Boz and Co
By Boris Shenton,
With contributions from Ginsbergbear and Phoebles Shenton.
Adapted for human readers by Rich Shenton.
The following adventures are not intended for unsupervised children, nor unsupervised adults. They are bedtime stories for cats. It is the author’s hope that those humans who are lucky enough to live with a cat will read these stories to him or her at times of repose.
It is also important to note that they are works of fiction. Whilst almost all of the characters are real, the actions, thoughts and words attributed to them and the events narrated below are entirely the creation of the author’s overactive imagination.
The Unremitting Coldness of Snow
“let’s go fly the kite.”
B has spoken.
a single bare lightbulb hangs above a plain oilcloth covered table…
P sits near the sink deftly rolling catnip spliffs in his left hand and stashing them in an old bacci tin…
FD looks up mid gingerbiscuit… and the bear slouches in a corner writing this narative into an old jotter…
kazan’s on the waterfront is showing on a tv… the sound turned down.
we vacate the bedsit and take the stairs to the whorehouse below. sam the piano player in shirtsleeves is labouring over a challenging rendition of some captain beefheart number… bashing it out on a honkytonk upright. as we pass the bar P picks up a bottle of spirytus delikatesowy polish vodka.
out on the street P cracks the seal and we each take a swig against the cutting wind. glass filament rainstreaks sparkle in the street-lamplight… pewter puddles on dark cobbles downhill to the riverside quays… black-eyed warehouses lean inwards above us.
at the river stairs we board a dinghy… the dornier do-x is a dark shape moored out on the river… a cabin lamp illuminates the cockpit windows… shorelights reflect off the silver hull.
B is pulling on a string wound round an ancient seagull. It coughs and splutters, throws out puthers of bluegrey exhaust, limps into life… drips cooling water.
phut phut phut phut phut
as the little craft approaches the flyingboat B swings her round into the tide and she bumps gently against the starboard stub. we clamber aboard.
P goes forward to cast off the mooring buoy… FD eases into the pilot’s seat… B flicks switches and taps dials… i smooth out a chart, hit on a route and return to my writing.
“we’ll pick up mary-lou first and then on to the land of green ginger.” says FD.
“mary-lou? who is mary-lou?” still FD.
“names have been changed. jack always changed everyone’s names,” i reply.
“you’ve not changed our names.” B has joined the conversation.
“you all have initials. what’d be the point of changing your initials? anyway it’s my story and that’s the way it is.”
“home of hairy-moo it is then.” FD pulls up the collar of his flying jacket. “chocks away… fire her up.”
B flicks more and more switches… engines wheeze, chuck-chuck-chuck and purr. the craft bucks as she is taxied into the main channel, into the wind, and roars forward in an accelerating dash. spray. the nose lifts and is pushed down to drag the stern free of the river’s grip. we trail river-lets.
climbing and banking… scribing an elegant silver arc across the midnight sky.
THE VOID IS FULL OF STARS…
Aunty Stella was stressed. She lives with some fifteen cats (the exact figure is variable) and a dodo, which fact alone is enough to stress anyone. She also has a husband, children and a job on the local newspaper, so stressed barely comes close. One day, while she was screaming quietly into Facebook, Boz and Phoebles, two ginger cats who are friends of her dodo, Ferdinand, and live in Limehousesailortown, offered to take her on a weekend break the very next time they went up to the Land of Green Ginger and this is the story of how it all worked out.
It was late autumn and plans for the trip had been finalised when an unseasonable cold snap resulted in Scotland being buried under a blanket of snow. Boz has friends in Aberdeenshire and two of them, Anna and Bui – who live deep in the forest, contacted him via the Internet to say that they were cut off and in dire distress. The plans for the weekend would have to be modified.
The Blue Chevy
The cabin interior was done out in a rather stern Teutonic Art Deco. The walls were painted and grained to resemble French Burl veneer with fantasy landscapes in imitation marquetry panels and there was an exclusive looking geometrically patterned rug on the floor with Phoebles kneeling on it. He was trying to remove the catnip ash and disguise a small burn hole. Ginsbergbear lounged in a chrome and leather chair, having returned to his writing. He jotted down snippets of conversation, descriptions of his surroundings and a few plot ideas.
Up in Maschinenzentrale, the engine controlroom, Boz was tapping several dials quite vigorously and looking concerned. A significant number of engines had abandoned their purrrrrh and taken up variations on Clunk-clatter, chug-chug-cough-ch..., and phwwww. One engine-pair wailed a scrscheeeough-plack!, followed it with a ping and then fell silent.
“I think we are going to land.,” said Ferdy, from the pilot’s bucket seat.
“Where? No, don’t. We can’t!” Boz was having some difficulty maintaining his calm exterior.
“No longer my decision, old comrade. The bird is to become a boat… or an amorphous mass of twisted metal and squishy heroes if the ground down there is as hard as it looks.”
The vault above with its carpet of stars and ribbon of Milky Way was as eternal as ever, but the landscape below was getting closer. Black trees clawed up towards them from the dark earth. The forest grew aggressively close, twigs and leaves rattling against the hull. The clattering and scraping stopped and beneath them was sandy scrub that turned into a patch of obsidian blackness, peppered with stars – the sky again, below them. A playful zephyr rippled cats’ paws across the mirror surface making the stars dance and then break up as the Dornier touched down onto a small lake at a considerably steeper angle than recommended in the flying manuals. She dug in. A bow wave curled back and drenched the cockpit windscreens, spray obscured everything outside, rhinestone teardrops plumed from prop blades or dribbled down the skin of leviathan. Waggling flaps and cutting the few engines that still functioned Ferdinand and Boris brought the craft under control. It slowed, bobbed and eased its bow up a gently shelving beach at the far end of the pond. Phoebus and Ginsbergbear appeared in the doorway.
“Did we miss something?”
Trousers rolled up and boots in hand the heroes disembarked and as they reached the strand yellowing twin headlamps flashed three times from the wood edge, a signal.
The transport awaiting them was an ageing Chevy pick-up with Strawberry at the wheel. Boz and Phoebles piled into the cab whilst Ferdinand and Ginsbergbear scrambled over the tailgate and settled down amongst the sacks and boxes in the back. It is possible that having three ginger cats in the driving cab of a blue Chevrolet truck is not ideal. As they pulled away Boris decided to take command though he had no idea where they were. Phoebles had a map that Ginsbergbear had lent him and elected to be navigator. The map however covered the entire world in indifferent detail and was in a foreign language. Strawberry had the wheel and managed to retain it despite a great deal of pushing and shoving and squabbling. As they careered through the winding lanes with headlamps picking out fleeting detail in the gloom Ginsbergbear rang ahead on his shiny new i-Phone. He and Ferdy sat braced with their backs to the cab from which came shrieks and thumps and Rossini on a blaring car-radio.
