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Yes! “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good sausage, must be in want of a wife.”

jane austen copy

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He has more Oscars than you can shake a stick at and is an exponent of Conker Fung Du, the Cornish martial art that encompasses kickboxing and conkers. Daniel Day Lewis.

We caught up with DDL whilst he was lobbing a stick into his favourite horse chestnut tree to find a few conkers to take home, bake, soak in vinegar and allow to harden in the oven afterwards.

dan copy

GFB; Daniel, thanks for sparing the time in your hectic schedule to speak to us.

DDL; (Holding a knotted shoe lace with a conker threaded onto it)  Obbly Onker My First Conker!

GFB; Sorry?

DDL; Watch out, this bad boy is a Twelver!

GFB; Oh Right – can we talk about your new fi-

DDL; STAMPS! I win! Thirteener now!

GFB; Jeez that must a be a great conker Daniel. I only ever had a threeer and then Kevin Keating stamped on it.

DDL; This is the best conker I’ve ever had – It is the Olivier of Conkers.  Not that Sir Larry wasn’t a great actor of course, nearly as good as me. All I’ll say is, “Look at the Oscars laddio – who is the Daddy now eh? eh?”

GFB; Fascinating Daniel, as we would expect from such a great thespian as you.

DDL; Natch.

GFB; Your new movie role

DDL; The Life Of Flann O’Brien?

GFB; Yes.

DDL; One of the greats of Irish Literature, proper absurdist and Metafictionist type – As you know I inhabit the character I portray at all times during the filmic process – Mind heads! (Daniel launches a shillelagh into the tree and is disappointed not to dislodge a conker)

DDL; Bastard!

GFB; Come again?

DDL; The conker – I can’t get it down.

GFB; Shame – I’m sure you will get it eventually.

DDL; Yes – I shall, failing all else I will blast the bastard out with me Last Of The Mohicans musket – dead eyed dick I was by the time filming was over – could shoot a fart from three miles.

GFB; Impressive, now about your fil –

DDL; Sorry, the film, yes, Flann O’Brien – I have worn this Flan on my head for three years to understand him a bit more.

GFB; Has it worked?

DDL; No. Flan only has one N and Flann had two N’s in it. The Fecker. If he had been Quiche O’Brien I would have been onto a winner – all I have gleaned is an appreciation for pastry based savoury snacks.

GFB; Thanks for you time Daniel.

DDL; Not at all. Fancy another game of conkers?

conkers

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fresco_rescue

The Despatcher manoeuvred the wheelchair into the Carriage’s disabled bay. “Many thanks,” said the chair’s occupant, an elderly woman. Another woman in early middle age, fussed around her.

“All part of the service!” replied the Despatcher, “Enjoy your trip to the seaside.”

“He was a bit rough,” the old woman said to her companion, “Nearly had my eye out with his whistle.”

The companion said nothing. She took off her wire framed glasses and wiped the lenses on the dark grey fleece she was wearing. She looked tired and in all honesty fed up.

The Despatcher took several minutes to free the chair ramp. Once he had released it, he let out a pert peep on his whistle and the train pulled away.

The old woman carried a small potted plant in her liver spotted hands. I could not tell you what type of plant it was. It was colourful. She stroked the plant and said, “Like the view Arthur? I told you we would make one more train journey together.”

My daughter Millie looked up from her colouring book and tugged at the cuff of my shirt.

“Daddy,”

“Yes?”

“That old woman. Is she going to die?”

“No. Not yet darling. But it won’t be long by the look of things.”

“Thought so. Can I have some more chocolate?”

I handed Millie her third segment of Chocolate Orange. My wife had forbade chocolate on our excursion to the Zoo, but we don’t often go on trips together and why can’t a Dad spoil his little Princess? Besides, who doesn’t like to tap and unwrap?

The old woman looked at me and said, “That child will be sick if you keep giving her chocolate.”

“Mother!”

A smile spread across the old woman’s craggy features. The top set of her bleached dentures rattled slightly as she spoke to Millie, “Hello my dear. Where are you going? “

“Zoo. To see the Penguins,” Millie replied.

“I think you are the prettiest child I have ever seen!” Said the old woman, “But if you keep eating all that chocolate you may develop chronic diabetes and become morbidly obese. Not to mention lose your teeth!”

She smiled broadly. Her left hand fell off.

“Bloody Germans.”

