Month: March 2013

Guest Blog – Martin Goss

My good friend Martin Goss is a poet, writer, teacher and saxophonist, and he often reads his poems and stories at clubs and poetry circles. He is considering starting his own blog, but as a ‘dry run’ he wanted me to publish his remarkable new take on an old tale, Rumplestiltskin, whose mid Atlantic slant may well appeal to my US friends.

So here is the story of Rumplestiltskin, and if you’d like to make any comments, Martin’s email address is mjgoss@blueyonder.co.uk

Rumplestiltskin

Personally, I think historians gave Rumplestiltskin a bum deal. After all, it was the girl’s father who got her into trouble, making those wild assertions about her spinning abilities. Turn straw into gold indeed, whoever heard of such a thing? So the king locks her in the tower, threatening execution if she don’t deliver the goods. Lets face it, without Rumplestiltskin she was in trouble big time. That king was monstrous, a madman whose piles always made him sour. And to cap it all, she then marries the guy. A typical dumb broad, that girl, no understanding of the male psyche. She thought she could change him into a kinder, more understanding king, but no chance. The guy was a fruitcake, chopping off heads whenever it suited him, which was way too often.

Of course, I’m not saying Rumplestiltskin was a great guy or anything, he had his faults I know. But he had his problems. Being a dwarf ain’t easy. From a kid he’d been teased about his diminished stature. That giant who lived in Beanstalkville used to pick little Rumplestiltskin up and dangle him upside down until he told his name.

“Come on, tell us your name, little man,” he’d boom. Little Rumple would squirm and wriggle, and all his blood would go to the end of his little elfin ears.

“Shan’t, shan’t,” he’d scream back, but he always did. Dangling little Rumple upside down was one of the few things that kept that giant entertained; he had no conversation.

Rumplestiltskin hated his name, wouldn’t let anyone know it. When it came to the school register and his name was called out, he’d just sit there, lips pressed together like Snow White’s thighs at graduation ball. Though she certainly changed later, it was her that hooked Dopey on crack, but that’s another story.

Anyway, when Rumple went back that last night to help the dame, she had nothing left to give in exchange for his technical wizardry. She’d given him some cheap trinkets on nights one and two, but now her largesse was exhausted. She had nothing left to give but herself, so to speak. And that’s the bit that gets left out of the official version.

Anyway, you all know what happens. It was in all the papers.

“If you become queen, the first born is mine,” he says, and spins her some more gold out of straw. Loads of the stuff, like it was going out of fashion. That’s one thing you got to say about old Rumple; he could spin gold like a master. But he had no intelligence when it came to the futures market. If he’d bought bonds, he could have cashed in. With all that gold around, the bottom would have dropped out the market. All the smart money would have hit the bond market like a tornado. There was no alternative after the crash in the gingerbread house market, what with wolves blowing them down and those three pigs and their jerry building. But like I say, Rumplestiltskin was a born loser.

So anyway, the dame has her baby and Rumple goes along to collect, and she gets all weepy. I can understand her point of view, mind. A bearded midget with insanitary habits

would not be my choice of a foster parent either, but a contract is a contract. Personally I have my doubts as to whether any court would have ruled in Rumple’s favour, but it never came to that. Rumplestiltskin had a heart of gold, which is where his great power came from, and he was moved by the lady’s tears. Mind you, the get out clause was a tough one.

“Guess my name in three days and you keep the baby.”

And that’s another thing, what the hell did Rumple want a baby for? Perhaps he was lonely, wanted another little person to play with, someone his own height. Who knows? Certainly he’d be no good changing nappies, it was quite obvious that frequent changing into clean underwear was not a priority with him.

Anyway, we all know what happened. The birds hear him singing that silly song about his name, and for a small payoff in birdseed they divulge the information to the royal messenger. Personally I think the bird’s sold the information too cheap, but that’s birds for you, cheap.

When, after a little momentary teasing, the queen gives with his name, Rumplestiltskin loses the plot entirely. Stamps his foot into the floor so hard, he has to pull his leg off to move, and poofff he disappears into nothingness. That was another thing about Rumple, he needed help with his anger management. But that’s how he was, leaving the dame with this rather unattractive leg bleeding profusely over her carpet.

