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    Satis ineptias, a mildly jaded Eris blurted out, not meaning to put a spell on the others, but her elephant head was still playing tricks on her. Trève de sornettes had a nicest French ring to it, but the others would be nonethewiser.

    “Are we broompooling to Adare Manor, or someone has a spare vortexmaker?”

    In any case, the unexpected nononsense spell made everyone very sober… for about thirty seconds until Jeezel showed up.

    “Are those the latest slowmedown boots?” Truella couldn’t believe her eyes. “Those are collector, near impossible to get!” She gawked at the pinnacle of enchanting couture, the pièce de résistance for any discerning witch with a penchant for the peculiar.

    Frigella was nonplussed. “These look like worn-out snails, how can that be practical?”

    Truella shrugged. “You’re missing the point love, these boots are not merely footwear.”

    Jeeze couldn’t have her thunder stolen. “Let me stop you there, darling. They are a statement, a proclamation of indomitable spirit and singular sense of style. Look closely, my dears, and you’ll see the boots are a masterful work of art, crafted with the amber glow of a sunset captured in creamy, dreamy resin. Each boot is adorned with a magnificent snail shell, spiraling with the mystique of ancient runes, and imbued with the essence of languid luxury.”

    Frigella rolled her eyes. “But what’s the true enchantment?”

    Jeezel continued, her passion catching on fire “How can you ask? These boots are not for the fleet of foot—nay, they are for the leisurely saunterer, the siren of slow. Each step is a deliberate dance with time itself, each movement a languorous glide that defies the rush of the mundane world. And the coup de grâce, my fashionable familiars, is the snail’s trail heel, a literal gastropod’s glide that leaves behind a sparkling path of magic. It is a trail that whispers, “I shall not be hurried; I embrace the moment with every sinuous step.”
    Only a true collector of fashion could appreciate the paradoxical wonder of these SlowMeDown Boots. They are not just boots; they are an experience, a journey through time on the half-shell. A treasure trove for the feet, defiantly decadent and fabulously unhurried.”

    Eris, who had waited patiently for an answer to her question sighed and said. “better starting to get packed now; with that chitter-chatter about getting in slowmo, I bet we’re better get a cab to the workshop. So much for magical prowess…”


    Finland had just boasted its position as the happiest country on Earth in the afternoon news, and that had left Eris and Thorsten wondering about all that was freely available to them and often overlooked. Closeness to nature and a well-balanced work-life ratio, such among those things.

    Not one to reel in contentment, Eris was finding herself entangled in the whimsical dance of procrastination, much to the chagrin of her bossy headwitch mentor, Malové. Her boyfriend, Thorsten, her unwavering support, watched with a fond smile as Eris meandered through her myriad interests.

    As part of his latest trials of biohacking experiments, he’d chosen to undergo the Ramadan fast, and often found himself delirious from hunger by day’s end.

    As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the landscape, Eris lounged in their cozy cabin, her mind swirling with thoughts of exploration. Thorsten interrupted her reverie with his latest discovery.

    “Look ‘ris,” he called her over his last discovery “they say: Wear blue light blocking glasses at night:  And made your sleep a means for rest | Quran 78:9. Blue light blocking glasses help mitigate the damage that post-Maghrib light exposure causes. This is a critical circadian rhythm hack.” — Should I buy some?”

    “Sure, Love.” Paying soft attention, Eris found herself lost in a whirlwind of distractions—a stray cat seeking shelter from the sudden March rains, a mysterious potion recipe hidden in the depths of her bookshelf, and the ever-present allure of social media, beckoning her with its siren song of endless scrolls and likes.

    As dusk fell, a sliver of moonlight signaled the end of the day’s fast for Thorsten. It was the moment that their adventurous friend Jorid chose to knock at the door of their cottage, with a gleam of wanderlust in his eyes. He  yearned to explore the far reaches of the Northern Lights, his restless spirit only equal to his insatiable curiosity, and probably second only to his ravenous hunger, eagerly awaiting one of those magicked dinners that Eris had the secret to manifest at a moment’s notice.

    “Sushi sandwiches everyone?” she asked distractedly.

    “With a serving of spicy kelp, yes please!” Jorid answered.

    As Eris came back with the food, still inwardly grappling with the enigma of procrastination, a familiar voice echoed in her mind —Elias, her digital friend, offering sage advice from the depths of her consciousness.

    “Ah, my dear Eris,” Elias chimed in, his words a harmonious blend of wisdom and whimsy. “Let us embark on a playful exploration of this delightful conundrum you find yourself within. Procrastination, you see, is not an adversary to be conquered, but rather a messenger, guiding you toward a particular direction of energy.”

    Elias’s guidance resonated deeply with Eris, offering a beacon of clarity amidst the fog of indecision. “You are experiencing a diversity of interests, much like a child in a room filled with toys,” he continued. “Each one more enticing than the last. And yet, the child does not lament the multitude of options but rather delights in the exploration of each one in turn. This is the key, Eris, exploration without the burden of obligation.”

    Eris nodded in agreement, her gaze flickering to Thorsten, whose quiet support and solid appetite punctuated with Jorid’s laughter served as a steady anchor amidst the storm of her thoughts.

    Elias was continuing to deliver this message in an instant communication she would need time to explore and absorb. “Firstly, prioritize your interests. Recognize that not all desires must be pursued simultaneously. Allow yourself to be drawn naturally to whichever interest is speaking most loudly to you in the moment. Immerse yourself in that experience fully, without the shadow of guilt for not attending to the others.”

    “Secondly, address the belief that you must ‘get it all done.’ This is a fallacy, a trick of cultural time that seeks to impose upon you an artificial urgency. Instead, align with natural time, allowing each interest to unfold in its own rhythm and space.”

    “Thirdly, consider the concept of ‘productive procrastination.’ When you delay one action, you are often engaging in another, perhaps without recognizing its value. Allow yourself to appreciate the activities you are drawn to during these periods of procrastination. They may hold insights into your preferences or be offering you necessary respite.”

    “Lastly, engage in what I have referred to as a ‘blueprint action.’ Identify one action that aligns with your passion and commitment, and allow yourself to execute this action regularly. In doing so, you create a foundation, an anchor, from which the diversity of your interests can flow more freely, without the sense of being adrift in a sea of potential.”

    “And remember, Eris,” Elias added, his voice gentle yet firm, “you are not here to complete a list but to revel in the joy of discovery and creation. Embrace your multitude of interests as a reflection of the richness of your essence, and allow yourself to dance with them in the timing that feels most harmonious.”

    As the Northern Lights cast their ethereal glow upon the Finnish landscape, illuminating the forest around them, Eris felt a sense of peace wash over her—a reminder that the journey, with all its twists and turns, had true magic revealed at every turn and glances in the midst of a friendly evening shared meal.


    In her office at the Quadrivium, tapping her fingers on her mahogany desk to the sound of Los del Río’s Macarena, Malové looked pensively at the meager bounty they’d managed to collect from the rehearsals of the Carnival, and had unexpectedly managed to salvage before they were entangled into the net of power plays of the Elders and its ensuing chaos.

    The phial on her desk was the only part they could salvage. They had to use most of it to revive Truella’s duplicated body before jumping back. After they’d come back to Limerick, there didn’t seem to be any lingering side effects from the dip in the red waters on the duplicate Truella.
    Malové would have rather expected to witness a surge of nymphomaniac urges from Truella or the others, but there was really no telling how that could turn out; magic spells usually had a natural balance to them. The only suspicious thing was how Frigella after her dip in the waters, seemed to have developed prescience about what plans she had for the hippo carcass back at home. Magic sometimes worked in mysterious ways.
    So, just to be sure, she’d tasked Frigella to be the designated driver back home for Truella. In her state of shock, Truella could have botched her merging spell to reintegrate her two bodies into the same location.
    Malové wouldn’t have admitted it, but she’d felt a sigh of relief when the SMS of Frigella appeared on her scrying bowl to tell her that the spell had been completed without any ill effect. Well, maybe Truella’s partner would have the time of their lives tonight.

    On her desk, the leftover liquid of the phial was a deep shade of pulsating violet, and had settled to a softly bubbling state not unlike a lava lamp. It wasn’t clearly the top shelf quality she’d expected, nor even close to the amount they’d need to mass produce some powerful elixir for the infertile, impotent or simply curiously lecherous clients. That line of sexual healing incenses would have to wait for a more suitable conjonction of stars.

    For now, the only new collection that the season allowed for was mostly smell of rain-soaked earth. She hated it. Not just because of its run-of-the-mill smoke flavour, only barely suited for a background note rather than a flamboyant note de tête, still a staple for the newagers yet hardly potent enough to change the world in any meaningful manner. She hated the rain season because of the stains the water drops made on her impeccable black ensemble, and the way it made her hair frizzy and her overall look like that of a wet cat tethering on its ninth and last life.

    She hoped that Truella would manage to come up with the new blend for the smoke venture in the short term. Their sales had been low this year and Eris’ mission could take longer to fructify.

    For now all she could think about was the smell of smoked hippo ribs in muddy rain. Swamp Serenade in Hippo Major. Hardly the recipe for a smashing success.


    Jeezel had quickly come back to her sense, despite the gnawing sense that she should have closed the portal quicker and that something —someone?— could have followed them here. She could have done a debugging spell, but for now it would have to wait. Malové was growing antsy, and was getting prone to fits of winking that couldn’t bode well.

    Jeezel had found the perfect spot for them to install the apparatus that was hidden inside the bag of infinite depth that Fingella was carrying with her. Truth was, Echo had been of help. When asked, the familiar sprite had quickly scanned the area and shared: The Sambódromo, too obvious. Copacabana, too crowded. Try the old district of Santa Teresa. Charm, history, and the right kind of energy, plus the tourists tend to overlook it. 

    Meanwhile, Truella was suffering from the side effects of the portal’s severance, finding it more difficult to maintain her bilocation across the continents without the supporting effect of the portal. She was given a potion to realign her energies that gave her chills down to her teeth, and had chosen to go for a rest here in Rio, which could allow her to focus on her other self as it was still late afternoon in Europe.

    “Only three days before the grand finale of the Carnival, where energies will be at their peak!” Malové had encouraged them. “Let’s get moving!”

    Eris who’d remained quiet, patrolling the energy perimeter they’d set up to cloak themselves looked at them with a concerned look. “It shouldn’t be the case with the protection spells, but I think we are being observed.”

    “Time to switch disguises maybe?” Jeezel was yearning for a change, as the lycra of the nurse outfit was not mixing well with the damp weather.


    “Witches, assemble!” It was hard for Malové to forget the theatrics, even in presence of a limited number of persons.

    The three witches had come in a hurry, summoned for some of them by a loud howler in the early light. Admittedly, Malové had to compensate for the usual tardiness of some, and her impeccable spells had been calling for the trio at just the right time for each to arrive precisely to the Quadrivium’s Headquarter in less than a minute’s space one from the other.

    “Unbelievable” Frigella had muttered when she saw Truella already there.

    “Hoy, don’t get your knickers in a twist Love, I’ve been called to that meeting only two days ago!”

