Category Archives: writing

From the Horse’s Mouth

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I ‘spect you ‘eard the rumours back then, but you can’t set too much store by Chinese whispers. I know exactly what ‘appened that day, since I was practically there. See, my mum used to chat with Sally, the fishmonger’s wife, when she went to get our lovely fresh cod of a Friday, and Cuthbert – her ‘usband – well, ‘e used to deliver fish, regular, to the Royal Kitchen. He got quite pally with the Royal Cook, Sally’s Cuthbert did. Oh yes, he moved with the cream of society, ‘er Cuthbert, what with goin’ round to all the best ‘ouses an’ mixin’ with all the best cooks in the realm, an’ all. He was a nice chap so they all made allowances for the smell. Anyroad*, the Royal Cook got the story from the kitchen maid who got it from the chambermaid, who got it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. That’s right; the lady-in-waiting ‘erself, who was peaking round the door just after it ‘appened.

So, like I said, I was practically there at the time, and this is ‘ow it went:

The girl ‘ad been tossing and turning all night – couldn’t sleep a wink by all accounts. The palace was getting ready to celebrate since it looked like she’d passed the test, but now she was turning a nasty shade of green an’ ‘aving difficulty breathing. The king ‘appened by, and he saw it and summoned the lady-in waiting, who called for the chambermaid, who ran to find the courtier, who rushed for the physician.

The doctor examined the girl, then wrung ‘is ‘ands, like they does when the king looks at ’em, and mumbled something about balls.

“Speak up, man, and moderate your language, or I’ll order the guards to cut off your head,” cried the king. Just like that, an’ I wouldn’t put it past ‘im. I could tell you some tales would make your hair stand on end, but me lips is sealed.

The physician gathered up ‘is wits and spoke more clear. “Your majesty,” says ‘e, “there hhis no cure for this lady’s hhallergy. I fear the worst. If only Hhi had had been hhinformed, Hhi would have recommended a golf ball and a dozen extra mattresses instead.”

(Physicians is trained to talk proper, for all their funny ideas about leaches and blood-letting. They knows where the aitches is meant to go.)

Just then, the girl sits up like some knight ‘as stuck a red-hot lance up ‘er unmentionables, gives a scream, and collapses as if dead, poor dear. The worst of it was, when she fell back so sudden like, the pile of mattresses started wobbling, and before you know it, she’s rolled out of them and plummeted all the way to the floor like a bloomin’ bag o’ teddies*.

Oh, bless, don’t go upsetting yourself, dearie – I’m sure she didn’t feel nothin’, but like I was about to say, next thing,  all them mattresses got to slippin’ an’ slidin’, and before you know it, the floor’s plastered in ’em. By the time the dust settled, she was buried up to her neck – just lying there underneath those stuffed wodges of striped ticking, with only one pale arm sticking out like the dead end of an amputee party or what-all.

And what did they see but that little green pea, released from its feathery prison, rolling across the floor, like it didn’t have a care in the world. ‘Course, it was quickly absolved of that notion, since the dog – I forgot to tell you about the dog; there was a dog asleep in the corner of the room, an’ it’d managed to sleep through having a mattress land on its back, but it must have ‘eard the pea, makin’ its way across the royal rug, takin’ a straight line between two of them puffy mattresses. The daft dog musta thought it was a rabbit or what-have-you. It was up and on the pea like lightnin’. In a blink, the evidence o’ cause o’ death was down ‘is gullet.

So then the prince come ambling in, with that clipboard they made for him from the last o’ the gold what ‘is previous wife had woven out of straw. I’m talking about his second wife, mind. I ‘spect you ‘eard about the first one, who broke an old glass slipper, trying to prove that her feet were the same size as back when they first started courting. Turned out they wasn’t. She’d bled to death, which was a shame, ‘cos she was pretty, but ‘e married again.

The second marriage had started off awright, what with all them roomfuls of gold and all – bound to make you ‘appy, seems to me – but pretty soon it was all around the palace that his wife was ‘avin’ an affair with a short ugly bloke with a bad temper, who kept comin’ out with strange rhymes an’ wouldn’t tell anyone his name, and if you ask me,  I’d say the rumours was true; she weren’t no better than she shoulda been.

