Monthly Archives: February 2013
Titus Salt alighted from his conveyance at Crow Nest Park and stretched out his long frame in relief. He breathed deeply of the fresh air, pleased to have left behind him the stench of the city for another day. George Weerth had the right of it when he had said “If anyone wants to feel how a poor sinner is tormented in Purgatory, let him travel to Bradford.”
Salt’s hound, a huge black beast the colour of his own hair, lolloped up to him and rested her big head against his leg in greeting. He ruffled the dog’s ear, and gave her his newspaper to carry before striding towards the big front door of the mansion. He slowed down as he felt the cramp in his calves after a day on his feet.
“Come, Kanute!” he called to the dog, which happily trailed in his wake as he entered the large front door.
“Hello, the house!” he called, before remembering that his wife was away this day, taking their daughter Fanny to visit relatives in Harrogate. He laid down his hat and topcoat for the maid to find and clean later and ambled to his study.
He was delighted to find that the maid had already lit a fire in the grate. Kanute padded over to the rug on her great paws and sat before the warmth, dropping the soggy newspaper on the floor. A stuffed owl on the mantlepiece looked down on the dog disapprovingly.
The flames flickered merrily, their glow brightening the darkening room, their warm reflections dancing from the clutter of objects filling every corner. A telescope, a globe, inkwells on the desk, shelves groaning with books and geological samples, plants and stuffed birds – all the accoutrements that a successful gentleman might be expected to gather to him in Victoria’s proud and prosperous realm.
Salt scratched Kanute’s head, and the heavy tail thumped against the floor. He crossed to his desk and sat down. He opened a drawer and withdrew a rolled paper. He unrolled it across the desk, weighing it at either side with inkstand and blotter. He peered closely at the paper, lowering his head.
Hmmm. He twirled his greying beard between his fingers. Cheerful though the firelight was, the rich dark oak-paneled walls drank too much of the radiance before it reached him.
He returned to the fireplace and lighted a spill, carrying the flame back to the desk where he lit the Argand oil lamp. A soft yellow glow illumined the desk, driven by best colza oil. He sat down and looked again.
A section of the Aire Valley lay depicted before him. The area he had chosen for his new mill was fully three miles from Bradford’s throttling stench. Surely people would work better in the clean air than in the centre of that stinking, breath-clogging hellhole.
He peered again at the map, trying to ascertain the exact boundary of the land that he had purchased. It was still too gloomy, and he sighed wearily.
“Though God Himself demand it, I cannot stand again,” he thought.
He took up a heavy brass hand-bell and shook it vigorously, dispatching a loud summons through the house.
Shortly, the door opened and a maid entered. She was dressed in her working attire of dark ankle-length dress protected by a white pinafore. Her red hair was tied back, and her only adornment was a necklace from which depended a small silver skull. When he had first seen the necklace it had seemed to Salt a peculiar piece of jewellery for a young woman, but he was not one to hold harmless affectations against a person.
Kanute’s tail thumped rhythmically against the rug as the maid entered. Kanute liked the maid. Indeed, Salt liked her too. She performed her duties well.
“You rang, sir?”
“Eileanora, yes,” he replied, “Would you please light the candles? My legs seem to have decided to withdraw their labour.”
“Yes, sir.” Eileanora bobbed a quick curtsey and crossed to the fireplace, where she lit the several wicks of a candelabrum set on the mantlepiece in front of a mirror.
“Thank you,” Salt said, “Perhaps you could also bring a pot of tea? And perhaps a dish of those delicious comfits from Harrogate?”
“Sir,” she curtsied, and left the room. Salt turned his attention back to his plans. Perhaps if he could persuade Lady Rosse to sell him her land to the west, he might consider further building.
His train of thought was interrupted by Eileanora’s knock at the door. For goodness sake, she had only just left.
“Yes?” he enquired, a little sharply.
The maid bobbed into the room once more.
“Begging your pardon, sir, but there are some gentlemen to see you.”
“Who are they? Do they have cards?”
“No, sir. I did ask, but they wouldn’t tell me who they were. Shall I fetch the groom, sir?”
