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"A Scottish Wind in the Willows on high end skunk."

"I enjoy Kate's stories..."
"A fun and spooky read..."

"The characters are so involving and
loveable that you do want them to really exist. It does read like you've
stumbled across someone's long lost diary from and alternate timeline/universe.
I quickly got into the story and loved every second of reading it...
total gem of a read by an author who deserves a lot more recognition."


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Recorded Voice Of Virginia Woolf

The Ersatz Sweat Lodge

Tuppence's fever is still raging and we haven't found any Monster Munch.

In desperation, we turned to Val Nark in the hope that she might give us some of her 'own-made'.  Of course, given her plans for stocking her farm shop freezer with choice 'Spring lamb' (see recent posts),  we knew that she might give us advice that would finish him off.  But we were prepared to run that risk.

'Tuppence is diseased Tuppy,' said Geoffrey, flapping from mantlepiece to window to arm of settee, and back again, as he always does when he's anxious, 'And what's more he's pumped full of Lem-sip.  He's not organic any more.   Val won't want him in her freezer.  I'm sure of it.'

'All right.  Let's bite the bullet and go up to the tourist car park.  She'll probably be in the post office yurt today.  I think it's her day for posting out orders from her Ebay wholefoods shop.'

'Try creating an ersatz sweat lodge of course,'  snapped Val, when we turned up, shame-faced and nervous. 'And ply him with Junior Aspirin.  The Monster Munch carry-on is simply the ravings of a spoilt and horribly precocious child, and must be ignored at all costs. Don't you two have ANY common sense? Not that I need to ask. You're as thick as two short planks. Three, probably.  If not four.  Or indeed five.'

'I've already given him my tartan knee rug.  And we've got him on a Lem-sip drip,' I replied,  dander up.

'Yes the laudanum didn't work,' added Geoffrey, 'We thought perhaps an opium tabloid and some senna tea...well perhaps not the senna tea...'  I gave him a look, and he fell silent.

Val gripped a piece of string between her teeth and glared at us as she ripped the last piece of brown packing tape from its cardboard roll.

'Oh stop being pathetic and get on with it. I've six boxes of goji berry flapjacks to send out to valued customers in the next post and I don't want any bad feedback. Some of us DO have a life you know!'

And she padded barefoot across the multi-coloured rag rug flooring to the back of the yurt, and an untidy pile of books which Dave sells - or tries to - online.  'Here.  You owe me five pounds and think yourselves lucky I'm not charging you postage.  I know you haven't got the money on you and I know you think you'll get away with not paying me.  But you're completely wrong.  I will hound you until I get my money and I am not put off by extortionate Small Claims Court charges.  It's the principle that matters to me.  I expect to be paid tomorrow morning at first light.  Now go away.'  She threw us a slim, tattered, paperback volume entitled 'How to Cure Everything with an Ersatz Sweat Lodge',  by Mrs Stanley Wrench, dated 1933.

More on what we did next,  later...........

or find more Tales in my e-books, on Amazon, here...

Friday, 23 January 2015

Monster Munch, and the Lack thereof

Tuppence's fever reached a crisis last night.  It seemed to occur after an argument we had about who was really responsible for getting him out of gaol.  Geoffrey and I brought the gelignite,  and set the charge...
'But I sawed through my shackles Uncle Tuppy!' shrilled Tuppence. 'If I hadn't done that you'd have had to do it and you simply wouldn't have coped with the bending over!  Not with your dicky back that you're always going on about.'
And with that he fell back on his pillows, exhausted.
We'll have to find some more Monster Munch (pickled onion flavour) and find them fast.  But where?  Over in her health shop yurt Val Nark sells an 'own-made' version, adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe,  alongside her flapjacks and her sesame snaps, but that won't do, obviously.  What we need is the 'real deal' - a Walkers multi-pack, crammed with salt, sugar and chemicals.  Hopefully then my nephew will get the Roses back in his woolly little cheeks.
Yes - Roses chocolates.  He's partial to them too. Only the soft centres though.  He doesn't like caramels or anything with nuts.

More updates from the sick-bay later.

Find plenty more Tuppy and Tuppence tales here

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Today's Walk - Loch Clunie (again)

loch clunie,  perthshire Sea Penguin

Loch frozen over (all but), geese huddled on the far side, buzzards keening to each other in the freezing cold.  Lots and lots of snowdrops.
Blue sky reflected in the ice.  The air was very still.  We threw stones onto the ice and there was a ringing echo.
I go here a lot and I've described this place before, so I won't go into it all again.  Click on the links below if you'd like to know more.

