Getting the bird

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There’s nothing like a nice day out with the family. Round up the kids – and their kids – bundle them all in to the car and head off to the countryside for a picnic. So we did.

But that’s only half the story. We spent the day at the Hawk Conservancy Trust, near Andover, UK. It’s a great place to visit, there is a full day’s entertainment and it’s all for a good cause.

Did you know that for every elephant or rhino that is killed for its tusks or horn, up to 50 vultures, or more, can die at the same site? Because the circling vultures give away the location of the carnage to the rangers, the poachers spread poison over the carcase to kill the vultures. This, together with those killed by the poisons in the preventative medication given to roaming cattle, has reduced them to a critically endangered species.

Not only are there vultures at the Trust, but hawks, owls, and many other birds all presented in different flying displays throughout the day. In each arena birds are flown and swoop low – head height – into the audience. You duck or wear a bird shaped bruise.

That was the American bald eagle …

Of course, my favourite is being buzzed by the massed vulture display – oh, and watching the American bald eagle fly in from a village on the far side of the valley, but the most impressive is the fish eagle.

The fish eagle glides down from the beech trees and plucks a ‘fish’ from the tiny pool just a few feet from where we are sat. I waited, camera poised, focussed on the pool … click!

Got ‘im this time – sorry about the quality. Don’t blame the camera.

Luckily, for us less-than-professional photographers, he does a second run. I hope you like my action shots – I did get the bird – just!

Inspiration Monday – Dying Art

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Christmastide at Steph’s InMon! I’ve missed a few Inspirational Mondays lately, but here is my seasonal flash fiction offering …

***

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring  … except for the creaking of floorboards from down in the hall.

That’s the trouble with old houses, they have real wood floors. They swell and shrink with the weather; when it’s dry you have to tippy-toe carefully because they make enough noise to wake the dead.

It’s a dying art, y’ know – a’burglin’. Back in the day you’d be in and out and they’d hardly know you had been there – ‘cept their valuables had gone, of course. You’d look for a window that was ajar, or may be a door that was unlocked. Sometimes you’d have to resort to the ‘tools’ – perhaps a little light work with a jemmy, or may be a few moments with the skeleton keys, but you was soon in.

The idea was to disturb as little as possible. After all, it was someone’s house you was in and you didn’t want to mess it all up. You knew where to look. Creatures of habit is humans. Sometimes they would surprise you, like a roll of tenners in the sock drawer, or a nice diamond ring in the medicine cabinet. But usually the same old stash in the tea caddy, nice watch on the dressing table, necklace in the knicker drawer.

Of course, you always wore gloves. Only a complete divvy would leave finger prints. But nowadays there is no skill, no finesse. Smash a window, rip a door off its hinges. Then once they’re in they blunder about like a chimp at a tea party. The place looks like it’s been hit by a tornado. And they aren’t fussy about what they take, neither. Anything that they think the pawnshop will give them a couple of bob for, they’ll have.

No pride in their work, that’s the trouble with the youth of today. Once upon a time they used to learn the trade proper – like an apprenticeship – but now they thinks they know it all, and just won’t listen.

Like getting nabbed by the Old Bill. We’d always say, “It’s a fair cop, guv.” Give ’em a bit of banter down the nick, and get off with a warning, but these youngsters gotta put up a fight, and struggle, and bleat. Then they are surprised when they wake up in the cell, with bruises. They don’t realise the rozzers is only doing their job – just like us.

It’s a dying art, y’know.

***
© 2016, K Patrick Moody

Inspiration Monday – Written Radio

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Kristallmottagare

Crystal radio using cat’s whisker technology

Another late entry for InMon! When will I learn? Anyway, from this week’s list of words, ‘written radio’ grabbed my imagination.

(‘Bertie’ was the name his friends and family called H G Wells)

***

There was a gentle tap on the door of Smythe’s workshop.

“You in there, Sam?”

“Yes, come on in. You’re just in time.”

Sam indicated a knot of electrical wiring and other pieces of equipment on his bench.

Joshua knew he need not ask …

“I’ve been interested in this radio phenomenon for a while, and I think it has great potential.”

Joshua nodded, technology wasn’t really his forte.

