Author Archives: andrew

Base Delight

Recipe:
3 shots Jim bean
2 table spoons brown sugar
1 shot passion fruit cordial

Rapidly stir the sugar into the whiskey so that it is in suspension in a low tumbler and then float the cordial roughly on top. Serve immediately, before the sugar settles.

They say this one came from East LA, where the muso’s used to hang. It was created by the legendary Harry Hunter at the Velvet club one night for Jim Morrison. Although it did little for his whiny voice it became a favourite among rock musicians needing a bit of vocal assistance before a show: sweet enough to solve the munchies, smooth enough to make you feel like James Brown and rough enough to make you sound like Joe Cocker.

Posted in 2012-04-23 to 2012-05-13 - Hey, Bartender | Comments Off

May 2016

I came to live on the high Karoo two weeks ago. I stopped treatments in March; said my goodbyes; and came up here to feel the clear, cold winds  of my childhood.

She strode into my little cabin a few days after I arrived as if she had always lived there. She twisted once between my ankles and then curled her small grey body on my favourite chair in front of the heater. I had come here to be alone at the last but as the days  passed I found myself glad of her steady company.

She has spent most of her days around me, sitting quietly nearby as I write my journal on the wide veranda. Sometimes, if the pain is troubling, she lets me run my fingers through her downy fur. Each day we watch the sunset and drink in the clean night air together.

I had always known, in my heart, that I would see my grey cat again one day; but I had never imagined she would come as a friend.

Posted in 2012-03-26 to 2012-04-23 - Fire, Earth, Air, Water | Comments Off

June 1981

I don’t think I was really going to do it, I was just walking the city in the night time mists.  It was a difficult time for me; working ceaselessly; trying to cope with being newly single after so many years. When I couldn’t sleep I would walk the streets, especially down near the river.

That’s how I found myself standing on the wrong side of the railing staring down at the cold water below. It was very still and dark: the pale, ephemeral mists drifted over the cold grey surface of the river. I knew that river would close over me silently; that the freezing water would flow on towards the sea as if I had never been.

I saw the cat slip out of the shadows among the railings on the other side of the bridge. I thought she would come over to me, an old friend in a time of need to show that someone cared in the world. But she didn’t. She didn’t even look in my direction: that small grey cat just kept walking on across the bridge.

I watched her receding form for a few minutes, her grey coat less and less distinct in the mist until she was gone. Then I climbed back over the safety barrier and took myself home.

Posted in 2012-03-26 to 2012-04-23 - Fire, Earth, Air, Water | Comments Off

December 1972

It was a crazy night the second time I saw the cat. My friends don’t believe it was there, they claim it was the smoke inhalation and whiskey that night, but I saw her that night her fur ruddy red by the light of the roiling flames.

It had started in the early morning hours, two old friends drinking Jack Daniels through the summer’s night: the rest of our party were long unconscious. When we first saw the flames licking between two layers of thatch we weren’t too concerned: in less than ten minutes we knew that the building was lost and our concern was only for our friends and their property.

It was stupid to go back. All the people were accounted for and the cars had been moved out of the garage, but I had left my camera inside.  Someone told me it was too late but I had been through too much in the last hour to feel any fear.

As I darted across the living area, shielding my face from heat of the flames I saw the cat. She was standing on the staircase, preternaturally calm among the roaring licks of flame. She looked speculatively at me and then at the burning ceiling above my head.

It wasn’t what one expected in the middle of a burning building: I stopped, shook my head and peered through the shimmering air.  That’s when I noticed the rolling balls of smoky flames playing beneath the beams ahead and saw the wallpaper behind the cat ignite suddenly into a sheet of flame.

Somehow the camera seemed unimportant then; and so I walked out of that building on that day. And no-one ever believed there was a cat.

 

Posted in 2012-03-26 to 2012-04-23 - Fire, Earth, Air, Water | Comments Off

August 1954

I don’t remember much of my father’s funeral. I was too young to understand and upset by the traumatised adults. I don’t remember the service or the open grave. I remember Uncle Noel sobbing silently; openly. Seeing that paragon of masculinity so reduced affected me more than the tragedy itself. I have been told there was a service by our kindly family priest but I remember nothing of it.

