Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The House by the Sea – Part Four by Paul Andruss


In yesterday’s chapter we meet a woman who seems impervious to the cold as she swims naked in the sea. Patrick Noone is enthralled by her exotic behaviour and agrees to meet her and learn how to swim….Paul Andruss continues the story.

THE HOUSE BY THE SEA – Part Four – Paul Andruss

Biddy wanted to know why he was soaking wet. He could not tell her about the woman. No, he did not want to tell her. So he made up some tall tale about falling in the woods, getting covered in mud from head to foot, and washing himself in the sea. Biddy stared gimlet-eyed like she didn’t believe a word.

‘Yer stupid get,’ she said eventually. ‘Now get outta them wet things an get some aul newspapers stuffed in them boots to dry them out by the stove.’

That night all Patrick thought about was the strange woman. He wasn’t stupid. He knew no ordinary woman could swim naked in a storm-ripped winter sea. It came as no surprise her name was Muireann. He knew the story of Muireann from school; a mermaid caught long ago in Lough Neagh in the North, who became a woman when baptised by some old saint.

All his life Patrick had heard the old stories of mermaids drowning sailors or bad fairies dragging children down to the green weeds of the river bed. But if she’d wanted him dead, she could a done it there and then. She didn’t need to offer to teach him to swim. No, whatever she was, he was sure she meant no harm.

Saturday afternoon found Patrick on the beach. He had taken off his boots and socks, along with his jacket, trousers and shirt, to stand shivering in the wind off the sea, naked except his oldest patched pair of long underpants. The ones he knew Biddy would never miss.

Muireann did not come from the sea, but walked along the wind whipped sand in an faded dress of spoilt green satin and forlorn lace. It looked as if it might have once been worn by a fine lady a hundred years ago. Its long full skirt swept the sand smooth. Its trace washed away in turn by the tide.

The dress was wet and clung to every curve. He thought it strange as her hair and skin were dry. Her thick dark hair curled unbound to the waist. Sleek and glossy, it looked as if it had been brushed until it gleamed. Eyes, dark and lustrous as he remembered, left her skin pale as ivory; her full lips looked bloodless with the cold. He thought her beautiful.

‘Don’t you look handsome,’ she remarked.

Handsome or not he found himself lost for words, and felt his face colour. He stood watching her watching him, as the cold spray plastered the thin fabric of his underpants to every muscle. Without a word she reached out to take his hands and walking backward drew him into the sea.

‘Do not be afraid,’ she he told him.

‘I’m not afraid.’

‘It feels cold at first but that is the wind on the waves. Take a deep breath and fall to me.’

He closed his eyes and squeezing her hands fearfully, did what he was told. There was a moment of panic as his feet went from under him, but her grip held firm. Under the waves it felt warm, or at least not cold. He felt light as air and just as free. He put his head up to take another breath and plunged it back underwater, opening his eyes to a brief sting of salt. He laughed. The air bubbling from of his mouth forced him to find his feet and stand with the waves crashing from waist to chest.

‘Do you like it?’ she asked.

He nodded, eager; greedy; happy as a child on his birthday.

‘A deep breath,’ she instructed.

He breathed and together they plunged beneath the waves.

They say everyone favours one of the four elements. Some breeze through life with laughter in their heart. Some light up the world around them, though they may be changeable as the day is long. Others, solid and dependable, will not be moved if they know they are right. They thirst for justice and are good to have standing at your side in troubled times. Then there are those, often the quiet ones, who run still and deep. Whether they be calm or tempestuous, they do not give love easily. But when they love… ah, when they love, over time that love of theirs will erode mountains.

On Monday Patrick saw Muireann walking along the beach in another antique dress. As luck would have it, or maybe it was a premonition, he had packed his old underpants in his knapsack. After this they met for an hour each evening on his way home to swim together. With the lengthening days and bursting buds, Patrick realised he dreaded the return of spring. Sleeping under the trees night after night seemed a poor substitute with his new taste for the sea.

In his heart he knew this is what his father felt in his fishing boat: the call of the sea; in all her moods. And perhaps there was more. A dark sinister thought crept in, growing like a worm gnawing at his heart. Perhaps his father had known his own Muireann. Perhaps this was this why he drowned, searching for one such as her? Perhaps this was why his mother left?