Sam continued, “The work of that chap Morse in the United States fascinates me. Listen.”

He held up the headphones and Joshua put them to his ear.

“All I hear is blips, Sam. It is meaningless.”

“They are not just ordinary blips, there are short ones and long ones – it is a code – and messages are being sent – it is transmitted information.”

“I can’t see there is a future in it.”

“But what about this, Joshua … ?” Sam twiddled and adjusted the tiny wire touching the small piece of crystal, “ … listen again!”

Joshua held the apparatus to his ear.

“Tell me what you hear!” Sam was almost bursting with excitement..

“Just crackling …” Sam fiddle again with the device he called a cat’s whisker.

“Now what can you hear?”

“Is it a voice? It’s got a strange tone – and it’s not a language I recognise.” Joshua was non-plussed with the whole thing. All this was playing with dangerous, new fangled, electricity. The stuff was unpredictable – you couldn’t see it, unless it was leaping across the bench as a blue flash; you couldn’t smell it, until it set fire to Sam’s wires. At least you knew what was going on with gas lamps and candles.

“That’s just it!” Sam was waving his arms about – he was about to launch himself in to another project that would cost Joshua dearly. “I don’t know where the voice is coming from. Nobody is transmitting anything other than the telegraph signals!”

Joshua was getting a vague interest now there was some mystery mixed in.

Sam continued, “Oh, I’m sure it will happen in time – but there is years of research needed yet.”

“Right, let’s keep it logical.” Joshua tried to keep the matter grounded, “Who is likely to want to get ahead of the Americans?”

“Well, I know the Tzar has a whole range of scientists at work – but the voice is not Russian.”

“Pretty much likely to be them, I reckon.” Joshua looked smug, and rocked on his heels as he lit his bent briar.

“But …” Sam gave a dramatic pause, “ … what if Bertie Wells’ story about Martians isn’t a work of fiction – what if he was trying to warn us? These blighters would have technology far superior to ours.”

“Nonsense!”

“No! We must locate the source of these emanations! It is of national importance, Joshua! I need your assistance, and that of your colleagues at the Ministry!”

Joshua hid his face in his hands – here we go again, he thought.

***

© 2016, K Patrick Moody

Inspiration Monday – Insecurity System

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It’s Monday, I’m late. Here is my offering for Steph’s Inmon challenge. This week I chose ‘Insecurity System’ as my prompt, for no other reason than to give my Steampunk pair a bit of an airing.

* * *

INSECURITY SYSTEM

“Stone the crows, guv’nor!” The cabby flipped open the hatch above the occupants of the hansom cab, “A bloke could get lawst comin’ dahn all them alleys!”

“Nonsense!” Fortesque new the fellow was fishing for a bigger tip, “But there’s an extra florin for you if you wait here for us.”

“Well, Sunday nights is busy, y’know.” He rolled has hands together and blew into them for warmth, “Can’t afford to waste time just ‘anging abaht.”

“I’ll make it half a crown, and expect to find you here at ten thirty.”

Fortesque didn’t wait for a reply; he and his colleague got out and vanished into the darkness beyond a pair of black iron gates.

At the house Fortesque pulled the brass handle to the right of the door. There was no sound, but a few moments after the door opened, slowly, just wide enough for the butler’s face to appear in the gap.

“We’re here for the meeting.”

“Meeting, sir?”

“Yes, Sir Oswald Pickersgate is expecting us; Dr Joshua Fortesque,” and he indicated to his colleague, “Mr Samuel Smythe.”

“Ah, that meeting. Of course, sir. Do come in.”

He took their hats and top coats and led them to the drawing room. The door opened and they were greeted by a fug of billowing cigar smoke, and a glass of port.

“Made it then!” Sir Oswald thrust out his hand, “Shame you missed dinner, rather good salmon tonight, I thought.”

With introductions complete the meeting began.

By a quarter past ten a conclusion was reached. The only way to defeat the enemy’s infiltration of the security system, would be to give them access to ‘the insecurity system’, as Sir Oswald called it.

“I know just the man,” Fortesque twisted his moustache and smiled. “A man to whom money is more important than his meagre life.”

Fortesque and Smythe climbed into the hansom and the hatch above them opened.

