Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “goth

Hopeless Maine Blog Tour

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly piscean parlour. Today you find us in the role of ‘Baby Sitter’ (which is a hat not usually associated with an octopus, or his Very Quiet Gentleman Friend, but we are determined to prove ourselves the epitome of competence when it comes to caring for things other than ourselves)

The thing in question is a Mermaid and it belongs to our very dear friends, Tom and Nimue Brown – the  masterminds behind the gorgeously gothic graphic novel series ‘Hopeless, Maine’

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Hopeless is a strange, gothic island off the coast of Maine, cut off from the rest of reality for the greater part. The sea washes all kinds of things onto the coast of Hopeless. It’s an island that catches the debris of some unusual tides. Many of the residents are descended from people who washed ashore. Those who aren’t tend to be horribly inbred.

Now despite the fact that we have heard the terrifying tales about the evil creatures that inhabit the island of Hopeless, I won’t lie to you; both Max and I were tentacle-tremblingly excited when Tom and Nimue asked us if we would like to open our parlour to a Hopeless Mermaid for the afternoon. Max gets a little swoony over anything vaguely female (you may have noticed) and I haven’t tasted fish in…well, too long for an octopus, far too long indeed…

We were a very little suspicious when they hurried away leaving us to remove the tarpaulin from the tank ourselves, promising to be back to collect her ‘soon-ish’ but our hopes weren’t finally dashed until we peered into the murky water and saw this beauty looking back at us…

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And read the hastily scrawled note which was attached to the side of the tank:

“There are no family lines claiming any merfolk ancestry on Hopeless and this is for the simple reason that despite a repressive culture and limited opportunities to get laid, no one on Hopeless has ever been desperate enough to try and shag one of these creatures. It’s less a prejudice against appearances, (Hopeless Maine folk can hardly take issue with the beauty standards of others) more to do with not wanting to have your face bitten off. Cooking instructions: assuming you can get round the issues of having your face bitten off, the bottom half of a merperson is legally speaking, a fish. The top half however, is legally a person, raising issues of cannibalism. Devotees of bottom of the garden stew will of course know that it only counts as cannibalism if you don’t cut it up small enough to begin with.”

Hmm, it seems our friends know us far too well – damn.

But we can bear the disappointment of being cheated out of our fish supper because of the marvellous news that our beloved Hopeless Maine series is now published by Sloth Comics and available to buy from The book depository or to order from local book and comic stores.

If you are not familiar with Hopeless, Maine it follows the adventures of young Salamandra who is struggling to survive in a world of full of very personal demons.

 

“Sal is an ordinary orphan girl, just one of many other orphans on the island (come to think of it, where did all the grown ups go?). She faces the normal, everyday struggles of being a teenager- avoiding fell creatures of the night, trying not to get eaten by the aquatic fauna and finding something to do on a Saturday night. Like all young people, Sal can’t wait to get out of her dead end home. Unlike most teens, if she doesn’t get out she probably will wind up dead.”

 

We absolutely adore this series from the gorgeous gothic artwork to the beautiful melancholic prose. Salamandra is a character to die for, you cannot help falling in love with her combination of ‘cutesy big-eyed goth-girl all alone in the word’ and ‘independent strong willed power wielding demon slayer’ she is totally real and completely heart-capturing.

The story is rich and multilayered. Without giving away any spoilers, Hopeless is a place full of magic and mysteries and each new chapter hints at a history and mythology that we, and Sal, have yet to fully comprehend. This intrigue hangs about the pages like an island fog, wrapping us up in its tendrils and keeping as snared within its sinister thrall; where are all the grown ups? Who exactly are Sal’s parents? Why is the island so plagued by evil and where does Sal’s own power come from?

These are questions you will have to seek answers to yourself within the pages of Hopeless Maine…

As for us, we have our hands full of this…er…lovely creature… maybe we could feed it a cat or two to keep it happy…or perhaps persuade our unsuspecting landlord to take a dip in the tank… at any rate we hope that Tom and Nimue will be back soon to collect her, I really don’t like the way she is eyeing up the teapot.

Wish us luck and please, if we do get eaten before the Browns return, do remain always

Utterly Yourself.

 

 


Tea @Three: All Punked Up With No Place To Go?

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s frantically festive and perfectly punktastic parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a cheerless crater blighting the landscape of an otherwise splendid panorama , but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us, as is usual for a Thursday afternoon, All Punked UP With No Place To Go so without further ado, let us kick our tentacles up on the table and peruse the society papers and see where we ought to be heading to this weekend…

Well we have the fabulous Professor Elemental Steampunk Pirate Ball this Saturday

Or if you’re about in Nottingham there’s the very first ever Nottingham Steampunk Christmas market which is rather exciting and you could finish up by swinging The Pit and The Pendulum where their regular ‘Bitten By Fangs’ set should give you a seasonal chill!

If you are the sort who finds themselves aimlessly wandering the weekday streets wondering where you are and what your name is or if you may have fallen through a worm hole and landed on the wrong patch ethereal of turf (we know that feeling well, you are not alone) you could do worse than pop along to The Yellow Book  in Brighton, where they have Games Night, Laudanum and Lavender Open Mic, Pub Quiz and lots of lovely friendly staff with fabulous Steampunk Stories to tell you.

Or, looking further ahead, there’s the Walking in a steampunk wonderland on  17th dec in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

So there is absolutely no excuse to be skulking around your parlour with so much festive fun to be had.

We are in extreme haste this afternoon, being eager to don our hats and goggles and be off at once to watch the witches being pelted with hot plum pudding… not that we condone that sort of thing of course, nor will we derive any pleasure from it at all, but we must be seen to be fitting in with the festivities … you understand?… splendid, we knew you would!

We wish you a very principled afternoon where not one of your morals are compromised or called into question and we invite you back to join us in the parlour on Monday when we will be showing you 101 ways to deck your halls with fish… or something like that… so, until then please be always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Elevenses:The Poe-fect gift?

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly Poe-etic parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a run-down, rodent riddled room in a crumbling riverside tenement building but we consider that such fools have no imagination.

You find us running a little late this morning and for that we most humbly apologize, although we do have an excellent excuse –  last night The Parlour suffered yet another savage Liver Bird attack.  (Exactly why our so-called oracular cephalopterois failed to warn us of this impending disaster is still a mystery)

The great oaf took up a perch on our ill-equipped roof (sack cloth not being the ideal fabric to support such a large beast). We tried pelting it with crumpets – plain, buttered, jammed and even creamed – but all to no avail. At last, when we had used up every last crumb of our illegal tiffin hoards, Max was finally able to get rid of it by reading from our treasured collection of Mostly Awful Poetry by our arch nemesis Christina Biscotti. (For a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does have a surprising number of arch enemies…hmm..)

Still, we are not so faint hearted as to let a little thing like no roof stop our elevenses and thankfully our delightful werewolf butler (who was conspicuous by her absence last night despite our shrieks for assistance) has found us some marvellous treats to round off our Poevember celebrations…

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These stunning cakes were made by Ashley’s Sweet Bytes and she sketched each design before transferring them to the cookies  – visit her blog by clicking the picture and see if you can guess which tale is depicted on each cookie!

In other excellent news we have managed to pay our rent this month and solve our surplus cat problems all in one go! We have cunningly dressed each cat in a suit and tie, popped them into a Hippo’ton Cab and shipped them off to a better life in Whitehall where we suspect they will blend seamlessly in amongst the other politicians and possibly even do the country some good. They in turn have promised to send us any bribe money they receive to cover our rent and tiffin expenses… we’re certain we can trust them to uphold their end of the bargain…

But enough of our catastrophes, yesterday we promised you an array of Poe inspired goodies and so we have  urged our oracular pet to scour the whole of time and space and pluck from the aether some Poe-fectly delightful treats for us all, and here they are…

Edgar Allan Poe printed tights (also suitable for tentacles) from The tights Shop

https://www.etsy.com/listing/182390923/tights-woman-clothing-edgar-allan-poe

This stunning hand made leather raven journal from The Diary Shop

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/210348179/handmade-leather-journal-diary-pagan?ref=market

Beautiful ‘No Beauty without some strangeness’ bracelet from Strangeness Charms

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/200964952/hand-stamped-no-beauty-without?ref=market

‘The Raven’ printed fingerless writing gloves from Storiarts

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/158002026/the-raven-writing-gloves?ref=market

Hand made to order – Edgar Allan Poe Lunch Bag from Sammo

https://img1.etsystatic.com/026/0/5155644/il_570xN.555835299_qav1.jpg

Have Your very own Poe-In-The-Parlour with this digital download and print Poe paper doll from Artwolf

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Artwolf?ref=l2-shopheader-name

But our favourite of all the picks is this unique Madeline Usher art print from Leilani Joy Art, we much prefer this rendering of her than the traditional ‘ghoul-in-bandages’ version.

https://img1.etsystatic.com/050/1/5589015/il_570xN.662297355_7drx.jpg

 

Now then, all that is required is some utterly audacious audios to usher in the afternoon and fortunately we happen to have some! We don’t know if Victoria and the Vaudevillains are still gigging but if you do have the opportunity to go see them then you most definitely ought to do so!

There, and now our tea is ready so, we hope you have an utterly ineffable afternoon and we invite you back to join us in the parlour on Thursday when we will be taking a look at where the steampunk action is this weekend.

So, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself


Morning Cuppa:How well do you know Poe?

 

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s poe-fectly punkalicious parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a portrait of lost souls trapped within the torment of their own eternal damnation, but we protest our innocence and say ‘we were framed.’

You find us, on this viciously hailish Monday morning, celebrating the final week of Poevember. Hopefully you have all enjoyed our voyage into the realm of pathetic Poe puns and devil cheeses and are not in the process of packing your bags and fleeing the parlour screaming ‘Nevermore!’

Before we kick our tentacles up on the table and enjoy our Poe Inspired tea from The Travelling Vardo this morning, we’d like to share with you our top five facts about Edgar Allan Poe. Of course we all know the general circumstances of his life, his time in the army, his fractious relationship with his family and the tragic loss of the love of his life, but did you also know….

–  Edgar Allan Poe was a splendidly Good Sport; Local children would follow him along the street flapping their arms and cawing like Ravens and Poe would turn around every so often and croak ‘NEVERMORE!’

– Poe had a penpal! None other than Charles Dickens, who was of a similar age. The letters are preserved in The Poe Museum and some can be read on their website.

– After Poe wrote a negative review of a work by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, the writer sought revenge by writing a damning and largely fabricated biography of Poe –  painting him as a violent lunatic and talentless alcoholic!

– Poe was fit as a fiddle; he even held the record for swimming six miles up the James River in Virginia!

– Poe had his own ‘big bang theory’! His work ‘Eureka – A prose Poem’ details a theory of life the universe and everything which has left the world guessing as to whether Poe intended this as a comedic work of fiction along the lines of our modern Douglas Adams or a serious ‘Essay On The Spiritual and Material Nature Of The Universe.’

So, those our top five but how about yourself? Do you have a favourite lesser know Poe fact you’d like to share?

Now then, before we pour our tea there is just time to pop our Oracular Cephalopterois into its cup and see what mystical wonders it has plucked from the aether for us this morning…

 

 

Possibly the best thing we have experienced in a very long while!

Well, and now our tea is brewed and it is time to tune in our spirit radio to the very last of Poe’s tales that we will be listening to in the parlour (for a while at least) . We wish you a most splendid morning and hope you will join us again in the parlour tomorrow as we wrap up our Poevember celebrations with some splendid Poe-inspired goodies.

So until then please, be always,

Utterly Yourself.


Pipe and Slippers:The Tell Tale Carp

Good evening and welcome to my pulchritudinous plethora of accumulated antiquities…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

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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 ‘lending library’; if you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a ludicrous Tea Fiend and their rampant octopus, let me assure you that you will find no frivolous fancies or biscuit-based buffoonery 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 say? Late Bottled Vintage Port? Ten years eh?…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something to fight off the chill. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

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THE TELL TALE CARP

 

I do not wish you to think that there was any aspect of my wife’s character or disposition which lead me to hate her. In fact, I wish to make it perfectly clear to everyone reading this testimony that I did not, at any point either in her life or death, hate my wife. I loved her. In fact I still do. What I hated, what I came eventually to abhor to the point of distraction, was the way she ate pie.

