Archive | October, 2014

LOVE

31 Oct

LOVE

 Slopes of Vesuvius photo PICT0019aa-1.jpg

My wife and I on the road up Vesuvious a few years ago.

I’ve been thinking about love a little bit recently. It’s an odd subject for an old fart like me, I know, but it keeps imposing itself on my daily toil via the gift of a wife.
The thing is, love, like a hooked nose, grey eyes or webbed feet, is part of evolution’s constant struggle to improve the species by adapting it more neatly to its environment. Maybe the hooked nose fell by the wayside for quite a lot of us, and it could be that grey eyes had no particular survival merit and most certainly webbed feet are a rarity, but love, it seems is enduring and so powerful that, at the right moment, it can reduce a fully grown man to tears.
It can be quite amusing working out the pitfalls encountered by Mother Nature during the struggle for perfection that ended up with the birth of my wife. We all know our environment and how it hasn’t changed to any significant degree since a brave little hominid climbed out of a tree and strode purposefully along an African valley floor. But we’ve changed. We’ve adapted rather beautifully, so much so that if we try to live on any other planet or satellite in the solar system (or in the neighbourhood of any other sun, as far as we know) we’d find ourselves ill-adapted to enjoy life or even survive at all.
Of course, we need to ensure that there are future generations to follow on behind us, for without the future the present would be a pretty pointless affair. So we reproduce. We pair off and do the delightful deed as many times as we can until the female half of the pairing grows large and produces an angel. Then we nurture that infant for years and years until it’s an independent adult and can do the same itself.
That’s most likely where love comes into the story.
Evolution has produced an arrangement in which both male and female parents stick together. They wouldn’t necessarily have to: the female could naturally acquire a whole regiment of temporary partners and that would suffice for part of the parental task – one to nurture and another to provide, initially out in the forests with a spear and eventually in the office with a secretary. But the male, in those circumstances, would have little vested personal interest in the development of another man’s offspring.
Much better for the original parents to stick together. It doesn’t always work out, of course. There’s the sabre-toothed tiger waiting to take him out if he has a careless moment, and in an intelligent species like ours it’s possible that individuals might not always continue to see eye-to-eye about important things, like life, and eventually split up. But in the majority of cases the parents remain together, at least until the job’s done. And that’s where, I think, love comes into it.
It’s not just physical things that are cosseted by evolution. Mental things are as well, and we are all equipped with a weird and dominating instinct to as good as worship another human being. It must have started as a fleeting little affection and it grew as the more successful parents were also lovers until it became the mighty emotion that it is today. It certainly stops us wandering off and it persists, as far as I can tell, for the remainder of our days, even beyond the dependent stage of our children. It’s strong, powerful, batters us on a daily basis, can have a physical outlet – but not necessarily – and provides each day of our lives with a huge something extra. It contributed to family stability, and when the family’s gone it continues to exercise a benign power on our lives.
How, you might ask, do I know this?
Well, tomorrow is my wife and my wedding anniversary and although we’ve only been married for six years they’ve been six of the most splendid years a man could have. We both say we’d like to have met earlier in our lives, but we didn’t. And both of us being septuagenarians and almost sensible with it, we know this heaven of ours can’t last for ever.
We have been caught up in evolution’s promise for the future and that means there’s precious little that I wouldn’t do for her. You see, I really do love her. It’s overpowering. It’s mighty. It guides my every mood and almost dictates my thoughts.
Woof woof!
© Peter Rogerson 31.10.14

