Read the first chapter of Echo Valley here!

nun [nun.jpg]


Over the past week or so, social media has been filled up with messages, photos and videos all saying the same message telling us about how terrible 2016 has been. Most of which, unfortunately, is true.

So, I’m going to use the best of my abilities and do what I do best: talking about something completely irrelevant in the hope of cheering someone up. Usually in the form of a story and in this case, a true one.


A story about nuns

Flashback to 2005. A joint Catholic and Church of England secondary school. Myself a young, fifteen-year-old bored boy enduring the routinely ‘Act of Worship.’ Depending on what side of the Christianity scales you were brought up on.

Before we get into this, I’d like to say that I was a pretty well behaved boy in school. The worst thing’s I did were skiving Physical Education and being caught swearing loudly. Okay? Okay. Let’s continue.


As is tradition and being brought up Catholic, we line up to receive the body and blood of Christ. I only ever took the bread as I find that easy to identify as what it is: a thin, sticky wafer. Whereas red wine is a little harder to distance the connection from them calling it blood, which weirds me out a bit.

So, I line up with my fellow Catholics to receive said bread from the school nun. For those unfamiliar, in communion you can choose to put your hands out in front of yourself so they place it in your hand along with your humility to feed yourself. Otherwise, you place your hands on your chest and open your mouth. Anyway, I took the bread with my hands and sat back in my seat, waiting for the thin wafer to dissolve on my tongue like normal.


And this is where things began to spiral.


Because the bread didn’t dissolve like normal. It decided to dry up every drop of saliva I had and stick to the roof of my mouth like superglue.

In my ascending panic, I started to cough and splutter a little bit and make unflattering faces as attempted to peel the disc of cardboard off the roof of my mouth with my tongue. I alerted my friends next to me by pointing to my extremely animated and concerned face to which of course, naturally, they came to the rescue like good friends by pointing and laughing. Which deep down I totally expected.

Anyway, it turned out I was lucky enough to live another day as I eventually scraped the bread off my mouth and avoided choking to death.

And so, the service ended. But instead of simply standing from my seat and heading to my next class, the nun appeared- not approached – appeared next to me with a face of thunder somewhere in her generously sized black void of a body.


“I am disgusted.” she spat.

“In all my life as a sister I have never…” (I won’t bore you with her life story.)

Completely bewildered, I just sat there blinking repeating the same question.

“But what did I do?

To which the nun shook her head vigorously, jowls shaking.

“Oh you know full well what you’ve done! I can’t even speak to you. You will speak to Father McFatherson.” (Probably best I don’t use real names.)

So, I did what I had always naively done at school: Do as I was told.


Entering Father McFatherson’s…office? I’m not really sure what it was but he had his own room. And empty room, with not a lot of things. I entered the room without a slither of a complaint as my friends cackled behind me, leaving the building scott-free.

Inside this mysterious room I was greeted with Father McFatherson’s back. Not once during our short conversation did I see his face. The conversation he so desperately needed with me went like this:


“I am disgusted.”

“In all my years as a priest, I have never…” (His life story, was also very vague with apparently not a lot of things that were interesting enough to remember.)

I tried, of course.

“But I don’t understand what I’ve done!”

“Get out.

So, I left completely confused but assumedly free. I headed to my next class that I was now late for.


Sitting next to my class mates, we explored the reasons for these rather unusual ‘disciplinary’ and came to the confusion that perhaps they might have been a little upset with causing my entire line to laugh at me, therefore throwing the entire service into what they viewed as pure chaos. The almost A&E level of bread-consumption did cross my mind, but trust me when I say there have been far worse disruptions in this particular school and it’s assembly’s.

My backside had barely touched my seat before a teacher poked his head in the door, informing me that the head of Religious Education would like to see me in her office. The mere mention of her name made my heart sink. This was the type of teacher who got a kick out of handing out test results in a grand, dramatic act of ordering them from highest score to the lowest, just so everyone knew what everyone got. When I was barely 13, I got the lowest score in the class in an RE test. I still remember the rolling eyes and the disapproving way she said my name. And the oh so constructive criticism she gave me. “Better try harder next time.”

