Saturday, 30 January 2010

Must the Show Go On? Yes, Apparently.

Followers of Don’t Feed the Pixies will have probably read by now his account of the panto-related shenannigans last Saturday night at a certain village hall near us (You can catch up on it here if you need to).

He spoke eloquently there of the pantomimes staged by our Toastmasters club and another one from some distance away, so I won’t go over all that again. I’ll just add that, not being pretty enough to actually be in the panto (it wasn’t Cinderella, so no ugly sisters needed), I was drafted in at the last minute to do the incredibly difficult and complex job of Lighting Technician. OK, I just had to turn off the stage lights at the proper time and turn them back on again… and then off again…. and then on again. OK, enough of that. That was my one contribution to the panto, big whoop.

No, I was there to form a kind of musical comedy double-act with DFTP. That’s how it ended up anyway. We originally volunteered our miscal services ages ago, but only found out relatively recently how much time we would be allotted. We were, we were told, to be the “middle bit” between the pantos, and needed to come up with 10-15 minutes of material.

What to do, what to do?

We did consider performing a few of our own songs but hadn’t got enough funny to last that long and this was definitely not the occasion for songs about drowning ourselves or feeling p$ssed off at work. We needed funny and we needed it fast - we only had a couple of chances to get together and rehearse before the Big Day.

The we came upon the idea of presenting a series of snippets of famous songs with lyrics re-written to poke gentle fun at Toastmasters and public-speaking – a subject familiar and dear to the hearts of our audience. The theme would be that we had discovered in the Toastmasters’ archive (the bins round the back of the village hall) the lost lyrics of some famous musicians who had once partaken of the Toasties experience. Having got our theme sorted out, our pencils began to scribble furiously and we managed to get something together .

When we came onstage, the running order had been changed. so we were at the end of the two pantos, not the middle. Mind you, this was good as the audience was well warmed up by this time and determined to have a good time.

It was just as well they were!

When we started our skit on Paul Simon’s Sounds of Silence, (Hello, lecturn my old friend/I’ve come to stand up here again…) I managed to somehow mess up one of the chord changes and basically ruined the whole thing so we started over, to much merriment. Sounds of Silence is a b$gger to sing, by the way, with a wide pitch range. My voice was quite tired from practising like a looney earlier in the day in a desparate last-ditch effort to learn the pieces by heart (my sight’s not good enough to read from a cue sheet like lucky old DFTP). Anyway we got though without much further mishap and no vocal collapses, and the audience was having such fun with/at us – even laughing in the right places at the jokes – that we both began to relax a bit.

Then came the lost Cat Stevens song, The First Speech is the Hardest (I had it perfectly planned from the start/But when I stood up it all fell apart…) which we got through without undue boo-boos (or if there were any, my aging brain has blotted them out behind the pink fluffy clouds of pre-senile dementia).

Then it was on to Sting with Every Speech You make (Every speech you make/Every role you take…). According to DFTP, Sting was actually thrown out of Toastmasters for Tantric Speaking – just going on and on and never reaching a climax (bah-dum, ching!). This was one of the few jokes we actually remembered to do on the night. We had roughed out a kind of script and had put (what we thought were) funny little interludes between the songs, but on the night, the applause was very generous and in all the excitement, we forgot most of it. *Sigh* Comedy Gold, lost forever.

Then came the Great Capo Incident of 2010. For those of you who have never used them, Capos are a ingenious device for making your guitar go completely out of tune. Apparently, the inventors originally intended them to just raise the pitch of all the strings, allowing musicians and singers of relatively indifferent accomplishment (like me) to change the key of a song without all that messy business of knowing loads of more complicated and hard-to-play chords. Anyway, I took about 4 goes to get mine fitted properly and DFTP swears his made his guitar sound wonky (although I didn’t notice it). We then went for Bob Marley’s I Joined Toastmasters (to the tune of I Shot the Sherrif) which DFTP, being a much better guitarist than me accompanied really well with a nice reggae beat while I sort of fiddled around a bit, trying to keep up (practeeeeeeesss!!).

