Bouncing On The Heather #writephoto #bots #moths

This is a story based a true story. You only need to know that some British moths attract their mates by releasing strong pheromones on the wind. The males can travel large distances when they experience the scent in order to be first in class. This fascinating ritual attracts wildlife film makers to record the event.

Wend Topograph held the lens bag tight to his chest and sniffed. He bet it was all that bloody heather that had set off his hay fever. Look at it. Bloody everywhere. This wasn’t what he signed up for. A quality internship, they said. Work with the best, they said. Get a foot in the door, they said. He looked at his (limited edition – knock off) Nike’s and spat. The only thing he’d got his foot in was pony shit.

‘Hey, kiddo. Over here.’

‘It’s Wend.’

‘Sure. Just wend your way over.’

Wend plastered on the expected smile. Sodding dickhead. The three men he approached stood in a small group staring intently at the ground. Wend wondered what they’d found and then told himself he didn’t care, even if gold nuggets were oozing out of the mud.

‘Not much, for all the effort, Ben.’

Wend looked at the speaker as he hovered outside their tight circle. Which one was Ben? Was he the director or the camera man? He wasn’t the nerdy Pillock in the waxy jacket. No, he was a Doris or something. Bred insects. God, was that even legal? Like that freaky Austrian dude who kept girls in his basement.

‘I think Norris has a plan, Dan.’

Norris, yeah that was it. ‘Hello?’ Wend wanted to get back to the road and the girl in the food van. Now he had a plan for her. ‘You said come over.’

‘Hold that thought Wend. We’ll need a close up so you could start sorting out the telephoto lenses.’ The speaker – definitely the director, Ben – turned back to the group and bent down. Wend followed his gaze. Nestled in the heather was a gauze covered frame and sitting on the outside an enormous brown moth. Wend stood back, quickly. ‘Christ what’s that? Does it bite?’

As Norris’ expression turned from confused to incredulous and Dan the cameraman mumbled ‘cretin’, Ben put an arm round the youngster’s shoulders. ‘It’s a moth, Ok?’

Wend wondered how comforting that was meant to be. He dumped the hold-all and began to turn away only to be stopped by a growl from Dan. ‘Stay there. We ain’t finished.’

Wend glared back but knew better than to disobey. Instead he turned and stared towards the road imagining sharing a buttie with the busty cutie.

Behind him, Norris crouched down. ‘Normally I’d let the female moth meet her mate inside the cage.’

Dan shook his head. ‘We need a clear shot. It has to be on top of the heather.’

Ben didn’t look too sure. ‘What if they fly away?’

Dan laughed and Norris nodded. ‘She’s sent her pheromones to bring him in and he’s flown miles for this chance. They’ll go nowhere.’

Wend looked back, curious despite himself. What were they up to?

‘Right.’ Ben rubbed his hands. ‘You ready Dan?’

Dan mumbled something as he took the bag from Wend, dug out two lenses and handed it back.

‘Thank you,’ Wend mumbled sarcastically.

‘What?’ Dan clearly wasn’t paying attention.

‘Do you need me or shall I go back to the car park?’

‘Hmm?’ Dan fiddled with the lens and looked at the youngster. ‘Just hold the bag and keep out of the way.’

Muttering about dickheads, Wend snatched the hold-all and moved a few feet. He tugged his phone out of his jeans and swiped the lock screen.

Meanwhile Norris bent down and gently undid the net cage. With even more care he lifted the female emperor moth from her captivity and lowered the stick she clung to onto the top of a bright patch of heather. ‘That okay?’ he asked Dan who was already engrossed behind his camera. Having taken some stills he swapped and began to record.

Ben leant in close to a nervy Norris. ‘What happens?’

Norris could barely contain himself. ‘The female continues to release her scent and the male will soon seek her out. It won’t take long before they’re in cop.’

‘In what?’

‘When insects mate we say they are in cop. Short for copulation.’ He looked at the bemused Ben. ‘They begin to have it off?’

‘Oh yes. Of course. That what we want.’

Dan bent lower. ‘You didn’t say this was a porn shoot, Ben. I’ll want a slice of the action.’

