Welcome to a glimpse of my comedy fiction novel, “Glitter Buckets & Spades”! I’m thrilled to share the Prologue and Chapter 1 with you, hoping it brings a smile to your face and leaves you craving more. Dive into a world filled with quirky characters and amusing situations, where the ordinary meets the extraordinary. As you explore this sneak peek, remember that this is just the tip of the glittery iceberg. The full novel promises an even more delightful and hilarious adventure.
If you find yourself enjoying this taste of “Glitter Buckets & Spades,” be sure to join my newsletter for updates, exclusive content, and information on the book’s official release. And when the time comes, don’t hesitate to grab your copy and embark on the full comical journey.
Without further ado, please enjoy the Prologue and Chapter 1. Happy reading, and I hope to share more laughs with you soon!
In 2025, what looked to be a mysterious lost city was discovered during an unprecedented low tide about half a mile off Dawlish, England. The UK military immediately seized control of the area, enclosing it behind a gigantic metal dome.
A decade later, no discoveries from the site have yet been made public, and seemingly no fruits of the extensive labour have materialised, leaving many to wonder what really had been found there.
This story is only sort-of about all that.
Oscar Ockham awoke to the familiar noisy clucking of his neighbour’s hens. He made his way to the kitchen, planning to make his usual cup of coffee, only to find that his kettle had inexplicably turned into a house plant. Dazed and decaffeinated, he readied himself for the day before heading downstairs to open the shop. It was then he found he had been burgled in the night.
Oscar tiptoed through the shop floor, on the lookout for any intruder that might still be present. The shop’s metal shutters stood wrenched open at a strange angle; the white glow of morning sunshine pouring in from a world that has so far noticed nothing wrong, and probably wouldn’t much care if it had.
“Swines,” he growled under his breath – a less precarious place to be than usual, since he had yet to enjoy his coffee, and was thus still mint-fresh.
The discovery of the burglary was made ambiguously worse by his realising that the shop’s stock remained, as far as he could see, brazenly untouched. He rushed to the counter, grateful to discover that the terrarium had thankfully been left unmolested. On top, he found a scribbled note confirming his observations, stating that although the would-be thieves find themselves in very hard times, they could not bear to add to the retailer’s clearly already-precarious state. They came, they saw, they left with vicarious embarrassment.
As his searches continued, he found that his thoughtful burglars had chosen only to deprive him of a pair of luxury clown disguise kits. These had apparently, according to the note’s postscript, been too hard to resist. (The note really did say all these things, but in not quite the same words noted here. In fact, the message appeared to have been written by someone wearing inflexible mittens, and more inclined to eat pens than to write with them.) As for any damage, it was mostly confined to the front shutter, which had been twisted to almost a ninety-degree angle. There was little reason to worry about mending it, considering the more pressing need for examining the apparently useless burglar alarm. With a deep sigh, Oscar reached over and picked up a flashing prosthetic red nose from the nearby counter top. He put it on his face.
“What a clown-show,” he said, to no one.
It wouldn’t have cheered him to hear it, but much of this specific misery was shortly about to be displaced. A mere stubbed-toe to the shotgun-wound-to-the-chest soon to manifest itself. As he busied himself with his final stock-check, a light-brown envelope was shoved through the letterbox, sticking out at an angle that suggested nervousness at becoming part of this story. On its opening, the world froze – like someone had heard about Pandora’s Box but got the details mixed up.
And so it was that, only half an hour after waking to what should have been a perfectly normal day, the owner of Glitter Buckets sat behind his shop counter with his nose aglow and his mouth set like an Easter Island statue. Life had prepared a test, demonstrating for him the same sense of fun as when it lays greasy moss over the stepping-stones of a deep, fast-flowing river. He stared balefully out of his shop window towards the principal cause of his misery: half a mile out into the bay of the small seaside town of Dawlish, the gigantic metal sea base sprang from the waves. Built to enclose whatever was uncovered there during that dramatically low-tide almost ten years ago, its continued effect on local lives was in no danger of slowing.
They wanted him out, and he was out of time.
And where had his kettle gone?
Glitter Buckets specialised in selling things that few other shops did. It adopted a rather lax attitude to this novelty, poorly disguising itself with windows filled with commonplace seaside frippery such as bongs, anatomically shaped candies, and hats containing hilarious (but not for very long) phrasings like “Wetter than an otter’s pocket and twice as deep”. But behind all that malarkey lay the South-West’s primary purveyor of circus and magical accessories, owned and operated by Oscar Ockham. It catered, as Oscar’s girlfriend Maisy would tell you, for clowns, by a clown.
