Irish legends, including the Black Nun

LEGENDS

Ireland is a country that resonates with legends. Leprechauns, little green men who will give you gold at the end of their rainbow, or even as the keeper of Lucky Charms, immediately come to mind. Leprechauns are thought to be fairies who take on the form of old men, stand at about three feet high, wearing green or red suits, and notoriously have a substantial beard. They are typically mischievous creatures, preying on the unsuspecting. If you feel that you have had a string of bad luck, you may have a leprechaun to blame. Where might you come across such a creature? You need to make your way to Carlingford, in County Down, a place regularly cited as a spot where these little troublesome little men frequent.

Have you ever heard of a “changling” This is quite an obscure idea. If you believe the legend surrounding these creatures, they are the children of fairies who have been deformed. Given fairies seem to be shallow and won’t love these children no matter what, they would often sneak into town and swap out their changelings for human babies, who were more aesthetically pleasing. Changelings are generally miserable creatures who only experience joy when there is grief, pain, or destruction occurring.

If you fear you might in the company of a changling, what about the legend of the banshee? The banshee is basically a fairy messenger of death and of the underworld. When someone is at the point of death, she lets out a piercing wail rattling the souls of anyone hearing it. The banshee can take the form of an old haggard woman or by contrast a beautiful young woman. Regardless of her form if you see and hear her screams, you or someone in your family will die soon.

Anyone familiar with the town of Ballycastle will relate the legend of Julia McQuillan, also known as “The Black Nun”, who lived in the Bonamargy Friary in the 1600’s. The Friary still stands today in ruins. MacQuillen wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. Legend has it if you walk around the black nun’s grave 7 times clockwise and 7 times counterclockwise and then place a hand through the hole you can summon the ghost of the black nun. A worn Celtic cross (rounded with a hole in the centre) marks her grave at the west end of the main church. This woman was a gifted prophet who predicted that a red haired priest would come from far away to say mass in the church at Murlock and would drown the following day at a place called the Devils churn (Pan’s rock) near Ballycastle. The prediction came to pass, as red haired Father James McCann, drowned whilst swimming off Pan’s rock after saying mass at Murlock. Other revelations about the future included “The time would come when we wouldn’t know the difference between winter and summer except for the leaves on the trees. The infamous Black Nun also made similar prophesies to the Nostradamus ‘Yellow race” prophesies.

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Men watch out for Black Widows!

Black Widow inner image
You come home from work, perhaps your loving wife greets you with a kiss. The smell of the dinner your wife has prepared wafts from the kitchen. You exchange small talk and sit down for dinner. The food looks good and wholesome…but there’s a catch…your wife has only gone and laced it with arsenic…you have succumbed to a Black widow.

There are quite a number of them out there… Back in the mid 1860s, we encounter Lydia Sherman who was facing life with an unemployed husband and six dependent children. She found the idea of getting divorced as unappealing, her answer lay in poison a cheap and easy solution. So she served her husband a bowl of oatmeal gruel laced with arsenic. Following this, she gave arsenic-laced chocolate to her six children and calmly collected the insurance money.

On to pastures new Lydia found a wealthy farmer considerably older than her. She didn’t bide her time she poisoned his clam chowder a year later.
After hitting the marriage trail again she just couldn’t help but poison her third husband for good measure. Between 1864 and 1871, Lydia Sherman dispatched 10 people to an early grave. Dubbed “The Derby Poisoner,” “America’s Queen Poisoner,” or “Connecticut’s ‘Lucrezia Borgia’,” Lydia Sherman was accused of murder in 1871. She escaped the gallows because women were not sentenced to death at the time. Instead, she received the maximum penalty of life in prison.

Gesche Gottfried, seemingly a sweet attractive blond had men flocking to her doorstep, only to choose a loser alcoholic called Mittenberg, a handsome yet unsuitable man who she married in 1815.Their marriage proving a disaster Gesche took a lover, while deciding it was best to get shot of her husband. Having slipped arsenic into his beer, with no suspicians raised as to all and sundry he’d died alcohol poisoning, her next move was to induce her lover into marriage. He declined, due to her having two children, so she promptly poisoned them. When her parents raised objects to the marriage she cherished, of course they joined her list of victims. Due to his persistent refusal to marry her, Gesche poisoned her lover, however they did marry on his deathbed and Gesche was recipient of all of his fortune. She was finally brought to justice, the exact number of her victims is hard to define, but it could be up to 30.

