Monthly Archives: September 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

Still taking on the WordPress Photo Challenge, even though I’ve no camera…

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James Bond was almost deafened by the noise as the machine moved forward inexorably, blades whirring round and round. He pulled at the flex coiled around him, then reached one hand forward and flicked a switch. The blades slowed and finally stopped.

Bond had finished cutting his grass.

He emptied the grass onto the compost heap in one corner of the garden  and put away the lawnmower. He swept the leaves from the garden path, arms moving like lightning as if he were fighting stick to stick with some foreign agent. He tended his roses, beheading the dead ones, since beheading was something that he was very good at.

Not every day was spend fighting evil, seducing beautiful foreign spies and making bad puns.

The end of the Cold War had limited the number of his assignments, and the world-wide recession had affected even the finances of megalomaniacs, who could no longer afford massive headquarters and staff who couldn’t shoot straight.

Bond had more days off than on.

MI6 had made their own cuts too. They had had to close their cover corporation, Universal Exports, and were paying their agents on a per-job basis. Most of them had now taken other jobs. 004 taught languages. 009 had taken the infra-red lens from his camera and now had a thriving business as a Wedding Photographer. 002 ran an adult-shop in Muswell Hill, though that had nothing to do with his 00 skills, he was just into that kind of stuff. Even Q now had a second-job, inventing labour-saving devices that were sold only on the Shopping Channel, with the says-it-all tag-line “this offer is not available in shops”.

Bond was on the dole.

Today was his signing-on day. He left his house, stopping to put his cans into his green bin (he was very into re-cycling, there was no point in him continually saving the world if he was destroying it at the same time) and walked to the Labour Exchange. The man at the counter looked at him.

“My name is Bond. James Bond,” he said.

He received his payment and headed to Tesco, where he plodded the aisles behind a meandering supermarket trolley (Bond had driven an Aston Martin, could pilot a helicopter, and had even once evaded a heat-seeking missile while driving the Mont Blanc cable-car, but controlling a Tesco trolley was beyond even him). He bought some groceries and headed home. He opened a tin of beans with a spatula/can-opener invented by Q (he had bought 2 and received a free 19-CD set of 1920s silent-movie piano accompaniments), heated them and put them on toast.

After his lunch he went to his local and ordered a drink. The first time he went there he had asked for a martini, shaken not stirred, and the whole pub had laughed at him, so now he stuck to lager. He spent the afternoon watching horse-racing, listening to how the foreigners had taken all our jobs and being told by Jake, the pub drunk (and in that pub that was some achievement) that he was his beshtesht ever friend.

He went home and turned on his computer to see if he had any message from M. When she needed him she would contact him by commenting on his blog, Worth Doing Bondly. He looked at the comments on his most recent post, a factual and informative piece about pirates, and sure enough, there was a comment from an Emm, who said:

Great post :)
Why not write one tomorrow about, say, a guy who’s going to feed fertility drugs to rabbits and plans to corner the world lettuce market.
You could start at Heathrow at nine o’clock.

She was giving him an assignment. Over the next few days he would no doubt be shot at, betrayed, have scorpions or other deadly creatures sneaked into his clothing, and have to fight at least one person twice his size. When it was all over he would be thoroughly shagged.

He couldn’t wait. Everyday life was far more dangerous.

The boredom was killing him.

Because You’re Worth It

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “colours”….

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Men should not dye their hair.

Edward Teach believed that passionately.Yet now he found himself alone in his cabin, staring at the bowl of dye in front of him.

His problem was that no-one was afraid of a pirate called Gingerbeard.

Oh, he carried the cutlasses, he wore the eyepatch (though he had both eyes), and he even slid one hand up his sleeve and held a hook in it, but all to no avail. The cry “ship ahoy!” would ring out, the Jolly Roger would be raised and he and the crew of the Sinking (it was supposed to have been Sin King, there had been a bit of a misunderstanding) would board their prey and confront its hapless crew. But once this crew saw who was in charge they would become a bit more hap. Threats would be met with laughter. Demands to hand over booty would be met with a hail of boots. One crew had fired him out of a cannon back onto the Sinking, where he had landed with a force that had certainly shivered its timbers.

His own crew, he knew, would have mutinied long ago had he not fed them a steady diet of dark rum and grog (it’s a porridge-like stodge). His parrot, when placed upon his shoulder, would offer a contemptuous opinion of him, usually when he was on the poop-deck.

