A Short History Of Catering Part XXIV #writephoto

This is a fairy tale of greed and love and hope and… oh all the usual.

Nowhere wasn’t much of a place before a peripatetic alchemist and part-time prosthetic embalmer came by. This in and of itself was a surprise because few people visited Nowhere. Oh sure, potential visitors said they had Nowhere to go to but they never did. Some even indicated they were on the road to Nowhere but something must have distracted them because they never came even if they admitted that when they set out, were going to Nowhere fast.

This was perfect for the Alchemist and his beautiful but deaf daughter (it’s a fairytale, come on what do you expect). He took a room and began alchemying. Nothing much happened. For a long time.

One day the Alchemist took a walk.

‘Morning Alchemist.’ The old woman looked up from her digging.

The Alchemist stopped and asked, ‘What are you extracting, old hag.’ His social skills could do with some chemistry.

‘Getting breakfast, Alchemist.’ She showed him the black goo that she had troweled into her bucket. She offered him a spoon.

‘Seriously? What is it?’

The old woman dipped her finger in the muck and licked it. Instantly her expression transformed and ecstasy crossed her wrinkled visage. It was as if she had entered a trance. While her eyes crossed and she purred a strange purr she handed the fascinated scientist a small jar and filled it for him. As he turned to go she repeated ‘breakfast’. It was even written on the jar, handily for this story.

Back in his small smelly laboratory he took some of the goo and began testing it. Meanwhile his daughter came in to see what he wanted to eat. Because she didn’t hear him but saw the label she dipped in her finger and before he could stop her, she tasted it. Like the wizened crone she went into a trance and purred.

The Alchemist watched. Oh well he thought and he tasted it too. He couldn’t believe what he was experiencing. It was the most disgusting dreadful diabolical taste he had experienced. He spat it out. Meanwhile his daughter reached for the pot, desperate for more.

He held her back. ‘I need to test this, find out what it is.’

She nodded but ate it anyway. ‘Maybe it will cure my deafness.’

But he wasn’t listening.

It didn’t take the clever man long. This magic mineral had extraordinary properties. He asked his neighbours and obtained mixed results. Still he reasoned if you can fool half the people all the time you can still make a fortune.

He persuaded the good Burghers of Nowhere to let him bottle and sell it.

‘You’ll need a name,’ one said.

‘Something minerally,’ opined a second.

‘Like bauxite or calcite,’ proffered a third.

‘But consistent with something that you can put on your toast for breakfast,’ offered the fourth.

‘Like marmalade,’ suggested a fifth.

‘But minerally,’ the second one reminded them.

And he called it Marmite. With the money, he built himself and his daughter a Keep because previously he’d built a Give Away and he’d come to realise all loss-leaders are just losses with better PR.

And when the customers came to see the Home of the Famous and Infamous Marmite he built a wall and a cross window in it. Children asked why it was cross and were told it was because they forgot about the glass and the window hated draughts.

And half the people lived happily ever after and the other half just took the money. Like life really.

This is this week’s response to the #writephoto prompt

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Mid January, Seasonally Muddled #garden

I know, it was only December and I was muttering about how daft the plants were, treating it like a balmy March afternoon.

It’s not got any better.

Primulas, primroses and pansies

Witch hazels

Vibernum

Hellibores, but they’re to be expected

And roses still going…

My digging though is progressing.

I’ve finished the long bed and the triangular bed and now I’m stretching across the top bed where we have grown veg and many herbaceous plants. What will go in after all my hard work if for the Textiliste and the Lad though my spies say seeds have been bought…

At least the pigeons and other birds enjoy the tripods…

Oh and let’s not forget Dog

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The Many Apertures Of Garfield Popsicle

It was the sort of day when nothing happened. Not that Garfield Popsicle minded days when nothing happened. No, what he really didn’t like were those days when, having not happened, nothing continued to happen. Because that meant it was a day when Garfield would be bored and, in all honesty he was a mite fed up with being bored. He knew it was one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ scenarios about which his Christmas cracker had warned him. He was just moaning that being petted by aunts and chucked on his cheeks by grannies was the pits and he’d really rather be bored than that, when Crustacean his loyal retainer began drilling holes in him. Which he felt was a bit much because he’d avoided tattoos and piercings, so to end up finding himself regularly being perforated by his valet on wet Tuesdays and those third after epiphany days that seemed to sneak up and occupy the calendar without any warning wasn’t on. Not on at all. Very much off.

