Monday, August 31, 2009

neither bones nor flesh

The challenge was simple – come up with a life form that contained neither bones nor flesh. What was on the earth already was all very well – trees, birds, mammals, fish – and the angels had applauded and congratulated both god and Lucifer on their achievements – though no-one seemed entirely certain about 'wasp' and 'tsetse fly' seemed to have no purpose at all but to annoy the warm-blooded creatures. In the spirit of friendly competition then, Gabriel had suggested the competition.

Both God and the Adversary spent several seconds locked in their respective studies while the other angels talked among themselves and speculated upon why some of the mammals had been designed with pointed teeth which seemed utterly unsuitable to their diet of grass and berries. The lions, for example, were getting impossibly thin.

Finally they emerged! Lucifer set to work with the clay and created something part-way between a man and an angel. "I call it 'soul' he said, "and it will live inside man but free to travel the five planes of existence for eternity."

The angels clapped politely, though several wondered at the pointlessness of making a creature that lived inside another.

"That's nothing," said God, opening his hands to reveal... nothing.

"What is it?" asked the angels.

"It is Death," said God. "It has neither flesh nor bone nor sinew nor life of its own, but it will seem to be a living entity, striking down all in its path." He looked out over the world and released the creature he had made.

And the lions roared.



Image: Starting Time: A True Account of the Origins of Creation, Sex, Death, and Golf

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Town Planning

Varick Street was someone's idea of a joke –
the architect, perhaps,
who laid out plans
when Derrick's Fabrication
was bulldozed
to make way for the new market hall
and the Varsity on the corner
was closed for improper conduct.

Henderson and Billingham,
Architects
I, Varick Street
Ladies by appointment.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kismet and Hardy's


There is a vendor on Smithgate that sells dreams and wishes. Not the sort you could order in advance with a 'a dozen naked lesbians frolicking in my bedsit' or 'a lottery win on the Saturday after next' but the sort you didn't realise you wanted until you happened to go in 'just in case they've got something suitable for our Lisa's birthday'.

Once inside you are drawn in to the luxury and delight of an Aladdin's Cave of curious goods – mirrors framed in driftwood and sea shells; Laurel and Hardy statuettes made in Nepal by people who never saw the originals; hammocks made of fishing nets and dream catchers with pictures of American Indians on the packaging.

Like the shop in Stephen King's 'Needful Things', each item appeals to the customer as something to make their life complete; as if stepping into the shop was an act of serendipity. "Where did you get this?" ask the buyer's jealous friends.

"Kismet and Hardy's," the purchaser will say, with just a trace of smugness. "It was a one-of-a-kind."



NB: Although the shop sells similar items to both Curious Chattels on Strang Street and Hammer Time on Cheap Street, the shops don't appear to suffer from the competition. If one traces the tax records, the reason becomes obvious. All three shops have a common sleeping partner: Mr. J de Ville.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Laverstone Post and Sorting Office

Laverstone Post and Sorting Office on Tyrant Circus is open from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM weekdays, closed 12:15 – 1:45 and 9:00AM to 12:15 PM Saturdays. * The sorting office is open 6:00AM – 12:15 PM Monday to Saturday and receives the mail from the 5:59 from Oxford. Post is then sorted by street and a team of four postal delivery officers scurry* like worker bees to deliver the post throughout Laverstone, taking it in turns to drive the van to the outlying farms and houses.

The Post Office building dates back to 1864 and is a fine example of Victorian Gothic. There are, sadly, no ghost stories attached to the building but Mad Mrs. Mackenzie** is reputed to haunt the small cottage next door where she lived all her life, only to be burned to death the year after the Freedom of Witchcraft Act in 1812, thanks to a carelessly balanced cauldron.

Postcards of Laverstone Post Office can be purchased from The Goddess Provides.



*Perfect timing to infuriate shop and office workers

**a distant relation to Bishop Purvis Mackenzie, but one he wouldn't thank you for pointing out.



Image: Cherry Blossom Stores Post Office Set

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Just curvy

They said Backdoor Harry was bent. When the rumours got as far as Inspector White he insisted upon a two-week surveillance operation before taking any action. This mainly involved Sergeant Brandsford and PC Acton sitting in the Sergeant's Vauxhall Scorpa watching his flat.