The cat is my clearest memory. I could see it just beyond the grave in the sunny lee of a tumbled headstone. That small grey cat looked up from its grooming directly into my eyes for a long still moment.

The first shovelful of earth hitting the coffin broke me from my reverie and when I looked again the cat was gone. I wanted to go after it, to touch its sleek grey fur, but those kindly adults stopped me: they thought it better to get me away from the burial quickly, distract me with toys.

They insisted that the cat was only a stray.

Posted in 2012-03-26 to 2012-04-23 - Fire, Earth, Air, Water | Comments Off

In the Eye of the Beholder

Eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable – people see what they want to see.

Write three tellings of the same incident, as expressed by three spectators – the incident can be everyday or exceptional.

One version a week for three weeks, each version 100 – 250 words.

Posted in 2012-03-12 to 2012-03-25 - Who Pitches the Pitchpeople?, 2012-05-14 to 2012-06-03, Pitches | Comments Off

Mrs White, in the Kitchen, with the Rope

“Mrs Peirson? Hello, I’m Mrs White. Please come in it’s nice to meet you in person. “

“Why yes, it is a lovely old place. Come through to the kitchen. Let me apologise for the smell – the housekeeper has been cooking tripe for the dogs” – boiled down chicken blood doesn’t smell like tripe but Mrs Peirson wouldn’t know that.

“You say cloves? And cinnamon? Well it is a kitchen…” – scorched bat fur smells nothing like cloves! Mother Nastri would have cackled wildly at that:  She was quietly proud of the strange reeks that issued from her quarters behind the main house. In those long forgotten years in Haiti such stenches advertised her power and artifice.

“Now please sit down. As I understand it from your letter your problem is, umm, well, not in the bedroom; but rather in that you don’t conceive?” – it had  better be: I spend the whole morning tying and retying the six pointed knot in the blood slick rope – ‘eighteen  repetitions to be sure’, I was taught , ’each one as flawless as the child to be born.’

“Now sit down and have some tea – Earl Grey for you dear and Slimmer’s herbal infusion for me: it tastes terrible” – that at least is true, the rum is rough island gut – raw and burning the way Mother Nastri liked it.

“My mind-technique is simple – have a look at this rope, run it though your hands, concentrate on it” – a real hangman’s noose, used a decade ago to execute a certain John Muller, not easy to acquire in civilised England.

“Keep concentrating; close your eyes and visualise the soft maroon rope in your mi…” – this bit is always difficult, there is just no polite way to spit on someone in England.

“Oh! I am so sorry Mrs Peirson; that tea must have gone down the wrong way. Here, let me dry you with this towel. I feel terrible, I can’t apologise enough…” – well that’s that then, a job well done, another patient sent forth to motherhood.

“But you have the hang of it Mrs Peirson – just remember the mind-technique every night and your pregnancy is assured”

Posted in 2012-02-13 to 2012-03-11 - Get a Clue(do) | 1 Comment

Colonel Mustard, with the Lead Pipe, in the Conservatory

The colonel walked across the crumbling mansion, each pace carefully measured. His polished leather shoes made a crisp click with each stride. Despite his decade long retirement he still carried himself like an officer of the queen’s army – at least in public.

He entered the lush, humid confines of the conservatory; it was his custom to spend his evenings here nurturing his orchids. A package had been left inside the door – the pump outlet pipe that had been on order for weeks.  Although none would disturb him here, he quietly turned the key in the lock before taking the heavy pipe to the back courtyard.

He topped up the nutrient mixes in a few containers as he passed through the rows of orchids. He didn’t actually like orchids, they were too temperamental, but they were an appropriate hobby for an ageing gentleman. This hobby allowed him to obtain a variety of piping, pumps, sprayers and agricultural chemicals without fuss and without arousing the suspicions of servants or family.

After unlocking the low doorway, the colonel entered the glassed-over courtyard and set to work dismantling the main nutrient pump. He worked with clean, efficient precision: removed his jerry-rigged connector, fitted the new lead pipe and got the system flowing again. The colonel sighed, sat down in his camp chair and stretched out his legs. He was proud of the system; not many could design such a complicated set-up; six years as an army mechanic in North Africa teaches one about pumping water.

