Ice So Vain #carrotranch

February 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.

Charli Mills is one icicle short of a glacier some times, but the descriptions of Swedish ice caves, here, has me wanting to visit.

Iced

 

‘Hey Logan, you got any ice?’

‘Sure. Bottom drawer of the freezer. What you want it for?’

‘A bath. This guy said it’s good.’

‘I think ice is the devil’s work, Morgan.’

‘You been puffing the wacky-backy, dude?’

‘No. Maybe. A couple. Anyhoo, how come it floats on its liquid self…’

‘That’s because…’

‘And it’s like totally cold and can burn you?’

‘Sure but…’

‘And you can stick you face onto an ice box like mega-glue and still slip over on the stuff like frozen oil?’

‘Paradoxical.’

‘An enigma.’

‘Like a politician’s promise.’

‘That’s a shit analogy, Logan.’

‘Sure.

Posted in carrot ranch, flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , | 11 Comments

The Old Road (with random pictures…) #dad’spoems

I thought, to be different I’d offer another of my father’s epic poems for you, interspersed with some pictures from Crystal Palace Park. There’s no obvious link, just I rather enjoy both.

The Old Road

(A Tale Of The New Forest)

 

It is said that civilisation is only a thin veneer,

And just a crack in the surface can uncover a well of fear,

A morass of superstition, where reason is put to rout,

And comfortable, clear convictions degenerate into doubt.

*

Four of us boarded the local stage at the ‘Angel’ in Lymington Town,

With Coachman John that made five souls, all of us Ringwood bound,

And the cheerful chatter and bustle as the coach prepared to leave,

Was enriched by a note of revelry, for was this not New Year’s Eve?

*

In the Year of Our Lord 1815, a time of England’s might,

When Wellington, at Waterloo, had shown how Englishmen fight,

And healed, with that great victory, the nation’s running sore,

By bringing peace to the people, after weary years of war.

*

No Christmastide had ever seen more wassail and goodwill,

And the poorest in the parishes for once had fed their fill,

For the Mayor himself had made it known that joy should come to all,

And even the Frenchy prisoners had danced at the Yuletide Ball.

*

But that day we four good citizens, merchants of some renown,

Were travelling to Ringwood, to dine that night at the ‘Crown’,

Meanwhile, to keep out the bitter cold, we had cracked a bottle or two,

While Coachman John had supped right well on the ‘Angel’s’ famed home brew.

*

‘Come, gentlemen all,’ called Coachman John, ‘tis time for us to go,’

‘The wind has turned, it’s due nor’east, and I don’t doubt it will snow.’

We hurried then, though we were loath to leave the fireside bright,

For we were aware that the Forest was no place to be snowbound at night.

*

Though John had a brace of pistols and each of us wore a sword

And none of us was a coward, yet we knew there roamed abroad

Desperate and dangerous rogues, vagabonds, thieves – and worse,

Who would slit the throat of an honest man for the guineas in his purse.

*

The wind, as we hastened across the yard, was razor-sharp and raw,

And its icy fingers froze the flesh through the thick coats that we wore.

The coach-springs squeaked as we climbed aboard and huddled in our seats,

With blankets wrapped around us and hot bricks at hands and feet.

*

John swiftly mounted the driving-box, felt the bite of the wind and swore.

Then grinned at a buxom serving-wench, ‘You’d keep me warm for sure!’

The ostlers let go the horses’ heads and the coach, with a jolt and a lurch,

Moved forward though the ‘Angel’s’ arch and swung right towards the church.

*

Through the town we drove at spanking pace and soon we could espy

The high, bare mounds of Buckland Rings, stark against the sky,

While lower down the great reed beds stood drowning in the flood

Which well-nigh every winter makes our water-meadows mud.

*

I looked at my companions, men I’d known all my life,

The Manson brothers, Paul and Hugh, whose sister was my wife,

And whose good Forest timber, oaken planking from their yard,

Was part of every man-o’-war launched from Buckler’s Hard.

*

Beside me, Martin Johnson, late of the Fusiliers,

Who had gallantly campaigned, unscathed, for nearly fifteen years,

‘Til the sabre of a French Hussar, south of Salamanca,

Had sent him home and changed his rank, from brigadier to banker.

*

But the wine we’d drunk in our merry mood was strong, and talk soon lagged,

And eyelids drooped as the coach rolled on, and on four chests four chins sagged,

And none of us noticed the first snowflakes, soft and white as they swirled,

For as John pulled out onto Setley Plain we were sleeping, and dead to the world.