They found no evidence of drugs or business malpractice. On the contrary, they were forced to conclude Backdoor Harry to be the very model of an honest, hardworking computer software engineer.

Socially, Harry was less than pristine, and after 11 nightly stake-outs of the public toilets by the bus station PC Action left his wife and grew a handsome moustache.



Image: Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Saving Lives (for later use)

St. Pity's Hospital prides itself on being a modern environment. Privately funded by the church and donations from charitable sources, it has a staff of four doctors, three surgeons and seventeen nurses and auxiliary staff. Converted from the Old Trencher House in 1916 to serve as a rehabilitation centre for soldiers injured in the Great War, it became a full hospital in 1953.

The house and grounds of Birch House next door were bought and converted to use as a sanatorium in 1932. It is now considered to be one of the county's finest establishments for psychiatric care.

It is rumoured to be a centre of paranormal activity and has a number of notable spirits, including the ghost of a former nurse the residents refer to as 'Lady Pity' and a deceased Colonel they refer to as 'The General'.

There is a small cemetery in the extensive grounds.


Image taken from the book 'Laverstone for Laymen'

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not in Service

Ada narrowed her eyes at the bus. An hour and ten minutes she's waited at the bus stop and the only bus to appear had a blacked-out destination window. CHARTERED – NOT IN SERVICE proclaimed the yellow letters. She held out her cane anyway and would have been splashed as it passed had the driver not seen the very image of his own, long-dead mother standing at the side of the street.

He pulled to the side, stopped and opened the doors. "Come away in," he said to the dear old lady. "Where are you off to?"

"Home," she said, climbing aboard, "but don't worry, you can drop me at the end of the street."




Image: On the Buses - The Complete Series [Repackaged] [11dvd]

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Restless Dead

In the tiny graveyard at St. Jude's there is a lamp-post with a light that has never gone out. The post was erected in 1874 after the gaslights were installed in the Royal Park and apart from the one day when the lamp was converted from gas to electricity it has been lit day and night ever since.

Even in the national blackouts of the second world war, the lamp was not extinguished but covered in heavy canvas. The electricity bill is a constant headache to the verger, who has tried in vain to either (a) persuade the local populace to turn their back on the tradition or (b) persuade the Hertfordshire and Norwich Electricity Board to give them a charitable discount. Neither plan has succeeded.

The tomb beneath the lamp-post contains the restless spirit of Sir Harold Lauder, engineer and designer of the Royal Park. Legend has it that if the lamp is ever extinguished, the man himself will rise to wreak destruction upon the town planners and architects who reduced his precious creation to its current state. His pride and joy, the glasshouses modelled after those hosting the Great Exhibition of 1851, were demolished in 1873 because the incumbent mayor's wife wanted a boating lake instead.

Sir Harold's spirit is indeed restless and vengeful – hardly surprising when the light' over his head has been left on for over a century.



Image: No More Leaning on Lamp-posts: Managing Uncertainty the Nick Charles Way

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mattock Road

Mattock Road Allotments lie on the top of a bed of silt compounded by the Laver over the course of seven centuries. Reclaimed from the river when the Royal Park was built in 1834, the allotments were declared 'for thee goode of the peoples of Lavers Towne'* with the intent that every family who owned less land than it took to grow a row of potatoes, peas and cabbages would be entitled to one plot thirty yards by ten.

In practice, the allotments were quickly monopolised by the less than scrupulous Mr. Fairbright and his gang of thugs, who insisted upon payment of a 'squash tax'. When it was pointed out, by a Mr. Alfred Brown of Cherry Gardens, that Englishmen didn't grow foreign vegetables like squashes, Mr. Fairbright's men stomped his produce into the ground.

This goes some way toward explaining the preponderance of the word 'turnip' in later road names.



