Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “witches

Soup Of The Day: With Meredith Debonnaire

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 sci fi author Meredith Debonnaire! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your cloak?

Yes indeed, here it is. Thank you so much for having me 🙂

A pleasure! How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile skywaymen or space pirates on your way?

Very smooth, thank you. Came through the inter-dimensional tunnels, so mainly just Dwarfs. And some of those urchins of yours I think, but they weren’t a lot of trouble.

Ah yes, children will get everywhere won’t they? And  have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Oh I am so sorry! I am honestly a terrible cook, so I thought it better not to subject you to my attempts at food. I have brought tea… Lapsang Souchon?

Oh my absoloute favourite how thoughtful of you! (You know tea is illegal here and so very hard to come by, thankyou imensely for that!) Now then, I will cook up a nice batch of soup for the orphans and why don’t you have a seat by the fire here and tell me a little about your book The Life And Times Of Angel Evans, I know Max and Collin enjoyed reading it immensely

 

Oh, how nice to hear! I enjoyed Max’s Utterly Myself book. Anyway, The Life and Times of Angel Evans is about what you do after saving the world. It was a question that has bothered me for a while. So the story is not about saving the worlds, but about picking up the pieces afterwards when the prophecy is fulfilled and you have to get on with things. Angel Evans did save the multiverse, but now she has to figure out how to have a life and sometimes that feels harder.

 

I really love that premise! I must confess to have dabbled a little in world saving myself but in the end I found running this soup kitchen far more rewarding! Have you brought a copy with you to show the orphans?

The Life and Times of Angel Evans.png

 

Marvellous, thankyou! Ah, now that is the kettle boiling, what is your ‘poison’ dear and how do you take it?

I like a good strong hot chocolate, with chocolate dark as moonless midnight please

Ah, fortunately we have plenty of smuggled cocoa powder in storage ready for the winder months! There you are. Now tell me, My Dear, what do you look for in a good story?

Hmmm, well, characters that I can root for are very important – I find it difficult to be immersed in a plot if I don’t care about the people. I want magic, and I want to be surprised, and I want lots of women and preferably queer representation. Tight plotting is a little less important to me, although I do appreciate it as a skill. As I mainly read fantasy and sci-fi, the worldbuilding is very important and I can be drawn in by an exciting-sounding world. It boils down to wanting something that I will be able to get emotionally invested in, and that will reward that investment rather than stomping on it.

Splendid, … Oh! Do excuse me for a moment, that’s the post…. There we are…Oh lovely it’s the brochure I ordered!  I am looking for my next holiday destination (it is never a good time to be a witch here in Ire but sometimes it is positively dangerous so I like to take the odd pleasure jaunt when that occurs)

How exciting! May I take a look? Holidays are very important things, especially if there is any chance of a mob turning up on one’s doorstep…

Well, yes indeed… mind you, I have heard that you are a chronicler of the history of the curious town of Tantamount – is that a holiday destination you would recommend for a witch?

Absolutely. Tantamount gets seasonal witches most Autumns as they migrate, and to survive in Tantamount you have to be at least a little bit witchy. It’s particularly a good place for picking up odd spell ingredients, though you have to be careful of the history; it bites.

Oh how wonderful it sounds like just my cup of tea! Collin told me they have interesting wildlife, I am very fond of magpies…

Magpies are very important in Tantamount, although why they are important is a subject of great debate and the occasional stabbing. So far as we can tell from the correspondence, there are also very intelligent Wild Boar (who have successfully negotiated for voting rights), spam pigeons, and of course the Carrion. We’re not sure if the Carrion are really wildlife or just some sort of odd phenomena, as no-one who’s got close enough to tell is in any state to pass the information on.

I see, perhaps I might ask Max if I can borrow his aether energy pistol. He also said they have some charming rituals there as well, although as I am post-menopausal myself it sounds like I may not be of much use for some of them?

Ah, I think you are referring to the Bluddening Ritual? That one is specifically for people who menstruate, as it is the most convenient way of bleeding a lot without hurting anyone. There are plenty of other Rituals that you could take part in: The Feast of Fears, which comes around at slightly random times and involves the ancient sport of Carrion Running, is one example. There is also the Awakening of Spring, which involves pouring tea on the Dumpsy Tump while singing classic Tantamount songs such as Truly, It Is Time To Get Out Of Bed, Hades is No Fun Anyway, We Are All Bloody Cold Oh Spring and When Will the Daffodil Beast Roam Free Again? If that doesn’t work, someone has to go and hit the gong. But usually it doesn’t come to that.

I see, well I shall certainly mull that over carefully, it does sound a lot of fun but I want to make sure I return in one piece!  Now then, where can we read more about Tantamount?

All of Tantamount is currently available here: https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/tales-from-tantamount/

I recommend reading about it from afar; it isn’t a place with a high life expectancy.

And where else can we find you on the aether web?

https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/DebonnaireMerry

https://www.thebooksmugglers.com/2016/09/life-times-angel-evans-meredith-debonnaire.html

 

Marvellous! Well thank you so much for joining me in the kitchen this morning, that soup smells as if it is ready, would you give me a hand dishing it out to the orphans?

Thankyou all for joining us in the last soup kitchen of 2018, have a very blessed Wizmas or Feast of Fears or Christmas or Creepmas or Yule or Hiding Under The Duvet Until It All Goes Away Fest …. or whatever you celebrate in your dimension at this time of year and I will see you all again once the tinsel and mince pies have died down and the frost fair arives on our frozen river Lune, so until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: Join The Ministry Of Steam Wizards!

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen!

Welcome back to Max and Collin’s marvellously magical parlour located somewhere within the bowels of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster!

True some have called it a house of illusion and deception where strange creatures wait to lure unsuspecting travellers to doom, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

This morning we have some exciting news to share with you all! As well as our wonderful Hopeless Shenanigans at Time Quake Steampunk Festival last month, we had the very great honour of meeting The Ministry Of Steam Wizards, being sorted into our steam wizard houses by Aethelred The Pigeon Of Pigeonholing and taking part in their wand making, potions and wand duelling sessions!

WE CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH, THE ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF AWESOME THAT IS THE MINISTRY OF STEAM WIZARDS!

steam wizards 1

But if you were not at Time Quake, fear not! You can join us at The Ministry Of Steampunk Wizards right now and become part of this fabulous, friendly, supportive and super-splendiferous steampunk society!

GET SORTED INTO YOUR STEAMPUNK WIZARD HOUSE HERE

Just like the Harry Potter houses, there are four Steampunk Wizard houses which Aethelred the pigeon of pigeonholing can sort you into. A quick questionnaire (which of course, just like the Hogwarts sorting hat, takes into account your own personal preference) will determine whether you would be best placed in

 

Shackleton : The best house to be in and not just because it is the house that we – and by association Penny – were sorted into! Named after the great polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, some may call us bold, pigheaded and obstinate but we know that is just the green eyed monster speaking.

Here’s a word from our head of house:

“Good evening everyone I shall take this opportunity to introduce myself and the next school house.

My name is Professor Albert Vastin and I am the head of Shackleton house, I am also the Duelling instructor at our school. We of Shackleton house are said to be Persistent and strong willed to the point of obstinacy, I prefer to see us as determined in all our endeavours. It’s a fact that we are the more likely of our brethren to put our magic aside and get our hands dirty be it adapting non magic gadgets to meet our own needs or expanding our knowledge of far flung corners of the world, it’s no wonder many of the great explorer of the last century came from our house, after all one of the greatest is our founder and patron! Our house colour is blue and house song is Nimrod. (At least it will be when I persuade the other heads that we should have house songs!)

Our house motto is “Exultemus in faciem adversis.” Which means “Triumph in the face of adversity.”

Our house founder Earnest Shackleton lived these qualities in abundance. A wizard of iron will he lead several polar expeditions braving sub zero temperatures and hard ships that would make most of us tremble, he managed all this without magic. (He lived too close to them to hide it). He greatest achievement was the saving of his crew while they were trapped in ice and their supplies ran low.

I look forward to greeting those who join our endeavours to discover just what is beyond the horizon, we can equip you for that journey in Shackleton House.”

steam wizards nightigale

 

Nightingale : Named after the famous founder of nursing Florence Nightingale, never cross a Nightingale they say, for the only difference between medicine and poison is the dose!

Here’s a word from their head of house:

“Felicitations my good people! Welcome to the next House in The Steam Wizard School- Nightingale 🙂 I am Queenie Goldsteam, your Head of House and Matron. We are inspired by the great heroine, Florence Nightingale, the lady of the lamp (who was, of course, a light magic user). A pioneer in her field. Our attributes are that we are caring, considerate, patient, helpful but ruthless. We are resourceful and respond well to crisis and change. We are leaders and specialists in any field we choose.

