Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “folk tales

Elevenses: The Politics of Post-Brexit treacle

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, thankyou for joining us for elevenses this morning! Today you find us burning the candle at both ends. We have just returned from laying bets on a splendid spot of hex-slinging over at The Angel where we ran into a very dear friend of ours, Jack and Marjory, who used to work in the treacle mines over at Chobham (before we liberated them and the other orphans who had been enslaved there that is)

We should probably explain to any non-UK residents that, here in Britain, we mine our treacle out of the ground. This has been the case for centuries and  William Cobbet, recently visiting Crumbria in 1816, wrote:

“This place I found to be a fair and healthy place, the women and children well fed and happy. Most menfolk were at work upon the Land but that evening in the excellent Crown and Thorns Inn I was surpassingly surprised to see many men brown of hue. On enquiry I determined that these were miners of Treacle and what a jolly crew they turned out to be. That night I repaired to my bed thanking our maker that there was at least one happy parish in the land.”

 

You see, when rain water falls over Birch forests any residual sap on the sides of the tree trunks becomes dissolved in the rain water and is carried down under the ground. The rainwater seeps into the bedrock where it pools and eventually evaporates, leaving behind the black sticky birch sap , or treacle. Over thousands of years the treacle hardens into veins which can be mined out of the rock in the same way as coal. Occasionally, the pressure of large deposits  causes the rock to crack and the treacle to ooze, or sometimes rocket,  to the surface, in fact this is how the treacle hot spot in Chobham was discovered – much to the embarrassment of the courting couple who were caught in the explosion.

Treacle mining has, in the past, controversially employed boggarts to retrieve the ‘black gold’ (as we call it over here) but the government now ‘employs’  street children to do the dirty work as the boggarts, along with all other magical beings,  disappeared after the goddess was defeated.

Of course Max and I are communicating with you via the wonders of aether-technology from the year 1842 but Penny tells us that in fact the last known treacle mine in Britain closed in 2012, which begs the question…if you are still eating treacle, where is all your treacle coming from? Hm? Because if you are depending on the one and only European Treacle Mine in Bergues, you may find your post-Brexit  desserts have come to a sticky end.

The Bergues Treacle Mine was founded when Frittenden pit boss Harrold Gray was forced to close his mine after a plague-like  infestation of Fritts (small insects which live below ground and destroy the wheat crops of neighbouring farms). Gray decided to take a trip down to the cliffs at Dover and reflect on which direction his life now ought to take. Gazing out to see he happened to glance down and saw a gentleman of similar age standing perilously close to the cliff edge. Harry called out to warn the fellow but in doing so alarmed him and the young man slipped, falling into the waves below. Without thinking, Harry leapt after him and, clinging to eachother for dear life, the two were quickly swept out to sea. Fortunately they were picked up by a schooner running buns out of Calais but as the smugglers were on their return trip they could only agree to drop the two men in France. Stranded with no means of getting home, Harry and his new chum Herbert made their way by happenchance to Bergues where they discovered that the local forester, Majolica Luneville, had recently struck a treacle gyser and had no idea how to exploit the vein. Harry stepped in with his expertise and together the three treacleteers opened the first and only ever French Treacle Mine. Since all the British mines are now closed, we can only assume that all the world’s treacle now comes from there.

Still it is possible that the British monarchy have already forseen this problem and made the first move – The Prince Of Wales has apparently recently laid claim to the treacle mining rights in the Duchy of Cornwall, much to the anger of Talskiddy Treacle Mining Corporation.

Luke Bazeley, the mine boss at Talskiddy said  “Although it’s said that nothing will come of this, I think that as the current climate is cold as far as Talskiddy treacle’s market value is concerned, this worried some local employees.”

Talskiddy residents first heard about the claims in a letter sent to them by the Land Registry. It said the registration did not mean it had any intentions of mining the land but residents and workers are naturally concerned.

Mayor of St Columb David Swindells said: “The Duke of Cornwall is trying to claim the land and minerals of the people of Talskiddy, but this is a Mad Hatter idea. This isn’t Alice In Wonderland and if he continues, he might find himself in a sticky situation.”

A Cornwall Council spokesman said they would try “ to keep the local community sweet”

So there you have it, will there still be treacle after Britain leaves the EU? Will the crown seize the day and cash-in by re-opening  the mines of old Blighty? Or will treacle deposits be discovered elsewhere and instigate world war five? Who knows. In the meantime here are some interesting articles exploring the plight, decline and politics of the treacle industry in Britain , you know, in case you thought we were making it all up… oh ye of little faith…

 

Treacle Mines Of Britain: http://www.treacleminer.com

Treacle Tax: Dunchideok Mine Treacle Tax

Trevithick re-opnes – https://trevithick-society.org.uk/cornish-treacle-mine-re-open/

Miners convention: http://www.treacleminer.com/

Kent closures: http://www.treacleminer.com/

Saben mine closure: https://www.duedil.com/company/gb/02159301/sabden-treacle-mines-limited

 

Mrs Baker will be talking Steampunk India with Suna Dasi in her soup kitchen tomorrow and Peril flings wide the doors of his Lovely Library on Friday to bring you his latest piece of anthropological research – ‘Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster Part 1: Tales Of The Hex Slingers’ . And of course Max and I will be back on Monday with some more excellent fiction and tea so, until then please remain always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Tea at Three: Mythpunk For Monsters

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thankyou for joining us once again on the swelteringly sultry streets of Steampunk’d Lancaster as we attempt to sell bottles of illegal home brewed lemonade in a desperate bid to pay our rent.

