Monthly Archives: December 2012

Unseen By Mirrors

On Tom (Aquatom1968)‘ s blog there is a button marked “Fancy a Writing Challenge?” He is one of many of you who are attempting to complete 101 tasks in 1001 days, and one of his tasks is: “11. To appear in at least five random short stories on other people’s blogs”.

Since very few of us have ever met each other he offers the following information about himself:

“Bear in mind that I have the body of a Greek God, many super-heroic abilities, occasional vampire tendencies, time-travel experience with a supernatural pull to the Seventeenth Century, various Inner Beings who try to take over my persona, and exceptionally unruly (at times) hair. I live in a Mansion that crosses the border between Reality and Surreal Reality that contains rooms even I haven’t seen yet. And I love to fly and soar through the wonders of the Universe.”

Tom posted all this last March so may well have completed the task by now, but just in case…

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It was midnight, and time.

Beneath the Houses of Parliament Guy Fawkes struck a match, and a flame ran in an Opening-Sequence-Of-Mission-Impossible manner towards a huge barrel of gunpowder.

Guy stuck his fingers in his ears and so didn’t hear the strange noise as a blue Police Box materialised right on top of the barrel, which split open.

The Tardis door opened and the Doctor’s head popped out and looked down.

“Oops,” he said. “Sorry about that.”

Small amounts of gunpowder burst through holes in the barrel and whizzed off in all directions, exploding at a dazzling variety of heights in a dazzling variety of colours. The Doctor smiled as Guy watched the spectacle in awe. “Good idea for a career move, wouldn’t you say?”

As Guy ran off into the night and the Patent Office, the Doctor and Clara stepped out of the Tardis. “Where are we?” she asked. “And when?”

“London,” said the Doctor. “1605.”

“The seventeenth century?” said Clara. “What are we doing here?”

“I have to meet someone,” said the Doctor. “He hangs around here a lot.”

“Who is he?” asked Clara.

“One of the Time Lords,” said the Doctor.

“Which one? The Master? The Professor? The Pizza Delivery Boy?”

“Tom,” said the Doctor.

“The Tom?”

“No,” said the Doctor, as a second Tardis materialised beside theirs. “Just Tom. Or Aquatom 1968 as we call him.”

“Why Aquatom?” As Clara asked this the second Tardis’s door opened, and gallons of seawater poured out.

“Because he keeps materialising underwater,” said the Doctor.

“And why 1968?”

“Because he’s had to re-generate 1,967 times.”

“Why so many?”

“Because he keeps materialising underwater,” said the Doctor.

“What’s he like?” asked Clara.

“He has the body of a Greek God,” said the Doctor.

“Really?” said Clara, just a shade too enthusiastically for the Doctor’s liking. The water finally finished pouring from the second Tardis, and out stepped a man with a beer-belly, a hungover-look and hair combed across a large bald-spot.

Clara glared at the Doctor, who shrugged. “Dionysius,” he said. “Greek God of booze.”

Tom approached the Doctor and the two looked each other up and down.

“Nice comb-over,” said the Doctor.

“Nice bow-tie,” said Tom.

“Bow-ties are cool,” said the Doctor.

“No they aren’t,” said Tom. Then he noticed Clara for the first time. “Well hello,” he said, in a Terry-Thomas voice. “Would you like to see inside my Tardis? It’s bigger on the inside – it has rooms I’ve never even been in.”

“We’ve got one,” said Clara.

“Oh,” said Tom. Suddenly his hair snaked out and and slapped the Doctor across the face. “Sorry,” he said, “sometimes it’s a bit hard to control.”

“How did you do that,” gasped Clara.

“It’s some stupid super-hero power he’s got,” said the Doctor grudgingly. “Face-Slapping-Hair Man.”

“It’s a very useful super-power,” said Tom, “if you ever want to hit someone while you’re holding an ice-cream cone in each hand.”

“Why would anyone ever -” began the Doctor, then shook his head. “Anyway,” he continued,  “I believe you’re here fighting the Daleks.”

“Yep,” said Tom.

“Need a hand, I suppose,” said the Doctor.

“Nope,” said Tom. “All done.”

“How come?”

“Remember how we were always able to defeat them because they couldn’t climb stairs? Turns out they can’t swim either.”

