Yesterday I received the sad news that Anne Fielding had passed away. I knew Anne through Irwell Writers, where she was Secretary.
Anne grew up in Scotland. She often wrote about her childhood years, which were during and after the Second World War. She later went on to become a teacher. Her writing was very lucid and fluent. She often read out her anecdotes to Irwell Writers. Her enunciation was whiplash precise and I could well imagine that, were I a pupil, I’d be careful not to step out of line in her class. She wrote of school, family life and growing up by the Clyde shipyards, where her parents lived and her father worked. At least one of her stories was regarded well enough to be published in an anthology of memories from the war. It subsequently read out on radio. Writing was a big part of her life and it was a pleasure to hear her read.
Some time ago, I suggested she collect her pieces together to take to publication (via the magic that is Print on Demand). It was plain to me that her thoughts and memories need not be lost; all that was required was that the text be collated. I believe she was well advanced in this, however, over the past few months, her voice began to fade and her health deteriorated. Eventually she went into hospital (Wythenshawe). It was impractical for me to visit her there, although I would have loved to do so. Events have overtaken us and her pieces in the hands of others now.
Given the chance for one last conversation with Anne, I would find it necessary to scold her for bunking out before her project was entirely complete. In lieu of that, what does one do? I wrote the following:
The horse stood on the hill, its rider sitting still. The valley below was heavily wooded. Further up the river, it split in two. There lay the town of Hilver.
He watched with hawk-keen eyes. The peddlers’ path was empty. Grass and weeds grew from ruts recently filled with rain. No smoke or sign of people came from Hilver.
To the distant horizon, the land rose, merging into the great plateau to the north. Scattered hedgerows and copses marked where farms used to be. The fields were unsown and fallow; the cattle, such as they were, were gone.
Glöevu studied the town again. That was where he would start. He turned and made a sign. A small detachment of men rose up from the wild heather and melted away to re-join the main host. Soon the search of this vale, the valley of Kharkand, would begin.
An hour later, all now mounted, they approached the outskirts of Hilver. The township had long been a local centre for livestock and produce. Now it was in ruins, ransacked six months gone; its folk slaughtered or in hiding.
Glöevu had unfinished business here. Not that he’d taken part before; six months ago he was in the service of the khaif in exile. The khaif had returned – and predictably, there was a mess to clean up. Including the boy.
He put the thought to one side. First his company had to deal with any danger in the town; and make it safe. The skirmishers and riders waited on his order. Glöevu flicked his hand for them to go. He added, “And search for the boy.”
Soon enough they returned. Not a living soul remained.
“Saku.” He called his second in command.
Saku came forward, “Sire, there are none alive here.”
Glöevu puzzled out loud, “Where does a small child hide in a small town like this?” It was an idle thought.
“Burn it. Watch for escaping rats.”
Irwell Writers hold meetings at the Mosses Centre, Bury, weekly and monthly.