Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Poetry Bus -The Stricnwa Blues

Going to be a tad busy this weekend with visitors, annoying Klueless Decision Support System user calls (two already today and I haven't even had brekkie yet!).  So I'm posting my bus ticket early.

The incandescently intelligent NanU has set us the challenge this week of using Blogger's verification words to make a poem.  The orignal challenge is here.  What everyone has done with it is here.

Looking at the words I had been collecting assiduously all week made me think of a far distant world, where some things are totally alien and others despressingly the same.  I absolutely swear that every one of the whacky words in this pome is a genuine offering from Blogger.

The Stricnwa Blues

Zingsmo the Monion was sitting in a bind
He had noplex to go to, he was feeling left behind.
He couldn’t catch the winglys in their sudden, fluttered flite,
He had no-one to datie, he had no-one to fight.

Zingsmo the Monion was feeling rather down
His face was long and oungsful, and his tears would likely drown
A tralotli, a coloc, even, or a manchm, huge and grim
Now it seemed that no repows so sweet was ever meant for him.

Zingsmo the Monion eschewed his sullen fate!
He would saddle up his conepus, he would find his entsne-mate!
He would singsne her his encel-song, and lure her quickly in!
A life of breadab bliss, he thought, would be the cure for him!

Zingsmo the Monion soon met his heart's delight.
She smiled upon his encel-song, her noscr glowing bright.
He thought he'd die of happiness, his reonsci turning blue
When, 'neath the triple-banded moons, she said the words, "I do!"

Zingsmo the Monion, some nineteen soldles after.
A hive of screaming younglings has banished all the laughter.
His nagging mate’s coacewa has grown flaccid and much slacker
Oh, Zingsmo the Monion, you are a hapless facquear!

Zingsmo the Monion now aches to see the day
When he can flee his breadab prison and get himself away.
The moral of the story is, as we shall now rehearse.
Be happy with your lot in life - things can always get much worse!

Saturday Wordzzle 120

It's Saturday Wordzzle time again, woo-hoo!  It's actually 10 minutes into Saturday as I post this, so I'm vaguely on time for a change!

Go ye unto Raven's Nest, where ye shall find rules, guidance, next week's words and this week's players.  The words weren't too onerous this week, thank goodness.

The Mini (parameters, shoplifting, adoption, threats, lemonade)

Don’t look at me like that! When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade, right? Yeah, well, whenever I try to do that, all I get is a bunch of squashed lemons. The parameters of my life are set so that good luck is turned all the way down and bad luck is turned all the way up. I guess it all started when I was a kid. My mom was a three-time loser whose latest bungled shoplifting attempt sent her to jail and me to the adoption centre. Things have never really gotten any better since then. A couple of stretches in juvie, one in jail, a string of failed jobs, a failed marriage and a heap of debt later here I am, and you’d better believe these are no empty threats, Padre. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna jump, I swear.

The 10-worder (sharp, dump truck, charcoal, traffic light, digestive system, argumentative, fireflies, chocolate, volume, options)

New to Harold? The summary is here.

Teatime was not happy with the range of options currently open to him. On the one hand, he felt it would be sensible to stay with the stupid OGS humans and help them locate Harold – they had tracked him down once before, after all, maybe they could do it again. On the other hand, if these fake UPS fellows were part of the organisation responsible for the disappearances of various infernal and heavenly folk, then this was the first real break the investigation had had, and therefore it might be useful to try and get them to take him along with them.

The first option was the safest for himself, but it was argumentative whether it would bring results. The second option was more personally risky, but would give him a better chance of finding out more about what was going on – oh, and maybe of rescuing the amiable dullard as well. Well, there was nothing for it, he decided to take a gamble and see if anybody wanted a nice, cute, pet monkey.

Loathing himself for what he was about to do, Teatime ventured out from behind the sofa and attempted to look like something that even the Disney Channel would reject as being too gooey. He minced his way to the centre of the floor, where Garcia and/or Thompson would be sure to see him. Garcia spotted him first.

“Where’d he come from?”

“Who?” Thompson had been gazing out into the back garden and had his back to the room, his dump truck sized body blocking out a fair portion of daylight.

“The monkey here,”

Thompson turned around in time to see a small grey-furred monkey, clad in waistcoat and tiny bowler hat capering and simpering on the charcoal-coloured carpet.

“Must be a pet. Don’t let it distract you.”

India and the others could only look on helplessly. Garcia had ordered them all to sit on the floor with their backs against the wall, and had sternly warned against any talking. What on earth was the monkey-thing up to?

“Aw, he’s not doing any harm,” said Garcia, “Are ya, little fella?”

Upon being addressed directly, Teatime cocked his head to one side and assumed his most hopeful expression. This might just work…

“Ha!” laughed Garcia, “It’s like he understands what I’m saying.”

“Cut it out, Garcia, we’re working here.” Thompson aimed a grumpy half-hearted kick at Teatime, more to scare him than anything else. Seeing he was not likely to make any further headway, the little monkey scuttled over to where the OGS agents were sitting, insinuating himself between India and Prada.