At this moment the parrot was perched in the corner of the cabin, muttering “who’s a pretty boy, then?” Teach knew that the parrot wasn’t talking about itself.

He had seen “adverts” (short messages performed during the scene changes in plays) whenever he was in port, and had watched ridiculously unlikely tales of how men who touch up the grey in their hair instantly get treated more respectfully at work, find they are more attractive to women, and somehow do not end up with hat linings the colour of cowpats. Edward sneered at such cosmetic trickery, it would be like a woman wearing high heels on her shoes. Yet he was desperate.

He began to apply the dye to his beard.

The stench was appalling, mainly because black dye in those days was made by pouring melted molasses over crushed weevils. But he stuck manfully at it until he looked as if he had fallen face-first into his dark-rum-and-grog. He waited for it all to dry and then looked in the mirror.

The face that looked back at him was fierce, forceful and fearsome. He ripped off his eyepatch and dropped the fake hook. He had no need of such props now. He walked – no, strutted – from his cabin. The crew stared at him in astonishment and, he noticed, respect.

Just then the cry of “ship ahoy!” came from the crow’s nest.

“Are we going to attack, Cap’n?” asked the ship’s mate.

Teach took his two cutlasses from his belt. Unbidden, his parrot flew from the cabin and settled, continently, upon his shoulder.

“Arrr,” said Blackbeard.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

Still no camera, still taking on the WordPress challenge….
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“Are they up?”

“Yes, sir,” said Sir Jonas. “They are indeed up.”

The Grand Old Duke of York lifted his spyglass and stared proudly at ten thousand men, crowded together at the top of a quite a small hill.

“They look very impressive from afar, don’t they?”

They look like a bunch of pillocks on a hillock, thought Sir Jonas, his second-in-command. Aloud he said “they do indeed, sire”. The Grand Old Duke of York lowered his spyglass and Sir Jonas knew, from bitter, bitter experience, what was coming next.

“Jolly good,” said the Duke of York. “March them down again.”

The War of the Roses had reached a lull, because of winter. Both the red roses pinned to the doublets of the Lancasters and the white roses of the House of York had withered to something resembling sprigs of shamrock. Therefore war had been suspended until next May lest people end up being killed by their own side, because of course that would be so much worse than being killed by the other.

The Grand Old Duke of York was determined to keep his men fighting fit, as the saying goes. This was not easy. Press-ups in ground trodden upon by ten thousand men could lead to drowning, so the Duke had decided upon marching his men up and down the nearby hill instead. The only person to profit from this was Thomas, who fixed the soles of the men’s boots. He now had a thriving business called Thomas & Sons, which had “Cobblers to the Duke of York” upon its coat of arms.

Sir Jonas shouted the order, and the men tried to turn on the small hilltop. This looked like a bunch of people trying to perform the Birdie Song in a telephone box, but eventually the troop began its trip from far to near. When the sound of twenty-thousand foot-sore feet signalled that the men were now near the Duke emerged from his tent.

“Are they down?” he asked, as though ten thousand man just yards away were invisible to him. Perhaps they were, you don’t become a Duke by paying any heed to lower classes.

“Yes, sire, they are down,” said Sir Jonas patiently.

“March them back up,” said the Duke, and retreated back into his tent, where a serving wench was, I suppose, serving him.

This went on and on day after day, trudgery days of sheer drudgery. The men grew restless, and then insolent. Some took to crawling up the hill, to test the theory that an army marches on his stomach. Others rolled down the downward journey, then stood up and staggered about dizzily, to the mirth of their mates.

One day a heavy fall of hailstones upon his tent sounded to the Duke like feet arriving. He peered from his tent, at the lone figure of Sir Jonas.

“They’re not down,” he said in confusion.

“No, sire,” said Sir Jonas.

“Then are they up?”

Sir Jonas looked up the hill. They were only halfway up.

“I think it’s fair to say, sire,” he said, “that they are neither up nor down.”

“I see. Well when they get – which way are they going now?”

I haven’t a bloody clue at this stage, thought Sir Jonas. “Down,” he said.

“Well, when they get here, march them back up,” said the Grand Old Duke of York.

Just then an equerry (I think, unless that’s a type of horse) approached carrying a parchment. “This message arrived via pigeon, sire,” he said. The Duke looked at it.

