Blog Tour: Jim Webster’s ‘Keeping body and soul together’ (‘Port Naain Intelligencer’ collection).

writerchristophfischer

Rescuing random strangers on a whim may be the good deed for the day, but will Benor survive the blood feud he has unwittingly become part of. More importantly can he buy back the victim’s soul?

Today I’m giving my blog over to Tallis Steelyard (The jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard) talking about Jim Webster’s new book: “Keeping Body and Soul Together.

“This Webster chap was moaning about having to do a blog tour, and I decided that I’d do the sensible thing. That is, I’d sound vaguely sympathetic, nod wisely, and then back away slowly without making eye contact, leaving him to get on with it.
Frankly he dumps far too much in my lap.
But then I looked at the names of the people he was including in the tour and realised that Christoph was involved in the Llandeilo Litfest. Well obviously I love literary festivals. Indeed…

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Guest author- Tallis Steelyard aka Jim Webster… The value of money

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

It is perhaps salutary to look back and contemplate the changes one has seen in one’s life. Indeed it can be interesting to look at the changes one has, by one’s efforts, helped to initiate. Some ideas have faded, others flourished. So my attempt to encourage poets to work with eight syllables to the foot has faded as if it had never been, but my inadvertent championing of the first partnership of lady usurers was a modest success.

I suppose people might or might not remember my tale about ‘The Port Naain Philosophical and Debating Society for Ladies of wit and discernment.’ While this did not end well, it did at least end without serious casualties and eventually all was hushed up, smoothed over, and never mentioned again. But of course the young ladies of wit and discernment were not so easily eclipsed. A number of them continued to meet…

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The Admirable Jim Webster Presents…

Mick Canning

I am delighted to host a guest post from Jim Webster today, since he…well, perhaps I’ll let him explain.

photo of Jim Oct 2015

Hi everybody, Mick kindly allowed me to drop in as part of a ‘blog tour.’
Given that Mick discovered my writing at Tallis Steelyard’s blog, I thought
I’d let Tallis, poet and raconteur from the city of Port Naain, tell you why
I’m here. Over to you Tallis.

I assume you are aware of the situation. You are summoned to the office of
some petty functionary and on arriving you find you are expected to join the
queue.
Or you need to visit a physician or tooth puller and arrive to discover that
even the city’s most glamorous courtesans cannot hope to find themselves as
sort after as the practitioners of these professions.
To be trapped in a queue is one thing, but in all these places where one has
to…

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The Genuine Cumbrian Hyperspace Experience

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The last two days have been remarkably wet even for Cumbria. Strangely enough I missed it as I headed south as far as Kenilworth. So on the Wednesday when I drove south it was throwing it down, until I crossed the county boundary into fine weather.

Driving home on Thursday it was fine, a few spots of rain as I drove through Lancashire, but visibility was good. Then as I passed Burton services I hit rain. It was as abrupt as driving into a car wash, one minute nothing and I was quietly overtaking two lorries. Next minute my windscreen wipers were moving at triple speed in a frantic attempt to let me see out.

But to be fair, this isn’t all that unusual. Indeed off the motorway you can enjoy the ‘Genuine Cumbrian Hyperspace Experience.’ The last time I had this was when they closed the A590. This meant that rather than leaving Penrith and heading down the M6 and A590 home I had to head west along the A66 and then down through St John’s in the Vale to Ambleside, and from there take the Coniston road to hit the A590 at Greenodd to miss the closed section.

And it rained. It was as dark as a January night can be, and it absolutely chucked it down. I had a full hour with the windscreen wipers going at full speed. On the other hand, whilst they might have been exulting in the wild acceleration, I didn’t manage to achieve 40mph.

For those of you who’ve never driven along Cumbrian A roads in these conditions I’ll try and describe them.  Firstly you only see what your headlights illuminate. Your field of vision consists of the walls on both sides (slate grey and rotten wet, gleaming in the headlights.) Then there is the road. This is a different shade of grey and where there is no standing water, it’s because of the slope and you’re driving through running water. Finally there is the vegetation above you, which is also sodden, reflects the light back, looks vaguely green but fades to black where the headlights don’t reach. And this continues for miles. Occasionally another vehicle looms out of the darkness. This can be a cause for panic because both of you have been driving down the white line, as it’s the highest part of the road and the bit with least standing water.