At least that is our ruse for loitering on this street corner this morning, but shhh, step closer, we have something to show you…

Mahrime_Cover_for_Kindle

 

If you’ve been with us for some time you’ll probably be aware that our mistress, Penny, as well as leading a secret double life as an incorrigible octopus and his unnerving gentleman friend (that’s us by the way and we’re not sure we care for the description!) also writes short stories, poems and prose with a far less frivolous flavour in the Mythpunk genre.

If you weren’t aware, you can read some of them here for free: PENNY BLAKE ON VOCAL POETS 

Mahrime – Mythpunk For Monsters is a collection of  mischievously mutilated and punk’d-up folk tales heavily influenced by Penny’s Rromani cultural heritage. Each poem, story or prose piece explores the themes of identity, power and love by putting the monsters, the outsiders, the outcasts, the ‘unblessed’ right at the heart of the narrative.

It’s available now to pre-order on Kindle, free with Kindle Unlimited or 0.99 without and also in paperback if that’s what you prefer (the paperback is full colour with black pages, white text and beautiful white mandala art work by ArtsyBee and comes with a free Kindle copy)

“And what is Mythpunk?” we hear some of you ask…

Mythpunk can be as simple as taking a traditional tale and re-working it to produce something fresh, inspiring and new , or it can be a far more complex synthesising of cultural and mythological evolution; a deep exploration into the cultural psyche or an unflinching dissection of archaic archetypes. A lot of Steampunk involves some Mythpunking along the way and a lot of Mythpunk has a decidedly Steampunk flavour.

 

So, now that we know exactly what we’re letting ourselves in for , lets take a little sneak peek at just some of the things inside the cover…

Mahrime

mahrime quote

 

Mahrime means ritually unclean  / unblessed in Rromani language, it is akin to the word Unseelie in Celtic lore but it is applied to people. The title story in this collection draws heavily on the experiences and mythology of Rromani People and explores the historical out-casting of certain groups and types of people who are branded as ‘monsters’ because their existence is at odds with a dominant cultural or religious ideal. It also goes deeper to hint at the aspects of self which we choose to lock away because we believe them to be unlovable or unacceptable.

 

The Road Back Lost

mahrimequote3

This Mythpunk’d version of The Company Of Wolves is a response to the ideal that we all have both an internal and external collective of wise guiding voices who can teach us our culture, our heritage, our purpose and our place in the world; these voices, intuitions, bodies of lore, family, elders, clan-folk etc are supposed to teach and guide us safely through the wild woods of life and all the dangers therein but what if we don’t have them? What if our family or culture or bodies of lore or even our parents and home have been lost to us? This is the situation for many people today as war and poverty tares children away from their families and cultural white-washing tares culture away from people and places it in the hands of the fashion industry. So what can we do? Try to go back? Try to move forward? Or stay and become the wolf?

 

DAMAO

mahrimequote2

 

Damao means ‘to overcome’ ; the final piece of prose in this collection echoes the hopeful thought that is embedded throughout the book  – with solidarity and support for eachother we can overcome the problems inherent with being labelled ‘outcast’ or ‘monster’, we are not alone and we will endure.

 

So there you have it, Mythpunk for Monsters, we hope you enjoy it, and now I think we will just sit back on this soap box here and sample some of our own lemonade, this day is far too hot to be doing any work and my tentacles are wilting despite the negligee we borrowed from Nimue Brown and her Hopeless Sinners yesterday I think what I really need is a parasol…

Thankyou for joining us on the street corner today, hm? What’s that Max? You think YOU ought to write a book? Honestly, I really don’t think ANYONE is going to be interested in anything you have to say… well alright then I will ‘wait and see!’ … and who exactly do think will publish such an atrocity? Hm? …. oh you’ll ‘find a group of marvelous monsters as mad about tea and tentacles as you are’ will you? Well good luck with that my friend! I shan’t be holding my breath…

While we wait to see what, if anything, comes of Max’s new ambition, let me thank you once again for joining us today and for supporting our endeavors as always and whatever kind of monster you happen to be please, do remain always,

Utterly Yourself.

 


Soup Of The Day: With Mythpunk Author Amy Kuivalainen

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is author Amy Kuivalainen! Good morning Amy, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your parasol?

Absolutely, but do be careful…it bites. Lovely to be here with you today.

Oh! My goodness, what a disturbingly sentient promenadial accessory – although I imagine it comes in extremely useful! How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not waylaid by any skywaymen or vampires en route?