“I say,” he said, accurately. “It’s from a new group calling themselves The Hillwalkers’ Association. They want me to be their Honorary President. You should join too, Jonas, it sounds like fun.”

That night Sir Jonas deserted. He made his way to the nearest port, caught a ship, and joined the army of King William of Orange.

He knew nothing about him or his cause. He had simply heard that Holland was very flat.

Titus Andronicus! (and other spells)

This week’s Daily Post Writing Challenge is “Stylish Imitation”, so here is the world’s most famous playwright telling the world’s most famous story…
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Alarums, fanfares and trumpets. Enter Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Harry: When shall we three meet again?

Hermione: Next term at Hogwarts.

Harry: Oh, true. (they exit home for the holidays)

Enter He Who Must Not Be Named.

Voldemort (oops, sorry): Fast fare thy failure, Potter, with thy stupid scar
I’ll kill thee fore you can say, er “Nascar”.

Ghost of Nearly Headless Nick enters.

Voldemort: Sodeth off, thou twerp. (Nick exits, pursued by his career).

First Day of New Term. Enter Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Hermione: Grave news. (Holds up skull). Dobby is not to be.

Harry: Alas, poor Dobby. I knew him well.

Hermione: Not well.

Harry: I can see that.

Hermione: No, the word “well” ist not in that sentence.

Harry: What, just “I knew him?”

Hermione: Yeth. I mean, yes.

Harry: Well, that’s not very personal. I could just as well be talking about the milkman.

Ron: The Who?

Harry: Exactly, I could just as well hath been talking about the Who. They art ancient enough to be in this.

Roger Daltrey: Oy! I heard that. (he exits, singing “Magic Bus”, since this play hath wizards and stuff).

Enter Voldemort.

Voldemort: Prepare the world for lots of sorrow
Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Harry: My name is Harry Potter, you killed my father, prepare to die.

Ron: Wrong story, methinks.

Harry: Is this a dagger I see before me?

Voldemort: No, it’s a wand, thou brainless berk. (Blasts Harry with a spell)

Hermione: Harry, the killing curse thou useth must, before thou turn to a pile of dust!

Harry: Very well. (points wand) Yippee Kay-ay, Motherf***er!” (Voldemort explodes in a puff of Elizabethan make-up).

Hermione (aside): That wadst not the curse I meant. (aloud) Oh Ronneo, Ronneo, wherefore art thou, Ronneo?”

Ron: I hate it when you call me that.

Enter Ginny.

Harry: Well-met by moonlight, proud Ginny. Where hast thou been?

Ginny: I couldeth not think of anything to say. I studied nottest Shakespeare at school.

Harry: Well, we four have met again. (Weather turns shite). In thunder, lightning and in rain. Ow, and also hailstones.

Hermione: Methinks our weddings could be a double. We could serve a cauldron of hubble-bubble. (Others look at her) It’s a type of stew.

Cheers, throwing of Sorting Hat into the air. Exeunt.

JK Rowling: For never was a story of more joy
Than this of Harry, the who-lived boy.

Shhhsh

Be vewy, vewy quiet.

Mrs Tin does not like to feature on this blog.

Mrs Tin does not like a fuss being made about her birthday.

Mrs Tin certainly  would not like anyone to know her age.

So this post has never been written, if she ever asks.

But today is a special birthday, for a very special girl.

Happy birthday, Mrs Tin xx

Looking Sharp

Tonight’s prompt at our Writers Group was “that particular look”…

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Fashions come, go and then come back. The mini skirt is hot, then not, then hot again. Brylcreem were thriving in the hair-slicked 40s, then struggling, now thriving again in the hair-gelled 10s (is that the right term?). Braces fall out of style, then back in (Americans call them suspenders, but believe me, suspenders never go out of style).

Through all of this, though, one particular look has never come back.

The 1970s. What were we thinking?

Elephant flares. Five-inch platform shoes. Cheesecloth shirts that opened all the way to your navel if you yawned and stretched.

Flowery shirts with ties that exactly matched.

Hair. Oh God, so much hair. Afros like a giant black dandelion. Masses of curls, like you were wearing a Scottie-dog as a hat. Sideburns like Brillo Pads. Hair of Rapunzel-like straightness (and indeed length) that bounced up and down in a curtain in front of your face as you air-guitared along to Smoke On The Water.

Bay City Rollers scarves.

