Keith Jarrett : Somewhere Over The Rainbow (The Blue Hour)

Thom Hickey’s blog is a real gem. It is hugely popular, and you will see why if you look at his posts. This latest one is a prose poem of praise to the ‘Blue Hour’, an English love letter to twilight.
And he has chosen the perfect soundtrack too.

The Immortal Jukebox

Stars withdrawing from the night sky.

Buffeting winds blowing the heart open.

Old Winchester Hill.

The Blue Hour.

Iron Age Forts.

Bronze Age Barrows.

Ghostly legions marching by.

Corn Buntings and Lapwings.

Skylarks and Linnets.

Yellow Hammers.

Stone – curlews.

A glimmer of sunlight greeting the ghosts, the birds and me.

Butterfly flutterings.

Marbled White.

Meadow Brown.

Chalkhill Blue.

The Blue Hour.

Dreams that you dare to dream.

Clouds far behind.

Birds fly over the rainbow.

Once and forever in a lullaby.

Once and forever.

Keith Jarrett.

A meditative musician.

A perpetual pathfinder.

Rediscovering, reimagining, recreating, the almost, almost, forgotten land of the untroubled heart.

Soaring with Bluebird and Skylark.

The Song of The Blue Hour.

Hold it in your Heart.

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Photo Prompt Story: Kevins Karsull

This is a short story in, 1025 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, the third one sent to me by Jennie Fitzkee.

Mister Dolman was a good teacher, everyone agreed on that. He could make his lessons come to life by pretending to be a brave knight in armour, or a hedgehog snuffling for food. He would bring things in to show the kids, anything from a funny-shaped rock he had found, to the medals his Dad had been given during the war. Not for him just the dry text of the curriculum books, oh no. In Mister Dolman’s class, the kids actually turned up excited to be there, wondering what would happen next.

And he included everyone. No kid was allowed to sit things out because they were shy, or if they had doubts about their own abilities or skills. Inclusion was his creed, and that applied to Kevin too. A quiet boy, who always seemed to be worrying about something, Kevin didn’t play with the others at break, and nobody willingly sat next to him. Of course, that didn’t go unnoticed by the dedicated teacher.

So one day, Mister Dolman brought in a huge box from home. It was full of all sorts of random objects. He invited the kids to stand around and look in the box, then asked them what they thought was in it. Melody smiled. “Just junk”. Danny actually laughed. “You brought your garbage into school, Mister Dolman”. Letitia put her hands on her hips. “That’s boring”. He called Kevin forward. “Here, Kevin. You look, and tell me what you see”.

The boy stared into the box for a long time. He looked at the cardboard tubes from old toilet rolls and kitchen paper, the parcel box, some wires, and old paints and brushes. There were a few empty plastic bottles, washed out and clean, and two food storage tubs that had seen better days. The other kids shuffled their feet, as Kevin thought about those objects. Finally, he looked up at the teacher. “I see a castle”.

Smiling, Mister Dolman nodded. “That’s great, Kevin. Okay class, after lunch, we are all going to make a castle. Kevin is going to show us how”.

Using an old cupboard door as a base, and glue provided by the school, they set about creating that castle, guided by Kevin, who could undoubtedly picture it in his head. The cardboard rolls became strong towers, the bottles were carefully cut to become crenelated bastions, and the parcel box turned into a gatehouse and drawbridge, with the old wires used to raise and lower it. The storage tubs were cut and stuck in place to provide walls between the towers. By the time the end of the school day was approaching, everyone agreed it looked just like one of the castles they had seen in old pictures.

As they were getting ready to go home, Mister Dolman lifted the castle, and put it in a safe place on top of the bookshelf. “Safe journey home now, everyone. Tomorrow afternoon, we are going to paint the castle”. He smiled as he watched Melody and Danny walking with Kevin. They were all chatting and grinning. Everyone wanted to know more about how Kevin had thought up the castle.