Next up was Green Day and Wake Me Up When the Speeches End (the track that never quite made it to their American Idiot album). Again DFTP came up with the goods on the guitar, reproducing quite neatly, the riff that GD play – singing all the while too. Impressive.

Our final hurrah was a song to the tune of I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (the old Coca Cola advert from years ago). This was the longest one and had the least funny in it, but was probably one of the best received for all that. We even got the audience waving their hands in the air at the end, which was terrific!.

This was my first public performance since 1990 and I had been a bit anxious about messing up and forgetting the words. In the end though, it was not too bad and the audience, being so determined to have fun, really made it a lot easier than it might have been. Sadly, no record remains of this performance and perhaps that’s just as well.

DFTP and I are now looking to do some less “safe” venues, like open mic nights or the like. Also available for Weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs….

PS: Watercats have nothing to fear from us!

Saturday Wordzzle 97

Saturday again so soon? Must be Wordzzle time then! Go to Raven's Nest to get the poop on how to play this game.

I chose this week's words and I apologise if they were annoyingly hard - I struggled with marshmallow and Telfon.

The mini (ripen, shelve, laminate, goofy, Siamese)

This is part of of an ongoing story. A blind seer has had a vision about a young man coming to some as yet unspecified harm from an old man living in a tower. To try to avert this fate, she has anonymously paid for him to take a holiday somewhere far away. The young man has arrived at the holiday town and has noticed an interesting tower, which he plans to investigate the next day. The seer has a nightmare which she believes is connected to the young man's fate and resolves to go after him. She finds herself in the holiday town and realises this is the very place the tower is located. She gets lost trying to locate it and hears footsteps approaching. The young man, on his way to the tower sees a blind lady trying to cross the road...

The young man speaks...

I am thinking I should shelve my idea of helping the blind lady across the road before it can ripen into an embarrassing encounter. What if she‘s insulted by my offer to help, my implied view of her as incapable? It’s a goofy idea, surely. She’s still hesitating though. What to do, what to do? Oh, get on with it man! What’s the worst that could happen? She might tell you to get lost is all. She starts at my hand on her arm and I apologise and explain that I’ll help her if she’s willing. She wants to go to the tower. That’s handy for me, I tell her. We can go together. I wrap her arm over mine and we set off. I’m quite tall and she is very short, so we must look like a set of bizarrely mis-matched Siamese twins. We chat a bit as we go and soon a thin laminate of friendship is laid over our initial shyness with each other. She’s actually quite pretty behind the dark glasses. I tell her about my windfall anonymously-donated holiday. Oh, no! What did I say? She’s like a woman possessed, she’s throwing her arms around me and crying. What’s that all about?

The 10-worder (Teflon, idealistic, marshmallow, opportunistic, kittens, beef, sawing logs, slapped, tickled, scissors)

New to Harold? Click here to catch up.

    The phone rang . Mr Teeth set down the scissors he had been using to open his morning sachet of protein drink (beef flavour today) and picked it up.
    “This is Peck. “ came the cultured voice of the private investigator . “Your boy is back in town. He was seen hanging around the club last night. Unfortunately, he left there in the company of some others – two men, two women. We have a licence plate though and my contacts are tracing the owners.”
    “Thanks,” grunted Mr Teeth, “I still want to speak to that boy, so keep on it, will you?”
    “Of course,” came the smooth reply, “I’ll let you know if anything changes.” The phone went dead. For 1500 dollars a day, the man might at least say goodbye occasionally, thought Mr Teeth.