Ben laughed. ‘Maybe leave that to the lad. I think he’s playing with a porn channel given his colour.’

Dan looked across to where Wend stood, his face in profile. He had indeed gone pretty red.

‘There!’ Norris drew their attention back to the moths. The male had already moved into position, though the awkward angle at which the female presented herself, perched as she was on a stick on top of an exposed clump of heather meant the logistics were challenging her amour’s abilities.

‘Should we move them?’ Ben sounded anxious, as he stood back to let Dan film from a different angle.

Norris shook his head. ‘No, they’ll find a way. Nature is extraordinary in how it ensures each species procreates. They don’t need any help.’

The three men waited as the vibrating male moth twisted left and then right in his attempts to engage the female. After a few minutes Dan rocked back. ‘I’ve got that. I’ll get a few close ups while we wait for him to do his thing. Oi, kiddo. Can you stop all that personal improvement and bring me the 500?’

Wend broke away from his phone and sighed. Clarrie, the catering assistant was equally bored and had been providing Wend with some examples of her daily specials available to him when he got back. Grumbling he dug in the bag and stomped over to where the three men were grouped. He noted the net cage lying to one side and gave it a wide berth. He wasn’t going anywhere near those moths.

He stopped just behind Dan know was crouched down. ‘Here you go.’

Dan didn’t move.

‘Hello?’

No one moved. No one spoke.

Bloody hell, who did they think they were.

Wend stepped forward, until he was in front of Dan who looked up at him, horror struck. Wend sniffed. ‘Your lens, right? I’ve had enough. I’m off from a cuppa.’ When Dan didn’t move, didn’t speak he dropped the lens next to him and marched off in the direction of the parked cars.

No one watched him go. They only had eyes for the patch of heather on which Wend had stood. The self same patch on which the male and female emperor moths had sat. Each of them expected the worst, two delicate creatures crushed beyond recognition.

Instead, the two moths were locked together ‘in cop’ as Norris had delicately put it. While Dan filmed and snapped away, Ben shook Norris’ hand. ‘Thanks.’

‘No, thank you. And thank your young assistant too. I don’t suppose he expected to be the pimp to two moths when he came to work today.’

This was written ins response to this week’s #writephoto prompt

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Dog At Leisure

This poem is based on the famous poem,

Leisure, by William Henry Davies

What is this life, if full of care?

Go fetch my lead, don’t comb your hair.

Don’t give in to untimely sloth,

I know what fun awaits us both.

Let’s try the park; we know it’s free,

Full of places for me to pee.

Squirrels anxious to play chase,

Friends who’ll let me lick their face.

Secret corners where I can poo,

Long lost balls for me to chew.

Picnic scraps and chicken bones,

Stale crusts and broken scones.

These treats and many, many more

Are just beyond the bloody door.

So find your shoes, tie those laces,

 I’ll take you now to wondrous places

Full of fun, grass and the freshest air

And while I play, you’ll stand and stare.

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The Garden June 2020: The Year Of The Courgette #garden #june2020

It’s rained this month which has been good for the garden even if the month ended with the lawn looking stressed again. Ah me… my ideas to capture the rain off the roof are moving forward, though. The top lawn, more stressed than your average relegation threatened manager will be replaced this autumn by a dry garden. In digging out the grass and creating the new hard base we will lay a pipe from the down-pipes and capture up to 20,000 litres of rain water which we can use on the garden including my lawn without the guilt of a sprinkler using perfectly good potable water (the Textiliste who has camel blood, refuses point blank to countenance such a waste).

Meanwhile the long bed that looked like this in February

and this in March

now looks like this (pictures show how it has developed over the whole month)

It’s a true potager bed with veg – the courgettes of the title mingling with chard, onions, beetroot, mange tout, french beans, tomatoes and corn, next to calendulas, cornflowers and sunflowers. I’ve also harvested the gooseberries – 2.7 kg!

Around the rest of the garden, the abundance of tulips, poppies, daffs and geraniums are now being replaced by lilies, sweetpeas, dahlias and the aforementioned calendulas and cornflowers plus many other staples such as loosestrife and roses.