I gasped and broke wind. I hoped nobody noticed. Millie laughed.

Her flushed companion reattached the prosthetic and said to me, “Sorry about that, it’s a bit worn and loose.”

“That’s OK,” I replied, unsure what to say.

The old woman, checking the quality of the reattachment, asked Millie what her name was, “Millie? That’s a lovely name. My name is Mary and this is my daughter Eileen.”

“You’re old. Are you going to die soon? My Dad thinks you are.”

Mary laughed “Death comes to us all Millie my dear. I am prepared, but hopefully not for a day or two. We have a trip to the seaside first! Do you like the seaside?”

“Yes!” replied Millie, “Sandcastles!”

“North Cornwall usually,” I said. I lied, normally it is Devon.

“Your Daddy is a bit fat isn’t he Millie? Does he smoke? The stains on his teeth tell me he does.”

“No,” I replied, before Millie could say anything. I had given up for New Year. I was pleased with my willpower, apart from when I had a crafty one.

Mary turned to her daughter, “Any news about Betty?”

“Lot better.”

“Did she find her eye?”

“In the freezer.”

“She’s so careless that girl.”

Mary looked down at the plant, “How are you Arthur?”

I swear the plant shook gently in response.

“That’s good.” Mary shaded the plant with her hand. A flapping tongue of handkerchief protruded from the sleeve of the white cardigan she wore. I shuddered at the thought of mucus on my wrist.

“Is Dad OK?” Eileen asked. Mary looked wistful, “Grand. He’s excited about being on a train again. He loved his trains. The hours he spent in the loft with his train set. ……What he couldn’t recreate in Papier Mache……….. Do you remember that time he got his head stuck in his replica Channel Tunnel!”

“How could we forget!” Eileen appeared to relax in her mother’s company.

“Never liked the Sun much though.Brought him out in hives.”

“I know Mum.”

“I’m glad I could bring him. He loved the seaside. Hated the water, the sand and the Sun of course, but loved everything else. And he didn’t need a ticket, him being a pot plant now. Loved Violets he did. I think he needs a drop of Baby Bio by the looks of things. I do miss him Eileen.”

“I know Mum. We all do.”

Mary stroked the petals of the pot plant or Arthur as I now thought of it. She appeared deep in thought, “Yes love. He certainly loved his train set. And having his way with me. He was insatiable. Right up to his Seventieth. No wonder I ended up in this Chair!”

“Mother!”

Mary pulled the handkerchief from her cardigan sleeve, wiped a tear and blew her nose before rehousing it. Again I shuddered at the thought of damp mucus on my skin.

“Daddy,” Millie asked,

“Yes?” I dreaded the question.

“How long will it be before I am old?”

“A long time yet.”

I was relieved. She hadn’t asked that question.

“Daddy,”

“Yes,”

“I think I’m going to be sick.”

It was by the Lion’s den that Millie asked me what insatiable meant. I bought her an ice cream. She forgot to ask again.

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fresco_rescue

Hello – Many thanks for all the positive feedback on this Tale – why not make yourselves a nice cup of tea, break out the Hobnobs and read it all in one go!

If Music Be The Food Of Love…..

December 16th – 1996 Kings Cross Station

As a child I was awestruck by the grandeur of train stations. It was where grown-ups went. On a daily basis. To do things. What these things were I had no idea. But they went there to do them.

When my parents brought my sister and I up to London for day trips from our suburban backwater, these great voluminous places, full of scuttling humanity had a sense of solid purpose that scared and exhilarated me at the same time. I remember clasping Dad’s hand a little tighter as we walked through them, something my son now does when we come up for day trips to London on my access weekends.

Now their role in my life is much more mundane and perfunctory. Merely conduits to another place accompanied by the heady perfume of diesel engines and fast food outlets.

I was early when I reached Kings Cross station today. Too early. I don’t like having to hang around. The slate grey sky and traffic noise gave a claustrophobic feel to the low slung station entrance. A newspaper vendor cried out “Standard! Standard!” The banner headline told of a political scandal involving a Conservative MP. Another? Surely there are not enough of them left.

A drunk’s basted features appeared before me, “Spare change?” He held a can of super strength lager with the other hand outstretched for alms. I fished in my pocket for some change and gave him a pound. And another one. It was nearly Christmas after all.

“Cheers. Merry Christmas.”

