywhere dressed in these!” he said, smirking. “I think these clothes went out with Queen Victoria! Where did you get them from? A joke shop, maybe?”

“I said no lip, Derek!” his mother snapped, placing her hands on her hips and tapping her foot on the floorboards. “Now get up, get dressed and get yourself down to the town hall! I’ll not have any son of mine shirking his duty!”

“What are you talking about?” Derek swung his legs from his bed and started in surprise at his long woollen pyjamas. “What am I wearing?!” He was aghast. “Who dressed me in these? Why didn’t I wake up?”

“Derek Henry Webley, get your backside out of bed and put those clothes on this instant!” His mother spat, her face the picture of frustration. Derek obeyed, wondering which one of his friends had thought up this elaborate prank. Whoever it was, they had done a sterling job getting his no-nonsense mother on board! As he pulled on the moth-eaten trousers and starchy shirt he wondered whether or not he was dreaming. He followed his mother out of the bedroom and onto the landing, where he let out a cry of astonishment.

“The house! What have you done to it?” he asked, staring wildly at the plain flooring and bland wallpaper. “This is getting ridiculous now! How’ve you managed this while I’ve been asleep? It looks like something out of the 1920’s!” Derek’s mother stopped at the top of the stairs and turned to face him. She did not look impressed.

“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to, sonny,” she said with her lips curled in distaste. “I know exactly what you’re doing! I’ll not have you pretending to be mad in order to get out of your duty! The law’s the law and everyone who can hold a gun has do their bit, so don’t even think about it!”

“Mad? Gun? What are you talking about?” Derek said. His mother tutted and seized his wrists, dragging him down the staircase. Even that was different: he had been rather proud of the blue carpet which had run over the steps like a soft, comfortable ocean. It was now bare and in quite desperate need of a varnishing. How had they managed it?

A few minutes later Derek was being led by the hand through the street as he scratched at his uncomfortable trousers. Derek’s eyes were wide and his mouth was agape at its transformation. There seemed to be fewer houses and there were no cars on the road. The air smelled clean, lacking the pervasive odour of exhaust fumes. Derek was sure that he could detect a whiff of manure, too. He stared at people who were dressed in similarly dated clothes to himself. The majority of the men were sporting moustaches and wore hats, and the women wore long dresses and sensible shoes. Derek couldn’t see a hint of make-up on a single face! Strangely, he also noticed that there were no young men around. Lots of men, to be sure, but all of them older than himself, walking with grim faces and troubled expressions. He became convinced that he must be dreaming; no prank could be that elaborate!

“Come on, Derek! Don’t dawdle!” his mother said, tugging at his wrists. “You must be on time and you must look keen!”

“Mum, why were you in my house?” Derek asked. He’d had lucid dreams before but he couldn’t recall ever feeling so immersed in one. He thought he’d try to make some sense of it before he woke up.

“Hark at you! Your house, indeed!” his mother snorted. “It’s a bit late to start putting on airs, my lad! Now shut your mouth and stop dilly-dallying! Maybe today you can prove to me and that harlot, Sandra, that you are a real man!” Derek blinked in shock and complied, more confused than ever. His subconscious was certainly giving him a beating this time! They approached the town hall, a grand old building which, incredibly, looked brand new. Its grey stones and red bricks were clean and its doors were wide open, admitting and ejecting streams of men like twin rivers. Derek’s mother shoved him through the door and into the bustling foyer. There was no opportunity to admire the resplendent interior of the building due to the amount of men barging into one another. The air was filled with the sounds of shouting, cursing, coughing and an occasional bray of laughter. Derek was jostled to and fro by several disgruntled people before being confronted by an aging man in an Army uniform. He appeared to be one of several such men in the building and they were all clutching sheaves of papers and pencils. The man’s face was red and his voice was hoarse as if he had been shouting all morning.

“You there! You look game enough, who are you?” The man pointed a wrinkled finger at Derek, his steely eyes sizing him up.  Even his white moustache looked irritated. “Name, age and occupation!”

“Erm, Derek Webley,” Derek said, bewildered. “42 years old. Erm, I’m an accountant.”

“Hmph! What took you so long to join up, Webley? It’s two months since the law changed, have you no shame, man?”

“I’m sorry, but I’ve no idea who you are or what you’re talking about,” Derek said, smiling in what he hoped was a friendly, embarrassed way. The thin man’s face contorted and he shook with fury.