After a hair-raising half hour the truck pulled up outside Aunty Stella’s house and Strawberry papped the horn. Ginsbergbear banged on the roof of the cab to attract the attention of those within.
“I have rung the aerodrome,” he shouted through the window, “they will have the Lady Æthelflæda fired up and ready for us.”
Aunty Stella emerged, resplendent in pith helmet and tweeds and carrying a small overnight bag. Ferdy jumped down, helped her up over the tailboard and they were off again, heading north.
“Googleberry and Mouse may well follow tomorrow, they are still making sandwiches.”
Outside the immense hangers, the ‘Lady’ was tethered to a steel lattice pylon and was shimmering in the intense arc lighting. The enormous oval hull was humbug striped in liquorice and pearl with crimson tail planes. The gondola and propulsion units, constructed of the strongest and lightest of modern materials were finished to appear as brass and mahogany. She had been designed as a thermal-dirigible and was in fact a hybrid hot-airship; helium counteracted the weight of the construction whilst the burners heated air to provide lift and control.
With the Chevy neatly parked in front of a Keep Clear sign, behind one of the hangars, the sextet mounted the boarding ladder. Ferdy was explaining the changed circumstances to Aunty Stella, “…rescue mission, way up north.”
“Perhaps I can swap the pith helmet for something woollier when we get to The Land of Green Ginger.”
“The Kittens are organising all sorts of cold weather provisions.” Ferdy replied, with conviction.
With the hatch closed and clamps released ground crew were soon heaving on the mooring lines, manoeuvring the airship out into the field. Ferdy took up position at the helm on the Spartan “bridge” whilst the others looked agog at the pipes, valves, breakers, buttons and dials in the engine control room. The burners not only controlled lift, but also provided steam to the propulsion units. All this power and energy had to be directed to where it was needed, as it was required. In the waist of the gondola were the rather tight accommodation, a galley and mess, across the stern the saloon with large bow windows and a narrow walkway around the outside.
Those not occupied with the takeoff began to stow their gear.
The main burners had been roaring for a while and the vectored propellers set up a continuous Vvvwwwww… hum. The dirigible rose and slowly turned its nose northwards. It began to snow.
Bamse was an independent and resourceful dog. He was also a crewmember on the Norwegian Naval vessel Thorodd, based in Dundee. His shipboard duties included rounding up the crew at the end of their shore leave and to this end it was his habit to take the local public transport into Dundee’s sailortown and search out their regular haunts. Dundee Borough Council had issued him with a bus pass. Consequently he was, that December, ideally placed to provide quick, if limited, interim support for the beleaguered inhabitants of Strathbogie and below is his e-mail to Anna in response to an urgent telegram from the radio room of the airship Lady Æthelflæda:
The brandy barrel is charged, I have obtained an LOA* and I am about to utilise my bus pass on a northbound Corporation double-decker. I believe you are suffering temperatures of twenty-five below and have therefore acquired (off the back of a passing lorry) a hamper load of Soviet Navy winter weight telnyashkas – assorted sizes. This will travel with me provided I can find someone to help me carry it onto the omnibus.
Anna, could you collect as many refugees as is reasonable, at your cottage to assist in the distribution of aid?
Land of Green Ginger
Sparkling snowflakes pranced and tumbled in the wake of the dirigible. Like squadrons of tiny silver moths they dogfought beyond the bow windows that formed the stern of the Lady Æthelflæda’s gondola, and glistened against the black night with the reflected light of the saloon. Boz turned from his reveries at the window bay and observed the interior of the saloon, brightly lit, glittering, a rich Puginesque extravaganza with an antique globe as its centrepiece and a snoring Ginsbergbear draped across a deep armchair in one corner. The almost oppressively cosy warmth was cut by an icy draft as the door opened and Strawberry burst in from his constitutional along the exterior walkway. He was enveloped in an oversize orange fur coat and matching hat, with earflaps, and accompanied by a swirl of large damp flakes. Snow sprinkled his head and shoulders and an icicle moustache covered his upper lip. Together they forced the outer door shut and exchanged friendly banter regarding the benefits of exercise, the unseasonal inclemency and the detrimental effects of low temperatures on the attachments provided by natural selection for the procreative parts of the non-ferrous primate. Fearing the conversation may flag Boz departed, mounting a light alloy imitation cast-iron spiral staircase into the main hull. It was even warmer up there, and the interior was cathedral-like, criss-crossed with Duralumin girders and wire ties. The burners roared intermittently and steam valves hissed, there was the gentle whir of pistons and cranks. With each flare of the burners the hot-air envelope lit up the space around him, casting fantastical, dancing shadows onto the outer surfaces of the helium cells. Having confirmed, to his satisfaction, that all was well he descend to the wheelhouse where Ferdy confidently controlled the helm and elevator wheels, Aunty Stella and Phoebles bent over the chart table in a pool of crimson monochrome under the tiny red, low wattage night vision lamp. The view through the bridge windows showed them to be following the course of a noble river, black and sinuous against the snow-clad landscape. The lights of their destination, some way ahead, reflected the colour of wilting buttercups onto the underside of low ice-laden cloud. Soon they were cruising, slow and low, above a labyrinth of alleys, lanes and courtyards. Dark warehouses loomed over the narrow streets; picturesquely dishevelled catnip dens, music halls and brothels snuggled into every railway arch, cul de sac, entry and cellar. Infrequent street lamps cast an eerie, jaundiced glow into the general gloom. Slowing and descending they idled over the Fish Dock, mooring lines were cast down to the waiting stevedores, and without a word of command they were made fast close by an Arctic Coleyfishtrawler. A boarding ladder was run out and they emerged onto the quayside.
No sooner had the travellers set foot on terra firma than a svelte white and black cat appeared. It was Snowdrop the acclaimed unicyclist, and she was to be their guide. The quayside was treacherous under foot and the unique smell of fishmeal, which rode mercilessly over all other dockside sensations, seeped between the fibres of their clothing, into nostrils and under fingernails. As a precursor to rain the stench of fishmeal would escape the fish dock and invade the Land of Green Ginger, startling strangers and ensuring that the locals were rarely caught without a Mack. A handcart was commandeered to carry the luggage and they set off, somewhat erratically in Snowdrop’s case as unicycles are not ideally adapted to icy conditions, through the dock gates and into the maze that is the Land of Green Ginger. Strawberry and Phoebles were already fighting over who would pull the handcart.