Salt sighed deeply. He’d better go and see what they wanted. Perhaps they were workers looking for a job. He stood up with a groan.
“Very well, Eileanora, you can—”
The door behind the maid crashed open, sending her flying across the room. She sprawled across the floor by Kanute, who jumped up, barking loudly.
Three men burst into the study with a clattering of boots on the wooden floor. Kanute barked even more deafeningly.
“Shut that fucking dog up!” barked the ruffian at the front, brandishing a pair of pistols. The two with him each bore a knife and a club. Thieves! Desperate ones, too, if they had the nerve to break into a gentleman’s house.
“There’s no—” began Salt.
“Shut it!” ordered the one with the pistols. Salt took this as a sign that he was the leader of the trio. One of the others moved over towards Eileanora and pointed his knife at her.
“You shut that cur up now or I’ll bash its brains in!” he snarled. The maid got to her feet, stroked Kanute, and spoke quietly to the dog. The barking ceased, though the dog sat alertly, watching carefully.
“There is very little money in the house,” explained Salt.
“We don’t want your money,” spat the leader. He wore a brown jacket and trousers, neither of them displaying the threadbare appearance that one might expect of a ruffian thief. In fact, he did not have the appearance of a member of the working class at all.
“What do you want?” asked Salt.
“Well,” said the man to the left, “I wouldn’t mind availing myself of the maid service.” He leered at the demure servant. She looked down at her feet, avoiding his gaze.
“Watch your manners,” ordered the leader, and his henchman took a step back, chastened.
“Well now, Mr. Mayor,” began the head ???ruffian, lowering his pistols, “You have been ruffling a few feathers lately. Very important feathers. For example, with all this claptrap that you’ve been trying to push through the council, trying to force a by-law to compel factory owners to use these expensive Smoke Burners.”
“It would significantly improve the health of—”
“Bollocks it would,” interrupted the intruder, “There’s nowt wrong with a bit of smoke. Exercises the lungs, it does.”
“I disagree,” Salt argued. The leader of these men, at least, seemed quite articulate. Perhaps he would be open to reasoned argument.
“Might you be a medical man then, Mr. Salt?” enquired the intruder.
“I am not, as you must know. But I see all the cholera in the city. What causes that, pray, if not for filth, for grime, and a lack of clean air?”
“Lustful living,” said the man, “Lustful urges and the drinking of cheap alcohol. That’s my honest view, sir, but my honest view is not what matters. What matters is the view of my employers.”
“I am no supporter of lustful living. I am no supporter of any sin, Mister..?”
“Chuff off. You don’t need to know my name.”
“Very well,” Salt replied calmly, raising his hands to mollify the man. He’d been getting somewhere then, he was sure, but had put a foot wrong by asking the man’s name. He should try to take this gently.
“I can see that you are a reasoning man,” he began. “Come and look here, at these plans.”
He beckoned the man over to his desk, where the Aire Valley map was spread out. The ruffian approached, pistols held loosely at his sides now.
Salt indicated the area below the River Aire.
“This is about three miles west of the city, along the Aire,” he explained, “Mill workers here would have unsoiled air and clean living, and that, I maintain, can benefit not only the workers, but we owners, too. A happy worker is a good worker.”
“According to my superior, who is paying me a great deal of money to visit you today, a happy worker is nothing of the sort. A happy worker is a worker who then imagines he has a right to that happiness. And once a worker has one right, he’ll want others. Higher pay, more expensive housing, costly doctoring. Once the lower class gets a foothold, there’ll be no stopping them.”
The man’s voice rose as he espoused thoughts obviously dearly held by himself as well as by his mysterious superior.
“I have evidence to the contrary,” continued Salt, “From my own woollen mills. I have fitted the Rodda Smoke Burners. I therefore have a healthier workforce. They are sick less often, for a start.”
“And it cost you a packet, didn’t it? These burners are expensive things. You might be able to afford such doings, but others cannot. You just desire to drive others out of business so that you can obtain their mills for yourself and grow your empire. I know greed, and I see right through your fancy words, Mr. Salt!”
