28 Feb

Griselda was well on Her way through her second drink, still in the guise of a nymphet who probably had nymphomaniac tendencies considering the amount of leg she was rubbing against the Parish Councillor’s, when something in the corner of the bar caught her eye and she stood up, pointed a quivering finger at it and demanded,

Thomas, you old freak, is that what I think it is?”

I’ve got it in for the young set,” growled Thomas the Greek, “and stop calling me names or I’ll let on…”

Sorry sweetheart,” purred the tempting young Griselda, “but you didn’t answer my question, beloved, but what is it?”

It’s a jukebox,” he grunted, knowing that the older Griselda would have raised quite a fuss at the idea that there was a music machine anywhere near the pub where she occasionally spent the odd half hour nursing a glass of something undiluted.

How lovely,” smiled the younger incarnation of the ancient witch, “let me see what melodies it plays… would you like that, Mr Bumptious? Would you like me to get it to play a little melody to cheer you up and straighten that tie of yours? My wicked old auntie must have been flying quite viciously for it your tie to ravel itself into a knot like that!”

I’m Mr. Tiddles even to you, my love,” he muttered, “Maybe something quiet would be nice,” he grinned, trying to conceal the agitation her presence had caused in his trouser region. “Then I must find your precious auntie and see if she’s thought any more about our problem with the UFO.” he added, clearly reluctant to do anything like revert to business.

Oh, auntie will know everything,” nodded his exciting companion, “let me see what’s on the machine. But first I need to pop to the ladies. A girl should always touch up her lippy before she does a dance, don’t you think..?”

Dance?” stammered Bumpy.

I thought we might manage a quick turn across the floor of there’s something smoochy being played,” purred the suddenly desirable version of Griselda, “there’s plenty of room if we avoid Tom Coppley’s vomit from last night.”

I can’t wait,” stammered Bumptious Tiddles, fighting with his trousers in much the same way as a kangaroo might fight with a naughty offspring joey trying to do a handstand in her pouch.

Griselda returned to the ladies with the most evil grin on her young face and once the door was shut behind her started muttering to nobody once again. As if by magic she morphed into her old self as her tiny skirt became long enough to risk tripping her up with every step, her hair developed an uncontrolled and very whitish-grey dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards look and her pert bosom reacted in an instant to the call of gravity. In short, she became a hundred and something, and every wrinkle on her face told a story of troubled old age.

She glanced in the mirror, winked at herself and pushed the door open.

Perfect,” she croaked, and cackled as if at a huge joke.

The bar was as she’d left it and she winked at Thomas the Greek as she announced, “my niece’s has had to go home to feed the cat, she’s got a very familiar black cat, you know, and she told me that I have to put something melodious on the jukebox machine.”

Oh dear,” muttered the Parish Councillor, “I was hoping…” What he was hoping for he remained silent about. He had learned the art of discretion in many a boring council meeting when the parish treasurer was craftily playing footsie with him in the belief she was canoodling with her elderly boyfriend sitting next to him and out of reach of her twitching toes.

Now let me see,” croaked Griselda reading the list of titles on the jukebox, “what have we here? Oh goody! There are more oldies than I could swing a cat at … not that I do much cat-swinging, not these days of political correctness and being kind to our furry friends… ah, look! I remember this from when I was only in my sixties and as lithe as my niece can be! Let’s Twist Again it’s called! Come on Bumpy, take your hands out of your pockets and let’s dance the noon away!”

Somehow the jukebox managed to play without her inserting a single coin and she started the most grotesque display of geriatric dancing ever dreamed of in an alcoholic’s worst nightmare. Suddenly she became all angles and almost vicious smiles, with her knees and elbows prescribing absurdly jagged shapes under her oversized clothing, whilst at the same time her hair untangled and retangled itself in absurdly gay abandon. And the dance she did was a barely creaking version of the twist as she lowered herself (with many an anonymous mutter, it must be said) and raised herself on knees that shouldn’t be capable of any such movement but somehow were. And all the time there was that grin on her face and her hair flew every which way in response to the feverish 1960s music.

Come on!” she squawked to the Parish Councillor, who was still sitting in the alcove, but with a disbelieving look on his open-mouthed face.

If you win the dancing competition I’ll tell you what the UFO was and where it came from,” screeched Griselda, “though I dared say you’ve worked it out for yourself by now! Come on, let’s twist again and again old buddy of mine, let’s rock the day away!”

But Bumptious Tiddles hadn’t worked anything out. And as a consequence of the grotesque sight in front of him he was in no state to even think of working anything out and was even quite certain that if by some magic the meaning of the postcode that was found inside the UFO crossed his mind he’d forget it instantly in his confusion.

I c-can’t dance,” he confessed, shamefacedly.

Come on,” urged Griselda, “I’ll put the record on again! Just do what I do! Whee!”

Bumptious Tiddles found himself doing the impossible. He found himself standing up and actually making gentle and increasingly rhythmic movements to the raucous music. He found himself, in addition, moving ever closer to the wicked old woman who was still throwing herself about with such extreme abandon he was sure she must have a heart attack at any moment.

You know what the code means?” he managed to force out as his breath became harder to find as a consequence of his making quite a valiant effort to do the twist a quarter as convincingly as the old woman who was still all angles and flashing eyes.

I do now,” grinned Griselda, “and I ought to know it because it’s on every letter the postman brings me. It’s DO69mp, isn’t it?”

The parish councillor nodded.

