The Derbyshire Question

SlasherSEngland was not yet an anarchist utopia, but under Larry’s random and light pawed guidance it was becoming co-operative.   Its people were quietly becoming self reliant, involved and innovative – and in some small way, happy.

Superficially Limehousesailortown was unchanged.   Steamers, clippers and tramps still jostled for a place at the quayside; bars, stews and music halls still spewed rowdy, boisterous, swaying parties of intoxicated matelots out onto the narrow streets; ships’ cats still slunk in and out of dingy catnip dens.   Homesick seafarers still sought temporary solace in companionable, rentable substitutes for their dimly remembered mothers and sweethearts; but somewhere along the line the claustrophobic alleyways had lost their edginess.

The penthousebedsit was pretty much the same as well.   A kettle whistled on the range, the little black and white TV set was showing Land and Freedom – its brown Bakelite case had become loose and an eerie mauve glow escaped around the cathode ray tube.   Monochrome posters of Ernesto Guevara and Albert Camus eyed each other from opposing walls.   Ginsbergbear was lounging in an old armchair, feet up on the mantelpiece and catnip shag dangling from an as yet unlit Peterson briar, Boz was trying to concentrate on the latest, slightly crumpled, copy of International Catnip Times whilst Phoebles pointed out good bits that he had written and Ferdy, having warmed the teapot, was toasting pikelets under a small gas grill. The pals were relaxing between adventures when…

There came a coded rap on the door.   Phoebles opened it and Slasher McGoogs was standing before him.   He was wearing a pair of St Michael’s aertex Y-fronts over a cerise spandex hooded one-piece.   The hood formed a close fitting mask over his upper face and a serpentine gilded S was emblazoned on his chest.

“B****r me!” expleted Boz.

Ferdy raised an eyebrow, “I know the nation’s dress code is somewhat more relaxed under Larry’s leadership,” He glanced pointedly at Phoebles’ voluminous Smarty-spotted trousers and rainbow bracers, “but surely there are still limits.”

“It’s not easy, suddenly finding you’re a superhero after all those years of covert operating.”   Slasher stalked into the room and perched on the edge of the dining table.

“Er, I’m not sure the table is all that sturdy.” Boz warned, but Slasher ignored him.

“Turn up the sound on the telly, I don’t want to be overheard.”   He could barely be heard at all as the film climaxed in a crescendo of gunfire and Spanish shouting.

“My contacts within the Aldershot Ghurkha Community warn of rumours from their homeland that the Merovingian Lizard Kings are on the move and strange discs have been seen in the sky above the mountain peaks.   Agents in the north report of Reivers raiding south of the wall, and Les Chats Souterrains have been seen mingling amongst the revellers at the Castleton Goth Festival – Speedwell Cavern has been closed to the public.   Corsairs aboard black whale hunters with 40mm Bofors or twin 12.7mm DShK’s mounted on the prow have been hi-jacking Arctic Coleyfishtrawlers and holding their cargo’s to ransom!”

Boz gasped. “Coleyfish pirates?   Destitute fishmongers?   A coleyfish famine?   This is a disaster!”   Ferdy tried to calm him.

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Happy Days

CocklesFor the hydrophobic townspeople, Sailortown had always been dangerous and scary and perhaps it still was, a little bit.   But cockles were spreading into the suburbs and no one had the will to stop them.   Limehousesailortown did not change, of course, but the world about did – and people were constantly surprised and pleased and sometimes amazed.

Larry kept on the policeman at the door of Number 10; the tourists liked him and he could live at Number 11 with his wife and children, which was handy for work.

Phoebles was made editor in chief of the independent, Limehousesailortown based broadsheet ‘International Catnip Times’ – valued as the finest fish and chip wrapping of any mainstream paper and, in the Jubilee Year of 2012, awarded the Étoile D’or at the Fishmongers’ Guild Summer Gala – which, drifting away only minimally from its 1960s underground roots under his editorship, promoted the etiquette, and social and personal efficacy of catnip consumption.

Bozzy’s catnip franchise spread out of dockland and into a grateful and receptive world at large.

Ginsbergbear won the Man Booker Prize for his writing, because all the other nominees let him.

Ferdy took the Dragon Rapide home to Surrey and gave aerobatic displays at country fairs, slowly amassing sufficient funds to set up Silvertown (International) Airways.

Googleberry got his ice cream.

