Goosey Goosey Gander

I think I have hit a creative slump. I don’t know if its because I am exhausted from working, and travelling to work, and travelling home, and cleaning up, and making tea, and reading books, and trying to be social by calling my friends so they don’t think I have abandoned them..

I don’t know. I don’t know.

Third week at work this week, and I spent the day working on a few editing assignments, reading up on my training program, and when I had completed that, I had nothing to do… So I planned my blog.

I never really had a plan for this blog, you see. I decided to write one day, at the end of 2013, never thinking this would last because none of my other blogs lasted. Last it did, however, and I am proud to say I have been blogging for nigh on four years!

In light of that, I have decided to no longer blog when the whim takes me, but to adhere to a somewhat lose schedule, which will enforce my creative processes and demand some content out of my fingers.

I figure I ought to be resourceful, and all that, and just because I now have a job, doesn’t mean I ought to let my own goals and aspirations fall into the ditches.

Real grimy those ditches are, I’ll tell you that. I had an old gentleman wade out the other day, positively shaken. He’d been accidentally thrown in there by the lady next door, she had no use for him. She claimed he wouldn’t say his prayers, and he told me the most harrowing story of how she grabbed him by the left leg, threw him down the stairs and then rolled him into a ditch! That was no accident, I assure you. The poor old fellow was convinced it was, however, so I gave him a goose to calm his ruffled feathers and sent him on his way.

I digress.

The plan for this blog is to blog the things I usually blog, but with a little more structure and, well, consistency, I suppose. So everyday for a fortnight I will blog (except for weekends, of course, weekends are for family and books and gardening and delicious homemade things made by my younger brother and my younger sister-in-law – last weekend it was apple crumble made by the brother and caramel brownies made by the sister-in-law – yum!), and each blogging day will cover certain themes and topics. For example, Wednesdays are supposed to be ‘flash fiction’ days, but because my creativity is hanging out to dry, I have decided to turn it into a ‘wherever-the-whim-takes-me’ day.

Charles Dickens was said to be paid by the word, but I am not. However, I pay the word with my eyesight, and use it I shall. Did you know my poor eyesight, according to my mother, is because of hours of reading in the dark after she turned off the lights? Streetlamps outside the window are certainly enough light when you need to know if Mr Rochester really is a cockroach or not.

How are you doing this week? Do you have a blogging schedule, or do you blog as and when the whim takes you? Also, why do you blog?

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The East Side

There were some witches, on the East end of town. Only witches, mind. Nobody else lived there, because they simply weren’t allowed. Not that there was an outright statement saying so. It’s just that, somehow, there were never any houses for sale around there. Schools could be seen, but were never listed on national websites. Enquiries were made, but never replied to. Eventually people gave up, and realised that any regulars simply were not permitted on that side, and it was no use pursuing the matter.

If you walked down their streets, a distinct smell wafted into your nostrils.

The smell of burnt.. cake. Sharp, sweet, and slightly frustrating.

Their streets were spick and span. Neat as a pin. Not a blade of grass out of place. The flowers grew politely in their assigned beds and boxes and hanging baskets, and didn’t dare peep over the edges. The pavements were a neat, uniform colour, each tile placed evenly and with care. The cars were parked in order of colour, so a person standing at the very far end of one of the streets saw a rainbow of cars parked along the right hand side. Not the left, mind. That could get you killed.

When newcomers drove through town, they marvelled at the East side.

Be careful,’ the man who ran the newsagents would say, ‘thems the streets what those witches live on.’

Don’t go down the East end,’ mothers would caution their little ones on their way out to play, ‘that’s where the witches live.

Sometimes children would wander down to the East side. They would peep around hedges, which almost looked like they were paintings, drawn out to be mathematically correct in proportion. They would try, sometimes, to peer through windows. They never succeeded at seeing any of the goings on inside the quiet houses. A pitch blackness would greet their eager eyes.

A pitch blackness, I will assure you, which arose from some mysterious magical power, rather than a lack of electricity. The windows looked perfectly normal, and witches certainly don’t believe in blackout curtains, so only some kind of spell would allow nobody to see what went on in the drawing rooms of the witches.