30 Oct

GRISELDA AND A BIT OF COMMON SENSE

 FLYING WITCH photo: Flying Witch awitchflying.gif
“When you’re a witch with as much magic at your finger-tips that you could throw a cat at, why let things carry on like this!” grumbled Griselda, who had done two things in rapid succession: she had cut her finger on a potato knife and she had read the newspaper that had accidentally been put through her own letter box not an hour earlier.
Dealing with the finger was easy. All she needed was a plaster and a tiny squeeze of special cream from an ancient tube.
Dealing with the news in the newspaper, though, was less easy.
It seemed that some really unpleasant people had decided that the entire world should be converted to their peculiar beliefs, and those beliefs were truly peculiar. In fact, they were worse than peculiar because they involved the worship of a totally imaginary dog called Rover. In the hackneyed publications they scattered here, there and everywhere, and in brutalising videos they sneaked into the offices of newsmen and broadcasters, they explained, in pidgin English, that Rover had created the known Universe, that his prophet Scamp had told a huge variety of mighty truths, and that anyone who gainsaid those truths should be either blown to smithereens or have their heads removed from their bodies by a hooded executioner if they, the Roverites, ran out of Semtex.
“This is outrageous!” snapped Griselda to Henrietta Blackboil, a neighbour from a couple of miles away – she had to live that far from the Blackboil woman on account of the smell that drifted on many a sour wind from the latter’s boudoir when she was vomiting.
“It’s life,” grunted Henrietta, “and what you pissin’ going to do about it?”
“I’m going to put things right, that’s what I’m going to do, hag!” snapped Griselda. She was approaching a very big birthday in three figures and a bit and was gradually becoming more tetchy. Years do that to everyone, especially to witches.
With no more ado she grabbed her broomstick, not her second-best one, which she used most of the time, but her very best one.
“If a job’s to be done a body needs the proper equipment,” she told herself, and she zoomed off.
Now, the reprobates she was after lived quite a long way away – on another continent, if the truth were to be told. And they lived in camps of pseudo-military divisions of bullies. The moment Griselda (who was quite capable of flying there in a single night if she switched to overdrive) saw what she was up against she spat and nodded her head and muttered “I thought so…”
The camps were laid out in a random, untidy sort of way. There were louts with their heads covered in smelly old sacking marching about aimlessly. There were women screaming in agony behind barred windows, the way women do when they are being degraded by loutish perverts. There were very young children with their entrails hanging out begging to be forgiven, and in a special square there was a particularly vicious looking bully preparing to hack a young woman’s head off with a rusty knife.
“This is what I expected to find,” she grunted. “This is a place of insanity! These oafs want us to believe they have a special purpose and just look at the way they go about it! They want is to believe that Rover and the prophet Scamp are sacrosanct, that their names should never be muttered by non-believers– yet look at them! They believe in nothing deeper than pain and death! Their one and only concern is to distribute torture and suffering amongst humanity! I must put a stop to all this!”
With a loud squawk that she was truly proud of, Griselda, aboard her best broomstick and like a demon from a netherworld, stooped through the skies, the very image of tatty, eccentric power.
