In section B of the first paper is a task that is given as one of two choices, the first coming with a picture to help you keep on task. I normally tell students to do that one if they are 3/4 borderline as new ideas keep coming.
But for the 6/7 and above students, my advice is to try to tackle the second choice, which is usually to write a story on a given theme.
So, let’s go back a year or two to the Source A that was a story of a woman with two children, who were new to their new house. The source has a moment where the lady is in her kitchen and sees a strange girl playing silently with her two children, but not entirely joining in and where the girl slowly turns around, like the ghostly figure she is in the text, it is an eerie moment in the middle of the source and when the source ends, as a reader, you groan because you want to know what happens next.
A surprisingly good source for a GCSE exam. They are normally BORING!
In your mind, if you then got a task where it was to write your own ghostly adventure, how would you react? For some, the obvious choice would be option 1 using the picture. I understand that – I really do.
But how could you do the ghost story? Well, if you are a fan of the BBC TV show called Ghosts, one way would be to take something that you know and adapt it. What follows below is my attempt at just that, writing a crossover story based on the BBC Ghosts programme but also crossing over into another show I love, called SAS: Rogue Heroes, also from the BBC.
If you have not seen Ghosts, here is a preamble. A young couple are house hunting, but get a call from a solicitor saying that the lady has inherited a house. They move in and all seems deeply dramatic, when Alison is pushed out of an upper floor window by one of the resident ghosts. She does not die, but can now see and communicate with the ghosts, whereas her husband cannot and the comedy that ensues is massive. 4 seasons in so far as I write this, the fans of BBC Ghosts are a legion of young folk, who are possibly now reading these words.
Here then, is how to write a crossover piece. The fact that it is these two shows means nothing in terms of the GCSE story. It could be two different shows that you adore. Just copy the style. Look in particular, for how speech is inserted into speech marks, how lines are simple, compound or complex and how the paragraphs are put together, especially when indented and where!
Animo Semper (Courage Always)
Alison woke to the sound of the letterbox making its usual sound, as it closed shut. The mail had arrived on that cold Autumnal morning. The leaves had dropped and turned brown on the floor outside in the field, as they began their decay and desiccation into the compost that they would inevitably turn into.
As she went downstairs, wondering just what this new day would bring for the residents of Button House, dressed in pyjamas and a dressing gown, for the heating had not come on yet, she reached for the envelopes inside the door frame and began to scour their contents.
“Bill,” she uttered, half expecting a bill from someone and then, she stopped at the hand written address which simply read ‘The Occupier. Button House. Bridgeton. Surrey.’ Normally, such things were typed, not handwritten, which made her curiosity increase exponentially.
As she walked towards the expanse of her kitchen, she opened the mail and read, out loud:
To whom it may concern,
I am making contact with you because I am researching my Grandfather’s wartime legacy and I am under the impression that before he went to war in the North African Campaign, he served in a detachment of soldiers who were billeted at Button House.
My Grandfather was called Lieutenant Stephen Michael Havers. He served at your house between 1940 and 1941, when he then volunteered for a new fighting force, whose details, until very recently, have been shrouded in mystery. It was called L Detachment and later became known as the First Special Air Service Brigade.
His exploits in that war were never talked about much with his family, which has led me recently to begin research on him. He was a lovely, calm mannered man, a businessman, a thinker and a published author of short stories under his own given name.
He had a friend there at Button House, who was his Captain…..
At that point, Alison froze, standing as rigid as a Guardsman on duty, realising just who this referred to. Of course it had to be him. How could it be anyone else?
As the sensation sank into her marrow, she began to read on in the letter, as the writer was asking if he could visit the house, tour the grounds, find where his Grandfather lived and worked and hopefully, make connections to complete his knowledge about his notorious Grandfather. He also had a request to locate the grave of the Captain, which was somewhere on the estate. The Army had buried him there because he had no family, being an only child, to send the body to when he died during the war.
Suddenly, she was brought out of her reverie of thinking about the Captain. Of course it’s him she thought and went to find him. At this time in the day there could only be one place where he would be, making the rounds as he inspected the boundaries of Button House.
She found him as he was making his way back towards the front door. The two of them stopped and greeted each other.
“Morning,” enquired Alison.
“And a very good and brisk morning it is too,” replied the Captain. “Good for the sinews and….”
Alison waited. Then she said,
“I think you need to come in and sit down, because I think I have a surprise for you!” He gave her a quizzical look as if to think there’s no way you can surprise me, you know, but declined to push the notion further and followed her back through the door into the lounge area, as she walked on, to where he was offered a seat and he sat, all too uncomfortably.
“Are we certain that this is necessary?” enquired the bemused Army officer.
Then Alison began speaking.
“I think you’ll like this. I’ve just got a letter from a young man who wants to come and visit our home.”
“Why is that of any interest to me?”
The Captain’s inquiry was soon answered when Alison said that the name of the person sending the letter was James Havers.