What was it the humans said when they were nervous? I’ve got fireflies in my digestive system? No, it was more earthy than that. Oh, yeah, that was it: butterflies in my stomach! Harold did not have a stomach as such, but he was certainly a little nervous about what his immediate fate would be. Much more powerful demons and angels than he had been made to vanish into thin air somehow, and now it looked as though he might be next.

Well, Teatime wasn’t here to help now, so he’d have to shift for himself if he was going to get out of this in one piece. He had been prodded at gunpoint into the back of the UPS truck where another fake UPS person was waiting. He supposed he could have made a run for it then – it wasn’t as if they could have killed him, but there were the humans and Teatime to consider. Some demon he was, worrying about the safety of mortals. He could imagine what his father would say about that – the words would be sharp and at considerable volume.

There were no windows in the back of the truck so Harold had no idea where they were headed. The vehicle rattled along, swaying around corners and lurching to a stop at the occasional traffic light. Harold applied his attention to the plastic cable tie securing his wrists and began to cause the plastic to soften. Carefully does it, he warned himself, the humans must believe the tie was still intact. When he had finished, a few bumpy minutes later, he knew the cable tie would offer no more resistance when pulled apart than chocolate to a hot knife. Now he just had to await the right moment.


Garcia looked at his watch. “OK. We’re done here, let’s go.” He stood up and, followed by Thompson, walked out of the room. The agents heard the front door slam, followed shortly after by the sound of a car engine starting up and driving away.

The agents looked at one another.

“Well that was weird,” said Prada, clambering to her feet. “I thought we were at least going to be killed or something, not just ignored for an hour.”

“Oh, Gee, you want me to call them back?” said India sarcastically.

“OK, people, focus.” Said Mercury, “First, we need to get untied. Mr Teatime, could you possibly assist us?”

“I’m not sure I can, old bean,” said the monkey, hopping up onto the table. “I think your human knives and scissors will be too big for me to wield.” He waved his tiny black hands.

“Well, could you not, you know, gnaw the plastic or something?” This was Prada.

“Gnaw the plastic?” Teatime was scandalised, “Gnaw the plastic? Like some common animal?”


“Very well,” he sighed, “But I’m only doing one of you then that one can free the others. Now, who’s it to be?” Honestly, he thought disgustedly, they’d never have asked a human to do such a demeaning thing.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 119

It's actually 4 whole minutes into Sunday, but I haven't had my sleep yet so it's still today and not tomorrow, if you get my drift.

Anyway, Saturday is Wordzzleday, so on with the motley....

Raven is our genial hostess as always, so go to her to find the rules, the guidance, the other players and next week's words.  COME PLAY WITH US!  It's not as hard as it looks - honest.

The Mini (plastic, forgotten, make-shift, happy days, infant)

The chore of clearing out Mother’s house after she passed fell to me. We weren’t close, so it was not likely to be traumatic, thank goodness. Mother had never been, as they would say in today’s psychobabble, an emotionally available person. She never hugged or kissed us as children and, while she was scrupulous in her care of us, she was always Mother, never Mummy. Now, In her wardrobe, I find forgotten blouses and jumpers, birthday and Christmas presents from us over the years – some still in their plastic wrappers. There is also a cardboard box containing some old letters, her birth certificate and a bunch of photographs. A few are of my grandparents, looking stern and stiff in sepia. There are a few of my father, smart and serious in his army uniform, his hair already brushed with grey about the temples. Some show mine and my sister’s infant faces staring large-eyed and bemused into the camera. There is, however, just the one of my mother herself - as a very young woman. Her head is thrown back and she is laughing uproariously, her arms flung around the waist of a good-looking man of about the same age. It’s raining and the man is holding his coat over them both as a kind of make-shift umbrella. He’s laughing too. What happy days! What a happy couple! Although her youthfulness and this strange gaiety make my mother hard to recognise in this picture, it is definitely her. The man, though, I do not recognise at all.

The 10-worder (super duper, think first and act later, jump rope, soap opera, delivery, barbeque, jewellery, on sale, justification, figure of speech)

New to Harold? The summary is here.

“So, are we happy with this list?” asked Mercury. Othello and Box indicated their agreement. They had, between them, worked their way through the complete list of OGS agent files Othello had downloaded from the OGS system – some one hundred personnel files.

“So who’ve we got?” asked Prada from her place at the window.

“Agents Cobalt, Sabre, Callisto, Oak and Ruby.”

“Ruby?” Prada was incredulous, “You’re kidding right? I went to his birthday barbecue last month. I taught his daughters jump rope. He’s solid, I’d bet my life on it.”

“You’re probably right,” said Mercury soothingly, “but at this stage we’re just pulling out anyone with anything unusual in their background. Ruby’s family is significantly wealthy, so he might be able to buy stuff other folks couldn’t. The family owns a chain of jewellery stores. Remember, we’re not accusing anyone of anything yet.”

“Cobalt’s background is in mining, that’s why he’s on the list,” added Othello, “he might have been able to get his hands on explosives.”

“And Sabre?” asked Prada, “What’s your justification for including her?”

“She has a gap in her history of about six months, which is very unusual - OGS is usually very thorough. It’s probably nothing, but nobody else had any gaps.”

“And Oak had a fairly long-running bit part in a soap opera.” Othello again.

“How is that relevant? I know some soap operas are criminally bad, but, even so.”

