The Ballad Of Dennis And Prudence #writephoto

The Ballad Of Dennis And Prudence

Dennis Spleen was a quiet man. He was the deputy librarian at Scowle on Nadge’s municipal learning centre, a passionate if largely anonymous member of the congregation of the Volcanic Church of the Spiritually Unbound and an avid collector of Victorian Antimaccassers with a particular passion for the Barnsley Panwallop Doilley style that was popularised by Dorothea Gutterbind in her revolutionary work on otherworldly visitations, ‘The Bindings of the Nadges’. Dennis was secretly proud, therefore to be asked to give the annual Gutterbind Tribulation at the WI hall, focusing on the spiritual importance of antimaccassers in the development of the Church and the cleanliness of society in general.

What Dennis didn’t know was the reason for the invitation. Nor what would happen that night.

Prudence Formica had spent fifty-two years in thrall to her charismatic and controlling mother Regina. When Regina’s heart gave out during a particularly tasty and beguiling rant at the temerity of a Lib-Dem counsellor to canvas on her doorstep that lasted forty-one minutes without a pause, everyone assumed it was a tragedy. But Prudence was secretly delighted. Ever since she had visited the library, prior to its rebrand as a learning centre to return her mother’s weekly diet of Barbara Cartland novels she had harboured a secret longing to know the quiet and oddly hirsute deputy librarian Dennis better.

She secretly canvassed colleagues for details of his personality (‘not sure he has one’), favourite foods (‘anything beige really’) and hobbies (there’s the swimming thing…’)

It was the last one that set in train the events that became known as the Great Nadge Exposure.

At school little went right for Dennis and while he wasn’t especially bullied he excelled at remaining invisible. That was until year five when a sports teacher who had not noticed Dennis for six terms bumped into him on the edge of the pool and sent him in an approximate parabola into the water. No one, least of all Dennis knew what would happen next but it turned out he had an instinctive if idiosyncratic ability to swim. Or perhaps an inability to sink would describe it better since, in sporting terms Dennis found forward propulsion almost impossible.

Dennis enjoyed being in water but this lack of a stroke embarrassed him. And so it was that he had just reached his thirty-fifth year before he tried open water swimming. It was a rash attempt to be sociable with a new graduate recruit that had seen him join in the swimming party, having received a promise that actually swimming wasn’t necessary if he didn’t want to. It was as he was happily floating that something large and crepuscular emerged from the depth of the lake causing him to be so startled he made to withdraw from this presence. While the others studied what turned out to be the remains of a peripatetic Victorian escapologist whose latest trick had proved one too many, Dennis panicked and attempted to put as much distance between himself and the self-composting corpse. In so doing he discovered that, while moving forward was beyond him swimming backwards was as natural as breathing and over-masticating his food.

Soon enough he was perfecting his reverse swimming in as many of the county’s pools and ponds as he could get to. He discerned two things: firstly Nadge Water was easily his preferred location and second his swimming was vastly improved by being undertaken in the buff.

The first time Prudence followed him to watch his ritual – a cool Saturday in April – she was initially shocked and then pleasantly flushed at the sight of his hairy buttocks creating a rather extraordinary ‘W’ wave as he ploughed up and down Nadge Water.

Over the following months Prudence followed Dennis’ progress. One day, when the sun was particularly glorious she snapped an image of the still water and the small bobbing figure of Dennis. She knew then she was in love, and she knew she needed to display that love to her hero.

Using contacts of her mother she manipulated and manoeuvred the WI and Church until Dennis had been invited to give the annual talk. She then prevailed upon the committee to thank him, not in the traditional manner of an over vigorous and tuneless rendition of Jerusalem on the portable zither and a basket of Miriam Proboscis’ fruit and jeroboam scones but with a huge square cake that was rolled onto the Dias after Dennis had accepted the desultory applause. Dennis was prevailed upon to cut the confection, whereupon Prudence emerged clad only in a rare and original example of a Rutland loose knit antimaccasser that left little to the imagination while a screen behind them played a short film of Dennis carving a figure of eight on the Nadge.

If Prudence misjudged the audience, and the number of defibrillations undertaken on the committee who were seated in the front row and able to discern the details of the film would suggest she had, she was correct in how her performance was received by Dennis. He was stunned, so much so that Prudence had him parcelled up and slipped into her car. He awoke to find her still immodestly clad in her antique garb and ready to feed him puréed cauliflower cheese and mashed potatoes. He took a mouthful and swooned. Life was indeed good.