    They had given Harold a tiny, hastily emptied-out office with no windows (to prevent opportunistic escape attempts, presumably). Someone had rustled up a camp bed and they had left a desk and chair in there too. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was better than nothing.
    Teatime was still delicately sawing logs when Harold woke from a pleasant night of quiescence, wondering what the day would bring. He dressed, opened the door and stepped out into the main operations room of OGS. This place had fascinated him on his last visit but he had not exactly had a chance to explore.
    Even at this early hour, the place was far from deserted: there were agents tapping reports into computers, agents on the phone, agents scouring the internet for information – a veritable hive of activity. A fresh-faced young agent at a nearby desk noticed Harold.
    “I don’t think you’re meant to be wandering about out here.” He said, rather timidly. Harold guessed that he had probably not been in the job long. It was wrong of him, he knew, but he could not resist having a little fun. He placed his hands on the desk in front of the agent and leaned over him, forcing him to lean back to maintain eye contact.
    “I was just looking for something to eat,” he said, bestowing upon the agent his most friendly grin. “Know where I can get hold of some nice fluffy kittens?”
    The young agent looked horrified.
    “Err, I don’t think we can do that.” He stammered, “I can get you something from the canteen. Will that do?”
    “That would be lovely.”
    “Stop that!” India snapped, having just arrived.
    “I’m sorry,” Harold said to the young agent, “I was just having a little fun. Some food would be nice though. Teatime will be hungry by now and he gets really grouchy when he’s hungry.”
    Relieved, the young agent scuttled off.
    “Do anything like that again and there’ll be trouble.” India said angrily, looking like she could have slapped him.
    Harold held up his palms apologetically, “I’m sorry. You idealistic types have a certain stereotypical view of us demons, so I was just living up to it. Won’t happen again.”
    The fried egg of his apology splatted against the Teflon coating of her cool stare and slid off, leaving no trace of humour in her eyes. Mind you, when Harold thought about it, he had been a bit mean to torment the young agent like that. The young fellow had been about as tough as a marshmallow and not really fair game. He sighed. Guess it was just his wicked fallen nature coming out.
    “Get your monkey-thing and come with me.” India ordered.
    She was back to being dark-haired again today for some reason which tickled Harold’s curiosity somewhat. He’d have to ask her about that at some point – after making sure her taser was well out of reach first, of course.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Get in da red car and follow that bus!

The Lord of all Eejit has got the Poetry Bus all fixed up again, Hooray! This week's trip involves writing a poem which includes the words RED CAR in it.

This is my feeble, get-aboard-the-bus-at-any-price effort. It has the virtue of being short.

This red car has seen better days.
Once, it would have slipped out of the garage
Like a shiny red tongue, stuck defiantly out at the world.
The tongue's lolling listlessly now, though
And cannot so much as muster a feeble raspberry.

Wishing I could be in Wicklow on Friday....

Friday, 22 January 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 96

Yes, another Saturday rolls around - except that it's still Friday here. I'm posting a bit earlier this week as I'm going to be a bit busy this weekend. Check out Raven's Nest for the rules and whatnot.

Most of the words were tricky this week so I'm not singling any one of them out.

The mini (smelly, politician, favourite, token gesture, garden)

This is part of of an ongoing story. A blind seer has had a vision about a young man coming to some as yet unspecified harm from an old man living in a tower. To try to avert this fate, she has anonymously paid for him to take a holiday somewhere far away. The young man has arrived at the holiday town and has noticed an interesting tower, which he plans to investigate the next day. The seer has a nightmare which she believes is connected to the young man's fate and resolves to go after him...

The seer speaks...

What on earth am I doing? I’m lost now. Back at that rather smelly cheese shop they said it would be easy to find the tower. Just follow the lane, they said. I’m not sure if I’m even going the right way now. I can smell flowers, so I guess there must be a garden behind this hedge somewhere. Maybe I’ll come to a gate and find my way to a door and a friendly person to ask, that’d be my favourite scenario right now. I’m such a fool to have come rushing up here, hoping to save that young man. I thought I’d sent him far away from the old man and his tower. What are the odds that I would send him straight to it? Why couldn’t my vision have shown me where the tower was, for pity’s sake? The gods give me a vision and dangle the possibility of my being able to avert it but, like the promises of a corrupt politician, it turns out to be no more than a token gesture. No, there’s no gate here, maybe across the road then. I can’t hear any traffic but one has to be so careful. Ah, I hear footsteps approaching. Maybe it’ll be someone who can help.