“Well, I suppose we’re clutching at straws here,” explained Othello, “but I was thinking about acting ability and how someone who was good at dissembling might be our traitor.”

Harold was only half listening to the agents’ discussion, he was enjoying looking at the garden. Box’s mysterious friend obviously had green fingers if this pleasant and well-kept space was anything to go by. At this time of the year, many of the plants were in bloom, adding splashes of colour here and there and the plants themselves looked to be in a lot better shape than the hot-housed, wilted specimens Harold had sometimes seen on sale in filling station forecourts. Of course, this garden, as fine as it was, was not a patch on that other one, the very first one… He stopped his thoughts right there, before they could take a turn down a rocky and painful road, to coin a figure of speech.

He wished he could be more help with the task in hand. Spotting a traitor in one’s midst was never easy, such a one was hardly likely to leave any obvious clues. Of course, Harold himself did not know any OGS agents apart from the ones in the room, their boss, Opal, and that young agent, Moon. All of them seemed super-duper squeaky-clean to him. Humans were masters of deception though, so you could never tell. He smiled to himself: talk about calling the kettle black.

“What’s tickling you?” asked Teatime, seeing Harold’s grin.

“Oh, nothing much,” Harold replied, “just the huge and fascinating ironies of life.”

“I do wonder about you sometimes, old sock, I really do.”

The doorbell rang.

“It’s a delivery guy,” said Prada quietly, “I’ve been watching him. He’s just been to the house across the street, but it looks like they’re not at home. I guess he’s looking to see if we’ll take in the package. Ours is the only house with a car in the driveway, so he probably thinks there’s someone here.”

“Does he look legit?” asked Box.

“He’s wearing a UPS uniform and his truck has the right livery.”

“I’ll get rid of him,” said Othello, standing up.

“Why don’t we just ignore him?” said India, “Surely that would be safest.”

Othello was already at the door. From the living room, they heard a brief low-voiced conversation. Othello then came back into the room, followed very closely by the UPS guy, who had a silenced gun pressed into the small of Othello’s back.

“Everybody keep calm and nobody will get hurt,” he said loudly and clearly. He gave Othello a push. “Face down, on the floor, all of you.” His voice dropped to a more normal level as they scrambled to comply, he was addressing an unseen colleague via an earpiece, evidently. “OK, I’m in. Garcia. Thompson. You’re up. Andrews, inform Mr Peck.”

A few moments later, Garcia and Thompson appeared. They too, were sporting UPS livery, earpieces – and guns.

“What’s going on?” demanded Mercury, “who are you people?”

“No talking.” Replied the first fake-UPS guy, whose name-tag identified him as Jeff. “Garcia. Get all their phones and those computers. Thompson, tie them up.”

Harold had briefly considered rushing Jeff before the others appeared. Bullets would not kill him after all, but, in a rare bout of think first and act later, he realised that there was a high risk of the gun going off and injuring or even killing one of the humans. By the time he had worked though this logic, the moment had passed anyway, so he followed Jeff’s instructions. Teatime jumped off his shoulder and ran behind the sofa, doing his best to act the dumb-monkey-who-is-no-threat-whatsoever-to-anyone-no-sir.

Garcia and Thompson were briskly efficient, and soon everybody was phone-free and wearing the latest in plastic cable-tie bracelets.

“OK, good,” said Jeff, when they had finished, “Now you, blond guy in the leather jacket. On your feet, you’re with me. The rest of you stay nice and quiet for my colleagues here.”

Harold got to his feet with some trepidation. Was he about to join Baron Samedi, Susan, Illyriel and all the rest?

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Bidawee Poetry Bus for the Bewildered

This week, the Poetry Bus, in the capable hands of Niamh B, is tackling the topic of confusion.  Click here to see the other passengers.

I'm never usually this early but, meh...

I thought briefly about doing something about the incipient dementia which is gradually creeping up on me these days, but figured others might want that topic (naming no names!!!).  Then this appeared....

What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden

I’m confused, the First Man muttered,
When confronted by the wheel.
It seems I cannot eat it,
And it has no sex appeal.

But it will take you places,
The Devil, he replied.
Speed up your daily living,
And become your manly pride.

I’m confused, the First Man muttered,
This abacus makes no sense.
It’s supposed to help me count things,
But it only makes me tense.

You’ll soon learn how to use it,
Said the Devil, with a laugh.
You’ll be able to predict things,
And even draw a graph.

I’m confused, the First Man muttered,
There’s nothing here to fear.
I have no mortal enemy,
Why would I need a spear?

It’s only for your safety,
Said the Devil’s grinning face.
I’m sure you’ll never need it,
It’s just for 'just in case'.

I’m confused, the First Man muttered
Are all these things for free?
It seems the world is changing
Since I nibbled from that tree.

Relax, and don’t you worry,
The Devil’s voice did soothe.
Your children, they can pay me,
For making life so smooth.

I’m confused, the Woman muttered
What on Earth is all this noise?
Hush, the Devil whispered,
Man is playing with his toys.

Note: no slight upon the male gender is intended here - women have their own silly toys too.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A New Home in the Sky - Secrets and Lies

It's a nice morning. I'm in a good mood. So good, in fact, that I drop a quid into the cup of the guy sitting in the underpass by Throwback Towers begging for change.

