From the Book....


Alyson Gardner-Hoyte looked through the window. Or at least, a casual observer might have thought that's what she was doing. In actual fact, she was studying the window itself. Not so much the frame; years of practice had taught her to recognise the high-grade English craftsmanship from the late seventeen hundreds. That was of passing, but ultimately only peripheral interest. The woodwork could not help her.

No, it was the glass itself that really held her attention. The size was right, perhaps almost too perfect, as if someone had placed it in her way to tease her. And the colour? The light was not ideal, but it looked good. She leaned in close, her eyes flitting over the surface looking for clues and markers. The distinctive metallic bloom clouding the corners, the odd imperfections that betrayed the age of the pane. Alyson dug deep into her memory, trying to remember details; it was so long since she had seen the real thing. Then she cautiously extended a hand and gently touched the surface with a fingertip. The minute imperfections in the surface acted like an electrical charge through her hand making her jump back and bringing a smile to her face. She stood looking at the glass, for a few more seconds, biting her lip, trying to contain her mounting excitement.

Only now did she adjust her focus and take a minute to look into the room beyond the glass. That too comforted her. The style was familiar; a house, large, homely and solid. It might have been built in her own time and even from here she could see that although this house was similar in some ways to the mansion she had grown up in, it had a very different style to it. England, of course, she was in England now; all brick and stone. She was looking out into a long room with doors leading off each side and an alcove in the distance on the left. A balustrade at the far end of the room suggested a flight of stairs descending, perhaps turning in front of a large, ornate window. Yes, this was good; a quiet upstairs landing seemed much better than a living room or downstairs hallway.


She shied quickly back from the glass as a young man emerged onto the landing from one of the doors. He turned towards her for a second and paused to look into the glass. The man was smiling at his own reflection, but Alyson felt unsettled as if he was staring right through the glass to where she stood. Then he cocked his head to one side, flicked a stray lock of blond hair back into place, turned quickly away and walked towards the stairs. She watched him as he walked down a few steps, turned and then carried on down, confirming her theory about the layout of the space. His bright blue eyes were already embedded in her memory. He looked… well, friendly.

There was one last test. The only one that really mattered in the end and she didn't want to be interrupted. Perhaps she should wait? No, the excitement was too much, she had to know. Now. Okay. Alyson closed her eyes and focused her thoughts for a few moments, then she reached out again until her thin fingers were touching the surface of the glass.

One. Two. Three… she pushed forward and first her fingers, then her hand disappeared into the surface of the glass as easily as it had been a sheet of water.

She flashed her eyes open, hardly daring to look.

Yes! She could still see her hand on the other side of the glass. Her heart leapt. How many years had it been since? Movement again. The top of a head grew into a dark haired young lady walking up the stairs.

Alyson quickly whipped her hand back through the glass and let go a cry of joy that would have stopped the traffic; had anybody outside her own private world been able to hear her.

From 'The Curious Disappearance of Alyson Gardner-Hoyte' II

'What happened to your father?' Asked Alexander.

'It was not him.' She paused, bit her lip briefly and then said, 'It was my mother.'


'On the morning of the next Wednesday, May the fifteenth, some men rode up to the house. The first I knew of them was when I heard gunshots and I looked from my room to see Tom lying on his back in the garden and a group of riders coming towards the house.

They burst into the house and there was more gunfire and lots of shouting. I was scared and hardly dared to move from my room.

After a few minutes things became quieter and I crept out onto the landing. I had this corner where I knew I could hear everything that was said downstairs in the hallway and, if I was careful, even peek without being seen. Two men were standing, one each side of my mother holding her and stopping her from moving. A third man was speaking, or shouting at her in language, which even now I cannot bring myself to repeat. He used words I had never heard before and which even now I believe should never be uttered before a lady. There were other men too, five of them standing around with guns in their hands.

Then the man who was doing all the talking stepped towards my mother and hit her across the face. She cried out and to my shame I was mortally scared and did nothing to help her. He hit her again and started to tear at her clothes as the other men held her. She started screaming and I was so frightened I started to move back towards my room to hide. Maybe I too cried out when I saw them strike mother, I don't remember, but one of the other men must have seen me because suddenly he was running up the stairs shouting, 'Here's another one!'

I could hear mother screaming and the men downstairs shouting, but now there were two men at the other end of the landing coming towards me and another was running up the stairs behind them. 'Hey Billy, I reckon we done got one for oursels 'ere.'

I was so frightened and I didn't know what to do or where to go and I just kept walking backwards until I could go no further. I remember only fear and feeling totally helpless when I came to a stop with my back against the glass of the mirror and I knew that I had nowhere to go. There were three of them now and they were saying such abominable things about what they were going to do with me. Then one of them lunged forward, I tried to shrink away from him and the next thing I knew I was lying on my back and I could see this ugly face staring down at me as if looking at me through a window.

I understand now what happened, but at the time I was utterly confused and didn't know where I was. I fully expected the man to leap onto me in the next second.

But he couldn't. And I realised too that I could no longer hear what was happening in the house. I saw him press his hands against the glass and then hit it with his fist. And then the others were there and the window was moving around. I suppose they thought I had entered a secret door or something and they were moving the mirror to try and find me. Then one of them kicked the glass, I saw cracks appear and then the whole scene started to twist as the mirror shattered and fell and everything became darker. The glass broke into pieces, but they were lying face down and I could no longer see out.

I was trapped on the Inside. I have lived there ever since.'

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As with my earlier writing, I do not intend to show any images of my ideas of what the characters in my book may look like. One of the joys of reading for me is to form my own visual ideas of each character and setting. It will probably be different to your idea. We all read and visualise in our own way. Until somebody else shows you a picture and transforms your idea into their idea whether you like it or not.

I defy anybody who has seen the films to pick up the book of 'The Lord of the Rings' and read it without visualising Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen and so on, in their roles as you read.

So, I'll settle for a drawing of Florence as it looked in 1493, details of Renaissance Decorative art and so on...