Monthly Archives: January 2016

A charitable gesture

Tallis Steelyard


It is at this point I wish to bring before you a good friend of mine, one Tamas Berfett. Tamas is a man of many parts, a successful merchant, a minor poet of modest competence willing to accept criticism, a husband and father of a brood of doubtless delightful children. He is also a man of undoubted courage.

It is this courage I particularly wish to salute. It has to be said that times are getting tough in the world of the middling merchant, dealing mainly in bulk commodities. Shipping costs were rising and prices were slipping and whilst he was farsighted enough to have the resources to ride the metaphorical storm (and cunning enough to spot any easier ways round) he was being forced to watch his spending.

It was at this point that I ought to mention that his brood of delightful children were mainly daughters and they…

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Two fine days, Goldilocks and the problems of provoking uncontrollable lust



You know what it’s like, you turn your back on things and everything goes to pot. So I had to go down to London. This isn’t an issue, we have communications and stuff, and Virgin Rail worked really well. Arrived at Euston, looked round, was seriously impressed by this big yellow glowing thing they have in the sky down there. It’s so warm and bright; I really think we ought to have one. Mind you when it was up there in the sky next day as well, I decided they were just showing off.

But anyway I’d organised a bed for the night and I shambled along to the fine establishment where said bed was located. I was given a key, made my way to the room, and there, fast asleep in the bed, was a person.

“I bet they’ve eaten my porridge as well,” wasn’t quite my first thought, but it came pretty close. Anyway I left, gently closing the door after me and returned to the reception. There was a frantic checking of computer screens and I was issued with another key, and made my way to that one. Success, nobody about, a bed to call mine own.

Anyway I dumped my gear, wandered out to meet up with an old friend, had something to eat and drifted happily back at a reasonable hour. And so to bed.

At about half past one in the morning I was woken by something. It’s London; you’re always being woken by something. Even ear plugs can only keep out so much. Anyway being awake I decided I might as well nip to the loo.

Now there isn’t an en-suite, but that’s not a problem. I had a pair of shorts on; I’d be perfectly dressed for Sydney and probably overdressed for Rio. Given the temperature they set central heating at in London, I was probably overdressed for London as well. So checking I had my key in my pocket (You see, I wasn’t born yesterday) I made my way along to the loo.

Coming back I met security. Whether this was as a result of them investigating whatever had woken me up I didn’t ask, but I nodded courteously to him as he passed. He asked if I was lost and I said no. Then he said, “If you’re wandering about the corridors at night you really ought to wear more.”

I nodded politely and returned to my room. I can see his point. Whilst it might be a while since me walking about bare chested has induced uncontrollable lust in anybody, it’s not a risk I ought to be taking.


But anyway, in case you might fancy something to read when waiting for the onset of uncontrollable lust, could I recommend ‘Swords for a Dead Lady’ available in both paperback and e-book.


Sheep may safely graze


So here we have it, snow! OK it’s not snow as Canadians would call snow, it’s not even snow as we call snow to be honest but it’s white, it’s almost crisp, and it isn’t quite thawing so quickly that it’ll be gone before this blog is written, so it’s snow.


And it has all sorts of effects. This morning going to church the sky was blue, everything was crisp and clean. An hour later the temperature had risen a couple of degrees and a wall of cloud was drifting inexorably in from the west.

So I had a coffee and went to look sheep. They were fine, but the hay I’d put out yesterday on the off-chance they fancied something extra had all gone. So I filled the quad-trailer with hay and set off to spread a little fibrous happiness.

And the snow has brought out all sorts of people, mothers and daughters, sensibly clad and well shod walk along in deep discussion. Above them the sky grows darker yet. The cloud now covers from horizon to horizon and in the west it’s growing very black indeed.

And as I put the last hay out for a group of hopefully heavily pregnant ewes I was on top of the hill. To the east, over the bright expanse of Morecambe Bay, I could see Ingleborough in the distance and the white clad Pennines fading away beyond the edge of visibility. I looked west. The flare from the gas terminal was a brilliant orange against the black of the sky. Combine this with the fields still white in the foreground and the sheep picking happily amongst the hay, it highlighted quite a spectacular picture.

In the westerly gales the flare gets blown sideways and in all sorts of directions, the entire sky can be orange. Occasionally if the wind just catches it right, you can see the eye of Sauron watching over our huddled ewes.



Welcome to the world of the Border Collie, now available in paperback as well as kindle


Elderly ladies drinking coffee?


It’s something we often forget, as we remember the superstars who pass away, that their contemporaries are still with us. Not only that, but at times we forget just who their contemporaries really are.

You know what it’s like, I’d walked into town to the dentists, and then before I walked back, having bought train tickets and been to the building society and done all sorts of other stuff as well, I decided I could do with a coffee.

I looked round for a seat and noticed there was an arm chair in one corner. It was hidden behind a group of elderly ladies who had put two tables together and were sitting around them. I guess there was probably eight or ten of them at any one time, a floating conclave, some going, some arriving.

