The Henchman

Benny ‘Biceps’ Bison, was it really him? Yes it had to be, even bigger than when he was in sixth form, but if there was any doubt in Julian’s mind that he had spotted Benny on his first visit to this new gym, it was dispelled when Benny extricated himself from some weird contraption and came striding over.

‘Hey Julie Ringlets, what brings you here? No need to ask what you are doing these days, you’re never off the news.’

Julian Ringlington, MP, new Minister for Levelling Down, forced a tight smile, perhaps it was not that great seeing Benny again.

‘Long time no see Benjamin, how are you these days?’

‘Never better, but what Are you doing here.’

‘Oh erm, looking round, thinking of changing gyms, is it good here, are you a regular?’

Julian had already decided this was one gym to avoid.

‘You could say that, I own it.’

After a comprehensive tour of the gym with Benny introducing every incomprehensible piece of computer controlled equipment, Julian found himself upstairs in the designer health bar sipping a green smoothie.

‘So Jules, how many ministries have you had this year? Wonder you could get out your front door with all those climate protesters when you were minister for the Environment, now every mob seems to be attacking you. Do you actually enjoy being a politician?

‘I would if I got a chance to make a difference and put all my ideas into action. Between press and protesters I feel I can hardly breathe, let alone speak.’

Julian wondered what was in the green smoothie that had loosened his tongue to confide in Ben, but then Benjamin Bison had been his best friend at school, or the closest thing he had to a friend at school.

Look Jules, I have had an amazing idea, we were always a good team at school, remember that time they were going to flush your head down the lav?’

Julian was hardly likely to forget, one of the many times Benny had rescued him.

‘What you need is a henchman; in my case a sort of cross between a personal trainer and a bodyguard, with a few more tricks up my sleeve than your security chaps are allowed.’

 Julian Ringlington was unsure exactly what the Portfolio for Minister for Levelling Down covered, but with a new found confidence he ploughed his own path and was soon in great demand on high and low brow radio and television.

‘…so that is why we are giving everyone living alone on a tight budget a dog. A dog on the sofa and the foot of your bed keeps you far warmer than an electric blanket or the gas fired central heating.’

‘And where will you get all the dogs from?’

‘Rescue centres are overfull, all the puppies people bought during lockdown and got fed up with. The dogs will be happy and it will also be good for the mental health of their new owners, keep them out of the doctors’ surgeries. It’s all win win.’

‘…so we intend to close down all schools for the winter and return to on line teaching, saving on staff costs and heating bills for school buildings.’

‘But then families will need to keep their heating on longer if the children are at home and they will miss out on school lunches.

‘No problem, the whole family can go to the free warm hubs and enjoy community meals.’

‘Can you guarantee enough of these hubs?’

‘Of course, we will be using all the empty school buildings…’

As more and more press and public gathered wherever Julian went, his new private secretary Benjamin Bison was at his side, parting the crowds like Moses and the Red Sea, ‘accidentally’ treading on toes or knocking large news  camera lens askew. Among press and politicians alike there was covert concern as to who this Benjamin Bison was, but everyone was too scared to enquire.

Silly Sunday Silly Shopping

Seaside locked? You could go shopping instead.
Seaside locked? You could go shopping instead.

Saunter through the gardens…

Perhaps stop at the cinema…

…or for coffee…

… but you better save time for shopping…
Don’t miss the arcade…

You could buy a book…

and stop for coffee and get some ideas on what to do with your old ladders.

But you must be getting on with your shopping – hmm looks like it’s closed.

This looks more hopeful.

Is this the fashion section?

Perhaps not.

Wonder what’s upstairs?

At least you get a good view… fashion must be on the next floor and perhaps the restaurant…

Whoops!

I think we must be in the art gallery…

That’s what I feel like doing with my feet.

That’s enough shopping for today.

Forty Four Days – Digital Dialogue – 315

Well… what did she say?

Darling, you know that is confidential.

Yes, but you can tell your wife.

You know I can’t tell anyone, how many times have we had this conversation?

But these are strange times and you need someone to talk to, like Me. I bet Mama used to tell Papa a few snippets of her weekly audience.

No of course she did not, you know my Darling Mama took her holy vows and traditions seriously.

But you wouldn’t know would you, if she had told him he would never have let her down by giving the game away. So couldn’t you just tell me what you said to her? Just a little bit…

I said ‘Dear Oh Dear.’

That’s what they overheard you saying the other day.

It’s pretty much what I have said every time I have met the wretched woman. I did say more, but I’m sorry my Darling Cam Cams, you are never going to know. However, you can help me with my speech, I think it’s time I addressed the country again.

Yes, yes, you must… such a pity you can’t …well you would make a better job than the lot of them running the country.

I agree and perhaps… no no, I don’t want to be beheaded.

But that was only the first Charles, the second one they were jolly glad to have back again and so they will support you.

But he was only thirty, much younger even than Wills; I’m getting too old for all this business and I certainly didn’t think I would have to break in another Prime Minister so soon… unless I don’t have to because I abolish the office, just temporarily… oh damn it, why not go the whole hog and dismiss Parliament. Come on, let’s get that speech written; have you got your mobile handy? Call the BBC.