The Monster Munch Crisis

Tuppence has been ill with a mysterious fever ever since we busted him out of gaol.  The symptoms include 'ennui', extreme 'lethargy' and an inability to eat anything other than ham sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and huge amounts of pickled onion flavour Monster Munch.  He's been tucked up with four hot water bottles and a Lem-sip drip, and bundles of spiral-bound notebooks containing his Gaol Diaries.  He's been entertaining himself and fighting off the 'ennui' by reading them to us as we sit solicitously by his sick-bed.

'Here I am, stuck in gaol.  Or what passes for gaol in this godforsaken place. It's a cave, right at the bottom of the cliffs, with an iron grille across the entrance to prevent my 'egress'.  As if! They obviously don't know me.
Only half an hour ago I was chained to the wall - all four legs, shackled and padlocked together by a gang of sniggering rats.  The very same gang of rats who used to pedal bikes to power up my moog synthesiser during gigs at the Puff Inn, and who cheered me along during numerous nefarious-style adventures (see e-books for details).
Fortunately they're so dense that they failed to guess that I happened to have a miniature Swiss Army knife hidden between my teeth and my cheek.  As soon as they left I manoeuvered its saw attachment to the front of my mouth and in a trice I was free.  The rusty iron crumbled under the fine Swiss-made steel of the saw, and...'

'Oh DO hurry up and get to the bit where we burst through the iron grille with a carefully-calculated charge of gelignite!' Geoffrey interrupted.

'No.  Not until you fetch me some more Monster Munch.  There's only one bag left and if I don't get a constant supply I'm likely to relapse.'

Geoffrey and I exchanged glances.  We had obtained our Monster Munches from Stormy Petrel along at the Puff Inn.  'That's your lot chaps,'  he'd said.  'All I've got left are some dry roasted nuts and some scampi fries.'
'Till when?'  we'd asked,  aghast.
'Till the next lot comes in to the tunnels of course.  You two know where I get my supplies.'

Of course we knew.  We knew only too well....smuggling,  and shipwrecks....and...

'Tuppence might have to make do with Val Nark's sesame snaps and yogurt 'n' goji berry flapjacks till the next high Springs,' gasped Geoffrey,  'And I don't think he'll like it.'

'Who would?'

More of this later........

Find lots more Tuppy, Geoffrey and Tuppence tales on my Amazon page here

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Tuppence has two 'Diaries' written.  One is his 'When I was Away Having Adventures All on my Own by Myself' diary, and the other is his 'Gaol - and How I Busted Out' diary.
As a matter of fact it was me and Geoffrey who 'busted him out', but I don't like to nitpick so I won't mention that again.  Except when I get around to telling you all about it.

In other news,  Val Nark has written a recipe book, aimed at the 'gourmet vegan' market.  Oddly enough it doesn't mention anything about 'Spring lamb',  multiple bird roasts or any of the other so-called 'free range' meat-related products secreted away at the bottom of the Farm Shop freezer.
Expect to see it for sale on Amazon very soon.

More later.

Snow for a day - all gone - then mud - and the first snowdrops...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Sorry - no new posts (apart from this one) probably till Monday or Tuesday.  I'm a bit busy doing a 'job' *chokes slightly, recovers - needs must*.
I've also been completely gob-smacked by events in Paris.  It's stopped me in my tracks a bit.  If it had happened in any other place it would have appalled me, but Paris feels especially close to home.  As a teenager I read a lot of French and American twentieth century literature and I desperately wanted to go there,  I DID go there, and in fact I spent quite a bit of time there (nothing fancy - doing a very boring job) when I was in my early twenties;  after that, I returned for numerous short visits whenever I could afford it, and later on I studied continental philosophy at university.  I love a lot of French literature and art, I love the cultural diversity of Paris, and generally always feel a very positive psychological connection with it, so to see such a vicious attack right at its heart is quite hard to absorb.  At the same time, given the way the world is now, it isn't altogether surprising, I'm sad to say.
I've been reading a lot of the comment around 'free speech' - my own view is that it should be just that in the artistic and literary field - 'free'.  There shouldn't be any limits outwith the personal sphere, unless you are actually harming another living being.  If I'm having a conversation with a group of people or a person whose beliefs differ from mine then I'll respect that out of decency and politeness, and will self-censor accordingly - if I'm writing a book or an article or painting a picture, then that is a different matter entirely.  I suppose that is where the arguments start.
More later, perhaps...