Come on, let’s twist again!” shrieked Griselda.

I’ve had enough,” gasped Bumpy, his face flushed and his heart thumping in his chest like it hadn’t done in decades. “I’ll drop down dead on the spot if I jiggle another joggle.”

Then I’ll tell you!” cackled Griselda, “it’s all very political! The first two letter and the last two are the first and last letters of a very famous name, and the number is his favourite … er …. romantically physical position, if I dared mention such a thing!”

I don’t understand,” panted Bumpy, sinking into his seat.

Griselda joined him. Suddenly not a hair on her head was out of place. Suddenly she was far from breathless.

Think Presidents,” she grinned, “think American presidents!”

Bumpy frowned as he worked out what she meant, and then his eyes lit up.

You mean..?”

Yes I do!” shouted Griselda, “Years ago he said he owed me one and now he’s sent it! The trouble is, the man doesn’t always know what he’s doing, and he didn’t this time! He always goes for too big and too much, the fool. It was meant to be a lover’s missive from him to me, landing in my back yard on Valentine’s day, and he missed by several houses and several days! The fool, the silly fool! Still, that explains where it came from. All we’ve got to do is send a token of our love back to him. So I hope you’re prepared for a little ride…”

A little ride..?” Even as he repeated the three words Bumptious Tiddles turned a whitish shade of pale.

He had a nasty idea what Griselda was gong to say next, and he didn’t want to hear it.

© Peter Rogerson 31.01.18



26 Feb

Never was such an agonized scream heard anywhere on planet Earth than when Griselda Entwhistle, a superior grin splitting her craggy old face, zoomed through her cottage’s front door aboard her third best broomstick, her ancient backside scrunching against a knobble in the shaft where she sat and a smartly dressed parish councillor perched precariously behind her.

It was that parish councillor that was making all the noise, with the exception of a subtle whee-whiz from Griselda herself.

I don’t like this!” wailed Bumptious Tiddles, the Parish Councillor as Griselda sought an altitude sufficient to almost guarantee that nobody would notice her if they chanced to glance skywards as she raced towards the nearby town of Brumpton. “I’ve got no head for heights, I’m going to fall off, this’ll be the death of me, oh woe is me, and I haven’t even written my will yet…”

Calm down!” rapped Griselda, “this is fun!”

I’ve never had less fun, not in all my natural, and I had some pretty miserable times back when I was a kid and Mr Harris thrashed me for being late for history and I was only late because Jonathan Darby pinched my school cap and lobbed it onto a bus shelter and it took me ages to get it back, but it hurt did that thrashing, but it was a million times funnier than this… Oh woe is me, death is just round the corner, or rather, down there on the ground….”

Now you’re being dramatic!” chided Griselda over her shoulder. Whee-whiz! Just feel the breeze on your face and the wind in your hair…”

I haven’t got any…”


Hair. I haven’t got any! My toupee just blew off and landed on an old lady’s egg basket down there… I wish I was dead!”

No you don’t, you silly boy. My old ma used to tell me to be careful of what I wished for because I just might get it…” hissed Griselda. “But if you feel as bad as you say you do we’ll take a break at the pub. Thomas the Greek will have opened up by now and I’ll introduce you to my gorgeous young niece! She’ll calm you down, she will! There never was a prettier sight than that young lady, and the moment you look at her you’ll know you’ve looked at true beauty and your beer will bubble and froth inside you until you’re filled with never-ending fearlessness!”

I don’t like pretty girls, I prefer young men!” shouted Bumptious, letting his personal cat out of the bag for the first time ever and astounding the old woman with her toupee-enhanced egg basket who looked up and squawked well I never, a gay counsellor on old mother Entwhistle’s third best broomstick at the top of her voice!

I don’t have any nephews, so my niece will have to do!” screeched Griselda, “now hang on tight, me hearty, this might be a juddery landing!”

Bumpy closed his eyes and prayed. He prayed to no particular deity but to all of them, particularly the Mayor of Brumpton who was renowned for his wicked wit when it came to casting aspersions and verbal caustic dewdrops onto the backs of his underlings, especially on the rare occasions when they were actually in the wrong.

Oh mighty spirit in the heavens, he wittered, I know I’ve been a naughty boy, what with being late for history and all, and not forgetting what I called Amelia Greatheart when she wet her knickers in Geography, so forgive me and take my hand and guide me towards the light…

And as he reached the word light Griselda landed on the car-park of the Crowne and Anchor with a mighty judder.

Cripes, she’s back,” muttered Thomas the Greek inside the pub, as he was busy diluting the lager with fresh water from a tap in the gents toilets. “I thought I’d got rid of her last time!”

But he hadn’t, because the she he was referring to was Griselda Entwhistle and there could be no doubt that she was back as she marched into the tap room of his pub, closely followed by a very bedraggled and weeping Parish Councillor.

What’s wrong with him, then?” asked Thomas in his usually surly voice, “you been giving him a ride on that there broomstick of yours?”

He needs to get to Brumpton and he missed the bus. Give him a pint of your best … not the stuff you were watering down when I landed but the real McCoy, and I’ll pay when I get back from the ladies,” said Griselda, and she made her way to the ladies convenience.

Now there has long been a debate in Swanspottle and its environs concerning the undisputed fact that nobody had ever claimed to see the old crone Griselda in the same room at the same time as her ravishing niece. Some said it was blind stupid coincidence and others wondered whether magic might be involved. It is up to the reader to decide.

