Saturday, 31 March 2012

Day in Nottinghamshire (Part 3)

At last, the pictures I selected from our recent visit to my grandparents in Nottinghamshire; all were taken with my phone (though I wished I had brought my main camera with me!), with the exception of the last three pictures as they were taken by my brother with his camera:

I was experimenting with the panoramic mode on my phone and decided to take a picture vertically. This is of a tree in my grandparents' backyard, and I think this image, despite a couple of bugs in the stitching, turned out well! I like the way the stitching has made the tree appear as though it is in three different seasons.

One of the many local trails in the area: while the paths here in Northamptonshire are fairly hilly, the ones in Nottinghamshire are a bit more steep and I do miss that.

We found a path that briefly took us off the main trail and right up to the Trent (the local river) itself. Notice the ash pile in the bottom right? Looks like someone had a fire!

Back on the main trail again. The last time I went on this particular path was during our first month back in the United Kingdom: Dad, my grandfather, and brother were with me, and the trail was overgrown with all sorts of weeds when we took that walk. I was pleased to see it had all now been trimmed back.

A view across the Trent, with what appears to be a pub and some houses on the other side.

Those are sheep in the distance: we did not approach them any further from this point shown in the picture as there were lambs about.

A set of stairs that take you down to the Trent. These stairs are not the aforementioned offshoot-path down to the Trent, and I will note that we came down these, not going up.

Continuing down the stairs will take you to this path, which ultimately leads to the Trent. I love the look of fence-paths like these.

Back down at the Trent again, this time near one of its many weirs. Knowing how more difficult it is to take a picture with my phone than my main camera, I did my best to ensure that I would have some excellent pictures of the weir.

Another picture of the weir, this time looking more in the upstream direction.

A third picture of the weir, now looking downstream.

One of the many paths down by the river banks. I like the contrast of the green grass with the light-coloured brush around it.

The first of three of my brother's images I chose for this post. This is back on the path that leads to the field where the sheep and their lambs were located.

The sheep again! I liked this picture and wanted to include, even though I have a similar one above.

A patch of daffodils up by the weir. This is an excellent picture that my brother took, and I am really impressed by it. He took two other images like this one, and when I saw them for the first time I knew that I had to include one of the three in this post.

That comes to the end of these pictures. I am sure I will have more in future visits with family.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Day in Nottinghamshire (Part 2)

It seems I will not have the time this evening to post all the images I have selected for the blog and write up something for each of them. However, in not wanting to spoil things I shall show one picture as a "taster" for what I will post tomorrow:

This is a panoramic image of a memorial park not far from where my grandparents live. The park contains a diverse selection of trees, including one similar to the Madrones we had in Oregon. The picture was taken with my phone during the morning.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Day in Nottinghamshire

My Dad, brother, and myself spent the day in Nottinghamshire at my grandparents' house. We went up there to take our car in for its scheduled maintenance, but our trip doubled as a visit to family. I took a countless amount of pictures on a lengthy walk my brother and I went on...I will upload some of them tomorrow!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Panoramic images

During our recent barbecue I discovered something that the camera on my phone is better at than my main camera: panoramic images.

I was messing around with the camera settings on my phone when I found the "panoramic" mode and switched the camera to that particular setting. I proceeded to take a picture in the panoramic mode: my camera let me take the first picture in the panoramic, but then it directed me to where the camera should be aimed once that first picture was taken, and then it would automatically take the picture once I pointed it to its target. Even better, once six pictures had been taken, the camera would merge them all into one and crop the uneven parts of the images accordingly. Hardly any effort is required!

In contrast, my main camera does take panoramic images, but it requires a photo-stitching software to merge any pictures it takes in its panoramic mode. However, this has not been an issue since I have not had any reason to use any panoramic features.

What amuses me the most is that I thought I had discovered all of my phone's abilities. Evidently, I have not...but I think it is good to keep learning more about something you thought you already did know everything about!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Gotye's chart reign

It seems I time it well to write about Gotye and Kimbra being number one on The Vodafone Big Top 40 when I did: this past weekend he was knocked down into fourth place.

It is kind of a shame, but not unexpected: a week at number one is good for that particular chart, but six weeks up there is almost an eternity by its standards. I look forward to when someone lasts for more than three weeks on the countdown again!

