Friday, April 27, 2012

The tale of the Lancashire witches (in 55 words)

Fear and superstition were rife in early 17th century England so it was all too easy to misinterpret a glance, and link it to later misfortune. And that’s why ten people of Pendle were hanged for witchcraft. Device, Chattox, Demdike, Whittle and Co. No black cats, no pointy hats; just accusations and misdirected religious fervour.


The Lancashire (or Pendle) Witches are among the most famous in England. Like their US counterparts in Salem, Mass., the group were victims of over zealous neighbours who were quick to accuse at the first sign of trouble. Alizon Device was called witch after she had dealings with a peddlar who refused to give her some pins. He collapsed, paralysed, and later died (probably of a stroke) and Alizon was blamed. She was said to have cursed him, with the help of her large black dog familiar. Friends and neighbours were soon rounded up and branded as a coven, who were said to meet for Sabbats at the home of Anne Whittle, known as Old Chattox.

In spite of common belief, witches were not burned at the stake in England. That treatment was reserved for heretics, and the fires wee kept alight by throwing on homosexual 'faggots' (which actually means a bundle of sticks).

This 55 word story and its accompanying history lesson were brought to you in aid of the G-Man's weekly challenge. (I'm hoping he's better by now.) This has been posted in advance because we're currently on holiday in Lancashire. Looking for witches!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday extracts: The Lion and Albert

There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That's noted for fresh-air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was their Albert
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
'E'd a stick with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle
The finest that Woolworth's could sell.

They didn't think much to the ocean
The waves, they was fiddlin' and small
There was no wrecks... nobody drownded
Fact, nothing to laugh at, at all.

So, seeking for further amusement
They paid and went into the zoo
Where they'd lions and tigers and cam-els
And old ale and sandwiches too.

There were one great big lion called Wallace
His nose were all covered with scars
He lay in a som-no-lent posture
With the side of his face to the bars.

Now Albert had heard about lions
How they were ferocious and wild
And to see Wallace lying so peaceful
Well... it didn't seem right to the child.

So straight 'way the brave little feller
Not showing a morsel of fear
Took 'is stick with the 'orse's 'ead 'andle
And pushed it in Wallace's ear!

You could see that the lion didn't like it
For giving a kind of a roll
He pulled Albert inside the cage with 'im
And swallowed the little lad... whole!

Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence
And didn't know what to do next
Said, "Mother! Yon lions 'et Albert"
And Mother said "Eeh, I am vexed!"

So Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Quite rightly, when all's said and done
Complained to the Animal Keeper
That the lion had eaten their son.

The keeper was quite nice about it
He said, "What a nasty mishap
Are you sure that it's your lad he's eaten?"
Pa said, "Am I sure? There's his cap!"

So the manager had to be sent for
He came and he said, "What's to do?"
Pa said, "Yon lion's 'eaten our Albert
And 'im in his Sunday clothes, too."

Then Mother said, "Right's right, young feller
I think it's a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert
And after we've paid to come in!"

The manager wanted no trouble
He took out his purse right away
And said, "How much to settle the matter?"
And Pa said "What do you usually pay?"

But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone
She said, "No! someone's got to be summonsed"
So that were decided upon.

Round they went to the Police Station
In front of a Magistrate chap
They told 'im what happened to Albert
And proved it by showing his cap.

The Magistrate gave his o-pinion
That no-one was really to blame
He said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.

At that Mother got proper blazing
"And thank you, sir, kindly," said she
"What waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy lions? Not me!"


Not so much an extract - more the whole monologue.  Marriott Edgar's wonderful recitation on how not to treat big cats in zoos. A Lancashire tale.  If you want more of his words try here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

For the G-Man. 55 words anyway.

The G-Man is taking a break while he recovers from being pretty ill. So the 55 word challenge won't be happening (at least for this week) but some of us just can't break the habit!

Look after yourself G-Man.   Here's 55 words just for you:

Take care of yourself Man from Michigan.
We’ll miss you until you come back.
But your health is a lot more important
Than 55 words from a hack.

