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howard brace Feb 2012
Inconspicuous, his presence noted only by the obscurity and the ever growing number of spent cigarette stubs that littered the ground.  It had been a long day and the rain, relentless in its tenacity had little intention of stopping, baleful clouds still  hung heavy, dominating the lateness of the afternoon sky, a rain laden skyline broken only by smoke filled chimney pots and the tangled snarl of corroded television aerials.

     The once busy street was fast emptying now, the lure of shop windows no longer enticed the casual browser as local traders closed their premises to the oncoming night, solitary lampposts curved hazily into the distance, casting little more than insipid pools mirrored in the gutter below, only the occasional stranger scurrying home on a bleak, rain swept afternoon, the hurried slap of wet leather soles on the pavement, the sightless umbrellas, the infrequent rumble of a half filled bus, hell-bent on its way to oblivion.

     In the near distance as the working day ended, a sudden emergence of factory workers told Beamish it was 5-o'clock, most would be hurrying home to a hot meal, while others, for a quick drink perhaps before making the same old sorry excuse... for Jack, the greasy spoon would be closing about now, denying him the comfort of a badly needed cuppa' and stale cheese sandwich.  A subtle legacy of lunchtime fish and chips still lingered in the air, Jack's stomach rumbled, there was little chance of a fish supper for Beamish tonight, it protested again... louder.

     From beneath the eaves of the building opposite several pigeons broke cover, startled by the rattle as a shopkeeper struggled to close the canvas awning above his shop window.  Narrowly missing Beamish they flew anxiously over the rooftops, memories of the blitz sprang to mind as Jack stepped smartly to one side, he stamped his feet... it dashed a little of the weather from his raincoat, just as the rain dashed a little of the pigeons' anxiety from the pavement... the day couldn't get much worse if it tried.  Shielding his face, Jack struck the Ronson one more time and cupped the freshly lit cigarette between his hands, it was the only source of heat to be had that day... and still it rained.

     'By Appointment to Certain Personages...' the letter heading rang out loudly... 'Jack Beamish ~ Private Investigator...' a throat choking mouthful by any stretch of the imagination, thought Jack and shot every vestige of credulity plummeting straight through the office window and amidst a fanfare of trumpet voluntary, nominate itself for a prodigious award in the New Year Honours list.   Having formally served in a professional capacity for a well known purveyor of pickled condiments, who  incidentally, brandished the same patronage emblazoned upon their extensive range of relish as the one Jack had more recently purloined from them... a paid commission no less, which by Jack's certain understanding had made him, albeit fleeting in nature, a professional consultant of said company... and consequently, if they could flaunt the auspicious emblem, then according to Jack's infallible logic, so could Jack.  

     The recently appropriated letterhead possessed certain distinction... in much the same way, Jack reasoned, that a blank piece of paper did not... and whereas correspondence bearing the heading 'By Appointment' may not exactly strike terror into the hearts of man... unlike a really strong pickled onion, it nevertheless made people think twice before playing him for the fool, which sadly, Jack had to concede, they still invariably did... and he would often catch them wagging an accusing finger or two in his direction with such platitudes as... "watch where you put your foot", they'd whisper, "that Jack's a right Shamus...", and when you'd misplaced your footing as many times as Jack had, then he reasoned, that by default the celebrated Shamus must have landed himself in more piles of indiscretion than he would readily care to admit, but that wouldn't be quite accurate either, in Jack's line of work it was the malefactor that actually dropped him in them more often than not.

     A cold shiver suddenly ran down his spine, another quickly followed as a spurt of icy water from a broken rain spout spattered across the back of his neck, he grimaced... Jack's expression spoke volumes as he took one final pull from his half soaked cigarette and flicked it, amid an eruption of sparks against the adjacent brick wall.  Sinking further into the shadow he tipped his fedora against the oncoming rain, then, digging both hands deep within his pockets, he huddled behind the upturned collar of his gabardine... watching.

     It was times such as these when Jack's mind would slip back, in much the same way you might slip back on a discarded banana peel, when a matter of some consequence, or in particular this case the pavement, would suddenly leap up from behind and give the back of Jack's head a resoundingly good slapping and tell him to "stop loafing around in office hours... or else", then drag him, albeit kicking and screaming back into the 20th century.  This intellectual assault and battery re-focused Jack's mind wonderfully as he whiled away the long weary hours until his next cigarette; cup of tea, or the last bus home, his capacity to endure such mind boggling tedium called for nothing less than sheer ******-mindedness and very little else... Beamish had long suspected that he possessed all the necessary qualifications.  

     Jack had come a long way since the early days, it had been a long haul but he'd finally arrived there in the end... and managed to pick up quite a few ***** looks along the way.  Whilst he was with the Police Constabulary... and it was only fair to stress the word 'with', as opposed to the word 'in'... although the more Jack considered, he had been 'with' the arresting officer, held 'in' the local Bridewell... detained at Her Majesties pleasure while assisting the boys in blue with their enquiries over a minor infringement of some local by-law that currently had quite slipped his mind at that moment.  Throughout this enforced leisure period he'd managed to read the entire abridged editions of Kilroy and other expansive works of graffiti exhibited in what passed locally as the next best thing to the Tate Gallery, whereupon it hadn't taken Jack very long to realise that it was always a good place to start if you wanted free breakfast, in fact the weeks bill of fare was tastefully displayed in vivid, polychromatic colour on the wall opposite... you just had to be au-fait with braille.
                            
     No matter how industrious Beamish laboured to rake the dirt there always appeared to be a dire shortage of gullible clients for Jack to squeeze, what would roughly translate as an honest crust out of, and although his financial retainer was highly competitive he understood that potential clients found it bewildering when grappling with the unplumbed depths of his monthly expense account, which would tend to fluctuate with the same unpredictability as the British weather, the rest of Jack's agenda revolved around a little shady moonlighting... in fact he'd happily consider anything to offset the remotest possibility of financial delinquency... short of extortion... which by the strangest twist was the very word prospective clients would cry while Jack beavered around the office with dust-pan and brush sweeping any concerns they may have had frantically under the carpet regarding all culpability of his extra-curricular monthly stipend... and they should remain assured at all times... as they dug deep and fished for their cheque books, and simply look upon it as kneading dough, which eerily enough was exactly the thick wedge of buttered granary that Jack had every intention of carving.

     Were there ever the slightest possibility that a day could be so utterly wretched, then today was that day, Jack felt a certain empathy as he merged with his surroundings... at one with nature as it were.  The rain, a timpani on the metal dustbin lids, by the side of which Beamish had taken up vigil, also taking up vigil and in search of a morsel was the stray mongrel, this was the third time now that he'd returned, the same apprehensive wag, yet still the same hopeful look of expectation in his eyes, a brief but friendly companion who paid more attention to Jack's left trouser leg than anything that could be had from nosing around the dustbins that day... some days you're the dog, scowled Beamish as he shook his trouser leg... and some days the lamppost, Jack's foot swung out playfully, keeping his new friend's incontinence at a safe distance, feigning indignance  the scruffy mongrel shook himself defiantly from nose to tail, a distinct odour of wet dog filled the air as an abundance of spent rainwater flew in all directions.   Pricking one ear he looked accusingly at Jack before turning and snuffled off, his nose resolutely to the pavement and diligently, picking out the few diluted scents still remaining, the poor little stalwart renewed its search for scraps, or making his way perhaps to some dry seclusion known only to itself.
  
     Two hours later and... SPLOSH, a puddle poured itself through the front door of the nearest Public House... SPLOSH, the puddle squelched over to the payphone... SPLOSH, then, fumbling for small change dialled and pressed button 'A'..., then button 'B'... then started all over again amid a flurry of precipitation... SPLASH.  The puddle floundered to the bar and ordered itself a drink, then ebbed back to the payphone again... the local taxi company doggedly refused to answer... finally, wallowing over to the window the puddle drifted up against a warm radiator amidst a cloud of humidity and came to rest... flotsam, cast upon the shore of contentment, the puddle sighed contentedly... the Landlady watched this anomaly... suspiciously.

     The puddle's finely tuned perception soon got to grips with the unhurried banter and muffled gossip drifting along the bar, having little else to loose, other than what could still be wrung from his clothing... Beamish, working on the principle that a little eavesdropping was his stock-in-trade engaged instinct into overdrive and casually rippled in their general direction...  They were clearly regulars by the way one of them belched in a well rehearsed, taken-a-back sort of way as Jack took stock of the situation and was now at some pains to ingratiate himself into their exclusive midst and attempt several friendly, yet relevant questions pertinent to his enquiries... all of which were skillfully deflected with more than friendly, yet totally irrelevant answers pertinent to theirs'... and would Jack care for a game of dominoes', they enquired... if so, would he be good enough to pay the refundable deposit, as by common consent it just so happened to be his turn...  Jack graciously declined this generous offer, as the obliging Landlady, just as graciously, cancelled the one shilling returnable deposit from the cash register, such was the flow of light conversation that evening... they didn't call him Lucky Jack for nothing... discouraged, Beamish turned back to the bar and reached for his glass... to which one of his recent companions, and yet again just as graciously, had taken the trouble to drink for him... the Landlady gave Jack a knowing look, Beamish returned the heartfelt sentiment and ordered one more pint.

     From the licenced premises opposite, a myriad of jostling customers plied through the door, business was picking up... the sudden influx of punters rapidly persuaded Beamish to retire from the bar and find a vacant table.  Sitting, he removed several discarded crisp packets from the centre of the table only to discover a freshly vacated ashtray below... by sleight of hand Jack's Ronson appeared... as he lit the cigarette the fragile smoke curled blue as it rose... influenced by subtle caprice, it joined others and formed a horizontal curtain dividing the room, a delicate, undulating layer held between two conflicting forces.

     The possibility of a free drink soon attracted the attention of a local bar fly, who, hovering in the near vicinity promptly landed in Jack's beer, Beamish declined this generous offer as being far too nutritious and with the corner of yesterdays beer mat, flipped the offending organism from the top of his glass, carefully inspecting his drink for debris as he did so.

     A sudden draught and clip of stiletto heels as the side door opened caused Beamish to turn as a double shadow slipped discreetly into the friendly Snug... a little adulterous intimacy on an otherwise cheerless evening.  The faceless man, concealed beneath a fedora and the upturned collar of his overcoat, the surreptitious lady friend, decked out in damp cony, cheap perfume and a surfeit of bling proclaimed a not too infrequent assignation, he'd seen it all before... the over attentive manner and the band of white, Sun-starved skin recently hidden behind a now absent wedding token, ordinarily it was the sort of assignment Jack didn't much care for... the discreet tail, the candid snapshot through half drawn curtains... and the all too familiar steak tartare... for the all too familiar black eye.

