Digital Ischemia


Overdue part 2/2

Continuing from part 1

Actually here. Twenty-five years later. My face becomes fizzy with the thrill. I turn slowly in my seat. There is a resonant squeak. Definitely the seat; not me. There is also a loose edge of veneer on the table leg before me. My anxiety seems to work itself out by quietly rasping my toe against it.

He is instantly recognisable. I should say something. Preferably not flippant or smartarse. Never mind.
“Since my original stupid idea went so well, here’s another one: shall we speak as if this is 2005? What would you have told me then? How were you?”
He grins. “I just got married. You?”

Are you disappointed? Are you expecting me to be disappointed? It’s not like we were even friends.
He’s being succinct, so I babble. “I’m on number two boyfriend – number two serious – serious but not serious enough to get married. There were others, not serious.”
“I heard about that.” Always an alarming ambiguity.
“Heard what?”
“There was some… traffic to the upper floors in that house.”
I chuckle. “That was my year of being extrovert.”
“I was a bit envious.”
“I would have said you were discreet.”
His turn to chuckle.
“Do you still enjoy your curries?”
He smirks sheepishly. “In 2005 and now.”
I seem to be better at smalltalk, twenty-five years later.

What if? What if I had had this ability in 1995 – to converse by asking interested questions? It’s really so easy.
“I imagined you would have written a book… a rather celebrated and well-cited academic sort of book.”
“I am keen on books. Can I say that? It sounds bizarre. Anyway, I like ones that are already written.”
“Ah, you’re here for the… talk thing.” I riffle through my collection of flyers.
He is tickled with his own ingenuity. “Two birds; one sofa.” That was clever. A way out, should he need it.
“Why is this library promoting preposterous fiction?” Here it is: the flyer for today’s unpromising event.
“It’s supposed to be good.”
“You haven’t read it?” Slightly accusatory. Put him on the defensive. Toe still rasping. Making notes.
“I read the first two chapters then I realised I wasn’t paying attention; I was missing things—there are layers—so I’ve started again.”
“Sounds like hard work.”
“I think it’s more rewarding that way.”
An ideal opening.

“Does that apply to other creative art forms?” Will he accept the rather wide-angle, undergraduate premise? Casually I place the flyer between us, a little closer to him. Unconsciously he starts fiddling with it during a momentary ponder. Gratifyingly he launches what sounds like the defence of a thesis on motif and metaphor in classical sculpture. I am fascinated by such things: if you can decipher the code, you find so much more meaning. I absorb this considered discourse for later digestion. I have plenty more questions, and am not yet replete with cryptic ancient whores, but I have limited time. Having wasted fifteen years. Questions shelved.

As he concludes his executive summary, my discordant segué from sublime to ridiculous is to reach into my bag. One at a time, I pull out those Police tapes. He seems politely amazed. I lightly stack them on the table. My way of saying I didn’t forget about him.
“You had stopped listening to The Police, you said; in favour of?”
“Middle-aged, middle-of-the-road classical stuff mostly.”
“Anything in your mind just now?”
“I think it’s Mendelssohn. I’m not nerdy enough to know exactly which piece. Yours?”
“You won’t be surprised that, although that boyfriend didn’t last the decade, his musical influence did.”
“A bit heavier than The Police?”
I’m still absently making notes. Mostly about classical sculpture. I’ll come back to that.

While we’ve been talking, someone has shifted a couple of gigantic posters advertising the book event into an informal conclave. The seats nearer the prospective pulpit have a sprinkling of gatherers. We seem to be on the back fringe; undecided whether we are partaking or not. I like this non-pushiness of library people. Not presuming and setting up around us.

I stand. He’s surprised, even disappointed.
“You’re not staying for the talk?”
“Unfortunately I just can’t sit through that.”
“Can I give you— get your email?” Points for bravery. “I’d rather not make another appointment.” Points for justified jibe, humour, forgiveness. Not disappointed.
“I think you already have.” An alarming ambiguity?
The poor guy looks a little crestfallen. I indicate the flyer by his grasp and add, “you’re gratifyingly suggestible.”
I smile sweetly at his bewilderment, turn about and stalk over to the gap between posters. Not even a token podium.

