Jonas Tindale Regency SuperheroBy Jon Shepherd
Jonas Tindale, Regency Superhero
By Jon Shepherd
This story is about the urban growth of Brighton in the 1820s, the town was effectively built on the purported medicinal powers of its seawater. Mirroring this rapid and remarkable development is our central character, ‘night soil man’, Jonas Tindale, who when overcoming his cynicism, is healed and enhanced by the water, becoming a Regency super-hero.
It’s 1823. Young Jonas Tindale and his father are rowing a boat up to the beach containing coal and uncomfortable upper class passengers. Behind them is the impressive profile of the new Chain Pier [long horizontal opening panel].
“Looks good, doesn’t it, Dad? They’ll be running packet steamers to France from that next week.” “More’s the pity for us, son”.
They moor on the beach and the punters disembark. Jonas says “You can get your carriage for London up at the Kings Road, sir, now can I sell you some sea water for your journey? We have red label water for ear, nose and throat complaints, the yellow label for muscular problems, and blue for problems of the bones.” The gentleman looks disinterested. Jonas then whispers, “We’ve also got some for strengthening your timber, Sir, should you need it”, looking out the corner of his eye at the gentleman’s wife. “Certainly not, but I have a friend who might.” and he buys a bottle.
“There goes another happy customer, father” says Jonas, as they follow them up the beach. “Happy for now, son. I’ll never understand why people pay for seawater.” “But they’ll be happier still in them packets. I’ve heard them steam ships will take 5 carriages, horses and all, and 60 passengers. Get across in 10 hours.” They walk along the promenade past the pier towards the emerging Kemp Town development. “Don’t get me wrong, son, it’s progress.” “But this town used to produce real things: fish and food. From the sea and from the earth”, “Now its your quack seawater remedies and pleasure trips for the wealthy.” “Services.” he sneers. They walk up to the Kemp Town building site. “It’s what they come for, father, and they come in droves, and if they’ll pay me for it, I’ll take their money”.
They look across at the Pavilion “Where the King comes, the rich will follow”, Mr Tindale Senior looks disgusted at the palace. “The Brighton boom is all the rage, father” Next they turn and face a magnificent Regency Busby façade, then Jonas steps through a front door space, to show in the next panel it’s only a façade, “Even if there’s nothing behind it” he says, looking up quizzically at the incomplete construction.
As they walk away a group of builders look menacingly after them “Tonight.” says one.
Night time. Jonas and Dad are driving an old horse with a trailer full of human shit across the land to Brunswick town. They are ‘night soil men’, collecting the waste from the servants’ toilets at the back of the Brunswick Square houses. “This is the life, Dad.” “Shovelling shite at night. Is this the real stuff you were talking about” “We’ll get good money for this manure in the North Laine.” replies his father, Wymond Tindale “And anyway you’ll see your scullery maid at number 10”.
The next panel shows the scullery maid’s smiling face, she’s tired looking and with a tooth missing but she has a round, beautiful face with sparkling eyes. “Hello there, Jonas, have you come to stink out the place?”, “I’ve come for the soil today, but I’ll take more than that if you don’t mind”, “what makes you think we have any? The master upstairs lets me use the water closet- it all disappears down a pipe”, “No he doesn’t- you’re not that kind of girl to earn those privileges”, “Cheeky bugger”. They kiss. The next panel is the same kiss with a speech balloon from the girl’s side off-panel “Amy, come and scrub this goose fat off this pan!” and “Jonas, come and help me shovel this muck” from the other side. “I’ll take you in that water closet with me next time. Now watch out for those navvies.” she says, “I’ll see you at the Chain Pier’s opening, love” he smiles.
“Water closets.” Jonas says smiling as he and father make their way up the hill, with a larger pile “When will we get them in town, father?”, “There’s quality in some of them houses, for sure. Though I’m not sure about the builders.” The gang of labourers are approaching. “Well, here’s the night soil men, come to pay their tax” They are trying to run a protection racket. “I told you before, we don’t pay you nothing.” Says father Tindale. They pull him off the carriage and start to beat him. Jonas jumps off the carriage onto the mêlée. A fight sequence ensues as the several navvies overwhelm the two. One builder lifts a large rock and brings it down on father Tindale “Dad!”. “You’re next, boy”. They beat him unconscious and throw both bodies in the muck in the trailer. “What do we do with them?” “To the cliffs” says the gang leader, tipping out coins from the Tindales’ purse in his hand.
