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  • #6253
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    My Grandparents Kitchen

    My grandmother used to have golden syrup in her larder, hanging on the white plastic coated storage rack that was screwed to the inside of the larder door. Mostly the larder door was left propped open with an old flat iron, so you could see the Heinz ketchup and home made picallilli (she made a particularly good picallili), the Worcester sauce and the jar of pickled onions, as you sat at the kitchen table.

    If you were sitting to the right of the kitchen table you could see an assortment of mismatched crockery, cups and bowls, shoe cleaning brushes, and at the back, tiny tins of baked beans and big ones of plum tomatoes,  and normal sized tins of vegetable and mushroom soup.  Underneath the little shelves that housed the tins was a blue plastic washing up bowl with a few onions, some in, some out of the yellow string bag they came home from the expensive little village supermarket in.

    There was much more to the left in the awkward triangular shape under the stairs, but you couldn’t see under there from your seat at the kitchen table.  You could see the shelf above the larder door which held an ugly china teapot of graceless modern lines, gazed with metallic silver which was wearing off in places. Beside the teapot sat a serving bowl, squat and shapely with little handles, like a flattened Greek urn, in white and reddish brown with flecks of faded gilt. A plain white teapot completed the trio, a large cylindrical one with neat vertical ridges and grooves.

    There were two fridges under the high shallow wooden wall cupboard.  A waist high bulbous old green one with a big handle that pulled out with a clunk, and a chest high sleek white one with a small freezer at the top with a door of its own.  On the top of the fridges were biscuit and cracker tins, big black keys, pencils and brittle yellow notepads, rubber bands and aspirin value packs and a bottle of Brufen.  There was a battered old maroon spectacle case and a whicker letter rack, letters crammed in and fanning over the top.  There was always a pile of glossy advertising pamphlets and flyers on top of the fridges, of the sort that were best put straight into the tiny pedal bin.

    My grandmother never lined the pedal bin with a used plastic bag, nor with a specially designed plastic bin liner. The bin was so small that the flip top lid was often gaping, resting on a mound of cauliflower greens and soup tins.  Behind the pedal bin, but on the outer aspect of the kitchen wall, was the big black dustbin with the rubbery lid. More often than not, the lid was thrust upwards. If Thursday when the dustbin men came was several days away, you’d wish you hadn’t put those newspapers in, or those old shoes!  You stood in the softly drizzling rain in your slippers, the rubbery sheild of a lid in your left hand and the overflowing pedal bin in the other.  The contents of the pedal bin are not going to fit into the dustbin.  You sigh, put the pedal bin and the dustbin lid down, and roll up your sleeves ~ carefully, because you’ve poked your fingers into a porridge covered teabag.  You grab the sides of the protruding black sack and heave. All being well,  the contents should settle and you should have several inches more of plastic bag above the rim of the dustbin.  Unless of course it’s a poor quality plastic bag in which case your fingernail will go through and a horizontal slash will appear just below rubbish level.  Eventually you upend the pedal bin and scrape the cigarette ash covered potato peelings into the dustbin with your fingers. By now the fibres of your Shetland wool jumper are heavy with damp, just like the fuzzy split ends that curl round your pale frowning brow.  You may push back your hair with your forearm causing the moisture to bead and trickle down your face, as you turn the brass doorknob with your palm and wrist, tea leaves and cigarette ash clinging unpleasantly to your fingers.

    The pedal bin needs rinsing in the kitchen sink, but the sink is full of mismatched saucepans, some new in shades of harvest gold, some battered and mishapen in stainless steel and aluminium, bits of mashed potato stuck to them like concrete pebbledash. There is a pale pink octagonally ovoid shallow serving dish and a little grey soup bowl with a handle like a miniature pottery saucepan decorated with kitcheny motifs.

    The water for the coffee bubbles in a suacepan on the cream enamelled gas cooker. My grandmother never used a kettle, although I do remember a heavy flame orange one. The little pan for boiling water had a lip for easy pouring and a black plastic handle.

    The steam has caused the condensation on the window over the sink to race in rivulets down to the fablon coated windowsill.  The yellow gingham curtains hang limply, the left one tucked behind the back of the cooker.

    You put the pedal bin back it it’s place below the tea towel holder, and rinse your mucky fingers under the tap. The gas water heater on the wall above you roars into life just as you turn the tap off, and disappointed, subsides.

    As you lean over to turn the cooker knob, the heat from the oven warms your arm. The gas oven was almost always on, the oven door open with clean tea towels and sometimes large white pants folded over it to air.

    The oven wasn’t the only heat in my grandparents kitchen. There was an electric bar fire near the red formica table which used to burn your legs. The kitchen table was extended by means of a flap at each side. When I was small I wasn’t allowed to snap the hinge underneath shut as my grandmother had pinched the skin of her palm once.