On a side note, if you are a teacher and think this is a good way of motivating kids to do better and work harder, it doesn’t. the only thing it increases is that student’s hatred for you as well as highlighting said teacher’s such high level of insecurity that they feel the need to belittle their students.


Moving on~


To my reluctance, I headed into the head of RE’s office. Can you guess what she said?

“I am disgusted.” (you can see a pattern emerging here.)

“NO ONE has told me what I’ve done wrong!” I said, trying my best not to scream.

Her face wrinkled up like a dying raisin.

“Oh, DON’T you play coy with me, you know full well what you did! Making sexual gestures to Sister (name)!”

Now, readers. I want you to go find a mirror. Once you’ve placed your face into easy sight in said mirror, I want you to make a V shape with your index and middle finger, like your telling someone to piss off. But instead, I want you to bring said gesture up to you mouth. Now, open your mouth and stick your tongue in and out repeatedly until you either smile, laugh or feel uncomfortable.

Imagine your RE teacher doing this to you accompanied by angry, angry eyes. I deserve a medal for managing to keep a straight face in this fine, scarring and unforgettable moment. Mainly because the cogs in my head were finally moving, things were starting to (kinda) make sense.


“Oh.” I said.


Followed by “No, no! You don’t understand.” I pleaded. “The bread got stuck in my mouth.”

You can imagine how that went down.

So of course, I was sent to the Boss level: The headmasters office.

I entered his room, terrified of what kind of punishment they were going to use as their finishing move after this ridiculously long winded flying visits.

The headmaster didn’t look up once from his desk. He stayed silent for what felt like forever. But my fear soon diminished when I realised what he was doing. Or what he was desperately trying not to do. I watched the corner of his mouth twist. A look I’d seen so many times as any other school boy.

He was trying not to laugh.

He spent so long doing it that he’d left it too long.

“Look.” He said as calmly as he could. A humorous shake in his voice escaping.

“Just admit you’ve been a bit of a burke and you can go.”

“… I’ve been a bit of a burke?”

“Good lad.”


And I never heard about it again. Apart from a friend of mine who made a habit of Nun related gifts for me every birthday. A book on Nuns, Nun Bowling and of course as showing in this blog’s image, A fire breathing ‘Nunzilla’.

The school nun gave me hideous looks every time she passed, which was expected. The head of RE never seemed to like me anyway, so no loss there. But I did learn something that day that will always make me smile. Just a simple thought, a question:

No matter what religion you claim to belong to and no matter what labels you wear, sometimes the thing that disgusts you is only as disgusting as the mind it goes into.


Subscribe to Updates
Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 103 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Don't miss another chapter of Echo Valley!

Subscribe to News & Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to News & Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

How to tell if you're a twenty-something year old elderly person.

| 12th April 2017 | Rants

All your favourite music and films are considered retro. You say 'Cool' in all seriousness and genuineness. As your favourite bands get older, their audience gets younger. We are no longer limited to a mere 150 Pokemon. I'm having an early mid-life crisis and whilst i'm in a position where I don't have enough readers for me to actually care what they think, I'm going to write this off my chest.   Clothes shopping feels like clubbing You're surrounded by young people wearing carrot-twist-tech-cuffed-torn-skinnyslim jeans. It's the most ridiculous thing you've ever seen and yet they make it look so natural along with the guys in their t shirts that go past their knees. You're also sweating. Because for some reason, going into H&M or River Island feels like you've gate-crashed a party you're way too old for. And of course, the music. It sounds like club music. It's the appropriate volume for club music. But yet you are in a clothing store. And yet you still turn a blind eye to the truth that no matter what piece of clothing you try on in this store, you instantly look and feel like a dick head. It's time to leave. At least Asdas jeans have flies instead of buttons. You're not a toddler.   You spend your precious spare time sleeping Gone are the days of all night video games, partying, socialising and Youtube video binging. (i'm aware your social life is probably a lot less nerdy) You pretend to consider social invites, but you know full well your "yeah, I might do actually" is code for "You will not take away my precious sleep." Because you don't know when you'll next get it. But this doesn't make you an arsehole- it's not your fault! you have kids... Wait, you don't have kids? Ah...   You don't understand what anyone is saying  Everyone around you seems to suffer from this speech impediment where whenever they start a sentence with "I can't even..." they are unable to finish it. Can't even...? CAN'T EVEN WHAT!? You hear yourself scream out loud one day on the train. The day you finally crack. And what exactly is it about said thing that is "Lit'"? Literal? Literacy? A Lit candle? WHY DO YOU ALL SPEAK IN RIDDLES!?   The best way to get over this crisis is to accept yourself for who you are. A tired, grumpy, twenty-something year old who is considering retiring from life if the modern world keeps up their bullshit....