Our House Colour: Red (for the blood of life)
Symbol: heart

I look forward to meeting fellow Nightgalians! Do you have what it takes to:

“A cool head and a warm heart light the way” ? ”

steam wizards edmonstone

Edmonstone Named after John Edmonstone the taxidermist who taught and inspired  Charles Darwin, Edmonstonians are persistant in the face of adversity and prefer to work quietly behind the scenes supporting and encouraging the endeavours of others – a bit like ninjas really… only more kind-hearted and possibly bearing cake… cake ninjas?

Here’s a word from their head of house: 

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen! I am Professor Solis Dark and I am here to introduce the final of our four houses- Edmonstone.

Edmonstone house is known for perseverence. We will not give up no matter the odds, and grow in the face of adversity. Our quiet strength comes from our rigour, and we apply ourselves thoroughly to any task. We are often most comfortable behind the scenes, providing knowledge and support.

We are a creative house, learning and growing together (as our symbol would suggest). In Edmonstone you are encouraged to be the best you can without judgement. Education is valued in Edmonstone in all forms, as is creativity. We are creators, in science and in the arts.

Our founder was John Edmonstone, the freed slave who taught Charles Darwin, ultimately encouraging him to move from medicine to naturalism. He inspired Darwin with tales of his time in the deep rainforests of South America and was a talented taxidermist. He was a learned man, who achieved great things in time, and we are proud to bear his name.

Our house motto is ‘gutta cavat lapidem’, inspired by his perseverance. It translates to “a water drop hollows a stone” or “constant dripping wears the stone”. I look forward to welcoming new members of Edmonstone!

A small admin note for any prospective Edmonstonians: I am primarily based on Venus for field research and am often away from my office for long periods. My Acting Head of House is Lauramavic Caradonna who will be representing Edmonstone at some events we attend. Feel free to direct queries at us both.”

steam wizards earheart

 

Earheart Named after Amelia Earheart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic, ask an Earheart where they’ve been and you’ll likely be told “Where haven’t I been? WOOOOOFF!”

Here’s a word from their head of house:

“Good evening, fellow Steam Wizards!

The first house that I proudly present to you is the House Of Earheart. Named after the great Amelia Earheart, female pilot (and secret witch of the Ministry), Earheart has inspired the qualities of our House: Bold, adventurous, and lovers of derring do! Outgoing and brash- not afraid to break convention and fly with ideas!

I (Korbynn Talon) will be your head of house and I look forward to meeting fellow Earheartians! Do you have the derring do to be one of us?

On Wings We Fly!”

 

SORTED! WHAT NEXT? …. 

Once you’ve sorted yourself, you’ll need to make a wizard name for yourself, you might have one in mind already but if you need a little help you can use this WIZARD NAME GENERATOR

Once you have your name and house you’re ready to come and introduce yourself on the facebook forum!  

Here you can meet the staff and your fellow wizards, post anything pertaining to your steampunk wizarding adventures and create a personal Chronicles file which can build up over time as an on going in-character diary of your magical adventures!

Wizards and witches of all ages are welcomed at the Ministry Of Steam wizards and their ‘outreach programme’ seeks to encourage and support youngsters by sending them a letter of encouragement and support or congratulations for an achievement ( you can ask them to put a specific thing in the letter if you wish) along with a steam wizard certificate. This is a heart-meltingly wonderful idea which they are providing for free so if you know a young witch or wizard who could do with a boost let the steam wizards know!

Once you’ve settled in you’ll no doubt want to get yourself kitted out in some top wizarding tweeds so pop along to Madame Warpweft’s Academic Outfiters and pick up your wand, robes and official house badges, pins and hair bands, all at super-affordable prices (our little urchins were able splash their pocket money on plenty of fabulous things!)

Practical Magic…

Besides contributing to the online community there are plenty of fun and practical things you can do at home or at conventions which The Ministry Of Steam Wizards are present at.

The Ministry has devised an excellent system for wizard duelling with steampunk spells! The actual spells to be used will change at each convention or event, making it fair for newcomers, and the system works with a core of 5 spells where each spell defeats two others (exactly like rock, paper, scissors!) at the duelling master’s word the two duellists shout their spells and the judges determine who has won. Anyone can duel for fun or in the training workshops but formal competitors must be aged 10 years or over.

The spells used at Time Quake (so that you can have a go now at home!) were:

Coglito Totalis! (Beats Steamulto and Punkus)

Steamulto! (Beats Automata and Tenebitur)

Automata! (Beats Punkus and Coglito Totalis)

Punkus! (Beats Steamulto and Tenebitur)

Tenebitur! (Beats Automata and Coglito Totalis)

 

If you’re more of a potion brewer than a wand waver, we also had fun at Time Quake brewing colour changing potions of love, healing and death! our little urchins enjoyed this so much they had a potions day at home and devised their own simple system for naming steampunk potions, which you are welcome to borrow:

Take a Latin prefix which describes the type of potion you are making, add any word associated with steampunk, end with any Latin suffix that sounds cool!

 

So there you have it, what are you waiting for?! Come and join us at the Ministry Of Steam Wizards and look out for them at your next Steampunk convention!

 

We will be back in the parlour next week with a review of Selkie Cove by one of our favourite authors of all time, Kara Jorgensen, so until then please remain always

Utterly Yourself!

 

PS: It shouldn’t need to be said but, just in case: ” Intellectual copyright of everything in this post – rules, names and spells, competition and games etc. are the intellectual copyright of the Ministry Of Steam Wizards and not to be used elsewhere without prior agreement. Ministry of Steam Wizard (MoSW) and Mme Warpweft’s Academic Outfitters logos, house emblems, products and prizes belong to the group as intellectual property. The admins/staff reserve the right to refuse third parties to reproduce and access to MSW logos and emblems. Logos/ emblems/ names/ Houses/ intellectual content must not to be used for profit and resale. Use of logos in re-creation for personal use is permitted (and indeed encouraged- we love to see what you can do for your and your families outfits!) with copyright credited on anything shown online (physical produce, art work ,writing for instance).”

 

 

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Author Jack Wolf

 

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 Jack Wolf – author of The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones, which Max and Collin reviewed a short time ago with their Morning Cuppa.

Good morning to you Jack! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, may I take your coat and hat? It is certainly very frosty out there today but the fire here in the bakery is lovely and warm.  How was your journey here from your own dimension?

Not too bad – the skies were fairly clear and the traffic was ok.

I’m very glad to hear that! This cold snap seems to have the Skyway Men clinging to their fires which is a mercy! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I make something called Bungitin Vegan soup, which is basically a load of chopped veg – 1 onions, 2 carrots, 1 tin’s worth of tomatoes, 1 pepper, half to a whole tin’s worth of chick peas and/or other legumes, and anything else I can find in the kitchen fridge – 1-2 courgettes are good. Add at least one clove of garlic or a teaspoon of garlic paste – this is really important – and a mix of herbs and spices to taste. The italian herbs are good for this, so oregano, basil and sometimes a little black pepper. I don’t usually add salt, but you can, if you want. To cook, brown the onions and begin to soften the carrots by stir-frying in vegetable or sunflower oil for about 4-5 mins, then add everything else and about 3/4 pint of vegetable stock, and let it all simmer until everything is soft and it tastes really rich. Don’t let it burn or get too dense, as this can make the flavour too strong – you have to keep tasting it.

 

Oh vegan soup recipes are always here, what with the dairy rationing and such, thankyou very much! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us about your book The Tale Of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and its main character Tristan Hart? I see you have brought a copy with you to show the orphans..

full cover rawhead.jpg

 

 

The cover art is stunning! I confess to very much enjoying the book myself, not least because of the cunning use of magic, folk lore and the world of faerie to support the narrative – tell me, have you always had an interest in the relationship between our own everyday ‘stories,’ and the magical and mythological frameworks we use to make sense of our ‘real world’ experiences?

I’ve been drawn to faerie tales, and faeries in general, for a long time. I’m also fascinated by human psychology, and the idea that humans create our own conceptual worlds out of the stories – and I use that word extremely broadly – that we tell ourselves. To an extent, the ‘real world’ of our experience is something we invent – a story we tell ourselves every moment of every day.

 

And the story of Raw Head, that is a real British folk tale isn’t it?

