Thursday, July 27, 2017

Harry:

Professing your love for me after calling me names, insulting me and my friends, and refusing to stop does not work for me. I can't stop you from coming here, but I won't allow your comments. Mature some, Harry. Find another interest.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tabitha Darkblood ... New start



            “Okay,” he said. “Let’s see what you’ve got. Attack!”

            It began innocently enough – well, as innocently as these things ever do – with a visit to Edward Teller’s School for Advanced Swordsmanship. Teller was gold medal winner twice over, once for fencing and once for saber fighting. Gold medals aren’t worth much if they don’t lead to fame and fortune. His didn’t. So he opened a school and eked out a living teaching wanabe Olympians.
            Well ... so he did better than mere eking. Well enough to hire two other teachers.
            But Tabitha and Charlotte came for Mr. Teller’s lessons not lessons from second raters. And so it was. ...

            “I don’t teach children,” Teller said. It was a firmly stated ‘no.’
            “She’s had lessons,” Charlotte said. “She just needs a brush up. Some practice.”
            Tabitha sat erect, quiet, her hands holding an plain wooden box. She said nothing.
            Teller had a finely developed sense of money. Charlotte hadn’t said so, but he thought ‘grandmother.’ Grandmother had a ruby and diamond tennis bracelet that probably cost more than he made in five years. Tabitha’s clothes were plain but obviously expensive.
            “Come, girl,” he said.
            They followed him down the hall, turned to the left and found themselves in the practice hall.
            “Pick one,” Teller said. He motioned toward a rack of swords and sabers.
            Tabitha went from sword to sword, touching one, then another.
            “Pick one, girl,” he repeated.

            “My name is Tabitha Darkblood,” she said. “And I have my own.”
            She opened the box and paused to look. The sword nestled within deserved a look. Its blade was polished, flawless and mirror-like. But black. Black as night.  The hilt was  black leather wrapped with spiraling silver wire.
            When she lifted it from its case, the sword sang as swords do.
           

           

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Distraction

So ... we made our way through darkened streets, past our favorite all night dinner place without stopping [Damn it], then down a river road to 'the gate.' At the gate we entered our code [there's a scanner for a prox card, but guess who forgot to bring it.] The gate retracted, and goat boy drove his spiffy, newly-washed truck through, stopping just beyond to wait for the gate to cycle closed.

The river is seldom glassy smooth, but it has its moments. This morning it reflects the moon perfectly. We drive on. Gravel crunches under our tires. We cross a short narrow bridge. And we arrive. Goat boy opens our pasture gate. It locks with a chain and an Abloy lock.

I make breakfast. Oatmeal with an obscene amount of butter and maple. We eat it outside. This is our 'hot' time of year but at five a.m. it's on the cool side. There is coffee. I like coffee. I toe my shoes off, wiggling my feet. There is a contented sigh or two.

The birds wake. We hear their tweets and chirps. They come in waves: The sparrows first, then the killdear with their quick movements, quail dart through the shrubs and ferns, a seagull lands at my feet. I hate them; they're parasitical. I shoo it off. We are blessed with a flock of goldfinch. Lovely birds. And then they've all scattered, looking for food and sex elsewhere.

Another cup of coffee and an earnest conversation about daughter two's boyfriend and we're ready to work. Goat boy grabs some tools from his truck and, with the determination of an old soldier, marches out to the irrigation pump. I open the barn to quiet. Most of the goats are asleep. A few are not and they greet me with assorted baaaahs. My oldest female is awake. She follows me everywhere; loves a nice rub and pat.

Those awake wander out of the barn. The kids slowly wake, and a few of them mob me. I give them pats. One tries to climb into my lap. I pick her up and carry her for a while. I open a new bag of sweet corn feed. Make sure there's water in the tank. The sun is up, turning the river to a ribbon of silver and gold.

Goat boy yells something that sounded suspiciously like DAMN! He packs up his tools and trudges back to me. He's scraped his knuckles. I examine his hand, wash it with disinfectant soap. I talk sweet comfort, and then ask him why he didn't wear gloves. "Forgot them," he says.

The kids are running in mad circles as is there wont. We sip more coffee. Goat boy points to the gate pole. A huge blue heron is perched on top. I'm thinking thoughts not at all related to gorgeous birds. Goat boy is immersed in the wonders of nature.

Goat Boy Immersed in the Wonders of Nature

Don't get me wrong. I love creation with all its wonders. It's just that I'm more interested in Goat Boy at that very moment. He's part of nature too. I take the most direct path. Direct is usually good.

This Pixies Direct Path

A satisfying choice.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Guest post



Guest post by Megan is below. Blogger is being stupid. And I can't seem to fix it. The post should have appeared in this space ....


Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Further Adventures of O. Reader



A DAY OUT

            A recent “day out” we’ve had here is to visit the St Fagans Folk Museum. (Official title - St Fagans National Museum of History). Stretching over two large sites on the outskirts of Cardiff it has restored buildings and artefacts from all over Wales. Some date back to the 12th century, and some like a post war prefab to as recent as the late 1940s. Rare breeds of sheep and cattle munch away in the fields, and there are numerous workshops demonstrating skills from a bygone era. Saddlery, clog making, hide tanning, that sort of thing. There used to be a pottery - my daughter made a pot here many years ago - but since the Welsh government made entry free of charge, the demographic of the visitors precluded most from wishing to shell out 40 GBP for a pot.
            We have been here many times over the decades. For a number of years an open air theater was held here, and we saw versions of Shakespeare and Goldsmith and Gilbert and Sullivan and others, often with a crowd of friends. It nearly always rained on these occasions, which is what you sort of expect from open air theater and particularly open air theater in Wales. But a massive rebuilding program of the original entrance and linked museum meant the event had to move into Cardiff, so we hadn’t been to St Fagans for a while.
            Apart from a reconstruction of a 2000 year old iron age roundhouse (fire in the middle but no chimney or even hole in the roof to let out the smoke), nearly everything else is original. It has all been taken apart from somewhere in Wales, the stones and bits and pieces carefully numbered, and then loving recreated. Farm houses, churches, corn mills (that’s wheat in Wales not maize as in the US), pig-sties, tanneries, shops, Workmen’s Halls, you name it - if it existed in Wales, they have it here. Each building has its own curator, who will speak Welsh if you wish. That was part of Mrs O’s interest this time.
     We mixed it with several school parties of earnest eight year olds clutching clipboards and pens, heretically jabbering away in English, while their harassed teachers bawled them out in Welsh. We couldn’t get into the village school because the kids were being given a lesson as it would have been 120 years ago, back in the days when speaking Welsh in class would get you punished.
            There were two places of worship - a church that has bits dating back to probably the 12th century, with what can only be described as comic strips all over the walls. The original Catholic congregation was illiterate and the wall art was used as a teaching aid. However, to quote D. H. Lawrence - “to the Puritan all things are impure” - so when the Puritans came along in Britain they immediately covered the walls with whitewash. Only when the old building was taken down for removal and reconstruction at St Fagans, did the original pictures come to light again after hundreds of years, and it has been restored to its pre-Reformation splendor.
            The other place of worship was a very spartan Unitarian chapel, and Wales had a tradition of non-conformity which allowed the Unitarians to flourish for many years.
            Coming into more recent times there was an example of the very large provision store that each village and town in the Welsh valleys used to have. This one was called Gwalia Stores, which was a very common name. I only recently discovered that Gwalia is an archaic name for Wales, not the name of a Mr Fred Gwalia who ran the place. It is disconcerting when you see historical items that you clearly remember! I worked part-time in an old fashioned grocers shop in London in the 1960s. Like the store at St Fagans nothing was pre-packed, but ladled out of jars and tubs and pots and not a glimpse of “health and safety” in sight. I remember in London how my love life was seriously blighted by my having to skin the cheeses each week. They were like huge cartwheels and weighed a ton. Peeling off the muslin skin in one piece was an art that should probably still be on my resume, but I remember all too well how the smell just lingered and lingered.
            And then there was the rebuilt Workman’s Hall. These were a staple of valleys life, with the library and cinema and classrooms, and free newspapers on stands. When I first came to Wales most still existed, and I soon learned that by waiting a week for the movie to shift from the main picture house in town to the workman’s hall two miles up the mountain, I could see all the movies I wanted for a fraction of the price.
            And something I always enjoy visiting are the Rhydycar cottages. This is a row of six iron worker’s cottages from around 1800 that were taken down and rebuilt - and each one takes you several decades forward in time, starting around 1800 and ending up in the 1980s when they were abandoned. Each is furnished as it would have been at the time, and the gardens and outbuildings likewise. You can trace when the family Bible disappeared, and also when toilet facilities moved from a hole in the ground at the bottom of the garden to pipe work indoors.
            There are other folk museums in Britain of course. Another one is at Blists Hill near Ironbridge Gorge in the Midlands, where the staff dress up in period costume and you buy plastic money and then spend it on candles and beer and the like. Much closer to home there is a Manor House (where the last owner was a patient of mine) where they talk to you in 17th century English (and Welsh) and dress the part. They don’t do that at St Fagans, but the staffing would probably make that impractical.
            Nearly everywhere we go we seem to meet people we know. That is probably a sign both of having been around for a long time in one area, and also wearing various hats that bring us into contact with different groups of people. This time we were haled outside the Gwalia stores by M. Thirty years or more ago M was a miner who lost his job when the whole industry collapsed after the miner’s strike. His father was yet another patient of mine. M went to one of Mrs O’s Spanish classes. He did well, very well, and got a qualification. An aptitude for learning that came to the surface counted in his favor when he applied to join the Welsh police force. After thirty years here was M again. He had recently retired after a good career with the police, but had needed to learn some Welsh for the job along the way. Now he was enjoying himself as a part-time guide at St Fagans. He tempted Mrs O with the prospect of applying for the same. But the part-timers mainly work weekends when the crowds come, which doesn’t fit our existing schedule. But I think she is tempted. The thought of practicing ones Welsh, while getting paid for it, does have a certain tempting ring about it.
            So it’s “Mae hynny'n ddigon am nawr.” 
            In my case that sort of means, “Thank goodness for Google Translate!”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Democrat Party Today