The journey was long and only one minor altercation with a storm demon over the South Atlantic. It’s their breeding season and it makes them surly. The trick is to shoot a projectile of cayenne, gunpowder and myrrh into the clouds. It’s enough for them to think twice about getting lovesick over the dirigible.   

Indeed! I’m sorry to hear you had difficulties but what an ingenious deterrent, I must write that recipe down myself, it may come in handy against the Landlord. Ah, marvellous, I see you have brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I have bought a soup with me today. It’s called ‘Lohikeitto’ and it’s a soup from the northern lands of Karelia where night hags and magicians still roam. Its very easy to make and salmon is a staple in the colder Nordic countries:

  • Tbsp Butter (you can use Olive Oil as an alternative)
  • 1 Brown or Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 Potatoes (buy a firm variety as they need to retain their shape through cooking)
  • 25 litres Fish Stock
  • 1/2 kg Fresh Salmon Fillet, cubed
  • 100-200 ml Cream (or Milk, if you prefer a thinner soup)
  • 1 cup Fresh Dill, finely chopped
  • 5 pieces Bay Leaf
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of Allspice

Finnish Salmon Soup (Lohikeitto) – Instructions

Fresh Dill (Tilli)

  • Cut the potatoes roughly into 1-inch cubes, and keep in water to prevent discolouration
  • In a large saucepan, simmer the chopped onions in the butter over medium heat until soft
  • Add peeled and diced potatoes and then enough water to just cover the potatoes. Turn up the heat to high, cover the saucepan with a lid, bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are just soft, adjusting the heat down as necessary
  • Add the cubed salmon to the pot and cook until it is mostly opaque (this will take about 5 minutes, if that). Do not stir the soup so as not to break up the salmon
  • If you want to keep the Salmon cubes looking like cubes, once the salmon is cooked, remove from the soup and set aside
  • Add the fish stock and cream, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste, with just a dash of Allspice. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  • If you prefer a thicker soup, as I do, add cornstarch slurry (mix 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 Tablespoon of water, stir to dissolve the cornstarch) to the soup and simmer until the soup has thickened
  • Take off the heat and stir in the fresh dill
  • (If you removed the salmon cubes, transfer the cooked salmon into individual bowls and ladle the soup over
  • If you want to add a touch of artistry to the presentation, place a small sprig of  dill on top of the contents of each bowl

Serve with rye bread and butter

(Recipe from Alternate Finland)

Thankyou! What a marvellous recipe! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell me a little more about your books, I see you have brought some along with you to show the orphans?

I have indeed! I have brought my Firebird Fairytales a few of my others with me. In my travels it always is a good idea to carry a few just to hand out when you get talking to people. There is also my newest story Wylt – a gothic tale that ties in with Arthurian legends in unexpected ways.

 

Marvellous! I confess to having already fallen in love with your Firebird series, I very much enjoyed the way you wove the ancient mythologies into your plot. Have you always had a passion for folklore and myth?

I have always enjoyed the dark and mysterious fairy tales and mythologies. There is something so primal about them, like they say proudly, “We have seen the earth move and change and humans will come and go and still we will be here to outlast you.” Finnish folklore and mythology are my special passion, a rich body of stories I hope to do more with in the coming years. I do love the Arthurian and Celtic legends and am thoroughly enjoying weaving these into modern tales.

You know I struggle to get these young  street urchins to listen to and remember the old tales, I do try but they don’t seem to be able to relate to my old yarns about The Goddess, do you think it is important that we continue to develop new versions and twists to our old mythological stories?

Stories change, are retold, adapted and meddled within each generation like one continuous Chinese whisper. It’s important, I believe, to keep this tradition alive. Mythology endures because it hits a part of your heart and soul and mind that isn’t always awake. It’s a way of expressing the big truths that continue to plague mankind and attempt to find some form of illumination. In a time when truth is so important I think there is a great resurgence of these stories happening. People try and go back to find the answers their ancestors always knew. Mythology doesn’t belong to one group of people but are, like kindness, a universal currency.

Now I saw Max and Collin reading your excellent steampunk short story ‘women in men’s waistcoats’ , would you like to tell us a little more about that?

Women in Mens Waistcoats came about when I saw a publishers advertiser for steampunk vampire cross over stories. The publishers didn’t survive but the story did. We don’t have many steampunk stories based in Australia so I wanted to create an alternate Victorian Sydney and see what I could dredge up. It was a tricky piece of work in the research department but well worth it.

And will there be any more adventures for the vampire slaying Sisters?

The second instalment is called ‘Guns in Garters’ but it hasn’t been written yet. It’s still rolling about in the back of my brain palace but Agnes Broadshield will return and I can guarantee her final showdown with her nemesis will be epic. 

And do you have any other new releases planned this year?

I do have a few kicking about. Eastern Gods, an epic fantasy story, is currently available for nomination on Kindle Scout that will hopefully be released in the next few months. I have some Wyrd and Wonderful short stories as well that will be seeing the light of day.