We also had a mini Glast-no-bury for the Vet who, with her girlfriends couldn’t go this year so I knocked up a rustic bar and the Textiliste a tee-pee and they decorated the garden, had a noisy, socially distanced (sort of) few hours imagining a pyramid stage and a headliner.

And of course, Dog was ever present…

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The Relief Of Waterloo

Another poem based on one of the greats, this time After The Listeners by Walter de la Mare and in praise of the public toilet

‘Is there anybody there,’ said the traveller,

‘To open up this loo?

It’s surely wrong that one must pay,

For our numbers one and two.

‘It’s not a function of the state

To limit where I go.

My body ain’t so politic

But it has some rights, you know.

‘If I’m caught, then my relief

Should be free at the point of use.

Just because the Exchequer’s bare,

To charge is no excuse.

‘It is a basic human right,

This need to pee and poo;

The people’s stall and porcelain

Are for the many not the few.

‘Bladders come in big and small

And bowels are many sized.

Open up the bloody lav,

Before I go cross-eyed.’

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That Moment… #heatwave #flies #hotellife #1976 #deadfliesandsherrytrifle

It’s been incorrigibly hot here recently and the flies have been dying in their dozens, usually between the secondary glazing and the windows. How do they get it? I’ve never understood musca domestica and its penchant to peg out in unexpected places…

That paragraph is a link to the story behind the title of my first published book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. In 1976, it was bum-boilingly baking and I worked in a hotel on the very edge of the New Forest called the Passford House. I think it still exists. I was employed as a waiter in their dining room along with several permanent staff, a demonic headwaiter and a few fellow students like me…

Picture the scene…

I am 19, home from university and working in this self-identifying ‘quality’ hotel. What is called a commie waiter which has nothing to do with my ‘what’s mine’s yours and we’re all off to the gulag’ politics of that time, but is the lowest form of waiting pondlife meaning, mostly, we students barely see any share of the pooled tip box.

We keen youngsters are run ragged by the head waiter and permanent staff, taking on tasks far too complex for us inexperienced waiters and waitresses. Even so, they soon become wary of my tendency to serve the wrong food, to offer frozen croquet potatoes rather than the cooked variety, so I’m in charge of the sweet trolley for the lunches.

The temperature continues to soar and by the fateful day even the thermometer has cried foul and hidden in a fridge. The cactus plants have begun to sweat.

On its face my job is simple. At a signal from the waiter in charge of a particular table, I wheel my creaky contraption to the woman sitting nearest to the left hand of the head of the table – if the guests are of a uniform sex, I am given a discreet steer by said waiter as to who to serve first.

‘Would Madam like a dessert?’

I’m tasked with oozing as much smarm as I can muster in the hope my oleaginous fawning will distract from the effluent sweat that is dripping from me. This particular table is of non residents and comprises eight locals with a ruddy faced booming Old Sea Dog at its head.

The woman, who we will call Doris, simpers. ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t.’

Captain Pugwash is having none of it. ‘Come on Doris, don’t let me down. You need some grub in you.’ He turns a beady and appraising eye on me. ‘What have you got, boy?’

By this point in my waiting career I’ve learnt that I must merely imagine sticking a runcible spoon in the guest’s vacuous rectum rather than actually garotte him. I maintain a plausibly intelligent smile while I list the sweetmeats and other delectable comestibles available to Doris.

She hesitates and dithers and dissembles. She chooses a rum ba-ba which changes to a crumble before morphing into a lemon tart that segues onto the Chef’s piece de resistance, his sherry trifle.

My smile shifts uncomfortably, its adhesion failing under the weight of this incontinent indecision but just about manages to hold its place. ‘Certainly madam. A fine choice madam. Discernment is your middle name, eh, madam?’

I take careful aim at the jelly/cream/fruit/sponge/custard combo and place a cunningly asymmetric but utterly appetising portion on a plate and place it in front of her. I’ve done this a lot and have learnt how to cut it so as to display the piped cream to perfection. I turn to the trolley while she turns and flirts with the bewhiskered and wrinkled old scrotum to her right.

I wish I had timed that pause, between placing the plate just so and returning with the cream jug. Farts last longer, as do a few political careers. The word ‘scintilla’ is probably apt here.