It doesn't matter how you publish your book. What matters is that you get it out there.

| 10th April 2017 | Writing

@page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } So this reminder popped up on my phone this morning. I bought the Pulp Fiction Sountrack on viynl over the weekend, so i'm in the mood for Tarantino-ing this story. Let's jump back to three months ago; I've just sent off the manuscript for my first book, a horror novella, to all the agents I felt I would have a slither of a chance with. The problem with being busy with getting a manuscript ready to send off is that once it's sent, you're kind of stuck drumming your fingers and listening to tumbleweeds float by until said agents may or not get back to you. So rather than continuing to be productive and work on my next story, I sat there with my inbox open, hitting refresh a lot. I don't think you can see the F5 key anymore. So when I finally realised how crazy this habit was making me (seriously, I had dreams about my emails), I decided to set a reminder that didn't go off for another 3 months. 3 Months is generally the maximum waiting time agents say they will get back to you in. If you don't hear anything after that, then...well, better luck next time, eh? The additional problem to this waiting time is my biggest weakness. in this case, my impatience. I really didn't want to go down the self-publishing route initially. And this is because of my favourite summary of self-publishing:     The good news with self publishing is anyone can publish a book. The bad news with self publishing is anyone can publish a book.     Having a professional in the traditional publishing industry approve your work kinda gives writers that sense and feeling of their work being worthy. And so it should. The stats are something ridiculous like if you send 21 agents or publishers your manuscript, only one of those will maybe get back to you. Not approve or take on your book even, that's just a reply! So chances are if you do get your work approved, it's probably gonna be a damn good book.   That's not to say there aren't publishers who publish bad books, there are plenty of bad books regardless of who publishes them. And every writers fear is that their book will be one of them.   But if you are sensible about it, you can make your book the best version of your book as it can be.  Get a hella'lotta' Beta readers. Just send it out to as many as possible. Preferably to people who's opinion you respect, not want. From this, you can chop and change your manuscript based off their feedback. Grammar, spelling, dialogue that just doesn't make sense, continuity errors, etc. Also, something that doesn't get talked about enough, get used to talking about your book. I remember writing of my stories in a cafe and the waitress who brought my coffee over asked me what I was writing. Brits' tend to get the hint when you palm them off with 'oh, nothing really.' But Russians don't buy that BS.  "What do you mean 'it's nothing'? I can see you writing!" "How can you not know what your writing about?" She kept interrogating me until I ended up going a rosy shade of red and giggling like an embarrassed school girl. But I needed it. Regardless of whether your self-publishing or going traditional, you need to be able to sell your work. This is the one thing that puts me off publishing because my selling skills go as far as "it's okay. It won't change your life or anything, but it's a bit of fun." If you don't believe in your own work, who the hell will?   Anyway, I'm derailing. Let's Tarantino it back to present day. I'd like to think that when you're reading this I'm in a cafe somewhere eating one tasty burger. But chances are i'm in an office with a tear glistening off my cheek from the sunshine outside that we're all locked away from. Echo Valley is currently being formatted for print and i'm staring at an invisible blurb for the back design cover as well as loathing Author Bios.  And the answer is yes, some did get back to me. Very polite, kind replies. But not the replies I w...