Monday, 26 March 2012

The bird house

In the last month we have been tidying up the back garden: this has consisted of picking weeds, trimming overgrown trees/bushes, and removing dead plants. During the cutting back of the trees overgrowing the fence, we found this bird house buried within the branches and hooked onto the fence itself:

You can imagine our surprise to find both a bird house, and the words "U.S. Mail" written on it! I wonder how the bird house came to be here, and I do find it being in our yard interesting considering our background (in regards to the "U.S. Mail part" of the bird house).

Sunday, 25 March 2012

First barbecue for 2012 (again)

As promised, here are some pictures from yesterday's barbecue. Not all are of the barbecue itself, but rather are of a few things around the garden as the barbecue was in progress. Still, I hope you will appreciate the pictures! All of them were taken with my main camera.

This is a flower from the magnolia tree we have in our back garden. It has been blossoming for the past couple of weeks or so thanks to the good weather. Not all of its flowers have open yet, so we can expect to see quite a bit more from the tree.

Ah! This is the chicken cooking on the barbecue. I really like the way the optical zoom on my camera enhances the colour of any pictures taken near maximum zoom.

The sausages barbecuing nicely, with Dad turning them over to ensure all sides are cooked properly. Notice how shiny the sausages are?

A group of flowers growing in our garden. I was sat quite a distance away from the flowers, so this is another image taken with optical zoom.

The burgers were the last pieces of food Dad barbecued. This is another optically zoomed image.

This is a ladybug who survived being caught in a spider's web. As Dad did the barbecuing, we watched an interesting sequence of events: the spider catch the ladybug, the spider and ladybug "duel", then the spider returning into the hole where it came from (bear in mind that the spider was three or four times the size of the bug). The ladybug then spent an hour getting itself out of the web, and then it climbed up the wall to the top of the house. We called it "The One That Got Away".

Saturday, 24 March 2012

First barbecue for 2012

We had our first barbecue for 2012 during this afternoon and evening! I took several pictures of the food as it was being barbecued, as well as some pictures of a few things around our back garden as the barbecue was in progress. I will upload some images and include them in tomorrow's post.

The weather has been perfect all day, and from what I have heard there have been barbecues taking place all over the country as it has been such a nice day. Currently I am waiting to eat smells great!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Short Stories: The Junk Salesman

There was a salesman who had a particular talent for convincing people to buy his made-up, useless products by passing them off as worthwhile items; he travelled from place to place in his van, duping the city-folk into purchasing his junk. He had amazed himself with his ability to sell almost anything, and among the objects he had sold so far were wooden camera holders, shoes made out of newspaper, and "Halloween cloaks" (a toilet seat with a bed sheet attached to it, sold as a costume). He found his work to be easy money, with the only drawback of the job being him not able to remain in any place for too long.

His current project was getting people to buy "gold dirt spheres", which in reality were balls of dried mud wrapped up in gold-coloured foil with a weight in the centre to simulate them being made partially of gold. He had set up shop at a busy market in a large city; the bright colours of his van set him apart from the dull-looking stands that surrounded his position. The salesman soon had a person come to view what he had for sale.

"Hello!" the salesman said to his first client. "How can I help you?" One thing that always helped his business was that he was calm in his demeanour; he found that sellers who behaved in an overly happy, creepy, or aggressive manner sold fewer products than those who gently talked their customers into buying something. If anything, he found that confusing customers and making fake promises sold more than coming across as too emotional or too interested in the customer's money.

"Yes," the client said. "Exactly what do you sell?"

"I sell these beautiful, hand-made gold dirt spheres," the salesman replied. "They are balls of dried mud, covered in a shell of gold. The ones I have for sale here are a special batch, as I have engraved them with the local symbol of this city. With the amount of work I have to put into these, normally these cost anywhere between £500-£700, but these are at a reduced price of £325."

"Why would anyone want to buy a lump of dirt wrapped in gold, even for a reduced price?" the client asked as they picked up one of the balls and examined it.

"Why do people buy anything at all, why not just steal?" the salesman responded. "Tell me, are you visiting or do you live here, and are you happy with your time in this city?"

"On holiday," the client replied, bemused at the questions. "It has been a blast coming here for the summer...the people here have been so nice."