    The electric fire was plugged into the same socket as the radio. The radio took a minute or two to warm up when you switched it on, a bulky thing with sharp seventies edges and a reddish wood effect veneer and big knobs.  The light for my grandfathers workshop behind the garage (where he made dentures) was plugged into the same socket, which had a big heavy white three way adaptor in. The plug for the washing machine was hooked by means of a bit of string onto a nail or hook so that it didn’t fall down behing the washing machine when it wasn’t plugged in. Everything was unplugged when it wasn’t in use.  Sometimes there was a shrivelled Christmas cactus on top of the radio, but it couldn’t hide the adaptor and all those plugs.

    Above the washing machine was a rhomboid wooden wall cupboard with sliding frsoted glass doors.  It was painted creamy gold, the colour of a nicotine stained pub ceiling, and held packets of Paxo stuffing and little jars of Bovril and Marmite, packets of Bisto and a jar of improbably red Maraschino cherries.

    The nicotine coloured cupboard on the opposite wall had half a dozen large hooks screwed under the bottom shelf. A variety of mugs and cups hung there when they weren’t in the bowl waiting to be washed up. Those cupboard doors seemed flimsy for their size, and the thin beading on the edge of one door had come unstuck at the bottom and snapped back if you caught it with your sleeve.  The doors fastened with a little click in the centre, and the bottom of the door reverberated slightly as you yanked it open. There were always crumbs in the cupboard from the numerous packets of bisucits and crackers and there was always an Allbran packet with the top folded over to squeeze it onto the shelf. The sugar bowl was in there, sticky grains like sandpaper among the biscuit crumbs.

    Half of one of the shelves was devoted to medicines: grave looking bottles of codeine linctus with no nonsense labels,  brown glass bottles with pills for rheumatism and angina.  Often you would find a large bottle, nearly full, of Brewers yeast or vitamin supplements with a dollar price tag, souvenirs of the familys last visit.  Above the medicines you’d find a faded packet of Napolitana pasta bows or a dusty packet of muesli. My grandparents never used them but she left them in the cupboard. Perhaps the dollar price tags and foreign foods reminded her of her children.

    If there had been a recent visit you would see monstrous jars of Sanka and Maxwell House coffee in there too, but they always used the coffee.  They liked evaporated milk in their coffee, and used tins and tins of “evap” as they called it. They would pour it over tinned fruit, or rhubard crumble or stewed apples.

    When there was just the two of them, or when I was there as well, they’d eat at the kitchen table. The table would be covered in a white embroidered cloth and the food served in mismatched serving dishes. The cutlery was large and bent, the knife handles in varying shades of bone. My grandfathers favourite fork had the tip of each prong bent in a different direction. He reckoned it was more efficient that way to spear his meat.  He often used to chew his meat and then spit it out onto the side of his plate. Not in company, of course.  I can understand why he did that, not having eaten meat myself for so long. You could chew a piece of meat for several hours and still have a stringy lump between your cheek and your teeth.

    My grandfather would always have a bowl of Allbran with some Froment wheat germ for his breakfast, while reading the Daily Mail at the kitchen table.  He never worse slippers, always shoes indoors,  and always wore a tie.  He had lots of ties but always wore a plain maroon one.  His shirts were always cream and buttoned at throat and cuff, and eventually started wearing shirts without detachable collars. He wore greeny grey trousers and a cardigan of the same shade most of the time, the same colour as a damp English garden.

    The same colour as the slimy green wooden clothes pegs that I threw away and replaced with mauve and fuschia pink plastic ones.  “They’re a bit bright for up the garden, aren’t they,” he said.  He was right. I should have ignored the green peg stains on the laundry.  An English garden should be shades of moss and grassy green, rich umber soil and brick red walls weighed down with an atmosphere of dense and heavy greyish white.

    After Grandma died and Mop had retired (I always called him Mop, nobody knows why) at 10:00am precisely Mop would  have a cup of instant coffee with evap. At lunch, a bowl of tinned vegetable soup in his special soup bowl, and a couple of Krackawheat crackers and a lump of mature Cheddar. It was a job these days to find a tasty cheddar, he’d say.

    When he was working, and he worked until well into his seventies, he took sandwiches. Every day he had the same sandwich filling: a combination of cheese, peanut butter and marmite.  It was an unusal choice for an otherwise conventional man.  He loved my grandmothers cooking, which wasn’t brilliant but was never awful. She was always generous with the cheese in cheese sauces and the meat in meat pies. She overcooked the cauliflower, but everyone did then. She made her gravy in the roasting pan, and made onion sauce, bread sauce, parsley sauce and chestnut stuffing.  She had her own version of cosmopolitan favourites, and called her quiche a quiche when everyone was still calling it egg and bacon pie. She used to like Auntie Daphne’s ratatouille, rather exotic back then, and pronounced it Ratta Twa.  She made pizza unlike any other, with shortcrust pastry smeared with tomato puree from a tube, sprinkled with oregano and great slabs of cheddar.

    The roast was always overdone. “We like our meat well done” she’d say. She’d walk up the garden to get fresh mint for the mint sauce and would announce with pride “these runner beans are out of the garding”. They always grew vegetables at the top of the garden, behind the lawn and the silver birch tree.  There was always a pudding: a slice of almond tart (always with home made pastry), a crumble or stewed fruit. Topped with evap, of course.