Yes, he mused, being bored sucked.

Garfield was a rather self important cove whose professional business as an equilibrium assessor he had inherited from his maternal grandfather Apostolic Popsicle. Being responsible for ensuring the maintenance of universal balance was, he felt, undervalued by society at large. He didn’t hold with the opinion being purveyed by the Free Spirits, one of the main Inaction Groups who had recently made their presence velvet, having decided that having a felt presence lacked the appropriate silky finish they were after. That opinion stated that, left to itself the universe would sort itself out and if there was, for instance an excess of seeing then the cosmos had shown itself to be perfectly capable of undertaking the necessary sawing to rectify such a situation. After all, they said wasn’t see-sawing merely a case of swings and roundabouts?

Into this life of being an under-appreciated line manager with over-tactile relatives and an over literal staff, came Persiflage Von Tibble, a scion of the House of Gods. Persiflage was an instinctual Upsetter. Inbreeding, a liking for cabbage sorbet and a distinct list to the left had rendered Persiflage incapable of avoiding wanton if unintended destruction. Every part of her wrought havoc wherever she went. Eyelashes jammed sensitive cog-based technologies, her sneezes shattered delicately negotiated peace treaties and caused localised pandemics and her knees crushed random bits of China and other significant Asian behemoths. After the damages reached such a significant sum that Persiflage’s accountant, Fleece feared she might not be able to pay his latest invoice, he had a dozen genetically modified trolls bury Persiflage under a newly built six lane bypass and sent for Garfield.

Garfield listened to the description of Persiflage’s afflictions with mild interest. It was only because it was wet and not Wednesday that he listened at all, very aware that Crustacean had just taken receipt of a hammer action two speed megamatic and any hint of a yawn would give the demented domestic an excuse to treat Garfield like an experimental Swiss cheese.

When Fleece finished with some small but beautifully choreographed handwringing Garfield sighed. ‘Leave her be. What can she do…?’

Garfield knew, in ways that were very old, that he had a lot to learn. This was one of those learning moments, much like understanding braking by beginning with a pile up. As he spoke the earth around them heaved and rippled. Sounds of splintering and crumbling filled the air. Garfield and Fleece hurried to the window. Outside destruction began to spread outward like ripples on a still pond, only with less tranquility and more masonry. Fleece pointed at the epicentre. Emerging from the ground came Persiflage, soil-stained, undamaged and more than a little bit peeved.

She looked around until he gaze alighted on Fleece. ‘You. Just you wait…’

In normal times, a Persiflage paddy was a recipe for a right old kerfuffle but, since all nearby structures and sub structures and under sub structures had been pulverised her trail of desolation uniquely preceded her.

Fleece held his head. ‘Bloody hell. What now?’

Garfield looked at the accountant and smiled. He felt energised. ‘Now, Mr Rapacious Bastard, we make a killing…’ Briefly his smile slipped before catching a corner of his moustache and righting itself. ‘Maybe that was badly phrased. What I mean is we will maximise you client’s potential.’

Fleece had begun to shrink. ‘How? And will it balance the books?’

‘We will balance everything.’

Garfield Popsicle had found his calling. He understood equilibrium so if Ms Von Tibble caused a major contrafabulation here, somewhere an equal and opposite confluence of unexpected fortuity had to be released. And if it hadn’t yet been freed then it was Garfield’s task to spot the potential for gratuitous joy and release it into the wild.

In next to no time, the opposites of Persiflage’s deconstrucive activities began to emerge: lottery wins, pregnancies after many futile years of trying, successful meetings between potential in-laws. Even unexpected political consensus occurred. All sorts arose after Garfield pointed out the potential.