"Ah! Well, then I have some perfect reasons for you to buy one of my hand-crafted gold dirt spheres!" the salesman said, only getting slightly excited as to appear human rather than robotic. "Think of having one of these as a souvenir for the wonderful time you have had on your holiday here. On top of that, remember that these are made of gold, so if you pay £325 for it now, you'll be able to sell if for more later as gold value increases!"

"Well, I''m not sure..." the client began.

"Besides, a portion...10%...of the sale goes to helping other people," the salesman then added. "Surely you don't want to miss out on a way to be charitable as a token of your appreciation for this city and its people for their hospitality?"

"Of course, you're right," the client said with a smile as they began to pull out some money. "You know what, I'll even round it up and pay £350 if it ensures a little more goes to a token of my appreciation."

"That's good to hear," the salesman replied as he successfully completed the sell. "You've made someone really happy today. I hope you have a lovely rest of the day and holiday."

After his client walked off with their gold dirt sphere, the salesman congratulated himself on breaking his own record on selling useless items to people, and laughed that he had made over £300 in profit on this venture already. As he replaced the previous gold dirt sphere's hold with another ball, two policemen approached him.

"Hello officers," the salesman said nonchalantly. "Can I interest you in any of my products?"

"Yes, you can," one of the policemen replied, placing handcuffs on the salesman. "All of these items are to be confiscated, and you are under arrest on numerous accounts of fraud including claiming that a portion of your profits go to charity. We have been searching for you all over the country for the last three weeks. Your little operation is, as of this moment, permanently shut down."

"Oh well, I suppose it had to happen someday," the salesman said as he was escorted away by the police.

Sometime later, after the salesman had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison for his crimes, he managed to continue his work in selling junk items to people. His current project? Selling a type of origami made from the foil of food trays to his fellow inmates, claiming his pieces to be made of silver.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Alternate version of "The Lazy Song"

I found a hilarious alternate version to "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars. It features Leonard Nimoy, and is apparently the "official alternate version":

Mars does appear briefly in this version, but if you blink you will miss him. I wonder how Nimoy was chosen to star in the video...he certainly seems like an interesting choice for an appearance in a parody for something like "The Lazy Song"! Somebody else makes an appearance in the video, but I will not spoil it for those who have not watched it yet.

This is the second parody of "The Lazy Song" that I have seen. The other one is Bad Lip Reading's "Morning Dew" (credited as "Bruno Mars featuring Lady Gaga and Jay-Z).

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Bad ways to break up

The other evening there was a short segment on the radio about bad ways someone can end a relationship with another person (or as I prefer to call it, "Breaking Up: The Douchebag Method"). Over the years I have heard of several poor ways to break up with someone, and I thought I would begin to list some of them; some would be quite creative if they were not so heartbreaking to the person on the receiving end:

1. Very short telephone call
I remember when listening to Dawson McAllister Live on the radio how Dawson McAllister strongly recommended to people looking to end a relationship to do it in person, rather than through other methods such as texting, e-mails, or even phoning (although this did assume a "good" relationship, rather than abusive ones where he suggested to just leave). I once heard an instance of someone being dumped via a phone call lasting less than 30 seconds (I did not hear it on the show, however).

2. Re-arranging magnets on a refrigerator
One woman was informed by her boyfriend that she had been dumped via his re-arrangement of magnets on either his or her fridge (I do not know what the exact wording of the letters was). He was not in the vicinity of the fridge when she saw it. This one gets points for being clever, but it is still cowardly!

3. On a social website
This is one I read about, rather than heard on the radio: there was a guy who phoned his girlfriend after a date, and she told him to check Facebook: when he did he could not see anything wrong with it, but then she told him to refresh his page, and voila! She had just changed her status from "in a relationship with (such and such)" to "looking for someone". Dumping someone over any social networking site is a bad idea, but the way this particular break-up was carried out was especially "evil".

4. Cheating on someone, and getting the person you cheated with to tell the person you cheated on that they have been dumped
It is bad enough getting someone else to inform your soon-to-be-ex that they are being dumped, but nothing adds icing to the cake more than telling the person you cheated with to tell the person you cheated on that the relationship is over!

These four are the most notable to spring that my mind for the moment. If I come up with more I shall create new posts for them and link back to this one. Feel free to recommend other bad break-up methods.

