Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “frost fairs

Elevenses: Thin Ice

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, we hope you are feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is indeed eleven o clock and you find us desperately clinging to a printing press, screaming for help (and cake) in increasingly agitated tones. Here is what happened –

We decided that before the frost fair ended we ought to do one more round of the fuddling tents and then get our names printed on one of those souvenir flyers by one of the many presses which have sprung up across the frozen river.

I think we may have become a little too fuddled however, as by the time we reached the printers Max was no longer content on having our merely our names on the thing but had begun composing a lengthy treatise against tea rationing, sugar tax, dairy alternatives, the monarchy and poets in general… the poor printer was struggling to arrange her wooden blocks as this tirade of caffeine fuelled wrath drew curious punters from all over the river.

The crowd listened in awe for around five minutes until the part about the cats and then, as one, they turned and fled, screaming in terror. It took a few seconds for myself, Max, and the printer to realise that it was not the cats but the breaking ice which had sent them scurrying and, too late, we found ourselves adrift on one of many small ice islands which were rapidly breaking free and speeding off on the mischievous currents of the thawing river.

One, bearing a cargo of serving maids, ploughed into the side of a barge and shattered, sending the girls flailing into the icy water. Sadly I could do nothing to help as my tentacles are still out of action but Max did valiant things with a histrionic napkin – wafting it at them in a most heroic and undoubtedly helpful way – until they all managed to clamber up onto our island and choke themselves puce (don’t worry, we perched on the printing press to avoid any embarrassment involving vomit and shoes) .

And so we were stuck – we tried to punt our way to the other side using a parasol but once we got there, some thugs tried charging us to set foot on the bank. None of us had a bean and our offers of throwing them a sopping serving maid did not go down well at all.

Not with anyone.

The maids turned savage and pitched the printing press – with us upon it – into the water (who’d have credited them with such strength?) and so here we are, desperately in need of elevenses, and assistance. If you happen to have either, please do not hesitate to hurl them in our direction.

In the meantime we will wish all a very uneventful morning and attempt to endear ourselves to passersby by busking along to this…


Morning Cuppa: Eye Of The Beholder

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s delicately dazzling and glamorously glitzy parlour located within the fantabulously frost spangled city of Lancaster!

True there are those who will say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning enjoying what may well be the last week of the frost fair as our Oracular Pet has assured us that the ice will begin to melt over the weekend and the Barge Folk will be able to get their craft dislodged soon afterward, which will be perfect timing really as, here in The Scattered Isles Of Ire, we celebrate the commencement of spring on the first of February.

People are beginning to carve things into the ice now – at first it was just the odd name or profane comment – “Victoria was ere” and the like –  but now the whole river resembles the Cameo Libris in the Burlington Arcade and it seems every drunk and lunatic is determined to leave his mark…

 

“Whereas you J .  FROST have by force and violence

Taken possession of the RIVER

I hereby give you notice to quit Immediately

A . THAW”

 

“Behold the Power of WIZ! Which locks,
In close Confinement, under pond’rous Rocks
Of dreadful Ice and Snow, our famous RIVER;

Whose matchless Glory doth the world make shiver!”

 

Even the stall vendors have taken to the sport, ‘pitting their limited wits against the noble tongue’ as Max put it …. here are some of the worst we have read….

To the Print-house go,
Where men the art of Printing soon do know,
Where for a Teaster, you may have your name
Printed, hereafter for to show the same:
And sure, in former Ages, ne’er ‘was found

A Press to print where men so oft were droun’d!

 

Behold the liquid RIVER now frozen o’er
That lately SHIPS of mighty burden bore.
Here you PRINT your name tho’ cannot write
‘Cause numbe’d with cold: ‘Tis done with great delight.

And lay it by: That AGES yet to come
May see what THINGS upon the ICE were done.

 

Kind master, drink you beer, or ale or brandy?
Walk in, kind sir, this booth is the chief,
We’ll entertain you with a slice of beef,
And what you please to eat or drink, ‘tis here,
No booth, like mine, affords such dainty cheer;
Another crys, Here master, they but scoff ye,
Here is a dish of famous new made coffee.

And some do say a giddy senseless ass
May on the LUNE be furnished with a lass.

 

I was sincerely hoping that Max would join me in setting our sights a little higher and agree to stop and watch the Parlour Poets in their ‘Sparring Salon’ but he suddenly became uncharacteristically Quiet, mumbled something about dogs, and has now skulked back to the parlour claiming a sudden urge for a cup of tea and a good book.