From our lofty eyrie on the seventh floor, we can see out over the city – or we could if somebody hadn't erected a huge blue 20-storey cube of glass in the immediate line of sight. Anyway, as I say, it's a nice morning. We haven't seen a rat for days (or the big boss, for that matter) and the Klueless Decision Support systems are ticking over - instead of falling over.

GD comes bouncing in.

"Good morning, people!" he sings, "Guess what? We're going for IL-4!"

"Going for what, now?" we chorus dully. Yet more wastes of the valuable precious seconds of our lives, no doubt.

"IL-4," he explains, "It's a new security thing. We're going to offer our clients super-secure storage for their data."

I hit the web and discover stuff about Government Information Frameworks...blah, blah ... ISO-yadda-yadda .. background checks ... compliance .. yawn ...physical access controls... security perimiters.... blah, blah ... strong encryption ... blah, blah, blah ... armed guards ... bla-


What was that last one?

Armed guards?


GD claps his hands to get our attention. "Everyone? I'd like you to meet Terry. He's our new security officer for IL-4."

Terry is six foot fourteen and has a face like a lorry tyre. He's either a veteran of numerous Black Ops or has worked security at Poundland, it's hard to tell. Either way, he's probably seen too much.

We say hi – ever so slightly nervously.

"Awright." Terry is a man of few words, it seems.

He takes up station in the Purple Zone – the interior designers of the 80s thought it was cool and futuristic to make the reception area look like one of the sets in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's not. It's naff. Terry doesn't seem to mind though. He takes out a magazine and begins to read. Expecting to see Soldier of Fortune, Mercenary Weekly or at the very least, Which Garotte, I'm mildly surprised to see his magazine of choice is New Scientist.

Brainy and lethal. Interesting.

At lunchtime, we peons escape out into the sunshine in search of lunch. We reach the bottom of the steps leading to the underpass.

There's something – or should I say, someone – missing. There is also an odd stain on the wall just where Spare Change guy usually sits.

We turn to each other and whisper.


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 118

It's been about a year since I started this Wordzzling lark.  Personally, I blame the Watercats, since reading the masterly concoctions they came up with each week inspired me to have a go.

You can have a go too!  It's not too late!  Combine it with the Poetry Bus Challenge if ya like, as the Bug did so successfully this week.  Rules, guidance and other players' fruits are at Raven's Nest.

The Mini (shade tree, price, disappointment, power, camera)

David wandered out into the garden. It was sad to see how it had deteriorated since his father’s death. David had not inherited his father’s seemingly magical power over green and growing things, so had no idea where to begin with it. He smiled to himself, remembering the joke question he used to ask his father: what’s the best time of the year to lay concrete? His father had always laughed indulgently, but David knew that the laughter covered a secret disappointment that David had not taken to gardening and would not be continuing the nursery business. He hefted his camera: he would need some good pictures if he was to sell the house quickly and for a good price. He approached the old shade tree at the far end of the garden. It would make a good steady back-rest for his shot of the rear of the house. As he walked up to the old tree, he noticed something in the bark: David’s Tree. He smiled. He had carved that when he was eight. He ran his fingers over the inscription and surrounding bark, savouring the roughness and the memories. Suddenly, for just a moment, he got a most vivid impression of the life of the old tree, pulsing slowly but strongly under his hand. He snatched it away quickly, not really liking the strange sensation. Curiosity overcame him, however, and he pressed his fingers to the bark once more. Hours later, sunset found him wandering around the garden, his camera discarded and forgotten, his hands caressing every flower, leaf and stem, his heart rejoicing in his father’s secret.

The 10-worder (shark, Scotland, gravity, final hours, aggravation, heat wave, sweet tooth, killer, tragic, flowers )

New to Harold? The story so far is here.

“I’m pleased to see you‘ve taken on board the gravity of the situation, Doctor Flowers.” The voice was deep, but thin and tinny, as though it came from a long distance away.

“I certainly have,” replied a second voice – Flowers’s, presumably. “Arranging the logistics of the move is pure aggravation, but a sensible precaution given what we’ve been hearing.” This second voice was higher-pitched, distorted to almost a mosquito-whine. The listener could barely make out the words, but the words were all that existed in the listener’s world – there was neither light nor shade, neither warmth nor cold, and – up till now, at least – there had been no sound. Memories stirred lazily in the depths of the listener’s mind, like fish in the depths of a frozen pond. It had not always been like this. The listener struggled to recall what exactly it had been like, but the effort was exhausting. The first voice was speaking again.

“Have you done the ten o’clocks yet?”

“I was Just about to do them, sir. Would you care to see?”

“Yes, I would, actually. Lead the way.”

The voices fell silent, leaving the listener alone to wonder if it had imagined them.


“I wonder how long this heat wave is going to continue,” grumbled Prada from her post by the front window, “it wouldn’t be so bad if we had air-con or something.”

A couple of hours had passed and the mysterious telephone truck was still parked, apparently deserted.

Behind her, in the living room, Othello stood up and stretched, a few joints popping as he did so.

“Seen anything yet?” asked Box, who was indulging his sweet tooth with the jar of jelly beans from the kitchen.

“Nothing that jumps out at me,” sighed Othello.