At the sound of her siren-like approach the scruffy yobbos, strolling with characteristic aimlessness through the dirty compound, paused and surveyed the skies. The executioner, who was about to deal a lethal blow with his rusty blade across a clean white neck paused mid-stroke, shielded his eyes and gazed into the bright blue skies.
And Griselda arrived in front of him.
“What is this?” she demanded. “Why are you about to separate that woman’s head from her body? What is she to you, monster?”
The executioner, blood-stained hood squinting, had never felt more affronted. “She is an infidel,” he muttered, and his voice sounded feeble as though a wind might have blown through his empty head, dislodging cobwebs and detritus and leaving only a mindless vacuum behind.
“Help me…” wept the to-be-victim. “I’m only here to heal the sick…”
“She abuses the name of our dog,” retorted the hooded wretch, “and all who do that deserve no better than death!”
“You mean the dog that never existed?” smiled Griselda sweetly, “the imaginary beast that has sullied your fair land for generations, and shaped your philosophy with lies and fairy tales? And his ludicrous prophet – what do you call him? Scamp? As in Scamp come here! Heel, scamp, heel! Down Rover!”
“You are blaspheming!” roared a voice behind Griselda.
She spun round, which is quite a feat for a hundred-and-something year-old lady holding a nice, shiny broomstick.
“Ah! So here we have the puppet master,” she breathed, “and here was silly me bandying words with his puppet!”
The man she was addressing was no scruffy bully nor nose-dribbling wretch, nor did he carry before him a blade or automatic rifle. No: he was dressed after the manner of Presidents and kings in mufti. His suit was smart, his demeanour one of wealth, his expression sardonic.
“The woman blasphemes, Master,” croaked the executioner.
“So, Mr Puppet Master, what are you going to do with this infidel?” asked Griselda and her most wheedling voice. “Am I to be struck through with a bloodied blade? Is my head to be untidily removed from my ancient carcase? Are you going to incarcerate me in a deep and dark dungeon until I croak my sins before your torturer? Or are you to fall on your greedy knees and be seen, by the wretches that serve you, for what you are? Down, I say, down! By all the magic in the Universe I order you onto your knees!”
And the man, a look of unbelieving shock on his face, found himself sinking to his knees under the power of Griselda’s spell.
“Behold the man who gains from your subservience,” proclaimed Griselda, her voice much too loud and powerful for so old a woman. “His pockets are full to overflowing with notes and coins collected for your struggle! He has gold and gems galore, for he is your leader! And when he has gained enough and you are brought lower than the rats that scurry through your pantries as we speak, he will bask under a bright, clean sun with fair maidens around him and his feet moistened by a balmy tide, while you all die in filth!”
The army of bullies gathered round and were overpowered by the strange light in the old woman’s eyes. They looked at each other, questioningly, then they looked at the ground.
“It’s up to you,” she said, “up to all of you. His name will end up on the list of evil rulers who have plagued this planet for millennia, and will be used as an example of all that is most savage in the hearts of men. But where will yours be? Think of it…”
And quietly, with humility and wisdom, she climbed back onto the shaft of her very best broomstick and rose into the air, majestic, skirts flapping, tall hat streaming behind her.
And the executioner, with one bloodied sweep, hacked the head from the shivering body of the man who’d led them into hell.
© Peter Rogerson 30.10.14