Not many human children, however, got away with these nosy antics. Sometimes, if a witch became particularly irritated by bright eyes or the edge of a curious nose peeking around the corner, accompanied by the sound of terrified giggling and scuffling, a human child would rise to the sky with a look of wonder on his or her face, and be promptly and firmly set down right on the edge of the East side, next to the sign that read, in curly lettering,Welcome to the East Side of Pickletown. Please drive carefully. Do not pick any flowers or step on any lawns.’

Some of the children enjoyed being airlifted in such a fashion, and would conduct little expeditions with their other daring little friends into the East side, purposely poking their heads over hedges. They would scream with laughter whilst floating through the air, shouting that they were flying, and altogether feeling mighty smug and superior.

Then they would attempt to trawl back into the East side, for another ride.

They didn’t ever get one, however. They could never step beyond the sign. No matter how hard they tried to put their feet beyond the sign, they couldn’t It was as if some kind of invisible wall was blocking them. It was mighty frustrating for them, of course. They could plainly see the bit of pavement they couldn’t touch. Their brains were convinced they could walk there, because there was no visible obstruction. However they simply could not, so they attempted running at the wall at top speed (not a very wise idea, I assure you), only to be flung backward on to the pavement in a rather painful manner. That stopped them, alright. They would then give up and plod cheerfully back into their respective side, nattering on about who flew the highest and who was thrown back the hardest.

Not a bad day of earnest playing for the little ones, that’s for sure!

 

A Small Thought

I don’t have a favourite colour. I never have had one. I just tell people its blue, but when I picture blue in my mind it doesn’t please my guts.

Lately I have been saying it is metallic pink. Everything I own now is metallic pink. Even the shoes I am wearing. Deichmann, 19 quid.

I don’t particularly like metallic pink but it pleases my gut, so there must be some sort of spark there.

I think some children are embarrassed to talk about marriage and children. It’s a strange phenomenon. An eight year old boy I was teaching was trying to explain storytelling through the generations, and he said, ‘When I’m, well, when I have a child of some sort. Well, a small cousin of some sort, I will probably have a lot of stories to tell too.’

I chuckled at that. I was like that. I told my mum flat out that I would never get married. Ever. That it was a ridiculous notion and intolerable to me, at age eleven. Secretly I was crushing hard on my now-husband. He was fourteen and quite dashing. Did I tell anybody? Of course not. And I was quite cruel to him too. He must never be allowed to find out. I even prayed that when I was older, he would want to marry me. I actually got on my knees and prayed.

I said, ‘Oh dear God, please let me marry him when I am older.’ Every day for two months. I didn’t even say, ‘please let him be my boyfriend.’ I wanted something more solid than that, I suppose. Something in writing. 

Then I forgot, of course. Or it didn’t matter to me so much. My attentions were drawn elsewhere. Life. Exams. Stories to write and read. Exciting social events. Friends. Everything took over.

I even deviated a little and lead myself astray by mixing with some Bad Folk. Let us not tread those waters.

But at eleven, I prayed for him. So weird.

Seven years later, though, I married him. I guess prayers are answered. I married him after only four or five dates. That is weird. But I so wanted to. And I still want to. And I would do it all over again and get really excited to.

I have also never told anybody this. I fear I will appear a fool.

If I ever get to be old, I want to be old with my husband. I want to sit on a bench and stare as the world rumbles by. I believe it will be rumbling by then, not screeching as it is now. My hearing shan’t be as clear as it is now so that might contribute to the rumble.

Who knows.

All I know is that we are here on earth, and earth is fleeting. The people we meet and live with and accompany will leave us, will die, will be separated from us.  All I know is that we are still whole, with or without our loved ones, and that one can love wholly and completely without giving a piece of oneself away.

And that is what I am trying to do.

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Taking pictures of food.

Someone once said to me, when we were eating burgers in a restaurant, watching people at another table stand in every position imaginable to take photos of their own burgers, that over half of millennials don’t get to eat hot food, because by the time they’re done taking photos of their food, it’s cold!

Wow. That was a whopper of a sentence.

Anyway. By the time I munched this chocolate cake, it was still warm, thankfully. Although my arm has cramped from trying to take a good photo of a mediocre cake!

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This cake is deceiving. It looks tasty but it actually has a strong olive oil taste to it. I think I added too much. Next time I will use less!