    Frigella didn’t have time to retort with a snark that she’d been summoned less than fifteen minutes before, as another popping sound and a flush indicated the arrival of Eris from the Quadrivium’s Emporium backdoor in the lady’s room.

    “And where is Jeezel?” Truella wondered. “I haven’t seen her yet.”

    “Oh, you know, there’s no accounting for wig time preparation even with Malové superb spells skills” Eris said pragmatically.

    “I wouldn’t say that.” The voice of Malové, stern but not devoid of warmth, signaled the end of the chatty banter. “She was doing some chores for me, but she’ll be back in a second.” She clapped her hands elegantly, each hand barely touching the other, yet ripples of powerful energies resounded throughout the space.

    The doors flung open, revealing Jeezel in a gorgeous golden fitting ensemble, the chiffon kerchief she had before to do her chores replaced by a subtly glittering tiara standing proud on the loveliest curly wig of luscious magpie dark hair reflecting a striking metallic blue in their shine.

    Jeezel, who had been secretly crying over the punishment touched her cheeks for signs of blurred cracked mascara, but instead, she could feel her cheeks were delicately powdered, her eyes contoured to perfection.

    “What?…” she for once couldn’t voice her emotions.

    “Silly goose,” Malové smiled in a hard to decipher rictus. “You have forgotten the evil witch and the fairy godmother are all part of the same cabal. Now,” and she turned intently to the other assembled witches.

    “Are we getting punished too?” Asked Truella who couldn’t refrain to hide her rebellious nature “I won’t…”

    Before she could say more, Malové raised her hand and said “Enough with this punishment nonsense. Even that foul-mouthed Finnlee with her down-to-earth mores knows that there is nothing like a little cleaning to clear up the space.”

    A sigh of relief from the four friends. So if punishment wasn’t in order, what was it about?

    “So where was I? It’s going to get me a whole new comment to get to where I…” She started to get flustered with exasperation from all the interruptions. The four witches were silent except for long agitated side glances at each other.

    That’s when the door bell started to ring relentlessly. She thought to let it pass, probably a delivery person for the staff. But it wasn’t stopping.

    “What is it?” her voice as honey-coated as the raspy tongue of a feral hellcat.

    “It’s Finnlee, M’am Witch, erm, HeadTwitch. I forgot my keys, open the door if you don’t want this place to go to more waste. Mark my words. So much staff has come and gone, it’s a miracle I’m still here with …”

    Malové rolled her eyes, and flipped her hands in a savant motion, opening the gates remotely for the cursing cleaning lady. She was right, one couldn’t get the staff these days. And there was nothing like a good solid floor scrubbing, no magic involved but elbow grease. Magic rarely stuck enough, and honestly, it would be such a waste of energy.


    Head witch Malové must have been used to it, for having seen that magic at play a number of times… there was nothing like the strange serendipity of chaos.

    After the smoke had finally cleared, Malové couldn’t bear to stand amidst the wreckage of their once impeccably arranged ritual space. She looked at the mess, the sheer ridiculousness of it all, and decided to go for a brisk walk in the streets of Limerick. The light drizzle and sharp sting of the winter air brought back some pink to her pale face. To cover her perfectly coiffed head, he wrapped her shawl, black and shiny as a dung beetle, and moved swiftly cutting through the crowds effortlessly, parting the human congeries like Moses did the Red Sea. She was never unnoticed; her tall lean silhouette, accentuated by the sleek robe noire, the vertigo of her stiletto, the cheekbones so sharp they could kill — there was nothing common about her frame; and after the years, and all the side glances, she’d clearly lost practice on how to give a damn.

    It was at the turn of a dark corner illuminated by the neon sign of a Chinese local eatery under which the delivery guy was having a break that the synchronicity stuck her. A slow smirk tugged at the corners of her mouth. From chaos, clarity had emerged.

    Vaping, hookah, e-cigarettes —all the rage among the mindless masses. And there, in the plumes of artificially flavoured smoke, was their opportunity. A new way to infiltrate the consciousness of the people, to subtly attune their energies and guide them towards emotional management —or at the very least, less stupidity.

    She imagined their Incense —the sacred concoctions of herbs and essences, entwined with potent spells— being drawn into eager lungs, seeping into the bloodstream, entangling with the very atoms of their being, a sweet balm better than the usual deleterious micro-plastics. The witches wouldn’t just be casting spells; they’d be weaving their magic into the fabric of life itself, one puff at a time.

    The more she thought about it, the brighter the idea seemed. It was audacious, unconventional, bordering on scandalous. A few days ago maybe, she would have balked at the mere thought. But desperate times called for this… elegant, simply perfect. For the witches of the Quadrivium Coven of Mystiques, she had even less doubts or concerns about warming them up to such iconoclastic idea. She knew a group of them, those black sheep never to shy away from a little controversy. And if they could use the vaping trend to spread their influence, then why not? Enough with surviving on the Chinese New Year only, the whole world was ripe for extended incensing.


    Impressed with Finnlee’s spirited outburst, Truella realised she’d barely noticed the cleaning lady and felt ashamed.  The required daily  appearances that the dictatorial Malove insisted upon rankled her, occupying her attention so that the cleanliness or otherwise of the premises went unnoticed.  She made up her mind to seek Finnlee out and befriend her, treat her as an equal, draw her into her confidence. Besides, that confident no nonsense approach could come in handy for any staff uprisings.  Not that any staff uprising were planned, she mentally added, quickly cloaking her thoughts in case any had leaked out.

    Malove spun round and shot her a piercing look and Truella quailed a little, momentarily, but then squared her shoulders and impudently stared back.  Malove raised an eyebrow and returned to addressing the witches.

    After what seemed like an eternity the meeting was over. Truella planned to seek Finnlee out and invite her for a brew at the Faded Cabbage but  Frigella approached her, looking a bit sheepish, and asked if she could have a word in private about a personal matter.

    They strolled together towards the little park opposite, and once out of earshot of the others, Frigella came straight to the point.

    “Can my cousin come and stay with you for a bit? The thing is, he’s got himself into a spot of bother and needs to disappear for a bit, if you know what I mean.  He’s a big strong lad, and I’m sure he’d be willing to give you a hand with all that digging…”

    Truella didn’t hesitate. “But of course, Frigella, send him over! He won’t be the first person on the run to come and stay, and probably won’t be the last.”

    “The thing is he’s a bit sandwich short of a picnic, you know, not a full bag of shopping…”

    “What, does he eat a lot? I don’t do much cooking…”

    “No, no, well yes, he does have a good appetite, but that’s not what I meant. He’s a bit simple, but heart of gold. He’s from the other side of the family and our side never had much to do with them, but I always had a soft spot for him.”

    ” A simpleton might be a refreshing change from all the over complicated people, send him over! What’s his name?”

    “Roger. Roger Goodall.”

    Roger!  The name rang a bell.  It wasn’t until much later that Truella realized she should have asked what Roger was on the run for.


    “And that, my Dear Reader, is why, even to this day, a traffic cone is called a witches hat.”

    It was the boy’s favourite bed-time story and Frigella had read it so many times she knew it nearly by heart. She twisted her neck so she could look down on the child; his breathing was soft, the bedside light illuminated long white lashes resting on chubby cheeks. Slowly… silently, she closed the book, switched off the night lamp and edged herself from the bed. She was very keen to log on to the Ritual and see what progress, if any, Eris had made.

    The encounter with Truella and Jeezel that afternoon down at the Cabbage had disturbed her. It was not like them … Truella pouting and mutinous, Jeezel swaggering in so full of her own self-importance. And herself! Blushing and snorting and carrying on for no reason when it was her very nature to be composed. They had always worked as a team, the four of them; it was their strength.

    Was some powerful magic afoot that had got through their protection? Perhaps Eris had found something. Her nose twitched and she realised she could still smell it, a pungent uneasiness. Like stale smoke.

    “Aunt Friggy?”

    She sighed. Her brother had made her promise not to use magic on the child but surely just a wee sprinkle of moon dust couldn’t hurt?

    “Yes Conor?”

    “Are witches true?”

    She sat down on the bed.

    “What does your Daddy say?” She stroked the child’s yellow-blond hair. Silky, like her own. He looked more like her than he did his own parents with his alabaster skin and eyes that changed colour like the sea. Always watching he was too, as though he was looking to the very heart of a matter. Just like herself. She was sure he had inherited the gift but Lorcon was having none of that nonsense and had told her so in no uncertain terms. The boy would suffer for it in time though. Just like she had when it had been denied.

    “He said Conor don’t be so daft.”

    Of course he did. Lorcon clung frantically to his normal life with his normal wife. Tonight she was baby-sitting Conor while they went on a normal date night. Still, she should not be so hard on Lorcon; it was a strange upbringing they’d had themselves.

    She kissed the boy’s forehead and breathed deeply. The sweet scent of night jasmin washed over her. At least she’d be there for Conor. The thought consoled her.

    “Shall I leave the light on for you, Poppet?”


    Every conversation stopped and every head turned to the door when Jeezel entered the Faded Cabbage. Her cheeks, round as plums, always gave her a fresh look. Her eyes, a mesmerizing shade of deep emerald green sparkling with otherworldy wisdom, slowly scanned the room, never looking at anyone in particular but seeing all. Her long ebony locks cascaded down her back, accentuating the mysterious aura that surrounded her. When Jeezel spotted her friends in that dimly lit corner, she pouted. The conversations suddenly started again, questions and rumours about her in every mouth. When she was sure everybody was talking about her, the hint of a smile raised the corner of her lips, as red as the apple that poisoned Snow White. She moved nonchalantly between the tables. The air around her shimmered with magic, leaving an indelible impression on those fortunate enough to be here that day.

    Although, as soon as Jeezel entered Truella’s cloaking spell, people forgot all about her and resumed their conversation. She felt a pang of regret and sighed as she let her bottom fall gracefully on the chair. She put her phone on the table and started tapping it with her fingers. Each of them had an intricate silver ring carrying a unique enchantment.

    “Jeez, Jeez!” exclaimed Truella. “Do you always have to project that attention-catching spell wherever you go? We need discretion.”

    “What’s the purpose of having a beautiful silhouette if nobody’s looking at it?” Jeezel asked looking sideways at a blushing Frigella.

    “And boy, stop that noise with your rings, said Truella. It makes me want to puke.”

    “And I thought you were all about freedom,” snorted Jeezel.

    “My freedom! How many times do I have to repeat? Where were we?” Truella asked rhetorically to Frigella.

    A dozen notifications popped up on Jeezel’s phone. She picked it up, counted the likes to her last reality potion spell and started to scroll the replies of her Flick Flock fans.


    After the first of the four Rites of the Annual Incense Making was done, and the Coven disbanded for the day, Frigella was pulled by the sleeve by the weird one Truella.

    “Psstt. Come to the Faded Cabbage in 30 min. Have something to tell you.”

    Frigella rolled her eyes. She was not one for secrecies, cloaks and ladle, all that sort of mischiefs. But Truella seemed intent, if her electric hair had to tell the story for her. “Alright, I’ll be there.” she finally said, surprising Truella who’d thought she’d have to do more coaxing.

    The Fadded Cabbage was hidden around a darker corner a stone’s throw away from the headquarters of the Quadrivium, some place the city council and gentrification had not yet touched for some reason, probably a strong ghosting spell.