“Where to, guv’nor?”

“How would you like to turn the half crown into a guinea?”

“I thinks that sounds like a job where I don’t ask no questions.”

“I think you are quite correct. Drop us at St Paul’s. When we are gone you will find an envelope on the seat. It would be rather convenient if it was to end up at the German embassy, for the attention of the Kaiser.”

“But what about me payment?”

Smythe cut in, “It will be delivered to your house at noon tomorrow, by a street urchin called Arthur.”

“How do you know where I live?”

“The same way that we will know you if you have delivered the envelope.”

Alone next to a solitary gas lamp outside the cathedral, the cabby ran his finger over the envelope’s seal. Moments later the cab disappeared in to the dark side street. At noon the next day, as promised, Arthur knocked on the cabby’s door. There was no reply.

* * *

© 2016, K Patrick Moody

More poetry?

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The poetry submissions for July’s OWC (One Word Challenge) were a little thin on the ground, so I thought I would help out again.bottle and glasses

I’m sure any regular readers will know my mantra for verse – ‘If it don’t rhyme, it ain’t poetry’ – and I class this as proper poetry, somewhere between that of William Topaz McGonagall and Pam Ayres.

So without further ado … ‘Enough’.

***

Oh dear, I feel unsteady, and wobbly on my feet.
Thought I’d meet a nice young blonde, and save her from the street.

I ordered extra drinks from the barman over there,
I had to drink them all myself, ‘cos she don’t seem to care.

The first round wasn’t too bad, I thought that life was tough,
Now I’ve done it three more times, I feel a little rough.

‘Set ‘em up again, Joe, she’ll be here pretty soon,’
He said ‘Ya shouldn’t bother – more chance getting to the moon.’

I said I’d dressed up special, put gold links in me cuff,
He snatched away the empty glass, said, ‘Mate, you’ve had enough.’

I settled for a cola’d Coke, it fizzled in the glass.
I tripped upon the curly mat, and fell upon me arse.

‘Right! That’s it! You gotta leave, you’re a nuisance in this place.’
But as he whisked me through the bar, I saw her lovely face.

‘Oi!’ I said, as he pushed me, right out through the door,
‘You were s’posed to be with me! – I woulda loved you more!’

As I hit the footpath, I bumped in to Old Bill,
‘Accompany me to my van – or come against your will.’

I spent the night in chokey, the cell room floor was hard,
Breakfast wasn’t up to much, just toast all smeared with lard.

Straight in front the beak I went, of course he got me done,
Stung me for a pony, but I’m glad it weren’t a ton.

The moral of this story is, once in the nitty gritty,
When you get to sixty five, young blondes don’t think you’re pretty.

***

(c) 2016, K Patrick Moody

Your barn door is safe!

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Does size matter?

After spending the morning roaming the English countryside armed with a 12 bore shotgun (that’s 12 gauge in the US) I can confirm that the clay pigeon population will not be endangered, nor is there any risk to the longevity of your barn door.

My dear brother-in-law thought that it would be good to demonstrate his skills, and to give me a chance to try out his new Beretta over and under shotgun. I was instructed to  what was both fashionable and practical to wear on these occasions, and turned up suitably attired. He was not sure that the inscription on the cap was spelled correctly, but I was allowed to proceed.

It’s been some time since I was allowed to wander around with lethal weaponry; previous arms were a catapult, a long bow, S&W .38, and 12 gauge side-by-side. I was reasonably successful with the first three, but I was never comfortable with the old blunderbuss and buckshot routine. Hence why Little Bro was passing on his skills.

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Under instruction – “That way!”

Get the stock up to my shoulder, lean slightly forward to counter the recoil, place my left foot to point to where I’ll be shooting. Oh, keep the damned thing pointing down-range, too.

My wife, in charge of photography, also managed some timely advice, like, “Aim your foot at the target!” I did question brother-in-law as to whether it would be more appropriate to aim the gun towards the clay.

If you have ever been to a clay pigeon/skeet/ball-trap shoot, you’ll know that they have various set-ups to imitate the flight of real birds. At our venue we had Tai-chi sounding things, like;  incoming rook, surprised teal, fleeing duck, loopy pheasant, and crossing rabbit (technically not a bird …). Each required its own technique, and if launched in quick succession, some pretty speedy reactions. I settled for one at a time.