Of course it isn’t a mean brush-off: on the flyer I passed him earlier I had written my email – my personal one, underneath the pseudonym and obligatory bio. Always scribbling notes. I’ll be lucky if he doesn’t bin it; it could be blowing around Edinburgh in a couple of hours.

One of the other leaflets I have appropriated: ‘Library Services’. What I’ve scratched on this one is a heavy 1960s style square around ‘Senior Acquisiter’ of something arcane. Nobody expects the Senior Acquisiter. So, not a massive detour from his usual environs. Also the reason he was here twenty-five years ago. He knew exactly where he was going. Professionally, certainly; in the way that I had absolutely no idea. So, it was a long shot in time; not so much in space.

I attempt a welcoming smile to greet the gathering. I can’t stop myself glancing to that furthest seat, to his expression of suspended horror. Can he think I’m some sort of literary protester who hijacks book events? Possibly. But only for a moment. The penny dreadful drops. I mouth, with the appropriate number of fingers aloft.
“Two birds; one sofa.”

If you were paying attention to the layers, you would have noticed gaps in the reported conversation. Not socially awkward. Omissions for ambiguity and even misdirection.
“What would you usually be doing at 2:30?”
“On a good day, I’d be in the archives with the white gloves on.”
“And yourself?”
“On a good day, I’d be transcribing my scintillating ideas from the previous evening.”

Underneath my email address I also wrote ‘Mendelssohn Symphony No.1 movement 3’. My pseudo-anxious seat-squeaking and veneer-rasping repeated a passable minuet phrase, if I do say so myself. Rasp, rasp; squeaky-squeak. Always making notes.

The Police Cassette Tapes – first three albums


Overdue part 1/2

In an utterly self-indulgent parallel universe…

Impossibly for several reasons, I’m sitting in the library on the 27th of July, 2020. I’m fifteen years late. At least. Fine? Are you trying to be funny? I’m not even sure of the date. I think it was July. Why was I in a university library in July? It was definitely the main, non-specific library; but why not my familiar science libraries? Because nothing ever happened in those.

Twenty-five years ago, 1995, I was sitting in a 1960s, very square, uncomfortable chair, in the library foyer, in its 1960s, very square building, in George Square, Edinburgh. Inside concrete geometry inside a summer day. I was hunched over a crumpled utilities bill, scratching notes for myself, probably organising tasks, because I was between shifts and needed to get the most out of my free daytime. Then I heard a familiar voice.

When I try to remember exactly when it was—knowing it’s pointless, but also knowing it’s a loose end which needs to be snipped off, because it can’t be tied up—when I try, I don’t remember anything. Later, when I’m not trying, my memory offers tantalising glimpses that it was late July, about 2:30 pm. I try to be sensible: assume it was after graduation in mid-July 1995, and it was a weekday, the last week was the 24th to the 28th. This year we have Friday the 24th and Monday the 27th. So?

This isn’t my first day here. This is day four. I’ve done the 20th, 21st and 24th already. Obviously, if I’m going to do this past-tense what-if neurosis, I’m not going to hang it all on a half-baked timestamp memory. I like to get the feel of a place. The resonance. Admittedly I don’t usually take days. And libraries are not so much resonant as muffled. Plus I have notes to make for an upcoming promotional event. Don’t really want to take days over that either.

But here I am, just as I was, hunched over my scribbling, only now I use an assortment of library flyers. Libraries are one of the last few places where paper is not a dirty word, where printers are not infernal devices.

On Friday a rather solicitous librarian approached me with the top half of her body at a pronounced angle of enquiry. Her quiet voice was wonderfully soothing and confidential.

“Are you OK? I’ve just, well, we’ve noticed you sitting here…”

These days you can’t assume students are all under 25, but still some people look blatantly out of place. Could I get away with ‘it’s a research project to test whether victims also return to the scene of the crime’?

I try to respond with quiet deference. “Oh dear, am I a security concern?” I had got around needing the usual security papers by remaining in the free access area immediately inside the door. Plus I wanted to remain incognito.

The librarian was more accommodating than the furniture. I tried to give her a short version but it still required explanation. A lot of explanation.

“How romantic.”

