West Country Disasters

Recently, a story appeared in the press about a family who won a £3 million house in the West Country in a raffle. It was their ‘dream’ home, hardly surprisingly. And the pictures of the setting seemed spectacular.

I’ve always adored visiting Devon and Cornwall as they contain many happy memories. Devon, especially, is a beautiful county positioned perfectly for a family holiday. It has gorgeous coasts, the unique and desolate Dartmoor with its ponies and its own Prison (just in case the children are particularly awful) with plentiful walks, and many many attractions. From when the children were tiny through to when we decided holidaying further afield worked, we took one or two weeks in Devon as part of our summer’s break. Of course, Devon was also the scene of the difficult birth of Dickhead Tours and it is that venue, on another occasion, with which this post deals.

Not long after we started these sojournes, we found a village called Kingston near Buckfast (famous for its Abbey, their brain rotting tonic and honey to die for, as well as its butterfly farm and steam, and model railway). Kingston really just comprised the Manor House, outbuildings and a few farms. Some of those outbuildings had been converted to holiday cottages and we rented one for our small family.

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the Vet

At the end of that first week we were told by the owner that he was selling timeshares and were we interested. We mulled it over. We knew we would come back for several years and agreed to buy one week in a four bed cottage for 25 years, the week to commence at the start of the school summer holidays. We reasoned we would probably do ten years and maybe sell it on. In the meantime we could bring friends or family and fill the other rooms.

It was an idyllic spot. The road to the house and grounds was a steep, a one in three hill. At the top, left or right you could see for miles. The roads were blissfully empty and if you wanted there was an undulating course of about four to four and a half miles along these country lanes, between gorgeous fields, across steams and up past the local church.

For those who don’t know Devon, its hedgerows are, if not unique, uniquely impenetrable. They are so tall that you cannot see oncoming traffic except (a) if you happen to be higher up and can look down onto the winding tarmac (b) when the other car is wrapping itself round your bumper, nether regions or (c) you are the Jolly Green Giant who has taken to streaking and has just been bitten on the swinging bishop by a horsefly.   As a driver you go verrrrrry slowly unless born within the county boundaries when you drive with a faith based on some obscure deity that miraculously keeps you safe. As a runner, taking in the clean country air – that was me back then – you keep your fingers firmly crossed and try and take as many off road opportunities as possible.

This particular day was sunny after overnight rain. The tarmac was steaming in the heat that was lapping over the hedges even at eight in the morning. I could have sung to myself so happy was I.

After the climb from the cottage the first bit of road, about half a mile, took me past a few houses and a farm entrance. A tractor waited until I had jogged past before pulling out. It would have been a challenge to get past and no runner fancies backtracking even two hundred yards to find a gate. My lucky day? Hmm, you be the judge.

I was now on a footpath, dodging puddles where I could, loving the insect buzz and the isolation. Out once more onto the road, this was the safest section as it curved downhill. I could see what was coming and, as importantly anyone behind me could see me bobbing along like a little moustachioed cork.

As I curved round a long left hander I spotted a figure on horseback up ahead. He was an odd sight, as he appeared to float along on the top of the hedgerow. However in my experience riders hereabouts were cheerful and courteous and I looked forward to sharing a little of my bonhomie with him.

We gradually approached each other, he from a side road and me down the hill. He reached the junction about one hundred yards in front of me. In the field next to us a tractor ploughed back and forth.

The tractor noise, the blood pounding in my ears they all deafened me to the reality heading my way for this was no ordinary rider. This was the whipper in, the member of the hunt responsible for the hounds. I ground to a very rapid halt as, following the rider round the corner came the pack of dogs, tumbling and twisting across, under and on top of each other.

The rider held up his crop. ‘You ok with dogs?’

‘Sure.’

‘Ok. Then pull into the hedge as far as you can and get as high as you can.’

‘Should I go back?’ There was a gate some quarter mile up the road.

‘Not if you don’t want them chasing you. These are still learning.’

So I reached high for a branch and pulled myself up. I was about four feet up the bank when the first dogs reached me. They scrabbled over me and each other. A couple, essayed licks at my face but I managed to dodge them.

As they passed the rider grinned and rode on. He seemed happy.