FAITH AND BELIEF

29 Oct

FAITH AND BELIEF.

RELIGION photo: BAD RELIGION HERESY.jpg
One hears so much about belief.
Most of it is religious belief, like “I believe in this God” and “I believe in that God”, and the inevitable conclusion that one or the other of the believers is wrong whilst the other one might, just might, but right. No guarantees there, though.
So what is belief?
If you follow the arguments of people reckoning to have faith and belief in a particular deity and its panoply of angels then you might get quite a skewed impression of what belief really is. They have no idea what that deity is, where that deity exists, what the angels are, how the whole thing came into being in the first place. The god and his minions exist, and that’s good enough for them.
And how do they know that they exist?
They know for one or possibly both of two reasons.
Firstly, the belief system has been hammered into their brains since birth. It’s no coincidence that the vast majority of believers actually claim to have faith in the dominant deity of the society into which they were born and brought up. Born in the UK and most Western countries and you have Christianity shoe-horned into your brain until it’s a permanent fixture and difficult to dislodge. Born in the Middle East and you might find Islam as the pervading faith, and, surprise surprise, you’d die in support of Muhammed. But all you did was get born. The society you were born into shaped the rest of your belief. Not a deity: they can’t shape anything, but the prevalent belief that trickled its stories into your head.
Secondly, you’re not immortal. You’re going to die sooner or later and the religions offer you a nice cosy after-life existence in which you either meet up with your nearest and dearest if they’ve gone before you or are rewarded with an unconscionable number of virgins if you’ve fought the good fight on behalf of your god. It’s not a bad option, is it? To have an afterlife in this or that Heaven to look forwards to? Much better than the alternatives, the graveyard or the funeral pyre.
The actual fact, though, is there has never been any evidence for the existence of Heaven, hell, Elysian fields, everlasting torment, angels with harps, anything like that. Like the Gods that spawned them the best guess of an intelligent person is that they are the stuff of fable.
So why is there such a thing as faith, especially religious faith when the religion is, at best, spurious? I mean, we all have senses with which we detect reality. Unless we have been unfortunate and lost our sight we can all see the things that surround us, and even look beyond our actual surroundings and see the stars. We know what those stars are and the fact that they come in uncountable quantities in the shape of galaxies. True, we’ve been told all this by scientists who study the things, but what those scientists tell us adds to the evidence of our senses rather than contradicts it.
As we grow up we get an impression that there is some kind of order in things.
In many respects an atom looks like a tiny replica of a solar system and a solar system gives every impression of being related to a galaxy, though on a minuscule scale. They’re very different, of course, but the forces that supply apparent similarity are the forces that hold the whole of understandable existence in check.
And in all this broad nature there’s no bearded bloke with a cruel streak. There’s absolutely no room for a god, and if a god appeared he’d have absolutely nothing to do. The Universe, Creation, call it what you will, functions in a predictable way without recourse to magic wands.
So why faith in what doesn’t need to exist? Why die in the name of that faith (if you do you’ll get no reward of virgins with whom you might dream of spending Eternity)? Yet people are doing it all the time, and have for a really long time. Back in British History, a few centuries ago (a short time when measured against Everything) people went to the most painful deaths because they just couldn’t recant their faith. There was a general belief that God was good and the devil was bad and God needed human help in defeating that dreadful devil, who had planet evil spies in the human camp, so to speak. Those spies needed rooting out and burning at the stake. And they were, in cruel quantities. In our more enlightened times it looks very much like murder, and it was, murder in the name of God.
So why does faith exist today? Why are there a huge number of people who believe in the particular God of their parents, their God and not someone else’s, and feel angry if someone like me comes along and tries to explain what I see as the truth? The answer probably lies in something simple, like “it always has been like this”.
But times they are a-changing. The Head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope himself, has said that evolution is a reality and that God is no magician. Many of us knew that anyway, but it’s nice for the Pope to re-enforce our prejudice. All he’s got to do now is dismantle everything that depends on the peculiar cosmology hitherto claimed by the church. He’s broken down the first stone in the wall of ignorance called faith, and if that wall crumbles away – what then?
If gods are consumed in the flames of reality, what will we have to believe in? Where will our faith go? I suppose the good thing is that it will be in our own hands. Maybe, without the anchor of superstition dragging us back, as a species we’ll do good or bad in our own name with no unlikely deity to pray to should things go wrong.
Maybe we’ll get a better hold on reality. And angry young men won’t have weird gods and odd faith to fight for. They’ll have to start to see sense.
© Peter Rogerson 29.10.14