But when when Griselda arrived in the ladies toilets she locked the door and whispered a few mysterious things to nobody. At least neither she nor anyone else (had anyone else been anywhere near) would have seen who she was muttering to. She was just muttering. And as a kind of reaction or response to that muttering things started to happen to her. For starters, her flesh lost every single wrinkle that was the product of age and the passing of too many years on Earth. Her bosom heaved and became ridiculously pert, her legs shaped themselves until the reflection of them in the mirror almost excited her. Then her clothing, the old-woman stuff she was clad in, shrivelled and shrank and morphed into the tiniest little skirt you ever did see, a necessary accompaniment to the most gorgeous pair of legs anyone ever cast lascivious eyes upon. Her woollen jumper changed as if by some miracle into a low-cut and very pretty sleeveless top that revealed an almost indecent amount of curvaceous cleavage.

And, having looked at herself in the toilet mirror she grinned a radiant grin revealing the sort of teeth a Hollywood goddess would pay goodness-knows how many dollars for and wiggled her way out of the ladies room and back towards the bar where a still shuddering and shivering Parish Councillor was trying to sip his lager without spilling it, and almost impossible task seeing that he was still shaking like a fig leaf.

Has anyone seen my Auntie Griselda?” she asked in a voice that sounded as if it ought to be inviting someone, anyone, to join her in bed.

Pull another one, Griselda,” muttered Thomas under his breath. He’d sussed the truth, that this apparition in feminine ecstasy and the old crone Griselda were, by some kind of deceit, one and the same person. But he wasn’t going to tell anyone, no sir, not him: both the old crone and her eccentric ways and the beautiful apparition currently grinning at a bedraggled councillor, were exceptionally good for trade, and he needed trade in much the same way as the cloth he was polishing his wine glasses with needed a darned good wash.

Oh,” sighed the nymphet Griselda, smiling a smile that must have been cunningly crafted from meringue and best honey, and moving as close to Bumptious Tiddles as was in any way decent, and then a little bit closer, “who do have have here, then? What a sweet little fellow you are… come and sit with me, big boy, and tell me the story of your life…”

And she led him to an alcove that hadn’t been there a moment earlier, and sat him down and fixed her most perfect eyes on him before allowing the tip of her tongue to emerge sweetly between two absolutely perfect lips…

Now this is cosy,” she smiled.

© Peter Rogerson 30.01.18


24 Feb

Griselda sat in her smallest armchair and studied Councillor Bumptious Tiddles with sparkling eyes, then shook her head almost sadly.

You’re getting to be what I might call muddled,” she said almost crossly to the confused and confusing individual. “Who do you think sent the nuisance that blew up half the road, then, and why do they want it back? And more importantly, why did everyone call it an unidentified flying object when it was quite easily identified?”

Bumpy looked at her wearily. “It wasn’t actually identified, just that it wasn’t an alien object. That’s all that was identified, in a manner of speaking. It’s hard to tell,” he mumbled, “but the lettering on the inside of it was in terrestrial characters. Why, they might just as well have been printed on in the Brumpton print works, for that matter. Or anywhere they use the Roman alphabet when they scribble their shopping lists.”

I dared say they didn’t end with Printed In China did they?” grinned Griselda.

How did you know that?” demanded a shocked Bumptious. “We’ve kept that quiet in case people think it was all a joke.”

Because everything is either made or produced or printed in China these days,” replied Griselda, “even the black lead that I use on the outside of my cauldron to keep it nice and hygienic and shiny comes from China these days.”

But it was the letters that got us all pondering,” explained the Councillor, “I suppose they might have been anything, but they weren’t. They were actually the post-code of the part of the street that was hit!”

The post office post code?” queried Griselda.

Yes. DO 69 mp,” muttered Bumpy, “Any letter or parcel with that code on it is delivered to an address on this road. And that’s the only clue we’ve got. Someone tried to blast a few houses down the way to Kingdom Come and as far as we can tell, for no reason at all.”

I can think of a few reasons knowing who lived in some of the houses,” muttered Griselda darkly. “There’s one family that regularly reports me to the police, and it’s a good job Sergeant Lockemup knows me well enough to know I’m not up to anything nefarious.”

He’s a good man,” sighed the Parish Councillor.

I’ve known him since he was a dewy-eyed constable, all bushy-tailed and handsome,” Griselda told him. “And now that he’s a sergeant he’s still dewy-eyed and bushy-tailed and handsome, and excessively fond of my niece who comes round to see me every so often. A good lass, the is, even if her skirts are usually too short for decency!”

What do the neighbours complain about?” asked Bumptious, curiously.

They say I go on midnight spins on my broomstick,” replied Griselda mischievously, “as if I was any old witch! But I don’t, of course. At least, not very often. I like to be in bed by ten thirty and asleep by eleven, so midnight joyrides are definitely out barring emergencies.”

Bumpy couldn’t help wondering what on Earth she meant by emergencies, but instead said in an exasperated sigh “Which doesn’t bring us any closer to working out who the enemy is. Personally I think the thing about it being printed in China might be a clue, but who in China wants to flatten country cottages in Swanspottleof all places? I mean, who in China has even heard of Swanspottle?”

Chairman Mao?” suggested Griselda glibly, “he might have thought he was getting back at me seeing as we had a blazing row about senility on one of his birthdays. I suggested he might be about to suffer from senility when he started producing his little red book of nonsense.”

