The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood Paperback June 19th – A Must Read

15 Jun

In the era of self-publishing and with the explosion in social media, the world is teeming with would be novelists.  One of the most popular genres, if not ‘the’ most popular for both writers and readers alike, is the crime thriller genre.  A successful novel can launch a lucrative and heady career.  So with all that competition to rise to the top of this particular very large shark pool you now have to be extremely good and Marwood is exactly that and then some.

Her debut novel the Wicked Girls first published in the UK in 2012 has caused quite a stir and recently picked up the Edgar Allan Poe Award in New York for best paperback original novel.  It is also up for an Anthony Award at Bouchercon in November and no other than Stephen King himself selected it as one of his picks in best novels of 2013 in Entertainment Weekly.

All this heady praise and plaudits would be daunting for any author when writing their second novel.  So in the Killer Next Door has Marwood managed to maintain the quality and readability of her first novel whilst giving us something new and gripping.  Yes she has and she has done it in spades.

The Killer Next Door is set in the cloying fetid heat of a present day London Summer and revolves around the residents of a large crumbling Victorian bedsit.  The sort of building most Londoners will see on an almost daily basis but pay no heed as they carry on with their daily lives.  Marwood stops and takes us inside and uncovers all the characters and lifts the lid on that crumbling facade to reveal their thoughts, predicaments and secrets and boy what secrets!

The genius of Marwood is the characters that people her book are so believable.  Marwood revels in showing us the very worst and the very best and at times the most revolting of human nature.  For every bit of this novel that shocks it will also have many a reader gasping with amusement.  Amusement that Marwood has dared to do what she has with the plot and the characters and dared to share with the reader every last action and every repellent thought.

Don’t for one minute think this book though is peopled with unlikeable folks.  Not a bit of it for every Roy Preece –  the morbidly obese stale sweat smelling greedy landlord, there is a Cher a captivatingly vibrant Liverpudlian teenager.  Or we have Vesta a resident at number twenty-three, who in her late sixties has outlived any hope of her dreams becoming a reality but still hasn’t relinquished that spark of hope and becomes a rock to the other residents.

Of course this is a Marwood thriller so the layers of duplicity and deceit are relentless and richly formed and will keep you turning that page right up until the very last one.

This is a perfect Summer read.  Forget the lightweight romances or the naval gazing self awareness novels.  By the time you reach the conclusion of the Killer Next Door you will have learned far more about life, humanity and resilience than you will from many another well meaning novel.  The Killer Next Door just soars.

I predict more awards and a stellar career.  It’s time to stop comparing Marwood to Ruth Rendell and others.  She is totally wonderfully just like Alex Marwood and all the better for it.

 

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THE WITTY RIPOSTE – DAWN’S TALENT AT ALWAYS FINDING THE MOST AMUSING PUT DOWN.

26 Apr

I have always considered myself to be pretty quick witted.  If somebody starts arguing or becoming verbally insulting which in retail is unfortunately quite common.  I pride myself on always giving as good as I get, if not better and in an environment that can be unexpectedly hostile and actually dangerous having the wherewithal to face trouble head on and actually not show any fear is essential.  Showing the slightest hint of apprehension  can often be the most dangerous thing to do.

I have to say though when it comes to the witty retort and stunning an argumentative punter into silence, then I have absolutely nothing on my partner Dawn!

I have watched in wonderment over the years as she leaves people speechless with her ingenious comments.  She also has the capacity to sum somebody up in a brief brilliantly witty sentence.

We attended a car boot sale today that we regularly go to mainly to buy rather than sell.  It is an indoor sale so we always pay for a stall and stand so we can get in early and grab the bargains.  We both happened to spy at the door waiting to go in with her clothes rail a fellow dealer who incessantly rips all the other dealers to bits behind their backs and is rather a bitter older lady.  Said woman happened to be wearing a pair of Ugg boots.  “Oh there she is Dawn remarked to me, the woman who put the Ugg in Ugly.”  This made me snort with laughter, once again marvelling at Dawn’s remarkable talent.

During our time owning The Entertainment Exchange stores in Nuneaton there were many bizarre, threatening and at times turbulent encounters with customers.  We were the only collectors record shop in the world to ever have endured an armed robbery.  I had a knife held at my throat by an unhappy customer.  Stock was continually stolen (sometimes in bulk) by both customers and unfortunately at times by staff.  We had customers fall through windows, even ride through windows on their bikes.  I think when you are selling and buying from people that at times desperately need the money tensions can become fraught.

Dawn and I always faced down every threat and all abuse with as much wit, dignity and bravery as we could.  A decidedly northern ‘gentlemen’ once came into the shop and started to demand a refund for an item he hadn’t actually purchased from our store.  I could see Dawn was getting bored with his yelling.  “Oh go fuck off and smack a whippet” she yelled into his face.  He was astonished, it worked!