Well that does sound like some lovely things to look forward to! And where else can we find your writing?

All of my writing can be found with the wonderful chaps over at Amazon. They are also available worldwide so any one interested can find them. I do journal some of my adventures on my blog as well if people are interested in what I am up to and what will be coming out soon.

Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dear, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Thank you so much for having me, it’s been splendid having a chat. If any of the urchins or anyone else wish to get a hold of me they can find me lurking around the corners of social media, and please tell them to check out a preview of Eastern Gods here, it’s a cracking adventure.

 

Marvellous! Well thankyou all so much for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will join me again next week and until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Pipe and Slippers:Perilous Journeys#2

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I do not have time for entertaining tonight, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have papers everywhere and notes to set in print and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe the notes from my journals into volumes so that they can be preserved for generations to come? You’ve brought along some late bottled vintage port to keep out the chills as we work?
Oh.
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…

Here, then, is the next instalment of the account of my first expedition…..(if you missed the first instalment you can find it here)

 

“Pearl White is it?”

I gave the boatman my most imperious glare. The effect was not the desired one and I instantly feared that my mastery of these new, delicate feminine features was going to take some time to achieve. What I needed was a mirror, and time to spend in perfecting the manipulation of this woman’s eyes, nose and mouth into the expressions I required.  But neither luxury was afford me and so I was forced to try again.

“You quite alright Miss?” the boatman looked deeply concerned as he watched me wipe the canvass clean and start over with an new attempt at ‘menacing frown’.

“The name is PERIL” I corrected, ignoring the soft and almost squeaky intonation of my new inferior vocal chords.

The boatman wiped his nose with an oily rag. “Right. You sure you gonna be alright with this skiff Miss? The Thames might be fine for a couple of chaps on a hay day but a birdie on her own, that seems asking for trouble to me…”

I tell you I very nearly popped the fellow with my dainty lace gloved fist for his sheer impertinence.

He must have sensed the menace in my aura because at length he shrugged, muttered something about Abney Park and handed me the oars.

There was some little difficulty in boarding the craft and arranging my belongings but after a little negotiation and a quick dip in the river to gain perspective I  managed to get going and soon fell into a steady rowing rhythm, putting the raucous laughter of the dock workers behind me as I headed up stream towards Bermondsey.

It is there that the Toshers have a legend which I was certain must be evidence of some magical presence – The Rat Queen.

Toshers, in case you are unaware, Gentleman Scavengers who frequent the city sewers at nught in search of all the coins, pocket watches, rings, swans…you know how easy it is to drop these things when one is preoccupied.

The Tosher makes his living from trading in the treasures he finds in the subterranean darkness in much the same way as a Treacle Miner and so it is no surprising to find that the two professions share a belief in protective spirits who have the power to grant good fortune and personal safety, as long as they remain appeased.

For the miner, this sprite is a type of brownie known as A Knocker, for the Tosher, it is The Rat Queen.

The Rat Queen is a supernatural being said to be able to shift form between that of an enormous sewer rat and that of a beautiful woman. In her human form she will approach a Tosher when he is alone in the tunnels and offer him a deal – if he can satisfy her passions and pay her a worthy tribute of treasure from his haul, he will be blessed beyond his wildest dreams -his business will prosper and his family will grow large and healthy. But if he fails or refuses to part with his loot he will find nothing more i  the sewers but a watery grave.

I moored the skiff beneath an overhanging elder tree and, after a minor war with the potable stove, made myself a depressing supper of cold tinned ‘standard issue’ soup and hunkered down to wait for midnight.

Under the cloak of darkness, I lit my dark lantern and made my way into the sewers in search of The Rat Queen …

“Pardon me, ladies, but would one of you happen to be The Rat Queen?”

The little coven of brightly painted damsels whom I had stumbled headlong into in the dark regarded me with unrestrained disgust; hands on hips, red lips twisted into smirks and sneers. “Oh, we’re all rat queens down here, deary..” the eldest bird squawked, flicking her head plumes, “question is, who the Hull are you, eh? You can’t just wander in here trying to join the game, thinking you can get in on a good earner…” her eyes narrowed, “anyway, who was it who ratted out on us?” She held up her own lantern and shone it into the faces of the assembled women, “who’s not here? Sharon! That little chatter box tart…”

Teeth began to gnash, painted talons flexed, I felt the time had come to set the record straight…

“Fear not, Madame,” I said, attempting to inject an air of authority into my voice which was ricocheting off the brick dome in sopranino staccato  most vexing. Cursing my new feminine vocal chords, I floundered on.. “I have no intention of encroaching upon your little entrepreneurial endeavour I…”

my confident smile fled the scene

“I…”

my manly resolve snatched up his hat and followed suit

“I…”

my legs finally cottoned on and joined the exodus, propelling me back through the watery tunnels with the rabble of raucous rat queens in rabid pursuit. Rocks and lemonade bottles exploded off the pith helmet as I made good my escape and at last, breathing hard, I made it back to the skiff and applied myself to the oars as if my life depended on it.