    #6237
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Murder At The Bennistons

    We don’t know exactly what happened immediately after the death of Catherine Housley’s mother in 1849, but by 1850 the two older daughters Elizabeth and Mary Anne were inmates in Belper Workhouse.  Catherine was just six weeks old, so presumably she was with a wet nurse, possibly even prior to her mothers death.  By 1851, according to the census, she was living in Heanor, a small town near to Smalley,  with John Benniston, a framework knitter, and his family. Framework knitters (abbreviated to FWK should you happen to see it on a census) rented a large loom and made stockings and everyone in the family helped. Often the occupation of other household members would be “seamer”: they would stitch the stocking seams together.  Catherine was still living with the Bennistons ten years later in 1861.

    Framework Knitters

     

    I read some chapters of a thesis on the south Derbyshire poor in the 1800s and found some illuminating information about indentured apprenticeship of children especially if one parent died. It was not at all uncommon,  and framework knitters in particular often had indentured apprentices.  It was a way to ensure the child was fed and learned a skill.  Children commonly worked from the age of ten or 12 anyway. They were usually placed walking distance of the family home and maintained contact. The indenture could be paid by the parish poor fund, which cost them slightly less than sending them to the poorhouse, and could be paid off by a parent if circumstances improved to release the child from the apprenticeship.
    A child who was an indentured apprentice would continue a normal life after the term of apprenticeship, usually still in contact with family locally.

    I found a newspaper article titled “Child Murder at Heanor” dated 1858.

    Heanor baby murder

    A 23 year old lodger at the Bennistons, Hannah Cresswell, apparently murdered a new born baby that she gave birth to in the privy, which the midwife took away and had buried as a still birth. The baby was exhumed after an anonymous tip off from a neighbour, citing that it was the 4th such incident. Catherine Housley would have been nine years old at the time.

    Heanor baby murder 2

     

    Subsequent newspaper articles indicate that the case was thrown out, despite the doctors evidence that the baby had been beaten to death.

    In July 1858 the inquest was held in the King of Prussia,  on the Hannah Cresswell baby murder at the Bennistons.

    The King of Prussia, Heanor, in 1860:

    King of Prussia Heanor

    #6225
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    William Marshall’s Parents

    William Marshall  1876-1968, my great grandfather, married Mary Ann Gilman Purdy in Buxton. We assumed that both their families came from Buxton, but this was not the case.  The Marshall’s came from Elton, near Matlock; the Purdy’s from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.

    William Marshall, seated in centre, with colleagues from the insurance company:

    William Marshall

     

     

    William and all his siblings were born in Fairfield in Buxton. But both Emma Featherstone 1847-1928, his mother, and John Marshall 1842-1930, his father, came from rural Derbyshire. Emma from Ashbourne (or Biggin, Newhaven, or Hartington, depending on what she chose to put on the census, which are all tiny rural places in the same area).

    John Marshall was a carter, later a coal carter, and was born in Elton, Derbyshire. Elton is a rural village near to Matlock. He was unable to write (at least at the time of his wedding) but Emma signed her own name.

    In 1851 Emma is 3 or 4 years old living with family at the Jug and Glass Inn, Hartington. In 1861 Emma was a 14 year old servant at a 112 acre farm, Heathcote, but her parents were still living at the Jug and Glass. Emma Featherstone’s parents both died when she was 18, in 1865.
    In 1871 she was a servant at Old House Farm, Nether Hartington Quarter, Ashborne.

    On the census, a female apprentice was listed as a servant, a boy as an apprentice. It seems to have been quite normal, at least that’s what I’ve found so far,  for all teenagers to go and live in another household to learn a trade, to be independent from the parents, and so doesn’t necessarily mean a servant as we would think of it. Often they stayed with family friends, and usually married in their early twenties and had their own household ~ often with a “servant” or teenager from someone else’s family.

    The only marriage I could find for Emma and John was in Manchester in 1873, which didn’t make much sense. If Emma was single on the 1871 census, and her first child James was born in 1873, her marriage had to be between those dates. But the marriage register in Manchester appears to be correct, John was a carter, Emma’s father was Francis Featherstone. But why Manchester?

    Marshall Featherstone marriage

    I noticed that the witnesses to the marriage were Francis and Elizabeth Featherstone. He father was Francis, but who was Elizabeth? Emma’s mother was Sarah. Then I found that Emma’s brother Francis married Elizabeth, and they lived in Manchester on the 1871 census. Henry Street, Ardwick. Emma and John’s address on the marriage register is Emily Street, Ardwick. Both of them at the same address.

    The marriage was in February 1873, and James, the first child was born in July, 1873, in Buxton.

    It would seem that Emma and John had to get married, hence the move to Manchester where her brother was, and then quickly moved to Buxton for the birth of the child.  It was far from uncommon, I’ve found while making notes of dates in registers, for a first child to be born six or 7 months after the wedding.