But he’s been dead for years,” Bumpy told her, “and the dead can’t send UFOs to places they’ve never heard of!”

Dead? He has? How terrible? Why hasn’t someone told me? I should have sent flowers!” shouted Griselda, but the twinkle in her eye might have told him she was joking had he noticed it.

Well, he can’t have heard of Swanspottle, alive or dead,” snapped the Councillor.

I met him,” chided Griselda, “and I’m sure I slipped him my address in case he found his way to this neck of the woods and needed somewhere to rest his head.”

As if that’s likely, sniffed Bumptious.

Oh it was, Very likely,” purred Griselda, “I got about a bit back in the day.”

So you can’t help?” asked the councillor wearily, changing the subject. “You were my last hope. Thomas the Greek, you know him, landlord of the Crowne and Anchor, suggested you might be the one to solve the problem. He said you were as old as the hills and so your extra experience might give you a clue as to where the damned thing came from and who wanted us all destroyed.”

He did, did he? Old as the hills, eh? Wait till I pop into his pub next: I’ll put such a spell on his beer that it’ll be flat and undrinkable for the millennium!”

I don’t think he meant any harm. He was trying to be helpful. After all, he lost most of his customers with the UFO hit.”

And he’ll lose the ones he’s got left if he calls them old as the hills!” snapped Griselda. “Now, sonny, you can beetle off. I’ve got my second-best broomstick to supercharge and I can’t afford to wile away my life in idle prattle with council officials.”

I’m sorry to have disturbed you, then,” grunted the disgruntled Bumptious. “You were my last hope and now I’ve spent so long here sipping your extraordinary tea that I’ve missed the last bus to Brumpton where I’m supposed to report on the result of my investigations.”

You don’t seem to have a result,” pointed out Griselda.

They’ll still expect me, and my car’s off the road with a broken chassis,” he mumbled.

Then I suppose you’ll expect me to give you a lift,” offered Griselda, a light in her eyes that suggested he might want anything but a lift from her. But he didn’t know her as well as a parish councillor ought to have known the oldest resident in his district and instead of doing anything but accept her offfer he smiled his delight.

That would be very kind of you. I didn’t know you had a car,” he grinned.

Oh, I haven’t,” she cackled, “but anything of the right dimensions will do and it so happens my third favourite broomstick is ready for a test-run.”

How delightful,” he laughed, assuming her words were no more than examples of country humour from the olden days when she’d been young and sprightly.

His mind, though, underwent a total reversal when she carried a gnarled and knobbly old besom broom into the room from an outside shed where it had collected a few cobwebs.

Here we are!” she screeched, shaking it and dusting the business end with a bright yellow duster, and she lifted one bony leg until she was sitting astride a particularly knobbly bit which had always generated a degree of erotic pleasure to her nether regions when she squeezed it with her bony cheeks. “On you get!” she added, “and we’ll be off!”

© Peter Rogerson 29.01.18


22 Feb

(Griselda Entwhistle is one of my “characters” and has appeared several times over the past couple of decades. I have created Brumpton (the town closest to the fictitious village of Swanspottle where she lives. Other characters from my catalogue of oddities also live there. She is older than old and would appear to have supernatural powers. Oh – and she gets everywhere by broomstick. All is all, she is usually in cohorts with total nonsense!)

It’s hard to believe,” grinned Griselda Entwhistle to herself, “but here we are well into the twenty-first century and yet I can quite clearly remember the nineteenth!”

She was servicing her number one broomstick, and when she did things like that she found her mind going back over an extraordinarily long life. Along with other modes of transport, broomsticks require servicing every so often or they might become unreliable, and Griselda knew that there’s nothing more unnerving than being aloft and zooming at ten thousand feet (where you really ought to be huddling close to yourself on account of the fact that at that height it tends to get chilly) when something goes wrong to the besom end of your broomstick because of poor servicing.

You see, if had happened before. But that was a long time ago and she preferred not to remember it. So she didn’t.

Especially not now. Not while she was fiddling deep in the twigs of her number one broomstick. She needed to concentrate or she might forget something vital.

Then there was a knock at the front door, and she groaned. Her hands were all sticky and it wasn’t perspiration but a glutinous ooze that somehow caused her broomstick to balance perfectly when she was shivering with either cold or nervous exhaustion and occasionally romantic excess, and she had to go to the door. She didn’t get enough visitors to ignore any of them.

Well, well,” she sniggered when she opened the door, “if it isn’t Mr Bumptious Tiddles, known locally as Bumpy and the sole member of the Parish Council.”

The village of Swanspottle consisted of little more than a semi-derelict church, a disgusting pub called the Crowne and Anchor and a single row of cottages, many of which had been vaporised by a recent unidentified flying object, a disaster that had gone virtually unnoticed by the wider world but caused a sudden reduction in the size of the Parish Council, one that would be impossible to replace due to the shrunken population of the village.

Can I come in?” asked Bumpy, anxiously looking around him.

Why? Is someone following you?” asked Griselda mischievously.

No, but it’s cold out here,” replied the irate parish councillor.

Then why are you still standing out there, letting a chill wind blow through my cottage?” snapped Griselda unreasonably.

I might have been expecting her to be like this, thought Bumptious as he pushed past her into her cottage and sat on the largest of the two easy chairs that faced her fireplace in which a cheerless log was dribbling a smidgen of smoke up the chimney.

So what’s got up your nose?” asked Griselda, “it’s not like you to come calling on old women like me.”

