Oct 30, 2011

Let Your Typewriter Help You Beat Writer's Block!

Tess at Willow Manor works assiduously to deliver weekly prompts to fire up our muses.  This week, a . . a . . whatever is this thing?  A typewriting machine?  How very 20th century!

   Here's a great tip I read somewhere.  Look at the layout of your Mac, typewriter or PC keyboard - the alphabet characters I mean. Never mind the "~" and "\" and "≠" and so on.  Mine begins "Q W E R T Y"   Not that it matters if yours is different. Given the choice I wouldn't have gone for that particular sequence, but applestore.co.uk had nothing else. So much for the genius of Steve Jobs. 
   Now . . you can't think what to write? O.K. Just write a passage, anything at all that strikes you as long as it makes sense - not always easy. Use 26 words, no more, no fewer, the first letter of each word to be the letters on your keyboard taken in order, left to right, top row to bottom row.  Seriously, if you can do that, you can do anything.

"Quite When Eric Realized That Yvonn'es Umbrella Imploding Presaged A Disaster Few Guessed. His Juggling Kites, Lawnmowers, Zoophiles, Xylophones Caused Various Belated Moaning Noises < > ?"

  On second thoughts I think I prefer Writer's block . . . . and anyway, the "M" and the "N" are the wrong way round.

Oct 26, 2011

To All Who Drive 4 x 4's

Tess at Willow Manor offers this monochrome picture to get your brains in gear . . .

Go by push-bike! You
run bikes on scrambled egg. Why
drive that Ford "High-Q"?

Oct 23, 2011

Here There Be Dragons

Jinsky offers us an IN TANDEM dragon picture to breathe fire into our poetry and the UK sea-areas.

Dragons don't like South East Iceland.
Far too cold, and not a nice land -
not like the nearer Hebrides 
where dragons live on toasted cheese.
They smoke fish daily in area Bailey,
whereas in North and South Utsire(*)
they're fairly fierce and sailors fear a
serpent with a blazing smile
blowing fiery gales from far Fair Isle. 
In Faroes, Forties, Fisher, Viking -
beware! Dragons could take a liking
to your mid-life muffin. They just might 
toast it and take a German Bight.
But in Forth and Tyne and Thames and Humber
the dragons lunch on sea-cucumber.
In Dogger, famous for its Bank
their fireflames many lighters sank
but their scaly cousins in area Thames
are cool peace-loving dragogems 
whose flaming breath warms beaches over
from Portland to Wight cliffs of Dover.
Lang syne in Plymouth, Francis Drake
used dragonian fire-power to bake
Spain's Armada. Light winds on Monday
mean dragon shoals from area Lundy
go cruising up St. George's channel
(It's not the "Irish Sea" That's flannel!)
and when they find the damsel's Trusty
Knight his armour will be all rusty
from salty water leaking in
with the Gulf Stream from cold Malin.
Just one Sole dragon, a real loose cannon
lives by himself in area Shannon.
He's called Fitzroy. 
He's a naughty boy, 
but if the cap Fitz, Roy will wear it
he's on his own. No need to share it . . .
In Trafalgar, Biscay and Fastnet
I think you might meet dragons, yet -
In Rockall 
there are none at all.

(*) pron. with 3 syllables; Ut-see-ra

Oct 20, 2011

There is - or used to be - a grammatical rule that said "ONLY" always qualifies the word that immediately FOLLOWS it. This rule is much neglected these days, and usually this does not matter, the intended sense being obvious despite the "ONLY" being misplaced.  But sometimes . . .


Only I wear Versace in my dreams.
My dream-companions buy clothes in Primark.

I only wear Versace in my dreams.
I do not shred or eat shirts for a lark.

I wear only Versace in my dreams,
except when I run naked through the park.

I wear Versace only in my dreams
perhaps because when dreaming, it is dark.

I wear Versace in only my dreams
but not in yours, or hers. All now should mark                                
I wear Versace in my only dreams.
Putting the "only" there would mean I'm bark-
-ing!  Can I afford Versace? In my dreams!

(I have offered this poem to the site "Imaginary Garden with Toads" Other entries can be seen by following the link)

Oct 18, 2011

Third Campaigner Challenge

Rachael Harrie's marvellous third campaigner challenge asks for a beach centered story of 300 words. For full details, follow the link.