“Why don’t you take a handle each?” suggests Aunty Stella helpfully. But by then Strawberry had punched Phoebles on the nose and they were both sulking. The lanes teemed with life. Black and white ships’ cats wandered in and out of narrow passageways, up and down alleys, sat on dustbins. Their fellow sailors rolled along as if still on the ocean, Russians and Norwegians, scrubbed-pink Dutchmen, Lascars and Chinese. Something of the aroma of boiled cabbage drifted on the air. A whaler pushed by, covered in tattoos and carrying his harpoon. Beneath each cast-iron, fluted street-corner lamp, bathed in its weak, sickly light, loitered unsuitably ill-clad ladies of the night and pleasure kittens. Eyeing them from across cobbled, slop drenched cart-ways were groups of trawlermen in their shore suits of powder-blue, mauve, steel-grey, wide flared trousers with turn-ups, single breasted drape jackets, double vented with half-moon pockets and four-button cuffs. The doors of The George in Splendour flew open and a handful of raucous corsairs with cutlasses and Kalashnikovs, wearing hooped ear-rings, bandanas or baseball caps, tattered t-shirts depicting Daffy Duck, Elvis, Ché, ‘Mum’ tattooed on their upper arms, lurched from out of the noisy ale house into the path of our adventurers.
“Nice bike missus, be ‘e lost the other wheel. Get a load o’ that ‘at. Nah darling, I be not a taking o’ the pith.” …And they were gone.
From down one street came the sound of a barrel organ, around the corner, a steam calliope. From the open doorways of Sid’s Fish, The Piece of Cod, Rick’s Plaice and The Chirpy Chippy came the enticing smell of fresh fried fish and chips. At each turn there was the ever changing cacophony of the crowd – voices raised in song, and chatter, and shouting, and “Hello Deary – only half a crown.”
Bumped and banged, pushed and shoved, down this passage, under this arch, across this yard, barely keeping the wildly cycling Snowdrop in sight, the party proceeded until they came to a halt before a ramshackle old grey-brick public house. ‘Cirque des Absurdités’ proclaimed a flickering neon sign and outside was parked a strange ice-cream van, black painted, its roof-rack piled high with hampers, jerry-cans, stone pop jars, cardboard suitcases and hat boxes all held in place under a cargo net.
They were met at the door by Consuella Starcluster, the world famous tambourine virtuoso.
“Hwelcome to ourrr absurdeest vaudeveelle, catnip den and palace of pleazoor. Girls, feed ’em and pamperrr ’em. Hanyone want a leetterrr trrray?”
After the cold of the street the atmosphere, as they entered, slapped them in their faces like a warm, wet haddock. The interior, a high, baroque hall, imposing yet tawdry, was suffused with a golden light that paled as their eyes adjusted from the darkness outside. Gilt decoration peeled, flock faded, an ornate stucco ceiling was water stained, with patches of mould in the corners. There were cast-iron tables with marble tops, a tiny serving hatch through to the bar and a small proscenium arched stage with faded reddish, pinkish, brownish, sort of velvety curtains. Upon the stage a select half dozen of the Kittens of Chaos were climaxing an enthusiastic and bizarrely unconventional interpretation of the can-can whilst the few remaining customers were buttoning their grubby raincoats and preparing to leave.
The gang were seated at one of the larger tables, its marble top cracked across and beer stained, and, waited on somewhat inconsistently by yet more of the kittens, They were fed and watered. Eventually replete and becoming drowsy in the comfortable warmth, after a long and adventurous day, they were joined by Consuella Starcluster who distributed hubble-bubbles charged with an invigorating catnip and herbal mixture.
“Wee’ll get hyou all tucked up soon,” she crooned in a deep toned and thickly Hispanic accent, “But feerst wee must go overrr the plan. The Vicecrrream van ees all but rrready foor the landwarrrd assault and weell deparrrt afterrr brrreakfast. Yourrr crrrates arrre loaded aboarrrd the Coleyfishtrrrawlerrr Lorrrd Ancasterrr, Meesterrr Boz, but eet weell be thrrree tides beforrre she ees rrreadied forrr sea and hay full crew ees not yet found. I would suggest that on such a dangerrrous mission hyou weell need someone expendable and have instrrructed ourrr ageing pot-boy, Berrrt Wold, to settle hees affairrrs and make rrready to accompany hyou to sea.”
It was decided that Aunty Stella, being an accomplished cat wrangler, should lead the overland rescue in the Vicecream van with the Kittens of Chaos. Consuella kitted her out in an elegant, fitted great coat of sage green, with matched piping and brass buttons, which perfectly complemented her magenta hair. She was accessorized in thigh length black boots with four-inch heels, Astrakhan hat and a fur muff that looked like Blofeld’s cat. For the rest of them there were winter weight Russian telnyashkas (those striped t-shirts made famous by the heroes of Kronstadt), itchy red woollen long-johns, faux-fur lined parkas and stout Doc Martin boots.
Phoebles expressed concern regarding his untried sea-legs and was assured that there would be a more than adequate supply of ginger biscuits, at which news Ferdinand brightened no-end.
“Gingerr beescueets arrre thee finest prreventateeve forrr mal de marre as yet deevised by man, leettle one.”
All foreseeable eventualities covered it was time for a well-earned rest and they proceeded upstairs to their assigned and comfortable sleeping cubicles.
Kittens of Chaos
“Are we all ready?”
“…Not got my shoes! Where’s my red shoes?”
“Can’t get any more stuff on top the van!”
“You’s wearing them! Gimme my red shoes! …And that’s my hat!”
“Everyone get in!”
“Where’s my… You sitting on it!”
“…Don’t you shove then!”
“We’rewe’re drivingdriving!” (The twins)
“First stop Nellie’s for lunch!”
“Not gorrany money!”
“…I got tuppence!”
“We can sell some of the Vicecream!”
“You are not taking ice-cream into the frozen wastes?” (Aunty Stella, exasperated)
“It’s VICEcream… with catnip!”
“Start up then!”
“…Not that way!”
“Put the jingle music on!”
“The Valkyrie song!”
“We want the Valkyrie song!” (All)
“Are we there yet?”
“Are we there yet?”
“Are we there YET?”
“Hello, is that Ginsbergbear? It’s Aunty Stella here with a progress report… well a lack of progress report really.
“We are parked outside a pub… more of a house that sells beer actually… with a big white horse over the door. Two of the kittens are selling catnip ice cream to pay for our lunch – to incredibly unsavoury looking customers.
“Inside it’s all cramped rooms and corridors and it’s run by four little old ladies… three feet tall, hunchbacked and, as best I can tell, all called Nellie.