And everyone could have lived happily ever after.   Except that the Merovingian Lizard Kings were still in their mountain stronghold, Les Chats Souterrains still occupied the tunnel system that honeycombs the earth’s crust and Mr Fluffy still harboured a plan.

Star Stone Trilogy: Book One – Yii: Chapter Six (cont.)

But whatever you do, you must keep out of Professor Sneddon’s way.’

That night Sarah had another dream. She was in the square courtyard again – in fact it could have been the college quadrangle. In her dream the buildings seemed very much taller than they were in real life, sloping up and up and away from her. Professor Sneddon was after her, not running but constantly moving towards her, head forward, snake-like. In fact he seemed to have a snake’s head, with a forked snake tongue. She walked fast, just at first to get out of the way. He still came after her, so she tried to run, but couldn’t, her feet seemed glued, and however hard she tried to move, she was unable to get away from him. Gasping for breath, she struggled and struggled to get to some stairs – those spiral steps of the ancient stairway she had seen before. Could it have been Palmers Tower? She had never got inside, but the dream seemed to be steps inside Palmers Tower. She still tried to get there, but whatever effort she made, however hard she struggled, she just could not get to the tower and the steps.

*

She came across Professor Sneddon twice again before the Christmas vacation, the second time he was with a large and rather loudly dressed American. Was he after the treasures?
‘Someone else needs to find the treasure first,’ thought Sarah, and I must make it my business. But where do I start?’ She would look again for the hidden room behind the high table in the hall. Or was it Palmer’s Tower?
‘Have you got a key to Palmer’s tower?’ she asked Jack in the lodge.
‘No miss,’ he said, ‘I just can’t find it. But I’ll keep looking.’
‘I hope you will, Jack. I would really like to get into Palmer’s Tower.’
Then it was the Christmas vacation, during which Sarah studied hard, determined that after Christmas she would be able to continue learning with the Rector, and start on Hebrew and theology.
Christmas with David and Emily home in the Lodging was tremendous fun. Amongst other things they found the dressing up box, full of amazing clothes and wigs. Sarah dressed up as an old man, with a black wig, which fitted her so extremely well that she decided to keep it, and tucked it into her chest of drawers. She had not enjoyed such fun since she had adventured with the twins at Kingham.

All Hands to the Pumps

Bookshop Meeting SLiberté, Égalité and Fraternité

Consuella Starcluster, the tambourine virtuoso, and a socialist folk singer-songwriter were jamming in a far corner of the room.   Snowdrop had propped up her unicycle by the door and was chatting to the Kittens of Chaos as they spontaneously rehearsed whiplash dance moves, stretching and arching and synchronising their gyrations like cheerleaders with time on their hands.

People were gathering for a post-war cabinet to be held at the site where the first sparks of Armageddon had been struck, Angel Alley.   An upstairs room above the Freedom Press had been procured and all interested parties invited.

All the -ists were there, the various anarchist and communist sub sects and every shade of socialist, they all wore different hats and button-hole badges shaped like flags and all the flags were different and it did not matter, and no-one got upset.   They were also all noticeably subdued after what they perceived as their poor performance during the incident in Cable Street.   There were ships’ cats and dock cats and ratters and sailors and stevedores and tagareen men and thespians and jugglers and a man who pretended to be a golden statue and an ex- Lord Mayor of London called Dick.   Somewhat unexpectedly, Mad Jack Belvoir was there too, in Savile Row tweeds and sporting moustaches you could skewer kebabs on.   His family had always been prominent supporters of the winning side and he had rarely been one to break with tradition.

Boz and Larry were huddled in a mumbled discussion at the head of the table.

Ginsbergbear and Phoebles warmed up the gathering with a recitation of The Lion and Albert in something close to a Lancashire accent.   There was general applause augmented by loud whoops and encores from Ferdy and Beryl Clutterbuck who were perched on a windowsill at the back of the room.   Then Boz introduced the representative from Number 10.

Larry eyed the Trotskyites, anarcho-syndicalists and Young Communist Leaguers and scowled, though he risked a brief wink at Boz.

“We all know how much you care.   No one doubts your sincerity.   But we need to win over the general population, old ladies, vicars, chartered accountants – and you have been too severe.   You frighten people.   Try and be a bit gentler.   Smoke something.”

He turned to Mad Jack, “Isn’t there somewhere you’d rather be?”