Ozzy Simpleforth, King of Deckchairs

  "Oh listen to the sea and smell the salty breeze!" Simpleforth fought with a deckchair. "One can almost taste it! And hark! The crashing breakers fling spray to make the chilled skin tingle." That the deck chair was winning seemed beyond doubt. Simpleforth's face appeared through a fold of striped canvas. "Truly the seaside is a sybantec experience, antidote to a life entacised by ennui. But Heavens! I miss my bucket and spade, dearest. How could I forget such indispensable seaside accessories?"
  "No need for sarcasm," from Dearest. "Fed up already, are we?"
  "What's so stimulating about miles and miles of sand followed by miles of ocean." The deck chair, erect at last, creaked as he slumped. "One must keep one's fingers away from the joints. A man can lose valuable digits. God did not give me fingers to be sacrificed to overzealous deckchairs."
  "Stop fretting, for Goodness sake. Relax."
 "Look folks! Simpleforth relaxed, and partner, enjoying the holiday of a lifetime. Can you smell something?"
  "What now?
  "I have ten fine toes to wiggle in the sand," he said, sniffing, "As do you. And even though the lone and level sands stretch far away, we manage to choose a pitch next to a heap of donkey dung!"
  "Alright, Ozymandias. The Wastopaneer will be along soon to shovel it up. Now shut up. I'm reading my kindle."
  "And with a final fart, the donkey trotted off hee-hawing 'Look on my works ye mighty, and despair!' "
  "You're a disgust."
 Something deep in the deckchair's latticework cracked like a pistol shot and, still bearing its occupant, collapsed, a colossal wreck, onto the sand.
  "Blast my bollocks!"
  Dearest concentrated on her kindle, lips set in a mirth-concealing line. "Still got all your fingers?" she asked, a wholly false note infecting her solicitude.

(300 words)

(Apologies to Mr. Percy Bysshe Shelley.)

Oct 17, 2011

Magpie Tales#87

Tess at Willow Manor offers a tasty picture for this week's Magpie prompt.

In the Still of the Night

The boys finish work at one in the morning, roll down the shutters, the noise like bones rattling, and go, laughing and joking to their homes, a night-club, the whorehouse.  We wait till the sounds fade. Now is the time. We stretch our cramped legs and wings, flex our roasted necks. The Dance Mistress says "All ready?" We cackle our assent. We slip out of our headrings. Each relieves her neighbour of her shackles.  We form a circle on the restaurant floor. We have only one week left to prepare for the International Peking Duck Synchronised Dance Festival, telecast world-wide to an audience of millions.  The Mistress puts a coin in the juke box and selects our usual warm-up music - "The Ugly Duckling."  We particularly like the line about "feathers all stubby and brown." Stubbing and browning happen during the roasting.  And off we go! Four waddles to the left, four to the right. We bow towards the centre of the circle, then about face and shake our butts toward the centre, the way ducks do. Now we stretch our necks - in the jargon of duck synchro-dancing "haute de la tete flambĂ©" and quack for several measures in time to the music.  Someone is slightly flat. We start again. Practise makes perfect. Once warmed up, the Mistress fires up the juke box with "The Dance of the Little Swans" from "Swan Lake" (All ducks live in hope!) This is a "pas de quatre" and if you check out the picture, you'll see there's just enough of us.  Tonight Daisy Duck is keeping cave and when she suddenly quacks "Ici en approche!" we freeze and the Mistress kills the music until the passer-by has passed by. So the rehearsal goes on until dawn when we must flap back onto the counter and shackle ourselves.  Soon the boys will return, sharpening their carving knives in anticipation of customers looking for their breakfasts. Which of us will survive?  Who will need to be replaced?  Once we are back in our headrings the Mistress whispers "Tutus tonight, ladies. Dress rehearsal!" And there's not one of us who doesn't pray that she will be spared. 

Oct 13, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction 14th. October

G-Man tests our writerly resources once again. In precisely 55 words, delight and amaze him!

Dress Sense

"Mangold, why do you come to work without any trousers?  No shoes or socks either. And the tea-trolley lady tells me  - no underpants.  Yet your shirt, jacket and necktie are perfect.  I know FlashFriday Software is relaxed about dress, but really! Explain!"
"My lifestyle coach advises me always to keep my feet firmly on the ground..."


Oct 12, 2011

Fall In for the Willow Manor Ball!

Weell . . . thanks tae Tess her the invite an' a the work that gies inty the Ba'.

Am no much of a dancer. Am telt ye , though, wan o' ma great talents is fer throwin' folk oot the windaes. So non o' yer lip about ma kilt, ye wee Sassenach trachles in yer fancy pants an' yer freakin' bow ties.  See an' a do the Hielan' Fling, By Gawd yous'll see a sight fer sair ee'n.  See an' ye want tae throw me ooot the perty fer bein' coorse . . . it'll tak three o' ye!  Wan Scoatsman's mair'n a match for three dreeps fell oota Strictly Come Dancin', am tellt ye!
But as a wee concession to a' ye genteelfowk . .  ah'll leave ma bagpipes in ma motor, O.K?

