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Another Brilliant Review for the Christmas Compendium!

I'm really pleased that people seem to like the new collection of seasonal stories 'A Christmas Cracker ' .  This latest 5 sta...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Night Watch

This is very much a 'work in progress' at the moment - a companion piece to A Stable Upbringing



It was a clear night.  In fact it was a very clear night.  Bright points of light peppered the sky, but these paled in comparison with the gigantic 'star' currently appearing to hang over the small village in the valley.

In a field on the hillside, two shepherds sat on a rocky outcrop and regarded the 'star' glumly.  Eventually, one turned to the other and said, conversationally,

"I'm sore afraid"

There was a pause, during which his companion digested this news.

"Well, which?" he asked, eventually.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, what I mean is, are you sore?  Or are you afraid? Can't be both, don't make any sense that."

"I mean what I say, and I say what I mean." the first shepherd said, glaring at his companion, "I'm sore from sitting on this ruddy rock and I'm afraid that damn great star up there is going to put us out of business."  Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled. "Look," the shepherd continued, warming to his theme, "what's the point in us being here, watching our flocks by night, as it says in the job description…"

"As it says in the job description, agreed." His companion nodded.

"Well, what's the point if it's going to be like daylight all the time?  What creature is going to be daft enough to try something in broad daylight?"  He eased a weary buttock from the rock beneath and shuffled a little.

"Take your point, comrade, take your point."  The second shepherd chewed the idea, along with a length of straw he had been saving for just such an occasion.  "So, you are of the view that the aforesaid and alleged 'star' hanging above us, is, in point of fact and notwithstanding, a celestial conspiracy to deprive us of our rightful livelihood, to wit, being a shepherd watching his, or as it may indeed be, her, flock by night?"

The first shepherd squirmed on his rocky repository a little, thought this statement over, gave it due consideration  and said, "You what?"

"I said," the second shepherd sighed deeply, "that if this bright light goes on, we'll all be out on our ears.  Remember when it turned up?"

"How could I forget?" The first shepherd muttered glumly, "what with that coming out of nowhere and ruddy choral singing belting out in every direction…the effect it had on my sheep"

"Not good?"

"Not good!  You know what sheep are like.  Scared stiff is how they are when things are fine.  Add a blinding bright light, and all that singing, and you've got some seriously terrified sheep.  And you know what happens if you frighten a sheep?"

"Yeah." said his companion with feeling.

"It was like a skating rink round here.  Took me all my time to stand up without falling over.  And, of course, the last thing you wanted to do was fall over.  Bloody star!" He said with feeling, "we don't even know what it is."

"Ah now, I may be able to furnish you with a little inside knowledge there," the second shepherd looked around conspiratorially, "You see Earl over there?" he nodded toward the lone silhouette of a shepherd on the horizon.  The first shepherd nodded his agreement.  "Well, he's been giving it some thought, and he reckons it's a supernova." 

The second shepherd folded his arms and attempted to look wise, which unfortunately left him with the appearance of someone experiencing a severe bilious attack.

"A supernova?"  The first shepherd thought about this for a while, and eventually caved in, "what's one of them when it's at home?"

"I thought you might ask that, brother," said the second shepherd, looking somewhat smug, "you know those Brit slaves the Romans brought here?" The first shepherd nodded.  "Well, they've got this game, right, where they all stand round in a circle and one chucks a ball at the other, you know what I mean?"

"I've seen 'em at it," the first shepherd confirmed, "it's called Rickets." He said with some pride.

"Rickets?  Is it? Well, If you say so."  The second shepherd gave his companion a hard stare."Any road, at some point the one chucking the ball gets fed up with it and lets the other one have a go, and that," he said smugly" is called a Nova."

"Says who?"

"Says Earl."

"Oh, right.  Well, he would know," the first shepherd conceded, "Earl's a thinker.  So, a Nova is a point in the game where they change ends, right?"

"Yeah, that's it."  The second shepherd congratulated himself on working his way through a tricky conversation.

"Right." The first shepherd decided to quite while he was ahead.  "Here, there's a kid bawling his eyes out down there.  We're doing no good here.  Let's grab a lamb, go down, see if we can cadge a cup of tea.  Kids like lambs.  We might even get a few bob off the father if we can get him to shut up."

With a lamb under his arm, the second shepherd helped his friend up off the rock and they set off, cautiously, because the sheep were still somewhat anxious, in the direction of the village and the 'star'.

"What's a supernova then?" The first shepherd asked, and immediately regretted it, as they picked their way down the hillside.

