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16 Mar

The first (and only) Griselda Entwhistle concert had been a triumph. She had warbled and soared and plunged to the depths through half a dozen unique and surprisingly moving musical extravaganzas and had been rewarded by demands for encore after encore, and she was back in the cabin allocated to the lady soprano who had originally been booked to perform on the cruiser.

And that lady soprano had decided that life as a seagull wasn’t for her, and had returned. Well, no-one could blame her, could they? There are larger birds than seagulls ranging over the oceans, and some of them might look upon an inexperienced creature like herself as a tasty snack in hard times. Anyway, whatever had motivated her to return to the cruise ship had worked, and she was back.

 Griselda, when she wasn’t being pompous and selfish and grossly unfair could be a true delight and epitome of charming empathy. And this latter was the version of Griselda on display when the seagull returned and with a dozen or so uncomfortable squawks readjusted its feathers and flesh until it was a slightly ruffled soprano called Annie, completely at loss as to what she had been and why she had been it.

That kind of metamorphosis can be quite confusing even when you know it’s happening and are expecting it, and most alarming when you’re not.

She wasn’t the beauty that Griselda had turned herself into, being plain and over forty with rounded shoulders and traces of a ginger moustache, nor did she have anywhere near half the charm and the grace of the young incarnation of the witch. But Griselda did acknowledge that right might well be on the woman’s side and she smiled warmly.

“I was obliged to substitute for you at short notice when you scarpered on wings of delight,” she beamed, “but as you’re back I’ll give you a couple of tips before we go if you like, just to make everything seem seamless.”

“I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but I didn’t like it,” snarled Annie, “a slip of a lass like you thinking you can substitute for a lifetime of treading the boards, like what I’ve done! Working men’s clubs with f*g ends flung at me and bad words and worse, then other adult clubs I’d rather not mention with dirty old men in macs gawping at some tart taking her clothes off when they should have been listening to me! And then after years of disappointment I gets this peach of a job with folks with money all around and what happens? I get converted into a filthy old pigeon…”

“Seagull,” corrected Griselda glibly.

“Seagull, then, and I get to fly off with all manner of eagles chasing me intent on goodness knows what, and ruffling my feathers!”

“I’ll tell you what,” smiled an unmoved Griselda, “I’ll give you a bit of assistance before I go…”

“You going, then?” demanded the affronted singer, and she calmed down when she heard that. “it’s all right, then, and no harm meant on my part,” she added with very little grace and a great deal of grudging.

Then Griselda muttered something totally meaningless to anyone but her and whatever force, be it good or evil, that she coerced into rendering assistance to her wishes, and before their eyes and much to the surprise of the still grumbling singer that individual underwent a metamorphosis that was nowhere near as extreme as the one Griselda had performed on herself but which still created a magnificent improvement on what had been. Therefore at the end of it Annie was apparently younger by a good dozen years, retained very little of her moustache and was far perter of bosom. In other words, she didn’t really look too much like the young Griselda but the short-sighted might think that she did.

“I knew I was pretty,” she muttered with very little grace and no gratitude, and Griselda may well have thought well, if that’s going to be your attitude then I’ll damned well turn you back to the embryonic hag that you were before I started, but didn’t have time because a knock at the door announced that it was time for the second part of the evening’s concert and the singer was reuqired on stage.

“Off you go, dear,” encouraged Griselda, “and remember, any fiscal rewards you receive from an adoring public should really be mine seeing as I’ve upped your very negative ante for you, but you can keep it anyway out of the kindness of my heart.”

“Silly tart!” croaked Annie, and she pushed her way out of the cabin and towards the stage entrance, still in a thunderously ungrateful mood.

“Unappreciative b***h!” cackled Griselda who was at that moment reverting to her old familiar form, a grisly centenarian with warts and formidable skill with broomsticks everywhere.

“What do we do now?” demanded Bumptious, “and where do we lay our heads down tonight? We can’t stay here because it’s Annie’s room and we’ll be keel-hauled or worse for being stowaways”

“We get a new cabin,” croaked the refreshingly aged Griselda. “I didn’t like this one, anyway, too utilitarian for my liking and nowhere nearly classy enough. Where’s that old chum of yours, Bumpy? The geezer that goes around calling dear old ladies totty?”

“You mean Sailor John? He’s probably still nursing his crown jewels,” grinned Bumptious, “and if he isn’t he mentioned to me that he would be serving strong drinks at the bar on the upper deck.”

“Then to the upper deck we go!” decided Griselda. “All I need to do is smarten my frock up a bit so as to fit in with the hoity toity and we’ll be perfectly fine.”

Mere minutes later the two of them were making their way to the top deck, past the entrance to the cabaret where the newly polished singer was doing a decent enough job entertaining a rather bored looking audience. Griselda had changed her disgusting old rags into a ball gown of magnificent proportions and bright colours.

“Nowhere near as good as you,” said Bumpy, surprised, meaning Annie.

“It takes a real lady to entertain the troops!” cackled Griselda, “but she’ll pass muster once the passengers get drunk. If she’d been more grateful I might have given her more talent.”

The upper bar was quiet with very few customers on account of the expected quality of the cabaret, and Sailor John was up there supervising the place by polishing glasses until they twinkled whilst looking bored and pretending not to be drinking from a glass containing bright green liquid.

“Not you!” he grunted at Bumpy, “who’s the old tart?”

“Remember what happened when you called the young woman totty?” asked Bumpy warningly, “the same might happen if you call Griselda here a tart!”

“Old bag then,” grunted Sailor John, clearly ignoring the implied threat.

