Particularly pungent…

27 02 2013

Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello!

After getting sidetracked yesterday in The Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, here’s the next nude-and-uncut chapter of the continuing saga of Granny Battle and Ellis, hurrah!

If you’d like to catch up on the whole story so far (or just the previous chapter, to get you in the mood, like), here are some links:

Chapter 1 – Crackleberries…
Chapter 2 – What happened next…
Chapter 3 – Tweaked odour eaters…
Chapter 4 – Startled dragon wee…
Chapter 5 – Cats: The truth…
Chapter 6 – Battle Stations
Chapter 7 – An exploding dragon?

Right, let’s get on with it!


Chapter 8

A pair of large, slightly smoking, orange nostrils filled his vision.

‘His name’s Eronimous Sinjun Fluffy-Paws Battleford III, by the way,’ said Granny, lowering the dragon slightly, ‘but I just call him Ian for short. It’s about time you were properly introduced.’ Ellis refocused on the dragon, raising an eyebrow and opening his mouth to say ‘Fluffy-Paws?!’, but catching Granny’s defiant eye he changed his mind. He also decided not to pick up on her mis-spelling of St John.

‘Hello Ian,’ he said rather weakly, ‘I didn’t recognise you there for a minute.’ Ian looked up at him steadily and blinked slowly, then stretched out a scaley, be-clawed front leg.

‘Aw, good boy, he wants to shake hands,’ said Granny, ‘Quickly, before he changes his mind.’ Ellis carefully took hold of the proffered foot and shook it gingerly. The scales felt surprisingly soft. Ian wriggled in Granny’s arms and she put him down in Ellis’ lap, where he curled up with his nose tucked under his tail and promptly went to sleep.

Granny was rustling around in her bag, so Ellis took a moment to look carefully around, glancing back to Ian every few seconds to make sure he could still see him. The memory of seeing, feeling and hearing two places at once was still making him feel a little queasy, and he didn’t want to risk it happening again. ‘As long as I can see Ian properly,’ he told himself, ‘I’ll be alright.’

The train carriage he was in was nothing at all like the ones he’d been in occasionally with his mum. This one looked more like one of the ones he’d seen in the big museum she’d taken him to once – all varnished wood, mirrors, and lights with delicate little frilly lampshades mounted on the walls. They were in a compartment with a door at each side, and two long benches faced each other with shiny steel luggage racks mounted above them.

Opposite him sat a young family – mum, dad and five children, the smallest of which was sitting on his dad’s lap with his short furry legs sticking straight out, as he stared intently at Ellis and picked his long stripey nose.

‘Um, Granny…’ whispered Ellis out the corner of his mouth.

‘Of course they’re badgers,’ said Granny, still rummaging in her bag. Then she triumphantly brandished a rather squashed foil wrapped package. ‘Aha! Sandwich?’

Ellis looked back at the little badger boy, who was now inspecting the findings on the end of his paw with interest.

‘The thing is,’ said Granny, digging him in the ribs with a pointy elbow and passing him a surprisingly dainty-looking sandwich, ‘you’ll find things a little bit odd at first, but once you get used to it you won’t think twice about it.’ She devoured her sandwich in one bite and recovered another from the foil.

‘It makef fense when you fink about ift,’ she said chewily, then she stopped mid-mastication, pulled a face and thought for a second or two. She swallowed. ‘Probably best tho if you don’t try and think about it too much at the moment though, it’s a bit too early.’

Ellis wished she hadn’t said that – it was like the sneeze all over again. He looked down and stared hard at Ian for a few seconds to make sure he was still there.

Then he took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. ‘Granny?’ He asked carefully, trying to make sure that what he was going to say next was as clear in mind as possible. Granny opened her mouth, peered at him, then shut it again. Giving a little nod, she said, ‘Yes Ellis?’ Ellis relaxed slightly and continued, ‘Would you mind very much not answering before I’ve asked stuff? It’s just that it makes me feel dizzy.’ He looked at Granny and felt a bit silly, knowing that she’d already known what he’d being going to ask.

Granny smiled, her eyes crinkling behind her massive glasses. ‘Of course, Ellis,’ she said, ‘I do sometimes forget it must be a bit confusing. I’ll just save it for special occasions and emergencies, shall I?’ Ellis nodded gratefully and took a bite of his sandwich. It was cheese and onion, his favourite, and tasted extremely comforting. He chewed slowly, trying to decide how to phrase his next question, as Granny started to hum impatiently next to him. He swallowed.

‘So, um, what’s going on? Where are we? Where are we going? How are we going? Can we get back?’ he paused and took a breath, ‘and what’s that smell?!’ he finished, wrinkling up his nose at a particularly pungent aroma that had just appeared out of nowhere.