     To the untrained eye, the prospect of Jack's long anticipated supper was rapidly dwindling, when it suddenly focused with renewed vigour upon the contents of a pickled egg jar he'd observed earlier that evening, lurking on the back counter, his enthusiasm swiftly diminished however as the belching customer procured the final two specimens from the jar and proceeded to demolish them.  Who, Jack reflected, after being stood out in the rain all day, had egg all over his face now... and who, he reflected deeper, still had an empty stomach.  Disillusioned, Jack tipped back his glass and considered a further sortie with the taxicab company.

     "FIVE-BOB"!!! Jack screamed... you could have shredded the air with a cheese grater... hurtling into the kerb like a fairground attraction came flying past the chequered flag at a record breaking 99 in Jack's top 100 most not wanted list of things to do that day... and that the cabby should think himself fortunate they weren't both stretched flat on a marble slab, "exploding tyres" Jack spluttered, dribbling down his chin, were enough to give anyone a coronary... further broadsides of neurotic ambiance filled the cab as the driver, miffed at the prospect of missing snooker night out with the lads, considered charging extra for the additional space Jack's profanity was taking...

     And what part of 'Drive-Carefully', fumed Beamish, did the cabby simply not understand, that pavements were there to be bypassed, 'Nay Circumvented', preferably on the left... and not veered into, wildly on the front axle... an eerie premonition of 'jemais-vu' perched and ready to strike like a disembodied Jiminy Cricket on Jack's left shoulder, looking to stick its own two-penny worth in at the 'Standing-Room-Only' arrangements in the overcrowded cab... and at what further point, Jack shrieked, eyes leaping from his head as he lurched forward, shaking his fist through the sliding glass partition, had the cabbie failed to grasp the importance of the word 'Steering-Wheel...' someone wanted horse whipping, and as far as Beamish was concerned the sole contender was the cab driver...

     In having a somewhat sedate and unruffled disposition it had fallen to Beamish... as befalls all great leaders in times of adversity, to single handedly take the bull by the horns, so to speak and at great personal cost, alert the unwary passing motorist...  Waving his arms about like a man possessed whilst performing acrobatic evolutions in the centre of the road as the cabby changed the wheel came whizzing around the corner at a back breaking 98 on Jack's ever growing list... and why, Jack puzzled, why had they all lowered their side windows and gestured back at him in semaphore..?  Rallying to its aid, Jack's head and shoulders now joined his shaking fist through the sliding glass partition and into the cabby's face, "Who" Beamish screeched with renewed vigour ,"Who Was The Man", Jack wanted to know... *"a
22.1k · Sep 2012
... A Salmon Tail ... [prose]
howard brace Sep 2012
He'd been conceived in Flamborough, so his little sister assured him some eleven summers ago, which was a tad hard for Rocky to swallow, she was a whole eighteen months his junior and then some... and at that age, well... what did she know, she was only a kid, "on this very rock" River insisted, kicking her heels in delight, "next to this very rock pool" they were both sitting beside, "one sunny afternoon eleven years ago..." and that was how he came by the name of Rocky... she taunted as the rest of the colourful story unfolded... and that she had it all on the best possible authority... although the more she thought about it, had she meant concealed... she wasn't quite sure now, it was all so very confusing at her tender age but thought it sounded close enough not to matter too much and that she would just wait and see which way the wind blew.
        
     It was conceivably an ill wind that blew no one any good that day, especially if you were a boy and just happened to be sat by a rock pool next to your little sister...  Having just taken a well earned drink from a neighbouring rock pool, Sockeye the floppiest Springer Spaniel this side of the Pecos decided that he was going to dig a hole and that he would be digging it deep, then changed his mind mid-dig and decided to have a more down to earth back scratching wriggle instead... then promptly flopped over and slid into the hole... life was sweet.  Now covered from nose to tail with every species of deceased shore life usually found frequenting the high water mark Sockeye, in a blinding flash of canine inspiration judged it would be in everyone's best interest were he to have a really good shakedown which always appeared to go down well on these occasions... and give everyone a good peppering, just so they could see exactly what they'd been missing all their lives.  

     "A rock of all places, for goodness sakes..." and what's more, it was this rock, "Yuk..." he jumped up and wiped his palms on the back of his jeans in disgust, then onto his tee-shirt, then sat back down again and began exploring his left nostril in quiet contemplation before finally jambing his hands back into his pockets... what in Heaven's name had his parents been thinking of..? what on earth was his little sister talking about..? and more to the point, what in fact did conceived mean..?  these were the questions that were uppermost in Rocky's mind as he poked an exploratory stick into the rock pool...  a baby crab marooned by the tide scampered sideways beneath a large pebble and stuck one beady eye out at him... Rocky's sister, seemingly in a world of her own, much like the baby crab sat on the edge of the noteworthy rock kicking her heels, an innocent smile curled the corners of her mouth as she quietly hummed a little song of tuneful bliss to herself and considered what further mischief she could possibly pass her brother's way.

     Rocky tossed a piece of driftwood over his sisters shoulder at a nearby flock of seagulls, squabbling over what appeared to be a discarded bag of fish and chips... Sockeye, simply knowing that his little master wanted to play a game of fetch gambolled after the stick, his ears flying courageously in the still Summer air and burst, amid a melee of feathers into their midst, only to romp back moments later, the stick all but forgotten in the excitement but now proudly sporting the derelict bag of leftovers and the odd splash of guano, his tail lolloping magnificently from side to side... and for the moment at least, leaving the fratching seagulls wheeling noisily overhead and to go about their daily business without further interruption... as for Sockeye, it had been a no contest situation.

     After fourteen years of valiant endeavour his father... Red, so named for his vivid shock of wiry hair, was still engaged in man's eternal struggle to win his significant other half's approbation with the manful art of deck-chair assembly, beach barbeque and other significant gentlemanly pursuits, all while strutting his manly stuff, sporting top of the range beach wear in accordance with the social etiquette of the previous decade... his masculine paunch slumping gallantly atop his waistband...  

     After the same fourteen terms of domestic servitude and the same thirteen identically overlooked anniversary cards a certain someone had no intention of allowing another certain someone to forget so much as one of them... his better half, so she insisted would ride rough shod, administering her own brand of justice at every given opportunity, in much the same way you'd brandish a royal-flush on poker night... or better still, a loaded revolver... and that she personally carried the burden of every ill-fated card that Lady Luck had dealt strung about her neck like Adam's original sin on Judgement Day.  

     Red much preferred the shorter, more condensed name of Rock for his son, rather than the longer more protracted Rocky, as he struggled with the wood and canvas lounger badly trapping the mound of his thumb in the process, "Aaargh...!!!" plunging his throbbing hand deep into the cold, soothing rock-pool "aaah...!!!"   Still marooned by the tide, the baby crab stood poised and ready for action as it considered giving this latest intrusion a good offensive nip, then hang on spitefully as it gave Red the final withering once over with the same baleful eye it had successfully used earlier.

     Acknowledging her husbands misfortune with a perfunctory grunt as she rummaged in her beach-bag for the thermos, she refused to be drawn in where thumbs were concerned right now, after all with his DNA sequencing she was convinced he could probably grow a new one within the month... whilst Tina, well... she was just plain worn-out... but still rejoiced in telling anyone who cared to lend a sympathetic ear in her direction... and who in turn was more than happy to listen to the woes of others and went somewhere along the lines of... 'and had she heard any more of poor Mrs Dorey's lingering martyrdom recently..? you know, the downtrodden lady who lives in the next street but one... and how they would all miss her when she was gone... and how she couldn't wait...' and as rumour had it, neither could her husband...

      Feigning to be otherwise engaged, Tina... as her husband, now blowing frantically on his mangled thumb, stumbled backwards over the half erected lounger and with a spine jarring "Ooomph...!!!" landed squarely in Sockeye's subsiding earthworks... professed total disassociation with the entire fiasco as she plunged her nose even deeper into the overdue library book she'd purposely brought on holiday for just such an occasion, making it perfectly clear that she was a tourist and furthermore, planned to stick with the same itinerary once they returned home... and that while she was here, she did not under any circumstances wish to be disturbed, the notice was clearly displayed hanging from the door handle... but if anyone should, then whoever it was did so at their own peril... and she was keeping score... although a mangled thumb she luxuriated, with the same roguish smile curling the corners of her mouth as the one normally found playing around her daughter's... was equally as heart warming.

      All Tina wanted was one week of uninterrupted peace and quiet in Flamborough, preferably with a certain someone out from under her feet then spend what might pass for several undisturbed hours sitting quietly by the rock pool comparing notes on eye makeup and the feminine merits of pedicure with the little crab who, still marooned by the tide was now sat busily knitting four pairs of matching leg warmers in the cool, still water but that was only if that certain someone... a shrill  "AAaargh...!!!" somewhat more desperate than the first, ****** itself upon the as yet unaggressive afternoon as it gyrated across the warm Jurrasic rock and recoiled out to sea... "now where was I", twisting her book uppermost "oh yes..! someone was going to pay..." only now it was going to be sooner rather than later, but only if that certain someone didn't finish the seating arrangements before the Sun disappeared and drift into some backstreet tea-room before all the lemon cheesecake sold out, or was that she reflected, simply too much to ask.

     It was his Surname that Rock found so objectionable, or it had been right up until his little sister's enlightening disclosure, now it was both names Rocky disliked, it would have been far kinder had Rock Salmon been sandwiched between sliced bread and given to Sockeye... who's solemn duty, from the first mouthful to the very last, was to gaze up beseechingly from beneath the kitchen table  and devour anything that passed his way, even the postman had to be quick about his business or have his arm follow the mail through the letter box... then Sockeye would just smack his lips and help himself to seconds.  

     All Rocky's mum had thought about for the last fourteen years was seconds... every last solitary one of them since she'd suffered with an infection of matrimonial neurosis which had deprived her of common sense and her maiden name, from Chovey to that of Salmon and how with hindsight she should have taken an Aspirin instead, wedlock she asserted was everything the name claimed to be and was without doubt the worst move she'd ever made... and what's more was seen as a bad move in whoever's wedding album you just happened to be paying your condolences to.

     Rocky would never be so fortunate on that score, unlike his sister he was stuck with Salmon for good, his grandma-Ann by all accounts had been dead set against the union from word Go and saw his father as someone who would always be out of his depth in whatever rock pool he found himself in, swimming against the tide as it were, rather than going with the flow... and it appeared that Rocky, almost eleven years into a life sentence, was about to flounder in the same murky undertow as the rest of the Salmon family... only he couldn't swim.