Madeleine de Brinvilliers, a French aristocrat was reckless in the way she went about poisoning people, her Father and two brothers were among hher victims, her motives finacial. She attempted to poison her husband , having earlier taken on a cavalry officer lover. Her end was not so happy she was tortured, beheaded, and her body was burned at the stake in 1676.

Vera Renczi from Bucharest was a woman of rare beauty sent a grand total of sent two husbands, 32 lovers, and her own son to early graves.
What can we deduce? Most Black Widows are after their husband’s fortunes and are particularly interested in insurance money. Some are distrustful of men, driven by jealousy and paranoia. Another trait of a Black Widow is they have to be accomplished liars, to cover the tracks of their heinous crimes, especially if their murders are botched jobs, as in the case of Michele Williams who murdered her husband, successful businessman Greg, claiming she had been shot by an intruder, adding other unlikely stories in the mix, which only thrust more suspicion in her direction.

It is advisable that any Black Widow, plays the role of the grieving widow, something Michele failed to do, the next day going a restaurant for a celebratory big fry-up breakfast. It was later claimed Michele was a man-eater, who moved from one man to the next to get what she could, living the dream life. Under the pressure of the police Michele kept changing her story, coming up with ludicrous alternatives, for example that her husband had committed suicide and that she was simply try to hide this fact from her young daughter. In the end all fingers pointed to her and she was arrested. This compulsive liar continued to spin lie after lie, including saying she was pregnant with twins. It also turned out she was dating a toy boy Gene, a personal trainer. After angering judges, repeatedly changing her story, she finally was awarded a sturdy prison sentence.

In my book Flight of Destiny, one of my stories is called Black Widow. A woman Mercedes Shwartz, is a young woman whose marriage was short-lived. She lives in a remote luxurious house, on her own. She lures a man to house and then after they have had sex has his inexplicable urge to kill him. Suddenly luring unsuspecting men, having sex with them and murdering them becomes a ritual way of life for her.

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Births and Dispatches on Christmas Day…

jesus-birth

We have no choice (normally) the day we die….William Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday…There are certain days you wouldn’t wish to die on…one such being Christmas day.

Did you know the great Charlie Chaplain passed away on Christmas Day?
Joan Miro, the Spanish surrealist painter, died at his home in Majorca after a substantial life, aged 90.

Go back many years and you will find Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95), who also enjoyed longevity dying aged 95.

In more recent times you find in 2004 – Gennady Strekalov, Russian cosmonaut left earth for the afterlife.

In 1995, Rat Pack member Dean Martin died on Christmas Day, at the age of 78.

In 2006 – the legendary James Brown, rhythm & blues, gospel, jazz, soul and funk singer dubbed The Godfather of Soul passed away following a heart attack.

Eartha Kitt, American actress and singer, (she has that instantly recognizable voice) died in 2008.

There are those equally unlucky in a way who are born on Christmas day. Christmas birthdays are so rare: according to a 2006 Harvard University study, December 25 is least common day for births (after February 29)
One such person is Shane MacGowan, lead singer of The Pogues, also a man who must lick his lips around Christmas, as he must look forward to royalties for a well-known Christmas hit, The Fairytale of New York.

One of Hollywood’s leading men during the 20th Century, Humphrey Bogart also celebrated his birthday day on December 25th every year until his demise in 1957

Annie Lennox, that singer with the fantastic voice, one time lead singer of the Eurythmics was also born on Christmas day.

A brilliant influential musician Cab Calloway, celebrated as one of the undisputed giants of jazz, scat pioneer Cabell “Cab” Calloway came to define the Harlem sound, is another born on Christmas day. Cab Calloway is noted for his barnstorming performance of Minnie the Moocher, which received a lot of attention as it was included in the much celebrated “Blue Brothers” film.

Sir Isaac Newton One of the most influential scientists of all time who formulated the laws of Gravity. Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day in 1642.  The  legend goes he was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell and hit him on the head, thus giving him the idea for gravity…maybe the reality was different.

I happened to see Quentin Crisp give a talk in Vienna many years ago. Quentin is another born on Christmas day. His life was subject to a film, “The Naked Civil Servant” which starred John Hurt. Quentin Crisp was a kind of 60s version of Oscar Wilde.