*a motto which still hangs over the wrought-iron gates

Illustration from Laverstone for Laymen (unpublished)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conflict

The angel and the demon stood over the body, waiting for the soul to detach from the mortal remains, ready to begin the journey to the afterlife. "He was a brave heart," the angel said. "Going into battle again and again. He deserves to find Heaven."

"He was Jewish," said the demon. "Fighting the Christians and trying to stop them over-running Israel."

"Was he?" The angel frowned and looked about the landscape and pointed to a dome. "Isn't that The Church of the Holy Sepulchre?"

"No." The demon smiled. "That's the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He pointed the other way. "The Anastasis is over there."

"Damn," said the angel. "He looked down at the newly emerged soul and gave it a kick. "Get thee down to Hell, you damned Republican."

The demon watched him go. "Come on old chap," he said. "Sheol awaits."

"It is terrible in Sheol?" the soldier asked.

The devil shrugged. "That depends," he said. "They serve dreadful tea."


Image: Jerusalem and the Holy Land (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide)

Friday, August 21, 2009

New New Man

"I fancy myself a new, new man," said Harold, his hands deep in the soapy suds of the washing up. "At least in the kitchen department."

"Ah! Not so keen on the nappies then?" Jasfoup made a few adjustments to his Bloodberry calendar, the stylus beeping as it moved across the screen. "You know you can get disposables, right? Use them once, throw them away, clog the earth with them for five thousand years...?"

"Yes." Harold smiled into the middle distance. "Gillian won't hear of it, of course. She got all palsy with that friend of yours."

"You'll have to be more specific."

"The pagan one with the shop. She's gone all green earth now."

"Ah! Meinwen." Jasfoup nodded as he stowed his PDA into a pocket. It beeped a few times when he closed the lid and he had to get it out again to check it still worked. "Hardly a friend, though she did a little work for me recently."

"Oh?"

"Nothing that would interest you." Jasfoup smiled. Are you cooking dinner, then, Mr. New?"

"No," said Harold. "I'm such a new man I'm going to allow the guest to cook."

Jasfoup raised an eyebrow. "We have a guest?"

"Aye." Harold handed him a pinny. "What're you making?"


Image: The New Man: Masculinity After Traditionalism and Feminist Reaction

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Butterscotch

Harold scowled and peeled his sandwich apart. "This is just bread and jam," he said. "What happened to the generous coating of lightly salted English butter?"

"Don't look at me," said Julie. "I don't know where it goes. I bought four pounds of it in last week's shopping but can I find any now?"" She glared at Jasfoup. "That was a rhetorical question."

Jasfoup held up his hands in mock surrender. "I wasn't going to say a word," he said, watching the five year old Lucy on the street outside. A solitary child, she generally made up her own games. The one she was playing at present involved hopping and jumping along a chalked outline, picking up a puck along the way.

A very large, very runny, foil-coated puck.


Image: Hopscotch and Handbags: The Truth About Being a Girl

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Humiliation of the Devil

Smoke tendrils curled around Lucifer's robes as he stood before the gates of Heaven. "I ask thee for the Last King," he said, his midnight wings unfurling. Although his voice was barely above a whisper, the gateposts trembled and the ironwork rattled on its hinges.

After a short delay Iesu appeared on the other side of the gate. "The Last King?" he said, his voice soft as forgiven trespasses. "Are you sure you of what you ask, my brother."

"Aye, Iesu." Lucifer's voice quivered as he beheld his ancient lover and immortal enemy. He reached out to touch fingertips through the bars. "I am."

Iesu nodded sadly. "Go fish," he said. "My turn. Have you got any fives?"


Image: Go Fish [DVD 1994]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

oops

"Oops, sorry! I lost track of the time."

Harold rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he went to take Lucy from her mother's arms. Early morning sun streamed into the living room as he plucked his daughter's sleeping form from Gillian's arms.

His vampire would-be bride said noting, but the sudden movement dislodged an avalanche of skin from her bones. Her arms snapped off and fell to the floor, prompting a complete collapse of bones inside the velvet bag of her dress.

Harold's face fell as Lucy woke and began to cry. The room was full of body dust and she coughed. "Oh no," said Harold. "Not again."