 

Yes and no. It’s a recorded folk belief, but I haven’t found any complete tales concerning it – with a beginning middle and end, and so on. It’s likely that the original RH&BB is more a general bogeyman than a character, in the way that, say, the Wolf in the Three Little Pigs is a character. I think he was a personification of the threat of drowning in a culture where only a tiny minority of people knew how to swim, and nobody knew how to perform cpr on a drowning victim. The idea was, I think, that the fear of RH&BB would keep the kids away from the waterways in a way that a simple explanation of the danger would not. References to the figure seem to peter out in the UK after the 18thC, so I guess superstitions moved on.

But oddly enough, in the US the image seems to have persisted, and mutated – there’s a legend in the Ozarks of RH&BB where a creature by that name appears as a monstrous pig. It may be co-incidental, of course. But I drew on this alternate image a little bit as well in the novel; Tristan’s dread of Joseph Cox becomes focused on the fact that Cox works as a pig-keeper.

 

Ah yes! I didn’t recognise that wonderful little twist but that certainly makes sense!  I had also thought it reminded me of the La Lorona mythos and more localised ‘Maggie O Th’Well’ tales. Tell me, what particularly drew you to use that tale as the focal point for Tristan’s story?

 

I’m fascinated by bogeymen, and the idea that one of the tools we use to keep ourselves safe is actually terror. But the name “RH&BB” is also a wonderful metaphor for what a human being is – mind and body brought together in this messy, contradictory way – and trying to make sense of that conundrum is Tristan’s most prevailing obsession.

Raw Head is by no means the only myth you reference in the book, what other prominent faerie figures feature in the narrative?

Well, I also draw heavily on the idea of the Glanconer – the Irish Faerie seducer – or as we might now acknowledge, rapist. He’s the dark Faerie who lies at the bottom of the myth of the Elf Knight, or as I call him in the book, the Goblin Knight. In numerous folk songs such as The Outlandish Knight and Steeleye Span’s The Elf Knight (which was the first place I encountered him) he is a seducer and murderer of young women who lures them to their doom sometimes by drowning, like RH&BB, or more simply by stabbing or strangling them. But of course as a Faerie Knight he’s also part of the court of the Faerie Queen, so she had to come into the book as well – and the image I’ve used to represent her is that of the shapeshifting barn owl. I’ve called her Viviane, of course, which is a nod to the Arthurian tradition. 

Of course, and very nicely done indeed! Now, in some modern / mythpunk re-workings, the world these tales and archetypes belong to is something that is a step removed from the protagonist’s reality but in your book the world of faerie doesn’t just run alongside Tristan’s human world does it?

Well, I don’t see the worlds as being separate in the way that a lot of modern fantasy does. I’m much more drawn to the Alan Garner or Susan Cooper school of world building in which the two realms are in constant communication with each other. It’s much closer to the way I experience the world, as well.

Well, I for one can certainly identify with that, Dear! I very much liked the way that, by giving each of the main characters both a human identity and, simultaneously, a faerie-self, you seemed to re-imagine (or perhaps ‘release’) some of those ancient beings in a way that made encountering them a very fresh, real and emotive experience.

Do you think that it is important to keep exploring these tales and releasing these characters into the collective consciousness?

 

Yes. I think it’s vital, actually. In the last couple of hundred years, we have built an  industrial society that demands that we deliberately reject older, deeper ways of thinking, and more intuitive ways of experiencing ourselves and the world around us, in order to be considered full, ‘rational’ individuals. It’s a form of madness, I think – cutting off a very ancient, nourishing, and protective part of the psyche. We need to find stories that allow us to reconnect with who we really are as a species. I think faerie stories do have the capacity to do this.

 

I certainly think you are right on that point!

The book is set at an important liminal moment in British history – revolutions in the worlds of medical science and industrial technology are bringing a ‘great awakening’ of so called rational thought, but at that same time, aspects of the collective consciousness seem still to be slumbering in the ‘dream world’ of spiritual / magical understanding and superstition. Did you deliberately choose this time period as one that would reflect the turmoil within Tristan and some of the other key characters?

 

Absolutely. The period stands exactly on the cusp of the modern world – and Tristan, in particular, is a character who represents – even embodies – the confusing contradictions inherent in that historical moment. 

 

The character Katherine Montague uses the story of Raw Head And Bloody Bones to communicate and cope with her traumatic life experiences and Tristan uses it to understand and make sense of his own fragmented reality… do you think that, to some degree, we are all prone to using the language of faerie / magic to feel secure and form an understanding of our often confusing or frightening world?

 

I think there is a human tendency to perceive the world through stories – and as I said above, I think that, right now, we need better ones than we currently have. It is a form of magical thinking, in a way – constructing one’s own reality through images, words and ideas. But we don’t all draw on the language of faerie to do this: we all construct our own stories out of whatever conceptual material we have to hand. In Katherine’s case, this happens to be the language of faerie tales: the abused girl, the wicked mother, the stolen child, etc are all common tropes in the folk-awareness of her time. A modern character in her situation would most probably use different stories to try to make some sense out of the dreadful things that have happened to her, and around her. But a modern character would hopefully have more psychological support… Katherine literally can’t speak about what she has gone through unless she displaces it onto a faerie tale – which both enacts and subverts another faerie trope, the magical silence. For her, magical thinking really is a survival mechanism.

For Tristan the situation’s slightly different, because the whole thing goes so much farther – for him, the worlds of faerie, story and rationality collide in a way that is quite traumatic in itself. He may be using the story, but there is also a sense in which he is also being used – and abused – by it. 

 

While this ‘magical toolkit’ for understanding the world may be useful to the individual utilising it, it can lead to fear, suspicion and ultimately persecution of individuals who are seen as liminal themselves – the ‘outsiders’ if you will, whose lifestyle or beliefs set them apart as ‘abnormal’ can’t it?

 

We still don’t live in a particularly tolerant society – even though in many ways it is, of course, much more accepting than it was in Tristan’s time. But it’s true that standing out from the crowd in ways that the crowd don’t understand, or even fear can bring about terrible persecution – I’m thinking of Sophie Lancaster’s murder here, but there are other examples.

When it comes to holding a magical or otherwise ‘fringe’ understanding of the world in some way, I have found that intolerance has tended to manifest as ridicule, rather than fear or violence. I am a panpsychist, for example (a highly unusual position here, but actually one that was most likely the norm throughout most of human pre-history, and which is still common in certain non-westernised societies), and most educated Westerners simply cannot grasp the principles behind it. So they mischaracterise and then dismiss it. The author Emma Restall Orr went through exactly this experience years ago on BBC Radio 4 with Michael Gove. She responded by writing The Wakeful World, which is a fairly decent introduction to the concept, I think. 

 

Viviane, for example, is a character whose ‘otherness’ allows Tristan to see her as quite unreal and therefore excuse and ‘explain’ his misconduct towards her using the framework of faerie mythology. This use of faerie / magical lore against women (and often, as you highlight marvellously in the book, against Rromani women) is a very real phenomenon isn’t it?

 

It was very much a problem in the 18thC, where it did become, in addition to other things, a cloak for racism against the Romani (not that the concepts of racism, or even sexism, existed then). It’s less obvious now, and here, of course – that’s thanks to the Enlightenment convincing the populace that magic is not real – but it still endures verbally in slurs – “Witch” etc – and in cultural assumptions about the overwhelming sexual allure of women’s bodies. “She put a spell on me, your honour” isn’t really that far from “she was wearing a short skirt,” in my estimation. Both rely on the belief that a female body – a woman in a body – somehow exudes some sort of mystical aura that overcomes a man’s ability to control himself, and provides him with the excuse to, as you say, explain away his misconduct.

 

But Tristan isn’t deliberately demonising Viviane in order to take advantage of her, is he? He is genuinely grasping at the threads of, what for him is, a confusing multilayered reality and this manifests to those around him as a form of madness – demonising him, in turn.

 

Yes, Tristan is completely oblivious to the cultural programming that’s going on beneath the surface; and he’s certainly not demonising Viviane on purpose. As far as he becomes concerned, she is wholly the Faerie woman of his dreams and nightmares – if she ever had a real, human self, he can’t acknowledge that.

 

Again, the demonization of those ‘outsiders’ who come to be labelled ‘mad’ is something that has always been a frighteningly real occurrence hasn’t it?

 

Yes, it has – and it is still going on today. When I was writing Tristan I was very conscious of the stereotyping that leads to people with severe schizophrenia, or similar disorders, becoming objects of fear. People have been taught to expect the mad to behave like monsters. It’s dehumanising – demonising. if you like. it’s also statistically untrue.