Granny leaned towards him and sniffed.

‘It’s just Ian,’ she said, ‘he does that sometimes in his sleep.’ She wafted the air around the snoozing dragon with both hands to try and disperse the smell and shrugged apologetically at the badger family opposite as they began to cover their noses with their paws.

‘Best way to answer the rest of your questions,’ she said turning back to Ellis, ‘would be for you to have a look at your phone.’

Ellis looked blank for a second, then remembered the app Granny had installed for him back in the kitchen, which now felt like weeks ago. He shrugged off his rucksack, being careful not to disturb Ian, dug his phone out and switched it on. Then he tapped on the Battle Stations icon, scrolled through the menu options and tapped on Map.

At first glance it looked just like his normal map app, except that there were three blobs – one blue, one green, and a small orange one – drifting up the screen. He realised they must be himself, Granny and Ian.

‘Good boy,’ said Granny approvingly, ‘Keep looking.’

According to the map, they were travelling through a dense forest. Except there weren’t any dense forests for miles and miles from where he lived – there was just the disappointingly small wood. He looked at the screen more closely, and noticed the little flap at the bottom right corner – on his phone when he tapped that, he could change map views. He tapped on it, and was given the option of Standard, Hybrid, Satellite and something called “Trigonal“. He tapped Trigonal, and the map quickly redrew. He stared at it. It was still showing them as moving through a forest, but at the same time, like a tracing-paper overlay, he could see houses and roads.

The three dots glided through a new housing estate, then joined up with a motorway. Ellis zoomed in, and found he could even make out tiny cars zooming alongside them, or in some cases straight through them in the opposite direction, which was a bit disconcerting. The motorway suddenly veered off to the left and they were travelling through open fields, and at the same time a dense forest.

He dragged his gaze away from the screen and looked up at Granny, his eyes wide.

‘That,’ he said, with a big grin spreading across his face, ‘is the coolest app ever!’


Wahey! Catch you later!

Oh – and if you’d like to know where the wee orange dragon got his name, read yesterday’s blog post… 🙂


Just a few people in a pub…

26 02 2013

Evening all!

Well. I’d intended today’s post to be a new rough chapter of the ongoing saga of Granny Battle and Ellis, but I’m afraid I got a bit sidetracked.

No reason, really. Just something took my mind of stuff a bit.

Nothing special.

Although I did rather wish I’d known it was going to happen before packing a scuzzy jumper and jeans, no make-up, and no miraculous hair-tarter-upper before this overnighter in Edinburgh.

I had a little plan, you see.

Just a silly, self-indulgent one.

As I’d be finishing my shift in Edinburgh in the afternoon, I thought I’d take a wander to The Oxford Bar and have a wee pint of Deuchars there, in honour of Inspector Rebus. For the non-Rebus fans out there, The Oxford Bar is Rebus’ local in the books by Ian Rankin. It’s a real pub, not a made-up one, and even “Harry, the grumpiest barman in the world” * is real, although he’s now the landlord.

So I was all ready to potter to the hotel after my shift, get changed out of my orange-hued clobber, wander down to said pub, sit there with a pint and write today’s blog post, with a little note in it about writing it from The Oxford Bar. With a pint of Deuchars. After possibly having been grumped at by Harry.

But it all went a bit pear-shaped.

To cut a long story short…

Today I met Ian Rankin. Not at a book signing, but in a pub, at the bar. I said hello. He said hello. I think we shook hands. We talked about a bit of stuff. Then he, a lovely German lady who had been interviewing him, a few locals and Harry bantered at the bar, and occasionally – when I could unstick my tongue from the top of my mouth and squish the shyness down right into the toes of my boots out of the way – I joined in a bit, and felt like part of a small group of everyday people enjoying a bit of idle banter at a bar, in a pub. Then, after a while, he politely left to hurry off to his next engagement.

I’ll just permit myself a small squee here…


I then lingered at the bar, chatting to the lovely interviewer lady, Harry, and the locals, about life, music, guitars, and just stuff in general.

An utterly wonderful couple of hours with perfect strangers, in a smashing wee pub that felt as if Rebus himself was just around the corner in the back room, working on his latest case…

Oh, I did make one Granny Battle decision today though. I think the little orange dragon now has a name.

I think he might be called Ian…

*That’s an Ian Rankin quote. I know that because I read it. But I also know that because he told me today that he’d written that once. Eeeep!

I don’t do reviews…

25 02 2013

‘Allo ‘allo!

Hot on the heels of our trip to Paris, we headed up to Bradford on Saturday to visit our good friend Ricardo, and to meet up with the Duffy-half of The Fabulous Duffy Gibbons, the duo my other half (the Gibbons-half) plays with. They were playing at The Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge last night, at a ‘Beatitudes‘ event organised by Paul Tunnicliffe.