“This is no time to act the fool, Webley!” he shouted, jabbing at Derek’s chest with his skeletal fingers. “Our boys abroad need support and that means they need your help, God save ‘em! I am Major Harold Beaumont and it’s my job to make sure spineless idiots like yourself get out there and provide it! Now, your address and dependents, Webley!”

“Dependents?” Derek frowned.

“Yes, man, dependents!” Beaumont cried, his eyebrows knitting together like angry clouds. “Do you have a wife or children to keep?”

“Erm…no, sir,” Derek said, probing his ring finger again. “And..erm…I live on 42 London Road.” Beaumont nodded and wrote the information down on a form in neat, efficient handwriting. He cast his eyes over Derek once again.

“Do you have any physical ailments, Webley? Bad knees, poor eyesight, weak chest, that sort of thing.”

“Erm, no, sir, I don’t think so. Bit of an expansive waistline these days, if that counts!” Derek attempted another smile. Beaumont’s stony face made it clear that it did not count.

“So, you are unmarried, you have no children to support and you are in fine physical condition for a man of your age. Good God, Webley, the Army is crying out for men like you and if my eyes didn’t deceive me you needed to be dragged here today by your mother! You’re a bloody disgrace, man!”

“Now hang on a minute!” Derek said, his irritation growing. “I’m unused to be spoken to in that tone, Beaumont, and I don’t much appreciate it!” Beaumont barked a hoarse laugh.

“Ah! Perhaps you do have some spine then, Webley!” he said with a wry smile. “That is a relief! But if my remarks upset you then you’d better prepare yourself for a good hiding during your training! Man alive, the drill sergeants will have grand time with you!”

“Training? Wha-“ Derek began. He was cut off by a wave from Beaumont.

“Yes, Webley, your training,” he said curtly, already scanning the room for other men to berate. “A vehicle will collect you tomorrow at 06:00 hours to transport you to your nearest facility and you will be readied for warfare. In six weeks you will be sent over to France or Belgium, depending on where you are needed. Ordinarily training should take three months, but our boys are being pushed hard by Jerry and we can’t spare the time. Good luck, Webley, and God be with you out there.” Before Derek could offer further protestation, Beaumont had marched off and seized another man by the shoulder, barking into his ear at the same time. Derek stood in the foyer of the town hall and stared after the old man, his mind racing. He hoped he would wake up soon, the dream was feeling a bit too real…

“Derek!” a deep voice called. A familiar face approached Derek in the foyer.

“James!” he exclaimed, reaching out to seize the offered hand. “I’m bloody pleased to see you here! Maybe you can help me clarify this madness before I wake up!”

James Johnson nodded, his usually jovial face creased with worry. James had worked alongside Derek for almost ten years and they were frequent drinking buddies.

“It is surreal, isn’t it?” James said, glancing around the packed building. “I can’t imagine what it’ll be like once we actually get out there. The stories we’ve heard, and the damned lists growing weekly…over by Christmas, they said, and it’s been two years…the world has gone mad, Derek.” Derek was shocked by James’s tone, and he followed him back into the street wondering how to respond. He was feeling uneasy and more than a little bit frightened. He hoped he would wake up soon…

“Derek! James!” another voice called, and a tall woman with raven-black hair came hurrying towards them. Derek smiled at her, feeling relieved.

“Ah, Mary, it’s good to see you here,” he said warmly, amused at her prim attire. Mary Rutherford had often been wearing more revealing clothes whenever Derek had seen her around the office. Her husband, Barry, (another drinking buddy), worked with them and they had gotten to know Mary well through him. What had inspired Derek to dream about her in that way?

“My God, you’ve both joined up, too, haven’t you?” Mary said, her almond eyes wide and her hands clasped under her chin.

“That’s right,” James said with a shrug. “Can’t avoid it these days.”

“I see…” Mary looked at both of them, her eyes brimming with tears. “Well…you two be careful out there, please. I’ve…not heard from Barry in nearly three weeks…he’s never left it this long before and I…I…” Mary broke off, her shoulders shaking with sobs.

“Mary! What’s the matter?” Derek asked, alarmed. He touched her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. Mary looked up at him, blinking tears from her eyes. She managed a weak smile.

“Barry…said he was being sent into France,” she whispered. “Couldn’t say much more than that, obviously…but I fear the worst, Derek…oh Lord, please be careful! G-goodbye and G-god bless!” With that Mary hurried away, her snuffling cries receding into the distance.

“Barry’s not one to make her worry,” James said, rubbing his temples. “That’s not good news…another one gone. That makes four so far. Damned lucky it isn’t more, if you ask me.”

