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Topics - Gyppo

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The Bar & Grill / Soggy Summer Solstice Greetings
« on: Today at 07:56:20 PM »
   Soggy Summer Solstice Greetings.

   I was out in the back garden this morning at the time the sun was supposed to rise,  04-43.   It was light enough to see the lines in the palm of my hand, but there was no golden glow, just an overall  lightening of the grey, a wind lashing the trees, and spitty sporadic rain.

   But I know the sun was there, even if I couldn't see it.  It's reliable like that.  Always has been.  All  my life.  And there's no reason to believe it won't carry on long after I've shuffled off.

   I did my Solstice Ritual, which doesn't involve either bloodshed or deflowering a virgin - I know, bloody tame isn't it? - then went back indoors.

   I sat with the back door open for a while, listening to the birds singing and the rain pattering, whilst I had my stay-alive-pills, breakfast, and thought it a little sad that due to Covid rules I hadn't been able to go to Stonehenge.  But there'll be other years.


The Bar & Grill / A Small Triumph...
« on: June 14, 2021, 10:32:40 AM »
...and I don't mean the 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub motorcycle  ;-)

My printer, for the first time ever since I bought it new a couple of years ago, has devoured a full tray of paper (about 200 sheets) without any problems.  It's not a bad printer, it was only ever the very occasional glitch, such as picking up two sheets at once, or missing one and going into a full-on 'out of paper' strop when there was obviously plenty still here.

Probably due to warmer weather, thoroughly dry paper, and other intangibles which we can't truly control, in an ordinary English household setting.


.. I can sit and watch it for hours."


   A neighbour is having a serious block and brick built extension added to their house.  As the son of a civil engineering foreman I've been fascinated to watch it taking shape.  Most of the work has been done by a couple of older middle-aged men who clearly know their stuff.

   They had a spare man in for a day and a half, with a digger, ripping out the remnants of the previous extension and digging out the footings for the new construction.

   Meanwhile pallets of building blocks were being delivered, and barrowed around the side of the house by the two men and stacked in convenient smaller piles ready for use.

   Once the block walls had reached about waist height and they were up on a low scaffolding platform they had a 'labourer' to help them.  Lifting blocks up and arranging them along the platform, ready to use.  And keeping up a steady supply of buckets of mortar.

    A few times I thought I caught a glimpse of the eldest daughter of the house helping out.  The next day I realised she was probably the daughter, or possibly younger sister, of their labourer.  A definite family resemblance there.

   A skinny short lass in a grey tracksuit, with a long pony tail and trainers.  She seemed to be doing the light pick-up work, keeping the site tidy, bagging up the rubbish such as the wrappings from the pallets of bricks, empty cement bags, stacking the empty pallets, brushing down, etc.

   I saw her learning how to throw a bag of cement across the mouth of the stationary mixer and then cut it open with the edge of a spade so it emptied cleanly into the drum.  A proper self-employed time-saving trick there ;-)  It looked like 'a bit of a heave' for her, but by the third or fourth one she had it down to a fine art.

   A few days later when the surplus blocks were being loaded onto their truck for return to the supplier she carried one for every two the men moved.

   When it rained she kept working - just pulling up her hood - until the older men gave up and sat in their van for a while before calling it a day.

   The next day she turned up driving a car, so I decided she wasn't just a school kid earning a bit of pocket money.

   When the older chaps started building the external brick wall, outside the blocks and the sheets of insulation in the cavity, they were quick.  Maybe not record breaking brickies, but smooth, fast, and no hesitation.  The casual speed of 'old hands'.

   Fast enough that it took two labourers to keep them supplied with bricks and mortar.

   The lass handled a full barrow of bricks, properly loaded, just as easily as the male labourer and was definitely more supple than him when clearing the lower two layers.  In fact she ripped off the covering from the next pallet and told him to fill his barrow from the taller stack.

   Today she was their only labourer.  She's now wearing a baggy Tee shirt, sensible shorts, and site boots.  Her ponytail is up out of the way in a tight little knot.  She's busy as hell and clearly loving every minute of it.