Owing to an uplift in the popularity of stage magic and clown-related entertainment, Glitter Buckets had become something of a mecca for those in the worlds of prestidigitation and professional buffoonery. Oscar felt a bitter pride as he stepped through his shelves of merchandise, calculating his next move against what he’d read in that envelope. He had until the New Year to sell up or to prepare for a fight. But who would he be fighting, anyway? The council? The government? Those creeps out at Site B?
Oscar continued his mindless meander, eventually exiting onto the street, and still wondering if it was worth attempting a day’s trading. He couldn’t help feeling that the universe was already giving him quite overt warnings about the quality of the day he was set to encounter. Stood on the pavement outside, trying to correct the mechanism of the warped metal shutter with his one hand, his shop-neighbour entered into view.
“Hi, Mrs Dahl,” Oscar said.
Mrs Dahl owned the antique shop next door. She was in her late-fifties, short, with long white hair wrapped up beneath a headscarf. She was also, right at that moment, panting hard, having completed her daily task of escorting a large, eternally unsellable, mahogany cabinet to its place in front of her shop window. Having revived a little, she delicately placed a dozen pieces of jewellery along its uppermost surface, each adorned with a tiny sun-faded price tag. Oscar noticed a familiar envelope poking from her shirt pocket.
“You got the letter, too?” he asked, approaching her.
Mrs Dahl looked up with rapidly widening eyes. Though rarely a vision of neatness at the best of times, her stare forced Oscar to conclude that he’d outdone himself in the deportment department. Following the incident of the missing kettle (one of the lesser-known Poirot mysteries, he imagined) his lower half had been treated in his daze to a pair of ill-fitting brown trousers he swore he would only ever wear when painting, coupled with trainers that had once been ardently nuzzled by an affectionate Alsatian. On his top half, he wore a shirt fit for a poolside cocktail party; one of its sleeves was rolled above the stump of his left arm, which had been abbreviated in a magical mishap long ago. Looking into Mrs Dahl’s sorrowful expression, a further memory sprang to mind. He sheepishly flashed her a grin, swiping from his face the glowing nose he’d forgotten he was still wearing.
“The letter arrived this morning,” she said, turning back to the arrangement of the furniture outside her shop. “I suppose we knew our days here were numbered. Take the money and run. That’s my motto.”
“And not just because you used to rob post offices.”
Mrs Dahl’s eyes narrowed. “Is now really the moment for joking?”
Oscar lowered his gaze in mock shame.
The content of the letters described the Compulsory Purchase Order that had been issued, forcing them to surrender their properties. The Strand was to be flattened to make way for the expansion of Dawlish’s mysterious sea base.
“I feel like I’m finally settled,” he said, once he’d allowed sufficient time for his silly joke to pass. “Ten years I’ve been here. I don’t think I’ve got it in me to start again.”
“Better to have some notice than none. What have you done to your shop, by the way?” she asked, nodding in the direction of the bent shutter.
“Broken into last night. Burglar alarm didn’t go off,” he said in halting English. He was sure he knew why, as well. “Don’t worry, nothing was taken.”
“Oh dear.” She stepped towards Glitter Buckets and peered through the shutter. “Dear, oh dear.”
Oscar realised that in the seven years Mrs Dahl had been his neighbour, she had never once stepped foot in his shop. As she glanced through his window, a brief look of concern flashed across her face. “Do you think I should get my alarm checked?” she asked.
Oscar raised his eyes, noting her immediate turn towards self-preservation. “I… Well, yes. I’m thinking it’s probably something you should do regularly. But right now, I’m more bothered about this.” He lofted his envelope into the air, wielding it like a parent holding a child’s school report card that contained thinly veiled hints at contacting the local authorities.
The residents had known about the plan for more than a year. Oscar had hoped that it would all have turned out to be an ill-judged rumour, forgotten about in favour of some other daft government scheme. It appeared, however, that these hopes were ruinously wrong, and it was now time to face the music. In his head, the proposed soundtrack was a duet of bagpipe and recorder tunes, performed by local primary school students.
Finally satisfied with the organisation of her roadside antiques, Mrs Dahl glanced at Oscar, who had not budged from his spot, still clutching the envelope in his hand. A moment of uncertainty passed before she decided on the only workable course of action that could help him. She caught his eye, holding within it a glint of profound discovery.
“I’ll make you a cup of tea,” she said with a raised finger, “and you can tell me all about it.”
