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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...

Friday, 6 April 2012

Jambalaya 2nd and Final Excerpt


"Why, there you are my dear" said a voice from behind a bush.
"You're late father.  Why are you hiding in the shrubbery?"
Judge Garden fought his way out of the tangle of branches and brushed the leaves from his suit. He was an imposing figure, he imposed sentences mostly.
“Sorry about that, my dear.  I heard rustling and you know the problems we’ve had with rustlers around here.”
“I believe that is a somewhat different matter, father.  Ulolulo has gone to prepare dinner.”
"I hope it's gumbo tonight."
"It's gumbo every night, father."
"Well, she makes good gumbo does Ulvula"
"Its Ulolulo, father."
"You said  it was gumbo!"
Miss Celany sighed.  She was good at sighing.  It was something that was expected of southern belles.  Her mother before her had been good at sighing, so good in fact that she had won several prizes.   She was particularly known for her telling sighs whilst playing cards.  She had won the Sighs of Bridge cup three years running.
"Anyone home?"  It was Bedding the gardener from the A'Gent estate next door.
"Good evening, Miss Celany, Garden" he nodded to each in turn, " I've brought your Rhododendron, Garden"
"I'll thank you to call me Judge Garden" the Judge said, his face reddening and his trousers flaring, " And you promised me a rose."
"I never promised you a rose."
"I beg your pardon"
"I never promised you a rose, Garden."
Miss Celany quietly slipped away, these arguments could go on forever as she knew from bitter experience (7)  Besides, she needed time to think, her mind was in a turmoil, for she had a secret passion (8) .
For some time now (17.32 probably but she couldn't be sure) Max Vobiscus the ex -fruit tycoon (he was known as "Apple" Max to his friends and "that bloody greengrocer" to his enemies) and Riverboat gambler (so bad that he had lost three riverboats in this season alone, if he had been playing with anyone else heaven knows what might have happened) had been paying court to her.  How she despised him, how she spat whenever she even thought his name ( a practice that had won her no friends in polite society), how she kept dreaming about his tight, firm ......oh, God it was happening again!  No, this would not do, her heart belonged to Captain Verruca - they had a deal with the surgeon.
She found herself in the arbour where they had so many of their trysts (9).  Her feet sloshed through the water and her father's toy boats bobbed at their moorings.  Suddenly she heard a sound, had a twig snapped? (It was very likely, they were under a great deal of strain).

(7) She had also tried lager experience and mild experience but had plumped for the bitter.
(8) And we're not just talking rubberwear and chains here, I can tell you.
(9)  Which were a bit like cysts but marginally more pleasant.   

You can find an explanation for all of this nonsense at Jambalaya Prologue


Read more and buy Jambalaya at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com


And for those who prefer non-fiction, 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  also at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Jambalaya 1st Excerpt