“Oh, no, we weren’t even friends, like I said. I just feel bad now for half-suggesting the rendezvous then half-forgetting and half-not being able to anyway.” Flimsy.

What would I say if he actually appeared? An apology would be a good start. “I’m sorry I’m late.” Very late. An explanation then. “I was in (A) prison, (B) a Swiss sanatorium, or (C) the bath.” Flippant doesn’t seem right. Flippant smartarse was where I left it.

We had shared the same flat, student house, for two years, then our accommodations had naturally diverged. We weren’t friends, but now I think I would appreciate him more. Because, of course, I’ve changed but he remains exactly the same. After a couple more years at uni I was still awkward, socially inept, but at least I’d learned some smartarse retorts since he’d last seen me. So as my limited smalltalk rapidly expired, I tried to end with a wacky flourish.

“We should do this again.”

He smiled, half genuine, half going along with the daftness. “We should meet back here in… ten years? The same date, 2005.” He seemed to enjoy the joke.

Was I serious? Did I really intend to honour that appointment? Just even for the hell of it? Ten years is a long time at any age. Thirty years is a very long time, especially to still have three music tapes. Museum pieces. Curatable cassettes. No longer played; I still have a tape player but no longer attached to speakers.

That’s what started this off: music. Always music. My emotional therapy and consolidation of lessons learned. Something on the radio reminded me of these tapes, long untouched but kept, treasured. He was thoughtful enough to give them, no longer his taste, but he had noticed mine.

It’s easy now, twenty-five years later, to cyber-stalk someone. But that’s not what I want to do. I want to actually stalk him. No, not that either. Just cauterise that loose end. Apologise to the place, the space for not thinking through the consequences and move on.

Having decided three days is not quite enough effort, on day four my washing machine protests an accumulation of fluff in some convoluted piece of piping by leaking water all across the kitchen floor. Something similar delayed me attending an appointment thirty years ago, or perhaps I invented that excuse… Mopping up this time means I miss my usual train, so I turn up, once again, late. Perhaps the universal judiciary will appreciate the effort.

I have barely dropped my bag beside my usual cuboid banquette when the attentive librarian scuttles up with her hushed tones. She seems jittery. I can tell because the two mugs of vaporising mud in her hands are mesmerisingly close to spilling. Perhaps my time is up.

“I’m so glad you’re here. I thought you might not come today.”

“Laundry debacle. Are you joining me?” Immediately I feel ashamed because obviously neither drink is for me; she has probably just interrupted her own break out of concern for my clearly unhinged welfare.

“No! No.” Yet she puts the mugs on the bench between seats. “Don’t go anywhere!” Now I think she has called somebody professional to mop me up. She adds, “I mean: you should stay for the talk! About a book…” that seems to be all she has; not enticing. She dashes away to a desk and taps a few computer keys. Probably re-orienting the CCTV cameras at me.

She returns at full tilt and alights opposite me, but remains twitchily alert. She indicates some book promotion posters.

“I’m keeping an eye out for our Host.” I’m keeping an eye out for a GHost.

She confidentially murmurs about someone else she or a colleague remembers waiting, or at least sitting patiently, a few summers ago. I nod politely, after all I am patiently waiting. The least I deserve while playing out this feeble non-drama is to listen to somebody else’s. I try to pay attention; I really do. There’s just her soporific murmuring and the soft bump of books.

In a moment, the background rustle of respectful readers resolves into the scuff of slippers, worn down on the inner sides of the heels, crossing ancient kitchen vinyl floor. Instantly recognisable, as is the voice approaching behind me. And what does he say?

“Sorry I’m late.”

Concludes at part 2


Grey Eyes

Filed under: Essays — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 10:50

There seem to be a lot of fictional characters out there with grey eyes. Are there any real people with this attribute? I have seen blue, turquoise, green, amber, brown, and intermediate shades and flecky or ringed combinations. I see these with my own mongrel eyes which appear to be teal flecked with shitey broun. But never grey.

