6.5 The Cocoa Works

Trebitsch took his address and wrote. A month later he was invited to the Cocoa Works in York, upon request. Boiling sugar and panned chocolate laced the air. Men in hygiene masks stirred giant steel pots; carters lifted boxes; a woman directed him to Rowntree’s office.  They chuckled and shook hands. An effort had been made at tidiness but it was a studied-in room.

“We never know when to stop buying books do we?” asked Trebitsch.

“If only books offered the shelter of bricks and cement,” said Rowntree.

Trebitsch laughed. Rowntree’s desk was busy: with maps; charts and tables; more books. Ignacz squinted at one by Haralambos and Holborn.

“The blue bible,” said Seebohm Rowntree. “Third edition. How are you, Mr. Lincoln? Family well?”

“Good, good. Yes. Life in Hampton on Thames is fine: high population, good treated water.”

“Oh yes indeed. Your wife and children like it?”

“Margaret is quite at home. Julius, Ignatius and John are also well. “

“Wonderful. Two of them are quite young you said.”

“Fifteen months apart. John is the littlest, only a year and a winter.”

“Mr. Lincoln, through our letters I have been impressed with your earnestness and considerable experience.”

“Thank you, Mr. Rowntree. That is the greatest compliment I have ever received. “

“The Board of Trade has commissioned me to conduct a study of land: rural societies, property and development. Mr. Lloyd George who manages the board is quite keen for the findings to inform policy, apparently.”

“Marvellous! Marvellous! You must have very big plans indeed. Is this not a great opportunity? What is the extent of the survey?”

“We are tasked to examine throughout Europe.”

“Quite wide indeed.”

“It will require a team of researchers, and for me to employ a private secretary.”

“Most certainly. This is a very big job requiring an enthusiastic and energetic approach.”

“Could you fill the role? As my clerk?”

“It’s of such a scale that it requires great clerical work. Fortunately, i was just such a great cleric!”

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

6.4 On the Look Out

They liked the name John so much it was given to their second child. His surname was Lincoln, after a deed poll change by his father. His father’s occupation was listed as unemployed, residence Hampton.

 

A different Trebitsch Lincoln stalked the carriages bound for London. Fuller eyebrows, the curls disappearing in a centre parted fringe accentuating jug ears. February’s papers reported on the new Liberal government; the funeral of Dorothy Grey, the Foreign Secretary’s Wife.

This might not take me where I’m supposed to go, he assured himself. He saw the conductor and ducked into the toilet. On exit, again on the look-out. The train shifted and shoved as he went. As was his ritual he picked apart the faces and their expressions. He flashed a polite smile at the pretty blond with pert breasts and roguish tan, and stepped aside for a city fellow.

Commuters behind papers were a mixed blessing: hidden yet marked as of significant intelligence for Trebitsch’s requirements. The Daily Mirror ran a front page photo headlined, ‘Women Who Want A Vote Raid The Premier’s House’.  A new carriage and a first long glance, and on this one his eye’s brightened. He coughed and saw around his face a space full of silver.

He approached the gentleman modestly. When the carriage shifted, Trebitsch took it to balance opposite his mark.

“Pardon me sir, is this seat free?”

The old gent smiled. Trebtisch sat down opposite.

“What a day,” he said. “Our work never stops.”

“Quite. What do you do for a living?” asked the Englishman.

“Regretfully, I am between jobs. I was offered a sterling vacancy within the temperance movement. A good time for it now the Brewers have left office. You see, I was previously been employed as a missionary, then a curate.”

“Oh very good!” said the gent, warmly.

“I fear they have withdrawn the post,” said Trebitsch. “A shame as I have an extended family to support. My father-in-law recently passed away.”

“My condolences.”

“Thank you. We’ve managed to get by on his legacy but well,  the mother-in-law is lodging with us, which is good for the grandchildren, yes?”

”It’s a virtue in a man to provide. I come from a large family myself,” he said. “We are blessed.”

Trebitsch made a show of widening his eyes. “Pardon me, sir, but I know you don’t I?”

The older man laughed and bowed his head momentarily.

“Mr. Seebohm Rowntree: good sir, what an honour! Your study on poverty was a great resource to me in my mission to help the homeless of Montreal.”

Trebitsch took Rowntree’s hand.  “I am sorry to make you blush but your legacy has been to help so many who you do not know. Had you and I the time to tell of it! Oh then, then…”

“Thank you. It is nice to be reminded of it,” said Rowntree.

“I am glad the government have listened to you also, and with Mr. Campbell-Bannerman in Number 10…they are implementing your findings?”

“I am most happy to say so,” said Rowntree. “Ah, your name?”

“Trebitsch Lincoln.”

“I’m glad to meet you, Mr. Lincoln,” said Rowntree.

“Fantastic!” he said.

 

Featured image attribution: St. Bride Library/New Transport.

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

6.3 Appledore

Tenor rings of eight new bells inside iron frame stirred the rainy street. He looked through the branching fingers of Hawthorne protecting stained glass windows.  St. Peter and St. Paul had its pulpit framed under a back open room: between the pews wide columns rose to broad arches joining a high ceiling. The Hungarian curate spoke quickly, fiercely, of his times in Montreal delivering sermons to crowds double the size of Appledore’s population. The congregation were warm, yet amused by his oddness and exasperated passion.