It was a sultry, hot summer’s day.
They had tried cold summer’s days but, what the hell, you get a winning formula, you stick with it.
Miss Celany Garden lounged in the beautiful, manicured estate.
Every tree had a double coating of nail varnish on its leaves, every gnome its cuticles pushed back (1).
How she loved this house!  Built, as it had been, by her late father, Judge Garden.  A man of harsh punishments (2), he was known as "Hanging " Garden by those unfortunates who came before him (3).   He had so loved building this house.  Unfortunately, his skills, such as they were, lay in legal argument rather than brick laying and those parts of the house that had not fallen down immediately, now leaned precariously against each other like drunks after a very long night.
From the region of the servants quarters (4), came the merry sound of singing as Ulolulo Sødme, the Garden's devoted maid, beat the laundry with a lump of rock.  No amount of pleading could persuade her not to do this.  All of Miss Celany's expensive, imported dresses hung in tatters in her wardrobes.  Fortunately, the Garden family were held in such high regard locally that this was now regarded as the height of fashion and throughout the area, young ladies could be heard pounding their dresses with half bricks - sometimes while they were still in them.
No-one knew for sure where Ulolulo had come from, or even if that was her real name.  One night, all of the lights in the house had gone out and there, at the front door, was Ulolulo, her once blonde hair, blackened and standing straight from her head, sparks flying from the fillings in her teeth.  As they prised her finger from the electric bell-push that Judge Garden had installed that very day, they asked her name.
She had not spoken or moved again for a whole month after that. Now, she was a much valued member of the household staff.  In fact, she was the only member of the household staff.  The servants quarters had proved to be aptly named when they had collapsed on the butler, cook and kitchen maid.  Ulolulo had sensibly refused to sleep inside any building erected by the Judge and now lived happily but warily in a hole in the ground.
It was the time of the Civil War.  There had been many uncivil wars in the past and Miss Celany strongly disapproved of those, they were so common.  This was a much more ordered affair.  Currently, both armies were camped on Wilbur's Rise (5) and were resolutely refusing to talk to one another.  Apparently one army had called upon the other and failed to leave a visiting card and things had gone on from there.
Miss Celany thought of her beau, Captain Verucca of the Fourth Regiment of Foot.  He was serving in the Army of the South led by General Tendency.   Ah, but he was dashing and charming, although in truth he was mostly mashing and darning at present.  Mashing the potatoes and darning the socks for the rest of the Regiment.
"Landsakes, Miss Celany."  It was Ulolulo.  She always talked like that.  No-one knew why.
"Why, Ulolulo, you startled me."
"Yo been a mooning over your young blood missy?"
"Why I am sure I have been doing no such thing Ulolulo, whatever it was you said.  Tell me, is there any news, from the front?"
"No missy, but I got news from the font, seems the Jackson child breathed in while being baptised and they'se still trying to get the water out of it."
"Oh, but that is terrible!"
"Sho is missy, holy water is real hard to come by."(6)
"Is dinner served yet, Ulolulo?"
"Sho thing, you want gumbo?"
"I suppose it contains fish, does it?"
"Has to, else it ain't my kinda gumbo."
Miss Celany sighed. Four years Ulolulo had been with them and everything she cooked contained fish, even the marmalade.
"Look, could you make me something without fish?"
"Lawdy, all you have to do is ask missy, how 'bout a chicken sandwich?"
"Oh that would be wonderful, Ulolulo, prepared in your own special way I'll be bound?"
"What you do in yo' private life is your own affair missy, jes try not to get rope marks on the furniture is all I ask"
"I am not referring to anything as unpleasant as that Ulolulo, even if I did know to what you were alluding.”  Celany blushed, “I was hoping you were going to prepare my sandwich to a secret recipe handed down over generations.”
"Well, ain't you jes dang right missy, first you takes a prime piece of  real fresh southern fried chicken and you coats that with home made mayonnaise, add a hint of paprika and dust with a little thyme....."
"Mmm, sounds heavenly"
"Then you takes all that and puts it between two sardines."
"Perhaps not, bring on the gumbo."
Ulolulo stomped off, muttering to herself.  A strange thing to mutter, but then she was a strange woman.

(1) Which probably explains the peculiar expressions they always have
(2) His buttocks frequently looked like a relief map of Wales
(3) An offence in itself
(4) Which sounds vaguely disgusting, but you know what I mean
(5) Which inevitably, in later years, led to one of those unfortunate Army traditions that meant that new recruits for generations to come would dread the ritual of "camping on Wilbur's Rise"
(6) Quite why Ulolulo talked in this manner was a mystery.   No-one else did.  She seemed to have invented a dialect all of her own.   Which was just as well because nobody else would have wanted it.

You can find an explanation for all of this nonsense at Jambalaya Prologue and read the next part at Jambalaya 2nd and Final Excerpt

Read more and buy Jambalaya at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

And for those who prefer non-fiction, 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  also at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Jambalaya Prologue

In 1999, I was made redundant from a job that I had enjoyed and a company that I loved after 20 years employment, following the takeover of that company.  As this was the first time in my life that I had ever been unemployed, I decided to take the opportunity to "write that book I've always meant to write" and, fortunately, my long-suffering wife agreed.  Apart from a few months littering the desks of various publishers and agents, this has remained in a drawer ever since.  This is the Prologue to it, let me know if you would like to see any more...