“Her hair was dark red, but her eyes grey, and light at whiles and yet at whiles deep” William Morris, The Well at the World’s End
“The serious grey eye possessed for me a strong charm” Charlotte Brontë, The Professor
“His eyes were steely grey and very solemn” John Buchan, Mr Standfast
“A thick red beard, piercing grey eyes, a nose without nostrils, and marks of the hot iron on his forehead and on his cheeks” Aleksandr Pushkin, The Daughter of the Commandant

Does this fall into the ‘poetic licence’ category along with ‘cerulean’, ‘limpid’ and ‘rheumy’? I’m all for keeping the rich variety of language alive, but not words that never get used other than in this exclusive linguistic cul-de-sac. Is ‘grey’ an exaggeration like ‘chiseled features’? Does ‘grey’ mean something else in this context? Is there some literary quality to alluding to a genre while departing from the literal?

“Glorious was his face, and his grey eyes gleamed with wrath and mastery as he spake in a clear voice” William Morris, The Well at the World’s End
“Very low forehead, very diminutive and vindictive grey eyes, somewhat Tartar features, rather flat nose, rather high cheekbones” Charlotte Brontë, The Professor
“She is delicately fair, with fine grey eyes and dark eyelashes” Jane Austen, Lady Susan
“Unfortunately, in his dark-grey eyes there was an absence of any definite idea” Ivan Goncharev, Oblomov
“Aksynia had naïve grey eyes which rarely blinked” Anton Chekhov, In the Ravine

If I read another character description with grey eyes I may sink my teeth into the e-paper.

As I ponder this important question, I notice that the examples I have are from novels at least a hundred years old. Why am I so soaked in medium-ancient literature? Because it’s in the public domain, of course, and I’m a Gutenberg glutton, or skinflint. But there may be another key feature of the hundred year old literary world: after all, they existed in monochrome, didn’t they?


The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 12/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

I was fizzing with excitement as I approached Svendsen’s glasshouse. My hand floated to the door handle of its own accord. It was a turner, but so slack as to be redundant. The shiny, worn push-plate above it had survived better. I adored these and the missing paint from the edges. Carried away by the romance, I expected to be greeted like an old friend, a favourite customer or a revered benefactor. No-one made eye-contact.

That is to say all eye-contact was with the near end of assorted binoculars and telescopes. All focus was on the ridge of small hills. Ah, the birds. A party of twitchers? No cakes, then.

I tentatively enquired, “what have you got?” Then a final inspiration struck: “Dunlins?”

Drumhaugh’s dunlins?! I really was too excited. “Twelve?”

“Naw. Drumlins.”

I hadn’t seen that coming. And yet I had seen every single one of them coming. Every single one of the twelve of them, lining the blasted glen, as I came up the road: ‘mounds or small hills in a group.’

We, that is to say, they watched the small hills for a considerable time. I sniffed among the neglected foliage: I was prepared to lick a tropical flower if it tasted of vanilla.

Eventually I pinpointed the rear of Svendsen’s head and casually enquired about the provenance of the nimps.

“They kindae go with the territory.”

“Because it’s such a wonderful wilderness?”

Svendsen turned to look at me like I was half-baked with bodged icing.

“Because you’re living in a hag’s hoose?”

I stuttered, “It’s a fishing hut!”

Another ornithological obsessive cried, “crone’s cottage!”

I continued bleating. “It’s called ‘ha’e grouse’ or something…!?”

“Hag house.”

Obvious now. Rotten, crooked… ‘h’ becomes ‘r’. “I’m leaving tomorrow anyway.”

“Dinnae think so.” I didn’t know which of them said this, or rather mumbled into the recesses of the opticals.

“Who’s going to stop me?! Imaginary creatures twelve centimetres tall?!”

Svendsen quietly muttered, “try them.” At some unseen signal he continued, “but first, try this.”

There followed the smack and shudder of a door over-opening, an angry rustle of foliage, and a small group cheer of self-congratulation at disaster averted. An enormous celebratory meal of a cake, with several courses served in several articulated constructions, lurched into view, borne upon several pairs of very small legs. Woohoo!

On the twelve days of Christmas my new hov-el gave to me…? I’ll get back to you.


For two SPs.


The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 11/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

My advent aviary and I enjoyed our afternoon sleigh rides so much that we have continued our daily strolls along the glen tracks since the snow melted. Not very far initially, what with inappropriate footgear and, well, feet. Consequently I exhumed a pallet and filched a couple pairs of ladder wheels from the shed emporium. We now have a wheeled sleigh with more comfy straw and we trundle until I get tired of the rattling. I pull the affair with a length of twine. I like the walk and have no desire to sit in bird shit as the nine of us free-wheel into a bog.