“The rest of the kittens have stripped to their telnyashkas and are doing a disturbingly wiggly dance on the tables!”
The thin dawn light barely penetrated within the fish dock. A low grey sky hung over lower, greyer buildings. There was little snow in the air, but a biting wind sliced across the dock basin, through the open fronted fish market, between the repair shops, riggers’ lofts and chandleries, net stores, ice factory, and fishermen’s co-op that was open and bustling in the half-light of early morning. The quayside was stone cobbles, steel rails, iron bollards, hawsers of wire, hemp, grubby orange or green poly…
That, thankfully, will be Poly-propylene not polly parrot, mused Phoebles recalling the orange and green, and blue and yellow, macaw mariachi band that had so led him astray the previous evening.
…and above all else, bludgeoning every other sensation into submission, the all pervading stench from the fish meal plant.
A small steam driven crane shed rust scales, clanked and hissed as its arm swung the last of the provisions aboard the hundred and fifty foot of sturdy, workmanlike vessel tied up before them. The Lord Ancaster was an Arctic Coleyfishtrawler and Coldwar Spyship of a type known to trawlermen as a sidewinder, the most seaworthy craft ever built. She had a low grey hull with high bow and whaleback foc’sle. The superstructure aft was painted in excremental yellows and fawns and grained in imitation of pine planking. Her stove-pipe funnel was canary yellow with a black band and a red and black burgee painted on the side.
Consuella and Snowdrop had come to see them off. Steam was already up and the tide on the turn. Good-byes were said and a few hugs exchanged, Bert Wold handed over a letter for his family, to be posted in the event… Boris and Phoebles, Ginsbergbear, Strawberry, Ferdinand and Bert were no sooner aboard than the gang-plank was pulled in and lines cast off. Everyone waved.
“Lovely she goes.” intoned the helmsman under his breath.
They left port in the traditional manner, midway between the lock sides and at speed, to prevent any of the crew jumping ship at the last minute. Then they turned down the thick brown river towards the open sea.
The skipper was Harold Entwhistle, roundish and shortish. The Entwhistles had been trawler skippers for as long as there had been coley in the North Sea. His shirtsleeves rolled up, he wore a knitted waistcoat, moleskin trousers, faded plaid carpet slippers and a cloth cap.
“We will take you to the edge of the pack-ice and then you are on your own. If we hear nothing from you we’ll come back in the spring to look for your bones.”
The crew stood about eyeing the landlubbers. To a man they wore sou’westers, thigh-boots and rubber frocks.
“Bit Malcolm McClaren.” quipped Ginsbergbear, in a whisper, “Though it would be a rare form of fetishist who found this bunch alluring.” The cabin-boy, barely visible under his oilskins, was clipped round the ear and told to show the party to the saloon and furnish them with tea.
The saloon was below deck, directly below the liver boilers, its proportions governed by that of the ships stern, which it occupied. For the most part the space was taken up with a dining table of a similar plan, there was fixed seating around the table and against panelled walls, and above and behind the seating were cupboards which formed the bunks for our party. Each cubby hole had a mattress, a little bookshelf and lamp, and induced a surprisingly womblike sense of security in its occupant. At mealtimes the table was criss-crossed by deep fiddles and twisted tea-towels were used to jam the pots and pans in place. Whilst still in the river such precautions seemed excessive, but they were soon to learn that once he is at sea there is little that a trawlerman does without reason. The tea, when it arrived, was in whitish, barely chipped mugs; it was strong, thick with condensed milk, sweet and carpeted with a topping of tea-leaves.
As she left the river the Ancaster met the North Sea swell. She settled her stern down into the troughs like an old pipe smoker relaxing his behind into a favourite, well-cushioned armchair. She rolled with an easy motion. She trailed seagulls. Here on the midnight-grey waters beneath a gunmetal sky, she was at home.
For the first twelve hours all but Ginsbergbear were seasick. He swore by the preventative properties of his Black Alamout Catnip Shag, which he packed into a cracked and burn-scarred churchwarden, but the foul fug did little for his comrades. Ginger biscuits were consumed in vast number – and alleviated the worst of the nausea. Bert Wold retired to his bunk with a bucket and was not seen to move in two days. Once the miseries of mal de mer were behind them (for most it goes off as suddenly as it comes on) our heroes began to savour the seagoing experience. Ginsbergbear had found a sheltered spot between the funnel and lifeboat where he was well into a second hand hardback of Moby Dick. Phoebles had discovered that the galley was warm and the cook often appreciated his culinary advice. There was a great deal of fish on the menu. For Ferdy it was the bridge, where he had befriended the Third Hand, one Bill Tate, who had a Yorkshire tan that stopped at neck and wrist and who had sailed the Arctic from Greenland to the White Sea, Norway to Bear Island, Svalbard, and beyond. Bill imparted some of his knowledge of helmsmanship and navigation and at night they watched the shimmering green veils of the northern lights playing above them. Boz liked the deck best, the salty sea smells, the waves rushing by, the dolphins and terns and gulls. He wished they were in warmer oceans with the flying fish of which he’d read; he’d always wanted to see flying fish. Flying coleyfish would be nice, he mused. Strawberry had taken to playing cards with the crew in the foetid foc’sle where he discussed politics and engendered a degree of unrest. Bert had still not arisen from his bunk.
On the third day they began to encounter growlers and bergy bits, manageable chunks of floating ice. On their fourth morning they woke to find the whole ship encrusted in sparkling, sugary ice. The day was bright and clear and very cold; along the northern horizon shone a glaring thin white line.
“We are there. That is the ice-pack,” announced the skipper.
The Ancaster’s bow was held against the edge of the ice by the forward thrust of her gently idling engine, whilst Boz and his companions swiftly disembarked. They were joined by a small group of burly Kronstadt sailors with sledgehammers and spikes who, with practiced efficiency, made the coleyfishtrawler fast. A relatively flat area of ice-shelf, amidst the piled up, tortured humps and pinnacles of the pressure ice, was selected for the camp and the tents pitched. The supplies were unloaded and three large wooden crates winched safely from the deck. As the sailors set up a fuel dump and established radio contact with ship, and HQ back in The Land of Green Ginger the Lord Ancaster slipped away from the edge of the ice and turned south. The party watched her grow small and disappear below the horizon – a last puff of white smoke against the turquoise sky, reflected in the glass-like sea.
“No time to get comfy.” said Boz, grabbing a claw hammer and setting about one of the crates. Phoebles and Bert Wold took up jemmies and attacked a second. After some frantic action the group found themselves admiring two steam powered Brockhouse Corgi snowmobiles with sledge trailers, surrounded by potentially useful firewood. Meanwhile Ferdy and Ginsbergbear had been delicately unscrewing the top and side panels of the third crate to reveal an Avro 620 autogyro in magnificent fire-engine red. Strawberry emerged from one of the bell-tents with the atlas and a plan of action that he was desperate to convey to the others.