“But I….” Salt paused, unsure of how to proceed in the face of this man’s rising anger, then continued, trying to keep his voice calm.
“Look, what would you say if I told you that I will soon build a new mill in this place.” He swept his hand across the map, “Out in the countryside, where I can properly test my hypothesis. Perhaps even houses, with running water on tap from the river? What would you say then?”
“I’d say that you’ve signed your own death certificate, Mr. Mayor.”
The man’s lip curled, and he pushed Salt back down into the desk chair. He raised a pistol and pressed the barrel against Salt’s forehead. Salt stared up wide-eyed at the anger in the man’s twisted face and prepared to meet his God.
A narrow beam of pale blue light shone out of the man’s left eye, and the eyeball melted. The beginning of a scream was cut off as the light swept through the face, slicing away the top of the man’s head.
As the body of his assailant fell away and the pistols clattered to the floor, the figure of Eileanora was revealed to Salt. She stood erect, a determined look on her face. Her right arm was outstretched, and in her hand was a bizarre device from which emerged the thin beam of blue light.
Her left hand gripped the throat of one of the henchmen, and as Salt gazed on aghast, a simple twist of her wrist dispatched him from this life. His corpse fell to the floor. Kanute yipped approvingly.
The thin blue light swept inexorably across the room and sliced into the third man’s chest. He too fell lifeless, tumbling like one of Fanny’s rag dolls.
Eileanora touched her skull necklace with her left forefinger and spoke.
“Hey, it’s Tabby. I’m done here. Extraction, please.”
She shimmered, then simply disappeared, her maid’s uniform falling still warm to the floor as it was left behind.
Inspired by this pic of Lou & The Llamas now infamous ‘Naked Ukelele” gig, I went looking on the internet for other uke-playing babes. What better way to fill my time between writing books? Here you can enjoy the fruits of my labours.
And fear not, there will be a follow-up ‘Ukulele Dudes’ post, although those are slightly harder to find although rather funnier when you do.
Here’s a likely lady. She’s hung out her washing to dry in the sun, and now wants nothing more than to don a swimming cossie and warble ‘Princess Poo-Poo-Ly’ with the breeze on her thighs. You’ll see as we go along, it’s a popular thing to display some degree of nakedness while playing a ukulele. I do it myself all the time.
Yet more thigh-flashing here as a gaggle of nymphettes defy park regulations and perform a bench-borhne version of ‘I Want To Marry A Lighthouse Keeper’. Interesting wrist action from the lady bottom right.
A daring flash of knee is all we get from this smiling lassie, thumb-strumming along to ‘Honolulu Baby’ while shaking her sable coverings. From the smooth reflection and the way that it flows and curves, the uppermost question in my mind has to be ‘Is that made of real silk or is it her actual hair?’
Those of you who know me well will have long been aware that I do like a woman who fills a big trouser, and this buxom foursome certainly tick my boxes, although I doubt I’d be allowed anywhere near theirs. They’re obviously about to launch into ‘It Must Be Jelly Cos Jam Don’t Shake Like That’. Lovely socks.
Oooh, sexy. Sexy and louche. Yeah baby, nice shoes. Play ‘Chippy Tea’ for me, you beguiling temptress. Of course, if she’s still alive she’ll be well into her nineties by now. There’s a sobering thought.
Three right happy pluckers here, judging by they’re right hands. What in the name of Satan’s pointy penis are they wearing though? The dress on the right looks like it was ironed by me. Bananarama here will be entertaining you tonight with ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ or I’m a Dutchman.
Anyone for ten knees? See what I did there? Ha ha haha! Running through the snow in odd frocks makes for big old smiles despite those head-dress thingies. What song could you play in those temperatures, I wonder? ‘When Hilo Hattie Does The Hilo Hop’, I’ll be bound.
I’m not 100% convinced that these delights of femininity aren’t blokes in drag, actually, but let’s give them the benefit because they’re so well turned out. Now, to keep up with the theme I so cavalierly started earlier, I have to think of a song for these moptops to perform. ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’ obviously.