They must be prosecuted and the Democrat Party must be banned. Democrats today:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Aunt Shirley

I write about her sometimes. Herewith is the lady herself ... from way back when ...
 Family resemblance over time?


From a cross-country trip when I was very little

Badlands, South Dakota. Don't know who took the photo, but I remember this quite clearly. There should be more of these, but I don't know where they are. My scanner trims off the top of the photo. I don't know why.


Megan's new book



We originally considered Catilen’s closest friend (and fellow kook), Damian Cooke, the story’s main character. Until we realized the character most impacted by the book’s events, the character taking the greatest journey, was Catilen. That didn’t diminish Damian in our eyes. If anything, I think it enhanced him. It allowed him to be himself without needing to appear as some kind of hero. As Catilen is so fond of pointing out; her story doesn’t need any white knights!

Of all the characters in the Mystic Island Trilogy, Damian changed most from first draft to final, polished release. He started as a paranormal investigator with a distinctive disdain for the scientific approach. But the deeper we delved into Damian’s personality, the more we realized he was as far from spiritual as it gets. And it’s difficult to embrace a deductive approach if you poo-poo the scientific method. Yet neither my co-author nor I saw any reason why Damian couldn’t embrace both the supernatural and the scientific. And thus Damian’s philosophy of arcane science was born!

Damian starts in a unique position; he’s a fantasy character trapped in a modern, non-fantasy world. That left a lot of options for character development. How does one become a sorcerer in the modern world and still live a normal life? By keeping it a secret (of course). Much of Damian’s history was born out of his secret mastery of an ancient science, long since abandoned by humans. The key then became to make him as interesting and relevant when he suddenly stepped into a fantasy world that functioned on the principles he had so long embraced.

When Damian reaches the island, he transforms from a large fish in a small pond, to a tiny fish in a vast ocean. The thing he wants most is to catch the attention of a bigger fish, who understands the currents of that ocean, who might be willing to show him around. Far from all-powerful, Damian needs to use intelligence and cunning to turn a little into a lot. He’s an underdog with a heart of gold, which makes him far more interesting than the over-powered sorcerer trope.

Perhaps the most fun, and challenging, aspect of writing Damian was the fact that he introduced himself under an assumed name. After all, true names have power, and Damian is used to hiding his abilities from others. Though the alias is largely unnoticeable from Damian’s perspective, it threw Catilen for a loop. Whenever a third character was present in the scene, or a scene took place in a public location, she had to remind herself to use the unfamiliar name. It was often as tricky for the authors as it was for her. It took several passes to ensure that ‘David’ appeared in all the proper places.

Aside from Damian’s mastery of the arcane arts, his relationship with Catilen is central to the plot. One of the biggest problems posed by romantic subplots is how to develop a relationship in a short span of time without making it seem artificial. How many people spill their guts on their first date to someone they just met, outside of romance novels? The easiest solution was to begin with a pair of characters who are already friends. And who better to understand the plight of a secret sorcerer than a woman trying desperately to hide her own supernatural abilities?

While Damian tries his best to be a gentleman, he isn’t without his flaws (because a perfect gentleman just wouldn’t be any fun). He is the kind of person to leap before he looks. His tendency to act on whim kicks off the adventure for our heroes, but it also gets Damian into trouble on numerous occasions. It doesn’t help that he often compounds the trouble by speaking the first thing to come to mind!


Is the island paradise or does a nightmare lurk beneath the surface?

When a mysterious island appears off the coast of San Francisco, two intrepid academics risk everything to discover its secrets. Catilen Taylor has struggled all her life with the ability to sense others' emotions. Damian Cooke studies an ancient art he calls 'magic.'

The island boasts an idyllic retreat, ruled by the enigmatic Sentomoru, who invites them to share the wonders of his bathhouse. But as the travelers strive to unravel the island's secrets, Catilen senses danger stalking their steps.

Neither Catilen nor Damian know how long the island will remain on Earth. If they can't solve its riddles quickly, they may be trapped wherever it goes when it vanishes.


Megan grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania where books offered an easy escape from the mundane life of a rural highway town. In 2003 she married the love of her life and moved to Canada. Megan started writing full-time in 2011 and has since published four novels and several short stories, including the Mystical Island Trilogy. Her characters keep her up late and wake her up early, but she loves them anyway. Learn more at megancutler.net, or connect to Megan via Facebook and Twitter.