Tutting moodily Boz and Phoebles reluctantly joined Strawberry in a huddled conference while the bulky shape of a Petty Officer separated out from the fuel dump and rolled towards Ferdy. He was a man-mountain, so craggy that goats could have grazed his slopes, defying the climate in a sleeveless telnyashka and carrying a drum of aviation fuel on his shoulder whilst swinging a hand pump from his free arm – the autogyro would soon be ready for the off. However, even with the best efforts of the naval detail the construction of an airstrip took most of the day. By dusk it was completed, straight and flat, with an orange windsock to one side at each end. Ginsbergbear was relaxing in a campaign chair outside his tent, drawing on a catnip filled Peterson bulldog briar as Ferdy approached the others, who were still engaged in animated planning. The bear winked and jabbed the mouthpiece in their direction.
Eventually, late into the evening, by the guttering light of several Tilley lamps a consensus emerged and it was possible to retire. The matelots, lubricated with Pusser’s Rum and worn out by their vigorous postprandial horn-piping had long since fallen silent. The ice moaned, hammocked sailors snored, and dream pestered cats mewed and twitched.
At first light Boz was up, clip board in hand, dishing out orders.
“Ferdy, you will take off as soon as you are ready. Follow a bearing for Edinburgh and when you’re over the castle turn due north.
“Bert, you go with Strawberry in the second skidoo. Strawberry, if you insist on driving you must lend Bert your atlas so he can navigate, but don’t go off on your own, follow us.
“Phoebles, Ginsbergbear and I will lead ‘cos we have the compass.” He proudly produced his prized Dan Dare Club Junior Space Cadet’s compass in its red and yellow plastic case. “We must get off the sea-ice as soon as possible. North Shields should be pretty well due west from here. Once we are on shore we will make straight for Strathbogie.”
He strolled over to what the sailors insisted on calling The Shack, a bell tent close to the base of the tall radio mast. Within, shouting above the throbbing noise of a diesel generator, he addressed the Wireless Operator. “WHEN WE ARE CLOSE TO OUR DESTINATION WE WILL RING WICK RADIO ON GINSBERGBEAR’S I-PHONE, SO LISTEN OUT TO THEM!” Back in the open air he conveyed their plans to the CPO whose party was detailed to maintain the base.
It would be a while yet before the skidoos had steam up so the adventurers lined the runway to wave Ferdinand off. He emerged from his tent in flying helmet and goggles, sheepskin flying jacket and boots. He gave them a casual wave as he scrambled into the rear cockpit and could be seen adjusting the heading on the gimballed compass. The forward cockpit was stuffed with supplies. One of the ordinary seamen spun the propeller and the Armstrong Siddeley Genet Major five-cylinder, air-cooled, radial engine sputtered into life. The craft gathered speed down the runway, the rotor blades began to turn and she lifted skywards. Ferdy circled the camp once and then receded towards the NNW. Phoebles found he was still waving as the tiny red dot disappeared.
The group split, returning to their duties as the overland party. Strawberry mounted one of the snowmobiles with Bert Wold perched on top of the sledge’s cargo, wielding the atlas. With the exception of Strawberry in his orange furs they were all but indistinguishable in matching reindeer hide parkas with faux fur lined hoods obtained from Harrods’ Explorer Dept (3rd Floor). Bert however wore a Harris Tweed bespoke overcoat over his red flannelette shirt, his best Keir Hardy flat cap held down by a hand knitted muffler secured under his chin. Boris, in Red October black fur hat with Soviet Navy officer’s cap badge took the second vehicle with Phoebles behind him on the sledge, wearing a khaki budionovka pixie hat with large red star. Ginsbergbear, in a rainbow Peruvian woolly bobble hat, made himself comfortable amongst the luggage and called up the GPS app on his i-Phone. With a twist of the throttles, a wave to the Naval detail, in a cloud of steam, they were on their way.
The Brockhouse Corgis whispered chuffs, belched thick, oily smoke, the ice beneath the runners shushed and scraped. The dark uniformed cluster of Russians sang a baritone lament:
Cold, hard, empty.
Light that has left me,
How could I know that you would die?
…Let us go; the sea is waiting for us.
The vastness of the sea is calling us – and the tides!
…Sail on fearlessly,
Pride of the Northern Seas.
Hope of the Revolution…*
As the sleighs bounced over the uneven ground and the haunting notes faded on the chill, biting wind, ice chips flew from the tracks, looming seracs groaned as they thrust skywards and flexing skids screeched their protests. Our heroes were tossed, toppled and jarred as the sledges pitched from hummock to drift.
Sea ice is not still
It heaves and surges
Throws up pinnacles
Cliff walls of dragons’ teeth
It tears apart into valleys
Sea ice is not silent
It moans and groans
Cracks and snaps
Pops and bangs
Booms and boings
Sea ice is not empty
It is littered with sea-junk
With barrels and spars
Bottles and jars
Buckets and spades
Like the belly of the tagareen man’s
Ginsbergbear, beat poet
Barely had the skidoos disappeared over the horizon when a charabanc loaded with architects arrived at the camp. Within weeks the shanty-settlement was extended to include a tavern, barber’s shop and a mall complete with McDonald’s and multi-story car park. Shortly after completion a flow encompassing the entire settlement detached from the pack-ice and drifted off in the direction of Belgium.
Here, by way of a short interlude, are presented a number of communications received at the Vaudeville Coordinating Centre in the Land of Green Ginger.