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“… or may be that way.”

I wasn’t out for a duck* and managed to hit at least one from each position – whether that was skill or luck is neither here nor there. So, for me, that was a good day – although only few fatalities, there were some very scared, and quite a number of slightly worried, clay pigeons!

*A term used in cricket when one is bowled out without scoring any runs. Cricket is one of those sports that can only be grasped on a hot, sunny afternoon having consumed a few gin and tonics, by which time you’ll nod sagely, and enquire about the off-side rule.

(featured in Inspiration Monday – Doom Merchant)
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Inspiration Monday – The Sands of Space Time

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Long time, no write. Thought I’d catch up with Steph’s InMon challenge. Nip over to the Bekindrewrite site for more info. In the mean time, here’s my brief submission …

* * *

THE SANDS OF SPACE TIME

Three minutes. It’s not long. With practice you can hold your breath for three minutes, but not if you struggle.

The suit will protect you from the cold, the vacuum, and the radiation – but there is no air tank or re-circulator. You will only have the air contained in the suit with you.

So, you have a choice, there is always a choice. You can stay in the pod with me and wait as its velocity decreases and the orbit decays. We will eventually fall to earth, but I doubt we’ll reach the surface. The pod is not designed for re-entry and will probably burn up by the time it gets to 8,000 metres.

Or you can make for the space station, where you will be safe until a recovery flight can be sent from earth.

I estimate the current distance to the station is 50.37 metres. As long as you push yourself away from the air-lock with sufficient force it should take about 74 seconds to make the trip. That will leave you one minute and 16 seconds to get to the air-lock, open it and start the boarding sequence.

The primary risk is that your trajectory will be incorrect and you will miss the station. This will be terminal. Secondary risk is lack of thrust and failing to make the distance. This, too, will be terminal. Tertiary risk not having sufficient time to reach the air-lock once you reach the station. Again, terminal.

The tether is not long enough to allow you to reach the station. It will remain in the pod.

Enter the air-lock exit code if you decide to leave. I will track your progress and relay it to Mission Control. Please don’t worry about me, there is a back-up of my database at Mission Control, and we can be re-united … if you survive.

Distance to the station is now 50.61 metres.

Distance to the station is …

* * *

© 2016. K Patrick Moody

One Word – Jeopardy

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April’s prompt in the Talkback, One Word Challenge was Jeopardy. This was another well chosen, but difficult to write for word. The poets found it a struggle as shown by the number of entries, but enough flash fiction stories made it before the deadline to make it a worthy challenge.

Here is my entry.

* * *

THE LAST DANCE

“So! You insist on this folly. You force me to come down to this god-forsaken room, just because you refuse to tell the truth.” He pushed the steel door shut with a gentle, well oiled click. “I thought that just being here would be enough, but you have to make my suffering worse.”

The fluorescent tubes flickered into yellow life, chasing the shadows deep in the damp crevices of the room. He checked the tightness of the ropes around her wrists.

“We don’t have to continue with this little game, I’d rather be with my other friends in the ballroom.” He slid out of his tuxedo and hooked it on a nail protruding from the breeze block wall. In exchange he put on the heavy rubber apron and matching gloves.

“Now, my dear, tell me his name and we can both leave this awful place.” He paused. She said nothing. He stroked her cheek with the foul-smelling rubber glove. “We could be back in time for the last waltz.” Her spittle ran down his cheek. He sighed.

“Then it will have to be a fandango.” He brought the bare ends of the jump-leads together in a shower of yellow-blue sparks.

* * *

© 2016 KPatrick Moody

 

Poetry?

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By way of a change I entered a poetry competition. It was the other half of the One Word Challenge in the Writers Online forum, Talkback.

Now those who know me will understand that I have certain views on what does, and what doesn’t constitute poetry. That free-verse stuff is, to me, just badly written, often incoherent prose. Lazy writing. Stuff that weird hippies and Bohemians jot down and pretend that is ‘deep and meaningful’. I do proper poetry.