    Emma died in 1928 at the age of 80, two years before her husband John. She left him a little money in her will! This seems unusual so perhaps she had her own money, possibly from the death of her parents before she married, and perhaps from the sale of the Jug and Glass.

    I found a photo of the Jug and Glass online.  It looks just like the pub I’d seen in my family history meditations on a number of occasions:

    Jug and Glass

    #6220
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Helper Belper: “Let’s start at the beginning.”

    When I found a huge free genealogy tree website with lots of our family already on it, I couldn’t believe my luck. Quite soon after a perusal, I found I had a number of questions. Was it really possible that our Warren family tree had been traced back to 500AD? I asked on a genealogy forum: only if you can latch onto an aristocratic line somewhere, in which case that lineage will be already documented, as normally parish records only go back to the 1600s, if you are lucky. It is very hard to prove and the validity of it met with some not inconsiderable skepticism among the long term hard core genealogists. This is not to say that it isn’t possible, but is more likely a response to the obvious desire of many to be able to trace their lineage back to some kind of royalty, regardless of the documentation and proof.

    Another question I had on this particular website was about the entries attached to Catherine Housley that made no sense. The immense public family tree there that anyone can add to had Catherine Housley’s mother as Catherine Marriot. But Catherine Marriot had another daughter called Catherine, two years before our Catherine was born, who didn’t die beforehand. It wasn’t unusual to name another child the same name if an earlier one had died in infancy, but this wasn’t the case.

    I asked this question on a British Genealogy forum, and learned that other people’s family trees are never to be trusted. One should always start with oneself, and trace back with documentation every step of the way. Fortified with all kinds of helpful information, I still couldn’t find out who Catherine Housley’s mother was, so I posted her portrait on the forum and asked for help to find her. Among the many helpful replies, one of the members asked if she could send me a private message. She had never had the urge to help someone find a person before, but felt a compulsion to find Catherine Housley’s mother. Eight months later and counting at time of writing, and she is still my most amazing Helper. The first thing she said in the message was “Right. Let’s start at the beginning. What do you know for sure.” I said Mary Ann Gilman Purdy, my great grandmother, and we started from there.

    Fran found all the documentation and proof, a perfect and necessary compliment to my own haphazard meanderings. She taught me how to find the proof, how to spot inconsistencies, and what to look for and where.  I still continue my own haphazard wanderings as well, which also bear fruit.

    It was decided to order the birth certificate, a paper copy that could be stuck onto the back of the portrait, so my mother in Wales ordered it as she has the portrait. When it arrived, she read the names of Catherine’s parents to me over the phone. We were expecting it to be John Housley and Sarah Baggaley. But it wasn’t! It was his brother Samuel Housley and Elizabeth Brookes! I had been looking at the photograph of the portrait thinking it was Catherine Marriot, then looking at it thinking her name was Sarah Baggaley, and now the woman in the portrait was Elizabeth Brookes. And she was from Wolverhampton. My helper, unknown to me, had ordered a digital copy, which arrived the same day.

    Months later, Fran, visiting friends in Derby,  made a special trip to Smalley, a tiny village not far from Derby, to look for Housley gravestones in the two churchyards.  There are numerous Housley burials registered in the Smalley parish records, but she could only find one Housley grave, that of Sarah Baggaley.  Unfortunately the documentation had already proved that Sarah was not the woman in the portrait, Catherine Housley’s mother, but Catherine’s aunt.

    Sarah Housley nee Baggaley’s grave stone in Smalley:

    Sarah Housley Grave

    #6211
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Today the planets are aligned, thought Liz as she looked at the blue sky out the French door. The frills of her glitter pink Charnel bathing suit wiggled with excitement.

    It was one of those rare days of this summer where rain wasn’t pouring somewhere in the garden. Every single day: clouds, clouds, clouds. If they weren’t above the mansion, they were above the pool. If they weren’t above the pool, they were flooding the lawn in between the mansion and the pool.

    But today, the sun had risen in a sky free of clouds and Liz was determined to have that dip in the newly repaired swimming pool with a watermelon mojito served by Roberto in his shiny leather speedo. The pool had been half frozen half boiling for so long that they had forgotten the swimming part. Once fixed, the summer had turned into a mid season rainy weather.

    ‘I don’t want to get wet before I get into the pool’, Liz had said to Finnley.

    Liz looked at her pink notebook lying on the coffee table. Resisting the temptation to fill in the empty pages with gripping stories, she hopped on the patio, flounces bouncing and her goocci flip-flops clacking. With a sparkling foot, Liz tested the grass. It was dry enough, which meant she would not inadvertently walk on a slug or a snail. She particularly hated the cracking noise and the wetness afterward under her feet.

    Roberto was bent forward. Liz frowned. He was not wearing his leather speedo. And his hands and pants were covered in green goo.

    ‘What happened?’ she asked in front of the disaster.

    Roberto shrugged, obviously overwhelmed by the goo.