A ‘mod’ pop star who shall remain nameless once visited the store and started the old “don’t you know who I am?” routine wanting a discount.  “Yeah you’re that idiot in bowling shoes who now thinks they are D.J. ……oh and no you can’t have a discount.”  Dawn was quick as a flash.

A corpulent gentlemen was in the video game store.  He became unhappy about the amount of money he had been offered for his video game and started to hurl homophobic abuse in Dawn’s direction.  Dawn looked him up and down, the ‘gentlemen’ was wearing a Tommy Hillfiger sports top.  “Huh Tommy Hillfiger, with a figure like yours I wouldn’t bother.”

The stores actually became legendary and perhaps it’s owners and in particular peculiar Dawn’s brand of wit notorious.  I think we put the Entertainment in Entertainment Exchange.

Even on the car boot sales Dawn would work her magic.  A young girl was looking at a video game.  “Come away it won’t work her mother said to her snappily.”  Quick as a flash Dawn answered; “ I tell you what don’t work, your arse in those trousers!”

I have a plenty more of these anecdotes but I have to save those for the autobiography.  But if ever you are in a situation where somebody is in your face and you need inspiration just think, what would Dawn do.  I always do, I guarantee you it works.Image

MY MEETING WITH FRED PHELPS, AND HIS GAY DOLLS WASHINGTON APRIL 2000

22 Mar

I have spent a great deal of time travelling and visiting America over the last twenty years.  During that time I have met and encountered a great deal of interesting, acclaimed and at time infamous folks.

So it happened that in late April 2000 I came to encounter Fred Phelps.  I was in Washington D.C. for the Equality Rocks concert which was part of the Millennium March on Washington when an estimated one million people marched on the capital for LGBT rights.  Also some friends of ours were going to get married in front of the Lincoln Memorial in a mass protest and celebration of their unions and demanding the right to legally marry.

I had of course heard about Mr Phelps.  Having visited some parts of America that were not particularly gay friendly.  I was aware that there was a religious right wing element that were extremely vocal in it’s opposing of gay rights.  It was something that did not seem so prevalent in the UK and that Phelps was at the forefront of this. Phelps was the chief clown in the circus if you like. His Westboro Baptist Church followers, though small in number received an incredible amount of press attention.

Phelps and his cronies would turn up at any event they felt they could garner press attention for their extreme and repugnant views.  They would rock up at the concerts of gay performers, prom nights with openly gay students, school reunions where a gay celebrity was invited.  Phelps did not miss an opportunity to take his vitriol to all corners of the States.

So it was that April in 2000 that Phelps and his odd band of followers had turned up in Washington in full voice to protest the mass gay marriage/commitment services outside the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.

As soon as I saw him.  I saw a man that was on the verge of madness.  His face was there but his eyes weren’t.  I actually couldn’t stop laughing because despite the ugliness of the words on their placards and the vile bile their mouths spewed.  If this was the worst we had to contend with I knew at that moment that the day was won and that gay rights and the right to marry and live as equals was all but sealed.

I could see that one of my friends who naturally was angry had started to argue with him.  But Phelps loved to be shouted at.  It fed the ego, it fed the madness.  We took her to one side it was just raising her blood pressure and Phelps could eat up this sort of aggression all day and all night he lived on hate.

Then suddenly I saw my partner Dawn approach him.  Dawn is known both for having both a quick temper and always winning an argument by finding the most outlandish thing to say.

I watched with amusement and fascination.  Phelps had two Action Man dolls in his hand or GI Joe dolls as they are known in America.  They had their trousers down and he was trying to simulate gay male sex with the two dolls and yelling at the same time about how homosexuals were all going to hell.

“Why are your two dolls bumming?” Dawn asked him.

“Homosexuality is the curse of the Devil he shrieked”

“Yeah but your dolls are bumming they must be gay, so are you gay and are your dolls going to hell?” She persevered.

He started to look confused.  Probably both at her accent and that she had perceived him as being gay.

“You want to stop doing that, everyone is going to think you are gay if you keep that up and look you seem to know what to do.  You look ridiculous and gay”

Phelps actually stopped “bumming” the dolls.

“Thanks for the laughs, let the dolls get some rest they look shagged out” Dawn said chuckling actually in his face then we both walked off convulsing with mirth.

We have never forgotten that ridiculous man with his sexually active dolls.  Why the hell media paid this fool so much attention is a mystery to me.  Possibly the ratings, the secret pleasure people get in this country from watching something like Benefits Street or somebody morbidly obese getting a gastric band.  Phelps was nothing more than a sideshow clown.  The ugly and demented face of hate.  The very embodiment of intolerance and bigotry.

So share this reminiscence with me.  When, if ever you do think of Phelps, don’t think of him as anything other than a man who stood around on a happy, sunny day and got his Action Man dolls to bum each other.