‘If it don’t rhyme, it ain’t poetry’. I don’t know whose wise words they were, but they is deeper and meaningfuller than a bunch of rambling thoughts scribbled on the back of a ciggy packet.

Who said, ‘Philistine’? It’s OK for greetings cards!

Anyway, the one word prompt for March was ‘jam‘.

***

Wham! Bam! Thanks ma’am, that really was quite fun,
But now, it seems, you’re telling me, your oven is with bun!

It was soon accomplished, all done and dusted quick,
My gigolo-ing technique really is quite slick.

But now all I can think of is ‘if only’ and, ‘what if’.
Suppose I should have been prepared with French preservatifs.

Alas, I must accept my fate, and take it like a man,
But am I in a quandary, a pickle, or a jam?

***

© 2016. KPatrick Moody

Inspiration Monday – Sketchy Artist

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It’s been so long! But I have another story, inspired by Steph’s trusty Bekindrewrite site. Of the prompts available Sketchy Artist struck a chord …

***

“This is the life, Samuel.” Joshua Fortesque stood back from the easel and puffed contentedly on his bent briar. “The greens in spring are so fresh.”Monet

“Well you’ve certainly captured the essence of the scene.” Sam Smythe took a pace back from the billowing tobacco smoke. He considered carefully the colours and shapes daubed on the canvas. “Tell me, Joshua, how long have you painted abstracts?”

“Samuel, please. It is after Monet’s impressionist style,” he huffed. Sam considered it carefully for some moments before replying.

“Do people really like this stuff?” He dodged another cloud from the briar. “Would they sell if we could produce them ‘en masse’?”

“I’m sure they would, if I could paint fast enough.” Joshua chuckled at the thought. He watched Sam, deep in thought, wander back towards the workshop.

The late afternoon sun dipped behind the trees and Joshua packed away his paints and easel, and headed off to the workshop, trailing pipe smoke in his wake. He pushed open the door and peeked round the edge to see what Sam was up to.

“Just in time, old boy!” Sam’s brown dust coat was splattered in every colour available in Joshua’s pallet. “What do you think of this?”

On the bench was a wooden frame, and in it was what appeared to be a large stencil. It looked like an old silk shirt was stretched across it, too.

Joshua pocketed his pipe and went in.

The bench was scattered with jars and dishes of paints mixed to different consistencies, some almost like water, others like thick cream. Propped against the walls and cupboards were boards covered in paint; some colours fixed to the surface, others dribbled down and pooled on the floor.

“I’m nearly there! The theory is good!” As usual Sam’s enthusiasm for concocting machines to do man’s work blinded him to any impracticalities. “Out there you were dabbing on your colours here and there – bit of yellow, bit of blue – making a greeny colour.” He pointed to the canvas Joshua carried. “Not very efficient I thought.”

“It isn’t supposed to be efficient – it’s artistic – a pleasure, to be consumed slowly, and savoured.” Joshua assumed the haughty air of one who knows, unlike an engineer who just wouldn’t understand.

“Yes, yes. I know all that.” Sam waved the idea away. “With this machine I can replicate your art quicker, and more easily, by applying the individual colours one at a time to the whole picture in one swipe – look!”

He mixed paints, sloshed them into the frame, dragging a rubber blade across each time he changed colour. He swapped the stencils around, too. After ten minutes frenzied activity he held up a board for Joshua to see.

“I get the idea.” A faint wisp of smoke rose from his pocket. “The blending of the primary colours is producing the secondaries. I’m sure this can work, I’m warming to it.”

“Will you work with me on developing it, Joshua?” Sam paused and sniffed. “I’ll need your arty advice to get the colours just right – what’s that smell? Something burning?”

The pocket on Joshua’s jacket now had a black patch, just beginning to glow red. Joshua flapped his hand at it, but before it became a conflagration Sam grabbed a pot of water, with paint brushes still propped up in it, and drenched the seat of the fire.

“It’s best you only bring your pipe when we are working ‘en pleine air ‘methinks.” Sam covered his mouth in a failed effort to subdue his laugh.

Joshua turned and left the workshop, “My favourite tweed, y’know … and I suppose that’s my shirt in your infernal machine.”

***

© K Patrick Moody, 2016