THERE IS AN ANSWER….

28 Oct

THERE IS AN ANSWER…

RELIGION photo: Religion religion_world.jpg
  Words like jihad are common these days. Common and, we perceive them as threatening. Jihad actually means a struggle on behalf of god and Islam, though why any god worth his salt should want mere mortals to engage in a struggle on his mighty behalf is beyond me. It would seem that despite omnipotence and omniscience and a great deal of power when it comes to creating universes and the like, gods need a bit of help in the day-to-day running of their empires, and it seems they prefer disillusioned thugs to do the menial graft.
But this tendency for mostly young men to take up arms and fight the good fight against people not remotely interested in fighting is getting a bit scary. Witness recent events as far from the Middle Eastern battlegrounds as you could imagine, in Canada.
We are told that perfectly ordinary young folks are “radicalised”, or turned into murdering scumbags who, being imbued with irrational thought, think everyone should share it.
There is a solution of course, but it is, to risk being confusing, radical in its own way.
All religions that have as a figurehead some immortal deity are guilty or have been guilty of intense cruelty. Christianity has, for sure. Islam has, and evidence lies in bloody scattered fragments all around. Judaism (read the Old Testament if you want to see how rotten that was) lacks tolerance. And they all want to convert everyone else to their own peculiar versions of monotheism.
Let me try to explain my own attitude to religion – it’s really quite simple. I was taught, as a small boy and then a bigger boy and finally an almost-a-man boy that God is in his Heaven and he loves me. It was simple and because it was all-pervasive it was hard to be original and not believe it. It concerned events that occurred before I was born, long before in actual fact, and I was used to absorbing those. I knew about the second world war even though I was actually born during it, though couldn’t, of course remember one blind thing about it, being a babe in arms as it came to an end. But I learned about it, and there was evidence in the form of bomb sites still a-plenty during the forties. I was taught about other wars, and shown evidence that they happened. Medals, cigarette cases with bullet holes in them, all sorts of stuff. Evidence.
And I was taught about God, and the only evidence as such that I was shown was the Jewish history book, the Bible. There were churches with towers and steeples just about everywhere I looked, of course, great buildings with fine histories, and they were also supposed to be evidence for the existence of God. They had to be. I was told that.
Then I became a man with the sort of mind that asks questions and slowly, ridiculously slowly I’m ashamed to say, I de-constructed the faith that I had been taught was as real as candy-floss and ice-creams, and I found it had no substance at its heart.
It was a cruel book, the Old Testament. I was brought up by a widowed mother and she meant everything to me, yet that filthy book placed women low in the order of things. They were so insignificant that a sneering, misogynist deity made them out of a man’s rib! That’s all they were. The man was all that mattered, but he needed someone to shag. His rib, therefore, was all the deity required. To the man the glory, to the woman the toil. And to make matters worse, women (in the shape of Eve and original sin) were the cause of everything nasty that happened since then. Right, the stories are obviously nonsense but the balance of humanity they represent still continues. Women, especially in Islamic cultures, are of little consequence outside the breeding cycle. They can be flogged, thrashed, lashed, and all for very little transgression in societies that are almost totally male orientated. If a woman is raped it is her fault, so lash her! What exists in elements of Islam today is very much the same as what existed in the so-called holy lands of Genesis and Deuteronomy.
And I had put my mother on a pedestal in my own mind. True, she suffered from a kind of nasty all-pervading senility whilst still in her fifties, and died as a consequence, but I treasured her. I still do. And that sodding bible treated her and her gender as worthless. As punishable for nearly nothing. Violently. Cruelly. And I had been taught that all this was right.
Bit by bit I de-constructed the faith I had had hammered into my head since birth and began to see it for what it was.
And it was rubbish.
In the history of my own society (and I was taught that there was little that wasn’t perfect about British history – another set of lies, I’m afraid) it was, from time to time, considered quite the right thing to do to women who dared to be wise to burn them whilst alive at the stake. They might, after all, be in league with Satan (who has never existed) and therefore helping him in his eternal battle against God (who has also never existed.)
Just like the treatment of some women in more devout Islamic countries today.
But I suggested, hundreds of words back, that there is a solution to all the chaos that still spreads misery and contempt for human rights across the globe and that may, one day, cause its destruction if anger over non-existent gods spills over and ignites youthful insanity.
All religion that has, at its centre, an alien, a god, a deity, anything like that, should be dismantled and cast into the pages of history books for future generations to read about, and despair of humanity’s foolishness “once upon a time”. I’m not a believer, but don’t worry about that because, like most people, I can see what belief does. It creates a game of right and wrong, and nobody wants to be wrong.
So dismantling the lot, from mullahs to popes to the whole damned lot, and slowly building a world without silly gods to divide it. Look: I called them silly and not one of them dared to strike me down for typing it!
If that happens then the future of life on this planet is more assured. If it doesn’t there are possibilities, some of which are most unpleasant. You see, it is the nature of youth to find a cause and if that cause involves gods and weird promises about gifts of virgins in an impossible afterlife (or even an impossible afterlife in what is quaintly called heaven) then the battle will be all the bloodier.
© Peter Rogerson 28.10.14

