“Alan, can you hear me…can you hear me Luvvie?”.
Above the ringing in my ears, I can hear these words, but they are far away. A fog is rolling in from all around me, I’m sliding down a deep hole. Is this how someone dies? I am only eight and three quarters—what will my mum say? She’s just bought me a new pair of shoes.
I need not to have been so pessimistic though, the ringing in my ear softens to soothing hum, the clouds melt away. I am in an orchard, there’s a fresh green smell, everything is so quiet and peaceful, I can hear the bees buzzing and birds singing.
It’s so nice to be back, I’ve been in this place many times before. It’s where I go when things are difficult, it’s the other world that people say I belong to. It’s heaven without the angels. No one is ever ill, people are happy—mostly. That is not to say this place is perfect by any means, that would be too boring for words.
I hear another sound, a loud voice, and a bit croaky, Welsh, if I’m not mistaken. It’s coming from the top of the tall trees on the edge of the orchard.
“Bronwen, this is so blooming boring; I have been stationed here for a whole year, and nothing has ever happened. The locals are all very kind, but they don’t have much to say, just good morning or something like that. It would be nice to hear someone have a row.
It’s not every day that you hear a couple of Ravens having a moan, but this is Chertsey—stranger things have happened I can tell you. The orchard really is a dreamland, the sort of place a child would dream up, where everything is nice and sweet. It might be a bit confusing for grown-ups to get used to at first.
So, perhaps, I had better start at the beginning, or at least at the beginning of this small part of a longer story.
It’s nineteen forty, the war has finally come to Chertsey, a Gerry bomb has fallen across the road, our house has been badly damaged. I am the only one in my family to have been hurt, just cuts and bruises really, but here I am, a heap on the ground in Mrs Salmon’s front garden. She is gently stroking my hand and asking if I can hear her.
Now there’s a man’s voice, he sounds quite nasty.
“He’s just putting it on like he always does, it’s only a few scratches, you can never believe a word he says, how his mother puts up with him I will never know”.
I hear people say this sort of thing all the time, it’s quite true though, I do live in my own little world, so, for once they’ve got it right.
Back in the orchard, the croaky voice belongs to Bran, he is really fed up with his lot, but then again, looking on the bright side, he has a new mate, Bronwen, she was born in Chertsey of Welsh parents: hence the name. She is trying to teach him the local vernacular, it is not going very well—possibly because of her stutter.
“The tttrouble with you Bran, is you just wwwont listen, it’s not water, it’s wortah, and it’s not butter, it’s buttah, no wwwwonder the others don’t understand you”.
“That’s easy for you to say, Bronwen”.
He says this without thinking, and then wishes he could bite his tongue (a tricky thing for anyone to do, let alone a Raven). The words have hardly left his beak, when Bronwen gives him a sharp look and starts clicking in frustration.
“Toc,Toc,Toc “, she goes, and the hackles of her throat feathers start to rise. Bran, or Taffy as the other Ravens like to call him, quickly changes the subject.
“You have to be living here for at least a year before anyone will even look at you, let alone speak” he says.
He has been relegated to Chertsey from Carnarvon Castle in Wales. He got into a fight with another bird—this is when he lost his eye. As well as this disability he is finding it hard to understand the other Ravens with their country cockney sort of accents. Most of them are from The Tower of London, they too have been sent down—Chertsey is regarded as a punishment posting for misbehaving Ravens.