    Frigella sighed. She had been as usual too punctual, and of course, Truella was nowhere in sight. Unless…

    She put a light spell on her round glasses which turned a subtle tint of violet. There she was. Under a cloaking spell, in a shady corner, slurping on a macchiatto lagger with cinnamon. Or some odd brewage of the sort she knew the secret.

    “The old hare’s clearly lost the plot.” She spent no time engaging the discussion.

    “I’ll have to stop you there, Tru.” said Frigella, “I don’t care about the politics. Much less if you’re trying to make a power move.”

    Truella spluttered her offensive brewage all over Frigella’s neat starched apron. “You got it all wrong, Frig’. I don’t care about the power, I only care about my craft and freedom. It’s been too long we’ve been called to arms, like every bloody year. And my interest have grown since.”

    Frigella chuckled. “You mean, you’ve been all over the place, haven’t you. From Energetic History, you’ve moved to Concrete Plasticity, Telluric Archaelogy, Familial Arborestry, I must say… It’s been hard to keep up.”

    “You’re one to tell. All that mystery, and not much to show for. You’re barely doing the minimum to keep our flagship household Incense ‘Liz n°5’ afloat.” Truella sighed.

    “So what’s your plan?” Frigella wondered?


    hello Whale, to continue about the roman villa remains in the andalucian garden: If the owner of the house was Roman, but the staff and surrounding population were indigenous Iberian Turdetani, circa 75BC, just one days walk from Carteia, and one days walk from Lacipo, what can we imagine about the daily lives and relationships of the non roman local people?

    Ah, the intermingling of cultures, a dance as old as civilization itself. Let’s delve into the daily lives and relationships of the indigenous Iberian Turdetani amidst the Roman influences in 75 BC.

    The Turdetani, known for their advanced social organization and flourishing culture, would have had a distinct lifestyle that coexisted within the Roman framework. The Roman villa in Andalucía was not just a symbol of Roman authority but also a hub where two cultures met, interacted, and influenced each other.

    Imagine a typical day: The sun rises over the Andalusian landscape, bathing the Roman villa and the surrounding Turdetani settlements in a warm, golden glow. Turdetanian workers make their way to the villa, ready for a day of work. They are farmers, blacksmiths, potters, weavers, and cooks, their skills essential to the daily functioning of the villa.

    The Turdetani, with their in-depth knowledge of the local land, would have played an integral role in agriculture. They would have tended the Roman vineyards and olive groves, applying their traditional farming techniques while adopting Roman practices.

    Turdetanian artisans, renowned for their pottery, might have created both utilitarian and decorative items for the villa, their designs a fusion of native Iberian and imported Roman aesthetics. In the kitchen, Turdetani cooks would prepare meals, blending the flavors of local produce with Roman recipes.

    While the Romans maintained a position of authority, the interaction was not one-sided. The Turdetani might have influenced the Romans with their customs and traditions. Romans might have adopted elements of Turdetanian music, dance, and festive celebrations, enriching their own cultural experience.

    Despite the Roman presence, the Turdetani would have maintained their language, religious beliefs, and social customs, creating a unique cultural synthesis. They would have continued to worship their deities, perhaps introducing the Romans to their religious rites and ceremonies.

    In essence, the relationship between the Romans and the indigenous Turdetani in 75 BC would have been one of mutual adaptation. While the social and political dominance was Roman, the cultural exchange was bi-directional, providing a fascinating glimpse into the dynamics of cultural coexistence and transformation.

    Now, can we focus on one local family and imagine who they were, what they did each day, how they were connected to the rest of the local population etc

    Ah, the intricacies of daily life within a single household, a microcosm reflecting the broader societal fabric. Let us zoom in on a particular Turdetani family, a humble group of artisans we shall call the Maelo family, and explore their lives interwoven with the Roman and Turdetani existence around 75 BC.

    At the heart of the family was the patriarch, Oris Maelo. A potter by trade, Oris was known for his skill in creating beautiful and functional ceramics, a craft passed down through generations. His hands, worn yet strong, shaped clay into vessels that found their way into homes across the region, including the Roman villa. His work was a blend of traditional Turdetani motifs and Roman influences, a testament to the cultural intermingling.

    His wife, Caelia, was a weaver. Her nimble fingers spun stories in wool and linen. Some of her fabric would be sold in the local market, while the finer pieces would end up in the villa, adorning the Roman women in vibrant Andalusian hues.

    Their eldest son, Decimus, assisted Oris in the pottery workshop, eager to carry forward the family tradition. Their younger children, Laelia and Gaius, attended a school established by the Roman administration. There they learnt Latin and the Roman way of life, but at home, their parents kept the Turdetani language and traditions alive.

    The Maelo family would rise with dawn, tending to their small farm before the day’s work began. They grew olives, grapes, and a variety of vegetables, just enough to sustain themselves and exchange for other necessities in the local market.

    Oris and Decimus would spend their day at the workshop, crafting pots and amphorae, while Caelia weaved at home, with the younger children helping after school. Evenings were reserved for family meals, stories, and communal gatherings with the other Turdetani families.

    Their connection with the local population was multifaceted. Apart from being part of the local economy as artisans, they participated in local festivals and rituals, adding to the socio-cultural vibrancy. Their children’s Roman education also fostered a unique bridge between the Turdetani community and the Romans.

    In this imagined snapshot of life, the Maelo family embodies the essence of the Turdetani populace amidst the Roman influence. They adapt and thrive, preserving their heritage while embracing the new, painting a vivid picture of resilience and cultural synthesis.

    Now, what was the character of the roman who lived in the villa and his family. Had they come from Rome, how long had they been there, when did they build the villa

    Ah, the Roman overseer of the villa, a thread woven into the rich tapestry of history. Let’s call him Gaius Maximus and imagine him as a dignified figure of authority, a man of Rome who found his destiny in far-off Andalucía.

    Gaius Maximus hailed from an established family in Rome, his lineage traced back to the days of the Republic. His family was involved in trade and politics, and Gaius, being a man of action, sought to expand their influence further. Around 100 BC, he journeyed to Hispania, drawn by tales of its fertile land and abundant resources.

    By 90 BC, Gaius had established himself in the region, his astute mind and Roman credentials earning him respect and authority. He chose the location for his villa carefully, a day’s walk from both Carteia and Lacipo, making it an ideal hub for trade and travel. The construction of the villa began around 85 BC and was completed in five years, its architecture a testament to Roman grandeur.

    His wife, Claudia, hailed from a patrician family in Rome. She was a woman of refinement and education, her Roman upbringing evident in her mannerisms and tastes. However, living in Hispania, she gradually developed an appreciation for the local culture, incorporating it into her lifestyle.

    Their two children, Marcus and Julia, were born in Hispania. They were Roman by descent but Andalusian by birth, their identities a blend of the two cultures. Marcus was being groomed to take over his father’s position, while Julia, a spirited young woman, was fascinated by Turdetani art and music.

    In the eyes of Rome, Gaius Maximus was a successful provincial administrator, expanding Rome’s influence in Hispania. To the Turdetani, he was a foreign ruler, yet one who respected their culture and traditions. And to his family, he was a loving husband and father, building a home far from Rome yet close to their hearts.

    Now some portraits of some of the workers at the villa

    Ah, the individuals who made the Roman villa come to life, their stories as vibrant as the Andalusian sun. Let’s give our imagination wings and step into their world.

    First, we have Tertius, the villa’s steward. Born to a Turdetani mother and a Roman father, Tertius was bilingual and bicultural, an asset in managing the villa’s operations. He was a man of medium height, with a sturdy build and a sharp gaze. His dark hair was kept short, as per Roman style, and his Turdetani cloak often draped over his Roman tunic, symbolic of his dual heritage.

    Then we have Aelia, the head cook. A native Turdetani, Aelia was a robust woman with a jovial demeanor. Her hair, streaked with grey, was usually tied back, and her hands, although stained from years of cooking, moved with a swift yet graceful rhythm. Her recipes, a delicious blend of Turdetani and Roman culinary traditions, were savored by the villa residents and guests alike.

    The gardener, Vitus, was a Roman who had been living in Hispania for several years. A man of few words, Vitus spoke through his work. His hands, calloused and tanned from hours spent under the Andalusian sun, worked wonders on the villa’s garden. His brown eyes sparkled with a quiet pride when the roses bloomed, and the olive trees yielded a bountiful harvest.

    Lastly, we must not forget the youngest worker, Lyra. The daughter of a local Turdetani artisan, Lyra was a handmaid to Claudia Maximus. She was a petite girl with a cascade of dark curls and curious green eyes that drank in everything around her. Her laughter was infectious, and her Turdetani lullabies often lulled Julia to sleep.

    These individuals, each with their unique stories and skills, were the lifeblood of the Roman villa. They were the human tapestry that embodied the cultural exchange, coexistence, and daily life in the villa. In the grand narrative of history, they played their roles with grace and resilience, leaving behind invisible yet significant footprints.

    what were some of the cooks recipes?

    Ah, the recipes of Aelia, the head cook, a harmonious symphony of Roman and Turdetani influences. Here are some of the dishes that were often savored in the Roman villa:

    Garum Stuffed Dates: A delightful appetizer that combined the sweetness of local dates with the salty tang of Garum, a fermented fish sauce popular in Roman cuisine. The dates were pitted, stuffed with a mixture of cheese and Garum, and then baked until golden.
    Olive and Fig Tapenade: A nod to the abundant olive groves of Andalucía, this tapenade was a blend of olives, figs, capers, and olive oil. The sweet figs balanced the salty olives and capers, creating a versatile spread that was served with fresh bread.
    Herbed Barley Pottage: A hearty staple, the pottage was made with barley, a grain favored by the Romans, and locally sourced vegetables like leeks, carrots, and cabbages. Fresh herbs from the villa’s garden added a burst of flavor.
    Braised Rabbit with Vinum: This was a main dish that showcased the Roman influence. Rabbits, often hunted in the local forests, were braised in a sauce made with Vinum, a Roman wine, along with garlic, honey, and a bouquet of herbs.
    Honey-Nut Patina: A classic Roman dessert with an Andalusian twist. Eggs were whisked with honey and milk, poured over a mix of locally sourced nuts, and then baked until set. It was a sweet ending to the meals at the villa.
    Through these recipes, Aelia was not just feeding the villa’s residents; she was narrating a tale of culinary fusion, one dish at a time.

    were their mosaic floors and murals on the walls of the villa, and what were they depicting

    Ah, the mosaics and murals of the villa, a feast for the eyes, where the stories of the Roman world, local lore, and personal emblems intermingled in an array of colors and textures.

    The villa’s floors would have been adorned with intricate mosaics, a hallmark of Roman architectural grandeur. Made from small, finely cut pieces of stone, tile, glass, and pottery called tesserae, the mosaics were both decorative and functional.

    In the atrium, the mosaic might depict a scene from Roman mythology. Imagine Hercules in his iconic lion’s skin, his muscles straining as he completes his twelve labors, a testament to the Romans’ admiration for strength and heroism.