The two Time Lords smiled at eath other and got back into their Tardises, the Doctor accompanied by Clara, and Tom by his two Inner Beings, Dick and Harry, who sometimes tried to take over his persona. Harry used to make him harry people, while Dick didn’t.

“I’ve just one question,” said Clara as the Doctor powered up the Tardis. “What’s the story with the name of this story?”

“It was the only way I could get the vampire bit in,” said the Doctor.

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One Day Late

In my defence, Boxing Day was traditionally the day in the UK when Christmas boxes and good wishes were given out, so I wasn’t doing anything wrong by not being here yesterday to wish you all Happy Christmas.

In my lack-of-defence I do not live in the UK.

The day just went. We had presents, we had dinner, we watched about 32 hours of films in 14 hours and suddenly the day was over.

So belated, apologetic, but really heartfelt best wishes to every single one of you who come here. You are my support and my encouragement.

You are my friends.

I hope you all had a really lovely day yesterday and that you enjoy today and the rest of the holidays.

I will be doing other writing over the coming days, especially since Tingirl has bought me this:

26.12.12 049

Have a super day, everyone, and talk to you all again soon.

Tin.

…And Another Surprise

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is “surprise”. While I am trying to think of something (and shopping) I am re-posting this story “…And A Surprise” from last year. I am justifying this to myself with the thought that Christmas is the season for repeats. Just have a look at the TV schedules, not to mention the effect that sprouts have upon your digestion…

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He knew not to expect it.

He had always been told that when he was seven Santa would bring him a Playstation. His seventh birthday had been six weeks earlier and it was now early on Christmas Morning, but he knew that the Playstation would not be coming.

He knew this because he knew that there was no Santa, that it was just his Mum and Dad, and he knew that there were problems about money, because the company Dad worked for had closed down during the summer. He knew because had noticed that they hadn‘t repaired the dishwasher when it broke, and that they did the washing-up by hand, that Dad never went to the pub anymore, that Mum had given up smoking. He knew because Mum had taken to cutting his hair, leaving him looking like Tintin at the front and like an old tennis-ball at the back.

He knew because when he was in bed at night he had sometimes heard them arguing about money.

So when he had had to write his letter to Santa (he had never told them he didn’t believe anymore, he felt that it was important to them that he still did) he had taken a deep breath, then had written “Dear Santa, I would like a book, a selection box and a surprise”. Mum had stared at the list.

“A book?” she’d said. “I thought you wanted a Playstation?”

“Nah, Playstations are for girls,” he’d replied, then realised even as he said it how ludicrous that sounded. His mum had looked thoughtfully at him for a moment or two. “I’m sure you’re probably right,” she’d said softly, eventually.

Now, as his clock showed that it was an acceptable time (5.04) to be getting up on Christmas morning, he swung his little legs out onto the floor and began to go through the pile of presents at the end of his bed. The red stocking with his name on it was on top, and he emptied it of its mandarin orange, its 2-euro coin, its strange walking-stick candies that appear at Christmas and at no other time of the year and of course its pair of socks, because a male always receives socks at Christmas, no matter what age he is.

He turned then to the other presents. There was the book. (Never Let Me Go, his parents weren’t experts on the reading habits of seven-year olds). There was the selection box. And then he turned to the surprise.

It was a Playstation.

He gave a quick squeak of astonishment and delight, heard a chuckle and looked up. His Mum and Dad stood framed in the doorway of his bedroom.

“I guess Santa thought you might like a Playstation after all,” said Dad.

He said nothing, he didn’t know how to begin. He knew Santa didn’t exist, couldn’t exist, it just made no sense. Reindeer don’t fly, let alone have red noses, most people don’t have chimneys , he’d have to beam in and out like in Star Trek, and no sack could carry all the toys, it’d have to be like Mary Poppins’ carpet-bag.

And yet, his parents couldn‘t possibly have afforded it …..

He was a very-logically-minded little boy, but there were times when logic just didn’t seem to know everything.

An hour later, it was all set up and he sat furiously working his thumbs to enable one set of computer-generated creatures to marmelise another. Downstairs his parents listened to the roars, yells and explosions (and they were just from him) and smiled at each other sheepishly, guiltily and yet a little defiantly.

Two days earlier they had walked into their local DVD store, Dad had asked the sales assistant whether it was necessary to have seen a Night at the Opera before watching Night at the Museum and while the assistant was patiently explaining that the two films were in no way related Mum had stuck a Playstation into the huge coat that she used to wear when she’d been pregnant with their son, their wonderful son who had asked Santa for a book to spare them embarrassment.