A policeman crossed the lee of the entrance and intimated to the drunk not to come any closer. The beggar mumbled to himself and returned to a companion who was arguing with a waste bin. He took a deep slug from his can and began to solicit others.

Shoals of people drifted and eddied around the station concourse. A limp muzak rendition of Hark the Herald Angels, a begrudging admission of the festive season, played over the public address system, regularly interrupted by information of departures, arrivals and security alerts. The brash yellow lighting gave the atmosphere a soiled, used feel and the floor was pocked with discarded chewing gum like a grubby Dalmatian pelt.

As I looked at the departure board for signs of my train, I heard the nasal drone of an accordion. A Slavic voice accompanied the dirge, “If you thin I sex, an you wan my bod, cam on babi let me no -”

A Balkan tribute to Rod Stewart. Most of his songs have a good beat. Baby Jane is my favourite.

The accordion player was short, squat and unshaven. He wore a vivid, silver trimmed waistcoat over an Adidas shell suit and wore Adidas trainers. He had wrapped a strand of tinsel around his head and warbled the back catalogue of Rod Stewart with a healthy disdain for the original lyrical content – “I am salling, I am salling, oh lard to be nar oo, to be fray”.

I wondered if he knew any sea shanties, much more in line with our glorious maritime history.

A small, under nourished woman was with him. Black headscarf, pained, gap toothed expression daubed on her young face and a cherubic swaddled baby clinging to her. She approached me and held out a polystyrene cup and asked in unmistakable tones of poverty and misery for money. The baby began to cry. I fished in my pocket for some change and gave her a pound. And another one. It was nearly Christmas after all.

She thanked me and approached an elderly man of military bearing standing several feet away, “Certainly not. You must understand that for you and your ilk, and that goes for your musically challenged accomplice, that only the reintroduction of Workhouses can save you people from your insatiable breeding habits and thus your poverty.”

The woman waved the cup in front of him, “Will you leave me alone you Slavic miscreant? Didn’t England do enough for you people in the war? If only Franz Ferdinand had not sent his breast plate for buffing that day we would all be in better shape. Why, the next thing you and your kind will do is annex Shropshire. Now if you don’t go away, I will be forced to report you to the relevant authorities.”

A smartly dressed woman curtly waved her away but a man, a student by the look of him, dropped a number of coins into her cup.

The busker made his way towards a group of Asian tourists who stood like Mere Cats, eagerly trying to locate their train.

“I lav ewe hoh-knee!” I deduced it as Hot Legs, another of rocker Rod’s classics.

Sub-consciously the tourists formed a defensive square that would have drawn praise from the Duke of Wellington. The accordionist found it impossible to isolate any member of the group and allow his partner to beg. One of the tourists took copious photographs of the incident. As tourists do. The minstrel fired a broadside of cedilla laden insults at them. He continued to pour invective at the group and bumped into a middle-aged man who wore a florid, veined complexion. The accordion wheezed in harmony with their collision.

“Excuse me,” the man said in rounded Welsh tones. “Well well, an accordion. What pleasure that instrument has brought to countless thousands over the years. Lamentation, celebration, medication and education, the humble accordion has accompanied life around the world. Once, singing in Poland, Krakow I think it was, I spent a night in a small tavern singing Polish laments with a number of cheerless, mustachioed peasants and their hefty women folk. I don’t mind telling you that one of the Babushka’s favoured me that night,” the man winked conspiratorially at the busker before breaking into song and competing with Ding Dong Merrily On High that blared over the public address system.

He sang with a liquid, cool voice which to shimmered and filled listeners with an instant longing for lost lovers. People were stopped in their tracks at the primal beauty of his voice.

The accordionist began asking for money. His cup was soon overflowing with coins and the occasional note. The man was content to sing his vision of pain and loss. As abruptly as he had commenced, he stopped. Applause rang out. He nodded his thanks, turned to the accordion player held out his hand and said,

“Bryn, I am a Welshman.”

“Huh?”

“Bryn, I am a Welshman.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind my friend; I am prepared to offer you half of the stipend the adoring masses have just given me.”

“Huh?”

“Give me half the money,” Bryn replied in less gilded tones. He held out his left hand and rubbed the thumb and forefinger together.

“No.”

