IN MEMORY OF SAMUEL GOULD
My name is Kieran Gould-Dowen and I'm the artistic director of Thatcher's Boy Theatre. This theatre company acts as a voice for new works, but it's also there as a voice for the little man. The voices of those that don't think they'll amount to much but dream big. My Grandad was a large role in my younger life and always pushed me to go far. Although he was never a fan of my choice to become an actor, he always supported my writing. On the 21st December 2017, he passed away. I have decided to dedicate our 2018 season to him. A season of cherishing the fragility of life in memory of a man who cherished every moment of his.
Before he died, he came to me with an idea. A children's book that he believed would make me millions. I didn't start writing it before he died. So for my last goodbye to him, I wrote it as a short story, only with the lead character being someone even more special than he anticipated. I read it to him and all who loved him at his funeral. Now I share it with you. The story is called Sam Gould And The Paper Of Time.
There once was a young boy called Samuel Gould. Sam was a spirited young boy who loved to play outside, play with the other boys, and above all else, he loved to read. His imagination would run away to times and places never dreamt of. And he knew he was lucky to read. His family were poor, but they did everything they could to get him through school. But things were tough. War had left his home a mess and his mum and dad needed help. So, he left school. He decided to work. After all, Sam was the smartest boy in his class. Why did he need school? His dad had fought in the first world war and spent the second world war helping at home. Although he was glad to not be fighting, he was still a different man. Sam was determined to put a smile back on his face.
Just outside of town, there was an old mill. A paper mill. Sometimes Sam would cycle over after leaving his friends and stare at it from afar. But now he needed work. People told him to stay away from the mill. That it was haunted with ghosts of the past, but Sam didn’t believe in ghosts. One cold, Monday morning, he cycled up to the front door and hammered his dirty knuckles on it twice. An old man appeared in the doorway. His face seemed familiar, but Sam didn’t know why. Without saying a word, the old man gestured for him to come inside. Sam did so, and minutes later, found himself sitting at a kitchen table, sipping tea and nibbling biscuits. Since the rations, his family could never afford tea and biscuits, so this was luxury for Sam. He told him about his father. About his mother. And how he wanted a job. The man listened to every word, nodding as he spoke. The man asked him if he was strong. Sam told him about his days collecting scrap metal in the street. The man asked him if was smart. Sam told him he liked to play chess. The man asked him if he was brave. Sam replied, for my family? Always.
The man smiled and gestured for Sam to follow him. As they got through to the mill, Sam realised just how loud the machines were. He could hardly hear the kind, old man. Through a window, Sam could see a small old woman smiling from afar as if remembering an old memory. There were only three rules. Never climb inside of the machine. That was obvious. Never steal. Sam never would. Never write on the paper. This was a weird one for Sam, but he nodded along. The old man showed him what to do and left him to it. Days passed, and the fun of a new job drifted away. Sam found himself dreaming of the adventures in his books as he worked. He started to miss school. One lunch time, Sam broke the rules. He took some paper, found a nice tree outside, and began to write.
Sam had no idea what was happening until it was too late. As he started to disappear, he could see the old man in the distance. He smiled, lifted his hand to his face, his thumb to his nose, and pulled a silly face at him. Sam was so confused. He had been writing about chess, about the Indians. He had read in book how chess was created in the 6th century in India, so many years ago. Suddenly he was there. The sun was blistering hot. Back then, chess was called Chaturanga and was still new. But to Sam, this game was old. He stumbled through a door and found two men sitting at a table, working out the rules. He asked if he could play. The men laughed in his face. He was just a boy. What could he achieve? Sam replied a boy is capable of anything that he puts his mind to. Quite soon he was teaching them the rules. Teaching them ideas and tricks. Sometimes you must sacrifice your prized pieces to achieve victory later on. A lesson his Grandkids would learn from him many years later.