We headed downstream.

Bad choice. Error. There were probably only one or two, but they sounded like a whole herd of rabid cats in heat. Nimps banishing the last vestiges of their hangovers with the absolute worst tiny bagpipe-playing.

I had a nauseating vision of the laddies troupe reeling to this cacophony. Yet they would need to be going about the place pretty soon to prepare their grand finale. Santa, the hens, the collared doves and I about-turned and instead made a small foray in the opposite direction.

We found ourselves on the road, as the sound seemed to carry along the water like Sirens wailing. Before long we reached the limit of Svendsen’s estate. His sign was in much better condition: Drumshaugh. Drums, eh? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We wandered in, curious about our new-found favourite neighbour’s activities the day before the party. It all looked quite different coming from the other side, and what I thought was the mill turned out to be a bakery, but on a scale of stupendous proportions. The smell had us all salivating; me for the vanilla; them for the grain.

We tilted toward the first window, pressing our noses/beaks in the traditional fashion. Through the steam we could make out industrial scale conveyor belts of cakes, tarts, pies and patisseries. A collective of feathered confectioners attended the production line… with pointy ears.

What were these fellows: Turnstones? Snipe? Goblins? I’ll look it up, but what was more remarkable was how they were skilfully operating shiny chrome levers with their long, elegant toes, whilst manoeuvring shiny chrome nozzles with their long, elegant beaks, thereby producing the most enchanting rainbow of sugar-based decorations. Cakes of all sizes were being adorned with the fanciest of furls and flora. A thoroughly diabetes-inducing team icing effort.

Elven Sandpipers Piping.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas concludes at part 12


The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 10/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Woke up far too early. Excited. Drat. Festive spirits probably dripping through the roof. But I was confident against all probability that today would be a quiet and amusing-encounter-free day.

After fearlessly performing feeding duties, I took a wee wander around the yard; what had seemed neglected and empty to begin with was growing on me. Things I hadn’t noticed before began to seem enchantingly wild: an old oak tree trunk enmeshed in lattice of ivy stems. I peered.

Something I was definitely sure there hadn’t been: a little fold of sparkly pink paper. At a node where two ivy stems crossed, the postage stamp sized origami was carefully tucked to sit as a diamond backdrop. I admired the shapes, the lines and the weaving; the pink, grey and green. But these were all a mental smokescreen: my hand was reaching for the paper before I even admitted my curiosity.

Blank. Unfolded, flipped about, held up to the sky where the sun should be. No message.

Folded or oriented? Origami after all? Geometric puzzle? Was the message even actually intended for me? Disappointed, I furtively glanced about, then re-folded the paper and returned it to its position. I tried staring at it from different angles and distances.

From about twenty metres away the artwork was pretty fuzzy, but I caught the blur of movement. I strode back up to the trunk and practically bumped my nose into the arse of the mover. The nimp was wrestling the paper that was bigger than his arm. He muttered invectives, but these seemed less about his task and more about the halo of flies buzzing around his head. He noticed my shadow.

His head flicked around with a resentful expression that clearly said “mine.” The pink paper came free, he pressed it over his face like a flannel and inhaled. He then crumpled it into his mouth, chewed briefly and swallowed.

The nimp scurried down the ivy lattice like a sailor navigating rigging and disappeared into a root crevice. A phone was ringing.

I reached the golden mobile just before Narcisse swept it off the bunker onto the floor with her tail feathers. The fascia already looked lightly clawed; apparently not a hens-free model. Ho ho.

The caller was Svendsen inviting me to a party on Saturday. Of course he knew about the pink paper diamond. Nimps can’t read, so he communicates with them via a trail of vanilla or other bakery scents. That was some hangover to sanction eating cinnamon-doused paper.

And so it was quiet. As always follows from nimp laddies carousing.

Tender heids a-lowping.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 11


The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 9/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

I awoke to ice crystals whisking the glass. I bravely extended one arm to open the curtain and watch the soothing swirl. Everything became transfixingly silent.

