When I was a small child, my parents were enthusiastic potato-growers. At least my father was, I’m not sure Mum was quite as passionate about it but she did her bit bravely. We lived in a cottage flat with a moderate chunk of garden, and the vegetable (ie potato) patch was pretty much in the middle.
I remember one time, I must have been five or six, Mum was digging the potato patch and came across a fragment of china with a blue and white pattern on it. I was fascinated – what had it been? Whose was it? How had it got into the pototo patch? Were there any other pieces in there?
Mum couldn’t answer any of that, and we didn’t find any other pieces – but she told me the story of the budgie.
This had happened when she was much younger, and I think she’d have been living in a tenement flat at the time. I’m hazy on the details but the next part is a vivid picture in my head. Mum and/or Granny was digging in the garden, and came across a buried tin box, the kind you’d keep loose tea in. It was squarish with a black and faded gold pattern on it, and there was something inside. They opened it, and found – a budgie. A dead blue budgie, in perfect condition, looking as if it might have flown away any moment. I guess the box had been airtight.
I had more questions. Whose budgie was it? How long had it been there? What did you do with it?
She could answer one of those. They buried it right back where they’d found it.
The story stuck in my head, a kind of beautiful horror-picture of a dead blue budgie in a tin box. It had two lasting results. One, decades later when my own children were young and we came to the stage of burying deceased budgies and guinea pigs etc, I made very sure that our beloved pets were laid to rest decently wrapped in kitchen paper. (And ten years after that I showed the people who bought the house exactly where the pet graveyard was. I’ve no idea how long guinea pig bones would stick around for, but I didn’t want this couple’s children traumatised by digging them up…)
The second result was Pact of Silence, due to be released next month. I was hunting around in my head a couple of years ago for a starting point to the plot:
Imagine you move to a lovely old house in the country. Generous garden, perfect for bringing up a family. You choose a place for your veggie plot and start digging. And you find…
Buried treasure? No…
A dead body? No…
It was something much, much worse.
More on that in due course. The budgie in the tin did feature in an early draft of the book, but it didn’t make it to the final version, so I’m leaving the story here on my blog.
Click to see the trailer Hobeck Books have made for the book. 😱