The 10-worder (Badger, roll out the barrel, amazing, a lovely cup of tea, pressure, frozen, gandalf, pixies, top gear)

New to Harold? Click here to catch up.

“Work with a demon?” cried Mercury, “Are you serious?”

“Quite serious,” replied Baruthiel calmly. “The decision to combine forces was not made lightly, I assure you. Now I can’t put any pressure on you to do this, but I would strongly recommend it.”

The agents’ faces were so comically frozen in disbelief that Harold was tempted to whip out his phone and take a picture. He suspected that it would be a poor start to their working relationship though, so he didn’t. What puzzled him was that the female agents had changed their appearances. The older one – Agent Gucci, was it - looked amazing (for a human). The younger one though looked faintly ridiculous and distinctly ill-at-ease in her blonde wig, make-up and heels. He felt a smile starting a tug-of-war with the corners of his mouth.

For her part, Agent India couldn’t believe her ears. She couldn’t have been more surprised if Baruthiel had suggested they team up with Gandalf and his pixies or Hobbits or whatever . Surely Mercury would say no and then they could nail that – wait a minute – was that demon smirking? At her? The nerve! She felt the weight of the taser in her hand. Oh, If only…. Come on Mercury, just say no, she urged him silently. Just. Say. No.

“Does Opal know about this?” asked Mercury, apparently impervious to India’s thought-beams boring into the back of his head .

“He has been informed,” replied the angel. “He says that, as you’ll be the ones affected, you should decide whether you want to work with a Fallen.“

“I vote no.” said India, straightaway.

“Quelle surprise,” whispered Teatime.

“I would vote yes,” said Othello, “Except we can’t have demons running around unbound and I’m assuming,” and, he turned to Harold, “that you wouldn’t agree to be Bound?”

“Correct” Replied Harold

“Since when do we ask demons for their permsision before Binding them?” said India, incredulously. “Surely, we should just do it and then the question doesn’t arise!”

“I think it would be better if all parties in this arrangement were willing rather than coerced.” Interjected Baruthiel. “But your point is well made.”

Othello thought for a moment then said to Harold, “Perhaps as a compromise, you could base yourself at our HQ and an Agent could accompany you at all times when out and about.”

“I’d be Ok with that,” said Prada, “Besides, it’s about time we had some eye-candy in the place – no offence, gentlemen.” India shot her a scandalised look.

“I’d be OK with that too, I suppose,” said Mercury drily, “but not for the same reasons as Agent Prada.”

“Well?” Baruthiel was looking at Harold. The latter’s brain went into top gear as he tried to consider the ramifications of agreeing to this latest idea.

“Just a moment,” he said, walking away down the alley. “What do you think, Teatime?”

“I hate to badger you over this but I think you should never have agreed to work with these people in the first place,” replied Teatime sternly, “but that’s academic now. I suspect refusal to join their little party at this point would be unwise: these OGS lackeys on their own are dangerous enough but with Baruthiel as well.. No, we’d better make the best of it, old button.”

“OK,” said Harold, returning to the group. “I’m in.”

“Good,” approved the angel, “Now I must go.” He addressed Harold in Celestial, “The Penthouse has placed an unprecedented amount of trust in you, Fallen. Betray that trust and I will take it as a personal affront.”

And with that, he was gone.

“So, what now?” said Harold brightly.

“Back to HQ for you, then a good night’s sleep for us.” Said Mercury.”

“Will my room have an ensuite?” Harold asked Inida.

