Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Breathing In

This is a response to the Trifecta Challenge of 27 January 2014.  The challenge is to write 33 words on the subject of this picture.

Thomas Leuthard / Foter.com / CC BY

The easy, expansive space of the coffee shop after the dark confines of the parlour.  The bright, wide, window after the heavy, tasselled drapes.  The delicious chance for the mind to freely breathe.

This is definitely the hardest challenge I have tried so far.   

Monday, 27 January 2014

Faerie Mist

This is a writing prompt from Write on Edge, a piece of 500 words based on a picture.

"Are you really sure about this?" Elaine asked.  "The last time I looked at a map this was a supermarket car park."
"I can't get a signal on my phone." Steve muttered, shaking it and looking desperately at the screen.  "But I think we are in the right place, the compass says so."
"You 'bought' a compass from a faerie." Elaine said flatly.  "What made you think that you could trust Lord Marius?"
"Because a lot of the lords like using me as a supplier and he was getting bored of taking me in." Steve said with honest realism.   "And I paid him with a crate of his favourite coffee."
Elaine slipped over a tree root, skidded down the path and just steadied herself in time.  She inspected her stinging, grazed hands.  "This forest is creepy.
"It's faerieland."  Steve said absently as he peered through the mist.  It was an elfen mist, elusive and intangible and with echoes in the swirling air.   In the distance he thought he could hear mocking laughter and the yelp of dogs.  "We need to stay on the path."
"And if we don't?" Elaine hefted her bag back onto her shoulder.  She was regretting coming.  "What did Lord Grey want anyway?"
Steve looked a bit uncomfortable.  "Wormwood.  Artemisia Absinthium.  It's the stuff they used to put in absinthe that sent people mad or blind.  I was surprised that I managed to get so much so easily."
Elaine looked around the pine forest.  The trees loomed over her and the mist was soaking through her clothes.  She shivered and behind her she heard a brief burst of flute music.  Both she and Steve ignored it.  "What would happen if it is the wrong stuff."
"It is the right stuff." Steve could feel the chill as well.  "We need to stick to the path and we need to push on."  He hefted his own, heavier bags.  "It will be alright."
"Steve, you told me about being chased by Yell Hounds in the domain of Lord Hadron." Elaine looked around as mocking laughter echoed again.
"Nothing is going to happen." Steve took a deep breath.  " We are on the safe path.  We have trade goods for Lord Grey which he really wants.  Besides, too many lords use my services.  He wouldn't offend them over nothing."
"Are we safe?" Elaine jumped as something small skittered in the bushes behind them.
"I would not take the woman I loved into anywhere that was not safe." Steve snapped.  Then he paused.  This wasn't how he had planned things.  However he had to seize the moment.  "Elaine Pettigrew, will you marry me?"
Elaine dropped her bag in exasperation and turned to face Steve.  "What a time and place to pick!"
Lord Marius suddenly appeared out of the mist.  "Congratulations, I am so glad that you have finally managed to find the courage.  I trust I will be dancing at your wedding?"

Elaine whirled to face him.  "I haven't said 'yes'!"

I had a lot of fun writing this, I can't wait to find out how this goes.  As a note, you can buy dried Artemisia Absinthium on the internet very freely, as I checked.  It's supposed to be good for the digestion.   The hallucinogenic properties weren't mentioned.  Artemisia or wormwood was one of the ingredients mentioned in medieval witches' brews and that has been used as an explanation for the witches visions of flying.  I've learnt all sorts while trying to write.  

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Craft Kit

This is a prompt from the Trifecta Challenge, to write between 33 and 333 words on the third definition of the word 'Quaint'.  

The Craft Kit

Finally, the new kit's here
I've waited for the post all day.         
The door is shut, the table's clear
The furniture is pushed away!

Okay, I put the screw in here
And tighten up the bracket there
And slot the tab into the rear
And push it in, hard as I dare.

I sand it here, and rub it there,
I add the paint and wax and buff,
The fumes are stuffing up the air,
I wonder if I've buffed enough.

The picture's blurred, is this quite right?
I'm sure I got the stencil straight.
Is this quite the shade of white?
And will it really hold the weight?

Oh no!  No visitors today!
I shove the thing across the floor,
Push a chair to bar the way,
And rush towards the knocking door.

The mother of my husband's here.
She doesn't like the kitchen blind
She doesn't like the new veneer
She doesn't like the box I've lined.

She checks how full my cupboards are,
And is my laundry all inside,
She lifts the cushions, now ajar,
And spots the kit I've tried to hide.

She picks it up and turns it round
And touches the still-drying lace
An opportunity she's found
To put me firmly in my place.

She sneers with praise that's damning faint
"A painted footstool, oh how quaint!" 