Have you ever seen Stephen King’s Carrie, then you would know the actress Sissy Spacek. She spent her late teenage years hanging out at Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory

 

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

A short story for Christmas, “Angel Child”

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Angel child
I had been woken up, by the sound of wailing. Such sorrow. emanating from next door. It was my neighbor I presumed. The sound of such melancholy prevailed in my head, relentlessly. I had only seen my neighbor from afar, she was a blurred image of beauty and turbulence. Added to this terrible noise, I began to be aware of smell of burning wafting into my room. I bolted upright. I wrestled with putting on some clothes. I frantically banged on my neighbors door. With all my force I kicked open the door. I was confronted with a thick blanket of smoke. I wrapped my shirt around my face, as a meager form of protection. The sound of hysterical crying was coming from behind another door. I foolishly tried to open this door. I reeled in agony on contact with the door handle, my hand severely burnt. I managed to catch the vague sight of a figure in white, consumed in thick white smoke. The wailing sound was curtailed and tranquility prevailed. Defeated by the smoke, I left the apartment. I took time to compose myself. There was a mounting sorrow welling up, at failing to save this woman, as well as a sense of urgency to alert others of the urgency of the situation. “Fire” I screamed in a hoarse fraught voice. I heard a few doors opening, a few exasperated sighs. An old woman shuffled out of her apartment, looking dazed and confused. As the realization of the situation began to take hold. parents desperately ushered their bleary eyed children towards the stairs. Panic started to grip the building. I grabbed a bag from my apartment.

The stairwell was starting to get clogged up, with families frantically trying to get out of the building. I heard a voice. It might have been telepathic, a voice in my head, it was ticklish and soft, the voice of a child. “Water” the voice said in this temperate tone. I turned round. The child was dressed in blindingly white dress. Her hair was curled and blond, her eyes sparkling blue azure. For a moment the excruciating pain of my hand disappeared. I reached into my bag. I happened to always carry a bottle of water. It was probably a few days old. It didn’t matter, she let out this delicious smile and cupped the bottle in her gentle hands. “Where are your parents”? I demanded. She looked like a child that was on her own, forgotten by the rest of the world, on her own in this time of need. She didn’t answer, her face remained inanimate and serene. Suddenly I was jerked forward. A large man with a ruddy face, snorting, jostling to make it down the steps. “We want to get out of here mister,” he bellowed. His wife nodded in accord, reinforcing his statement. They both looked dehumanized, their faces white and severe, crazed looking. A melee of other people swept me further forward. The child was lost from my vision, but not from my thoughts.

Fire fighters were on the scene. A man with a hose trying to make his way in the opposite direction of the crowd. “Let me through” he shouted in gruff officious voice, to the residents so intent on getting out. I reached outside. The cold night air hit my face. The street was awash with activity, parents huddled closely to their children. I searched intently for the young girl, but she was nowhere to be seen and nobody knew of her whereabouts or indeed who she was. I was shepherded into an ambulance. My time in hospital was long and arduous, my hand injury horrific, my hand now horribly disfigured. The pain was significant, coupled with the fact that in a matter of days I was due to get married. My future wife was away, visiting some relations. She was now due to marry a man with a grotesque looking hand. How she would react? This would surely test our love. My moment of attempted heroics or perhaps folly had meant
my hand would never be fully functional, even withstanding many operations and physiotherapy, the doctor had painted, such a gloomy picture. As I was making my way home, I was fearful and indeed despondent. I had been pumped with drugs to alleviate the pain. I had no inclinations about what I would find when I finally got home. The building seemed to be back to normality. People sleeping soundly, after their broken sleep. I trudged upstairs. My neighbors door had been boarded up. There was a distinct smell of smoke, but the fire had been put out abruptly and proficiently.

I went into my apartment, managed to take off my clothes, with my one able hand, wincing with the occasional shots of pain. I finally put my weary head down. After a short while, I was drifting off asleep. When I woke up, my mind was filled with images of the previous night. It was the face of the young girl, that dominated. My phone rang, it was my fiancé, I had almost obliterated her from my mind, less thoughts of my disfigured hand, and how she would react. She spoke with great enthusiasm, up to the point, she detected, there was a big problem my end. Her voice dropped. “What’s the matter”? she demanded. I had to explain all the events of the previous night. “Oh my God” she spluttered. I explained that my hand was now bandaged up and was not in a good condition. She had cooed at my attempts of rescuing my neighbor, heralding my bravery, but mention of my hand had taken the shine off the conversation. Walking down the aisle, to a man with a bandaged hand, on what was to be the greatest day in her life, had limited appeal. “Won’t it heal” she asked in a displeased voice. “I am afraid not” I said philosophically, with a voice of stark resignation. I put the phone down feeling somewhat let down. The wedding seemed of weightier importance, to the fact that I had a horrifically burnt hand. I called work to say I would not be in, explaining the severity of my injury.