He pulled a small wooden pipe from his pocket and casually stuffed it from the drying table behind him. After lighting the pipe carefully, and taking a few slow drags, he held the pipe out before him and considered it deliberately.

The pipe was from his favourite grandson – ‘a souvenir from Africa’, the boy had said, ‘I know you’ll like it’. It was a rather communicative gift to a grandfather who doesn’t smoke. He thought how he had always liked the boy – perhaps he should invite him to the conservatory one evening soon.

Posted in 2012-02-13 to 2012-03-11 - Get a Clue(do) | Comments Off

Business

“Mrs Hobson I assume”

“Ah. Mr Johnson, please sit down”

“A most interesting location you have chosen for this meeting, my dear. And in a language the locals can understand – it’s no wonder your lot are considered eccentric.”

“This negotiation concerns them; it’s outcome will determine the continued existence of everything they have ever known. They have, I believe Mr Johnson, a right to listen.”

“Still, inappropriate to our meeting. It might remind this lowly civil servant of his duty – and that would act against your cause.”

“You are here – you have no sense of duty. Anyhow I like the novelty of bipedalism and the vocalisations have a certain rustic gusto, don’t you think? Another espresso Mr Johnson?”

“I would prefer to get right to business. As I understand it you require me to survey the Sol System as ‘Devoid of Life’ so as to more easily acquire a C-class demolition permit for the surrounding reach. Is that the gist of it Mrs Hobson?”

“For which I will pay you four hundred Cesari pure by anonymous transfer.”

“I have further requirements, these long survey trips create domestic difficulties. I require a paid vacation to Belruga Playspace for my mates and I.”

“What, all of them?”

“Unfortunately tradition dictates only the primary seventy-seven should be taken on a trip of this nature.”

“Well that seems fair enough Mr Johnson – I believe we have a deal.  Let’s spit and shake hands on that: it’s how they do it here.”

Posted in 2012-01-09 to 2012-02-05 - Coffee & Cigarettes | Comments Off

Old Friends

“… dunno – about three years; you know I left a year after school and then lost touch with your posse till I met you here last week.”

“You look good – fit and healthy”

“Ja man – I run three k’s  every morning”

“Seriously ,  you – the x-box champion!”

“Every day – weekends too – I get up and run at six. It’s a great way to start the day.”

“Jus. When I knew you, you could barely walk up the two blocks to buy cigs without puffing.  I can’t believe you’re this seriously fit oke now. I mean you, a computer geek: what suddenly inspired you to start running man – that’s plain weird.”

“Well I met this girl….”

“You started running at 6am for a girl! You were love-struck baby, love-struck. And you always made out like you were way above that shit in school.”

“Naah, no man, no it wasn’t like that – I mean not after the first time. I was already basically living at her place, and she runs like once a week, so one day I go along with her just for fun and it nearly kills me but she’s very encouraging, you know – very encouraging.  And we discovered that it’s a really good time.”

“For what? A shower?”

“Well not that day, we didn’t get as far as the shower we just screwed in the hallway as soon as we got the door closed. It’s fantastic man – you’re both hot and sweaty and hyped up on adrenalin: it brings out all the wild every fucking morning man – it’s fantastic!”

“Running huh? I could run, sounds good.”

 

Posted in 2012-01-09 to 2012-02-05 - Coffee & Cigarettes | Comments Off

Eschutcheon

The final shard of glass or ceramic that is only discovered a significant period after a careless domestic breakage.

An eschutcheon cannot be discovered by searching or vacuuming:  Riwaq is the correct term for a hidden shard discovered during a careful post-breakage search. The last Riwaq is assured to be both blunter and smaller than the eschutcheon.

Eschutcheon are most commonly discovered by bare-footed toddlers, first-time visitors and judgemental relations.

The phrase the second eschutcheon is informally used to refer to the tetanus injection associated with painful eschutcheon discovery.

Posted in 2011-19-12 to 2012-01-08 - From Arris to Wall Dormer | Comments Off

Sconce

To walk in a glacially slow, hip-swinging manner due to the utterly misguided belief that it increases ones sex appeal. To sconce in a public place is to invite openly confused stares which will inevitably be remembered by the sconcer as  glances of politely suppressed lust.

Not to be confused with Cunues which is usually used in a more intimate setting and refers to the glacially slow removal of clothing while walking back and forth.