Mad Jack flashed a faint look of confusion and then recovered his normal relaxed air of feigned composure, “Actually one was considerin’ an elopement with one’s ward, the fair and only slightly underage, Priscilla.   Goin’ abroad, don’t you know.   One hears St Peterport is nice this time of year.   If you’re sure you can cope without one’s input…”

“We’ll do our best.   Off you pop.   Don’t want you to miss the boat train.”

Larry took a breath, held it and turned to the general assembly, “Around us today we have a traumatised, demoralised nation and it is up to us to step up and restore its spiritual health.   Limehousesailortown, the Land of Green Ginger, all the sailortowns in all the ports in all the world can be a beacon of hope, spreading their concepts of freedom, equality and co-operation to all.   Show people that they do not have to spend the greater part of their time giving orders or submitting to others, imposed upon, forbidden or compelled.   They can be like the sailors and cats and entertainers and crimps of sailortown.   You work together tirelessly and unconsciously for a society where everyone in port, resident or visitor, consumer or supplier can have the time of their lives.   And we outsiders can have it too, by embracing co-operation and liberty, minimizing constraints, nurturing the vulnerable, setting happiness and fun on the highest of pedestals and nailing the wizened hearts and brains of the bullies to the doors of their banks and institutions.   In our private lives we don’t need truncheons and handcuffs to get our way,” there was muffled giggling amongst the Kittens of Chaos and Consuella Starcluster had a severe coughing fit, “We discuss and persuade and argue and shout and sulk and slam doors and make up and compromise and grope our way towards mutual agreement.”   At the mention of groping, following so closely on from the reference to handcuffs, one of the Kittens collapsed to the floor braying with unrestrained laughter.   She vomited – only slightly – and had to be carried outside for some fresh air.   Larry pressed on, “We get our way by getting on together; we do what we enjoy and what we’re good at; and sometimes what we don’t enjoy, because someone has to do it and it might as well be us.   A new day is dawning and it is time to spread the word.   Now, go out and play.   But play nicely.”

A Moving Story

12 Cats on the move

The cats have made themselves at home at the seaside. Our frail elderly tabby knows where the sun falls to warm the bench during the day and our ginger boy goes on daring expeditions both morning and evening, but sleeps on our bed when the weather is inclement and on a cushion in the garden room when it is fine. Ginger Jack has caught and eaten real mice, as well as played with the catnip variety, but has not even attempted to hunt seagulls. When they screech from the rooftops he sits in the garden and stares at their noisy antics.
The cats know where to find their bowls of water, milk and biscuit, their two litter trays and their favourite sleeping places. But now we are going to disrupt their lives again. We have to shut them up together in a large travelling box for at least five hours as we drive the long distance from Cornwall to Hampshire. We shall deny ourselves long breaks on the journey with their welfare in mind.
Once we arrive at the thatched cottage we shall let them out of the box and shut them in the bathroom for the night while we go out for dinner and sleep in a comfortable hotel in preparation for the removals company’s arrival the following day. The cats will both feel let down, cheated, swopping their sunny cottage for a cold, grey bathroom. Ginger Jack will wonder when he is ever going to have another adventure or see another mouse and Old Man Sam may feel life has no more to offer.
But once the hectic deliveries are over, once we can quietly introduce them to their new home, they will learn to love the countryside. No squawking gulls, no chattering holidaymakers, just open fields, hedgerows and peaceful lanes. Jack will find wild life aplenty in the undergrowth and ditches and Sam will find a place to sleep and dream of when he was young, catching squirrels, woodpeckers and rabbits.

A New Dawn

Larry SAt first the government ignored what was going on around them, then they denounced the perpetrators as terrorists and traitors, ultimately they surrendered to gloomy petulance.   Their spin-doctors span, and Mr Fluffy’s papers and news channels screamed for retribution without reporting any of the developments that had triggered their fury.   Editors began to resign.   The establishment blustered, but its ramparts were crumbling and no one cared to listen.   All credibility was lost.   The black bottle of deception was uncorked and the lies could not be forced back within its confines.   A rising tide of repressed resentment was about to break over the privileged defences of the smug and hypocritical manipulators of power.

Issuing from the basements of Bush House the World Service was reporting the nationwide awakening of which the Fluffy Empire had been so silent.   Local radio and newspapers began relaying vox pop reactions to the exposés; editorials speculated about tentative first steps into a bright new world without shabby tyrants.

As the only person left in Number10 not compromised, hiding, or attempting to flee the country disguised as a washerwoman, Larry took charge.