     "There"! her husband exclaimed "all finished... better late than never eh', who fancies trying it"? his wife luxuriated over the words 'better late' and wondered whether her new earrings, her latest acquisition would complement formal mourning attire.  Red dusted off the palms of his hands with the certain knowledge of a job well done and cautiously took one step back, looking with justifiable pride at the outcome of his manly exertions of the last two hours, this was what holidays were all about he declared, one man pitted against insurmountable odds...  His wife meanwhile was getting to grips with more odds of her own than you could safely expect to shake a stick at... her husband being one of them.  

     Having gathered her offspring with the promise of verbal earache if they didn't... and finished packing the beach-bag, Tina finally located Sockeye peering out from the shade of an adjacent rock, wisps of feathers poked tellingly from the corners of his mouth, his tail beating mischievously on the shingle decided in one further blaze of canine brainstorming, as Tina attempted to slip his collar on that a game of tag would just about round the day off nicely... Tina then devoted the next ten minutes chasing him amid unrestrained salvo's of cheering from the rest of the family... then bid goodbye to the little crab who, still marooned by the tide waved a friendly pincer in return... and trusted that she wouldn't have too long to wait for the next rising tide back home, then she slid off the rock with a corrosive... "the deck-chair attendant would have shown you" she snapped "and don't forget the deposit when you take them back" then double checking that she landed squarely on his foot she marched past, her floral sun hat jammed resolutely on her head at what she considered a jaunty angle with her equally jaunty, angular children scrambling in hot pursuit, back in the direction of their lodgings.  

     "Woof "..? said a bewildered Sockeye, bringing everyone to an abrupt halt... and with paws the size of place-mats, he wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to... he hunkered down with a look of hurtful accusation on his face, "oh yes you are my lad"! said his mistress "I've met your sort before" and knew exactly where to place the toe of her dainty size-5 as Sockeye, digging his heals in even further created swathes of canine furrows up the beach, leaving her husband the unwitting holder and in sole possession of the overlooked guest-house keys... and somewhat resigned to clean up his own masculinity and dismantle the recently assembled, now redundant deck-chairs by himself... as for Tina, well... she'd had quite enough excitement for one day thank you very much.

     Morning register was always the worst he thought, as they trooped back along the shingle beach, Rocky making surprisingly good furrows of his own... but the rest of the class loved it and saw it as the highlight of each day... Rocky's form teacher, despite showing a brave face was always hard pressed to avoid bursting into hysterics every time she worked her way down the register to the letter 'S' and would attempt to bypass it altogether, jumping from 'R' to 'T' and just prayed that no one else had noticed, but it hadn't taken the class very long to point out her oversight and... "please Miss" they'd all chant "we haven't had Salmon all week" and while the rest of the class were having convulsive fits, Rocky would elbow the lad sat at the next desk in the ribs... and promptly get one hundred lines for his trouble... thank goodness it was school holidays.  Why couldn't they have been given respectable names like Seymour Legge, Rock wondered, who sat over by the window or perhaps the teachers pet, Anna Prentice or even, Robyn Banks at a pinch, but definitely not what they'd been given and certainly not Salmon, they were the most hilarious names he could imagine and if someone was looking down on them right now he thought... then they had a very unique sense of humour indeed and Rock said so... "why" his little sister asked sweetly, "what's wrong with River Salmon".

                                                      ­                         ...   ...   ...*

a work in progress*                                                        ­                                                              240­6
howard brace Oct 2012
Stood rigidly to attention either side of the hearth, the two bronze fire-dogs had been struggling to maintain that British stiff upper lipidness, which up until earlier that evening had best befitted their station in life... indeed, for the last half hour at least had become brothers in arms to the dying embers filtering through the bars of the cast-iron grate, passing from the present here and now, having lost every thermal attribute necessary to sustain any further vestige of life... to the shortly forthcoming and being at oneness with the Universe... only to fall foul of the overflowing ash-pan below.  This premature cashing in of the coal fire's chips could only be attributed to the recent and prolonged thrashing from the Baronial poker... and a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the family retainer, whom it appeared, required spurring along in a like manner... and while unseen mechanisms were heard to be engaging, then resonating deep within the Hall... that unless summoned... and quickly, the housekeeper had little intention of making an appearance of her own choosing and re-stoke the Study fire while the BBC Home Service were airing 'Your 100 Best Tunes' on the wireless, leaving the heavily tarnished pendulum to continue measuring the hour.

     An indistinct mutter and snap of a closing door latch sounded in the immediate distance as the unhurried shuffle of domestic footsteps... not too dissimilar from those of Jacob Marley's spectral visitation to Scrooge... echoed ever closer along the ancient, oak panelled hallway without.  Their sudden cessation, allowing the housekeeper ingress to  the book lined Study, was by way of sporadic groans from unoiled hinges, door furniture that voiced the same overwhelming lack of attention as that of the fire-grate set in the wall opposite and presumably, from the same overwhelming lack of domestic servitude.
                                        
     "Had his Lordship rang...?" the Housekeeper wailed dolefully, giving her employer what might casually pass for a courteous bob... and in lieu no doubt, of Marley's rattling chains, padlocks and dusty ledgers... "and would there be anything further his Lordship required..." before she took her leave for the evening.  The notion of a sticky mint humbug warming the cockles of his ancient, aristocratic heart gave her pause for thought as she rummaged through her pinafore pockets, then thought better of it, after all, confectionary didn't grow on trees...  In bobbing a second time she noticed the malnourished, yet strangely twinkling coal-scuttle lounging over by the hearth, whose insubstantial contents had taken on an ethereal quality earlier that evening and had now transferred its undivided attention to the recently summoned Housekeeper, who was quite prepared to offer up a candle in supplication come next Evensong were she mistaken, but the coal-scuttle's twinkle bore every intimation of giving what appeared to be a very suggestive 'come-on' in return... and had been doing so since she first entered the room... 'and did she have any plans of her own that particular evening', the coal-scuttle twinkled suavely, 'perchance a leisurely stroll down by the old coal cellar steps...'  Now perhaps it was the lateness of the hour which had caused the Housekeeper's confusion that evening, or perhaps an over stretched imagination, brought on through domestic inactivity, but it wouldn't take a great deal to hazard that a lingering fondness for Gin and tonic played no small part towards her next curtsey, which she did, albeit unwittingly, in the unerring direction of the winking coal-scuttle.

     With the household keys as her badge-of-office, jangling defiantly from the chain around her waist, the housekeeper began inching back the same way she came, back towards the study door and freedom... and back into the welcoming arms of her 1/4 lb. bag of peppermint humbugs and the pint of best London Gin she'd had to relinquish prior to 'Songs of Praise...' and which was now to be found... should you happen to be an inquisitive fly on a particular piece of floral wallpaper... half-cut, locked arm in arm with the bottle of Indian tonic water and in the final, intoxicating throws of William Blake's, 'Jerusalem...' hic.

     "Ha-arrumph..." the elderly gentleman cleared his throat... "ah Gabby" he said, lowering his book and placing it face down upon the occasional table set beside him.  The flatulent groan of tired leather upholstery made itself heard above the steady monotony of the mantle-piece clock as he stood and chaffed his hands in the direction of the bereft fire, "Oh! I'm sorry your Lordship, then there was something...?" as she maintained her steady but relentless backwards retreat unabated, the double-barrelled bunch of keys taking up a strong rear-guard action and away from the well disposed coal scuttle... "and was his Lordship quite certain that he required the fire stoking at such a late hour..." she dared, "perhaps a nice warming glass of port and brandy instead" gesturing towards the salver, long since tarnished by the half hearted attentions of a proprietary metal polish... "and would he care for..." then thought better of offering to plump the chair cushions herself, having discovered Mort, the household mouser in the final stages of claiming them as his own, deftly rearranging the Victorian Plush with far more than any noble airs or graces.

     "Poor Mrs Alabaster, you will recall Sir, I'm sure..." a pained expression crossed the Housekeepers face as she collided with a corner of the Georgian writing bureau and bringing her to an abrupt halt... "her late Ladyships lady" she continued, indiscreetly rubbing her derriere, "whose services your Lordship dispensed with at the onset of last Winter, shortly after the funeral, God rest her late Ladyship... when you made her redundant... and how she's been unable to find a new situation ever since on account of her lumbago flaring up again, seeing as how it's been the coldest January in living memory", which in all likelihood meant since records began... "and SHE didn't have any coal either... or a roof over her head for all anyone cared... begging yer' pardon, yer' Lordship", letting her tongue slip as she attempted yet one more curtsey... "and it's wicked-cruel outside this time of year Sir, you wouldn't turn a dog out in it..." and how ordering the coal used to be Mrs Alabaster's responsibility...

     "Oh no, Sir", as she unsuccessfully stifled a hiccup...she would be only too delighted to rouse the Cook, especially after that dodgy piece of scrag-end they'd all had to suffer during Epiphany, but it was only last week that the Doctor had confined Cookie to bed with the croup... "as I'm sure your Lordship will recall..." as she attempted a double curtsey for effect, the despondent coal-scuttle now all but forgotten, "that below-stairs had been dining on pottage since a week Friday gone... and it tends to get a little moribund after almost a fortnight your Honour... and that Mrs Cotswold's rheumatism was still showing no signs of improvement either by the looks of things... and was having to visit the Chiropodist every fortnight for her bunions scraping... and how she's been advised to keep taking the embrocation as required".

     As a young woman, any disposition her grandmother may have had towards sobriety or moral virtue had quickly been prevailed upon by the former Master's son taking intimacy to the next level with the saucy Parlour Maid's good nature.   Shortly thereafter, having been obliged to marry the first available Gardener that came along, she was often heard to say "a bun in the oven's worth two in the bush" for it was with stories 'of such goings-on'  that made it abundantly clear to the Housekeeper, that it was far more than old age creeping up... and that if she didn't keep her wits wrapped tightly about her, as she threw a sideways glance at the winking philanderer... then who would.

     As for the Gardener, "well... he couldn't possibly manage the cellar steps at this late hour, yer' Lordship, wot' with the weather being the way it is right now Sir, seasonal... and him with his broken caliper... and bronchitis playing him up at every turn, even though his own ailing missus swore by a freshly grown rhubarb poultice first thing each morning", but oddly enough, "how it always seemed to work better if the young barmaid down in the village rubbed it on, especially around opening time..." even his brother, Mr Potts Senior, ever since their Dad passed away... "God rest his eternal soul", as she whirled, twice in as many seconds, a mystical finger in the air... had said how surprised he'd been to discover that it could be used as a ground mulch for seed-cucumbers... it was truly amazing how The Good Lord provided for the righteous... and even as she spoke, was working in mysterious ways, His Wonders to Behold... "Praised-Be-The-Lord".

