Thursday, October 17, 2013
the tale of the Handsome Man pub
So um yeah this is again me playing with a format or three setting up my piece for this season of hurt and horror of fear and of legend, will this Handsome man live or die? Will the Inn burn around him or will he escape the curse? The video isn’t the best because I am not massively talented with video editing and couldn’t run it as just an audio file. The music borrowed from the amazing Nick Cave who I came across via Peaky Blinders. The images are things I have found over the years a mix of stock photos a John Convey painting and wiki entries and yes most of the voice is me. If you don’t want to lend me 15 minutes that’s cool the text is here but please those who do give me a comment on here or youtube about whether it worked.
Tale of the Handsome Man - click me for the story as a audiobook thing.
We Brit’s are a superstitious lot of old, a tribe more than a country, to kith and kin beholden and even in this “enlightened” age have myth, legend, tale and task. And so listeners follow me take my hand as we walk through the streets to a block of flats, up the stairs to a door and inside to a room. A room with a mirror.
And we stand and watch a young man of twenty five summers stands staring into the mirror as he dresses, strangely for this modern flat, this city of smoke and cars and light and noise, he stood in a linen shirt tied with a drawstring, a pair of heavy woolen hose and soft leather boots. The room lit with a candle. He stares into the mirror one last time before turning and placing the candle into a brass lantern box. We follow him as he walks down the stairs taking a heavy woolen coachman’s cloak off the hook and sliding it on adding scarf and heavy gloves and taking his black hat and stepping out into the night.
Riding down out of the city impossibly unnoticed on this powerful charger, a pale horse bearing a rider in black, leaving the city noise and moving out across the lanes and across the fields. The world becoming dark and cool as he seemed to step back in time as he moved from city and car and flat and factory to country lane and brook and stream.
He arrives at a set of old stone plinths a ring around a village from a time of disease and quarantine, the point at which the afflicted couldn't stray beyond and those bringing food and drink could leave their packages without entering tainted land. He saw the path of reed mat leading from the edge of the village boundary right to the entrance of the inn.
The Handsome Man, he could see the sign from here, incongruous among the cars and lights, it was as he remembered from the day he was cast out, the day his father died. Walls of straw and reed around a wooden frame, thatched roof, a thick weave, the sign hand painted many years ago , paint bubbling and blistered from the heat of fires long past.
I laughed at the wait and count three seconds before opening the door, these monsters so scared of the tradition so scared of who I represent. These people, whose ancestors left mine to die in order to save their village. Riding a pale horse I have returned to play my part to punish them by standing as a reminder of what and who they made a deal with to save themselves.
A man I do not recognise one who moved into this blighted place I assume stands and sneers, "Just who in God's name are you!? I've been dragged here by this lot because of that ridiculous clause in the bloody deed! Now, someone had better tell me what the hell is going on here and why I am sat in this ruddy inn watching-" here he rounded on me nostrils flaring "you stroll in as if you own all!"
I laugh and raise my hand, the red glinting in the torchlight as I turn to face the man who dared interrupt me, dared challenge me in this place, “My friend, God has nothing to do with this blighted place and as for owning all that’s because on this night in this Inn I rather think I do. I am a representation of the man these people surrounding you, well their ancestors made a deal with. The Devil walked among them” I walk around the group stroking the hair of a young child to calm them and stroking the throat of a young woman as I move through the crowd, “They sold a family into slavery and sacrificed a man to the flames for a cure for the plague that afflicted this place, My grandfather many times passed locked inside The Handsome Man as it burned to the ground after a night entertaining the Man with a red right hand, he the most traveled of the village having fought in France for our king spent the night telling tales of love and loss.”