For the record, I agree with McAllister that it is best to end a relationship in person, assuming the relationship has been relatively amicable, not abusive, and you are not looking to get away from the other individual for your own safety. Certain things really do need to be told face-to-face, not over any other medium. As funny as these all sound, the person being dumped was likely really hurt by what happened to them.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Swiss Colony tin

As promised in yesterday's post, here is a picture of one of my Swiss Colony tins:

That is a sticker on the top of it: in addition to putting stickers on our clothes drawer, I also placed some on tins. Aside from some dents and the sticker, this tin is in good condition.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Swiss Colony

Out of sheer curiosity I decided to look up The Swiss Colony, and I was surprised to see that on June 1st, 2010, it had been renamed to Colony Brands.

The Swiss Colony, or Colony Brands now, is a company in Wisconsin specializing in foods such as cakes, sausages, cheeses, various candies, and box sets containing a wide selection of the aforementioned food items. They did sell other products too, such as clothing, furniture, decorations, and electronic items, but it was their foods that interested me the most.

We received a catalog from them every year we lived in the United States, and I even kept the last one we received there. I always loved looking through each catalog, wondering what the chocolate tortes, brownies, and petit fours tasted like. We did order some of it too, and we have several storage tins with "The Swiss Colony" on them (I will see if I can get a picture of one).

I have to admit that I do prefer the name "The Swiss Colony" to "Colony Brands", but it is still the same company anyhow. We will have to keep our tins labeled with "The Swiss Colony"!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Six weeks at number one

My brother and I listened to the American Top 40 and Hollywood Hamilton's Weekend Top 30 when we lived in Oregon, and we heard them every weekend. Since we have been back in the United Kingdom, the radio countdown show we have followed has been The Vodafone Big Top 40.

We have been listening to this radio show for over a year and a half, and it has been rare for any song on that countdown to remain at number one for more than three weeks. As such, it has been a nice surprise for "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra (whom I have written about before and am now pleased to hear on the radio here) to have been at the top position for the past six weeks, including today's episode.

I remember when Mariah Carey was number one for twelve weeks in 2005 on the American Top 40 with "We Belong Together" and when Fergie was on the top for eight weeks with "Big Girls Don't Cry" on Hollywood Hamilton's Weekend Top 30 in 2007. With Gotye and Kimbra's success here, it has been great to hear someone at number one again for such an extended period of time. I know this is insignificant in the long run, but it is a small pleasure!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Another one of my jokes (13)

I only have time for a joke for today's post, though I hope to have some more substantial posts soon. This one was written for Christmas 2005:

"What’s a parrot that works in the government? A pollytician"

Friday, 16 March 2012

Cutting the grass

I performed the first grass-cutting of our yards for the year today. It was not a difficult job as we have only a small lawn at the front and a somewhat bigger (but still small) lawn at the back; in addition, both lots of grass are flat. Factoring in getting the equipment out of the garage, setting everything up, and doing the actual cutting, I would say that it was a half-hour job at most.

This contrasts to two years ago when it could take up to two days to cut the grass. With our house in Oregon having two/three acres of land in front of it, the front yard being located on a slope, and that slope having plenty of dips in various parts, it was difficult work to cut its grass. Even when we used a tractor rather than a lawnmower it took several hours to get the job done, and with a tractor we could not use it on the deeply sloped parts to avoid tipping the machine over.

As exhausting as it was, cutting the grass at our Oregon home was still fun and I do miss it. It would be nice to cut it again.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

More spring flowers

More spring flowers! It will be good when we have some more consistent sunshine to allow the flowers to bloom more substantially. Picture taken with my phone:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Amused and bemused

There are plenty of words that get mixed up and people assume are synonyms: "affect" and "effect", "insure" and "ensure", or even "warm" and "lukewarm". Another pair that are often mixed up is "amused" and "bemused".

The other day, I heard someone say that they were bemused by a joke. They were referring to the fact they thought the joke was funny; however, to be "bemused" by something is to be confused by it. The correct word in this instance should have been amused.

For example, if you say you are bemused by a joke, you are saying that the humour was lost on you because you were confused; but if you say you are amused by a joke, you are saying that you understood the joke and appreciated the humour.