Day after day he steeled himself to ask Muireann if she knew of his father. Each time he quailed, afraid of what it would mean. If her people were responsible for his father’s death or his mother leaving; where would that leave them?

One Thursday morning, no more than couple of hours after starting work, Sam the Undertaker’s son burst into the logging camp looking for Patrick. His Uncle Pat was dead. Ron the foreman told him to take what time he needed and he’d try not to dock his wages if he could. Although wages were the last thing on Patrick’s mind.

Biddy later told him Pat had died in his sleep. He knew Biddy and Pat slept in different rooms. Pat’s cough kept her up all night leaving her good for nothing. She’d seen him when she took in with his early morning tea. He was so peaceful; not a peep out of him. She thought it would be a kindness to let him sleep; not realising he was already gone.

As darkness fell Patrick grew fretful. Muireann was expecting him. What if he didn’t show? Would she ever come again? But how could he leave Biddy? She had no one else. Reluctantly he closed the curtains, knowing they would not be opened again ‘til after the funeral. There would be no swimming now, no dalliance, at least for a while. It was no comfort to know he was doing the right thing.

The funeral was Saturday afternoon so friends from the logging camp could act as pallbearers. Patrick was not in work but sat with Biddy night and day watching over the body. Friday night everyone turned up for the send-off. Biddy laid on a spread, with a barrel brought from the pub in the drayman’s cart.

It was a good turn-out. There was lots a laughing and singing round the coffin with two fellas from the pub on fiddle and banjo. Near midnight, when the songs were getting maudlin and people shifting uneasily, looking ready to leave, it was time for Pat to go. Biddy went over and opened the window, while respectfully the mourners formed an avenue for his spirit to pass between them out into the night.

The funeral went without a hitch. Everyone came round after. They were subdued for a while, probably nursing hangovers. Some brought a bottle or two by way of commiseration. Wives drifted by with a stew-pot, a spare pie or something else they’d baked. Before anyone knew, it was midnight again and the barrel was finished and the bottles empty and everyone was saying what a great aul fella Paddy was. Though by Jeasus, they’d bothered with him little enough before. And that was that. The man was laid to earth. Biddy and Patrick were expected to get on with it.

After Church on Sunday, there was cold-cuts for dinner and a slice of pie. Claiming a blindin’ head, Biddy went to bed. At a loss Patrick went to the sea. When Muireann wasn’t there, he stripped himself naked and swam until his arms and legs burned. Coming out he realised his eyes were running with tears and he thought it must be the bloody salt water.

For the next week he went to the sea each evening on his way home from work. Muireann had gone. Sometimes he stripped himself and swam. But his heart wasn’t in it. By the month end he was back to work proper and sleeping under the stars, or more often than not under a stretched tarpaulin with the rain drip, drip, dripping off the branches onto the oiled canvass above his head. He missed the sea. But on them nights he missed the sea least of all.

©Paul Andruss 2018

© Images The Colour of Life Geoff Cronin

My thanks again to Paul for this compelling episode in this story and I hope you will pop in tomorrow for the final part.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

Thanks again for dropping in and hope to see you tomorrow for the final part of the story…Sally.

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Smorgasbord Blogs from My Archives – The House by the Sea Part Three by Paul Andruss


Welcome to the third chapter of The House by the Sea. We left Patrick Noone coming to terms with life with his Aunt Biddy and Uncle Pat. At seven years old he took over the chores for his ill uncle and has learned the value of hard work. Paul Andruss picks up the story.

THE HOUSE BY THE SEA – Part Three – Paul Andruss

At the age of fourteen, Biddy put a word in and Patrick got the gardener’s boy’s job up the big house. The gardener, an amiable old chap who headed a team of ten good natured fellas, took bright eager Patrick under his wing, intending to teach him all he knew. Perhaps he felt sorry for him because he was quiet. At the end of his second year the old man sat Patrick down, knocked out his pipe on the heel of his boot and slowly shook his head.