   Anyone who says modern youngsters are afraid to work obviously hasn't seen a lass like this.

   I reckon my Dad would have been willing to 'give her a start' if she'd come looking for a job and he needed a 'spare hand.'  He always said he'd 'cheerfully employ a woman if she could do the job', having met a few female crane and machinery operators.


... a medieval castle.  With a proper Motte and Bailey, Palisade, and Moat.  And a Keep inside the castle?"

Initially she wanted to build it on a delivery palette and make it 'Really Massive', but I talked her into scaling it down a bit.  But the baseboard is three feet by two feet and the castle and 'motte' are about 14" tall together.

The board is a heavy duty cake-board I made for one of her more spectacular birthday cakes a few years ago.  It can take a lot more weight than a paper castle.  It's been hiding away waiting or a second outing.

Everything is mounted on a single sheet of card, so it can be removed from the board eventually.

Although you can't see it there is a painted on cave at the back of the 'motte' which serves a dungeon.   "Because all proper castles have to have a dungeon, Grandad."   There is also little sign on a cocktail stick, in a small handwriting type font, which reads 'To the Dungeon'.

Apparently this is where they behead Jesters who tell bad jokes to the Lord and Lady.  (Alma is rather intolerant of bad jokes.)

It took two visits and a lot of paper, PVA glue, cardboard, and acrylic paint.  Plus a few fraught moments.  My daughter took pictures at most stages of construction, which prove Alma was actively involved, not just acting as 'foreman'.

Then two days to finish drying out.   I could have dried it quicker if I'd put the heating back on, but it's already too warm here for that. All work was done on a wallpaper pasting table in my living room.  Very handy having the extra space at one end for pots of paint, glue, and tools.  But by the end of the four days I was glad to get my floor space back.

On Tuesday it will be going into school.

Left click to enlarge.


The Bar & Grill / One for all and all for one: A 'postal' memory.
« on: June 02, 2021, 09:03:13 AM »
        All for one, and one for all.  (The power of coincidence.)

        One of our smaller postmen, working on collections, was emptying a mailbox and being given a hard time by a much bigger chap who had posted something and wanted to claim it back.

   Changes of mind like this aren't uncommon, but the general rule is that once it's in the box there's nothing we can do about it.  After all, we have no idea if the person making the claim really posted it.  It's not unknown for jealous/suspicious husbands or wives to try and catch their spouse posting letters to a lover or whatever.  (You might be surprised just how often some poor bugger just doing his job is expected to be willing to help in such cases.  Sometimes the 'sob story' is totally at odds with the aggressive body language.)

   Another surprisingly common thing is people accidentally 'posting' their car keys along with a bundle of mail held in the same hand.  Or women posting their purse before realising they are still holding the letters in their other hand.

   The safe bet, (and the official policy), as a box emptying 'collections man', is to say no.  The manager will always back you up.  But he's not there when some brawny tattooed brute is leaning over a five foot lightweight and threatening him.

   If you slam the hefty post box door shut it locks instantly and you can continue the dispute without losing any mail.  But if you've just slid it all down the chute into your collections sack the whole lot can be grabbed.  It's a bit fraught at times.

   On this occasion little 'M' was quietly swinging his hefty ring of large keys, easily a couple of pound in weight, and seriously contemplating the need to defend himself.

   I cycled by, planning to drop into the nearby shop on my way home for something to eat, saw the situation, and stopped.

   "You alright, 'M'?"

   "Yes.  I'm just explaining why we can't let anyone reclaim mail."

   Tattoo man swore and growled a bit, but still had his eyes on the mail.

   Then, as if by magic, two more shirt-sleeved and fairly sizable posties on bicycles appeared seemingly from nowhere, rather dramatically from opposite sides, and asked the same question..

   Suddenly the odds had changed.  (Even though the other two were also just on a shopping errand at the end of their deliveries.)

   Tattoo man said something about us being 'Like the bloody Mafia, or 'The Foreign Legion', and stomped off.

   Little 'M' finished emptying the box, locked it, locked the sack in his van, and started laughing.