This is a dreamy, impressionistic sequence. It begins with Jonas and his father’s body tipped over the cliff past Black Rock. Jonas hits the sea on his back, his dirty, bloodied face looking up. Splash. There is a sequence of panels with scenes of Jonas’s beaten body; the moon; the moonlight on the dark water; the view up at the moonlit cliffs; text boxes: ‘Beaten.’ ‘Bloodied.’ ‘Dumped to die.’ ‘Is that all?’ ‘Maybe dead already. Maybe always was?’ ‘Peddling muck to farmers and seawater to rich fools.’ ‘Dad was right. This town is growing but built on nothing.’ ‘Built by crooks and all. Nothing but shite and lies.’ ‘Dr Russell and his seawater remedies’. ‘What good is it for me now? I’ve been pushing you for years, sea.’ ‘Save me now if you can. Heal me now if you can.’ ‘I’ll believe. I’ll believe if you just save me now’… his eyes half open. ‘What’s that?’ A blinding light panel. Then a panel showing a face of an angel, holding an orb and an olive branch, she’ll appear again in later times to mark the opening of a new dedicated home for nurses, the Peace Statue. Maybe she has always been present at this stretch of sea. She represents healing.
For now she appears to Jonas. The water around him is frothing up. The sun is rising. “Angel” he says, “Angel”, “Amy” he sees the face of Amy Digby the scullery maid, framed by sunlight. His hands reach towards her, his arms lift up, and he does a forward somersault, much to his surprise. “Huh?” he looks at his arms and body “I’m healed”, “I’m strong” he swims forward, with increasing speed “Very strong!” he says. He swims quickly back up to the beach, and leaps up into the air, over the dawn lit structures of Kemp town, half constructed. “I believe in this town now. I belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve!” he shouts as he bounds off towards the Downs.
Return of the King. It is the day when King George IV is set to return to Brighton to see the new Royal Suspension Chain Pier [history books contradict each other on whether he actually showed up, unless there was a Royal visit as well as the launch day]. 16,000 lamps adorn the pier of different colours. Crowds are enjoying a procession and the spectacle. A panel focuses on a dressed-up Amy Digby, together with the other servants. “Look Amy, isn’t it pretty?” says an older maid, “Yes, Lydia. I’m just thinking.” Her face is perturbed. She walks down to the beach, finds the Tindales’ boat and touches the side to check if it is damp or dry. “Fancy a boat trip, love?” the navvies are surrounding her. “Its not your boat. It’s the Tindales.” “Its ours now, love, and they won’t be back for it” the navvie approaches threateningly. “What do you mean?” “Your night soil boy has left the town, and his old man with him. But we’ll look after you.” “We’ll find you some work at the colonnades” says another, they all laugh menacingly. At that point fireworks go off in the night sky, they look up at the expanse of the illuminated pier with fireworks above [this panel reflects the opening panel of sequence 1]. The navvies grab Amy, then a cane smacks one on the head, it then pulls one away by the neck. “What’s that?” one says, as they look around confused, the next panel shows the same confused face smacked on the cheekbone with a gold pocket watch. The next panel [vertical] shows Jonas Tindale, in his tailcoat, boots, scarf, twirling the pocket watch on its chain like a lasso. Fireworks go off above him. “Hello cads” he says.
“Jonas!” shouts Amy. A fight ensues, Jonas uses his new-found strength to throw the navvies around, Amy gets some kicks in too. The navvies are scared to death and those remaining run away under the pier. Jonas picks up the boat and hurls it at one, squashing him into the pebbles. Jonas laughs “You said you wanted a boat trip!” and looks at Amy, who is smiling but incredulous. But there is one more escaping under the pier “One more, Amy!” he runs after him. The next panels close up on his face with text boxes: ‘incredible.’ ‘The power.’ ‘The energy. The speed.’ ‘But slowing…?’ ‘Slowing down.’ ‘What’s this? Feeling weak again.’ ‘No. not now.’ He is approaching the last navvie, who throws a stone that hits him on the face, he falls. Face down in the pebbles. Not now, don’t let it leave me now. “Got you, Tindale!” the navvie approaches. Text box: ‘Unless.’ He reaches into his tail coat pocket and brings out a bottle of sea water, and glugs it down. He gets up to meet the navvie and smacks him half way to Rottingdean.
Amy catches up “What happened to you? You changed?” “It’s all changed” he says, looking up at the pier and fireworks. They kiss. Final text box: ‘Next: An invitation to the palace.’ - download file
This page was amended on 09/04/2014
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