“Hardly.” She repleid sullenly, “We’re not going to roll out the barrel for the likes of you.”

“Could you at least run to a lovely cup of tea then?” Harold continued, “Only Teatime is rather partial to it.”

“Stop talking to me.” India snapped.

“Just being friendly,” Harold said, “We are going to be working together after all.”

“So? It doesn’t mean we have to do small-talk.”

Harold sighed. These humans were no fun.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Don't Have Nightmares

I guess we all have recurring nightmares.

I wonder, though, if anyone ever has recurring good dreams? I don’t. Mind you, my nightmares are probably a bit bland – not so much nightmares as night-my-little-ponies, I suppose. They aren’t even terribly original either, I bet loads of other people have had these same ones.

#1 – Being naked/inappropriately dressed in public.
This is a classic I think. I usually start off properly dressed then relise only later that I’m missing something essential in the tailoring department. I try to cover up the naughtiest bits with whatever’s to hand. Oddly enough though, no-one else in the dream ever seems too bothered. Maybe there’s a message there.

#2 – Being unprepared for a performance
I’m on a stage, about to give a performance (usually singing and/or playing guitar or piano). I realise, as the curtain goes up, that I haven’t learnt the words or music - and the audience is waiting….

#3 – Heights
I’m afraid of heights in the waking world and this features quite often in my dreams, usually combined with a staircase that goes up, up, up and then there’s no way to get off the top to the landing – just a huge gap and a long drop. This is probably the commonest of my recurring dreams. I once tried a charity abseil down the side of an 11-storey building to see it that would cure it, but it didn’t.

#4 – Being unable to make an emergency call.
This is a relative newcomer to the collection and shows that my dreams are keeping pace with technology at least. There’s some kind of emergency going on and I need to call for help on my mobile. I try to dial, get it wrong and start again – only to mess it up a second time. Then I forget the actual number I’m supposed to be dialling and so on.

#5 – Not being able to do my job.
I’m in the office. Although I know all the people in the place and have obviously worked here some time, I’m completely at a loss as to how to actually do my job. I hope people won’t notice… I have been blagging my way in IT for over 20 years now. One day, someone IS going to notice.

#6 – Moving house to a place I hate
I’ve just moved into my new home with hubby etc and I discover I really want to be back at the old house and realise I’ve made a terrible mistake moving. A variant of this one is having some work done on the current house that totally ruins it.

#7 – The waking paralysis demon
I’ve had this a couple of times in my life. The first time was the scariest. Hubs was working away from home so I was alone in the house. I was in bed and I woke up because I thought I’d heard him come in. I looked over towards the door but couldn’t see anyone, but got the feeling of a real and very evil presence in the room. I felt the bed move as if something had climbed onto it but there was no-one there and still this feeling of an evil presence remained. Suddenly, there was a weight on my chest and a goblin-like creature was kneeling on me, trying to strangle me. I couldn’t move to throw it off and I was suffocating. I woke up and was afraid to go to sleep again in case it came back. I did and it did. It’s not a common phenomenon for me, thank goodness. This dream is so much more realistic than the usual, though – more sensory modalities are present: sight, hearing, touch etc. I’ve since heard that this particular dream occurs as a result of a kind of bodily malfunction where you wake up but your brain does not release the natural protective paralysis it imposes during sleep. The creature-sitting-on-your-chest (or a variant thereof) is a theme that appears in many cultures and has given rise to much mythology and folklore. Now, I understand the physiology here, but why do our brains construct the same type of thing the world over - of a palpably evil creature trying to do us in? That’s the real mystery for me.

#8 – PJ is alive
My close friend PJ died 10 years ago, but I still have the odd dream that he’s actually alive and it’s all been a huge mistake. This isn’t a nightmare as such, but this dream is always tinged with great sadness because, even as I’m talking to PJ and feeling overjoyed that he’s alive, I can feel in the back of my mind that really he’s not and that he’ll be gone again all too soon.