Things are going wrong in the world, and you’re quite famous for your, how shall I put it, political past,” muttered the councillor, sounding reluctant to award her with anything like the fame she deserved.*

Well, I was Prime Minister,” she grinned.

And an honoured one at that,” sighed the Councillor, still sounding as if he begrudged the words. “And I fear that you might be needed again,” Bumptious Tiddles forced the words out through gritted teeth.

I might?” grinned Griselda with a huge question mark in her voice.

The UFO that crashed into the road not a dozen doors away from the little cottage you so proudly call home…” began Bumpy, trying not to sound as officious as he usually sounded. This was not the time, the place and certainly not the listener for pomp and officiousness. He knew that much with the same clarity as he knew his own name.

I remember it well,” nodded Griselda, “I had to issue a word of command or it may well have dented my own roof…”

A word of command?” stammered Bumpy.

The less you know the less reason I will have to kill you,” joked Griselda, knowing that Bumpy would take her words far more seriously than they were meant.

Kill me?” stammered the Parish Councillor.

Just my way of putting you at ease, Bumpy,” assured Griselda. “Let me see, you were talking about the UFO that shook the ground round here?”

It wasn’t a UFO,” spat out Bumpy, his face suddenly reddening with anger. “Or at least, it’s no longer unidentified,” he added, “though it most certainly was a flying object!”

Ah, so you know whence it came?” asked Griselda, “I tell you what, councillor, if you like I’ll give you a cup of my special tea while we discuss this matter in more detail…”

At the reference to her special tea a mixture of conflicting thoughts fought for supremacy in Bumpy’s mind. Firstly, he knew all about Griselda’s special brews: tea, coffee, chocolate, they all had the same notoriety and he was convinced that she must have some exotic plants blooming somewhere under her roof and he, like everyone else feared getting under the influence of the least bit of one of them. Secondly, he was feeling so unsure of himself and so ill at ease that he could have murdered a couple of fingers of best Scotch, just to calm him down. So he said the only thing he could say.

Yes please…”

Just a tick,” enthused Griselda, “you’ll enjoy this!” she added as she filled her black kitchen kettle with water from a garden pump and hung it over the barely smoking log in the fireplace.

That’ll still be there come Michaelmas, and not boiling yet!” thought Bumptious, but he thought it without knowing enough about Griselda.

Come on, fiery log,” she whispered, and with a vicious plop and a plip the log burst into the most cheery, warming flames Bumpy had ever seen, and within almost no time at all the kettle was boiling with a frenzy that almost defied belief.

That’s better!” chortled Griselda, “now for a nice cup of tea.”

It didn’t taste anything like tea, but it was most certainly refreshing. As he sipped it, Bumpy became aware that a great weight of absolute nonsense was being sucked out of his head and was being replaced by a soothing cushion of memory.

When I was a boy,” he said, and added, “in short pants,”

Yes?” grinned Griselda.

When I was a lad I had a train set,” he whimpered, “a lovely electric train set and the rest of the kids on the street were jealous because theirs needed winding up because they were clockwork, and I build a track…”

He frowned. Why am I telling her this? What’s going on in my head?

But he continued, “I built a track that went from my bedroom, round the edge of the landing and into mummy and daddy’s bedroom so that I could spy on them when they were, you know, doing it….”

Did I just say mummy and daddy as if I was still a greasy little nipper? I guess I must have… what’s happened to me?

And that’s exactly what the enemy have done,” he concluded, “they built a powerful flying object and sent it out way to spy on us…”

How could an electric toy train spy on anyone?” asked Griselda, “it doesn’t seem likely to me…”

I hadn’t worked that bit out. I was only in short pants,” he explained. “But you get the idea don’t you? The enemy did the same to us! They sent that wonderful flying object, hoping it would be unidentified, to spy on us.

But they forgot that when it crashed its technology would stop working. They forgot that when it crashed they wouldn’t be able to spy any more…”

He took another sip of the strange-flavoured tea.

And that’s why they’re coming! They’re coming back to find it! They want their UFO back!

It’s why the world’s seems to be going mad! I mean, just you look at the way things are!”

© Peter Rogerson 27.01.18

*There’s a tome self-published by me on Lulu concerning Griselda’s political past. For anyone interested, it’s called Spellbound and I think it might have sold two copies over the last twenty or so years..


18 Feb


It was Constance’s last day at the library.

Everything had happened so quickly. There had been a council meeting, the Mayor had been awarded an expenses-paid visit to India because Brumpton town ought to be modern and twinned with a town of the future, and India was, in the opinions of the councillors, the future. So the Mayor, with his chain of office and a couple of secretaries, was sent to India and the library was closed due to a shortage of funds.

Times, the councillors explained, were hard.

Constance received enough severance pay to make her think twice and more about suing for unfair dismissal and her last day had come. Janet Goody had already been laid off, the presence of such a part-time employee not worth the peanuts paid for her services.

Anything of value … the computers, a selection of elderly books that might prove to have more value than their appearance suggested … had already gone, as was her cubbyhole of a staff room and desk. All that was left for her was to sort the bulk of the stock into those too tatty to be worth doing anything with but pulp, those that other libraries might want and those that could be sold to second-hand book shops, probably at a loss.