Reverend Trebitsch lodged at Gusborne Farm at the crossroads just outside the hamlet. Appledore was one street: a store; a post office; a pub; cottages; the houses and the church, medieval. They were modern houses: unfenced street-sized gardens, appearing larger than they were. Summer came in snap-shots: the breeze of a blue sky or sprouting flowers from hedgerows. Although, the light was quick gone. Bubbling buds of Red Valerian suffocated in dark rocks and the bright yellow petals of Evening Primrose went under sodden drizzle and underfoot.

He’d heard the village had a history of rebellion and in boredom prayed for it. He once walked by the union mill, wind shaker. On the Military Canal, the reeds slapped wind. The canal went to Seabrook and the North Sea: in the other direction, Hastings by the Channel. Each were twenty miles away with Appledore in the middle, buried. The bird-like Emperor Dragonfly flew over marsh pea and ugly thistle. White fronted geese squawked and he looked on the mute swan and kingfisher with enmity.

In July, Trebitsch made a quick trip to Hamburg and returned with Margarethe and their new son, Ignatius Emanuel. The villagers called her Margaret and they fussed over Ignatius. Trebitsch said they could call him John if it was easier. They were easy-going and did both. Mararet enjoyed Appledore’s slow sleepy pace.

“Midges, they call them! Midges!”

Trebitsch batted the insects. “Foul bastards!” The more he batted them the more they seemed to follow.

“The people here are stupid,” Trebitsch told her. “They ask the questions of a child. If I pray to God will he be listening? Does the Lord forgive our sins? These are the churchgoer’s questions. A theological conversation is unlikely, they are idiots. And there is nothing to do!”

Ignatius began to cry.

“Yes little one,” rubbing the infant’s chin and meeting his sleepy eyes, “you ARE taking next week’s sermon.”

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

6.2 The Archbishop of Canterbury

[Read previous chapters here]

Dr. Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, opened his diary on Wednesday April 29, 1903. A rub against perfectly rounded ear by rare fleck of white hair and he fingered for the college files stacked at the side. A minute later the Hungarian entered, vibrating Davidson’s arm eagerly. Like an excited puppy he looked around at the cases of books, trophies and artefacts.

“Oh very pleased, yes very pleased to be here,” said Trebitsch. “I read you grew up Presbyterian before transferring to the Anglican church, as did I.”

“Yes, that’s right,” said Davidson.

“My condolences on the loss, I read you and Queen Victoria were close. I also read your response to the Apostolicae curae papal bull –“

“Mister Trebitsch, I do not have a lot of time,” said Davidson.

“Yes, yes. Where does it go? Time? My wife is pregnant, due in July,” said Trebitsch.

“Congratulations,” said Davidson, and craned his badger head deep in the books.

“Appledore is most delightful, a fine parish for raising a child. Do you have children, Archbishop?”

“I have none. Mister Trebitsch, your performance in the candidate’s exams was very bad indeed. Of the eight deacons we looked at you came lowest.”

“I cannot see that,” said Ignacz.

“You scored well enough on Church History and General Bible.”

“Good!”

“Your command of Greek was much below expectation.”

“Yes I have practically forgotten it though I learned much. I could fit in re-learning it for a few months? Yes I could.”

Davidson lifted his head.

“You will have to. In light of the circumstances I’ll grant you a temporary license as curate at Appledore parish.” He emphasised, “However,” as Trebitsch’s ears pricked up, “this is conditional on a marked improvement. Reverend Hall will report to me on your studies. You must progress. You must re-take the ordination exam within six months.”

“Yes, yes. You will see how I take this very seriously. I realise our meeting must be short today, so I thank you for your faith in granting me this opportunity. I will not let you down. In my heart and my head I feel this is where I shall witness to God the Lord and I shall meet his work each day with the fullest essence of my being, my experience and attend to all my studies. You’ll not regret this!”


Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

6.1 Behind the Mission

“Jozsef!”

The slit revealed a hallway full of envelopes, decaying.  Frank rapped on the door a fourth time.

“Jozsef, open up. It’s Frank Burt!”

George Troop cupped his hands over the window plate, saw his ragged cheeks and white hair superimposed, jostling with the vacant room: a desk with no telephone; a second desk missing.

“Try around the side,” said Frank.

Frank knocked again then peered through where George had been. He saw missing light-bulbs, already Trebitsch had been reimbursed for the bulbs. Inside was no man or mission.

He stepped back to fix on the windows of the upper floors, all closed as long as he looked. There was laughter on the street from a passing Hebrew. Frank felt the isolation, the removal of hope that comes from being locked out.

Leafy hedge licking his coat, George Troop peered to a side-room carpet rolled up. The back door was locked. Of course, he thought. An upstairs window was open, maybe only a notch but he found a ladder and pushed it against the wall. As he climbed a rung cracked and gave way, alerting the next door neighbour.