‘Would madam like…?’

The words, ‘some cream’ become merely breathy pixels in an astonishing and asphyxiating tableau. We – me, Doris, Admiral Lord Pillock and the other guests – all turn to face the served trifle at the same moment.

Where once there was an astonishing confection of sculptured cream, there is now a lepidopteristic embellishment: to whit a fly; a very dead fly; on its back; a insectoid monument to the ephemeral nature of life sat on its own cream plinth.

‘What’s that?’

To me this is redundancy at its highest. It is, obviously, a fly, but perhaps he wanted not just genus but species. Before I can satisfy my hubristic urge to explain the difference between the common house fly and, say a horse fly, Doris gurgles and gags. Any colour she has gained by exposure to Britain’s ridiculous heatwave disappears as she contemplates just what she might have been lifting to her mouth.

‘Oh god…’ Her napkin, chair and decorum are sent flying as she ups and leaves, making her way to the ladies.

Smuggler Bill eyes me beadily. ‘Why,’ he asks in one of those voices that usually presage a little light genocide, ‘did you do that?’

Our eyes lock. He means it. This is, perhaps, my first exposure to people who have suffered some kind of disappointment and however bloody obvious it might be that it is merely Mother Nature at her most capricious, has to find some one to blame. And here, in this stifling restaurant, that fall guy is me.

‘I’m going to speak to Eric.’

Eric, were you to be unsure, is the owner of the hotel. A man of lopsided visage and with a tendency to turn in circles. I await the result of this little unlit fireside chat with a degree of trepidation. My fellow waiters have opened a book on the manner of my likely demise. Some form of defenestration seems inevitable. It doesn’t take long in coming. I am summoned to the inner sanctum. Eric sits behind his desk, spinning his chair as he effects the anticipated holding pattern.

‘There’s been a complaint.’

‘Sir, it was…’

‘I will have to take action.’

‘But sir….’

‘So I’m moving you to barman. Your hours will change…’

‘Barman?’

‘You’ve made cocktails before, haven’t you? If not, Gary will show you.’

‘In the bar?’

‘Probably a good place to be barman.’

It begins to feel like a promotion when he adds, ‘School holidays begin next week; our busiest fortnight. If I could, I’d sack you but…’ At least he smiles. ‘Start next week. You’ll like Gary. If you need him, he’ll be in the taproom.

I’d like to say this move presaged a new secure element to my employment but my role auditioning for Cheers lasted another three weeks. I thought I was doing okay but somehow I managed to throw a pink gin over Lieutenant Commander Roderick Everlode RN. It was a pretty good pink gin too, made to his exacting specification. I’m still not sure if it was the soaked shirt or the fact I made him late for dinner that led to the complaint.

I ended up helping the gardener, Cuthbert. It was sweaty work, there were no tips but we could hide in the shade of the yew hedge and watch the younger female guests sunbathe around the pool while we drank mint juleps that Cuthbert spiced with some illegal spirit he brewed with the surfeit of apricots he grew. Life wasn’t so bad….

If you want to read Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, the excellent coming of age comedy, the first in the series of Harry Spittle sagas, you can find it by clicking on the cover image below

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What’s Luck If Not An Incontinent Seagull? #1975 #bristoluniversity #memories

I began my university life in October 1975. It was life changing in many ways and the degree I ended up with set me up on the path to success. But in that first term and year, I learned little law, understood less yet probably received a greater life education than before or since. This week, it’s time to explore my finances and my first date.

Let’s talk money, shall we?

In today’s press there is an article about students considering suing their universities to repay fees they spent on tuition that they failed to receive due to strikes and then lockdown. This is ignoring the living costs they incurred while not receiving their education for which a state loan maybe be the only option, putting the student into immediate and long term debt.

