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May 2003
Writer - Sue Laver
Sue Laver - Writer
Sue Laver - Writer
Following a career in marketing, Sue now spends her time writing and jointly edits a monthly community village magazine.
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Writer profile
Following a career in marketing and public relations, Sue now spends her time writing and jointly edits a monthly community village magazine, for which she produces numerous feature articles.

Sue is a member of both the Lowdham Writers’ and the Nottingham Writers’ Groups and plays an active part in both the organisations.

Sue enjoys writing short stories, some of which have been published and also produces the occasional humorous monologue.

She is currently working on her first novel, a light-hearted look at modern-day village life.

Writer's Work - A Curious Encounter

At lunchtime during the summer Eric Whitmore would escape to The Arboretum Park to eat his sandwiches, read his paper and try to forget the problems of small boys at the school where he taught. He would head for a secluded bench, where he could admire the ornamental bedding and the lush trees. However, Eric had a kindly face; strangers always asked him the way and it was his predisposition to be helpful in whatever way he could.

On just such an occasion Eric, torn between reading his paper and inspecting the progress of the road-works for the new Nottingham tram system, became aware of a presence sharing his bench. It was the smell he noticed - musty and acrid. He turned to see a most unusual character regarding him with beseeching, watery blue eyes.

The young man looked as if he wanted to speak, but his deathly pale face showed fear. Eric noticed his strange garb; baggy pinstriped trousers, odd shoes, no socks and a dirty hole-ridden jumper. The man’s hair was fair, long and unkempt. The teacher was tempted to move away, but the watery, squinting eyes fixed on him pleadingly.

‘Yes?’ asked Eric, ‘is there something the matter?’
The man pointed towards the road.
‘You want to know the way?’ An easy request, Eric thought; at least he wasn’t being asked for money. But the man shook his head furiously – still not uttering a sound. ‘I don’t understand,’ said Eric, puzzled and wondering how he could extract himself. Thinking that perhaps he wanted food, Eric offered him his Kit-Kat, but again the man shook his head, this time shuffling nearer to him. Eric threw up both his hands in a gesture of bafflement, so the man inched further forward, slowly lifted his arm and again pointed to the road.

‘That’s Waverley Road,’ said Eric.

The man nodded and for the first time he spoke, but it was difficult to make out the words, which sounded like ‘Dangeroo works.’ It was a strange accent - one Eric couldn’t place, and still puzzled he stood up and stared in the direction where the Waverley Road excavations were in progress. The man stood too and mimed a digging action. It occurred to Eric that perhaps the stranger had a speech problem.

‘It’s the tram – they’re putting tramlines on the road!’

The man half turned, worry written all over him. His whole body shuddered before he ran off and disappeared in a clump of shrubs. Eric shook his head in disbelief at this strange behaviour, picked up his lunch box and stared in the direction of where the stranger had dashed. There was absolutely no sign of him. Odd, thought Eric.

A couple of days later, Eric was sitting in the same secluded spot enjoying the sunshine when again the pale stranger appeared beside him on the park bench. He felt a little nervous at the sight of him, but the appealing look on the man’s face and the fact that Eric had rooted out a leaflet about the new tram system just in case he met the odd fellow again, made him feel better. Eric pointed to the picture.

‘Tram?’ Uttered the man. The word was quite clear.

‘Yes,’ said Eric. ‘They’re building a tram system in Nottingham. It’s starting at Hucknall and will run to Nottingham railway station. It’ll be finished in about eighteen months.’

The man pointed to the ground.

‘It go down?’ The man’s strong accent made the words barely intelligible and Eric realised that perhaps he could not read.

‘No, on the top,’ he replied. ‘First of all the tramlines will have to be set on the road. It’s not going underground.’

Relief spread all over the man’s face. For the first time he smiled, showing uneven, brown teeth. Unsure how to react to the man’s obvious reassurance at hearing these words, Eric asked:

‘Do you live locally?’

Eric noticed how the man squinted, obviously suffering from the bright light. Not receiving an immediate answer, he thought he’d try something different.

‘I’m Eric Whitmore and I work nearby. What’s your name?’

The man turned towards him and again smiling said, ‘Gabby – live under here.’

Eric still didn’t know what to make of the stranger but suddenly felt a desire to help him.
‘Are you all right? There are lots of people who can help if you’re out of work, need benefits or accommodation. Here, let me write on this leaflet where you can go for help.’

Eric fished in his pockets for a pen, and quickly sketched a route to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, folding a five-pound note into the leaflet before handing it back. But it was wasted on Gabby, who stuffed the leaflet in his pocket saying, ‘Not underground.’ Then, with another flash of a smile, he scooted once again into the same bushes and disappeared. Eric searched the area in vain, but he could not fathom out how he had managed to vanish so completely.

A couple of months later, the incident with Gabby forgotten, Eric and his wife entertained two boisterous nephews for the weekend. They decided on a visit to the Caves of Nottingham, and during the guided tour, something about the mildew smell stirred Eric’s memory. Remarks made by the tour guide added to his growing suspicions … ‘a network of caves still exist underneath many parts of Nottingham.’ But it was the guide’s complaint about people ignoring the potential dangers in the restricted areas that caused Eric’s imagination to work overtime. ‘We wouldn’t have known anyone had been there if we hadn’t come across a tram leaflet with directions to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau containing a five-pound note. Can you believe it? How they got there we shall never know?’ Into Eric’s mind sprang a picture of Gabby, pale, watery-eyed, blinking in the bright light of the summer day, worried that the tram might go underground - to reveal - exactly what?


Please Note: Although many of the places and the new Nottingham tram system exist, the characters in this story are purely fictional.
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