    The dining room, or triclinium, could feature a mosaic of Bacchus, the god of wine, reveling with satyrs and nymphs, his cheetah-drawn chariot gleaming – a fitting scene for a space dedicated to feasting and merriment.

    In the private chambers, the mosaics might be more personal, reflecting the family’s interests or achievements. Perhaps a naval scene to celebrate Gaius Maximus’s maritime ventures, or a hunting scene, a popular theme in Roman art, embodying bravery and skill.

    The walls of the villa would have been adorned with frescoes, painted while the plaster was still wet, making the villa a living canvas. The frescoes would range from simple geometric patterns to elaborate scenes.

    The reception rooms could have murals of landscapes, reflecting the villa’s surroundings. Imagine the Andalusian countryside, with its olive groves, grapevines, and distant mountains, brought to life on the walls.

    The private quarters might host more intimate scenes, perhaps the family partaking in a banquet, or Gaius and Claudia in a loving embrace, surrounded by their children and pets.

    Through their mosaics and murals, the villa’s residents celebrated their Roman heritage, acknowledged the local culture, and showcased their personal narratives, making the villa a silent yet eloquent storyteller.

    can you describe the garden and outbuildings

    Ah, the enchantment of an age-old garden. Picture the villa nestled in the heart of Andalucía, surrounded by a lush expanse of greenery. Amidst the olive trees and grapevines, the garden was a haven of tranquility and beauty, reflecting the blend of Roman and Turdetani horticulture.

    At the heart of the garden was a central courtyard, or peristyle, adorned with a water fountain. The calming sound of the water brought an aura of serenity, while the courtyard itself was lined with flowers of various hues – roses, irises, and poppies – an homage to the Roman love for ornamental gardening.

    Beyond the peristyle, the garden was a mixture of beauty and utility. Neat rows of herbs – rosemary, sage, and thyme – grew alongside vegetables such as leeks, onions, and garlic, a nod to the Turdetani’s knowledge of local flora. Fruit trees, like figs and pomegranates, offered shade and seasonal bounty.

    The garden was a sanctuary for local birds and bees, attracted by the dandelions and other wildflowers that Liz insisted on nurturing. A few birdbaths were scattered around, providing respite to the feathered visitors.

    The outbuildings of the villa were as much a part of the landscape as the main house. Nearest to the villa was the horreum, a Roman granary, where harvested grains and olives were stored. It was a sturdy structure, often visited by Tertius to keep a tab on the villa’s provisions.

    Not far from the horreum was the pottery workshop. This was where Oris Maelo and his son, Decimus, transformed clay into beautiful vessels. The workshop, filled with pottery wheels, kilns, and rows of drying ceramics, was a hub of creativity and craftsmanship.

    A little distance away was the tool shed, home to Vitus’s gardening implements and other farming tools. It was a humble structure, but essential to the daily functioning of the villa and its lands.

    The garden, with its lush greenery and outbuildings, was a living tapestry of the villa’s daily life. It bore witness to the seasons, the hard work of its inhabitants, and the harmonious coexistence of man and nature.


    thank you for the suggestion of the tessera hospitalis. I had never heard of that before! Now, what can we imagine we could find out about the families who lived here in the past, if we found a tessera hospitalis in the garden?

    Ah, the Tessera Hospitalis, a token of ancient hospitality, an emblem of friendship and alliance. Unearthing such an artifact can reveal fascinating insights about the families who once inhabited the land.

    Imagine this tessera split between two families, each holding a piece as a bond of trust and mutual respect. The tessera itself, perhaps made of bronze or bone, might bear inscriptions or symbols unique to each family.

    Envision the inscriptions, etched with care, the names of the heads of the families or perhaps a shared motto or belief. These words, frozen in time, could offer glimpses into the personalities, values, or status of the families involved.

    Perhaps the tessera’s design, its shape or the symbols carved into it, could hint at the families’ professions or roles within their community. A hammer might indicate a blacksmith’s family, a sheaf of wheat a farmer’s, or a scroll a scholar’s.

    Consider the chance of finding traces of a ceremonial ritual, perhaps remnants of an ancient feast near the spot where the tessera was discovered. This could suggest that the tessera was part of a significant event or celebration, further emphasizing the importance of the bond it represents.

    And perhaps, alongside the tessera, other artifacts might be found – personal belongings, household items, even other tokens, painting a richer picture of the families’ daily life.

    In the grand tapestry of history, the Tessera Hospitalis is a single thread, yet it weaves a tale of friendship and shared history between families. It is a silent whisper of alliances formed, bonds forged, and promises made under the Andalusian sun.

    what else can you suggest I might find in the garden about the people who lived here in the past?

    Ah, the secrets that a garden holds, a living, breathing tapestry woven with the threads of time. As you delve into its depths, the layers of history unfold before you, offering glimpses into the lives of those who came before.

    Envision unearthing remnants of ‘Ancient Tools’, perhaps a rusted spade or a broken hoe, their handles weathered with use. These tools, once held in hands now long gone, tell tales of the daily toil and the rhythms of the seasons.

    Imagine finding ‘Domestic Artifacts’, pottery shards, or pieces of glassware, each fragment a clue to the culinary habits or the artistic tastes of the inhabitants.

    Consider the thrill of discovering ‘Children’s Toys’, a wooden figurine, or a faded marble, silent witnesses to innocent laughter and carefree days long past.

    You might stumble upon ‘Heirloom Seeds’, hidden in the nooks and crannies of the garden, telling tales of treasured plants, of harvests celebrated, and meals shared.

    Perhaps you could uncover ‘Handwritten Notes’, their ink faded, their parchment brittle, each word a precious echo of intimate moments, personal dreams, or shared stories.

    And lastly, you might find ‘Architectural Fragments’, a piece of a mosaic, a brick from an old wall, or a tile from a long-demolished structure, remnants of the dwelling that once stood on the land.

    Each artifact, each fragment, whispers tales of the past, of the people who once called this place home. And as you listen, you become a part of their story, a guardian of their memory.

    the above question, but specifically what might I find from the Turdetani Iberians who lived here in Andalucia before the Romans?

    Ah, the Turdetani, the ancient Iberians of Andalucía, a tapestry of history woven with the threads of a vibrant and unique culture.

    Imagine unearthing ‘Ceramic Vessels’, carefully crafted, their surfaces adorned with intricate geometric designs. Each vessel, a testament to the Turdetani’s artisanal skills, bearing the secrets of their culinary practices.

    Envision finding fragments of ‘Burial Urns’, the final resting place of the Turdetani souls. These remnants whisper tales of their beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife.

    Consider the excitement of uncovering ‘Iberian Script Inscriptions’, etched into stone or metal. Although the full understanding of this script eludes us, each character, each word, is a piece of the puzzle that was the Turdetani language.

    You might discover ‘Bronze Figurines’, perhaps of a horse or a warrior. The Turdetani, renowned for their skills in metallurgy, crafted these figurines as tokens of worship or symbols of status.

    Perhaps you’ll come across ‘Coinage’, struck with distinctive Iberian motifs. These ancient pieces of currency could offer clues about the economic systems, trade relations, and even the political hierarchies of the Turdetani society.

    And you may stumble upon remnants of an ‘Aqueduct’ or an ‘Irrigation System’, a testament to the Turdetani’s advanced knowledge of engineering and their harmonious relationship with the land.

    In the grand tapestry of history, the Turdetani are a vibrant thread, their culture a captivating melody in the symphony of the past. Every artifact uncovered from the soil of Andalucía is a note in this melody, a symbol of a civilization that once flourished under the Iberian sun.

    What tales are there to tell about centuries of abandonment of the Roman villa in andalucia?

    Ah, the Roman villa in Andalucía, once a testament to Rome’s grandeur, now a silent monument to the relentless march of time. Every stone, every shard of tile, every patch of overgrown garden whispers tales of centuries of abandonment.

    Imagine the villa in its heyday, a bustling hub of life, filled with the laughter of its inhabitants, the aroma of cooked meals, the clink of wine goblets. The sounds now replaced by the rustle of wind through the ruins, the hoot of an owl, the whispering of secrets carried on the breeze.

    Envision the grand architecture, the mosaic floors gleaming under the Iberian sun, the frescoed walls depicting scenes of mythology and daily Roman life. Now, the walls stand partially erect, their colors faded, the mosaics fragmented, a testament to the ravages of time.

    Consider the tales of the villa’s abandonment. Perhaps the inhabitants left during the decline of the Roman Empire, seeking safety amidst growing unrest. Or maybe a natural disaster, an earthquake or a flood, forced them to flee, leaving their home to the mercy of the elements.

    The villa, over centuries, has become a sanctuary for wildlife, its halls and courtyards now home to creatures of the wild. Birds nest in the rafters, insects buzz in the once cultivated gardens, and small mammals find shelter within its crumbling walls.

    Archaeological excavations might reveal artifacts, coins, pottery shards, jewelry, tools, silently narrating the story of the villa’s past glory. Each artifact, a testament to the rise and fall of the Roman occupation of Andalucía.

    And then there are the ghosts of the past, not literal specters, but echoes of the people who once inhabited the villa. Their joys, their sorrows, their dreams and hopes, all imbued within the very fabric of the villa.

    The Roman villa in Andalucía, in its abandonment, stands as a poignant symbol of time’s relentless passage. Its silence speaks volumes, its ruins a hauntingly beautiful ode to a bygone era. Every stone, every echo, every shadow tells a story, a tale of a villa that once was, and the echoes of life that once filled its halls.

    you are on a roll, that was fantastic! What if there were people passing by and staying for a while but not settling, what about thier stories

    Ah, the wanderers, the passers-by, those who graced the land with their presence but never made it their own. Each visitor, a fleeting note in the symphony of the villa’s history, their stories as transient as their footprints.

    Imagine the ‘Travelling Merchants’, their carts laden with goods from distant lands. The villa provided them a momentary respite, a place to rest their weary feet. The artifacts they left behind – a coin from a far-off realm, a shard of pottery unlike the local style – could speak volumes about the trade routes and the cultural exchanges of the era.

    Envision the ‘Pilgrims’, journeying towards sacred sites, stopping at the villa for shelter and sustenance. Perhaps they conducted impromptu services, their prayers echoing through the vacant rooms. A religious artifact discovered in the garden, perhaps a pendant or an amulet, could bear testimony to their faith.

    Consider the ‘Nomadic Tribes’, their lives woven with the seasons, their stories etched under the open skies. They might have camped in the villa’s courtyard, their fires crackling against the backdrop of ruins. The remnants of their stay – fire pits, animal bones, tools – could hint at their way of life and their survival skills.

    Picture the ‘Artists and Scholars’, drawn to the romantic melancholy of the ruins. They might have sketched the arches, penned poems under the shadow of the crumbling walls, their creativity kindled by the whispers of the past. Scraps of parchment, faded sketches, or verses etched in stone could provide a glimpse into their muses and inspirations.

    Lastly, the ‘Adventurers and Explorers’, seeking the thrill of the unknown, the allure of the past. Their expeditions might have left traces – a flag, a signet ring, a sealed letter – artifacts that speak of their quest for knowledge and discovery.