Just Going For A Walk

I had been planning to blog about our earliest form of transport for a while, then walking took on yet another aspect last week with the royal funeral, the various processions leading up to it and of course The Queue. But first back to basics.

Have you heard people comment, or perhaps you have said it yourself…

I don’t do hills. I don’t do walking. I don’t like walking.

I was once watching a comedy in which the teenager daughter greets her mother’s return home. ‘I didn’t know where you were, I thought you’d gone for a walk.‘ Mother replies ‘Walk! I’ve never been for a walk in my life.’

Someone describing how the heat was not a problem in Singapore with the air conditioned malls… I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He replied looking puzzled ‘Why would you want to go for a walk?’

Why would you not want to walk, the most natural activity for humans, exercise that costs nothing and a handy way to get where you want to go. During Covid lockdown it was one of the few activities allowed and non dog owners discovered new delights. I love walking, but I have no desire to trek to either pole or up to Everest base camp; solo or with companions, who I would be intensely irritated with by the third day… But ordinary walking, enjoying the fresh air, scenery, perhaps photography and probably ending up at a nice cafe or pub is fun for everyone… What do non walkers do when they go for a day out or on holiday? You may think National Trust Houses have large grounds because the original owners owned all the local land; no, it’s so we can have a nice walk before having lunch in the restaurant and looking round the house. No holiday is complete without a walk along a cliff path or a steep ascent up a hill to enjoy the view.

Modern technology, from super electronic wheelchairs to state of the art artificial limbs allow many who are disabled to get out and about with their friends and family who are fit and able to walk. Walking is freedom and not to be taken for granted; those under repressive regimes or living in dangerous areas cannot just go out for a walk. If you are used to walking everywhere it’s a reminder of the privilege when you ‘do something’ to your back or knee and suddenly can’t walk. The leaflets we were given when having chemotherapy suggest that ‘going for a short walk will help combat fatigue’ – this turned out to be a joke as most of each three week cycle it was a struggle to get to the front gate or up the stairs. It was an insight into the chronic fatigue that people with Long Covid and other debilitating medical conditions have to cope with.

So back to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth 11. Whatever your views on royalty or television ( blanket ) coverage of the events, there was a fascination with both the formal traditions and the spontaneous acts of those who came to queue to watch a procession or for The Queen’s lying in. There is something dignified and humbling about the men of the family and others close to the royals walking slowly behind the coffin. Princess Anne joined them, as she did for her father’s funeral, a token man for the day? Presumably it is tradition that only the men walk. If any of the chaps didn’t like walking they were in for a tiring time. I like a brisk walk, walking slowly at a measured pace is much harder, I have tried it round the house. Nor did I go up to London to join The Queue, almost a pilgrimage. They had a long distance to cover at a very slow pace, I wondered if there were escape points for those who changed their minds and just wanted to go home.

There are environmental benefits if everyone walked on short journeys and for writers it is one of the best ways to see real life, but those are topics for another blog.

Are you a walker or non walker? If you enjoy walking what is your favourite sort of walk?

Friday Flash Fiction – digital dialogue 440 – What Now?

‘Shall I put the news on?

‘No point…’

‘I thought you liked to catch up with events?’

‘Nothing to catch up with now the funeral’s over.’

‘Only what’s been going on in the rest of the world.’

‘No thanks, it was lovely having a break, I really miss The Queue and the marching oh and the vigils. There’s nothing to talk about at work now. Back to hearing about Thelma’s operation and Kitty’s boyfriend.’

Do you mind if I put it on, I want to see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer revealed in the Fiscal Event.’

‘The Fiscal what?’

‘Budget, mini budget, bound to be bad news, whatever it’s called.’

‘I can’t remember what the new chancellor’s called.’

‘No, nor can I, but apparently he’s very clever, won a scholarship to Eton and won University Challenge single handed.’

Friday Flash Fiction 434 – End of the Queue

You had to laugh, some of them looked worn out and they’d only been ‘out on the street’ for one night.

Nic was having the time of his life, all night company, places to eat and toilets open twenty four hours. Buildings open to all, light and life and most of all, everyone being nice to each other. Nobody cared who you were or where you came from, which was very different from nobody caring.

He had been given a wrist band, but had no intention of going to see the Queen. He wouldn’t have minded meeting her when she was still alive, some of her family were nearly as dysfunctional as his so she wouldn’t judge.

Nic had a fair idea what was going on at Westminster from chatting to others. Airport security, well he wasn’t carrying anything suspicious that would beep, but they would be on the lookout for suspicious looking people. Anyway, he was content to stay this side of the river. Others had come on their own, some people happy to share with new friends food they had brought or nipped from the queue to buy.

At regular intervals Nic would slip away for a ‘comfort break’ and discarding his wrist band, wend his way by a circuitous route to the back of the queue again and new friends. What a night, he saw the lights on the River Thames with new eyes, taking on the enthusiasm of those new to the city.