As the snowfall abated, I emerged to attend les poulets Française. A glint of movement drew my eyes straight to the pens, but it seemed to be just a snow sparkle. As I trudged nearer, there appeared very small footprints, forming a loop. Neither bird nor mammal. Reptiles unlikely to be abroad in snow.

Nicole and Narcisse were cluckling habitually. Noelle, however, was perturbed. Unsettled. I respectfully rummaged in her nest, wondering if I had accidentally introduced an uncomfortable stone or similar indignity with yesterday’s fresh straw.

A very small voice complained, “ooh-yah!”
I retrieved a warm, round, egg-sized object. Not an egg. Rather startled, I let it roll back on to the straw. There it unfolded to about twelve centimetres high, expressed its own startlement, emitted a very quiet “shite” and vanished into the woodwork.

I decided to walk the road solo as the promised convolutions would suit my cogitations. Nimps. Mysterious bird migrations? Nimps. Other random translocations? Nimps. Nimps could explain the lot. Mischief. Magic. How inevitably seasonal.

I turned back to the hut. I missed the entire scenery in reverse as well. But for the first time I noticed a rotten, crooked sign beside the rotten, crooked fence by the hut. “Hagrouse”. Bit of Scots there? Theme of country hunting? My thoughts returned to things that go whump in the night. And clatter.

If I timed this exactly right, turned off all the lights, pretended to be away to bed as usual… Tum-ti-tum… Snuck back to the kitchen door, turned the handle so very quietly… Stepped silently into the yard…

How does the verse go again?
When up on the roof there arose such a clatter,
As yon dafty nimps were aye gettin’ battered.

Something like that. And there, on the roof, in the statutory moonbeam: a ring of tiny rollicking revellers. Ice crystals whisking their glasses too. Plenty whisky-ing their glasses.

Nimp laddies dancing.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 10


The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 8/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Svendsen was a fellow feather fancier, although not as sordid as that sounds. He said he collected them. At first I thought he meant for shooting or just for having captive. But after being caught seemingly stringing some up, I tried not to jump to conclusions.

Indeed I had misunderstood: the ‘collecting’ was a sort of passive magnetism as the assorted birds arrived as refugees from neighbouring estates, and were welcomed with food and shelter. And were free to leave. I suspect some of my recent companions had wandered over from his hostelry. Annoyingly I found all this heart-warming.

In any case, we were all invited over for New Year tea; to share, not to be roasted for.

Svendsen had advised that we follow the river upstream, rather than the road, which was more circuitous. I should stress that I stuck firmly to the river bank. The gentle incline was a decent work-out and none of us were water-going.

As we passed alongside a wider, slower-moving section, three ducks—–one drake——kept pace with us, hugging the far bank, weaving in and out of the weeds and exposed tree roots. In fact, they seemed surprisingly purposeful in their speed and direction. As we wound upstream a regular splashing——bigger than any of our efforts——grew louder.

The looming of a giant wooden wheel suggested that we were approaching chez Svendsen. We pulled up to admire the renovated mill-wheel. Svendsen had created a New Lanark for the 21st century: birds of all shapes and sizes were offered not just food and shelter, but also employment as water-mill engineers. And they made flour that made very nice buns.

The vista was bird-boggling. Like one of those tedious maths puzzles where you have to work out where to place a minimum number of individuals around a building so that the number in view from any window etc. I tried to focus on ducks. Some ducks appeared to be clocking-off and heading back downstream. Our three companions appeared to be starting their shifts. Somewhere in all that milling…

Eight mallards milling? Any creaking you may hear is not the mill-wheel, but the sound of puns being stretched to the limit.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 9


The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 7/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Yesterday’s inaugural sleigh run was a tame affair and thoroughly exhausted the flat area around the hut. Having converted all that snow to an ice rink, and itching for a little reckless speed, we set out along the track seeking a slope.

Obviously we are surrounded by slopes, being situated in a glen. However, we were after ones that went down. Not really concerning ourselves with the having to come back up again afterward.

Entering unexplored territory, the fluffters seemed quite content as passengers, and the dove made occasional navigational recces ahead. What she’d seen remained secret.