The City, its confidence shredded and refusing all attempts at reassurance or consolation, collapsed, imploded and disappeared from the socio-political scene.   The pallid, grey streets of the square mile became deserted and silent, traffic lights cycling through their colours without anyone to see or obey them; the regular stomp of the City of London bobby, the only sound; the only activity, the fluttering of pigeons evading the stooping kestrel.   A chilling, lonely draught swirled the street-dust and whipped up a flurry of discarded paperwork.

Within days an Extended Royal family departed from St James’ Park in two customised X Class Super-Zeppelins, almost 700 feet of raw airpower bound for Canada and accompanied by a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III laden with a Roles-Royce Silver Ghost 40/50, two 4887cc Silver Wraiths, a Toyota Land Cruiser, a royal blue Austin Mini Moke and an extensive collection of hat boxes and suit cases filled to bursting with fine jewellery and state regalia.   They were closely followed by the entire Cabinet and Mr Fluffy in a commandeered and dangerously overloaded Douglas DC3 Dakota.

UnChatSouterrainsAt430KingsRoad

Les Chats Souterrains melted back into their tunnels after first pillaging the boutique at 430 Kings Road for its punk and leather gear.

 

 

 

 

 

In a Limehousesailortown penthouse bedsit a 40W bare bulb hangs above an oilcloth-covered table.

Phoebles is rolling catnip spliffs, deftly, with one paw and depositing them in an old Players Navy Cut bacci tin.

Ferdy waits for a kettle to boil, a warmed pot of Russian Caravan tea ready to receive the churning water.   He has piled a large number of ginger biscuits precariously onto a barely chipped floral plate.

Ginsbergbear is composing an epic poem about their latest adventure and desperately trying to rhyme ‘Tory Prime Minister’ with any synonym for ‘Capitalist Running Cur’.

Boz is slobbing within the depths of a worn and scuffed morocco leather armchair, tufts of horse-hair poking through tears in the cushion.   He has been reading a well-thumbed paperback reprint of ‘Fields, Factories and Workshops: or Industry Combined with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work’, flicking through the tedious sections and seeing if it will fall open at the racier bits.

The end credits for Apocalypse Now run through on the old black and white telly, forests burn, music clangs.

Consuella Starcluster comes to the door

“There eez a phone call.   Who eez goeeng eet to take?”

Boz clambers out from the belly of his armchair and goes down to the pay phone on the lower landing.

“Hello.   It’s Strawberry.   Googleberry’s back.   Says he got locked in someone’s shed.  He has a bit of a limp, but otherwise he’s fine.   Working his way through his third portion of smoked salmon and some funny fish egg things he has brought back in a tin.”

A Moving Story

11 Home from home
Our seaside bolthole has restored our strength and given us the will to move on. We have been enjoying Cornish sea air and sunshine for over a month, but in another week we shall leave, exchanging sea gulls for starlings and sea pinks for bramble hedges.
When we first arrived, we were tired and ill, drained by the physical and mental challenge of moving house. It wasn’t just the final four weeks after exchanging contracts, but the effort required for months beforehand, preparing and maintaining the house and gardens to ensure they were at their best. And the final days were utterly exhausting with little rest, starting at 6 and often 5am and ending only when we couldn’t find the energy to visit yet another charity shop or take another box to self storage.
So we have been glad of this enforced rest, although when we first arrived we could not be certain where our next home would be and were prepared for long distance house hunting and Christmas by the sea. But this little cottage, just one street back from the harbour, has been our haven even in the height of the summer season. Its courtyard garden is tiny, but catches the sun all day long. An hour of pruning and weeding in our first week and fifteen minutes now and then, is no challenge compared to the long hours of gardening in our previous home.
And although August has seen many visitors in the village, our cottage has been quiet. The day trippers come to snap themselves alongside the Doc Martin locations, eat pasties and drink pints, crowd the car parks then leave. Every couple of days we allow ourselves an ice-cream and sit on the beach to watch holidaymakers picnic, swim and dig in the sand. But mostly we have rested and read fat novels.
And now we are itching to leave. We heard the last sea shanties of the season on the beach at the end of last week, we’ve eaten enough dressed crab, mussels and grilled lobster, we don’t need another honeycomb crunch ice-cream or a further slice of nettle-wrapped Yarg, we want to go. Our little seaside cottage is a home from home and always will be, but we are longing to pick up the keys for our thatched cottage in the countryside, unlock the door and make ourselves at home.