Why do we do it, though? Why do we take photos of our food? Why do we share it on social media? What is the psychology behind it? What do we hope to gain from it?

I admit, I do take photos of my food from time to time. When it looks good, when I am especially proud of it, or when I just am enamoured by the deliciousness of it all. I don’t always share it on social media, and when I do, I insert it into a blog. It is not informative at all. I have not shared the recipe (I will leave a link to it, however!), I am not posting to talk about its contents or reveal the decadent history of cake.

I am just posting to say, ‘Hey! I made cake! Check it out!

Is that so bad?

Is it so deplorable that an entire generation of people just want to share what their food looks like, to other people who will double tap that photo and nod to themselves, thinking, ‘I want me some of that burger. I wonder where they got it from.’

But whoops, they won’t need to ask, because the location is geotagged! Some great advertising right there! I will admit, all the restaurants I have been to in the past six months (well, three, to be exact) have been because one or other of my friends had posted a photo of what the food looked like there, along with a comment on the taste.

And because I am a glutton, I thought, ‘hey, I want me some of that burger.’

 

Inspirational Cake

Here is a statement.

Cake is inspirational.

I say this as I lick the last remnants of the strangest and perhaps the most delicious cake I have ever eaten from my lips.

It was small, and arrived in a box. It was coated in a soft, luxurious film of glossy chocolate, and on top lay five single curls of the same, arranged to deceive my eyes. When the sharp knife slid down right into its core, and a small slice was gently pulled out of the whole, a golden brown substance oozed from the middle.

Once on my place, a cup of cinnamon and apple tea steaming beside me, I examined it. It was very brown, and I realised the little moist smudges within the cakey texture were dates. A date cake, then, coated with chocolate and filled with…?

I let my fork sink into the cake, taking a sizeable chunk along with some of the golden cream, and closed my lips over it.

An explosion in my mouth. Sweetness, solid cake, my mouth enriched.

First the dates. Not bad at all. Then the chocolate. Finally, swirling its fingers over my tongue, caressing my tastebuds, a surge of.. salted caramel?!

What an odd combination of flavours, but how well they worked together.

Immediately the exhaustion evaporated, I settled back to really enjoy this slice. Immediately my brain fizzled into action. I no longer felt lethargic. I washed my cake down with the deep warm cinnamon tea, the perfect balance to the overwhelming sweetness of cake.

Cake.

The perfect high note to a day filled with lows.

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Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935)

A Journey

I binge watched Orange is the New Black this past week since I returned from Morocco. I came back on Wednesday. It was a painful journey, my posterior was aching by the end of it because I was sitting on it for way too long. I did squats in the airport with all my baggage just to stretch my muscles out.

I was treading water, barely, on 1.5 hours sleep, and the plane was circling above London in a very suspicious manner for half an hour before the pilot deigned to land and let us out of that sweaty heat cabin. They claimed it was ‘air traffic’ but my rising anxiety made a very convincing case that we were all going to spontaneously combust up in the sky, so I had to sit back and put my book away and stare into the distance saying my prayers, whilst my heart hammered against my rib cage in panic. Land never looked so inviting.

When we finally did land, a blast of hot air smacked me in the face and I had to peer out of the airport windows, to make sure we really were in England and didn’t somehow teleport back to Morocco. England was sweltering under a mighty heatwave, and the English were red-faced and melting. Was I glad to be back? I don’t know. I just needed some sleep.

We got on the coach and sat for four hours, sometimes inching our way through a treacle of traffic, and I woke up several times with my head against the glass, my mouth wide open and staring upwards. Drool snaked down my chin, cold and slimy. So very pretty.

At my mum’s house, after arriving at 10pm, my father proceeded to unpack everything while I watched like a zombie, downing glass after glass of icy water and sitting in front of the fan. It was only 29 degrees, but it felt like satan’s bedroom.

Why does 29 degrees in Morocco feel like heaven, and 29 degrees in England feel like the furnace hasn’t slept in days?