GRISELDA AND A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

27 Oct

GRISELDA AND A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

WITCH IN BED photo: Witch MortgageWitch3.jpg
  “There’s only one thing to do at this time of the year, and that’s hibernate,” thought Griselda Entwhistle to herself.
Winter was threatening. Mind you, it had been threatening for most of that particular summer, and she was fed up with casting warming spells (which used an awful lot of ground mandrake, which came expensive).
“I’m going to hibernate,” she told Thomas the Greek as he served her in the Crown and Anchor. “I’m going to make my bed, put two thick duvets on it, climb aboard and stay there until spring. I’m going to sleep the sleep of the innocent and righteous…”
“No sleep for you, then,” scoffed Thomas as he polished a clean glass with his handkerchief, an elderly scrap of cloth that was as stiff as a board after being in his pockets for six months.
“That means I won’t be in here, propping up your bar and paying for your diluted provender,” she added.
“Won’t make much difference to what I put in my till,” grinned Thomas, “you hardly ever buy more than a half pint of mild!”
“Diluted mild,” she corrected him. “I’ve a good mind to get the weights and measures people onto you, the amount of water you slip into the drinks you serve when nobody’s looking.”
“It’s a service,” smirked Thomas, “it prevents unnecessary hangovers. My customers should be grateful.”
“Bah!” sniffed Griselda, and she stomped out of the bar, calling “see you in the spring, losers!” at the rest of the sober drinkers in the place.
She made her bed exactly as she had described to Thomas, with a thick quilt on top of another thick quilt so that the whole affair looked disgustingly cosy. Then she prepared a highly nutritious cup of herbal tea, a drink that only she of all the people in the world could tolerate because of its infinitely foul flavour and settled in her knobbly armchair to drink it.
“Delicious,” she crooned to herself.
Then she went to bed.
Let me describe how she prepared for hibernation.
She removed far too many layers of clothing until she got down to her vest and pants, which she kept on because, truth to tell, she hadn’t removed them in years and wasn’t quite sure they hadn’t become permanent fixtures to her body. After all, she’d heard that things can attach themselves to living flesh given long enough and the right conditions.
She pulled a fleecy nightgown on, knelt by her bed and prayed to nobody in particular about nothing at all, sighed, spat and stood up.
Then she climbed into bed.
It was a smallish bed, a single because she never intended to share it with anyone and she had a suspicion that the hideous hag Henrietta Blackboil had plans to curl up with her when she wasn’t looking. Henrietta was adamant that there was no sexual component to her plans, but Griselda was far from certain. A single bed, though, reduced the possibility considerably, a thought that comforted her since she had discovered that Henrietta had stolen a spare key to her own front door..
The first problem to trouble her was the simple fact that she wasn’t actually tired, and the more she tried to make her mind go blank and thus encourage unconsciousness the more vivid her thoughts became.
For instance, she tried to picture a field of sheep so that she could count them as they jumped over a gate. In her head the field became immense, the number of sheep unbelievably huge, and she lost count when she was almost at a thousand and still wide awake. Then she tried to pretend she was painting a picture and covering a huge sheet of paper with a grey wash, but the grey turned to anything but grey and more sheep appeared romping through a multicoloured pasture in time to an old Beatles hit.
And she was nowhere near asleep.
“I need a sleeping tincture,” she thought, and she muttered a darkly ancient spell to herself and a bottle of green liquid appeared in one hand. She unscrewed the top and drank the contents, a green foul-tasting fluid that appeared to be based on pulverised frog. It made her feel quite ill, and there’s only one thing that nausea can’t allow, and that’s sleep.
So she staggered to her toilet and vomited heartily – and tried to work out where her spell had gone wrong. In the end she concluded that she didn’t know, and having emptied her stomach she proceeded to return to bed feeling as bad as an old woman on her way to the guillotine during the French revolution might have felt.
“Oh mercy me,” she moaned, “let me get some shut-eye.”
But that shut-eye wouldn’t come even though the feeling that she might projectile vomit at any moment went away.
She tried blanking her mind, but once she started on that course she instinctively knew that her mind would increase its activity and keep her awake. It always does. It’s as if the feverish activity she’d stored up over a long life-time was all unwinding there and then. She remembered where she’d put that key she lost eighty-three years earlier when she’d been locked out of her home for three weeks. She suddenly realised what it was that she should have said to her teacher of ninety-three years earlier to escape the caning she hadn’t escaped from. Bright as day and twice as sprightly she relived a moment when she might have fallen in love and lived a very different life, but that was all of seventy-nine years earlier, and the youth had got away.
Shame, she thought.
“I need to hibernate,” she grated through clenched teeth, and in the end she resorted to the deepest kind of magic. It was easy, really. She closed her eyes and simply went to sleep like any normal person might.
The trouble was, she woke up the very next morning, still like any normal person might, and just had to get up without hibernating for more than a few measly hours.
© Peter Rogerson 27.10.14