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Father Christmas Got Me A Train Set

18 Dec

I must have been around five years old when I had breakfast with Father Christmas.  It was still the golden age of High Street retail then and the department stores were glorious palaces filled with Christmas wonder that December in Southampton.

My parents had told me a month previously that I would be having breakfast with Father Christmas at Owen Owen department store.  The excitement had been building.  I couldn’t believe Father Christmas was actually coming to Southampton.  Mind you, it made total sense the Queen had visited the store earlier in the year.  I vividly remembered my mum stumbling across the royal visit as we had been doing some shopping.  “All these people and all they will get to see is a unattractive hat shuffle past” she said acerbically as she dragged me away from the melee and on to the relative peace and quiet of the shops at the Bargate. 

The night before my morning date with Father Christmas I found it impossible to sleep.  I lay in bed imagining how wonderful it would be to meet this magical man who knew exactly what each child wanted to find at the bottom of their bed Christmas morning.  I was determined, I had to let him know that I wanted a train set. 

I had become increasingly agitated over recent weeks.  I began to realise that train sets were deemed to be Christmas presents for boys and that girls had to have dolls or something similarly boring and yes girly.  I was deeply concerned.  What if Father Christmas just assumed I wanted a doll too?  I had visions of the train set just lying in his sleigh and finding its way onto the bed of the lad who lived over the road.  I strongly suspected the lad over the road would have been happier with the doll than I would have been.

No, this was my chance I had to make sure there was absolutely no confusion.  If not Christmas could be a huge disappointment! 

The morning finally arrived.  I put on my best tartan trousers, anorak (with flag ribbon edging) and angora sweater which itched but would keep my mind sharp. 

Dad drove us to the store and we all got out.  There was a queue forming outside the side entrance to the store where the restaurant was situated.  There were far more other children than I expected.  Far more, some people it seemed had very large families.  They were all going to get their chance at twisting Santa’s arm.  Didn’t they realise how important this was for me?  They could all share each other’s toys but if I ended up with Sindy my Christmas was totally ruined. 

Holding mum and dad’s hand I took my place in the queue and presently we were all ushered in after showing our tickets to the restaurant which had been decorated with lots of red paper chains.  There was a big Christmas tree in the corner, crackers on the table and a menu in the centre of the big round tables.

I was too excited and focussed to even think about breakfast.  Mum and dad both ordered a full English breakfast but I decided on poached eggs and toast.  The waitresses were all dressed in white aprons with black dresses and tiny hats at the front.  “Just like the ‘nippies’ at Lyons Corner house’ mum commented with a wistful look in her eye.

The breakfast service seemed interminable.   We had been told by a man in a suit and decidedly greasy hair that we would all be meeting Father Christmas after breakfast.  We would be lead out table by table to his grotto. 

I glanced across the room.  Everybody still seemed to be eating.  Some of the tables had only just been served.  Mum and dad asked me at regular intervals if I was ‘enjoying myself’.   ‘Yes thank-you,’ I would reply.  But I was getting more and more nervous as every minute passed and the time for my meeting with Father Christmas arrived.

Finally, the man with the greasy hair approached our table and lead all the children out of the room and into a side room where somebody had gone crazy with cardboard, tinsel and crepe paper.  Then I saw him.  It really was HIM.  Father Christmas in his red suit, big white beard and big black belt holding up his outsized trousers. 

There were at least five children in front of me, then four, then three, then two, then it was my turn. 

“Hello, and what’s your name?”  “Angela Juliette Collings.” I replied.  He needed to know my middle name in case he confused me with somebody else.   “My name has a G on the end of it” I continued.  This was all vital information.  “I live at 24 Gainsford Road and I want a train set and not a doll please, and I have been good all year and I am really good at reading”

‘Father Christmas’ or whoever it was beneath that cheap red suit and stuck on beard looked both flummoxed and amused.  “I know you have been a very good girl and of course you can have a train set” now here is a little present for you today.  He passed me a box. It had been covered with the same crepe paper that festooned the grotto.  “Thank-you” I replied  “and I don’t want a doll” was my parting shot I then turned on my heels and made my way back to mum and dad.

I was absolutely ecstatic.  Father Christmas had promised I would get a train set.  “How was that love?”  Mum asked me both interested and a tad warily.

“Oh it was great, and it’s okay I am definitely having a train set he promised me” I announced with a  flourish.  Most of the other children were back at the table now and I was hoping that they could also hear that I wasn’t going to be getting a doll.

The crepe paper clad present Santa had given me was lying on the table and begging to be opened.  I ripped off the paper and cheap parcel tape.  Inside the box was a doll’s tea set with ‘made in China’ stamped on the bottom. 