"I was amused by some people's bemusement at the amusement others had about the joke that usually bemuses people. It was amusing because their bemused expressions were, well, amusing!"

Remember, amused = found something funny; bemused = found something confusing!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Here is another image that the camera on my phone "warped":

Actually, it is a good camera for the most part: I find pictures such as this one (which are rare) to be interesting rather than a bother!

Monday, 12 March 2012

"Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage"

I was very impressed by this parody of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" done by Soomo Publishing, titled "Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage".

Music videos are apparently not something Soomo Publishing normally create, but this parody is well-made in my opinion, and I think it does a good job it delivering its message. It stands up by itself and can be appreciated by people who are unfamiliar with Lady Gaga's music, though as always it can be a help to watch the original first.

The only other music video Soomo Publishing have made at this point is "Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration", based on "Apologize" by OneRepublic and Timbaland. I will be curious to see what similar works they will release in the future.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Spring flowers are starting to bloom! Here are some daffodils (pictures taken with my phone):

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne "Adia" mashup

I have been listening to the song "Adia" by Sarah McLachlan, and it is my current "favoured song" (I recently heard the song somewhere and then looked it up to see who the performer was). When researching the song, I found a great cover of it by Avril Lavigne, and also a mashup of Lavigne's version with the original. I think the mashup is impressive! Here's the link to it:

Friday, 9 March 2012

A local pond

When going for a walk a few days ago, I took a new picture of a pond in a local park, as it is the winter and the scenery is different. This was taken with my phone:

The first picture I took of the pond can be found here; it was taken during the summer with my main camera.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Another one of my jokes (12)

Just a joke tonight; this was written for Christmas 2006:

"What TV show do roads like to watch? Tar Trek."

This was inspired by a strange bug on our satellite television from years ago when it kept coming up with "Tar Trek" in the searches as opposed to "Star Trek".

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The significance of "Fur the Color of Dark Grey Skies"

Fur the Color of Dark Grey Skies was written in September of 2002, two weeks before I wrote Colors of Tabby. While Colors of Tabby was about our cat Tinker, Fur the Color of Dark Grey Skies was about our Smudge, our other cat. That the title uses both an American-spelt word and a British-spelt word was likely an oversight, but now I think it actually works for the poem.

There are no nonsensical verses for "filler" in Fur the Color of Dark Grey Skies: each line is about a different aspect of Smudge. For example, the title is a reference to his fur, which was a grey color; and "Feral though domestic" refers to the fact that his mother was a feral cat, although Smudge himself was domestic. When we lived in Patterson, California, one of our neighbors came across Smudge's mother and litter in her yard, and she took them inside her house to look after them (the kittens anyway, I am not sure about the mother). All of the kittens were given new homes, and we were the family that received Smudge (and it was my Dad that named him).

Smudge had a different personality to Tinker, but he was still very good-natured and a character; while Tinker was happy to meet people, Smudge would hide in either mine or my brother's bed; it took him time to get to know someone new, but when he did feel comfortable with them coming to our house he would greet and even purr for them. Whenever he was given a brush, it took at least two of us to get the job done (he was a large, strong cat, likely because of Maine Coon ancestry in him); if anything, he preferred being bathed to being brushed. He often came into my room and my brother's, and was happy to sleep on either of our beds. Smudge did not have a near-constant purr: he only purred (and it was more of a "rumble" than a purr) if he was in a really good mood or was on someone's bed or lap. One of his habits involved dipping his paw in water and licking it off himself, and later in life found he preferred fresh water (he would lick the bathtub and its curtains, the sinks after recent use, and drink from cups). As for Tinker and Smudge's relationship, the cats did get on well: they would often play and sleep together, as well as occasionally pull some silly stunt that would either confuse or amuse us.

He died on March 6th, 2009, and would have been thirteen years old that May. As Tinker was dying Smudge had developed a serious problem with his kidneys; the condition was critical, and at his age it would have been very difficult to treat him. We were devastated to lose both our cats within a month of each other; as with Tinker, Smudge's life was happy, long, and eventful.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Fur the Color of Dark Grey Skies

Fur the color of dark grey skies,
He is swift for his size.
Intelligence beyond others,
Only has sisters and no brothers.
Feral though domestic,
Powerful yet hectic.
Small reptiles his feat,
A brush his defeat.
Braver than his foe,
Who doesn’t want to go.