 

Perhaps especially unsettling is the fact that what is termed ‘madness’ to one particular culture or at one point in history, can later come to be understood as a natural phenomenon  – the hormonal surges of menstruating or pregnant women, for example, and those whose sexuality is anything other than heterosexual…

 

Absolutely – the boundaries of what is considered ‘sanity’ are shifting all the time. I really do believe that in a couple of hundred years – assuming any humans are still left by then – a lot of the beliefs and habits we hold to now will be seen as dangerously crazy. I don’t, of course, know which ones these will be. I have my hopes, but I don’t see history as  an inevitable march of “progress”, either technologically or culturally, so it may be that some very dark definitions of sanity/insanity will come to dominate. Hopefully we won’t go back to a time when women were locked up for being disobedient, but it could happen.

 

 

I suppose it all comes down to who has the cultural upper hand at the end of the day? Here in Ire, for example, a person is considered dangerous and ‘mad’ if they crave a cup of tea or a slice of cake!

 

Now, you see, I think anyone who doesn’t drink tea or like cake must be completely crazy.

 

Power is certainly a theme that you explore rigorously in the book isn’t it? – The power we may have over the people, animals and natural world around us, the power others may have over us and that which we have over ourselves, our actions and our perceptions…

 

Yes, it’s one of the major themes of the novel. It’s connected with the idea of disconnection and displacement – that the less integrated we are as beings with each other and the natural world, the more our relationships become aligned along power lines: power over, rather than power with. Katherine’s and Tristan’s relationship is really an example of mutual power in flux, rather than power over, on either side, although it may not look like that superficially. The dynamic between them is nothing like, for instance, Jane and Barnaby’s marriage, or the sibling relationship between Tristan’s father and his sister.

 

The power that women have over their own bodies is something that you explore in a number of ways through the different female characters in the story, is this something you feel strongly about?

 

I’m very passionate, actually, about the right of a woman to inhabit and control her own body. It is still a shocking truth of our society that women aren’t always accorded physical autonomy – look at the abortion debate, for example.

 

Looking at the #metoo phenomenon in your own dimension recently, it seems as though we are still very much in need of stories which explore this issue?

 

Very much so. We need, as a culture, to reclaim and then rewrite the ballad of the Elf Knight. I think we actually are trying to do something like that, in this historical moment, at least. I was delighted to read that in the latest production of Carmen, in Italy, Carmen shoots Don Jose, not the other way round – and there’s also that new prize for Crime Fiction that doesn’t focus on dead female bodies. There are other stories that can be told. When I started writing RH&BB, several of my early readers imagined Tristan was going to kill Katherine. Er, hardly! But that tells me how deeply embedded some of these unhealthy cultural assumptions about what love is, and what women can and should expect from men who love them, actually are. I was writing against those expectations then, and I will continue to write against them.

 

 

Such important subjects but oh my goodness! I do ramble on don’t I? I must apologise, the kettle has long been singing at us and I haven’t offered you a cup of tea! What is your poison, dear, and how do you take it?

 

Builders’, soya milk, no sugar. Thanks!

 

Here you are. Now then, moving away from The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones for a moment, what can you tell me about your own involvement in the world of faerie and the enigmatic character of Lord Crow?

 

That’s an interesting question. Of course, being bound by the laws of Faerie, I can’t tell you very much! But I suppose in one way Lord Crow is an idea; in another he’s a being-in-himself. I want to explore the possibility of writing from the point of view of the non-human, and he is my voice and my persona when I do that. I guess there are similarities here with the faerie co-walker, who is a figure I’ve come across occasionally in various modern “guide to faerie” books – though to be honest, I don’t tend to read those sorts of books. The older stories speak to me much more clearly – and also, there’s a tendancy in more modern writings to try to group faeries into species, or even races – which is a hangover from the Victorian obsession with scientific classification. The faeries I know – so to speak – would wet themselves at the thought that any human being should be able to classify them into any sorts of types – especially along such spurious lines as ‘light’ and ‘dark’. They would also probably explode at the notion that they should show any real interest in helping human beings. Faeries are wild. Humans, on the whole, are not. Faerie, as I understand it – in a modern sense, moving away from some of the ways it has been perceived historically as a concept, place, or whatever – has its essence in the flow of energy through complex systems – it can’t be fixed into any stable form. The best way I have found to get to know it is to get to know the natural world, and really fall in love with that – truly, madly, deeply, without reservation, fear, or any desire for power-over it.

I think Lord Crow is quite unlike me, personality wise, though other people disagree. He’s wilder, darker, cleverer, less forgiving, and much less patient. Given the current state of our relationship to the natural world, I don’t find this in any way surprising.

 

‘Re-wilding’ is an important concept that is, happily, growing in popularity as regards our physical relationship with the land isn’t it?

 

Yes; it’s a wonderful development, but it has a long way to go. I’m hoping that it represents the beginning of a tectonic shift in the terms of that relationship towards integration and respect and away from exploitation and power-over. It’s great that people here are slowly becoming accepting of the idea that we should live alongside beavers and – to an extent – wild boar, but I also want to see lynx in every suitable habitat across the UK, and I think some research should be done into reintroducing the wolf in Scotland, to balance the red deer population and give the Caledonian forest regrowth a fighting chance. (And besides: wolves! Wow!) Just as importantly, I want to see a new ‘wilding’ of cities. Bath, where I live, is an ideal habitat for peregrine falcons, because of the many urban pigeons. It’s also a breeding site for herring gulls, which are now in serious decline. People love the peregrines and loathe the gulls. I want to see the gulls welcomed alongside the more charismatic falcons. Urban foxes, too. For one thing, more foxes can mean fewer urban rats; and it’s not so hard for the city to provide fox and gull-proof bins. For another, there’s a moral case, I think, for opening up cities to creatures that can safely live alongside us.

Humans are a bloody invasive species. They need to learn to share.

That’s Lord Crow, now, interrupting. I knew once he heard the conversation he’d be unable to resist joining in with it.

And a very warm welcome to you Sir!

Space-invaders! Manspreaders!

All right, Crow.

 

Do you think that it also concerns our spiritual or psychological relationship with the land as well?

 

I don’t think one is achievable without the other. If we don’t change our overall attitude toward the land, then we will never effect meaningful changes in our behaviour. This whole “man must overcome nature” narrative has got to change.

 

Or it will be changed.

Is that a warning, Crow?

Just an observation.

 

 

Well thank you so much, both of you, for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Jack, it’s been wonderful to chat with you!

I know you are probably eager to be off and explore our wonderful Lancastrian Frost Fair that is just coming to an end at the moment but, before we start dishing up this wonderful-smelling soup, would you like to tell us about any of your current projects and where we can find more of your marvellous work?

 

I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment. I’m working on something with Lord Crow, of course, but obviously I can’t say too much about that, especially now he’s sitting in the kitchen with us. Faerie law. We’ll see what develops. I’ve also finished my second novel, which is currently looking for a publisher. I’m actually quite strongly drawn to the idea of putting it out via Unbound, as I like the idea of having full editorial control over my own work, and Unbound looks like exactly the sort of model I think both writers and readers want and need – grassroots, down to earth, writer and reader-centred publishing, which doesn’t have to pander to the rather limited tastes of the big London houses. But again, we’ll see what happens. Watch this space!

 

We certainly will! And I hope that you will come back and talk to us about your marvellous work again soon. Well now, I must say that soup really does smell delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start serving it up?

 

It’s been lovely to visit! Thank you for the conversation, tea and cake!

 

And thankyou to you all for joining us in the soup kitchen today! If you would like to read more of Jack’s wonderful works and keep up to date with his new releases, do visit his website and blog at: https://jackwolfauthor.wordpress.com/

 

 

 


Soup of the day: With Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators

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 Ive 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 Im always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friends, the paranormal investigators Sir John and Marie Jennings… Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitc… Sir John? Over here… Marie, my dear, are you sure he can see with those goggles on? Whatever are they for?

EctoscopicGlasses.jpg

Sir John: These are my ectoscopic goggles that allow me to see any spectral energy so as I look around the room…GOOD GOD WHAT IS THAT!

Marie: I think you are looking at the cat, mon cher…if you take the googles off…

Sir John: Ah yes, ahem, yes I’ve seen this before where feline energy can be mistaken for, er, ghostly energy. Perfectly normal.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear yes, I’m so sorry about the cats, they are after my illicit cream stores, you know. Well, why don’t you both have a seat here by the window. How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not delayed by any spectral presences en route?

Sir John: It was relatively uneventful. We made use of my brother Saul’s cabinet to travel here through time from 1901. He was, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a crank, believing in some pseudo scientific hogwash he called Quantum Physick. Most bizarre, with strange parallel worlds and waves behaving like particles. He built this device to travel to these parallel worlds, and it seems to work as it’s brought us here. Hopefully we can return, it’s the first time we’ve used it.