The landscape unfolded slowly until, as we emerged through a half-dozen spindly old pines, we spied a water body, a loch, well, pond, well, to be entirely truthful: a swampy puddle. Not fussed. Downhill all the way and remember to brake before your feet get wet.

We wasted no time lining up on the banking. Santa, the hens and the dove took the forward positions; I wedged myself in the back, feeling much like ballast. I rocked the sleigh back-and-forth a little, checking the grease.

“Brace yourselves, girls!”
We were off. Accelerating through degrees of amusement, excitement and mild palpitations. How wonderfully refreshing to feel the wind through your feathers. And where I was sitting the feathered breeze was not unpleasant. The scenery moved fast enough to be interesting and the ride was sufficiently cushioned by straw. Certainly there was enough interest to keep my mind well off the subject of swans.

Two-thirds of the way to the pond, my glance took in a blackened, splayed, dead tree trunk. In the fraction of a second that my brain took to suggest that a tree was unlikely to grow in the middle of a pond, one of its branches moved. Instinctively I dropped both my feet off the sleigh and into the snow, unafraid of snapping like a wishbone, and waited for the braking effect. Left foot won, we slewed around, and were all gently deposited on a white crispy blanket, to the right of the sleigh.

I wobbled upright, and re-orientated myself. The dark, sodden human figure in the pond flailed again. I frantically grasped at the rope and set off toward the edge of the pond, pausing only briefly when the end that was still attached to the front of the sleigh yanked me back.

I was watching my feet so carefully that when I reached the edge of the pond and looked up, the figure had vanished. The feathered entourage soon caught up, making assorted sympathetic noises. I gathered the rope in an effort at preparedness. I tried to persuade the collared dove to take the end out across the water à la sleigh-lasso. Tricky when she could see no destination. I willed the figure to resurface.

“Are you trying to drown the bird?”
The voice completely startled me, and had to repeat itself. When I calmed myself down from full alert, and explained unconvincingly about the dove and the noose, my newly-discovered neighbour introduced himself——Svendsen——and his penchant for wild swimming. Waving not drowning.

Svendsen swimming.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 8


The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 6/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Things often go whump in the night. Two or three days later I discover a fallen box or a crockery avalanche or small dazed bird. I now had a surfeit of dazed birds. We were getting used to each other.

The morning seemed bright so I got cracking with feeding duties. Reversing my new grain supply trolley (mini wheelbarrow) out the back door, my heel stepped in something crunchy and soft. Not a creature, thankfully. Snow. A considerable whumpful, having built up on the roof edge beyond teetering point. Apparently that north-easter had collided with the more usual sodden south-wester. Abandoned wheels. Inappropriate vehicle.

The chickens were most patient as I brought their grain in unsteady scoopfuls. This day was Narcisse’s turn to present her effort. However, her egg was more a cylinder; a tub with a screwed lid. I unscrewed. A generous dollop of goup. Slightly melted across the top by warm nether regions. I cautiously sniffed. Goose fat. That one would be past her laying days then. Cooked.

I turned toward the hut. An ominous shadow fell across the sun. Something on the roof was eclipsing the sun. Something new. Tricky to identify, what with the snow albedo and the sun corona. A scintillating lateral thought prompted me to walk around the other side of the hut and look from there.

A sleigh. All wooden curlicues and shiny varnish. Perfectly balanced on the roof apex. Rather seasonal. And impressively quietly landed.

I completed the feeding round with my mind on the roof. I spent the rest of the morning fretting over whether the sleigh was less unsafe to be left where it was or to be dislodged. By the end of lunchtime the allure of the snow had won. I hoped the pilot wasn’t wanting it back just yet.

Santa Partridge, and Nicole, Narcisse and Noelle were persuaded into a makeshift bunker constructed badly from empty grain sacks and old planks at a safe distance. Two collared doves were co-opted to lasso the front of the sleigh. I cleared an escape path and tentatively pulled the rope. A crunch, a scrape, a shuddering crash and a lot of luck.

One of the collared doves found this such a thrill she alighted on the ‘windshield’ and perched there like a mascot. Partridge and chickens settled with a little stability straw for corners. Tow rope sorted. Somewhat resistant to gliding initially, but I’m sure you’ve figured the solution to that more quickly than me.

Six go greased-sleighing? Ah, who cares?

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 7

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