Not just any pie.

After dinner, every blasted evening since we were wed, my wife would instruct our housekeeper, Mrs. Friggart, to serve us, in a white and blue pie dish rimmed with dancing sugarplums, a damson and bilberry pie.

I cannot begin to tell you the horror with which I came to anticipate the intrusion of that monstrous thing upon my tablecloth, for no sooner had it manifested then the dreadful ritual would begin.

First, off would come the crust, plucked apart by those delicate white fingers. Fingers which I had only ever imagined stroking ivory or lingering over the last fading petals of a lotus bloom were now to be unceremoniously plunged into the moist, fruity innards of Mrs Friggart’s pie.

I could barely bring myself to watch as she licked and slurped and savoured every last, sticky drop of syrup from beneath that brown and flaky crust. I shuddered as her tongue traced each drop’s passage down the slender digits, and sometimes, oh god, down the length of her forearm to the elbow.

Such shameless abandon to  the enjoyment of baked confection was not to be borne and so, one evening, after I had endured this torment for longer than any man of lesser mettle would have managed, I determined to put an end to the dreadful pie eater once and for all.

It was always customary on Fridays for us to have fish. Fish is such a beautiful food, filled with the potential for accidental death – an unseen bone lodged in the gullet…allergies…food poisoning…I had the Friggart  throw in some potted shrimp in the hopes of adding the happy chance of ptomaine into the bag and then (more as an after thought really) I filled up the salt sellar with warfrin, just to be on the safe side.

I was determined, you see, that she should never in that meal, reach the wretched pie. The thought of its vast, oval presence bored into my mind like some giant and ominous eye, watching my every move.

The morning found me agitated, the afternoon more anxious still, by evening I was fairly skipping about the place in anticipation; polishing the silver ware, tripping over the cat… at last the blessed hour of dinner arrived and my darling seated herself across from me at our neatly clothed table and began to eat.

You can imagine how I eagerly I watched her brow for traces of impending fever, how closely I pressed upon her the benefits of sodium, how keenly I strained my ears to hear the slightest hint of a choke or splutter…

At last I could stand the thought of the impending pie no longer and, in some wild frenzy, I leapt upon the table, seized the carp by the tail and shoved the entire fish down, with all my might, into my wife’s throat. It was not quite the way I had planned it but the results were satisfactory and I simply informed the coroner that the poor woman had been prone to these food-gorging outbursts at ‘a certain time of the month,’ to which he nodded sympathetically.

The funeral I laid on for my beloved was magnificent, the flowers were faultless, the choir sublime, the eulogy brought tears to  my eyes and not a soul suspected that she had not tragically gorged herself to death in a fit of feminine hormone-induced madness.

That, I thought, was an end of it.

Imagine my horror the following evening when, upon returning home from the office, I found my wife (still in her burial shroud and looking, I must confess, a little worse for wear) seated in her usual place and upon the table in front of her, a plate of freshly cooked carp.

I did not know what to do. The Friggart noticed nothing when she brought in my steak and potatoes (or f she did she was too polite to mention it) and so I was forced to sit and stoically ignore this apparition as it noisily slurped and sucked and crunched at the dreadful plate of carp.

I was terrified, of course, that my wife, having finished her meal, would now think it proper to ascend the stairs to bed with me but, once the plates and cloth were cleared away, and since no pie was forthcoming, she vanished.

The following night however, she appeared again and this grim pantomime of a last fish supper was re-enacted on my behalf again and again until after about a week of it I could very well see the work the worms had done on her. By the time a month was up her eyes were utterly devoured and the housemaids were beginning to raise their eyebrows at me and remark, behind their hands, about the smell.

But she did no harm other than give off a little funk and I was very nearly getting used to her nightly appearances when a dreadful – and I mean truly dreadful – thing happened.

It was my own fault entirely. I had been too bold, too jovial in my expressions, to light in my step. Aunts had raised their disproving eyebrows at my zealous chorusing in church – and one aunt in particular (a bitter old battleaxe who had been the utter scourge of my childhood and was evidently not going to rest in peace until she had blighted my manhood in some or other fashion) decided she would Pay Me A Visit.

The date I reluctantly arranged for the 3rd at 7pm and, in order that this examination of my mind and morals might seem merely an innocuous dinner party, my Aunt insisted on bringing with her a few, select, guests – her trusted physician Dr Jacobs,  our vicar Dr Hall and Professor Gilbertson the noted psychiatrist.

When I rose on the morning of fateful third I was ask easy and carefree as ever –for what had I to fear? My confidence in my own ability to set my guests at their ease was absolute; all day I practiced my wan smile, committed to memory several touching monologues describing my strenuous efforts to keep my British ‘chin up’ despite the inner pain I was harbouring secretly within my broken heart. That, I was certain, would make them ashamed that they had ever questioned my devotion as a husband and throw them off my back forever.

So assured was I in my own abilities, I had even set my wife’s shade a place at the table and bade the house keeper prepare us the same meal of carp that had been my wife’s last meal on earth – two touching tributes which I felt sure my aunt would appreciate.

When my guests arrived I bid them welcome with that same smile, touched with melancholy, that I had been perfecting. Throughout the dinner I was the perfect host, reciting my rehearsed responses to their probing questions with a natural ease. Even when my wife made her customary appearance and began to crunch her way through her own spectral plate of carp, I did not bat an eyelid.

But at length, as the meal wore on, I began to grow weary and pale, the weight of all this acting weighed heavily on my soul and I fervently wished the dinner to be over and my guests all gone home.

When the last mouthful was vanished and the last fork clattered to its plate I fairly sprang from my seat, ready to protest my fatigue and the lateness of the hour, my fears for the safety of travellers after dark and, oh, anything which might expedite their departure. But all my carefully planned excuses were cut short by the sudden appearance of the treacherous Mrs Friggart and her damnable damson pie! I stared in abject horror as she placed it in the centre of the table and laid before me the silver serving knife.

My eyes narrowed. So. The old bird knew all and she was now trying to torment me into a confession. Well, I would show her that I was made of stronger stuff!

Carefully I dished out the pie to my guests (and if my hand trembled a little I am sure nobody could have noted it) and when the grizzly ghost of my wife plunged her own spectral spoon into the pot I forced down my fears, willed the sweat from my brow and talked animatedly about the weather in an effort to block the dreadful sound of her gorging and slurping from my ears.

No doubt I had at this point turned very pale indeed. I talked ever more fluently and loudly, yet the sound of her savoury sucking increased – and what could I do? I gasped for breath, I clattered the crocks, I rose and paced the floor,  I  gesticulated wildly, I ranted, I swore!  – and yet my guests still seemed not to notice anything awry.

My wife, on the other hand, seemed to relish my agitation and her animated enjoyment of the housekeeper’s fruit pie only increased. She grew more and more absorbed, plunging her fist into the pie bowl, sending the purple juices flying so that they rained down over the table and the guests in a demonic storm.

And yet still my guests smiled and talked and got on with their meal – could it truly be they were witnessing none of this fiasco? … Or was it that they saw all and were simply mocking me, smirking inwardly at my torture? This, I became certain, must be the case!

Well, anything was better than this agony!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit, I confess the deed –I have murdered the hideous pie eater with a carp!”

 

 

Oh dear Goddess! It appears that, once again, we are dealing with an ape! I shall have to call in my good friend Dupin to fathom this mystery and catch the fiend who keeps entering my library, butchering my treasured tomes, and replacing them with this irreverent drivel!

Now, enough of this nonsense I have pie to eat…I…I mean work to do…

GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

 

 

all images from http://www.freeimages.com 

 

 

 

 

,


Soup Of The Day: With Spanky Spangler Designs

 

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 Denise, creator of the awe inspiring jewellery and Steampunk sculptures at SpankySpangler DesignsGood morning Denise, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us

Yes, I have a rather wonderful and tasty vegan recipe I found on one of my jaunts around t’internets. I can’t remember where I found it but the ingredients are; 10 tomatoes, a vine of sweet cherry tomatoes, a large onion, 6 cloves of garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, 2tsp Garam masala, a can of coconut milk, 2tbsp tomato paste and 300ml veg stock. 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Chop the tomatoes into quarters, half the cherry tomatoes and cut the onion into chunks and separate the layers, place on a baking tray with garlic (in its skin) and drizzle over olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Roast veg in the oven for about half an hour. Once veg is roasted, transfer to a large pot (don’t forget to remove the sweet and sticky roasted garlic from its skin) and add stock, tomato paste, coconut milk and stir well. Add the spices and more salt/pepper to taste then bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Carefully transfer to a blender or processor a few cups at a time and blend until smooth, or chunky if you prefer (you could use a stick/immersion blender too). Serve with a swirl of reserved coconut milk and croutons or crusty bread. 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at some of your stunning creations, have you brought some along to show us today?

Yes, I have brought along some of my insect brooches, some sculptures and my Victorian inspired jewellery some of which use vintage and antique clock and watch parts, movements and cogs, along with vintaj brass and sterling silver charms, chains and findings to hold it all together.

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Your steampunk sculptures really are amazing, what inspires you when you sit down to create each one

I have always had love of nature, in particular creepy crawlies. I was an odd child and I used to spend hours searching the garden collecting insects and spiders and observing them, watching the way they moved as they scurried and across my hands… A lot of people find them disgusting and are even afraid of them but I find them fascinating and when I became interested in steampunk it seemed natural to me to try and create clockwork versions… On some strange level I guess I want people to find them as interesting as I do but without the negative reaction. 

And where do you source all those amazing materials?

I usually find bits and pieces at markets, antique fairs, car boot sales and pestering local watch tinkerers but I mainly make purchases online, Etsy and EBay have a vast array of antique and vintage clock and watch parts!

Your insect sculptures have a particular resonance in light of the recent decline in bee populations and the development of robotic pollinators, was this intentional at all and do you think it is important for art to challenge us in the same way that dystopian fiction can?

Yes, the decline in bee populations has influenced my work, although robotic pollinators could pose a problem as Charlie Brooker has shown us in his televisual show Black Mirror (Hated in the Nation)! And yes, it is important for art to challenge our perceptions, our reality and also to show us possible future scenarios if we don’t change our wicked ways! I much prefer our fuzzy little helpers get the support they need to survive what we have done to them in our search for perfection, rather than relying on robots, that’s if the technology could exist! I have just recently started selling my jewellery on EBay, they allow a percentage of money from a sale to be donated to charity, I have set up my insect brooch listings on EBay and Etsy to donate 15% of each sale to the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust because they are so important to our survival! 

You also produce some amazing anthropomorphic illustrations would you like to tell us a bit about those? 

My anthropomorpic illustrations take influence from whimsical childhood memories; Alice in Wonderland, Brer Rabbit, Wind in the Willows, Rupert Bear and Tales from Fern Hollow, along with my obsession for collecting Sylvanian Families! 

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Your beautiful creations have captured the hearts of the Steampunk community, tell me, besides your online store,where else can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?

My work is only for sale online at the moment although I have exhibited at a number of art galleries in the past, including The National Glass Centre, Artsbank Gallery and The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle. I also sell my bits and bobs at conventions, craft markets and Lou Lou’s vintage fair. Details can be found on my website. 

And now the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang… which is the brew that inspires you more when you are creating, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

Tea of course, with a splash of soy milk, but no sugar as I’m too sour to sweeten!

(Or perhaps ‘sweet enough?’) Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Denise, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready now so lets start dishing it up. 

Max and Collin will be All Punked Up in the parlour tomorrow for some tantalising Tea @ Three and Peril will be reading some fabulous fiction from his Lovely Library on Friday. I will be back next week with another exciting steampunk guest to help me out so until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

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Elevenses: Poe vs King?

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s corvidishly cordial and avidly aviational parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a festering featherbed of fiendish flights of fancy filled with remorselessly ravenous rouges, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us at this deliciously eleven o clockish hour, debating the age old riddle:

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

We can’t for the life of us imagine why the answer to this riddle has plagued humanity for so long! Why we’ve only been working on it for the last 48 hours and already we’ve come up with a most excellent list of possibilities:

1) They both begin with R

2) They both have two legs

3) They both employ feathers in some fashion

4) They both produce flat notes

5) Neither can be counted upon to take the weight of a gentleman’s elbow

6) Neither is a dependable cache for your illicit Tiffin

 

Feel free to add your own possible answers in the comments section.

