The question I am asked most of all is,
“Do you intend to write any more Bill Reyner stories?”
Ah, an excellent question with a simple answer. “Yes.” As it happens I have two stories in the works. Bill always seems to find the gold whether he’s looking for it or not. As you may have noticed he gets older with each successive tale. Now he lives in a huge house with his new wife and retired grandmother and of course Newf.
One new story leads Bill into danger (of course) and to hidden gold (of course), but not in the way you would expect. In this one both Bill and Newf deliberately set course to search for long lost treasure. So what’s the complication? Ah! Now that would be telling. Hopefully everyone will know the truth in about a year.
The other story? Slightly different. I had hoped it would be the conclusion to the series, though Bill is almost impossible to kill off. What you will find are all the answers you must have asked when you read all the other stories. Why does he seem to find all this gold? How come he never gets killed in the most dangerous of situations? How come Jane Overland has had so many husbands?
All these answers and more, but you’ll have to be patient, even Bill didn’t know until someone told him why he’s so lucky.
Did you know that March is virtually unique as far as town names go? When everyone packed their bags and sailed to the Americas they called their new towns by the same name as the ones they had just left behind. It looks like nobody from March, Cambridgeshire, bothered to move, as there are no towns called March on any American maps. Being a Fen Tiger I always tell people I was born in March but my birthday is in October.
Ah! long gone are the days when we were young and played in the fields while our mothers earned a living doing farm work. March used to be a farming town until the railway moved in. Oh, I know it’s supposed to be a market town, but when I was little most people either worked on the land or the railway. Though, we did have a market twice a week and a cattle market.
I was born in a little shack on Shaftesbury Avenue; in those days they could spell Shaft-E-sbury. Would you believe our only water supply was a standpipe across the road! Though amenities were poor you could catch a train almost any time of the day to Wisbech or Peterborough; they even had a line to Wimblington and beyond. Buses parked in the middle of Broad Street and ran to Ely, Chatteris, Wisbech and Peterborough and there were no traffic lights; but there again, there was no traffic.
Haradine used to deliver milk with a horse-drawn cart and sometimes electric trucks which they called floats. Modern things like murder, abduction, rape and robbery only happened in the big cities. Our greatest adventures were watching The Fenman or The Flying Scott as they sometimes passed though our town; diesel trains were unheard of.
In the old days we had one fish and chip shop for every 1,000 head of population. A typical order would have been one-an’-three, meaning one piece of fish and threepence worth of chips. We had one pub or drinking establishment for every 185 head and a bottle of Vimto cost sixpence. We used to go to Saturday matinee at The Hippo or The Regent, which also cost sixpence, and a bag of crisps was only threepence.
How many youngsters today know what the Status is or the Mart; Stanley Thurston or Bertram Mills? When was the last time a circus visited town?
My first school was Dartford Road Infants, where Miss Cullage was the headmistress. I learned to swim in the Chain River, which is really the Middle Level 20-foot drain with sheds on the bank. Today’s swimming pool stands on the land once occupied by Hovis Mill. You couldn’t swim in the Nene; we had no sewer system then and everything was dumped in the river untreated. Gas Lane really had a gasworks, which you could smell for miles. At that time Horis Rose had a penny-farthing, the bike that is, and Henry Morton drove a 1909 belt-drive Enfield motorbike.
Although reminiscing sounds wonderful, it wasn’t really all that great – times were hard and living difficult; I think that’s why people enjoyed things more. St John’s Church used to put on an annual fête and the whole town ground to a halt when the Statute Fair (Status) visited town. Broad Street, High Street and the market were clogged with tents, roundabouts, stalls and noisy generators and there was no bypass and only one town bridge.
I left the Hereward School in ’55 and went to Wolverhampton to be educated by the RAF. Since then I have travelled the world: Singapore, Malaya, Africa and a brief interlude in Norwich, finally settling in southern Ontario, Canada. Having made my way in life and become a well-known Canadian novelist I took a trip back to the old homestead. It felt like being the condemned man and as it says in the song, ‘The old town seemed the same, as I stepped down from the train, and.’ But it wasn’t. And though I could still hear my old school pals, in reality they were merely ghosts and long gone.
My house had gone, my school had gone, almost all the rails and trains had gone, but the fountain is still there at the head of Broad Street and that lump of rock they call the Stone Cross, it’s still there. Today’s residents should be proud of our little town. Although almost all my ancestors are from Wisbech, I still have a soft spot in my heart for March. Now, you can look me up on the Internet – just use any search engine and look for me by name: Wentworth M. Johnson.
One of my books has reached the finals in the Peoples Book Prize. You can vote for Edinburgh Cuckoos, just go to www.peoplesbookprize.com click on Fiction where it says vote now for the finalists, click on Edinburgh Cuckoos and then register. Registering is only to ensure you vote only once. Please get all your friends to vote too. Thank you for your support.
You can now download Fiend’s Gold in kindle or kobo format