She hated this miserable dead-end of a job that she loved but what could she do? She had no influence with the council. Money ruled these days, and certainly not the needs of society. Years ago the first female Prime Minister had announced that there was no such thing as society, and events were proving her right as those who might have benefited by the embracing nurture of a civilised society were left in the cold. That’s as she, bitterly, saw life in Brumpton and she was musing over a deterioration in the quality of life as a van pulled up at the street door … the van due to take most of the older stock to be pulped.

She got a shock when she saw who the driver was.

It was Frank Brownadder and rather than wearing the suit she’d seenhim in so recently when she’d had a queasy day or two and he’d driven her home, he was dressed in overalls.

“I thought you said you worked for the Brumpton Courier,” she said when she saw who it was.

“And hello to you!” he grinned. “I did when I left school, but I couldn’t take cat and dog shows for long, so I left the paper and now I work for Partners of Swanspottle!”

“Oh. So have you come for the boxes of books for recycling?”

“I’m afraid I have.” He shook his head sadly, “I was shocked when I heard they were closing the library.”

“It wasn’t necessary,” murmured Constance, “it’s just that they needed money to send important people round the world on extended holidays. Books didn’t meant anything any more.”

He nodded. “It’s the way of things these days. We little people don’t seem to mean much in an age ruled by billionaires.”

“I’m upset, Frank,” whispered Constance, and he noticed a tear starting to run down her cheek.

“I can see you are. Look, why don’t you pop across the road for a coffee, I’ll load the stuff onto the van and join you when I’ve done.”

“Do you mind?”

“Of course not. And if any pompous council fool comes along and asks where you are I’ll say it’s your time of the month and you’re in the loo if they want to help you!”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Wouldn’t I?”

This isn’t the Frank who helped me when I was ill, this is a braver new Frank, confident, lively, understanding… I like him like this…

Constance took herself to the cafe across the road and sat at a table by the window with a cup of cappuccino. She could see the recycling van and Frank with his assistant carrying cardboard boxes of books and carelessly dumping then into it.

Then she sat up and almost spilled her cappuccino.

That assistant. She recognised him. He was the only man who had ever shared her bed with her, and that had been a sterile, sexless, almost pathetic kind of sharing when he had been forced to stay the night and she only had one bed. He had been the window cleaner she had tried to help because he wanted to learn how to read, a desire that had been misunderstood by his judgemental wife. It was Bert. She hadn’t seen him for ages, not since he had sold his window-cleaning round and got a steadier job.

“Bert,” she whispered, “imagine that, Frank and Bert… probably the only two men who have stepped over the doorstep into my house…”

And that, she thought, was most likely to be true. She lived a solitary life once her day at work was over.

I ought to be more outgoing…

And that thought expanded itself inside her head. I ought to have a man…

The two men finished their job, locked the van and crossed the road to the cafe where she sat.

“I guess you know Bert, Constance,” grinned Frank when he’d ordered coffee for himself and his assistant.

“I was thinking … the only two men to step over the threshold of my mansion,” smiled Constance. “Together at the end of the job that’s casting me onto the scrapheap.”

“I brought Bert for a reason,” said Frank, “when I knew I was coming to the library. When I hoped that I might see you.”

“You did?” Constance raised her eyebrows.

“I wanted to ask you something.”

“That sounds ominous!” She frowned. She couldn’t imagine anything he would want of her.

“Remember when you were ill?” he asked, almost shyly.

“I felt awful,” she remembered. “I did thank you for driving me home, didn’t I?”

“Of course you did. And I told you the story of my life,” he confessed, “I told you a lot about myself.”

“I remember.”

“What I want to know is…” He suddenly dried up, turned shy like a schoolboy on his first date, wrung his hands.

“Yes?” she asked, frowning.

“Can I … would you mind terribly…”

“Say it, Frank,” urged Bert.

“This is a mistake. Forget I said anything!” blurted Frank.

Bert shook his head. “Come on, boss,” he said, “it’s not hard! Constance is a good woman!”

Frank shook his head miserably. Then he stood up abruptly and sighed, then, “I’m sorry… Constance, I’m so sorry…”

And he walked out, crossed the road, and climbed into his van, still shaking his head.

“Silly idiot,” sighed Bert, “Constance, honestly, he only wanted to ask you out! He wasn’t going to propose marriage or anything, he just wanted to see if you’d go for a meal with him. He might be my boss, but I can’t get my head round him sometimes.”

“Is that all?”

Bert nodded. “I’ve never known such a confirmed bachelor in all my life. It’s as if something scared him off women and he stays scared however long passes.”

“I think I understand him,” said Constance. And then, plucking up her own courage to the breaking point she said, “hang on here, Bert, I’ve something to do.”

And she walked across the road towards Frank in his van, theatrically shaking her head as she went.

© Peter Rogerson 24.01.18


17 Feb

I suppose that Frank’s a nice man,” said Constance to her very part-time assistant Janet Goody. “He stayed with me for half an hour when we got back yesterday and told me the story of his life! He works for the Brumpton Courier.”

It was the day after Constance had collapsed at work and Janet had been asked by someone at the council to work an extra day because there was nobody else if the librarian was still ill.

Your Frank seemed all right,” nodded Janet, “do you fancy him? It’s about time you got a bit of love in your life.”

I’m perfectly all right as I am, and he’s not my Frank,” replied Constance, but without conviction. Maybe the nightmare of a couple of nights ago had got to her, when in the dream she had been scorned as useless as she lay, dead, in her coffin, useless because she was alone and childless.

Everyone needs someone,” comforted Janet.