“Then it’s time you learned some manners, young man,” croaked Griselda, and without apparently moving a muscle she managed to make the ill-manner Sailor John howl with pain as she mentally and very cruelly squeezed a tender part of his anatomy until he thought his eye-roving days might be over. “Is that enough?” she asked when he was at the point of collapsing into a molten pile of weeping humanity.

“S-sorry,” he stammered, “’scuse me…” and he scurried off to vanish through a door marked “gents”.

“He won’t believe that was you,” grinned Bumptious, “but he will mind his p’s and q’s once he’s straightened things out down below.”

“So he should,” smirked Griselda, “now who’s having what to drink? I fancy a nice glass of milk stout and then we’ll decide what to do when we disembark in the good old U.S of A.”

“Without a passport between us?” asked Bumpy cynically.

“We’ll fly the last bit, then,” decided Griselda, “for we have an important mission. What did you say you wanted to drink?”

“I’ll have a drop of the green stuff Sailor John was pretending not to be drinking,” said Bumpy, “I wonder what it is?”

“Here you are. Find out for yourself,” said Griselda with a grin, “whatever it is, it’ll help while we kill a bit of time…”

© Peter Rogerson 09.02.18



13 Mar

It was an odd sight, Griselda Entwhistle in her own personal disguise as a nymphet ready for some fun berating the almost middle-aged Sailor John who was still rubbing his bits and praying that they still worked. But it Was this sight that made Bumptious Tiddles smirk understandingly.

“So, young man, when you’ve stopped pretending you’re hurt,” began Griselda, her voice having more than a suggestion of the tyrannical tones of her older (much older) self in it, “when you’ve stopped blubbing, my friend and I want quarters.”

“I’m not blubbing!” lied the blubber.

“Then go about finding us a nice little cabin, a twin one would do, we don’t actually want to sleep together in any of its senses…” snapped Griselda. “And go sharpish! We’re a bit too exposed on this deck for my liking!”

She added that last bit because she spotted a man heavy with a chest of medals and a white nautical uniform strolling purposefully towards them.

“Now we’re for it,” sighed Bumptious who could imagine his political career going up in a cloud of shame and notoriety when it transpired that he was a stowaway on a luxury cruise ship. He was about to claim his own innocence in all things unworthy and blame their situation on an old woman who flies broomsticks, but the medals and uniform, which turned out to be the Captain, a gentleman with a great deal more pompous power than that of his equal on the pirate ship, waved him to silence with a frown that could have melted rancid butter.

The Captain, when he spoke, had a wonderfully authoritarian yet greasy voice despite the officious luxury of his pristine uniform, and as a means of establishing his identity he called them sea-dogs as if they lived in water and could bark.

“Which one of you is the turn, then?” he asked in an accent that marked him as from Yorkshire, born and bred, “and what are you doing out here when you should be in our first class lounge preparing to entertain the clientele?”

“What do y…” began Bumptious, but Griselda kicked him on the shins in order to silence him and smiled at the Captain with a flash of the most captivating teeth she could muster, which was a very captivating set indeed.

“That’ll be me, then,” she smiled, and she could almost see the Captain’s heart melting as his eyes roamed over her and she contrived to hitch her tiny skirt up the tiniest bit just to repay the compliment.

“Harrumph,” he grumbled with a smile, “it’s a pleasure to meet you Miss…?”

“Entwhistle,” Griselda told him, “Griselda Entwhistle, and I know what you’re thinking: what an unsuitable name for someone of my generation, and I suppose it is. But beggars can’t be choosers and my parents were Fred and Molly Entwhistle, both long dead now, of course…”

“Nothing of the sort!” declared the Captain. “You poor little orphan child! Shall I escort you to the rehearsal? The band’s there already and they’re just short of one singer, though they mentioned someone with a quite different name to Griselda.”

“It’s be a pleasure,” purred Griselda. “I was a last minute replacement,” she added with a tinkle.

“What if the real singer turns up?” whispered Bumpy when the captain was out of earshot if he whispered quietly enough.

“I’ve sorted her already,” replied Griselda, “I do things like that, you know: sort things out before they become problems. She’s currently in her cabin and wondering why on Earth she wants to go back home over the mighty seas to Blighty, but that’s what she’s decided to do and she’s even chosen a means. Look: there she goes!”

Griselda pointed, and a seagull rose from a cabin window and soared into the air. Griselda waved at it and it looped the loop and, swinging close to them, quite clearly shouted in cultured English through an uncultured beak “thanks old woman, you’re a life-saver!”

“What was that?” asked the Captain who was leading the way, “I thought I heard a strange and mysterious voice.”

“It was nothing,” smiled Griselda using her most heavenly expression. “I think that seagull has desires of its own, the cheeky thing!” she added with a tinkling laugh.

“Oh, they do, they do,” grinned the Captain. “Now if you’ll just come down here. I assume the gentleman is your manager?”

“Manager!” spluttered Bumpy, and Griselda kicked him again.

“Not at all,” averred Griselda, “I don’t need a manager, taking their ten percent and getting in the way whenever I want to change my routine. No it’s just me and the band and even if I haven’t met them they soon get the idea of what I do.”

The Captain frowned for a moment, hoped that his cabaret was going to be up to the standards insisted by the shipping line that employed him, and led them into the concert hall.

It was a magnificent space with luxury dripping from every wall and corner, tables arranged tastefully so that the maximum number of people could be entertained whilst all having a perfect view of the stage.

“Here’s your singer, Max,” called the captain to a man holding a baton in one hand and slapping a pianist on the back with the other.