     And how the entire household, with the possible exception of Mrs Alabaster, her late Ladyships lady, who doggedly refused to be evicted from her 'Grace n' Favour cottage...' the one with pretty red roses growing around the door, that despite a string of eviction notices from the apoplectic Estate manager... had noticed what a fine upstanding Gentleman his Lordship had steadfastly remained since her late Ladyships sudden demise... "God-rest-her-immortal-soul..." and may she allow herself to say, "how refreshing it was to have such a progressively minded and discerning employer such as his Lordship at the helm, one filled with patient understanding and commitment towards the entire household..." much like herself...

     Fearing an uncontrollable attack of the ague, which invariably took the form of a selfless and unstinting dereliction to duty and always flared up at the slightest suggestion of having to roll her sleeves up and do something... which incidentally, was the first mutual attraction by common consent to which her parents, some forty years earlier had discovered they both held in tandem... and "would his Lordship take exception..." feigning a sudden relapse as she gestured towards the nearest chair, were she to take the weight off her feet... she plonked herself solidly upon the Chippendale before his Lordship could decline... "perhaps a recuperative drop of brandy" she volunteered, "just for medicinal purposes", she swept her feet onto the footstool, then crossed them with a flourish that would have caused Cyrano de Bergerac to hang up his sword... "the good stuff, if his Lordship would be so kind, in the lead-crystal decanter... over in the corner by the potted plant", she caught sight of the adjacent cigarette box, also tarnished... "just to keep body and soul together, may it please 'Him upon High'..." and just long enough to brave the coal cellar steps and refill the amorous scuttle... "if only it were a little less chilly", she gave an affected cough... on account of her diphtheria acting up again, she felt sure that his Lordship understood...  Moving over to one of the book lined alcoves, the elderly Gentleman lifted several tomes from the shelves... 'My Life in Anthracite', an illustrated compendium' "to begin with, I think... followed by... hmm!" 'The History of Fossil-Fuels, a comprehensive study in twelve breath taking volumes' "and we'll take it from there" as he threw the first on the barely smouldering embers...

                                                      ­     ...   ...   ...**

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                         1859
howard brace Jan 2013
Despite repeatedly shaking her pincer... much as a sprightly pensioner might brandish a furled umbrella at a grappling contestant, currently being boo'd at in the red corner... the baby crab stamped her foot in annoyance as she glowered at every passing wave that rolled along the shoreline.  In absolving herself of any guilt she may have felt over her prolonged excursion, she had become, even further marooned by a failure to catch a succession of tides back home, an oversight she later confessed, to observe local tide-tables in 'Old More's Almanac...' on sale in all discerning book shops and selected High Street newsagents, priced 10/6d... for unless fluent in the Russian vernacular, it was just about as articulate to the little crab as a map of the Moscow Metro during a blackout, only to have the Rouble finally drop with a throat gagging 'Gaaargh...' clunk, that you were currently standing on the down-line platform, when you should've been stood on the up... as the last train lurched unsteadily out of the station whistling a jubilant entente cordiale... 'wish me luck as you wave me dasvidaniya'.

     Still stamping her foot, only now in strict rotation with the other seven, the baby crustacean peered out from beneath the shade of the large pebble, rearing its bulk out of the rockpool like a lollypop-lady's 'STOP'!!! sign, her beady eyes twitching independently, first this way, then the other, cut withering swathes through every cardinal point of the compass that didn't duck quite fast enough, was rapidly coming to the conclusion that the rock-pool in which she found herself tapping her foot in today, would be no less aquatic as any other rockpool that she may find herself still tapping a foot in tomorrow and that the best course of action was simply to stay-put and take the matter up with the local town council, then petition for additional fare-stages to be implemented... and with the cost of shoe leather at current prices... well, with eight legs to consider it would make savings that weren't to be sneezed at.  

     It wasn't everyday of the week that a young and upwardly mobile baby crustacean had occasion to move both up-market and down the beach, all in the same mouthful... and into what could only be regarded as a desirable, detached beachfront property, a rock-pool of distinction with all available mod-cons.  She felt relieved that apart from the occasional day-tripper, who invariably dropped litter wherever they went, that a baby crab of distinction such as herself, was certain to be accepted socially and hob-*** with a new and discerning circle of acquaintances... you only had to take that nice lady earlier in the week, they both seemed to have so much in common... then she would roll up her sleeves and really show the neighbourhood what knitting was all about...  

     With as much enthusiasm as that of a three year old screaming for an ice-cream in the middle of an heat-wave, Red marched up the beach and as far from his wife's waspish tongue as a lame excuse would carry him, heading back towards the growing crush of holidaymaking fathers who were only there presumably, for the sake of their own children, laying siege to the mobile vendor... only this time, having already stood in the same queue ten minutes earlier, now had a sufficiency of funds to purchase that which he'd unsuccessfully queued for the first time.

      After an unspecified time which by his wife's reckoning was grounds for divorce... Red, now laden down with the iced confectionary picked his way through the same throng of fathers who moments earlier had been happily chatting in the queue together, were now enjoying the same berating as the one Red was looking forward to as he made his way back towards the rock pool, juggling more ice-cream than two manly hands could intelligently control... while in a bid for freedom, the rapidly thawing confectionary were hatching plans of their own, ones quite independent from those intended as they embarked upon their meandering exodus, known only to iced creamy desserts on hot sunny days... and into the unknown, roaming across Red's hands and trusting their fate to a far higher authority.

     "Did I mention that I was on a diet" snapped his significant other, as she sat licking pistachios from the melting cornet... "don't you ever listen," secretly smiling to herself... "and you did remember to bring Sockeye's water this morning.. didn't you..!" she continued "someone with half as much sense would've stood it in the rockpool to keep cool, I'm sure the little crab wouldn't have objected..!"   At the mention of his name, Sockeye with ears far too free-lance to ever consider gainful employment of their own, needed no further persuasion and charged straight through the rock-pool to his mistress's side, walloping the thermos flask for a tail whopping six... bringing his personal batting average so far this holiday to a self congratulatory forty not out... and found the baby crab spluttering flat on her back and having second thoughts on any immediate savings in shoe leather were she to stay. 

     Generous to a fault, Sockeye now thought to shower everyone's ice cream with liberal helpings of the seashore as several parasitic irritations had Sockeye hard at work serving eviction notices on some of the more exotic zoology that only a patent Bob Martin's would dare to muscle up to... the local wildlife, by the look on his face were having the time of their lives bivouacked behind his left ear, throwing wild parties and disturbing the peace.  Cross-eyed, it was only while launching a double pronged assault on the latest settlement of interlopers that Sockeye finally succumbed to his injuries and surrendered to a neighbouring sandcastle... it really didn't do to mention a certain name too loudly at times like these, especially when you just happened to be on the receiving end.

     For some strange reason he was undoubtedly in the dog house... they'd shouted at him, which made him sad, all except his little master who had pushed him away... which left him bereft.  Sockeye sat down on dads beach-towel and had a long, thoughtful scratch... where had all the fuss gone? he searched for appreciation their faces... his tail gave one disheartened thump before it stopped... and all those little pieces of ice-cream dipped wafer, which up until now had always appeared as if by magic.  

     Catching sight of one such treat, undoubtedly forgotten by the rock pool, a marauding seagull pulled out of a rolling dive and swooped, at the same instant as two gaping jaws launched themselves skywards... canine jowls quivering bravely in the light sea airs... and not too dissimilar to a heat seeking missile, rose gracefully from the ground to meet it... 'well intercepted..!' as both ears applauded in mid-air... no aerial freeloader was about to skip town with Sockeye's ice cream wafer without paying... leaving one solitary wing flapping its willingness to pay up.

     At least it kept her husband in useful employment Tina decided... and mercifully out from under her feet, as she brushed a fragment of affectionate pistachio from her bikini top... she'd have to  make sure he went for the ices in future... and without the means to pay for them... a mischievous smile turned the corners of her mouth as she leant towards the beach-bag and invested herself with several more juicy grapes... that everyone who fell within her sphere of influence had been warned well away from... under threat of dire consequence... and it would take a brave man indeed, or a very foolish one... she gave her husband who was sitting well within arms reach a caustic glance... and Tina's particular variety of justice had a very long arm indeed.

                                                        ­           ...   ...   ...**

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                                 ­  1297
howard brace Aug 2013
"A leisurely breakfast" their mother would admonish, "aids digestion and builds strong bones..." so what with the imposed inactivity every morning, boredom broken only by Sockeye the family Spaniel, whose want of table manners coincided very conveniently with mealtimes... as he paced restlessly under the table, slobbering indiscriminately in his daily scramble to devour every dangling morsel before supply and demand shut up shop for the night and went home, far tastier... he gobbled down the latest offering of egg white, than the remnants of his own dietary allowance, they just had to get the timing right that was all, or risk loosing a finger, or gaining one depending upon who was doing the dangling, or who was doing the gobbling... he gave an indignant sneeze, not so much a hint but more of a... 'what's with the pepper malarky...'  So that it was only with a good deal of snappy hand coordination, lengthy digestion and sturdy bone building that Rocky was finally able to extricate himself from the table and make the most of what little time remained until lunchtime, meagre time indeed for the Rocky's of this world to hang around with their dogs, leaving their little sisters to help mums do, whatever it was that girls usually did when they should have scooted out of the kitchen faster, when it would have been all so much simpler just to grab a handful of biscuits instead...  Meanwhile, laying in wait in the room above, flat out upon the bedroom counterpane, having recently had their insides stuffed to bursting with a full English breakfast's worth of beach and holiday apparal... and that was just the luggage.    

     The contents of which, up until a week last washday had been snoozing fitfully behind 'Do Not Disturb' signs, cautiously peeping out from the gloomier, more remote recesses of the bedroom dresser, or carefully concealed in cupboards and closets... and being in every other respect by no means readily accessible to public scrutiny of any kind... had been left to their own devices some twelve months earlier with a clear understanding to skip bath nights from that moment on and henceforth immerse themselves in the heady, camphorated pungency of mothball, vowing once and for all never to darken portmanteau lids again... but now, after many hours of arduous laundering and de-fumigation... were now being squeezed and unceremoniously shoe-horned into what had recently become nothing short of an overcrowded sanctuary for the dispossessed.  
              