Of course this was quite ridiculous as my life expired many years ago but I did feel a certain obligation to return this body in proper working order….

 

Aaaand I think that is quite enough for one evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and…what’s that you say? Stay the night? Certainly not, what sort of a wraith do you think I am? Now go on, out with you, not another word, GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

all images used with kind permission from http://www.freeimages.com


Pipe and Slippers: Perilous Journeys

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043
I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I do not have time for entertaining tonight, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have papers everywhere and notes to set in print and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe the notes from my journals into volumes so that they can be preserved for generations to come? You’ve brought along some cherry brandy to keep out the chills as we work?
Oh.
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…
Many may not know this but I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which indicated that the power of The All Mother was not entirely gone from The New World. I travelled the scattered isles in search of such evidence – witches, fairies, folk lore, wild magic that was not controlled or perhaps even known about by Wiz and his ridiculous Wizards.
Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my studies and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.
This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.
By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent.
For my part, I am bound to being summoned by the wearer at their whim to provide protection, guidance, words of wisdom and advice, that sort of thing. It is a tiresome trade off but it could, I suppose, be worse.
Here, then, is the account of my first expedition.
I had decided to begin my studies with a journey down the Thames, past the Pirate City of Londinium, stopping at various Inns along the route and gathering from the locals any tales of interest which might hint at the existence of magic. But as I sat at my dressing table, pith helmet in place, waiting for the arrival of the Hippo’ton drawn coach which would take me to Barley Bow I began to have my doubts.
I pulled the magical contract I had signed with that wretched gutter-magician from my purse for the hundredth time and examined it again. No. Nowhere in the small print could I find mention of the fact the body I would be possessing might be a woman.
I stared into the mirror with grave concern at the ringlets and the lashes and the tinted cheeks. Could this work? As a strict adherent to the old religion I have the greatest respect for women, of course, but I have never actually been inside one.
The clatter of metal hooves upon the cobbles outside brought my dilemma to a close. This was my one chance to continue my work and I must put away any infantile embarrassment and get on with it.
With this new found resolve I leapt from my chair, tripped over my crinolines, flew out of the chamber door and tumbled head over bustle down the short narrow staircase, landing in a heap of fabric and whale carcass in the tap room.
I will not sport with your intelligence by repeating the comments this little accident incited from the patrons of the little tavern but will move swiftly on to my arrival in Bow.

The Hippo’ton dropped me at The Widow’s Son , a fascinating Inn with an equally fascinating history which I was keen to investigate. An old folk legend tells that the first owner was an old Widow whose son joined the navy. Upon his leaving day he told his mother to bake him a bun on Good Friday and he would be sure to be back in time to eat it. The bun was baked but the son never came home but the widow hung the baked bread from the ceiling in a net and added a new bun to the collection every year. After she died her friends and patrons kept up the tradition and it is now even written into the leasehold of the property that the custom must be kept by every owner.
Of course the story is hogwash. It is likely that there never was a widow at all but that the tradition is in fact born of a much older practise – that of leaving bread and milk out for household fairies, boggarts and helpful magical creatures as thanks for their kind assistance in bringing luck, health and happiness to the household through the year.
I had brought my case of instruments for detecting and catching fairies and other magical beings with me but as I eagerly began to lay them out upon the bar the Landlady approached and asked what I thought I was doing. When I asked to see her buns so that I could perform my arts upon them she screamed the most unrepeatable names at me and threw me out into the street.
It was a long walk down to the docks, where I had arranged a hired craft to take me up the river. Long but by no means lonely. I can only say that I now have a new found sympathy for the fairer sex and completely understand why they are reluctant to venture out alone at night without those splendid flame-throwing parasols. Skirts, bustles, high heeled boots…none of these make for expeditious retreats from darkened alley ways or indeed high speed chases over cobblestones away from amorous drunks.
I did manage to make it to the docks eventually and spent the night huddled under a tarpaulin that smelled of fish and cats, still I was optimistic that my next stop would prove more fruitful. My journey had, afterall only just begun and it was no good losing heart along with everything else at the first hurdle. So I sat in the dark, counting my losses and hoped that my young host would not think to do the same, or at the very least not be too miffed, when her body was returned to her…..

 

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and… hm? Well yes of course it is dark you’re not afraid of the dark are you? Flesh eating Liver Birds you say? Well yes there are those to consider but you should have thought of that before you set off on this midnight mission shouldn’t you? I can’t be responsible for your safety! Now go on, off with you, just because I am dead does not mean I don’t have things to do…go on…out!


Pipe and Slippers: The Painters’ Daughter

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? Amontillado? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

body-painting-festival-5-1526143.jpg

 

The painters’ daughter

 

Once upon a time, when you and I were naught but pips in the core of the great cosmic apple, there lived a painter. You might chance to meet him still, wandering the shore line as the sun rises over the blushing surf, counting the grains of sand or shuffling the streets at dusk, studying the cracks in the paving stones, calling down and listening for a voice.