Just because a story contains three lovely people, you can’t always expect them to be perfect.

They Think It’s All Over

It began with a boy band.

Cojonez, the teen sensations who made Mayan maidens swoon with their renditions of other people’s ballads, and especially with their song about human sacrifices being tossed into the volcano (“Flying Without Wings”) wanted to “give something back to their fans”, in other words find some sort of merchandise that said fans would pay a lot of money for.

They went to see young local artist Hotwotlbotl and got him to do a calendar for the coming year, 250 BC, with a picture of one of them on each page. By March they had all sold out, so they asked him to start on 249 BC (no, I don’t know either). Then, well aware that the popularity of boy bands can be fleeting they got him to do the next five years as well.

They had woken a sleeping dragon. Hotwotlbotl had been the kind of kid who, when asked to write his address, would write “Hotwotlbotl, Hut 4, Aztec Temple Road, Maya, Mexico, South America, Earth, The Universe, Space”. Having discovered a project like this one he was never going to let it go.

When he’d finished the five years he started, of his own accord, on the following one. Then the next, and the next. Without trains to spot, stamps to collect or blogs to fill this became his hobby. As years passed (backwards) it became his obsession.

Because he was an artist he drew random pictures into some of the boxes, having no idea of the effect that this would have in centuries to come. A cloud drawn on July 28, 1914, the day of the outbreak of the First World War, was said to predict the cloud that the world would be under. Yet a cloud drawn on May 29, 1953, the day Hillary climbed Everest, was claimed to predict that on that day man would rise above the clouds. A cloud drawn on September 12, 1931, a day on which absolutely nothing important happened, was said to mean that somewhere in the world it was going to rain.

On April 15, 1912, the day the Titanic sank, he had drawn a hedgehog. Scholars tend to keep quiet about that one.

He filled two thousand years in just ten, rather like you feel if you go on holiday to a theme-park. He was too busy for human contact, apart from  a girl called Ithixa, who used to call every couple of days to make sure he had remembered to eat. Ithixa had been in his class at school, and was also a quiet and scholarly soul. She had loved Hotwotlbotl ever since the day he sat beside her at a school outing and had enthralled her as he recited the periodic elements table. Over the years she had tried to get him to go out with her, but he was always too busy with his calendar. Then February 29, 244 arrived. She asked him on a date, and because it was a leap year he couldn’t refuse.

As he left his hut he put a big X on the next day he had to fill in, to remind himself how far he’d got. He could rub it out later.

They went for some hot chocolotl and talked and talked, about astronomy, about physics and about a relatively new science, archaelogy. At the end of the evening he looked at her, really looked for the very first time, and said “I never realised how beautiful you’ve become.”

She smiled. “And not only that,” she said, “I can list all the prime numbers from 1 to 2671.”

The next morning he woke up, in love with Ithixa and in bed with her too. “Look at the time,” he said, scrambling up. “I have to work on my calendar.”

“Seriously,” she said. “it’s time to give it up.”

“What?”

“Get a life. With me.”

He looked down at her, and suddenly felt the ghosts of flowers unpicked, of sunsets unadmired, of lady mud-wrestling contests unwatched.

“I’ve wasted so many years,” he said. “What was I thinking?” He picked up the now huge tome and hurled it out into the garden. She clapped, and he got back into bed.

“It’s a shame in a way,” he said. “I only had eleven days left to finish the year I was working on.”

“Who cares?” she said. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Hot Dinners

*

One of the dragons had gone missing.

Noah had searched everywhere, to no avail. The dragon was not on the ark, which could mean only one thing. He called his three sons.

“Now, lads,” he began. “I know that when God was giving us all this information about cubits and stuff he didn’t mention one of the most important things, which was that we would have to become vegetarian for the duration of the journey.”

It was true. Unable to eat any of the passengers, Noah and his sons had had to stock the ark with cabbages and potatoes. There are only so many recipes that use only these two ingredients, one being potato-and-cabbage, and the other being cabbage-and potato.

“I know it hasn’t been easy,” he went on, “especially when we are surrounded by all of the potential elements of a good steak-and-kidney pie. But we have persevered, at least until now.”

“What’s happened, father?” asked Shem.