Posted in 2011-19-12 to 2012-01-08 - From Arris to Wall Dormer | Comments Off

Brahmasthan

Technical word referring the the largest pipe of a pipe organ. The Brahmasthan has the greatest air volume and thus sustained notes require the greatest effort of the part of the bellows operators. It is also the lowest pitched pipe and often associated with incontinence among the elder parish members.

Posted in 2011-19-12 to 2012-01-08 - From Arris to Wall Dormer | Comments Off

Tannie Wessels – Origins

In the Thi’si retreat high in the mountains of Nepal the warrior monks began the final cycle of the chant they had begun 200 years before.  This prayer was given to call the spirit of the great warrior Seiyan, an arhat whose enlightenment had led him beyond the strictures of space and time. On the altar kneels the Assiri: a beautiful, golden youth with dark hair and fierce eyes. Since his careful selection in childhood the best teachers have dedicated their lives to moulding him into the perfect vessel. When the cycle completes a perfect silence falls over the monastery. They gaze expectantly at the Assiri.

Liefe Wessels is sitting on her uncomfortable couch in Kuilsriver. She has never been wealthy and long years of hardship show in her lined face. This year her third child will leave home and for a moment she cheerfully contemplates her autumn years of soap operas and church fetes.

As the enlightenment of Seiyan descends upon her she sighs deeply – time to have a little talk with that violent drunk, Mr Johnson, at number 22 and then on to the central African problem. But before all the work begins she thinks to indulge a childhood fantasy. As she looks about at ancient Gaza, 2500BCE, she smiles: she had always dreamed of seeing the pyramids.

Posted in 2011-12-05 to 2011-12-18 - Superhero Origin Stories | Comments Off

1099AD

Is it difficult to trick a spoilt prince into self destruction? What art is needed to lead a wise man filled with curiosity to his doom? Does it take a great skill to destroy true love’s purity? These are easy entertainments: the seeds of destruction written clear for all to see.

In the year 1099AD I sought such morsels of amusement at the walls of Jerusalem. I gazed down upon the thronging crowds of desperate men, dying far from home and sick with bloodlust, and I smiled at the abundance. That is when I first saw Samuel Dimante moving among the Christian lines. To my unnatural sight he shone: a calm, compassionate, thinking man unaffected by the raging torrents of hatred and lust that mortals call war. I saw a man of grace and honour; a healer and a priest standing uncorrupted amongst the horrors of his kind. I saw a fine opportunity.

I stood by him as he prayed for victory on a quiet knoll in the evening. ‘Just ask and it will be so’, I say too close to his ear. With the usual injunctions he turned on me, swearing to pay no heed to my deceitful talk. I laughed quietly in the dark, why would I deceive when the truth would suffice?

‘Your prayers will be answered and not by my hand: the Saracen cannot hold another day. Jerusalem will fall on the morrow. In your heart you know this, your commanders know it and the soldiers feel it in their blood.  Tomorrow all that has been suffered will be avenged. Tomorrow Christian men will ravage victorious through the streets of Jerusalem bringing God’s fierce retribution to the starving infidels within. At last those who have stood against your church will be brought to swift and savage justice – blood will run on the steps of the Temple of Solomon.’

‘In the morning, Sir, I will return to hear your prayers’

I was loathe to leave him that night but thoughtful men need time to think. And there was play enough to distract me: a young knight willing to trade his companion’s lives so that he could return to his lover alive – he should have said ‘alive and whole’. But when the dawn began to lighten the sky I had not forgotten Samuel Dimante and I stood beside him at his morning prayers.

‘Lord, should the walls, by your grace, fall today, let each soldier as he touches Jerusalem’s holy ground feel your compassionate grace. Give them the knowledge that all mankind are brothers in your sight – let them see only the pure souls within as you do and not the outwards trappings of belief. Amen.’

As he finished he slowly opened his eyes and looked straight into mine. Quietly I echoed his Amen and, with a slight smile, disappeared.

After the east bastion fell Samuel was among the first to penetrate the narrow city streets. All was chaos then: no man could tell Saracen from Christian, none could tell friend from foe. There was no ally to defend your back and no enemy before you; there was nought but angry, violent men filled with fear and battle-lust.