Back in his studio, his tumbledown beach hut, he paints each grain, each echo. He paints the light and the shadow, the rising and the setting, the dance and sparkle and the soaking up and the deep. His eyes are full of dreams and his dreams are full of shades and glamour.

One day, the painter’s daughter bare-foot tip-toed into that secret space.

And gazed at all the many muchness of towers of tins of tangy turpscented rainbows.

And wondered what it would be – to touch, to taste, to take in and become such wonders.

One drip.

One lick.

In goes a flinger, smooth and slick.

Gloopy and gorgeful.

Smick  smuck  smack.

Blue, yellow, indigo,

Purple,

black.

She tasted blue – A taste of salt sea and pillow cases, stained glass and new slippers, skinned knees and berryjams and Monday mornings and shaggy hillsides damp in November fog.

She tasted yellow – A taste of custard of course. And a taste of bathrooms and tiled floors and a caravan holiday in 1975, old stiff newspapers and curled up cats, the dust that gathers on lampshades and dims the whole room and a taste of skin and bone and the streets of Rome in July.

She tasted green – A taste of coal and iron, old sandals and ploughed up earth, toadstools and pine woods and rain low down in the valley of the Dove.

Every colour in the universe she drank it down. She gorged on glamour and shade, on dances and sparkles, on things soaked up and deep. She swallowed down the soul of every colour until her limbs felt clogged and cloyed with the weight of them.

One small pot of black she saved for last, – a taste of burning and drowning, of being squeezed out and sucked up and exploded into stars, a taste of being held for eternity and the aching emptiness of an eggshell cracked too soon.

 

This black, she smuggled it away in her pocket, off to her little box bed beside the woodstove. There, when she was feeling dizzy with the reel of the rainbows spinning through her veins, she would sip

Sip

Sip

At the comforting black.

From that day on, every time the painter’s daughter opened her mouth, out spilled thick , oily paint in puddles and spewks that stained the folks and the things all around her in violent assaults of crimson,  viridian, amaranth and egg yolk.

She stopped opening her mouth.

Her limbs dragged heavy as a rag doll and every breath, every step, every heart beat was a drudge and a drain. So much colour inside. So much sparkle and depth. So much echo and shade.

Walking, talking, even breathing seemed mountains too steep to climb with all this weight inside.

She sat on her bed, day in day out, and sip

Sip

Sipped

At the comforting black

Until it spilled out of her eyes in puddles that pooled upon the patchwork quilt and cast back mocking rainbows.

That is how the little bird found her one day. He hopped upon her window sill and cocked his shining eye – the way the bird folk do – and then he fluttered down onto the eiderdown and whistled.

“Go away,” the painter’s daughter hissed, “do you think I care to see your coloured plumes? Do you think I am impressed? What if I told you that I am so full with the light and dark of every colour in the universe that I ache with it and to look at you does not fill me with joy or wonder, only regret and fatigue until I am sick of it.”

The little bird cocked his eye again – infuriating it is when they do that, y’know? – and he reached his yellow bill in deep amongst his tail feathers and plucked out a needle sharp quill the colour of every blue-green under the sea.

The painter’s daughter shrugged in scorn of him and made to turn away when

Ouvchsh!

The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.

Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.

Then slowly, and with the girl in thrawl,

He dragged the rainbow colours out

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.

Here was a dream in flesh.

Here was pointillised pain.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper

‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’

So she stepped out.

Stained.

With the bird quill tucked behind one ear

And bold, without fear,

Into a forest of fingers who pointed and blamed and waggled and shamed and prodded and poked and jostled and joked and fat cold palms that pushed her far away.

The painter’s daughter ran.

She ran on and on.

She began to feel very proud of her running.

One dark night, she came to a cave, above a river, above a pool, beside a village and into that cave she crept and lay down to sleep.

When she woke up the smell of sweet meat cooking down in the green valley filled her with hunger and the longing for all the things that human company ought to bring but seldom does.

So she spent the morning gathering leaves,  the afternoon stitching them together and by evening she had made for herself a fine long cloak that hid the patterns on her arms, and a hat with a broad brim to cover her face.

Under the stars, she took out the bird quill from behind her ear and dug it deep into her skin until it was slathed in colour, then she found a broad, flat stone and she began to paint

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into illuminated forms both wild and wonderful.

Here was a dream on stone.

Here was pain projected, disembodied, disowned.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining nothing but this unfeeling earth. And the world would smile and nod and never know where all the colours came from.

As the sun rose over the valley, the painter’s daughter stepped down from her cave, down and down and into the village and by that afternoon the tongues were wagging like wild fire flames; who was the stranger in the cloak of leaves who traded her marvellous paintings for table scraps? Some had seen her return to the cave – a hermit then? An anchorite? A holy one, certainly, a wise healer, a cleric, a teacher, a goddess in the flesh… ?

Every day, more and more villagers made the trek up to the painter’s cave. They wondered at her work – colours and patterns that seemed to describe the deepest parts of themselves. The parts they never let show. How? They asked, with tears in their eyes, how can she know?

They bought canvases. They paid in gold.