    ‘Green algae’, said Godfrey popping up out of nowhere with a handful of cashews. ‘The ice and fire had kept it at bay for some time. But once it was back to normal the pool was a perfect environment for their development. I already called the maintenance company. They come next week.’

    ‘What? Next week?’

    ‘Yes. That’s sad. It’s the season. We are not the only ones to have that problem.’

    That said he threw a cashew in his mouth and popped back to nowhere he came from.

    #6179
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “The same thing happened to me when I was planting trees in  Normandy!” Nora laughed.

    “Why am I not surprised,” replied Will with a smile.

    It did seem to Nora that Will was less surprised that she was at all the similarities in their       stories.  The way the little anecdotes would bounce back and forth and spark another memory, and another, how many of them were unaccountably bizarre or unusual incidents, was enchanting to Nora.  Spellbound and quite giddy with the delight of it.  Will, on the other hand, seemed delighted but in a different kind of way.

    Nora noticed, but didn’t think any more of it until much later.  The ping pong stories continued apace, and she was was gasping for breath by the end of a somewhat longer story, as they made the final ascent to the top of the hill.

    “This is what I wanted to show you,” Will said.

    #6176
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Godfrey was getting itchy. The hazmat suit with built-in peanut dispenser was getting stickier by the minute, but he needed it to stay in the room, and provide the moral support Liz’ needed during her bout of glowid.

    She’d caught a mean streak, some said a Tartessian variant, which like all version caused the subject to gradually lose sense of inhibition (which in the case of Liz’ made the changes in her normal behaviour so subtle, it could have explain why it wasn’t detected until much later). After that, the usual symptoms of glowing started to display themselves. At first, Liz’ had dismissed them as hot flashes, but when she started to faintly glow in the dark, there was no longer room for hesitation. She had to be put in solitary confinement and monitored to keep her from sparkling, which was the severe form of the malady.

    Bronkel has called” Godfrey said in between mouthfuls. “Actually his secretary did. He sent a list of words to inspire you back into writing.”

    “Trend surfing keywords now?” Liz’ was inflamed and started to blink like a police siren. “I AM setting the future trends, so he’d rather let me do my job, or I’ll publish elsewhere.”

    “And…” Godfrey ventured softly “… care to share what new trends you’ve been blazing lately?”

    Finnley chuckled at the inappropriate choice of words.

    #6131

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “It’s Thursday today,” remarked Star.

    “Special subject the bloody obvious?” Tara replied rudely.   “You should be on Mastermind.”

    “Well, we were wondering what we were going to do to pass the time until Thursday, and here we are. It’s Thursday!”

    “Are you losing your marbles?”

    “Actually it’s you losing your memory,” Star sighed.  “Remember the case?”

    “What case?”

    “The case we were working on!”

    “Oh, that case! Well you can hardly expect me to remember that when it’s been such a strange week!” Tara was starting to get tearful and agitated.

    “Look, Tara, the tests came back negative. You can stop worrying about it now.  We can go back to normal now and carry on. And just in time for the rendezvous at the cafe on Main Street.” Star patted Tara’s arm encouragingly.  “And what timing! If the results hadn’t come back yet, or we’d tested positive, we wouldn’t have been able to go to the cafe.”

    “Well we could have gone and just not said anything about the tests,” sniffed Tara.  “Everyone else seems to be doing what they want regardless.”

    “Yes, but we’re not as morally bankrupt as them,” retorted Star.

    Tara giggled. “But we used to work for Madame Limonella.”

    “That’s an entirely different kind of morals,” Star replied, but chose not to pursue the issue. She was relieved to see Tara’s mood lighten.  “What are you going to wear to the cafe?”

    “Is it a fancy dress party? I could wear my plague doctor outfit.”

    Star rolled her eyes. “No! We have to dress appropriately, something subtle and serious.  A dark suit perhaps.”

    “Oh like my Ace of Spades T shirt?”

    This is going nowhere fast, Star thought, but then had a revelation.  A moment later, she had forgotten what the revelation was when the door burst open.

    “Ta Da!” shouted Rosamund, entering the office with two middle aged ladies in tow.  “I nabbed them both, they were lurking in the queue for the food bank! And I single handedly brought then back.  Can we talk about my bonus now?”

    Both Tara and Star were frowning at the two unfamiliar ladies. “Yes but who are these two middle aged ladies?”

    One of the ladies piped up, “She said you’d be taking us out for afternoon tea at a nice cafe!”

    The other one added, “We haven’t eaten for days, we’re starving!”

    “But neither of you is April!” exclaimed Tara.

    The first middle aged lady said, “Oh no dear, it’s September. I’m quite sure of that.”

    #6066

    In reply to: The Pistil Maze

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “It’s funny,” he said, squinting his eyes. “Looks like the maze kind of fades out.”

    “Oh yeah, that happens all the time. People lose interest you see, then it all but vanishes from their experience. Quaint, I know.”

    Kahurangi, nicknamed Kahu, was trying hard to get interested, see if the structure would come back into focus. But there were more fun things around. He asked again to the guy who was selling pop corn at the entrance.

