The Adventures of Robert Johns

Raindrops and Screenplays – 14th August 2017

I’m sat at my study desk looking out of the window at my expansive lawn watching the rain fall. I love watching the rain, especially when it falls like it is doing right now. Fat, hard rain that bounces off the path, drenching the thick glass of the window. And, when the rain falls like this, I like to get myself a cup of Earl Grey tea and reminisce about times gone by.

Many, many years ago I finished my GCSEs at a prestigious North Yorkshire school and I couldn’t wait to be free. Instead of bumming around waiting for my results (and definitely instead of getting a job!) I packed up my old rucksack with: a tent, a sleeping bag, a few spare items of clothing, my cook set, and some grub and leapt on the first bus out of there! I headed deep into the Yorkshire Dales, not far from Little Monkton (wink, wink) and set up camp in a pine wood on the side of a craggy limestone slope.

For two weeks I lived rough in the woods or on the moors, walking for miles just to get a bacon butty from Sambo’s caravan (long gone) on the bridge over the River Wharfe, before walking back. I also had my first cup of Earl Grey tea on that adventure in a tea room that still exists. If you’ve read Wrong Turn the tea room features in that tale. I remember that day well, it rained. Fat, hard rain that bounced off the road. And there you go, full circle.

So, I’ve referenced one of my tales twice in the above paragraph so what do you want to know about screenplays then? You’ve probably guessed that I’ve been adapting one of my short stories into a screenplay. But it’s not going to be Wrong Turn. Instead, I chose Finders Keepers – the tale of an inquisitive man who goes poking around on the beach at Southport and finds something that he decides is his now. Unfortunately for him, the rightful owner has other ideas. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever written a screenplay, but it’s surprisingly good fun! You don’t have to worry about how it will look – you just write the story and the lines. The director takes care of the rest.

The director is an old friend of mine who actually put the idea to me and it seemed like a good idea. My only real foray into film making is the short I made as an entry for a Hendricks gin competition which you can see here. Robert Johns and the Perilous Botanic Quest was a delight to make, but quite difficult as I had only limited tools – a digital camera, a tripod, a torch, and a camping lantern. I remember setting the shot up and then performing with no way to review the footage until editing. That might not sound hard but half a mile under Ingleborough Hill in Great Douk Cave with minimal lighting does not, studio conditions, make. But what a blast!

So, back to the film of Finders Keepers… what next? Well casting is the next thing on my to do list. I have the lead in mind, I just have to persuade them to do it for free. How hard can that be?????


Big Cats and Sunken Cranes – 8th August 2017

Hi Friends,

I thought I would take this opportunity to update you on some adventures and whatnot that I have found myself embroiled in.
Stuck with not a great deal to do just the other day, I headed out to the woods to carry out a bit more research into Big Cat sightings. Whilst trekking through the trees I happened upon a ruined building which, I have to admit, seemed a bit Blair Witch Project like.

There were signs of people having camped nearby, a couple of disused camp fires and some general litter. What was interesting is that none of the sites were too close to the building. Almost as if the campers had kept a respectful or safe (?) distance.

Having failed to find any signs of Big Cats (or indeed anything bigger than the annoying flies that buzzed around my hat) I returned to my mansion to engage in some light reading.

I happened across a well thumbed copy of “The Mammoth Book of Zombies” and turned to one of my favourite short stories: The Crucian Pit by Nicholas Royle. This tells the tale of a young man who revisits the town where he grew up and is a cautionary tale about leaving the past firmly where it belongs. The pit in the tale is a small pond where the hero of the tale spent lazy days with (and sometimes without) his first love.

It resonated with me as I too had a similar pond where I spent my youth; an abandoned quarry near Skipton which was filled with water. Local rumours told of cranes and other machinery sunk beneath the dark water and that led me to strap on my diving tanks and see for myself. I remember the climb through the trees to get to the lip of the quarry carrying my heavy twin 12 litre tanks and dive bag, and then rigging an abseil line to get safely down the steep side of the quarry. It was heavily overgrown, with spindly trees everywhere but I reached the edge of the water and climbed into my wetsuit. In the Summer heat I was glad to get into the water and cool down. I dumped the air from my buoyancy compensator and sank under the still, black water.

In that other world, under the water, I could see little beyond my outstretched hand. Weeds waved underneath me and I got a short sharp pang of panic as I wondered as to what lurked within those weeds. Now I’m not being melodramatic, but this quarry was rarely visited and I thought for a moment that I may be about to discover a dismembered corpse. To put this in context, and to prove I’m not totally crazy, I had begun my diver training at Eccleston Delph where a dismembered body had once been dumped (read about it here).

I descended a few metres deeper and discovered the trunk of a tree that had long since fallen into the quarry. As I settled on top of the trunk it shifted slightly and I automatically injected a squirt of air into my buoyancy compensator, just to take the weight off the tree. I was about five metres deep and as I shone my dive light beneath me I could see that I was close to the bottom of the quarry. There were no cranes or machines down there, just rocks and an old car tyre (they get everywhere!).

I surfaced and swam to the edge of the quarry where I had entered and crawled out. The quarry was a lovely peaceful place but the water was eerie and forbidding. All the time I had been under the water I had felt as if I was intruding and being watched. A very strange experience indeed.

I took lunch at the water’s edge and then gathered my things, not looking forward to the tricky climb out of the quarry. I stole one last glance back as I wound through the trees and felt that feeling of being watched again. I moved away quickly and have not been back since.

So, what should I do, dear readers? Should I go back, and face my fears, or should I take my advice from Nicholas Royle who, when I wrote to him asking about the location of the real Crucian Pit, told me that, like the past, it was out of reach?

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