This blog goes on under a different name and new web address from January 2011. Please follow me...
Friday, 29 May 2009
In spite of all, I decided to go ahead and post this week's chapter of my ongoing wordzzle story, since I wrote that last weekend, well before all that happened later in the week. Just copying it onto the blog now. Will add the proper links and buttons later.
Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 65
For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest
Ten word challenge: parasite, meals on wheels, crows, it's my fault, everything but the kitchen sink, on sale, patriotism, the love of my life, library card, common sense
Mini: blackmail, California, stethoscope, postage, crank
The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 12 - Diana's confession
(You'll find links to the previous episodes in the margin.)
If the butler had seemed like an impregnable castle, meeting the brigadier general's granddaughter was like running into a waterfall, Lieutentant Skittles thought.
Before he had even decided whom to call in next, Diana came rushing into the library and threw herself into one of the big leather arm chairs.
"It's my fault," she sobbed. "Arrest me if you must, I deserve it. I'm a parasite, that's what I am. Living here all these years and never really appreciating it. I can't bear it. Almost killing my own grandfather! I do love him, you know, but sometimes I couldn't stand it, all this talk about war and patriotism... And all these stupid things he kept wasting money on! Stuffed crows and whatever. There were times when I wanted to put just about everything but the kitchen sink on sale. Like all these first editions of old books" - she made a theatrical gesture around the walls of the library where they were sitting – "what do you need them for? Why not just a library card at the public library? Grandma tried to make up for it all I suppose, with her charity meals on wheels and whatever. I guess she had some common sense, but I never quite understood that until after she was gone…" She took a handkerchief out of her pocket and made a pause to blow her nose.
Skittles took advantage of the pause. "Let's back up a bit, please," he said. "What do you mean, it was your fault? Were you actually trying kill you grandfather?"
Diana stared at him. "Of course not," she said. "But I shouldn't have left him alone for that long out in the sun, on a day like this. I only did because he insisted on it. And I was sure old B would be coming out with the drinks at the usual time, to check on him. How was I to know B would be late, on this day of all days? And Adam, who is always late, for once in his life being early! It all just goes to show that you really cannot trust anybody, not even yourself." She shook her head, and added: "Adam is the love of my life, you know, although he's not aware of it. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him with his stethoscope around his neck."
"Eh," said Skittles. "I'm afraid you've lost me again."
Diana gave an impatient little sigh. "On an afternoon like this, grandpa always wants to sit in the sun for a bit. Sometimes his assistant, Miss California as I call her, keeps him company, but she's off on vacation this weekend. I offered to sit with him instead, but he said he wanted to rest his ears. Don't know what he meant by that. Anyway it seemed safe to leave him, because following his usual schedule, old B would be bringing out his afternoon drink in just a little while. He's usually on the dot. So that's why I dared my little experiment. It was for my book, you see. And old B never seemed to mind my jokes, not really. He might seem an old crank sometimes but he's always been very patient with me." Diana's eyes filled with tears again.
Skittles was beginning to feel an increasing need for that Aspirin that he had sent Bumblebee to fetch for him.
"What experiment? What book? What jokes?" he said. "Please try to keep to one thing at a time."
"Well, you see, nobody knows about this yet, but I'm trying to write a detective story. It has a very complicated plot involving blackmail and postage, but another important thing is getting the timing right, so I had to try it out for myself, to see if it was possible."
"If what was possible?"
"To get the sausages to burst at the precise moment when Bumblebee came out with the Sunburst cocktails. Without actually being there myself. But obviously, I'll have to rethink my plot now."
"Obviously," said Skittles, rubbing his temples.
To be continued, but I cannot promise it will be next week.
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Monday, 25 May 2009
The other day I found that a comment I wrote on May 17 about the Internet had awarded me the button below. The writing prompt was: "Reflect on how the Internet has changed relationships, and whether the net effect is positive or negative."
And in case the button goes on strike some day, or whatever, here is a copy of my "winning" entry:
Nine years ago, an accident turned my life upside down. Not only did I have to stop working, I also had to make a lot of changes in my private social life. Since I can no longer "keep the same pace" or do the same things as many of my old friends, I have lost contact with a lot of them. But through the internet, I have found new friends, new interests, and new and different ways to keep up my some of my old interests, too. One good thing about the internet is that one does not necessarily need to be online at the same time to be able to have a meaningful discussion. In forums and blogs, you can "take your time" and still feel you are communicating with other people.
Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Saturday, 23 May 2009
This time I came home with seven pairs of socks, two packets of postcards, and two handbags! The black bag has a very smart design. You can wear it either as a backpack, or just on one shoulder, or in your hand. Who would not need it?! And the red one, well, it's a lovely colour, isn't it, and it might just possibly be bigger on the inside than on the outside...
Ah, well. Now you know one of my weaknesses. Or three...
PS. Note to myself for Autumn Market Day: Do NOT buy any more socks. Sock drawer full!
For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest
Ten Word Challenge: albino, trench, marble, assistant, Indian, What's that supposed to mean?, sound first principles, the key thing, moat, curtain
Mini challenge: under the surface, doomed, grand design, temple, aspirin
The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 11 - Into the Library
(You will find links to the previous chapters in the margin further down the page.)
"The library is right through here, sir," said Bumblebee, showing Lieutenant Skittles through the glass doors leading into the house from the terrace. "Please mind the bear," he added.
"Mind the… What's that supposed to mean?" said Skittles, feeling utterly confused. After the bright sunlight outside, stepping into a room with most of the curtains drawn was like entering a dark cave; he could not see a thing at first. Then he almost tripped over something, and looking down, found it to be a huge grinning albino bear's head, attached to the rest of its skin spread out flat on the floor.
"What the… Oh," said Skittles, collecting himself. "Polar bear?" he wondered, looking closer at the grim stuffed head.
"Yes, sir," confirmed Bumblebee. "The brigadier general is a collector of various objects from around the world."
"Hm," said Skittles, looking up and finding himself facing an Indian totem pole. "So I see…" He had never met the general, but he had heard of him. It was said that he had started out digging trenches, and ended up building himself a palace. The house was certainly of grand design, the pillars on the terrace reminding of a Greek temple. Some people wondered whether the old man still had all his marbles in the right place, while others claimed that he was and had always been a man of sound first principles, knowing exactly where his priorities lay. But right now, Skittles reminded himself, the key thing was to find out who or what had started the fire.
"Mr Bumblebee," he said to the butler, "perhaps you could enlighten me on a few points. For example, I take it you cannot be the only servant in this household?"
"No, sir. There is also the brigadier general's personal assistant, who is a trained nurse, but she has this weekend off. Then there is the cook and the gardener, but neither of them live in this house, and they leave early on Fridays."
"But you were having a party this evening?"
"One guest only, Dr Challenge."
Skittles waited for Bumblebee to continue, but the butler obviously was not going to volonteer any more information without being asked a direct question.
Skittles still had a feeling that there was something hidden under the surface, he just didn't know how to get at it. Why did the butler suddenly seem as impregnable as a castle surrounded by a moat? "I must find someone who is willing to let down the drawbridge, or I'm doomed to fail with this investigation," Skittles thought to himself.
Aloud, he said to Bumblebee: "I'm sorry, I feel a headache coming on. Do you think you could find me an aspirin and a glass of water, while I interview somebody else?"
Author's comment: For this week's challenge, Raven used words that I had sent to her. After this little experiment, I have to report that having come up with the words myself did not make the challenge easier... At least when someone else has chosen the words, you can always blame them if you find the words impossible and not really leading anywhere... ;-)
Friday, 22 May 2009
But looking at the pictures in this book made me realize that even during the war, individuals as well as town council and government were still making plans for the future; people were not only having children and building houses and planning for towns to grow, but also paying attention to details like what kind of bricks to use for the facing, what kind of wood for the floors, even the choice of wallpaper… As well as building air raid shelters in the basement!
The building where I now live still gives a very "solid" impression, compared to for example the one from the early 70's where I lived before I moved here. The exterior still looks much the same as in the old photos. The interior has been renovated, but original details have been kept, like parquet floor in the living room, deep window ledges, wooden doorframes. But 2½ decades later, in the late 60's/ early 70's, the focus when building new apartment houses had shifted from "solid and lasting" to "fast and cheap" - and the materials to concrete, sheet metal, and plastic, plastic, plastic...
This week, with the help of my aunt, I also found the family grave of my great-grandparents, in an old cemetery close to where I live now. I never even knew they were buried there, until quite recently; and I would never have been able to find the grave by myself. Not only did they have a very common surname, the letters on the stone are so worn down that they are hardly visible any more.