 

Now, as we are all stark raving ravenous here in the parlour, it is just as well our lovely werewolf butler, Klapka, has furnished us with some Gothic Goodies as we continue our irreverent Poevember celebrations…

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This beautiful cookie tutorial is by Mary and Brenda, the cake girls, click on the picture to go straight to their recipe!

Ah, delicious, and now for some audacious audios to usher in the afternoon, something fun and whimsical perhaps?

Well, that’s a tough contest! Who do you think is the winner?

We will see you back in the parlour on Thursday when we will be All Punked Up With No Place To Go but our dear witch Mrs B will be in her soup kitchen tomorrow with one of our favourite Author / Artists Lynn Cecil! So, until we see you again, please, be always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: Quoth the Octopus…

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s sleek and sophisticated parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a festering featherbed of fiendish flights of fancy filled with remorselessly ravenous rouges, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this mild and mellow Monday morning still in the thick of celebrating Poevember and, to that end, we have compiled a list of our absolute favouritest Poe quotes and we have turned them into a fabulous parlour game.

We are calling it ‘Poe Quo’ and, if you would like to use it at your own tea parties, the rules are simple;

Give each guest a piece of fruit as they arrive (we are using cucumbers but you could easily substitute plums, melons or indeed anything you have to hand) and write half a Poe quote on each one with permanent ink. You can use the list we’ve put together below if you like. Each guest should conceal their fruit somewhere about their person and only reveal it when they are asked politely by another along the lines of ‘Excuse me, may I see your cucumber?’ (or plums, melons, juicy pear… whatever fruit you happen to be using). The aim of the game is to find the guest who has the other half of your Poe Quote but hopefully some bizarre or humorous combinations will arise as well. Set a time limit and swap the best combos at the end.

Here is our list of Poe favourites, feel free to share your own quotes or funny combinations in the comments section ….

 

Years of love  have been forgot in the hatred of a minute

They who dream  by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who only dream by night

The scariest monsters are those which dwell within our souls

There is no beauty without some strangeness

I am a writer, therefore I am not sane

From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were I have not seen as others saw

This story is told through the eyes of a madman who, like all of us, believed that he was sane

I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity

Men have called me mad but the question is not settled whether madness is or not the loftiest of intelligence

Our hearts are monsters, that is why our ribs are cages

No one should brave the underworld alone

I do not suffer from insanity I enjoy every minute of it

I have great faith in fools, my friends call it self confidence

Sometimes I am afraid of my own heart, of its constant hunger for the things it wants

 

Excellent fun! But now we are going to sit back and enjoy our Morning Cuppa with another marvellous tale from The Master. Our tea this morning is a rceomendation from the lovely Tea Sisters who do a gorgeous array of tea and book pairings – do stop by their little Youtube Parlour and see what other splendid things they have brewing…

 

Marvellous! But before we kick our tentacles up on the table and tune our Tesla Spirit Radio to receive our story this morning there is just time to consult our Oracular Cephalopterois and see what dark delights it has plucked from the aether for us this morning…

 

Beautiful stuff! Ah, but now I think our tea is ready and the radio is crackling so there is nothing left for us to say except ‘chin chin’, we hope you have a Poefect morning and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow  so, until then

Be always, utterly yourself.

 

 

 

 


Pipe and Slippers:Never bet the devil your cheese

Good evening and welcome to my  rambunctious repository of valuable volumes…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

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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 convenience! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a cheesy octopus and its tasteless Gentleman Friend, you had best turn yourself around and wander out again! You will find no dreary double entendres, no pathetic punning or ridiculous riddle-rendering 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? Amontilado? A whole cask you say? And vintage cheese selection? 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…

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Never Bet The Devil Your Cheese 

I was sick – sick unto death with the stench of that dreadful chamber; the foul odour of my captors’ fetid breath and the rank, stale fume of their wrinkled skins. I swooned and felt at once as if my senses were leaving me, the sound of their voices seeming to be curdled together into one indistinct whisper – as the whisper of cream within the revolutions of a churning vat. And as their dreadful voices churned together to determine my fate, my mind was involuntarily drawn to ponder those unhappy events that had thrown me into the power of this unholy Society…

For the last two decades my life has happily revolved around the preservation of all that it is natural, healthy and wholesome for people to consume within the city of Cagliari and its surrounding provinces. In the course of this work I have had the pleasure to dine at some of the most exquisite restaurants and luxurious hotels that our beautiful island has to offer and, although there is always the occasional exception – the unscrubbed floor, the out of date salmon, the chef whose certificates have obviously been forged – on the whole I have found the consistency of cleanliness and order to be exemplary in all establishments under my jurisdiction.

The Monday that has most recently passed was the third of the month. I remember it distinctly. Upon entering the office as usual, I noticed a file upon my desk and, curious to see what it could contain, I immediately flicked it open.

BERCEI

I instantly recoiled, as though stung by some venomous insect, I struggled to breath in the oppressive heat which suddenly seemed to fill the room and yet a cold sweat burst freely from my pores and stood in fat glass gems upon my forehead.

BERCEI

I had heard the rumours. I had thought them fables – myths spun by our elders to scare the young novice or to pass time on the long journeys between one inspection site and another. But as, with trembling hand, I turned the pages of that file, the vile truth of the matter began to dawn upon me; That hidden deep within the mountainous regions of our fair Sardinia there exists to this day a group of souls  so depraved, so foul, that their deepest desire is to feast upon what is known as, Casu Marzu – The Devil’s Cheese. This, I assure you, is no ordinary curd. The Camembert you may have tried and thought a little daring, the Blue-vein perhaps you may have been persuaded to attempt in your wild and impetuous youth but I assure you that nothing, nothing but the very rotting of a man’s mind and moral fibre could induce a human being into suffering a mouthful of Casu Marzu.

This unnatural cheese is nothing but the rotted corpse of a once noble Pecorino which has been purposefully infested by the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei. The digestive juices of these lavae break down the fats within the curd until the poor cheese actually weeps lagrima as it liquifies beneath the rind. Once the Pecorino has rotted to the point that most sane human beings cannot bare to be within a few feet of the ammonia scented atrocity it is considered by the devotees of this strange cheese-cult to be ready for consumption; maggots and all. The ammonia is so strong that it burns the skin around and within the mouth and throat, the risk of food poisoning, and even death, has been estimated as equal to that of consuming the rotting corpse of a sewer rat.

 

Naturally, the consumption of such rancid fruits was deemed, by both the church and the crown, to be hazardous to a man’s body and to his soul and so the making, handling, buying, selling and ingesting of this demonic cheese were outlawed many centuries ago – the punishment being then, and remaining to this day, death. Yet there have always been rumours that in one particular village, a remote sheep farming settlement known as Bercei, devotion to this unholy curd was so strong that it bordered upon idolatry and a secret order of cheesemongers was convened there that they might continue to ferment and consume their beloved Casu Marzu.

Time and again these rumours had been investigated as every decade or so fresh evidence would appear to raise suspicion that the myth may actually be true, but, time and again, no genuine proof could be found and the investigator would take early retirement or put in for transfer to another region and so the story would lapse back into legend once more.

And now it seemed it was my turn to try my luck at the Bercei Mystery, well I tried, they cannot say I did not try; I bet the very devil himself that I would not rest until I had uncovered this foul mystery and exposed these wicked fiends in their disgraceful maggot munching. I poked my nose into every pantry and cellar, I left no churn unturned, I searched and I questioned and in general made such a spectacle of myself that I did not fail to catch the attention of the devil cheesemongers themselves.

And now I had fallen so completely into their power.

As I lay there, watching the gleaming of the candle flames upon the neat rows of variously shaped cheese knives, the girolles, the graters, the wires all aligned like instruments of torture awaiting my tender rind, a sudden deathly silence came over the occupants of the chamber and in that instant I was seized by many hands, lifted and carried out of the room and then down and down many winding passage ways where all about me there came the hiss of  pent up steam, the grinding of the motorised cheese presses and the constant rumble of the churning vats until a dreadful dizziness oppressed me at the mere idea of the infiniteness of the descent and the vague horrors which might await me at my journey’s end.

At some point during this hellish passage into the bowls of the city – perhaps the very earth itself! – I must have slipped again into unconsciousness because my next sensation was of flatness, stillness and intense cold.

I did not dare open my eyes, at first, but instead I tried to imagine what there could be.

I felt that I lay upon my back, upon something cold and moist, and then into my weary mind their pressed such horrible visions, conjured up from the memory of the hideous rumours I had heard of these demonic cheese mongers and the thick debate of my captours as to what should be my fate.

I dreaded my first glance at objects around me, I dreaded the impending sensations which I imagined I could feel the beginnings of in every nerve and hair.

And then, as moments passed in silence and stillness, I grew suddenly aghast at the thought that there should be nothing to see or feel; that my captors, in their utter madness, had decided to bury me alive!

In a fit of panic, I leapt to my feet and thrust my arms out wildly in all directions. I felt nothing, yet I feared to move any further in case I should encounter the cold, stone walls and ceiling of a tomb!

Yet at last the agony of suspense grew intolerable and I cautiously moved forwards, my arms outstretched and my eyes straining from their sockets.

One, two, three, four, five… and my hands struck a cold, smooth surface – slightly slimy but more solid than the floor on which I stood. This sudden contrast brought me momentarily into a clarity of mind and now an urgency gripped my every fibre; to better understand the nature of my surroundings. It was a futile and utterly hopeless curiosity and yet the mind in torment will clutch desperately at any thread of reason in endeavour to anchor itself back to normality.

Keeping one hand upon the wall, I crouched and cautiously laid a palm upon the floor of my prison. At first I encountered some soft spongy substance which I took for moss.

Then, to my horror, it moved.

I plainly felt beneath my palm a steady palpitation, a writhing pulse, which sent a shudder – as of electricity – through my entire being. I can barely describe to you the horrific fancies which now plagued my shattered mind, nor can I recall the length of time that I crouched there in the icy darkness, feeling the sweat pool in the creases of my skin, feeling my breath steam as it passed in ragged shudders over my trembling lips. Where and what was I? What tortuous end had these devils dreamed up that I, like all my interfering predecessors, might be silenced eternally and that they should be left free to go on with their infernal cheese munching?

It may have been one or many hours that I remained paralysed in a state of utter terror and during all that while my attention was fixed wholly upon the floor. After a while my sanity must have fled the premises for my mind took up a grim fascination with the various pulses, tremors and reverberations that were taking place beneath my finger tips, until at long length there came a point at which my obsession with these movements – their cause, origin and intent – overrode my dread of the unknown and I determined to make an awkward circuit of my cell with one hand still against the wall and the other groping carefully about the floor.

I used one shoe as a marking point and by this method I soon deduced that I was in something like a circular pit, the walls of which were uniformly smooth and slick with moisture. As to the floor, the same gently pulsating moss was only present in patches – becoming denser with decreasing proximity to the wall – the remainder being of a smooth, cold, almost rubbery material.

But it was the pulsing that disturbed me more than anything for I could not imagine its origin or purpose, despite the zealous efforts of my mind to produce fancy after horrific fancy as to what tortuous death my captors had devised. This fact; that what lay in store for me was some fate worse than a mortal mind could fathom, filled me with such a terror that I collapsed and lay for many hours, perhaps even days, fitfully passing betwixt the realms of unconscious void and waking nightmare.

At length however, and since I remained alive and no change in my circumstance had occurred, I became aware of a sensation more primal than fear; hunger. A devastating, gnawing need which brought first dizziness, then nausea, and finally a passionate drive to consume anything I could lay a hand to.

Almost at the same instant that this hunger set in I perceived a gentle greying of the darkness around me. A light like dawn softly breaking in from some high shaft and then – oh mercy! – I was at last able to understand the nature of my grim predicament.

I was in the cheese.