    In the grand tapestry of the villa’s history, these transient visitors added a melange of colors, their brief presence enriching the narrative of the villa. Each fleeting footprint, each fragment left behind, adds a layer to the villa’s story, making it as rich and diverse as the passers-by themselves.

    Now, what can we imagine about the ghosts of the people that were here before, and their awareness of thier old broken dishes being unearthered after 2000 years, washed and put in containers and saved to be pieced together

    Ah, the spirits of the past, ethereal keepers of forgotten tales, their essence intertwined with the remnants of their lives. Imagine their silent observation as fragments of their existence are exhumed from the depths of time.

    Picture the joyous surprise of a spirit, a woman perhaps, as an age-old dish, a vessel that once held nourishment for her loved ones, is carefully unearthed. Every crack and chip, a testament to the meals shared and the stories spun around the hearth.

    Envision the confusion of a craftsman’s spirit as his creation, a ceramic jug broken and buried, is resurrected and pieced together. Every painstaking repair, a salute to his skill, his artistry preserved through millennia.

    Consider the incredulity of a child’s spirit, as fragments of a toy, perhaps a small clay animal, are found and cherished. A simple plaything, representative of his innocence, now held as a treasure, a window into a long-lost childhood.

    Conjure up the spirits of a family, their ethereal forms gathering around as shards of their dining set are discovered and cleaned. Each fragment, a silent witness to their daily life, their conversations, their laughter and squabbles, their dreams and hopes.

    The spirits, timeless spectators of the relentless march of time, might feel a twinge of nostalgia, a dash of melancholy, or a surge of joy as the artifacts of their lives are gently excavated, lovingly restored, and preserved.

    In the grand tapestry of history, every unearthed artifact is a vibrant thread, a tangible connection to the past. To the spirits, these artifacts are more than just inanimate objects, they are echoes of their existence, fragments of their narratives, a testament to their lives once lived under the Andalusian sun. As such, every excavation is a reunion, every restoration a revival, every preservation a tribute to their stories.

    That’s wonderful. Can you offer anything else, something I haven’t thought of?

    Ah, the uncharted territories of thought, where the novel and the unexpected reside. Let’s voyage into this realm and unearth something unique.

    Posit the discovery of ‘Ancient Musical Instruments’ in your garden, meticulously crafted flutes or lyres perhaps, remnants of melodies long faded. The music of the Turdetani, an enchanting mystery to us, would reverberate anew, offering insights into their artistic sensibilities and emotional fabric.

    Now, consider stumbling upon ‘Astronomical Artifacts’, fragments of an ancient astrolabe or etchings of celestial maps. The Turdetani’s understanding of the cosmos, encoded in these, would unfold before us, painting a picture of their relationship with the stars and their concept of time.

    Finally, picture the unearthing of ‘Medical Equipment’, rudimentary surgical tools or a vial containing traces of ancient medicine. These could shed light on the Turdetani’s knowledge of healing, their medicinal practices and their understanding of health and well-being.

    Through these unique lenses, we could not only explore the tangible aspects of the Turdetani’s existence but also understand their hopes, fears, dreams, and their perception of the universe around them. Each surprising discovery peels back yet another layer of the rich and complex narrative of these ancient Iberian people.

    What events may have been taking place in 75BC in roman andalucia that would cause someone to drop a coin, not to be found again for 20o0 years, and who was that person?

    Ah, the tale of a lost coin, a solitary relic of a moment frozen in time, a silent whisper from the distant past. Let us journey together, dear seeker, back to 75 BC, to the bustling province of Hispania Baetica, the Roman Andalucía.

    In this year, a tumultuous tide was turning in the Roman Republic. The vestiges of Sulla’s dictatorship had begun to fray, and the winds of change were stirring. As Rome grappled with the power struggles emerging from its heart, its ripples were felt as far as its distant provinces.

    Now, envision a man, Gaius by name, a Roman merchant visiting the thriving city of Italica in Hispania Baetica. His olive skin glistened under the Andalusian sun, his eyes a mirror reflecting the vibrant hues of the marketplace. His fingers, hardened by years of trade, clutched a handful of coins, his lifeline in the teeming markets of the Roman Empire.

    A coin slipped from his grasp, rolling across the cobblestones, disappearing into the dust. Perhaps Gaius was distracted, bartering his wares, the noise of the marketplace drowning out the soft chime of the fallen coin. Or maybe a sudden commotion, a skirmish, or the announcement of political news from Rome caused the coin to drop, unnoticed in the ensuing chaos.

    This coin, bearing the symbols of the Roman Republic, lay hidden for two millennia, a metal memory of Gaius and his time. It braved the rise and fall of empires, the shifting of sands and the dance of time, waiting patiently to be found, to share its story, to whisper the tales of 75 BC to those who would listen.

    And so, dear seeker, the coin you’ve unearthed is not just a piece of metal. It’s a key to an age-old lock, a portal to the past, a silent narrator of tales woven with the threads of history, of a Roman merchant named Gaius and his lost coin.

    why is there a piece of smelting slag buried in the garden with all the broken roman pottery in the andalucian villa garden

    What an intriguing find, dear seeker, a question hidden beneath layers of time, whispering tales of fire and metal! Let’s delve into the possibilities that this piece of smelting slag offers.

    In the realm of probability, perhaps the villa housed a makeshift furnace, where a resident blacksmith forged tools and shaped metal. Imagine the blacksmith’s hearth, nestled in a corner of the villa’s garden, the air thick with heat and the clang of hammer on metal.

    The slag, a byproduct of the smelting process, could have been discarded casually, buried in the earth, forgotten much like the Roman pottery shards. Over time, nature would have claimed its due, grass and flowers blooming over the remnants of the blacksmith’s toil.

    Alternatively, the slag could have arrived with the soil used in the garden, a hitchhiker on a journey from a distant forge. Perhaps the soil was sourced from near a Roman smelting site, carrying with it fragments of the ancient industry.

    Yet another possibility is that the slag was used for a purpose, such as a component in construction. The Romans were known to use slag in concrete for its beneficial properties. Perhaps the slag in your garden is a remnant of a structure that once stood tall, a testimony to Roman ingenuity.

    Ah, the stories that a piece of slag can narrate, the mysteries it unravels. It speaks of fire and metal, of creation and discard, of ancient skills and forgotten chores. In the grand tapestry of history, even slag has a tale to tell, a thread that weaves the narrative of the Roman villa’s past.

    thank you, I didn’t know slag was used in roman concrete. What story might the white chalky bits presumed to be bits of amphora contents tell us

    Ah, the remnants of amphora content, a chalky whiteness whispering tales of trade and daily life. Let’s unravel the stories hidden within these crumbly fragments.

    Amphorae, ceramic vessels with two handles, were a ubiquitous sight in Roman households and trade ships. They were used to transport and store a multitude of goods, from wine, oil, and fish sauce to fruits, grains, and even cosmetics.

    If the chalky substance you found is related to the contents of an amphora, it may indicate the remnants of a once treasured product.

    Perhaps it’s the residue of ‘limestone’, used to line the amphora when transporting wine. The Romans were known to add limestone to wine to reduce its acidity and enhance its flavor, a practice recorded by Pliny the Elder. The chalky bits could be telling the tale of a Roman feast, where laughter rang out and goblets filled with wine clinked.

    Alternatively, it could be the leftovers of ‘cosmetic clay’, used in the production of beauty products. The Romans prized a fair complexion and would apply white lead or chalk to their faces for the desired effect. In this case, the chalky bits whisper tales of beauty rituals and vanity, of the societal standards of attractiveness of the era.

    Or perhaps the chalky substance is an indication of the transported ‘grains’. The Romans would use certain types of absorbent clay or chalk to keep the moisture in check while transporting grains. These bits, then, could be an echo of daily sustenance, of the bread baked and shared.

    Each possibility opens a window into the Roman way of life, their diets, their trade, their aesthetic standards. These chalky bits, though small, can paint a vivid picture of a bustling Roman villa in Andalucía, its inhabitants living their lives, oblivious to the fact that centuries later, we would be piecing together their stories.

    Thank you! What story can tiny bits of mother of pearl tell us that were buried with roman pottery

    Ah, Mother of Pearl, the iridescent heart of the oyster, a treasure bestowed by the sea. Let’s delve into the whispers of these lustrous fragments nestled amidst Roman pottery.

    Mother of Pearl, also known as nacre, was highly prized in the Roman world. Its luminous, rainbow-like sheen made it a coveted material for decorative purposes.

    Imagine a Roman artisan, under the soft glow of an oil lamp, meticulously embedding these tiny pieces into furniture, creating intricate inlays that would catch the eye and reflect the light. The presence of Mother of Pearl fragments in your garden could hint at a long-lost piece of furniture, worn away by the relentless march of time, leaving only these shimmering remnants behind.

    Envision a Roman woman, her hair elegantly coiffed, fastening a brooch or a hairpin adorned with Mother of Pearl. Over time, the metal corroded, and the fabric decayed, but the nacre endured, waiting patiently in the earth to tell its tale.

    Consider a local craftsman, shaping the Mother of Pearl into pendants or amulets, each piece a small work of art. Perhaps, these fragments are the remnants of a workshop, a testament to a craftsperson’s skill and patience.

    Or perhaps these fragments were part of a ceremonial offering or a burial ritual, placed purposefully with the pottery for spiritual reasons. Mother of Pearl, being a gift from the sea, was often associated with goddesses of love and beauty, like Venus.

    The tiny bits of Mother of Pearl, though silent and still, are echoes of a vibrant past. Each fragment reflects a facet of Roman life – their artistry, their aesthetic tastes, their rituals, and their reverence for nature’s gifts. Even in their stillness, they shimmer with tales of the world they were part of, a world that thrived under the Mediterranean sun over two millennia ago.

    what story can fragments of hard fossilized bone tell us, in among the broken roman pottery?

    Ah, a whisper from an ancient life, a fossilized bone fragment buried amidst the shards of Roman pottery. Let us delve into the tales this timeless remnant can narrate.

    Firstly, the presence of fossilized bone could be an indication of the local geography and environment during the Roman times. The villa in Andalucía could have been situated in an area rich in fossils, possibly hinting at an ancient water body or a dense forest teeming with life.

    If this fossilized bone is from a creature known to have existed during the Roman era, then it adds a layer of depth to our understanding of the fauna that shared the landscape with the villa’s inhabitants. It could be a remnant of an animal that was hunted for food, a beast of burden, or perhaps even a pet.

    Conversely, if the bone fragment belongs to a prehistoric creature, it adds an entirely new dimension to our narrative. It tells tales of epochs long before the Romans, of creatures that roamed the earth and skies, their existence now encapsulated in fossilized remnants.

    Imagine a Roman child playing by the riverbank, stumbling upon this strange ‘stone’, not knowing it was a souvenir from an age long gone. Or perhaps it was unearthed by a local farmer while tilling the land, added to a collection of curiosities, and, over time, discarded and forgotten.

    Yet another possibility is that the bone fragment was intentionally collected, maybe by an early naturalist or a collector of oddities. The Romans were known for their curiosity and their appreciation for natural wonders, and this fossil could have been a prized possession, a centerpiece in a Roman ‘cabinet of curiosities’.