An old piece of my writing; I will explain its significance tomorrow.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Follow up for "The Garden Dance"

I certainly was not expecting The Garden Dance to have three parts! It was a challenge to write, but I had a very pleasant time writing it and turning fragments of a dream into a story. There was a mystery element to the piece that I really appreciate and am a fan of in other works.

The Garden Dance has made me re-evaluate some of what I thought and said previously about my Short Stories series: I was not going to bring characters back once they had been in a story (although I did say I was open to changing my mind on this), and I was not going to have any stories go on for more than one post. Evidently, The Garden Dance has changed that, and while I do not believe that story can go any further, if I have recurring characters or stories that go on for a few posts, I will be fine with that. If I write something and a particular character seems interesting enough to create a spin-off from, why not create a plot for them?

As for multiple-post stories, in future I will be posting them once a week rather than daily. I did feel I rushed The Garden Dance a bit, but it was an exceptional circumstance since I thought I would only have enough content for a single post and wanted to get it finished as soon as possible.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Short Stories: The Garden Dance, Part III


A feminine voice knocked me out of my thoughts. I turned to my left to see a young woman standing next to me; she had lengthy, wavy light blonde hair; was only slightly shorter than me, and had a yellow dress on. She was incredibly beautiful and I assumed her to be a little older than myself.

"Hi!" I replied a little too excitedly, mainly because I was surprised.

"Are you waiting for someone or something?" she asked. "For the last half an hour I've been watching you stand there."

"Half an hour? I've been standing here for a minute," it was true: when I glanced at my watch it was more than half an hour later from when I previously checked the time.

This bothered her slightly but she shrugged it off. "Will you dance with me?" she then asked. "I'm Heather." She had a posh accent, like a higher pitched Joanna Lumley; there was also an interesting combination of a "giggling" tone to her voice mixed with confidence.

Once again I forgot all about the mystery of my surroundings. "Yes, of course," I answered with a smile.

Heather smiled back, took my hands, and we began a slow dance in the courtyard; I had never danced before, yet somehow I knew exactly what I was doing and everything just felt "right". Despite Heather initiating the dance, I gradually found myself leading it as we talked. Our conversation mainly involved learning more about each other and talking about our town...we were really getting along together, and our discussion flowed perfectly...until we reached the topic of the garden dance.

"Have you noticed anything strange about this place?" I asked.

This created the first pause in the conversation, and I could see that Heather was thinking my question over. After a minute, she answered: "Yes, can we talk about this elsewhere?"

"Of course," was my reply. We exited the main dancing area and made our way to the back of the garden; most people were now in the courtyard but a few were still wandering around the garden.

"I have", Heather said when we reached our destination, and she took my hands to start dancing again, turning so that neither of us faced the view of the mountain range and the lake. "Nothing has been consistent since I arrived this morning: one moment I was here on my own, then suddenly I am surrounded! Sometimes time is fast, other times it is slow...and it's not my perception of it either! I found everything, no matter how extraordinary, making sense to me until I saw you!"

"I remember my brother and I arriving here first, and we were told by the doorman that we were early," I responded. "I then recall everyone suddenly showing up when they weren't supposed to be here for another twenty minutes. No one else is noticing, we seem to be the only ones..."

"Excuse me, cutting in here," an attractive, middle-aged woman with short, thick, and curly hair interrupted. She took me from Heather's hands and started to dance with me; I attempted to free myself from her grip, but she was too strong for me.

"Who are you and why have you cut in?" Heather asked angrily. "Let go at once!"

"Now now, as the host I'm entitled to dance with whomever I wish, and I can't have anyone spoil the festivities with questions!" the older woman smiled.

"You're The Landlady!" I gasped. "Can you explain what is going on?"

"Explain what?" she asked with a smile. "Why do you need an explanation? Why not just appreciate the moments for what they are?"

"I do appreciate moments," I replied, looking around for Heather but noticed that she had disappeared and that the hedges had changed to block the way back into the rest of the garden. "But when it looks as though time itself is acting out of character, I want an explanation."

"Tsk...well if comes to that..."

Suddenly, the place where I had just been standing, the hedges, and The Landlady had all vanished. Time once again behaved strange, as the fall from my previous position to the surface of the water felt like hours, even though it was only fifty feet up. Then, as soon as I did reach the lake...