As the light increased, so did my understanding and my horror of that place. The rubbery floor I had circumnavigated was an enormous round of the dreaded Casu Marzu. The suspected fungus that I had felt pulsing beneath my trembling fingertips was, in reality, the thousands of cheese fly eggs, gently squirming and, even as I watched, beginning to hatch. What would happen when those maggots sensed a new sallow flesh upon the menu? I shuddered, remembering the missing members of my unit – was this how those poor souls had met their grizzly end? Slowly digested, cell by throbbing cell, in the fermenting chambers of the demon cheesemongers of Bercei?

I have said already that I was starving to the point of near delirium and yet at no point did the thought of devouring even the tiniest crumb of that repulsive curd ever enter my mind. Instead I sought to press my entire body up against the wall and as far away as I could get from those wretched larvae, which had now began to nose about the silky surface of the cheese and spread their ammonia stench throughout the pit.

Thus I stayed. Marking the passing of time only by the fading and dawning of that distant greyish light, at first, until the larvae began to pupate and then…the flies.

They didn’t so much fly as hop and flit from one surface to another, drifting lace-like and silent on the pungent air, filling my eyes and nostrils like smoke until, at length, I lost both the energy and the will to waft them away.

The flies came, the flies went. They laid their eggs in the cheese and the eggs hatched and the maggots squirmed and formed oozing puddles of stinking putrid puss upon the floor. The maggots became flies and the flies came and the flies went. Up and up, called away by the fresher air and the light at the top of the pit.

I became grotesquely fascinated by this cycle and, when my legs could no longer take my weight and I was forced to lay amongst their writhing, pulpy layers, I took an almost child-like delight in watching every aspect of their development at close range. In fact, as time passed and my senses began to rot along with the cheese, there rose inside my bosom an almost paternal affection for the little creatures whose brief and simple lives were playing out before me hour by hour and some of the very nearest to my face I even thought to give names to; Beatrice – after my beloved sister, Maud  – my dear mother in law…

As I drifted in and out of the realms of nightmare and fantasy my position seemed less and less dire, the instruments of my demise less like ravenous predators than familiar friends comforting my cold aching flesh with the warm blanket of their bodies; a blanket that was rising now about my shoulders, creeping around my ears, falling gently like a shroud over my exposed cheek and

Oh

My mouth

I had forgotten that parched and puckered hole in my delirium. My mind had ceased to dwell on gastric sensations but when one over adventurous wriggler slipped in his exploration of the valley of my cadaverous cheek-pit and in

Oh

Taste I remembered

Meat I remembered as I sucked him in

And suddenly my mind teetered back from the edge of the abyss; these were not my friends, pets, tormentors nor even yet my devourers! No, these squirming worms were my salvation!

With wild abandon I scooped handfuls of the urine-soaked larvae into my mouth and they burst amongst my molars, their warm pus like a fine sherry sliding down my gullet. I rose frantically onto my hands and knees, grasping great handfuls as they tried to flee before me and then, all in an ecstatic second, it happened.

The cheese was in me.

I cannot describe adequately here, with pen and ink, the transcending beauty of that first mouthful. The intense burn of ammonia heat, almost unbearable in itself yet coupled with the cool and silky cream of the part-digested cheese that heat transformed into a mouth watering candied sweetness, perfectly balanced, before it became cloying, by the acidic tang of the savoury maggot meat.

I gorged myself into a divine frenzy. I leapt and danced like a freshly baptised demon waking into this new fromagian Eden.

Then, as if in confirmation that my sins of unbelief in this god-of-all-cheeses had now been washed away, the feeble veil of muted light, which had watched over my long hours of penance in the pit, burst suddenly into a blinding ray of brilliant gold illumination!

Dozens of arms reached down to me, hauling me up and out and into the welcoming embrace of my new brothers, who wrung my hand and slapped my back and dressed me eagerly in the fresh white robes of that secret and most holy society – The  Cheesemongers Of Bercei.

 

Good grief, who is it that keeps slipping these mutilated corpses of classic literature in amongst my treasured tomes? I do apologise for that atrocity and I assure you it is not representative of the rest of my magnificent collection. But, now, enough of this cheesy nonsense! The cask has been drunk dry and so has my patience so come on, out with you all, immediately! No I do not care a hoot about the man eating Liver Birds or your long and treacherous walk home, you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew. GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

 

all images courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Kylie Dexter

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 Kylie Dexter, creator of the amazing Dolldrums – grown up dolls for strange boys and creepy girls! Good morning Kylie, thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

“Of course! Here is recipe for Curried Lentil and Pumpkin Soup!

1 Tsp Olive oil 1 Garlic clove crushed 1 Onion, finely chopped 2 tsp Curry Powder 1 ½ cups dried red lentils 2kg Butternut pumpkin, chopped 5 cups vegetable stock

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Stir in curry powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

Add lentils, pumpkin, and stock. Stir until well-combined. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly until pumpkin is just tender.

Serve immediately, topped with a dollop of natural yoghurt, YUM!”

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your creations, when did you first become interested in making art dolls?

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“Well, I found myself making “changes” to all my dolls as a child, the possibilities were endless! Then about 15 years ago I stated making clay dolls, and that progressed into needle felting! I am huge fan of Jim Henson, so I had a special place for puppets, I wanted a softer looking character, and this was where Dolldrums was born! I wanted to create an endearing soul that made you want to love it and look after it.”

Looking at your dolls, they each have a marvellous character of their own, what inspires you most when you sit down to create a new doll?

“I do spend a lot of time looking at art and sculpture in my other job at beautiful.bizarre magazine, so it’s often easy to get ideas from paintings and photographs. But I would have to say mostly from the dolls themselves. I always start with their little faces, and then they kind of tell me where to go from there! We try different “looks” and usually one will work the best!”

Your dolls really are adorable, where can we buy them and is it possible to request custom orders?

“Thank you so much! I occasionally have them in my Etsy store, every 5 months or so and I do gallery shows throughout the year, which I share on my socials. I supply the dolls as much as I can keep up to MONA gallery in Tasmania and Art Boy Gallery in Melbourne. I have actually closed my custom orders from now but I am hoping to re-open that sometime soon when things slow down!”

You recently took part in a special exhibition at the Poe Museum could you tell us a little more about that project?

“I was so excited to work with Nancy from The Good Goat gallery, and this amazing opportunity presented itself to make a little “Edgar” as part of the celebrations at the Poe Museum. It was a real honour to be asked and to show my work with other incredible artists in such an amazing space! Nancy asked me to make a little caricature doll as a tribute, and I had so much fun with him and his crows and black cats. The photo shoot down at the cemetery was especially fun!”

And do you have any new projects or exhibitions planned in the coming months?

“I am currently getting dolls ready for Christmas and hoping to have some in the shop soon! I am also working on some dolls for Exhibitions next year. I always like to have something new in the works, but it’s often hard to find time to experiment, but I have got some sneaky projects in the works and also working with another amazing artist and animator on a short film.”

That sounds very exciting I hope you’ll come back and tell us more about the film in the new year? And lastly, the all important question, when you are making your beautiful dolls, what fuels your imagination most, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

“Tea, Black no sugar. I make it a rule to only get coffee if someone else makes me a lovely frothy latte!”

Delightful, I’m sure Max and Collin would approve! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Kylie, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and the little urchins have certainly enjoyed seeing all your marvelous dolls! Now I think that soup must be about ready now so shall we start dishing it up?

Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow with some tentacle-tingling tea at three, I will of course be back in the soup kitchen next Wednesday so until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Elevenses: Cats for tea

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, you find us ravenously eleven o’ clockish this morning, which is grand because the time is, indeed, 11’o clock. So, step inside, take off your Top Hat Of Imposing Mental Prowess, hang up your Pugnacious Parasol and make yourselves at home  in  Max and Collin’s voraciously verve and quintessentially quixotic  parlour, located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some people have called it a mange-ridden menagerie crawling with cretinous creatures of condensed conscience, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

Today you find us spitting fur balls as we try to relieve ourselves of our unwanted feline guests. We have stopped feeding them, we have stopped naming them, we have barred the door and we have banned them from the choicest cushions but still they keep on coming! There are cats on the balcony and cats on the stairs, cats on the table and even in the teapot.

Maybe that is because we are enjoying Witch Of The Woods from The Malfoy Tea Emporium? Those witches are all about the cats aren’t they eh? Perhaps this is Mrs Baker’s doing? Perhaps she is sending us cat after cat in some cruel and unusual attempt to make us mend our ways? Hm. What do you think Max? ….Max?…

Oh goodness no stop eating them I’m sure that is not the solution!!

Ah, not to worry, those are not real cats that my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend is devouring but these delicious black cat cookies from Gesmack which our smugly sadistic werewolf butler has inflicted upon us no doubt in some diabolic attempt at dark humour.

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Still they are delightfully delicious and so she is completely forgiven – never wise to hold a grudge against a woman with teeth like that. So, we have our tea, we have our fancies, all that we require now is some splendid sounds to usher in the afternoon…

 

 

Marvellous, and of course Max and myself will be ‘suiting up’ in our own fashion on Thursday and looking for the most prestigiously punked-up places to spend the weekend. Meanwhile our catastrophic witch, Mrs Baker, will be interviewing Kylie Dexter tomorrow in her soup kitchen and Peril will be back on Friday with some Wonderously Witty Fiction…or so he claims…hopefully it isn’t his resume…

so, until we meet again please be always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Morning Cuppa: Catastrophes with Christopher Lee

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s fearlessly feline friendly and glamorously gothic parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it the decimated shell of a disused fish factory where the stench of its previous occupants lingers like a putrid clarion call to every feral cat within a five mile radius, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this strange and calamitous Monday morning utterly overrun with cats. When we rented this place from the dashing scarecrow downstairs we did think we heard him mumble something about cats but we weren’t quite sure what it was. Now we would rather like to question him further on this point, however we’re a little nervous of disturbing him in case he asks for the rent, which of course we do not yet have.

The unhappy truth is that we have been gaining a new feline friend each morning since we moved in and, well, much as we adore their softness and purriness they are stretching our milk ration to the limit. Not to mention the fact that we are running out of names…hm? What’s that? Oh, Max says I should stop naming them and feeding them our milk ration. You know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman you can be quite cold Max. Quite, Cold.

We are listening to another Audaciously Awesome Audio tale in celebration of Poevember,  this time read by Christopher Lee, and to accompany it , our nerve-settling brew this morning is Gin and tonic tea from Urban earth teas, This splendid green mate   is bursting with juniper berries and complimented with a dash of citrus and mint.

 

 

Hm, you know after listening to that tale I can’t help thinking that it might be better if we could rid ourselves of these cats, you’d think that having a werewolf butler would be something of a deterrent but apparently not. Well perhaps our Oracular Cephalopterois will have some ideas…

 

 

Well I’m not sure what it thinks we can do, build a robot guard dog? Really that creature is absurd.

Ah, but now I think our tea is brewed and so there is nothing left for us to say except ‘chin chin’, we cordially invite you join us in the parlour again tomorrow for elevenses and so, until then be always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Pipe and Sippers: Nevermore?

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

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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 convenience! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a pun-happy octopus and its alleged Gentleman Friend,you had best turn yourself around and wander out again! You will find no dreary double entendres, no pathetic punning or ridiculous riddle-rendering 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? Amontilado? A whole cask you say? 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…

teafiend2

 

THE WYVERN – an unscrupulous piece of skulduggery By Penny Blake 

 

Once upon a teatime merry, as I set my table heavy

Laden up with scones and crumpets, florentines and cakes galore

Whilst I sat, my tea a –lapping, suddenly there came a tapping

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my parlour door

‘Tis some visitor,’ I muttered ‘tapping at my parlour door

Wanting tea, oh what a bore!’

Up I leapt, I well remember, flung the tea into the fender

Grabbed the table, newly laden, cast its contents to the floor

Eagerly I sought the dustpan, with its brush and so I began

To erase the scene of plenty, lest this guest from me implore

Sustenance. I, diligently, swept each last crumb from the floor

Evidence was there no more.

Still the tapping came, now ruder, heralding this bold intruder

‘Gods above’, thought I, ‘a teatime never suffered thus before’

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

‘Let them in, tis merry meeting, not a crumb sits on the floor.

Chat a while and then, politely, show them once again the door.

Then begin the tea once more.’