This was written in response to the latest #writephoto prompt

Posted in #writephoto, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

The Barriers To Love #carrotranch

Dorinda knew falling for someone rendered inert by illness made no sense. She sat and learned about his unremarkable life, loving him for it. Talking and singing, she attended his needs. She couldn’t explain her curious infatuation but it fulfilled her in ways beyond logic. She heard the prognosis, knew it hopeless but alongside his inevitable decline her love grew, albeit wrapped in an ineffable sadness and guilt that he couldn’t know how she felt about him.

Locked-in, Thomas didn’t know this angel who stroked his hand, wet his lips and cared but he loved her all the same.

This is written in response to the Carrot Ranch’s’ latest prompt:

November 21, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a romance. Focus on the relationship between two people. Build tension and end on a happy(ish) note. Go where the prompt leads!

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing, flash fiction | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

If You Go Down To The Woods Today… #writephoto

If Jerome Corbel needed inspiration, and lately he’d needed a lot his allotment was his go to happy place. But Donald McJohn was a persistent little bugger and when he said, ‘Walk with me’, even suggesting you were worried that your cabbages weren’t red enough didn’t cut it as an excuse.

Indeed, Jerome thought, just mentioning his allotment these febrile days seemed to put Donald on edge. Take yesterday. All he’d said was he needed to check on how the leeks were faring and Donald had gone all Gulag on him.

And now this walk.

Donald strode ahead, chuntering about tea and conspiracies while Jerome took in the isolation, the chilly air, the sense of something big in the offing. This place was magical. Was Donald going to make some startling revelation? Had he found the genie they were after? He’d lost himself in enough bottles so you’d think he’d find one occupied by a wish-fulfilling spirit.

Donald was a short man, prone to wear a suit even out here. He stopped abruptly and pointed. ‘I wanted you to be the first to know.’

‘Know what?’

‘The money. There is an answer.’

Jerome looked up, expecting to see the sky filled with pies.

‘No there.’ Donald pointed at a Christmas tree.

‘Is that the money tree you promised?’

‘Better. It’s a gem fir. Just shake it and you’ll have enough precious stones to buy everything we’ve ever wanted.’

‘That’s probably a bit extreme, though….’ Jerome tapped his teeth, which felt more rabbit than was entirely comfortable. ‘… it does mean I was right all along. With my slogan.’

‘How’s that?’ Donald took a quick sip of refined capitalist from his hip flask.

Jerome stepped forward and tapped the pine, ducking as rubies cascaded around his feet. ‘As I keep saying, if only you’d listen. For the money, knock the yew.’

this somewhat British offering is in response to both the latest #writephoto prompt and the General Election

Posted in #writephoto, humour, miscellany, politics | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Appraising #memories

I wrote what you see below two years ago and today someone asked me how I thought they were doing. We’re both volunteers and I was flummoxed. How on Earth was I meant to answer? I’ve lost the art of corporate obfuscation. So as a memory of times when I really knew how to appraise I thought I’d re post this and see if it resonates with any of you.

Back in the day when I worked at a law firm we had regular appraisals. As I climbed the greasy pole I began to give them as well. I am not sure I ever really nailed them.

Back in 1981, when I enjoyed my first, it went something like this:

Partner: ‘Sit down, Geoff.’

Me: ‘Thank you.’

Him: ‘Well, how do you think it has gone?’

Me: ‘Well, ok. I think.’

Him: ‘Good. So…?’

Me: ‘Well…?’

Him: ‘Must get on.’

They improved. I became one of them. We improved. We took it very seriously – in theory. It was just that, on the day, things kind of slipped.

Partners were to offer constructive criticism.

Him: ‘Oh and well done.’

Then we were encouraged to press for some self analysis from the associate.

Him: ‘Really how do you think it has gone?’

We agreed to focus on the specific job done, so the associate had a reference point.

Him: ‘How do you think it has gone? Specifically.’

And at all times we would be positive.

Him: ‘No really. Well done.’

And then we reached 1995 and forms appeared and we poured over them and the associates poured over them and we read what was written on the forms and we discussed each answer with the analytical minds you would expect to be brought to bear by a serious, top notch law firm. Prepared, we went into the appraisal meeting…

Him: I liked the way you filled in the form…

And it still went much like the above except, afterwards, we filled in the boxes that recorded what had been said and the responses. And that was the opening salvo in weeks, if not months of negotiation between interviewing partner and associate around what might, or indeed should have been said and the likely responses had the partner actually said what he had now written.