“Yes,” replied Bryn

“No,”

They began to jostle. The knot of people that had stopped to listen to Bryn sing now watched with bemusement as the men traded insults in Welsh and Albanian, both apparently with full knowledge of each other’s dialects. The accordion again wheezed its accompaniment. A jaunty Polka.

The old man who had berated the busker earlier turned to me and said, “I’ll have a fiver on the Chetnik. Blood thirsty animals they were in the war.”

The Policeman re-appeared, pulled the two men apart and began to frog-march them from the station, oblivious to their protestations of innocence and accusations of the other party’s guilt. The woman and child followed demurely behind.

Bryn spoke, “I demand a Judicial Review of your actions officer. I am due to board the 14.27 to Edinburgh. Do you know I once shared a sandwich with Charlton Heston?”

Both men were led off the concourse. The beggar approached them for money. I couldn’t tell you if he was successful in his pleadings. But I doubt it. Even if it was Christmas.

Part 2

Elizabeth had to run down the platform to catch the train. The run hadn’t taken much out of her, she was a dancer after all, but being punctilious by nature, nearly missing it had caused some anxiety. She walked through the carriages checking her ticket and seat reservation until she found her seat, 26 Facing in Carriage C.

A middle-aged man with a florid, veined complexion was sat in the seat next to her. Bryn was red faced and slightly out of breath after his exertions with the Busker and Police.

“Close shave,” he said.

“Yes,” replied Elizabeth as she settled into her seat. She took a sip from a bottle of water and stared into the evening murk, attempting to decipher the name of commuter stations as the train sped through them. She opened the book she had bought at York Station the day before, a set of short stories revolving around murder and suspense with the occasional humorous twist. Unable to concentrate, she closed the book and stared at her reflection in the window, allowing herself to float in a pool of leathery half thoughts.

In the seats behind, a toddler began to scream, shattering the calm of the carriage The child writhed and wriggled to be free of his mother’s grip. His mother was trying to reason with him.

“But if you stand on the seat Stephen you could fall and hurt yourself.” The logic of her statement had no bearing on his noisy blubbering.

“That’s <i>enough</i> now Stephen,” The mother’s patience was being sucked out of her. An ethereal noise began to arise from Bryn, the rich, textured layers of his voice defining a set of beautifully evocative sounds, Gaelic in origin. He sang for a further two minutes, the lament slowly evolving into a haunting lullaby. The child became silent.

The lullaby finished. Passengers shook themselves from the mellow torpor his singing had induced. He turned to Elizabeth and smiled at her. She smiled back with a sense of calm curiosity mixed with relief that the cries of the child had ceased. He stared out of the window, content to let the memory of the song linger like a melodic vapour trail.

“Your song was very beautiful”. Elizabeth said.

“I agree. It is an old lullaby my mother sang to me during my own bouts of misunderstood rage. The words deal with a mother’s sadness at hearing the news of her son’s death in war and through her dreams she can stay in contact with him. Yes, altogether very moving. Plus it has an additional value which should never be overestimated” – He beckoned her to come slightly closer – “It always shuts little bugger’s like him up.”

“What is the name of the song?”

“Anything you like really, it’s not the name that counts. More the feeling of loss and love transmitted.”

“It really was beautiful. You have a lovely voice.”

“Bryn, I am a Welshman,” he held out a hand.

“Elizabeth.”

“Thank you for the compliment Elizabeth. Gifted tenor from an early age. According to my Rhodri Lewis, a fine man if slightly inclined to preach about the virtues of Verdi, I had a voice with a range and sensual quality that called upon the angels to bear witness. It was he who urged me to seek my destiny through the notes and words of others. Performance is the highest calling a man can attain. I often considered myself to be a strutting wild beast, locking horns with the sounds one moment, gently stroking their cadences the next. I like to nibble the lyrics,  revelling in my unabated talent. I assure you, critical acclaim was never in my thoughts, I just wanted to sing. Actually, I like to think of myself as the first to connect with the audience where they worked, shopped, played, drank, lived even. Truly, my recitals are akin to the Sermon on the Mount.”

“You busk?”

“I think of myself as an external performer. I’m on my way to perform outside the Usher Hall in Edinburgh for the festive season. <i>Rich</i> pickings this time of year. Although I refuse to sing Gilbert and Sullivan. A pair of shite hawks if ever there were. Lozenge?”

“No thanks.”