 

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

5.5 Letters of London

Duncan Robbins walked, floppy blonde curls shaking. His gaunt stature was a regular sight to those around Islington or Camden at five in the morning. He crossed the old prison grounds into The Mount. Mount Pleasant sorting office, formally often. Once under darkness he looked older than his twenty-five years. Duncan signed in: Robbins, July 15, 1904. He nodded over to Miguel Duffield, loitering, and knifed the binds on his first bag. Robbins pulled out a stack sandwich of letters onto the table. There were white envelopes for Clement McBean of Newbridge, for Martha Salter of Wigan; inside each, congratulations on the birth of a son. There were several addressed to Sir Joseph Pease, Famouth and Darlington, wishes for a swift recovery. Robbins rolled his eyes, then checked no-one saw him. Four or five envelopes bore the palace’s official seal. They were made out to Ireland, detailing preparation for King Edward VII’s first visit.

There were fourteen envelopes for the London Jews Society: five different locations overseas; more than half of them local. One Reverend C. Lypshytz of Whitechapel, who in the days ahead would read a confession, an apology and a promise to return an item of personal value. At great length, the author detailed his course of self-redemption and ended wishing the Reverend well, with hopes they might work together in the future. The letter also promised the imminent return of stolen items.

In an instant Duncan had it placed in a box and the letter to Montreal in another. He didn’t notice they were inked by the same flamboyant, excited hand. The recipient, Reverend Frank Burt, was the author of the next one the sorter placed, from Montreal to London. Had he been troublesome to open it, he would have read the Society of Jews were required to pay Ignacz Trebitsch an owed wage, with Burt’s p.s. expressing his worries about, ‘that other business, that perhaps might be dealt with soon’. The thought of opening it never entered his freckled head.

Another mail to the Society headquarters, a London postmark, was from Trebitsch. He asked to be considered for work in the colonies. The postal worker had a letter for Reverend Moses Epstein too. Therein, was an enquiry as to whether he’d consider expanding Bristol’s outreach mission? In several days other London Society branches would find folded and salubrious C.V.s and notes of commendation.

Duncan Robbins noticed the same handwriting when he got to a letter for the Archbishop of Canterbury; but there was so much more sorting in front of him.

“For God’s sake,” Robbins said to himself.

 

Featured Image Attribution: Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, British History: Survey of London

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

20 Years of Making Comics!

Holy Shitzam, around fifty, more than I’d estimated. Twenty years since I got my first review from Comics International and Pete Ashton’s TRS review sheet. Rose Reynolds, my consultant, drew the first comics cover, with brother Stuart on the second. A few years later I was writing with Pete on Bugpowder, one of the UK’s first sites covering underground comics. By then I was making comics with people I wish I’d seen more of this last decade: Dek Baker, David Morris, Emmett Taylor and Gary Parkin etc. TRS and Bugpowder also put me in touch with John Robbins, thought-provoking flash-fic author and life-long friend. At the same time the Belfast Comics pub meets introduced me to Richard Barr, my sometimes one-man support network, whom I continue to collaborate with to this day. As well, I got to meet Patrick Brown, creator of ‘A Virtual Circle’. AVC was an astounding prophetic story of violence by internet. Paddy’s ‘Just do it’ process inspired my first efforts. Ten years later we were both making comics and literal neighbours, running The Black Panel small press distributor.

Around for the long vital loving in my comics making: Ralph Kidson, Sean Duffield, all of the Caption event people, Joe at FPI and John Freeman, my editors at Altern8, Glenys Williams, David Logicaine, Garr Shanley, Suzanna Raymond who goes above and beyond. The departed ones: Debs ‘Badass’ Boyask, a bright beacon of love and community in my life; John ‘Jackfirecat’ Grandidge, one of my biggest supporters who always made me feel clever and honoured. More recently, Helen Gomez, Miriam Turley, Peter Duncan, Laurence McKenna and Sector 13, Aaron Flanagan of ComicBookGuys, people who never let me feel like I’m not working in a vacuum.

John Robbins, gentleman artiste, has donated a free copy of ‘A Hand of Fingers‘ in PDF to the Ignacz readers on Patreon as part of this year’s Small Press Day celebrations.

And Aaron Flanagan of Comic Book Guys is hosting Belfast’s first ever Small Press Day this Saturday:

The store is located at 130 Great Victoria Street, between the garage and Shaftesbury Square. There’s likely to be a few surprise guests but here’s a who’s who to those announced:

Colin Langan – Artist on ‘A Life in Defence’, a medieval fantasy on life, death and leadership.
Dave Louden – Writer who draws ‘Detective Roscoe’ and publisher of Belfast City Comics.
Yours Truly, Andy Luke  – Another writer who draws, most recently on the collection, We Shall Not Be Stapled.
Roddy McCance – Writer/Publisher of Tales of the Fractured Mind, an important anthology of stories about mental health.
Glenn Matchett – Anthology mixer and writer of one-shot mystery/crime noir, Sparks!
Peter Duncan – Editor on Sector 13 and Splank! Annual, and the comics blog of the same name.

Right, who’s going to the pub?