I move angry now talking with my hands and ranting, “they watched as the Inn burned with bows and sticks to ensure he died, his young wife heavy with child forced to watch as he screamed, she gave birth and the rider took the child and promised these monsters that he would return on the year of his twenty fifth summer to speak of love and loss. A price MY Family Pay to save these wretched lives, I cannot touch the ground of the village of my birth a condition of the pact with the demon so I burn the reeds I stand on, this Inn at morning light with either be ash or razed to the ground by the churchwarden. If my tales are judged to be enough, I will be allowed to live in the land of my birth and take a bride marked for me by the demons and live to bind my child to this curse, if, if I have failed, I will burn in the Inn this night and a child will be found in the ashes, a child taken from their home and sent away to return as they reach twenty five summers.”
The man scoffs and moves to stand, “bollocks, this is rural bollocks I’m not sitting here with you country inbred’s and listening to this shit” he moves to leave and I watch impassively the door refusing to budge even as it is unlocked. The ring of flames from the reed surrounding us.
I turn to his panicked attempts to exit this place, “This isn’t a tall tale or a game sir, sit and rest and enjoy the night, eat and drink and be merry, you best start believing in tales of demons and deals, for my friend you’re in one. Has a maiden been marked by the sign” I ask and enjoy the nervousness and fear as the priest stands and nods.
“Young Eliza, eighteen and fair of face and hair, found this morn her hand dripping blood that would not stop” she stands and curtsies and moves to sit in the place by mine bearing drink and food set for the travelling man.
“the compacts have been met, the door is sealed, we are all here, from bairn to priest, from blacksmith to lord, it is time.” I grin as the thunder rolls a great wicked crack as lighting strikes the inn. This is what I’m born for, my purpose my life and tis soon time to begin. I drink and eat talking and meeting these monsters and murderers, watching those who only know of the story from tales of their parents face the guilt and weight. It’s easy for them to nod and say they understand till faced with the man they have to condemn. I take the time to talk with Eliza, she’s as they told me, everything that I would desire. The demons speak truth in that, the teller of tales rewarded by their mate being everything their heart could need. In looks, in life, in views, in thoughts, the perfect lover everything my soul could want and my body desire.
I take a sip of wine and stand moving to my seat by the fire, lit by the wicked red glow I move and start to speak, “I come from many miles from here, for to fulfill an ancient pact, to tell of things and times long past of love and loss and ash. To speak of many wonders, of hope of hate of heart. You are crowded here to pay old debts and for me to pay my part. I have ballads and story, myth and legend all which tell of love, of passion of sex and debauched joy and of faith and home and hearth. So I sit with wineskin in hand my promised bride at my knee.” I look down at Eliza adoringly, she the one good part of this bargain, that we few we marked we red handed, would find our loves early. “ The sky black, the moon hiding as the devil walks this night and I this outsider looking in this Red Handed man staring into flames will recite the words searched for over many miles and wait and hope and pray. For if those who judge my worth say naught I burn at mornings light. I pay the price I’m bound to pay, to risk my life for you, for want of a cure you cast me in this role to fight the plague. “
My voice rising as a fell wind whispers and licks across the floor, creeping through cracks and gaps raising hackles and hairs, the fire roaring up behind me and for the first time I smile at the crowd. “All are assembled who took part in the compact and our judge is on the wind, so my Lord, your Chosen Man begs leave to speak and to pay his tithe, fulfill his role” I nod to the Lord whose family traditionally owned the village and on receiving his nod I breathed and waited.
One, two, three flashes of lightning and I took up the tale again, “And now I sit and permission is given to speak and sing, tonight my monsters listen and listen well for the stories I was forced to know, to buy my freedom and my life I speak and show and sing, the ritual done, the background aired tis now time to begin, three tales I have prepared this night, love lost, love won and desire, tragic love lost and sex all weaved into the words herein. Get comfortable and get drink for tis now time to begin.” The words spiralling from me as if I knew them all my life, words given to me by the role I play my accent thick and strong as I become the storyteller, all my family past I feel here now watching and giving strength as I weave the tales that decide whether I am to live or die.