   "Thanks, Chaps.  The poor sod must think we have some silent alarm system.  He starts giving me grief and three rough-looking buggers suddenly turn up out of nowhere like the cavalry in a western."



The Bar & Grill / "Grandad..."
« on: May 31, 2021, 10:34:40 PM »
   I always knew that one day my Grandaughter would ask questions about my characters.  My daughter and I talk about them as casually as we would old family friends.

   We were playing our usual end of visit game of looking at photos and daft videos.  This has turned into a good way of winding her down before she has to go home after a visit.  She was rather struck by a picture of a gunmetal grey AC Cobra, an open-topped old school sports car with big wheels and roll bars.  An old school 'muscle car'.

   "I really like that car, Grandad."

   "That's Frances's car.  It's her special indulgence.  They have a Range Rover for everyday use.  John has his rather special Norton motorbike."

   She gave me a strange look.  "One of your characters has your name?  Is that because he's really you?"

   My daughter, perhaps a little too quickly, reassured her he wasn't.  "John Coe does things your Grandad wouldn't do."

   Alma looked at me, thoughts clearly racing across her face.   "But you probably would if you were him."

   I wonder if she'll remember this moment when she's old enough to read their adventures.


Left click to enlarge.  (I have no idea who truly owns this car.)

One advantage to living alone is that if your characters come knocking on the door at 2am you can just get up and write it down for them.

But I made myself a drink first, just to remind them who was boss ;-)

Seems they went out for a quiet evening drink with two friends, but...


    Frances smiled ruefully at Sarah as Daniel, stood at the bar, became quietly more belligerent with every glass he emptied.

    "I guess it's too late to stop him now."

    Sarah sighed.  "He's a good husband, but I can't stop him.  Not once he gets like this.  Grandad could probably talk him down, but nobody else."

    Frances watched the 'bristle and growl' escalating and hoped John wouldn't get involved.  It had been a pleasant evening so far.  The three gaujes winding up Daniel were determined to start a fight with 'that damned pikey'.  Thinking the odds were on their side. But as long as it stayed as 'fists only' it would probably end with nothing more than bloodied noses and black eyes.  What the Rom called 'a fair fight'.

    Like John she saw no percentage in 'fighting for fun'.

    John put his beer mug down on the windowsill, out of the way, and eased his chair back from the table.  Spoke quietly.  "If it goes wrong I'll handle Daniel."

    Frances nodded.  Put her nearly full glass next to John's.  Stood up, and casually walked between Daniel and his tormentors as if on her way to the ladies.

    "Scuse me, Gents."

    Sarah, who had been taking self defence lessons from Frances, watched as she bumped one of them and spilled his drink.  He glared at the little woman, a foot shorter than him, and  started to push her away, "Clumsy bit...".

    Frances stepped slightly sideways, grabbed the attacker's lapels, and pulled as he pushed.  The man found himself flat on the floor, winded, felled mostly by his own off-balance force, his drunken brain bewildered.

    John moved and stood alongside, locking his left hand around Daniel's right wrist.

    "No blades,"  he said quietly.  "But feel free to rescue Frances."

    He reached into Daniel's pocket, palmed the sheathed knife, and slipped it to Sarah.  "Take it outside.  Hide it.  We've got this."

    One of the other men had briefly grabbed Frances by both shoulders.  Daniel threw himself at the other one, a brawny specimen who raised his fists like an old time pugilist.  Daniel mirrored his actions, with a feral grin.  He loved a good scrap.  Would have cheerfully taken on all three if Black John and Frances hadn't spoiled his fun.

    In the doorway Sarah paused, fascinated to see the couple working together.  She saw Frances ram her knee into her attacker's groin, and then spotted a discrete but precise chop to the side of his neck as he folded forwards.  He hit the floor with a thud and lay still.

    John crossed to where the first man was stirring, starting to get up.  Helped him to his feet then unceremoniously slammed him down into an empty chair.

    "Stay there, or I'll remember you attacked my wife."

    "Take it outside, you two buggers!"  The landlord tolerated a fair bit of scrapping but didn't want his furniture wrecked.  Plus there were no cameras outside.  He valued his customers.  All of them.  Gypsy and gauje alike.  The rest of the crowd enthusiastically bustled the two would-be scrappers outside and formed a rough circle on the grass of the pub garden, lit by a gentle floodlight on the wall.