True to his word, the paints were brought out the next day. The other kids were asking Kevin things. “What colour should I paint this, Kevin?”. “Shall I paint the drawbridge brown, like wood, Kevin?” After it was almost finished, Kevin took the thinnest brush, and drew lines up and down the castle, making it look like the various stone sections would have appeared. Mister Dolman gave him a piece of strong card, and asked him to name the castle. “We will put the card in front on the base, Kevin”. The boy took a marker pen, and wrote carefully.

‘Kevins Karsull’.

It was easy enough to persuade the head teacher to let him put the castle in the trophy cabinet in the entrance hall. Then every day for the rest of his time at that school, Kevin would walk past something he had created, and the other kids would say “We helped too”.

Retirement was compulsory, but that didn’t mean Mister Dolman was looking forward to it. His wife was worried about him. “Maybe you can still do something, Phil? You know, voluntary stuff. Teaching slow readers, helping out at the museum. You’ll find something, I’m sure”. The retirement party was after school on the Friday. They gave him gifts of framed photos of the school, and a lovely collage made by his last class. Everyone signed his card, and wished him well.

When he walked across to his car, Phil Dolman didn’t look back, not even once. He didn’t want them to see him crying.

The following Monday, it already felt strange to not have to go to work. He sat around reading the papers, and watched the breakfast news on television. Just after nine, there was a knock at the door. The parcel was really big, and at first he thought it must be for his wife. But the parcel guy made him sign for it in the name of Mister Dolman, and he was intrigued as he opened it carefully, noting the large FRAGILE stickers all over it.

Inside, there were acres of bubble wrap, and once he was through those, he revealed a beautiful castle made from plaster,  lovingly crafted and painted. There was also a note.

‘Mister Dolman, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to your party. I live a long way from that town now, and I was busy with work. I phoned the school and explained, and they were kind enough to give me your address. I have never forgotten the day we made that castle, and I wanted you to have your own one, so you could remember how you helped me back then. I hope you like it. Kevin.
There was another card inside, with careful writing on it. It simply read
‘Kevins Karsull’.

Phil showed it to his wife, his eyes wet with tears.

They both agreed it was the best retirement present any teacher could ever wish for.

Talking To My Dad

I slept in late on Friday morning. Something had woken me up earlier, probably the gales, and I didn’t get back to sleep until almost 6 am. That meant I was still asleep at 10:45, when Julie decided to come in and wake me up.

As soon as I was old enough to have an opinion, I didn’t get on that well with my Dad. By the time I was twelve years old, he was working away a lot, as a sales and promotion executive for a record company. When he got home late on Friday nights, he seemed to resent the fact that my Mum and me had coped well enough without him all week, and his frequent absences made us grow closer together.

When I was fifteen, he moved us out of London to a house in Kent, as he felt our rented flat was too ‘down market’ for him in his new job. A year later, when I turned sixteen, he bought me a used car, even though I was too young to drive it legally. He liked to boast to people about that. He had become a rather boastful man, taking any opportunity to name-drop the various stars of the record business that he had dealings with.

By the time I left school, we were hardly speaking. Despite that, he got me a job through one of his contacts, selling records. That was so he could tell anyone who would listen that I got the job because of him, and not because I was any good at it. When I was nineteen, I moved out and shared with friends, mainly to avoid having to be around him.

Then not long before my twenty-fourth birthday, he left my Mum, saying that he believed he was in a mid-life crisis, and needed his own space to think. We knew there was another woman of course, and it didn’t take too long to discover who she was, and where they were living. I never spoke to him again after that, and he died when I was thirty-seven.

With that in mind, it was very strange to be dreaming that I was talking to him last night. He was in another room, and calling to me to bring various things in to him. When my wife came in to wake me up because I had overslept, as I opened my eyes to look at her, my Dad’s voice seem to be coming from her mouth. It was the end of a dream, no doubt. That moment when you wake up feeling as if you have been ripped from another place.

A place that seemed very real. As real as the reality of waking up in my bedroom this morning.

What Are New York Public Library’s Most Checked-out Books?

This is an interesting list, from one of America’s biggest libraries.
Many thanks to Nick Rossis for posting it.