The only real trouble we had was when we were stuck in some hellish box, travelling in random directions with strange, dishevelled muttering creatures. What was that thing called Marie.

Marie: I think it was Southern Rail.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear me yes, I have heard your trains are as bad as our Skyway Rails, for future visits might I  recommend the number nine bus, some have found the driver both adventurous and persuadable if bribed with sufficient tiffin. Now then, I shall put the kettle on, have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

Marie: I brought a recipe that our maid Miss Henderson suggested for Courgette and Milk Soup. She said it is from the “Mysterious and Exotic East”.

Sir John: I think she means Walthamstow.

Mrs Baker: Oh!

Marie: Here is her note…

Mrs Baker: Thankyou my dear, let me see now, she writes… “Dear Mrs Baker, please find below my recipe for Corset and Milk Soup. Take a pound of corsets…”  CORSETS?!

Sir John: we think she means courgettes

Mrs Baker: Oh! I see!…...and cook in a bit of water until soft but not too long or the taste will cook out. Mix them up – I use a device Sir John has made for me called a Vegetofruit Blending Device. It’s quite quick and only moderately dangerous. Put aside and then heat a tablespoon of butter and when that’s melted take off the heat and add tablespoon of flour. When that is like a paste, add half a pint of milk and stir until it thickens a little. Then add the corsets and some ground Kew men…

 

Marie: “cumin”

Mrs Baker: Oh yes of course!  …and season with salt and pepper. Finally serve in bowls with some Sumac powder sprinkled on top. The soup is mild in flavour and the dark purple colour of the Sumac is a lovely complement to the pale green of the corsets.”

Sir John: Funnily enough she got the name for Sumac powder right. It’s a fascinating spice, rumoured to give anyone that prepares it correctly a five octave singing voice. I’m not sure that’s true but our previous maid, Mrs Flitwick, did once mistake it for cocoa and she made a very high pitched noise.

 

Mrs Baker: Well it certainly sounds delicious, I wouldn’t worry about the Sumac, the orphans are quite hardy round here you know. So, I will just pop the cauldron onto the fire, there. Now while that is simmering away why don’t you tell us all a little more about the work you do, paranormal investigation sounds most fascinating!

Sir John: Well it all started in Paris, where we met. I was working away at various theories of how to detect paranormal activity. Marie was my willing companion, assisting where she could. Eventually we married and moved to London and set ourselves up as Paranormal Investigators. It was a little easier as my French isn’t terribly good and I was concerned it may be difficult to communicate with francophone fiends.

Mrs Baker: What a wonderful story, I do like a good romantic tale! And I have heard that you employ some very specialist inventions to help with this work, have you brought some along to show the orphans?

Sir John: This is my Thanatograph. It’s allows us to hear the spectral voices of any phantasm. It’s quite subtle, if there are any such entities present we may hear a faint human-like voice when the machine starts. Now I’ve set it up, let’s all be very quiet and see what happens.

Thanatograph.jpg

 

Mrs Baker: Is it supposed to do that?

Sir John: Actually no. It’s quite unusual for it to fly around the room like that.

Mrs Baker: Oh, silly me! I’m afraid we are directly above the underground library and so our resident ghost, Perilous Wight, may be setting it off?

Sir John: Ah I see! Let me see if I can catch it. Oooof!

Marie: Mon cher, are you alright!

Sir John: Yes I think so. I don’t chew much on that side of my face anyway. Let me put it away before it causes any real damage.

Mrs Baker: I’m so sorry about that, I hope it will be alright. Well, these machines are all very technical and exciting,  but Marie, my dear, (and while Sir John is occupied putting that device away)  I cannot help but sense something of the mystical about your aura, I have a feeling that perhaps you do not need such devices to see these ghostly goings on?

Marie: Well, why I sometimes ‘ave some, shall we say, intuition into what may be going on… I’m not sure what you mean or where you have ‘eard this…

Mrs Baker: Oh my dear, I’m so sorry, I did not mean to alarm you or to be rude! Magic is forbidden in this dimension of course, but there are those of us who still practise it in secret where we can and I cannot help but sense that you have, shall we say, the ‘gift of intuition’ when it comes to the paranormal?

Marie: Ah, I see. Well, yes, it is true that I can sometimes offer … more help than is obvious. I like to keep that to myself. Oh look, Sir John is back.

Mrs Baker: Oh marvellous, and that is the kettle singing, can I offer you both some tea? How do you like it?

Sir John: Plenty of milk, three sugars, not too strong.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear, I’m afraid that is almost the last of the sugar, I shall have to visit the smugglers again.

Marie: Black, please. No sugar.

Mrs Baker: There you are. Now I know you have had many adventures but would you like to tell the orphans a little about your most recent or exciting one?

Sir John: Yes we have recently been relating our vacation in Sunnyport in our journal. It started out as a holiday and quickly became a terrifying nightmare. And that was before anything supernatural happened.

Mrs Baker: It all sounds so very exciting! And I hear that Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette have compiled some of your adventures into a book?

Sir John: Yes, indeed. It’s a collection of our first four investigations: a haunting, a strange case of a mesmerised young heiress, a fiendish killer in London, and a theft of some magical artefacts. It’s called, rather appropriately Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Casebook One. It’s apparently available in South America?

Marie: Amazon, mon cher.

Sir John: Ah, yes.

casebook one cover copy medium

 

Mrs Baker: Splendid! And where else can we read about your adventures?

Sir John: Well our journal regularly publishes details of our adventures and other interesting tidbits. Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are kind enough to update it twice weekly. They are also on, is it Twitbook, Marie?

Marie: That’s Twitter and Facebook.

https://thebenthictimes.com

https://www.facebook.com/thebenthictimes

https://twitter.com/thebenthictimes

 

Mrs Baker: Splendid! And will there be more books in the future?

Sir John: Yes indeed, Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are, I believe, chronicling our recent trip to Paris in a book they are calling The Paris Awakening. You may have read about the aftermath of that trip in the papers. It made the front page.

Marie: I don’t think Mrs Baker gets Le Monde here, and not from 1900, especially.

Mrs Baker: No indeed, the year here is 1840… and besides which, the only paper I get the is Tiffindependent…

Sir John: Well I believe it was in The Times as well…page 27. Underneath an advert for a mechanical carpet cleaner.

Mrs Baker Well perhaps I can use my soup-scrying techniques to locate a copy. Ah but that soup certainly smells the ticket doesn’t it? Thank you so much for coming to help out in the kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you but now those little urchins must be ravenous so shall we start dishing it up?

Sir John: Yes, let’s! Thank you so much for having us to visit. I’m terribly sorry about the scorch marks from the Cryptozoetropometer. I can pay to have that cleaned.

Cryptozoetropometer.jpg

 

Marie: Yes thank you Mrs Baker, it’s been nice to meet a fellow…cook.

Mrs Baker: Indeed! Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup of the day: With Alexander James Adams

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since those dreadful land pirates , 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! 

 

Now I am extremely honoured this morning because Faerie Tale Minstrel, Alexander James Adams has very kindly agreed to help me dish up some soup for our poor unfortunate orphans here in Lancaster. Good morning Alexander! Can I take your hat and coat? This is supposed to be spring but nobody has told the weatherman as usual!

 

AJA

Oh, and who is this you have brought with you?

While not always visible except to such discerning folk as yourself, my Lady, my feline familiar Bartholomew Dragon Master is always with me since he became a ruler of the Sun.  When he ascended from this realm in 2015 during Samhain, he made it known to me to have his name inscribed on my neck where he liked to rest his paw when sleeping and the ink used was to be infused with his ashes so now he is a part of me and I of him.

 

Oh what a touching tale! Well you are both most welcome. Have a seat here by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and here of course is a saucer of cream for Bartholomew. Now do tell me, how was your journey here from your own dimension?

Wonderous and unthreatened.  That is not always the case when traveling, but you gave very safe directions so I was able to avoid the Unseelie Court and Their kind. They like to invite me to Their parties, but I try to have other things to do so as not to be tempted so often to do mischief with Them.

Oh dear me yes, there are many who delight in leading the unwary traveller astray! But of course you must be quite used to time and space travel by now; from Victorian, Medieval and Renaissance times on earth to the realms of Fairyland, your music speaks of a most exciting and adventurous life! Are there still more stories to tell?