I then drifted in and out of an uneasy sleep. I woke up finally to the sound of muffled voices. As slowly came round, my interest mounted. It was apparent that the conversation was between a fire officer and a policeman. I managed to get some clothes on, withstanding some pain. I opened my door. “I am her neighbor” I said. “Her neighbor” muttered the policeman incredulously, lifting an eyebrow. “The woman who died, I was her neighbor”. “We found no body” said the fire fighter, with a flippant voice. “What are you saying” I demanded, “I saw her in the smoke, I tried to rescue her.” The two men laughed mockingly. “This apartment has been empty and derelict for years, there was a small fire, but nothing too significant, probably some old wiring, our boys had things under control in no time.” I felt indignant , as well as confused. “So you found no body”, I reiterated in desperation. The Policeman, who had a huge snout of a nose, and a derogatory demeanor, ridiculed “what a dark mind you have. sir” He followed his comment with a scornful laugh, which was accompanied by the fire fighter, whose face was lit up with mirth. It was like the two were in collusion, undermining anything I said,

I returned to my apartment, slamming my door with venom. After a while the voices from outside, drifted away. The two men sauntered down the long flight of stairs, still ridiculing, sardonic cackles interspersed. I felt angry. I spent the day recovering and trying to take my mind off the pain of my hand. I asked some of the other residents, if they knew of the young girl. Nobody seemed to know anything, I was met with blank looks. Even though I tried to give as full a description, as I could, I got nowhere. Nobody equally told me anything of the apartment and my “neighbor”. “The apartments been empty for as long as I can remember” said one old lady. “But I saw this woman on a number of occasions, just through the door” I protested, “I saw her last night.”. The old woman moved shakily away, muttering, probably deeming I was insane and deluded. I watched some mindless television, but my mind was too agitated, to digest anything. I tried to sleep, it was impossible. I had curiosity dictating my thoughts, never relinquishing. I got up, almost mechanically, unsure what I was about to do. The answers to this mystery, lay next door. I slung on some clothes and went out of my apartment. Momentarily I looked at the apartment, that had a notice “Police notice keep out”. As with my folly of the previous night, I decided to make a bold move. I re-entered my apartment and picked up a crowbar. With my one decent working hand, I managed to prize open the door.

The apartment seemed empty, cold and vapid. I held my arms close to my chest and shivered. I felt like an intruder. I began to question my own actions. What I wondered had led me to break in to this latent
apartment, which seemingly had nothing for me. I was about to turn on my heals, when I felt a presence.
She appeared so suddenly and deftly . She looked miniscule in the vastness of the apartment. She glided towards me, she had a blithe look on her face. She was wearing the same immaculate white dress. She did not speak, I would not have expected her to, her face expressed it all. I pitifully tried to communicate with her. “What’s your name” I asked in a soft voice, worried I might alarm her. She looked right through me. A smile reached her face and she seemed to enact a dance movement, she twirled and then giggled, her arms cutting an arc shape through the air. Any question I asked was met with total insouciance and disregard. Her dancing became emphatic, she began to circle me, dancing round and around, to the point where I began to be mesmerized. My legs began to give way. I was blinded, a bright light seemed to illuminate the room. I was now a crumpled heap on the floor, my body immobilized. Something miraculous was happening and I was the beneficiary of this magic.
The young girl lent over me and unraveled the bandage on my hand. I did not protest. She was so gentle, and proficient in the way she went about things. She was still smiling and joyful. Once the bandage had been unraveled, she held my hand. There was no pain however. Indeed any pain I’d had previously was now alleviated. I drifted off and went into a deep sleep. When I came round I was alone. I felt a bit groggy, but as the grogginess began to wane, it became apparent a big change had happened.

My hand was as it was before the fire, perfect without a single blemish. I gave the apartment a closer inspection. It was now back to this imposing emptiness, the child having disappeared. There seemed nothing of value. Under a dense film of dust on the mantelpiece, there was a photograph. It had faded in time, but the resemblance was most apparent. The photograph was of a young woman, it was obviously the young child, some years on., having matured as an adult There was still the discernible beauty , but there was also some sadness engrained in her face. The young child was joyful and optimistic, the adult version, tainted by angst. I had encountered the optimistic one. Something significant had taken place, in her life, the bright glowing child had been lost to the world, or had it? It seemed like the glowing child had the capacity to rematerialize.