"Well, it stands to reason dunnit"

"Does it?"

"Yeah, course it does.  If a Nova is the time where the game changes a bit, then a Supernova must be…must be…"

"Oh, I'm with you." The first shepherd stopped to catch his breath and looked up at the 'star'.  "It must be where the game changes completely!"

"That's it" said the second shepherd with some relief, "it's a game-changing event, that's what it is."

THE END

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format for just £0.99 at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and now read the new bumper collection of stories, Crutches For Ducks  also at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Chuffed to Bits!

My reader in Australia has now expanded her review (see Crutches For Ducks - we've got you covered), and I'm absolutely over the moon.  Isn't it nice that someone takes the time and trouble to leave a thoughtful review like this?

"OK, I've finished the book. Phil delivers yet again with his quirky combination of memoirs of his misspent youth (with photographic evidence no less) and his modern day curmudgeonliousness (it's a word now). If you are familiar with British culture then this book gives you many "OMG, I remember that, I haven't thought of that in years" moments. One of the strengths of this book is that you feel like you're sitting around the pub talking chite with an old friend as Phil reminds you of how absurd much of your babyboomer childhood and adolescence was. However I admit that I laughed hardest at his later chapters. I believe that Phil has a great future ahead of him as a professional curmudgeon.


If you have to have advanced dental work then you'll need this book as well as Steady Past Your Granny's to keep your spirits up. "

You can find the whole review at Amazon.com


And from now until the end of January, you can buy this book at the specially reduced price of £3.99

Character Building


As all of the easy options had now been ruled out for the remainder of my summer holiday stint with Bovril/Marmite, I was now (reluctantly) part of the warehouse labouring gang.  This could be pretty arduous, but also had its moments of entertainment.

I particularly liked some of the characters that I met, people who had worked in industry for years and who knew the ropes backwards.  I found one little old bloke very amusing.  He had the knack of being able to vanish for ages and then suddenly appear when we were all tasked with doing something, so that his presence (or lack of it) wasn't noted.  When he did appear, he would work frenetically, but I suspect that there were long periods of 'resting' between these sessions.  What particularly amused me were the little stock phrases that he had obviously developed over many years of working in warehouses.  Most of them were unrepeatable, but the one that sticks in my mind was when we reached the last item on a pallet, or something that we were unloading, when he would always say "that's the one we've been looking for", as if that had been the sole purpose of the exercise.

Another character was a chap who couldn't have been much older than myself, or my fellow students, but who had clearly decided that a career in warehouse work was his goal in life.  He was blonde, sturdily built and, I would imagine, quite handsome.  I was therefore surprised that the girls in the packing department were not all over him.  The answer became apparent the first time I shared a lunch break with him.  He apparently had a weakness for onion sandwiches, every day, and nothing else, just onion.  The smell from his lunch box was sufficient to take everyone's breath away in a one mile radius and should probably have been banned under the U.N. Treaty on the use of Chemical Weapons.

Getting to and from Bovril/Marmite was a bit of a trial, as there wasn't a convenient bus service.  Walking from South Broadway Street to the end of Wellington Street Extension (as it was then) was perfectly possible but took some time.  Given my inability to get up in the morning, I often found myself running the distance in order to make my clocking-in time, leaving me exhausted before I had even started work.  There was, therefore, a compelling case for getting the moped back out and trying to make it do a decent job.  Unfortunately, as I've said before, I have no mechanical aptitude and neither had my dad.  Therefore, putting it back on the road really meant hoping against hope that something magical might have occurred during the months that it had lain under an old overcoat in the yard.  It had not.  If anything, it was worse.  This fact was brought home to me when I realised, as I puttered along, that there were people on the pavement who were walking faster than I was riding.  Pedal cyclists were hurtling past me and cursing me for holding them up.  I was a figure of fun and I wasn't even getting to work any faster than before.

In despair, I gave the moped to a bloke who worked in my dad's department for more or less scrap value.  In his lunch break, he, apparently decoked it and generally gave it the fundamental mechanical sorting-out that it should have had years before.  Pushing it back to his home, he got fed up with the effort and decided to see if he could ride it for the remainder of the journey.  He was on the Trent Bridge at the time.  Apparently, he climbed aboard, started it up, opened the throttle and the thing took off like a Harley-Davidson, dumping him unceremoniously on his backside on the Trent Bridge.  He was delighted with his purchase and I went back to my pedal cycle with the dawning realisation that I would never be a Hells Angel.

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and now read the new bumper collection of stories, Crutches For Ducks at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com