    “T’is normal that people wander around with… well, pets? Look at this guy, with a piglet on a leash. It’s cute, don’t get me wrong, and probably more useful when you’re looking for truffles…”

    “Pretty normal. Seems animal have a sense around this thing, or so it’s believed. Many will bring one and try again. Look, I buried my snake not long ago, it was getting tired I think. Not sure they make the best animals to cover ground there.” He continued “Are you buying me something or what?”

    “Oh sure, give me that, and a bottle of water.”

    He handed a crumpled bill of 5 and thanked.

    “A word of unsollicited advice?”

    Kahu noded “Sure.”

    “See those piles of rocks over there, along the way?”

    “Looks like inukshuks, are they? Strange place to find them though.”

    “Yeah, you’ll tend to see more as you get along. People started to build them to pinpoint places they’d been, but over time, they became encampments, and people lost the will to move on.”

    “So what?”

    “Don’t stay too long around them.”

    Kahu shrugged and moved along. The maze was starting to get in focus again, there was not a minute to spare.

    #6063

    In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    turning head high roberto needed kitchen breath

    star kept thread gave woods fox

    mine taste mad

    told vince next normal change

    #6026
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Dear Jorid Whale,

    My hands are shaking while I type this on the keyboard.

    I’m not sure which of last night’s dreams is the bizarrest. Bizarre in a fantastic way, although for certain people it might be called grotesque. I’m certain it has something to do with that book I ordered online last week. I don’t usually read books and certainly not like this one. But the confinement, it makes you consider making things out of your ordinary.

    It’s called The Enchanted Forest of Changes, by a Chinese artist Níngméng (柠檬). They say his artist name means lemon, but that some of his friends call him Níng mèng 凝梦 (curdle dreams), which to my ears sound exactly the same except a little bit angrier. I found out about him on a forum about creepy dolls abandoned in forests all around the world. Yeah exactly, the confinement effect again. Apparently it started with a few dolls in a forest in Michigan, and then suddenly people started to find them everywhere. I wonder if some people are really into the confinement thing or if it’s just me using that as a reason to stay home.

    Anyway, someone on that forum posted one of the picture of that book and it caught my eye. So much so that I dreamt of it the following night. So I bought the book and it’s mostly ink drawings, but they seem to speak directly to some part of you that you were not even aware you had. I almost hear whispers when I look at the drawings. And then I have those dreams.

    Last night I dreamt of a cat that had been reared as a boy. He even had the shape of one, but shorter maybe. He had learned to talk and use his paws as hands, his claws had grown into fingers, had lost most of his fur and he was wearing clothes. If I was amazed by such a feat, it kinda seemed normal for the people I met in that dream. It just took a lot of efforts, love and dedication to raise this kind of children.

    And Whale, I feel tingling in my arms. This morning you showed me the picture of a kitten! That’s not a mere coincidence. I’m feeling so excited, my hands are too slow to type what I want to write. I fear I’m going to forget an important detail.

    About the second dream. The world was in shock, there was this giant… thing that looked like a pistil and that had grown during the night in some arid area. It was taller than the tallest human made tower. Its extremity was cone shaped, and I confess that the whole thing looked like some kind of dick to me.

    Plants and trees had followed in the following days as if the pistil had changed the climatic conditions (autocorrect wanted to write climactic, is that you playing around?).

    The pistil was protected by some kind of field and it couldn’t be approached by everyone. Governments had tried, pharmaceutical companies had tried. People who wanted to make gold out of it, they were all rejected. But for some reason some people could approach. Anyone, not just the pure of hearts or the noble ones. Actually a whole bunch of weirdoes started to take their chances. Some were allowed in and some where not. Nobody knew what was the deciding factor.

    A friend of mine that I have not seen in years during my waking life, she came back and asked me to come with her. So we went and were allowed in. My recall of the events after that is fuzzy. But I get the strange impression that I will spend more time in there later on.

    [Edited in the afternoon]

    I don’t believe it! It’s on the news everywhere. It has even replaced the news about the virus and the confinement.

    Giant pistils have appeared around the world, but it seems only people who had been infected can see them.

    Crazy rumours run on the internet. Giant mass hallucination caused by the virus. Some people say it’s alien technology, spores engineered to control our brains.

    There is one not so far from where I live. Should I wait for Kady to call me?

    #5956
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    I woke up this morning with a stiff neck. I do not mention it too much with my friend because some of them have a tendency to look for a reason behind anything like you have a choice that you don’t want to make, or you don’t listen your truth, or whatever one can invent in such a case. I’m sure someone would even mention a past life when my head was cut off. Today I don’t want other people’s opinion about me so I just say it’s a way for me to take care of myself.

    Today I take things one at a time. I called a few friends to take news, and only one of them answered. Which is fine by me because I didn’t really want to talk, only to make the effort to connect. I went into the garden, the grass is tall and it looks like a prairie. I’m sure wild mice enjoy it, and the neighbour’s cats also. One of them has a roof full of them redheads and black ones. I see them cross the wild grass one at a time, each has their own habitual path.