I haven't written poetry for nearly thirty years, but I couldn't help this one.  I just 'heard' the prompt as the end of a rhyme.  Please be kind.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Gate Keeper

Lord Marius leaned against his motorbike looking at Steve with mocking eyes.  "Are you sure you want to trade with the elfen?"
"I've done some trading already with the elfen over the last months." Steve said with false assurance.   "It's an obvious step."
"It's a dangerous step." Lord Marius smiled lazily.  "I am happy I am here to watch.  Lord Haron does not do much business outside his realm.  Why him?"
"I know he has a feast coming up, and I know he has a hoard of snake stones.  We can do business." Steve took a deep breath.  "Is this where we enter?" He looked down to the pool of water beside the country road.  "I can't see a gate."
Lord Marius could taste the uncertainty in Steve and savoured it.  "Let me tell you of this pool.  There are legends in this area about Wicked Jenny.  I was here when they started, years ago." Lord Marius loosened his leather jacket.  "It must have been at the time of the legions, before there were paladins to protect the people.  This pool was covered in waterweed, thick and clinging.  I watched a child drown here."
"You watched a child drown?" Steve asked incredulously.
"You see us elfen quite tamed and trammelled." Lord Marius sighed.  "You have protectors now but then was different..." He trailed off at the sight of Steve's face.  "I told the locals that a monster with huge green teeth had come and pulled the child beneath the water.  They believed me, of course.  So they left offerings to keep Wicked Jenny from stealing more children.  The fear and intense belief attracted one of the nature spirits and the legend became a useful fact." Lord Marius waved a hand and an apparition rose from the water.  Steve took several involuntary steps back and stared at the awful, weed draped shape with crooked, algae covered teeth that seemed to shamble onto the land .  
"Lord Marius, I did not realise that you had company." it hissed.  The monster shimmered and in its place was a young girl, about seventeen with an innocent smile and wearing cut-off shorts and a skimpy top. "I nearly got three teenagers last month, " She told Lord Marius.  "Such a shame I must behave these days, just keep the gate to Lord Haron's realm."
" Jenny, this is Steve Adderson who wishes to trade with the elfen."
"A brave man." Jenny commented "And what do you bring to trade?"
Steve waved a hand at his car.  "Fourteen kilos of white sugar, ten kilos of California raisins, seven litres of rose water and this." He shook a small pot and Jenny and Lord Marius were both suddenly transfixed.  "Edible glitter.  You may make food that sparkles!"
Without taking her eyes from the jar of green glitter, Jenny nodded.  "That is great treasure indeed.  I am sure Lord Haron will be glad to see you."

This is a story based on a prompt from Write on Edge using the prompt "Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts." Salman Rushdie.  I also used a legend from the county where I grew up, although some distance from my old home.  You can find the Wikipedia reference here, and here and there are a lot of references in literature to this legend.   As you can tell, the faerie or elfen in my stories are bloodthirsty creatures more in keeping with older folklore and easily entranced by mortal music or sparkling things.  I have a lot of fun writing them.

I have told the story of Steven Adderson over a number of prompts, and you may find them here if you wish.  I am incredibly flattered if anyone would like to read my writing.  Thank you.  

Snakestone, or ammonite, image from stockfreeimages.com


Monday, 13 January 2014

Path in the Woods

A prompt from Write on Edge

Steve threw up noisily into a bush and shivered violently.
"I told you that you should not look away from the line of the path." Lord Marius said calmly.  "Faerie paths are not safe."
Steve shuddered.  "You're not kidding."
"Though it is fortuitous that you brought iron into the realm against my instructions" Lord Marius lounged against an oak.  "I wouldn't have considered that there could be iron within a shoe.  I thought it was glue and stitching."
Steve looked down at his expensive shoes, the laces tipped with steel tags.  The elfen set a lot of value on appearances so he had reluctantly bought designer shoes.  They had been worth every penny.  "This suit cost £500, you know," Steve straightened up, "And that was after hard bargaining."
"You are known as a great merchant." Lord Marius nodded.  "And a great and skilful dealer in the delights of the elfen.  I am sure that should an untouched mortal should attempt to purchase that suit it would be three times the amount."
Steve looked down at the torn and stained remains of his suit.  "I hope I get as lucky replacing this one."
Lord Cerdig coughed in the background and Steve turned to face his host.  The ancient elfen was wearing his shabby Victorian tweeds with a grand air.  "Steve Adderson, great merchant to the elfen, I hope this has not affected our ability to do business.  I will not offer you drink and food, but please be seated and let us talk."
Steve bowed politely and sat carefully on the shaped tree stump.  "How may I serve the Lord of Warrington?"
Lord Cerdig drummed his fingers on the arm of his own wooden seat.  "I know of you as a great merchant." Lord Cerdig said thoughtfully.  "You have dealt honestly with my kind.  However you have always required payment in mortal money which I lack.  However I propose a trade." 
"What sort of trade?" Steve said cautiously.
Lord Cerdig waved imperiously and a boggart brought in a large chest.  "All that is contained there is trade.  There is nothing faerie there, nothing that will fade in moonlight or sunlight.  The arrowheads are unenchanted."
"That is a cautious and careful decision," Lord Marius nodded thoughtfully.  "Most have forgotten elf-shot and it is helpful to keep that."
Steve looked at the heap of musket shot, strap ends, hack silver, Victorian and Roman coins and expertly knapped flint arrow heads.  "This is a hard hoard to value." He said with absolute honestly.  "I will sell this treasure fairly and take the cost of selling together with a tithe to keep me fed and the rest of the money found can purchase your desire." Steve hoped it would be enough.
"An excellent plan." Lord Cerdig cried. "Brett will carry the chest to your vehicle."