It was only then I looked down and at the same moment registered that very obvious dog crap smell. It was coming from me. I was smeared from my new Nikes to the collar of my formally white T shirt in canine faeces. I learnt later that hounds cannot stop for a discreet number twos and have to be trained to go as they run. After exercise they are hosed down. Any object in their way is likely to share their excrement as each other.

The last section home was not so jolly. Have you tried running away from yourself? The kids thought it disgusting. I was with them. The Textiliste? Well what do you expect? Sympathy? No, rather a cold bucket of water and old rag and soap. I never really enjoyed that run again.

Posted in Devon, holidays, memories | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Limerick Advice To The Older Man

Based on Esther’s prompt, here – this week Joke

As an elderly, colourless bloke
I’ve become a bit of a joke;
But since I’ve found my lost youth,
Wrapped up in its own truth
I’m mindful and just a tad woke.

Posted in humour, limericks, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

How to choose a name #dog #memories

How do you chose a name? Mine was apparently after Geoffrey Chaucer the medieval English author (my mother, pretentious… you could say) and my brother after our grandparents (Christian and surnames). We just went with what we liked except… both my grandmothers have, as one of their names, Grace and both my mother and mother in law also have Grace in their library of names so we slotted that in. Even Dog fell foul of this tendency by being named after the title of an album that we, but especially the Textiliste finds v popular. It was this last that triggered a recollection of this post from a few years ago when the Heir plus one and his missus gave birth to a daughter. There was a lot of speculation, and in time honoured fashion, a lot of betting on the outcome… this what I wrote and where it took me.

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. The bookies had a field day with Charlotte. A lot of money went on Elizabeth. But Diana? That was so much a certainty it was almost unbettable. A name with a huge emotional component here in the UK. One to trigger the memory of a very personal journey.

When I qualified as a solicitor in 1981 my then flat mate (the Suit Borrower) told me to ‘get a better job’. I had struggled to secure my articles – now called a training contract – which are two years work experience covering various areas of the law that you need in order to be admitted to the Roll, the list of people permitted by law to practice as solicitors. Having done so in a small firm of solicitors in the West End of London, just north of Oxford Street I was content to stay there for a while.

The Suit Borrower was having none of it. I was ‘wasting my time’ and ‘missing the boat’. He nagged me for weeks as 1980 turned into 1981 and I approached April 4th the day my 2 years expired.

Eventually he won. I owe him thanks – much repaid over the years as he borrowed my dinner suits on a regular basis. After a round or three of interviews I chose to join the Scion of the Establishment, Freshfields, solicitors to the Bank of England.

Yes I chose. Unlike two years before when I had one offer – two if you count the creepy man with a lisp who held my knees throughout my interview and offered me a job on the spot with ‘I’m sure we will enjoy each other’s strengths’ as he squeezed my bicep. Now I had four offers from highly regarded firms in the centre of the action as the City of London deregulated in the lead up to Big Bang.  For several weeks I actually thought they chose me for my obvious skills, personal charm and get-go. In fact they needed bodies to cope with the flood of opportunities. Right place, right time.

My joining date, after giving notice and enjoying my first flight for a holiday in Spain, was July 1981. My new office was housed in a tower of ten floors which then formed part of a post war estate right behind St Paul’s. Coming from a cramped office in a dusty ramshackle building this seemed to be the height of luxury and sophistication. To say the least I was excited (as well as shit scared, if I’m honest).

And to cap this momentous week, just three days after I joined, the Heir to the Throne was to marry his fairy-tale princess, Diana Spencer, in St Paul’s.

I cycled to work back then (indeed I did most of my career) so as I finished work the day before the big event, a warm sultry evening with a hint of summer rain, I unpadlocked the bike (not that it warranted such security) and wheeled it across the piazza to the steps of St Paul’s.

Even before I reached the road, before I could see steps, I heard the noise, I felt the fizz of  happiness. The barriers were up and the campers were already three deep. Shirt sleeved policemen helped people into the gaps. Cabbies smiled and rippling cheers passed in waves through the audience. Food was cooked, sandwiches shared.

A bobby saw me. ‘You going to cycle the route, young’un?’ I hadn’t thought to, it was a bit out of my way in truth. He saw me hesitate. He turned to the nearest part of the crowd. ‘Should he ride the route?’ He had a stentorian voice that ripped the air.