I never took the tea set home.  I left it on the table at Owen and Owen.  Christmas morning I awoke to a pillow case at the bottom of my bed and a brand new Hornby train set.  Father Christmas had not let me down.  He had listened to me.  So always remember, if you want Santa to get you the correct gift.  There is something even more important than being good all year.  You must make sure Father Christmas knows your address, the correct spelling of your name, your middle name and whether you are a stereotype or not.

Happy Christmas everyone. XX

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THE HAUNTING OF MY STORE IN NUNEATON 62 QUEENS ROAD – HALLOWEEN BLOG

23 Oct

So I am finally sitting down and writing about the supernatural/unexplained experiences that myself, my partner and a great deal of my staff and even customers experienced at my two stores in Queens Road, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England over the nearly twenty years we were trading there.

Entertainment Exchange which myself and my partner Dawn opened in 1994 became the biggest music/gaming/film collector’s store in the West Midlands.  They were housed in two buildings next door to each other.  60 Queens Road focused on the video games and movies, whilst 62 Queens Road was a magnificent music and vinyl store.

Both buildings were extremely historic and atmospheric but this blog will be solely based around the experiences at 62 Queens Road.  62 Queens Road the music store was mainly my responsibility.  I can honestly say some of the things I experienced here may seem to be actually the stuff of the movies or nightmares.  But I am an extremely logical and also doubting individual although I do believe.  Well I have to believe after the things I have seen with my own two eyes.  Everything I describe here is true and is related as accurately as I can remember.  So where to begin?  Well at the very beginning of course.  So sit back, grab a gin or something stronger and I will try and put down out into the ether what actually occurred.

Dawn and I had already made a success of 60 Queens Road and now wanted to expand by also moving into 62 and turning it into a big two floor music store.  I was always the music girl so this expansion was mainly my duty.  I would be responsible for this store and the staff.  The very day before 62 Queens Road was going to open I had to make sure all the records were priced and everything was ready for the big opening.  We were due to open on a Monday so the Sunday before I spent upstairs in the shop pricing vinyl and laying out displays.  Dawn my legendary other half is not really the music dealer so she dropped me off at the shop, locked me in on that Sunday afternoon leaving me to do all I had to do and promising to pick me up in about four hours time.

So that Sunday, I set to getting my store ready to open.  The vinyl was mainly based on the second floor and I had boxes of new stuff I wanted to price and only four hours to get it done.  So off I went up the stairs and had the company of only a radio which I tuned in to the chart show.  I became engrossed in pricing and started to get quite excited about the opening of the new store.  Suddenly as I was totally caught up in putting some LP’s in racks, I saw something in the corner of my eye in the direction of the old office.  I caught the image of a woman.  A small dumpy woman dressed in black with dark hair which was put up in a bun at the back of her head. Shocked I turned my head straight to the store room door and the image vanished in front of me.

Absolutely shocked and now very scared I was faced with the bare truth that I had seen something that I could not explain and I still had to stay in that building locked in for probably another three hours.  Also I had to finish the work as the shop had to open the next day.  There would be no opening unless I got all these LP’s out on display.

I spent the next few hours in a state of suspended panic.  The only thing that really kept me sane was the radio.  I refused to look up towards the store room again.

When, finally I heard Dawn knocking at the door downstairs and calling my name.  I calmly switched the radio off then ran downstairs.  I have no idea to this day how I managed to keep my fear under control for so long.

I knew I would have to keep this to myself.  We employed a lot of young staff, who I was worried could be quite impressionable and that coupled with the new shop opening this could cause a bit of unwanted hysteria behind the scenes.  I also did not want to tell my partner Dawn because I also knew that she was a little bit more disturbed by anything supernatural than I was and I did not want her to be spooked.  So I kept my experience to myself and tried to push it to the back of my mind.

I started to notice a few other weird things started to occur just very mild at first.  I would put items down and within minutes of me turning back to pick them up they would not be in the same place or they would simply be lost forever.

I also started to notice a quite strong smell in the mornings when I would open up it was like a very old fashioned pipe tobacco mixed with furniture polish.  It would dissipate pretty quickly but then sometimes mid-morning it would suddenly appear again very strongly.

Also out of the corner of my eye I would occasionally catch the shape of somebody or something, but turn my head quickly and there would be nobody or nothing there.  This actually got to be extremely annoying and very frequent.  I still kept this all to myself not wanting to cause any alarm.

It must have been about three months after my very first experience on that scary Sunday when I was traveling home in the car with Dawn and that we had the following conversation:

“Have you ever experienced anything odd in the music shop?”  Dawn suddenly asked me.  “What do you mean by odd?” I replied already pretty sure I knew exactly what she meant.  “Creepy, unexplained, ghostly?” she asked.  Well there was no point in lying any more.  “Yes I have” I said “but tell me what you saw first before I say anything” I told her.  I wanted to know what Dawn had seen without in any way tainting it’s accuracy with my experience.