Five minutes later, the two sat outside Dahl’s Antiques in a pair of mismatched garden chairs. The sky was overcast; a light wind fiddled with the leaves in the gutters, and the coastal air played around Oscar’s ankles where his paint-spotted trousers had ridden up. He sipped at his hot drink, closed his eyes, and smiled for the first time that day. Opening them again, he looked out over the seawall and snarled.
“Why do they need to demolish anything?” Oscar snapped. “It’s been out there now for over ten years, and nothing’s happened.”
Mrs Dahl lifted her own gaze over the short seawall. Met with the rolling waters of the English Channel, it was impossible to avoid being drawn to the sinister sea base, bursting from the water like the dome of a colossal turtle shell. “I was here, you know, when it was discovered.”
Oscar nodded. “I’m surprised you came back.”
Everyone remembered where they were when it happened. A freak tsunami had struck the north coast of France, exposing vast stretches of England’s southern coastline. The mysterious site was revealed on the seabed, around half a mile from Dawlish. No one could agree on what it was, but many who witnessed it described it as like finding Atlantis’s long-lost cousin. An immediate evacuation of residents was ordered, and the entire town was commandeered by the NewK military.
The global frenzy following the event had been instantaneous and intense. Wars were nearly ignited over the site’s ownership, but NewK acted decisively, summoning the Royal Navy’s most formidable warships to the area. The first of many metallic shields was swiftly constructed around it, standing tall against the sea’s relentless waves. It was given the name Site B.
As time passed, however, the only product generated by the site was a whirlwind of suspicion and conspiracy theories. Eventually, the world moved on, and even the residents were allowed to return to the town and resume their old lives.
“I guess we’ll have to take the offer,” Oscar said above the noise of the pounding sea. “Assuming they’ll give us a good price, of course.” He placed his teacup down sharply, which somehow made the declaration feel more decisive.
Mrs Dahl turned to him. “I’m more than ready to retire,” she said. “But what about Glitter Buckets?”
Oscar sighed. He’d been around long enough to know that some battles are just not worth the fight. When your cereal of preference decreases its delicious chocolate content by ten percent, you evaluate your choices, and vote with your wallet. If someone walks into your shop and haggles over the price of a revolving bow tie, you stand your ground and explain that you can only cut-your-own-throat so much before you sever an important artery. Besides, what kind of person has so little dignity as to quibble over a comedic neck accessory?
But even he knew that what you don’t do – typically – is fight the government. The idea was preposterous.
“I can find another job. Or somewhere else to move the business,” he said. “Maybe I should become a man of leisure; start wearing lounge suits and make nap time part of my personality.”
The universe seemed in that instant to react to his words. The two turned in their chairs to observe a new, crisp wind, whipping a dense cloud of polystyrene fast-food containers down the road. Seagulls went silent. The sky turned a shade of silvery-blue, looking as though it was charged with electricity. A black cat in the distance stopped licking its privates, leaving one leg held ominously aloft.
And then, perhaps realising that it had somewhat overstepped the mark, the universe righted itself. The heavy atmosphere melted as quickly as it had arrived, and the sun crept around the corner of a cloud, reigniting normality.
“There are strange times ahead,” Mrs Dahl remarked.
“Given my line of work, you’d think I’d be used to it.”
“Yes, I see the people who come into your shop,” she said, nodding before turning back towards the Turtle. “And I’ll be glad to get away from it all.”
“Where will you go?”
“Spain. Always wanted to. Beautiful country. Nice weather. Very few secret aquatic bases.”
“That you know of. I think that’s sort of the point of them being secret,” Oscar said with a grin that Mrs Dahl failed to mirror. “I’ve never been to Spain,” he continued. “Never left England, actually.”
She smiled. “If you take this money, you and your young lady can pack up your things and discover yourselves. I don’t know why the two of you aren’t married.”
Oscar choked on the tea he’d been about to swallow. Choosing to keep the rest of his thirst unsatisfied for the time being, he steered the conversation away to safer shores. “You don’t have a kettle for sale, do you? Mine… disappeared this morning.”
“Taken in the burglary?”
“While that might make some sense,” he said, “I still don’t think so.”
Mrs Dahl turned, facing her shop window. “I have just the thing,” she said, clapping her hands together. She pointed to an item. “Gorgeous vintage copper and brass kettle. Perfect for a range cooker or fire. Lovely patina, probably from the latter part of the nineteenth century.”
Oscar stroked his chin. “I was thinking more like something in plastic, somewhere around two litre capacity, with an electric plug?”
“Ah! We have a true professional in our midst! I’ll fetch one from my back room.”