The conductor squinted and shook his head. “She’s a new one on me,” he grunted.

“I’ll sort him out,” Griselda assured the Captain, “in a trice,” she added, winking.

“I’ll leave it … I suppose I’ll have to…” muttered the Captain as though he had some reservations about the quality of the evening’s entertainment. The singer seemed very young to have the sort of range of experience that was expected of a top notch cabaret performer on ships of this particular line.

Griselda walked slowly and sinuously towards the conductor and his baton whilst simultaneously muttering something incoherent to herself. As she did so the conductor appeared to jerk his head slightly as though he was being subjected to some kind of electric shock, and then, by the time Griselda had reached him, he nodded his head.

“Shall we run through the first number?” he asked.

“Of course,” smiled Griselda, and she eyed the musicians, all of whom looked perplexed until a second bout of incomprehensible muttering appeared to give them fresh confidence.

The conductor waved his baton, the orchestra started playing a strident melody with one of those rhythms that eats into the soul, and Griselda took the microphone in her hand and faced the empty room. The Captain was still there, at the back, and she nodded at him.

“I’ll deafen you, you doubting Thomas,”she whispered, and started singing.

On a liner, in the ocean

where the angels come to play

And there’s music, heavenly music,

Telling lovers, come and stay…

Never had anything quite like it been heard aboard that ship. Her voice, ranging over far too many octaves to be believable, was filled at first with excitement, then with rage, and finally with eye-leaking pathos. The song … one never heard before because she made it up as she went along … was of the sea and yearning and dashed dreams and by the time its three minutes were up there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere, not even amongst the gathering of passengers that had clustered round the door wondering where the magic was coming from.

Then there was applause. From the band, from the Captain, from everyone within any kind of earshot and one solitary seagull grateful for an unexpected replacement but not quite sure why it wanted one.

Then Griselda swept away, smirking at the emotions her voice had wrung from everyone anywhere near.

“We’ll get it right tonight,” she informed the Captain as she strode past him. “Care to tell us where our cabins are?”

© Peter Rogerson 08.02.18



11 Mar

It’s bloo… it’s cold up here!” spluttered an increasingly shivering and dangerously shaking (bearing in mind where he was, behind an old witch on her broomstick) Bumptious Tiddles as the cold air of altitude bit into his flesh and threatened him with a severe dose of hypothermia for the second time since they’d left the comfort and snuggly warmth of Swanspottle only yesterday morning.

Have no fear!” cackled Griselda who seemed to be immune from the cold, “look down there!”

She pointed with one hand, taking it off her broomstick, which made it wobble alarmingly in mid air. Bumptious grabbed on firmly with both hands before gazing in the direction the old hag was pointing.

With a foaming wake behind it, a gigantic cruiser ship was ploughing a steady course going ever westwards like a sedate yet mobile island adrift in all that blue. Even from a distance they could hear the rhythm of a dance orchestra and, spookily, the aroma of good wine and strong whisky tainting the air with the fragrance of luxury.

What it is?” asked a shivering Bumpy.

It’s our lift across the Atlantic,” cackled the old witch, “you just do as I tell you, mind you, and we’ll have a great deal of comfort and not have to put one bit of effort into it. I’ve been on ships like this before. All we have to do is look the part and nobody will know anything other than we’re completely legal passengers who’ve paid far too much for the privilege of being fattened up in restaurants and bars while the floating palace eases its way through storm and gale alike! Much easier than riding on a broomstick through all weathers, and I did hear back there on the pirate dinghy that there’s rough weather ahead.”

Bumpy shuddered. “How do we get away with it?” he asked plaintively. He was, after all, a politician who didn’t mind getting away with murder if necessary, but as long as nobody found out. The last thing a politician wants is having his name besmirched by facts and actual truth.

That’s easy!” cackled Griselda, “have you any idea how many people there are on that boat? I mean, Bumpy, look at it! It’s a monster of a vehicle with thousands all gorging themselves and drinking their livers away, none of them giving a single thought for the charming young thing in a mini-dress who’s dancing with the dour and dismal politician to the sound of Chubby Checker twisting yet again…”

Oh no…” sighed Bumptious, but he was truly torn between the desire to keep as far away from a dance floor as his uncoordinated legs could manage and getting warm whilst simultaneously feeding his increasing hunger for something, anything, solid. The fragrance of fish and chips from the pirate ship had caused a huge hole in his stomach to develop in an instant, and it hadn’t gone away.

Come on, then, me boy! Down we go!” squawked Griselda, and with a practised twitch of her experienced knobbly bottom the broomstick began to glide gracefully downwards.

Such joy,” she breathed, and Bumptious had to agree with her as the warmer air of a lower altitude combined with a decrease in speed through it made him feel suddenly warmer and caused his teeth to stop chattering like a group of monkeys beating out the coconut tango.

In less time than it had taken for them to complete the Swanspottle journey to the Crowne and Anchor they arrived and hovered above a deserted aft deck of the gigantic vessel. The rich smells of an international cuisine, combining exotic curries with bangers and mash and tagliatelle and all manner of sweet things, including strawberry jelly laced with sherry filled Bumpy’s nostrils and he almost swooned as he recalled political parties (that is, the celebration kind of party rather than the purely political sort) in which he’d smooched with the wives of his elders and betters even though he was gay.

Sacrifices, he always told himself, had to be made for the furtherance of Self.

Griselda settled the broomstick with spectacular gentility in a deserted spot and grinned at her political companion.

Now for a metamorphosis,” she murmured, “now is the time for me to fit in.”