Dawn then told me that when painting the floorboards of the shop upstairs a few weeks before it opened she had seen in the very same place as I had, an image of a woman matching the very same description as I had seen.  I was both shocked and relieved at the same time, because this verified what I had seen.  So I told her of my experience and from that point we both swore to share anything that happened with each other only, but not with the staff.

Then of course bit by bit the staff started to take me into their confidence and tell me about the things they had experienced.  Many of the staff had encountered the figure in their peripheral vision, also noises were occurring upstairs and there was no way I could hide it any more.  Myself, and staff heard footsteps on the upper floor after the shop was closed and lots of noise coming from the storeroom area.  Including extremely loud moving and banging sounds, which were quite prolonged and pronounced!

The amount of staff that started to experience strange phenomena was almost increasing by the day.  A lad came to work for me by the name of Robert (I have changed his name as I am not so sure he would want identifying)  Robert eventually stayed with me for nearly fifteen years and became the overall manger of both stores.

It was now widely discussed when customers were not around by the staff that there was definitely something extremely strange going on at 62 Queens Road.  Robert would have no truck with this.  He always laughed when anybody mentioned another odd happening, he proclaimed to be an atheist and a non-believer in anything that did not have a rational explanation.  Well that did not last long.  Whatever was happening at 62 Queens Road seemed to want to change Robert’s mind.

It started with Robert feeling somebody who was plainly invisible push past him on one side of his body and then the other side.  Then he started to continually get the shape in his peripheral vision and it seemed to focus on him until one day Robert came down the stairs he was himself as white as a ghost.   He told me he had seen a full on apparition of a male at the end of the upstairs floor that had seemed to shimmer then disappear.  Robert had gone to the end of the floor and down the end stairs that lead to the toilets, of course there was nobody there.

I can only witness the fact that Robert was extremely shook-up and whatever he had seen had scared him and he felt was inexplicable.

Then I can honestly say the strange events, incidences, occurrences whatever you want to call them just seemed to keep increasing almost at a daily rate.  I will start listing them I can’t guarantee after the amount of time that has past that they are chronologically correct but I can assure you these from my standpoint are what I and others experienced.

With the items that we were selling in both stores we had ensure we had a top alarm system in place it had to be ‘red care’.  We had this system installed in the new shop but this did not stop the alarm continually going off at night and we had to drive the 25 miles to the store at all times of the night.  Each time the panel would indicate that something upstairs had triggered the alarm.  We had the alarm put on something called double knock which meant that anything falling like a poster could not trigger the alarm.  Still at the most random of times the alarm would be triggered and the display panel would always state it had been something upstairs that had caused the alarm to sound.

The most dramatic of these false alarms was on a New Year’s Eve.  It seemed that the alarm had settled down we had not had any alarms go off outside shop hours for over six months.  I had mentioned early in the evening ‘wouldn’t it be wild if the alarm went off tonight.’  So the countdown to midnight began, I had not had a drop to drink but poured a whiskey…….I started to join in the countdown to the new year on the television, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4,” (I put the glass to my lips) “3.”   At three seconds to midnight the home telephone rang.  “Hello Miss Collings, this is Warwickshire Police the alarm has gone off at your premises on Queens Road.”  We of course drove those twenty five miles to the store and yes you have guessed it.  There was no reason for the alarm to have been triggered.  Yes though, of course it was something upstairs that had caused it to once again sound.  We actually received a warning letter from Warwickshire police that our alarm was basically going to be un-monitored if this continued.  Well eventually this did cease.  I can assure you there was no problem with the system itself and this took place over about four years in total.

My mind is now spinning with the amount of stuff that happened so please forgive me if my writing style borders on chaotic or becomes like a list but I am just going to throw events out there that happened it may not always be chronologically correct but recalling them they are flooding my mind so here we go:

One particular time I was working late with three other staff members, when we heard chaos and the sound of heavy running footsteps coming from upstairs it sounded like about five or six people running and then it stopped.  We basically all froze.  Me, being the boss and rapidly running out of courage sent my staff up those stairs first. We slowly and gingerly walked up the stairs in a line.  Of course there was nobody there.  Absolutely nobody at all.  Well we knew that but we had to see for ourselves.  We speedily came down those stairs locked up and left.

I remember one Friday night being the last person out of the shop and making sure I had tidied a compact disc rack before I exited.  Then being the first person to enter the shop that Saturday morning the rack was now half empty with the CD’s thrown around the shop.

Moving and messing with stock was common, particularly upstairs.  The upstairs floor was full of records and VHS tapes and they would regularly be strewn across the floor when we would open up.

Dawn didn’t really work in the record store she worked next door in the video game store but when she came round at the end of the night she seemed to cause quite a few things to happen.  Whatever was at work didn’t really like Dawn being there.  Perhaps because when Dawn would come round she was very intent on making sure everything was safe before we locked up.