Coffee Cure #2

Or, when the brown fae live in your house ....


Budding Explorer and Photographer



            I’m sorta maybe answering two requests. Roberto asked for a story about my family. Amy wanted to see photos I took as a child. Let’s start with the photos.
            My dad’s mother was a saver of things. When she died that presented us with problems. Understand, she took pains to keep her house clean and organized, but there was an endless amount of stuff. Some of it was really nice ‘stuff.’ And some not. But that all happened later.
            When I was eight or nine she opened her cedar chest, a treasure chest of sorts, full of old photos and albums and her dad’s papers and her childhood dolls. I loved looking through its contents even though I’d seen it all before. In the bottom right corner was this strangish black box with a wheel to turn and lever to click and an amazing mechanism on the front: A Kodak Brownie box camera. I’m not certain how old it was. Probably it was from the 1930s. Some of the photos were taken with that camera. She gave it to me.
            Dad helped me find film for it. I’m fairly certain that finding K six-20 film is almost impossible today. But I no longer have the camera. Back in the day, it was easy to find and inexpensive. I took a bazillion photos with gram’s old camera. I have some of them still, but none of them are arty or very good at all. I was nine. Nine year olds are usually not great photographers.
            Dad took us to odd places, interesting places. I was his most faithful co-explorer, so sometimes it was just he and I. He bought a book about ghost towns. I turned the pages, fascinated by the abandoned buildings. I wanted to visit one. There aren’t many near where we lived. But there was Kiona, an unincorporated village that had nearly disappeared. We went there. There were two houses built in 1864, one lived in and one empty. I should back up and tell you that Kiona nearly disappeared in 1894 when a series of drought driven fires spread through Washington State. There were other empty houses out there too, almost all of them now gone.
            I found some of the photos I took that day. As I said, they aren’t very good. But here they are:





            The smaller house was open, and we went inside. A mound of trash and beer bottles littered the floor. There was a Playboy foldout. It was dated 1956, as I recall it. The woman displayed there on was pudgy and not at all attractive.
            Better photos of the 1864 house, the two story house, are on the internet. But this is the one I took. You cannot see it, but the foundation to the house is made from huge granite boulders. I haven’t been back in ages. I have no clue what’s there now other than vineyards.
           

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Robin's art ...

visit her here: http://robinmariapedrero.com/index.html


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

High Adventure by Guma

I don't know who this artist really is. There is a Brazilian artist with no talent who uses the same name. Obviously not the person who painted these pictures.



O. Reader on the Musical Life



             Roberto asked me to explain how my country, music, tradition and religion have influenced me.
             Those are big questions. To coin a phrase from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy - the answer is 42.
            My religion must have influenced me considerably since I’ve worked full-time for a certain group since 1961 in a bewildering variety of roles. In Rachael’s eyes that must make me VERY OLD. (In a “this is your life” convention interview I once cracked the joke that I started when I was three... Well, at least the audience laughed). And as well as “old” you could probably add “odd” since few who work full-time like this also raise a family, buy a home, run a business (with special dispensation) and do all the “normal” stuff. Many do it for a bit when they’re young and have fewer responsibilities, but then other things in life take over. I managed to balance the lot successfully, with only one mantra - if my choices made sacrifices necessary (as obviously they did at times) then if anyone went without, I did, not the family. So I look back and am pleased with the choices I made and how things worked out. And the family are pleased.
            But I can only speak for myself. One thing I learned as life trundled on is that we all have free will and I must respect the views of others. When younger, with the impertinence and impatience of youth, I maybe didn’t achieve that too well. But I learned that while I’ve a right to argue my point of view, so do they. I must be a good listener. Sadly some people don’t think things through and run away from discussion or debate, but again, I have to respect that’s their right. When writing about views that I disagree with, I still like to get the input on the other side and have often run the text past them before publishing. And when correspondents come back and say I have been “fair” then for me that becomes an important complement. But it is a balancing act, and depending on the context of the discussion, I still won’t water down beliefs that I hold dear.
             As to music? We have very eclectic tastes here. I grew up with classical music, and went through rock and roll and blues and skiffle and folk. (I may do a rambling post on the British phenomena of skiffle at some time. All those earnest young men playing three chords and trying none too successfully to whine a Leadbelly song while growing out a most unsuccessful straggling beard. The Beatnik movement sort of followed in Britain, where you didn’t even need the guitar and the dodgy singing voice... But I digress, that is maybe for another time...).
            I probably play folk music more than any other, but in my younger days concentrated on American folk rather than home-grown British. If nothing else, America has such a mixed culture in its vastness and mass immigration, there was so much variety there. However, in more recent times, I have come to appreciate the home grown variety more. But there are some songs that bring me - the original hardened cynic - to tears. There are some songs I learned to sing and then found - fortunately just in time - that I just couldn’t sing them in public. A grown man - a sort of elderly grown man - bursting into tears is a sure way to kill a folk club sing-around stone dead. Believe me - I’ve seen it happen. But so far, not to me. Not yet.
            Of course a lot of folk songs are very political. The greatest of over-simplification is that country music veers towards the right, and folk music towards the left - even when they sing the same songs. American Tom Lehrer parodied it rather well I seem to remember. But I don’t do politics so don’t have to agree with the sentiments on any side. However, I can still appreciate a neat lyric that expresses a point of view. And in folk music lyrics touch on things you just wouldn’t find in other styles of music.
            How has my country influenced me? - that’s British of course, but almost adopted Welsh now. Well, as noted above I don’t do politics, but Britain has an interesting history. As the empire shrank and disappeared, the country was forced to become multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-language - far more than my parents and grandparents generations could ever imagine. It may create problems in some areas, particularly in some parts of some cities where religion divides, but the general mix when compared with the country and the London of my youth is something I enjoy. I love having friends of many nationalities; most of whom were born here and in many cases had parents who were born here. A bit like America really if you go back far enough. And my own experiences abroad have convinced me that the British National Health Service, for all its faults and abuses of the system, is something to really be thankful for.
            And the influence of tradition? I love the British tradition for old-fashioned detective fiction. Even with characters of cardboard I love solving puzzles, but many modern authors have lifted the form into something more. I love humor in literature - and the same goes for movies. I love the British capacity for parody and self deprecation. This is not just a reaction to an empire going down the tubes, it goes back to Trollope and Austen and Dickens and the satire of Swift before. But modern British humor doesn’t always translate well. At least, mine doesn’t. So I’ve found...  But hey ho - “C’est la Vie.” Or words to that effect...
            And just to see if Rachael has read any of this with our slightly different linguistic traditions - LONG LIVE THE PASSIVE VOICE.  I’ll end on that. It’s what we call here - living dangerously...