Well, that’s another story, and I’m not one to gossip, but it’s worth a mention since it was ‘cos of ‘er that they weren’t taking no chances this time. The next one ‘ad to be a proper princess – the thing they tried with the glass shoe ended in tears, and they didn’t want any more of that hobnobbing with commoners who makes ‘oles in the floorboards and disappears down ’em before you can cite them as just cause for divorce. See, it’s not like they wanted to behead her – they’d rather have done it the nice way, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Not that they was beggars; they was royals, but still.

Getting back to the prince; the shock of seeing the grisly scene before ‘im give ‘im a bit of a start and his bowler ‘at slid down over ‘is eyes. Did I mention the bowler? ‘E liked to wear it for official stuff like checkin’ for the authenticity of princesses – reckoned it gave ‘im an official air; professional like, along with ‘is important clipboard with its long checklist of names of all the virgins in the realm what claimed to be princesses – or was it all the princesses in the realm what claimed to be virgins?

None of us was sure, but no matter.

Regaining ‘is balance an’ dignity, ‘e slid the bowler back into place an’ stepped over to what he could see of the young woman. Kneeling down, ‘e reached toward her slender ‘and. By all accounts, it looked like a romantic what-‘ave-you, till ‘e pressed a finger to her wrist, where the pulse should ‘ave bin. He looked up at the doctor, ‘oo avoided his eyes, and then at his father, the king, ‘oo rewarded ‘im with a “you win some, you lose some’ kind of a shrug.

Smartly getting up from ‘is knees – princes is good at that kind of thing; standing and sitting and generally moving graceful like dancers, it’s their upbringing, you know – ‘e pulled a pencil from beneath his silk doublet, licked the end and neatly crossed ‘er name off the list.

Written for 3TC: Mattress, Golf ball, Green

*anyroad: anyway

*teddies: a regional name for potatoes.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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My Cup Runneth Over

In a quiet village not far from here, a modest church waits expectantly, its ancient stones imbibed with the breath of those who went before, grooms who faced the alter, bravely restraining an urge to pace the floor, brides who carefully swept down the aisle, eyes shining as a shy smile landed like a kiss on the groom’s lips.

Today, the church is again filled with fragrant flowers, in preparation for the joining of another two lovers in joyful matrimony

Never have I attended a ceremony so infused with excitement, and I –  I am the mother of the bride – the slightly eccentric mother of the miraculous bride. I feel my smile widening as I greet the other guests. I am at my best today, carrying myself with something akin to dignity. I won’t be climbing trees in this dress. For once it will be easy to resist the urge to walk along the top of the church wall.

A woman stands behind a window at the front of a house, watching us in all our finery. I turn towards her, and am treated to an enthusiastic wave. I grin and wave back.

I want to call out “Just wait until you see the bride. You have a real treat coming.”

I want to tell her how important this wedding is.

The air fills with fresh possibilities as my family is finally re-united by the love tha Laura and Dave have for each other.

The bells ring to call in the guests. I enter the church sit down at the front, happy that this event will be witnessed by those I love the most. I’m trying to send a psychic message to Dave, the groom, to calm him, but my mind is too focused on the door, knowing it is almost time. The bells stop ringing. The moment has come.

The chatter subsides as we all stand to await the bride.
The door opens, and she arrives.
Stepping down the aisle, she takes her place beside the groom.

This is my amazing daughter, no longer my poor unhappy baby, my confused child, my damaged teenager, my dying young woman. This is my extraordinary Laura, grown into herself, finally healed, walking gracefully into her future.

The ceremony is beautiful.

At the reception, everyone is infected by Laura’s sparkly euphoria. We are all thrilled that Laura and Dave are married.

While Laura and Dave perform the ritual of cutting the cake,  I prepare to divide it into slices. Since I decorated it, it seems only fair that I should be the one to destroy it…

Mr and Mrs Galliford are currently in Cornwall, at the start of their honeymoon tour of the UK. They were going to travel around Europe, but they changed their minds. There’s so much variety in this country, and Laura hasn’t seen enough of She sent me a photo of her lying on a lounger – sunbathing!

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I guess she’s got her love to keep her warm.

 

Enjoy your honeymoon, Laura – and the rest of your life. Your courage and strength has paid off. I’m proud of you, and grateful to Dave, for all the support he has given.

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I love you, Laura.

xxx

With enormous thanks to all my online friends who helped to make this possible, by praying for, and sending positive thoughts to Laura and I. Your messages of support picked Laura up when she was at her lowest, encouraging her, making her feel nurtured, and helping her to  believe that she could change her life. You also restored my faith in her, giving me the strength to do the things which needed to be done. These are no small acts, since you kick-started the miracle. Without you, I don’t believe she would be where she is today. I doubt that she would even be alive.