One morning we opened up the store and Dawn went upstairs to open the back doors up and check everything.  Immediately she felt the heat and saw an old heater had been plugged in and left on all night.  Dawn then went and admonished the member of staff who should have ensured that it was unplugged.  “Tonight I will make sure this is unplugged because I can’t trust you.”  Dawn said to the staff the next evening.  So when we came to lock up that evening Dawn made sure she was the last person down from upstairs and everything, especially this old heater was unplugged.  Of course the next morning when we opened up Dawn mounted those stairs first and the heater was plugged in.  But, when Dawn went to unplug the heater, the plug dismantled in her hand.

Another time Dawn was upstairs and called for Robert and myself, to come upstairs she sounded panicked.  “Quickly the roof has leaked bring kitchen roll there is water on the floor and running down the walls” she then went downstairs to fetch the phone.

Robert and I ran upstairs…..we could see nothing no water on the floor there was absolutely nothing.  We were at a loss as to understand what Dawn had been talking about.  Dawn then came back with the phone and frantically started to ask us how bad the damage was?  When we told her there was nothing she was annoyed and irritated she quickly came up the stairs and we then showed her the floor and the walls and the lack of water.  To say Dawn was shocked would be an understatement.

The peripheral vision shapes kept on going and the noises upstairs continued apace.

One rather scary event was one evening, when locking up.  Robert was in the storeroom upstairs putting the next day’s float in the safe.  The storeroom door was shut and he was locked into the shop on his own with the door locked from inside.  As he was reckoning the money up he saw under the door, in the light, footsteps approaching the door, under the door and he heard the footsteps slowly keeping pace with the shadows.  To say this was terrifying for Robert is an understatement.  He finally gathered all his courage and then opened the door of course there was nobody there.  There was nobody else in the shop apart from Robert. He was locked in on his own.

Other members of staff would continually come to me with stories and actually have done nearly twenty years after some of them have left they tell me experiences they were too scared to relate at the time.  I also had a few staff actually want to leave because they could not stand working in the shop and particularly upstairs.

I was the first up the stairs one morning onto the record floor and there on the record player was a 1970’s photograph of a young girl’s first Holy Communion.  I have no idea where it came from and it was extremely eerie.  She had a bouquet of roses clutched to her that looked almost blood-like.  But 62 Queens Road was at one time a photography shop for many years.  We soon discovered the description of the female figure that Dawn and I had both seen before the shop opened fitted the description of the lady who had managed the shop for many years.

So what of the male figure Robert had seen.  Well one morning when I mounted the stairs up to the top floor not thinking about anything in particular.  There in front of me, probably five years after Robert’s experience was the figure of a late middle aged man.  Possibly just entering his sixties if I had to hazard a guess.  The first person that sprang to mind was the actor Stan Stennett then this shimmering image disappeared before my eyes.  There were many things that scared me in that shop but this was not one of them.  I just sort of accepted it and it was extremely like the image that Robert had seen.  I actually went downstairs told Robert and we both then laughed about it.

Of course running a record shop I had a lot of very cool young people work in the store.  One particular girl I will call Teresa worked in the store for a while and changed her hair on a daily basis.  One day it would be a pink Mohican and then it would be a green skinhead.  Unfortunately her great hair captured the attention of something other than the customers and the staff.  She told me one day that she had been eating her lunch in the staff kitchen when suddenly this man had approached her and stared right at her, with a deeply curious gaze and very close up to her and looking in particular at her hair and then vanished.  It was not long after this that she left the Entertainment Exchange.

It was not just the staff that were starting to feel what was happening it was also the customers.  One day a fellow record dealer who used to buy a lot from me told me that he had been upstairs buying records and that he sensed that the shop was haunted he had seen some of the spirits.  This became a pattern that was often repeated.  One customer asked us “did we know the shop was haunted?” and then told us that he had been looking through the videos upstairs when he had witnessed an apparition.”  He was totally  unphased but wondered if we actually knew!

One night we had the actors who played the Weasley Twins from Harry Potter at the shop to do a signing.  The local newspaper turned up to take photographs.  After the photographs of the twins had been taken.  The photographer a guy in his late fifties approached.  “Have you ever experienced anything strange in 62?”  He warily asked me.

So I replied telling him yes I had and started to regale him with a few incidents.  The photographer then went on to tell me he had learnt his craft at 62 Queens Road when it had been a photography shop and had worked there for a while but that even then it had been extremely haunted.  He asked me if the atmosphere got worse in the autumn and in the evenings.  I was quite shocked, “yes” I affirmed it does.  “Something does not want to have you there after sunset I remarked.”  The photographer gentlemen then went on to confirm many of the things we had suspected.  The staff at 62 Queens Road when it was a photography shop had got to the stage they refused to work after 6.00 pm as they felt something was trying to get them out of the shop.  He also told us the answer to this lay in the archives of the Nuneaton Tribune.  The shop had received a direct hit in World War Two and that where the upstairs extension now was there had once been a shelter which had received a direct hit and been obliterated.