We gave HR more power to make us behave. We ignored them. HR took sticks to us. Then planks, and girders. They went on courses in mind management and torture to try and force us to say what we should say.

They thought they had the answer: the 360° appraisal. They were sure, if the associates could appraise us then we would them. It was sure to be symbiotic you see.


Of course not. These are young men and women who wanted to become us; they knew what was expected from a partner/associate appraisal. Say what they thought we wanted to hear. And us? Say what would keep them working hard.

Finally they scrapped the annual appraisal as a stand alone set piece; instead there would be more regular appraisals, with the purpose of ensuring every associate was assessed against a matrix of basic levels of skill expected of someone at each stage of their career and then judged against the experience they had in fact received.

Not micro management, more water torture. They called it Career Milestones; soon we called it Career Millstones, weighing everyone down.

I’m sure it’s improved.

But I retired and my new employer took a different view on how to carry out appraisals…

Me: you know you wanted the door fixed…

The Textiliste: oh for heaven’s sake, not again. Just leave it to me, would you?

I think, in future, I’ll find someone like minded so we can appraise each other

Posted in humour, law, memoires, miscellany, work | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Yep, Poetry #poems #poetry

Jabbering On

(Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll)

‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves

Did what Toves do, on wet Tuesdays

When old men exclaimed ‘By Joves’

As Nanny burped and loosed her stays.

The rabbit tapped his watch and spat

‘Oh come on Charles, she’ll have a fit.’

‘She hates nonsense.’ He caught a hat

And ate the brim. ‘Now just you sit’

‘And write a verse about this cat’

‘Something deep that’ll stir her soul.’

‘Not talking shellfish and other crap’

‘Unless you’re happy in this rabbit hole.’

The pensmith sighed, ‘I’ve tried my best’

‘But with her there always is a catch.’

‘She wants her tea, with lemon zest’

‘And deep fried loin of bandersnatch.’

He tweedled his Dum and diddled his Dee

‘How can I cook with no utensils.’

‘I’ve no skills in the kitchen, you see.’

‘The only tools I use are pencils.’

The rabbit chopped a homburg in three

‘Just add this with a pinch of stock

‘Then make a fire from the Tumtum tree’

‘And cook the lot in your jabber-wok.’

 The rabbit said as they left for home

Passing back through the looking glass

‘If you ever write me back there again

This vorpal blade’ll go right up your…’

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Size Matters #carrotranch

Storm Windows’ fame was legendry. Her ‘they shall not pass’ attitude protected the Empire from the evils winds that swirled around the Universe. She pacified Arturo V, negotiated a truce with the Phrngg, despite mistakenly calling their leader a shriveled turd throughout their discussions and battled countless animal vegetable and mineral enemies across a multitude of galaxies. First to enter a black hole, she redirected comets for fun and spent a sabbatical cleaning an event horizon. But nothing defined her like her death. Exiting hyperdrive, she mis-scaled the return to reality and splattered the Starfleet across a badly-hung fly-screen.

this week’s carrot ranch prompt is

November 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using storm windows. It can be literal on a house, but also consider other portals, even spaceships or submarines. Can you make it into something new or build a story around something historical? Go where the prompt leads!

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Encore Un Poem #poem #poetry

Dodgy Ozy: A Man For All Seasoning

(Ozymandias of Egypt, Percy Bysshe Shelley)

I met a traveller from an antique land

A dodgy geezer from my wild youth

Who used the pseudonym of Ozy.

I hesitated for a while: Was he

The real deal? ‘Ozy man,’ at last

I said, ‘di’us a favour, forget the past,

And for old times tell me the truth,

Or at least as much as I can stand.

The question is, should I believe

All the crap that I have read

On snapchat and my twitter feed

About the fact that I am dead

To all of those who mean the most –

The flimflams and the muffin men –

The ones who write with poisoned pen

Those killing evil hateful posts.

Of course,’ I said, ‘I trust their views

There’s no such thing as fake news.’

‘Oh is that so?’ the traveller said,

‘You think you can weave a web

That will deceive your online foes?

And how will you achieve that goal

Of protecting your immortal soul

Without the need to come to blows?’

‘Who needs Facebook, text or tweets

If I’m going to, them, defeat?

I’ll do it, old school, go one better

I’ll dump the phone and write a letter.’

Posted in poems, poetry | Tagged , , | 7 Comments