Mortal histories say the street of Jerusalem flowed ankle deep in blood that day in an orgy of violence rarely matched. Samuel was among the few survivors that day – he lived till old age in dark regret. That was not my doing, perhaps his God chose to spare him?

Posted in 2011-11-14 to 2011-12-04 - And then he wished for Peace On Earth! | Comments Off

In The Details – Final!

The small drawing-roomDespite its fancy name it was a small, poorly lit room and rather uninviting. It had once been the entrance hall before the estate was subdivided and the majestic driveway destroyed. was exquisitely neat and smelled of burnt lavender. There were some Dresden shepherds and shepherdessesThey were a wedding gift from a forgotten relation, placed safely out of reach in the room from which we children were forbidden. In my earliest memories I broke a shepherd’s crook and mended it with desperate, childish clumsiness. The inevitable punishment never came – in all the intervening years the damage was never noticed. Mother always hated those pale, pastel statues: perhaps that’s why father insisted they always be displayed.
, on the mantelpieceDark mahogany: beautiful but chipped at the edges and grimy in the cracks., simpering sweetly. There were framed water-coloursMother was a dedicated amateur artist in the last years of her life. The first, an early attempt at a Strelitzia, is skilful but uninspired. The second, completed in the last years of her life, depicts a stormy beach in late afternoon. In the far distance three figures walk ankle deep in the froth; another trails far behind wading through deeper water., two samplersWe did them for mother when we were kids, a craft project. My brother’s sampler is precise and elegant; mine by contrast untidy and childish. They had lain in the bottom of a cupboard for years; it was only long after we had left home that they were framed and put on display., and three needlework picturesThey have always been here. My mother must have known where they came from and why she kept them but if she ever told me the story I have forgotten it. on the wall. There were some photographsThere are twelve photos, apparently of my cousins. I recognise eight of them but can only name three. My brother would know them all, he was always more interested in the family. of what were obviously nephews and nieces and some good furniture – a Chippendale deskIt was my mother’s special writing desk – bought, years before, to write her novel from. At fourteen I first managed to pick the lock of the bottom drawer: there was no secret manuscript, just some old passports and a dusty Anias Nin novel., some little satin-wood tablesMade of exquisuite inlaid wood and always polished to a mirror-sheen: my grand parents brought them back from India in the 30′s. My brother, before he left, once said they were the only thing in this dreary house that he wanted to inherit. – and a hideous and rather uncomfortable Victorian sofa I remember my brother, aged nineteen, sobbing wretchedly on that sofa: hopelessly and frustrated. It was one of the last times we spoke.
I told him to just get it over with and tell my parents the truth about himself. I told him once they were over the initial shock everything would be alright. He should have known better than to take the advice of a fifteen year old: they never spoke to him after that day.

.

Posted in 2011-10-24 to 2011-11-13 - In The Details | 2 Comments

[satin-wood tables]

Made of exquisuite inlaid wood and always polished to a mirror-sheen: my grand parents brought them back from India in the 30′s. My brother, before he left, once said they were the only thing in this dreary house that he wanted to inherit.

Posted in 2011-10-24 to 2011-11-13 - In The Details | Comments Off

[Chippendale desk]

[Chippendale desk] It was my mother’s special writing desk – bought, years before, to write her novel from. At fourteen I first managed to pick the lock of the bottom drawer: there was no secret manuscript, just some old passports and a dusty Anias Nin novel.

Posted in 2011-10-24 to 2011-11-13 - In The Details | Comments Off

[drawing room]

Despite its fancy name it was a small, poorly lit room and rather uninviting. It had once been the entrance hall before the estate was subdivided and the majestic driveway destroyed.

Posted in 2011-10-24 to 2011-11-13 - In The Details | 2 Comments

[Dresden shepherds and shepherdesses]

They were a wedding gift from a forgotten relation, placed safely out of reach in the room from which we children were forbidden. In my earliest memories I broke a shepherd’s crook and mended it with desperate, childish clumsiness.  The inevitable punishment never came – in all the intervening years the damage was never noticed.

Mother always hated those pale, pastel statues: perhaps that’s why father insisted they always be displayed.

Posted in 2011-10-24 to 2011-11-13 - In The Details, Uncategorized | Comments Off