     Meanwhile, all the luggage asked from life other than be detained under section four of the Mental Health Act, 1983 and be found cosy padded accommodation elsewhere... was to have their interiors vacated, their tranquility reinstated... and with a questionable wink from a dodgy Customs official, have their travel permits invalidated... irrevocably, for despite throwing a double six for a spot of well earned convalescence back on top of the wardrobe some twelve months ago, basking in the shade of a warm Summer Sun, striking up the occasional conversation with the floral decor, third bloom from the left currently answering to the name of Petunia, the still over extended luggage, seemingly with little hope of R & R this side of the letter Q, faced the perennial disquiet of vacational therapy, of being knelt on, sat and bounced upon and be specifically manhandled in ways that matching sets of co-ordinated luggage should not...
                                        
     Tina could be heard quite distinctly in the next street concerning her husbands lack of competence, whilst Red it appeared had become just as outspoken as his wife in that particular direction... as the local self appointed busybody, who lived well within earshot of the address in question would bear witness to as she put feverish pen to paper, writing to what had become a regular... and some would say hot bed of intrigue in the local tabloid concerning how vociferous the once tranquil neighbourhood had become of recent and how certain undesirable elements within the community were to be heard carrying on alarmingly at all hours, day and night... and as she diligently weighed her civic duty against simple household economics as to whether to send this latest block busting eye opener by first or second class post, their parents could now be heard broadcasting, if anything to a wider listening audience than the previous newsflash, some of the more sensational episodes of the previous twenty-four hours as to who was pulling whose suitcase zipper now... although in which direction it should be pulled, they both agreed, wasn't for public disclosure at that time... vowing to draw blood well before the day was out, as three lacerated fingers would later testify and that it was only because of the children that they were going at all... but God willing, they would be setting off very shortly with rosy smiles on their faces for the sole benefit of the neighbours, even if it killed them. 

     Spurred to fever pitch  by this latest 'stop-the-press' newsflash, the same public spirited busybody now threw herself wholeheartedly into further award winning journalism and for the second time that morning took to pen and paper, only now directed to the gossip column in the local Parish Gazette, followed by grievous lamentations of impending bloodshed to the incumbent Chief Constable as to how they'd all be murdered in their beds ere long before nightfall.

     By devouring his water bowl, thereby dispensing with the need for it to be washed and by its abrupt and mysterious absence, disposing of all further incriminating evidence as to where the abundant supply of liquid, now surging copiously across the kitchen floor had sprung from... the flash-flood was hastily making its own getaway beneath the kitchen units, leaving Sockeye to his own devices to carry the can on his own, ankle deep in what up until earlier that morning had been sloshing around quite contentedly in Eccup reservoir.

      Having inadvertently released the handbrake in a boyish gesture of bravado, thereby placing himself in sole charge of a runaway vehicle, Sockeye it appeared was not the only member of the Salmon family to have dropped himself right in it that day as Rocky, having unwittingly placed the following ten years pocket money well out of reach and back into the pockets of his parents dwindling resources, had to a far greater extent nominated himself for the same Earth moving experience as the one his mum would shortly be giving Sockeye...

      Having just been granted licence to do whatsoever it pleased, the vehicle began its leisurely rearwards perambulation down the long garden driveway and by way of small thanks for its new found independence took Rocky along for the ride where due to a certain lack of stature on Rocky's part, at no point had he ever been in the slightest position to influence the Holiday threatening train of events which now engulfed him, never thinking to reapply the handbrake... that would be too easy, he perched on the edge of the seat clutching the steering wheel and stretched out his sturdy little legs in an heroic, but futile attempt to reach the pedals as the family car, which up until any second now had been his fathers pride and joy, pitched backwards at what seemed to Rocky, breakneck speed and directly into a very severe and unforgiving brick wall.

     Almost missing this latest round of entertainment above that of her parents most recent exchange, River accompanied by Sockeye scampered outdoors and slap into what could only be described as the most fun she'd had all year as an unsuspecting "what was that noise" muscled its way through the open bedroom window and fell flat on its face in the garden below and which, if that morning to date was anything to go by, then the neighbourhood would soon be tuning in to the latest Salmon family's 'hot-off-the-press' breaking news bulletin.

     Opening her mouth River hesitated as she fine-tuned the speech centres of her young and delicate synapse into full vocal alignment, then adjusting shutter speed from f8 to automatic she closed her mouth... then opened it once again and informed her brother that if the tip of dads size 9 was an Olympic gold, then Rocky would be sure to take first in the 110 metre hurdling event with 'team GB...' and could she have his autograph... with those words of solid encouragement rattling around his ears like the last biscuit in an otherwise empty tin box, River went skipping back into the house to announce the latest newsflash of her parents next financial happening... which she felt certain would prompt further rounds of thought provoking front page journalism.

     A steady two hours drive away, over on the east coast, the inhabitants of a sleepy fishing community were gainfully employed, pretty much as any other, going about their daily business, one such denizen... a baby crustacean, currently marooned by the tide had taken up temporary accommodation in a beachfront rock-pool property of certain distinction, was as yet unaware of a completely different and obscure set of circumstances that would shortly be rearing his slobbering jowls and bring all four paws, the size of dinner plates, crashing down upon the unsuspecting seashore fauna... was determined while she waited to catch the next high tide home, that until such time that the right wave rolled along, would potter about in the little rock-pool, perhaps indulge herself in a leisurely bathe... and catch up on a spot of therapeutic knitting.

     So, placing the days events since breakfast into perspective...  [i]  the vehicle indemnity provider, henceforth to be named 'the party of the first part', who currently weren't cognisant of an impending claim to date, would shortly be laying eggs attempting to squirm out of all liability, due to  [ii]  the automobile, driven by a minor, fortunately for Salmon senior on private land and henceforth, the aforementioned to be called 'the third party, to the party of the second part...' which urgently needed rigorous cosmetic attention to the rear tail light cluster and surrounding bodywork so as to maintain a favourable resale mark-up price.  [iii]  Having been dragged kicking and screaming from the top of the wardrobe, the luggage had rapidly developed cold feet and cried sudden illness in the family, but were being taken to the Wake anyway.  [iv]  Wrapped around the hot water cylinder since the previous Summer, the various sundry items of holiday apparel stood united, resolute as a Union Picket line not be seen dead looking as though they'd never so much as seen the bottom of a flat-iron.  [v]  Both Red and his wife, Tina, despite wearing the same anaemic smile as the one show to the neighbours as they departed, travelling counter clockwise along the crescent so as not to unduly advertise their recent misadventure with the garage wall, were only going for the sake of the children, whilst  [vi]  River and her errant brother didn't want to go anyway dismayed at leaving the television set behind, were already missing their favourite programs, which only really left  [vii]  'mans-best-friend' who, when he wasn't actually hanging over the front seat giving dad big sloppy licks as though... 'are we nearly there yet' or perhaps... 'I need to stop and spend a penny... or you'll all know about it if you don't,' was more than content to be taking up the majority of the rear seating arrangements and with a delinquent wag of his tail, was deliriously happy to be wherever his family were.**

                                                        ­                             ...   ...   ...

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                                 ­  1862
howard brace Sep 2012
He'd been hanging around for some time now, indeed... he'd become rather proficient in that direction of late and although it would probably be rude to point, you could hardly accuse him of loitering... and certainly not with intent, which would have been of some considerable comfort to Norman's Mother, given his current situation, particularly since the latest complication in his otherwise dull and uneventful life, had left him predisposed towards looking a little more drawn in the face than was usual for the time of year and a decidedly deeper shade of green.

     Barely discernible, only the deeper scars now remained to  mar the roadside foliage, bearing scant witness to the motorcycle's recent and untimely misadventure... regrettably with Norman still mounted astride.  Having lost all adhesion with the freshly resurfaced country lane the motorcycle had promptly slewed sideways and across the wet grassy verge before plunging down the wooded embankment, there to encounter its own humbling demise and land in the shallow watercourse below, but it was still early Summer and already the verdant undergrowth had begun to recover.

     At the point where his motorcycle, having determined without deviation or interruption to take the most direct route to its final resting place below and follow the downwardly allure of gravity... Norman being somewhat lighter and more aerodynamic than the former had been propelled, amid a flurry of leaves and twigs headlong through the outermost branches of the nearest tree... and promptly snapped his neck... Far below a dog-eared circular proclaimed 'kidz do it better on wheelz'!!!

       In many ways it was the most handsome beech tree you could ever wish to lay eyes upon, majestic in stature and albeit stationary in nature, was full of life, contrary to its uninvited guest who decidedly was not... but who definitely was just as static as the beech tree... and which by any stretch of the imagination had far more right to be there than Norman did.
  
     The sudden and unforeseen turn of events of the previous forty eight hours had cast grievous, Holiday nullifying inevitability directly into the path of any plans Norman may have prematurely made in that direction... and for the moment at least to be left hanging high and dry in the lush, verdant canopy far above his motorcycle, currently languishing in the sparkling clear waters below... and it has to be said, without so much as a pair of galoshes between them, and having little else to do other than hang around nodding his head in the warm Summer breeze he swayed gently up and down in the light country air.

     Pausing mid-twitch on three legs between Norman's deceased neck and his equally demised shoulders, an inquisitive squirrel was now the prime mover in our eponymous hero's sudden and discontinued modus-operandi as it provoked involuntary nods from Normans head, gestures of consent as the prying rodent set itself to investigate in great detail the darkest, innermost depths of Norman's inside breast pocket.

     Norman's unintentional leave of absence had finally extinguished once and for all any further thought of future remittance towards the outstanding balance due on the motorcycle hire purchase agreement, which as luck would have it was just as well, because his equally unintended leave of absence, so it transpired, had also extinguished Norman... and thereby deprived him once and for all of any further thought of his outstanding ability to pay them or indeed, any further thought at all.

     The squirrel meanwhile, having brushed aside the meagre contents of Normans pocket finally emerged victorious into the subdued light of the dappled canopy, brandishing a hard won paper-tissue proudly clenched between its teeth... before moving on to other, far more pressing matters on the branch opposite... then paused to scratch its ear...  Now it may be of some interest to the reader at this point... or not, as the case may be, but the squirrel allegedly knew a friend of a friend, who incidentally runs the little B&B; further down the road and who would be prepared to swear on Norman's other-worldly life that she'd seen far worse looking faces peering back from the bathroom cabinet mirror of a Sunday morning after a ***** night out with the lads... than anything she could ever possibly imagine exercising squatters rights way above in the majestic beech tree.