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Nap, or God Invented Naps and Sunggles


Story challenged. No prize other than the satisfaction of writing. Tell me this story!

Friday, June 09, 2017

O. Reader on People Watching and Politics




Occasional on the British election

            As those who actually know me will attest, I don’t do politics. I remain “neutral” for specific conscientious reasons. BUT - I do enjoy watching human nature. It appears to me that in British politics (and no doubt many other places) vast numbers of people make choices on the physical appearance or characteristics of the politician. That may be very unfair, but tough - that’s the way it is. And political parties choose their leaders, not because they are seen as the overwhelming favourite, but because either no-one else wanted the job, or it was part of some hasty plot to keep somebody else out.
            When Margaret Thatcher ruled with an iron handbag, the leader of the opposition for a while was Neil Kinnock. There was one election where, according to the pundits he should have won. But Kinnock was Welsh - VERY Welsh - and though it is rather gentle and understated, there is still a residue of English snobbery about being VERY Welsh. Even more to the point he had the misfortune to fall over on a beach during a photo shoot. The camera shutters gleefully went click, click, click. That fixed him.
            A later Labour leader (I’ll spell it the UK way this time) Ed Milliband probably lost as badly as he did because he reminded people of Wallace (from the cartoon series Wallace and Gromit) and that was a cartoonist’s dream. He also had an unfortunate experience with a bacon sandwich in a photo-shoot. Add to that an election gimmick of a huge monolith with carved promises like the Ten Commandments - billed by the press as the Ed-Stone and mercilessly lampooned - and he was done for.
            The current Labour leader Jeremy Corbin didn’t want to be leader at all - his forte was very much on the back benches - but he was chosen by default. (Very much like John Major replaced Margaret Thatcher for the Conservatives to keep her rival Michael Hessletine - nicknamed Tarzan - out.) No-body thought Corbin had a hope of doing as well as he did in the present election, and now they have got him they will have trouble replacing him if he doesn’t want to go.
            And the issues? Brexit? There was an own goal if ever there was one. The Conservative’s David Cameron had a referendum to keep his party “happy” after they scraped through an election - although at least not having to rely on a coalition as before - confident he would win. And of course the people CHOSE. The Welsh chose to leave Europe - but that was overwhelming a desire to get at Cameron and his party. The vast sums of money thrown at Wales by Europe as a poor country is unlikely to be repeated by a government in London. By the time realization dawns there will of course be someone else on the horizon to blame.
            So though I don’t do politics, I do enjoy watching the TV on election night. All the weaving and diving and spinning disasters into sort of successes. The famous who lose their seats. The steely eyed politicians who have miscalculated and as was once memorably said about Judy Garland, “seized defeat from the jaws of victory...”
            It annoys my family no end. So I’ll retreat back into my genuine neutrality and see what the papers say. Especially the cartoonists.