In 1975 neither was one of the worries that assailed me about starting university. To start with all the tuition fees for my tertiary education were paid for by the state. It didn’t matter if I was from affluent or poverty stricken circumstances, the tax payer funded my degree. In addition I received a grant, albeit means tested, that paid me for my living costs. From memory, in that first year it was in the region of £450 out of which I had to pay my Hall fees – where I was provided with 2 meals a day, seven days a week if I wanted them, and three at the weekend. I still had money left over for text books – and that ate up a fair chunk doing a law degree, which led to a significant second hand market and some subtle chicanery as ‘in the know’ second years palmed off out of date editions on gullible first years – plus general fun stuff. In a city university like Bristol – what was known as ‘town and gown’ as opposed to a campus university – travel costs could be an issue though bus fares were pretty low and anyway most walked or cycled.

We were well off. Better off in my second year when the maintenance grant went up to I think £750. I didn’t realise it immediately but I was bloody lucky to be educated when I was.

To be honest I had no real idea about living costs, in the first year. I valued money because like most youngsters I had little, but budgeting wasn’t a skill I was taught. While in Hall, that wasn’t much of an issue as things like heating and lighting were included in my accommodation, but when I moved into a flat I had to wise up. That, though, for this naive 18 year old was in the future. No, I had a bank account – I still have the same one at Lloyd’s Bank I had then, so much so my account starts with a 00, it being so old – into which I paid this gloriously huge cheque, even if, later that week I wrote a slightly smaller but still, to me, huge cheque to my hall.

We didn’t talk much about money, back then. Some, who were meant, under the means testing to recover large contributions from their parents – I didn’t given my family circs weren’t of the wealthy sort – and if they didn’t get it or all of it, that put them under pressure and they complained about it. But generally we had cash and that was all we needed to know

Some took the cash as a windfall to be immediately used – you hear of people wanting to have ‘liquid assets’ and had I heard that expression in my first term I would have nodded knowingly. Several were spending their evenings and some lunchtimes in the subsidised bars investing their grants in liquid if ultimately only borrowed investments. I think the quickest time from starting university to having burnt through the grant, mostly on booze was six weeks.

I didn’t. In part that was because I had my brother as a role model. When it came to monetary caution this man knew no superior. I have often wondered if his love of Jane Austen originated from his mishearing her name and thinking it was Jane Austerity because this man lived beyond frugally. Visit him in his room and he would offer you something home made. One specially was his coriander cordial. It’s not often I’ve flirted with Urophagia but there were moments, when sampling his finest that brought me closest to experiencing the joys of repatriated bodily fluids.

I soon realised I’d have to make up my own mind on my spending priorities and while I understood my bro wasn’t the role model I needed, neither was Dave my by now imbedded best friend. He didn’t drink to reckless excess – I will swiftly pass over the one evening we undertook a significant gin experiment and ended up covered in lightly flaming paraffin as we played rugby with a workman’s warning lamp that we’d freed from captivity by some roadworks. He didn’t do drugs. But he was determined to have as good a time as possible and if my bro’s stated aim was to have enough left over from his grant to pay for Christmas presents and see him through to January and our next cheque, Dave’s was to ensure there was not a penny left come the 12th of December when term ended.

I tried to be the voice of reason, but more often than not I was quite pleased to be drowned out. Some of our conspicuous consumption was moderate – I was introduced to deep fried spring rolls and sweet and sour sauce from a Chinese takeaway near Redland Polytechnic. I’d had neither before and while I doubt they cost very much they seemed like quite an extravagance the first time round. Some not so much.

For instance, it was he who pressed me to ask my dance partner and fellow law student out on a date. And having somehow found the courage to mumble the words and been surprised beyond reckoning when she’d said yes, it was he who suggested what that date should be. You’ll understand from this that, in making my tentative ‘a deux’ suggestion, I hadn’t actually any sort of event in mind. I kept things conceptual in case of rejection. Dave’s and my birthdays fall within a week of each other and while he planned a few drinks with mates for the day, mine fell on a Saturday. ‘Take her out for a meal, to celebrate’ he suggested. ‘And do something fun first so there isn’t too much pressure on the meal being ‘it’.’