Back in his car, Steve wondered how much he could get for miscellaneous antiquities and modern knapped flints.  And where he was going to get bulk quantities of Pokemon cards. 

Online Test

I am quite sceptical about online tests.  When I suspected that son was colour blind I first tested him on the computer, but then I went to the opticians and had a proper test done by someone qualified.  It's around thirty years since I bothered with those 'Are You Compatible' type tests where  you score yourself on how many a's, b's or c's you got.  Today, however, I glanced at a test shown in the Daily Mail here about a test for Alzheimer's.

It is supposed to be a test to see if any symptoms are progressing.  You have five questions and they seem fairly straightforward.  I was okay with most of them though I did initially think that the picture of a pretzel was a reef knot, but one has baffled me.

'How are a hammer and a corkscrew similar?  Write down how they are alike.'

I am baffled.  A hammer bangs nails into wood.  A corkscrew pulls corks out of bottles.  It's like one of those essay questions I was hit with at A level, writing five thousand words about a fourteen line sonnet.  It's a challenge.

Okay, a hammer bangs nails into wood and a corkscrew doesn't.  Hmm.  But a claw hammer can pull nails out of wood if they haven't been knocked in too far.  Perhaps that is a clue - if you don't have a lump hammer or a toffee hammer or a mallet but instead are holding a claw hammer then perhaps you can pull things out with both a hammer and a corkscrew.  Of course, if you hit the bottle with a hammer then you would be able to get the wine out.  It may just sort of splash everywhere, but the wine would be out of the bottle.  So both could be used to get wine out of a bottle and I think there is something where you push the cork into a bottle and get the wine out that way and a hammer may be useful there.

Going back thirty years to my student days, let's take it a bit further.  A hammer and a corkscrew are both tools, but then so is a screwdriver.  I would have thought a corkscrew and a screwdriver would have more in common, but then I am not expert in testing for Alzheimer's.  They are both made of metal, unless you count some of the rubber hammers and mallets out there.  That's something they have in common.  One is found in a tool box and one is found in the cutlery drawer, at least in my house.  I am not a wine drinker and the stuff I do drink usually has a screw cap.

I think I will go with both a hammer and a corkscrew are useful to a person who is building a bookcase and then wants to relax with a glass of wine.  And I'm hoping this is not the start of the slippery slope.

All images from Stockfreeimages.com

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Talking about the weather

I joked during 2012 that not only could the UK be proud of the Olympics, Tour de France win, tennis, Jubilee and all the wonderful things that went with those, but we even had our favourite topic, truly awful weather.  I know that people outside the UK read this blog and yes, we do talk about the weather that much.  It is the prime topic at bus stops and in corner shops and always a starter with the neighbour before discussing any juicy gossip or whose cat has been digging up the garden.

Those of us in the UK will talk about the weather because while we have a temperate climate with few extremes, it is always changing.  Apparently the only county with comparable systems is Japan - a small island between a continental landmass and a large ocean.  I went on holiday in May once and during the same week we had snow and hot sun that gave me sunburn.  It is a very changeable situation, though usually without extremes.  I follow the weather forecasts and a few weather sites with interest, and try to insist that son lets me watch the evening weather forecast each night.

The last few weeks have been unusual.  Talking about the weather and wondering if it's worth putting out washing on a line is one thing.  The awful damage that has been done is another.  Peoples homes have been flooded, there has been disruption and damage to transport and some parts of the coast will never be the same again.  I remember seeing a picture of this rock and marvelling at erosion and the way nature makes her own sculptures.

I got this picture from the Independent.  I remember seeing the arch and thinking that bear's grandchildren would probably see it fall.  I didn't expect to see it fall so soon or so dramatically in one great storm.

Here is not so bad.  The beck is full, but not flooding.