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Dark and the Deep (Part Two)

Find Part One here (or further down the page if you don't want to click on the link.)

Awful news.  Terrible events.  Tuppence is in gaol (or 'jail' if you must be all 21st century about it).
He's currently 'on remand' but things aren't looking good.
'We're going to have to either fix the jury or nobble the judge,' I said, biting my hooves.
'What?' said Geoffrey, slapping me across the knuckles.
'Ouch.  Pass me the vodka (we're on vodka just now, as that's what Sanity Claws left us at Yule, as he sped violently across the skies in his bean-tin chariot, dropping his load in his usual alarming fashion.  It wasn't what we asked for;  of course it wasn't.  It's NEVER what we ask for.  In all the years I've been writing letters to Sanity Claws, I've never ever got a single thing that I - )'
'TUPPY!  Concentrate!'
'Ooops.  Sorry Geoffrey.  I started to drift.  I'm just so annoyed about the vodka thing.  He knows full well I dislike it and yet That's What He Brought.  Or rather, dropped.'
'Will you please stick to the matter in hand?  Like your nephew's incarceration-style predicament, and your responsibility as his only surviving male relative, to DO something about it?'
'I think I'm finding it too stressful to think about that Geoffrey.  I'm trying to blot it out by dwelling on my resentment about the vodka.'
'Your resentment isn't putting you off drinking it.'
'No indeed.  And why should it?'  I sighed.  I knew that Geoffrey was right.  I'd have to Do Something to help Tuppence.  After all, he's helped me out of several tricky situations in the past (see any of the e-books for details).  And it wasn't as if he'd done anything terribly bad.  He'd only kidnapped the Narks, for the very good reason that they were planning to butcher him to sell in their farm shop in the Spring.  Unfortunately, or not, depending on your point of view - and mine tends towards the latter - he isn't letting on where he's keeping them.  And if he's in gaol, and nobody else knows where they are, they might starve to death.  And that could lead to a charge of murder - or manslaughter, at best.  And murder is a hangin' offence, Hereabouts.  And so is shoplifting, dropping litter, putting your washing out on a Wednesday, eating chips, farting in an enclosed space without opening a window, blowing up empty crisp packets and bursting them, smoking cigarettes At All - to list just a few offences that have suddenly appeared on the (previously empty) Rocky Outcrop Statute Book.  After eons of being extremely mild-mannered and liberal, we've found ourselves Under the Cosh of a highly illiberal regime.  All of a sudden,  we don't mess about.  At least, not in the way we used to.  More of that, later.  In the meantime,  we can't have Tuppence strung up.  .
'There's only one thing we can do,'  I said, standing up and draining my glass, then flinging it into the fireplace. 'We're going to have to bust him out.  Fetch the dustpan and brush Geoffrey and clean up that broken glass from the fireplace, and I'll get the gelignite from under the stairs.  Let's kick some BUTT.'

More later....................

Babe I'm Gonna Leave You - Led Zeppelin

Gandalf's Fist - Gardens of the Lost

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Inspiration: Only Connect

Looking through my work on now-abandoned website Shortbread Stories I came across this, which I wrote for their blog three years ago.