“Me neither,” added Mercury, sitting back from his computer and rubbing his eyes. “Let’s take a break and come back to this, my head’s buzzing.”

“I could take over if you like,” offered Box. Mercury gave him a be-my-guest wave and wandered into the kitchen in search of a cooling drink.

Remembering not to stand in full view, Harold wandered over to where India was watching the back garden.

“I could watch for a while if you need a break.” He said. India favoured him with a killer stare, but then seemed to reconsider and, mumbling her thanks, walked after Mercury.

“I think she’s thawing,” Harold whispered gleefully to Teatime. “She didn’t even insult me that time.”

“I think the final hours of the universe will be but a distant memory before she ever warms to you, old button.” Teatime replied

“I live in hope.” Grinned Harold.

“Then it’s a jolly good thing you’re immortal.” Was the monkey’s dry response.


The voices were back, closer and louder this time. With an effort, the listener dragged together the shreds of its diffuse attention and tried to focus on what was being said.

“…pioneering work was first done in Scotland,” the one the listener dimly remembered was called Flowers was saying.

“Oh, yes,” agreed the first, as yet, unnamed voice, “Shark-something and Webber, or something, wasn’t it?”

“Sharkey and Webster, sir, yes.” replied Flowers. “Brilliant researchers, both, but sadly not given the credit they deserve. It was tragic the way they were killed before they could publish, truly… Oh hello.”

“What is it?”

The voices were very close now; the listener did not have to struggle at all to make them out.

“The readings are a bit high on this one.” Flowers explained, “Could you just hold on to this for me, while I change the settings? We don’t want to go the way of Shark-something and Webber, now do we?”

The two voices laughed together quietly for a moment. There followed a rapid series of clicks and suddenly the listener forgot itself once again.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Poetry Bus - Passengers Now Boarding

Hooray! I'm back for a second tour behind the wheel of the mighty juggernaut that is the Poetry Bus. Many thanks to Dominic for his inspiring prompt last week.

This week, we have two tickets available:

Excursion to the Comedy Store
Now we all know comedy is not easy to do, but I know from past experience that there are some seriously (sic!) funny people out there. Dust off your tickling sticks, put that water-squirting flower in your lapel, strap on your handshake buzzer and let's make with the funny!

Tunnel of (unrequited) Love
We had the slushy Valentine's stuff earlier this year, but it's not always easy to love and not be loved in return. What's it like when that certain special somebody doesn't even know you exist (it's called stalking - Ed). Are they with someone else? Are you jealous? Come and share the bittersweetness with your bus-travelling friends.

You can combine the two challenges into one if you wish.

As usual, when you've created your masterpiece, pop a comment here and next Monday, I'll do the linkiness that we all love so very much. 
It's only Saturday, but already several eager beavers are at the stop, waving their tickets about and blocking the pavement, so I'd better get things rolling...

Here's my little effort - a bit early but, meh!  I've gone for the unrequited love option. 

He was just the friend of a friend.
I was just fifteen
And had read about love in books.

He was just the friend of a friend.
I was just lonely
And mistook kindness for something more.

He was just the friend of a friend.
But I made him a god
And god-like, he was oblivious to his suffering worshipper.

He was just the friend of a friend.
But he loved another.
And all my bitter tears could not drown her.

And now for the real poets....

Peter Goulding has raced to the bus-stop with his tale of librarian love here.

Jeanne Iris is finding her own song here.

Weaver is stretching her brain here.

The Bug is sitting under a tree here.

The Poet-in-Residence is coming all over astronomical here.

Helen is flamin' well here.

Dianne is celebrating odoriferous love here.

Erratic Thoughts is screaming 'it shoulda bin me!' here.

Rachel Fox is telling us what girls learn here.

Don't Feed the Pixies is all pomed out here.

Niamh B is in Tenby here.

Gwei Mui speaks of what might have been here.

Crazy Fieldmouse is waiting for the second moving van here.

Heather is telling a true story here.

Jinksey is all about the interwebs here.

Enchanted Oak is in the dungeon here.

Dominic Rivron is articulating an amenican sentence here.

Dave King speaks of love and loss here.

Lydia is carrying a song here.

TotalFeckinEejit is being killed here.

Titus is not going down here.

Chiccoreal's dude is a dud here.

Doctor FTSE is being wittily erudite here.

Domestic Oubliette has had a productive meeting with the muse here.

Shilpa is trying to attract a CIA man here.

Kat is brewing up trouble here.

Karen is gazing at the moon here.

NotMaudeGonne is having a bit of a clear-out here.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Poetry Bus Goes 'ON'

This week's outing is in the very capable hands of Mr Dominic Rivron of this parish, who set us a challenge to write a poem on - literally, ON - something.  The challenge was set here.  The other passengers' tickets may be inspected here.

I decided to put my poem on an old kettle.

It's just water,
Wet leaves, milk.
Maybe sugar,
Maybe not.
It's just you,
The tea, and me.
Maybe talking,
Maybe not.

It's not Keats but there are limitations to what can be said on the side of an old kettle.  Maybe we've found a new art form - 'write-on' poetry.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 117

Well, it's 22:55 here in good old Blighty and time for the usual Wordzzle-related post.  I only have myself to blame for the words this week, as I provided them.  That said, it doesn't make them any easier to deal with.