     Flies seemed to be one of the few living creatures that morning who hadn't raised any objection to Norman's ill-mannered intrusion... indeed, were currently hatching plans of their own in that particular direction and take intimacy to the next level with regard to lunchtime seating arrangements... and who had assured him from day one, that while their long term prognosis for Norman attaining ***** and independent posture was by no means cut-and-dried, he should nevertheless be moving about, not necessarily under his own steam in no time at all... and by the look of his complexion, it would seem that in the interim period he should be thankful for the company.

     As the balmy Summer afternoon steadily drew to its own happy conclusion Norman, without a care in the world and now in the early larval stage of being in the family way, so to speak and shortly to shed a little life of his own... stared vacantly out at what had recently become his own neck of the woods, rapidly becoming a permanent fixture in the pastoral landscape... and while his sudden relocation may have been a real eye opener for some, for Norman he'd discovered the true meaning of be at one with nature, about the birds and the bees and especially the flies in the trees...  

     So there we must leave poor Norman with his recent and enduring affliction, nodding in the dappled shade of the majestic beech tree, playing host to the countryside and the following seasons crop rotation, leaving his Mum to worry as to whether her Son had fresh underwear that morning... or not as the case may be... the County Constabulary making their door to door enquiries as to Norman's current whereabouts... his former employer re-adjusting next months pay cheque... accordingly and the hire purchase company about to dispatch final demands indiscriminately left, right and centre for financial delinquency.  The only other claim you could probably make with any degree of certainty was that Norman's full-face motorcycle helmet had by no means achieved that which was expected of it for his ultimate well-being that day... and was doing little more than keep his hair dry and his spectacles from slipping further than his chin.
                                                           ­  ­                                                                ­ ­                                                                ­ ­             ...   ...   ...**

A work in progress.                                                        ­                                                     1122
5.6k · Oct 2012
... Dunstan ... [prose]
howard brace Oct 2012
A nervous shiver rippled briefly across his shoulders as Dunstan peered over the balcony, it was a long way down from his penthouse suite he guessed, shrinking back from the handrail... at a rough guess somewhere between the upper observation deck, Eiffel-Tower, Paris, France and lower basement mezzanine at Miss Selfridge, London, England... and Dunstan was terrified if heights.
  
     It scarcely seemed anytime at all really since he'd relocated to his new and upwardly situated des-res, yet for all that he could hardly recall living anywhere else, once you'd seen one, well... you got the idea,  after a while they all looked pretty much the same, you just had to be able to haggle, but for now at least he was obviously safe enough where he was, sunning himself on the balcony watching the world go by as he scribbled down a shopping list... but lunchtime was almost upon him and then all hell was sure to break loose.

     Having finally determined to put down roots and raise children of her own, his mother Elvera, finding herself in the family-way had wasted no time at all in tearing several well thumbed pages out of her mother's book, then taken both Dunstan's father and his gene-pool straight to the cleaners, just to keep them, so page three informed her firmly in the family... so Dunstan grew up knowing a great deal about laundry and dry-cleaning, but very little about his father, just the occasional anecdote cast to the wind like so much bird seed, about their early courting days and how they'd both wanted him to grow into a strong, healthy lad and do well at school, climbing the corporate ladder, so-to-speak and go to Boy-Scouts every Tuesday evening just like his father had done before him... and learn all about knots, but Dunstan had vertigo and couldn't tie knots for toffee.
                                    
     All hell was certainly dead set on breaking loose that lunchtime, or rather Houdini were they to continue and remain on first name terms... and there was nothing Dunstan loved more than a captive audience.   Reflecting deeply and never wanting a repeat of the previous week he studied the hastily bound swaddling, perhaps the odd tweak here and there just to be on the safe side should ensure the safety of his dinner guest for the remainder of the afternoon.   As Dunstan snipped the final thread he considered that simply nothing was too much trouble where todays 'entree was concerned, he now sat before Houdini smacking his lips in anticipation, quivering in the front parlour waiting for the dinner gong to sound, the Sunday lunch however, now in a mounting state of frenzied agitation continued bouncing around on the embroidered tablespread.  

     Dunstan could never understand what the fuss was all about... I mean, it wasn't as though his dinner guest hadn't been invited, he argued and that for the umpteenth time, as he reached for the carving knife and steel, he simply wasn't going to take no for an answer, leaving his dinner guest still bouncing about, insisting that he'd merely dropped in for directions... and that he, The Great Houdini, currently billed at The London Hippodrome for the remainder of the season had a far more pressing dinner engagement elsewhere, with a diary for the foreseeable future distinctly at odds with those of his host... leaving Dunstan so he hoped, far behind and in no uncertain doubt that not only had he been left hanging in stickier corners than this one, but had every intention of extracting himself from being principal dish of the day before third curtain call... and having done so, wish Dunstan a very good day and remit his professional fee by return of post.

    Meanwhile, insisting that his guest needn't feel obliged to dine elsewhere when they could both enjoy a really splendid one right here, chewing over happier times together, although should Houdini wish, then Dunstan felt confident that his dinner guest was more than capable of punching his way out of as many wet paper bags as he liked... and just what were the Marquis of Queensberry Rules anyway... so encouraged, Dunstan continued sharpening the knife. 

     "Well really", thought Dunstan... 'and without so much as a by-your-leave' carefully examining the damage to his new lace tablecloth, torn in Houdini's haste to depart, he really must be careful as he rummaged for his darning needle, not to fall through.  It had been the shortest dinner party in living memory, Dunstan sighed, it simply would not do, what would all his neighbour's think, he'd never hear the last of it, his reputation they would whisper, well... it would all end in ruins, mark their words it would.  Dunstan's tummy rumbled, he'd been filled with nothing but anticipation that day and very little else, but other than a torn tablecloth and superfluous items of Houdini, shrugged of in his bid for freedom, no one would be any the wiser... having said that, Dunstan would have to make do with a cold repast for luncheon instead, hanging quite still in the larder.

                                                        ­     ­ ...    ...   ...**

A work in progress.                                                        ­                                                               831
howard brace Jun 2012
via woodland trail, along deciduous dale
amid a rocky terrain, through geographic chicane
meandrous no longer, smoky waters beleaguered
upwelling they burble, in deep tracts they gurgle
hypnotic they swirl, then turgidly whorl
the rivers egress, from caverns sub-aqueous
bereft of surrender, outpours now in splendour
the Wharfe expelled from the strid.

...   ...   ...
2.7k · Apr 2011
... The Lonely Teabag ...
howard brace Apr 2011
One solitary teabag, not enough for two to share
just one for the teapot, the caddy being quite bare,

no drawing of the water, no mashing of the ***
no teabag for each person... while shopping I forgot,

with saucers on the table, there's no teacup at the lips
for the corner store's not open, to buy more  'PG Tips',

it's tea-less in the cupboard, no tasty leaf to brew
so I will have a coffee... and make tea, just for you.*

...   ...   ...

'trademark'
2.7k · Apr 2011
... Pizza Pie ...
howard brace Apr 2011
If a pizza pie were I
with my box sat upon your knee,
baked over easy, and very cheesy
each slice, a piece of me.

...   ...   ...
2.6k · Jul 2011
... Profit Obsessed ...
howard brace Jul 2011
Rework The possible, rethink the rest
don't be blind, don't ignore mankind
finance and commerce, profit obsessed
imagine, the whole world re-designed
with both you and I in mind.**

...   ...   ...
2.5k · Jul 2011
... The Flood ...
howard brace Jul 2011
And the Lord spoke in dreams serene
to he, a righteous man within his years,
of mankind's folly, of wickedness,
the Earth to flood with Heaven's tears.

'From the face of the Earth I will cleanse
fowl of the air with feathered wing,
only two from each kind will I spare
neither man nor beast or creeping thing'.

'An Ark to build is My intent
of Gopher wood, three decks high,
many years will thou toil and sweat
but labours fruits will keep thee dry'.

'For thou art blessed, a blameless man
and secure shall be with thy kin
and with sustenance, I will provide for all
upon this Ark, you will abide within'.

Then at God's command, throughout the land
to each and every creature,
two of each, male n' female both to save
... to propagate their future.

So from every forest, from every field
from every byre, to every beach
bird and bat upon the wing, all that crawl
or walk, procure, just two, two of each.

Then on marched they, tooth by hide
ever forward, onward bound
fur and feather side by side
to board the Ark, upon the ground.

Of the days when Noah walked with God
thirty score were his measure in years
and through forty days and forty nights
the deluge prevailed, for those pioneers.

For the fountains of the deep were opened
and the windows of Heaven gaped wide
upon the face of the Earth, the rains fell
and the oceans they blossomed, world wide.

Upon the face of the waters, the Ark rose
until the highest peak with waters advanced
for the days in number, one hundred and fifty
drifting upon that mighty expanse.

Then the 'Lord God' remembered Noah
and caused the great winds to blow
wiping the tears of Heaven away
and closed tight, the deep fountains below.

Then the Ark upon Ararat stumbled
as the mighty waters, slowly withdrew
with the rains restraint, the waters abate
and the crests of the mountains, they grew.

And Noah sends forth both raven and dove
the ravens complaint was to fly 'to and fro'
but, with olive leaf, the dove returns
then flies again thrice, by dawns early glow.

Thirty score plus one, his years then tally
when the waters were dried from upon the Earth,
then Noah walks forth with beasts disembarking
for this was the dawn of the worlds rebirth.

Then God blessed, and bestows man with dominion
over every beast of the ground
over every creature that flounders
over all the birds that abound.

And His covenant with humanity, established
the rainbow, His contract to see
never to cause, such a deluge for man
for that was our Lord's guarantee.**

...   ...   ...
                                                             ­                                                                 ­                451
2.1k · Apr 2011
... The Pebble ...
howard brace Apr 2011
The present, a pebble on the riverbank,
the water, relentless it flows by ...
the pebble ... laying at the waters edge,
the future, flows past through history.**

...   ...   ...
1.8k · Aug 2012
... Childs Play ...
howard brace Aug 2012
1966, my first school book review, aged 13.

*It's hard, to say the least when you are bashful
to give voice to all the words you wish to say
for when your restless feet beneath you start to shuffle
you know you'd rather take your chance and run away.

You have a premonition to be elsewhere
to a place they call 'the land of two left feet'
where self-confidence is ****** beyond redemption
where the introvert is king, and not dead-meat.

As the arms of doom draw near to embrace you  
and the ground before you cracks and opens wide    
tongues of flame curl around to engulf you...    
in the scheme of things you're skinned, trussed and fried.
    
You take a sip of water and start choking
as a splash of liquid dribbles down your chin
then the teacher offers you a paper tissue
and patiently she smiles as you begin.

Breaking out into a sweat you feel self-conscious
as the collar of your shirt begins to shrink
then you twist and tie in knots that paper hanky
and wished you'd poured yourself a stiffer drink.