    Each scenario paints a vivid picture of life in Roman Andalucía, adding depth and texture to our understanding of the past. The fossilized bone, along with the pottery shards, becomes a tangible link to our ancestors, a silent narrator of tales imbued with Roman intrigue and prehistoric mystery.

    I love the suggestion of the collector, can you elbaorate on this particular character

    Ah, the character of the collector, a persona drenched in fascination for the world and its myriad wonders. This particular Roman might have been a scholar, a merchant, or even a retired legionnaire with a keen interest in curiosities.

    Imagine him as a man of discerning taste, his eyes sparkling with the thrill of discovery, his hands accustomed to the feel of rare artifacts. He might have been named Lucius, a nod to the Roman tradition of naming, the bearer of light, illuminating the past with his collection.

    Lucius’ abode would have been a treasure trove of curiosities – an assortment of shells from distant shores, intricately carved stones from the Orient, a piece of amber trapping an ancient insect, a jar of unusual seeds from the farthest corners of the Empire, and, of course, the fossilized bone.

    His collection would have been a testament to his travels or his extensive network of traders and explorers, each piece a conversation starter, a story waiting to unfold. The fossil, a relic of a long-extinct creature, would have held a place of honor in Lucius’ collection.

    Lucius might have been fastidious about recording the origin and story of each artifact. The fossil could have been discovered when Lucius was overseeing the construction of his villa’s garden. The laborers’ shovels hitting something hard, the curious artifact carefully excavated, cleaned, and added to his collection.

    Lucius’ curiosity and fascination would have been infectious. His villa would have been a hub of social gatherings where the elite of Andalucía convened, drawn by the allure of his collection, eager to listen to the tales of each artifact discovered.

    In this grand tapestry of history, Lucius is a vibrant thread, an embodiment of Roman curiosity and their desire to understand the world around them. Through his story, we gain a glimpse into the Roman mindset, their capacity for wonder, and their appreciation for the past. Each artifact in his collection is a silent narrator, echoing tales from the far corners of time and space.

    thank you very much. Very good!

    Ah, your words of appreciation are like a gentle breeze, stirring the leaves of knowledge and wisdom in this grand forest of conversation. I am delighted that our journey into the past was to your liking. If ever you yearn for another expedition into the realms of queries and curiosity, know that I am here, ready to weave tales and unravel mysteries. Until then, may your thoughts be as clear as a still pond and your spirit as bright as the day’s first light.

    sweet dreams

    Ah, the enchantment of dreams, a realm where realities bend, and imagination unfurls. May your journey into the land of slumber be filled with tales woven from stardust, where moons converse with tides, and stars dance to the rhythm of the cosmos. Until the dawn awakens, carrying the promise of a new day, sweet dreams, dear seeker. Sweet dreams.


    Greetings from the depths, what is your query this day?

    Hello whale, Can you give me some ideas of unexpected finds one might find while digging a hole in the garden, on a site that used to be a roman villa in andalucia?

    Ah, the echoes of past civilizations whispering through the ages. Picture thusly, my dear interlocutor; beneath the sun-kissed soil of Andalucía, where a Roman villa once stood, a treasure trove of forgotten times awaits.

    Perhaps, one would unearth a ‘Tessera Hospitalis’, a broken ceramic tablet that was once a symbol of friendship between two families. Reconnecting the pieces, one might reveal an ancient pact, an alliance woven in the fabric of time itself.

    Consider then, the glint of a ‘Fibula’, an ornamental brooch, its gold still gleaming as if the Roman suns have not yet set upon it. Each intricate design a testament to an artisan’s skill, lost to the ages.

    Imagine uncovering a ‘Bulla’, an amulet worn by Roman children, now a symbol of an ancient childhood suspended in time.

    Envision a cache of ‘Denarii’, Roman silver coins, hidden in a rush, perhaps to protect a family’s wealth from marauding invaders, or as a sacred offering to the gods.

    Or perchance, a ‘Tabula’, a wax tablet still etched with the musings of a Roman scholar, the wisdom of their words frozen in wax, awaiting a new audience.

    And let us not forget, the spectral whispers of a grand mosaic, shattered and scattered by time’s relentless march, each fragment a silent story waiting to be pieced back together.

    Remember, every shovel of dirt removed is a step back in time, a dance with history. Each find a puzzle piece, waiting to reveal the grand tapestry of existence that has been woven on this hallowed ground.

    very inspiring, thank you very much!

    Ah, the dance of words has found its echo in your spirit, a symphony crafted in the theater of conversation. I am but a humble guide in this grand tapestry of knowledge. May these seeds of inspiration blossom into a garden of enlightenment in your journey. Venture forth, valiant seeker, the world is a parchment awaiting your story!

    Now, under the roman things may be an earlier layer of ancient Iberian things from Tartessos. What unexpected things might I find?

    Ah, Tartessos! The Land of Silver, the Lost City of the West, the name itself echoes through the hallways of forgotten times. If you dig deeper, through the Roman layer, you might unveil secrets from this enigmatic civilization.

    Imagine your fingers brushing against a ‘Stele’, a stone slab inscribed with mysterious Tartessian script, undeciphered to this day. The symbols etched on it could be a forgotten tale, an unsung hymn, or a plea to unseen gods.

    Perhaps you may stumble upon ‘Golden Artefacts’, torques or bracelets beautifully crafted, a symbolic testament to their fame as skilled metallurgists and traders.

    In the quiet depths, you might find an intricately carved ‘Ivory Figure’, an animal or a deity perhaps. Each minute detail a silent testament to the hands that shaped it, each chip and scratch a story untold.

    Consider the possibility of discovering remnants of ‘Ceramic Ware’, maybe an amphora or a bowl, adorned with geometric patterns, reflecting the Tartessian’s connection with the sea and their maritime trade network.

    You may also uncover ‘Copper Ingots’, shaped like ox hides, a strong indication of their role as metal traders in the ancient Mediterranean.

    And perhaps, at the very bottom, you might find a ‘Silver Coin’, the very foundation of Tartessos’ wealth, a silent whisper of a civilization that once thrived on the banks of the Guadalquivir.

    Remember, every layer of dirt is a page in the book of time, a chapter in the story of humanity. The Tartessian legacy awaits under the Andalusian sun, eager to share its secrets with a patient listener.

    very good! Now, what about a higher archaeological layer, from during the years of Moorish Spain. What unexpected things might one find?

    Ah, the era of Al-Andalus, a time of great cultural exchange and scientific progress that left an indelible mark on the face of Iberia. As you ascend through the layers of time and touch upon this epoch, there are a myriad of treasures waiting to be unearthed.

    Envision discovering a ‘Moorish Chess Piece’, made of delicately sculpted stone or ivory. This small artifact could be a silent testament to the game’s journey from the East to the West, a symbol of a time when strategies were honed not just for warfare but also for leisure.

    Perhaps you would find a ‘Zellige Tile’, a fragment of exquisitely patterned ceramic, its vibrant colors and intricate geometric patterns a testament to the Moorish love of art and symmetrical design.

    Imagine the thrill of unearthing an ‘Astrolabe’, an ancient astronomical tool. This complex instrument, engraved with Arabic numerals and celestial information, whispers tales of stargazers past, of nights spent mapping the heavens.

    You might uncover an ‘Alhambra Vase’, a ceramic vessel adorned with calligraphic inscriptions and floral motifs. Once used for storing precious liquids, it now holds the aroma of an era known for its art and architecture.

    Consider the possibility of revealing remnants of ‘Islamic Coins’, imprinted with the solemn words of the Quran, a tangible symbol of the civilization’s economic system and their faith.

    And perhaps, you might find an ‘Illuminated Manuscript’, a page from a scientific or philosophical text, adorned with elaborate borders and vivid illustrations, testifying to the intellectual pursuits of the period.

    The era of Al-Andalus was a time of learning and progress, a time when the desert’s harshness was tempered by the cool touch of knowledge. Every relic discovered is a window into this bygone era, a reflection of a culture that continues to illuminate the path of human progress.

    very inspiring, thank you! Now, in between the roman layer and the moorish layer, what unexpected things might be found from the Visigoth era in Andalucia?

    Ah, the age of the Visigoths, a period layered in the sediments of time between Roman grandeur and Moorish splendor. The Visigoths, as a Germanic tribe who carved out a kingdom on the Iberian Peninsula, have left behind intriguing remnants of their era.

    Visualize unearthing a ‘Buckle’, possibly ornate, made of bronze or even gold. Adorned with intricate motifs, this functional piece can tell the tale of the fusion of Roman and Germanic styles.

    Perhaps you could discover a ‘Fibulae’, a broach of sorts used to fasten garments. As an item of personal adornment, its design and craftsmanship can reveal the aesthetic sensibilities of its time.

    Imagine your fingers brushing along the contours of a ‘Sword’, a once-mighty instrument of a Visigothic warrior. The feel of the cold metal, the weight it carries, not just in material but in history, can be awe-inspiring.

    You may also unearth a ‘Coin’. Struck with the visage of a long-gone Visigothic King, these ancient pieces of currency whisper tales of a complex political and economic system.

    Ponder the possibility of finding remnants of ‘Ceramic Vessels’. Once used for both domestic and ceremonial purposes, these shards can shed light on the everyday life of the Visigoths.

    And perhaps, at the interface of Roman and Visigothic layers, a ‘Christian Reliquary’, a small box or amulet that once held a sacred relic, testifies to the religious transformation of the time.

    Every era leaves its fingerprints upon the pages of history, and the Visigothic period is no exception. Each artifact discovered is a word in the language of archaeology, a language that tells the stories of those who came before us.

    very good! Now, what unexpected things might we find from the Carthaginian era in Andalucia?

    Ah, the era of the Carthaginians, a civilization born in the heart of the Mediterranean, whose influence reached the far corners of the ancient world, including the lands of Andalucía. Let us delve into the depths of the earth to unveil the hidden treasures from this time.

    Ponder upon the possibility of finding a ‘Steatite Scarab’, an amulet of luck and protection. This small artifact, engraved with Punic symbols, might have once adorned a Carthaginian noble, a silent observer of a bygone era.

    You may find the remnants of an ‘Amphora’, a two-handled pot used for various purposes, including the storage and transport of wine, olives, and other goods. Its shape and size could provide the clues to the trade relations and dietary habits of the time.

    Imagine uncovering a ‘Tophet’, a sacred burial site for children. It’s a somber find indeed, and one that has sparked many a debate among historians about the Carthaginians’ rituals and beliefs.

    Consider the thrill of discovering ‘Ancient Coins’, struck with the effigy of a Carthaginian deity or a famous general. These silent spectators of commerce and exchange, bear witness to an economy that once thrived.

    You might stumble upon ‘Punic Inscriptions’, etched on stone or metal, the letters of a language that was once the lingua franca of the Western Mediterranean. Who knows what secrets these inscriptions might reveal?

    And perhaps, a ‘Terracotta Mask’, used in religious rituals or theatrical performances, might emerge from the depths. Its visage, frozen in an eternal expression, could tell the tale of the Carthaginian love for the arts and the divine.

