This is an extract from my time travel novel The Clock Box 1: Day & Knightley, which I co-wrote in about eight weeks flat with a writer chum.
Once started, the ideas wouldn’t stop, so we have planned a whole series of time travel adventures. We’ll only finish when we run out of clever-arse titles.
This one is now published and available on Amazon – what are you waiting for? GO BUY IT!
The Clock Box: Day & Knightley
Defying orders from his partner Olivia, whizz-kid programmer Louis Day has managed to become the first person to travel back in time via the Clock Box. Knowing only that he would arrive at some time in the 1920s, Louis pitched up in the cellar of an elegant country house in the middle of a house party. Taking on the persona of absent guest Algie Pelham, he is now making the most of the time travel experience…
Lord Algernon Pelham retired to his guest room after the sort of over-the-top banquet Louis Day had only ever seen in TV period dramas. By the eighth course he was running out of compliments to the chef, and toasts to his generous hosts for their splendid hospitality.
He had thoroughly enjoyed himself, placing Algie as a non-too-bright but ever so well-bred aristocrat, the sort that any upwardly-mobile 1920s modern Millie would be desperate to bag and bring home to Mama, title and all.
Louis supposed Zelda fitted into that category, though the lovely redhead seemed flintier and less impressed by him than all the others put together. “Dashed prettier though, what?” he might have said, if he really had been Sir Algie Pelham.
He had made a couple of pretend phone calls via the operator to the local railway station, where his luggage was supposed to be residing, relishing the old-fashioned phone with its heavy receiver and circular dial. He had also managed a quick glance at the evening paper (morning and evening papers – who needed 24-hour rolling news?), which told him he had gone back exactly ninety years to the day – BJ would be thrilled her calculations were so spot on.
When he announced that his luggage was apparently on its way to Exeter, Lady Marchbang had swung into action and rooted out a full set of evening clothes for him. Louis felt a pang of anguish when he swanned into the drawing room for pre-dinner cocktails and her ladyship had embraced him, all dewy-eyed. “They were my dear boy’s clothes,” she sniffed. “We lost him at Ypres. The Colonel said I should throw his things away, but I couldn’t bear to.”
“Now my dear, no need to get sentimental,” the Colonel ordered. “Harry wouldn’t have wanted that.” He turned to Louis. “You would have been too young to take part in the big push, I expect? I know your brother did his duty.”
Louis nodded, searching for the words that would change the subject with minimum suspicion. “Rather! I missed out on all the fun, but Peter was right in the thick of it. He never talks about it now though. Best forgotten, eh?”
The Colonel nodded vigorously, but his wife carried on sniffing, and had to be comforted by Mrs Weeper, the Judge’s wife. Along with Zelda, who seemed to be a companion to the nervy Mrs Weeper, the six of them made up the whole party. Louis quickly worked out that his imaginary older brother, Peter, Lord Broughton, had been expected, but had sent a note saying he couldn’t make it but that his younger brother was passing through the county and would gladly make up the numbers, having business in the area. Louis sent up a quick prayer that the absent Sir Algernon’s connections hadn’t managed to get him here, and he was by now chugging his way back to London and not about to knock on the door and spoil the party. Then he decided there was sod all he could do about it if he did, downed another lemon martini and set about enjoying the most unusual dinner party of his life, 1926 style.
The talk had been of politics and intrigue. He had wisely affected a disinterest in such matters; any attempt to join the 1920s chit-chat would have surely betrayed an ignorance even the filthy idle rich would have not had. From what he could pick up, the Prime Minister was a bloke called Baldwin, and the Chancellor was called Churchill. Louis didn’t know if this was the same Churchill who would lead the country during the Second World War, but assumed so. “Damned good chap, Churchill,” he interjected at one point. “We’ll see great things from him, you mark my words!”
“Putting us on the gold standard wasn’t a great thing, though, eh?” said the Colonel, to Louis’ dismay, who had no idea what he was on about. “Time will tell!” he replied cheerily. “Can’t go wrong with gold.”
Looking to change the subject, he remembered Mrs Weeper had mentioned that the Duchess of York had birthed a daughter, and so led a port-fuelled celebration of this happy event, wishing the baby long life and happiness. He vowed to Google her when he got back, to see if his salutations had come true.
Eventually, the merriment had died down, and, apart from the ever-inscrutable Zelda, all had proclaimed it had been a marvellous evening.
Louis’ bedroom was perfection, and he saw the pound signs for Day & Knightley as they allowed their clients to sample such literal age-old luxury. He almost hugged himself at the beauty such well-heeled simplicity portrayed. From the rouge silk pyjamas and accompanying dressing gown which had awaited him on the bed – Christ they even fitted him, how had they managed that? – to the beautiful crystal water jug on the Roman-style night stand. The whole set-up screamed wealth, it bayed breeding and it oozed sophistication.
For a man whose idea of living the high life was an extra shot of Smirnoff in his vodka-Red Bull, Louis thought it interesting how much he warmed to this new life. He had only been there six hours or so and felt he really was louche, lovable Sir Algie Pelham, rich, reckless and to the manor born.