GRISELDA AT THE SEASIDE

26 Oct

GRISELDA AT THE SEASIDE

SANDCASTLE photo: sandcastle DSCF3471.jpg
Griselda never meant to go on holiday, but somehow she did.
Her normally taciturn personality meant that such luxuries as holidays were out of the question. Sand and sea and buckets and spades and all the frippery involved in taking a week away from home were anathema to her. And we must remember that normally Griselda was very set in her ways, though it wasn’t unusual for her to resort to the repertoire of magical spells at her command when things were going, from her perspective, wrong.
“Damned seaside,” she muttered to Henrietta Blackboil, “you get sand in your lady bits, and it takes some shifting…”
“But I’m going,” Henrietta told her with a twisted, sardonic grin on her face. “I heard the young couple who live next to me say they were going to spend two whole weeks in a caravan at the seaside, and I want to spoil it for them! They’re only doing it to get some peace from me! I heard them say it, and I reckon I’m a good neighbour, generous to a fault and quiet as a mouse.
“Quiet as a mouse when you’re drunk,” spat Griselda. “I know you. Rolling about the place with your head in a spin on account of Thomas the Greek’s cheap vodka! He makes it himself, you know, and not even he knows what’s in it! It must be a nightmare living next to you when you’re having a wild weekend!”
“They never last a weekend,” snarled Henrietta. “Anyway, I’m off to the seaside and that’s that. I’ll take my bucket and spade! And it’s a bloody good spade: the last time I used it I dug a dirty great hole for the rent collector!”
“What did he want a hole for, hag?” asked Griselda.
“I buried him in it!” cackled Henrietta. “I dug it and when I refused to pay and he got nasty I bopped him on the head and buried him! He’s still there, pushing up the rose bush I planted in memory!”
“You repulsive lump of diarrhoea!” snarled Griselda. “And if you’re going to plague the poor sweet things who moved in next door to you then I’m coming along to keep an eye on you!”
“Sod off!”
“And think of it, hag. If I take you there’ll be no fares to pay, no ticket collector on the train demanding money with menaces, and you without a hole to bury him in!”
“You’ve got a point there.”
“I know I have, hag.”
And that’s how it was that the train carrying two young lovers from the house next door to Henrietta Blackboil’s home might have been seen being followed by two old women sitting astride Griselda’s second-best broomstick had anyone been bothered to look.
The caravan that Henrietta’s neighbours had selected for their holiday was a nice, airy, roomy one. Derek and Helen Walker hadn’t been married for a year by then, and they were both deeply and, to Henrietta’s mind, sloppily in love with each other, and the sort of genuinely nice people who wanted to enjoy their holiday.
“It’s pervy,” growled Henrietta when the two old crones were standing on a grassy rise looking down on the caravan site. Derek and Helen were walking towards a small shop-cum-amusement arcade, he sporting a bright pair of Bermuda shorts and a brighter t-shirt and she in a silky dress that fluttered in the summer breeze.
“She says she’s glad to be away from you and your filthy ways for a fortnight,” Griselda said to Henrietta. Griselda could hear small sounds over vast distances when she concentrated, which was a second reason why Henrietta was happy to have her with her, the first being the free (if scarily uncomfortable) transport.
“I don’t have filthy ways!” shrieked Henrietta.
“Sshh! They both heard that and he said it sounded like the disgusting old crone who lives next door having a heart attack,” hissed Griselda.
“I’m not having any sort of attack!” shrieked Henrietta.
“Just you be quiet, you selfish old hag!” whispered Griselda, nudging her in her bony ribs. “Come on – let’s go and make a sandcastle, seeing as you insisted on bringing that huge spade.”
“All right then,” sniffed Henrietta. “I was brought to the seaside by my uncle when I was a titch, and he bought me a candy-floss on a stick. Can I have a candy-floss, dear friend?”
“Yes, I suppose so, but not on a stick,” muttered Griselda, and she produced a plastic bag filled with pink candy-floss out of what was, to all intents and purposes, thin air. “Sticks are out,” she muttered, “damned health and safety regulations!”
“It’s not the same in a bag,” complained Henrietta.
The two old creatures settled down on the beach and Henrietta started digging with her large, rusty spade. She made a pile of sand the height of a man and then, craftily, starting tapping it and moulding it into the shape of a castle.
But is wasn’t an ordinary sandcastle. Oh no! It was a gigantic sandcastle, with parapets and doors and rooms inside and a deep, dark dungeon.
“That’s not bad,” opined Griselda, struggling to keep sand out of her grizzled old lady bits, and almost (but not quite) succeeding.
“It’s bloody good!” swore Henrietta, and she scooped a moat out of the sand. An inlet from the sea flowed into it and she cackled with delight.
“A flag! You need a flag!” croaked an impressed Griselda.
“Easy-peasy” cackled Henrietta, and she hastily pulled a grey and slightly stained pair of bloomers from around her own bottom, and raised them on a pole until they fluttered in the breeze above the castle.
“Let’s explore,” she announced.
“Do we have to?”
“Are you scared, hag? Afraid of what your alcoholic friend has built?”
“No,” hissed Griselda, “it’s started to rain, and everyone knows what rain does to sandcastles on beaches. And I don’t want to be buried in a mountain of sand because you’re reliving a gross childhood.”
Henrietta sighed. “My uncle bought me something else,” she whispered.
“He did?” queried Griselda.
“He bought me a boat for sailing in the sea,” chanted Henrietta, “and he sailed away in it, and was never seen again.”
“Why was that?” asked Griselda, shocked.
“I wanted an ice-cream, but he wouldn’t buy me one!”
Then the rain dashed down, battering the sandcastle and seeming to melt its solid walls into golden piles of wet sand, and Henrietta wept.
© Peter Rogerson 26.10.14