    I love looking at them. It’s quieting.

    There was an argument somewhere. I heard people shout. A man and a woman. It sounded like a soap, so I’m not sure it wasn’t someone’s TV on. The air was so clear, the absence of the cars and normal conversations gave it enough place to express. Each silence they left in between their arguments was filled with sounds of nature.

    I have a new family of birds coming into the garden. I baked them some wild rice with carrots and some fat. Someone told me it’s the last day you can feed them, afterwards it’s best they look for food for themselves as spring is here. So I’ve made the stew although I haven’t fed them during winter. I can tell they enjoyed it as nothing was left when I came back two hours ago.

    #5928
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Hello Whale,

    I don’t keep track of the days since we have been forcefully encouraged to stay home. I have plenty of carrots and chocolate mousse. Talking of mousse, I might have a mouse keeping me company. Let’s not hope it’s a family. But I heard that animals are coming back into town now that we are all cozy in our burrows. There have been mentions of chicks on the ring road. Not the kind of chick with makeup, the real fluffy and yellow ones. And one of my friends saw a fox roaming the streets while going to the supermarket. I bet he had a bag full of carrots. Now I wouldn’t be surprised having rabbits everywhere with all those carrots around.

    I may sound confusing but I guess that’s what being confined does to people. I even had day dreams of birds flying in my bedroom. I swear I really saw one. Well, to be fair I only saw its shadow, but it was a shadow in the air, not on the wall. I wonder what kind of bird it was. My little pinky said it was a finch, the one my mother loved looking at in her garden. She will be part of the numbers soon. Either with her death or with her survival. Now when I think of her I see her surrounded by a bunch of animals. I even saw the fox, but I don’t think it would count amongst the animals I see in town.

    Since I’m not trying to be analytic, I’ve found a strange poetry in life around here. People are talking like senators, all trying to give their certainties to the world, but I can tell you nobody knows shit and nobody has a clue. You might as well welcome the virus for some tea to get to know each other and have some interesting stories about yourself and your relation to nature.

    I’m raving again. Someone told me a joke recently. The national board of psychologists published a official communiqué because they received too many calls from people. They said it was normal in this time of confinement to talk to the walls or the objects in your house, and to call them only in case the objects talked back.

    What would they think if they knew I’m talking to a whale and it’s giving me advice for my writing? I can even hear them as it sends me short audio. I haven’t been able to figure out what they said in the audio though. I’m glad the advice for my writing do come directly translated and not in the form of a whale song. I’m grateful for technology in that case.

    Oh and one last mention. A friend told me about the current roller coaster of the stock market. I dreamt of a stocking market. I must say it was very colourful and the seller used their stockings in very creative ways.

    Keep the connection going! Talk to you soon Whale. I’ll have to find you a name. My pinky suggested Jorid so it will be my name for you.

    #5808
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Truth be told, April was missing the US. She missed all their little coterie of maids living in the shadows of the powerful. Missed the drama most of all.

    She’d been secretly texting Norma and May, while June was lazily sipping mojitos with Jacqui.
    Norma was fine, but May and the other alien staff had suddenly disappeared when the Secret Services had started to investigate more deeply into the staff’s backgrounds after all the kidnapping fiasco. At least, August had been covering for Norma, such kind soul he was. Besides, the President’s wife could no longer live without her butter chicken. But May and the others couldn’t face the music apparently. Funnily, they couldn’t find “real” American maids nowadays suited to replace them. Good luck with that!

    April couldn’t tell June, obviously, since her friend harboured such hatred for the system that had them put in jail. As for herself, she couldn’t argue with the fact they’d deserved it. Nothing a good lawyer couldn’t fix though. That’s why she loved the idea of America. Guilty as charged, indeed. Those charges now vanished.

    She’d thought first that it would fuel her inspiration nicely, but it was the opposite. The sudden extra time had distracted her entirely, and her inspiration seemed inaccessible.

    She was starting to make up her mind. She would go back, to her family in Arkansas. That could only be temporary of course, as her mother, bless her soul, would start to have her meet all the gents in the neighbourhood in the hopes to finally get her only daughter married. Talk about drama. If that doesn’t kick-start her inspiration engine, nothing would.

    Problem was, with the virus around spreading mass panic, there seemed to be no sure way to fly back. She would have to devise some circuitous plan.

    #5740
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Norma was taking the sheets for a clean when she ran into the tall black figure of Mr August in the neatly carpeted corridors that Finnley had got freshly cleaned. Those odd people from Alabama that had brought Barron back had been all too pleased to help with the carpet cleaning, gaining a contract with the Beige House rather than a one-time reward.

    Norma immediately started to blush like a teenybopper feeling silly hidden under the mass of untidy sheets. She dropped the heap at Mr August’s feet and fumbled around in utter confusion.

    August was a gentleman, and offered to help, while exchanging some innocent small talk. He was a married man after all. “Those carpets sure do look cleaner than they ever were.”