Though you fumble for the words, they're not forthcoming
as you pour yet one more glass from the carafe
and while a tongue that's tied in knots may be amusing
in a mouth that's parched you really should not laugh.

Amid a mixture of derision and ovation    
with that sickly smile still plastered to your face    
you waited for the hard word from the teacher    
but she said 'sit down' and well done Howard Brace.

You prayed that you had never stirred that morning
and rolled your sleepy body out of bed...
of the precious weeks you failed to spend revising
for the Book-Review and the text you barely read.

...   ...   ...
howard brace Apr 2011
That cup of tea, remember... the one I made for you
just enough for one to share, but not enough for two,

for while you sipped your cup of tea, your fresh and tasty brew
the one I made through chivalry, was the one that I would rue,

whilst reaching for the coffee beans, their flavour to infuse
that caffeine fix, dark and rich, were low from overuse,

within that roasted coffee jar, I clutched the unforeseen
for held confined, in there to grind... just one solitary bean.**

...   ...   ...
1.7k · Apr 2011
... A Day At The Seaside ...
howard brace Apr 2011
A day at the seaside, memories to keep
and treasure them always, in dreams while I sleep
with sapphire sky and no cloud to obscure
heat from the sun, bathing the day.

...   ...   ...
howard brace Jun 2012
Dancing in the spotlights incandescence
feel your body sway, held close to mine
the nearness of your presence overwhelms me
as we're moving on the dance floor in my mind.
...   ...   ...
1.4k · May 2011
... Galadriel Lady ...
howard brace May 2011
Beauty of presence, resplendent in grace,
such beautiful eyes, in a beautiful face.

Aphrodite child, exquisite in form,
an Orchid, so fragrant, with countenance warm.

To light up the sky, you bewitch, you beguile,
instinctive, reflexive, with Heavenly smile.

Galadriel Lady, the only one of a kind,
an Angel of light, and so refined.

Honourable woman, so noble of heart
genuine, proud, a woman apart.

Unfailing, loyal, a dependable friend
there when you're needed, always there to the end.

...   ...   ...
1.3k · Apr 2011
... Of Christmas Past ...
howard brace Apr 2011
The Christmas tree resplendent, decked in magnificence
where peeping out from underneath, bought with benevolence
were gifts, keeping occupied, excited little fingers
the best so far, a wind up car, the worst, two woolly jumpers.

The aroma from the kitchen, kept wafting through the door
with greedy tum' a-rumbling, ( there's more presents to explore )
the table set in splendour, upon that festive day
the brilliance of the cutlery, displayed in bright array.

Crispy roast potatoes, Christmas ******* by each plate
brussel sprouts and chestnuts, ( our dinner guests were late )
roast pork and juicy crack-a-ling, fresh stewing apple sauce
sage and onion stuffing *****, were all for our main course.

Unwrapped and sat a-steaming, and crowned with holly leaves
Christmas pud' and brandy sauce, stared at with disbelief,
tangerines and nuts to shell, dried fruit and pre-****** dates
and then... as a special treat, dark chocolate 'After Eights'.

Much later still, before bedtime, clothes filled with corpulence
my little belt let out a notch, to ease circumference
and then to bed, much over fed, with dreams of clockwork toys
of Boxing day, of games to play, of Christmas filled with joy.*

...   ...   ...

'trademark'
1.3k · Apr 2011
... Makeover ...
howard brace Apr 2011
The fairest hair, peroxide blond
beer shampoo feeding the roots
primped and pinned with paperclips
blown and set as candyfloss sticks.

Hydro-pack cream erasing the pouches
colourful lashes, stuck to the lids
with copyright brows by electrolysis
both almond eyes are now penciled in.

Lines of life filled with putty
trowelled in layers, foundations built
delicate cheeks, powdered, pampered
rouged and shaded, giving them youth.

Clinical lips, Botox injected
tattooed outlines guiding the brush
the budding artist colours by numbers
pouting, she paints in weatherproof gloss.

Turtleneck sweater hiding the wrinkles
genuine paste, drawing the eye
both purl and knit-one inside the jumper
pulled and snagged by glued on nails.

High heel shoes, stretching the sinews
of Lycra clad legs, holding them taut
a girdle of whalebone hugging the figure
gently molding, the form to behold.

With grace we age throughout the years
a time filled life, craves respect
hairs of grey are marks of distinction
an occasional blemish, a beauty spot.

Tiny crow's feet, signs of good humour
experience of life, lines proudly worn
for with laughing eyes and glowing smile
who need wear a plasticine face.**

...   ...   ...
1.3k · Apr 2011
... Under A Gibbous Moon ...
howard brace Apr 2011
Borne on waves of solar wind
the void of space he navigates
ostracised, sails the sky
searching the night with polarised eyes.

With beckoning gaze, his look forlorn
watching the world float in space
off-ground-tigs plays he alone
for has no friends to call his own.

Muddy puddles and oceans reflect
mellow cheese, veined with blue
marred complexion, acne faced
through scudding clouds, plays peek-a-boo.

As old as time, a crescent smile
grinning the grin of a Cheshire cat
a melon slice, a boomarang
thrown into orbit, returns again.

Without our friend where would we be
the darkest nights through eternity
no tide to pull the ocean blue
no romance, for me or you.

...   ...   ...
1.3k · Jul 2011
... Old Kings Arms [the] ...
howard brace Jul 2011
Full of charm, 'The Old Kings Arms'.
appendage of my home
a smiling face, a friendly place
a venue that bids welcome.

Ales on draught, cask or keg
Irish stout or cider
a glass of wine, from the vine
all for the connoisseur drinker.

Or should you fancy dining out
for daily brunch or luncheon
served while two, upon the menu
you'll find a wide selection.

Charm is seen, composure serene
a smile by far the sweetest
since time was rang, her name Joanne
your Hostess with the most-est.**

...   ...   ...
howard brace Jan 2012
All aboard the Skylark, a cruise of mystery
it comes highly recommended, excursion starts at three
with a-tootle of the horn, sightseeing we set sail
on Summer days, around the bay, then back for scones and tea.

...   ...   ...
howard brace Feb 2012
Topsy and Turvy, hassled and harried
jostled among a jungle of jumble,
so busy they beavered, in search of a bauble
upon all the shelves, so deftly they delved,
... within the lair of the piffling frippary.

They ambled and rambled, so giddy they gambolled
and sought for that trivial trinket or trifle,
they rummaged and rifled, their eagerness stifled,
through struggle, they strived, from nine until five,
... within the lair of the piffling frippary.

Staunch but stressed, their zest so hard pressed
for until discovered, found and recovered,
they muttered and spluttered, and audibly uttered
within the lair of the piffling frippary,
... persuing that piece of paltry frivolity.

Now flagging, they floundered, not finding the foible
in shambles they rambled, revealing reluctance,
and ceding, conceding, they threw in the towel
on trembling, tottering knees they now tumbled,
... out of the lair, of the piffling frippary.

...   ...   ...
1.1k · Apr 2011
... Devotion ...
howard brace Apr 2011
More perfect than a golden dawn upon a perfect day,
my love is light personified, she drives the night away.

Towering before all to show my love for her,
one island standing fast, against waves of tempestuous seas.

Yet oft' I sit as a small and bashful child before her feet,
a mischievous twinkle in my eyes, a smile upon my face.

Gaining strength to patiently bide, until the time when next we meet,
never daring to hope, to dream, yet I do and weep.

And willingly would I wait, ten thousand years and more,
for just one tender smile.

For without this lady, I am nothing,
and would rather be as dust, than be with any other.

For she has the sweetest face, more angelic by far,
and before her, all other beauty pales, to insignificance.

A more proud and noble woman there could never be,
she is my heart, and in my mind lives constantly.

So this romance for me I pray, will never die,
for with adoration, do I kneel before, and worship her.**

...   ...   ...
1.1k · Feb 2012
... Mantrapped ...
howard brace Feb 2012
To every loving mother who spoils her son, and consequently wonders why... all men are useless.


*To keep life overflowing and discontent at bay
a lesson should be learnt by men, and remembered every day.

A wife will scold her husband, just as did her mum
for they, like them, were children once, and followed this rule-of-thumb:

'Always have the last word'... they seem to have this knack
for their greatest form of self defence is always in attack.

In this world of equals, a mother must blame her kind
for she alone is guilty, by accident or design.

A mum will raise her daughter to become a future spouse
while sons like dads get under, their feet around the house.

For every loving mother, since the birth of time began
will always teach her daughter, but spoil her little man.

...   ...   ...
1.0k · Feb 2012
... Fireside Nook [the] ...
howard brace Feb 2012
Laid by the hearth in the midst of December
curled up snug by the fireside nook
the little dog stirs, at a settling ember
and the periodic chime of the mantlepiece clock.

...   ...   ...
1.0k · May 2011
... Burnt Fingers ...
howard brace May 2011
As early twilight steals the day
welcoming hearths with warmth bestow
casting shadows upon the walls
as firelight flickers spread their glow.

Searching for faces in glimmering embers
chestnuts arrayed before the flame
he worries about that crack in the window
the little boy thinks of who to blame.

...   ...   ...
1.0k · Apr 2011
... Swansong ...
howard brace Apr 2011
Preened to perfection, paired for life
in ritual courtship, as partners they dance
arched wings held high, necks entwined
both pirouette, and waltz through the night.**

...   ...   ...
1.0k · Jul 2011
... Burgundy And Blue ...
howard brace Jul 2011
I bought a 'Polo' tee-shirt
striped burgandy and blue,
but you said it was suggestive
of somebody that you knew.

Then I called to have my hair cut
much shorter, just for you,
but you mentioned that my haircut
was a double deja-vu.

All this plus my spectacles
(next time it's contact lens's),
was about someone resembling me
who said 'now les be friends.

Such friendly propositions
with ******* girl in mind,
for it takes all kinds, to make a world
when you're that way inclined.

The moral of my story
and I knew it all along,
is even when I seek advice
I can't do right for wrong.*

...   ...   ...

'trademark'
992 · Feb 2012
... Fruit Salad ...
howard brace Feb 2012
It's not for the want of an apple
or the fruit from a tangerine tree
nor the pick from a bunch of bananas
that make you so fruity to me.

...   ...   ...
989 · Apr 2011
... Corporation Green ...
howard brace Apr 2011
Rows of stone houses, all back-to-back
lined by the side of streets cobble set
housewives with shopping, segs in their heels
clopping down ginnels with ringing footsteps.

Cast iron lampposts, corporation green
daily were reset by clockwork it seemed
casting more shadow than light which to see
brimstone edged steps, scrubbed 'elbow' clean.