*

How long I slept I cannot say – I awoke with a violent start,

And the certainty that something was wrong, and a pounding in my heart,

While all around was a curious light, a strangely luminous glow,

Which revealed my three companions and, dim, through the window, snow.

*

Martin Johnson and the Mansons lay sprawled out, still fast asleep,

And it seemed to me uncanny that their slumber should be so deep

For surely what had awakened me should have aroused them, too,

And I shouted as I shook each one, ‘Wake up, Martin, Paul, Hugh!’

*

There was no response, I thought they were dead – then I saw, thank God, I was wrong,

By the regular movement of each man’s chest as he breathed steady and strong,

But their features were still and lifeless, as though carved out of stone,

And I knew that whatever lay ahead I would have to face alone.

*

I climbed from the coach into a world snowbound, silent and still,

The weird light illuminated all, and I recognised Wilverley Hill,

Across the valley Wooton sloped, and I knew, though I peered in vain,

That far ahead the turnpike ran, in the shadow of Goatspen Plain.

*

As a boy I’d explored this countryside on my Forest pony’s back,

I’d forded the streams and skirted the bogs and climbed every hill and track,

I’d known where the otter took his trout, and the honey buzzard flew,

I’d seen badger cubs playing by moonlight and followed the fox through the dew.

*

I’d walked in the deep inclosures by the charcoal-burners hut,

And, on quiet October evenings, heard the red deer roar at rut,

I’d skated over Hatchett Pond, and laughed as the summer rain

Spangled the hair of the gipsy maid who I’d kissed on Red Shoot Plain.

*

I’d welcomed the wild December gales when they raged in from the sea,

And watched the great oaks writhe and twist and bow to their mastery,

I loved this Forest in all its moods, and I’d leaned its secret ways,

And it had been playground and schoolroom since my earliest childhood days.

*

But the Forest this night, as I stood alone, was an awful, alien place,

With features entirely familiar – but wearing no friendly face,

But breathing a brooding menace, an evil malignant air,

And I felt a numbing helplessness, like a rabbit in a snare.

*

I looked up at Coachman John, that big man, bluff and brave,

And I saw how he sat on his driving-box, like a statue over a grave,

Shoulders hunched in a caped topcoat, tricorne rammed low on his head,

While this thick-gloved hand held the reins to horses as still as the dead.

*

Frightened, alone, in that frozen world, above all I craved human speech,

When the silence was violently ripped apart by an eldritch screech

Shocked, I staggered against the coach while beneath my feet the ground

Shook and trembled and rumbled – then again that unearthly sound.

*

I saw a huge black form rush by, belching fire and smoke,

The stench was foul and sulphurous and I thought that I would choke,

But though I smelt its acrid breath, I even then knew well

That this was not some demon, or fiery hound from Hell.

*

No pale apparition this, sad fruit of an unhinged mind,

But something hard and tangible which was drawing close behind

Several great wheeled boxes, each one filled with light,

And thundering by in line, almost snakelike in the night.

*

With senses reeling I half fell, my body could stand no more,

And stumbling to the coach I clambered back in through the door,

I was drained of any courage, trembling weakly, and I wept,

I collapsed back in my seat, closed my aching eyes, and slept.

*

Then I heard Martin’s laughter and saw him pretend to frown,

‘Come, wake up, you old rogue, we are nearing Ringwood Town!’

‘And tell us, pray, what was your dream while you slumbered long and deep?’

‘For you have kept us all awake, muttering in your sleep!’

*

But how could I answer his question? And who, indeed, would believe

Such an unlikely take – especially on New Year’s Eve?

But I know something happened out there in that curious light,

And I see it all as clear today as I did on that far-off night.

|*

I’ve made that journey many times, and always I tense in my seat

As we reach the place, and I live it again, and feel my heart miss a beat,

And you ask why a sensible man like me trembles with foolish fear?

Well, they say common sense, like civilisation is only a thin veneer!

Historical note: The Southampton and Dorchester railway (now long defunct) opened in 1847, some thirty-two years after the above events occurred, and the track across the New Forest is believed by some to have followed part of the old Lymington to Ringwood stagecoach road.

 

Posted in miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Life In A Flash #review

There are fun posts and informative posts, poignant and pithy. There are posts that assault the sense and posts than numb the brain. And then there are those gems that make you smile and keep smiling. As an Author there is no better example of such a post than a review of one of your books, unannounced and unexpected as it is. Yesterday afternoon I stood on a platform waiting for a train to Crystal palace and I gave into my e-ddiction and checked my phone. Nestling there, in my much loved inbox was this little golly-dolly of a treat. Sigh.