And here’s the clincher.  This is what my brain really thinks of me.   The other night I dreamed I was Superman (not Superwoman, you’ll note, there’s a whole back-story there, believe me) and I needed to rescue someone falling from a tall building. But get this: I knew I had superpowers, I knew I was indestructible but I was afraid of heights so couldn’t fly! How poor is that? I’m not even allowed to be a proper Superman in my dreams!

I suppose the common thread here is insecurity of one sort or another and this is not unique to me, I know. I just wish my brain could find less hackneyed old cliches to express it with, though. A decent being-chased-by-monsters one would be a change.

Don’t have nightmares.

Saturday Wordzzle 95

Each week, Raven gives us a set of 15 words - 5 for the mini, 10 for the 10-worder, or all 15 for the mega challenge. The idea is to create a passage which includes the words

Hardest words this week: snowmobile and DVD

You can go to Raven's Nest for the rules of the game and some excellent advice.

The Mini (grounds for divorce, pink panther, salutations, wavering, lasagne)

This is part of of an ongoing story. A blind seer has had a vision about a young man coming to some as yet unspecified harm from an old man living in a tower. To try to avert this fate, she has anonymously paid for him to take a holiday somewhere far away. The young man has arrived at the holiday town and has noticed an interesting tower, which he plans to investigate the next day. The seer has a nightmare which she believes is connected to the young man's fate and resolves to go after him...

The young man speaks:

The hotel managed to rustle up a fairly decent vegetable lasagne last night, which is a pleasant surprise – most places think vegetarians are crazy, so offer them the most mediocre dishes they can be bothered to chuck together. The air this morning is lovely and clean and, for some reason, I’ve got the theme tune to the Pink Panther stuck in my head today. I can barely manage to stop myself from boogieing down the street in time to it. In a small town like this they probably think outsiders are mad enough without me confirming it. The tower’s not far now, I can see it up ahead, poking up above the high hedges lining the lane. Oh, hello, I wonder what that woman’s doing, wavering at the side of the road like she wants to cross over to my side or something. Oh, wait, I get it. She’s blind. No wonder she’s a bit hesitant. Surely there should be somebody with her,though? She hasn’t even got a guide dog. I think I should try and help – it won’t exactly be grounds for divorce, will it, if I just greet her with a cheerful salutation and offer to help her across the road.

The 10-worder (alternate reality, shadows, frantic, tomatoes, field, lilies, DVD, snow mobile, aggravation, music)

New to Harold's story? The summary is here.

    “You can tell your pet it’s safe to come out of the shadows now.” said Baruthiel.
     Teatime had obviously been listening the whole time because the words had barely left the angel’s mouth before he was once more upon Harold’s shoulder.
    “Why in Hades’s name did you agree to that?” his voice was a furious frantic whisper.
    “It’s not like I had a lot of choice, is it?” Harold replied, “And I don’t need a load of aggravation from you about it – the Basement and the Penthouse have a common interest for once and it might be useful to pool our resources.”
    “Have I somehow fallen through a wormhole into an alternate reality?” Teatime was incredulous, “Those goody-two-shoes types will never trust us enough to share anything they find out and they’ll never believe anything we tell them. By Pluto, If you told them tomatoes were red, they’d still go to the nearest greengrocer and check for themselves. No, we can’t do this, old sock, we simply can’t.”
    “We have to, “ insisted Harold, “I’ve already agreed to it.”
    “But your Father will be furious!”
    “He’s always furious!”
    “Music to my ears,” commented Baruthiel, “A house divided….”
    If looks could kill, Teatime’s glare would have had the local florists rubbing their hands and ordering extra lillies.
    “Look Teatime,” said Harold patiently, “I’m not changing my mind on this now. I say we at least give it a try. If it doesn’t work out well…”
    Teatime considered this. “Very well,” he sighed after some time, “but don’t come crying to me when these OGS lickspittles slap you with another Binding or worse – as they surely will.”
    “They’re here,” announced Baruthiel, as four figures appeared at the end of the alleyway.  He sheathed his sword and altered his appearance. Gone were the radiant armour and long flowing locks, to be replaced by a modern-looking army field uniform and a crew cut. Harold could only envy the angel’s mastery of his physical appearance – a skill he was really going to have to start working at one of these days – if he ever got the chance. If only you could get an instructional DVD or something – “Shapeshifting for Beginners” or “A New Face in 10 Easy Steps”. Maybe if he ever got the hang of it he would make that DVD himself. Yeah, right! His Father would be riding a snowmobile to work before these OGS types would leave him alone long enough to a) practice the art and b) stay here on the Brightside. Which rather begged the question: what was going to happen once all this was over. He was about to ask Baruthiel, but at that moment Joshua squad arrived.