From Anna: “Aye-aye min, fit like? The wee doggy Bamse arrivit saf n’ soond aff the double-decker buissy stop Bui met him a’ the buis-stop in Strathbogie, wi’ her sled an’ by the tame they’d made it tae hame they wa’ baith a’ drookit an’ forfauchan so I ga’em a wee bawbee’s worth o’ Metacam, he ga’us a sup o’ his brandy and bleeterred on wi’ stories about Dundee, settin’ in ma’ airmchair cloos ta’ the roarin’ faire stop The wee loons, Hamish and Angus ha’ invited him up tae their hoos fa’ Xmas soo looks like he’s bidin’ fa’ the duration stop”
From the news desk of the Gateshead Daily Trumpet: “After a slow pub crawl from Scarborough to South Shields the Kittens of Chaos abandoned the now infamous Vicecream van when they were offered short lived parts in a Christmas pantomime at the Newcastle Empire, recently closed down under a corporate order stop Following parental outrage, infant trauma and subsequent legal proceedings, in absentia, they are currently touring the campuses of North East England, under false identities, with their unique rendition of Turn Again Dick, having acquired something of a cult following amongst students stop We have heard nothing further of Aunty Stella or her van stop”
From Anna again: “Foos yer doos? Ooh, a’ hae’ just hearit that the coldwarspyship ha’ turnit te’ ging hame and I soo hoped it wa’ gannin’ here o’er the dreichy wastes stop I’ve gone and buildit a pier-heid an’ aathing stop Nivver fash ah cwin alw’s burn it ah suppose stop”
To which Consuella Starcluster replied: “Anna don’t stop Your pier will become a tourist attraction and source of revenue stop The Kittens of Chaos when found can dress as saucy pierrots (or would they be pierrettes?) and dance at its end stop”
Death on the Ice
Ferdinand Desai was making good time. He had crossed the coast a little while before, somewhat north of Craster by his reckoning. He could make out Bamburgh Castle rising above the snow cover, way off to starboard. The air was still, and a watery sun gently illuminated the chill landscape below. Things were going to plan, and for Ferdy that was near perfection.
…And (as is always the case) such a blissful state was not to last. With little warning, he found himself in thick and freezing fog. His windshield froze, the fuselage sparkled, his goggles misted over and his beak tingled with the sudden chill. He tried to coax his craft upwards above the fog, but the build up of ice was making her heavy. The engine began to splutter; parts were binding and the fuel turning to mush – the prop ceased to turn. Slowly the autogyro began a gentle descent, buoyed by the free wheeling rotor. Then there was a screech of locked and tortured metal, frozen rotor bearings. The descent turned into a plummet.
There came a jarring thud, some pings and boings, a pop and a small puther. Ferdy found himself sitting at the centre of a snow crater surrounded, to a distance of ten feet or so in every direction, by disassembled and slightly bent aeronautical parts.
Having checked that all HIS bits were in place and full working order, he packed a stash of ginger biscuits into a knapsack and removed the compass from its gimballed mount. He would continue with Plan A (no one had apprised him of a Plan B) and follow a line towards Edinburgh. It would just take a little longer without his airborne transport. Adjusting his goggles firmly he trudged blindly into the total white-out.
Trudging can be tiring and flying boots are not the best hiking footwear. After what seemed an age Ferdy halted and partook of two well earned ginger biscuits. It was whilst resting thus that he noticed a small, indistinct black blob out in the whiteness that enveloped him. As he watched it grew larger, and blacker, and really large, and distinct, and nose shaped. It stopped, hovering some way above him, in close formation with a pair of coldly intense eyes. A large mouth also appeared, and spoke.
“And what exactly are you?”
Peering hard, Ferdy thought he could make out the outline of a massive white bear.
“I am Ferdinand Desai, dodo… on an important rescue mission. Can I assist you in any way?” he added, politely.
“Not just now,” replied the polar bear, “I have already eaten, and at the moment a duck is out of the question.”
Ferdinand inwardly bristled. He had endured duck jokes and similar manifestations of robust English humour ever since he first landed in the UK, but now did not seem a good time to get uppity. Tentatively Ferdinand explained his situation, without much hope for a happy resolution. The bear however was feeling untypically sympathetic.
“I could give you a lift as far as the Great North Road. I probably won’t get hungry before then and you might be able to cadge a lift from there.” Not waiting for a reply the great bear scruffed Ferdy by the collar of his flying jacket and set off at a speedy lope. Dangling, limp limbed from the jaws of a polar bear the dodo did not feel dignified, or comfortable, or particularly safe. Modifying his expectations and assuming an air of resignation he was on the brink of getting used to the gentle swinging when they approached the tops of a bus-stop sign and a row of telegraph poles, peeking above the snow. The bear dropped him at the bus-stop.
“I can’t see an omnibus coming any time soon, but you may be able to hitch a lift on a passing snow-plough. I’m afraid I’m getting peckish and you are starting to look tasty so I’d best go find a MacDonald’s, or a baby seal or some such.” …and without looking back he loped off across the icy wasteland.
Ferdinand sat for a while, then rose and resumed his trudge.
Progress across the sea-ice had been slow for the snowmobiles. They had picked their way though the jumbled blocks and jagged teeth of ice, forced upwards by the pressure of the surrounding shelf, thawed, weathered, and refrozen, time after time. They had manhandled the machines over blockages, experienced moments of terror, hours of tedium punctuated intermittently and increasingly annoyingly by, “Take the next turn left,” from Ginsbergbear’s i-phone.
And, “Recalculating,” when they didn’t.
“It will work better when we are on land,” announced Ginsbergbear, without undue concern.
Travelling some way into the mouth of a wide, frozen river they eventually found a steep and tortuous route up onto the snow plateau that covered the land. They sat on their machines astonished. As far as they could see the snow spread before them, flat and featureless as the top of a Christmas cake decorated by the occasional spire, pylon or rocky outcrop pushing above the carpet of snow and ice. They should make good time over this terrain.
Boz eased the throttle open on his snowmobile and moved off. From behind there was a, “Waheee!” and Strawberry wheelied his Corgi into a madcap dash, overtook Bozzy’s combo and accelerating ahead, disappeared.
“Did you see that?” shouted Phoebles.
Boz stopped, drove slowly forwards and stopped again. The trio dismounted and walked cautiously towards the black hole that marked the spot where Strawberry and Bert Wold had last been seen. They peered over the edge.
Someway down. the upturned Brockhouse Corgi was jammed between the walls of a seemingly bottomless crevasse. A large orange fur coat lay spread-eagled across the machine and from beneath the collar a pair of wide eyes, black with terror, peered back at them.
“He’s gone,” a thin voice quivered. “It just kept falling, the sledge, supplies, Ber… The atlas has gone, everything’s gone… and I don’t feel very safe.”
“Hang on!” shouted Phoebles.
“That’s what I’ve been doing.”
“We need a volunteer to go down to him,” said Boz. He and Phoebles glared at Ginsbergbear. Ginsbergbear glared back.
“Me… do I look like a volunteer?”
“You must be the lightest – you’re stuffed with horsehair. And the vet says me and Boz are erring on the pudgy side,” explained Phoebles. “No time to waste, I’ll find a rope.” He produced a stout length of manila from the back of the sledge and a bowline was tied around the bear’s middle. The other end was secured by a round turn and two half hitches to the frame of the skidoo, a means of attachment highly recommended in Phoebles’ well thumbed copy of A Boy’s Bumper Book of Knots.