Nicholas C. Rossis

I recently wrote about the welcome fact that in 2019, more Americans went to the library than to the movies. At a time when the 2021 US budget seeks to eliminate funding for libraries, this is wonderful news indeed. But what books do library patrons check out?

Ron Charles has explored this very question. As he reports in the Washington Post, The New York Public Library has just released the titles of the 10 most checked-out books in its 125-year history. Bestsellers may offer a snapshot of passing fads, but this remarkable list compiled from more than a century of circulation data is like a literary cardiogram of the nation’s beating heart.

The 10 most checked-out books in the New York Public Library’s history

Books-library | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Here is the top-10 list:

  1. The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)
  2. The Cat in the Hat,”…

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Photo Prompt Story: Albert Sees The Light

This is a short story, in 1210 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Ed Westen.

The first shop didn’t have any Bakewell Tarts in stock, and it took two more tries before finding some in the fourth. They had to be Mr Kipling, the only brand Mildred liked. Albert reversed the car out onto the main road, and headed for home. Why his wife wanted to eat Bakewell Tarts all of a sudden, and at nine at night, he had no idea. It wasn’t as if it was one of those pregnancy fancies. She was sixty-six last birthday, and they had been sleeping in separate rooms for nine years.

Oh well, anything for a quiet life.

When his mother died, Albert had started to feel lonely. Almost fifty years with her had become a familiar, cosy feeling. It had never bothered him that he didn’t knew who his father was, as he was never alone when she was alive. He had asked her about who his father was once, and she had just shrugged. “Can’t remember love, there were a lot of men back then. I was quite a looker, though you wouldn’t think so now”.

For two years, he muddled along. Then the house began to feel empty, and he could hear his own breathing when he was watching television. So he joined a club, a Bowls Club on the edge of town. That was where he met Mildred. It was her idea to get married. “Just for company though, Albert. None of that lovey-dovey stuff, okay?” That suited him just fine.

It took him quite a while to work out the truth. Mildred didn’t want company, she wanted a servant. And a chauffeur, and a cook, and someone to pay the bills. Albert regretted ever telling her about his inheritance, as she gave up her job the week before they got married. He had to work until he was sixty-five, coming home every day to get her dinner, do the washing and ironing, and watch her play Bejewelled on her phone for hours on end.

At least he wasn’t lonely.

The light on the road ahead looked like someone had left their full beams on, but then it got brighter and brighter until he couldn’t see anything. Scared he might crash, Albert pulled the car over and stopped on the verge. The light got closer and closer, then seemed to pass over him, showing up the blood vessels through his skin. And there was a noise too, like the drone of a million bees, right inside his head.

It stopped as soon as it had started, and the road was plunged into darkness once again.

Mildred insisted on a plate, so he brought the three Bakewell Tarts back on a nice Royal Doulton tea plate, and watched as she wolfed them down. She had been checking the Bingo numbers in the daily newspaper, and spluttered crumbs everywhere as she shook her head in disgust. “I only needed two numbers. Bugger it!”

Three days later, Albert woke up with a bad pain in his jaw. It felt like toothache, and his gums were swollen close to the pain. But it was in a spot where he had had to have two back teeth removed over three years ago, so he didn’t see how it could be toothache. He found an old bottle of tooth tincture, and rubbed some onto the area. It didn’t help much, but Mildred was asking when he was going to hang the washing on the line, so he had to forget about the pain, and get on with his chores.

Later that night, he was aware of a terrible sharp pain in his mouth, and when he went into the bathroom, he saw some blood around his lips. Gingerly touching inside, he could feel that his gum had broken open, and the pain was getting worse. Mildred came in, complaining that his putting the light on had disturbed her. When he told her what was happening, she just switched off the light, and turned to head back to bed. “Well go and see the dentist tomorrow, but don’t wake me up again”.

They said there were no appointments, but when he told them he was a private patient of Mrs Gomez, they fitted him in. She was perplexed, to say the least. “Albert, I have to tell you that I have never seen anything like it. The two teeth I took out are growing back, and seemingly very quickly too. I need to take X-rays, and do some tests”.