And she murmured something quietly to herself, something he couldn’t quite catch but which sounded other-worldly, as she concealed the broomstick in the shadows of a corner where the sun would never shine. But it wasn’t the muttering (which he couldn’t understand) but the way her ragged and spiky old self morphed with almost unbelievable beauty into her niece. And the clothes changed along with the flesh until she stood before him like a twenty-something goddess dressed in nearly nothing, but still wearing enough to satisfy most demands for modesty … just about.

You … you’re her!” he gabbled. He had, of course, always believed that the young and precocious goddess had been Griselda’s actual niece. He had never associated the young flesh and white teeth, the sparkling eyes and delicious legs, with the actual old lady. And the clothing … old hags like Griselda didn’t ever wear tiny skirts like that! They didn’t allow the casual observer to note the length of their legs and the way they were practically perfect whilst getting the very odd glimpse of shiny white underwear.

Of course I am,” she said in her niecey voice, a gentle purr, a twinkling little laugh, a young vibrato.

But how…?” he stammered.

I never did quite understand it, Bumpy-boy,” she said, “it’s just something I’m good at. Something that comes naturally. Now let me see what I can do about you because you’ve got to fit in too … your suit’s in quite a mess now that you’re out of that cold wind, you poor little mite! So I’d best attend to it.”

I’m all right!”

Firstly, let’s get rid of some of the pompous politician’s vibes, darling…” and with a mumble and a murmur the most extraordinary sensation flooded through Bumptious’s body. He felt a fluttering on his face as a day’s whiskers sprouted to become designer stubble, and a feeling akin to the gentle touch of angels’ fingers ran up and down his back as his posture underwent a realigning tweak. And, mercy me, he almost cried out, his podgy stomach drew in to itself and became a mighty six pack with a sensation he never wanted to go away. His suit, then, it redesigned itself and the trouser component of it changed into the most outrageously coloured Bermuda shorts whilst the jacket loosened and turned from boring old right-wing worsted into linen and hung from his shoulders quite loosely.

That’s better, daarling…” she laughed, and then pulled back. “I could quite fancy you now! But I say, who’s this coming?” she asked.

A man was sauntering along towards them and when he came within only a few yards from where they were standing he stopped dead.

Bumpy? Is that you, old friend?” he asked, his voice shocked, “I didn’t know you were on this trip!”

Sailor John…” stammered Bumptious, “My dearest old friend! I thought you couldn’t go to sea on account of not having sea legs?”

Oh, I got over that!” laughed the man called Sailor John, “I trained myself in a pedalo on the Grand Union Canal last summer! Now I can sail the seven seas with any man. But hey! Haven’t you changed your ways too! Who’s the delightful piece of totty you’re about to drape over yourself like an ermine coat?”

Do you mean me?” asked Griselda, and Bumptious knew what was about to happen. Griselda, he was quite certain, would never accept that she was in any way totty.

And it happened.

Within mere moments Sailor John doubled in the kind of pain only men can understand, and was holding his groin as though if he didn’t something important might fall off.

You shouldn’t have called her totty,” sighed Bumptious, “you really shouldn’t, Sailor John…”

© Peter Rogerson 05.02.18


9 Mar

It’s so sweet of you to leave your charming little crow’s nest where a passing … er, broomstick … might find a safe landing place,” grinned Griselda to the Captain, who was smelling sweetly of shower gel and shaving foam.

It was next morning and she had flown, with her political passenger, down from the high point at the top of the pirate’s ship mast down to the deck, and they were surrounded by a host of children all waving plastic daggers and wearing black eye-patches whilst screaming a million questions at the tops of their voices.

Shush, children,” soothed the captain, but the only effect he had was to cause the almost unbearable decibels from the ten year-olds to increase unbearably.

How do you fly that thing…

Are you really a witch, misses?

Go on, cast a spell…

Put thunder and lightning in the sky!

Do you cook in a cauldron?

Is that mister really your familiar and does he talk to the devil…

and so on

In the end Griselda could stand it no longer and after the Captain tried a second time to quell the excitement and failed she decided to take a hand in the proceedings.

She was good at taking a hand in proceedings.

SHUT UP!” she bellowed, an extraordinary amount of sound to emerge from a geriatric and very wrinkled old mouth, such volume as nobody on board the ship could believe would be produced by any mortal pair of lungs. There was a sudden hush and even the traffic on a road a mile or two away from the shore pulled to a standstill to see what might be up. The BBC issued a warning of imminent attack, though they didn’t know who from or why, and everyone tuned in was advised to seek shelter under the nearest kitchen table.

Half a dozen of the more sensitive little girls started sobbing, their hands over their ears, whilst most of the boys merely turned deathly white and started suffering from uncontrollable knocking knees, adding a staccato rhythm to the proceedings.

The Captain sunk to the deck and wept openly. Such was the effect of a single bellow from Griselda on even important and powerful men like pirate captains. Other crew members wet their pants and ran to the wash room, hopefully before anyone noticed and called them names.

And life returned to a silent normal, which meant it wasn’t silent at all, and barely normal.

That’s better,” almost whispered Griselda, and everyone heard her. Then she smiled a really sweet old-lady smile and won the hearts of all the children by announcing a competition.

The first person under the age of twelve to answer a very difficult question will receive a first very special prize of a ride round the bay with me on my broomstick!”

A hushed but none-the-less audible clamour began, and she held up one hand to silence the growing hubbub, and that hand worked as effectively as her bellow had.

The question,” she said, “the question is, where am I going on my broomstick with this pompous little politician when we leave here?” And she indicated Bumptious Tiddles as she said that.