Image: Vampire: The Masquerade (World of Darkness)

Monday, August 17, 2009

And Pray for Luck

Destiny threw the dice again, moving her piece across the board with her lips in a tight smile. She looked at the woman opposite, who was barely glancing at the board as she buffed her nails.

"Honestly, Fay, if you're not going to take any notice, what's the use of playing at all?"

"I am," said the other girl, rapping Serendipity over the knuckles to stop him picking up the dice. "You landed on Laverstone Road and since Dip has two houses on it you owe him £150."

"Ha!" Serendipity sucked his knuckles. "That'll teach you." He took the money and threw the dice. "A two and a four." He look at the fourth player. "Titty? Be a love and move my doggie six places."

The woman scowled. "I asked you not to call me that," she said. "It's Titania." She moved the piece anyway. "You've landed on 'chance' and believe me, it's your last one."

"Huh!" Serendipity picked up the card. "'Pay school fees of £150.' It was lucky Destiny landed on me."

"There's no such thing as luck," said Fate, taking the dice. "I'd soon know about it if there was."

"I thought he was Irish?" said Titania. "Shamrocks and leprechauns and so on."

"You're thinking of Commercialism," said Destiny. "He changed his name. Fay? You've landed on my Glastonbury. That'll be £1,250, please."

"I had to land on the greenie meanie, didn't I?" said Fate to no-one in particular. "That's me bankrupt, then."

Destiny smiled. "Only morally."



Image: Monopoly board game

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Home Brew

Harold smiled and leaned back in his chair. "There's nothing like a brew to remind you you're home," he said. "I don't know if it's the water, the kettle or the peculiar breed of algae we have in the artesian well but nowhere does tea like this."

"You don't think it has anything to do with the hours I spend blending leaves of Assam, Darjeeling and half a dozen other varieties then?" Jasfoup raised an eyebrow as he waited for an answer.

"You do no such thing," said Harold. "I know for a fact this is an off-the-shelf blend you bought at the supermarket."

Jasfoup gave up. Harold never accounted for the hours he didn't have to waste in sleep. His night-shift job at the tea company was respected and hereditary, or at least that's what he'd told bosses when he'd worked there for ninety years.


Image: Tea Classified: A Tealover's Companion

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Sweetest Melody is the One you Can't Hear

"Here," said Jasfoup, handing Harold a large box. "It's a birthday present."

"Really? Thanks." Harold frowned. "It's not my birthday, though."

"That's all right," said the demon. "It wasn't for you. It was for that kid on Wellington Terrace. The one who plays air guitar every night with the curtains open?"

"I know the one." Harold ran his fingers along the parcel, the familiar scent of rubber gum and brown tape conjuring happy childhood memories of the postman delivering packages ordered with cereal box tops and postal orders for sixpence. "So why hasn't it been delivered to him?"

"He died this morning," Jasfoup said. "I was just collecting his soul when the postman arrived. I signed for it so I got to keep it."

"He died on his birthday?" Harold shook his head. "Poor kid. What did he die of?"

"He hung himself because no-one loved him enough to send him a present." The demon grinned. "I know. Ironic or what? You'd have though he'd at least wait until the post had been, right/?"

"So what is it?" Harold slit open the package and peeled away the cardboard. "It's empty."

"You can't see that?" Jasfoup reached past him and pulled something out. "Man, you need your Sight checked. This is the most blinged-up air guitar I have ever seen. Just look at it glittering."

"There's nothing there, Jasfoup." Harold was beginning to sound petulant.

Jasfoup strummed the air and the room filled with the sweetest chord. "Of course not, Harold."


Image: Air Guitar

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Orbital Heaven

"Where's Heaven, exactly?" asked Harold over cocoa. "I mean, I know where Hell is, sort of. It's a pocket universe on the inside of the earth's crust."

"Is it?" Jasfoup frowned. "Not in my pocket it's not. I mean, I do have some pretty big pockets at times but even I've never had one big enough to contain the whole of Hell. Remember that Hell contains many of the afterlives of other cultures, too. Tartarus, for example, and Sheol."