“Prepare to be lowered.” Boz mounted the quietly idling Corgi and as Ginsbergbear hesitated on the edge of the chasm Phoebles gave him a gentle shove. It was as close to abseiling as dangling at the end of a rope with all limbs thrashing wildly can be.
When he alighted on the upturned machine, close to Strawberry, there was a scraping noise and several chunks of ice detached from the crevasse walls.
“Don’t hang about. Tie the rope round the two of you and wave when you’re ready.”
On Ginsbergbear’s signal Phoebles shouted, “Go!” to Boz and the Brockhouse Corgi began to inch forwards.
By the time the pair eventually popped over the edge of the hole and flopped onto terra firma it was hard to judge who was the most traumatised. Hot, sweet tea was quickly brewed up and Strawberry wrapped in spare blankets and woollens. He was worryingly subdued.
“I’d quite like to get away from here as quickly as possible,” he shivered.
“OK, well press on till dusk before we make camp,” declared Boz, “Shame about Bert… and the atlas. Still, that’s life.”
They re-stowed the gear on the sledge, mounted their one remaining rig and set off once more, somewhat cautiously.
Next morning Boz put his head out of the tent and noticed something dark protruding above the drifts out to the west of their bivouac. After a breakfast of sardines on toast they steered towards it. An hour or so later, as they drew close to the object they could see that it was the tilted bust of a gigantic metal man with something like the wing of an aircraft projecting from its shoulder.
“At the next roundabout, take the third exit,” barked the GPS.
Ginsbergbear studied the little map on his i-Phone screen, “I think it wants us to follow the Great North Road.”
“And where exactly is that?” asked Phoebles.
“Somewhere below us,” suggested Boz, checking his Dan Dare compass and turning the skidoo northwards.
Wolves in the Woods
Ferdinand trudged on. It was a clear, cold day and he felt almost joyful as he strode into a pretty, mixed deciduous wood. A gentle breeze blew showers of fine snow-sprinkle off the branches above him, his foot falls crunched crisply, and small creatures dashed from tree to tree leaving tiny footprints in the snow. Birds were twittering in the thin canopy and despite being footsore and running low on supplies Ferdy joined in, humming a selection from Vera Lynne’s Greatest Hits – a treasured CD that Aunty Stella had bought him in the balmy summer that now seemed so long ago.
On trudged and hummed Ferdinand. Almost imperceptibly the woodland turned foresty, the bitter north wind backed sou’westerly and turned milder. A thin mist began to form and an occasional drop of melt-water fell from arching branches. The sky darkened.
Past the road, into the woods, shadows were intensifying, undergrowth thickening. It really was getting quite dark and a little spooky. The diminutive woodland creatures had all fallen silent, but out there something padded. There were rustles and snorts and heavy breathing.
Ferns twitched and Ferdy thought he could see dark shapes keeping pace with him, slinky, lopey, probably howly sorts of shapes. And they were all around him.
In the deepening darkness there were yelps and snarls. Ferdy searched his knapsack and produced a small, but brilliant flash-light which he panned about the forest edge. Emotionless, golden eyes lit up and although not visible he was sure there were fangs and dripping jowls too.
As light faded the things broke cover and closed in, encircling him. They were cautious yet determined, inching nearer, one then another, large, fur matted and worryingly underfed. Ferdy flashed the torch, which only seemed to make them playful. He shouted, which they ignored. He threw a stick and for a moment it looked as if one of the fiends would run after it, but its companions glared it into shame. Ferdy needed a really good plan, quickly – but nothing practical came to mind. The whole situation was becoming extremely unsettling, when…
Was that distant music?
The encroaching creatures heard it too. The music was growing louder, stirring, Wagnerian. The pack backed away. Ferdy recognised The Ride of the Valkyries, not orchestral, more jingly, but deafening. By the time two bilious beams of lemony light flashed over a rise the thumping waves of sound were blasting the forest. Terrified golden eyes peeped from behind the trees. The source of the onslaught, a black van, careered along the icy road, slewing from side to side, horn blazing, two strobe-flashing ice-cream cones glowing eerily above the cab. It skidded to a halt some yards from Ferdy, the door flew open and out scrambled a Hollywood fantasy, Russian countess.
“Aunty Stella!” exclaimed the terrified bird.
The tall, slender creature stood before him, clad as last time he’d seen her, in greatcoat, piped and brass buttoned, tall boots of black leather, still the tall Astrakhan hat, but the muff was gone. Over one shoulder was slung a cartridge belt and she carried a Browning B78, falling block, 45-70 hunting rifle, which she fired, once, into the air. The wolves departed.
“Oh… Aunty Stella!”
Ferdy rushed at her and they stood hugging for a longtime.
“I think I might be able to rustle up some ginger biscuits, do you fancy a fortifying snack?”
“I’ve had rather a lot of ginger biscuits just lately,” replied Ferdy, hoping he did not sound ungrateful. “You don’t have a bag of millet around do you?”
In the back of the van they partied well into the night. There were finger snacks and tiny triangular sandwiches and a variety of sweet meats deep fried in beer batter, which Aunty Stella insisted was a Scottish delicacy. There was pop in abundance, liberated from the Strathbogie supplies and “The Shadows Live at Doncaster Coliseum” on the Vicecream van sound system.
Next morning they had a barbecued full English, assessed their situation and surveyed the local geography. The first signs of a thaw were now unmistakable. The Vicecream van was looking much more serviceable than when it left The Land of Green Ginger. It now had heavy duty tyres, the more trivial pieces of baggage were missing from the roof rack, abandoned along with their owners to the music halls of Northumbria, and replaced by jerry-cans of diesel and two spare wheels; strategically placed brackets held towrope, snow-shovel, flares. The ice-cream maker had been removed and stored in a barn somewhere north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, making room for supplies, a small primus stove and an Elsan Visa model 268. Ready for anything.
“Last leg. Lets get this rescue wrapped up.” proposed Aunty Stella.
Right… Well… First off it’s PHOEBUS, not Phoebles, Phoebus The Shining One. That’s BUS as in red, two storeys, not BULLS as in horns and poo!
So, this thaw thing woz really inconvenient ‘cos we gorra sledge anna Brockhousecorgisnowmobile thingy an’ down in the valleys woz all slushy snow an’ melting ice an’ the skid things dunna work proper. An’ we wuz forced up onto the ridgeways wot woz nice cuz we could see all about and where we woz goin’, burrit woz a bit windy. An’ the streams woz all swollen an’ surging with melt water an’ some of the bridges had got swept away so we had to go a long way round. Anyway it wuz fun sittin’ up on top of the sledge an’ luggage and everything an’ real excitin’ ‘cos we was doin’ a real rescue.