My mother didn’t have anyone,” Constance reminded her.

She must have had somebody or you wouldn’t be around,” pointed out Janet. “I’m afraid that’s the main fact of life!”

She was very religious,” sighed Constance, “and always said that her faith was enough for her and she would never need another man.”

Faith’s not very satisfactory when you’re alone at night and need the comfort of another person, maybe even in bed with you…” Janet was a happily married woman, had three children and a husband who adored her. She knew what she was talking about because her own life was the kind that most men and women aspire to have. Constance was aware of this and might have been jealous, but she’d read loads of romances and knew the road to paradise was never straight or smooth but usually got there in the end, and even with nobody on her horizon that thought comforted her.

My mum, for as long as I can remember, was a single mother, and happy being it.” Constance told her, but that wasn’t quite true, was it?

Well, you know what’s best for you,” sniffed Janet.

I’m just off to sort out the romance section,” said Constance. “There are quite a few books in quite the wrong place.”

Okay.” Janet felt like making a comment about Constance’s fondness for the fictitious romances of a host of imagined women but decided against it.

Constance tried to look purposeful as she strode to the shelves where dozens of female hearts were broken and repaired, where handsome men with pure hearts eventually cuddled the sweetest of ladies in loving embraces, and sighed when she got there. And all in print. All without a human thought.

There was Rodney once, she thought, the funeral director’s lad who came to see me after mum died… the way he spoke to me, the way he looked at me… I told him the kind of funeral my mum had always said she wanted… I could talk to him, and he listened sympathetically. Maybe I should have got to know him a little bit, sort of personally, or, and this is most likely, he was only doing his job and trained to sound sympathetic. But I did like him. I know mum said it’s best to leave men completely alone, to have nothing to do with them because they’re a waste of space, but he might have really been quite nice…

She picked up a paperback about a hospital teeming with romances and rejections and a final happy ending, and sighed again. She’d read that book twice in the past year, and the second time wasn’t accidental. She’d read it for the happy ending. She’d read it because it assured her that whatever the route that life might guide you along there might always be an arrival at a better place.

She needed that better place.

Her mother’d had it rough.

And that roughness soured her, made her hate men. Made her even hate me! Yes, she did her best to be a good mother … and she was. But underneath it all, buried so that only she might see it, was the knowledge that I was part of my father. I had his genes, his eyes, the things I inherited from him, those that would always make her distrust me. Those that made a bit of her hate me.

She told me she’d tried to dig me out of her when I was no more than a foetus. She’d have done anything to rid her body of the intruder growing in her womb, but it hadn’t worked. Maybe she’d gone about it half-heartedly because she really know it was wrong. Maybe she was afraid that an abortion like that might rebound on her and kill her. Who knows? Not even me…

Janet’s voice came softly to her, “Coffee, Constance?”

That’d be nice.” The reply was automatic, but coffee would be nice.

I remember thinking that a man like Rodney, and he was quite young I think, would have saved me from … from what? Am I lonely? Would he have saved me from years of loneliness? No: I haven’t felt lonely! I’ve got my own life! My thoughts! My hobbies and interests, my caravan…

Yes, my caravan. For two weeks holiday a year! And always on my own! But I meet people, don’t I, holiday friends…

If I was a character in one of the books that I’m tidying in between feeling sorry for myself, I’d be with an impossibly good-looking bloke, we’d go off in that caravan, towards the setting or the rising sun, and park it in a field, and he’d smother me with kisses and we’d move ever closer together until our hearts beat as one…

It’s ready,” called Janet.


Your coffee, silly! Come and get it while it’s hot and before the rush begins.”

There wouldn’t be a rush. There never was. Libraries weren’t for rushes. They were for quiet research, quieter reading, wonderful young women falling head over heels in love with ever-so handsome young men.

They’re always young … and I’m thirty three… that’s not so young…”

Coming,” she called, and put the last book in its place.

The Sultan’s Garden… I read that … it wasn’t so good as most. I didn’t really like it. It didn’t have a happy ending. Well, it did if death is a happy ending, and a garden made of flowers planted as a memorial is a happy ending…

Janet looked at her thoughtfully. “You don’t look right yet,” she said.

I was remembering someone. A man, a youngish man, from the undertaker’s when my mum died.”

Did you fancy him?”

Constance frowned. “My mum had just passed away. I know we didn’t get on as well as we could have, but she was still my mum and I was upset. He was just being sympathetic and nice, that’s all.”

Of course.” Janet looked at her quite seriously. “And Frank?” she asked.

He drove me home,” sighed Constance, “I was feeling lousy so I was glad that he did. I made him some coffee.”

So you do fancy him?”

Constance stared at her. “I never said that!” she exclaimed.

But you were feeling sick as a pig and still went to the trouble of making him coffee? You fancy him all right!”

Constance looked down, examined the floor, bent down and picked up a scrap of waste paper.

I suppose I like him. A little bit, she thought, maybe just a bit but I didn’t and still don’t really know him….

© Peter Rogerson 23.01.18


12 Feb

Constance was feeling woozy.

Before coming to work that day she’d had a nightmare that had tortured the previous night, one in which she’d almost accepted her own death and during which a sadistic clergyman with the name of Brownadder had cursed her last remains from his pulpit, and now here she was, confused and feeling very grey, and facing a personable youngish man who also said that his name was Brownadder.

She had fainted, of course, but managed to pull herself round before her assistant Janet had done something irreversible like phoning for an ambulance because she had looked almost as dead as she had in her terrifying dream.