I took the photograph and went back to my apartment. I took stock of events, made some telling decisions. I put my impending marriage into perspective. I came to the decision I could not commit to a marriage, where I as unsure I would be loved. My confidence in the union had been broken, her love for me superficial, her reaction to my disfigured hand, had proved as much. I was cowardly in the way I broke the news. The fact that my hands were both in a perfect state, also besmirched me further. I skirted around all explanations, I would never have been believed anyway. I had left my now ex-fiancé weeping, great sobs, her head in her hands. I felt terrible, maybe there had been some love between us, I had underestimated her. I lived in almost solitude. I was trapped, unable to think beyond those events and the angel child, as I had named her.

What had happened previously in the apartment, was hidden in a veil of secrecy and I imagined deceit, none of the residents would let me in on the secret. I even had to question myself about the events of the fire and the days that followed. After all my hand was now in a perfect condition, with burns or marks to show, evidence that I had entered a burning apartment. I had no name, just images in my mind, images that would diminish in time. The residents of the building ostracized me for daring to question them, to probe into the deep mystery of what had passed in the apartment next to mine. There would never be any explanation, my mind would be in darkness.

A few years on and with the value of local property escalating, the boarding around the door were taken away. Some property developer, had purchased the property and was investing money into it. In time so doubt rich owners were installed. They seemed friendly enough. One day the door to the apartment, was slightly ajar. I was sure I could make out the image of a young girl with a mop of thick curly blonde hair dancing with a scintillating smile of contentment, on her angelic face, it must be the angel child, but then again…

 

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

 

 

 

 

What you wouldn’t want for Christmas.

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What you wouldn’t want for Christmas.

I was doing some research on an explorer, adventurer, favorite courtier of Elizabeth 1 , poet, amongst other things, Sir Walter Raleigh, a man known to many British children who have studied the basics of British History, when I unearthed an interesting fact concerning what happened to the executed Sir Walter’s head, following its encounter with an axe.

Sir Walter who discovered and brought back tobacco and the potato, was implicated as a foe of King James I and imprisoned with a death sentence hanging over him. He was later freed and was sent on another expedition, which ended in failure.

At his execution in 1618 in the Tower of London, Sir Walter Raleigh asked to see the axe that was to behead him and said, “This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all Diseases.” This leads us to think he still had a bit of a sense of humor, despite the fact that he was about to shortly parted from this world. It took the executioner two blows to remove his head, and then after it had been displayed to the crowd that had assembled for the event, it was placed in a red bag, covered with velvet, and presented to his wife. Imagine getting a knock on the door and then someone hands over the head of your dead husband. Apparently it was the custom that the head of the person executed would be presented to the widower.

Most people would freak out, however Lady Raleigh, once Elizabeth Throckmorton, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, retained her love her doomed husband, never remarried, and somewhat bizarrely kept her husband’s head with her until the day she died, she lived to her eighties no less. She had his head embalmed and kept it by her side for the 29 years she outlived him. According to some stories, she kept the head in a glass case in her home, and curiosity seekers and family friends alike would travel to visit and pay their respects to the head.
Once she passed away, like mother like son, the head passed on to their son, Carew. That son continued the tradition of keeping the embalmed head, and when he passed away, the head was buried with him in Surrey.

 

 

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

“Odd Child” a short story for Christmas, by Francis H Powell

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“ODDCHILD”

ODDCHILD .
The Queen had been surrounded by sweet angelic choirboys. The Pope had talked about peace in the Middle East, but had failed to say how he could actively bring this about. Presents meaningful or otherwise had been exchanged. Traditions had been observed. Religious ceremonies had taken place, incense, rituals, stern faces, pontificators, talking about a strange occurrence that had happened thousands of years ago, in a primitive land. There had been no world disasters, no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no tidal waves, not this year, just many untold stories of misery and loneliness, that had blighted the world as ever at Christmas time. Shop keepers had rubbed their hands in glee. Television companies had been bereft of ideas of how to entertain the people. The transport system had been bewildered, as to how to deal with a sudden snap of Siberian weather.

