Control

Leonora took a dainty revolver from her reticule and shot the Reverend Gilead between the eyes.

Taken aback, the Reverend died instantly.

Leonora summoned Quain to tidy up, and to serve tea and simnel cake in the Blue Room.


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To all in tents and porpoises

The Met Office has issued the following severe weather warning:

Strong gales overland and high tides at sea are expected in the next twenty-four hours.

If you live in a tent, you need to re-evaluate your lifestyle choices immediately.

If you are a porpoise, you need to dive deep, and let the wine-dark sea enclose you in her  loving arms, at least until 08:00 hours on Tuesday.


 

Taproom memory

Miss Leonora and the Reverend Gilead took tea and simnel cake in an inglenook, discreetly, while Quain tended the horses.

It was only when Miss Leonora shrieked that others in the taproom knew of their presence.

— Vile brute! Oh!

— But my dear, it’s a sovereign balm!

To this day, drinkers at the Frog & Hacksaw talk of the balm of Gilead, and laugh till their sides ache.


 

Ignis fatuus

A hooded friar moves towards me in a stone-cold cloister,
silent as the grave, and slow as breathing.
It is dusk and he holds a lantern, throwing crazy shadows
on walls, on rafters, and on effigies of long-dead saints.

I cannot see his face — he may have none.
He may be an effigy too, quickened from his tomb
by flickering light, by baleful night.
He is silent, faceless, timeless.

Now he stands before me, the lantern stills,
and its grey light shadows me like stone.
He looks at me, and clasps
my dismal soul in a deathly stare:

‘Bloody cold in here! You’re the new guy, aren’t you?’


Lemon fool

I saw at a Villa not far off, a grave mighty bearded Fool, drinking Lemonado with his Mistris. (Shadwell, The Libertine, 1676)

— You’re dribbling lemonado on your beard, my handsome fool. Here, let me wipe it off for you.

— You’re so good to me, my ardent capsicum! Slurp!

— There, my indolent quaffer. So grave! So mighty!

— Oh, my prattling little duck-egg…. Look! There! It’s Shadwell again! Spying on us from the pomelo grove!  Same as yesterday!

— What could he want, my Master of the Villa?

— He’s a libertine, my poppet. Licentious ravisher! Quick, don’t let him see you!

— Not me, surely! It’s the lemonado. Perhaps he’s just sharp set.

— Ah, my innocent lambkin! You don’t understand the world, but I know his type. Fetch my harquebus! I’ll fairly comb his hair!

Blllaaassstt!!! …….. Aaaarrrgh!

— Got him! Slurp!

— Oh, to hurl a grenado at that wicked renegado — such bravado! — and all for me! (Swoon)

Slurp!


 

Riding high

Milly the goalkeeper’s daughter was literally spun off her seat.

Like most 7-year-old girls, Milly adored her dad, who was her Taylor Swift and Prince Charming all in one. She had no interest at all in football, and couldn’t even name the teams that were playing — Wallingford Town, her dad’s team, and Barset Rovers, in the Sunday League. She just liked to sit beside the goalpost on a plastic chair and chat to her dad when he wasn’t too busy diving around in the mud. All the Wallingford players knew Milly as ‘Miss Chatterbox’, and looked on her as their lucky mascot. If she missed a game, they were sure to lose. Which they mostly did.

Dressed in a bright yellow raincoat and blue wellies, Milly sat with a carton of juice in one hand and her ragdoll Izzie in the other. Izzie was nearly as old as Milly, but not so well kept. In fact, she was filthy, but the idea of putting her in the washing machine (Noooooo!!!!) had been abandoned long ago.

At half-time, Wallingford were 1-0 up, and with only ten minutes to go, they put another goal past the dozy Barset defence. So Milly’s dad had very little to do during most of the game, and leaned on his goalpost, nattering with Chatterbox:

— Does Izzie want a drink?

— No. She had some of mine.

— Is she cold?

— Dad, what would happen if you

High-speed leather football, child’s porcelain skull.

Billy (‘Steamroller’) Burke sent a cannonball shot that hit Milly ssshhhtttooommmppphhh! in the face and sent her rocketing into the concrete fence behind the goal.  Many people remarked how Milly was still clutching Izzie to the end.

Grief swept over Wallingford like nightfall. Milly’s teacher said she was a ‘fun-loving’ girl with ‘a heart of gold’, and the school principal said ‘our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this tragic time’.

At the school gates, an altar of flowers and toys grew larger by the minute. Biroed or crayoned messages were tied to the railings: ‘Sleep well, little angel’, ‘Goodbye Milly, from all the staff at Topnotch Fashions’, ‘WHY?’

Recriminations, too:

— ‘He should never have let her sit so close to the goal.’

— ‘No no, it could have happened anywhere, a stray ball like that.‘

The town comedian said that since Barset hadn’t scored a goal in their last four  games, Milly would have been safer between the goalposts.

— ‘‘Steamroller’ is right! He couldn’t hit a bull’s arse with a cricket bat.’

At Shepherd’s Funeral Home, Lily the undertaker’s daughter was literally run off her feet. Special order: coffin painted with Disney characters…. a wreath spelling M I L L Y, in white…. Wallingford Town football jersey, size Small. ‘Can you have balloons at a funeral?’

The Vicar’s sermon: Practised words of comfort floated up to the carved ceiling, like candle smoke: ‘Ours not to reason why’…. ‘faith moves mountains’…. ‘suffer little children’.

Under a darkening sky, crowds ten-deep lined the route to the cemetery. The people in front threw flowers onto the hearse as it passed, and all the dismal mourners applauded without cease.

Riding high, Izzie sat on top of the coffin, dignified and silent.


Anglepoise


Some words just grab me by the vitals and won’t let go. So here goes: 

— The cheesecake is delicious, Wilma. Is it anglepoise?

— We’re staying at the Anglepoise. Very select!

— I drove a truck for years, but now I’m an anglepoise man!

— The expedition leader, Dirk Anglepoise, said ‘I owe it all to my team’.

— It was an anglepoise moment.


J’accuse the muse

My ludic muse wears fruitloop shoes
and a coat made of almonds and dates.
If I write about mists he always insists
that I leave that stuff to Yeats.
If I write about dust — T.S. got there first,
and Shakespeare can veto all lust.

My muse eschews all classical views,
and says poets must now be ‘hip’.
We don’t say ’tis and we never say o’er
— it’s all about ‘readership’.

Oh lackaday! oh woe is me!
’Tis now that my heart is sore!
No more misty dust or lusty mist!
— I fear my career is o’er!


 

Celebration

Mephistos vie with
zanies vie with
pierrots vie with
laughing, chattering harpies
to dress and preen the Queen of Mardi Gras:

On her feet, two silver fish,
their flashing scales secured with thews of gold.
Tethered argosies.

At her waist, strings of glassy adamants,
the Milky Way cascades onto her thighs.
A firefly storm.

On her fingers, plunder from the goldmines of Peru,
incused with Aztec brilliants.
Captive sunbows.

On her head, a silken casque
with curlicues and arabesques in vivid apricot.
A castle on a hill.


 

Knowledge & wisdom

When I was your age I could

— list the planets, in order from the sun

— name the capital city of Anywhere

— list the kings & queens of England, with dates (and cause of death, if known)

— recite the Periodic Table (with abbrvs)

— convert Celsius to Kelvin, and Kelvin to Delisle

— draw a perfect ellipse and a dandy octahedron

— calculate pi on the fly, and differentiate dx/dy.

Now I just watch the sun go down, and marvel at it all.