Politics is full of surprises:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Comments problems

The problem some encountered with leaving comments seems to have been fixed.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Songs were Extremely Rude. It was all so Very British

by O. Reader


Buxton part 2
            The reason we came to Buxton was a folk festival, but unlike the usual events held in fields with muddy campsites and suspect “rest rooms” and the like, this was held in a couple of theaters, with a huge “beer tent” erected between them.
            It obviously had a different “feel” to the usual, least of all was the actual comfort enjoyed by ourselves - and we have got to an age where comfort sort of rates high on the totem pole.
            I missed the stalls selling organic food and hippy beads, and offering tantric osteopathic experiences. I missed the sing-arounds, where people with voices like bathwater escaping could still make their mark. And I missed the open mikes where young hopefuls could have their 15 minutes of infamy and the club tents. Paul Simon appeared at the club tent at one of the first Cambridge Folk Festivals, and look where he went from there.
            So it was probably more a series of official concerts in halls including the beautifully decorated Buxton Opera House, which dates from the Victorian era, where we had previously been for several years’ worth of Gilbert and Sullivan festivals in the past.
            But it was a bit incongruous with the music and the audience. You looked around you in the circle balcony. Loads of grey rinsed perms and bald heads could be seen jigging about in unison, forming a sort of Mexican wave along the rows. You half expected some octogenarian to throw himself into a spot of crowd surfing, being propelled over the heads of the audience before disappearing over the side of the balcony to land with a thud in the stalls below.
            But it WAS nice to have reserved seats. Incongruous, but nice. And it really was nice to sleep in a bed rather than in a sleeping bag on the floor of a tent.  
            There were two extra events that we will remember. On the Sunday morning they organized a walk. About 200 turned up. It was billed as a gentle stroll, but this was organized by fanatics who walk ten miles and then do a gig. We climbed UP (and I mean UP) to a folly called Solomon’s Temple, and there a choir who had walked with us with banners sang some political songs that were also extremely rude. It was all so very British.
            Mrs O declined to go on the walk, but I went with daughter and son-in-law.
            Then straight after, ones aching bones were abused still further by a Ceilidh. This is a sort of country dance, barn dance - dunno what you would call it in the States. It featured a band and a “caller” who gave you directions. Country dancing - a blast from the past - involves mass groups of people swinging around and stepping on toes, and forever changing partners, sort of getting their hands on all manner of different people - probably the main reason for it as a social activity in the pre-movie-radio-TV-internet age. They attempted what they called the largest example of a dance called “strip the willow” which involves large numbers swinging around in unison - a bit like an old Shaker meeting gone wrong. And did this go wrong! Large numbers of people on collision course in hysterics. That it happened in the “beer tent” where dozens of different ales were available for consumption probably had nothing to do with it. Yeah. Sure.      As for the music? Some was good, some very good, some I could happily never hear again. I did note with sudden perception that many younger performers don’t know what to do with their hands. I find this a problem with public speaking, but having something in your hand helps. For singers it can be a mike or a guitar, even if you don’t actually play the latter. Without it, you get some who jig around with stiff arms like a demented glove puppet - or you have John Jones of the Oyster Band with arm and hand movements so choreographed you would think he was giving you a master class in deaf-signing while he sang.
            The headliner was a group called The Levellers, which may mean nothing outside the UK, and even then outside a specific niche in the UK. But in the 1990s they had the biggest selling album of the decade in Britain. Yet it never made the charts, but 16 year anti-social left-wing-leaning teenagers loved it, and it steadily sold and sold. They were very professional, very funny, very political but full of the self deprecation that characterizes many Brits, which other nations sometimes find hard to understand. They brought the house down. Forget the reference to crowd surfing above, by the end of their set all those in the stalls were standing and dancing, and many in the circle where we were. I mean, they interrupted our view of the stage! Attempts to stem the tide were futile. And this was “The Opera House.” Nice one.
            So it’s goodbye to Buxton and home to responsibility and seriousness and all that sort of stuff. Ho hum.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Soaked



            Almost no-one who reads this blog cares much about our history books, maybe two or three do. But it’s my blog and if I want to agonize over our current work, I will. So Thupp!
            First, my computer killed – sent off into the realm of lost electrons – a major portion of work. I got a few lines back. And I’ve started over. This isn’t as bad as it seems. The new version is better and less cluttered. But the work is slower going. That’s mostly because I’ve changed order and emphasis. I’m unhappy at the pace. But I have to work around being so sick I can’t stand myself.
            I think the private history blog is a failure. We invited people we thought would comment. What we ended up with is the same set of intellectual parasites and a few committed commenters. Probably I expect too much from blog readers.
           
            I watched my youngest daughter’s dance group rehearse. Two of them have real talent. One of them is umm flexible. I mean really flexible. I suppose I used to be too, though at nearly forty, I no longer am. The dance troupe’s choreographer tends to make the dances more erotic than is appropriate for young teens, but that’s not uncommon.
           
            My pet Scotsman is working on the irrigation system. It’s fairly old, so sprinkler heads need replacing. We usually wait until one fails totally. Replacing them all would have cost bunches. When he’s done today, all of them will have been replaced within the last three years.