Oh great. Like what? She was a girl… no, a woman. We’d talked a lot but had I the first clue what she’d actually like to do? Nope. To this day I don’t know why I suggested the zoo but I did and to be fair she seemed keen. Perhaps amused might have been the better way of expressing her reaction. On the 30th November I met her at her hall and we set off on a cold but dry afternoon for Bristol zoo, a ten to fifteen minute walk away. She told me she’d washed her hair, obviously had applied make up – 1975 was the era of blue eyeshadow and Sam was no different to other women of her generation in sporting two small blue crescents – and wore tight jeans and an even tighter knitted top. The outfit certainly emphasised her curves – to be fair, like Brooklands race track she was all curves – and I did well not to dribble. Did I have inappropriate late teenaged Male thoughts? Nah, I wanted to see the penguins.

We were having a lot of fun, even if most of the other visitors comprised groups of harassed parents when a moment that probably deserved a sort of inverted Churchillianism to describe it ‘this is not the end of the beginning but the beginning of the end’ occurred. Something large and airborne – from the quantities I surmise a genetically modified albatross or passing pterodactyl possibly – voided its capacious and clearly over full bowels adding an intriguing if unwelcome brown, green and taupe streak to her otherwise white-blonde hair.

This was a situation well outside my range of experiences and the correct response – sympathy, rippjng off my shirt to provide a cleaning aid, offering to put out a reward for the pelt of the incontinent miscreant – passed me by as I laughed. I may have added (a) it was meant to be lucky (b) at least the rest of her hair was freshly washed so it was easily restored to its previous glory and (c) should I wait for her in the cafe if she wanted to dab off the worst?

I’m not usually lacking in empathy and I’m sure the combination of facial expression and body language – possibly combined with the fury and ritualistic belabouring about the head with her fists – brought home to me the errors of my initial responses. I did my best to retrieve the situation but I wasn’t then and am still not very good when confronted with copious tears. She used my jacket – a homemade pink denim affair of which I was quite proud – Mum made it, not me – to grind off the worst while also redistributing her eye shadow in a way that left her looking rather like a giant panda that had swallowed a mix of antifreeze and slush puppy as I led us back to her hall where I was told – 1. She’d have to rewash her hair, 2. No, I couldn’t help and my presence was, it’s fair to say actively discouraged and 3. She’d meet me in the restaurant I’d booked and she might be late…

Not the greatest start. Maybe next time I’ll tell you about the rest of that first date. Spoiler: it ends with me embarrassed, more broke than I’d anticipated and back in my own bed in hall, alone. But she had agreed to go out with me again…

Posted in Bristol, humour, memories, miscellany, university | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments

And The Joke Is On…. #flashfiction #humour

Crawford focused on the message to distract him from the swell. ‘Two bodies, males. One poisoned, the other to be determined. Both look suspicious. Going to be a real laugh.’

He sighed. Meldrew was a pain, as if suspicious deaths at the Comedy festival were funny. Ho-ho. Why they had to hold it on an island though. He hated boats.

The constable stood on the temporary dock with a man in red tartan, wringing his hands. Don’t let it be a clown, he prayed. I can’t do this with a bloody clown.

‘What do we have, constable?’

‘Martin Deep. Doing a set. Takes a drink, and seconds later, he’s clutching his throat. Last words apparently ‘I could murder a decent scotch.’ Looks like the scotch got in first.’ Meldrew looked around. No one laughed.

‘Bit quick to be poisoned?’ Crawford knelt by the corpse.

‘Doc says it was a strong emetic. Drowned in his own vomit.’ Meldrew grinned at the clown. ‘He must have gagged on his gag.’ This time the clown frowned and sniffed. A tear slide across his cheek smudging his make up.

Crawford dropped the sheet over the dead man’s face. ‘The other one?’

‘Next door. Newcomer, Piers Tripe. Seems he’s set was bombing.’ Meldrew sniggered. 

Crawford grabbed the constable’s arm. ‘If you say he corpsed, so help me…’

‘Sir. As if. That would be tasteless. Seems he was terrible so no one was going to die of laughter in his tent. Sorry. Doc thinks he was also poisoned.’

‘Any link?’ He looked at the clown.

‘They were both New Right comics. Mindless bigots if you ask me.’

Crawford looked at the bodies. ‘Why poison them, though?’

Meldrew stood back. ‘Probably because they’re an acquired taste, sir.’

‘Meldrew. Have you ever thought you might try another career?’