It didn’t take long for Sam to work out why he wasn’t allowed to write on the paper. This was fantastic! He loved magic! He wondered where else he could go? Suddenly, he found himself on a whaling boat called the Essex. Sam loved to fish and if he was on this adventure, he wanted the biggest fish he could find. It was the early eighteen hundreds and a crew of 21 were below deck, laughing and drinking. But he pulled out a fishing rod and hoped for the best. Time passed, and he got a tug on the line. He looked down to find a giant, albino sperm whale gnawing on his bait. Sam couldn’t believe his luck. He pulled on the line. The whale groaned as the bait was pulled from its mouth. It snatched it back and continued to eat. Sam pulled again. He looks down at the whale. Perish me, he says, you’re a bloody biggun, ain’t ya? A phrase that years from now he would use towards family members. The whale gets angry at his mocking and proceeds to headbutt the boat. Sam hasn’t got time for that. He tries to tell the whale off but it’s not listening. He decides it’s time to head off, not realising years later the role he played in the true events of Moby Dick.
He next finds himself in Scotland in 1457. As he wandered through the hills, he stumbled across some burly Scots, smacking a feather stuffed ball around some hills with some club shaped branches. Sam let out a sigh as he watched them knock it just a mere few feet each time. He went over, and once again, offered his assistance. Once again, he was shot down. He watched them for a few hours, never improving. Finally, he fetched his own club, made his own ball and dropped it at his feet. With a swift stroke, the ball flew through the air, over their heads, and finally into the hole at the end of the green. The Scots went crazy. How did he do that? He got a hole in one. Little did he know at the time that he was not just the first person to get a hole in one but the last one to get a hole in one of that millennium. He taught them everything he could, but they knew they’d never be as good as the young man.
Sam wandered through time for years, watching history happen, seeing amazing places. He once found himself in a cave, chasing away a dragon, pulling monster faces at it. Although the dragon was terrified, he would one day use this scary monster face on his kids, grandkids, and even great grandkids, but none of them would fear him like the dragon. As he left the cave alongside King Arthur and a wise old man called Merlin, Sam started to feel a slight ping in his chest. He took the job to help his mum and dad but what had he done for them. As he started to write about his father, the world changed around him to the scariest thing he’d seen so far. Bombs were dropping, guns were firing everywhere. The air was noisy, and the sky was dark. It didn’t take him long to work out why he was here. At his feet, he finds a young man. He’s crying with pain, clutching his body. The sight of his bullet wounds sends shivers down Sam’s spine. Help me, the man cries. As Sam looked down at his father, his heart was in agony. Mustering all his might, he swings his fathers arm around his neck, and pulls him along. The trenches seem so far away, and the bombs are exploding all around. But Sam isn’t scared. He gets his father to safety and watches as medics take him away to patch him up. He tries to stay with him, but he freezes to the spot. But he waited. Everyone spoke in a weird accent around him and seemed to be speaking German, but he didn’t question it. When his father regained consciousness, Sam knew it was time to go.
He found himself on a tiled roof, years after the war. The sky was safe, no bombs exploded, and suddenly Sam appreciated what his dad had gone through. He looks down at the young girl staring up at him. What’s your name, he asks? Joyce, she replied. Do you want to come with me? Sam finally asks. It was the question she had waited for so long to hear. For everywhere Sam went: India, Scotland, the ocean, the cave, and many other amazing places, this young girl would be there, watching him, waiting. A love-sick pup. The girl was over the moon. And for many years, Sam and Joyce travelled all over the world. Through time and space, their love was endless. Collecting fridge magnets as they went, of course. Years later, they finally decided it might be time to settle down. They put their adventures on hold and returned home. The real adventure began but the stories never stopped. As kids, and grandkids, and even great grandkids arrived in their family, Sam always took the time to sit at their side and read stories of far away places and times. One night, he sat with Joyce, thinking of their adventures. I just want to be a hero, he said. I want to be their hero. She smiles at him and laughs. An’ yo am, Sam, she replied. Because his family didn’t need a hero in cape, or a uniform, or a man with powers. They needed a strong man, who loved with all his heart, who taught them lessons of life without lecturing. A kind man yet not naïve. A wise man but not arrogant. A funny man but never mean. A man who loved fully without remorse. And that’s what they received. He was their hero. And his stories travelled all through time, long after he left them.
One day, Sam and Joyce left. The official story is they passed away. But those that know Sam and Joyce know death could never take Sam and Joyce. Those that know them, believe they still live on, running the paper mill in a time long forgotten, or adventuring together through the stars.
Their story does not end. Nor do the stories their friends and family have of them. That’s how Sam and Joyce wanted to be remembered. Through funny stories locked away in their hearts, never forgotten.