‘Yes!’ They bellowed back at me. Someone started singing the pushbike song by Mungo Jerry. I couldn’t not, could I?

It was surreal, ethereal almost. The sun cast a sepia tint on the Portland stone of many buildings along the route. It made the facade of the Royal Courts glow. A breeze nipped at the bunting. If ever all was right with the world, all was right with the world that day. It took me an hour to cruise the Strand, and wend my way along the Mall throbbing as I’ve not seen it other than during the Olympics.

I peeled off at the Victoria monument in front of Buckingham Palace and headed for my flat. I smiled the whole way.

The next day I watched the wedding, the nervous, not to say panic stricken bride and the relieved mother in law to be.

Sixteen years later, over the bank holiday weekend in August 1997 I spent a lazy few days at my parents in law. On 31st August I awoke to ‘Diana is dead’ headlines. It was one of those moments when you remember where you were when you first heard, like Kennedy’s assassination and 9/11.  I was still with Freshfields, looking back towards my fortieth birthday with two young children and a wife. Life was good but inevitably rather more adult.

During the following days the tension was palpable. A country used to its own stereotype of stiff upper lips and understated emotions began to let go. Tony Blair had a job on his hands ensuring the Royal family adjusted to that mood and, generally speaking he did a good job. The plans for a funeral gathered pace. This time it was to be held in Westminster Abbey.

The night before the funeral was chilly; I remember earlier rain and a lassitude but the ache in my bones might have been all sorts. My days were longer in 1997 than in 1981, the year was turning towards Autumn so it was dark as I wheeled my bike up the slope from the garage of our offices off Fleet Street.

Home was south across the river but I hesitated. I had seen on the TV in the office the build up of the crowds along the route, up the Mall and down Whitehall. I was cold; lycra doesn’t suit me and it is a poor insulator. I needed to get going and yet, as I once did before, I hesitated. There were no crowds to pull me on but I turned my wheels towards St Paul’s and set off up Fleet Street, up Ludgate Hill to the dark and empty steps.

No police, no barriers, no bunting, just ghosts. I swung around. Traffic was thinning – the next day was a holiday and people were heading home  early but absent the customary spring in their step.

Slowly, humming that stupid song I retraced my previous steps. At Trafalgar Square I joined the funeral route and the crowds. They were three deep. Some cooked, sandwiches were shared. The police helped people across the barriers though it was eerily quiet in places. A few waved at me as I peddled slowly past watching them. There were signs this time hanging on the barriers, painful, demands for understanding, the crying need for some sort of rational explanation for the utterly irrational.

Once again I reached Buckingham Palace; from about half a mile away I began to smell the flowers. Up close the scent was nearly overpowering. A well ordered line was waiting to add yet more bouquets. I watched for a bit and then with the Victoria monument behind me I set off home.

And now we have another Diana, Princess. Yes,  she’s Charlotte but she carries, in her third name, the memories of a woman who changed a monarchy, who in both life and death made it face itself and ask and be asked questions for which it was unprepared.  Diana Spencer’s life in the public gaze was tumultuous and ultimately tragic. I hope her grand daughter has a much quieter time and I have no cause to get on my bike again.

Posted in memories, miscellany, thought piece | Tagged , , | 35 Comments

Week Thirty-Two: 2022

It’s been a grotty end to the week. I’ve been coping with some sort of summer cold which, coupled with the heat has led to some very uncomfortable days and nights. I took a lateral flow but no evidence of the lurgy, just a summer cold. Yuk.

The worst part, amongst a number of worst parts have been the nights. Even if I get off to sleep, I’ll only manage two to three hours before I wake. With this bug, I’ve had everything. Burning heat so all the sheets feel like I’ve ironed them, the shivers that knot my shoulders and set off a headache and sweats the require me to sleep on a towel. At the moment I’m averaging five hours over the last three days. Yawn…

I’m hoping that I’m recovering: the temperatures are due to be a little lower tomorrow and ten degrees lower on Monday and I should be enjoying a full week, if we ignore the thrill of the fitting of a new gas boiler on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday evening sees the Textiliste and me at Wembley to see Coldplay. You may not be fans, but we are. Dog’s real name comes from a Coldplay album; if nothing else that will tell you what we think about them.

this one is from a 2016 concert at Wembley…

Then from Wednesday to the week end it’s 5 days at the Home of Cricket, Lord’s to watch England take on South Africa. Again it may not be your bag… you really are missing out. I’ve even persuaded the Textiliste to come on Friday, not because of my company nor the potential excitement but because her old flat mate and close friend of us both is coming.