    This was India’s first encounter with an angel and, although she knew better, she was ever so slightly disappointed that he wasn’t more, well, angelic-looking. Oh, he was beautiful alright and contained within himself an inner light which was unmistakably not of this earth, but she had secretly hoped for wings. Big fluffy white wings – and maybe a halo. This isn’t It’s a Wonderful Life, she chided herself, and he’s not Clarence, so get a grip!
    “Good evening, Agents,” said the angel, “Forgive the bizarre location of this meeting, it would have taken place in more salubrious surroundings at OGS HQ had someone not taken it into his head to go running off in the company of Black Sheep.” This last was, of course, directed at Harold but the latter just shrugged.
    “Now,” he continued, “I have a very unusual request.”

Friday, 8 January 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 94

Each week, Raven gives us a set of 15 words - 5 for the mini, 10 for the 10-worder or all 15 for the mega challenge. The idea is to create a passage which includes the words

These were TOUGH words this week - I've had to create some decidedly contrived bits of dialogue in order to incorporate them, apologies in advance!

You can go to Raven's Nest for the rules of the game and some excellent advice.

The Mini (broken bones, slide rule, garbage, Chinese, sanguine)

This is part of of an ongoing story. A blind seer has had a vision about a young man coming to some as yet unspecified harm from an old man living in a tower. To try to avert this fate, she has anonymously paid for him to take a holiday somewhere far away. The young man has arrived at the holiday town and has noticed an interesting tower, which he plans to investigate the next day

The seer speaks...

I was dozing this afternoon and have just awakened from a very strange dream about a Chinese dragon. It was sitting on top of a huge pile of broken bones and garbage, opening and closing a slide rule over and over again, and laughing. I have no idea what it can mean but it was accompanied by a feeling of such dread that I can only assume it’s connected in some way to the fate of that young man. He will have got there by now so he should be safe from the old man with the salt-and-pepper beard in his wretched tower. If that’s the case, though, why am I not more sanguine about his prospects? I'm going to have to go after him.

The 10-worder (space cadet, silver lining, wood, turtle soup, minaret, ice, grease, sales, mandala, mug)

New to Harold's story? The summary is here.

“Well that’s rather put the kibosh* on my pet theory,” murmured Teatime into the silence. “Still, a few less angels about the place? Bit of a silver lining, I’d say.”

Baruthiel seemed to notice the little monkey for the first time and the flaming tip of his sword moved to point at him.

“Begone, abomination,” the angel’s voice was melodious ice. “My business is not with you.”

Teatime bared his teeth in a brief show of defiance but, not wishing to be turned into monkey-chips, he quickly leapt down from Harold’s shoulder and scuttled away into the darkness.

“That wasn’t very kind, Baruthiel,” said Harold, “Teatime can’t help what he is,”

“Yes he can.” replied Baruthiel, “He made a choice – he entered into the Contract.”