It is the time of a Civil War. 
This, I should point out, is not a story about a Civil War. 
So, if you’re hoping for the whiff of cordite, gory battle scenes and heaving bosoms, you’re likely to be disappointed. 
Come to that, you’re likely to be disappointed if you weren’t expecting all of those things. 
Of course, this being a book rather than a video or a computer game, it’s all down to your imagination anyway.  So, if you want heaving bosoms, you go ahead and imagine them.  While you’re doing that, we’ll get back to the story.
This Civil War is between the North and the South.
Civil Wars are always between the North and the South. 
That’s just the way it is. 
Scientists have noted that even in puddles no longer than a footprint, transparent jelly-like things, invisible to the human eye, will gather in the North and wave their fronds angrily at other transparent jelly-like things in the South of the puddle.  Years of painstaking analysis of their chemical signals have revealed messages that are remarkably like “If that shower of soft southern nancies think they own the place they’ve got another think coming” and “Oh, just ignore them Justin, they’re nothing but a bunch of black pudding waving proles”.  Which just goes to prove that:-
1.  Black pudding is a far more universally recognised delicacy than was first thought, and
2.  Surprisingly, Justin is quite a common name amongst jelly-like things.
Well, all right, perhaps not so surprisingly[1].
And then a dog comes along, drinks the puddle, urinates casually against a wall, and the whole process starts
again.  Which tends to annoy the scientists (and plays havoc with the dog).
This is not a puddle (of anything), it’s a country. 
You may think you know which country it is, but you would be wrong. 
It’s a country that could be any time, any place, anywhere. 
It happens to be here (wherever that is), now (whenever that is) and just ……….there.
- - - 0 - - -
Now read on Jambalya 1st Excerpt


[1] So, that’s wiped all of the Justin’s out of the potential audience.  Still, they were probably busy imagining heaving bosoms and never noticed.  Now, who else can I upset?

Snap!


Sometimes, you have to look back to see just how far you've come.  This thought struck me the other day when we were buying some new trainers for our grandson and wanted to check if these were ok with his mum.  Using my phone, I was able to take a photo of the proposed snazzy footwear and send it via SMS to her.  It's quite remarkable when you think about it, and certainly light years away from the Kodak camera with its rolls of film and metal viewfinder that I was telling you about last month.  Moreover, I didn't have to dress as Wee Willie Winkie to get my phone (see What a Picture!), which is a relief to all, I'm sure.

The beauty of capturing images now is that you can instantly see what you have got, and decide whether you want to keep it, or not.  This is a real boon to someone whose ability to take pictures of his own thumb is unmatched.  I see there is a camera now which will start taking pictures before you have even depressed the shutter.  This would be a boon to me as I nearly always take the photo just after the ideal moment, and thus have an unrivalled collection of pictures of the backs of peoples' heads.

Being rubbish at taking photographs is no longer the expensive and time-consuming pursuit that it was.  I could guarantee that at least a third of the exposures would not come out at all.  Of the remaining two-thirds, about half of these would be blurred, out of focus or the subject would be hopelessly out of range of the camera's limited scope (such as my Thor's Cave picture from What a Picture!).  If I was really lucky, I might have three or four snaps that actually depicted something recognisable.  It always used to grieve me that I had paid good money to print out such blurred and useless pictures as that shown here, again from my Manifold Valley trip.  This was supposed to capture, for posterity, my mates from our shared tent.  If you can recognise yourself in this photo, then I would strongly suggest you take more water with it in the future.



In an effort to improve matters, I took a huge technological leap forward in the 1970s and bought one of those slimline Kodak Instamatic cameras.  Remember them?  The beauty of this was that there was no longer a roll of film, instead a cartridge simply snapped into the back.  It was made even more idiot-proof by stopping the inadvertent taking of two exposures on the same frame of film.  You could even take photographs indoors, as the camera had the facility for using a flash cube either mounted on the camera itself or on a sort of black plastic tower for maximum effect.  When the cartridge was finished, you could send it to one of the new breed of cheaper and quicker photo processors that had sprung up.

Of course, all of this new 'point and click' technology could not guarantee a great photo if you were hopeless at framing a picture in the first place.  In evidence, I submit the picture taken by my mum (who was at least as bad as me, if not worse) of me sitting in our lounge.  I think the purpose of this was that I was all dressed up to go somewhere but, as you'll see, this will forever be a mystery.  Good shot of the light switch though!

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  also at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.