            My oldest sister sends us a care package every so often: Candy, cookies, sometimes clothes, especially pajamas I like. Her latest came today. That’s always fun. Kat claimed open-the-package rights.

            I got rid of our old coffee maker [Proctor-Silex] because the pot dribbles, and I’m tired of wiping coffee spills off the counter. The new one is Black and Decker, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

            I’ve been up for hours. A serious nap is in order.

            The school district superintendent called with a job offer. I declined. I’m not well enough to return to work, and ... they employee idiots with whom I do not wish to work.

            Oh ... and this morning when I drove out to feed the goats I decided to walk along the river bank. Understand, there is a high chain link fence between our pasture and the high water mark. The navigable river act gives public access to the bank. So I’m on the other side of the fence walking, looking at the gravel and rocks. I usually find something interesting. Today I found a Native American stone fish weight, a modern dime, an agate, and a tangle of fishing line with lure and weights. I also slipped off a rock and soaked myself up to my knees. The water is still very cold. It stays icy well into summer. So, I scramble out of the water, slip again and end up soaked head to toe.
            Fortunately, we have an old washer and dryer out there. I plunked my soaked clothes in the washer, showered up in the little stone house, sipped hot coffee and watched the barges pass.   

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bruxton by O. Reader

Bruxton, about 1890



Buxton

            I like the little town of Buxton. It was a Spa Town that gained huge popularity in the Georgian era, home to the gentry who wanted to take the waters. As fashions historically changed it went down the drain as it were, before coming back up as a tourist area for walkers and climbers in the Peak District.
            We came here for several years running for the Gilbert and Sullivan festivals. My grandfather used to put on these Victorian operettas at the Bradford Alhambra Theatre. It was how he and my grandmother met. So there was a family tradition for this, coupled with a natural liking for British satire and silliness. But then the organizers fell out with the local council over money and took the whole festival further north to Harrowgate.  Harrowgate is a nice town, but even further away from where we live. And looking after an elderly mother meant we couldn’t get away as before.
            But after a gap we have come back here for a folk festival. Actually, a sort of geriatric type of folk festival. The artistes are nearly all drawing their pension, and as for the audience - well, I feel positively young in comparison. So mud and paint and tents and chemical toilets have somehow lost their appeal, and the music is in a proper theater, with actual reserved seats, and a sedate beer tent next door, and nice self-catering apartments - yes, that’s where we are at.
            Buxton has a very fine second-hand bookshop, which is a bit of dying breed in the UK at the moment. Scrivners has five floors, numerous poky little rooms, winding staircases, and is probably a health and safety death trap. I spent a very happy time there this morning, although I didn’t buy anything. I have reached the point where I am selling more than buying, and have very specific lists of what I want. There were several things I would have bought in times past, covering film history, music history, theology, but now so much information is on the internet. It’s a strange rite of passage, going into a bookshop and coming out with nothing.
The same was true of the charity shops. For a quite well-heeled place - ritzy hotels and the main supermarket being Waitrose (probably only Brits would understand the connotation) there were a surprisingly large number of charity shops. It did mean that they contained some good gear rather than junk that a shop should pay YOU to take away. But even here, we didn’t get anything. Books? The same problem as for Scrivners. DVDs? We have so many that there was nothing worth having. Talking books? A few, but we had them all. Clothes? Well, I don’t do clothes. Well, I mean, I do do clothes, but begrudge replacing them. And Mrs O didn’t find anything either.
            What is most memorable are the conversations in the shops. You don’t normally go into a second-hand bookshop to hear a lady inquire whether they have any books written by Jane Eyre..? And the personal problems involving relationships and gynaecology that were being handled full blast in a North Country accent in several charity shops was most entertaining. Now I can do a passable North Country accent - it’s that distant Bradford connection - but I can’t do it here, and anyway, this blog is supposed to be PG. All I can say is women over a certain age in Buxton seem to have loud voices, few inhibitions, and unfortunate personal problems.
            So we’ve wandered around the park, had photos taken on the bandstand, wined and dined and nodded off in the chair, and now this evening there is the music.
            Yes, I remember, that’s what we came here for. Wasn’t it?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I'd disattisfied with this and not sure why



Section Six

            The only seat left was next to a little girl. She was blond with eyes so darkly blue he thought they were black. A second look changed his opinion. They were definitely blue.
            “Whatcha reading?” he asked.
            She displayed the title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
            “I read that when I was about your age,” he said. “Any good?”
            “You mean, do I like it? Yes ... But fairies aren’t like this.” She nodded to the open book.        
            “What are fairies like, then?”
            “Nasty,” she said. She cut off the conversation by slipping off her chair and approaching the receptionist.
           