"That's the beauty of pocket universes," said Harold. "They can contain infinity and yet still be no bigger than a ping-pong ball."

"You've been reading too much science fiction," said Jasfoup. "Where do you think Heaven is?"

"Up?" said Harold. "In orbit, perhaps, like the moon and Sputnik 3."

"And how do you think He would cope with all the rubbish you mortals send into space?" Jasfoup said. "Heaven is just as likely to be another of your pocket universes, and according to Dante, one accessed from the centre of Hell."

"That would make sense," said Harold. "An infinity of universes, all stacked inside each other like Russian dolls."

"I suppose." Jasfoup shrugged. "but which one is Disneyland inside?"


Image: Urge by Pocket Universe (MP3)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Don't Be a Dick

"You're having a son?" Jasfoup frowned. "Who's the mother?"

"Wouldn't you like to know!" Winston grinned.

"My asking seems to bear that out," said the demon, "yes."

"Well I'm not telling." Winston donned a jacket from the rack and shrugged it on, crossing to the full length mirror to see how it hung. "Not until it's born, anyway. It's early days yet and I don't want you messing with it."

"I'm hurt," said the demon. "Not once in almost six hundred years have I ever harmed a child." He brushed lint from Winston's lapel. "That looks good on you," he said. "You should steal it."

"Certainly not. You're going to buy it for me thanks to that little job I did for you last year."

"Was the glory not sufficient?" Jasfoup clicked his tongue. "Very well." He handed Winston the matching trousers. "What will you call the boy?"

"I thought Richard," Winston said, turning sideways to the mirror to check he hadn't put on weight. "Richard's a good, strong name. Richard the third, Richard the Lionheart, Richard Burton."

Richard III had the twelve year old Edward V and his younger brother suffocated; Lionheart massacred the Saracens and Burton made cheap, tacky suits like this one." Jasfoup shook his head. "Don't choose Richard," he said. "You don't want your son to be a Dick."


Image: Lionheart - Kate Bush

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bellend and Grommet

Bellend and Grommet’s auction house on Filter Street* hols a semi-public auction every Thursday. Semi-public, because although it's open to all comers you have to have an account with them before you're allowed to bid on anything. It takes up to 28 days to set up an account, since they insist on checking credit records, but for a small fee and the cash up front a member of the public can request one of the sales assistants to bid on their behalf.

Three weeks ago there was a haunted doll's house for sale, though it wasn't advertised as such:

Wooden Doll’s House. C1930
Hand made by Frederick Glossop, this was in the Prestly family until 2004. It is now unexpectedly back on the market after the death of its present owner. Proceeds of the sale to be donated to Laverstone Women’s Institute.

I spotted three souls trapped inside it. The nasty little toy was designed as a soul trap, which explains why the poor Prestly family lost three children between 1934 and 1996. You couldn't pay me to take the damned thing.

Such a pity Harold bought it for £85.00



*Originally Philtre Street, since it was the province of the doctor and apothecary in the eighteenth century, the name was altered by common parlance in the mid twentieth century when oil filters were more common than potions Filter Street information from HERE


Image: THE ASHBURTON DOLLS HOUSE, VICTORIAN STYLE

Monday, August 10, 2009

Live Journal

Jasfoup tapped a claw on the surface of his bloodberry. "Send, damn you," he said. "Bloody LJ. Their servers must be down or something."

Harold frowned. "You have an LJ?" he said. "You never told me."

"Um...it's just for reading," said the demon. "I never post anything to it."

"But you were trying to send," Harold said. "You must be posting something. What's your user name?"

"None of your beeswax," said the demon, putting on his jacket and opening the door. "Besides, everything I post is friends-locked anyway."

"You could add me as a friend," said Harold to Jasfoup's retreating back. The outside door slammed. He sighed and looked at his screen. "Then I'd have two friends."


Image:Blogging for Dummies

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Laverstone Gardens

Laverstone Gardens does not exist. There is no postcode for it, it is unlisted in the Hertfordshire A-Z and Google thinks it a derelict factory building approached via Offly Street.

