Saturday, 27 November 2010

Piskey Threshing

On her calamitous journey back from market we’ve heard about how our spirit-troubled housemaid in the tale 'Fairy Ointment' ended up in several ditches whilst under the influence of various alcoholic beverages, and fairy ointment itself which, if placed in the eye, brings the Otherworld into vision. This is a yarn she also used to tell about her night of high adventure...
“I was so weary and felt no more could I continue homeward. I was seeing all manner of strange happenings, giants looming from hedgerows, the tinkling of fairy bells and even the Devil himself upon his charger, baying hounds at his side! Then I espied the light of a lantern coming from a barn and heard the sound of corn being threshed, it must be a farmer working late thought I. 
“So I crossed the cobbles and peeped through the door and saw Piskey himself threshing corn 
with his skinny long arms, dressed in ragged clothes with a face full of pointy teeth that glistened as he raised the flail over and over bringing it down on the corn causing clouds of dust to rise up. In the half light I beheld his workers, no more than two feet high; some lugged down sheaves and placed them close by for him, others shook the straw and bore it off to the end of the barn.
"But no sooner had I spoken the words than the light went out and all vanished and I felt a handful of dust thrown into my poor eyes that nearly blinded the only peeper that I could see anything out of!
“T’was at this point I remembered that the small people have great spite against anyone who watches them or tries to pry into their doings. So I briskly carried on across the moor but the bridle-paths were all askew. It must be that troublesome Piskey playing tricks because, turn whichever way I would, the path was always before me!
“After going on for a long while, at last I saw light and heard music. But instead of arriving at a house I came all at once on a level green surrounded by furze and there I saw the small people holding a fair. Scores of stalls were covered with trinkets, buckles of silver and gold glistening with diamonds, rings, bracelets and strings of crystal beads. Not to disturb the fairy folks I crept along softly till I stood opposite a company of dancers linked hand in hand, whirling around a maypole garlanded with flowers.

“I soon got to thinking about how well the bright little buckles would look, fixed as brooches, on my shawl, and thus determined to secure them at once. I knew that turning a garment inside out serves to keep the fairy folk at bay and as there was nothing that could be so readily turned inside-out except my apron, I took it off and turned it around. But whilst trying to grasp the buckles, pins or needles so small that I didn't notice them stuck into my fingers and I cried out, 'Oh! Cuss 'e! You little buccas!'
“That instant all the lights went out, and all the fair and most of the small people vanished like shadows among the rock, or sunk into the earth. I took up my skirt and ran fast as I could through puddles and mire to leave behind that enchanted place and the devilish Piskey who I swore I could see in the moonlight laughing at me!”

Thursday, 11 November 2010

First Kiss

The first time Dogman and I kissed was on an end of season seaside prom lit by blue and red lights many of which had long since packed in, a fact which Dogman observed with his acute eye and perceptive manner.

Those the worse for wear staggered homeward beneath circling seagulls, their screeches a reminder of their reptilian past whilst the sea played like a harp on the shingle as we strolled beneath the coloured bulbs, Dogman’s tail occasionally brushing my thigh.

It was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life as we accidentally ended up in each other’s arms avoiding discarded beer cans and chips on the cracked paving slabs. Before I knew it I was stroking his furry chin and tickling his ears to the sound honking horns and the jeers of youths bored on the bench by the park.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Fairy Ointment

“In a friendly manner as is my fashion I decided to call by Betty’s on the way to market but on hearing voices within the cottage I had a peep through the key hole whereupon I saw Betty taking ointment from a shell which she rubbed over her husband Tom’s eyes whilst mumbling some strange verse of a charm.
“As I opened the door Tom was edgy as a ferret and quickly disappeared so me and Betty decided to have a nice cup of rum washed down with brandy to keep the cold off our backs and our spirits high. Off Betty went to get the liquor, which gave me a moment to have a closer look at the ointment. Being of a curious disposition I placed some of the green substance in my left eye. Immediately it was as if a rod of fire or needles and pins had been thrust in it!
“I quickly pulled my hat down over my tear-filled eye as Betty returned and we proceeded to drink to each other’s health four times over with some excellent French brandy. Having drunk to the health of her children and the mermaids of the sea I was able at last to open my stinging eye and I beheld before me all kinds of spriggans and men dressed in green with their ladies wearing flowing robes with silver bells on the hems! I was with great effort able to retain my composure until I at last bade farewell to Betty and I was very relieved to leave that enchanted cottage!
It was late afternoon by the time I reached the market and having bought some essentials I stopped for some beer at the public house which I drank with the Christmas cake I had in my pocket. Dusk was beginning to fall as I returned to the market to pick up some spices I’d previously forgotten to purchase and there I happened upon Tom who was pocketing all manner of things without anyone noticing a thing! Unperturbed I strode right up to him.
“Aren’t ye ashamed to be carrying on such a game, Tom?” He turned of a sudden and seemed full of shock that I could see him.
“So, Joan, which eye can thou see me with?” So I closed my left then my right eye and replied,
“Why Tom, I can see you with my left eye.” He then poked me hard in the very same eye saying,
“Thou cursed old spy-
Thou shall see me no more
Nor peep nor pry
Out of that charmed eye.”
“And my sight in that eye was gone in an instant! I called to the market sellers to catch the thief but he was completely invisible to them and in such a rude manner they called me drunken old baggage! I was so bewildered and tossicated I staggered to the public house once more for a horn of beer to deaden the pain before I began my journey home afoot.

“The only light was from a few fishermen’s cottages and on numerous occasions I fell in the ditch at the side of the road but awhile on I knew it must be dawn as the maids were in the fields milking the cows and one of the boys who was bringing out hay helped me along the track to smithy’s where I had a good glass of new-fashioned cordial called shrub which did my stomach much good.
He kindly helped me across the stream and I continued onwards until I fell into a pit of muddy water. Scrambling out like a toad I espied a horse which I managed to place myself astride. The beast took off at a trot which soon became the gallop of the Devil’s charger and I clung on to the mane and tail whilst being thrown about on the back till I landed on a bunch of rushes in a bog!
“Hobbling down the moor bare-footed I then heard the sound of a bugle-horn and a galloping horse, it must be the Old One himself come to get me for good, I thought. I prayed hard for deliverance as I crawled into an old barn and fell amongst the straw in a state of exhaustion but I was soon awoken from my fitful slumber by the barking of dogs and the tramping of hooves. A moment later I had another fit as the squire himself was leaning over me!
“Well, look who’s here among the straw, dead drunk!” Said he.
“Oh dear master what wicked things have befallen me tonight!”I replied, all atremble.
“They took me to the mill nearby for a drop of brandy and covered me with blankets and flour sacks, but not over my head as I wouldn’t have my best bonnet covered with sacks. They wheeled me back to the manor in a barrow and I do believe that that last drop of brandy saved my life. Before long I was sat in front of the blazing fire in the old hall whereupon I told of the night’s strange happenings and finally, exhausted, closed my eyes. Though to be honest it was a fox’s sleep with eyes closed and ears open, which is how I overheard the devilish miller say to the squire that it was merely the liquor I had drunk with Betty that’d caused my Otherworldly visions and that the apparitions old women see are merely the vapours of spirits taken in their drink!
“I was most upset by this cruel insult and one day I may forget and then forgive but that, believe me, will be a long way off!”