Yes. I have been to many magical places, not the least of which was the Land of Fae Itself where I was abducted to by the Fae at the time of my birth. A changling took my place bearing the name of Heather Alexander and she dwelt among the Mortals for forty years or so enchanting folk with her magical music.  Then she got bored and returned home, where upon I saw my chance, challenged the Queen of Faeries in a dual of fiddles, won my freedom and came here to the realm of Man. I plan on traveling to more and more magical realms to collect new songs and stories.  The lands of Steampunk,  furry talking animals who walk upright like humans, and even the Realm of Aegis, a new world of high adventure and canticles where I bear the name of Everon the XIII, a false immortal bard who battles for the Light of the World:

Canticles Productions – www.matthewmorrese.com

Goodness it all sounds so exciting! And certainly puts my own meagre adventures to shame! But it is so kind of you to brave the trip to our blighted Isle Of Ire to come and help me out this morning in my humble little kitchen , tell me have you brought some soup along to share with the orphans?

 

I brought my favourite! As a musician and sometimes empty pocketed, I have learned to make the most of what I have and can save for a hard time ahead. I call it Boiled Bone Soup.  I use the frozen bones from various dinners previous, reboil them til I can strip every little bit of meat from them, toss out the bones, add rice, cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg to taste, plus any vegetables I have around.  If I’m really lucky, I‘ll have a little port or red wine to add. Stir and cook until it’s all soft and warm and serve with fresh homemade bread. The next day, it will be almost solid and becomes a casserole until it’s all gone, but it’s so good, that doesn’t take too long at all.

Oh how delicious! Let us take out my largest cauldron then and make a double batch so we have plenty for tomorrow as well. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us about your exciting new Steampunk project?

It will be a huge event.  A kind of Cirque du Soleil presentation with musicians, elaborate settings and four to five “Mechanical Technicians” to run “Hypnotica’s Magical Mind Machine”.  It is a form of stage hypnotism themed in a setting of Steampunk and done by music and singing rather spoken suggestions.  It won’t be just simple entertaining parlour tricks and making folk do silly things either. Everywhere they “travel” in the machine will give them an experience that will give them a sense of accomplishment and fun.  I want to make sure that everyone who comes, whether they volunteer for hypnosis or not, are transformed and empowered by the show.  Hypnotism does work much like real magic.  It is a way of allowing your brain to accept a specific suggestion and then believing it to be real.  If done with proper intent and respect, it can change the way a person thinks and behaves for the rest of their life. When folk see the Magical Mind Machine, they will learn that with the power of their own minds, they can change life for the better.  That’s good magic, right there.

That certainly sounds like a marvellous thing to look forward to! When do you hope it will be released?

The musical album should be out by the end of summer this year.  The show itself will take a little more time, but we hope to see a version of it come out next year. The producer himself, Mark Maverick, is a Manchester man, so we hope to have the show in London in the first year, if possible.

Oh how exciting! Now I know you’re rather a legend in the folk / filk arena but this new project isn’t your first Steampunk album is it?

Not entirely. I released a faerietale/steampunk combination album in 2014 called Summer Steam.  It combines the 5 songs of Summer Releases from that year and 4 songs called Clockwork Collection all bundled to make a 9 song album.

I have heard it playing on Max and Collin’s spirit radio, it really is marvellous! But tell me my dear, what first sparked your interest in Steampunk in particular? Was it the tea?

Indeed, the tea is exceptional, but I really love the old ways of air travel like with dirigibles and hot air balloons.  They seem so much more connected to the air and the magic of flight. Also, it is a genre where the gentlemen can have as much fun with clothing as the ladies and I’ve always enjoyed accessorizing!

Oh indeed! You know I think you would get on very well with our dear Captain of The Chronic Agronauts, he shares both those views entirely! But, I do find it very curious that so many people who have their roots in folk eventually find themselves drawn towards Steampunk, do you think there may be some intrinsic link between the two?

Perhaps.  While Steampunk does involve the machinery and innovations of Man, it works so much more intimately with Nature and the land, leaving a much lighter footprint, so to speak, which the Folk culture tends to favour.  If we had been smarter and more respectful of our world when we first started inventing, perhaps we would have become more like the world Steampunk represents.

Now there’s an interesting thought indeed… Ah, now the kettle is boiled, what is your hot beverage of choice, my dear, and how do you take it?

Hmm…I think some hot chocolate with a twist of brandy would be good, if you please.

Splendid, there you are. I’m afraid I cannot indulge in the brandy myself though, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now while we are waiting for your new release, where can we see you performing this year?

I will be traveling to the Renaissance period for the month of May performing for the Queen in Castleton, Muskogee, Oklahoma and then just popping in and out of many realms and times as I am invited to do for the rest of the year.

www.okcastle.com

Most of the friends that gather here can actually see me bi-monthly if they wish through the magic of a service called Concert Window.

https://www.concertwindow.com/alexanderjamesadams

I try to perform an online concert  from my home every other month and I ask my friends via the Book of Faces for their favourite dates and times during a given weekend.  If those gathered here contact me through the Book of Faces under my full name of Alexander James Adams, I will be happy to arrange a time where this side of the pond will be more awake to attend.

Oh that is splendid news indeed! I know many of us here were thrilled to see you perform a few years ago when you visited the UK as part of Tricky Pixie, do you have any future plans to pay the UK another visit?

If I get an invitation and some help with the travel, I would jump at a chance.  The Steampunk CD will bring me to Scotland to mix and master it with my good friend Fox Amoore so perchance this summer I will schedule a gig there and possibly elsewhere if I get information and the schedule to make it happen. If any one of your friends can help, please contact me at ryuuaja@aol.com and let’s talk!

That sounds promising indeed! And for those of us who are trapped in another dimension entirely and cannot make it out to your live performances, where can we purchase recordings of your marvellous music?

Through my web page:

www.faerietaleminstrel.com

or direct download through Bandcamp:

https://alexanderjamesadams1.bandcamp.com

They can also get access to music, videos and art that no one else can if they wish to join my Patreon subscription:

https://www.patreon.com/AlexanderJamesAdams

It starts at 1 dollar US currency per month but it will be helping to pay the monthly fee on my live-in Pro Tools Studio which I hope to have built by the end of this summer so I can make even more music and magic than before.

Splendid! Now I know that the little street urchins were hoping you might play a song for them before we eat?

This being May and still a little chilly, I recommend a “Good Beltaine Fire”!

https://alexanderjamesadams1.bandcamp.com/track/good-beltaine-fire

Oh marvellous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Alexander, it’s been delightful chatting with you and I hope you will come back and see us again sometime. Now I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

Please, and thank you so much for inviting me today! May your soups always be fulfilling to the soul!

Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

Oh and before I go I must take a moment to apologise for the absence of Max and Collin this week, apparently their participation in the de-flowering festival has resulted in their home-made-steam-powered-wagonette crashing into a farmer’s barn and setting the whole thing on fire. They are now walking home, keeping to the woods and ditches to avoid said irate farmer, and should hopefully be back in the parlour next week – in my opinion it serves them right for fraternising with wayward cultists but, you know how it is, boys will be boys…

 


Soup of the day: With Elen Sentier

 

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

Helping me this morning is author and Awenydd (or Spirit-Keeper) Elen Sentier. Good morning Elen, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I offer you a cup of tea?

Lapsang Souchong, please, straight, no milk. Unless you happen to have Bruichladdich single malt ???

I’m afraid I don’t touch alcohol Elen, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now here is your tea  my dear…

Thankyou Mrs Baker, I wonder if we’re related? My aunt was Ida Baker who kept the sacred well in the village on the edge of Exmoor where I grew up; it was in the wall between her garden and ours, still there and still revered. She was a darling, and so was her magical gardener-husband, Uncle Perce, she gave me seedy cake and strawberries when I got in trouble at home when I was a wee kiddie J, and Uncle Perce taught me about talking with plants and bees.

They both sound marvellous Elen, you know I do think it’s possible we could be connected in some way, although I have never been to Exmore I’m afraid, it was my Mother’s job to guard Pendle before me, and I had never set foot outside it until the pirates came and kidnapped me…

BTW, I’m really sorry to hear about the treacle (and the sprats!). Just down the road from me is, I think, the only pub in the country called The Treacle Mine. Wish they could have done that with you, a much better idea z|a.

Oh we do have treacle mines at Sabden and Chobham, but you’re right it was a dreadful waste of confectionary, I do wish they had used some of the dreadful ‘standard issue tinned soup’ the government forces upon us all instead…

Oh yes, the soup for the orphans! … well, goodness me, there’s so many. When it’s the season, I just love tomato soup and it’s so simple to do. You need a good wallop of ripe tomatoes, the ones with that fabulous smell, a big bunch of fresh basil, and you can either use olive oil or good butter, butter gives it an extra sweetness. You need a good, heavy-bottomed pot to make it in.

