Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “folklore

Morning Cuppa: Spoon Duelling for beginners

Good morning Ladie and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously spoontastic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True some have called it an unfulfilling place of half baked fancies, bad eggs and drastic measures, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

This morning you find us about to engage in the noble art of the festive spoon duel. We understand that in your dimension you settle your disputes by duelling with tea but, frankly, we find it hard to understand the mechanics of such a thing – do you hurl the tea at eachother? Or are the cups somehow used as foils?

Here  in the New World we settle our disputes with a series of Parlour Affairs, one of which is spoon duelling (or Spuelling if you are feeling lazy). Spoon duel challenges are usually reserved for the Wizmas period.

In case you are not familiar with the art and history of the spoon duel let us enlighten you:

Spoon duelling began during the Ancient Egyptian era and was reserved for religious ceremonies in honour of The Goddess. Ornate spoons made of wood, flint and ivory were carved with hieroglyphs pertaining to tea, cake and magic.

Archaeological evidence suggests that it was in Ancient Greece that spoon duelling moved from being a religious ritual to an event used by the upper classes to settle disputes in a sophisticated fashion. Silver and bronze spoons were used during this period and spoons in the British Museum can still be seen which bear the scars of spoon duelling.

By 1259 CE (Cakeless Era), spoons had become a symbol of power. Royal monarchs were anointed with a special spoon to mark their coronations. The wealthy displayed the many battle-mangled weapons of their defeated opponents while the peasants were left spoonless to slurp soup with their bare hands and stir their tea with their burnt and blistered fingers.

Discontent began to stir the soul of the general populous and The Great Spoon Uprising of the Renaissance period lead to greater equality in cutlery which in turn lead to a greater diversity in spoon design. In joyous celebration of the noble spoon, artisans sprang up in every town, flooding the market with an array of spoons for every occasion.

Soon  there were Caviar spoons (made of mother of pearl), Dessert spoons, Tea spoons, Fruit spoons, Runcibles (Max’s favoured weapon), Iced tea spoons, Jolly Long Spoons, Demitasse spoons, Chinese spoons, Bouillon spoons, Parfait spoons, Rattail spoons, Salt spoons, Seal-top spoons, Bar spoons, Caddy spoons, Slotted spoon, Mote spoons, Mustard spoons, Cheese scoop spoons… not to mention the cochlear ritual and anointing spoons, ear spoons, nose spoons and new born spoons (for ladling out babies)…

By the time Queen Vic came to the throne The Good Folk were screaming for regulation and one of the first papers to pass through parliament was the Standardisation Of Kitchen Utensils Act which introduced the standard issue spoons, tea cups and other tableware permitted for use today.

Obviously underground artisans linked to the Arts and Crafts Movement have sprung up across the scattered isles to produce illegal cutlery of the most impractical and extravagant artistic merit …

Hm? Sorry? Oh yes, Max says I should stop the history lesson and get on with the thing… you know for a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does interrupt an awful lot…

So, the noble art of spoon duelling :

Each competitor sits opposite the other at a tea table. (Historically, spoon duelling was a standing affair and opponents would attempt to crack eachother over the top of the head with a battle cry of ‘bad egg!’. After hats became fashionable the aim then became to knock the opponents’ headwear to the ground. This type of spoon duelling was outlawed by King George in 1721 CE. Of course there are those who claim to have revived it in some sort of secret- society- boys- club- thing… but we’re not sure we believe them…)

A point (or hit) is scored when one competitor taps the centre knuckle of their opponents’ spoon-hand with the back of their spoon. Three hits are needed to win the duel.

A hit is established thus; each spoon is moistened (traditionally with cold water but some vulgar persons lick their spoon and spiteful ones have been known to stir their scalding tea) and then dipped into coloured chalk. The chalk mark left on the back of the hand makes it easier for adjudicators to judge whether or not a hit is legitimate.

The spoon hand or wrist must remain in contact with the table at all times and the other hand may be placed behind the back, on the hip or above the head as preferred but never upon the table, knee or chair.

 The winner takes the spoon of the defeated competitor as a trophy and many people choose to display their hard won spoons upon their hats, waistcoats, parasols, bed posts and parlour walls. 

So we will soon be packing our runcibles into their leather holsters and heading into town to witness, and hopefully take part in, some festive sport. But before we do that we must tighten the belts on our dressing gowns, pour ourselves a morning cuppa and see what our little dust sucking friends have been up to in the night…

 hopelesslullabye

 

 

Hm, Gnii fishing eh? I’m not terribly fond of fishing now, having done so very much of it in the sunken city of Hull. Fish – delicious, but the getting of them? I would much rather visit the local monger rather than run the dispiriting odds of catching other ocean debris., the things you humans throw into the ocean sets my tentacles shuddering. Anyway… let us forget all that and dip our tentacles into  our seasonally spicy tea which should give us plenty of zest for the morning is this superb ginger rooibos from craftteacompany… 

ginger-rooibos

 

Splendid, and now we must button up tight and head out into the cold dark alley ways of Lancaster and find ourselves a shady little tavern where we can lay a few bets on a spoon wrestling match (it’s similar to the duelling but for Ladies only and so there are less rules, more name calling, eye gouging, spork scratching, hair tangling etc and it all gets a little rougher and therefore more interesting, especially when the wigs come off…)

We wish you an utterly ineffable morning chockablock with spoonfulls of fun and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then

please be always

Utterly yourself

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s luxuriously libatious and rigorously refreshing parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True some have called it a refuge for Yellowists, where the company are all sour and full of bitterness and where the refreshments leave a nasty taste in One’s mouth, but we consider that such unadventurous individuals are not used to adding birds eye chillies to their morning Lady Grey … it is an acquired taste and one we discovered, quite by accident, in the depths of the Jentacular Jungle…

But I digress! Please, come in, step around the mountains of discarded lemon husks and… no, no don’t worry that is only sugar syrup, I’m afraid that making lemonade is an extremely messy business but you know these tentacles come in very handy and as you can see we have quite a mountain of bottles filled now and ready to sell.

But it is rather exhausting work so, I think it is time to kick our tentacles up on the table, pop on a brew of Lemon Meringue Tea from Post Tea  and open a marvellous book, like this one…

casebook one cover copy medium

 

“Jennings and Jennings, Paranormal Investigators, available for hire in the Home Counties. Are you plagued by supernatural goings on or troubled by fantastical events? We can help, using the most modern scientific advances, to rid you of even the most ancient of terrors. 3 pence an hour, double on Sunday.”

We have been gleefully following the adventures of Sir John and Marie Jennings via the online journal The Benthic Times  for quite some time now so when we heard they were publishing their first casebook we simply had to get our tentacles on it at once!

This collection of four Steampunk Paranormal Mysteries stands out as something particularly special. The mysteries are real, intense and engaging – from ghostly apparitions to machinating mesmerists and ghastly fiends to mysterious missing treasures, there is an enthralling mixture of Victorian folklore and imagination brought together in each carefully crafted adventure.

In beautiful balance to this serious backbone, the over-enthusiastic Sir John, brandishing his alarming home made detecting devices, is called in to solve each case. Thankfully, his compassionate and competent wife, Marie, is usually able to use her ‘intuition’ to keep them on the right track and the resolutions are always both satisfying and surprising.

Fans of Mark Hodder are bound to appreciate this delightful mix of paranormal mystery and comedic Steampunk, and we certainly can’t wait for the next casebook to be released.

We wish you all a very marvellous morning filled with sweetness and spice in equal measure, and until we see you again,

please, be always

Utterly Yourself


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!