Does anybody have a tissue…?

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Rare Blood

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I’ve been insulted by WP’s electronic brain, which has blocked me from following any more blogs, because it suspects me of following blogs purely in order to get them to follow me. Apparently I am following too many blogs, and it looks suspicious. At the time of learning this, I was had eighty-eight on my list. I suspect that this is not a particularly high number. I have been blogging for a little over three years. If I was simply looking to increase my following, by now I would have followed (and, no doubt, subsequently unfollowed) thousands of blogs – which I haven’t.

If the technology that highlights the problem was more advanced, it would see that I never follow a blog without first having – or at least starting – a conversation with the blogger. It would record the fact that, if I follow someone, I also want to get to know them better.

It was recommended that I cease following a few blogs, in order to be able to follow others. Seeing no other option, I took the advice given, and ceased following ten blogs which I would have preferred to keep, in the hope that I would be able to follow new ones – although it occurred to me that this is an action I’d regularly take if I was guilty as accused; drop those I’m following and find new ones to follow in order to be noticed. WP’s advice plays into the hands of bloggers who only follow others in order to receive follows.

Well, anyway, it hasn’t worked yet. I still can’t follow new blogs.

I’m grateful to the support staff member who advised me. She opened up a dialogue, and  helped me to sort out another issue which I had – one which was preventing me from receiving notifications of new posts from blogs I was already following. She is not responsible for what the WP technology is telling her. I’m also pleased that WP is dealing with the issue of bloggers touting for follows in this way. I notice I no longer seem to be getting those kind of follows. I don’t like being followed by folks who have no interest in me or my poetry, and I wouldn’t insult another blogger by playing that game.

I can’t really understand why I am under suspicion, but maybe it’s all down to patterns. We each make our own pattern in this world. This pattern is shaped by our genes, our experiences and our choices in life. While every pattern is unique, most of them fit into an understood category – even those that stand out as being unusual. These unusual ones could be compared to the blood group, AB negative – the rarest of the bog-standard blood groups. However, there are many far more unusual blood groups, the rarest of which is believed to be be RH-Null. It has been suggested that Rh-Null has a close connection with extra-terrestrial beings, although I make no comment on that.

 Maybe my pattern is as rare as Rh-Null. I don’t think the WP bots are programmed to deal with my abstract design.

 Just because I look like an extra-terrestrial, it doesn’t mean I am one.

.Beam me up, Scotty.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

 

Goodbye, 2017

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Goodbye 2017. I thank you with all my heart. The twenty-first century was hard for me until you came along, but you have given me all that I could have asked for. Finally, my family is whole again, and I thank you for all that you have done for us. Tonight, before I drink to 2018, I will raise a toast to you. I will never forget, or take for granted, the good things you brought to me. You gave me a future to look forward to. I now place my trust in the year that follows.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Hogs’ Pudding and Breast of Spring Chicken

The past twenty-four hours have been busy and emotional. I don’t want to go into it, but it hasn’t all been bad. I spent half the evening crying, and the other half trying to figure out what to do about my neighbour who turned up in a state about some hogs’ pudding.

For the information of the uninitiated, hogs’ pudding is a nasty, anaemic looking, giant sausage which – for some unaccountable reason – is popular in this area.

This tale involves me, my daughter Laura, Dave (her fiance), a neighbour who we’ll call Bert, although he’s really called Harold – but that’s not true; it’s just a cunning double cover-up, to protect his identity.

Speaking of cover-ups, this morning, when Laura stepped out of her fiance’s brother’s shower, she had no idea that there was anybody other than her fiance in the flat. Had she been aware of the presence of Bert/Harold – who (in order to cause further confusion) I’ll call Gregory, she might have chosen to shower with her clothes on, so, no cover-up there…

Moving swiftly on to this evening; I was near the completion of some nifty and essential six-way texting with a smattering of phone calls, while trying to eat without dripping tears into a meal which had already gone cold, when someone knocked heavily on my door.

“Oh, deary me, who can that possibly be?” I asked myself – although it came out more as a muttered “Bloody hell, whoever you are, why don’t you just bugger off and leave me alone.”