Then suddenly, you drop out of hyperspace. You find yourself in a village. Frantically you look for something you recognise because you’ve just been driving with no landmarks or recognisable features. If you’re lucky you spot the sign saying that ‘Blawith welcomes careful drivers’ or ‘Welcome to Subberthwaite (yes you are lost)’.

Then after a few brief moments of comparative civilisation with houses, lights in windows and perhaps even a street light or two, you leave the village, drop back into the hyperspace tunnel and you’re back in a featureless world of wet greys and greens.

You just better hope you dropped into the right hyperspace tunnel otherwise it’s ‘second to the right, and straight on till morning’ and God alone knows where you’ll end up.

Shaking hands with a traffic warden

sleeping lamb

The day you get need not necessarily be the day that you expected when you woke up. Certainly Sal had an interesting morning. I was feeding sheep and a lamb attacked her. In this case the ‘lamb’ weighed forty kilos and is nearly a year old. It was standing a couple of yards away from her and suddenly put its head down and charged her.

Of course she wasn’t there when the lamb arrived, just body swerving to allow it to go past. So for the next ten minutes they played together, the lamb prancing and charging it, and Sal quietly avoiding it and then loitering so that the lamb was tempted to have another go. This game amused them both until I fired up the quad ready to go to feed the next bunch and Sal abandoned her playmate to come with me.

And then we had one old ewe who had a somewhat rude awaking. The next bunch we had to feed consisted of fifteen ewes and their new-born lambs. Fourteen ewes saw me (and Sal) and thundered downhill to be the first to get to the feed. The problem is there was no sign of the fifteenth. So Sal and I wandered over the crest of the hill and there was our errant ewe, fast asleep in the sun, topping up her tan. Sal wandered across, the ewe’s two lambs scurried off to one side, then stopped to watch with interest what happened next. The ewe was awakened by a Border Collie bitch sniffing her nose. She leapt to her feet and ran to join the others.

‘A good job done’, I thought to myself. She’s bound to join the others and get her share of the feed.

By the time Sal and I crossed the crest again, the bluidy auld witch had gone and panicked the others and they’d all abandoned the feed and were forming a vaguely defensive clump fifty yards from it. Fortunately when they saw Sal the clump shuffled, in a somewhat embarrassed fashion, away from her and incidentally back to the feed.

And then that done I had to nip some meat in to the local homeless centre. Basically, having seen the meat our local homeless centre could afford (It’s a charity supported by donations) I was left feeling it must be bad enough being homeless without having to eat that stuff. So to cut a long story short I had a word with a butcher I knew and just bought a full forequarter from him. (Buy a full forequarter and it’s surprising how good a deal you’ll get.) Mainly it’s mince and stewing steak, there aren’t many joints at the front end. Then I phoned and emailed friends in various churches and elsewhere and told them what I’d done and would they like to chip in. Since then we’ve been on a roll and have kept them in beef. Ironically when the horsemeat scandal broke it struck me that in this town, the Homeless were eating better meat that a lot of people who were considerably wealthy.

But anyway I tend to store the beef in a freezer here and just drop a month’s supply off at a time (it means they have freezer space ready for your donation.)

So I drove into town with the beef. As I made my way down the street to them there was a traffic warden looking with disfavour at a builder’s van parked illegally outside the centre. The manager was there and discussions were underway. I parked down the back street and carried my two bags of meat into the centre. As I passed the traffic warden I gestured back to my car and said ‘I’m just dropping off, I’ll be gone soon.’

The warden just grinned and said, “Worrying about people carrying bits of cut up dead bodies in and out of homeless centres isn’t part of my job.”