And that was that, except for one thing. That baby was always very small, no bigger than table top height even fully grown, and his personal hygiene always left a lot to be desired. So maybe Rumplestilskin spun more than gold that final night.

The Liebster Blog Award

page27-1001-thumb page14-1009-thumbI’ve been asked by my friend the lovely Terry Tyler, to do this Liebster Blog.  Here is the description, copied from Terry’s site:

The purpose of the Liebster Blog Award is to recognise blogs with fewer than 200 followers that deserve a look.  My job is to list 11 random facts about me, answer the 11 questions Terry has set me, then to nominate 11 new bloggers, who should bask in the Liebster glow – which means doing the same as I am doing here! i.e. post a blog linking back here, with 11 random facts about you, answer my 11 questions and nominate 11 new bloggers (and think of 11 questions to ask them).

Terry I am taking you up on your offer of just doing it, and not nominating 11 others, hope that’s all right.

11 Random facts about me

1.  I used to write about DIY and building for magazines and newspapers, was on the experts’ panel of Period Living, and have written books about architectural salvage and major house repairs.  And I enjoy building and practical work and have built extensions onto houses and have learnt about practical building and plumbing. Trouble is I have only practical experience of building, and no formal qualifications in building or architecture at all, simply got my facts from experts.  I always secretly felt like a bit of a fraud, as if I would one day be ‘found out’.

2.  I love castles and stately homes, the more historical the better.  If I had limitless money I’d buy an abandoned castle and renovate it with a modern interior – however since it would be listed this probably wouldn’t be allowed, so as well as being incredibly expensive, it wouldn’t be practical either.  I do love history and would enjoy stepping back in time.

3.  Cooking is something I avoid doing if I can.  Why people rave on about food, its flavours and appearance is a mystery to me, and the TV Food programmes seem absurd to me too – especially when they try to build in tension, and you’re supposed to be excited about whether someone will make  a meringue in time, or whether some jumped up poser passes a favourable judgement.

4.  My great grandfather was a police superintendent in Lincolnshire in the 1880s, and his picture, with large side-whiskers and uniform, takes pride of place in my office at home.  He abandoned his wife and children and went to live in America after some kind of scandal.  As a result he has been condemned by older family members, but I feel there must have been extenuating circumstances, and discovering what he did in America, and why he left, is a mystery I’ve been trying to solve for years.  His name was Veitch, allegedly originally De Veci, descended from two Norman Knights who came over with the conqueror.  But since there are many Veitches in Scotland, the Norman heritage may be spurious.

5.  I hate appointments, avoid them like the plague, and tend to be late for things. I am generally hopeless at judging how long things take to do.

6.  I’ve done lots of different jobs:  made dolls houses, started a marriage bureau, tried to write romance stories for Mills and Boon, worked as a builder, for the inland revenue  (an awful period), taught leatherwork etc. etc., all of which were dead ends and failures.  I started writing in the 1980s when I was lucky enough to get scripts for photo story scripts for Jackie and Blue Jeans magazines accepted.

7.  I hated school, and as a child always thought reading and writing and learning wasn’t work, ‘work’ was actually physically doing things, like hammering nails in wood or repairing things.  I’ve always been good with my hands, but never been keen on learning things from books.

8.  I had a very nice mother, who died 13 years ago, who always encouraged me in anything I wanted to do, even though I failed at so many jobs.   She was a writer, and without her guidance, I very much doubt if I would ever have thought of writing for a living.

9.  I like listening to people talk about themselves: as a child I was enthralled by old men chatting about the first world war, or hardships in their lives, and when I taught leatherwork, I had a class of lovely old ladies who all remembered the blitz in London in the second world war, and what times were like then.

10.  I’m generally an optimist and like to get on and do things, rather than talk about doing them.  When tackling a new job I never envisage the entire thing, just take it chunk by chunk, understanding and learning what to do as I go.