Presently my soul grew stronger, hesitating then no longer,

‘Sir’ said I ‘or Madam truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was lapping tea, no, sorry, I was napping

And so gently you came tapping, tapping at my parlour door

That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door: –

Darkness there and nothing more.

Feeling vexed, my temper miffin, at this wanton waste of tiffin

And unfounded fears that caused me to cast all upon the floor,

Silently I stood upbraiding, all my senses and degrading

Every cell which had imagined rapping at my parlour door

‘Fool’ I muttered ‘now the table must be spread as was before.

What an utter bloody chore.’

Back again to spread the table, just as fast as I was able

Soon again I heard a tapping, somewhat louder than before

‘Surely,’ said I ‘tis no fancy, this time and I must happensee

What it is that so insists on plaguing thus my parlour door

Let my teacup rest a moment and this mystery I’ll explore

Then I’ll sup in peace once more.’

Open here I flung, with meaning, parlour door and, brightly gleaming,

In there stepped a clockwork wyvern, hot breath crackling the air

Not a single greeting gave he, not a moment stopped or stayed he

But, as I cried ‘some god save me from this beast oh I declare,’

Perched himself upon the silken cushion of my favourite chair –

‘Look here, sunshine that’s my chair!’

Not forgetting I was British, though I felt a little skittish

At the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore

‘Sir,’ I said ‘Would you partake, with me, in having tea and cake?

As you can see a finer table never was there spread before –

But the creature shook its head and, pointing to me with a claw,

Quoth the wyvern ‘One cup more.’

Much I chuckled this creation to hear hest, as if libation,

One more cup of this sweet nectar for myself I should now pour

‘sure’ said I ‘some fiend hath sent thee, For amusement he hath leant me

Tempter sent to thus torment me, with this mantra ‘one cup more’

Sent this brass abomination for amusement to implore

Me to drink ‘just one cup more’

But the wyvern, sitting brazen, on my cushions it had taken,

Fixed me with its burning eyes and, once again, it did implore

Nothing further then it spoke – till I said ‘tis some bad joke

But to appease thee I’ll oblige’ and so a cup I then did pour

Drank and thought the matter ended, rose to show the thing the door

Then it chanted ‘one cup more.’

‘Be that phrase our sign of parting, Hullish fiend!’ I shrieked, upstarting

‘Take thy talons from my teapot, and vacate my chair once more

Thou hast made a grave mistake in thinking I would certain break

My will and meekly thus partake, at your demand, this ‘one cup more’

Certain your corruption I will not endure a moment more

Quoth the wyvern ‘One cup more.’

‘Villain’, said I ‘thing of evil – sent from Hull and certain devil

I will lap this tea at leisure, and if I chose now to pour

For myself another cup, it’s only for myself I sup

And not a shred of credit to you, fiendish thing that doth implore

Wicked wyvern, by your words I’m putting neither stock nor store,

Still, I will have one cup more.’

And, alas, I still am sitting, still am sipping, still am sipping

On bequest of this grim wyvern, one cup more, just one cup more

And his eyes have all the seeming, of a demon’s that is scheming

And his scales, still brightly gleaming, I have come now to adore

As I, dutifully lift the teapot and again outpour

For myself ‘just one cup more…’

Hmm, one cup more? Don’t mind if I do…oh, what’s that you say? Getting late? You really ought to be going?  Oh dear, surely you can stay for just a little while longer, I mean it is after dark and Lord Ashton will have unleashed his flesh-eating Liver Birds by now, you really don’t want to be mistaken for a vagrant out there on the Lancaster streets and there’s still plenty left in the bottle…


Tea @ Three: Winging it…

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to Max and Collin’s, phantasmagorically fabulous and wonderfully whimsical parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.  

True, perhaps, some have called it a roach-infested hovel fit only for harbouring the detritus of society,  but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us, on this enchanting afternoon, trying our hands at a spot of fairy catching… if the rumours are true and Lord Ashton really is going to open a portal in the aether and let fairies and Wiz-knows-what else through into our world then we really ought to be prepared!

Luckily we  have found this splendid tutorial for creating a cunning fairy-trapping device, not that we are condoning cruelty to fairies of course but, you know, we need to think of the cake, there is so very precious little of it…

Splendid, so with a few of those around the place we are feeling much safer from the little winged tiffin-thieves, and  we can settle ourselves back amongst the silk cushions and lemonade crates with a steaming brew of ‘Glashtyn’ rose and cinnamon tea.

Of course we could always try and blend in with the wee folk if they do decide to invade…

 

Well of course I have not forgotten that it is Thursday and, with our top hats dusted with  glitter and our sparkly steampunk wings at the ready, we are ‘all punked up with no place to go’ so, let us peruse the society papers and see where we should be heading to this weekend….

On the 30th of October we have the Steampunk Time Fall Back Show by the British Horological Society.

St Annes are holding their annual Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball on saturday

Or if zombies are more your thing you could head for The Secret Zombie Ball

Or you could cram in an entire weekned of Victorian-themed fear at Lincoln Castle

Ah, but now I think our tea is brewed so we will wish you all a frightfully splendid Halloween weekend and see you back in one piece in the parlour on Monday. In the meantime, we hope you will join Perilous Wight for Pipe and Slippers in his lovely library tomorrow evening when he will be sharing something of ‘imaginative awesomeness’…or so he informs us…hopefully it isn’t his eulogy again…

So until then! Be always,

Utterly Yourself.

 

 

 


Tea @ Three: Fiends of Fortune

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to Max and Collin’s, fabulously funky and yet still succulently sweet parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.  

True, perhaps, some have called it a slimy cesspool, filled with festering detritus but we have sent those people packing with a barrage of rotten fruit.   

Today you find us still wallowing in apples and we are now using them to tell fortunes – yes that’s right, I have been unceremoniously forced into a dress and turban and decorated with jingling gold coins and Max is diligently trying to lure young women into the parlour with promises that we will, with our magic apples, reveal their romantic destiny.

We have not, so far, had any takers… which is a shame because we were hoping to raise enough money to pay our rent next month and avoid another violent landlordian outburst.

If you’d like to try our little trick for yourselves, simply peel an apple, trying to keep the entire peel in one piece, then toss the peel over your shoulder and try to decipher what letter/ s it most resembles. These are the initials of your future love.

Apparently.

Max got a C and a B and is definitely not amused.

Never mind, enough of this unfortuitous fruity nonsense because It is Thursday afternoon and, once I get out of this dress and into some fetching tweeds, we will be ‘all punked up with no place to go’ so, while we drown our sorrows in a steaming cup of Hairy Crab Oolong from TTime Organics, let us peruse the society papers and see where we should be heading to this weekend….

The League of Splendid’s ‘Splendid Day Out’ is here at last! It’s in Morecambe, Lancashire so if you are in the area, pop along and stock up on steampunk treats from the  artisan market, indulge in a spot of tea duelling or tap your tentacles to tunes from Cauda Pavonis, Professor Elemental and more.

Or, looking further ahead, on the 24th of October the monthly Newark Steampunk Meet are holding their Halloween Event as well , while on the 30th of October we have the Steampunk Time Fall Back Show by the British Horological Society so, a very ‘timely’ thing to look forward to, eh?

Ah, but now I think our tea is brewed so we will wish you all a perfectly punktastic weekend

And see you in the parlour on Monday. In the meantime, we hope you will join Perilous Wight for Pipe and Slippers in his lovely library tomorrow evening when he will be sharing something of ‘extreme prodigiousness’…or so he informs us…hopefully it isn’t his tailoring bill…

So until then! Be always,

Utterly Yourself.


Soup of the day: With Karen J Carlisle

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 steampunk and fantasy author, Karen J Carlisle, writer of ‘Doctor Jack’ which Max and Collin recommended to us all on Monday. Good morning Karen, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

“Thank you, Mrs Baker. I’ve got our version of homemade leek and potato soup. I grew the leeks myself. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks (pale section) – thinly sliced
  • 4 celery sticks – halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 4 zucchinis – quartered and thinly sliced
  • 700g potatoes – peeled and cut into 1.5cm squares
  • 1.5 L (6 cups) salt reduced chicken stock
  • Handful of spring onions – chopped

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on low to medium heat. Add leek, celery and zucchini and cook until the vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes). Add potatoes and stock. Cover and heat on med to high heat, until boiling. Reduce to simmer and cook, partly covered, until the potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).

You can feed a hungry horde of eight.”

Mmm, it smells delicious, and how wonderful that you grew the leeks yourself! Here in Lancaster, Lord Ashton is apparently building a sky-garden so that every resident can have their own vegetable plot so perhaps I will try my hand at leek growing too! Now then, while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about the heroine of your book series, Viola Stewart?

“Viola is an intelligent woman living in a man’s world. She studied, in Edinburgh, to become a doctor but was refused registration because of her sex. After her husband died, she became an optician. She is also an inventor, amateur detective and avid reader.”

Doctor Jack is based on the well-known London mystery of Jack The Ripper, however you manage to take the reader on an exciting and unexpected journey as Viola investigates, what inspired you to put a new twist on this famous tale?

“I was watching a documentary on Jack the Ripper and wondered what would happen if my recurring villains, The Society (aka the Men in Grey), tried to use him in their plans – and what if he had plans of his own? Of course, even the villain has a past – old acquaintances and a family. Perhaps he and Viola had already met? During my research I discovered little tit bits suggesting various alternatives to the traditional narrative.
I love ‘what ifs’.”

Ah, the old ‘what-if-itis’ … I believe it is the curse of every true steampunk! Now,the cover art and presentation of your books is absolutely beautiful, do you design the covers yourself?

“Yes, I do. After high school, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a writer, a photographer/cinematographer, an artist/designer, an astronaut, or the Doctor’s next companion. I wanted to do it all. I chose the safe option and finished a Bachelor of Applied Science in optometry. I recently changed careers (long story) and now I get to do photography, design, make book trailers as well as write. Perhaps I am trying to make up for lost time?”

My goodness you certainly have a lot of strings to your bow! And do you have any more mysteries for Viola to solve in the near future?

“Oh, yes. I’ve just published a second journal of Viola’s adventures, Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales, with a second set of short stories and a new novella. There’s mummies and curses and madness. I’ve already started working on the third book in the series.”

eye-of-the-beholder

As well as writing wonderful books you are also a talented artist have you brought any of your work to show us today?

“I’m participating in Inktober again this year. Inktober is a concept, created by Jake Parker: 31 days, 31 inks. The aim of the project is to practice and improve my ink work and drawing skills. I post to my Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook pages.

This year I started with some characters you may recognise:

Viola Stewart and dear Doctor Henry Collins and Doctor Jack…”

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day-4-henry-collins-for-sharon_copyright2016karencarlisle1

day-3-doctor-jack_copyright2016karencarlisle1

“I’ve just released the Doctor Jack design as a t-shirt on my Redbubble store.

 

Those really are amazing, Karen, and a t-shirt with Doctor Jack on the front sounds like a very splendid thing indeed, especially for Halloween! And do you have any new releases, workshops or events planned over the next few months?

“My short story, All that Glitters, is being published in an upcoming steampunk anthology, Den of Antiquity. It’s a story set in nineteenth century South Australia. I’m also attending a few local events: a local ‘mini comic con’ over the Halloween weekend – featuring local Adelaide writers, artists and comic book creators, and I have a table in the Artist Alley at Adelaide Supanova’s pop culture event, next month.”

Wonderful, so that is lots of places where fans can catch up with you! And now the all important question, I’ve heard that you are rather passionate about tea, but what is your favourite brew and how do you take it?

“Ah, tea! My favourite brew is Prince of Wales or T2’s Black Rose, depending on my mood. Black, no sugar, in my favourite fine china teacup, thank you.”

Max and Colin will be glad to hear you take your tea black! (or ‘neat’ as I think they term it.) you know, for an octopus, Collin has very strong opinions on adding milk to hot beverages.

Well now, here is your tea and thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Karen, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! Your home made soup smells delicious and I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

“Definitely. And thanks for sharing your kitchen.”

A pleasure! Max and Collin will of course be ‘all punked up with no place to go’ tomorrow if you would care to join them in the parlour, and of course Peril will be sharing some fabulous fiction on Friday from his lovely library. I will be back next week with musician and youtuber Bellabeth giving me a hand to  dish up the soup.