Chop the basil really fine so all its scented oils are released. Chop the tomatoes small, and heat up the oil or butter, not boiling but good and hot. Take the pot off the heat, put half the chopped basil into it and swish it about to scent up the oil/butter, then add all the tomatoes and put back on the heat. Don’t have the heat up high or you’ll burn rather than cook. Keep stirring the mix as this helps the flavours to seep through. When the tomatoes look/taste/feel ready take the pot off the heat and allow it to sit for at at least an hour to steep further. 

When you want to eat, heat up the pot again but don’t boil, keep stirring and watching, as soon as it’s ready pour it into heated bowls and Bob’s your uncle J. I like to eat it with some fresh sourdough bread and good unsalted butter, and maybe a bit of grated cheese … Yummmm !

Oh how delicious, there is nothing better than good homemade tomato soup (it knocks the socks of the tinned variety every time!) Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire. I hope your journey to our dimension was a good one?

Not too bad at all, got a bit bumpy flying over the M6, the turbulence there can be frightful, damned near fell off me broom and the cat got sick! But we’re all fine now, that cuppa you gave me sorted things.

Oh dear, the poor cat, I’m glad he is feeling better now though. Elen it is so lovely to meet another woman who deals in spiritual matters, here in Ire it is absolutely forbidden and I have to do all my work in secret which is a dreadful strain. Now why don’t I put the kettle on and you can tell me a little more about the work that you do ?

Another cuppa would go down grand, and the cat would love a saucer of milk now, says his stomach can handle it. We, he and me, don’t have quite the same problems you seem to have up here, not down in the Welsh Marches. It’s a lovely twilight land, between two countries and between two worlds, where the Faer folk are very happy to come and play with me and the students. I always have some students to pass on the work to, the old ways, and it’s such a lovely spot for writing too.

It sounds wonderful. I have had the very great pleasure of reading some of your books, including your newest release;  Merlin – past and future Wizard, oh is that a copy you have with you there?

Yes, indeed, would you like it? I thought you might so I brought one along. Hmm … Merlin … well he and I’ve been friends all my life. Dad it was who introduced us, Dad’d known him too, when I was nought but a baby, and I began to find out about him through the stories. Where I live now is one of the places he was born and lived, we have our own Merlin-story but here we call him Dyfrig (you say it Duvrigg) which means water-baby because of how he got born.

 

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I had heard a little about this Merlin figure from your world and thought him to be a fascinating mythical character but your book goes beyond these myths to show us a Merlin who we can engage with within the context of our daily lives doesn’t it?

Well yes, he’s not an academic construct and certainly doesn’t fit into those boxes. He really does want to get known again, to make friends with as many people as want to know him because he really can, and will, help us through this enormous crisis the Earth is going through.

He wants to know people – when they want to know him. He comes as a friend, an older and more experienced friend who has walked the path far longer than any of us humans. But he comes as a guide not someone who expects either worship or rule-book following. He works with each of us in ways we can do best. All we need to do is ask him. I say “all” but I do know how hard that can be, because we’re no longer encouraged to believe and work with our intuition, nor are we taught how to know it from our personal wants and desires. That’s part of what we learn with Merlin.

 It seems that Merlin is a figure who can guide and influence us no matter what age we are living in but are the old stories as important as the new?

Yes, indeed. Merlin is just what the book-title says – the once and future wizard. He has been with us here on Earth since time out of mind, and he will be as long as the Earth still orbits the Sun. And, it seems to me from my lifelong experience with him, that he was around in the universe long before the Earth was formed and will be still after she’s gone. That makes him always here, always available to help … whenever we ask. And the old stories are still as important as the new. Our old ways are what I call “and/and” rather than “either/or”, they’re inclusive not exclusive. We are our personal selves and, at the same time, we are our spirit selves, the two are not exclusive, they happen at the same time – we call it walking between worlds.

Everyone’s spirit-life is always evolving. Nothing is ever set in tablets of stone, it’s always growing and adapting to where and when we are at this instant, so new stories are needed to fit with who we are now. But the old stories still fit too – if you read them properly and don’t try to dumb them down into whatever your “normal-box” is. Stories are one of the very basic ways humans learn and pass on wisdom to each other, and always have. Recent research has shown that our stories – the ones they’ve worked with – go back at least to the Bronze Age, that’s maybe 5,000 years ago! The old stories show us how to be, how to behave, how things really are, and how to relate with otherworld, as well as how to travel there. But we, and our stories, are as riddling and contrary as Zen, if not more so. To get the point, understand them, you need to spend time with the stories learning how to feel into them rather than trying to translate them into what you already know. After all, what’s the point of doing that? !!!

Throughout the book this dynamic, engaging (at times quite seductive) spirit of Merlin urges us to take up that liminal space between past and present and truly live ‘in the moment’… that is a very big challenge isn’t it, especially with all the pressures and insecurities of modern life?

Chuckle! Yes, he can be very seductive! That way of living, engaging all the time with the liminal, is very challenging for many modern folk. We’re so heavily caught up in the shibboleths of how we should be, according to the adverts on TV, politics, political correctness and all that crap! And it’s so scary for most people to dare to break out. This is the first hurdle my students have to get themselves over, and they do it too but it can be like ripping your skin off, like a snake shedding its skin. And getting used to the fact (yes, fact!) that otherworld completely permeates your everyday world is a huge step, but it does, and the students discover this for themselves with my help. That’s really important too, I do Merlin’s job in little, at my own small level, because I’ve walked the path a bit longer than my students. You always need that, someone you can really get on with who’s been doing it longer than you. That’s what being apprentice is about.

 

The Merlin I felt as I read your book, Elen, seemed to be firmly planted in the modern man-made world, but at the same time you show us his continuing rootedness in nature and the history of the land, do you think it is important that Merlin is able to straddle these, sometimes so opposing, spaces?

Oh yes, he’s the threshold, the doorway, the place between that connects us across the worlds. And he’s in the here-n-now with us just as much as in the “past”. An example – he called one of my students on her mobile phone last autumn on the workshop! LOL, it was hairy for her but she got it, worked with it and grew herself enormously as a result. And it made me smile. We too often want to get into the cutesy fantasy-stuff rather than reality, and Merlin’s all about reality. He’s in every particle of our Earth’s body as well as being with us in our everyday modern world – and/and again. Try this ancient picture of the goddess/god, it’s on a gold brooch from the La Teine culture …

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Do you get it? The one head is the other but turned upside-down! And/and yet again J. One interpretation of this is Vivien and Merlin as lady and lord, the pairs of opposites which make the whole. We’ve forgotten that. We’re taught to think that things are “opposing” when in reality they’re two sides of one coin. We need to change this attitude and Merlin will help us with that. Being a threshold is how he does it. Come to me he says, step through me, now look back and I’m still here but different, the same but different. It’s a bit like light which is both particles and waves at the same time!

Your book was such an enlightening read, Elen, and I really feel I could pick your brains all day about this subject but I know you must be off soon, you have a talk to prepare for in London is that correct?

I do indeed. I’m doing an illustrated talk for Earthstars Sacred Space, at Steiner House in London on 24th Feb, and need to get on it J. It’s about Merlin and his relevance for us today too. If you want to come here’s the link https://www.facebook.com/events/1839244072988715/

 

Oh marvellous, I shall certainly try to come along, even if I cannot do the dimension hop in person I will try to tune in with Max and Collin’s Spirit Radio, it picks up most things from your world. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Elen, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Yummm! Let me give you a hand …

Wonderful, thankyou. I hope you will all join me in the kitchen next week when Steampunk author Liz Hennessy will be dropping in to give me a hand and talk about her book Grogory’s Gadget. Until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup Of The Day: With Nimue and Tom Brown

 

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!

My guests this morning are our good friends Nimue and Tom Brown who have sailed in on a strange tide from their mysterious gothic island of Hopeless, Maine . Welcome to Lancaster Nimue and Tom, 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?

We have brought some soup, but it’s probably awful. It’s the traditional Hopeless Maine dish – Bottom of the Garden Stew, which involves whatever you think might be edible, cut up really small so as not to be too alarming, and cooked for a long, long time. So it’s more for demonstration purposes than actual eating. Although it is mostly what urchins on Hopeless subsist on.

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Oh my goodness! That is… quite eye watering… indeed…um, let us just set it over there for a moment, perhaps near the window? Or is it likely to try to run away? There. Now then, why don’t you have a seat over here by the fire, how was your journey?