Seeing South Africa brings back a memory from 1998 with the South Africans also toured. That year the Grandstand which previously had been a rickety structure that must have been close to being condemned and had been rebuilt, was opened. To part fund it the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) issued debentures that guaranteed you a seat and I indulged. So excited was I (like an over-sugared toddler) I planned on doing something I’d never done before: watching every single ball of a test match. Some of you are already wincing but for those unaware of the vagaries of this beautiful game that’s potentially 5 days of six hours (plus one hour of meal breaks). I arrived early because Her Maj had been inveigled by her Hubs to open the stand and I thought it might be nice to watch. Everything was new and even the staff and marshalls were a bit unclear where everything was. So when a friendly cove in a green jacket offered to ferry me to my seat on the top floor via a lift, who was I to refuse?

We reached the second level of three before the power outted on the whole stand. we could hear the officials and Her Maj over the PA. We could hear the captains toss. We could hear the teams come out. And we damn sure heard the wooooooOOOO as the first ball was bowled. Meanwhile I and my equally perturbed guardian remained trapped in the lift for another thirty minutes or so.

I’d failed before I began. Given the challenges below I hope this week isn’t going to be a repeat…

The only potential blot on that horizon will be the train/tube/train strikes on Thursday/Friday/Saturday. Of course everything will be fine….

I listened to a gardening expert today, on the subject of which trees to plant given that they will be maturing in 50 years and our climate will be more like central France is now, or so they say (I can hear the Textiliste whispering ‘vineyards/vineyards) and she said she likes a cork oak. New to me and no doubt non native for obvs reasons, but since I will be replacing a mature silver birch soon as its most likely dead, it’s something to consider.

Posted in 2022, miscellany, thought piece | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

The Future Of Tradition #writephoto

This weeks prompt for #writephoto is this…

The Reverend Ebenezer Pont consoled himself with the notion that he was doing his bit for Christianity. He couldn’t deny the last few years had been difficult: heightened secularism, scandals, financial irregularities and the shock of the Archbishop being made bankrupt hadn’t encouraged the younger generations to ‘Give God a Go’ as the latest advertising campaign authorised by Lambeth Palace suggested. Indeed, still calling the HQ of Anglicanism ‘Lambeth Palace’ was something of a misnomer since the building had been repurposed as mixed use wellness retreat and Lidl.

Ebenezer scanned the churchyard, hoping to see some sort of reception committee. Mrs Tintagel-Architrave had definitely confined she’d be meeting him at 10.30 and here he was, at the allotted time and in St Paul’s Churchyard. Once again his mind went to the irony of that descriptor. There was no longer a St Paul’s, so no longer a churchyard. The original building, comprising a 15th century nave with 17th century additions had been dismantled and was, even now being reconstructed as part of a theme park, Bibleland. The world, since he’d been ordained fifteen years earlier had gone bonkers.

He wandered towards what looked like a road while digging out his mobile.

‘Mrs Tintagel-Arch….?’

‘Where on earth are you, young man?’

Flustered and flattered by the tone and the reference to his long past youth, he didn’t reply immediately. Mrs Tintagel-Architrave took advantage of the silence. ‘The train arrived on time at 10.30 and you weren’t on it. As you well know we have four christenings, and three weddings and I really don’t think you,’ she emphasised the you as if it was Ebenezer and not the Church who might suffer, ‘can afford to upset the clients.’

‘The train?’

‘Oh, don’t tell me you drove? Is that why you’re late? The B4732 is a nightmare on Saturdays.’

‘No, no, I think you’ve misunderstood. I didn’t catch the train and I didn’t drive. I…’

‘Young man, how do you expect to get here? Magic? Divine intervention?’

Low blow, thought Ebenezer but he knew better that to rise to her passive-aggressive bait. ‘No, I came in the Chapel Pod.’

‘What on earth is that?’

