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A Gothic Tryst - Leslie Oldfield

Below is a full version of the article in the March 2016 Newsletter by Leslie Oldfield


Like a piece of land that has been magically transplanted from Switzerland, the Derwent Valley around Matlock Bath seems to have the feel of another country and it’s no surprise to discover that it has been visited by many famous personages over the centuries. One of these personages was Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley, author of the celebrated Gothic novel, “Frankenstein”, and she must have been impressed with what she saw because a section of the novel concerning Baron Frankenstein’s flight to England to escape the clutches of the monster he created was set in the woods surrounding Matlock Bath.

Andrea Wilson was a young English Literature graduate from Sheffield and had since her mid-teens developed an interest in Gothic literature. She had read all the important novels of the genre but had a particular fascination for Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley’s Frankenstein and had written a dissertation on it for her degree. Following graduation she had hoped to find work in a publishing house specialising in horror and fantasy fiction but was disillusioned when she was turned down for all the positions she had applied for in this field of literature.

Running short of money and losing all hope of finding the job she wanted she reluctantly applied, like many other job seeking graduate students, for a call centre position in a utilities company and was presently taken on as a customer advisor by an electricity supply company. After six months with the company she was promoted to a senior customer advisor and became inured to the daily rants of disgruntled customers and desperate single mothers who had not enough money to pay their electricity bills.

On arriving home from work one evening to her sparsely decorated first floor rented flat in Sheffield, she sat down on the wooden chair at her kitchen table and quietly wept. Surely, she had not spent three years at university to handle complaints from Mr and Mrs Average about their electricity supply. Surely, she should be talking to famous authors about their latest project and suggesting ideas to them that might be of use. It was baffling and depressing and although she was on a reasonable salary and could live comfortably she decided that something had to change, and the first thing on her agenda was to find a boyfriend who had similar interests to her and who could understand what she wanted from life.

On line dating, she realised, was the best way to achieve this objective. Of course, she thought, there would be lots of weirdos and deviants who would hit on her but surely she would eventually find one decent guy who would share her love for Gothic fiction and who would believe in her and support her ambitions. Having shoulder length dark brown hair and sparkling green eyes she knew she would get plenty of male attention when she threw her hat in to the online dating ring and sure enough, when she did join a reputable dating site, the offers came flooding in.

Many of the men who contacted her were a lot older than her and, being as she had no intention of acquiring a sugar daddy, she dismissed them as unsuitable. Moreover, a lot of the suitors seemed suspiciously vague about their answers to her questions and she guessed they already had wives or girlfriends. The online dating caper was indeed a jungle with an abundance of predators and scavengers. Eventually, however, a really decent and good looking guy made contact with her and he appeared to be everything that she had been searching for and they seemed very sympatico. His name was Mike and he lived in Derby and he was a project leader with a mobile phone company and he shared Andrea’s passion for horror and fantasy fiction and also shared Andrea’s taste in music. He had sandy coloured hair and was of medium height and looked, Andrea thought, like a young Harrison Ford.

Mike had attended the Whitby Gothic festival several times and sent Andrea a picture of him dressed as Count Dracula sitting on a stonewall near Whitby Abbey where, in Bram Stoker’s novel, the evil Count had spent a night in a suicide’s grave. Andrea had always wanted to go to the festival and was impressed with Mike’s online accounts of his experiences there. After a couple of weeks of finding out more about each other and flirting online they mutually decided that they should meet up for a first date and Andrea knew exactly where she wanted that initial date to be.

Matlock Bath was geographically in the middle of where they each lived and would be easily accessed by him by train from Derby and by her by bus from Sheffield. They both agreed that going by public transport was a good idea for it would allow them to drink lots of alcohol and thoroughly enjoy themselves. Mike and Andrea both knew about the town’s connection with the Frankenstein story and were eager to imbibe the special atmosphere of the place when they rendezvoused with each other there.

It was an early an October Saturday morning when Andrea met Mike when he alighted from his train at Matlock Bath Station and they instantly felt a sense of elation when they saw each other for the first time. Oblivious to the other travellers, they hugged and kissed like lovers who had not seen each other for a long time not, as they actually were, two people who were meeting up for the first time.