When I finally nodded off at three am, it felt like a few moments later that my stomach howled at me to get up. I raced upstairs in tremendous pain and suffered an agonising bout of Delhi bellies, which I miraculously escaped in Morocco but somehow was infected by English water? I fainted on the toilet, it was that painful. When I staggered back downstairs, I realised it was 6:30am and my train was due to leave in two hours. My mum tried to persuade me to stay and rest, but frankly, I hadn’t seen my husband in almost three weeks by that point and I just wanted to go home to him. And, well, other things.

So I did.

On the train I was nodding off in my seat, and a couple of teenagers were sniggering at me. I was faintly aware of it but I was so tired I really didn’t give a damn. When my train was about ten minutes away from the station I pulled my phone out and used the camera to smear on some makeup and make my hair look presentable because I suddenly felt a bit nervous. While I was doing that I suddenly panicked because I couldn’t find my phone in my pocket so I stood up and frantically searched my seat and the floor around me. My hands were shaking and I was near tears, when I realised, oh, stupid, I was using it as a mirror this whole time.

Exhaustion is like drugs, maybe.

My husband picked me up from the station and that was nice. He was on his lunch break so he had to drop me home and go back to work but. That was nice. I know I smelled bad, like travelling and sweat and poorliness, and I didn’t want to hug him, but he didn’t care and made me. That was really nice. It is really nice to come home to somebody who loves you. I cannot stress that enough.

It is really. Really. Goddamn. Nice.

Anyway this started out as a review of the latest season of OITNB but I ended up recounting a… well, a journey, really.

Nevermind. Maybe next time.

Ciao.

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This is my view of the edge of France from the sky. Comparing it with a satellite view of Google maps, it looks like a place called Saint-Malo. Or Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer, to be exact.

Love Letters #37

When he sauntered into her life one sunny day she didn’t expect to see a pair of muddy trousers hanging on her washing line. The mud had dried into a clay-like colour in the heat of the blazing afternoon, and she squinted at them, not quite believing her eyes.

‘Did you wear those trousers?’ she asked him, and he stopped at her front gate, looking at her.

‘Are you talking to me?’

She had been sitting calmly on her porch steps having a glass of tea, when she noticed the abhorrent state those trousers were in. She really felt irritated, and was compelled to set her warm glass down and stand up. The trails of the torn ends of her jeans tickled her ankles.

‘Yes! Did you wear those trousers?’

He put his hand on her gate, and glanced at the trousers.

‘No,’ he said, pointing at his own, ‘I have trousers, thank you very much.’

She surveyed his ones. They were capris, the hem stopping halfway up his calves. His feet were enclosed in a pair of canvas shoes, like some kind of bogus boater. His calves were tanned a deep, satisfying brown. Like darkened caramel.

‘You sure do,’ she nodded in approval, ‘Would you like some tea?’

‘What kind of tea?’ he asked tentatively. He kept glancing at the muddy trousers.

‘I have a lovely range for you to choose from.’

‘I can’t turn down a range of tea.’

He pushed the gate open, and his walk towards her was wary. The trousers watched him as he made his way up the path. She didn’t stare at him; she picked up her own tea and climbed the stairs, pushing the door open to reveal what could only be described as darkness in the bright sunshine.

‘It’s curious, that you have muddy trousers hanging from your washing line,’ he said, as the darkness within swallowed him whole.

‘They were perfectly clean when I hung them out this morning.’ There was a cross tone in her voice.

On the other side, the entrance to her house was airy and cool. Large windows were flung open, and the breeze wafting in fanned her pale pink chiffon curtains gently. Her floors were gleaming and wooden, with small rugs placed in odd places. One at the foot of some carpeted stairs. One outside the kitchen door. And one just under the window.

She beckoned him into the kitchen where she put the kettle on. He saw that she had a large, sprawling back garden with a little hill right at the back.

As she took a tall glass with a small handle out of her cupboard, he wondered why she didn’t hang her washing out in the back garden. There seemed to be acres of space out there.

‘I have camomile, vanilla chai, peppermint, liquorice, ginger and lemon, fennel, beetroot, nettle…’, she pulled each teabag out of a large glass orbed container as she named them.

‘I’ll have a liquorice please.’

She looked up at him, and a small smile formed on one corner of her mouth. She plopped the teabag in and poured the boiling water into the glass. It cracked loudly, but didn’t break. Small cracks spread like tentacles around the glass, gleaming as they caught the light, and as the water turned dark purple, the cracks took on a magic of their own.