She showed him the X-ray on her computer screen. “No doubt about it, look here. See? They are almost fully grown again”. When Albert told her that they had only started hurting the day before, she shook her head. “Amazing, just amazing. Would you mind if I wrote about this to the Institute of Dentistry? You could become famous, Albert”.

He was given a prescription for pain killers and antibiotics, told to be careful what he ate on that side, and to come back in ten days.

When he woke up the next morning, the pain had gone, and he had two brand new teeth. But his fingernails and toenails were all over two inches long. He couldn’t get his slippers on his feet, and when he tried to use the nail clippers, it was hard to grasp them with the strangely elongated fingernails. He managed after a while, and went downstairs to tell Mildred. But she was busy with an online slots game on her phone, and waved him away.

By the afternoon, Albert had made his tongue sore, by rubbing it constantly on those new teeth. And his other teeth seemed to be bigger and stronger too, as if they were filling his mouth. He tried to eat a slice of fruit cake, but could hardly hold it with fingers that had long nails that had regrown. When he finally bit off some cake, he found he was chewing his tongue along with the cake. In a panic, he drove back to the dentist, and waited until she could see him.

Mumbling through a mouth full of fast-growing teeth, he managed to tell her his problem, and showed her his fingernails too. She looked scared, and said she would have to ask advice from the head of the practice. Meanwhile, he should go home, and she would phone him.

It was impossible to walk to the car, let alone drive it. He had to pull his shoes off there and then, on the rain-swept pavement. His toenails had ripped through his socks, and were as long as the claws on a wild animal. He just about managed to drive without hitting them on the surface above the car’s controls. Once out of the town centre, Albert had to open his mouth slightly, to allow his tongue to hang out and take the pressure off. Mildred would be angry that he had been gone so long, he knew that.

But he knew something else too. He had to go back to where he had pulled off the road onto the verge. Then he had to wait for the bright light to return.

He could only hope they would come back for him before it was too late.

Something that isn’t fiction

I have been posting a LOT of fiction lately. Thanks to everyone who is reading it, and commenting. Thanks also to all of you who sent (and are still sending) photos to prompt the current short stories. But this blog isn’t just about fiction, as regular readers will know.

So, what else is going on, in the world of beetleypete?

The short answer is ‘not much’. That said, One of Julie’s twin daughters presented us with a lovely new granddaughter on the 5th of the month.
Mother and baby (yet to be named) are doing well, I am pleased to report.

Ollie’s fur finally grew back, just in time to get a good soaking most days out on our walks in the various ‘Named Storms’ affecting Britain at the moment. He hasn’t encountered many of his furry friends lately, as many dog-walkers are avoiding the foul weather, and are wary of the numerous trees that have been blown down. Last week, we lost another one of his oldest friends, Paddy the Border Collie. He was owned by our next-door neighbours, and was one of the first adult dogs Ollie ever met. I used to walk and feed him when they went on holiday, and he was always pleased to see me. But his back legs failed not long after he was 15, and he made his last trip to see the Vet.

My Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet has been annoying me. After working well enough until the guarantee expired, it started to be reluctant to turn on. A factory reset was suggested, but it has to be on to do that! Anyway, I deliberately ‘over-charged’ it the other night, and it finally came on. Perhaps I have been lax in shutting it down when I should? I don’t know if that is a problem, but now I turn it off completely every night, and keep my fingers crossed that it works the next morning.

Loath as I am to mention it, we haven’t had too many issues with all these unusual storms. The shrubs and hedges have survived, the tall chimney for the wood-burner is still in place, and the recently-installed TV aerial has refused to budge in high winds too. It is best to be careful when out driving, as some minor roads have a lot of water on them, and some trees are down close to the road too. But I don’t have to drive unless I need to go to the supermarket, so I am currently only going out in the car twice a week.

Julie caught an awful cold, and has been off sick from her job. Her voice is croaky, and she is flitting between being too hot, or too cold. We are confident is is not a case of Corona virus, and as she works as a doctor’s receptionist, she can be sure of getting good medical care should it be needed.

