The Hopeless Vendetta reaches a remarkable milestone this week. Seventy years ago, Edgar Titus Prerogative arrived here from the mainland, enthused by developments he had seen there. According to his journals, Hopeless was a wilder place in those days, with society structured around the four founding families, and very little technology at all. At first unable to buy or make a printing press, my maternal grandfather erected a large board, painted it black and wrote news upon it in chalk. A tradition that continues to this day, as does the habit of writing personal comments upon it in response to local events.
Five years later, Prerogative managed to buy a small press from the mainland, however, the ship bringing it floundered on rocks, and the press sank. Over the next year, my ancestor dived repeatedly and was able to bring up what he believed to be the greater part of the press, improvising whatever was needed to fill in the gaps. Only at this point did the issue of paper occur to him, and two more years passed during which he mastered the art of paper making. The first press produced copies one at a time, and was remarkably slow and cumbersome to use.
Sixty years ago this week, the first Hopeless Vendetta went to press. It was a historical moment for the island, bringing the community together, facilitating public arguments, and allowing opinions to be widely aired. Edgar’s daughter married one Percival Jones, who took on the business of the press, inventing a new, faster device, and thence it passed to me. The future of this publication lies, it appears, in the hands of Modesty Jones. God willing however, I shall maintain its noble tradition for many more years yet.
During this difficult time with so many folk being sick, young people have really been letting the side down. Vortigern Frog says that non-return of library books is at an all time high. He said ‘I understand its hard for people when they are ill, but I suspect some people of deliberately retaining books for their own nefarious purposes.’ Questioned further, he revealed that the worst offender is none other than Owen Davies, son of Reverend Davies. I caught up with the miscreant at his house, and challenged him about non-return of library books. Owen claimed he had intended to take them back and merely forgotten. I also note that that the young offender had a number of spoons in his possession and can only wonder if he is responsible for all these spoons going missing lately as well. Revered Davies told me he would look into the matter.
Back in my youth, people did occasionally leave Hopeless. Ships sometimes arrived entirely of their own will. Back in those days, we were more optimistic as a community, and a good deal better off. When did anyone last build anything new here? I imagine it must be a disheartening place to grow up. I offer these thoughts as a counterpoint to my nephew’s report. What are we doing to build a future for our younger citizens? What do they have to look forward to? Can we blame them for small crimes inspired by futility and despair? The weather has improved, and I encourage you to spare whatever time you can for the bridge project. Parents with wayward young sons, in need of hope and direction, are encouraged to send their lads along. We can give our young folk something to believe in!
Normally I don’t care much for the beautiful baby competition, but this year my camera cast the whole event in an entirely different shape.
All the usual array of mothers and bored dignitaries turned out to look at our island’s most recent offspring. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, to our eyes they looked so much like children. You could almost believe they were of human stock! The camera sees differently. Does it capture their true forms? I think it does.
The more pictures I take of you all, the more clearly I see you for what you are. Phantasms and nightmares. I have not yet managed to photograph myself. Am I the same as you? Am I the one true person here? Sometimes it feels like that. Do you know what you really are, beneath the surface? Or do you think you are real? People of Hopeless, look upon the beautiful babies, and know the horror of your own nature!
Now that the undead are no longer under foot, work on the bridge has leapt forward. We have two floating units built and ready for attachment to the onshore base. A third is in construction and an air of excited optimism surrounds the project.
An astonishing sight greeted the folk working on our bridge this Tuesday. Arriving at first light, we found work had already begun, but not on our construction. Clods of earth were flying through the air as excavation continued on the wrecked boat. Our own boys had given up when it became obvious that the ship might collapse. However, the workers on Tuesday morning knew no such fears.
We stood at a safe distance, watching in surprise as a dozen or more skeletal figures exhumed the boat. It was an eerie sight. They had clothed themselves strangely, although for what purpose I cannot imagine. Do those mobile remains feel the cold as we do? I can hardly believe it is so. They have no need for modesty either.
Work on the bridge is yet again delayed. No one, myself included, feels able to continue while that unnatural crew labours silently nearby. I wonder if the ship was theirs in distant times? What little of it remains is far from sound. Will there be more dead to release? As ever, we must be vigilant.
In the last week, there have been three separate sightings of the missing O’Stoats. Archibald Buckets claims to have seen them in the graveyard. Serendipity and Felicitations Jones both report seeing the pair walking at twilight on Hunger Hill. Jed Grimes tells me he woke in the night and saw Durosimi O’Stoat stood beneath his window, staring up at him.
Are these ghosts? Hauntings seem to be on the increase, so this is a possibility. Are they alive and in hiding? The weather has made any serious searching impossible. Given the horrific fate of their son Drustan, these two are not to be trusted, and if you see them, do not approach them on your own. They are very likely dangerous. Hopefully in time we will have opportunity to see justice served to this unnatural pair.
The evening was crisp with an unusually clear sky, which may be why we had one of the best 12th Night turnouts for many years. Torches and masks made a dramatic show as we paraded around the town centre, and the traditional dance was a great success. I know there are some who want to modernise the event with lively tunes, but the traditional, mournful dances and slow airs have a certain majesty that suits the dark time of the year.
It’s a sales extravaganza at Millet’s Fabric Store this week. Two gloves for the price of one! Recycled handkerchiefs at half price! By two shrouds, get a third for free! Experienced tailoring for all your needs. Stop by and see what we have on offer.