Silence fell between them. The Ticket Inspector, a taciturn man who exuded marital discord mumbled, “Tickets please” and punched their tickets with wristy ease. As he continued his duties Elizabeth remembered that she had not spoken to Andrew for nearly two days. He would be upset. She, much to her surprise only felt relief at this non contact with her boyfriend.

Bryn sucked with noisy gusto on his sweet. “The lozenge. A humble concoction of honey and cloves but a tincture without which my soul would forever remain dormant in the mundane we take for granted as life. Singing is my life’s mission. Cut me and no blood would flow from my clotted arteries but the notation of Mozart. Artists such as I are, by our very nature external to the world of the everyday. Through our actions we can shine a searchlight into the soul of mortal people, offering them a glimpse of what can be.”

She looked for a spare seat. There were none.

He bit into lozenge. The aroma of menthol filled the space between them.

“Would you care for an onion sandwich? They are medicinal in nature and thin the blood. Suffering from thick blood is a characteristic of the gifted vocalist. I once read in a periodical whilst waiting for an internal flight in Australia, that the benefits of the onion sandwich are truly exceptional.”

The sandwich had a tongue of onion protruding between the bread slices as if it were gasping for air. Bryn sniffed and said, “On second thoughts,” and returned them to his jacket pocket.

“I must apologise. As you may have noticed I find <strong>no</strong> subject more charming or enlightening than myself. Could I ask you what you do? Something physical by chance? Your movements are very graceful” He noted the change in her body language from his compliment. <em>I am so good at this! </em>he thought to himself.

“I work in Boots in York, on the perfume counter. But I really want to make it as a professional dancer. How did you guess?”

“Sadly, my own body movements are nothing like as graceful. My mentor, Cecil Findings, a man with a marvellous musical ear but with a fateful attraction to the Tuba, described my own gait as cryptic. More charitable people have said enigmatic.”

“I’ve just been for a try out in London. Unsuccessful. Again.”

Part 3.

She took a sip of water, her excitement about the audition now an exhausted memory. She absent mindedly tore strips off the bottle’s label.

“I take it you were unsuccessful in your audition?” Bryn asked.

“Yes. I will not be joining the Contemporary Dance Company.” She tore another strip. Rejected once more. Years of putting up with dull, shitty jobs, fending off drunken magicians and stage hands, so that perhaps one day, one day her gifts would be recognised by her peers and that Andrew’s ambition for them to live the “happy to get by as long as we have each other,” life would not be acceded to.

Bryn spoke, “The purity of a dream fulfilled is something we all aspire to. Failure is something everyone is so good at that we all love to repeat it. Like an addiction. But to this old, tired man who has experienced pain, heartache, failure and rejection there remains something noble about the pursuit of dreams. We must have the courage to manipulate our fears. Never give up my dear.”

“Thank you, I won’t.”

These lines always stood him in good stead. The speech was from the play “Trouble At Home”. He had appeared in whilst a member of a touring Repertory Company in the late 1950’s, playing several roles, a drunk, a limbless ex-soldier, a bricklayer and a man at a bus stop. In all he had said three lines, the longest of which was, “Bless you,” to the leading lady played by the elegant Lavinia Wythenshawe when she sneezed at the bus stop.

As always with this recital his thoughts turned to Annie, Lavinia’s understudy. She fell for his alchemy of dreaminess, dapper japery and tall tales. The first of many to be charmed by his roguish wit and turn of phrase. He wondered if Annie was still alive and rolled through each nuance and crag of recollection. Thoughts that had stayed with him for forty years. In their months together she was the air that he breathed; the beat of his heart; the blink of his eye. For those months she was the love his life. He wondered what became of the daughter they had. He wondered if Annie had forgiven him.

He felt uncomfortable. He focused on Elizabeth once again.

“My Father was my inspiration. I hail from a small pit village in the South Wales valleys. Pontybuchan. Mining was the foundation of our society. So deep were the mines that Tolkien based The Mines Of Mordor on them. Father owned the hosiery shop, but his passion was for magic. He used the name Rhodri The Welsh Wizard, performing amazing feats of magic and illusion throughout our glorious land. He also discovered a gift for chicken sexing but we do not need to pursue that.”

“I’ve worked with Magicians.” Her skin crawled.

“I can assure you his sexual peccadilloes were kept to the marriage bedchamber. My Father’s act often attracted the chagrin of religious folk who considered his mystical feats occultist. He had a pig who could recite Shakespeare, and a polecat who could do bird impressions and by common consent was very impressive, for a polecat that is. The only problem was that Depression era Wales could frown upon with a fervently creased Methodist brow.”