            He didn’t hear her question, but the receptionist’s answer was clear enough. “About ten more minutes,” she said. The girl nodded and resumed her seat.
            He fished in his inside suit pocket for the memo. “Robert,” it read, “You are tentatively assigned to Section Six, an inter-agency project. Details will be provided when you interview. Final approval is dependent on the interview and training. Best of luck.”

            “Are you here for the interviews?” He laughed at this. It was meant as a joke.”
            “I’m waiting for Mr. Scott.” she said. Her answer ignored humor. It was a statement of fact that did not answer his question. It was a conversation killer.   
            She wiggled in her seat. He was an elementary teacher for eight years before being recruited. He knew that wiggle. A bathroom was in order.
            “What’s your name?” He tried again.
            “Tabitha Darkblood,” she answered.
            “I’m Robert.”
            “Excuse me,” she said.

            She pointed to the restroom door. “I’ll tell him,” the receptionist said.

            Robert noticed things without being obvious. It was a gift, honed by training. Counting the little girl, there were eight people seated in the reception area. One wore a lieutenant commander’s uniform. He was navy. One wore a police uniform, but not from D.C. Robert was uncertain from where. The rest wore suits of varied quality, one of which cost as much as he made in a week. The rest were off the rack. Shoes were shined.

            He closed his eyes, not exactly dozing, but listening to the eternal buzz. A door opened. He listened.
            “Gentlemen,” a voice said. “If you would come this way ...”

Chapter two
            Robert found a seat in the second row. The room resembled a cheaply furnished junior college classroom. Two seats to each narrow table. A white board at the front. A desk. Counters and cabinets against the back wall. Two empty bookshelves.
            “This isn’t Men in Black, is it?” one of them quipped.
            “No, sorry, it isn’t. I’m Brian Scott, section coordinator. Your supervisors have selected you as best for our needs.”
            “So we’re the best of the best?” It was the same clown.
            “No,” Scott said. “Typically, those sent to us are losers. People that don’t fit – that think and behave in ways that mark them as underperformers. You’ve expressed politically or socially incorrect views. You believe improbable conspiracy theories. You don’t tie your shoes. You don’t wear socks.”
            Two of them looked at their feet. One grinned slightly.
            “Can you tell us what Section Six is – does?” This came from the policeman.
            “Briefly ... Section Six is an inter-governmental and inter-agency response team. We respond to unusual situations ...”
            Tabitha interrupted this by swinging the door open and climbing up on a chair, then onto the desk.
            “Glad you could join us,” Mr. Scott said.
            She nodded. “Potty,” she said.
            “So I understand. I was just explaining our mission.” She nodded again, and he continued. “Sometimes we investigate events of national or international importance, though the usual agencies are normally used for that. ... But there are times when, when things happen ... there are events that seem out of the ordinary. Those are our field.”
            Robert scratched his head, rubbed his nose. “This is an x-files kind of operation?”
            “I suppose there’s a vague comparison,” Scott said. “We don’t chase down aliens. But we do pursue the unusual.”
            “Such as ...?” This from the policeman.
            Scott thumbed papers on a clipboard. “Officer Patterson ...?”
            Patterson answered with a nod and a, “yes, that’s right.”
            “On the night of July third last, you responded to a disturbance at an abandoned warehouse on Wellhead Loop. You found a dead cat, a dead transient, and a limping dog. Describe the transient, please.”
            “He was dead; what else is there to say?”
            “Your report says he was ‘chewed.’”
            Patterson nodded.
            “It also says that the bite marks weren’t from the dog.”
            “As my captain pointedly said, I’m no expert.”
            “Tell us what else you saw ...”
            “It’s in my report.”
            “Yes, it is. And this is the kind of thing we investigate.”

            A few seconds of silence followed. The man in the expensive suit shifted in his chair. “My name is Davis. I’m an intelligence analyst. ... I saw a dragon once. It was a mistake to tell anyone that.”
            “I can imagine,” one of them said.

            “There are things out there,” Scott said, his words on the edge of the inaudible. “Things in which it is uncomfortable to believe. ... Let me ask you this ... Do you believe in fairies?”
            Snickers traveled the room. “My gramma did,” one of them said.
            “But do you?”
            A pause, and then, “Yes ... I saw one once.”
            Heads shook, a titter came from someone in the back row.

            “Gentlemen,” Scott said, “let me introduce you to Tabitha Darkblood. You probably noticed her in the lobby.”
            Robert nodded, grinned.          
            “Tabitha is here to illustrate my point. She will also further your training. Not everyone will succeed. Those who do not meet her standard will return to their previous duties without prejudice. ... If you would, Miss Darkblood. ...
            Tabitha stood on the desk, taking a slow turn as if modeling a dress. She favored pink. Her short skirt was pink, her knee socks a darker pink. Her blouse had two slits in the back. She wore black Mary Janes. Her hair was cut long, to the shoulder blades. She smiled. Her eyes reflected the ceiling light.
            And then her wings blossomed.

            “Nice trick,” the back row man said.