I’ve never heard of a Barley Brownadder, certainly not in my family,” the young man said when she had explained the thought processes that had led to her collapse, “and there’s no little old lady called Constance in a wheelchair either! And I don’t think (and I have sort of checked) that there are any more Brownadders anywhere near Brumpton. It’s a name I wish I’d never been blessed with. I didn’t half get teased at school when the teacher called out my name. Some kids even called me poosnake!! Even being called Frank was looked on as old fashioned.”

I think I’ll sign off sick for the rest of the day,” muttered Constance, “I feel wretched and it’s not all down to that vegan pie.”

I’ll take you home if you like,” offered Frank, “it’s the least I can do.”

I’ve got my car. I’ll be all right,” muttered a very wobbly Constance.

Are you sure?” asked Janet. “You look far from all right and not really fit to drive.”

Look,” said Frank Brownadder, “I guess your fainting and all that was down to me, or rather down to my name, so with your permission I’ll drive you home. I’m not at work today, which is a bonus, and unless your car is a military tank I can drive it.

Constance saw through the stars that were revolving behind her eyes to the sense in his words, and nodded. “Thanks,” she said, quietly, and he escorted her out of the library in what could only be described as a caring manner.

Let me see you safely indoors,” he said when they arrived back at Constance’s home. “I like the caravan,” he added as they walked to the front door. Constance had a neat little caravan pulled up onto her front garden and once or twice a year she would attach it to the tow-bar on her car and disappear for her holidays, never going far and always enjoying the change from her usual routine.

I’m all right now,” she said, unconvincingly.

Come on! I won’t hang around if you don’t want me to, but at least let me see that you’re settled. Would you like me to ring your doctor? You still look a bit green round the gills.”

She shook her head. “I don’t need a doctor,” she said as firmly as she could muster, and “Aren’t you supposed to be finding the love of your life on the Internet?” she asked.

He shook his head. “It was only a spur of the moment idea,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I don’t really trust ladies. Women. I’m sorry.” he blushed. “I had a bad experience,” he added weakly.

Come on in and tell me about it,” suggested Constance, thinking that Frank’s problems, whatever they might be, might take her mind off feeling sick.

There was a woman once…” he said. “Look, I think I’d better explain about me. I haven’t had much to do with what they call the fair sex, or anyone really. I didn’t mix with other kids when I was young. I just wasn’t popular and I hid inside myself instead of being outgoing. Anyway, when I was, what, sixteen or so, a girl, a few years my senior, someone I hardly knew, got pregnant and she accused me of being the boy who’d done it to her! I hadn’t. I promise you. I didn’t even know what it was I was supposed to have done to make her pregnant. But she spread the story far and wide. I’d lived a sheltered life, and there was no sex education at my school unless you count the reproduction of pansies, and I was lost!”

I understand,” said Constance, because she did.

Anyway, nobody would believe me and my dad disowned me. He said if I couldn’t keep myself to myself then he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. And I had no idea what he meant…”

What a mess,” nodded Constance, hoping that the story she was listening to was true and not a fabrication meant to hide a sordid past.

I went to live with my granny who was a lovely woman. My granddad had died and she said it would be nice to have a man about the house, not that I was a man yet. I’d only just left school and got a job at the Brumpton Courier, you know, the local paper, as a trainee reporter covering such things as cat and dog shows and little kids’ school sports days. It wasn’t much of a job, but it kept me busy.”

I probably read some of your stuff then,” smiled Constance, beginning to feel a great deal better.

I didn’t use my own name. I was fed up being mocked for being a poosnake! Instead I just called myself Smith. Frank Smith. It was a nice, anonymous name.

I don’t think I blame you for that,” ventured Constance. “Would you like coffee?”

That would be nice, but let me finish first while I’ve got the bit between my teeth!”

That’s all right.”

I wouldn’t have discovered the truth if I hadn’t worked there,” he said, smiling suddenly. “I was cutting and pasting things on an unimportant inside page when I spotted an announcement in the births column that caught my eye, and a small photograph. It was of the woman who’d wrecked my entire life unless there were two identical women with identical names, the one who’d put a chasm between me and my old man and made me afraid to even think of looking at a girl in case the same thing happened again. And she was holding her baby. Her lovely, beautiful black baby! And I’m, you might have noticed, white!”

That’s quite a story,” murmured Constance. “What did your father say?”

I told him and he laughed! He said working at the Courier as I did would have made it easy for me to fabricate a news item! And this was years before Donald Trump and his fake news!”

Have you made it up with him yet? Or, I mean, has he made it up with you?”

He’s dead,” Frank told her bitterly, “he got killed in one of those million to one accidents, playing golf on the corporation golf course, and someone hit a ball at him quite accidentally. It hit him on the head with huge force and he died soon after. It turned out that his skull was easily fractured because it was super-thin and had never grown properly. The golfer who hit him felt awful, but it wasn’t his fault. My dad was standing where nobody would expect a man to be standing, behind a bush and taking a leak! His own fault, you might say.”

So you never made it up with him … how sad,” sighed Constance, “how dreadfully, dreadfully sad. So would you like a coffee if you’ve got a few more minutes spare?”

I’ve got the rest of the day, and I’d love one,” said Frank, smiling.

What beautiful white teeth, thought Constance as she made her way slowly into the kitchen.

© Peter Rogerson 22.01.18