    Sarah, bundled out with the rest of them, faded into the shadows and hid the knife.  Sent a short text message.  Then returned to watch the fight.

    It didn't take long.  Daniel skipped around a bit, swearing in Romanes, and then felled his opponent with a swift flurry of crisp blows.  Hard rib-shots to make him drop his guard, and then a sharp right to the jaw.  He turned, the light of battle still in his eyes, glowered at John and Frances.   "Where's the other two?"

    "Staying out of it."  John said.  He received and read a short text message. Chuckled.  "Time to go, Frances."

    They were away before the blue shufflers arrived, and found Daniel and the gauje shaking hands and sinking pints which had magically appeared.  Faced with a 'friendly scrap' and no complaints the cops just made warning noises and went away again.

    "We never even finished our drinks."  Frances complained gently, as they arrived back at The Sanctuary a few minutes later.

    "Didn't want to be searched," John said.  He took Daniel's knife from the tool roll on the Norton and showed it to Frances.  "The Vixen's protecting her mate."


'Ah, wad some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.'  (Robbie Burns, I believe.


   I have just seen the people who will, presumably, be moving into the empty house across the street.  Unless they are just very well organised squatters with a key.  Seems to be a mum with three teenage sons and a younger daughter.

   Our local curtain twitcher was out there talking to them, and obviously explaining the layout of the estate to them.  Pointing out the route to the shops, and how to access the road through the woods.

  But I've never realised how much she uses her hands when she's talking.  Maybe because we don't talk that much except polite greetings and passing comments.  And she usually has her hands full with shopping, or gardening tools, when our paths cross..

   One of the young men was busy at the windows with a tape measure whilst the rest were getting their ears bent.

   There was lot of pointing going on, and she was obviously telling them about the couple next door to them,  Doing the baby rocking gesture.

   Then she pointed at my bungalow.  Held up one finger.  Then waved her hands around demonstrating that the man lives on his own, he's tall, with long hair down past his shoulders.  Then stroked her chin to show I had a beard as well.

   Then I nearly cracked up, because she made the classic 'zipped lip' gesture ;-)

   So they will be expecting a tall hairy man with a beard who keeps himself to himself.  I'll do my best not to disappoint them ;-)

   The next time I see Linda I'll ask if she was talking to the potential new neighbours, and no doubt she'll tell me all about them.  She probably knows their ages and inside leg measurements by now ;-)


The Bar & Grill / Weird effect. I can imagine this as a book cover.
« on: May 11, 2021, 10:18:07 PM »
Morning sun barely peeping over the fence.  Thin red curtains.  Tomato plants on window sill silhouetted against the fabric looking like some kind of mutant trees.

I can imagine this as the cover for some apocalyptic tale.

Left click to enlarge.


Word Play / Must be getting old...
« on: May 03, 2021, 12:16:24 PM »
They say you know you're getting old when policemen start looking younger.  But what about nurses?

Mum spent quite a lot of time in and out of the eye unit in the last ten years of her life, and I noticed that most of the nurses there were small, not much more than five feet in height and correspondingly built.  When I mentioned this one of them rather triumphantly told me she was the shortest, at only four foot ten.

She said several of them 'gravitated' to the eye unit, as places became available, because it was a place where they rarely had to physically lift patients around, unlike the more general wards.  Which makes perfect sense.  (The right tool for the job.)

But none of them looked particularly child-like.  Just small, bordering on tiny.

So why did the nurse who gave me my second Covid jab on Friday look like a schoolkid on work experience?   A 'ragged urchin' bob, a straight up and down body, and tiny little trainer shod feet.

She had nurse's eyes though, calm and patient.

She was a dab-hand with the needle, as close to painless as these things ever get.  Seemed delighted when I told her this.

There's whole generation of nurses out there who are gaining 'total immersion' experience with the syringe.  Could be useful when I get really old. ;-)


The Bar & Grill / May Day Greetings
« on: May 01, 2021, 09:08:51 AM »
    May Day greetings to you all.               