Giant collars like the wings of Concorde. Ties the width of a tablecloth, with a knot the size of a frog.

Bobble hats. Doc Martens. Trousers that stopped halfway down your shin. Denim jackets in colours that weren’t denim. Corduroy jackets. Bomber jackets.

Footless tights, just in case you girls think it was only us that looked daft.

Doctor Who-like scarves that stretched three times around your neck and still reached down to your knees.

Oh. Ok, I’ve still got one of those.

Full Steam Ahead

From donedeal.ie:

Portable Inflatable Sauna

Perfect for the New Year!

Easy to use inflatable saunas. Can be plugged into a domestic wall-socket & folds away for easy storage. Can be used by both men & women. There are great benefits from using this sauna, Burns Calories Improves Skin Reduces Stress & Fatigue Helps relieve pain Helps to ease joint pain & stiffness Removes Toxins & Mineral Waste. Just sit back and relax. We can deliver anywhere in Ireland. Price €50.

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There are two reasons why I put in that the sauna is “Perfect for the New Year”. Firstly I was aiming at the Children of the Resolution, the ones who say that this is the year when they will give up cigarettes, or learn Swahili, or swim the Atlantic with dolphins.

The other is that it was on Christmas day that my wife told me to get rid of it.

That’s her in the photo on Christmas morning, smiling and not, as I assured her, looking in the least like a Dalek with its helmet off. It’s the last time she smiled all day.

I’ve copied the ad word for word from the one which I fell for when I bought it. I read that it got rid of toxins and mineral waste without asking myself where to. It turns out that they dissolve into a pile of ick at the bottom of the sauna. It says, rather oddly, that it can be used by both men and women, but apparently that’s not true, not at least if the woman has just had her legs waxed.

The main problem though is one of punctuation. I read “Burns Calories” without realizing that there should have been a full-stop after the first word. You will see that there is no steam in the picture. That’s because there’s no way for it to get out, it stays trapped in there Improving Skin, if by improvement you mean turning it orange, not in colour but in texture.

When you climb out, though, the real fun starts. There is now a you-shaped hole for the steam to escape through, and when you try to fold the sauna for easy storage this steam puffs hissingly into your face. Believe me, this does not Reduce Stress.

The sauna comes in its own little bag, but don’t bother trying to get the thing back into it, it’s like trying to stuff a pillow-case with a bouncy castle.

Already I’ve decided on the wife’s birthday present, to try and make up for this disaster. It too plugs into a domestic wall-socket and can be easily stored.

I’m buying her an iron. I’d say she’ll be thrilled.

 

Time Difference

We have just finished talking to Tinson1 via Skype, for the first time since he went to North Carolina last week. He looks great, seems really happy, and is getting on great with the two guys who went with him. He  says the heat and humidity are amazing, though he told us this in a hoodie with the hood up, since the Air-con was on in his room and the answer to the riddle “how many physics students does it take to figure out air-conditioning?” seems to be “well, more than three, anyway.”

His twenty-first birthday will take place while he is there, and much mockery was made of him before he left about the fact that, since you’re not allowed to drink until you’re 21 in the States, he would only have 12 days of being able to drink before he came home. He wasn’t that bothered, but now says that he was in the college bar during the week, and that the problem doesn’t exist anyway.

His birthday is November the 8th, so his Trinity College student card gives his date of birth as 08/11/91.

The Americans think he was born on the 11th of August.

Curtain Call

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “all the world’s a stage”…

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She sat in the empty, silent theatre, alone with her thoughts.

She closed her eyes and could hear all the sounds of a life spent on the stage, the applause of audiences, their laughter, even the appalling crash of brass and woodwind the night she fell off the stage into the orchestra pit.

And the silences, too, of an audience rapt, or them holding back tears, for these silences are also part of the sound of the stage.

Helen Walsh was eighty-two years old now, and had spent seventy-six of those years acting. Ever since she’d played the youngest VonTrapp in the Sound of Music for the Teamplayers Amateur Dramatic Society in Bolton she had wanted no other career.

In her time she had played a ghost, a French maid (she used to bring the outfit home at night, to the delight of her then husband) and, in a strange avant-garde play, a talking vacuum cleaner. She had played Lady Bracknell, My Fair Lady and Lady Macbeth, who she always referred to as Lady Scottishplay. She had been naked in Equus, murdered in An Inspector Calls and barefoot in the park. She had been told to break a leg before her Juliet in Middlesborough in 1953 and had done so, when her balcony had collapsed onto a startled Romeo.