The Patience of a Writer or Lack Thereof: Part 3 of 3

| 05th April 2017 | Jons Journal

I've thought of a number of ways to finish off this 3 part blog series, but there are only so many ways I can talk about waiting for agent and publisher replies over a course of 3 months without it turning into a bit of a self indulgent, rather boring rant. So instead, I'm using this final part to update you with the progress on Echo Valley as breifly and as non-ranty as possible. Here's what you need to know: Echo Valley will be released on Paperback and digital this summer (more accurate date tba) The boring stuff like ISBN numbers and paperback formatting is currently in progress. Below is the more exciting stuff... There will be a book launch party here in Devon. Again, proper date tba but there will be coffee, tea, creepy cakes, books and me. The event is free, but don't hesitate to buy a copy of EV.  I'll make sure there will be plenty. After the party, the book will be available to buy here on my website. To start off, the book will only be available in paperback, but digital and Kindle editions will follow shortly after.   Anyway, that's pretty much it for now. But here's some pretty images of where the launch party is going to be held. I wasn't sure at first, but after seeing that one of the rooms is the spitting image of Theo's Office, How can I not? If you want to keep up to date, you can subscribe to my blog posts in the top right or like my Facebook page for instant updates on the whens and wheres of the launch party. Yours with excitement and impatience, Jon.    ...

The Patience of a Writer or Lack Thereof: Part 2 of 3

| 08th March 2017 | Writing

It's that time again. The time where writers sit at their desks refreshing their emails, cyber-stalking agents and questioning if what they love doing is in fact a complete waste of time. ...No? Just me? Since my last post on the Patience of a Writer, things have...well, happened. It's been 2 months now since I sent off my manuscript to my desired agents. I remember getting one reply back from a letting agency. within a week. My heart was in my mouth as I double clicked the email only to see it was a message to tell me that the agent I had selected was currently closed for submissions for the following month. But, that I could choose another one from their agency. Unfortunately, the agent I had chosen was the one agent on their list who, from their profile, had a chance of being interested in Echo Valley. (You'd be surprised how many agents are looking for cookery books, which is a slightly different from a book about teleporting cameras, monsters and a haunted library.) So my heart sank and the longer I didn't receive anything from anyone the more the depressing thoughts crept in on how my work may actually never get presented by an agent. And how that might in fact be down to my work not being good enough. Then I remembered there's self publishing. And the reasons I wanted to get published in the first place. Just so I have a damn physical copy of my book I can hold in my hands, hand out to family and friends and maybe sneak onto shelves in random libraries when no one is looking whilst wearing a balaclava. With this in mind, and the obsessive email checking driving me a teeny-weeny little bit crazy, I distracted myself and tried to forget about it. I completed FFXV's story, started drawing again, realised how much I was actually enjoying my job and all seemed well. And as always, whenever things start to go well or seem peaceful, in the corner of my eye on a screen I saw something pop up. My heart returns to my mouth. Not only was it my first proper response from an agent, but it was from the one, out of my list of likely agents, I thought was the most likely to want to represent my book. I won't paste the entire email to you but I will tell you that it was short, sweet and the majority consisted of:   "...Unfortunately I'm afraid I didn't respond warmly enough to the story to be able to fully engage with it. As I'm sure you know, the publishing business is fiercely competitive and in order to represent a writer effectively, we do need to be one hundred percent convinced by their work. I wish you best of luck in finding representation..."    I'd like to point out to those writers of you who haven't sent off manuscripts yet or still obsess over an empty inbox, that this is probably, from what I've heard, the nicest rejection you could receive from an agent. Most rejections are not far off simply, formally and professionally telling you 'no'. The odd thing about it was that I wasn't upset. A little disappointed, naturally but not as much as I thought i'd be. I was just happy that firstly, i'd actually finally heard back from someone and secondly, that said agent had actually taken the time to explain more to me than just a simple 'no'.  It also gave me hope that not warming to the story might simply be down to it not being her cup of tea. Surprised as I was though, considering I thought this agent would be the most likely to enjoy it based off her profile. As I close towards April and my inbox builds up cobwebs, I'm starting to look at the options and likelihood of self publishing. And rather than obsessing over if or not I will get represented, I'll look forward to the sense of completion and achievement of finally holding something I poured a fair bit of my melodramatic heart into in my hands by then end of the year. As long as somewhere in the world there is one person that enjoys what you make, what you love doing- even if that person is you, then that's all that matters....