"Hey, wake up!"

I was abruptly awakened by Jimmy hitting my face. I stood up and had a look around to see where I was: I found myself back at the chairs where Jimmy and I drank our iced hot chocolate. The dance was still in progress, but the only two people in my immediate vicinity were my brother and someone who I partially recognised.

"You fell asleep," the person said, and I noticed they were holding our empty cups of hot chocolate. "I've never seen anyone fall asleep to hot chocolate before!" It occurred to me that this individual was the faceless man, but they had a face now.

"Asleep?" I asked. "No I fell in the did I get out?"

"Lake?" asked Jimmy. "No, really, you've been asleep for the last few minutes. Come on, get up and go back to the dance! Heather's just arrived and she's waiting for you!"

I could not explain it. I had a clear memory of arriving at Ketterland Mansion with Jimmy hours ago and could remember all the oddities of the place, yet judging from Jimmy's reaction and the faceless man now having a face, I was now unsure if it really all happened, or if it did but in different manner to how I could recall it. Did I really dream it all? Though if that was the case what about all the strange occurrences before I dozed off? Who really was The Landlady, and why was I sent into the water when I asked for an explanation? None of it mattered anymore...for the final time my thoughts on the matter faded, and I returned to the garden dance to join Heather.


That concludes The Garden Dance. The story is based on a dream I had in the last couple of weeks, and this piece has more of a clear ending than my actual dream did: the only parts of it I can remember were the pond area with my brother, Heather's appearance and me dancing with her, The Landlady cutting in, and then I was thrown into the lake.  

Anything that appears to be a plot hole is intentional...the story is meant to be like a dream: inconsistent, a complete mystery, leaves the viewer wondering what happened, but is beautiful nonetheless. I had a great time writing The Garden Dance, let me know what you think!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Short Stories: The Garden Dance, Part II

It took less than a minute for Jimmy and I to drink our ice cube-filled hot chocolates, though strangely I found myself dozing off for a moment after swallowing my chocolate, but I was able to quickly remove myself from the brief bout of sleepiness. Not wanting to be lazy, we then carried our empty cups with us when we got up from our chairs and made our way over to what appeared to be a small gap in part of the tall hedges surrounding the entire garden. The gap seemed to get bigger the closer we walked towards it, until we were standing at a large gate wooden gate. Curious at its sudden appearance, I unbolted it and we both stepped through.

On the other side of the gate lay seemingly endless grass fields, but about twenty yards in front of us was a path surrounding a pond. We went left on the path and walked to the other side of the body of water before we heard voices; Jimmy and I spun around to see several other people entering through the gate.

"It looks like everyone else has arrived," I remarked. "Perhaps we should return to the garden."

We continued on our previous direction around the path and made it back to the gate. At that point, everyone else in the pond area had decided to leave as well, meaning I had to hold the gate open for them all until only I remained. I shut the gate and re-bolted it once I was back in the garden.

There were now a hundred other people in the garden, but they all appeared as though they had been here for hours: they were talking, singing, eating, dancing, laughing...glancing at my watch, they could barely have been here for more than ten minutes, but no one would know that from the activity now taking place. Still, everything was just making sense to me somehow, and I stopped my brief bit of thinking on the matter to go to the centre of the garden as I had just noticed something hidden there within the middle hedges. I looked around for Jimmy on my way, but I quickly assumed he had wandered off.

Situated within the central hedges was a courtyard, and although people were dancing all over the vast garden, the flat flooring of the courtyard was the "main" dance floor. There were tables filled with food and drinks located to the sides of the interior of the courtyard, as well as slow jazz music playing although I could not see or hear exactly where the music was originating from. I put my empty cup from earlier down and began to think.

Just a few minutes ago, everything made sense and only briefly did I think about the mysteries of Ketterland Mansion: now I found myself realising what an enigma it was all turning out to be. There were several aspects of the place that were completely out of the ordinary or outright contradictory; but as I looked around I could not see a single frown or any indication that anyone other than myself found anything suspicious. One other thing came to mind: where was The Landlady herself in all of this?

As I was thinking, something else then ended up drawing my attention away from trying to figure out what was going on.