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: Bad Apples

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope we are all feeling extremely  eleven o’clockish because the time is, indeed, 11’o clock. So, step inside, take off your hat, hang up your parasol and make yourselves at home  in  Max and Collin’s perfectly polished and chichi-to-the-core  parlour, located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some people have called it a rattling death wagon filled with bad apples and other forbidden fruit but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning going dippy over apples –  yesterday our afternoon stroll was intercepted by a band of oiks who thought it would be great sport to pelt us with the rock-like rounds of a nearby tree.

Fools.

Never go up against myself and Max in a hurling match.

Of any description.

The cowards soon fled for their lives, dropping their fruity load, which we gathered up and are now having enormous amounts of fun dipping them into every sweet or sticky substance we can get our hands on.

If you find yourself the sudden owner of superfluous fruit and need some inspiration check out the link below, we really don’t think life holds greater pleasure than a plate full of huge glittery pink apples.

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And whilst we wait for those beauties to dry and our delicious pumpkin pasty tea to brew – All that is needed now is some eleven o’clockish music to tap our tentacles to as we tuck in, No Lodging For The Mad? That seems appropriate, still, not for the faint heart ed perhaps…

Ah, awesomely audacious audios to usher in the afternoon! We wish you have a very sweet and sticky one, filled only with the very best apples, and hope you will join our dear witchy friend Mrs Albert Baker and the marvellous Karen J Carlisle in the soup kitchen tomorrow. Myself and Max will be back on Thursday with some tantalising Tea @ Three so, until then

Be always, Utterly Yourself.


Morning Cuppa: In need of a doctor…

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s predominately pristine and excessively existential parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a nightmarish landscape of unsavoury fancies and tasteless chinaware, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this, dark and sinister, Monday morning playing the knife game – which is a lot easier for Max than it is for me (five fingers, of course, being far easier to negotiate than eight tentacles). Of course we are using our beautiful new skull spoon from Wild and Violet instead of an actual dagger – daggers being horribly dangerous and un-gentlemanly things to go throwing about the tea table, all the same, a slip with a spoon can also cause the need for a doctor, and luckily we have one in the house today! (Albeit a rather deadly, knife-wielding one)

If you are not sure what the knife game is you can watch Bellabeth sing a lovely version of it here, also with spoons…

Bella will be joining our darling Kitchen Witch on the 26th October so  there is a splendid thing to look forward to!

And speaking of things to look forward to, I cannot wait to get my tentacles into our book this morning…

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Karen J Carlisle has created a captivating steampunk series with her heroine, Viola Stewart – a widowed optician with a talent for detecting.

This book has the same comforting familiarity of picking up a Conan Doyle or an Agatha Christie but enough uniqueness in terms of plot and character to keep us on the edge of our leather armchairs throughout – you know by the end of the second page that you are both ‘in safe hands’ and ‘in for a thrilling ride’ – Most of us have heard the tales of Jack The Ripper but this new version goes beyond the common knowledge to reveal a chilling world of Grey-clad conspirators in which Viola must keep her wits about her if she is going to uncover the truth and survive.

Karen will be helping in The Soup Kitchen on Wednesday so make sure you drop by for a taste of her lovely home cooking and to hear more about Viola and her adventures…

But for now, just while our marvellous teapot is brewing us a nerve-settling sup of Monkey Picked Oolong by the Kent Tea And Coffee Company, (gosh, what are they playing at getting monkeys to pick tea? Reminds me of all that hard labour harvesting seaweed in The Sunken City)  let us carefully place our oracular cephalopterois into his cup of hot water and see what futuristic fantasies it has to show us this morning…

Well, that is a little worrying to say the least…let’s hope that we never have such problems here in The New World, can’t have the tea plantations put into jeopardy! And think of the wheat! No wheat – no cake… now that is a spine-chilling thought!

But enough morbidity for now, the tea is brewed and it is time for us to say  ‘chin chin pass the tin open the book and let’s begin…’ We wish you all a perfectly perilous morning dusted with dastardly delights, and we invite you back to join us in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then

Be always, utterly yourself


Pipe and Slippers: Herne’s Lady

Good evening and welcome to my alluring athenaeum of litigious librettos…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

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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 blundered in here on the ill-advice of a cross-dressing witch and her soup-slurping orphans, let me assure you that you will find no noodle-ish nonsense or brothly behaviour 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? La fée verte? 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…

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This story is taken from the folk tale anthology Gather Around The Flame, the profits from which are donated to the homeless charity, Shelter. It is based on a ghost story from Windsor Forest, Berkshire.

HERNE’S LADY 

Once upon a wood, this wood in fact, this very wood we breathe into ourselves this eve. Its heavy vapours wind their fingers through our cords, into our minds, green and bronze, dripping with deer scent and dew, the divine musk of fern and mould-rich earth.

Ease into the night, friends, its cool breath a cloak to cradle us, breathe in its riches, deep into your soul.

Once upon this wood, there was a tree. A tree of terrors and angels, they say, monstrous giants and fantastical beasts. The essence of all the worlds, they say (the old ones, who would remember), is spun like moth silk through its branches.

A mythical tree, perhaps. And yet here it stands. Its branches upholding the weight of the evening sky; the mauving fabric of a tent above our heads. Feel that it is real, friends. Press your palms against its rough skin, deeply burst open with the glut of memories it strains to hold. Circle your arms around its trunk, press ear and cheek and hear the thrumming veins – up from the well of life, out from the marrow of the earth’s great bones it sucks the blood of warrior and priest, martyr and maiden and every other that has watered the ground with the crimson ink of their history and ever, ever will.

A mythical tree, perhaps. But here it stands. And you sit beneath it, very patiently, waiting for its story. For your story. Well, and so here it is, a story of hoof and horn for these darkling days of satellite and silicone.

Once upon this wood, upon this tree, there hung a man.

Ah, but as I’m sure you know, every tale that begins with a man on a tree must end with a woman. Or else it may be the other way around, right? Such is the way of our island stories, though other nations may mock us for it I’m sure. Still, there it is.

But let us start this tale at the beginning, as I say, with this particular man. And his name, my friends, is Herne.

Richard Horne was a gamekeeper, here in this wood, the greatest gamekeeper the wood has ever seen, so they say. But it wasn’t always like that, oh no. When Richard was a lad, of just around sixteen years, or so I’m told, he was here a-poaching. Not pheasant or hare as his friends would, oh no, Richard had his sights on greater game, and not for his pot but for his pride he walked the forest floor one night, in what he thought was silence at that time, stalking the scent of a young stag. But just as he had the creature in his sights, a hand he feels upon his shoulder, ah-ah! And young Richard quails, for young Richard is now caught and he knows what fate must have in store for him.

But when the poor lad turns to look his apprehender in the face he sees, not the keeper, nor one of his groundsmen, but a lady. A Lady of the Wood, or so she must be he thinks, for her skin is the green-gold of opening ferns, her hair is soft oak grey and birch silver and her eyes are dark and moon-licked like pools that collect in the folds of roots and earth. On her head she wears the curling antlers of a great stag and her clothes are laced up animal skins, scraped clean, worn soft and bleached pale.

“Leave him, Horne.” she whispers, her voice like rain in honey comb, secret and sweet. “Leave him go and I will teach thee something. Men eat deer flesh and they think this way they will become the beast. But they become only more themselves, more and more man. Come with me, Man, and I will show thee how to become Him. How to become the beast. Then you will hunt for me and your quarry will be man-flesh. Come with me, Richard Horne, and I will give thee a new name, and a crown and I shall be thy Lady.”

Well, what should young Richard do? What would any man do I ask you? He jumped to his feet and, cap in hand, he followed the green lady into the wood.

Well now, a time or two and a half went by and by again and there came a vacancy for the post of park keeper over there, up at the old lodge, you know, and the days became weeks and the weeks became a month and still no one was found who was able enough to take the post on. Meanwhile of course the lodge keeper was at his wits end, even as the poachers were in their element, and he vowed most earnestly to accept the very next applicant for the post, be he who it please God, he did not care.

Well then, close to the dusk of a day not unlike the one that we have just had, there came a man. He was dressed head to foot in animal hides, crudely laced together, worn soft and bleached pale. His skin was the puckered gold of walnuts after the frosts have bitten them brown and pinched them up and his eyes were the silver grey of island sky and rock and rain. On his feet he wore great boots of shaggy brown fur and from out his head of long wiry hair, two massive antlers curled like a warrior’s crown.

The lodge keeper was assuredly taken aback by the stranger’s appearance but, in some doubt of the man’s sanity, he refrained from conveying his astonishment and, being by now in desperate need, he agreed to give the man a trial of one week. If he could rid the park of its plague of, now flagrant, poachers, he could keep the job.

But when he tried to show the man his lodgings, outfit him with his uniform and acquaint him with the various traps and weapons he might employ to carry out his duties, the stranger quietly declined all that was offered, stating simply that he would have no use for them. Feeling now both bemused and intrigued, the lodge keeper shrugged and asked the man if he wouldn’t at least give his name?

“Herne.” was the reply. And with it the stranger walked with quiet confidence out into the gathering shades of night.

The lodge keeper scratched his head and damned himself for being an old fool in allowing a simple minded man to walk out to his certain death at the hands of the merciless poachers, with nothing to protect himself but a comical piece of headwear. Then he turned to his stove and his kettle and his pipe for an hour and, when no screams were heard or ill news brought up to him, he scratched his head again and went to bed.

The next morning the lodge keeper awoke and, curious to know what had befallen the new game keeper (for he was certain it could be nothing good), he took up his flask of brandy and his stoutest staff and strolled out into the dew-jewelled grounds, all hung about with a soft white veil of mist that was rising away fast to reveal the tender glow of a buttermilk sun in the soft grey sky.

He had not gone far when his curiosity was slaked for there, striding through the tall white grasses of the grazing land, was Herne himself. Well, you can be sure the lodge keeper was both amazed and relieved and he hailed the new gamekeeper at once and asked him how he had passed the night.

“Well enough.” was the reply “I met with ten who had no rightful business here, to one I dealt justice as the law of the wood decrees, perhaps only nine will come tonight.”

The lodge keeper was impressed and he scratched his head and said so. “And now” he continued “I suppose you are wanting your meat and your bed and well, it seems to me, you deserve it.”

But Herne merely shook his head “All the meat and rest I require” he said quietly “I have already taken.” and with that he nodded his great antlered head and continued his pace across the grass. The lodge keeper watched him go, until he was swallowed up by the curve of a high- brackened mound, and then he scratched his head and went about his own business for the rest of the day.

Well, the days that followed passed in an almost identical fashion, each morning the lodge keeper would take his constitutional before beginning his day’s work, each day he would, at some point, meet with Herne, and each day the game keeper’s remarks would be the same.

He had started work upon the Monday. On Tuesday he reported meeting “nine who had no rightful business here, to one I dealt justice, as the law of the wood decrees, perhaps only eight will come tomorrow.” By Friday eight had become six, come Monday again and the number was down to three and so, you see, the lodge keeper was well pleased, and he said so, for never had the park known such a keeper that could dwindle the number of poachers and bring them to justice so speedily and with such quiet confidence.

Well now, on Tuesday evenings ‘twas the lodge keeper’s habit of strolling out of the park grounds, down the lane to the village and a little further on to the White Hart, where he was wont to share his wages with the landlord in exchange for a fair portion of meat, a fair portion of ale and a fair portion of the gossip he had missed in the days since his last visit (for life up at the park, you must understand, was one of isolation from the comings and goings of the village itself).

On this particular Tuesday, he happened to be sharing the bar with the village constable and the lodge keeper could not resist singing the praises of his new gamekeeper, and was the constable not impressed with the regular flow of poachers this Herne was bringing his way down at the station?

To his dismay, however, the constable’s face darkened. No, he had never met this man, Herne. No, no poachers had been arrested, not his knowledge anyroad, but for the last few days his own hours had been occupied in trying to solve the mystery of a number of ‘well-known’ young men from the village who had, or so it would seem, vanished from their beds without anyone being able to say where or why they had gone.

Driven by intrigue, and a grim sense of foreboding, the two men hastily finished their drinks and, arming themselves against any possible violence, they made their way quickly to the park, hoping to tie the knot in the end of these uncanny coincidences.