There was a moment’s pause, and then another moment’s pause, then fifty voices all suggested very different places in a rabble of a chorus that nobody could have made sense of.

Ah, you,” grinned Griselda pointing at a nervous looking little girl of nine with a plastic parrot on one shoulder. “Yours was the first voice I heard, so you are the winner!”

Did she get it right, misses?” asked an assertive eleven year-old with spots.

I didn’t specify it had to be the right answer, just the first person to answer the question,” Griselda told him.

That’s not fair!” squalled several dozen voices in blessed unison.

It’s perfectly fair,” growled Griselda, and that growl was enough to quell any rebellion in the pirate ranks. “You should learn to listen. I’m always fair. To a fault.” she added.

And she picked the little girl up and gently perched her on the broomstick behind where she was going to sit herself.

Hold on tight and you’ll be perfectly all right,” she assured the child quietly, and climbed aboard herself with well-practised ease.

And at a murmur of command by her the broomstick shot into the skies. She gave the child value for her answer all right: she zoomed and looped-the-loop and did figures of eight and rolled left and right until, when even she was feeling a little dizzy and had to issue a quiet word of command to her own stomach she landed on exactly the same spot that she’d taken off from.

That was great!” laughed the girl, and she didn’t look the least bit green around the gills.

Lovely child,” cackled Griselda, “lovely, lovely child!” and she rubbed her hair until it looked as tousled as a boy’s might after a serious wrestling bout in the school playground when no teachers were looking.

Can we go again?” asked the girl.

Maybe next time,” conceded Griselda, having no intention of there ever being a next time.

Well, it was nice of you to pop in,” growled the Captain who, it turned out, was also the school’s PE teacher. “Though what their parents are going to say when they hear that a mythical old lady with an old fashioned besom broomstick zoomed round the heavens with a child behind her on it I’ll never know. I mean, how will I explain what we’ve just seen?”

You won’t need to,” Griselda assured him, “they won’t believe a word of it but put it down to special activities on a pirate ship, and assume that you’ve got some kind of drone disguised as a broomstick to entertain the sweet little things with. You’ll be all right. Nobody ever believes they’ve seen a broomstick even when there’s one right before their eyes, so they’re hardly likely to believe the word of a sweet little darling, are they?”

Then she turned to Bumptious Tiddles and fixed him with both of her eyes.

We’re off,” she told him. “I’ve had my fun, the kids have enjoyed the game and now it’s time for us to continue on our way.” Then she touched the girl who’d won her prize on one shoulder. “By the way, where did you think we were going?” she asked.

To America,” said the child, “to Washington to see the Pope.”

What a clever child you are! But it’s not the Pope in Washington. Other wise you’re quite right! What’s your favourite dinner?”

Mmm, fish and chips,” sighed the girl, “and being as we’re on a ship I hope we get fish and chips today!”

Fat chance,” grumbled the PE Teacher/Captain. “It’s not on the menu.”

Then you, my dear, enjoy your fish and chips for lunch. You’ve earned it!”

Then she adopted a serious expression and glared at Bumptious. “You’re a politician! You’re supposed to know things!” she snapped.

Like what?” he asked sullenly.

That it’s time to climb aboard and wave goodbye to this motley band of pirates,” she said.

And he did, very, very reluctantly, climb behind her onto the broomstick and winced as the knobbly bit on the stick rubbed against a sore patch the broomstick had created yesterday on his bottom.

Goodbye, then!” cackled Griselda, and she looped her stick in a twirly pattern as the party of pirate children cheered, and inhaled the delicious aroma of fish and chips cooking in the kitchen of the pirate ship, wondering what the confused cook would be thinking when the ravioli changed into something much more delicious.

© Peter Rogerson 04.02.18


7 Mar

Parish Councillor Bumptious Tiddles had never felt so cold in his entire life. It seemed to his battered mind that there hadn’t been a time in his life before he’d found himself perched behind an angular old witch on a broomstick and tearing through the Heavens at an unimaginable speed with what seemed to have turned into a freezing wind tearing into every square inch of his body. There had, of course been quite a lot of time before that, but the tortured mind can play the most evil tricks.

We’ll take a break soon,” squawked Griselda, “I need a wee!”

Oh mercy me, he thought, I hope she doesn’t wet her pants up here and I get a stream of her noxious piss in my face…

We’re approaching the coast,” she added, pointing at a golden line that separated the land from the not-so-distant sea where the sun was already setting, “we’ll find somewhere to hole up for the night because it’s getting dark and it might get a bit chilly during the night up here.”

Get a bit chilly over night? It might? What does she think it is now? I’m freezing at this very moment, freezing and ready to pop my clogs of hypothermia…

All right,” he shivered, trying to sound brave.

But it has been fun, hasn’t it?” she squawked as if it really had.

So’s suicide,” he grumbled.

They flew on for several minutes longer, she encouraging their torturing transport ever lower, then “Lookee ahead, shipmate!” she squawked over her shoulder, “do you see what I see?”

He peered through the gathering gloom and saw what she could see, and didn’t believe his eyes.

Surely we’re in the 21st century? The thought rattled through his brain, going in ever decreasing circles until it didn’t make sense any more.

For down below, getting closer as they sped towards it, was what could only be a pirate ship, the sort he’d seen in adventure comics when he’d been a boy. The kind with cannon and guns and swords and vicious men with eye-patches and parrots. The very kind on which brave men fought with unbelievable savagery or were tortured to death … or worse. And it was in full sail with a barbarous looking crew member in a crow’s nest high up the mast, gazing for all he was worth through a pair of binoculars and barely moving.