    “Yeah, that Finnley knows her bossing around business, that’s a fact.” reluctantly replied Norma, jealous that the conversation had to mention the other maid.

    “You look distressed Norma.” he paused looking genuinely concerned. “It’s nothing to do with the sacking of June & April, is it? Or is that the stress of all that sudden responsibility falling on your shoulder? Taking care of Mr. Barron and all?”

    “Oh yes, but no!” she immediately answered. “It was such an honor that Mistress Mellie Noma entrusted me with her child. The Lord will forgive me for speaking ill of them, but these two were not fit and proper to raise a child, with all that partying and …” she stopped thinking she sounded like a bitter spinster.

    “Amen.” smiled August. “Not to mention all the gossiping around.” he giggled.

    He rose from the floor and gave her back the folded sheet in a neat package.

    “Good luck with the kid. Now he’s back, there’s no telling what goes in this head of his. I still wonder how he managed to get on this little trip. I have to go, work to do before Pres. Lump is coming back from his impricotement hearings. Seems he won once again and will be here in no time.”

    #5676
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Ella Marie looked at the peculiar child sitting on the car seat next to her.  This was no normal kid, she knew that much. Looked like one, except that expression on his face, well! That was no baby looking out of those eyes. And the thoughts she was hearing coming from him! Ella Marie shivered and gave him another sidelong glance. He caught her eye and winked. Winked!

    “Well if this all aint the darnedest thing,” she said aloud.

    Echoing her thoughts, Jacqui agreed. “In all my years as a nanny I’ve never seen a wee bairn like this.  He’s giving me the creeps.”

    “Rude old bag,” thought the child,  his face reddening. “Take that,” as he filled his disposable diaper.

    Ella Marie gasped, reading his mind.

    #5599
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Norma (real name Noor Mary Chowdhury)

    She was born in 1983 Bombay, New York from a family of devout Indian Catholics. Her name “Noor” means “Light”, but she had it legally changed to Norma, her usual nickname, after the attacks of 2001, to avoid snide remarks or suspicion. As a child, she wanted to become a nun. At barely 18, shortly after 9-11, she ran away from an arranged marriage and never looked back. By juggling multiple low pay jobs, she managed to get enrolled in University and obtained a PhD in Social Studies. She then gave up a promising teaching career for a life of service. She landed a job at the Beige House during the previous President’s tenure, and despite her dislike of the new tenant, she kept her job, and is very proud of maintaining a high standard. As we know, she is still single.

    #5595
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I’m keeping you up,” said Norma, yawning. “Thanks for listening. And for the wine.”

    “Oh you weren’t whining really, well not much. Oh! I see what you mean,” replied May.  “Say, where’s that kid got to? Norma, help me find the kid!”

    But it was too late. Norma had gone. And so had the child she was supposed to be babysitting.

    May’s intention to search for it as a matter of urgency was abruptly sidelined by the supreme urgency of a visit to the nearest lavatory.  It was a peculiar child anyway, May thought, and if it had been hers, she no doubt wouldn’t have minded being rid of it, no questions asked.  But it would be embarrassing to admit that she’d failed: not just the failure to look after the child, but failed to kidnap it either, and that she had simply lost it instead.

    #5584
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    May quickly realized that she hadn’t planned this out properly at all. While Norma was fishing in her handbag for paper tissues, May switched the glasses of wine, so that she had the one with the laxatives herself. It wasn’t fair to inflict that on Norma, who was already verging on distraught. And May was feeling bloated anyway. A good clear out wouldn’t do her any harm.

    May listened with genuine sympathy to Norma’s distress at being mistreated, but a glance at the kitchen clock prompted her to interrupt.

    “Gotta go to the john,” she said, wondering if she had the vernacular right. She had almost said “must pop to the loo”, but that was the kind of lingo she used on the previous mission.  She had to send her finance a message. The rendezvous with the spinach pot was off.  Closing the bathroom door behind her, she reached for her phone and tapped the coded message.

    iggi nefa san forlik snoodetta

    Almost immediately there was a reply. No coded message this time, it was just a rolling eyes icon.  May sighed with relief. What had she been thinking to plan such a thing, on such short notice?

    Norma watched May leave the room, a little frown furrowing her brow. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt uneasy. May was acting guilty. Why? Without even knowing why she did it, she swapped her wine glass for the other one.  Immediately feeling appalled at such a silly impulse, she reached to swap them back, but it was too late.   May burst into the room, beaming.

    Norma was taken aback at the difference in May’s demeanour, which threw her into a mental quandary.  Had she mistaken a discomfort due to the need to use the lavatory for a guilty conscience?  And that impulse to switch the glasses!

    “Well, cheers!” she said shakily, holding up the wine glass and then draining it.

    “Bottoms up!” replied May, following suit.

    #5583
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    For background ideas and “what’s happening now already?” about the Aunties au Pair thread:

    • June
    • April
    • Norma (Noor Mary)
    • May (Merhnaz)
    • August
    • Pres. Lump
    • Barron
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