#FurryFives – Cure for Crows

I hate crows, Tess, don’t you?

– They’re harmless… just make a lot of noise

That’s the point, craw, craw, bloody craw… from dawn till dusk

– What are you doing now? Your little head’s going into another dimension!

Shaking their noise out of my ears.

© Stephen Tanham


Cant and Greta


Between the Cant and the Greta rivers there is a castle. In it lived a great chief, a warlord who was a King in his own right. His name was Bernard Maltravers and his success was due to his ability to not only fight, but to think. Maltravers lived like a king and one of the joys of his kingly life in the castle was the company of his ‘court Jester’, a Frenchman they called, simply, L’est. No one knew how the man had come by the name, and he never spoke if it, himself. But everyone called him by it…. except Lord Maltravers, who simply yelled out, “J’est” in a well-rehearsed parody whenever he wanted the services of his Fool.

“It’s Christmas, J’est,” he said, after the fourth measure of mead. “Should we get rid of most of the castle staff? Give them a holiday?”

L’est looked forlorn at the suggestion. He knew that if his wilful lord put the plan into action, he, the Jester, would end up doing most of the duties, such as cooking and cleaning, instead of what he was good at: intelligent and witty conversation – and provoking his master to just the right degree. However, Lord Maltravers had insisted that L’est join him in two of the goblets of mead and he was less in control of his mouth than usual… so he replied, “Why not, my Lord. In fact, why not break with tradition, altogether, and invite the local peasants into the rooms of the castle, they can abide with us throughout the season, truly making it one of goodwill to all men…”

Lord Maltravers had a short temper, which the excess of mead did little to ameliorate, so he ran the Fool through with his long sword.

As he died by the fireplace, L’est thought of the idea of peasants, happily living in the castle… he used all of his will to form the image into a spoken and enduring curse, letting it escape into the air and the stone of the castle as his last breath filled the space.


Lester Atkinson, standing in front of the estate agent’s window in the centre of Kendal and drenched by the spray from passing cars, had no idea why he had been drawn to the central panel of opulent properties, nor why he was having trouble suppressing his jollity.

“Take that,” he muttered, laughing aloud.

A passing woman looked at him accusingly.

“What did you say?”

“I really have no idea,” said Lester, walking his uncontrolled mirth away before it could do him any more harm. “But Merry Christmas, anyway.”

©Stephen Tanham

This is entirely a work of fiction… apart from the Estate Agent’s window.

Happy Christmas….

Antipodean Fragments – Foodoomooloo…


We are having breakfast at Charlie’s Foodamalloo, across the street from our hotel; the Ovolo. It’s a wonderful greasy spoon and reputed to be one of the best places for breakfast in Sydney – if you don’t mind the simple interior and the washed but stickily-aged wood and tiled tables.

The Ovolo is located on the redeveloped old giant wharf at Woolloomooloo. The beloved old cargo and passenger quayside is now home to twelve restaurants and Russell Crow’s luxury boat… and, it is rumoured, his penthouse, high above the dock.

There’s a man. He is noisily on his mobile and standing, partly blocking my view through the opened shuttered window. He looks very at home here but is not Australian. He sounds… perhaps Austrian?

Another man comes in, an Australian with a broad and deep accent. He walks past the two young naval officers putting their caps on, post breakfast. There is a large naval base along the quay. Yesterday, I’d taken several shots of a gleaming new warship before I got to the sign that said don’t.

The two men greet each other by swinging their hands together in a well-practised gesture. It produces a crack so intense that the two naval officers turn in alarm.

One of the men gets up to reassure the uniformed men, smiling. Their conversation turns to tobacco… interesting.

Bernie is having tea with her breakfast. The lovely Turkish lady who brought me my BLT tips over Bernie’s little steel milk jug. It goes all over my backpack on the floor. The young Turkish lady is mortified. She mops it up carefully with a cloth, then brings a mop and bucket to sort out the floor. I had no idea the little jugs held so much milk… She offers me a cloth Aldi bag in compensation. I reassure her that it’s okay…

There’s something weird in the Sydney air…

We’re staying at the Ovolo but breakfasting at Charlie’s. It’s much more interesting.

I hope it won’t rain all day… we can get this in Cumbria.

(Editor’s note: it did)

©Stephen Tanham

Old Blue Devil

Within the sky

You formed one day

I have you said

With dipping horn

Not gone away

I willed you go

Your old one eye


Inclined to stay

Declined my sigh

Am home, it cried

Among and in

The shallow mind

The narrow gaze

The snarling din

Resistant to

My magic frown

This hungry eye

Just widens now

And gazes ever down

©Stephen Tanham