Inside her cave, hidden from sight, the painter took her feather quill and emptied herself out for them.

Day after day.

Night after night.

Slowly, as time went by, she began to grow old and paper thin. She had to coax out the paint in crusted oozes from her gummed up veins. Sometimes finding the strength and the will would take hours. Often there was not enough. Not enough colour, not enough energy and too much pain of the flesh and the bone to finish the work. ‘One day,’ thought the painter, ‘one day I will dry up. There will be no way of getting these crusted up colours out of my dried up body any longer. And what will happen then? Will the world understand when I can no longer paint their pain for them?’

The painter smiled and shook her head. She stuck the feather quill behind her ear and pulled off her cloak and hat of leaves. Clotheless under the silver moon, she walked down to the lake pool and stepped right into the comforting black.

The next morning, when the people came up to the cave the painter was gone, but the waters of the lake below, as they looked down into the valley, were snaked with rainbows.

 

Hmph well, yes, at least we may thank our stars that this pathetic Poevember pranking is at end and speaking of stars they are all out and I must get back to my work and you must get back to whatever it was you were doing before you decided to pester me… GOOD NIGHT!

 

 


Pipe and Slippers:

Good evening and welcome to my magnificently macabre miscellanea of tantalising tomes…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? Amontillado? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

naturally-twisted-2-1499288

Sheath And Knife

It was a wretched night. The day had been, like all the rest that winter, blanketed by a sky as thick with yellow hairs as a she-wolf’s pelt. Around three o’clock, the sun had given up its feeble interruptions of the conversation between sky and earth and taken itself off to bed protesting a headache.

Richard keenly wished he could do the same. The great hall echoed with the sober sibilation of rote remarks, hissing like steam from vents stretched tight in cold calculated smiles. Wits upon a tight leash; conversations measured by the mark and the feather.

Only obligation held him upright in his chair. Obligation to an old friend, who had not yet arrived.

One by one the guests retired – like salamanders slipped away to cadge the warmth of some other, brighter flame. And still Richard sat, while outside the rain beat out its fury upon the leaded windows the wind sang with gusto as it swept the cobweb clouds away into the night.

Still Richard sat. And still his friend did not come.

At last, when the hall was completely empty and the fire naught but the lazy lip lick of the full bellied bear in slumber, the door of the hall swung open and in, with the storm hungry upon his heels, came the long awaited guest.

Richard greeted him as jovially as he could and bade him sit by the fire and pressed warm mead into his raw red hands and did all the hospitable things he was supposed to do as a host and his friend, Edward, thanked him and made himself at home.

It had been many years since the two friends had shared company.

Richard regarded Edward in the firelight. He looked pale and haggard – the kind of world weariness that comes from years, not hours, of storm-riding. The deep fatigue that penetrates bone and marrow until it feasts upon the delicacy that is the human soul and, bite by exquisite bite, devours it. The same exhaustion that Richard glimpsed each evening in the mirror before he snuffed the light upon another gruelling day of hollow living.

He kept his assumptions to himself.

He did not dare ask.

The friends sat in silence as only old friends can until, quite suddenly, there came a tremendous noise outside the door and Richard rose from his chair just as a gigantic wolf hound came bursting through it with something clamped tight between its jaws.

Edward rose at once “Gellert!” he chided, pushing the beast away as it leapt and lolled at him and capered all about the place shedding cascades of filthy water.

“He is yours?”

“Unfortunately, yes! I thought he’d stay put with the horses but the silly brute is loath to leave my side it seems…ho! What’s this he’s brought in? Gods above and below!”

Edward wrested the thing loose from the great hound’s mouth and held it up to the firelight. It was a bone. A human leg bone, by all accounts, and clinging to it – Richard clamped a hand across his mouth – fragments of tattered green and gold fabric.

“Curious eh? Wonder where he picked that old thing up.” Edward rose to shut the door but, before he reached it, the hound gave a loud bellow and charged back out into the storm once more. Edward shrugged, closed the door behind him and returned to his seat by the fire but Richard hesitated. He knew full well what this bone was and where it came from and every fibre of his being was trying desperately to think of a way to get rid of it before Edward realised what it was as well and ran screaming for his life.

But before Richard could do anything about it, the door burst open again and in crashed the hound, this time bearing another leg bone and a pair of feet to match. Then he wagged his tail happily and bounded off into the storm once more.

Well, this game went on all night – the dog coming and going and bringing back bone after bone after bone until Richard was on his knees with his head in his hands, Edward was opposite him with his jaw on the floor and two full human skeletons were laid upon the hall floor between the two of them.

Gellert sat and wagged his tail gleefully. As far as he was concerned, a good night’s work had been accomplished.

“Call the watch!” Richard groaned “Call the priest! Call everyone! Have them take me away! For here, before you, lie the rotted corpses of what should have been a noble woman and her innocent child. I could not stand the shame of their existence in life, but now to bear the guilt of their destruction? It is a far greater torture for your wretched hound to have unearthed them now and laid them out like accusations at my door! Oh for pity’s sake, do not look at them, take them away, and then go yourself and do not ever return for I know you cannot bear to know me any longer!”