With the sun shining overhead the town looked particularly beautiful with the trees in their autumnal red and golden attire and Andrea and Mike strolled hand in hand through the town blissfully unaware of anything but the woods that enclosed the town from both sides. Eventually, they stumbled into one of the town’s drinking establishments and began to become moderately inebriated. After a couple of hours in the pub they considered going on one of the Town’s cable cars to the Heights of Abraham but thought it would be more thrilling and more romantic to take a walk up the woods to the top of the valley. Andrea said they might even see a glimpse of Frankenstein’s monster on the way up and teased Mike by saying she expected him to protect her if they did.

Finishing off both their drinks they left the pub and were instantly invigorated by the cold, fresh air and bright sunlight which embraced them. Mike took Andrea’s hand and led her into the woods and thought that when they went deeper into the arboreal maze it might be an ideal place for him and her to have their first passionate kiss. He became excited by the idea and gave her mischievous glances as they ascended together and she, in turn, returned them with interest. On finally reaching a place in the dark and brooding woods that seemed perfect for what he had in mind, Mike stopped and looked intensely at Andrea. Andrea intuitively knew what he wanted from her and began to feel her heartbeat increase as he put his arms around her. A warm flush went through her body as she felt his lips and tongue caress her as he pushed her backwards on to the trunk of a nearby tree.

The loving scene went on for a few minutes until, looking over her partner’s shoulder; Andrea noticed a movement in the woods. With Mike still embracing her, she was alarmed to see that the movement had been caused by huge, dark haired man who was looking maliciously at the both of them. She let out a shriek and pushed Mike away from her and pointed in the direction of where the man was standing. “Look”, she exclaimed, “that man has been watching everything we have been doing; he’s some sort of pervert or something”. Mike turned around and became enraged when he saw the tall and foreboding figure staring at him and Andrea. “Damn you, I’ll teach you a lesson for this!” Not mindful of the fact that the staring stranger was far taller and far more muscular than him, he gallantly charged at the man and was surprised to see that the intruding voyeur ran away from him. Andrea, shouted at him to come back, but his dander was up and she lost sight of him as he continued his pursuit in the woods. After about ten minutes, Andrea became concerned that Mike had not returned to her and started calling for him at top of her voice. The sound of her cries echoed all around the shadowy woods but no responding call came from him. Impatient with waiting and curious to find out where he was, she headed off in the direction he had taken in his chase. With the daylight fading she hesitantly began her search but became increasingly despondent when she could find no sign of him. When she had been trudging through the woods for a distance of about 400 yards, she heard the sound of a branch been snapped and turned in the direction from where it had come from. Hoping that it was Mike making his return to her she was devastated to discover that instead of Mike’s kind face looking at her it was the malignant face of the stranger that she saw. A horrendous, primal scream escaped from her throat and she turned and fled in the direction of what she thought was the road below. She was running as fast as she could but she could hear the monstrous figure gaining ground on her with the sound of his clomping footsteps getting closer. In her rapid downward descent she stumbled several times but luckily just managed to save herself before she fell to the ground and became easy prey for her chaser.

Hope began to conquer fear as she heard the welcoming sound of passing traffic below, and she made up her mind in advance to run in front of any passing vehicle and wave her arms; hopefully, the car or lorry would have time to stop. She was sure she could make it when amazingly she saw a massive and ferocious dog running straight at her. She became mentally crushed when she realised that death was at the front as well as the rear of her.

Expecting the fierce dog to jump up and rip out her throat, she was relieved to see the canine run past her and head in the direction of her pursuer. The next thing she knew was falling into the arms of a man in a dark blue uniform and was merciful to find out that it was a police sergeant who was taking to her and telling her to be calm as she was now out of harm’s way. A little while later a female police constable informed her that her friend had been found in the woods with head injuries by a hiker, but told her not to worry as his injuries were not serious and he was expected to make a full recovery. As for the mysterious and sinister man who had been chasing her, she found out that that he was a convicted murderer who had escaped from a prison near Derby three days ago. Looking to her left, she breathed a mighty sigh of relief as saw her erstwhile pursuer, looking dishevelled and downhearted with blood pouring down his right arm where the police dog had bitten him, being led away to a waiting police car on the road below.

Next Parish Council Meeting

Due to the coronavirus outbreak all face-to-face meetings have been cancelled. The next full Council meeting will be held on Wednesday 25th November 2020 at 7.00 pm. If you would like to join this meeting, please contact the Clerk for the passcode. If you wish to raise any issue, please forward to the Clerk details of the issue prior to the meeting. .

All Welcome
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