    Ritual has been observed.  Home and life blessed for the coming year.

    The Padstow Song has been played , and the lumbering old man has danced the appropriate steps to get Summer off to a good start.   The inner 'Cunning Man' perked up his head, nodded approval, and then let me get on with my breakfast.

     Left click to enlarge image. 

    "Blessed be."                       

The Bar & Grill / Ambiguity at its finest.
« on: April 18, 2021, 08:43:55 PM »
Look at this, taken from a local advert.  Tell me if you can see the problem.  It's not spelling, punctuation, or grammar.

I know what they think they're saying...

The experienced upholsterers provide dependable repairs, with all work finished to a professional standard. They won't finish a task until you are pleased with the results.


It reminds me of when we had a world class speedway rider living just down the road.  A nice man to meet, off the track.  On his fan site they boosted up his world status and then said, 'Since becoming the team captain he has never failed to disappoint his fans'.


The Bar & Grill / A Proper Job
« on: April 05, 2021, 06:58:59 AM »
Proper Job

One of these days some enterprising soul is going to start advertising in writing magazines and other places where writers hang out ;-)


High Quality applicants sought now.  Worldwide opportunities.

Ever thought about becoming a plumber, or welder, or baker, or even a housewife?

Get a regular income, regular hours, no self-employed tax hassles or excessive paperwork.

Earn thousands without any previous experience.

If you can pick up a simple tool you can work.

No more wrestling with predatory editors, publishers, and half-baked ideas which are going nowhere fast.

Then get a Proper Job.

Every week thousands of impoverished writers join Proper Jobs, both on-line and locally, and learn the simple skills needed to break free from the drudgery of the unforgiving page and the relentless word count.

Join Proper Jobs.

Take off your jacket, or your skanky all-day dressing gown, or that vile purple-striped so-called leisure suit.  Roll up your sleeves and show our team of hand-picked assessors what you can do,  Don't tell, show!

One simple joining fee, a few short weeks of intensive labour, and you can throw away your word processor.  Never Look Back.

Write. phone, or Email today.  Limited places available.

Get a Proper Job.


The Bar & Grill / For those wo recall the 'good old days' at MWC...
« on: April 03, 2021, 01:05:04 PM »
One of the benefits of the near computer disaster a few weeks ago is that when I ran the backups I found things I'd almost forgotten.  Some of it wouldn't be a great loss, but some is fun to remember.

If you're an old hand with time to kill...  A look back at the LSS Roma  Literary Loony Ship


          For what is - somewhat to my surprise - my 2000th post to this newsgroup I thought I'd do something to mark the occasion.  This evening - for one evening only and despite the fact I may not even be there in person - I have stuck enough money behind the counter at the MWC Bar for everyone who wishes to have a virtual drink.

          This uncustomary largesse is a strictly limited opportunity, so make the most of it.

          (Why not drop in and see what some of the other members look like with their guard down... See the mighty moderators letting their hair down...

          Cathy dancing on the bar in her green hat ;-)

          Carrie sleeping under the pool table with her arms affectionately clasped around a small cask of Brandy.

          But that's a mere trifle, just the late evening/early morning entertainment.

          Right now I'm really (literally) pushing the boat out

          Today, despite the weather - and at any time during the next 24 hours due to the vagaries of time zones and whenever you happen to log-on - Gyppo Enterprises will be offering trips around the bay on the LLS (Literary Loony Ship) Roma.  Whether this be the Bay of Biscay, Stokes Bay, Robin Hood's Bay near Scarborough, or even the Bay of Pigs is still uncertain.  The only certainty is that it will not be E-Bay, although plunder from the cruise may almost certainly appear there later.

          Our sturdy vessel will be sploshing her way around the coast, occasionally sailing well inland to pick up passengers where flooding permits.  So pack up your troubles, grab your Laptop, pen and paper, and oilskins, and come aboard.

          Those of you who feel skinning 'some poor innocent little oil' is somehow unkind are probably of the younger generation and don't have a bloody clue what I'm talking about.  So you can just bring your 'breathable' Goretex and Kevlar wet gear from Paramo or whoever and hope it doesn't suffocate.