For rules, advice and other players' wordzzles, go here.

The Mini (spotlight, canvas, kitty, money-box, eye-drops)

The eye-drops the doctors had given Kitty O'Hara had done absolutely no good at all.  The world was still blurry and strangely-coloured after weeks of treatment and an increasingly empty money-box.
"Just paint what you see!" barked M. Alphonse, the evening-class art teacher, in his overdone French accent (which Kitty strongly suspected was fake), "Do not try to make sense of eet!"
Kitty shrugged and applied her brush to her palette. Teacher knows best, she thought.
Now, weeks later, she stared in disbelief at her canvas, hanging on the wall in Spotlight, the town's exclusive gallery.  She had painted exactly what she saw - odd colours and blurriness included and now it seemed her hated eye condition would net her £500 when the painting sold.

The 10-worder (smoothly, spiders, floor boards, eggs, carpet, moonshine, leaping, CD, purring, jewel)

New to Harold? The story so far is here.

“… and I used to dream that the spiders living under my floor boards would come out at night and lay eggs in the carpet,” Prada was saying as Harold re-entered the living room with the coffee tray, “Took me years to work up the nerve to walk barefoot in that house. Ah, coffee!”

Harold smoothly placed the tray of cups and the coffeepot on the table.

“Right,” said Mercury, “Down to business. The way I see it, we have two things to worry about: our original investigation into the disappearances, and the fact that there may be someone in our midst working against us.”

“No ‘may be’ about it,” muttered Box into his coffee cup.

“This could actually work somewhat to our advantage,” piped up Teatime.

“How could that possibly work to our advantage?” said Prada, disbelievingly, “All it’s done so far is messed up our investigation.”

“Well,” said the little monkey, “Our ‘traitor’ is a definite link to Enigma – in fact, the only real link we have. If we can identify him – or her – then we may be able to use that to get to the bottom of things.”

“Yes,” agreed Othello, “That’s a good point. Thinking about it, I bet Agent Emerald was killed because he was either getting too close to the traitor or had uncovered something about the resurrection of project Dynamo.”

“I’m willing to bet,” chipped in Mercury, “that Emerald had some suspicions of his own and felt threatened, else why go to the trouble of setting up clues in his apartment the way he did?”

“Pity he didn’t leave any clues as to who he thought the traitor was.” Said India.

“Maybe he did,” said Othello, “but we didn’t know to look for them. Let’s face it, we almost didn’t find the Dynamo clues. Maybe if we went back there and looked again…?”

“It’s an idea,” agreed Mercury. “We have to be careful about the places we go, though. We don’t want to find any more presents waiting for us.”

“That’s a point,” said Teatime, “Who at OGS would have known where we were going?”

Othello pursed his lips, “Our mission wasn’t exactly secret, so anyone who could log onto our system could pull up our case notes and plans. Plus, we haven’t exactly kept our verbal discussions private – anyone could have overheard them.”

”Are we assuming then that our traitor is local – based at Aunt Aggie’s?” asked Prada.

“I think so, although we should beware of leaping to that conclusion too readily,” replied Othello, “Emerald worked out of Aunt Aggie’s, though, as do we. Add to that the apparent speed with which our traitor was able to organise his little surprise party and it’s a not unreasonable assumption – at least for now.”

“Whoever it was also moved quite quickly to intimidate Reverend Box,” said Harold.

“Yeah,” growled Box, “The guy was dressed in a nice suit and tie – I thought it was one of you at first, having arranged to meet you. Wouldn’t have let him in otherwise.”

“What exactly did he look like?” Mercury asked.

“He was about five-nine, average build. Black hair, brown eyes.”

Othello got out his laptop and brought it purring to life. “Give me a minute here,” he said, “There’s a site on the web that lets you do your own e-fits. It might be useful.”

About twenty minutes of clicking, pointing, pursed lips, wrinkled foreheads, tutting, squinting sideways and correcting later, a face stared out at them from the computer screen.

“Don’t recognise him at all.” Said Mercury. “If he’s OGS, he’s not from around here.”

“That would have been too easy,” grumbled Prada.

“I’m not sure he was actually OGS anyway,” said Box, “More likely, he was someone hired to warn me off helping you. Makes sense to use hired help when you think about it, nobody can point the finger at you later on.”

“How annoyingly far-sighted of him,” said Teatime. “He must have access to a fair amount of resources to hire his own goons – and have bombs planted on request. You chaps do background checks on your people don’t you? Are those records kept anywhere we could get to them?”

“We do conduct background checks and there are records, of course, but they’re only accessible to Directors. Why do you ask?” Said Mercury,

“Well, our traitor might have things in his background – occupational connections, maybe, or family ones – that might give us a clue.”

“There must be a hundred agents working out of Aunt Aggie's,” said Mercury, “Even if we could access their records, it would take time to go through each one’s background. Anyway, we can't access them, so it’s not an option.”