GRISELDA AND A YOUNGER MAN

25 Oct

GRISELDA AND A YOUNGER MAN

ANIME MAN photo: anime man Snow_wolf__by_heise.jpg
Griselda sat on her own on the high bar stool at the bar of the Crown and Anchor, watching Thomas the Greek polishing the clean glasses with an old pair of underpants and thinking that he really ought to have washed them first.
“They say a young man might fall in love with an older woman,” she croaked. “Have you heard of that?”
“I’ve heard that a young man might fall in love with a rich older woman,” Thomas corrected her. “It makes sense. A young man with a certain amount of laziness in his bones might find it advantageous falling in love with a woman who’s dripping with untold wealth.”
“That’s a rather unpleasant thought,” sighed Griselda.
“It might be, but it’s true. Are you looking to fall in love with a younger man?”
She grinned, and cackled. “There’s not one who would have me!” she laughed, and that laugh was an eerie, humourless sound. “No, I was thinking of Henrietta!”
“The Blackboil creature? That’s even less likely than a handsome young stud falling for you!” laughed the landlord. “She’s a wino, gets herself pissed on dilute lager, and smells. No young man with seed in his gonads is going to look at her with anything but contempt!”
“Then a serious relationship might help her pull herself together,” suggested Griselda. “She might sober up and learn to wash!”
“Have you ever seen her sober?” asked Thomas, flabbergasted. “When she’s sober she shakes like a fig leaf and can’t put two syllables together to make a word! When she’s sober I have to bar her, for everyone else’s good! No – there’s no chance whatsoever of Henrietta Blackboil ever managing to get a younger man to even look her way let alone find himself in bed with her! The whole thought makes a fellow feel sick!”
The conversation might have carried on in that tone and with Thomas dragging Henrietta Blackboil’s reputation through the mud when the door swung open and a beau walked in. He was on his own, suave, sophisticated with the sort of trousers that looked almost threatening, and he was clearly a beau. Every line on his craggy designer-stubble face spoke of his being a beau. His piercing eyes, as they surveyed the inside of the Crown and Anchor, glinted beau. Even the nonchalance with which he approached the bar and ordered “a pint of your best bitter, landlord” said he was a beau.
“You’re a beau,” Griselda told him.
He grinned at her, and fluttered his enormously long eyelashes.
“I’m a lonely soul, lost in a cruel world and without a pound to call my own,” he told her, paying for his beer with a twenty pound note. “I’ve had it up to the topmost hair on my head with young women! They can all go to the far ends of the Earth as far as I’m concerned! They reject me, and can’t you tell by the cut of my trousers that when they reject me they reject something special? Isn’t it obvious, dear lady, that I am a man of huge physical means? But no, I am rejected by the flibbertigibbets that call themselves girlfriends! What I need, my lovely woman, is a much older lady, someone who is refined, someone with a sense of decorum… What I need is someone like … dared I say it? Will you be offended…”
“Yes … er, no!” squawked Griselda.
“Someone like yourself,” he finished, and heaved a magnificent sigh.
Griselda wobbled. All of her wobbled, even her thin bosom wobbled. Her chin wobbled more than anything else, and almost collided with the tip of her nose at it arched back and forth.
“What I need,” he continued, apparently oblivious to the extreme agitation that showed on every line of her very lined body, “what I need, dear lady, is a woman of means, like your radiant self. What I need is someone of, shall we say, mature years, yes, that’s it, mature years, for me to take to my boudoir and display the contents of my trousers to…”
That was almost too much for Griselda. She knew very little about gentlemen’s trousers, and didn’t want to learn anything more. To her, ignorance was the very essence of bliss.
“You don’t know me…” she began.
“Oh, what is knowing a person when the heart is filled with love?” asked the beau. “What is anything in the world when compared to the feelings in my heart at this very moment, the way it beats in time to your own private parts as they gather their paces ready for the onslaught!”
“Yuk!” shouted Griselda.
She might have gone on to give him a large piece of her mind when the door flew open and a handful of elderly ladies, brollies and handbags at the ready, surged in.
“There he is!” shrieked one.
“The swine!” shouted another.
“The Lothario!” screamed a third.
“The philanderer!” screamed a fourth.
“Get him!” howled a fifth.
And a small army of elderly ladies, not one as magical or witchy as Griselda but quite clearly determined, leapt towards the beau…
…Who made as noble an exit as he could in the circumstances, leaving the best part of a pint of best bitter behind him.
“I hope he wasn’t with you, dear?” asked one of the army of retribution.
Griselda shook her head, and grinned.
“Though he did suggest something about his trousers,” she said, and winked.
© Peter Rogerson 25.10.14