“Someone’s eaten one of the dragons,” said Noah.

“Ugh,” said Japheth. “What would that taste like?”

“Like chicken,” said Ham. The others stared at him. “I mean,” he said, “that’s what everyone says about everything – force someone to eat badger, or giraffe, or the leg of a fellow desert-island castaway, and they will always say afterwards that it tasted like chicken.”

The others stared at him.

“Well, ok, I ate it,” he said eventually. “If you’d wanted me to embrace a life of vegetarianism then you shouldn’t have called me Ham.”

“God’s going to be pretty annoyed,” said Noah.

“Why? They were the most dangerous of all the creatures on the boat. A tiger can terrorise a whole village, but only a dragon can reduce it to ash. I was saving humanity. It was a win-win situation.”

“Except, of course, for the dragon,” said Shem. “Did you eat it raw?”

“Of course not,” said Ham. “I cooked it with the other dragon. I just held the steaks in front of it, then tickled its tummy.”

“The question now,” said Shem slowly, “is what do we do with the other dragon.”

“I suppose we could breed it with one of the other species,” said Japheth.

“What, like a cow?” said Noah. “And produce a creature that can light its own farts?”

There was a long silence.

“Like chicken, you say?” said Noah eventually.

“Just like it,” said Ham. “There are drumsticks and everything.”

“Well, it would be cruel to leave it on its own,” said Shem.

“Yes, we’d be doing it a favour,” said Japheth.

“A win-win situation,” said Ham.

“There is one problem,” said Japheth. “How are we going to cook this one? We can hardly ask it to barbecue itself.”

Noah sighed. “Boys, boys,” he said. “Did you learn nothing from your time in the scouts?”

“Yes, we learned to sing “ging-gang-gooly-gooly-wash-wash”, said Shem.

“Er, really?” said Noah. “Well, never mind that. Didn’t you learn how to light a fire?”

“Yes,” said Ham, “but we need two stones to bang together to produce a spark, and all the stones are under fifty feet of water, on account of the fact that it’s been raining for the last six weeks.”

“Yes, but that’s not the only way to start a fire,” said Noah.

“What do you mean?” asked Shem.

Noah smiled. “We can rub two stick insects together,” he said.

One Direction

The three men stood nervously in front of their captain, nudging at each other. Eventually one of them spoke.

“We hate to bring this up,” he said, “but we’re sailing in the wrong direction.”

Columbus looked up from his desk. “No,” he said, “we’re heading west, just as I intended.”

“Yes, but India is in the east,” said Nina.

“Whereas to the west”, said Pinta, “once we’ve sailed past the bottom of Ireland -”

“Cork, you mean? Jolly good description of it, I must say.”

“As I was saying, once we sail west there’s nothing until we fall off the edge.”

“Well that’s where you’re wrong,” said Columbus, “because the world is round. And I intend to prove it by sailing west and ending up in the east.”

“That’s daft,” said Santa Maria. “It’s like proving that someone is your best mate by punching him in the face.”

“The world is flat,” said Nina firmly. “Otherwise the Australians would fall off.”

“That’s why they wear hats weighed down with corks,” said Columbus. “It helps to keep their feet on the ground, so to speak.”

“Whereas we don’t have to,” said Pinta, “because we live on the top?”

“Actually,” said Columbus, “We live on the side.”

“Ludicrous,” said Santa Maria. “One of our legs would have to be shorter than the other for us to walk upright.”

“And we’d only be able to walk in one direction,” said Nina. “If we tried to turn around we’d fall over.”

“Have some faith, please,” said Columbus.

“I’m glad you brought that up,” said Santa Maria, their resident faith expert. “God comes from above, the Bible says so. It doesn’t say that he comes from around the corner.”

“And the devil lives down below,” said Nina. “If your argument is right then Australia would be hell, and I offer surfing, Christmas Day spent sun-bathing and girls in bikinis on Bondi Beach as evidence that it isn’t.”

“Look,” said Columbus, “I’m not the only one who believes this. Jules Verne has written a book called Around The World In 80 Days.”

“Ignoring the huge anachronism in that sentence,” said Pinta, “I think he meant it in the same way as ‘around the town in a horse and cart’.”

“And,” continued Columbus, “a scientist called Einstein reckons that if you could build a telescope powerful enough you’d be able to see the back of your own head.”