Of course to have such unexplained wonderments required a certain amount of downsiding on Persiflage’s part, but even here Garfield’s experiences helped. He encouraged Persiflage to set up her own bespoke demolition business where she could get most of her clumsiness out of her system during office hours.

Everyone was happy. Except Crustacean who spent his days making bespoke colanders for a group of self watering brassicas.

Posted in creative writing, fiction, humour, miscellany | Tagged , | 20 Comments

Things Go Better….

I gave Chelsea Owens Terrible Poetry comp a go and I wasn’t bad enough. Judge for yourself. The idea was to come up with an alternative advertising jingle…

We can stick it up our noses
We can rub it on our gums
We can sprinkle it like sugar
And lick it with our tongues

It’s dusty white and naughty
It doesn’t carry tax
It’s far less calorific
Than your average Pepsi Max.

The moral of this ditty
Is when you go for broke
Ignore all other stimulants
And stick with good old Coke

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The Lore Of Old Stone #writephoto

There is a theory that there are an infinite number of parallel worlds of which we are one. There are many such theories: our universe is constantly expanding; marmite is delicious; intelligent propelling pencils inhabit one of the other worlds; and Piers Morgan is an utter tit. Only one is completely provable. In fact there are some 26 parallel worlds in our corner of the cosmos and we are the fifth, sandwiched between Dearth and Fearth – the first E in Eearth is silent. Dearth, coming before us is like all big brothers: bigger, clumsier, inclined to ignore us and painful if approached unexpectedly.

The interactions between parallel worlds are rare but one sure sign is in the appearance of large unexplained phenomena. It is not yet understood how such phenomena pass between worlds but one theory turns on the concept of obfuscatory corruptions or more commonly the telling of huge whoppers to children to make them believe the universe is not the grim and grinding state of being we understand it to be shortly after we first grasp the concept of Mondays but instead is a place of abundant magic and endless excitement. Santa is one such corruption.

On Dearth Santa is the size of a town house and whose Ho Ho Hos would, if heard on Earth demolish Reading.

As, dear reader, you will gather from this piece, Magic in the sense of physical laws that few have yet worked out exists across the worlds. And a practitioner who can corral the impact of these unfound laws is called ‘magician’ or ‘sorcerer’ or ‘mystic’ whereas in truth he or she is just a clever clogs who’s got there before the rest of us.

Of course, these smarty pants want one thing more than any other – well apart from unconscionable wealth, an adoring public and regular sex – and that is for no one else to know what they know so the mystery is maintained.

Thus when anything appears to have arrived from Dearth it is the magicians who are most aware and who do their best to ensure either the remaining citizens remain in blissful ignorance or that such phenomena are explicable within the limited understanding of the Earth’s population of experts.

When next you come across what appears to be a set of irregular pock marked standing stones apparently miles from where they might have been quarried you will be told these are the churches of ancient people’s who, before hydraulics were invented and the wheel discovered managed to drag these buggers across the landscape when they couldn’t even download the second series of the Queen.

But really? Isn’t there something a tad far fetched about this? And why is it that a group of weirdy beardies spend all their time claiming these things as their own?

No, dear reader, hear the truth. These stones are the baby teeth of the young inhabitants of Dearth. Their parents, having conned them with the promise of a tooth fairy visit can’t be caught with these little mementoes. Instead they look to put them somewhere that the children will be sure never to find. In their little brother’s back yard.

Meanwhile the magicians of the world feel obliged to try and hide these phenomena if they can’t eradicate them. They spend years ducking and diving to avoid being caught while they practice their blasting spells – a simple harnessing of the excess of methane in the atmosphere – to make them look less like teeth and more like stones that some psychotically possessed ancient people who could barely pay the rent would give up a year’s growing kale and move them higher and yon.

Obvious really….

This is the latest response to the latest #writephoto prompt

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Seven Sisters #theatre #film #review

When I was a youngster you’d be hard pressed to find me reading what back in the sixties were considered ‘girls’ books. Mallory Towers, that sort of thing. And especially something like Little Women. I vaguely knew the plot but, meah, not for me.