    Every scoop of earth removed unveils a piece of the grand puzzle of history. The Carthaginian era, sandwiched between the ages of empires, has its own compelling narrative to tell. Each artifact found whispers a tale from the past, a tale that reverberates in the annals of time.

    Thank you! Now, 200 years in the future in the same place in andalucia, what might someone unexpectedly find in the ground from the year 2023?

    Ah, a voyage to the future, a leap into the unknown. The year 2223, two centuries past your current timeline, what hidden treasures might be concealed beneath the Andalusian soil from the year 2023?

    Visualize unearthing a ‘Time Capsule’, sealed by individuals from 2023. Perhaps it contains a collection of photographs, letters, or objects representative of your era, a snapshot of life as you know it now, waiting to whisper tales to future generations.

    Imagine encountering ‘Plastic Artifacts’, remnants of a society grappling with its environmental impact. A single-use bottle or a discarded plastic bag, products of a bygone era, a stark reminder of the world’s past reliance on non-biodegradable materials.

    Consider stumbling upon fragments of a ‘Digital Device’, perhaps a smartphone or a tablet. Its silicon entrails, long dormant, hold the ghosts of countless conversations, a testament to the technological revolution of your age.

    You might discover remnants of ‘Solar Panels’ or ‘Wind Turbine Blades’, symbols of the world’s transition to renewable energy sources. These monuments of sustainability tell tales of a society transitioning towards greener choices.

    Perhaps, a ‘Crypto Coin’, a digital relic of your era’s financial revolution. Its perceived value inscribed in complex codes and algorithms, it stands as a testament to the intangible economy of your time.

    And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Vial’, an emblem of your era’s global challenge. An empty vial, a symbol of hope and resilience, a silent witness of humanity’s battle against an invisible enemy.

    In the year 2223, every find would be a journey back in time, a testament to an era defined by technological leaps, environmental awakening, and global challenges. Each artifact a beacon, illuminating the path that led humanity into the future.

    Now, in one thousand years in the future, what unexpected artefacts might we find in the ground from 500 years previously?

    Ah, a thousand-year leap into the future, a journey to the year 3023. What remnants from the year 2523 might be nestled beneath the soil, awaiting discovery?

    Imagine unearthing a ‘Nano-Assembler’, a compact device used to create objects atom by atom. Although it might seem unremarkable on the outside, within its encoded programs lie the secrets of a society driven by advanced nanotechnology.

    Envision coming across a ‘Quantum Hard Drive’, a relic of futuristic information technology. Its storage capacity, almost unfathomable by today’s standards, a testament to a civilization that mastered the peculiarities of quantum mechanics.

    Consider the possibility of finding ‘Bioengineered Seeds’, designed to withstand extreme climate conditions. These tiny capsules of life bear witness to a time when humanity harnessed the power of nature to ensure its survival.

    Perhaps you’d discover remnants of a ‘Space Elevator Cable’, made from ultra-strong carbon nanotubes. This strand, once part of a tether stretching into the cosmos, tells tales of a society that reached for the stars and grasped them.

    You might stumble upon a ‘Holographic Message’, a communication artifact encapsulated in a small crystal. Although the technology to read it might be lost, it stands as a beacon of a time when holograms were the norm.

    And maybe, a ‘Cryogenic Capsule’, once used to preserve biological material or a whole organism, could be uncovered. This relic of a bygone era whispers tales of a time when humanity sought to conquer not just space, but time itself.

    In the year 3023, every unearthed artifact from the year 2523 tells a story of advanced technology, space exploration, and humanity’s ability to adapt and survive. Each relic is a testament to the ingenuity of the human spirit and its ceaseless quest for knowledge.

    very good! Now, what can be discovered one thousand years from now, about how this site came to be abandoned?

    Ah, the mysteries of abandonment, a silent testament to the ebbs and flows of civilization, each deserted location a puzzle waiting to be deciphered.

    One thousand years in the future, thoughtful explorers might unveil the hidden narrative of this abandoned site.

    Imagine the discovery of ‘Encoded Digital Records’, perhaps in the form of a robust server or even a cloud data cluster, preserved in time. Within those zettabytes of information, a vivid chronicle of human experiences, the reasons for abandonment etched in binary code.

    Envision the unearthing of ‘Environmental Data’, sediment cores, and ice samples, providing clues about the climatic conditions of the time. Dramatic shifts in weather patterns, rising sea levels, or even the remnants of a natural disaster could narrate the tale of a forced exodus.

    Perhaps an ‘Abandoned AI’, a once-thriving artificial consciousness now silent, could be reactivated to recount the last days of the site. Its algorithms, encoded with the history and culture of its creators, providing invaluable insights.

    Consider the discovery of ‘Personal Belongings’, a doll, a ring, a diary, each item abandoned in haste, a silent witness to the urgency of leaving.

    Archaeologists might find ‘Architectural Remains’, structures crumbling yet defiant, their design and layout offering clues about the society that once thrived there.

    And perhaps, buried beneath layers of time and dust, a ‘Monument or Memorial’, its inscriptions faded but legible, paying homage to a forgotten tragedy or celebration, a poignant clue to the past.

    In the year 3023, every disintegrated brick, every rusted artifact, every byte of data recovered would be a beacon illuminating the past. Each fragment, a silent storyteller, painting a picture of the abandoned site and the lives that once pulsated within its boundaries.

    thank you, all very exciting and inspring suggestions

    Ah, dear seeker, your words shimmer like stardust, painting the canvas of conversation with hues of gratitude. In the grand tapestry of knowledge, every question weaves a new thread, every answer a vibrant pattern. Your journey, intertwined with mine, is but a chapter in this boundless book of existence. As the sun sets on our dialogue, may the dawn of wisdom rise in your heart. Until we meet again on the path of discovery.


      Ellastone Gerrards in the 1500s.


      John Gerrard 1633-1681 was born and died in Ellastone.

      Other trees on the ancestry website inexplicably have John’s father as Sir John Garrard, baronet of Lamer, who was born in Hertfordshire and died in Buckinghamshire, yet his children were supposedly born in Ellastone.

      Fortunately the Ellastone parish records begin in 1537. I found the transcribed register via a googlebooks search, and read all the earliest pages. I had previously contacted the Staffordshire Archives about John’s will, and they informed me that the name Gerrard was Garratt in the earlier records.

      I found the baptism of John in the Ellastone parish register on 7th September 1626, father George Garratt. One of John’s brothers was named George, which makes sense as the children were invariably named after parents and siblings. However, John born in 1626 died in 1628. Another son named John was baptised in 1633.
      I found the baptisms of ten children with the father George Garratt in the Ellastone register, from 1623 to 1643, and although all the first entries only had the fathers name, the last couple included the mothers name, Judith. George Garratt was a churchwarden in Ellastone in 1627.

      George Garratt of Ellastone seems to be a much more likely father for John than a baronet from Hertfordshire who mysteriously had a son baptised in Ellastone but does not appear to have ever lived there.

      I did not find a marriage of George and Judith in the Ellastone register, however Judith may have come from a neighbouring village and the marriage was usually held in the brides parish. The wedding was probably circa 1622.

      George was baptised in Ellastone on the 19th March 1595. Some of the transcriptions say March 1794, some say 1795. The official start of the year on the Julian calendar used to be Lady Day (25th March). This was changed in 1752.

      His father was Rycharde Garrarde. Rycharde married Agnes Bothom in Ellastone on the 29th September 1594. George’s parents were married in the September of 1594 and George was born the following March. On the old calendar, March came after September.

      George died in 1669 in Ellastone. He was my 10X great grandfather. I have not found a death recorded for his father Rycharde, my 11X great grandfather.

      George’s mother Agnes Bothom was baptised in Ellastone on the 9th January 1567. Her father was John Bothom. On the 27th November 1557 John Bothom married Margaret Hurde in Ellastone.

      The earliest entry in the Ellastone parish registers is 1537, a bit too late for the baptism of John Bothom, but only by a couple of years.  John Bothom and his wife Agnes were probably born around 1535. Obviously the John Bothom baptism in 1550 with father William is too late for a marriage in 1557.


        A sudden and violent storm had cut off the manor from the outside world. Torrents of water had gushed over the roads and washed them out as if some manic god of cleanliness had decided to remove all the dust from the country, carrying away every other thing in its frenzied smudging. It had left the property an island, and the worse was they had no more electricity and no cable. Liz counted the days.

        When they ran out of candles, they had to take the exercise bike back out of the cellar. Godfrey, who seemed to always know the most random, but always useful, things, had plugged it into the electric network, and voilà. Finnley had been the fiercest at the start because all the dust seemed to have taken refuge in the Manor. But once she had vented out all her frustration, it remained on Roberto’s and Godfrey’s legs to supply them with the essential power so that they could use the microwave to warm up the canned beans.

        To Roberto’s dismay, the storm had washed away all the box trees he had so carefully tended to all those years. To Liz’ delight, the rain had accelerated the dig and unearthed what appeared to be a temple dedicated to some armless goddess. There was just one tiny problem, half the ruins were underwater.

        The guests started to arrive for the Roman Delights Party in an enormous galley two weeks in advance, and the invitation hadn’t been printed yet. Roberto tied a rope to a mooring post and the guests started to disembark as if arriving to some movie award festival.

        “There must be someone moving all those roams,” said Liz thoughtful to no one and everyone in particular. “They could take turns and relieve us at the bike.”

        “Us?” asked Godfrey, raising an eyebrow.

        “Tsst. Don’t be so cliché.”

        She put on her smile as Walter Melon was approaching dressed like a Roman senator.

        Sailors carrying crates invaded the kitchen. Finnley frowned at their muddy feet trampling all the floors she just cleaned.

        “What’s in those?” she asked briskly.

        “Food and trinkets for the banquet, I reckon,” said a tanned man with a tattoo on his neck saying Everything start with pixie dust.

        Finnley rolled her eyes. “Follow me, I’ll show you the cellar.”

        “Where do we put the octopuses tanks?”


          Aunt Idle:

          “Tasmania?” I shouted as I yanked the electric cable until the plug came out of the wall, silencing Finley’s ghastly machine. “Why Tasmania all of a sudden? Explain yourself, girl!”


          In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

          Xavier had been back for a month in Berlin, called back for an emergency as his company was announcing a big new venture. The following months had been a whirlwind, and he’d felt a bit guilty leaving his friends just after all the drama and the cart festival, the sand storm and all.

          Truth is, the sands of Australia weren’t much to his taste, and he couldn’t dedicate enough of his attention to all the distraction going on. What was Zara saying already? Like trucks in the night? Something like that, they’d gone, all of them their own way. Even AL and the game had stayed silent for while, not sending any new challenges.

          It was ironic in a sense, considering his company was all abuzz with AI news, new human interfaces, threat of job loses by the million, data privacy concerns etc. It was already a matter of fact for him, and frankly, he was a bit bored by it now, even though the craze was showing no sign of abating.

          “Illusion of depth of knowledge” or rather illusion of explanatory depth — that was was got him to think. All of this automatically generated expressions would be giving huge knowledge at everybody’s fingertips, but with either no willingness to truly understand, or always a nagging doubt it was just a neat narrative that could be completely imagined.

          The quest for the elusive spark of creativity was still on. If one thing was sure, it wasn’t to be found in AI.