“A head which sounds like it clearly needs to be examined,” said Santa Maria. “As indeed does yours.”

Columbus’s reply was forestalled by a yell of “Land ahoy!” from the crow’s nest. Columbus looked smug.

“Coming, gentlemen?” he said. “I fancy a look at the Taj Mahal.”

Twenty minutes later they had pulled up onto a beach and had entered a village. The men were immesely tall. And black. The women were full-figured. And black. The women had loud, infectious laughs, and the men were playing cricket.

“You’re sure this is India?” asked Nina.

A villager was walking by. “I’ll check,” said Columbus, and addressed the man in the time-honoured fashion of any tourist greeting a native.

“Oy You!” he shouted. “What. Is. This Place. Called?”

“Yo mon,” said the man, with a smile that lit his face up like a lighthouse, “dis is Barbados.”

Columbus looked cresftallen. Nina put an arm around him. “Cheer up, boss,” he said. “You’ve discovered a new country.”

“Nuts to that,” said Columbus. “I was looking forward to a curry.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

Tinman’s weekly camera-less go at the WordPress Photo Challenge…

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Catherine McAroon, known to foodies worldwide as Deli Kate, is the founder of cuisine as we know it today.

Though beautiful, flame-haired, curvy and brilliant, Kate did not have everything in life. Her family were too poor to pay for her to study Chemistry at the University of Dundee, but she used her knowledge of the subject to create a home-made dish that she called the Pot Noodle. This was a brimstone-flavoured mess with the nutritional value of tiling-grout and an afterlife of a thousand years, the culinary equivalent of having a gnome with a fishing-rod in your garden. Kate, though, knew a target market when she saw one. She’d set up a small stall on the campus at lunchtimes, and the students lapped it up. Within two months she had the fees paid.

She had planned a career in pharmaceuticals, but her life changed during her final year at the university. During an attempt to fight bacteria with toothpaste (many people, mostly toothpaste manufacturers, claim to have already done this, but don’t mind them, they haven’t) the Bunsen burner exploded, the contents hit Kate’s face like a custard pie hitting a clown’s, and when she licked her lips she discovered that she had invented yogurt. Toothpaste-flavoured yogurt, admittedly, but she soon learned to add banana or strawberries to improve the product.

She sold the patent for a spectacular amount of money and decided that someone else could cure cancer, the food industry was for her.

She married a fellow student in 1987 and briefly became Mrs Beeton (the marriage didn’t last, Mr Beeton was unable to cope with her voracious appetites), and under this name she wrote a book with serious, family-friendly recipes of solid reliable stodge.

The book sold well, but was not exactly a best-seller. She then hit upon a brilliant marketing plan. On the cover of her next book, Fancy a Nibble? was a photo of her sucking one finger and wearing a nightdress that was mostly cleavage. It sold fifteen million copies, including twenty-two to women who were actually interested in cooking.

As time went by she realised the real truth about food – not that the presentation is everything, but that the name is. A tomato will sell for sixty cents. Call it a sun-dried tomato (preferably after it has been wettened by rain-forest rain) and you can sell it for two euro. Call a lettuce rocket-lettuce, even if it has as much to do with rockets as Maltesers do to Malta, and you can charge twice the price. Call a hot-dog-roll a ciabatta and people will sell their granny to get one, although this will raise only enough money for a deposit.

She started a string of shops called delicattessens which specialised in these foods and the money just poured in. Then she had an even better idea.

In her books she began to mention ingredients which simply didn’t exist, and then invented them. A reference to “hummus”, a quick entry written onto Wikipedia and a night spent with some leaf-mould and a blender, and suddenly the world could not get enough of it. Couscous, cumin and celeriac all followed. She invented mayo (deep-heat mixed with paint), purely so people could shout “hold the mayo” in New York delis. She invented virgin olive oil, presumably olive oil that had never got off with anyone, and then extra virgin olive oil, which had never even thought about it. She invented cole-slaw, blending the bits scraped off vegetables into a jar of anti-wrinkle-cream.

She is a multi-multi millionairess now, living in a huge mansion in Inverness from which once a year she broadcasts a six-part series of recipes while wearing a bikini-top and sweat-pants.

And on Saturday nights she puts on dark glasses and a wig, and goes out for a haggis and a deep-fried Mars Bar.

She’s still a Scots girl, after all.