“Some choice!” retorted Harold, “It was either that or die in some nameless human laboratory somewhere. No-one from the Penthouse was prepared to help him, were they? My Father offered him the deal and he took it – who wouldn’t under the circumstances?”

I wouldn’t!” declared the angel.

“How do you know?” cried Harold, becoming angry with Baruthiel’s relentless self-righteousness, “You’ve never been put in that position, have you? How can you possibly-”

“Enough!” roared Baruthiel, “I did not come here to debate morality with a Fallen One – especially you!”

“So why are you here?” demanded Harold.

“It has been decided” the angel replied, calming himself with an effort, “That you will assist us in finding out what is behind the disappearances.”

It took a moment for it to sink in then Harold burst out laughing."

You have got to be kidding me! The Penthouse and the Basement do not work together! Never have, never will, you know that!”

“True,” agreed Baruthiel, “so you will be assisting some of our human agents – that much is permitted.” A cellphone appeared in the hand not holding the sword, and he began to thumb its buttons.

"Oh, no." said Harold firmly, "I've met some of your agents and we didn't exactly get along. There's no way we'll be able to work together. There'll be what the humans call 'trust issues'. Anyway, why do you need my help when you can investigate perfectly well yourself?"

Baruthiel's thumb paused and he regarded Harold contemptuously..

"That's just like you, isn't it?" he sneered, "You're given the opportunity to do something that would really make a difference and you choose to walk away – again! I told them this was a bad idea, that you wouldn't have changed, and I was right."

"Now, wait a minute!" cried Harold, "I haven't decided either way yet, I just want to know what's going on. The Penthouse has never asked a Fallen for any kind of assistance before, so you can see why I might have questions."

Baruthiel considered this for a moment, then said.

"I can not tell you anything at this time. Just work with Joshua squad, that's all." He held up the phone, his thumb hovering over the green DIAL button. "Well?"

"Fine," sighed Harold, "I'll do it, but I suspect I'm not the only one who'll need convincing." His hand tightened its grip on the wood of the club’s fire door: It would have to be Joshua squad, wouldn't it?

Baruthiel dialled.


“Darn it,” muttered Agent Prada, dabbing at her blouse with a paper towel, “This doughnut grease gets everywhere!”

“Try dabbing it with some perfume – the alcohol will act as a detergent,” suggested Othello.

“Really?” Prada rummaged in her bag and drew out a bottle of Mandala.**

“You’re such a space cadet, sometimes, Othello,” remarked Mercury, “Fancy knowing a thing like that. What’s next? A recipe for Turtle Soup, perhaps, or a lecture on the Architecture of the Minaret?”

“Maybe he’ll tell us about  ceramic mug sales in prehistoric Mexico,” laughed Prada, joining in.

“Well, excuse me for having an education, I’m sure.” Othello replied with mock indignation. “At least I can spell spaghetti.”

Mercury’s phone rang, interrupting the laughter that followed. After he had finished the call, Mercury turned a grinning face to the rest of them. “That was our Penthouse contact. He wants us to meet him in the alley behind the club.”

“But isn’t that where…?” asked India.

“Yep!” replied Mercury, “Let’s roll, people. This should be interesting!”

Author's Note:

*"To put the kibosh on" is a british expression meaning to scupper something or put an end to it.

**Mandala is a real beauty product, made here in England (ain't Google great?). I received no payment for this lousy bit of product placement – it was just a rather rubbish way to get rid of a tricky word. Also, Othello’s idea of using perfume to get rid of grease stains is entirely untested and I will not be held responsible for any loss or damage arising from folks trying it. Always read the label.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Yet Another Snow-Related Blog Post (but at least it's short)


Every snowflake, we are told,
is completely unique.

How do they know?

How do they know for certain
That there isn’t a snowflake
Out there somewhere
In all the whitewashed fields,
And dust-sheeted hills,
Mourning its twin,
Dying here in the heat
Of my outstretched hand.

How do they know?

This was the view from my back door today.