The Captain visibly shook in his chair, but not with shock. He was excited, agitated to think that Havers had made contact with him again after all this time, but then, as his head was spinning from the news, he stopped abruptly.
“Hang on,” he said, “how can that be?”
“I know,” replied Alison, “but it is not him. It is his Grandson who is writing and he wishes to stay here for a short time whilst he researches the work his Grandfather had done here, in the house.
The Captain was silent, which for him, went into realms which were not normal. It seemed like an age, before he thought of something to say.
“Havers? Here? Coming home?” That was all that he could say, over and over again. He had not heard from Havers since that fateful day when he watched, from the high window, as he gracefully exited his life. Now, it was all going to change. Then a thought occurred. His mouth did the rest without any form of thought.
“But I cannot see him. I must not. I won’t have anything to do with it!”
He then shot up out of his chair, placed his shoulders firmly back as if ready to march and stormed out of the room, to the bewilderment of his host, Alison.
She looked down at the letter, back up to the space that was now utterly vacant and wondered what was happening. She continued to read her newly delivered letter, silently to see what else he had to say.
He had a friend there at Button House, who was his Captain, I think. The records show that he stayed there, to continue the work that they were doing, but only mentioned his name and rank, rather than any details about the mission, which I am led to believe, was classified at the time.
It was called Operation William and had something to do with Ordnance, but after that, I have only snippets of information.
I am hoping, therefore, that you would allow me to stay with you for a day or two, or possibly a weekend, so I can roam the house and the grounds, looking for clues as to the work there and the living conditions at the time, for my research and also to pay my respects to the Captain..
James Havers MD.
James had left his mobile number at the bottom of the letter, just in case someone made contact with him regarding his intended visit to the house.
Alison put the letter down on the coffee table and went to the kitchen to make a coffee, but she was soon aware of movement back in the lounge, where when she returned, she saw the Captain, standing over the top of the letter, peering at its contents, with an enquiring expression on his face, growing into that look you give when you are told you are going to see an old friend you haven’t seen in a decade or more.
For the Captain, it was now seven decades. To be precise, as was his usual manner, it was seventy two years, three months and fourteen days since he had watched the man he admired the most, walk through those Gates at Button House, issuing a faint salute in such a way as to say farewell, thank you and goodbye all at the same time. He remembered that moment now, with fondness as once again, that man walked away from his heart.
But then he stopped, aghast at the idea his descendant would be coming here, to the house. What will he look like? Will there be any Havers in him? There was no photograph to give him the clue, so he had to wait and see and as he was looking down at the contents of the letter, nodding a faint nod of approval, he heard a short, guttural sound.
It was Alison in the doorway, watching him.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he said and feeling somewhat ashamed at being caught, he made a hasty retreat through the open door towards one of the other rooms, to hide his shame.
Just eighteen days later, the Captain was in his usual spot, walking the grounds of Button House, when he noticed a vehicle turn into the long driveway up to the house. He peered at it but soon dismissed it, because there were so many vehicles driving down that drive to the house now; visitors, guests who had booked rooms and friends of Mike and Alison, who came over for parties and moments together.
He still liked neither of these things. He detested parties, with all their incessant noise. He needed quiet, peacefulness, rest and time to reflect, a regimented time to be what he was, a unique soldier. His was an existence of routine, a life, if he could call it that, that meant he was supposed to be in charge, but that was slowly eroding as each of his friends had passed on.
As the car got to the end of the drive and parked in front of the grand house, a tall, slender figure emerged, transfixing the Captain to the spot for what seemed an eternity.
The image! The likeness! It was truly amazing and for what seemed to be an age, he stood silently looking at this being of wonder, this beautiful man he saw before him. He had to go over and investigate, but his legs would not move, until the man and Alison had gone inside, but not before Alison had cast him a soft, reassuring glance and motioned for him to come to the house.
As the man entered, he did so looking around him, trying to take it in; the grandeur of the place. Its opulence and state of decor was mesmerizing to him. When he was finally invited to take a seat and offered coffee, which he gladly accepted and it had been made, he asked the first question.
“What was this house like when you inherited it?”
“A bit of a mess really. My Aunt Heather owned it and it was passed down to me when she passed on.”
“Do you happen to know the living arrangements at all during war time? I understand the soldiers were billeted in huts, but it is my understanding that my Grandfather and the other officers lived here, inside the house.”
Alison was careful not to share too much, for fear that her truth would sound odd, when suddenly, the Captain appeared in excited tones.
“Is this……………” he asked in an audible whisper, stopping short of completing the sentence when he saw Havers.
“Why, he is the image of him,” he said after a thought. He simply could not believe what he was seeing, so he went to a spare chair and sat down. He knew not to interject at these times or it would get awkward for Alison.
Alison and Havers continued.
“I am so interested in knowing about this house,” said James.
“I know that the Captain was billeted in a certain room, if you would like to see that?” she asked, knowing before she asked what his answer was likely to be.
“Yes please,” he uttered.
“But I am not too sure who had each room.”