Anyway, somewhere north of Edinbugh Ginsbergbear’s i-Phone GPS stopped working ‘cos it was run out of electricity, burrit dinnermarrer ‘cos Boris still had his Dan Dare compass an’ that told the way… somehow. But Boris said we wuz running out of fuel ‘cos of the Brockhousecorgisnowmobile having to work so hard an’ that woz a real problem.
So, there we woz, pootling along on top of some hill, tryin’ not to run out of fuel an’ a bit worried, but norra lot. An’ Boris woz concentratin’ very hard ‘cos he said we woz runnin’ outta snow an’all an’ would haffta do summat about it soon an’ Ginsbergbear woz huddled up in a rug, wiyya hotwaterbottle, readin’ Moby Dick ‘cos he are nesh, burreye has got very woolly warm fur wot is impervious to the cold and wet and I woz lookin’ around and enjoying everything and I sees it.
Down below us woz a road and on the road woz a van wot wern’t movin’ an I jumps up an’ down an is shouting ‘cos Boris canna hear above the chuggin’ of the engine an’ he says, “What’s up?”
An’ I says, “Look there’s a van an’ it might have some wheels an’ we could make the sledge an’ stuff work wiyout snow.”
So we stops and discusses the practicalities of my idea an’ Boris and Ginsbergbear aren’t very optimistic an’ Strawberry wanna joinin’ in ‘cos he were being ockard. An’ then Boris says that the van looks a bit like the Vicecream van an’ there are people millin’ about down there. So we go for a closer look.
An’ guess wot. When we gets closer we can see Aunty Stella, in a boilersuit anna leather jerkin like a lorry driver an’ one of the van’s wheels is off ‘cos it has a flat tyre an’ Aunty Stella is rolling a new wheel up. An’ Ferdinand is there too, workin’ the jack, only he is a bit little an’ the jack is very big. Still he doin’ all right.
An’ we run down the hill shouting, “Aunty Stella, Ferdy, Aunty Stella, Ferdy Aunty, Stella!”
An’ they look up an’ they shoutin’ too.
An’ we get to them and stop, an Aunty Stella wipes her swarfy hands on her overalls before she hugs us all.
Then Ferdinand tells us all about crashin’ an’ polar bears an’ wullufses, in an excited sort of way. An’ we tell them about losing my atlas wot woz old and dogeared, an’ about losing Bert who were old and dogeared too, but we woz sad. An’ we all says, “Ah, well…” an’ all mucks in fixing the van.
So anyway, when the van’s mended Aunty Stella says, “Stow your gear in the back.” an’ there will be plenty of room for all of us too ‘cos she has had a clear out. An Strawberry jumps in the cab wiy Aunty Stella and Ferdinand an’ we all climbin’ in the back ‘an WE ARE OFF!
An’ we are all singin’ Ten Green Bottles.
Extraspecial Ginger Cat,
Somewhere in Scotland.
catnip road trip
“and if one green bottle should accidentally fall…” again and… again and… again and…
strawberry is at the wheel as we speed up strathbogie’s main drag our wheels splashing mudstreeks across deserted streets abandoned shops and homes… ghost town
our winter tyres carve deep scars sad memories of disappointments and fading horrors into the gravel drive of huntly castle
stark ruined tower of grey stone
the laird offers kippers and devilled kidneys for breakfast
clad in bonnet and plaid trews he stands beneath his portcullis armwaving local directions
he has drawn us a detailed map… in pencil on scented notepaper
back in the vicecreamvan… back on the road… tracking the bogie river
we come upon a clearing in the conifer forest
multicoloured patchwork tents yurts and mobile homes cluster about an antique cottage
white woodsmoke pillars upwards from the lone chimney
the aroma of baking
“i hope that is fresh hot catnip mooncakes i can smell” says boz
anna and bui in the doorway wipe flour handprints onto their aprons
we have encountered the bravehearted refugees of provincial strathbogie…
’twas a day in late november in the year of 2010
when snow began to fall upon this happy glen
they left for work that morning without any dread
never suspecting as they kissed their wives goodbye that by the evening they could be dead
if they had not dressed warmly and worn a woollen vest
as anyone will tell you is the very best
and those that got home that freezing night
looked out in the morning to a terrible sight
for they were cut off by ice and snow
and the temperature was -25 degrees centigrade which is awfully low
they waited and waited in horrible fear
till their rescuers came in the new year
the vicecream van with boris and aunty stella
was a welcome sight to a shivering feller
and anna and bui had baked them all a treat
because as every one knows heroes have to eat
strawberry ferdy and phoebus must be lauded as well
because they endured hardship and danger and went through hell
in order to rescue the good people of strathbogie
and now they had made it those heroes of limehousesailortown and the norwegian doggie
with supplies and aid for which all are grateful
and a poet of fame to recount their perils so fateful
…later as the sun sinks jaffa orange from the pomegranate sky
ANNA ALBAN PYROMATRIX
ignites a tottering structure of redundant furniture old doors and petrol soaked ragflags
winter’s funeral pyre
fairy lights hang in the norway spruce
an enigmatic puginesque castiron pierhead plays stage to fiddlers and pipers
fiddles prance pipes lament
bui on onestring fiddlehorn and bamse on norwegian tricycle hurdygurdy duet
the woods ring to the bonfire cackle the uncorked effervescing laughter
the skirling and whirling
the distant chainsaw whine of the encroaching loggers…
Aunty Stella, Ferdinand and Strawberry will eventually take the Vicecream van south to search out the Kittens of Chaos and restore them to the Land of Green Ginger. As for Boz, Phoebles and myself, we will await the return of the Arctic Coleyfishtrawler Lord Ancaster that will take us by sea to Limehousesailortown. Meanwhile, perhaps we can help in someway in a concerted stand against the forces of commerce that threaten Anna’s forest.
By early spring the forest was gone.
“The government is selling off Scotland piece by piece. Mr Fluffy, the media mogul and millionaire oligarch has acquired our coastal dunes and nature reserves for a luxury golf course and has the civil servants and officials eating out of his hand. All we hear is how wonderful it will be for the economy.” Anna was moaning to the boys while they waited in The Ship Inn, a brisk walk from Banff harbour where they expected the arrival of the Lord Ancaster, “Look.”
She thumped a small Bakelite TV that sat on the bar. The ghostly image on its tube flickered and stabilised. Mr Fluffy was shaking hands with a grinning Scotish first minister. Behind them stood a dapper figure in porkpie hat, zoot suit and squirrel-grey spats, the face shadowed by the brim of his hat.
“That’s Slasher McGoogs,” gasped Boz, “What’s he doing up here?”