’Stand up?’

Crawford’s hands circled the constable’s throat. ‘I was thinking something more horizontal. Like a professional cadaver

Posted in A to Z blogging challenge, creative writing, flash fiction, humour | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Full Sentences #carrotranch #morganandlogandoamerica

The boys are still trying to reach the Ranch but things go haywire when Morgan has a nightmare…

‘Morgan! Morgan! Are you alright?

‘Wha…? Bloody hell, that was weird.’

‘You were screaming something.’

‘I think it was eating those cheese straws last thing. We had a huge fight.’

‘What about?’

‘What we should wear when we get to the Ranch.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Oh yes. I said jeans. You said a pin-striped suit and spats.’

‘Jeans?’

‘We fought. You died.’

‘Blimey.’

‘I was found guilty of murder, you of a crime of fashion.’

‘What was the sentence?.’

‘Since you’d got death, I got life.’

‘They threw away the key?’

‘They said I’d suffered enough and let me go.’

This was written in response to this week’s prompt at the Carrot Ranch


June 25, 2020, prompt
: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story with the phrase, “I got life.” It can be told from any point of view. What meaning does it lend to your story? Go where the prompt leads!

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing, logan and morgan, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The Last Water #writephoto #poem #sonnet #climatechange

Cold Jack, content and job well done, creeps home,

Allowing Spring her turn to warm the earth.

Crocus tongues push out through softening loam

As glass-eyed shepherds watch their flock give birth.

We, unplucked youth, prime cocked with urgent sap,

Feel the tug of Nature’s call to breed.

Like sheep, we follow Her bewitching map

To plant, in fertile earth, our febrile seed.

Yet somewhere Nature’s diverse scheme is lost;

Our black-fuelled lust sears seasons into one.

Our greed neuters Jack; he’s become a ghost,

Sharp fingers culled by a remorseless sun.

Why should our lambs breed, after this breach of trust?

We’ve fried this once green Earth, turning it to dust.

This gloomy look at our future, in the light of climate change came back to me seeing the latest #writephoto prompt

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, miscellany, poems, poetry, sonnets | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

It’s A Tricky Job, This Magicland Narrator Gig… #shortfiction

Once upon a time, in a land, far, far away I found myself in the role of Most Excellent Narrator. Not sure how that happened; one minute I’m watching ripples concentric on a lake and making a wish that I’d much prefer not be given the role of thirty-seventh member of the mob or something; the next I’m sharpening quill pens and presenting as some sort of Harlequin-Otter cross in multi-coloured patch tunic and sleek, wet-effect breeches and being sent epistles – no, me neither – by this Lord Chamberlain dude that I need to do something to jazz up old Queenie’s profile or some such.

The Queen, right? She’s what you’d imagine in a place where rampant compulsory diabetes is the biggest health risk, given all the spun sugar everywhere but everyone is all smiley and cheery so we don’t mention that. The Queen is ancient, bewigged, five parts powder, five parts bored rigid and five parts grump. She isn’t wicked or anything like that, more a bit tetchy on Thursdays, but otherwise kind of okay with being all Queenly, despite the lack of a coherent or challenging story-line. Her people revere her because, well, they don’t get out much and when they do, she’s always there, proving to be a pretty fine waver and bestower of regal head nods and wotnot. 

Which is fine, in its way. My predecessor, a cautious cove it seems, didn’t go in for mobs storming the castle or wild hordes or aliens, or rogue witches so it meant things had become a bit samey. Mind you, if you’ve met the Lord Chamberlain, you’ll realise why anyone would subdue any rioting multitude in the second paragraph, believe me.

And this was good, because there wasn’t any sort of health service and no one liked having to get up before lunch. Except Her Maj.

Then the Decrepit Monarch hinted she’d rather not do any more waving, thank you very much and couldn’t she have a paragraph or two where she gets to go to Ye Olde Inne once in a while and share a couple of preprandial sharpeners with Weasel the Poacher or go for a ride or visit something wondrous and magical, as long as there wasn’t any purple smoke, because she couldn’t be doing with purple smoke. I suggested a couple of scenarios, but after some initial enthusiasm, Her Regality backed off pronto. Someone slipped her a copy of the volume in the How To Queen series on health and safety and she began to worry about spinning wheels – inherently dangerous – and apples – always poisonous – and as for mirrors – well, let’s just say she made it pretty clear I should be the one doing the reflecting on the error of my suggestion we introduce a speaking looking glass, with wicked witch overtures.