Oh, she’s nice, what with the stockings and the headscarf and that come-hither expression and all. ‘Yes Sir, That’s My Baby!’ … is the song that she would sing, sitting on her front steps there waiting for me to carry her indoors and ravish her. Ahem, sorry, as you were.
Blimey, look at her second from left. “Look into my eyes the eyes not around the eyes in the eyes you’re under”. Is probably her favourite chat-up line before launching into a wild abandoned version of ‘Purple Haze’ and setting fire to her ukulele. She’s pretty on the right, mind.
If that’s a fag hanging out of her mouth, she’s pretty cool. If it’s the single tooth she has left in her mouth, then no. Nice plant, love, now sing ‘All I Want For Christmas’ for me.
More knees and those delightful knitted swimsuits that showed off a girl’s figure so well. Not sure about those socks, though. Honorary cool guy on the right there is well proud of his flag shirt, isn’t he? “Oh yeah, it’s got a flag on it. Flags are cool now.” Their chanson du jour? ‘Oh Lord Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz’ cos her with the uke reminds me of Janis Joplin. A bit.
Here’s another Janis for you. Janis Paige, apparently. I have no idea who that is, but she has succumbed to the naked thighs fashion of ukulele playing. She also hes extremely pointy boobs, which must get in the way of her upswing when strumming along to the likes of ‘Like A Virgin’.
You can more or less make-up your own jokes for this one, can’t you? The girls look like a big load of fun, so they’d probably start singing ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’ don’t you think? I wonder if they’ve nailed that bloke by the ankles to that board, and the bowl’s to catch his blood when they drain him. Probably not.
Cor, look at the fretboard on that. She’s a ‘Come, Josephine, on My Flying Machine’ girl and no mistake. And yes, Flying Machine is a honking great euphemism.
This may be a competition to find Miss Spalding Maid or…. oh hell, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. While you try to spot the ukulele, I’ll just sing you a short snippet of ‘I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate’.
Swimming costumes and ukuleles again. They go together like bacon and banana in a butty. The boy at the back is well impressed by their three-part harmonies on ‘My Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock’.
Hippy ukulele chick probably playing some song about flowers, or something by Joni Mitchell. Ooooh, I wonder what ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ would sound like on ukulele?
Back to the cossies and the naked thigh meme. These girls are very happy in their silly hats, walking along, singing ‘I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside’. Prom prom prom.
WARNING! WARNING! NSFW BIT
I warned you but you still looked, you rude lot. This lassie has forgotten her vest, and will probably end up with croup. Look at her hair! No, not those, her hair. Now, if only I knew a song about nipples, I’d have her singing that, but I don’t, cos I am so INNOCENT. She can be singing a Frank Zappa song instead. This one.
Arthur Harold Raby, my father-in-law, died on Tuesday 5th February. He was eighty-five. A bluff Yorkshireman with a dry wit, he drove railway engines for his whole working life. His final journey as a driver was an Inter City 125 express from London, terminating at Doncaster. Arthur terminated at Scarborough at about half past four in the afternoon.
This post is not so much about Arthur, however, as about his funeral, and the people I met there. East Riding Crematorium in Octon, near Driffield, is a quiet and beautiful place. Grassy lawns and reflective pools, and inside a lovely stained glass window showing a boat buggering off into a beautiful sunset beneath a rainbow. ‘Ship of Souls’ it is called, and made me think of the ending of the Lord of the Rings.
Amongst many cards we received was this from Arthur’s Salvation Army friend, Albert Skinner, one of only three people ever to be made an honorary citizen of Filey. “Please excuse scribble,” he says, in writing far better and more legible than mine, “But it’s not easy at 94.” Albert did attend the funeral, although it is hard for him to walk now, and he proudly wore his Sally Army uniform. The service was led by the lovely Major Susan, although I kept forgetting and almost called her ‘Major Barbara’ a few times, and once ‘Major Tom’.