This was supposed to be a one-part story, but I have had a really pleasant time in writing it; I hope you are looking forward to the third part as much as I am!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Short Stories: The Garden Dance, Part I

It was a lovely, warm spring day, and my brother Jimmy and I were arriving at a garden dance being held at Ketterland Mansion. We had been surprised during the recent winter when we received our invites in the mail, but we were certainly pleased to have been invited and were eager to attend: in every year for the past thirty-three years, the landlady of Ketterland Mansion held a dance at her home, and the event had become to be held in such by high esteem by the people of the town of Ketterland that it was an honour just to be invited.

While the dance itself was highly regarded, little was known about the woman herself: the people who had gone to the dances rarely spoke of her, other than to say how much of a wonderful person she was. Despite only a small group of people knowing what she looked like, it was common knowledge in the town that she was middle-aged but highly beautiful. However, no one knew her name, and she was referred to (and apparently even addressed as) "The Landlady".

The respect the dance earned probably came from the amount of people invited to each dance and the routine used to invite them: at the beginning of every winter, a hundred random inhabitants in Ketterland received letters from The Landlady informing them that they had been invited to her annual garden dance in the spring; the letters also told them to ensure that they would be free for the second weekend of April. Near the end of the winter, the same group of people would then receive a package containing their outfits for the occasion (we received a black suit each), plus a reminder to keep the date of the event free of any other engagements. To date, everyone who had been invited had attended.

"Well, we're here, and we are on time," I said to Jimmy while looking at my watch as we climbed the stairs to The Landlady's front door. "Do you want to knock or shall I?"

"You're the older brother," Jimmy replied.

"A 'yes' or a 'no' would have sufficed, but I'll assume that's a 'yes'." I was about to knock when I noticed a doorbell instead. "Ah!" I gasped as I pressed the button.

We waited for about a minute before the door opened and a man without a visible face ushered us in and closed the door behind him. He directed us to the backyard of the mansion then he returned to answering the front door while Jimmy and I marvelled at the sight of the massive garden in the backyard of Ketterland Mansion. The entire place looked like the sort of garden you would see in a Princess Diaries film, rather than anyone's backyard (even someone with a mansion), although it was sloped. At the very back of the garden was a view of a mountain range I had never noticed before, and in front of the mountains was a lake I never knew existed either: the garden was situated at least fifty feet above the water.

To our surprise, the garden was deserted. Besides the faceless man who answered the door we had not seen anyone since we arrived. We had a look around for twenty minutes before returning to the mansion; however, upon trying to re-enter the building, the faceless man appeared again.

"You're early," he said in a low and strangely echoed voice, and I realised at that point my watch was an hour early. "The rest of the guests won't arrive for another twenty-five minutes. Could I interest you in a hot chocolate?"

"Yes please," came our reply, and the faceless man pulled out a thermos and two cups from his jacket, poured us a hot chocolate each and put two ice cubes from the opposite end of the thermos in them.

"Cheers," he said after he passed us our cooling-down hot drinks; then he put two cubes in the thermos and drank the rest of the liquid straight from it.

The man again returned to the front door. With little else to do at that moment in time, Jimmy and I found a place to sit down, have our drinks, and wait for everyone else to arrive.


As I wrote this, the story ended up being longer than I thought it would be. I will post part II tomorrow, and if that part concludes the story I will give all the background to The Garden Dance plus some insight into the odder parts of this piece. My brother's name in this story is fictional.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


We had pancakes for both dinner and dessert last night! Mum made pancakes for the first time in years, using a Yahoo! recipe I had discovered. They turned out to be very tasty, and as per usual when we try out a new recipe, I took some pictures (they were all done with my phone):

This is the second pancake that was made last night, and it was the one I had for dinner: my brother had the first pancake, but it fell apart when Mum tried to get it out of the pan. I was far more successful at getting the pancakes out, as every one that I removed from the pan came out intact. We had leftover casserole on our dinner pancakes.

This is Mum's dinner pancake cooking: despite the fact that she normally eats the least at mealtimes, she had the biggest pancake.

This is my dessert pancake: to my knowledge, this is the first time where I have had (almost) the same meal for both dinner and dessert, except that on my dessert pancake I had strawberry syrup rather than casserole.

Homemade pancakes are wonderful...I recommend them! The recipe we used can be found here.