Aside from the anxieties caused by hefting a large jar of ominous gloop without breaking it, and thus releasing the contents, the journey was quiet. Nothing tried to eat us, and there was absolutely no unspeakable dread, which is pretty good for a train journey I tend to think.

Oh marvellous, travelling in the morning through Ire is always more advisable than travelling at night. That is a different story altogether! Now, while the kettle is boiling, why don’t you tell us a little more about the island of Hopeless?

Hopeless is an island off the coast of Maine – cut off from the coast of Maine, to be more precise. It is a place of strange magic, uncanny creatures, unwholesome sea airs and troubling miasmas.

And is it true that the pair of you are documenting its strange history through a series of graphic novels?

We have been doing this for some years now, first as a webcomic, and now in book form (thank you Sloth Comics).

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We have to channel the voices of the islanders – we don’t dare actually visit because while getting in is easy (insofar as being shipwrecked is easy) getting out is notoriously difficult. Fortunately, Salamandra is quite good at doing things through the ether, and my scrying skills aren’t too shabby either.

Oh I see! Now when I last saw Collin he was nursing a severed tentacle and this was apparently the result of an unprovoked attack by one of your Hopeless Mermaids? Goodness, are there any other strange or vicious creatures inhabiting the island?

Harsh landscapes tend to produce determined survivors with sharp teeth, I’m afraid. I’m not sure anything or anyone on the island would fail to fall into either the strange or the vicious category, human populous most certainly included! It does tend to drive people (and others) a bit mad after a while.

Goodness me it sounds like a very dangerous place to be living! Perhaps that is why, like us, you have a bit of an orphan problem? Does anyone do anything to try and help?

‘Help’ is such an interesting word, isn’t it? There’s lots of help. Doc Willoughby likes to help people who are ill. He helps them very diligently right up until they become dead. Reverend Davies likes to help people spiritually, and he’ll do that right up until they go entirely mad. Frampton Jones helps people stay informed of what’s going on, although there are some who feel that ignorance might be better. Annamarie is very good at helping people recover from the kinds of problems that seem to have been caused by witchcraft in the first place… And then there’s Owen, who really is quite a nice lad and really does mean well, but hasn’t the faintest idea what he’s doing.

Hm, you know I WAS thinking of visiting Hopeless for my holidays next year (Next time they decide spring Wizmas on us and things round here become a bit hot) but now I’m not so sure… if I were to go, what vital things would you advise me to take?

Well on the plus side, it is a fairly witch-friendly space, the witch-burning to witch-ratio is better than average at any rate. Take sugar, spices, anything that keeps well and does not mostly taste like mud or seaweed and you will make a lot of friends, which is often key to survival.

And would they welcome a witch do you think? Magic isn’t forbidden is it, as it is here?

There are always a few people who want to ban magic – or at least, magic that works in a different way to their own. The occultists and the cultists don’t get on so well with each other or the Reverend, or the witches, opinions remain divided as to whether the island’s inventors were really sorcerers, the magic in the underground community is not looked upon favourably by those who are less dead, and going into the graveyard at night is really taking your afterlife into your own hands… But other than that, it’s all fine and friendly on the magic front.

Hopeless does sound rather cut off from the rest of the universe, is there a newspaper or radio broadcast, anything where concerned citizens can keep up to date with what is happening on the island?

There have always been a few islanders with the means to get information about the world – demons have been used for this, along with other equally unreliable occult means. Most news come from those who survive the shipwrecks – usually a few each year. On the island, the only sources of news are The Hopeless vendetta – a very small newspaper run on recycled paper by the ingenious and slightly deranged Frampton Jones. He also has a big notice-board where people leave each other messages. Some evidence of this can be found at http://www.hopelessmaine.com

Oh Splendid. Now that kettle is singing away merrily, can I offer you both a hot beverage? Which would you prefer and how do you take it?

We’re both seething coffee addicts so ‘in a cup’ and strong enough to do your central nervous system an injury, for preference!

Coffee? Hm, let me see, I do have a little of that strange dark powder somewhere in a jar…yes, here it is! I hope you have had time to visit our little Frost Fair while you are here, does Hopeless have any regular celebrations or festivals? It sounds like the island folk could do with a little spirit-raising now and then!

The biggest annual event on Hopeless is Founders Day, when islanders gather together the things the founders found when they landed, and look at them mournfully – a feast of the inedible.  The annual church picnic is not terribly well attended, the hiring fair at the orphanage tends to be a lively affair though. The people of Hopeless love rituals and traditions, and tend to keep making up new ones, it’s the only way to keep themselves amused, and everyone likes an excuse to wear an outlandish hat.

Oh yes indeed! Hats are marvellous aren’t they? Much better than toupees at any rate. Well it has been so good to see you both today Nimue and Tom, thankyou so much for helping in my soup kitchen today, and for bringing your…er…bottom of the garden stew to share with the orphans….

I feel slightly troubled that we’re feeding this to them, their bellies being largely innocent of the kinds of things that go into Bottom of the Garden Stew. Are you going to be terribly upset if any of them are changed as a consequence… ?

Sadly, my dear, the only other food available to the poor street folk of Lancaster is a slightly toxic purple seaweed  – you may have noticed the extraordinary tint of the children’s’ hair? – but perhaps you are right… I know, I think I have some potatoes and onion hidden away somewhere that are not too bad, and I will save this …delightful brew…for Montmorency next time he calls, hopefully that will stop him calling quite so often, he is disturbingly persistent. Well now here are your hats and coats it was so lovely to see you!

Thank you for having us. Did you want us to take the mermaid away now? We brought a pole and the extra thick gloves just in case…

Oh yes I think Max and Collin would appreciate that very much indeed!  I think you will find them down by the river, or rather in it, clinging to a printing press and being pelted with oatcakes.

Now then, I hope you will all join me next week when Steampunk Author Kara Jorgensen will be dropping in to give me a hand,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Pipe and slippers: The gospel of Agnes Day

Good evening my dears and welcome to Perilous Wight’s Lovely Library (which we are keeping safe for him until he returns from his ‘business trip.’) I am Mrs Baker (otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle) and Peril has kindly allowed me and my little street urchins to shelter down here from the flesh eating Liver Birds until he returns.

Tonight I will be reading to the orphans, once again, from The Child Gospels, (this time from the gospel of Agnes Day) which we discovered on our expedition to Siberia. The chronicles were chiselled onto ice tablets and had been preserved inside a lead lined soupophagus for centuries before we smashed it apart and salvaged them for all humanity to enjoy.

Sadly, our return journey took us through the heat of the Jentacular Jungle and so, as the ice tablets began to melt (and even though it was three o’ clock in the morning and nobody had any tea)  our quick thinking octopus, Collin, speedily copied their contents down onto banana leaves with his own ink, using only his tentacles for a pen.

This desperate act of heroism, he claims, should excuse the rampant spelling mistakes, technical inaccuracies and absence of all  artistic merit which glare out from the manuscript like the foul raisins  in that cookie you thought was chocolate chip.

Peril has of course preserved the banana leaves as only a pedantic book-fetishy ghost can, but Collin asks  that we all bear in mind the manner of their construction and the great suffering he endured and risks to his life and mental well being and so forth and send him extra packs of medicinal biscuits whenever he indulges in…I mean suffers from, a bout of psd over the whole affair. Poor Collin…

So, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I shall begin…

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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

 


Elevenses: Fairly Fragile

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 cloak, hang up your fangs and make yourselves at home  in  Max and Collin’s veritably verve and queasily quixotic  parlour, located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some people have called it a mere figment of some lunatic tea-addict’s over-active imagination, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

Today you find us trembling in our boots after a night full of dreadful disturbances and utterly appalling apparitions, which we are certain has nohing to do with our over indulgence in fairies yesterday morning. Still we will be glad when this season of ghoulish ghostiness is at an end and we can settle back into the company of more everyday monsters such as psychotic scarecrow landlords and hybrid vampire squid.

Now then, we are both feeling a little delicate and thankfully our lovely werewolf butler has nosed out some dainty and delicate delightfulness to ease us into the afternoon, Betty Crocker Style…

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Ah, witches, maybe they aren’t so bad after all? They’re broomsticks are certainly tasty and they seem to make good soup… which reminds me that Bellabeth will be joining our own Kitchen Witch for Soup Of The Day tomorrow, so don’t miss out on that will you? And we will be back in the parlour on Thursday with some tremendous Tea @ Three but for now let us tune in to something soul stirring while we nibble on these tasty treats,

 

Splendid! We wish you a most enchanting afternoon and until we see you again please,

be always, Utterly Yourself