The moonlit sweeps of the gently undulating parkland were, as they had expected, quiet and vacant but, as they made their way into the woods, they were struck instantly by a queer and unsettling sound. At first they took it to be the gentle knocking of the tree boughs above their heads but, as their foray took them deeper into the thickets, they were not so certain. Surely tree boughs did not sway so rhythmically, surely their resonance was not so hollow, their chime not so faintly melodic? But what, in a wood, if not tree boughs, could be knocking together to produce such an eerie symphony?

Their curiosity was soon satisfied when, to their horror, they turned the corner of a small earth mound they had been skirting and beheld the thing they had been seeking.

There sat Herne, cross legged on the bare earth, amid a small grove of dark, towering yew trees. His eyes were closed, his great antlered head was raised towards the stars and around the glade, from the boughs of every tree, hung seven human skeletons, each perfectly in-tact, stripped clean of flesh and swaying gently in the breeze like seven ghastly windchimes.

“Two walk this wood, who have no rightful business here,” Herne said softly, not bothering to open his eyes or make any other movement. “Perhaps tomorrow, there will be none.” and with that he leapt at them with gnashing teeth and a hunger in his eyes as that of a wild beast. He fell upon the lodge keeper first and his strength was immense, bowling him over into the dirt as a wolf might flaw a rabbit. But the constable was too quick for him and, drawing his cudgel, he struck the wild man across his temple, below the crown of horns. Blood spilled instantly and Herne collapsed, leaving the grateful lodge keeper trembling and breathless but unharmed.

The constable’s blow was not fatal but Richard Horne never regained his senses. They hung him from this very tree, or so I have been told, and before his breath could leave his body, a strange lady, dressed in green velvet, with a crown of gold upon her head, came and kissed his lips and drew his soul away with her, vanishing into the woods over there, from where, they say, she had first come.

Now on many a full-mooned night, such as this, Herne and his Lady walk the park and sit below this tree and talk and laugh and make merry beneath the stars. If you have business here, they will leave you to it so, let us leave them to theirs now, for it is well known in these parts that they who bring peace into a place, will find peace in it, but they who carry evil, will find evil waiting for them there with hungry eyes and sharp, sharp teeth.

 

 

Hmm? What’s that you say? Very real evil waiting for you outside in the form of flesh-eating Liver Birds? Well, you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew! No I am not reading you ‘just one more’ this is not some bedtime story hour I am running here! You can tell that lunatic witch, when you see her, to stop sending people down here to bother me with their ‘special requests’ I have serious work to be getting on with.  Good night.

Oh, er, leave the bottle though….

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 


Pipe and Slippers: The Child and The Crow

Good evening and welcome to my pulchritudinous plethora of accumulated antiquities…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

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 ‘lending library’; if you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a ludicrous Tea Fiend and their rampant octopus, let me assure you that you will find no frivolous fancies or biscuit-based buffoonery 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 say? Late Bottled Vintage Port? Ten years eh?…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something to fight off the chill. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

THE CROW AND THE CHILD

If you take the leg bone of any creature that dwells on this earth and slice it open, there in the marrow you will find a wondrous land populated with castles and citadels, golden-leafed forests and wide open wilds far more fantastic than mortal minds alone can conceive.

 

In this land, if you look closely, you will see there is a little gathering of dwellings, each one barely enough to be called a house, and even altogether barely enough to be called a village. Just a little gathering, then. A little huddle of souls. And in the skies above this huddle, one particular star-winked night, a stork was sailing.

 

His wide white wings caught the moonshine like a silk sheet and for a moment he glowed silver against the indigo sky before tilting his tips to spiral down and down and down, through the tunnels of air and shadow, to alight upon a thatched rooftop. And there he stopped and considered himself for a moment.

 

Side stepping awkwardly on his long jointed legs, he approached the chimney stack and was about to peer inside when he suddenly remembered the bundle in his beak. So he stopped. Paused. Thought about it some.

 

A crow, who had been waiting on the rooftop since sundown, tilted its head and regarded the stork with curiosity.

 

After a while, the stork laid the bundle down carefully beside him on the rooftop and then proceeded to stick his long, inquisitive beak down the chimney. He withdrew it immediately with a squawk of alarm. This is what he had seen:

 

In the single room of the dwelling below, a man and woman lay in peaceful slumber, wrapped in each other’s arms, and, in a rocking chair beside the hearth, an old woman likewise lay with eyes closed and her mouth fallen softly ajar. From the breast of each silent figure there flowed a river of blood. It slicked their skin and matted their hair, soaked their sheets and clothing and, in the light of the dying embers, the floor shone red like a vast pool.

 

The stork ruffled his feathers, let out another shrill shriek of near-hysteria and began side stepping a strange and agitated dance up and down the rooftop. So great was his obvious distress, that the crow thought, really, and against his own better judgement, that he ought to try to offer some assistance. He stepped out of the shadows and enquired what the matter was.

 

“The matter? The matter? You ask me what is the matter? I am supposed to deliver a new life into the loving bosom of this happy household and what do I find? ” his pitch rose, feverishly, “Dead! All Dead! Every last one of them down to the crone in the rocking chair and don’t,” he pointed an accusatory pinion at the crow, “pretend you know nothing about it! And now what am I to do? I cannot very well leave the infant on the doorstep can I? Not when there is no one to come and take it in! Stone dead within a few hours and what will be the point of that? Hm?”

 

“I think you should calm yourself at once,” the crow said, dark eyes each like a tiny galaxy, their light coming from so deep within. “Remember that none of this is our concern. You are bid here this night to bring life into the world and I am bid here to take life out of it. This is our way and always shall be and whether or not this infant is destined to spend but a few hours in the mortal realm has nothing to do with us at all. Please calm yourself my friend and do the job you were sent to do, no further responsibility is yours to claim.”

 

“But if I don’t do something…”

 

“But if you do!” The crow’s voice was suddenly stern, “If you do act, with your limited understanding as your only guide, you may do greater harm than good. Souls must pass in and out of the mortal world and you and I have neither the wit nor the wise to dictate how and when that should be so.”

 

But the stork had got himself all worked up into a frenzy by this time. Damned was he if he would leave this babe to freeze to death outside a door that was never going to open to welcome it in. Violently, he snatched up the bundle in his beak once more and, with three beats of his mighty wings, he rose again into the air. Exactly what he would do, he had not yet decided but the crow’s words about his own impotence and ineptitude for decision making had settled like a red mist around his senses and he could not think clearly. He would take the babe to some other village, some other house, a great house, a palace perhaps…

 

Fearing that he had only made the matter worse, and seeking now to correct it, the crow left his watch post on the rooftop and swept like a rag of storm-harried cloud into the sky in pursuit of the stork. “Come! Come come! Back! Back back!” he croaked, weaving this way and that around the enormous bird so that soon the stork grew so vexed and dizzy that, forgetting all that he was about, he lashed out savagely at his tormentor with his harpoon of a bill, slicing open the side of the crow’s head from beak to glittering eye and, yes that’s right, he dropped the bundle too.

 

Two tiny scraps of flailing life spiralled down through the stars to earth …

 

and landed on the doorstep of a high-turreted castle, way up in the mountains and far from anywhere. The door creaked open and a woman made all of stone leaned out, picked up the bundle in one hand and the broken crow in the other, then slid, with a grating sound that would rattle teeth, back inside the castle and shut the door.

 

The stone woman slid on a network of metal tracks that covered the flagstone floor. Down long, cold corridors she went, where tapestries fluttered briefly in her wake, depicting the glorious endeavours of the living. Through halls populated with still and silent figures like herself, through the grim, dark-vaulted castle, she continued her slow but steady progression until she came to a winding spiral slope, then up and up and upwards she wound her way to the top most tower and there she pushed open a wooden door and creaked inside.

 

The old man, bent crooked over his desk and teetering atop a high wooden stool, lifted the visor on his welding helmet and peered at her with bright reptilian eyes set deep into brown leathery tortoise skin. He did not speak. Like everything else, the woman’s ears were made of stone. She held out the bundle and the crow and the old man lifted them gently and placed them on the desk in front of him, clearing away the parts he had been working on with paternal care.

 

The white sheets in front of him were stained claret with blood. He opened the bundle carefully and frowned; bending brows of feather-white quills over those bright little eyes. On the desk lay a boy child and out from his chest, out from his heart beneath his ivory skin, blood flowed bright and shameless, staining everything it touched crimson, matting through his white blonde hair in thick unsightly clots of black.

 

The ancient gentleman shook his head. “So fragile…” he muttered softly to himself “…so delicate, so fallible. No, no, no, a child cannot go through the world with a heart that bleeds. And this child, one day, will need to be a man. But no matter, no matter eh? He has come to the right place. I will make him a heart that will last a hundred years and more.” And at once he set about the task of making the child a heart so strong that it would not be able to bleed even if it wanted to.

 

The crow, barely clinging on to its body, struggled to squawk a protest but, if he heard it, the old man did not look up from his task.  “Your turn next, birdie,” was all the muted muttering that filtered through his white moustache and, all the while, the stone woman stood in the corner and waited.

 

The old man was an inventor of some considerable skill and experience. Soon he had fashioned a marvellous heart and he carefully cut a hole in the flesh of the sleeping infant, plucked out the heart that wept so much claret over everything, and fitted in the new heart, sealing the chest cavity with a metal plate, screwed down through flesh and bone. The babe screamed and howled and the crow beside him fluttered feebly, but he could not do anything to help.

 

“Now, now my boy, what an ungrateful whelp you are eh?” the old gentleman chuckled “Don’t fuss now, don’t fuss. See this new heart will last you a hundred years and more, that one you came with would not have served you five minutes. Not in this world, certainly not. Now then,” he turned at last to the stone woman, lifted the screaming child awkwardly from the workbench and placed him into her strong, cold arms, then he turned his attention back to the bench, “alright then my little black bird, let us see what we can do to fix you now, shall we?”

 

The stone woman did not need to have ears of flesh to be told what to do with a baby. The inventor had made her plenty of stone children of her own, just as he had made her, her husband, and all the other stone figures that populated his castle. Insatiable in his desire to create, he churned out figure after figure until the castle was plagued by the grim, grey host. Still, he never once descended the tower steps to see how his creations were getting along without him.

 

The stone woman took the screaming baby to the nursery. She trundled across the wooden floor and laid him in an empty crib with silk sheets and soft wool blankets. She tucked a bottle of milk into his chubby white hands and he drank and slept. Then she turned on her tracks and trundled out of the room, leaving the baby alone, in the dark, with row after row of silent stone babies sleeping soundlessly in their cribs. Their sightless eyes did not need light. Their stone skin did not ache for the warm touch of throbbing flesh. Their carefully carved ears did not strain for the sound of comforting voice rising softly in song.

 

In those silent halls, hung with curtains of shadow and frosted breath, the baby grew to be a child. He wandered through the long vaulted corridors with their tattered tapestries and picked at the threads, wondering at the tales depicted there. He sat in the courtyards, crowded with statuesque figures who never spoke or sang but only trundled here and there along the metal rails their inventor had laid out for them.

 

Once he found a boy. Sitting with his back pressed against a bulky pillar, reading a book. But the book was made of stone as well and all the boy could do was turn a single page – back and forth – upon which was written a tiny scrap of story that his sightless stone eyes would never read.

 

Still the child wandered and explored the many rooms and passageways of the castle until, at last, investigating a staircase that wound skyward up a tower which swayed back and forth in the howling mountain winds, he came across a cage.

 

The crow in the cage cocked its head on one side and regard the child with a glittering eye that seemed to hold a galaxy, its light came from so deep within. Half its head, including one eye and all of its beak, was made up of metal plates but, the child’s breath caught in his throat, the rest of the bird was feather and flesh and bone. The bird radiated the warmth of life, it moved with its own purpose and intent and, when it opened its beak, sound – the croak of a voice, rusted but not yet broken.

 

“Back! Back back!” The crow spluttered. “Back, child, you should go back! Back to the village, back to the cottage, your place is not here in this castle. No. No. Go back. Go back back!”

 

The child filled his enormous eyes with the feast of the creature before him. Tears pooled.