Mrs Dahl returned moments later with the promised item. After handing it over, she paused. “Tell me, your break-in, is it to do with…” She trailed off, looking out towards the waters.
Oscar shook his head, a sheepish expression forming in tired lines on his face. No, he was confident of a rather different diagnosis – because he knew the people who’d fitted his burglar alarm. Stupidly, he’d never once thought to test it.
“Do you remember the security firm that used to be just down the road?” he asked. “Where Tariq’s is, now?”
“It had a confusing name,” she said with glazed eyes. “Now, what was it?”
“Burger Alarms. Part alarm-system installers, part fast-food takeaway.”
She nodded, the memories returning. “You wouldn’t think there was much demand for such a business around here, what with the constant army presence.”
“True. But it closed down when the whole family went to prison.”
Mrs Dahl’s face took on the same appalled expression as when someone dared suggest her antique stock was of dubious origin. Even though, as she well knew, some of it certainly was. She was ashamed to admit that she’d sold the same Turner painting three times – her only consolation being that any genuine art lover would spot the fakes in a heartbeat. The illustrious painter wasn’t generally known for turning the letter ‘u’ in his signature into a smiley face.
Oscar smiled, knowing the best was yet to come. “I knew the guy owned it,” he said. “Dan Scoleri. Big guy. Friendly but intimidating. Anyway, he started with simple scams, sending his twin nineteen-year-old boys out on excursions – not to actually do anything wrong, but just to appear vaguely menacing. They’d cruise around the local estates in a white van, claiming they were just scouting for scrap metal. It was all low-level stuff, nothing explicitly illegal, but worrying the hell out of everyone. They were the embodiment of social media’s worst nightmares.”
Mrs Dahl was nodding along to the story.
“Everyone soon turned to him wanting alarms, surveillance cameras – the works,” Oscar continued. “Quite clever, in a twisted sort of way. But it all went wrong in the end.”
“Got greedy. Realised he’d profit more by fitting dodgy equipment, and then robbing his customers in the night. He and his clan were a mini crime wave.”
“And yours is one of their alarms, I take it?”
“Yes. They were always friendly to me; it just never occurred that they’d do that.”
“They were caught, though?”
“Yeah, they weren’t the brightest bunch. Got the idea of stealing back their old security equipment so they could resell it. Problem was, they kept inadvertently nicking gear that wasn’t theirs – and that stuff actually worked! There was a trove of genuine security footage showcasing them in action.”
A car-sized drone buzzed overhead, landing moments later on the flat-topped dome of the Turtle.
“Only a small one, this time,” Mrs Dahl remarked.
Oscar could just about make out the haze of the rotors in the distance, but the landing platform seemed otherwise empty. “I swear one day we’ll have something the size of a container ship flying over us.”
“It still gives me the shivers,” Mrs Dahl said. “Whatever they’re doing over there. Do you think the rumours are true?”
“The ones about Mrs Vanderbilt’s shop being a front for the Riviera Mafia?” Oscar asked. “Because yes. It’s never open in the daytime, the windows are always whitewashed, and there’s a constant flow of mysterious night-time visitors.”
“There isn’t such a thing as the Riviera Mafia,” Mrs Dahl said. “And anyway, I mean about whatever it is out there. If it isn’t some sort of alien site, what else could it be? I still remember back in the day when everyone thought it might be a stunt by McDonald’s.”
Oscar nodded sagely. “I’m partial to the rumours that say it was buried there long before humans ever came into the picture. If it hadn’t been for that freak tide, it might have stayed hidden forever.”
“Well, that doesn’t make me feel any less uneasy,” Mrs Dahl said. She pulled her shawl tighter around her. “Part of me is glad that at least they found it in our country, in our waters. Gives me some peace to know that the NewK government is in control of it.”
Oscar still cringed at the phrase NewK. There was something terribly unsettling about a government renaming its own country for marketing purposes.
“I just wonder who is in charge,” he said. “Seems to me that Site B clicks their fingers, and we jump to attention. I mean, look at what they’re doing with us and our street. ”
“Aliens coming over here, taking our land,” she said with a knowing smile. She looked straight ahead at the Turtle and sighed deeply.
“But you’re right. Who knows what’s happening out there?”
“You know – one day we might just find out.” Mrs Dahl stared off into the distance. “And I’m not sure I look forward to it.”
And that’s the end of Chapter 1! I hope you enjoyed it.
If you did like this taster of “Glitter Buckets & Spades,” join my newsletter for updates, exclusive content, and information on the book’s official release. And when the time comes, don’t hesitate to grab your copy and embark on the full comical journey.
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