Sweeps on their rounds, in Summer would rush
cleaning the flues with rods and brush
kids in the street, staring in wonder
at soot snowing flurries, from porcupine pots.

Nutty slack in the grate, drawn by the pan
coal smoking stacks, pouring out grime
creels of damp washing, stealing the flame
when years end smog, jaundiced the sky.

A trip to the 'flicks', Saturday morning
'thrupence' for best seats, 'top-a-the-stalls'
rounds of cheers as good-un's were chasing
the bad-un's were boo'd, soon to be caught.

In 'wellies an scruff,' we went to the 'flea-pit'
with 'ha-peth o' cheap spice', soothing the throat
food for thought, all week long
and played them all, the films we saw.

Cowboys and Indians, cap guns held high
annoying the neighbours, 'bye it were grand'
riding the range on imaginary horses
best we ride on, with slap of the hand.

'Play in yer own street', my recallection
and 'geer off mi steps, they've jus-bin-swilled'
yet still we 'mucked out' with die-cast toys
against the 'midden', and on the walls.

No more adventure, making own fun
young-un's today don't know how it's done
cartoon and serial, games of war
we'd launch to the moon, upon the see-saw.**

...   ...   ...
985 · Jul 2011
... Faces In Pumpkins ...
howard brace Jul 2011
Thinking her thoughts of mischief before
a Guy of the fifth, with bonfires bright
and works of flame to light the sky,
but Hallows eve starts, on the thirty-first night.

Faces in pumpkins, scooped out hollow
flickers from tallow, giving them life,
silhouette on the moon, she rides the night
in pointed hat, upon her broom.**

...   ...   ...
949 · Jul 2011
... Dickensian Days ...
howard brace Jul 2011
Epitome of Victorian man
demanding to be the patriarch,
the man of the house, the father figure
law, bread and butter, wearing the pants.

( With his chair by the fire and smoking a pipe,
tweed slippers he wears, masters dog at his feet. )

Stubborn, mule headed, unyielding as ice
he glares at the young, but less deserving than they
growls at them all, when all that they do
is play ... having so much fun.

But summoning always the housemaid he needs
( in her place, she's his surrogate mum, )
and when income 'flows' in, miracles work
their home all alone she keeps.

He, early to rise, and early to work, then early back home again
five whole days of graft works he, only two of solid rest,
but by the end of the month, a 'basic' brings home
she'd wish it would last a four week.

And under the thumb, thinks he holds her
putting down always, when friends call around,
taking his share of the kitty she holds
but always wants more of whatever she gives.

He never is wrong, the obvious stating
whats been mentioned before, now his to tell her,
and she takes it all with calm and grace
I still can't believe that it's really her.

So, far stronger than steel that hold down her feet
she now wears the shackles she forged,
and the scars I see bared from imprisonment
were carved when she donned, the shroud that see wove.

And the tears from my heart, to see her so used
she's still trapped in once gilded, now rusty cage,
so better by far, freedom from *******
far worse, life squandered in thrall.**

...   ...   ...
883 · Sep 2014
... One Lump Or Two ...
howard brace Sep 2014
My fondness for the teapot, fresh water clear and bright
cane sugar cubes awaiting my first cup since last night,

this golden stream of nectar to sate and satisfy
a yearning to extinguish, a palate parched and dry,

my cosy cup of sweetness caressed within the hand
an eager nose to savour the fragrance of the brand,

a rich enticing flavour, delightful to the taste
each sip infused with pleasure, yet never drunk in haste.

...   ...   ...
877 · Apr 2011
... Dinner Plates ...
howard brace Apr 2011
My eyes, the size of saucers
every time I look at you
but when you were in your bikini
the size of my eyes just grew.**

...   ...   ...
howard brace Apr 2011
Your radiance shines like a beacon
your virtue, my guiding light
your eyes so bright they sparkle
your laughter bursts out with delight.

Your smile is filled with excitement
your humour, impulsive and sweet
your face, exquisite and glowing
your form, a heavenly treat.

Your flamboyance, attractive and stunning
your deportment, imposing and chic
your poise with finesse is polished, and
your charisma is filled with mystique.

Your allegiance, unswerving and loyal
your elegance, resplendant in grace
your friendship, a lifetime of sunshine
your complexion, the finest silk lace.

Your goodness, adorned in splendour
your kindness goes on and on
your presence is charming and gracious
your carriage is that of a swan.

My esteem for you is boundless
my admiration is yours to the end
my heart is filled to bursting, and
I thank you for being my friend.**

...   ...   ...
853 · Sep 2012
... Eddy Bear ...
howard brace Sep 2012
I'm tucked in bed this morning with my best friend Mister Bear
wishing he was better 'cause there's sawdust in his hair
Mummy says it's dandruff and if teddy bear and me
can both be good, as we should, then you may stop for tea.

...   ...   ...
howard brace Sep 2011
Secure the night from the shadow,
draw back the sheets from the bed,
douse the flickering candle,
there's a pillow of dreams for your head.

In the still of the night, in the darkness,
in the hollowed out space, there within,
lay your presence of nearness beside me,
as the onset of night begins.

Where through the night in this haven,
you're the stars that shine in my sky,
in peace, there you lay, safe and treasured,
as the hours until dawn pass by.**  

...   ...   ...
826 · May 2011
... Rainbows ...
howard brace May 2011
Fresh colours emerge as I look upon high
in rainbows I see, in rain speckled sky
portraits idyll, with pastels are shaded
beneath those archways of mellow cascades.

...   ...   ...
howard brace Nov 2011
Your worth I'll not measure in diamonds
but that of a pearl, displayed with grace,
with delight your presence I cherish
at the sight of a smile, adorning your face.**

...   ...   ...
811 · Apr 2011
... Implicitly Yours ...
howard brace Apr 2011
You captured my heart, I admit it
caught in your spell, I'm bewitched
I reached out my hand and you held it
adrift, lost at sea, I was saved.

My gaze you enslaved, and I love it
filling my eyes with delight
in touching my life, you enriched it
enchanting my days with your smile.**

...   ...   ...
766 · Jul 2011
... Reflections ...
howard brace Jul 2011
Behind this visage of a smile
where no one can ever see
lay the heart of me,
standing on the inside, looking out.

Before the countenance of your smile
and there for all to see
lives my epitome,
standing on the outside, looking in.**

...   ...   ...
765 · Jan 2012
... Winter Rose ...
howard brace Jan 2012
You are the sweet breath of Springtime
the early morning glow of a Summers day,
calming waves upon the seashore
the rustle of the shingle, amid the spray.

You are the sparkle of the Sun upon the sea,
all of these and more ... you are to me.

You are the rose that blooms in Winter
the harvest moon that shines on an Autumn night,
the joyful song of laughter
that dance upon your lips, with sublime delight.

You are the stars set in the sky, you are the Sun,
you are all the world to me ... my everyone.**

...   ...   ...
763 · Apr 2011
... Bucket of Tears ...
howard brace Apr 2011
Tears in a bucket, throughout the years
so bitter in taste that briny waste
rusting the seams to percolate
the rivers within, as they run out.

Spindrift from seas with passion erupts
stinging the eyes, pouring down cheeks
castles of sand, now all washed away
by oceans of tears that flow through the pail.

Tears in a bucket filled from above
blurring the vision in sorrowful eyes
spill their liquor as weeping clouds
precipitation from rain filled skys.

Ashes to ashes, rust to rust
more holes than whole, now interred with the trash
mud at the bottom still cloys to the soul
heartbreaks once caught in the bucket of tears.

All eyes water, where do tears go
when they're not weeping, what hides the flow
how do you catch them when they're unseen
now there's no bucket to hold back the stream.

In bravest of eyes, nothing restrains
the tears that flow from gutter to drain
subterranean dreams never forgotten
all flushed away, by rivers of waste.**

...   ...   ...
761 · Apr 2011
... 50A ...
howard brace Apr 2011
This tabloid I hold impulsively bought
from the newspaper kiosk so as not to get bored
through tedium or languor... to ponder or browse
and while away time, shunning the world
as I stand in the queue, clutching my fare
and wait by the stop... in the rain.

I accept a brief grunt and nod of the head
[ begrudgingly sought ] from the stranger I see
five days of the week and clench my teeth
as he stands by my side, peering over my shoulder
and consumes the newspaper though it were his own,
in my mind I imagine him thumbing the pages.

Then looking up I impatiently mutter
and glance at the time with utter frustration,
I close the newspaper [ with smug satisfaction ]
and fold in my pocket, all dog-eared and damp
[ much like myself ] as I stand at the stop
and wait for the bus... to go home.**

...   ...   ...
howard brace Apr 2011
I'm entranced as I bathe in your beauty
in my heart you reign supreme
mesmerized by your eyes, they're enchanting
and I treasure the pleasure I see.

With devotion my gaze everlasting
you're my ever awakening thought
then I cherish your smile as I'm dreaming
with your name on my lips, whilst I sleep.**

...   ...   ...
689 · Apr 2011
... Loving Cup [the] ...
howard brace Apr 2011
One double measure, filled with spirit
gentle hands touching, embracing the glass
upon softest lips, raising the nectar
toasting each other ... now empty ... alas.**

...   ...   ...
howard brace Apr 2011
With two frail hands, Grandfather sits
of bygone years, he recounts the past
talking to all in monotony
stories from life as time unwinds.

The regular beat, the pendulum swings
heralding dusk, four strikes of the clock
facing the mantle, drifting in sleep
the seasons first dream... of hours turned back.**

...   ...   ...
665 · Apr 2011
... A Stab In The Dark ...
howard brace Apr 2011
It's not easy ...
not really easy being me
when you're stood before the world
and you're there for all to see,

When you're stood under the spotlight
and the people stare at you
when you're feeling full of miracles
but knowing what you have to do,

When you think your friends surround you
and you're feeling kinda' good
just watch that space behind you
when you feel misunderstood,

Cos' you'll always find there's someone
creeping up, on the attack
who will kiss you on the cheek
and then stab you in the back,

When they drag you off to someplace else
and you're stood before the boss
they'll judge and whip and scourge you
then nail you to a cross,

Where they shout and mock and jeer at you
and they pierce you with a spear
when your family's there below you
and you know your end is near,

And you call upon your Father
and you call upon the Host
then quiet repose besets you
and you give up the Holy Ghost,

Then they take you down, and tend to you
and they wrap you in a shroud
and they roll a rock before you
just to hide you from the crowd,

Where you disappear forever
and you walk right off the set
and they start a new religion
all because you were a threat.**

...   ...   ...
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