He whispered, “Inappropriate use of animals in a depraved manner and consorting with the English in daylight hours.”

“Sorry?” Elizabeth asked.

“That was the charge brought against him in September 1937 after a performance in the small fishing town of Hywlth in North Wales. Lovely natural harbour. Well worth a visit. Sadly the whelks have been over fished and are no longer available. Lovely with vinegar they were too.” He drifted away into the salty underworld of molluscs.

“What did he do?”

“The pig cursed in a manner most unbecoming a pig, or human for that matter. Nothing that would shock today’s audience with their culture free pretensions for sex and violence, their elastic morality. Excuse my French, but “Fuck!” carries far less weight to offend these days. But the high dudgeon back then! Such was the outcry that my Father was arrested and imprisoned for two years by the intemperate Sanhedrin in the Magistrates Court. Father never gave up though, once sawing a Prison Officer in half, sadly with disastrous consequences. He he died in prison and my own talents had to be suspended to support my Mother and twelve siblings. But I’m sure he found peace in Conjurer’s Valhalla. He never gave up Elizabeth. Right to the end.”

“Never give up.” Sound advice Elizabeth thought, although she wasn’t sure why this aged Welshman had felt the need to embellish his tale. Perhaps he was lonely. Or a liar. Probably a lonely liar.

She looked at her watch. An hour to home and the inquisition. Her reflection stared at her.

The trolley attendant, clearly an advocate of substance abuse, appeared at the Carriage entrance. Like Charon crossing the Styx in a poorly fitted cotton rich uniform, he trundled through the carriage at a funereal pace and into the adjoining vestibule ignoring the request of passengers in need of sustenance.

“I would have loved a cup of tea,” muttered Bryn, “Tea! Who would have thought the slopes of Ceylon would be such a steadfast companion to the nation’s yeomanry. I can honestly say the finest tea I have ever tasted was in Australia, home of the marsupial, dust and these creatures we call Australians. I was there in 1956 with a travelling show. I was second on the bill to The Tumbling Timmins – I have particularly fond memories of Betty Timmins. Broad of beam but kind of heart was Betty, such wrist strength – how the Antipodeans welcomed us from the Mother country. The crowds, adulation and excitement of it all. I never felt so loved, adored and indeed Elizabeth, may I say needed…………”

He had an audience. However small, Bryn had an audience………..

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I went to sleep in the stranger’s bed
And woke needing to pee.
Not knowing where the light was
Nor wanting to wake her.
Well,
Wanting to wake her…but.

Through the curtains
Could see the stars
Sow stars
Sow that light across this universe
This brief moment of time
Across the darkness
Light my way
Be my light
Don’t let me stumble.

But she wakes
And as she watches my return
Know now
This means more to me
Than the light
Of our one lonely star.

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fresco_rescue

The CD music began as the train pulled into the Station,

“Ka…..lin….ka, Ka….lin….ka”

A small group had assembled. Middle Aged, earnest, smartly dressed. Another group were a few paces away. Adolescent. Disinterested. Yawning. Wearing cod military uniforms and fur hats. Big ones. Very furry.

The carriage door opened and a man the worse for drink stood in the opening. He was heavy-set with ursine features that if sober may have  given the appearance of steely determination. He tottered with the balance unavailable to the sober, mumbled something to himself and giggled before falling face first onto the platform.

The tones of Mother Russia continued to fill the air.

“Ka…..lin….ka, Ka….lin….ka……..”

The undernourished teens began to perform a weak limbed Cossack dance. Squatting on haunches. Right legs flung forward. Pulled back. Left legs flung forward. Pulled back. Very large furry hats slipping over sallow eyes. Fall over. Repeat.

“Kalinka. Kalinka……” the tempo of the music increased, the dancing became more chaotic and decidedly weak ankled. Blood seeped from the prone drunks mouth.

The troupe stumbled and slipped to the far end of the platform and lemming like fell off in the gorse abyss that lay beyond.

“Kalinka -Kalinka-Kalinka-Moya!”

The song continued in its Cyrillic glory whilst the group of furry hatted urchins did battle with the undergrowth.