Wind on the clock and as I entered by twenties and a sort of Neolithic cultural phase, I began to read classics and hunt out serious plays. Shakespeare wasn’t bad, Ibsen had his moments. Moliere too. But Chekhov? Uncle Vanya came and went and I thought, maybe when I’m grown up.

How therefore did I find myself watching Three Sisters on Monday followed by another four on Tuesday? PG Wodehouse warned me about the duplicity of aunts but did I really need to be cautioned about an overdose of the sisterhood?

And here’s the thing. They were, in their very different ways, worthy of my precious time. I didn’t say I’d learnt humility, did I?

Starting with the Chekhov at the National, and The Three Sisters, this piece was set during the Biafran independence push between 67 and 70. You couldn’t be a child of that time and not be aware of the appalling pictures of pot bellied malnourished children. If Live Aid did that for the 80s Biafra did it for the 60s.

The benefit of taking a standard, like Chekhov’s piece and resetting it is that the core of the play, the power-plays between sisters, the patriarchal restrictions and the all round cunning of domestic warfare remains intact – it’s modernised to the time of course so for instance a duel becomes a wrestling match. These tensions are universal and it matters not which of the last 500 years you set it in for the storylines to remain relevant. But then you add the political background, the tribal, post colonial tensions, the differing viewpoints and you have an engrossing production.

No it was far from perfect. I sighed so deeply I inhaled two rows of the circle so despairing was I of the first ten minutes when the characters stood and declaimed like they were part of an open soliloquy night. Good heavens can’t writers reveal their characters and the essential back story with a little bit of finesse?

And while the actors portrayed many emotions none of them seemed comfortable with lust and sexual attraction. It was a little like watching year 5 nativity night when the distance and lack of physical contact between the boy Joseph and the girl Mary made the concept of a virgin birth not only credible but inevitable.

And what on Earth was the point of a net curtain across the stage during the third act? I know there were meant to be war wounded on the other side but all the curtain did was make me think that the neighbourhood watch had somehow sponsored this production.

The critics warned us this was three hours… long but it passed easily enough and without the usual recovery nap that I need these days for anything that includes bonnets and side whiskers. Or in this case towering headdresses and industrial strength moustaches. I’m glad, over all that I went.

The critics have been kind to Little Women. Very. And you couldn’t fault the cast. But that’s true of Cats and look what a priapic tail and floating faces have done to Judy Dench and Taylor Swift.

I think Saoirse Rohan is a fab actress. Florence Pugh too. Laura Dern and Meryl Streep are both consummate professionals. Emma Watson is a little two paced for me, frankly a bit like watching the Ladybird Book of Emoting For Beginners. But as an ensemble of female acting talent it would be criminal to offer them anything as misconceived as Cats.

Fortunately for us they are given a wonderful piece of writing. Now, okay, I’m not a fan of the St Vitus timeline that we have here, with it jumping from childhood to adulthood to the first loves to the current day. The only time I was sure when we were was 1. When Jo March was in New York and Amy in France and 2. When Jo sold her hair. Otherwise I held my breath at a change of scene and waited for a clue. Was Beth dead… oh please, if you don’t know the plot then read a summary – this piece has been around too long for plot spoilers to be an issue. Had father reappeared? Was Aunt March dead?

Still being made to concentrate isn’t such a bad thing and the beautiful writing, the fantastically attractive settings, the utterly unmemorable score – believe me that is a good thing; I can’t tell you the times some ill presented piece of music has ruined a cinematic experience – all of it added up to a lovely night at the cinema.

This is a good film, a watchable piece. It tugs at ones emotions, it explains in ways that the Three Sisters failed fully to unravel, each of the March sisters’ motivations without creating heroes and villains. These are nuanced characters, flawed and frustrated and you root for them all in the end. Even the long suffering mother is better understood in Laura Dean’s hands as anything other than a saint. Her lot is hard, uncompromising and she’s had to make hard choices not all of which are necessarily kind.

Oh and apart from the old guy from the big house who was a bit of a Wuss really, all the men were somewhere on the pathetic spectrum of masculinity. I didn’t root for any of them except to the extent their fortunes were inextricably linked to the March sisters. Indeed, Jo’s publisher apart, if this was the only version of manhood you’d experienced you really would have to wonder why men had any power at all.