I also had lovely talks with relatives not seen for a very long time, including a fascinating chat with Mary’s Uncle Bob, a one-time FIFA referee. He once sent off three players and booked eight in one match. For swearing. Imagine that happening now, eh? One of Arthur’s domino mates was an ex-goalkeeper who had played at Rawmarsh Welfare, the now-defunct football club next to the street where I grew up. We used to sneak in through a hole we’d dug beneath the boundary wall.
I called shotgun to sit in the front of the limo going back through the picturesque villages that dot the East Yorkshire countryside. Wood-panelled dashboard, gorgeous interior, and a driver who was also a grave-digger when he wasn’t driving. Another fascinating chat.
We’d arranged a ‘do’ at Arthur’s Snooker Club, one of the places he played his dommies, and a belting ‘spread’ it was. They also had Theakston Mild on draft – win! A tear came to mine eye when they told us that they have honoured Arthur by creating ‘The Arthur Raby Memorial Trophy’, to be competed for annually by the club’s domino players.
Arthur would have loved that. Sithee, Dad.
My friend Thom recently posted on Twitter this happy pic of his loved ones just walking along a snowy street. It struck me as a perfect example of how such photographs capture one of those moments in time that aren’t special or posed, but just normal life passing by. This type of candid photograph shows normality, since people rarely pose or pretend when walking. A photo like this is capable of encapsulating the very feel of a point in history far better than any overthought pic. In this case, check out the clothes, the cars, and the bright lighting. How might this photograph seem to folk in fifty years time?
Looking through my own family photographs I have come across several like this. My immediate emotional response to these windows into the past is that I could simply step forward and say hello to my forebears, and carry their shopping.
My In-laws on the left, and my parents on the right, both couples striding out into the sunshine of a bright new future shortly after the Second World War.
Here’s Mabel & Wilfred, my grandparents, at the seaside on what looks like a rainy day in the late Twenties. Much of the joy of this sort of photograph is in the background. I love the boy running in this one, and the bloke scratching his arse. Nice sartorial choice, Grandad.
That’s Wilf & Mabel on the left, with my Dad in cap and short trousers carrying a spade. Uncle Norman wears a wonderful cap.
Mavis’s grandparents on the right, Jim and Kate. Look at the lovely cars, and the bus. Both pics from the Thirties.
Off to late-Fifties Scarborough now, a shot more remarkable for the teddy-boy in the background than for Mavis’s rotund Grandma Vera, ubiquitous bag o’stuff clutched in her sweaty palm.
Schoolkids in the Sixties here. Yes (sigh) that’s me on the left. The girl I’m walking with is, if memory serves, Alex Kolundzic. She was very pretty.
Three working men on their way to… well, who knows? Work, home? Perhaps a football match or the pub? I love the expression on the face of the feller with the cap. I’m pretty sure this is in Mexborough in the Fifties, and the bloke on the right is Mavis’s Uncle Jimmy. A sign at the back advertises the Victoria Restaurant, which serves North Sea Fish and caters for parties.
Another shot from Mexborough, from a winter many years earlier than the above. Mid-Thirties, I think. More bikes, fewer cars, and a lovely Woolworths that I remember had a gorgeous wooden floor and old-fashioned counters even in the sixties. This is Mavis’s great grandmother, Ann-Eliza.
“Yes, Wombie,” you say, “I’d love to buy a ‘sexy, funny, violent and thrilling’ adventure, but where can I find the different versions?” Let me be your guide, delicious reader.
Here’s your paperback version for reading on the loo. As usual from Lulu, the quality is superb. CLICK HERE TO BUY THIS.
A luxury hardback version with an especially beautiful cover design by Thom White. This’ll look ace on your coffee table, and you’ll be the envy of your mates (if they’re a bit sad, that is). In addition to its hardbackness, this features graphics and pics inside, extra aords from the author, and the inclusion of the word ‘bosky’ in the text, a word not found in the paperback. CLICK HERE TO BUY THIS.
An e-version for you modern kids that can be used on Nook and iThingies. The book will appear on the Nook and iBookstore sites shortly, but for now you can CLICK HERE TO BUY THIS.
You all know what a Kindle is by now. This version will fit nicely on yours. You can get hold of a free Kindle app for your phone if you don’t want to buy the actual tech, and then you can