We had noticed now for quite a while the strange events seemed to escalate as the sun dropped and also the Winter months were always more active than the Summer.  Except, strangely enough if it was an extremely warm day then this could seem to trigger some odd activity.

So time moved on and the weird stuff did not decrease I think the staff and Dawn and I got used to it over time.  We never once tried to publicise this, if anything we tried to keep it quiet.  We were not running a hotel or a historic site, having a ghost was not really going to increase our sales.

So downloads became king and slowly our business changed we were stuck in that hinterland before records were extremely collectible.  So mail order and Ebay became far more important to the business.  This eventually meant that the upstairs floor at Queens Road became a mail order floor.  Now I was the queen of the mail order so that meant I was stationed upstairs.

So I was upstairs on the computers listing and this could mean me being locked in the shop up until ten at night making sure all the addresses were printed and all loose ends tied up.  Often the metal shutters would be pulled down at the front and back for safety.  Dawn and other members of staff would be next door so I was really pretty much locked in alone.

I can’t say I was delighted at being now stationed upstairs but I had no choice the money had to come in to pay the bills and that meant I had to just get my head down and get on with it.

It wasn’t long before things started to happen.  As I sat at the computer upstairs the peripheral vision shapes really escalated.  After hours the activity really seemed to increase, more than anything the atmosphere upstairs seemed as thick as fog.  One particular night I was looking for a particular address upstairs and I felt as if everything around me was just shimmering and I know this is subjective but I can only tell you how I felt.  I had the feeling I could actually slip or disappear into another world or time zone the air felt so thick.  Dawn later told me she had once experienced the same feeling when she was on her own upstairs.

One night I was sitting working and playing an audio book which I often did to keep my mind occupied.  The audio book was set in the war and a siren sounded.  The minute that siren sounded the atmosphere around me changed and behind me.  I could hear in my ears indistinguishable but very clear whispering and the whispers became louder.  I was terrified.  I picked up my mobile and called Dawn “hurry up please…..just please come and get me.”

There was many a time I was very scared sitting on my own upstairs and I can truly say that a lot of what happened again I cannot explain.  Items would go missing almost in front of your eyes.  Also the sounds I would hear would be almost daily.

I am not sure how I managed to tolerate a lot of what happened, other than we had to earn a certain amount of money so I just got my head down, and carried on.

62 Queens Road was on a lease as opposed to 60 Queens Road which we owned, and we finally handed the lease back and handed the property back to the landlord.  But things didn’t end there.

We were still of course based in 60 Queens Road and could see who occupied 62.  The first tenants did not last long and after telling us they found the shop incredibly creepy they left for good.

The current tenants owned another store in Coventry so put a manager in the Nuneaton store.  The manager who we shall call Adi was working at the shop and staying at the shop until very late at night.

One day I was passing the shop and saw Adi.  I asked him how he was.  He told me he was fine.  I am not sure why I wanted to ask him but it just came out.  “Have you ever experienced anything strange in the shop?” I asked him before I could think twice about it.  “What do you mean strange he asked?”  “Creepy, spooky, ghostly” I replied……………..”No” he said then suddenly in what I can only describe was like something out of the Stepford Wives movie he turned to me and said.  “There are six of them, they talk to me.  Please don’t tell anyone, please.  Do you miss them?  You can see them again if you want you can talk to them again.”  This absolutely sent me reeling, Adi looked terrified.  “No thank you” I answered “I really don’t want to see them again.”  I was shocked and immediately went into my store at 60 Queens Road and told Dawn.  After half an hour I went to my car to fetch some stock, Adi saw me from the shop and ran out to me looking very disturbed.  “Please do not tell anybody about what I have told you, please.  They are really angry, Angela they do not actually like you.”  I had never told Adi my name.

Poor Adi every time I saw him he looked more and more distressed.  We actually received an offer to buy our shop at 60 Queens Road from Adi’s boss.  He told Dawn and I that he wanted to buy the shop because Adi could not stand working at 62 Queens Road with the spirits much longer.  He was at a loss himself as to what to think but he knew that his manager was almost demented with fear at spending all that time on his own at 62 Queens Road.

I tried many times to get a priest to come to the shop.  Hell, I even agreed to advertise in the local Catholic church diary but at the last minute something would always happen and the priest would never show.  I honestly feel whoever is there at 62 Queens Road wants to stay at 62 Queens Road and I don’t want this blog in any way to mean they are removed.  I have come to the conclusion that the spirits at 62 Queens Road want to very much stay and when they move on is up to them.