At Operation London Bridge Control Room human eyes looked at banks of screens while their colleagues, the digital detectives, scanned images with state of the art face recognition and other skills.

‘Screen six, near the end of the queue, got a loiterer… suspect coming back again, what’s his game… contact officers in that sector.’

Nic thought he was pretty anonymous, an observer, so he was startled to confront the smiling face of a man in a suit with a microphone.

‘We’re live on BBC television, can I ask what made you decide to come tonight?’

‘Oh um yes, I’m a local, so no trouble…’

‘It’s chilly tonight, but you were still happy to leave home comforts?’

Nic was just about to relate another made up life when he spotted them behind the reporter, two police officers and as he turned slightly, two more behind him. Now what on earth should he do…

‘No home comforts mate, I’m homeless, like lots of others and nobody has given us a mention… and if I get arrested nobody is going to care, except perhaps millions of viewers…’

Thursday Tiny Tale – 2053

Charlotte was beginning to regret joining the new Hambourne Happy Creatives group. As a newcomer to the pretty town it had seemed the obvious group to join to keep her energised in her rocky writing career. She was eager to write a more cheery novel than her last and hoped Hambourne would inspire her to write about her new heroine, a recently widowed writer who moves to a country town for peace and quiet, but finds herself investigating a murder.

If she had been a local she would have known to keep Robert Falstaff at arm’s length. To Charlotte, at first, he was a charming man who had advice to freely offer, from dealing with computer problems to publishing and promotion. His apparent connections to television had her fantasising about a Sunday evening cosy drama.

Now, at this evening’s meeting, she found herself at the centre of attention, with her languishing novel ‘2053’ the topic of a discussion led by Robert. The other members were kindly in their questions, but she felt herself and the novel horribly exposed.

‘What made you choose the title, or that year Charlotte?’

‘I wanted it to be in the future, but still in a time frame when I could conceivably still be alive. How was I to know when I was writing it that all the events would come true by 2022!’

‘You could change the year, or perhaps call it The Covid Chronicles.’

‘Oh dear no, does anyone want to read novels about Covid?’

‘Hmm, I am writing a novel about Covid and the horror it brought to a town like Hambourne’ said a tight lipped woman.

‘Well, the novel is out there, published on Amazon,’ said Robert with an expression of disdain ‘so let’s concentrate on how Charlotte could do much better with promotion.’

‘Um, I was hoping to have a stall at your arts festival…’

‘Internationally I mean.’

‘I do have my blog and quite a few followers from every continent, except Antarctica.’

Robert scrolled down his iPad, Charlotte shuddered to see the familiar sky blue background of Thinking Through. Was her poor little blog to be exposed to ridicule?

‘Oh yes, I am thinking of starting a blog’ said a timid lady Charlotte immediately warmed to.

‘Silly Saturday, Silly Sunday, Monday Madness, Tuesday Tiny Tales, Wordless Wednesday, Thursday Trifles and Fun Friday’ sneered Robert. ‘Charlotte dear, you are not exactly coming across as a serious author.’

It’s a long time since I visited Hambourne and I wondered what had been going on there since 2013. You can read the Hambourne Chronicles in Hallows and Heretics.

Monday Madness

When one gate stays open..

Another gate stays closed

When your neighbours get a new front door.

When your neighbours build an extension with a penthouse aviary.

Look up…

Look down.

Heatwave brings return of The Triffids.

Macro Madness – guess what? Answers below, but not necessarily in the right order.

THE END

Don’t Mention The Weather

We were on a college summer camp on Rottnest Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, well only 18 kilometres from Fremantle, Western Australia, but one of the girls had to be airlifted off by helicopter as she had heatstroke. Happy days – when we emigrated to Australia in 1964 nobody worried about skin cancer or staying hydrated. Fortunately my parents were aware the sun was hot. Dad was out in Egypt after WW2 before he was demobbed and told of ’idiots’ being stretchered out with third degree burns after sun bathing. Fortunately my parents avoided the beach after being taken to Scarborough Beach by our sponsors on our first day in Australia. Huge waves and hot sand did not appeal and we went to pleasant shady spots by the River Swan.

My novel Quarter Acre Block was inspired by our first year in Australia.

Unfortunately school outings were gloriously free of sun hats and sun lotion and I recall an early outing when we spent the whole day on the beach and next day my nose peeled and bled! Outings with youth groups on hot days were often followed by me feeling sick the next day; setting off without any money and probably a picnic with a plastic bottle of cordial, I obviously didn’t drink enough. At school we did have plenty of water fountains, I didn’t spend my whole time dehydrated, but my sister recalls that if you were thirsty when you were out you stayed thirsty. I’m sure other people were buying bottles of coke and cool drinks of lurid colour, but we were not.

Sun and shade in Western Australia.

Our current heatwave has brought endless dire warnings of the dangers of going out – or staying inside homes not designed to cope with hot weather. Modern parents never let their children out without a bottle of water, but they should not panic – if Prince George could sit in the heat of Wimbledon dressed in a jacket and tie there is no need to pamper children.


How is the weather where you are?