“It might be,” said Othello. The others looked at him. “A while back, Director Opal was having some computer problems and I helped him out. I had to use his password to log in.” Othello’s fingers did a rapid QWERTY two-step. “I told him to change it immediately after, but I’m betting….” His fingers danced some more, tapping in m-o-o-n-s-h-i-n-e-2-1. The login screen, bearing the crossed crook and key of the OGS crest, disappeared, to be replaced by a menu. “Gotta love human nature,” sang Othello, “His last password ended in two-zero. I just knew he’d do the absolute minimum to change it. Now, let’s see… It should be possible to download the records onto my laptop. Box, do you still have your laptop?”

“I do,” replied Box, “I’ll just go and get it.” He disappeared upstairs.

“ If I copy the records to a CD and give them to Box, then two people can work on the records at the same time on two machines. I don’t want to have to stay logged in here for any length of time – if Opal tried to log in now, he’d be told that he was already logged on. The system only allows a user to be logged on once at any one time.” He dug in his laptop bag, retrieved a CD, flipped open the transparent jewel case and placed the shiny disc into the computer’s drive.

A short time later, Box came trotting back down the stairs, laptop in hand.

“I don’t want to worry anyone” he said, “but when I was upstairs, I looked out the bedroom window and there’s a telephone company truck parked just down the street.”

“What of it?” said Mercury.

“It’s only just turned seven a.m.” The little man said, “Since when did the telephone company ever show up this early in the morning?”

“Might be nothing,” said Mercury, “Maybe we should keep a lookout, though, in case. Prada, you take the front. India, the back. Is that CD ready?”

Othello handed the CD to Box and explained quickly what they were about. Box started up his machine. Othello began scanning records on his computer while Mercury did the same on Box’s.

Having nothing else to do, Harold wandered over to where Prada was looking out of the front windows.

“Don’t stand in full view,” she scolded, “stand so the curtain hides you.”

“Sorry,” he said, “Haven’t exactly been trained for this.”

Outside in the street, all was quiet.

Author's Note:
There are websites where you can make your own e-fits. e.g. this one.  I played with this, trying to construct an image of my hubs, whose face I should know in detail, right?  Turns out it's way harder than it looks - it's a wonder the cops catch anybody with these things.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Tuesday night is saxophone lesson night and I have about thirty frantic minutes before the teacher arrives in which to make up for my week of utter indolence and neglect on the practice front.

So, there I am, torturing the poor innocent instrument for all it's worth, scales, arpeggios, the works, when the doorbell chimes.

Thinking it would probably be Don't Feed the Pixies (who shares music lessons with me), or (horrors!) the teacher himself come early, saxophone in hand, I go trotting down the stairs to open the front door.

As it turns out, it isn’t my partner in musical crime, nor indeed my musical Jedi Master, but a pleasant middle-aged lady who smiles and greets me as I stand squinting at her in the glare of the setting sun. She wants to sell me something, it would seem.

See sees my saxophone.

Now, she’s probably read somewhere that engaging a potential customer in friendly conversation is a good way to get them to warm to you, thereby increasing the likelihood of a sale.

She goes for it:

“Ooh, you’ve got a trumpet!” she gushes.  An impressive opening, I think you’ll agree.  I glance down at the instrument, just in case by some strange door-to-door magic, she has transmogrified my poor alto sax into the favoured weapon of Louis Armstrong. Nope, it’s still as it was.

“It’s a saxophone,” I reply, politely but coolly (what the hell are the notes in the B flat major arpeggio, dammit, I’ve forgotten them now what with this pesky distraction!).

Now, as I mentioned, the sun was setting over the houses opposite, and shining into my not-particularly-functional-even-on-a-good-day eyes, making me squint – a lot. Having messed up on the opening gambit, the lady’s now a bit wrong-footed, so I suppose we shouldn't really blame her for what comes next.

“Are you blind?” she blurts out. As complete non-sequitur, sales-clinching patter goes, this is classic stuff. Surely, I’ll buy anything now! Guess she missed the Diversity and Disability Awareness training then - along with Musical Instrument Recognition 101.

“Er, no,” I reply, slightly more frostily (that E flat scale isn’t going to practise itself, you know!). “I’m partially-sighted, actually.”

“Ooh, that’s a shame,” she says sadly. Her heart is sinking a bit now as it looks like I might not actually be able to use what she’s trying to sell me – whatever it is (she hasn’t actually got around to that bit yet, what with all the crazy saxophone/disability talk). She peers over my shoulder into the house in the vain hope that a fully-sighted, slightly less irritated musician-wannabe is hovering somewhere behind me, eager and ready to buy.

“Is there anyone else in the…?” she begins hopefully, almost rising up on her toes to see past me, as I continue to stare/squint unhelpfully, saying nothing (E flat, G, B flat…). “Only, I’m selling daily delivery subscriptions for the Daily Blather. Would you be interested?” That is, would you be interested - even though I think you are too blind to be able to read the teeny-weeny print, you poor thing?

“I’m sorry,” I tell her, “I get all my news from the internet. Good evening.”

“OK,” she sighs and wanders off to next door’s.

They’re Indian. I wonder how she’ll get on with them (“Ooh, you’ve got poppadoms!”, “No, it’s just some Pringles, actually.”… )

What a Photo Blog Should Be

Chaps, I don't normally go wobbling on about other people's blogs, but today, I read a post on Bridget Callahan Is Your Best Friend, that I just HAD to share with you.

It's called The Vega Colony.  It's just some text and photos about an abandoned building.

That's all.