Of course we all enjoy the challenge
Of writing a story each week
And wait for your comments, all eager
To see if you’ve outdone your cheek.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday extracts. Ever so portant

Lines and Squares

Whenever I walk in a London street,

I'm ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, "Bears,
Just look how I'm walking in all the squares!"

And the little bears growl to each other, "He's mine,
As soon as he's silly and steps on a line."
And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
That they came round the corner to look for a friend;
And they try to pretend that nobody cares
Whether you walk on the lines or squares.
But only the sillies believe their talk;
It's ever so portant how you walk.
And it's ever so jolly to call out, "Bears,
Just watch me walking in all the squares!"

A A Milne. When We Were Very Young. 1924


More A A Milne. Because, as Pooh would say: "It's that sort of day."
The picture is one of E H Shepard's preparatory drawings for the illustration that went with the poem.

Monday, April 16, 2012

And the winner is.......

Back on April 2 I offered a prize to mark my 300th post. There were no real rules. I just thought I'd award something to someone who wrote a comment I liked.

Jannie Funster came up with the idea that I should send her a video of me dancing the highland fling in a yellow toga, wearing lilacs in my hair.  That made me laugh. So she's getting a present of some sort - but it won't be a video of me. (Well, not one wearing lilacs and a yellow toga!)

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Billing confusion.
Computer error has stopped
a payment for my
virtual world.
Now virtually alone,
I am rudderless
in the online ocean.


Yes folks, an automatic payment didn't happen and I have been cut off from my website and email. I am bereft! Weekend working means I can't complete renewal until Monday, and then it might take a couple of days.

So if anyone's trying to reach me that way, please be patient.

Friday, April 13, 2012

FFF55. Affirmation

When I was young I used to ask: “How do you know if you’re in love?” And they answered: “If you aren’t sure, you’re not.”

I didn’t understand. Not then. But I do now. Every moment of every day I understand and know I am in love. And even better, I know I am loved.


Dedicated to my K.

But written for the G Man's challenge on a Friday.
55 words.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Extracts: God Speed the Plough

God speed the plough

I found this at Battlefield 1403 near Shrewsbury. All the references I can find attribute it to Trad. or Anon.

Friday, April 06, 2012

55 words on a Friday: Lost my marbles

“Hand it over and tell me where you got it, please.”


“I’m asking nicely. Please let me see it.”

“It’s mine!”

“I really need to look at it, young man. Now!”

“Officer, leave my son alone. He’s only playing marbles. What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, Ma’am. That’s not a marble, it’s a glass eye.”


As usual on a Friday, I've written 55 words for the G-Man. Please forgive me, gentle readers, if I don't get back to your offerings for a few days. It's my birthday, and Easter, and I'm taking a break. Be back before you know it, though!

I sort of wrote this with an American accent. Do they play marbles over there?  And is the phrase "lost my marbles" specifically British?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Robert Browning on Spring


Home Thoughts from Abroad

Oh to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray's edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!

And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower.

Robert Browning (1812 - 1889)

Monday, April 02, 2012

300 CCC Triple century etc

What's she on about? Well, this is my 300th Jobbing Writer post. It's not a poem or a challenge or anything to do with my creative writing. It's just an announcement.

Should I do a giveaway? Is 300 enough to brag about? I don't know.

If you think I should offer a prize, leave a comment saying why you think you deserve it. If anyone (or two or three) convinces me I'll send you something.

(Offer ends Friday, April 13. Because that's just how my sense of humour works!)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A-Z, April and stuff like that

You've probably noticed a recent rash of logos that say something along the lines of A-Z April on them. They're to do with a meme that's doing the rounds where people are trying to do 26 posts in a month, covering each letter of the alphabet.  Now I thought that was a good idea, but it sort of gets in the way of the regular things I do, so I have a dilemma.  This is the way I've solved it.

I've set up a 26 letters page (see the tab at the top) and I plan to find a new, interesting or otherwise-chosen word for each one. I've done a couple already and I expect the list to grow steadily during the month, but I'm making no promises to finish it in 30 days. (Not least because I shall be on holiday for a hefty portion of them.)

I'll probably do a post at the end of the month to remind you how I'm doing. And I might do one when I finally have 26 words. But don't hold your breath. It's a WIP.  (See TLA)