Ebenezer ignored the incredulity. ‘We pride ourselves on providing a full ecumenical experience for those who value the traditions of a real Church christening and wedding, even where places of worship are, erm no longer available.’

‘And this pod thingy is where exactly?’

‘In the grounds of St Paul’s.’

‘Why on earth would you put it there? The clients have stumped up for a marquee. They don’t need some decrepit old…’

‘No it’s a state of the art mobile place of worship, with…’

‘Listen, Sonny Jim,’ Mrs Tintagel-Architrave hissed, clearly irritated, ‘What I booked was a church themed wedding, not some hymns and hassocks joy sponge, capiche? And the families certainly don’t want their big days to be held surrounded by graves and ghosts. So you get yourself and this Chapel Pod or whatever you call it to the Trouser and Ferret by 11, or you don’t get paid.’

Ebenezer took the directions and walked purposefully back to the Chapel Pod. As he fired up the hover mechanism and rose to the drone corridor, he wondered if he’d be allowed a homily, maybe or some minor biblical references.

He hovered until a space appeared and headed for the pub garden. He saw the marquee, the curious faces and the waiting staff serving drinks. Behind the marquee there was a space. Setting the controls to automatic, he headed to the vestry to change into his SuperRev costume, prime the optics for the various holy waters and took a couple of deep breathes. As he passed the pulpit, he paused and laid a hand on the Bible. ‘Sorry, old friend. I don’t think I’ll need you today,’ before plastering on as sincere a smile as he could manage and heading for the noise.

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Intelligent Design, Sort Of… #blogbattle

This months #blogbattle prompt is the word peculiar

‘Right Ho, Arnold, Harry. Chop chop.’

‘What now, Gabs? Boss need a new throne? Lightening gone on the blink?’

‘A new dominant species.’

‘Really? Cool. Any guidance? What was it last time? You remember, Harry?’

‘Super-intelligent shade of green, wasn’t it?’

‘Yeah that’s it, Harry. So what’s the parameters on this one, Gabs?’

‘He didn’t say much only it’s a rushed commission – seven days – and…’

‘You spoken to Luci?’ He’s a stickler for time off.’

‘Can’t you take it in lieu? You know how the Boss gets.’

‘Perils of letting his right hand angel run the Union. Luci said no more time in lieu because the amount we’ve built up is nearly an eon’s worth and we have to take it sometime. Didn’t he, Harry?’

‘Yes, Arnie.’

‘Alright. I’ll mention it. But it just means you have to squeeze things into four days.’

‘Four? You said seven which, minus rest is six. Isn’t that right, Harry?’

‘Yes, Arnie.’

‘Well done, but the thing is the builders moved in Monday. They’ve done the planetary substructure and the fitters have been in and laid the surface. The rivers and mountains crew are installing the plumbing and features as we speak…’

‘Okay, so what’s he said about the dominant species? Animal, vegetable or mineral?’

‘You’ll not like it…’

‘I don’t like under three days to create a sentient life form. Is it carbon based, at least?’

‘Yes.’

‘That’s a relief. The silicone base we had to use last month was a nightmare. Harry, didn’t like it.’

‘I don’t like silicone, Arnie.’

‘You got a chip on your shoulder?’

‘He has, Gabs. Let’s not waste valuable time. What’s the Boss said?’

‘He wants something peculiar.’

‘Seriously. He’s after a weird commission? That’s a first.’

‘I tried to get him to explain but he was in a bit of a tizzy.’

‘Any suggestions?’

‘Just in case I misunderstood, stick to a tried and tested model but maybe add it a twist..’

‘Okay. Mammal?’

‘I think so.’

‘You’re the archangel.’

Three days later

‘So, Gabs, we’ve done a standard form hominid, upright walker, omnivore as we’d not seen the likely menu when we did the olfactory section and hairless as the climate people were having issues with the thermostat and we heard Fred and his team were doing a range of mammals so our chap can get skins and so on if it gets too parky.’

‘Opposable thumbs?’

‘As standard, Gabs, after the cock up on Depositon Five.’

‘Yeah thank goodness they included bananas in the fruit spec, there. Right, and what did you do for peculiar.’