Humour from a traffic warden? I took the meat in, handed it over to the kitchen staff and made my way out. The builder was now present and manager, builder and traffic warden were in deep conversation.

The traffic warden said, “Why don’t you just stick your van down the side street where he’s parked.” With this he pointed at me. “He’s just leaving.”
Keen to seem helpful I said, “Yes, I’m just leaving.”

“Can I?” Asked the builder.

“No problem.” And with this the traffic warden started to cancel the ticket. Then conversationally the traffic warden commented, “I had my formal appraisal yesterday. I was torn off a strip for two things. Firstly I’m too lenient.” Here he paused and looked at the ticket he’d just cancelled. “And then they tore a strip off me because I’m too strict.”

The manager asked, “Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?” There was a general feeling that he probably needed one.

“I’m sorry I cannot have one whilst I’m on duty. I’m not allowed to cross the threshold.”

Without thinking I said, “But even vampires can cross the threshold if they’re invited.”

I then contemplated what I’d just said.

And the traffic warden burst out laughing, shook my hand and said he’d have to remember that one.

 

Retreating back into the shed

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I often wondered about the that generation. They’d been through a lot; they’d lived through the war even if being in a reserved occupation meant they never got called up. By and large the ones I met were decent working men.

What struck me, looking back, is the way they lived their lives. Quietly, without a lot of fuss, and they often seemed to spend a lot of time in the shed or on the allotment.

Yes, they did stuff with family at times but they weren’t what you might call outspoken. You might occasionally get tales of the past out of them, you might occasionally get a curt comment on the current generation of politicians, but they were wise enough to leave it at that.

I suppose they realised early on what it’s taken those of us born later a lot longer to learn, nobody is at all interested in your opinion. Indeed the fact you might harbour such things is an embarrassment. So when somebody posts what might be described as a political statement on facebook or some other social media platform, you have to remember it’s not an invitation to debate.

Your expected contribution is merely to make some ‘right-on’ supportive comment.

When people are grandstanding or virtue signalling, from the left or from the right, it’s a largely solitary activity on their part and your role is limited to polite applause.

Once you finally understand this then this whole social media thing starts becoming more ‘do-able’, just quietly ignore the social activist/political crap, and whatever you do don’t ‘like’ it because otherwise the algorithms will merely ensure you’re drowned in the stuff.

But at least nowadays when you do retreat to the shed there should at least be good enough wifi to ensure you can still see the cute cat pictures.

 

Facing the wrong way

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It’s been a day of small surprises so far. I was on the quad taking feed to sheep. Because sheep will follow the quad and trailer, I led them over the hill into part of the field out of sight of sheep in other fields. This is because sheep in one field will occasionally crash through the hedge to get to the food that you are giving to another lot. Hence there is an art to working out just which group to feed first and where.

Anyway on the way back to the road, with an empty trailer I just opened the quad up a bit and discovered that Sal can run at 28mph for a couple of hundred yards and keep up with the quad. It’s a better turn of speed than I could manage.

Anyway the last bunch of sheep I had to feed this morning was the ewes who’ve been turned out with their lambs. I tend not to take Sal with me when I do these. When the lambs are very young, the ewes can be very protective and spend time glaring at the dog and stamping a front foot aggressively at her rather than coming to get the feed.

So with just me and two buckets of feed I went into the field. Immediately those ewes who saw me headed in my direction. I put the feed down in small heaps along the hedge line as I walked and the ewes dived in and started eating.

Now there is a minor problem here. Because there was no dog and hence no threat, the ladies weren’t too worried for their lambs. They just abandoned them and ran for the feed, on the grounds that the first there is best fed. The lambs, who haven’t been outside very long, stood aghast as mum disappeared. Then they pulled themselves together and ran after her, bleating.

I made it to the gate and there met a chap who was walking his dog. He asked why there was so much noise coming from the field. I explained that the lambs recognise their mother by her face and voice as well as by her scent. So when faced by a row of backsides they were a bit lost and wasn’t sure which one was theirs.

He thought briefly and commented, “I doubt I could recognise my wife’s in a line up either.”