Of course it is spot on; of course you should all rush out and buy it immediately followed by writing a review. But, hey, even if that isn’t on your bucket list yet, make me glow by popping over to Robbie’s blog and have a dander at her kind words.via #Bookreview – Life in a Flash by Geoff Le Pard

Posted in miscellany | 8 Comments

Memories are made of what exactly?

Knitted penguins.

Back in the goodness knows when, we acquired a TV. A large wooden box with a small square of thick greyly opalescent glass set, centrally near the top with two black Bakelite nobs either side of a speaker. It was an exercise in faith because you needed a large dollop of unreasoning belief to consider the image that appeared in the foggy soup of 405 lines to be a recognisable picture. And you needed to toss logic out of the window if you wanted to think the sound had any link, tangential or otherwise to the grainy scribblings that you were peering at with some sort of myopic group delusion.

I was maybe five or six.

The first programme we saw on that pulpit of optical obfuscation was, I was told, gardening but in black and white with a healthy dose of sleet it could just as well have been orthopaedic surgery.

Disappointment doesn’t really describe the let down. But I was a resilient child – the Archaeologist was my older brother; that situation would breed resilience in soggy toilet paper – so I persevered with this new fangled, to me, technology. I began to interpret the shapes and linked sounds. And I found children’s TV.

Now let’s face it; I wasn’t a discerning viewer. The sophistication of the likes of Andy Pandy and the Woodentops weren’t obvious to many.

But, while a lot of my generation remember these characters from their nascent TV viewings, no one seemed to remember the Pingwings and especially the shoe polish tree. Now I’m an aged crumbly old soak these days, I admit but I was bloody certain such things as Pingwings existed and I would occasionally look for them.

However, while I knew there was such a thing, I got the name slightly wrong, remembering them as Pengwengs and my searches drew a blank. I was mad; making up these nonsensical details, apparently.

Then, just yesterday there was a piece on some radio programme about the creator of the Clangers

another famous piece of educational tomfoolery: Oliver Postgate, who also came up with the notion of Noggin the Nog and that most sumptuous of cartoonish villains, Nogbad the Bad

And something told me it was he, the genius, who’d been behind the Pingwings. And lo! The great knowledge bank of wikipedia did the honours. Now I had the right spelling, I had youtube and… yes! The episode of the Pingwings and the Ice Cream Tree presented me with the proof I needed.

There was a shoe polish tree. My work here is done….

Posted in miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Taking The Top Off #writephoto

Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt is 

There is no accurate record of when the land became infertile but certainly before the fifth century when the Abbey records speak of a strip of failure in what was otherwise the most fertile acreage possessed by the St Jerome Monks. Many attempts were made to change the base nature of the soil but ‘dead man’s passage’ it remained for several centuries.
In the second half of the twentieth century, soil samples were tested and, to the surprise of the scientists they were found to have a total absence of any nutriments. In the words of one expert, it was as if a defoliant many times as powerful as Agent Orange, used against the Vietcong had been sprayed across the middle of the field.
In 2021 a satellite image of the area appeared using a new high resolution camera. This revealed a curious feature: the strip appeared to continue under the nearby hills, much as if a trench had been dug and then the hills placed on top. ‘It’s as if it were man-made,’ said one, not bothering to hide the sneer from his voice.
Further detailed study was commissioned. More images revealed the faintest trace of a line spreading across the countryside beyond the hills and towards the east coast. Samples were taken and in each case the land along this line was found to be one of extremes. Either it was utterly barren or so fertile that absolutely anything would grow on it.
When the 2027 unmanned probe to Mars took detailed images of the Earth, using a new ultrasound technique, the men of science were astonished to realise the strip continued under the North Sea and across Denmark into Continental Europe, eventually disappearing under the Alps.
Seismologists opined that it might be the residue of some sort of now redundant tectonic plate edge but most people thought it just one of those things.
When the strip was found to continue in the other direction, across the west coast near Chester and then on beyond Iceland and through the Canadian tundra, interest turned to concern. A multinational probe was commissioned and work began in the autumn of 2031.
There is, inevitably no record of the events that followed the probe’s impact with the base of the strip that occurred on the 15th March 2032. Earth rupture was so sudden, so catastrophic no agency had any time to record the rapidly unfolding destruction of the planet.
The Mars Establishment Team were the last humans to be able to process what had occurred. They had two hours of utter terror and incomprehension before the first wave of debris from the exploding Earth destroyed the surface of Mars and knocked it out of its orbit. Had Jerome McKay been able to describe what he saw that morning on his Earth Watch monitor it might have been something akin to watching a boiled egg rip its own top off. Needless to say his mind was not focused on a food based analogy just then.

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

If Music Be The Food Of Love…

… then at least so far as Karma Chameleon goes, I’m a Monkey’s Dutchman or whatever the expression is.