Kate Smart's Blog › Inspiration: Only Connect | Shortbread

The ineluctable process of life has to be the basic, primary resource and inspiration for any creative person.  No matter how abstruse the work, it will emerge through the constantly-shifting prism of the author's life and experiences as an organic being;   the author who is living and growing and developing as a unique spirit among other organic beings, all doing exactly the same thing.
Is any thought or idea original, therefore?   Of course.  There may be many common experiences and many things that resonate because of our shared humanity but we also experience the world as individuals and respond to it accordingly.  The way that we express ourselves is unique, because we are all unique beings.   Isn't it such a joy when you find something written that does resonate, and makes you feel less alone on the planet - and maybe a bit less weird?  Conversely as a writer, it is marvellous when a reader responds to something you have written, and you get a sense of the power and strength, and the potential for good, of that shared humanity.   “Only connect”, as E.M. Forster famously said.
Then there is the matter of the interaction between the conscious and the unconscious mind.  We are deluded if think we can manage our minds; we can't.  And thank goodness for it, because otherwise no decent creative work would ever be made.  The unconscious is a powerful force that will irrupt through the membrane of the organised, conscious mind, and there is nothing that we can do to prevent this.  It recharges us, stimulates us, disturbs us – sometimes frightens us – and keeps us spiritually alive.  This is the part of us that responds to bodily memory;  a dream-world of shadow and chaos behind the world of language.  The sharp pang in your heart produced by the expression glimpsed momentarily  in some stranger’s  eyes as they stand on a railway platform as your train gathers speed and disappears forever;  the poignant yellow of a woman’s dress as she moves through a crowded square on a summer’s day, that reminds you of something that feels oddly significant but that will forever elude you;  a glimpse of a certain type of stubble in the damp,  rotting fields of late autumn that makes your flesh creep disproportionately, but you have no idea why.   This is the site of phobias, repression, and pain; and also of pleasure and wonder.   It responds to the sensory, non-verbal world, and makes us feel.  What is that discomfort, that strange pain?  Where has that come from?  Why do I feel this way?  What does it remind me of?  Why now? And when you sit with that for a while, it might come to you why, and you might be able to write about it. 
And even if you never find out why, you might end up writing about it anyway, despite your best intentions not to.
Two of my favourite writers are Colette, and George Orwell.   Both were staggeringly productive, and both wrote very openly from primary experience.   Among several other subjects, Colette drew upon her work on the stage to write vivid, fictionalised accounts of theatrical life, and also wrote a beautiful book about her mother, Sido.   Her inspirations were people, relationships, love, cats, food, nature.   Orwell wrote famously about politics and society, and drew on his own experiences living rough, for example, for essays, magazine articles and books such as Down and Out in Paris and London.  His Diaries are a joy to read in themselves, and you can see how his work evolved  from those daily notes. 
I have been trying to narrow down my own sources of inspiration; there are many.  Everything really, which is the point I was making at the start.  Everything is an inspiration.  Just being alive in a world of people, most of whom are very strange indeed, I’m pleased to say.   We’re bombarded by conversations,  language, relationships, and the general ghastliness and wonder of life.  My work as a mental health counsellor some years ago, talking to people with a huge range of human anxieties and dilemmas provided me with a particularly fascinating insight into a certain dynamic.   Another rich source nowadays is the internet;  there is no longer such a need for a writer to listen at keyholes or eavesdrop in cafes; reading other people’s “time-lines” and online “convos” is a very similar activity, which you can do from the comfort of your own  fireside.
There are different layers, aren’t there, to inspiration.  There is the surface layer of the here and now, and then there are background layers of past experience that colour one’s perception of the present.  And then there are the marvels of books, films  and music.
I have always been a music fan, and my long-standing preference for Led Zeppelin definitely colours my writing.  I went through a phase of listening to Gregorian chant and Hildegard of Bingen in an effort to improve my mind, but it didn’t last. 
And like most people, my inner world contains a range of favourite childhood books, TV,  films, and so forth.  I was lucky to grow up  among  the beautiful  scenery of highland Perthshire and part of me will forever be in a half-imaginary, half-real world of endless summers,  dusty schoolrooms, laburnum bushes, lush wooded hills,  lochs and rivers;  inhaling the mysterious smell of greasepaint at free dress rehearsals at Pitlochry theatre, then “stalking” the best-looking actors with my friends and scaring them half to death in that feral, anarchic way that groups of twelve year old girls sometimes have.  Sounds idyllic, but of course life is rarely just as it appears.  Which is just as well, for writers.
Sometimes the bumpy parts  are the most interesting and rewarding, in the end.  But that is not always the case.   Overcoming adversity – or not - now there’s another source of inspiration for many.  Do you write about reality?  Do you change it, to make things turn out the way you wish they had? Or do you bury the lot in a denial-fuelled fantasy world?  Whatever the case, it’s all come from you.

Read more: Kate Smart's Blog › Inspiration: Only Connect | Shortbread 

Friday, 2 January 2015

My Achievements in 2014

Looking back through my photographs, I've been for a few walks, grown a few vegetables, baked a few cakes, read a few books.
Hardly written a damned thing.
Hardly socialised, at all.
Earned very little.
Basically, I've been treading water.  Sometimes this can be a constructive thing, if you feel that you've 'learned something', or 'grown', spiritually.
But I really don't feel that.
This has to change, before I lurch into my grave.

Thursday, 1 January 2015