There’s room there for us with that brave jack tar!” gurgled Griselda, and with surprising majesty she steered her broomstick towards the crow’s nest until they could quite clearly see that there just might be room on it for the two of them plus one mark 1 broomstick.

Just the job,” cackled Griselda, and they landed.

The first thing Bumpy noticed was the simple delight he felt at the sudden absence of freezing wind in his face. It had after all been a balmy day and the wind that had tortured him had been created by the speed of the broomstick as they had hurtled along. The words wind-chill resonated hin his brain as he muttered that’s better and tried to pull himself together.

We’ll get rid of this fellow,” decided Griselda, grabbing hold of the pirate with the binoculars and heaving him over the side where the wind caught him and he dropped with surprising slowness to land in the sea just behind the ship.

That’s murder!” gasped Bumpy, horrified. Being a politician he didn’t like the idea of killing people unless it was him or his kind doing the killing. Then he might conclude that it was perfectly all right because it was for the common good.

It was a stuffed dummy,” laughed Griselda. “Couldn’t you see where the stuffing was coming out? Didn’t you wonder why he wasn’t moving much? He’s here for decoration, possibly of an educational nature.”

But Bumptious couldn’t see anything. The crow’s nest was high up at the top of a mighty mast, and there was a gentle swell in the sea that made the whole thing sway, and as the swell increased, so did the swaying. And right there at the top of the tall mast the swaying was considerable. It shook his already enfeebled stomach. It made him feel more ill than he’d ever felt in his life before.

I feel sick…” he gurgled, and, leaning over the side of the crow’s nest, he discharged the noxious contents of his stomach onto the deck far below. He couldn’t help it and in all honesty there was nowhere else he could have vomited without getting the foul corruption all over either himself or Griselda, not that he would have minded the latter option.

He watched as the bilious mixture descended via the gift of gravity and landed, eventually, on the tricorn hat of a pirate captain. He’d watched with a sort of horror as the captain had walked towards the mast and the vomit had descended. He’d anticipated at the last moment what would happen.

Good shot!” wheezed Griselda. “Do that again if you can!”

Bumptious needed no second invitation as his internal organs heaved in time with each other and another, smaller but more foetid, dollop of accumulated semi-digested matter erupted from his mouth and flew accelerating at thirty-two feet per second squared towards the unfortunate recipient of the first toxic gift. And that recipient, startled by the sudden assault on his sensibilities by dollop number one, just managed to look up in order to see what was going on and to determine where the mess had come from when dollop number two splattered onto his face at some considerable speed.

What the…” he raged, but to no avail. He could see the crow’s nest in the gathering gloom but there was no way he could distinguish between the stuffed sailor that had been placed there as an educational aid on a ship used to teach children the finer arts of piracy, and any other figure. And he knew for an absolute certainty that stuffed sailors, when they vomit, discharge stuffing of a cotton-woolly fibrous nature and not the foul stuff that was dripping off his hat and lay splattered on his face making him want to heave in sympathy.

What the … what’s going on?” he bellowed.

Sorry sir. It’s my parish councillor,” explained Griselda as sweetly as she could, bellowing from the top of the mast, “he’s got an upset tummy, the poor dear.”

Just you wait!” he bellowed, “I’m going to have a shower then I’ll be back! Don’t you go anywhere or I’ll make you walk the plank, see if I don’t!”

He scurried off, his tricorn dripping and his face flushed with outrage, as you might expect. From where she stood in the crow’s nest Griselda could smell him as he scrambled off.

Now look what you’ve done,” scorned Griselda, “you’ve got right up the back of a haughty captain on a pirate ship, and he has the power of life and death over scum like us!”

There aren’t any pirates any more,” said Bumpy glumly, “they all went away a long time ago.”

Then who do you think that bloke you puked on was?” demanded Griselda, “I’ve never seen anyone more like a pirate in my life!”

I thought you said they were educational,” simpered a still nauseous Bumptious.

They are, and that might be worse for you,” agreed Griselda, “it depends how many kids they’ve got aboard and just how pirate-like they feel. And you’d better hope they haven’t covered walking the plank and keel-hauling in their lessons yet because if they have life could get very interesting indeed for a land-lubber like yourself!”

Bumptious didn’t have very long at all to mull over Griselda’s gruesome suggestion before there was a sudden and very loud explosion of noise, and out of cabins and from below decks an army of ten year-olds dressed in all manner of piratical costumes and screaming at the tops of their voices swarmed onto the deck and stood in a threatening mass of undisciplined monsters below the main mast, gazing malevolently up and shaking their fists as though intent on murder, or worse.

© Peter Rogerson 03.02.18


4 Mar

The force of several gravities squashed Bumptious Tiddles against the shaft of the broomstick as it leapt into the air with the sound that reminded him very much of the row that a vacuum cleaner makes when it’s sucking up a sock.

Oh mercy me,” he gabbled, and a knot-hole in the broomstick started to play havoc with his left cheek.

Griselda looked over her shoulder, quite clearly taking her eyes off where they were going at a speed that generated terror in the parish councillor’s heart, and grinned.

You should be wearing your summer shorts,” she said, an evil glint in her eyes. “It’s a lovely day in Washington.”

Sh-shorts … wh-why?” he asked in a querulous voice.

It ought to be warm where we’re going,” she shouted. She had to shout against the aforementioned vacuum-cleaner sock-sucking clamour, but Bumpy heard her and shuddered.

It’s cold in this wind!” he complained. “If I was wearing my shorts then my poor little knees would start trembling!”