Edward looked at the skeletons, bones shining silver and gold in the firelight.

He looked at his grinning hound and at his broken friend and then he took Richard by the elbows and he steered him gently back into his seat.

“Drink some wine,” he said carefully, “and while you recover yourself, let me tell you a story.

“We knew eachother as boys, you and I, but of course you remember that I was called away to care for my grandfather who was very ill. Eventually, the old man died and I was sad to see him go for we had grown mighty fond of eachother in the years that had passed. On his death bed he gave to me a rare and precious gift – a golden seed like no other on earth – and he bade me plant it in the soil outside his cottage and mark well to feed and care for it every day.

This I did and the tree grew so fast and so fine that within a few short weeks it towered almost as tall as the house and every kind of fruit imaginable grew in wondrous profusion upon its branches at every time of year.

Well, at first my friends and neighbours were very pleased – they wanted the fruits and I was happy to share them out, there were so many. But, after a while, they started to complain. Some of the fruits I gave them were bitter and did not taste so good, others tasted sweet but were difficult to swallow. The tree was getting out of hand they said – its branches overhung the road, its shadow fell across the whole town and its fruits fell like rain into the gardens of all and sundry.

One night they came with torches and axes in their hands and bitter cries of hatred upon their lips.

They cut down my tree until it was naught but a stump. The tree my grandfather had given me. The tree that gave fruit enough to feed the world. And I let them Richard, I sat at my window and did nothing while they hacked it down. “

Richard looked up a little, and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand.

“After they had gone,” Edward continued, his voice cracking like the charred logs upon the hearth, “I went outside. All that was left was one golden seed, lying there in the centre of the stump.”

“What did you do?” Richard couldn’t help himself.

Edward straightened up and slowly, tentatively, hands trembling in the darkness, he undid the buttons of his shirt. Richard saw his own pain and shame mirrored in his friend’s eyes. “I swallowed it,” Edward whispered, “and it has grown in me ever since.”

“Gods above and below!” Richard leapt to his feet. Edward’s entire torso was a twisted, gnarled and writhing mass of living tree boughs –  bursting from his torn and bleeding flesh, forcing their way through bone and sinew like thick, black cobras, their fruits deformed and rancid; ripening and rotting in the crevices between his pulsing organs.

“How are you even alive?” Both men turned, startled, towards the voice which had seemed to grind upwards through some deep and long forgotten vault, and there, in front of them, stood the skeleton of the woman which had risen from the floor as Edward had been telling his tale.

Edward swallowed hard, “I…I do not know, My Lady.”

The skeleton approached him slowly. She reached out a hand that was naught but bone and with her skeletal fingers she reached deep inside Edward’s chest and, ignoring how he screamed and writhed and tried to push her away, she stoically removed the golden seed.

With the seed now gone, some of the roots and branches slithered away also in gory pools of bloated purple tissue and dark clotted blood. Edward looked sheepishly at the mess but Richard seemed not to have noticed.

The skeleton woman walked slowly to the door and heaved it open. At some point the storm had wandered off to play elsewhere and a morning pale and pink was peeking tentatively over a blanket of rolling blue cloud.

The skeleton woman crouched in the wet earth and with her bony fingers she gouged a hole just big enough for Edward’s seed. She bedded it down tenderly and covered it over and as she did so, out from the empty sockets of her eyes soft tears felt like rain and watered the earth beneath her fleshless feet.

At once the earth began to shake and groan and the two men stumbled giddily out of the hall to find a magnificent fruit tree towering towards the sky, its branches bent over heavy with fruits of every description. The skeleton woman reached up into the branches and she picked a fruit.

Just one golden apple.

She bit into the yellow pulp with her bare bone teeth and she sucked out flesh and heart and sinew, she sucked out lungs and every vital organ, she sucked out eyes, star bright and ocean deep, brain cells bursting with the energy of wit and wisdom, muscles lean and strong, hips wide and sturdy, breasts full and heavy with milk and every good thing a woman needs and desires. Then Margaret took her little skeleton child up in her big strong feather-soft arms and she put him to her breast and he sucked and sucked until he was as ruddy and chubby as any babe could ever hope to be.

Now I cannot lie and tell you that this is the end of the tale, for I know that Edward and Richard and Margaret and their little babe and their strange fruit tree had many, many adventures after that. But those will have to wait until another time.

For now it is well enough for us to remember that any treasure that we bury cannot remain so forever. Treasure  is put into the world to be shared, the skill is in finding out who to share it with and for that task, it is always good to have a wily hunting hound, like Gellert, as your ally.

 

Hmpf, well, as for you, you have no ‘allies’ here, only a grumpy old ghost who wishes to be left to rest in peace…or at least work in peace, now go on, out with you all I …no I don’t give  damn if you are afraid of the dark or worried about the man-eating birds …werewolves you say? Well, you should have thought of that before you broke the curfew, GOOD NIGHT!