“F-four?” Derek stammered. A tight ball of horror was forming in the pit of his stomach. James nodded.

“Yes, four. I still can’t quite believe that Harry and Paul, are gone…they were so keen to volunteer… Poor blighters…not long out of school, either. David was a shock as well, and his childr- damn, you haven’t heard about David yet! Oh, I’m so stupid!” James smacked his forehead with his palm and looked contrite. “I’m sorry to have to tell you like this, Derek…but Sally and I heard from Deidre last week…she told us that David has been killed in Ypres.”

“D-dead?” Derek whispered. “All four of them?” Harry and Paul had been the enthusiastic graduates they had taken on at their office, and David had been a reliable worker who was prone to making crude jokes.

“I’m still trying to deny it, too.” James said wearily. “I keep hoping that this is all a twisted nightmare and that I’ll wake up soon…” He clapped a resigned hand on Derek’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. Derek could see the anguish in his friends’ face.

“I’d best be home, Derek. I…need to tell Sally and the children that…my country needs me…I’ll see you tomorrow, I suppose.” James turned and walked away, leaving Derek speechless. His mind seemed to work in slow motion, his reasoning taking long, sluggish steps as if it were moving through treacle. The horror in his stomach had swollen to the size of a canon-ball and threatened to burst from his chest. No, it had to be a dream, he thought desperately, it had to be a dream

Derek staggered as the full realisation of what was happening came crashing into him like a tidal wave. He wasn’t dreaming! He had woken up in 1916 and had been conscripted to fight overseas! He began to blubber, moving around the streets like a drunk, reaching out to strangers in their strange clothes and imploring them to help him.

“Please, I don’t belong here!” he said, grabbing shocked men and women by their sleeves. “Please, there has been a mistake! I’m from the future! I’m from the future! I shouldn’t be here!”

“Poor devil has lost his mind!” one woman said in a hushed voice to a wide-eyed little boy.

“Hmph! Pull yourself together, man!” barked an elderly gentleman in a grey coat. “This town needs you! I’d be over there too if I weren’t so damned old!”

“But, but…” Derek cast to and fro, seeking any understanding in the faces of those around him. He was met only with anger, embarrassment and amusement. Finally, he hung his head in defeat. Derek trudged back down the unfamiliar-yet-familiar streets towards the home that was no longer his. As he walked, a single thought penetrated his anguished daze and he began to chuckle despite himself.

“I did say I wanted to go to Belgium!” he said with tears in his eyes. “I should’ve kept my big mouth shut! Oh Christ…” His tears fell and splashed onto his itching trousers. Derek shambled homeward, his feet heavy as they bore him closer to hell on earth.

 

 

 

 

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The Dashed Hopes of Kelpto

I wrote this short Sci-fi piece about a month ago and intended it to be sent to a magazine or website. Instead I’ve decided to share it on here with you guys.

I hope you like it.

The Dashed Hopes of Kelpto

By Adam Dixon

 

The trio stood motionless in the Observation Room, gazing down at their stricken planet. Together they represented the highest authorities of the Kelptonians, which is why they were in the relative safety of orbit. But even being such a distance from the chaos below would not keep them safe for long.

“What about the other humans? From Earth?” High Sapien Teflar inquired, staring intently at the scientist. High Scholar Jenvere pushed her glasses up her nose nervously and was about to reply when a gruff voice interrupted her.

“The Earthlings? I’m sorry, sir, but that is ridiculous.” Master General Kle’fir held both hands behind his back and thrust out his barrel chest, the light from the plasma rods above reflecting on his medals.

“I wasn’t asking you, General!” Teflar snapped, his elaborate bone headdress swaying as he turned to glare at Kel’fir. “Now, High Scholar, what about the Earthlings? Could we summon them for aid?”

“Well, sir, theoretically it is possible,” she replied, her voice high pitched and bird-like.

“Theoretically? All of our allies have deserted us, damn it! I don’t have time for theories!” Teflar barked. Jenvere jumped and clutched her notes to her chest, as if they would protect her from his anger.

“W-wel you s-see, sir,” she stammered. “Earth is w-within our t-travelling capabilities, b-but it w-would still t-take far too long to m-make the journey.”

“What do you mean? Speak!” Teflar’s eyes were mad with rage.

“She means,” Kle’fir said calmly, “That sending a party to Earth would take hundreds of years even in our fastest transporters. If they agree to aid us, which is unlikely, it would then take them the same amount of time to be escorted back to Kelpto. We are talking about the passing of almost a millennia.”