Silence. Traffic could be heard in the background. That and the drunk man’s incoherent cedilla laden ramblings. There was unease amongst the crowd. A woman stepped forward, crouched down and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Mr Gordyetski – on behalf of the Stonehouse Friends Of Russia Group, may I welcome you…….I think he needs an ambulance.”

As the group of woebegone Dancers finally clambered onto the platform, it was common for all to see that their number had swollen by one.  A Zulu warrior carrying shield and spear.

“I knew we were one short when they fell off the platform last year,” a voice muttered.

The same voice spoke again. “Lads,  could you just check to see if there is a Morris Dancer lurking in the undergrowth. And a bloke in Lederhosen. Cheers.”

Hope you enjoyed the story – here is a rousing version of Kalinka

And here is some amazing Red Army Cossacky type dancing (A young Oily George is playing the accordion)

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fresco_rescue

He had boarded the train at Derby. Pink Floyd was playing on my Ipod when he sat next to me. If there is a better song than Wish You Were Here, then I’m a Chinaman.

As the train left the Station,  the man placed his hands to his mouth and blew through them, carefully adjusting his fingers in a daintily choreographed process.

Curious, I turned down my Ipod to listen.

Birdsong.

Beautiful birdsong! It was like having Summer on the train. The gentle chirping carried me back to warmer, more carefree days. It was like hearing Dark Side Of The Moon for the first time. Seminal.

The Guard, a world weary man who attended to his duties with a grim relish, stopped to listen. “Fookin’ Brilliant,” he said to the man as he checked his ticket, “Like being in fookin’ aviary. Me mam had a budgie once. Fooker never said a fookin’ word.” He moved away, “Tickets from Derby please.”

The man desisted from his trilling and rummaged in his rucksack. He pulled out a number of twigs and arranged them around himself and then retrieved a small Tupperware box, opened it and ate a couple of fat, wriggling earthworms.

Most of the questions in life can be found in the lyrics of Roger Waters. If there is a better lyricist then I am a Chinaman. But even Roger would be stumped to explain a nest building, worm eating, bird impressionist on the 11.35 to Sheffield.

“Cuckoo, cuckoo.”

“Cuckoo?” I said.

“Yep! What’s this one?” He raised his hands to his mouth and  blew, his cheek and neck muscles working overtime to shape and twist the sounds.

If it had been the solos of David Gilmour it would have been another story. If there’s been a better guitarist then I’m a Chinaman.

“Robin?” I said meekly.

“Thrush.”

He went through his extensive repertoire. My lack of knowledge was cruelly exposed.

“Blackbird?”

“Canary,”

“Lark?”

“Pelican.”

“Seagull?”

“Flamingo.”

“Twit Twoo, Twit Twoo.”

“Owl?”

“Yep! Which sort?”

“A big one?”

“Barn.”

He chomped on a worm. He stood. He lowered  his head onto his chest, placed his legs together and waddled forward a few feet, turned and returned in the same manner, a low, skittish growl accompanied these movements.

“Need the toilet?” I asked. Worms can’t be good for the digestive tract.

“Emperor Penguin.” He sat.

His body language now carried an air of menace, “You don’t know much about Birds do you?”

“Not really.”

“OK. I’ll make it easy for you.” He repeatedly head butted the seat in front of him, stopping only to smile with a manic bloodstained leer at me before continuing with his butting frenzy. He stopped and sat back. His nose was a bloody mess. A couple of twigs had been dislodged and fallen onto the Carriage floor.

“Fookin’ Hell,” said The Guard who happened to be passing, “That is the best impression of a fookin’ Woodpecker I’ve ever seen.”

“Thanks.”

The Guard focussed on the elderly woman who was sitting in the seat the man had been butting and helped fish out the her partially swallowed top set. Her wig was also akimbo.

“What’s this then?” The man stripped naked and clambered into the overhead shelf. He levered his buttocks over the head of the elderly woman who was checking her top set for any damage and……well…….did something that make pigeons the scourge of city folk.

“You can’t fookin’ evacuate on fellow passengers. It clearly states this in Conditions of  Carriage,” The Guard said in an exasperated fashion.

“But it’s lucky to be crapped on by a pigeon!”

He escaped the clutches of The Police and roosted in the rafters of Sheffield Station. After a three day standoff  he attempted to fly to freedom. According to witnesses he flapped like a wingless, featherless titan.

The last words he uttered were, “Look! I can fl………..”

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