‘By the holy Jeasus an all o’ his saints lad, you’ve a aul rare gift. No matter what I gives yer, by Jeasus, if it don’t curl up an die. I might as well save meself the trouble an dip it in saltwater. Now I likes yer, I do, an there is no doubt yer can graft, but it can’t go on. I’m supposed ta be fillin the place like the Garden o’ Eden, not leaving it scorched as the hobs a Hell.

‘Now Paddy lad, don’t be lookin at me like a dog off to be whipped, I spake to Danny, that’s Mr McEnery ta yer, an yer fixed ta join is timber gang, if he likes the cut of yer jib. It’s a good life lad, an yer gift for killin plants ain’t such a handicap to them, what with the business the’re in,’ he chortled.

That afternoon the gardener took him to be looked over by the Estates Manager Mr McEnery, or ‘that miserable aul’ get’ as everyone else referred to him. The estate had a logging team and its own timber mill, each run by a foreman under McEnery. At first Patrick was put in the timber mill, which he hated; especially with McEnery living up to his nickname, barking out his orders with a puss on him like he’d been slapped round the face with an aul kipper.

Lucky for Patrick within a fortnight one of the logging men had an accident and he was sent to the team, temporary mind, to help load and drive the cart. It was a wet cold miserable week. None of the other fellas were keen on moving out of the comfort of the factory.

Patrick loved the freedom, loved no one checking on you every five minutes. Most of all, he loved being in the woods with the scattered diffused light breaking through the dark green canopy and the rain on his face. He thought it was the closest he’d ever come to being underwater. It was like living in the sea.

Before long he was wielding an axe as good as any of them and loving every minute. The rest of the lads were like Uncle Pat, except fit and full of laughter. Even the foreman Ron, only got stiff when aul McEnery came sniffing round, which wasn’t that often as long as you got your quota to the mill on time.

In summer they would stay out for days on end, working dawn ‘til dusk and sleeping on canvass cots under tarpaulins stretched between branches like tents. They kept a roaring log fire on the go, cooking up a big aul frying pans a bacon, sausage, eggs n bread, n spuds roast in the ashes. With a big aul billie a tea, strong n sweet with condensed milk, stewing away night and day.

He worked six and half days, and it was hard, hard labour, but it filled him out. By the age of twenty he was weathered as seasoned oak, with muscles like ripcords, a strong back and broad across the shoulders. A quiet man, each Saturday afternoon instead of staying in the pub with the lads, he’d head back to Aunt Biddy to turn over the bulk of his wages and help out with the chores. On the way home he always made sure to pick up a couple a pint bottles of the black stuff from the pub and a pack of ciggies from the tobacconists for Uncle Pat along with a bag of boiled sweets for Biddy.

There was Mass on Sunday morning followed by a slap up breakfast and a slap up dinner. By suppertime he was heading back to camp with a week’s worth of clean clothes and a couple of large meat and potato pies in his backpack to share with the lads.

Winter was different. It was too cold to be sleeping rough. With the short days the lads headed off early to their homes or lodgings in the town. At one point, Patrick even suggested Auntie Biddy take in a few for the extra money, but by this time Big Pat wasn’t well enough. The poor aul sod looked like death, propped up in the big aul armchair by the grate day and night; asleep more often than not, with a burned down ciggie hangin’ from his lips.

He’d joke the doctor told him to stay away from the ciggies. ‘But I said to him,’ he’d say, ‘by Jeasus Doc, and where am I goin’ a get one a them fancy ciggie holders when I’m buggered walking ta the privy?’

Then he’d laugh, which would start the hacking cough, which wouldn’t stop. Biddy or Patrick would have to bend him forward and rub his back trying to loosen the congestion. Sometimes after a bad attack, Patrick saw Biddy bent over the stove, or doing the ironing, quietly crying. He knew better than to say something.

It was an early spring afternoon, one of them days with just a promise of what’s to come in the air. Patrick was walking home before twilight. There had been a filthy big storm the day before that left the logging camp like a sea of mud, with nothing movin’. The foremen sent them home saying they’d get an early start tomorra.