I never met my great-grandparents, they died long before I was born. But I do remember visiting the house where they once lived (and where my grandmother grew up), back in my early childhood. Two of my grandmother's cousins were still living there then. Although as far as I was concerned, I don't think I even knew back then exactly how we were related to these "old ladies" that we used to visit sometimes. (They must have been about the same age then as I am now, I guess...)
The house does not exist any more, there is a petrol station now where it once lay. But recently, looking through a file of photos from a past exhibition at the local library, I suddenly came upon a picture of that house and its inhabitants, taken about 100 years ago. There were two families living in the house then; the children are my grandmother, her brother and their cousins. I scanned this from a xerox copy of a copy of a print… But it still gives an idea of what it looked like. It is a winter scenery with the smallest children sitting on sledges.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Today is Ascension Day, which in the Swedish calendar is still a holiday (I'm not sure how it is in other countries), even though many people nowadays probably don't think much about why.
Ascension Day marks the day when Jesus Christ ascended up into heaven, 40 days after his resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. The evangelist Luke reports in the last chapter of his gospel, and in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, that Jesus appeared to his disciples on several occasions over a period of 40 days after his death; then
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:7-9)
Traditionally, in my country (Sweden), Ascension day has been (and is sometimes still) celebrated by Christians with an early church service outdoors; often followed by a picnic. People who did not go to church just picked up the tradition of an early morning picnic in the woods, listening to birdsong - especially listening for the cuckoo. We have a special name for this kind of spring outing: gökotta. Gök means cuckoo, and otta is an old word for early morning (and/or early morning church service).
According to old Swedish folklore, the first time in the spring that you hear the cuckoo, you should pay attention to the direction from which you hear it:
The cuckoo from the North brings sorrow,
the cuckoo from the East brings comfort,
the cuckoo from the South brings death,
the cuckoo from the West is the best (brings happiness).
Looking it up now, I find that there are different traditions - another version says that the cuckoo from the South "brings butter on the table". But the version where the south is connected with death is the one I heard back in my childhood.
As so often, the reason or background for both versions gets lost in translation: In Swedish, the words rhyme, or share the same vowel. So one makes as much "sense" as the other, really...
Norrgök är sorgegök
Östergök är tröstergök
Södergök är dödergök /death
(or: Södergök är smöregök /butter)
Västergök är bästergök
You Are Super Spiritual
You are in touch with the world around you,
and you find peace in connecting with others.
You believe that every life is special
and that every life has a purpose.
You value harmony and understanding.
You try not to judge, bicker, and fight.
As simple as it sounds, you truly think it's
important to make the world a better place.
PS. If you like, you could compare this information to another personality test I did publish the result of on this blog. According to that one, I am Galadriel. Being an ancient elven lady, no wonder I´m also super spiritual...
Monday, 18 May 2009
Hither and thither through the meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting - everything happy, and progressive, and occupied. And instead of having an uneasy conscience pricking him and whispering "Whitewash!" he somehow could only feel how jolly it was to be the only idle dog among all these busy citizens. After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Friday, 15 May 2009
For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest
Ten Word Challenge: Green goddess, shampoo, filibuster, please and thank you, Operation Marigold, throw pillows, up the creek without a paddle, spandex, ubiquitous, wedding ring
Mini Challenge: Skittles, lamb chops, stingray, chagrin, clever devil
The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 10 - Lieutenant Skittles arrives on the scene
(You will find links to the previous chapters in the margin further down the page.)
When the fire engine, the ambulance and the police arrived on the scene, some of them felt a slight sting of chagrin to find that the fire had already been put out and the brigadier general revived, without their help. There was also no obvious evidence of any crime being committed at all. Still, Lieutenant Skittles felt suspicious.
According to Dr Adam Challenge, the brigadier general had most likely had some sort of sun stroke. But being pushed into the pool (chair and all) by his faithful butler Bumblebee had cooled him off, and as Adam arrived he was just beginning to come round. He still seemed a bit confused, though – muttering something incomprehensible about filibusters and clever devils - so the ambulance staff had taken him to the hospital for a more thorough check-up; wrapping him up in a blanket in spite of the heat, since he was still dressed only in his spandex swimming trunks.