The year is 1983. The Textiliste and I have moved into a flat in Tooting, a early century, purpose built maisonette, our first purchase. We’d scrimped and saved (well, she had) for the deposit, we’d spent about a year hunting and being gazumped a couple of times (as you are, if ever you try and buy in London – probably most places in the UK to be truthful) and had settled into our little love nest, just off Tooting Broadway and near Amen Corner – which may or may not have something to do with this 1960s pop combo

Don’t you just love those cutesy haircuts and suits?

There we were, enjoying our own space when the new tenants downstairs moved in. They were a young couple – just 20 or so, compared to our ancient 25 – and seemed perfectly fine.

Until just before Christmas, when they split up. The boy – for that is what he pretty much was – was devastated. I have no idea whose fault it was, what the reason for the split might have been. But I do know the consequence.

He took to drink. Not the quiet, maudlin-self-pity-at-home drink but the boisterous roustabouting I’m-still-a-man pissheadery down the pub. From which he would crawl home after closing time at 11 pm, put on dear Boy George and his Culture Club supporters and let it play… and play. Back then a turntable could be set to repeat a 45 ad nauseam which is exactly what happened. Our lovelorn hero would pass away from his pain on his shag-pile sofa, dribbling into Auntie Mabel’s antimacassar which Karma Chameleon played… and played… and played. Night after fricking night.

I’d toss and turn; I’d go downstairs and hammer on the door, the walls, the windows. Occasionally, when  the hops had been less effective as an anaesthetic he might stir and appear, red eyed and lacking a certain grace under pressure as I explained, not for the first time how his neighbourly skills could do with a little bit of an upgrade or I might have to indulge in a game of split your anus with the offending single as I rammed it when the sun most certainly was not shining.

I didn’t really like Karma Chameleon before my patience was tested to destruction; afterwards I loathed it with a passion I normally reserve for other people’s dog turds and those stupid medicine bottles whose tops you cannot remove without the grip of a steroidal anaconda.

I can’t think of another song that, even now, so many years on, acts like a combination of fingers down the blackboard, a dentist’s drill and Prince Andrew when it comes to aural offensiveness. I heard it today, at a homeless refuge where I volunteer. I inadvertently crushed some toast I was making, grinding my dentures with a low level hatred.

Do you have such a song on your anti-playlist? Does a tune have such a dire association that playing it is up there as an excuse for murder alongside provocation, self defence and accidentally ingesting Marmite? For your sake I hope not.

Posted in humour, memories, miscellany, music | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

The Crush #shortstory

Every morning, at 7.29 exactly John addresses his greatest fear. As the train eases to a halt and prior to the doors sliding open John smells the acidic tang of his own sweat, feels the cold finger that runs down his spine and focuses his energies on his enfeebled knees, willing them to remain strong.

Every morning at 7.30 the doors open and a wall of faces confronts John – blank, depersonalised faces, expressing both nothing but resignation and the beginnings of despair in their blank-eyed stares. Small movements, a twitch here, a shuffle there and a modicum of space appears.

Every morning at 7.31 John presses himself against a phalanx of coats and bags and scarves and flesh. Panic, freshly risen, repeated every day clutches his throat and snares his nostrils. His chest hardens and breathing becomes John’s new sole focus. The sweat beads his forehead and someone – it could be anyone – groans.

Every morning at 7.31 an anonymous groan transports John 167 miles and nearly 30 years back to another day, another unforgiving minute that will always stay with him. A minute when John sits, like an angel looking down on the world, atop a set of shoulders – much like his own shoulders today, strong, steadfast, secure – and watches as faces, expressing both nothing but despair – begin to turn blue. He watches as the crowd sways like a single creature – massive, monstrous and murderous – and begins to crush each cell, squeezes the breath from each component part.

Every morning, when time has ceased to have any meaning, John says goodbye once more to the man on whose shoulders he sits, as that man takes his last sliver of a breath. And even in that last moment when his eyes lose their focus and he lets go of life he holds John aloft – safe and secure from the beast below and within.

Every morning, at 7.52 when once again the clocks recommence on their inexorably journey towards tomorrow, John stands on the platform at his journey’s end and wipes his brow. He dabs away his tears and straightens his tie. He adjusts his jacket and checks his shoes for scuffs. And he smiles. Not for surviving the crush. It is not the crush he fears. He fears the day when he no longer embraces the crush, when he cannot find it within himself to grasp that moment when he is at one, albeit just briefly, with his saviour, his beloved, his father.

Posted in creative writing, miscellany, prompt | Tagged , | 22 Comments