“You cannot be serious…” Teflar was dumbfounded.

“I-I’m afraid he is, High Sapien, sir,” Jenvere piped up. “By the time the Earthlings reach us, the war will have been over for centuries.”

“But we can’t just let those six-eyed monstrosities claim our planet!” Teflar fumed, pacing. He was short even for a Kelptonian, so he wore high-heeled boots which clomped on the titanium floor of the spacecraft.

“The Earthlings, they could return and reclaim Kelpto, should we lose it!” he reasoned, gesturing aggressively with his arms, causing his headdress to wobble dangerously.

“Why should they fight for a distant planet which they have never heard of, sir?” Kle’fir’s voice contained the barest hint of mockery. “I doubt we would, were our situations reversed.”

“Because…” Teflar gestured again, his mouth opening and closing as he struggled to find the words.

“Because they court war!” he said triumphantly. “They seek it continually! We’ve watched them for hundreds of years, we know what they are capable of! They are ruthless, efficient warriors and conflict is no stranger to them!”

“Perhaps, but there is also the issue of their ignorance, sir,” Kle’fir added.

“Bah! If it takes centuries to reach them, then they will no longer be ignorant!” Teflar replied hotly. “You’ve seen the satellite videos, General, they are progressing with their knowledge at an alarming rate. If they still are unaware of extra-terrestrial life by then, I see no issue with aiding in their enlightenment. We are losing this war, General, we have no time to debate ethics!”

“The gravitational difference of our planets would also cause some difficulties,” Jenvere began. “For both our people and the Earthli-“

“Problems! Problems again!” Teflar grasped his headdress and threw it at the wall with all his might. Bone shattered against cold metal and fell to the floor in a thousand pieces. He turned his blazing eyes on to the poor scientist once again.

“I don’t want to hear problems from you, High Scholar!” he roared. “I want to hear solutions!” Jenvere stood shaking, her violet eyes wide and her lower lip quivering.

“As for our denser gravity, it might play to our advantage!” Teflar ranted, his voice echoing around the room. “Our enemies aren’t expecting to see human beings over four feet tall, which will provide us with the element of surprise! Tell me that fact doesn’t appeal to you, General?”

“It does, sir, I must admit,” Kle’fir replied, stroking his grey beard. “But they are too many risks for this to be a viable option. A significant one being that if we lose the planet we could not warn the coming Earthlings, and whatever advanced weaponry they learn to use on their journey will no doubt be obsolete, making the whole venture a waste of time.”

Teflar opened his mouth, but the torrent Kel’fir expected did not come. The High Sapien simply closed his eyes tightly, breathing hard for a few moments with his fists clenched. Finally, he released a long sigh of resignation and opened his eyes. The fury inside was replaced by sadness.

“Perhaps you are both correct,” he said softly, running a hand over his shaven head. “It does seem a foolhardy venture when faced with the bare facts…I am clutching at straws, I admit.” The High Sapien of Kelpto straightened up and adopted his usual regal manner.

“Very well,” he said with more confidence than he felt. “Then we shall continue this war on our own. The Earthlings will remain ignorant, and perhaps that is for the best.” He strode up to the large window once again and rested his forehead against the cool glass. “Let’s pray the Great Beyond looks upon us favourably.”

“Yes, High Sapien, let us pray that it does.” Kel’fir replied. The trio once again gazed down upon the planet Kelpto, where fires could be seen spreading across her many continents, and prayed for a miracle.

A – Z Challenge Day 4

It’s the fourth day of this April’s blog challenge and my prompt comes once again from Kate. Her suggestion for ‘D’ is “DRAGOON”.

This one was a bit of a head-scratcher, if I’m honest! I had a few ideas flit in and out of my mind as I pondered this word, but none of them seemed to want to stick around. Here is what did decide to cling on. I hope I did the word justice.

 

DRAGOON

By Adam Dixon

“Interesting thing about the Battle of Waterloo is that nobody’s sure about what time it began,” Albert said, gazing off into the distance, as he so often did when he was thinking. Debbie smiled and shook her head. She should have known that her granddad would start rattling off his impromptu history lessons as soon as they got going. Debbie was taking Albert to the theatre, and he looked very fine in his old grey suit. Albert had joked that evening that the grey “really brings out the white in my hair!” and Debbie had laughed and laughed. Shame about the silly tie, though, Debbie thought, casting a critical eye over the canary-yellow monstrosity. They were sat on a busy carriage on the Tube, and upon pulling out from Waterloo station Albert had begun his lesson.