‘Yeah that caused a lot of debate. In the end we added three elements. The eyes will wear out before our chap reaches middle age so everything will look peculiar…’

‘Okaaay… not sure the Boss meant that but next…’

‘Yeah, well, this one was my idea. We’ve dropped asexual reproduction…’

‘You did what?’

‘Bear with me. We’ve included companion kit. If the Boss doesn’t like it, The Boss just lets our chap go and he’ll die out, in which case we replace him.’

‘Him?’

‘Yep, that’s the neat thing with the companion kit; if the Boss uses it, it’ll create the opposite gender.’

‘Gender? Have I missed the memo?’

‘It’s the latest idea. Comes from Fred’s rabbits. Two genders to reproduce through intercourse…’

‘They talk out a baby? I’ll grant you that is peculiar…’

‘Just bear with me. Intercourse in this case is a physical coupling between the companions. This one here is a man and the companion, if the Boss goes for it, is a woman. We’ve based her on the Boss.’

‘You’ve based the companion on the Boss and the dominant species on a toad?’

‘Part of the peculiar..’

‘I don’t think anyone will deny that…’

‘But as a bonus… Harry, will you do the honours and remove the covering?’

‘What the bejeebers is that?’

‘It’s his reproductive organ. We had to make it up as we went along and we are getting short of parts and time, when we set down to design it. Basically it’s a couple of conceptual eggs that we couldn’t get to harden – they’re hollow and will carry the reproductive materials – and a spare lugworm that Fred didn’t need as the delivery section. To keep them together we’ve used a piece of turkey neck and Harry added some cunning hydraulics that only she can trigger…’

‘Arnie, I told you there might be a bit of a flaw and he might be able…’

‘Let’s not complicate things, Harry. I’m sure he’ll not need to resort to that. What do you think, Gabs?’

‘That is the oddest idea I’ve seen. And what does this hum…’

‘Him. We’ve called him a man.’

‘This man do to reproduce?’

‘He passes the fluids in those eggs to his companion. We think she might be a called a woman.’

‘A wo man? Is that her name or her telling him to back off?’

‘It’s not settled. The Boss can decide…’

‘Oh the Boss will buy it. Too much to do not to. If that’s all…’

‘No, we included one other feature…’

‘Really? Weirder than the reproductive thingy?’

‘We gave him a personality…’

‘You did what?’

‘The whole cat and caboodle. Paranoia, neuroses… the lot.’

‘You think this will fly?’

‘Don’t see why not? What’s the worst that can happen?’

‘Oh, the Boss is big on unintended consequences. The one thing that bugs the hell out of the Boss is if there comes a time when some sort of corrective intervention is needed.’

‘Oh I can’t see that happening.’

‘You’d better hope so… yes, what is it, minion?’

‘Message from the Boss sir. He wants to know how you’re getting on with his intelligent petunia.’

‘Intelligent petunia…? But I was sure he said… Harry, Arnie, where are you going?’

Posted in #blogbattle, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Hearing Things: Don’t We All?

I was listening to a podcast while out walking Dog, a series called ‘Seriously’ that curates factual sciencey blogs from around the English speaking metaverse (get me, huh!).

This one gave me pause as it was about the internal monologue that accompanies our lives, only it doesn’t. Not all of us.

There was interesting stuff about how Children talk to themselves, describing games and dialogue for toys that gradually goes inside and becomes the range of conversations, pep talks, critiques, planning meetings and reviews that people our heads when we are alone.

But then there are those who don’t have those voices, or pictures, or unformed coherent thoughts… that’s the thing about these kinds of neurological tricks; as we are different in personality and hair colour, so it is with how we experience those moments of solitude. Some see colour, some hear voices, some hold thoughts that are neither images nor words and some – and this, to me, is the weird bit – have silence. A not so roaring void.

Which made me wonder about writers. Do any writers live with such silence? Do their characters not barge in and take over, unravel plot problems and generally make nuisances of themselves? Can you write and live with such silence? Is one a necessary condition of the other?

It would have had me thinking if my spokessoul hadn’t interrupted me with an ethical dilemma I needed to unravel… oh for a bit of peace and quiet.

