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…
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
This stunning hand made leather raven journal from The Diary Shop
Beautiful ‘No Beauty without some strangeness’ bracelet from Strangeness Charms
‘The Raven’ printed fingerless writing gloves from Storiarts
Hand made to order – Edgar Allan Poe Lunch Bag from Sammo
Have Your very own Poe-In-The-Parlour with this digital download and print Poe paper doll from Artwolf
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.
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
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,
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 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…
all images from http://www.freeimages.com
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 Designs. Good 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.
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!
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!
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.
Good evening and welcome to my rambunctious repository of valuable volumes…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 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…
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.
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.
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
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
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
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to Max and Collin’s, catastrophically cat-ridden yet still charmingly chi chi parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a perilous pit of depravity populated by monsters whose morals follow the wild swinging arc of Time’s own pendulum, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us, on this bleak and bewildering afternoon still having kittens about our desperate cat situation to the end that Max is now standing on the makeshift balcony screaming ‘Who will rid us of these cats?’
Meanwhile I am going to light a pipe and see if we can smoke them out.
Oh, but enough of this feline foolishness, despite our desperate situation it is undeniably Thursday Afternoon and we are All Punked Up With No Place To Go so let me see if I can find the society papers, beneath the writhing piles of fur and claws, and desipher where the action is this weekend…
Steampunks in Space is taking place at the National Space Centre on 12th – 13th November and on 12th November there is also the alternative steampunks in space at the old horse ‘clockwork infirmary’ www.facebook.com/steampunksinspace
And looking a little further ahead, on the 18th , 19th and 20th November we have the Haworth steampunk weekend
But before we hit the town, there is just a little time left to kick our tentacles up on the table with a good book and an energising cup of Firefly browncoat pilot’s blend by Friday teas. Fortunately the 5th of November saw the release of Den Of Antiquity – the new Steampunk Story Collection by members of The Steampunk Empire’s ‘Scribbler’s Den’ . The collection includes stories by Karen J Carlisle, Jack Tyler, Alice E Keyes, David Lee Summers and all the proceeds are being donated to the International Red Cross so if you haven’t already got your tentacles on a copy, there’s a very good reason to do so!
We will be back in the parlour on monday but please do stop by and visit Peril in his lovely library tomorrow where he will be sharing something of Momentous Magnitude…hopefully it isn’t his Tiffin bill… so, until we see you next please be always,
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?
“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!