Had I known the answer to my silent question, I might have been inclined to increase the volume of my under-the-breath mutter so that my visitor would hear me. I opened the door to discover my neighbour – the one I’ve decided to call Gregory, his face displaying an interesting combination of startled, terrified, distraught, apologetic and lustful expressions. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but at least he didn’t have the remains of his dinner on his face, as he usually does.

On second thoughts, perhaps the absence of bolognese sauce should have served as a warning – he’d taken particular pains to make himself respectable before coming to see me.

At this point, perhaps I should describe myself:

I have all my limbs, digits and and organs, both eyes, several teeth, hair on my head – and being only about 14lbs overweight, around here I’m considered to be slim almost to the point of anorexia. In addition, I look as if I was probably reasonably lacking in pig-ugliness about forty years ago.

Yes – at the tender age of 62, I am the babe of the over-the-hill stag’s brigade; a real catch, if it wasn’t for the proven fact that I can run faster than any of them. It’s becoming embarrassing, although I admit there are only four men in this block who are actively chasing me.

Gregory is one of them, but he pretends he just sees me as a friend. I had to invite him in, since he was peering round the door looking longingly at my sofa, all the while telling me that he was terribly sorry for bothering me and he didn’t want to cause any trouble, but he didn’t know what to think about Dave’s hogs’ pudding. Naturally, I thought that in addition to him seeing my daughter naked, he must have witnessed Dave in a state of undress, but he said that the hogs’ pudding was in his freezer, so after a moment’s concern for my future son-in-law’s well-being, I realised it wasn’t a euphemism after all.

While I made coffee, he continued to apologise for bothering me. Eventually he explained that Dave had given him money to buy some revolting piggy sausages, and he’d done so, but he hadn’t been able to find Dave and give him the offensive swill. He seemed terribly upset, so much so, that it took me a while to notice that the more he looked at my pullover, the more agitated he became.

I have two swellings which sort of stick out of my chest. It’s nothing to worry about – lots of women have them; they’re useful for small babies to chew on when they’re teething and it makes them forget their hunger, so you don’t have to give them steak and chips. I keep my bumpy things under my clothes, so he might not have been aware of them before. Having seen my daughter naked, I think he was curious to find out if I had similar things. I strongly suspect he’d have liked to investigate further, but was too polite to ask.

I wondered how I’d missed the atmospheric hint of testosterone, floating around the room like a concrete block wrapped around a stone.

His hogs’ pudding story was just a ruse to get into my flat. He could have quite easily rung Dave’s brother, since they’re close friends. They’re going out for lunch together tomorrow, so, come to that, the hogs discussion could have waited until tomorrow.

Even after I’d told him that I needed to go to the corner shop before it closed, I had trouble getting rid of him. He kept clutching my hand, telling me he loved me… “as a friend”, gazing at me, trying to hug me, putting his hand at the back of my waist, to illustrate how long Jane Ayre’s hair was.

By the time he left, his face was purple, his limp more accentuated.  He looked both physically uncomfortable and disappointed, whilst I felt mentally discomfited and disjointed.

Maybe I should go back to writing in the dark, so he won’t know I’m here.

©Jane Paterson Basil

If you are Ginger

 

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Here in the UK, if you have ginger hair, you learn at an early age, to approach strangers gingerly.

Until they’re confronted with a head of glowing copper or titian locks, their faces don’t show whether they are gingerphiles, gingerthropes, or cringing gingerphobes.

Few folk are ginger-indifferent, so some try to knock the gingers down, deflate them, break their self esteem; and they often succeed.

Not many people know that I’m ginger, since the brightness faded away many years ago, leaving only hints of it between the blonde. So you could  accuse me of being a ginger in disguise — although that would be unfair, since I don’t deliberately hide my ginger status.

Do my blonde tresses make me acceptable to the gingerthropes of the world, or would they consider me subversive for hiding my true colours? Should I dye my hair to reveal the truth about myself, even though by doing so I would be lying about the current condition of my hair?

And why should anyone care, anyway?

Gingerphile – my word for someone who loves ginger hair.
Gingerthrope – my word for someone who hates ginger hair.
Gingerphobe – my word for someone who is afraid of ginger hair.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Dem Bones

Although we have a few days left before the ghosts come out to play, in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, I’d like to present a short Disney animation from 1929, the year after Walt Disney created the immortal Mickey Mouse. By the time I first saw this surreal film, it must have been around for about thirty-five years, but it didn’t seem dated, since our TVs were still in black and white. Even now – almost ninety years after it was made – it still holds its appeal for me.

©Jane Paterson Basil