There hasn't been much storm damage either, though I noticed a few branches and trees down in Roundhay Park over Christmas.  I feel very lucky.  I cannot imagine how soul destroying it must be cleaning up after a flood.  

And this is very small change compared to the icy conditions over in North America.  I don't know how anyone is managing, how the vulnerable and the homeless will survive and what effect it will be having on the livelihood of so many.  I have read that even Florida has been affected, and that shocked me.  

I feel very lucky and very grateful that I am not so affected.  I will be watching the weather even closer now.  

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Father and Alcohol - again!

Father likes a drink.  He is 82 and I don't feel I have any right to try and stop his consumption.  He is in pretty good shape and getting around quite well after his stroke in September.  He's out tonight at the Jazz Club where he will have four or five doubles and come rolling home. I am fine with this.

I suspect that father knows that his consumption is a bit high, and so it makes life a lot easier if everyone else is drinking, because if everyone else is drinking, then it can't be that bad - right?  At the weekend he and DH took on a bottle of Black Grouse and came second.  He is always encouraging DH to have a whisky, and it seems churlish to say no, so DH has now got a (actually quite reasonable and sensible) whisky habit.  Last night he was encouraging DH to keep drinking while I had another glass or two of that vile Amaretto.  Actually I'm sure it is very nice to those who like it but the 'mugged by Christmas Cake' feeling is a bit off-putting.

The only reason I have been asked to drink Amaretto is that father doesn't like it and can't bear it to go to waste.  However father has worked out that I quite like Cointreau but I haven't been getting any in as it seems quite a lot of money to spend on something that you just drink.  I may as well have a cup of tea.  Father does not agree with this.  He think alcohol is something that should be embraced.  He keeps buying me bottles of Cointreau.

I already had two unopened bottles of the stuff in the cupboard, plus one with a few drinks out of when he comes in with another bottle of the stuff and an enormous box of Maltesers (yes I want to lose weight, and he knows this but son will help me out here).

I may have to smuggle some out and donate if this carries on.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Start as You Mean to Go On

Please let the year not follow this pattern.  I am now awaiting the delivery of 450 Christmas Cards at an extremely good price.  I bid for them on ebay under the influence of stupidity, I have no excuse.  Not even the extremely reasonable price including delivery for very good quality.  I just have no idea where I will even store them.  I only use about twenty a year.  Father and Son will use a few, but even so.

Mind you, it could be worse.  I nearly ended up with 700.

Happy Christmas 2014, 2015, 2016...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


Some kind soul gave father a bottle of Amaretto for Christmas.  This is not his favourite tipple.  He tries to stick to Famous Grouse, will drink as much Black Grouse as he can get his hands on and is quite keen on the Naked Grouse.  He doesn't have a sweet tooth and he isn't keen on marzipan.  Amaretto is a marzipan drink.

This gift has really affected father.  First of all he can't bear the thought of alcohol going to waste.  If he twigged to the half bottle of ginger vodka in the kitchen (epic fail by me, it is horrific and currently reserved for cleaning purposes) then he would want to see it drunk.  He sees a full bottle as a challenge and a duty.  I am exaggerating a little bit, but less than you would think.  Besides, he is 82.  I think he is old enough to know his limits.

The second problem is that he couldn't bring himself to drink liqueurs.  Something sweet and 14% is really not him.  He couldn't do it.  However he knows I like sweeter drinks, and I do usually like the lower alcohol liqueurs to drink neat so this is obviously ideal for me to drink.  He put the bottle pointedly next to my chair.

I am actually not much of a drinker.  Before father came to live with us I would have a drink once or twice a year.  When father moved in it climbed to me having a drink once or twice a month.  The last month or so has seen it get worryingly close to once or twice a week and it isn't really me.  Father found I liked Cointreau and on Christmas Day I had four bottles lined up for me.  These have been moved out of the way and the bottle of Amaretto has been edged closer and closer.  It is a full litre bottle as well, and it is starting to loom.

Father has also started to hint, asking whether I needed a glass, did I need a drink, this Amaretto looks nice...  So last night, New Year's Eve, I started on the Amaretto.

The stuff is foul.  It is far too sweet for me, and it feels like I have just eaten four boxes of marzipan fruits.  I think I have overdosed on almonds.  I managed far too much and woke up feeling like I had been mugged by the topping from a Christmas Cake while father and DH were still quite fresh despite the bottle of Black Grouse they shared.

I know that father will still want the bottle drunk and would be devastated if I didn't work my way through the syrupy stuff, but I think every night I will wait until father is nearly on his way to bed and pour myself a measure of the vile stuff as a nightcap.  Then I can safely pour that measure down the sink and I hope it cleans the drains.  The bottle can't last for ever.

Image from Aldi, the apparent source of the problem

Please let father not buy me a bottle for myself.