The fire on the lawn had been quenched by the sprinklers turned on by William, the delivery boy. "I thought of it at once," he said. "I knew how to do it, because before I started working at the grocery store, I used to help the gardener here in the summers. With Operation Marigold, and whatever," he added, pointing vaguely towards the flowerbeds, where hundreds of marigolds were glowing like little suns.
Diana had also done her bit, by running back into the house for the fire extinguisher. She had sprayed a thick layer of "shampoo" (as she called it) all over the grill.
Lieutenant Skittles poked around suspiciously in the lather and wet ashes.
"What were you cooking anyway?" he asked. "Sausages?"
"When I first got here…" said Adam.
"Well," interrupted Diana, "it was more of an experiment, really…"
"We were going to have a barbeque this evening, sir," said the ubiquitous butler who had just appeared beside them. "Lamb chops and stingray were on the menu, but the groceries had not arrived yet."
"But I got here just in time, didn't I!" exclaimed William, who could not take his eyes off Diana. In her lime-coloured summer dress, she looked like a green goddess to him. He would love to be the one to put a wedding ring on her finger, he thought. She could throw pillows at him every night, as she had done sometimes when they were kids, he would not mind.
Skittles felt a bit like he was going up the creek without a paddle. It was no good having everyone talk at the same time. He would have to question each of them individually to try and grasp what had happened.
Reading his mind, Bumblebee said: "Maybe you would like to use the library as an interview room, sir? Let me show you the way."
"Please," said Skittles. "And thank you for the suggestion."
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
'That buzzing-noise means something. You don't get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without it meaning something. If there's a buzzing-noise, somebody's making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you're a bee.'
(My comment: Well, or possibly a bumblebee...)
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Welcome to the Tax Agency! Right now there are many people calling us. You will be put in a queue. 92 operators are working as fast as they can to answer your call. - You are number 104 in the queue. – tick tock – If you wish to order a brochure or a form, press 2 for our automatic service, or visit our website – tick tock – There is still a queue. You are number 99 in the queue. – tick tock – There is still a queue. You are number 87 in the queue. – tick tock – repeated messages, tick tock, etc etc – There is still a queue. You are number 4 in the queue. – You will now be connected to an operator. – Tax Agency, good m... – beep, beep, beep, beep… (=disconnected)
Starting over, going through the whole process again, finally getting through…
- Hello, I called two weeks ago and asked you to send a new income tax return form to my father, because he either never got one in the first place, or it has been mislaid. He has been ill for a while, you see, and has difficulties remembering and sorting things like this out for himself now. When I called you two weeks ago, we got a respite until the 15th , but since he has still not received the form, we have not been able to do anything about it.
- That sounds strange. Let me check. --- long silence --- Well, I'm sending another form today to his address. (No explanation what had happened to our previous request.)
- Can we get a prolonged respite? You see, I can't get there again before the 15th.
- Sorry, we cannot do that over the phone. But I can enclose a respite application form together with the tax form.
- But he won't know how to fill in that form either, or be able to get it sent off.
- Well, you will just have to write a comment in the comment box on the income tax return form then and explain the situation.
Now I'm sitting here wondering what exactly to write in the comment box, if I ever do get my hands on that form?
Due to circumstances beyond our control…
Due to your empty promises…
Due to your incompetent staff…
Due to your stupid rules…
Due to my father's medical history and whole row of different diagnoses…
Due to the story of my own life and present personal health and circumstances…
Monday, 11 May 2009
- You talk without words. We are always talking without words.
- Well, what good are words, then?
- Not very good, most of the time. Most of the time they're only good to keep back what you really want to say, or something you don't want known.
William Saroyan, My Name is Aram
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Mini Challenge: operatic, stuffed animals, anger management, biographical, paint splatters
Chapter 9 - A drama of Biblical proportions
(You'll find links to my previous chapters in the margin further down the page.)
Having unloaded the groceries from the van, William knocked on the kitchen door, but no one opened. Chewing his bubble gum, he hesitated for a moment, then opened the garden gate and went round the back of the house. As he turned round the corner, he felt like he had stepped into a soap opera, or even a drama of Biblical proportions. Bumblebee, the butler, was standing in the swimming pool, fully dressed, water up to his knees, talking into his cellphone. Beside him, the brigadier general, whom William knew to be suffering from paralysis after some kind of seizure, seemed to be floating on the surface of the water. In the grass beside the pool, a fire was spreading.