Oct 6, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction 6th. October

G-Man's "Thursday Portrait" (5th. October 2011) made reference to a renowned figure from 20th century European history. I thought I would take up the theme for a Friday Flash Fiction, where G-Man expects us to restrict our ravings to 55 words, no more, no fewer.

Ambition Thwarted

"So, Herr Hitler. Your job application?"
"You speak German! Big help. Skills?"
"And can you hang wallpaper?"
"Vallpaper schmallpaper!  Ich bin artisticher painter, Schweinhund!"
"Nothing doing. Sorry, Herr Hitler."
"Gotterdammerung!  How about Reichchancellor of Germany und invade Poland mit panzers und goosesteppungensvolk? Und schlacht.(*)"
(Exits raving, with raised arm salute)
"Pandas? Geese? Next crackpot!"

55 words, excluding title. 
(*) schlacht = battle (lit. slaughter)

Oct 3, 2011

Magpie Tales#85

The Elephant in the Room

Simpleforth is attending his first tutorial as a Freshman student at Brasstoff College, Oxford, UK. His tutor, Professor Headwind, has brought a picture to the tutorial, artist unknown, (as the kindly Tess Kincaid points out).

   There are six or so students in the tutorial group and one of them, not Simpleforth, says "Oh Sir, my granny had wallpaper like that in her downstairs loo!(*)"
   Professor Headwind (pron: wind as in watch, not wind as in gale-force) ignores this early contribution and begins. "Ladies and Gentlemen - "  The six or so gentlemen look at each other, but seeing no ladies(**), give their attention to the picture. 
   Headwind continues. "Today we shall address one of the central problems of philosophy, which has bedevilled our colleagues in the scientific disciplines since discipline . . " A faraway expression crosses Headwind's face. Then he continues "Er, no, erm, beg pardon, I mean since scientific investigation began. To whit.  Is absence of evidence evidence of absence?"
   Again the students look at each other.
  "Is there an elephant in the room?"  Headwind looks round the group, who remain (which remains?) silent
  "Very well then," Headwind continues. He places the picture face down on the desk so that it cannot be seen.  "Is there an elephant in the room?  Hmm?  Hmm? Anyone?"
  The students stare at Headwind.  Simpleforth decides to take a lead.
 "Sir, there never was an elephant in the room. There was, however, an image of an elephant in the room, but now we cannot see it."
 "Excellent. Excellent! You are Mr . . . . ?"
  Headwind consults a list. "Oh!  A grammar school boy. Hmm. Unusual. Well. Never mind. Let's get off. Sorry. On. Let's get on."
   The students exchange glances. There is some restrained tittering.
   "Suppose I had not let you see the picture before asking 'Is there an elephant in the room'?"
  "Sir, we would have said 'No. There isn't an elephant in the room' Then you would have shown us the picture and said something like 'Ah. But there is!  Here it is.' "
  "Well done, Simpleforth.  You're beating me . . " - the same glazed expression - "beating me to the point. Which is?"
   "Q.E.D.," says Simpleforth. "Absence of evidence is not  always or necessarily evidence of absence. And I don't want to truncate the discussion, sir, but I think that next you're going to tell us that just because no one has ever seen an elephant with wings doesn't prove that . .  "
   Now Headwind senses that Simpleforth is a dangerous subversive and far too smart to ever be a successful philosopher.  "Truncate the discussion?  You said 'truncate', Mr.Simpleforth, grammar school boy. Are you trying to be funny?"
   "Me sir? No sir."
  "I can see I'll have my to keep my eye on you, young man! Well, thank you Ladies and Gentlemen. Till next week . . "
   Professor Headwind seizes his picture and sweeps out of the room. The other five or so students gather round Simpleforth, offering coffees or a swift half-pint, and one says "Wonder what the next half-wit will go on about?" and another asks "Who said his granny had an elephant in her loo?"
  At this moment, a tall blonde female - actually Headwind's secretary(***) - who had been hiding behind the desk, shows herself and says. "Hi, Guys! Do I look like an elephant?"

(*)    Go here, oh Disbelievers! There are more things in Heaven and Earth . .  . etc
(**)   But have a care, dear reader. In the context, anything is possible.
(***) That's Headwind's story.

Many more in-flight pachyderm stories at Magpie Tales

Oct 2, 2011

Magpie Tales#84

Tess tempts us with this teasing prompt . . . but I'm too late, I expect, sooooo . . .

The Woman in the Rain Pleads . . 

"Tess, dear Tess, 'tis Sunday again! Oh please, PLEASE, post the prompt for Magpie#85!"