He took the glass she handed to him, silent in wonder, then followed her back outside to sit on the porch steps and stare at the trousers.

‘What’s all this about those trousers, then?’ he asked, sipping his tea. It burned his tongue, so he set it down next to him and licked his lips.

‘I expect someone’s worn those trousers and muddied them, and put them back hoping I wouldn’t notice. It’s quite a bother, really. I suppose I will have to wash them again.’

‘Well we must find out who the culprit is!’

‘It’s happened several times before. I’ve never caught the scumbag. I expect they are quite adept at evading notice.’

‘That is preposterous!’ he said, indignantly, ‘If I were you, I would not rest until that grimy clod was caught and skinned! The audacity of wearing those trousers and not washing them before returning them!’

She looked at him properly, then, surprise on her face.

‘Why, those are my sentiments exactly!’ she said, ‘What shall we do?’

‘Well,’ he leaned closer to her, a conspiratorial expression on his face, ‘I say we set a trap.’

She looked delighted. They carried on plotting, their heads close together on the porch, their teas forgotten, well into the evening. The shadows grew longer around them, and the breeze felt a little sharper. Finally, when he stood up to leave, they had a concrete plan between them to catch that pesky trousers thief.

As the years went by, their plots grew more and more calculated. But the thief was too clever for them, and evaded them at every turn, often setting the very same traps back on them the next morning! It was all a fuddle, really. In the end, after they got married (which they both decided was an excellent idea given that they were co-conspirators in this very large and very complicated plot), they gave in and hung two pairs of trousers out.

The thief never did clean the pair borrowed, but they were always returned, which was enough to convince them both of the small good left in humanity, even if it didn’t extend so far as to include cleaning the trousers one has borrowed to do muddy work.

 

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Yeezys

When I went for a walk yesterday I wore my grey trainers. The ones I got for fifteen quid from TK Maxx. I remember the first day I wore them to school after that one of my year five students ran up to me calling, ‘Miss, Miss, is it true you’re wearing Yeezies?’

I stared at her. Her big bushy blonde hair waving in the winter breeze and her stark green eyes blinking cheekily at me. I saw her gaggle of friends giggling behind a wall.

What the heck is a yeezie?

‘What the heck is a yeezie?’ I said, ‘these were fifteen quid from TK Maxx’

Thank goodness no other teachers were nearby, saying ‘heck’ in front of a student is probably a no-no.

I googled a yeezie when I got home. First, I found out it was actually ‘Yeezy’ and not ‘yeezie’. Second, I was not impressed. Yeezy is pretty much some bone headed celebrity clothing line.

So I wore my fifteen quid NON-yeezies on my walk yesterday when I discovered some fields. The sun was shining brightly, igniting each blade of grass and turning them from sombre green into brilliant emerald. I sighed happily and walked on, letting the cool spring wind take me whichever direction it chose. I had plenty of fields to walk in, and some were filled with bright yellow rapeseed (what a nasty name) flowers taller than my five foot four frame. I was in my element. My shoes, which were severely permeable because they’re supposed to be running shoes, were doing their bouncy thing.

You know.

And I was just. So. Happy. Until I walked into what looked like a particularly fresh patch of grass, severely green, blooming and luscious, and my shoes, feet and all, sank right in, right through the deceiving little patch all the way up beyond my ankles with a wet squelch. The mud beneath bubbled up and burped satisfactorily when I tried to lift my foot out. I was well and truly stuck, and nobody around to hear me scream. I could feel the muddy deluged splotching around and soaking into my socks, it was a very cringe experience I can tell you that much.

There was a feeling of resignation, after the initial shock, when I realised that, well, now my feet and shoes were soaking and muddy and probably a bit shitty too, considering the huge cowpats everywhere, but that was that, and there was nothing I could do about it. I just stared down for a few moments, then went, ‘Oh well.’ and proceeded to squelch myself out of there, getting mud all up my leggings in the process.

I got out alright, else I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, but my shoes, alas, did not survive. The end of the ‘yeezies’ as it were.

I enjoyed the rest of the hour and a half I spent walking after the incident, clearly mud is not a deterrent on a sunny day in England – we don’t get many of those, we tend to savour what we have!