PS in another podcast about the trial of Alex Jones in the US, he of the Infowars network and purveyor of fake news, there was a line from the Judge, commenting on the damage his fabrications have caused (in the case of this trial, the injury to the parents of those killed at Sandy Hook) when she commented:

‘Your beliefs do not make something true’

which is probably as good a summation of the fallacy of fake news and those who believe it and repeat it as I’ve heard. Which emphasises the troubling truth about fake news. It’s those who are willing believers who are as much, if not more, the problem than those who come up with it in the first place.

Given that this has been on the heavy side of thinking, here’s a picture of Dog and the views from West Norwood…

Posted in 2022, dog, miscellany, thought piece, west norwood | Tagged , , | 42 Comments

Keep Karm and Carry On #99wordstories #carrotranch #littletittweaking

This week’s #99wordstories prompt from the Carrot Ranch is

August 8, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about “the one who left the dress.” A 1940s-era dress still hangs in an abandoned house. Who left it and why? You can take any perspective and write in any genre. It can be a ghost story. Or not. Go where the prompt leads!

Little Tittweaking was once a libertarian sanctuary. Only when the Mayor, Marmaduke Cornplaster was left three octaves beyond comfortable and Councillor Ali Bye had nowhere to hide did the tide turn. Constance-Lee Horrified led the defence in the middle of festival week that was dubbed: ‘Fed up with the Karma Sutra? Enjoy more Frantic Sutras in the company of percussive contortionist Elle Astic-Thighs and her vaginal wind orchestra, The Whistling Fannies of Tallinn’. Using brollies and hat pins Constance-Lee drove out the naked exhibitors, whose abandoned dresses were flown from the Town Hall as a warning.

Posted in #99wordstories, Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, little Tittweaking, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Limerick For The Fittest

Gym Nastic found that working out,
Left him tired with a permanent pout.
His hopes of love, barely a glimmer,
Became as naught, as he became slimmer
With perfect abs and the face of a trout.

Based on Esther’s Limerick prompt gym

Posted in humour, limericks, miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

Sigh And The World Sighs With You #writephoto

This week’s #writephoto prompt is

‘Phil? Is that you?’ Helen Back adjusted her thick spectacles and squinted at the little hut.

Slowly the figure Helen had seen began to unfurl. And kept unfurling until he loomed over the small slight female. ‘Who’s that?’ The voice spoke of a forty a day habit, a gravelly diet and a gritty outlook.

‘Me, Phil. Helen. Helen Back.’

A morose chuckle rumbled across the distance between them. ‘I’ve been there too.’

Helen sniggered which set off a tsunami of waves in her jowls. ‘You always said that, didn’t you?’

‘True though.’ A large knobbly hand carved a semi circle taking in the wooden steps and rickety bridge. ‘Not exactly where I expected to end up.’

Helen noticed the small trickle of tears. ‘Oh my dear. When I last saw you, you were in the last three for the Bridge of Sighs.’

Phil nodded. ‘I got it too. Mind you,’ the gloom seemed to deepen, ‘they were just trying to virtue signal.’

‘Really?’

‘Oh yes. Those Cambridge colleges are all about being on trend. Supporting elemental minorities. They thought having a mountain troll as bridge security would polish their credentials, something they could boast about. They didn’t really understand what they were getting.’

‘Oh dear. Did you let anyone cross?’

‘Nope. After I tossed a couple of dons and a professor of applied nonsense over the parapet they asked me what I was doing. Said I hadn’t explained my philosophy. I mean, Hells, it’s in my name. Phil E Buster. I stop things happening. They had this cutesy Disney idea I’d ask a couple of questions, let off a bellow and stand back like in some toothsome quiz master. Bloody patronising.’

‘You resigned?’

‘Not a chance. Bloody cool gig. Came with its own hut and a patch of gravel all to myself. No, they had me fired?’

‘Sacked?’

‘No.. they doped me, put me in a kiln and fired me. Look.’ Phil lifted his raggedy tunic to show off his abs. ‘I’m no longer ripped, I’m crenellated.’

Helen met his sad eyes. ‘So how did you end up here?’

‘They sold me to a local farmer. He wanted someone to keep down the number of ramblers. I can’t move much I used to, but I can intimidate.’ He pulled a face and a piece of cheek cracked and fell to the floor.

Helen nodded. ‘That’s appalling.’

‘Oh it could be worse.’

‘Could it?’

‘Not really. But as my old mum used to say, “Mustn’t crumble.”’

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