“That’s not the issue. I wanted to see the place, smell and feel the ambience of the house. These old houses do not lose their feel, no matter what.”
Alison and James discussed life for the soldiers during the war, how she knew that the Captain had been involved in something called ‘Operation William’ and that Havers had left to join in the North African Campaign. She even showed James some of the paperwork she had still from the Captain during his time at the house.
It fascinated him.
Then she asked the question she had been dying to ask all the time.
“What was their relationship like, your Grandfather and the Captain?”
James sat and thought for a while and then he shared what he knew so far.
“From my Grandfather’s letters and writing – he wrote a journal here and in North Africa – I know that the Captain was close to him, very close indeed. My Grandfather liked him in return, but he writes that he got the impression that the Captain wanted something more in a time when clearly things like that were not allowed.”
Alison remained quiet, nodding silently. Perhaps now, the truth would emerge after all? “But in the end, after volunteering for the North African Campaign and meeting his new commanding officer, Major Stirling, he took another direction.
As he was saying this, Mike appeared with the groceries from the local store. He had been out in the car and had just come in to hear James mention the name of Captain Stirling.
“Hello,” uttered Mike, “Am I missing something?”
“Hey, this is James,” said Alison. “He is the Grandson of the Captain I was telling you about.”
“Oh, Hi,” said Mike. “I have heard all sorts about the things that went on here back in the day. You must be proud…….”
He stopped, putting two and two together.
“Wait,” he said, “Major Stirling? David Stirling? The Phantom Major?” he asked. He had read the book the previous year and knew a lot about him.
“Yes,” said James, “You’ve heard of him?”
“Who hasn’t?” he replied.
By now, Alison was looking bemused, unsure what was happening and gave her husband the look to get him to explain.
“Oh yeah,” said Mike, “Major Stirling is the man who more or less invented the Special Air Service.”
She looked at him even more quizzically, shaking her head..
“Y’know, the S.A.S?” Alison shot a glance at James.
“He must have been brave, your Grandfather, to join those men in the desert.”
“Oh, he was,” replied James. “He was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy and went everywhere that the unit went until his capture in 1944.”
By now, the silent man in the room erupted, sharing his thoughts.
“Oh bravo that man,” he shouted, so proud of his one time friend and protege. He had not taken his eyes off this new Havers since he arrived, such were his feelings for his Grandfather. He then interjected.
“But what happened to him after the war?” he asked.
Alison joined in.
“Yes, what happened to your Grandfather after the war? What did he do exactly?”
“Oh, he stayed in the Army for the full twenty two years, did his time and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, before leaving the forces and setting up his own security business.”
The three of them looked on, clearly impressed.
“He had two children, a boy and a girl. He called the boy William, my father and the girl, Sarah, my Auntie. She died a few years ago, just after Dad passed, but his last request for me to do before he died was to come here and meet the people who owned the house, as well as settling a promise that he made to honour the Captain.”
Six eyebrows raised instantaneously.
“Oh, nothing nasty,” said James, seeing their surprise, “but he wanted me to perform a small ceremony, if you would let me.”
“Just what exactly does it entail?” Mike was the one to ask. He looked slightly worried at what might be coming.
“Oh nothing much. I have with me something that my Grandfather says belongs to the Captain and I understand he is buried here in the grounds.”
This was common knowledge and so, Alison suggested that they all go to the spot in the garden, near to where the explosion had taken place and so, one by one, they rose and departed through the front door, around the side of the house and to that spot where the Captain had secreted the limpet mine in the box those years ago.
When they arrived, it was James who seemed to know where to look. Just a short stroll away was a small cemetery with four headstones, one of which was that of the Captain. The headstone was faded, but his name could clearly be seen by all. They stood around it for a few moments, before James slowly brought something out of his pocket.
It was a badge, a cap badge that had belonged to his Grandfather and before he had passed he had instructed his Grandson to go to Button House and give it to the Captain, as a sign of his affection for him. But it was not the cap badge of the regiment that he had served in with the Captain. No. This was a more desirous one, a more prestigious one and one that his Grandfather had worn with honour, throughout Africa and Europe before the war ended for him as he was held prisoner in the German castle called Colditz.
As they stood, he slowly placed the badge of the Special Air Service onto the top of the stone, stared down at the name on the stone and said one thing.
“My Grandfather wanted you to have this, Sir. He said that without your care and guidance, without your loyalty and grasp of command, he would never have been able to be the soldier he became. He thanks you for your service and simply wishes that you know that you are loved.”
The four people stood, looking at the name on the gravestone, but only one saw the golden light framing the Captain, as he was ushered from this life into the confines of heaven. His love had returned, maybe not in the way he had anticipated, but he now knew that his love for Havers, although more than platonic, was in some small way reciprocated in friendship and so, he was able to depart the house for the final time.
As they slowly walked away, the sun hit the name on the stone and it seemed to shine in the sunlight as the name shone for all to see: Captain William John Pritchard. Underneath it lay the words, in Latin, saying “Animo Semper.”
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