Still they say write what you know and maybe Miss Alcott found herself surrounded by emotional eunuchs. I hope they don’t get the gig in some TV spinoff.

Posted in Film, miscellany, review, theatre | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Twenty -four Hours of Existential Angst In The Life Of A Bucket #blogbattle

It had been that sort of day when winds hushed themselves so as not to disturb the peace. Indeed Night, which had got into the habit of falling felt the urge to seep, so much so that Dusk, unaware of Night’s approach did well to avoided squealing when Night slipped in beside it and suggested it might like to pop off for a coffee.

On such a night, dreams sat and strummed guitars on beaches and let sleep have a night off. Waves lapped with the care and thoughtfulness of woke kittens afraid of disturbing those who might be the easily perturbed by the noise of them imbibing their bedtime milk. And clouds scudded behind the moon so as not to discombobulate anyone with a shadow phobia.

And at the deepest darkest hour, which isn’t in fact just before dawn but at about twenty minutes to, a bucket found itself setting down on some shiny pebbles.

‘Oi!’

‘Sorry.’

‘What are you up to? Who are you anyway?’

‘I’m me.’

‘Look, it’s pitch black, I’m a sodding stone without any oracular functionality and you expect ‘me’ to be a sufficient explanation of your identity.’

‘Sorry.’

‘Is that all you do? Apologise?’

‘…’

The pebble sighed and slipped further down the beach to be replaced by a pretty nearly exact replica. ‘Who. Are. You?’

‘You’re different.’

‘No I’m not.’

‘Yes you are. You sound sort of wetter.’

‘Hang on.’ The new pebble squirmed a bit and the excess moisture evaporated with the same sense of embarrassment as a ghost that’s farted in a lift full of perfumiers. ‘Is that better?’

‘Near enough. You wanted to know…’

‘Oh bugger. Incoming… Laters.’

The next wave turned the pebble sideways and sent the bucket further up the beach. It lay on some sand which being granulated preferred silence to the grind of existence that is the lot of shingle.

Without any conversation the bucket considered its lot. The bucket knew it had a purpose. After all buckets don’t just appear out of nowhere, unlike teenage spots and single socks. Especially buckets that are delivered onto beaches on balmy nights when lovers coo pre-diabetic sweet nothings to each other.

And this bucket, confident that its reason for being would be revealed to it if only it remained patient sat and contemplated the mysteries of existence while the mysteries of existence sat and wondered whether they had spinach between their teeth because that had to be the only reason why so many things, like that stupid bucket over there, sat and contemplated them.

Slowly the Sun rose having been nudged awake by Dawn with a mug of builder’s and the newspaper and told to get a move on. The bucket tried to stretch and decided it really needed to get to the gym and waited for Fate to show it its Purpose.

At seven minutes past six a dog came, sniffed the bucket and peed on its handle. Twenty four minutes later a mother, frazzled to within a inch of her highlights chased her seven year old who kicked the bucket twice before running up the sand towards breakfast.

One hour later two joggers ran past it, apparently indifferent to its presence but actually one of them thought it reminded them of a bleary holiday in Thailand and wondered what had become of the girl with the prehensile toes and an interest in novelty tiepins.

By the time the Sun had finished climbing and felt it could really do with a bit of a sit down and another cuppa, the bucket had been filled with sand and tipped upside down fourteen times, used as a informal toilet by a toddler with a willy that would have reminded the bucket of a pig’s tail had he ever seen one and been swept out to sea again on the afternoon tide.

The bucket was content. It felt sure it had fulfilled its purpose for the day and looked forward to next time that time and tide sent it, tossing and tumbling to the beach. And this time, it thought to itself, maybe it could finish the conversation with those pebbles. Because, let’s face it, spending the day lying on sand can be effing boring.

This is a little piece that appeared on my pillow this morning as a response to this month’s #blogbattle prompt

Posted in #blogbattle, creative writing, fantasy, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , | 21 Comments