11.  I often see someone walking along the street or sitting in a car and wonder, what’s your life like?  What job do you do?  Are you happy at home?  It’s always nice to chat to a stranger, especially if they’re nice enough to tell you about themselves, doubly so if they come from another country or culture, and you enter into their world for a few minutes.

The 11 questions that Terry has asked me to answer:

What’s your favourite flavour of crisps?

Haven’t eaten crisps for years and years.  But I used to like smoky bacon – and cheese and onion.

How many of other people’s blog posts to you read per day, on average? 

Only a couple I’m afraid.  I really should read more.

If you weren’t promoting your book, would you still use Twitter/ Facebook so much?  If not, how much would you? 

I’m afraid I hardly used Facebook at all, and if I wasn’t promoting my book I wouldn’t do much on Twitter.  That sounds terrible, I know, but social media isn’t may natural forte.

Do you smoke?  If not, did you ever? 

Not really.  I smoked at school for about two evenings, as a kind of dare, then in my twenties I smoked a pipe for a week or two because I liked the smell of Clan tobacco.  But I never really smoked much, what a relief, would hate to have to spend money on cigs – like setting fire to £5 notes – and I haven’t got the worry of trying to give up to avoid the health risks.

When a doctor asks you how much you drink, do you lie? 

No, I don’t drink much at all.  When I go out, I usually drive, so can’t drink then, and wouldn’t want to fiddle about judging how much is safe, just either drink or drive never both.  Besides, drinking doesn’t really interest me, I just tend to fall asleep, and I resent paying for alcohol, it seems an utter waste.

What is your star sign:  Do you know the typical characteristics of that sing, and if so, which ones apply to you? 

I’m Taurus, the bull.  Obstinate, practical and determined.  Unfortunately also stubborn: once I’ve started something I hate to give up, even when I should.  But I’m not really into star signs, though it is extraordinary how often people seem to fall into the category of the sign they are born under.

Do you remember you first blog post?  What was it about? 

Yes, it wasn’t long ago.  About the experience of publishing a book on kindle and trying to publicize it on twitter, and the morals of whether it should be free.

Imagine you have to give up these 4 things for a month:  Alcohol, writing, listening to music, television.  Starting with the one you would find the easiest to give up, in what order would you fine them the easiest to do without? 

Alcohol – happy to give it up, hate paying for it, loathe queuing for ages in a pub, just for the privilege of handing over a lot of money for some tiny amount of liquid.

Listening to music – I go for a long time between listening to music, and generally use it as a background if I’m doing a manual job, say.  Though I used to like country music a lot.

Writing – writing is hard work, to have a month’s break would be a bit of time off.

Television – it’s a way of switching off and not thinking hard, so this is the thing I would least like to give up for a month.

Thankfully you’ve not included reading, I would hate to give up reading for a month.

What comedies; do you like on TV?

Mostly the older stuff:  Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper, Eric Sykes, Fawlty Towers, Les Dawson – yes I know most of them are now dead!  And recently Mrs Brown’s Boys, which I discovered by accident.  I absolutely loathe practically all stand-up comedy.  To me it simply is not funny, usually rather desperate, pathetic and irritating: I heartily wish that all stand up comedians would sit down.  Having said that, I do very much like Jack Dee.

Do you watch soap operas?  If so which is your favourite? 

Used to watch Eastenders, but haven’t for about 10 years now.  Tried Emmerdale, but somehow I can’t get to grips with any of the characters, but I do love the stonework on the buildings, magnificent grey stonework and nice pointing, almost as impressive as the pointing on the stone buildings in Last of the Summer Wine.  The only one I watch is Coronation Street, because I like many of the characters.  Though I must admit, I enjoy it most when there’s violence and murder  and deaths, cannot do with the child/baby oriented story lines.

My blog posts

Just a couple:  this one, which I haven’t posted on much recently, this is the first for fortnight or so.  And The JACK LOCKWOOD DAIRIES  http://www.jacklockwood.wordpress.com , which are short stories about my hero, Jack Lockwood, who is the protagonist of my two novels, Rock’n’Roll Suicide (http://amzn.to/WuntY6 ), and Doppelganger (http://amzn.to/WjrBxe).