Parallel universe


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Have you ever felt that perhaps you are on a different planet, or even in a different universe, to everyone else?

Over the past week or so I’ve tried to make contact with a couple of organisations but without success. I even tried contacting one of the officers of one of them with a personal message. All to no avail.

Here we are, in the twenty first century, with technology that can send spacecraft beyond Pluto, and still get messages across the void, people living on the International Space Station can post pictures to Instagram, and I can see the contents of my fridge while in a meeting in a different city – but to get a human to reply to an e-mail seems to be impossible. May be I’ll have to go back a couple of centuries and try sending a letter – you remember – paper, ink, licking the envelope, adding a stamp, walking to the mailbox, letting Royal Mail perform their magic – and waiting for a reply …

Anyway, if there is anybody out there, please let me know – or am I really alone, on a different planet?


All at Sea


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Back in May Julie and I went to the Nelson Gin School, there we made our own gin. We chose the botanicals – the natural flavourings that give each gin it’s individual taste – and used them in a small table-top still to produce … gin.

Part of the fun is to give your product a name, Neil Harrison (Mr Nelson’s Gin) suggests you design a label, too.

So, Mr H, here is the label for our ‘All at Sea’ Pirate Gin, Batch #6, 20 May 2017, 45.2% ABV …

(of course, this design is copyright © )

Nelson’s Gin School


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Victory – a glorious piece of 21st century steampunkery

‘Mother’s ruin’ – gin is going through a bit of a renaissance – it’s a bit trendy.

As I’ve sampled a few(!), Julie thought it would be a good idea to see how it’s made, so she took me to Nelson’s Distillery and Gin School, in Staffordshire.

Our collection of botanicals – at least 40% Juniper berries (or it’s not gin)

We started by browsing cocktail books, history books, and recipe books, and the rows of herbs, spices, and other botanical samples – just to get our gin-brains going. Then we spent the day blending and distilling our own bottle of gin. We each had a mini desktop copper still, chose our own blend of ‘botanicals’ and were steered through the process by the owner, distiller extraordinaire, Neil Harrison.

Neil, the man himself, supervises the fine art

Julie and I were a little concerned that the amount dripping from our still was not going to be enough to make a bottle, but once the specific gravity (a measure of the strength of the alcohol) was checked, it was apparent that we were going for quality, not quantity. We achieved a maximum of 89% ABV (alc. by volume). As the strength of the final product would be adjusted so each bottle was around 40 – 50% there would be no issues for us.

While we waited for the gin to ‘appear’ we were introduced to ‘Victory‘, the special, one-off still produced specially for Nelson’s – a glorious piece of 21st century steampunkery, in gleaming copper and stainless steel. A real beauty.

We also got to try the company’s mainstay product, Nelson’s No 7. A suitably large sample appeared and was consumed without complaint. The tone of the gathered would-be distillers became a tad more boisterous after that.

Nelson’s also produce a ‘Navy Strength‘ gin. By tradition this has to be at least 57% ABV as it was stored next to the gunpowder, and if a spillage should occur (heaven forbid!) the gunpowder must still ignite when soaked with the gin. Seemed like a good plan.

With our gins bottled, it was blended with pure water to bring it to the required strength. We called our product, ‘All at Sea’ to maintain the maritime tradition. It was finished at 45.2% ABV. The strongest in the class.

Anyway, my task now is to design a suitable label for the bottle. I shall partake a small measure as inspiration. Watch my other blog for the nautical artwork to appear …

[Visit for the full story of the distillery, school, and their gins]

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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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.”


“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.

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“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.


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.


“… 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)

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 …

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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