The seven residents of this cul-de-sac are more than happy with this state of affairs. The postman knows where they live, as does the electricity board, the gas company and BroadWater. However, since their houses don't appear on the map, they are never bothered by cold callers, religious groups or campaigning politicians. Their council tax is based upon the theory they live on undeveloped urban waste ground and is therefore lower than tax band A but they do receive annual grants toward their food and shelter.

Laverstone Gardens appears in this guide book by permission of the residents, but they denied consent to include it on the map.



Image: AA Big Road Atlas Britain

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Wightly Meadows

Meadow Lane is a cul-de-sac leading to Wightly Meadows, a small park and playing area bequeathed to the town by Lady Clarissa Wightly in 1934. It used to boast a variety of children's play equipment including a 24' high partially enclosed slide and a 14' Witch's Hat. An area for smaller children included a sandpit and Wendy house.

The play area was modernised after the new council regulations of 1992, resulting in the removal of the Witch's Hat and the lowering of the slide to 8'. The sand pit was deemed 'unhygienic' and replaced with a series of colourful blocks on wires and the Wendy house, long used as a paradise for the less savoury habits of local youths, was demolished entirely.

The Log 'adventure playground' that was built to commemorate sixty years of the park in 2004 has become a firm favourite with the local community; particularly Sam Cross, who sells paper bags full of cannabis leaves from the adventure treehouse after the park closes.


Image: Playground Poets

Friday, August 07, 2009

Garden Pests

Ada cut off a slice of the heavy fruit cake and poured two generous tablespoons of brandy over it, adding a dribble of honey and large dollop of stiff cream. As she opened the back door a large ginger Tom dashed inside and she tutted. "You'll have to wait," she said.

She climbed the three steps into the garden and placed the plate next to the two small graves disguised by deep red montbretia. She returned to the house to find Lucifer helping himself to a tin of salmon. "Pixie trap?" he said.

She nodded. "Yes. They've been farming their snails on my roses again."



Image: My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Alexandrian Gold

Alexandrian Gold on Dark Passage is a bookshop with a difference. From the moment you open the door you are assaulted with the musts and spices of the orient, usually because Harold, the proprietor, leaves the back window open and the restaurant next door is open all day.

The other thing to strike you will be the huge mahogany desk behind which sits a woman with one eye. Ever helpful, she will direct you to whatever book you were in the mood to read whether it be modern chick-lit or ancient tomes of esoteric knowlege before you even told her what you came in for.

There is, however, no public bathroom



image: Hypatia of Alexandria

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Unicorn

The Secret Society of the Following Tuesday meets at the disused Unicorn Inn on Strang Street. Entrance to the building after 7:30 PM is by secret knock and codeword and once invited in, members are sworn to secrecy about the secret secrets performed secretly. They also promise, under pain of death, not to divulge information about the extensive meals they partake in after close of business, nor of the depravities of modern sexuality they encourage their members to perform.

Thus it is impossible for a layman to say exactly what goes on in the Unicorn Inn on a Thursday night, nor why a letter is hand delivered to seventeen residents every Tuesday, nor why the local haberdashers on Dark Parade stocks such a wide variety of fun fur.



Image: Critter Costuming

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Beware of Cake

Harold looked inside the teapot mournfully "There's just the dregs left," he said. "Shall we order another pot?"

"If you like." Jasfoup looked over the menu. "There's a variety of cakes listed here."

"Oh?" Harold signalled the waitress. "What kind?"

"It just says 'a variety', I'm afraid."

"Oh." Harold looked up as the waitress arrived. "Another pot of Darjeeling for two please, and what cakes do you have available?"

"Have you seen the board?"

"Alas, no," Harold said. "Could you not just tell me?"

"What sort do you want?"

"Coffee ad walnut?"

"Someone drank all the coffee."

"Fruit cake?"

"It's not Christmas."

"Cherry?"

"Someone popped it."

"Eccles?"

"We ran out of eccs"

Harold sighed. "We'll have whatever cake you've got."

Jasfoup was dissatisfied with the order when it arrived. "I loathe Pontefract cake," he said.


Image: Cake Chic