No, that's not all. 

Bridget has woven the words and pictures together in such a magical way on this post and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  This is what I love about blogging - people doing new things with words and pix.

Go and read it.


Saturday, 3 July 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 116

Really. Must. Try. To. Post. Stuff. Other. Than. Wordzzles. And. Poems.  However, in the meantime, it's you-know-what time.

Go to Raven's Nest for guidance and other players' writings.  Tough words this week.

The Mini (operation, hair, brick wall, flamingo, porch)

Jespah Oreole leaned casually against the brick wall, running a comb through his near-perfect black hair. Any time now, the target would be coming round the corner, oblivious to what fate had in store for him. Across the road, Fat Neruda was lounging about on the rather overdone rococo porch of the Hot Flamingo club, trying to look nonchalant. He lit a cigarette, but even from across the street, Jespah could see his pudgy hands shaking with excitement. He's trying too hard, he thought. He's going to blow the whole operation. Just then, a car with blacked-out windows appeared at the end of the street and purred towards them. Jespah calmly put away his comb and slipped the gun from its holster. As the car drew level, Neruda's cigarette fell from his mouth and he instinctively bent down to retrieve it. Amateur, thought Jespah, disgustedly, forget the stupid cigarette and focus! Where Neruda's head had been a moment before, however, the ornate plasterwork exploded into fragments and the sound of a gunshot echoed down the street. The car was past and Jespah could now see that the rear windows were rolled halfway down. Before he could react, however, there was a second loud crack and chips from the brickwork stung his cheek. So they'd been double-crossed.

The 10-Worder (easy come easy go, charcoal, flute, sugar plum, signs, side effects, gymnastics, operation, credit card, wings)

New to Harold? The summary is here.

"Doesn't look like much, does it?" said Prada, parking the car outside the very ordinary-looking residence corresponding to the address that Harold had texted.

"Probably why it was chosen," said Mercury, "It's not like you'd want to post signs outside saying 'Safe House This Way'."

Prada shrugged and got out of the car. The others followed suit and they walked up the drive to the charcoal-coloured front door. Othello pressed the bell and they were rewarded with the first few bars of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, played on what sounded for all the world like some kind of adenoidal Patagonian nose-flute.

"Quaint," he murmured.

"I was thinking of going with tacky," commented Teatime from Othello's shoulder, where he had taken to riding, "But quaint is more charitable, I suppose."

Harold opened the door and stepped back to allow them all to enter.


Mr Teeth was squinting at the maddeningly small text printed on the packaging of the new muscle-growth supplement he had just bought. He was really going to have to get some reading glasses one of these days. The package blurb claimed the powder had been used successfully by eastern European gymnastics coaches with minimal side-effects, and the list of chemical ingredients was worryingly long and unpronounceable. It looked like his credit card had got him DuPont's annual output and had almost maxed out doing it. Oh well, easy come, easy go, he thought, pouring the unappealing grey powder into a jug.

The phone rang.

"This is Peck."

"Go on,"

"My associates have tracked your quarry to an address in the suburbs, where the other people he's been associating with have joined him. There is also one other there – a small, bald male, rides a motorcycle."

"I don't recognise him from that description."

"No matter, my associates are watching the house now. How would you like this to play out? We can put together an operation at the house or we can intercept them if they leave."

"I actually just want to talk to the punk for now," replied Mr Teeth, "and don't want to go stirring up trouble that might attract attention."

"My associates are very discreet and very competent." Peck's voice was smooth and cool.

"I'm sure they are." and expensive too, I bet, "OK, see what you can do. Call me when you've got him to the address I gave you."

"As you wish." The line went dead with a soft click.


"We thought you'd sprouted wings and flown away, old sock." said Teatime, hopping onto his accustomed place on Harold's shoulder once more.

"Not quite," laughed Harold, "although I did spend a small amount of time in the air when the bomb went off. Luckily, Reverend Box came along at just the right time." Between them, Box and Harold filled in the missing pieces of the night's events.

"OK," said Mercury, when they'd finished, "We need to work out how to flush out the traitor in our midst – maybe he or she will lead us to whoever is causing us so much trouble."

"I've been thinking," said Othello, turning to Box, "Your Dynamo records, did you really send them away and, if so, where?"

"I never actually had any," said Box, "I made all that up so I could give you the Osprey building's address. Sorry"

"So there are no records left then? You mentioned an Agent Iris having some, but there was no such agent in our database."

"Ah," Box smacked his hand against his forehead, "I'm such an idiot. Iris was the joke name I used to call him back then, on account of his surname."

"Which was?"

"Rainbow – his name was Mark Rainbow. Iris is a messenger of the goddess Hera and the personification of the rainbow, you see?"

"No wonder I couldn't find him." Othello rubbed his eyes, "Any coffee around here?"

"I'll make some," volunteered Harold, who quite fancied a cup himself. He went into the kitchen and began fiddling with the coffee maker. After a few moments, he heard the kitchen door open. He turned around and was surprised to see India coming into the kitchen.

She held something out to him.

"Thought you might want this," she said, curtly. It was Harold's backpack, containing his trumpet.

"Wow!" he cried, "Thanks! I thought I was never going to see this again, that was really – "

But she was already closing the door on her way out.