I like a good knee-tremble on a man!” she cackled. “It warms my ancient heart and helps me recall better days when I was a nipper and men’s knees always trembled!”

Well I don’t like it!” he snapped back, though not as truthfully as he might have. He quite admired Sailor John’s knees when they trembled. Or rather had. Sailor John and he were no longer what was euphemistically called “an item”, though Bumpy harboured hopes that he would return one day, bringing with him a nice bunch of flowers and a poem or two.

Sailor John was quite the poet on the quiet and he knew beautifully exquisite rhymes for a wide range of dubious words.

Now hold on tight!” screeched Griselda, “and we’ll speed up a bit. We’re going nowhere slowly at the moment and time’s precious!”

Broomsticks can’t…” he warbled, convinced in his mind that just as cars had to observe speed limits so should old women on broomsticks. The trouble was, and as a politician he should have known this, nobody had yet had the foresight of imposing such legal limits. There wasn’t a scrap of legislation anywhere imposing an upper speed limit on broomsticks unless they were being carted about in a vehicle on public highways.

And this broomstick was neither in a vehicle or an a public highway. It was high in the sky, and it was being controlled by the knobbly bottom of a geriatric woman who was in possession of a bit of good honest country wisdom, like how to fly broomsticks and cast spells on the unwary. And, in addition, she was hardly keeping her eyes on where they were going, which upset a flock of starlings and troubled Bumpy.

Where are we supposed to be going?” he begged into Griselda’s ear, shouting at the top of his voice in the best authoritarian way a politician might develop after years of deceiving the electorate with a fine assortment of well-rehearsed lies. She heard and grinned when she recognised the tone of his voice.

The good old U.S of A!” she exclaimed back, and when she detected a soupçon of unwillingness in the way he slumped against her back, added in a more kindly voice, “but in stages. It’s too far to fly in one go. I could manage it, of course, but with the extra load of your good self on board I doubt this stick would, even though it is my shining best and Mark 1 of its model.”

Why do you want to go there?” he asked, knowing part of the answer but not believing it.

To see the President of course!” she laughed, contriving to sound almost girly. “A year or two ago, when he was on television a lot in the U.S of A I flew over there to give him some well-intentioned advice about the use of fake tan and how it might be to his own advantage if he let more of his natural colour shine through, and he was so grateful for what I had to tell him that he fell in love with me.”

What? The American President did?” asked an unbelieving Bumpy.

He had an unusual idea of what love might be,” she sighed, “It was before he was president, you understand,” she went on to explain, the wind almost whipping her words to shreds. “He was still pretending he was a television star back then and I meant well, but he didn’t know what I meant when I said natural colour and the moment he became President he had me locked up in Guatamala because he thought I was calling him coloured! I mean, he was coloured, of course, a bright orange colour, but he didn’t think that I meant that! Anyway, I didn’t think too much of Guatamala and so I escaped, of course. I used an officer’s oversized rifle, one of those sub-machine models with a really long barrel, and pretending it was a makeshift broomstick I hurtled went straight back to the man and gave him a piece of my mind. He was so grateful that he told me that come Valentine’s day, I think that’s when he said, I would receive a parcel in the post that would knock me out, and what was my post code!”

I thought you said it was a token of his love for you!” demanded Bumptious.

It was,” grinned Griselda, still not looking where she was going and narrowly avoiding a collision with an electricity pylon, “but as I said, his idea of love is very different from yours or mine, though when I introduced my niece to him he almost flipped and tried to kiss her. Poor niecy! She wasn’t ready for that sloppy tongue of his even though he was an important guy. So she kneed him in the you-know-whats and got away before he could do anything more outrageous.”

And so his affection for you demolished a row of old cottages in Swanspottle and killed half a dozen residents?” asked Bumptious. “I don’t know how he can live with himself knowing he’s done that!”

Oh yes you do,” laughed Griselda, “you’re a politician of sorts as well. You know full well the depths to which that breed of humanity will sink. Now be quiet for a moment while I check direction, wind power and storms at sea.”

Storms at sea?” he muttered, quivering.

Of course! We’re headed west and there are always storms when you head west on a broomstick. It’s like a natural law, like men always like women with huge boobies and babies always cry for milk. Now be quiet!”

They were still, of course, over land but Bumpy’s heart was filled with a dreadful foreboding as they raced like demons in the sky, ever going westward.

Oh crikey me,” he muttered, and promised to himself and any gods that might be listening that he would never tell a lie again or do anything remotely reprehensible even though he was a politician. It would be a big ask, but for the moment he was determined.

If he survived, that was.

He rather thought his chances of survival were on the slender side and getting slenderer.

Meanwhile Griselda, in a cracked contralto, sang her own unique version of Go West.

© Peter Rogerson 02.02.18


2 Mar

My niece might come too,” said Griselda craftily after she’d explained that there was only one way they were going to find out why the UFO appeared in Swanspottle and destroyed a row of charming if draughty ancient cottages, and that involved travelling across the mighty Atlantic ocean and visiting the White House in Washington. Bumptious Tiddles, the leader of what was tantamount to being a defunct Parish Council had protested most vehemently at the suggestion that a journey like that need in any way involve him.

I’m going nowhere, and that’s flat!” he shouted above the raucous rhythms of Chubby Checker doing the twist again. “I’ve got no head for heights,” he added, trying to sound convincing.

Griselda fixed her eyes onto him and they were spooky affairs. They seemed to reach into his very soul and see all the nastiness he’d accumulated over the years. They seemed even to peel back his memories one by one and snigger at what they found there. They even delved into his love-life and sniggered in a way that eyes don’t. He’d never seen anything like them.