February has not been very inspiring for photography, at least not for me. So no new photos, I’m afraid. I am hoping for better weather in March, so I can celebrate my birthday with a trip somewhere, and some photos of the occasion.

That’s it for now. Sorry it’s a bit boring, but I’m a retired old man

“Oi! Wake up! You’re at the end of the post now!”

Photo Prompt Story: Oscar Learns A Lesson

This is a short story, in 748 words.
It was prompted by the above photo of an image, sent to me by Jennie Fitzkee.

Oscar wasn’t a bad boy. Not one of those ‘deep down’ bad boys who nobody likes. But he was a boy, and everything that came with that. Boisterous, getting dirty, ripping his clothes, scuffing his shoes. Most of the time he did as he was told, but like most youngsters, he sometimes had his bad days.

Paula soon discovered that it was best not to tell him not to do something. “Don’t walk along the edge of that wall, you will fall” would guarantee that he would continue to walk along the edge of the wall. When Richard warned him not to climb the old Oak tree in the garden, it took them over an hour to get him back down from the branches.

He should never be dared, either. When his cousin Martin dared him to eat a worm, he ate twenty, just to show off. Paula had to get Richard to clear that up after he had been sick. She hated worms. Martin also dared him to climb out of his bedroom window, and hang on to the chimney stack, pretending to be Santa. That rescue had involved having to call the Fire Brigade.

After that, they never again left Oscar alone with Martin.

Visiting Richard’s Aunt Mary was always something of a chore. She was a nice old lady, but she lived such a long way, and the traffic was always bad. When Oscar had been small, Paula would ask Richard to make the trip on his own. But now Mary was getting very old, and had asked to see the boy. So they packed up the car, and told Oscar to behave himself when they got there. The small Tablet Paula had bought proved to be worth its weight in gold, as Oscar sat watching cartoons on it the whole way.

Mary was delighted to see them. She had prepared a lovely afternoon tea, and Oscar devoured the scones with cream and jam. As they chatted about nothing much, there was a squawking sound from another room. Oscar put down the last part of his third scone. “What’s that noise, Aunt Mary?” She leaned forward, whispering. “That’s Captain Beak. He’s my parrot, and he was once owned by the famous pirate, Blackbeard”. Paula smiled at her tall tale, but she could see that Oscar had believed the old lady as Mary continued. “It is said that the spirit of Blackbeard went to live inside the parrot after he died, and Captain Beak has lived for hundred of years, before I got him”.

Oscar’s eyes were wide. “Can I see him please, Aunt Mary?” They all went into the old-fashioned parlour, where the green parrot sat on a perch in a corner, next to an ornate Victorian cage. It squawked again as they entered. Oscar watched as it moved sideways on the big perch, its head bobbing up and down. “Does it talk?” Mary smiled. “Only to me, Oscar. He has just told me that you mustn’t touch him, just look. Pirates don’t care too much for little boys, and Captain Beak is well-named, for his powerful sharp beak”.

Back in the dining-room, with his parents chatting to Aunt Mary about grown-up stuff, Oscar was bored. “Can I use your toilet please, Aunt Mary?” She turned and nodded. “There is one by the front door, or the bathroom upstairs. Whichever you like”. Of course, Oscar had no intention of using the toilet. He went straight back into the parlour, and walked closer to the parrot. It didn’t squawk this time, but bobbed silently, watching as Oscar got close. The boy stood up on tiptoes to reach the perch, smiling as his hand stretched out to stroke the bird’s head.

Almost dropping her tea cup at the sound of the scream, Paula was on her feet in seconds. But there was no sign of Oscar in the toilet by the door. Then she heard a sound from the parlour. “Pieces of Eight, Pieces of Eight. Pieces of eight”. She opened the door to find her son clutching his right hand, his face white, and blood dripping from his fingers onto the carpet.

Richard got the car round, and they rushed him and his index finger to the nearest hospital. It was sewn back on, but it never worked properly.
The doctor said something about nerve damage.

Still, he is learning to write quite well with his left hand now.