She had played Mary-Beth Walton in a stage version of the Waltons in 1955, played Ma Walton in 1968 and had played Grandma Walton in 2000. There was no role old enough for her in the play now, unless she was to play the Mountain.

As she had become more famous she had acted with some of the greats – she had played Ophelia to Olivier’s Hamlet, Anna to Gielgud’s King, and in the pantomime Dick Whittington she had played Eliza to Ian McKellen’s Dick.

She had received some wonderful reviews (“Helen Walsh’s Blanche Dubois is a powerful tragic heroine”), and some less so (“Helen Walsh is the most wooden thing I’ve seen since Forest Gump’s bench”). She had met these triumphs and disasters both the same – with hysterical over-reaction and heavy drinking.

She had occasionally moved into TV and film, appearing in six episodes of Coronation Street as one of Mike Baldwin’s girlfriends, and playing a tennis ball in an ad for Robinson’s Barley Water. She had appeared in one of the Harry Potter films, but then who hadn’t.

She had been sometimes wealthy, and more often poor. She had had four husbands, because actresses are not easy to live with. She had never found time to have children. But now, as the door of the theatre opened and she was no longer alone, she reflected that, for all its sacrifices, no other job could have ever made her life as happy as it had been.

The operating theatre was a hum of activity now. All the world is a stage, she realized. Today she was going to be an old lady facing a heart operation, and to the surgeon and his team she was going to act calm, unafraid, and stoically accepting of whatever might happen.

If she could pull it off it would be her greatest performance ever.

Dune Buggy

I wasn’t at my writers’ group this week (Tuesday’s haiku might help explain why) but I discovered this morning that the prompt they were given was “the baby in the sand dune” (huh?), so I used the bus journey home to see what I’d have come up with…

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This story doesn’t end well.

The baby wasn’t dead, I should make that clear before I go any further. Most people can handle tales of most murder victims – old rich men, beautiful young dames, old rich men who had married beautiful young dames. Cops, even those with only two days to go to retirement. Joggers. Clowns. Especially clowns. I think there’s a word for hatred of clowns – intelligence, I think it is. But not a baby, so I want to assure you that he was fine.

And he wasn’t just lying on the sand, he was in a baby-buggy.

It was an early morning swimmer who found the baby. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people, dragging themselves from a warm bed in semi-darkness to plunge into cold, salty water, turning their body the colour of a blueberry and their genitals the size of one.

Anyway, he rang the station – don’t ask me, maybe he had the phone down the front of his Speedos to impress any passing broads – and Bud and I were sent to investigate.

The baby wasn’t able to tell us much, being that he was a baby and all that. Then again, we mostly work homicide, so in most of our cases the chief witness gives us no oral assistance, other than via their dental records. The baby did cry when he saw Bud, though.

“Guess that makes you a suspect,” I said. “Don’t leave town.”

I handed the baby to a uniformed officer, because he was starting to stink (the baby, not the officer). “Take him down to the precinct,” I said.

“Why?” asked the officer. “What’s he done?” Everyone’s a wise guy these days.

Bud and I started to search the dunes. We didn’t find anything – well, we did, we found a dog-turd, some beer-cans and a used condom, but I mean we didn’t find any clues as to who the baby might be. Then we got our first real break – we could hear screaming.

“Someone’s getting killed,” said Bud.

I knew better. Perhaps I’d had more experience of broads crying. “That’s a broad crying,” I said. We listened to try and figure out the direction of the wailing, then went to cherche la femme, as the French say. Though in a better French accent.

The femme was in a bikini and a hysterical state.

Turns out she had left the baby safely in the sand dune while she went for an early morning swim. She had come out of the water – she didn’t have the blueberry problem, though she did have goosebumps the size of nipples and nipples the size of bullets – to discover that all sand dunes look identical. She was shivering, from cold and from fear.

“You lost a baby?” asked Bud. She nodded.

“We’ve got him,” I said. “He’s down in the precinct.”

“Is he ok?”

“Fine,” I said. “He’s asleep in his buggy, last I heard. Which means,” I continued, “we may have to charge him.”

“What with?”

I couldn’t help myself. “Kid napping,” I said.

I told you the story didn’t end well.