“Is that so?” Debbie said as she settled into her seat. She loved to hear Albert talk about history; he did it so much better than any of her lecturers.

“Indeed it is, m’dear,” Albert said, nodding slowly as he continued to stare at nothing in particular. “It was fought on 18th June 1815, a Sunday, if you’re interested, in what’s now Belgium. They know all that stuff, but no-one is exactly sure of the time the French attacked. You see, Wellington’s dispatches say that ol’ Napoleon marched at ten o’clock that morning, but others say it didn’t start ‘til half-past eleven. It’s always bothered me that they never recorded somethin’ so important to the history of it all.”

“Do armies usually record the time battle begin, granddad?” Debbie asked.

“Oh yes!” Albert said eagerly, focusing his rheumy eyes on Debbie at last. “Each battle is a piece of history, m’dear! What good is it if history isn’t properly recorded, eh?”

“I think more people are interested in the fighting itself, to be honest, granddad,” Debbie replied, smoothing her blue dress and checking her cream handbag. She’d chosen the handbag because it had belonged to her grandmother. Albert laughed and slapped his knees, causing several nearby commuters to jump and gape at him in astonishment.

“Oh, I expect you’re right about that, Debora!” he chuckled, winking at her. Debbie smiled; Albert was the only person who called her Debora. “I know that I always used to! I was always askin’ my history teachers about the armies and the fightin’ when I was just a lad! Earned me a canin’ or two, it did, all ‘cos I didn’t want to hear about the politics! By the way, did I ever tell you that one of your ancestors was actually at Waterloo?” Debbie shook her head and leaned forwards, interested. A few of their ruffled fellow passengers glanced up too.

“Well, he was,” Albert grinned proudly and adjusted his huge jam-jar glasses. “His name was Thomas, and he was my great-great-great-great-great grandfather. He was there that day two hundred years ago, facin’ down Napoleon with his comrades. I looked him up a long time ago; he’s mentioned in the records!” Albert’s eyes glittered with infectious excitement.

“That’s amazing!” Debbie said, returning his grin. “Was he a soldier then?”

“Yep,” Albert nodded. “He was a dragoon, actually, one of those who fought on horseback. He must’ve been quite a good’un too, ‘cos he was part of the King’s First Dragoon Guards. Nice bit of family history there, m’dear!” Albert winked at Debbie, who gazed at him in wonder.

“Wow…” she breathed. “What did the King’s Dragoons do? Were they important to the battle?”

“Oh yes, in their own way,” Albert answered thoughtfully. “They were part a larger cavalry Brigade who were part of a huge charge against the French early that afternoon. They played their part, fightin’ in various places through the day, but many of them died before the battle was over. Our ancestor, Thomas, included. He was killed by cannon-fire, accordin’ to the records.”

“Oh…” Debbie didn’t know what to say. She felt a little sad and strangely proud of this hitherto unknown family member who had fought in a war that her generation cared so little about.

“Yes, it’s a shame,” Albert said, rubbing his nose with a liver-spotted hand. “But it doesn’t stop me enjoyin’ the story. Why, when my ol’ grandfather told me that when I was a nipper, I’d spend hours out in the garden playin’ at being a dragoon like Thomas.” He smiled at the memory and laughed a little.

“I’d gallop round on my imaginary horse and pretend I was fightin’ alongside Wellington all day long! I’d bully my younger brothers into bein’ French infantry, and I’d ride them down and lay about them with a stick! I used to get such a wallop from my mum when I’d get too into it an’ knock one of them over!” Albert broke off, laughing, and Debbie lent her own giggles to the sound. Some of the passengers nearby were smiling as they pretended not to be listening.

“That does sound like you, granddad!” Debbie said, laying a hand on his leg and giving it an affectionate squeeze. “I bet you’d have made a fine dragoon, too.” She added with a smile. They travelled the rest of their journey in a happy silence, and their thoughts were filled with scenes from old battle and of a familiar-looking man galloping amongst it on a magnificent horse. Debbie imagined that he looked a bit like her granddad, and that he waved his sabre bravely as he galloped down the hill towards the French infantry as the cannons fired upon them. She promised herself that she would learn more about the Battle of Waterloo after that night was over. She would go to her university library and borrow some books on the subject and she and Albert would pore over them together. He’d love that, and she’d urge him to tell her all the other stories he knew about the Battle. She could hardly wait.