As Patrick hit the coast path leading down to the house, didn’t he see the strangest thing on the beach? At first, he didn’t know what to make of it. Then thought his eyes was deceiving him. There was something black and white caught in the surf. It couldn’t be; but it was. Jesus Christ and all his saints in heaven! There was a body washed up, all white, broken and naked: a woman judging by the long dark hair tangled by the crashing waves.

His first thought was she must have drowned. There were stories he’d heard, what with living by the sea all his life, how the riptide could strip a body naked. Holy Mary Mother of God, what a hideous way to go! He was debating what to do when he saw her move. He knew it wasn’t the waves, when she moved again. Jesus Christ she was alive!

Yelling like a mad man he tore down the cliff path. Within twenty or thirty wards there was a way down to the beach: he knew it well. He hit the sand running so fast he went tumbling arse over tip. As he struggled to his feet, he looked again. He was too late. She was gone.

A cry of anguish was ripped out of the heart of him. Patrick pelted into the crashing white surf, looking right and left, hoping to find some trace. Anything!

He was shocked to see the top of a head appear from beneath the waves. A slim pale hand wiped away the long dark hair plastered across her face to reveal large brown liquid eyes looking at him, full of curiosity.

He stared back uncomprehending.

‘You’re alive?’ he muttered after a moment.

Slowly the rest of her head emerged, a delicate nose and full lips, pinched and blue with the cold.

‘I heard you coming, I had no clothes.’

‘I thought you was dead!’

‘Me? No.’ she laughed.

‘You looked dead’, he protested, biting his lip, scared to offend her. But she had looked dead; lying white and broken; cast up like flotsam.

Slowly she rose from the water, her long sleek hair sticking like a pelt to her narrow shoulders as she broke surface. Under the water it floated like strands of kelp, obscuring the swell of her breasts.

Patrick blushed to see her rising naked. He turned away. He had never seen a woman and was desperate to look. But not like this. It wasn’t decent.

He felt a peck on his cheek. ‘You are gallant,’ she said, sounding as if she was laughing at him.

Before he could stop himself, he’d looked. She was holding something to protect her modesty, lank and dark like a wet blanket, or perhaps wet leather, or maybe moleskin, for it looked slick and glossy.

‘I was swimming.’ She took his hand in her icy one and led him from the water. ‘You will catch your death.’

‘And what about you?’

‘I never feel the cold’.

She saw him puzzling over this. ‘I swim every day.’

‘It must be marvellous… to swim’

‘Can’t you?’

He shook his head.

‘Perhaps I could teach you. Would you like that?’

They were out of the swell now. The waves crashing no more than calf deep still wanted to drag him under. She began to adjust her blanket, draping it over her breasts and torso, leaving her white arms and shoulders bare.

He must have been staring for she was laughed. ‘Go home. I have a long swim a head of me and you will catch your death.’

Obediently he waded out of the cold grey water. Reaching the beach he heard her say,

‘When?’

He looked back.

‘Your swimming lesson. When?’

Saturday,’ he hesitantly replied, ‘afternoon. Two?’
‘I am Muireann.’ She smiled. ‘And I will wear something more appropriate.’

‘I’m Patrick.’ He returned her smile.

‘What a lovely name.’

He walked up the beach, feeling her eyes on him. Reaching the dunes he turned to wave goodbye. She was gone.

©Paul Andruss 2018

©Images The Colour of Life Geoff Cronin

The mystery deepens.. who is the strange woman who is brave enough to swim in such wintery seas…. pop in tomorrow to find out more.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

Thanks again for dropping in and hope to see you tomorrow for the next episode…Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The House by the Sea – Part One by Paul Andruss


In early 2018 Paul Andruss wrote a delightful five part story and over this weekend and Easter I am going to share again. Good things are worth repeating…

THE HOUSE BY THE SEA by Paul Andruss

Patrick Noone had liked the sea ever since he could remember. He liked the way its wildness stirred restlessness in his heart. His earliest memories were of yearning to plunge into the world beneath the waves; to hold his breath and let the current sweep him where it would.