Somewhere in the middle of all this was Oddchild. Oddchild didn’t quite fit in amongst all of this. He was part of a sizable family. He had listened and observed all that had passed in front of him. He had been silent and pensive, alienated by it all, unobtrusive, but with moments tinged with oddness.

Lunch had not passed without incident. The family were stunned into a tight knotted silence as Oddchild, while a succulent force-fed turkey was being passed around, had nestled himself under the table, taking with him a bowl of nuts, which he gobbled, while the family mused at this sudden change in his behaviour. The sanctity of the lunch had been broken. There was little point in trying to reason with him, coax him out, and he was beyond the age of being castigated. His behaviour just had to be reconciled with. Aunt Austere had pondered and intrigued as to whether Oddchild had perhaps taken some kind of drugs, that had prompted such behaviour. As she has slapped some cranberry jelly on her plate, wedged between some sprouts, she sighed and arched a disapproving eyebrows upwards. Mother had demanded in a soothing motherly tone
“Would you like some wine dear.”

Oddchild had not answered, his mind was elsewhere. Father had looked silly in his paper crown, which had been extracted from a cracker, along with some heinously unfunny insipid jokes, that the family had cheerfully tittered at. Still Oddchild huddled under the table. Members of the family cleared away the remnants of an excessive meal, having stripped a sizable chunk from the turkey, which they would still be eating over the next few weeks, served up, in one form or another.

“Aren’t you hungry dear.” Demanded Mother with noticeable desperation, stacking some plates, still nonplussed at Oddchild’s Christmas dinner breach of etiquette. Still no response, so she shrugged and shifted a quick concerned glance in Father’s direction, while Aunt Austere reflected on Reverent Glib’s sermon, before switching the subject to the shooting season. Then an awkward outburst of coughing from Aunt Gimp had ruptured the conversation, sending Mother scurrying for a glass of water. Calm was finally restored, as Aunt Gimp finally managed to suppress the fit. Aunt Gimp’s mind was a deluge of stories concerning the war, in fact her mind had never really moved on since this period.

Finally Oddchild came out of his splendid isolation, removing himself from under the table. He held a gawky expression on his face, averting the gaze of the two aunts and the rest of the baffled family, who tried to hide their looks of surprise. He did not utter a word, he just slipped casually back into the throng. The family trooped into the living room to continue the next part of the proceedings, coffees and a viewing of the Queen’s annual speech to the nation. Aunt Austere had not liked her speech of the previous year. There had been too much attention spent on people with dark skins of different faiths, rather than the white Anglo Saxon majority. Dark skins seemed to disturb Aunt Austere greatly. She could not get her head around the idea that such people had been born and bred and raised in the same country as her and were more than fully integrated into society. It hadn’t been an “annus horribilis” this year for the Queen. One of her family’s favourite sports “fox hunting” had been banned, but this had not deterred the hunters, who either found loopholes in the law or simply broke it. Aunt Austere often sang the praises of a sport in which fifty or so dogs chase after a fox with the objective of tearing this beautiful animal to pieces, in the name of a “noble British tradition”. The Queen’s eldest son had married a woman who had he looks of some “dowdy weatherworn aunt” which had no doubt heaped a certain amount of embarrassment on her. However no palaces had been burnt down, there had not been too many notable scandals, “toe sucking incidents” “court cases involving forgotten conversations with servants” “Princess Diana revelations” “young drunken or drugged up royals on the front pages.”
With the TV switched off, lunch firmly lodged in the their stomachs, the question of how to occupy the hours of the day that remained, usually a sturdy walk was the answer. Oddchild unrepentantly led the way, with his sudden outburst. The logical progression being a huge inter-family argument.

“You are all mad, the whole lot of you.”
Two Aunts shot rapid shocked looks at one another, the rest of the family drew in sharp intakes of breath. A log fire crackled and hissed.
Aunt Austere took up the challenge.
“I think you were the one who spent the entire lunch hidden under the table, so if anyone’s mad, it’s you dear.” She had a vague contented smile emanated from her face.

Oddchild had to concede on this point, but he was referring more to their narrow perceptions of the world, he pressed his point.
“I’d rather be under the table than have to listen to some of your drivel and watch you gorge on bounteous amounts of food, while a third of the world is starving, while you sermonize about a world you have little understanding of.”

“We have lived through the war, my dear.” Said Aunt Gimp proudly, Father adjusted his paper crown, Mother stared into the fire. Aunt Austere’s eyes were flaring up, her mind was a storm. The turkey had long since gone cold and the atmosphere that prevailed was now equally frosty.
Mother thought she should try her hand at a little arbitration.
“Your Aunt’s did their bit for the war effort you know, dear.”
What spying for the Nazis.” Said Oddchild tossing his head back with mirth.