          The LLS Roma was originally a three masted ship, but now only has two since the predictably named 'mizzen' went missin' whilst tied up alongside in Gosport for an ill-advised overnight stop.  No doubt one of the denizens (sorry, citizens') is, even as you read this, painting it white and stringing it with coloured lights in a pathetic attempt to emulate the lofty and elegant Spinnaker Tower a few hundred yards away across the mighty 'ravel of waters' which serves as a vital 'no go' zone between them and neighbouring Portsmouth.

          In honour of the occasion 'Jolly Roger' will be flapping wildly in the wind at the top of the mainmast.  No, not the skull and crossbones flag of that name, but a genuine screaming and terrified person of the same name.

          Roger is the normally unflappable and generally competent Bosun of the LLS Roma, but, having imbibed to excess of Woods Navy Rum last night during a sudden fit of dread at playing host to so many 'literary types', he has now gone up in the world.  (And he can damned well stay up there until he sobers up enough to once more be a useful member of the ship's company.)

          Speaking of the Ship's Company (Gyppo Enterprises Unlimited) employees of the said business will wander amongst the passengers selling various trinkets such as hand-carved wooden clothespegs, sprigs of Lucky Heather (named after a girl called Heather who had the foresight to say 'No!' to Gyppo many years ago), autographed e-books on CD, and life jackets.  Not that there is any need for the latter, as the world famous 'Fiona's Cat' has volunteered to act as Forward Lookout and ensure we don't hit anything more solid than sparkling sea spray and the Will o' The Wisp threads of crazy dreams and Wishful Thinking.

          Before we depart step briefly into the Captain's Cabin and gaze in wonder and awe at the magnificent hand-drawn charts which have been unrolled and consulted...

          The Channel of Inspiration beckons, sailing between the threatening Vortex of Verbosity, and the black rocks of Stark Reportage.  Around the edges of 'Ye Knowne Worde' are artistic imaginings and warnings doodled by laudanum crazed cartographers filling in time between inking a scant few useful lines and time to go home.  For the brave crew about to depart on what future historians may well document as Gullibles Travails these warnings may mean something...

          'Here Be Meta-Phores!'

          'The Dark 'C' of Spellinge!'

          'Ye Straits of Grammar!"

          "Ye Straights of Dire!"

          "The Depths of Dissatisfaction!"

          "Ye (Northwest) Purple Passage!"

          "The Long Lost Podes."

          "The Kraken of Kharacter Kreation!"

          "The Eddies of Editing!"

          "The Abyss of Adverbial Additions!"

          "Ye Stagant Pool of Past Participles."

          The LLS Roma is due to sail shortly, but there is one small item of kit still lacking.  On these occasions it is traditional to fly a pennant from the foremast, but as the LLS Roma has such strong linguistic and lexicographic connections something just a little bit more special than a mere pennant is called for.
          Yes, we need a Pedant.  A robust red-handed creativity-stifling Pedant, firmly nailed to the masthead to complete the package.

          Any volunteers?


I suspect most of the regular poets will be congregating at The Tangled Branch - which sounds like a cosy little hostelry with a fig tree weaving its convoluted way around the entrance.  But if you want to give them a second outing, or if you feel a bit shy, then shove them in this thread here.

I'll kick it off for you.



Hidden deep in the frozen earth,
waiting out the harsh winter months,
as enzymic triggers cock,
ready to fire as the snow  melts.
Peeping warily, growing tall, green,
then paling in the sunlight.

Cut down by monstrous machines,
beaten with mechanical flails,
divided into useful components.

The seeds take a long sea voyage,
arriving in the English Cotswold's.
Crushed between steel rollers,
bagged and labelled,
'Canadian Classic Wholemeal'.

A road trip brings it to my home,
where it's mixed with casual expertise,
ancient and beneficial processes,
almost magical in effect,
taking place under the brown skin.
Baked according to my rules and wishes,
It now sits in my kitchen.
Three days' worth of wholemeal loaf.
So far from its Canadian roots.


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