I haven’t even got a passport,” he concluded feebly, and even he knew that absence of official documents would be no barrier at all if this ancient piece of ancient and spooky womanhood wanted to do something.

Tittle!” she snapped, confirming his suspicions. “We’ll go by broomstick and slip in by a back door that I know…”

B-b-broomstick?” he stammered.

My best one,” she grinned, “you’ve never seen anything like it! Talk about supercharged or what! And the luxury of just the right number of knobbles to keep my geriatric bottom satisfied over what will be quite a long journey if we stick to the skies all the way…”

But … but … have you any idea how far it is to America?” he stuttered, “it takes hours on a Jumbo and days on an ocean liner! It’s impossible by broomstick!”

Tosh,” she smirked, “where I’m concerned there are no obstacles except those that dwell in the mind, and your mind, if you don’t mind me saying it, Councillor, is absolutely chock-a-block with obstacles of every possible hue! We’ve got to dust them away, clarify your thinking, create a man out of you!”

Bumpy was at a loss for words. This ancient crag of a woman seemed to have something to contradict anything he might say, and when he failed to respond favourably to her was cogent and forceful arguments she played her ace card.

He niece.

But I’m gay….” he tried, but to no avail.

He knew his own preferences when it came to friends and partners like the back of his hand and he’d had the odd cohabitee over the years capable of confirming it. After all, Sailor John was his best ever friend and they got on so well together he’d even thought of resigning as a councillor, giving up his dream of success in politics for good, and turning for a trade to the big blue briny, until he discovered that Sailor John had been forced into retirement due to an inability to stand upright on even the most motionless of seas, but he had insisted on keeping his nickname as a means of impressing like-minded souls, and Sailor John he was, though no longer any kind of sailor.

Tush,” grinned Griselda. “Come on. Drink up and we’ll be back to my little place to pick up my number one broomstick. Then, my hearty, we’ll be off for the States come wind or fine weather, cloud or rain, snow or hail! We’ll have a journey that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and may that be a long and glorious affair with the charms of my niece visiting you whenever you feel low!”

But I’m gay…” he mumbled again, but followed her anyway.

Bumpy had been in politics of one kind or another all his life and he knew many a slippery way out of just about any situation. He had even managed to get the borough treasurer locked up for fraud when the truth was the very opposite and that good official had kept his books with such singular perfection that not even a penny went adrift. But he’d used a devious argument involving virtual debts and hypothetical sums, and succeeded. So he should be able to deal with this old hag, surely? But he found, there and then, that no matter what he said he could get nowhere near influencing this piece of what he looked on as geriatric scum.

I’m not, you know,” she grated at him from the back of her throat.

What?” he stammered.

Scum,” she said, “not even of the geriatric sort. but you’ll find that out for yourself when we’re heading into an anticyclone a thousand miles from land with only the twigs of my besom between us and certain doom!”

His legs should have responded to instructions sent by his brain, instructions that said run, run, run, as fast as you can and even faster but they wouldn’t. Instead of him galloping like a demented schoolboy down the street and away as fast as he could go he found himself tagging along behind Griselda, incapable of any independent action of his own.

Incapable, he thought shamefully, of even thinking.

And still totally under the control of the oldest woman he had ever encountered and with the sun beaming down from a sparkling blue sky, he found himself sitting astride the knobbly shaft of an elderly broomstick behind the slightly musty fragrance of that old woman’s garments as she did something with her bony backside and, as if by magic, rising with her into the heavens with a cry on his lips and a faltering heart in his chest.

The nightmare of the journey back to Griselda’s cottage was every bit as bad as the nightmare of the journey from that same cottage to the Crowne and Anchor had been and Bumptious found himself vomiting before they reached her front door. He couldn’t help feeling a, for him, strange feeling of empathy as the noxious contents of his stomach, diluted as they were by the two drinks he’d had at the pub, cascaded onto the nicely permed head of a mini-skirted tart who happened to be sauntering along enjoying the weather and looking for trade.

Oh mercy me and I’m sorry,” he wept, but she didn’t hear, not with her ears filled with goo.

They were back swiftly enough, though, and Griselda leapt from the broomstick with practised ease and had her key in the front door before Bumpy could have said Jack Robinson even if he’d wanted to. He did, however, managed to mutter bitch under his breath, and trying to sort out a suitable adjective that might precede it.

We’ll have a cuppa before we go,” she grinned at him, “you like my special tea, don’t you?”

He didn’t, but was incapable of making any reply save the rather rancid Grrr that didn’t mean anything at all.

The next half hour passed, so far as the Parish Councillor was concerned, in a blur of nonsense as Griselda packed the smallest suitcase he’d ever seen with an assortment of lingerie that had gone out of fashion before the first world war stole too many lives from too many people.

My best knickers,” she cackled when she noticed him ogling them. “They were made to last,” she added with a bashful grin.

By the time she was packed and ready he was beginning to feel more like his old self and was on the brink of asking her where her niece was and could he sit next to her when she went to an outhouse and returned with what she described as her Mark One super-duper dream of a broomstick.

It didn’t look much different from the one they’d travelled to the pub on, though the twigs at the business end maybe sparkled a little.

Off we go, then,” smirked Griselda, leaping onto the front end of her best broomstick, and he couldn’t help it. Something or someone, probably the old witch he was learning to detest, had control of his mind and however hard he tried he could only straddle the shaft of the broomstick and submit to a power he would never understand.

Wheeee!” she shrieked, and the force of several g’s almost swept him back to the ground.

Almost, but unfortunately for him, not quite.

© Peter Rogerson 01.02.18