The tone of his voice and acerbic remark hadn’t gone down at all well. Father’s eyes bared down on him, Mother had lost her composure.
“I think you should apologise, said Mother, with her hands on her hips.
“Apologise for what.” Muttered Oddchild, reflecting on the rasp of his previous remark.
He turned to the two Aunts.
“It’s no wonder, neither of you got married, the pair of you will go to the grave crusty bitter virgins.”
Mother was the first to speak.
“Now you really have gone too far.” She said. Father paced up and down, he had taken off his paper crown by this point.
“I’ve never heard such a wicked remark.” Said Aunt Austere her face all creased up and severe.
“Turn your hearing aid up” muttered Oddchild sarcastically under his breath.
“What” barked Aunt Austere.
“Forget it.” Said Oddchild.
“Well I certainly won’t forget this Christmas” said Aunt Gimp mournfully.
And there it was just 364 days until the next torturous ritual of more of the same.

 

FOLLOW Francis H Powell, on Twitter

https://twitter.com/Dreamheadz

 

Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

Interview with Charles Dickens 2015

Charles Dickens small

 

We have managed to bring back the ghost of Charles Dickens for a special Christmas visitation.

Interviewer: Welcome Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens: You stirred me from the grave, I suppose I am obliged to answer your questions.

Interviewer: One of your most famous works is “A Christmas carol” where did some of the ideas come from?

Charles Dickens: I had just done a speech at a charity event, after which I decided to go on one of my “nocturnal walks” I always had problems to sleep, while walking I had the idea for this book. I based some of the characters on people I knew, the lead character Ebenezer Scrooge was based on a counselor in Edinburgh. It took me eight long weeks to write, during which I wept, laughed, and wandered around London at night, long after most sober folks had gone to bed. Of course I wanted to draw my reader’s attention to the plight of the poor. I had visited the Field Lane ragged school (a charitably run school) in the Saffron Hill district of London, which had inspired me in some of my ideas for Christmas carol. What I observed at this institution was a sickening atmosphere … of taint and dirt and pestilence”

Interviewer : Your own upbringing couldn’t have been easy…

Charles Dickens: I craved a good education, but my life nosedived when father was sent to prison due to a debt. Following this I was sent to work in a blacking or shoe-polish factory, a very sobering experience and one I could never forget.

Interviewer: It could be said that the character Ebenezer Scrooge, is a very relevant character in modern times, as we have a world dominated by money and materialism. Your character Scrooge cares nothing for the people around him and mankind exists only for the money that can be made through exploitation and intimidation. From the spirit world have you noticed this?

Charles Dickens: It is true in London the kind of poverty I was used to seems to have diminished, but avarice seems to be plentiful. If anything greed is more prevalent in the modern day than it was in day. I see many children expect an I phone for their Christmas presents, while others scrimp about in the dirt on really low levels of sustenance. I see in modern times there are sweatshops in Bangladesh, children living in slavery and abject conditions.

Interviewer: You were a “superstar” in your times…

Charles Dickens: I was a master of self-promotion, I was mobbed in America, people even tried to cut locks of my hair. I performed to sellout crowds, the audience paying to hear me read. At the time of my death I could claim to be the most famous man in the world. At the same time I was a very private person and didn’t live the invasion of my privacy. I bowed out from public life at St. James’ Hall in Piccadilly by reading A Christmas Carol” my parting words were “…from these garish lights I vanish now for evermore, with one heartfelt, grateful, respectful, and affectionate farewell.”

Interviewer: Your private life was turbulent.

Charles Dickens: Well I fathered ten children, things were all right for a time, then there was increasing pressure as I became more and more famous and Catherine could not cope with this. Then I met Ellen Ternan and things grew even worse. When we split up wild rumors spread about, some said I was having an affair with my sister-in-law, Georgina. Those were very prim and proper times. I had most of the children living with me and encouraged them not to see their mother, I was a most unreasonable man in this way. I am now a restless spirit.

Interviewer: It has been an incredible experience speaking to you.

Charles Dickens: I must drift back into my spirit world.  Maybe I will return next Christmas.

 

FOLLOW Francis H Powell, on Twitter

https://twitter.com/Dreamheadz

 

Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.