 

As I am still wheelchair-bound I had absolutely no say in the matter and so here we are, feeling a little perplexed and out of breath (it is no fun being rattled along the cobbled streets at speed in a bone shaker like that I can tell you), but with an excellent tea on the brew (Most Ardently – a delightfully fresh citrus blend from Wick and Fable) and an excellent book to read…

eye-of-the-beholder

We’ve been waiting a while to get our tentacles into the next Viola Stewart adventure (after falling head over suckers for Dr Jack) and we were certainly not disappointed.

Eye of the beholder is a paranormal mystery steeped in the mythology of Ancient Egypt; Dr Viola Stewart and her adorable fiancé, Dr Henry Collins, are back and this time it is Viola herself who is danger.

But the true nature of that danger is unclear – an ancient curse? An old vendetta? A lunatic on the rampage? Or is the greatest threat of all in Viola’s own mind?

This adventure was even more gripping than the first with a more intricate plot that kept us guessing throughout as to who the villain actually was and how the murders were being committed… and although Dr Jack did not resurface this time (we’re certain he’s not dead and far from done with Viola yet) there was enough mention of The Men In Grey and Violet’s missing sister to keep that over-arching plot alive and kicking.

Karen J Carlisle maintains that comfortable style with a distinctly ‘gas-lamp’ feel that just reminds us so much of sitting down with a good Sherlock Holmes mystery or one of Agatha Christie’s short stories – perfect atmospheric reading for a cosy afternoon on the couch.

Or in our case, the lemonade crate.

Now then, Max’s frosty mood appears to have thawed and, although I cannot say the same for the tea which is still frozen solid in the pot, I do believe it is time to consult our Oracular Pet and see what it has managed to pluck from the aether for us this morning…

 

Ah, splendid! That was poet Stephanie Dogfoot at  The Steampunk Opium Wars Poetry Slam in your dimension, you know a lot of what she says rings true here as well, although we have sugar and caffeine instead of these pots and poppies you people go in for… we’re not really sure how that works…but we wish you a very beautiful morning with your vices and invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then, please be always,

Utterly Yourself


Elevenses: Strolling the Frost Fair

Good morning Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are all feeling remarkably eleven o clockish because it is, indeed, eleven o’clock and hope that you will come and join us as we stroll around the Lancastrian Frost Fair, taking in the sights and looking for dainty delicacies to nibble on.

I say strolling, which implies a leisurely pace, but my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend is doing an embarrassing amount of huffing and puffing and gasping for breath which is quite off putting I can tell you and leads me, once again, to question exactly what constitutes ‘Very Quiet’ in the realm above the waves.

I say strolling, but perhaps that is a misnoma for the exercise as in fact my tentacles are all still in splints from the ice skating affair and Mrs B has kindly rustled up an old wheelchair from somewhere and we have strapped a couple of floor board planks to the wheels so that Max can push me through the snowy cobbled streets and over the icy river with ease.

Oh the joy! I cannot tell you how immeasurably more enjoyable it is to experience a winter’s walk from the cozy comfort of an armchair…there are fire eaters and jugglers, oh my goodness is that an elephant thy have over there?! It is! I’m amazed the ice does not crack! Mind you, they are roasting spit an ox with impunity over there and I am certain it is going to lead to disaster.

There are so many things for sale, most of which are double the price one would expect to pay for them because they have the word ‘souvenir’ and a date scratched onto them. Luckily Max is a bit of a Finger Smith and we manage to procure some excellent spiced buns and treacle toffee before slipping away into one of the ‘fuddling tents’. These are made of the barge sails propped up haphazardly with poles and inside you with find some of the most lethal chai-cocktails to be mixed this side of a Tiffin Den.

We sampled ‘Purl’ (a steaming black brew made with lapsang and wormwood) which the vendor told us would have a man gibbering for days, and ‘The Spiky Mother’ (A pungent Assam with chilli and dark chocolate) which had apparently already hospitalised a crowd of eight, but we must be candid and say that, even after four or five cups of each, Max still had the wherewithal to hot foot it out of the tent and away before the angry vendor could catch up with us an extract his payment.  (no mean feat pushing an octopus in a make-shift sled)

He almost cornered us but luckily Max employed a pocket full of escapological marbles (if you naive to the uses of escapological marbles to thwart a pursuer just ask the nearest five year old) and we left him cursing in the gutter.

So here we are again, back in the parlour, and after all that excitement we had better have something weird and wonderful to hum along to while we devour the rest of our frosty fayre,

 

We wish you all a very splendid afternoon and hope you will join us for more frosty fun on Thursday so, until then, please be always,

utterly yourself