Now then. I don’t do reviews. But I do notice things, and decided to make little notes of things I noticed during the night to pop onto my blog. I also don’t do good photos, so I’ve included some bad ones instead. Standing up in front of a roomful of people at gigs to try and take photos is something I find rather embarassing (How big does my bum look? Is it obscuring the audience’s view?) – and I’m also a little scared to crouch down for that killer shot in case I either can’t get up again or topple over (which did happen once in a busy shop when I crouched down to inspect some bottom-shelf goodies and slowly and unstoppably toppled over sideways).

Anyway, back to the non-review.

The Puzzle Hall Inn is a delightful, proper pub in Sowerby Bridge, small but perfectly formed and offers a good selection of real ales and a busy schedule of live music and poetry events.

The evening was kicked off by Mr Tunnicliffe, who treated us to a couple of ditties before introducing Kathryn Luxford, whose wonderfully understated guitar playing and beautiful sweet voice delighted everyone in the room.

Next up was Tony Dyter, with his accordion and special shoe with a tambourine attached to its toe. He launched into Johnny Cash’s ‘Give My Love to Rose’ – which obviously went down very well with me – then gave us a wee toe-tapping instrumental. Always good to hear a bit of accordion – I tried learning to play it once but couldn’t control the bellows, so have a great respect for those who can…


Then we experienced the anarchic beardiness of The Richard Harris Experience. Uniquely and beardily enjoyable, with hilarious inter-song (and sometimes mid-song) banter. Richard’s earnest face (with practice-beard) interspersed with cheeky toothy grins and the laid-back expressions of Harris (sporting a more experienced beard) complimented each other perfectly (or perhaps there was a similar expression of earnestness hidden under Harris’ more experienced beard?). Carrying on with the slight shoe theme of the evening, they ended their set with a song about 2 dollar shoes. I wonder if the tambourine shoe was a 2 dollar shoe? It did look rather battered. Or maybe the addition of the tambourine raised it well above the 2 dollar mark…


Right then, now onto the bit I have to be a bit careful about as I don’t want to risk bringing warfare into the home by accidentally saying something that upsets the other half!

The last act of the evening was The Fabulous Duffy Gibbons, made up of bouzouki player John Duffy, and guitarist Jon Gibbons, who also writes all the songs.

On the subject of writing, I’m often a tad ashamed of my attempts at writing poetry when I listen to my other half’s lyrics. In the spirit of Cohen and Dylan, his words are pure poetical delight. It’s extremely annoying. He even has that story-telling-in-a-song ability that makes you need to listen to find out what happens next. Hmph.

Sadly, Mr Duffy was not treating the audience to his kilted knees that night, although he was wearing his secret smirk all night as he played.

Er. I’m not quite sure how to do this, so I’m going to list their set, with a few lyric-tasters and other comments… I told you I don’t do reviews…!

They opened with ‘Is making love just make believe?’, a lovely laid back starter. Incidentally, I must big up the Beatitudes audience at this point – these days it’s not often that you go to an intimate gig where the audience shuts up and listens, but at The Puzzle Hall Inn they did, all night. Perhaps a reason why they have such a good music scene?

Next came ‘Pretty Ones’ (Why do the pretty ones hurt the most?) with an unexpected scratchy-stringed intro from Mr Duffy.

Prior to the next song, they quipped that the last time they had played this venue together was in 1999 – they’ve been playing together since 1993, and according to Mr Duffy with not one rehearsal 😉


Then came the deluded and divine ‘Gates of Paradise’, followed by ‘(Don’t leave it) Dying on the Vine’ (This’ll be my shout…).

A brief re-tuning interlude, with a jolly heckle of “That’s near enough for jazz!”, then the sublime ‘Carousel’ (How many more times…), so quiet and gentle (the song and the audience – top marks again to the audience for their respect).

Next up was a cover of ‘Norwegian Wood’. Sorry, The cover of Norwegian Wood, because you will never hear a better one. This is where the Gibbons strum-hand exceeds the speed of light. I’m not quite sure how his hand manages to pass the speed-of-sound barrier without the audience being flattened by a sonic-strum-boom.

And then – to quote Robert Smith talking about ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ – came the most perfect pop single, ‘Boadicea’ (We could build a bridge in backstreet clover…).

Did I mention the audience were singing along?

Upping the tempo, they launched into ‘Cool, Calm and Collected’ next – definitely cool, thoroughly collected, and decidedly not calm! (I have learned to laugh it off…)

Enquiring about a faint rumbling coming from one of the speakers, I’m told by someone that a flux capictor is going, but no-one has a sonic screwdriver to fix it.