 

“I am not who you think I am,” he whispered. Voice a cobweb in a storm. “I did not come from any cottage or village or far away better place. My place is here. It always has been.”

“No. I am not mistaken.” The crow ruffled its feathers and flapped its wings against the bars of the cage. “You are the baby, brought by the stork, to a village far away from here. But the stork thought he knew best and delivered you to this castle instead.  I was there, I tried to stop him.” He clicked his mechanical beak crossly. “There is none so stubborn as a stork, it seems. But all is not lost, child, set me free. Set me free from this cage and I will show you the way back.”

 

The child caught his tears on his fingers . The crow’s words made sense; he had never felt he belonged in this world of stone figures. Never found a way to slide easily along the inventor’s metal tracks as they did. He longed for things he sensed were real, although he had never experienced them – warmth, touch, song and movement unprescribed. Although a secret part of him whispered that if he did not belong here in the castle, he surely did not belong anywhere, he ignored it.

 

He reached up pale fingers to the latch, opened the cage door with a snap and a swing, and the crow leapt out and perched upon his shoulder . Together they left the tower, down the spiral stair, and fled the castle forever for the long and difficult road across the windswept mountains.

 

Night was spreading his cloak over the land as the child and the crow sank down into a wooded valley. As the light dimmed to a pumpkin glow, shadows rose around them taking form from fancy and conjecture.

 

“Light! Light light! We must have light. Strike a flint child, light a flame that we can see our way through the darkness.”

 

But the child did not know how.

 

In desperation, the crow snatched up the last bright thing from the forest floor, as the sun sniggered into its sleeve and slipped away. A last pale leaf, softly luminous in the moonlight. He handed it to the child and the child clung to it, fixing his eyes upon its faint, cold glow. But it was not a flame, only an imitation of one. It gave no warmth and nothing at all was illuminated.

 

All night long, the crow and the child sat huddled amongst the trees and clinging tight to their leaf.

 

They heard things pass them in the darkness; some far off, some so close they could feel their breath. They smelt good things cooking on campfires, saw the distant dance of what might be a flame or a farmhouse. Sometimes a voice would hail them, “Hey! You there, is that somebody there? Have you lost your way then? Come with us, we will show you the path out, we have food and light over here, come out of the shadows and join us!”

 

But the crow advised the child to close his ears to all of this. It was so dark, afterall. The voices could belong to anyone. Or anything. So they clung to eachother. And their leaf. Through a night they started to believe might never end….

 

But nothing is ever as eternal as it seems when we are in it. At last a paleness began to seep slowly over everything. The night’s dense pelt teased apart into fine needles of shadow and the child and the crow heaved their cold and aching bodies up out of the dry leaves and blinked at eachother, surprised to recognise familiar form after all the liquid swell of night through their senses.

 

They saw the path. The crow remembered the way. Through the dense wood, never stopping, out of the valley and over hills which became green and spongy with succulent moss and sedge beneath their feet and whispered tales of secret underground springs and maidens and moles and other goings on beneath the soil.

 

The scent of that soil rose up like iron, bold and beautiful and life affirming and it wove  a robust rhythm with the heather and the broom that danced like gypsies wherever they pleased as the wild wind tugged playfully at their hair.

 

The child and the crow did not dance over the hills with the heather. They were too weary from their long and watchful night. Heads down, wings and shoulders hunched, they trudged. Each footstep a tiny miracle. If they had chanced to look up, they would have seen the little huddle of dwellings, each one barely enough to be called a house and even altogether, barely enough to be called a village, rising out of the landscape ahead.

 

It happened all of a sudden; the way you can be standing in a room sometimes, floating in waves of conversation that ebb and swell without conveying meaning, until someone on the far side of the room whispers your name. And you blink. And suddenly the world makes sense again.

 

The boy stopped. And blinked. His feet were wet.

 

In fact, the ground all about him was saturated with something thick and oozing. He lifted one foot, curiously, and then the other. The crow put his head on one side and then flapped excitedly off the child’s shoulder and began to circle a giddy, euphoric  spiral above his head. “Back! Back back! This is the place child, we have found the way back!”

 

But the boy wasn’t listening to the crow anymore. At that particular moment he didn’t need to.

 

He simply knew.

 

As soon as he felt the warmth of the blood between his toes, the blood that flowed down the main street of this place like a river, he knew it for the same rich, red life that pulsed through his own flesh in such abundance that it ached to be released. He sank to his knees, he washed his white flesh in it, he licked it off his wrists and arms and the taste of iron made him weep like a starveling cub.

 

Ravenous, he raised his eyes and saw people hurrying towards him, boots splashing through the flood of red that flowed, shameless, out of their breasts and into the street. They didn’t ask his name, who he was or where he had come from.

 

Perhaps they knew he was one of them.

 

Or perhaps they did not care.

 

They welcomed him, they brought him inside, fed him and clothed him and the child bathed and soaked and gorged himself on blood that seemed inexhaustible because everyone bled and fed and bled some more…

 

The child stayed in the gathering of bleeding hearts. He never found his parents because the crow could not remember the dwelling to which the stork had brought him, but that did not matter. He had found a place filled with folks that were more akin to him than any cold castle filled with stone automatons. And did it worry him that the inventor had so brazenly stolen his heart all those years ago? Well, yes, after a time it did start to bother him. It bothered him so much that one day he sought out the crow who had helped him to find the place where he belonged, and together they set off on a quest to steal back his bleeding heart… but that story is a long one, and will have to wait until another time…

 

Hmph, not that there will be another time, as I said, this is not some nursery bedtime story hour I am running here! You can tell those miscreant pot-sots, when you see them, to stop sending people down here to bother me with their remedial reading requests I have serious work to be getting on with. Now go on, out with you, shoo, no I don’t care if there is a curfew and you are worried about getting eaten by Carnivorous Liver Birds, you should have thought of that earlier. Good night.

Oh, er, leave the bottle though….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tea @Three: All Punked Up With No Place To Go

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to Max and Collin’s perpetually private and extensively exquisite parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a Hull-spawned roach-hole unfit for human habitation which contravenes every health and safety law in the history of The New World, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

Our teatime today is plagued with slime. As an octopus, one is of course used to a certain amount of fluid seeping from one’s glands, however an octopus with a cold, as Max has quite rightly pointed out, is simply ‘not amusing.’

Fortunately our tea today is none other than ‘Kiss My Crossbow’ by Fandom Teas– a super strength oolong that should blast away all traces of this wretched cold. Our Oracular Cephalopterois (That’s a hybrid cross between a lion fish and a vampire squid…in case you were wondering) tells us we should expect a heatwave in the next few days. A heatwave? I ask you! The things that creature would have us believe…

But enough of that nonsense! It is Thursday afternoon and Max and I are ‘all punked up with no place to go’ so, while the pot is brewing, let us peruse the society papers and see where we should be heading to this weekend….

The National Tramway Museum in Critch, Derbyshire is holding a Steampunk Theme Day from 10am until 5pm on Saturday 8th October. There will be tea duelling, dancing dolls, storytelling, steampunk weapons display and beautiful market stalls selling all kinds of crafts and curiosities.

Or, looking further ahead, (always advisable where tickets have to be booked) I see that The League of Splendid are planning another Splendid Day Out–  on the 22nd of October in Morecambe, Lancashire. It looks set to be a smaller but just as marvellous event with artisan market, tea duelling and entertainment from Cauda Pavonis, Professor Elemental and more.

And on the 24th of October the monthly Newark Steampunk Meet are holding their Halloween Event as well so, all good things to look forward to.

Ah, but now I think our tea is brewed and it is time for us to recline back amongst the crates and cushions and wait for the sun to set and the hoards of flesh-eating birds to descend upon the streets of Lancaster. There’s something rather comforting about having your tentacles wrapped around a warm mug of chai, listening to the screams of all those poor unfortunate souls who tried to break their curfew… mmmm…

We will not be back in the parlour now until Monday but we hope you will join Perilous Wight for Pipe and Slippers in his lovely library tomorrow, when he will be sharing something of ‘superfluous literary magnitude’…or so he informs us…hopefully it isn’t something dreary he has penned himself…

So until then! Be always,

Utterly Yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Elevenses:Deeply Chilling

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, and who amongst us is feeling a little eleven o’clock ish? Well, say no more, step inside, pull up a chair…or…crate of lemonade and make yourselves at home in  Max and Collin’s perfectly private and exquisitely exclusive parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a rat-riddled room  in an abandoned fish factory that is ravaged by Liver Birds and liable to be infested by plague at any given moment, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

Upon this wet and wild autumnal morning, you find us shamefully still wrapped in our dressing gowns and huddled around the soft glowing warmth of our divine teapot, waiting the arrival of our werewolf butler with elevenses. I say ‘werewolf butler’, which is what Max calls her, but only, you know, when she is out of earshot.

This morning we are enjoying Darcy’s Delight; a deliciously dark oolong brought to life with orange zest and exotic osmanthus flowers, available from one of our favourite tea shops, Friday Tea. It is just the thing to raise the spirits during this dead season of chills and inclemency.

Ah, now Klapka is here with the tray! She isn’t really a werewolf, of course, any more than I am a squid or Max is a Very Quiet Gentleman but, as Max says, throw enough custard pies and some will stick…and Max is, of course, very good at throwing pies. Now let’s see what delights she has for us to combat this tentacle-chilling weather…

treacletarts

Mmm treacle tarts, click the picture for the recipe which is so quick and easy you’ll be done in four minutes! Truly there is no better comfort food than a treacle tart and a nice cup of tea.

All that is needed now is some eleven o’clockish music to tap our tentacles to as we tuck in… something nostalgic perhaps that will remind us of our time in The Sunken City…

Splendid, perfect entertainment for a chilly Tuesday morning, and now as we sink our suckers into these treatsome tartlets there is nothing left to do except wish you all a much warmer afternoon than we are likely to suffer here and invite you back to join, not us I’m afraid, but our dear witchy friend Mrs Albert Baker in her soup kitchen tomorrow. Myself and Max will be back on Thursday with some tantalising Tea At Three so, until then

Be always, Utterly Yourself.

 


Morning Cuppa: Tea Cake Or Death

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly private and exquisitely exclusive parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a rat-infested garret in a toppling tenement that is plagued by Lemonade Pushers and liable to topple over at any moment to nobody’s regret, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this, seasonably grey and chilly Monday morning, uncharacteristically alert and swooning over our marvellous new teapot courtesy of the utterly ineffable creators at Wild and Violet

tea cake death.png

Yes you read that correctly! Tea Cake Or Death… Max is tattooing it upon my tentacles with a runcible spoon even as I write (the advantage, of course, of having eight limbs and being naturally disposed to multi tasking)

We are just waiting for our brew to steep and this morning we will be enjoying the fantastically festive flavours of Raise The Dead by Friday Teas We can’t speak for the dead but the aroma alone has raised these two Hullians out of our usual early morning stupor. The scarlet cranberries like drops of blood make this tea the perfectly ghoulish accompaniment to our book this morning

the-vampyre

Written well before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is one of the first literary versions of the Vampire myth – apt reading for the build up to Halloween, or Samhain, not that we celebrate either here in The New World but, there you have it, a Tea Fiend needs no excuse to indulge in a little macabre romanticism …

Ah, and now Max informs me our tea is ready and my tattoo is finished which means there is nothing left to do except consult our Oracular Cephalopterois (always being careful to avoid its bloodthirsty fangs and venomous tentacles of course, neither Max nor myself wish to be turned into brain-munching un-dead zombie squid. Not this morning at any rate, we have not yet had any cake.)

So, before we languish back upon our silk-covered lemonade crates, let us stir the cup and see what our far-seeing vampiric hybrid has for us this morning…

runcible

Well as usual we’ve got no idea what part of the aether our little pet has pulled that random piece of innovation from, still, hopefully it will prove interesting to some of you out there.

As for myself and Max there is nothing left to say except ‘chin chin, pass the tin, open the book and let’s begin…’

We wish you a very delicious morning full of beautiful and black delights, perhaps, like this tea, with the odd dash of crimson, and we invite you to join us tomorrow for elevenses so, until then,

Be always, Utterly Yourself.

If you have a splendid book or exciting project you would like us to feature with our ‘morning cuppa’ please send us the details to Collin.the.octopus@gmail.com