Anyway I got my coffee (Large salt caramel cappuccino if you’re buying) and took a seat. Well we internationally renowned authors are supposed to spend our time in coffee shops soaking up the atmosphere aren’t we?

But I couldn’t help overhearing the talk of the ladies next to me. What got my ears twitching was the comment made by one, “Yes, I liked his music.”

Their conversation had stopped with David Bowie, who they all liked, certainly his earlier stuff. Then some mentioned ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, John Lennon even came into the conversation. They were dismissive of the gossip, of the wives and ex-girlfriends and hangers-on telling their story. They clung to the real artist, the man and his music.

And I looked at them. My guess is that they were all between sixty-five and seventy-five. All retired. There was no grief at David Bowie’s passing. These are ladies who have buried marriages, husbands, children, and other loved ones. They know what grief is. But for David Bowie they felt a little sorrow which was all the more moving because it was sincere.

And I saw the white hair (because round here they don’t do ‘blue rinse’) and the lined faces and sensible clothes, and somehow I saw the girls in their short skirts and make-up and mothers telling them “You’re not going out like that, what would your father say.”

And in ten years half of them will be dead or in nursing homes, (because this isn’t Islington, we’re ordinary working class people round here and have ordinary working class life expectancy) and the memories will have gone.

And it struck me that if we really want to sum up the achievements of a man like Bowie, forget the hype, just listen to the gentle sorrow at his passing in the voices of a bunch of lasses who have carried a little bit of his music in their hearts for nearly fifty years.


And if you’re looking for a little bit of somebody to carry in your heart, meet Benor, the cartographer.


As a reviewer commented

 Highly recommended reading. 
50 year old Benor is back in his home city of Toelar, enjoying a quiet life of roof running, paramouring, etc, when one day his routine gets disturbed, making a fast getaway necessary.
However, his escape route is blocked by an Urlan Knight.
Fortunately, the said Knight saves Benor’s life, without even unsheathing his sword, by just being there.
Unfortunately, the said Knight has been looking for Benor and has a little proposition to make.
And so it begins…

Just missed Amy Winehouse



What kind of love have you got?

You should be home, but you’re not

A room full of noise and dangerous boys

still makes you thirsty and hot



It’s funny how some things just sort of pass you by. For example I’ve never been in an Ikea store. It’s not that I’ve got anything against Ikea. Part of it is that I’ve never felt the need to drive over two and a half hours to shop somewhere, followed by driving two and a half hours back, and part of it is that I’ve never really wanted to buy whatever it is Ikea sell.

It’s been the same with Amy Winehouse. I was listening to a local band play Costa the other night and they announced that another local lady artist was going to have an evening of Amy Winehouse tribute songs. I metaphorically nodded to myself and commented, again to myself, that the lass was good and her gig would probably be a good night.

It was then I realised that I’d never knowingly listened to a single Amy Winehouse song. I might have heard them played in shops or lifts or whatever, but I try to avoid shopping in places where they play the music loud enough to let you hear what the song is. I hadn’t heard her on the radio because I never listen to music radio stations. In fact the only reason I’d heard about her at all was that I’d seen headlines about her in newspapers but never really bothered even skimming the articles because a pop star in trouble isn’t really news. Whether it’s the fault of my daughters for not introducing me to her I wouldn’t know, but to a certain extent they’ve probably washed their hands of my musical tastes.

I was driving back from the vets pondering this and had music playing; The Eagles album, Hotel California. And then the track, ‘Victim of Love’ came on. It seemed to gel nicely with what little I’d picked up about Amy Winehouse by accident, but it did strike me as a little strange, summing up a singer with a song released seven years before she was born.

But never mind, thinking about it, I’m unlikely to hear much of her music in the future, for much the same reason that I never heard any of it in the past.

But then, I don’t really need it anyway, there’s plenty of really great music out there and if nobody recorded anything new ever again, I’d never miss it.


I suppose that this is an attitude I’ve come across elsewhere, when people say that we don’t need new writers because we’ve got plenty of excellent books and we can get them on our e-readers free and for nothing.

So whenever you decide that, actually, you cannot be bothered looking through all those unknown writers trying to sell their books, remember that if you’re not careful, you’re just following Jim down a road which would have meant that Amy Winehouse remained just some lass who could sing a bit, and played the occasional pub gig.


Tell me your secrets, I’ll tell you mine

This ain’t no time to be cool

And tell all your girlfriends,

you “been around the world” friends

that talk is for losers and fools


There again, what do I know? Speak to an expert


For this collection of stories, our loyal Border Collie, Sal, is joined by Terry Wogan, Janis Joplin and numerous dairy cows. Meet pheasants, Herdwicks, Border Collies, and the occasional pink teddy bear. Welcome to the world of administrative overload and political incomprehension. All human life, (or at least all that hasn’t already fled screaming for sanctuary) is here.