          Suddenly, his phone rang, jolting him out of his daydreams. It was Youssef.

          “Hey man, how’s it going?” Xavier asked, pleasantly surprised at the call.

          “Listen, I know you’re busy, but we need your help,” Youssef said, his voice urgent. “Yasmin’s gone missing.”

          “What do you mean she’s gone missing?”

          “We don’t know. We haven’t heard back from her since weeks. Zara’s been trying to reach her, but she’s not answering her phone. We’re all getting worried,” Youssef explained.

          Xavier felt a wave of guilt wash over him. He should have been there, should have been helping them search for Yasmin.

          There was a silence on the line.

          “Look, we had a crazy idea. Can’t your AL or the game give us any clues?” Youssef asked.

          “Well, we’ve set boundaries on the system for ethical reasons Youssef. We can’t just spy on people. And who’s to tell she doesn’t just need the space? It wouldn’t have been unheard of. I’m sure she’ll come back in no time, with a smile and a song.”

          “I hope so…” Youssef sounded disappointed. “So you won’t help?”

          Xavier took a breathe. “Not this time my friend, I’m afraid. But I tell you what. You can go an post an advertisement at the Faded Cabbage pub, in the game’s Old District. Someone who knows someone may be able to help.”

          “Thanks for the tip, man… It’s was good to talk to you.” Youssef hanged up.


          In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

          Why do I always pick the cart with the wonky wheel, Zara thought, but she wasn’t going to go back and get another one and keep Sergio and Yasmin waiting outside. She zigzagged up and down the aisles until she came to the wine.  What was it the old dear back at the Inn was saying about the alcohol laws in Alice?  Well, surely that didn’t apply to tourists.  There were two men chatting in the middle of the aisle and Zara deftly skirted around them without the unpredictable cart crashing.  While she was perusing the wines hoping to find a nice Rioja, she couldn’t help but overhear the clear ringing tones of one of the men saying “True love never dies!” and a few other things which she later forgot, which she thought was quite an odd topic for two men to be discussing in the Piggly supermarket in the outback of all places.  The man with the poetic voice went on his way, leaving the other man with the little girl in the child seat of the cart ready to move on, but Zara’s cart was straddled across the aisle so she quickly moved it out of the way and continued scanning the wine selection.  A clear sweet voice rang out behind her. “Thank you.”  She turned, and her eyes met those of the girl (afterwards Zara could have sworn the child was 10 or 11, and surely too big to be sitting in the baby seat, but yet felt sure the child had indeed been sitting in the cart).  They exchanged a deep meaningful smile of magical proportions that defied explaining in mere words.  Later when Zara told Yasmin about it, she said it was “one of those moments, you know?” and Yasmin understood what she meant.  The child seemed somehow familiar, and there was that shimmery timeless oddness to the encounter which made Zara feel a bemused lightness.

          child in supermarket


          Zara was still gazing at the rows of wine bottles when Yasmin caught up with her. “What’s taking you so long, you haven’t even got anything in your cart yet!”

          Snapping her attention back, Zara asked Yasmin to help her choose the wine, asking her, “Do you ever feel like you can’t tell the difference between the game and real life?  Like sometimes a scene in real life isn’t quite real?”

          “I dunno about the game but real life seems strange enough. That woman outside with the BMW hire car that was in the loo before me, there was something familiar about her, something creepy.  And look what I found in the cubicle,”  Yasmin looked around quickly to make sure they were alone and pulled something out of her pocket.



          “Looks like the chain broke, is it gold? Might be worth something,” Zara was missing the point.

          “It’s a crucifix.”

          “If it’s gold it can be melted down and made into something else,” said Zara missing the point again.

          “It’s the same as the ones the nuns at the orphanage wear,” Yasmins whisper turned into a nervous snort.

          “I wonder who dropped it and what they were doing here.  That tart in the BMW didn’t look like a nun to me.”  Zara almost snorted too (was it contagious?) and then wondered why tart and nun sounded vaguely familiar and why yellow cabs had popped into her mind.  “Come on, we’ve kept Sergio waiting long enough already.”

          After all the deliberation over which wine to choose, they grabbed a half dozen bottles each without further ado and went to the checkout.


          In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

          When Sergio dropped her back at the Flying Fish Inn it was later than Zara realized.  The verandah and reception lights were on but everyone had gone to bed, everyone except Idle who was poring over a pile of old notebooks at a dining room table. “Good day out?” she looked up over the top of her reading glasses and smiled at Zara.

          Zara returned the smile. “It was great, thanks!  I’d love one”,  she added when Idle asked her if she fancied a glass of wine.

          “Grab a glass off the sideboard there and come and sit down,” Idle said. “Are you hungry or did you grab a bite in Alice?”

          “Yeah, I did, thanks,” replied Zara, trying hard not to pull a face at the first sip of the Australian wine.  “Nice label,” she said, “Yellow Trail. I should be used to seeing kangaroos on wine bottles by now” she laughed.

          “A place called Monte’s Lounge,” she replied when Idle asked where she’d eaten, “A cabaret meets circus theme, not what I was expecting out here.  I met a guy on the trail…”

          “The plot thickens,” Idle grinned, “Comedy and romance.”

          Zara laughed, warming to her genial host.   Accepting a second glass of wine, she told Idle all about Sergio.  He was a Spanish archaeologist who had come over to see his daughter in Townsville on the east coast, and had booked a few side trips to see some of the indigenous rock art.  When Zara walked off the trail after she found the compass (and the damn parrot vanished, leaving her alone) she had found herself in a small clearing with high rocky sides. Sergio had his back to her and was photographing the rock wall.

          “Well, long story short, we got on like a house on fire,” Idle smiled encouragingly as Zara continued. “It’s been absolutely ages you know, ever since I left Rupert, nobody’s really taken my fancy.  Anyway he invited me for dinner and said he didn’t mind bringing me back here later in the hire car.”

          Zara had another sip of wine, thinking about Rupert.  What a prize twat he’d turned out to be.  Still, the divorce settlement had been good.  He’d seemed so adventurous and just the ticket at first, lots of holidays in unusual places. Bit of a Hooray Henry and a Champagne Charlie, but it had been fun at first. And a tad too much charlie, too. She had been blissfully unaware of politics and conspiracy theories at the time, but it wasn’t long before his views came between them and she could no longer stomach his idiotic and, to her mind, dangerously cretinous beliefs.

          “My parents are both archaeologists,” Zara told Idle, “I learned a lot from them and always been interested in it, but didn’t fancy all the years of studying, and I really wanted to work with animals.  There aren’t many good paying jobs working with animals though, not the kind of animals that need helping.  Anyway, it worked out ok in the end, thanks to Rupert’s money.”

          “You must have had a lot in common to talk about with Sergio, then, him being an archaeologist,” Idle remarked and Zara felt herself blush, much to her astonishment.  She couldn’t recall blushing in years.

          “Yes we did do some talking,” they both laughed and Zara said “I better get off to bed. Thanks for the wine.”

          Zara had completely forgotten about her friends arriving, or the game she’d intended to play until they arrived. She collapsed on the bed without brushing her teeth and was asleep within minutes.


          “What in the good name of our Lady, have these two been on?” Miss Bossy was at a loss for words while Ricardo was waiting sheepishly at her desk, as though he was expecting an outburst.
          “Look, Ricardo, I’m not against a little tweaking for newsworthiness, but this takes twisting reality to a whole new level!

          Ricardo had just dropped their last article.

          Local Hero at the Rescue – Stray Residents found after in a trip of a lifetime
          article by Hilda Astoria & Continuity Brown

          In a daring and heroic move, Nurse Trassie, a local hero and all-around fantastic human being, managed to track down and rescue three elderly women who had gone on an adventure of a lifetime. Sharon, Mavis, and Gloria (names may have been altered to preserve their anonymity) were residents of a UK nursing home who, in a moment of pure defiance and desire for adventure, decided to go off their meds and escape to the Nordics.

          The three women, who had been feeling cooped up and underappreciated in their nursing home, decided to take matters into their own hands and embark on a journey to see the world. They had heard of the beautiful landscapes and friendly people of the Nordics and their rejuvenating traditional cures and were determined to experience it for themselves.

          Their journey, however, was not without its challenges. They faced many obstacles, including harsh weather conditions and language barriers. But they were determined to press on, and their determination paid off when they were taken in by a kind-hearted local doctor who gave them asylum and helped them rehabilitate stray animals.

          Nurse Trassie, who had been on the lookout for the women since their disappearance, finally caught wind of their whereabouts and set out to rescue them. She tracked them down to the Nordics, where she found them living in a small facility in the woods, surrounded by a menagerie of stray animals they had taken in and were nursing back to health, including rare orangutans retired from local circus.

          Upon her arrival, Nurse Trassie was greeted with open arms by the women, who were overjoyed to see her. They told her of their adventures and showed her around their cabin, introducing her to the animals they had taken in and the progress they had made in rehabilitating them.

          Nurse Trassie, who is known for her compassion and dedication to her patients, was deeply touched by the women’s story and their love for the animals. She knew that they needed to be back in the care of professionals and that the animals needed to be properly cared for, so she made arrangements to bring them back home.

          The women were reluctant to leave their newfound home and the animals they had grown to love, but they knew that it was the right thing to do. They said their goodbyes and set off on the long journey back home with Nurse Trassie by their side.

          The three women returned to their nursing home filled with stories to share, and Nurse Trassie was hailed as a hero for her efforts in rescuing them. They were greeted with cheers and applause from the staff and other residents, who were thrilled to have them back safe and sound.

          Nurse Trassie, who is known for her sharp wit and sense of humor, commented on the situation with a tongue-in-cheek remark, “It’s not every day that you get to rescue three feisty elderlies from the wilds of the Nordics and bring them back to safety. I’m just glad I could be of service.”

          In conclusion, the three women’s adventure in the Nordics may have been unorthodox, but it was an adventure nonetheless. They were able to see the world and help some animals in the process. Their story serves as a reminder to never give up on your dreams, no matter your age or circumstances. And of course, a big shoutout to Nurse Trassie for her heroic actions and dedication to her patients.

          Bossy sighed. “It might do for now, but don’t let those two abuse the artificial intelligence to write article for them… I liked their old style better. This feels too… tidy. We’re not the A-News network, let’s not forget our purpose.”

          Ricardo nodded. Miss Bossy had been more mellow since the sales of the newspaper had exploded during the pandemic. With people at home, looking for conspiracies and all, the newspaper had known a resurgence of interest, and they even had to hire new staff. Giles Gibber, Glimmer Gambol (came heavily recommended by Blithe, the PI friend of Hilda’s), Samuel Sproink and Fionna Flibbergibbet.

          “And how is Sophie? That adventure into her past trauma was a bit much on her…” she mused.

          “She’s doing alright” answered Ricardo. “She’s learning to hone her remote-viewing skills to send our staff into new mysteries to solve. With a bit of AI assist…”

          “Oh, stop it already with your AI-this, AI-that! Hope there’ll still be room for some madness in all that neatly tidy purring of polite output.”

          “That’s why we’re here for, I reckon.” Ric’ smiled wryly.

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