Next up was ‘Jesus Junkie’ (Monkey see monkey do…), and mass jubilation erupted at the sudden kazoo solo (with added mouth trumpet from Mr Duffy) with a very classy aprés solo pause for Mr Gibbons to replace said kazoo neatly in his top pocket before continuing with the song.

Then – hurrah! – ‘It’s a Long Hard Road We Ride’ (Down upon your knees with the tweezers, looking for a long blonde hair…), with full-on audience participation. Yay!

To close the set, another cover – ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ (do I need to say it’s by The Rolling Stones?). I got a bit carried away watching the audience’s head-nods as the tempo increased, and became rather concerned in a few cases that said heads might fall off. I also got a bit worried that Mr Gibbons’ hand was going to fly off due to excess strumming, and wondered if anyone in the audience would field it should the need arise. Thankfully all heads and hands remained in place.

An ovation from the audience, and an encore, laid back and mellow, the beautiful ‘Out of the Blue’ (I feel a danger to my soul…).

Thus ended an evening of perfect entertainment from all who played. Big thanks to The Puzzle Hall Inn for being such a lovely little venue, and to Mr Tunnicliffe for organising the whole Beatitudes thang. And of course to Ricardo for his impeccable hospitality, and for driving us (and the gear) to and from the gig.

If you ever find yourself in Sowerby Bridge, pop into the pub for a couple, and if you get the chance to see any of the musicians I’ve mentioned, or to pop along to a Beatitudes event, you won’t be disappointed…

Cat on a string…

21 02 2013

Hello hello hello!

I’m back! Back from a holiday in Paris, and so back to my blog. Did you miss me?!

Here’s a little thing prompted by something I saw in Paris…

Cat on a string

It would have been easy to miss her. Easy to dismiss the tangle of rags as being just that – a tangle of rags. But something caught your eye, and made you look again.

There – just there, a few feet away from the bundle, sitting on a ledge and looking disdainfully into space. It’s a large, rather fat, cat – its colour and markings making it almost indistinguishable from the stained grey concrete around it. But there’s a flash of colour, and that’s what had caught your eye.

The cat is wearing a red leather harness.

And attached to the harness is a red leather lead.

And if you follow the lead along the ledge, then down a bit, it’s attached to the bundle of rags.

Which aren’t a bundle of rags anymore, but a tiny old street-lady, muffled up in layers of random rags, her head hidden by scarves, and just the smallest bit of nose visible, peering out from between her layers.

The cat gives you a dismissive glance, then returns to his staring.

A birthday book…

15 02 2013

It’s my birthday, hurrah!

I crossed two things off my Paris to-do list today – we went to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in the Musée de Cluny (WOW!!!), and whiled a way some time in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, where something made me cry.

It was a children’s book called ‘The Heart and the Bottle‘, by Oliver Jeffers – beautifully illustrated, and it dealt with the issue of loss in such a moving way. Highly, highly recommended – for children, but perhaps for grown-ups too…

My other half bought me ‘The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense‘ by Edward Lear – I’d been after a ‘Complete Lear’ with his own illustrations, so was very pleased.

There’s a wall in the bookshop where people have pinned up little notes and messages, so seeing as I was there, and it was my birthday, and I’d found the perfect Lear book, I penned a wee limerick and stuck it up:

There was a young lady called Rose
Who liked to read poetry and prose
She searched far and near
For a big book of Lear
And found one right under her nose.

Right, now we’re off to find somewhere nice for dinner.

Au revoir!

French dog poo…

14 02 2013

Bonjour tout le monde!

Just a quick one – I popped a wee limerick for the other half today whilst on the train to Paris, supping champagne and noshing chocolate (hurrah!)…

There once was a young man called Jon,
Who’s Valentine’s Day went all wrong.
He ruined his shoe,
When he trod in some poo,
And his girlfriend said “Mmmm, Ça sent bon!”

À bientôt!

Holiday clothes & size issues…

11 02 2013

I’m feeling rather large.

I shouldn’t be, because I’ve been wearing an old pair of jeans today (my decent ones are packed up at home, waiting to go to Paris) and they’re decidedly roomey.

I think I’m feeling rather large because the bathroom in this hotel is teeny. And it has a bath squeezed into it, and it’s the teeniest bath in the world. It’s so teeny that for a split second when I first peeped in there, I wasn’t quite sure which was the bath and which was the loo.

Okay, maybe that was a teeny lie. But it is a very teeny bath. I can’t even stretch my legs out properly sitting up! And no, I’m not Miranda-sized, I’m just average – maybe verging on the small size of average.

But everytime I look in that bathroom I feel HUGE!

I think the best thing I can do is close the bathroom door and pretend it’s not there…

…and now I’ve got a ponder in my head about clothes getting excited about going on holiday…