Just a few seconds later, Diana came out on the terrace from the library. Putting on her sunglasses to avoid getting wrinkles, her eyes fell on an issue of the Antiquity Journal that someone had dropped on the terrace floor; it had a picture of a mammoth on the front cover. (Her grandfather would have loved to have one of those in his own collection of rare stuffed animals, she thought automatically.) She also noticed some some yellow stains on the white marble floor tiles – was that paint splatters or juice? Then she suddenly smelt smoke and was immediately filled with worry. Lifting up her eyes, she, too, had the sensation of having stepped into some kind of crazy operatic scene. But before she had time to react, the sprinklers on the lawn were suddenly turned on, and water began falling like a gentle spring rain over the fire.
At the front of the house, Dr Adam Challenge was again parking his car. He had not the faintest idea how this would end, but decided he must try to practise all he knew about anger management and forget about his own biographical tragedies for now.
(Author's comment: I know, I know. The pace of this story is getting irritatingly slow. I just couldn't find a way with this week's words to speed it up...)
Monday, 4 May 2009
"--- it was a conversation begun in medias res, a style of presentation he'd always liked --- for it meant that small talk had already been dispensed with, given that the conversation began in the middle, and in the middle of something the speaker had feelings about."
Martha Grimes, The Stargazey
In medias res, also medias in res (Latin for "into the midst of affairs (lit. into mid-affairs)"), refers to a literary and artistic technique where the narrative starts in the middle of the story instead of from its beginning (ab ovo or ab initio). The characters, setting, and conflict are often introduced through a series of flashbacks or through characters relating past events to each other.
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Saturday, 2 May 2009
This week my contribution is one chapter based on the mini challenge, and one based on the ten word challenge. If you wish to read the previous chapters, you will find the links in the margin further down on the page.
Mini Challenge: pancakes and syrup, flat tire, mongoose, this place looks like a bordello, first dance
The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 7 - Adam's first wife
Driving back to the Brigadier General's house, doctor Adam Challenge's thoughts went back in time to the very short honeymoon he had had with his first wife, Eve. They had gone to Italy and had spent a few days at a little hotel owned by a friend of Eve's who was from Canada. When they first entered the bedroom with the dark red velvet wallpaper and the golden-framed mirrors, Eve had said: "This place looks like a bordello!" But they had had a good time. They had danced their first dance together as newly-weds in that room. In the morning, they had been able to sit outside in the sun, eating Canadian pancakes and syrup for breakfast, and Eve had thrown little pieces of pancake to a small furry animal which she claimed was a mongoose. But then, driving down those narrow mountain roads… Adam didn't really want to think about the rest: the flat tire, the accident, the fire… He himself had miraculously survived, but Eve had not.
Ten Word Challenge: translation, crunchy, cat’s paw, trunk, I love raspberry tarts, global warming, star struck, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, fragile, Spring fever
Chapter 8 - William arrives
Diana turned off her computer. It was too hot an afternoon to concentrate on her translation job. She wondered vaguely if the heat this summer was somehow connected to global warming. Anyway, it was time for the usual afternoon drink with her grandfather. He had insisted on being left alone to sunbathe for a while, dressed in nothing but his swimming trunks, but he would need to be wheeled into the shadow now, if Bumblebee or Adam hadn't already taken care of that. She was wondering why Adam had driven off again so soon after his early arrival. But he was a doctor after all, maybe he had got an emergency call. Well, she had to go down now anyway, for her grandfather's sake, and to check on her other little experiment. It was so difficult to get the timing right… She saw through the window that the delivery van from the grocery store had just arrived outside. Making up her scheme, she had forgotten to take that into account. She wondered if old Bumblebee had brought the drinks out yet, or if he was still in the kitchen. Oh well. There would be other opportunities for jokes and pranks and cat's paw tricks. If Adam did come back, she would just apologize for the odd invitation and try to make him stay for the evening. Perhaps she could ask Bumblebee to serve that raspberry tart with the crunchy crust for dessert. She had once heard Adam say "I love raspberry tarts".
William, the delivery boy from the grocery store, got out of the van, leaving the radio on. It was playing the big hit "Spring fever". He looked up towards Diana's window. He couldn't see her, but the mere thought of her always made him feel star struck, he had had a hopeless crush on her ever since they were in school together. He sighed, and started to unload the van. While he carefully put down a big box marked "fragile", someone on the radio started talking about the midnight ride of Paul Revere.