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The Blues

Today I had a BAD day.

There is no other way to put it. No, my goldfish did not pass away. In fact, I don’t have a gold fish, and I never would, because it reminds me of an unsavoury being with bony feet.

Nothing bad happened.

My sister climbed on to a roof in a hot country in the Arabian peninsula. The wind whipped at her hair whilst her cousins, who are half Vietnamese, laughed at her with red cheeks and bright eyes. I expect they had some soy wings garnishes with spring onions after that, whilst one of my cousins made some freshly brewed coffee.

My mother in law called me and we had a lovely chat, and my eyes prickled with tears whilst I laughed down the phone with her because she put that effort in to talk to me, and I don’t think anybody has done that for me recently. Not even my own mother. I think my mother thinks I mother her too much, like a reincarnation of her mother. I said, ‘Look, mother, I have to take care of you.’

She doesn’t like that at all. I just can’t help it. I love her too much.

When I went to the bathroom to freshen up my face looked alarming. You see, I have olive skin. So when I am pale, it is a brownish, purply sort of pale. My skin becomes slightly green, and the deep circles beneath my eyes are a strange purply brown hue. My lips had no colour, so they were a little purple too. I just looked terrible. I looked like the photograph I once saw of a woman in the last stages of death. How morbid does that sound?

Wow,‘ I called to my husband, ‘I look like I’m dead!

Yup.’ came his response. Pregnant with sarcasm and dripping with disdain and oozing with disappointment. He wanted me to wear my red dress today. But I wasn’t feeling it. He likes that dress a lot for some reason, but sometimes I just don’t want to wear a clingy dress with slits down the side to just … hang around the house.

And it was Saturday, we’d booked tickets to Bletchley Park, the manor house where Alan Turing created his renowned code machine. We thought it was in Manchester (only 40 mins away) and realised after we’d booked, with disappointed jolts that it was all the way in Milton Keynes, two and a half hour’s drive away.

We set the alarm for 8am to leave early, but ended up waking up at 10:30am – meaning we’d have next to no time to really explore and make the most of our visit when we arrived (you need five hours in a place like that, really), so we called up and discovered that the tickets allow us to go back anytime up to a year after purchase, as many times as we please. So, we had some cereal and … did… nothing.

I was upset. I wanted to go outside for a walk at least. I KNOW, I could have gone by myself but that’s hellish lonely. And I always go by myself. D didn’t want to go. He hates walking. He says I am such an old soul but frankly, HE is the old soul. What kind of person hates walking in the spring sunshine?! He only wants to do something if it is hugely entertaining. He has imagination, but not enough to take joy from walking around the block and noticing other people and their front gardens and the way the setting sun sprouts colour in places to light them up and bring some rosy cheeked joy into the world.

Also I felt that he could have sucked it up and gone for a measly half hour with me. He would have enjoyed it, I always make him enjoy it. I washed the dishes angrily and thought dark thoughts about him while he played VIDEO GAMES upstairs.

First world problems? Of course. Oh dear.

I am drinking some coffee, now, and getting on with some work. Tomorrow D promised he would go for a walk with me and we would have brunch in a cafe and then maybe take a drive someplace pretty. I am on the hunt for a poppy field. I know there is one nearby. I just feel it in my bones, and I also had a dream about it. I must find it, it is driving me crazy. My eyes are yearning for it and so is my soul, a little bit.

D thinks poppy fields are boring. I think he would appreciate them more if they existed inside a video game or if he experienced them using the Oculus Rift. Kids these days *rolls eyes* – only entertained with technology. They will never understand the true joys of an undigitalised world, will they?

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Reaper

My attempt at a 100 word story.

Merrin Reaper was a charmer.

He belonged to the Hill people, renowned for their electric blue hair and waif figures. Five foot tall, and a brilliant smile. Everybody loved Merrin, even the big people down by the river. Too bulky to venture near the Hills for fear of trampling on those mines, they only ever dwelled on the banks.

Merrin tripped there daily. An ear for everyone, and a comforting shoulder for those in mourning. It was hinted at darkly that there was a dark shadow behind the small fellow.

Merrin knew better, of course. It was his brother, Grim.

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