I thought that had put an end to the Thrill A Queen shtick and we’d go back to the status quo ante. I mean it was obvious that His Meanness, the Lord Chamberlain was behind the spoiler but after a few days of royal promenading, see, a funny thing happened. She made up her own mind. The Lord C could threaten all kinds of egregious afters to the rest of us, but she wasn’t going to be intimidated. I was in the middle of my weekly script conference, when she reiterated her need for a new story arc. I tried to point out that maybe the risks lay more with the laity, but she was having none of it. ‘Are you frightened by a little human-reptile transconfiguration?’

Well, yes was the truth but whoever gets stuck with the truth in a magical realm? And the thought of a toad gave me an idea… ‘What about a pet?’

Now, I know they say don’t work with children or animals and after that Pied Piper farrago over fairyland way I knew it was a bit of risk to introduce another mammal into the story, but how bad could it be, writing in a pet for Queenie?

Which one, though? Horses are popular, especially white stallions but the old girl might find that a bit, you know, over stimulating. Owls aren’t as easy as you’d imagine, them being naturally smug and myopic, which tends to leave a narrator writing up blind allies and then being sneered at. And ravens are just too cool for school, you dig? They’re all a bit tropey, a  touch cliched, if you ask me, so after a quick whizz though Magipedia, I decided on a cat. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Puss in boots. I hear you but I forgot, didn’t I and it hadn’t made the edition I was using and by the time it’s in the narrative it’s too late.

Anyhoo, the cat thing started off pretty well, if you ask me. Then there’s another epistle from His Meanness… I tell you, if you think trying to find somewhere to take a Collect+ return is a bugger, you try accepting an epistle from His Supreme Unpleasantness’ emissary… ‘Is the cat neutered?’ Apparently it’s a thing in fairy-tales, no gratuitous sex and stuff so we had to have the moggy de-balled, pronto. The Queen was miffed but she’s a stickler for the rules too, so I wrote in a vet.

Who appeared this morning.

First up it’s a she. Nothing wrong there except she isn’t keen on channelling her inner  virginal maiden which is, you know a pretty standard requirement for a fairytale. Been to university she says; five years amongst hormonally saturated youngsters, she says; what do you think the chances of finding a virginal maiden are at the end of freshers’ week following a toga and toupee party, fifteen flaming sambucas and a dodgy kebab, let alone at the end of five years, she says.  So we skipped that part.

Next it’s the issue of herbs and magic potions. Only there aren’t any. All she can offer, she says, are a sharp knife, something in a vial and a lot of blood. This is a magical kingdom, for pity’s sake, I try and impress on her. We don’t do bodily fluids anymore. Not after those Grimm brothers signed away their souls to Disney. 

But then that thing happened again. The character takes over. ‘Go and ponder, scribe,’ she says. ‘I’ve got this.’

And you know, funnily enough, it’s not all bad. The Cat, without his castanets is a changed beast. He’s cartwheeling at the slightest thing. Her Maj is excited by what he might do next. The populous have something else to talk about beyond how many waves they’ll get from the old dowager dearie per diem. And His Most Excellent Psycho is quiet. Has been for a while.

I’ve done some writing ahead, taken advantage of the meme #catsoffairyland to get the old profile heightened and begun looking for less stressful roles, like food taster or dragon dentist. Though there’s a rumour circulating that the Lord Chamberlain is very taken with the Cat’s gymnastics and he may want me to script him some moves – he’s set on turning a cartwheel before they close the book on him, they say.

Which in and of itself wouldn’t be such an issue if just penning a few lines would do the trick. But getting the vet in has set a precedent. If the Big Man wants to do handstands then the Corporation’s finest nadgers will have be toast. I don’t want to be around when he gets to that chapter, thank you very much. They weren’t called Grimm for no reason. 

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