Of course you may well think I am totally bonkers, that Dawn is bonkers and that this is a whole load of utter bollocks.  I can only relate to you what I have experienced, what my staff experienced and I can also tell you I am actually a pretty rational person and I have no reason to lie.  The events at 62 Queens Road far from being of any benefit to us have actually traumatised me and Dawn too.  There has been no gain from any of this and the pervading feeling of fear has been extremely wearing for both of us.

Believe or don’t believe but this is what happened and is continuing to happen.  I am also only scratching the surface with this because I have found this blog extremely hard to write.  There were many more happenings that have never made it to this blog.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Oh how right Hamlet was.

If you have any questions at all, please do ask me.  The record store is on the right as you view the picture.

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TWITTER, FACEBOOK WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN AROUND IN THE 1980’S OR THE 1960’S?

26 Aug

TWITTER, FACEBOOK WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN AROUND IN THE 1980’S OR THE 1960’S?.

TWITTER, FACEBOOK WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN AROUND IN THE 1980’S OR THE 1960’S?

26 Aug

I have so many vivid memories of being incredibly bored as a child.  Sure growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s were halcyon days for many things.  The music scene was wonderfully vibrant and packed with passion, inventiveness and emerging icons.  Young people were possibly more politically engaged in their environment than they are now and we certainly felt that we could change politicians policies on everything from nuclear disarmament  to apartheid and we did make a change.  

The Problem being though, we could fall into the trap of thinking that those years were idyllic to be young and that life has become so much more caught up with technology and interacting via a phone, tablet or laptop screen that nobody really communicates any more.  Which of course is true,to an extent.  But what about the merits?  If social networking and the internet is so awful, then how come so many of us are so hooked and almost reliant on it on a daily basis?  You can’t un-invent the wheel, it’s here to stay.

So let’s just stop for a bit and really try and remember some of the negatives about growing up without the internet, Facebook and Twitter.  I clearly remember having a blue plastic transistor radio that had a white sticky one eared earpiece that allowed my solitary ear to listen to an unbearably crackly radio Luxembourg whilst going to bed early due to sheer boredom.  If I was a similar age today, I would be able to keep in contact with my friends via Facebook.  This  would have been wonderful as the school I went to we were drawn from such a large catchment area you could be up to twenty miles away from your friends.

I could also have tweeted all my favourite pop stars.  Just imagine for one moment if Twitter had been around when the Sex Pistols had emerged or when Boy George had actually been at the height of Culture Club.  All that drama with Jon Moss played out on Twitter, the horror at his first appearance on Top of the Pops.   We are often misguidedly nostalgic about the past, let’s just imagine if we could combine the best of the present and the past!

 The possibilities are endless.  So this got me to thinking about even more outlandish Twitter scenarios.  So just grant me a little madness.  Imagine if Twitter had been available in the 1960’s.  All those stars that died before the social media explosion.  What would they have been like?  Maybe something like this…..

WELCOME TO THE SET OF A 1960’S KITCHEN SINK DRAMA FILMING IS ABOUT TO BEGIN……

Voice over:  ‘AND ACTION’ 

Character #1:  (thick northern accent)

‘It’s like this lad, that grammar school has given you fancy ideas, but you’re still a miner’s son and in their eyes you will only ever be fit for t’pit’.

Character #2: (slightly less thick northern accent)

‘You don’t get it do you dad, it’s 1962 times are changing, I’m going to be somebody these hands are for writing not slag heaps ‘.

 Voice over:   ‘AND CUT’ 

Character #1: (now with posh theatrical accent)

 ‘Darling you were wonderful, loving the northern accent, could almost smell the whippet excrement on your clogs’.

Character #2 : (also now posh theatrical accent)

‘Thank-you sweetie, called Larry Olivier last week and he gave me some pointers’

Character #1:

‘Oh dear dear Lal, does he follow you on Twitter’?

Character #2:

 (pause) ‘No…you’?

Character #1

‘Oh yes babe, Facebook too, even gives me the odd poke now and then’. 

Character #2 

‘Gielgud follows me too so does Ralph, darling Ralph poor thing he’s not quite mastered the hash tag yet, but he’s a game old thing and nothing if not belligerent’.

Character #1

‘Between you and me I had a tragically embarrassing tweet yesterday from Noel Coward, the poor love, life’s moved on nobody wants cigarette holders and cravats anymore, it’s all vests, sweat and roll-ups, but Nolly just can’t stoop, thank God he has Twitter to occupy him’. 

Character #2: 

Hope you don’t mind me being a nosy bitch but How many followers do you have dear’?

 Character #1:

‘120,000 had to block a few, after the hoo hah over my Fidel Castro tweet, Hattie Jacques got quite personal’.  

V/O ‘PLACES PLEASE GUYS READY TO ROLL AGAIN’

Character #2:

‘Here we go sweetness once more unto the northern speech dear friend.

Oh buggeration I never got to update my status ……..

 

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