Those memories came unbidden as he lay in bed, or at twilight watching a red bloated sun sink into grey. At such times, he remembered sitting in someone’s lap with protective arms wrapped around him. He believed it was his mother; although he remembered nothing of her. He imagined if he could only turn his head to look into her eyes he would see everything. But of course, he could not.

Sometimes when he had fallen into these reveries, he thought he heard low singing in a feminine lilting voice. Never words, just a soothing noise on the edge of hearing, like the whisper of waves on the beach below the house. At such times, he remembered large, dark, liquid eyes revealing his reflection and a wide expanse of seamlessly joined sky and sea. They were his mother’s eyes he supposed. They were certainly not his father’s.

His father hated the sea. His earliest memory of his father was of a bright day. Left to his own devices young Patrick wondered down to the beach and stood letting the water lap around his toes. He was entranced, lost in the sound of distant singing. Suddenly he was snatched up. Thrust face first into a musty corduroy jacket smelling of cigarettes, and carried roughly away.

His father did not say a word as he dropped him in a heap on the kitchen floor. He made to take off his belt; then stopped. He stood staring at his son for minutes. Or was it hours? Patrick did not know. When you are a child, time seems frozen and sometimes in memory, time is frozen too.

He remembered his father’s face crumpled as he let out an anguished cry. It left Patrick shaking and he burst into tears. His father knelt down and hugged him. Patrick remembered being held so tight he could not breathe. He fought as children do when feeling smothered. Without warning his father let go and walked out the house. Patrick must have been about 5 years old.

Patrick always thought his father died that night, although he knew it was not true. For some time they lived in two rooms, the kitchen and parlour next door with all the furniture pushed back to make room for a large cold bed where Patrick and his father slept. Not though his father ever slept in the bed, he always fell asleep in the chair with a bottle on the table and a pewter mug in his hand.

In the morning Patrick would creep around, looking for a crust. Perhaps he’d find scrapings of a leek and potato soup from Aunt Biddy, or scraps congealed on last night’s plates of cold boiled bacon and colcannon. Patrick did not wake his father. Not because he was afraid, but because when his father slept he looked almost happy.

He remembered Aunt Biddy in a blustering rage accusing her brother of not loving Patrick. She claimed he was afraid of him. Even at that young age Patrick knew not a single word coming from Biddy’s mouth was true. Even she did not believe it. Biddy had her eye on his father’s handsome house; neglected and forlorn as it was.

A crying shame she scolded, with no fire in the grate and filth in the corners piled high as the dirty dishes in the sink. This was no way to live, with a poor wee mite running round filthy and bare arsed as a heathen. And didn’t she make a great show of wanting to be a sainted mother to him, lunging at Patrick with her great white arms in which to smother him. A fate Patrick avoided only by hiding behind his father’s chair.

Biddy rubbed her eyes with the edge of her pinnie. Rubbed them in the exact place tears might appear, had there been any. Upon her life she sniffled, all she ever wanted was wee ‘uns of her own. But she couldn’t yer see. Not with Big Pat’s lungs shot through with the consumption. Her voice already a hoarse whisper dropped to inaudibility at the thought of any indelicacy passing her lips. The malarkey, she mouthed, not possible yer see. Over the years Patrick often wondered if Biddy had wanted wee ‘uns of her own why she never treated him better.

Biddy was the type of woman any man would struggle to best, never mind his father with all the fight gone from him. As Patrick could testify from experience, her powerful white arms and raw rough hands could land a clout to send you spinning clean across the room; if she had a mind, which she often did.

Not long afterwards, Biddy moved in with her husband, Big Pat, a small mean-built man, skinny and pale as Biddy was large and red. Before night fell, the whole house smelled of carbolic and damp washing, a smell even the tempting aroma of a mutton stew could not overwhelm. By the end of the week she forbad Patrick’s father from drinking in the house, which meant he went out drinking in the pub. Then she forbad Big Pat from going with him, which meant he carried on drinking in the house. From then on Patrick saw his father less and less. Which was good in a way, for when he drowned Patrick never really noticed he was gone.

Once the house was as she liked it, Biddy turned her attention to Patrick. Biddy took in washing and ironing for the big house, the doctor and the priest, and wanted him out from under her feet. Announcing she couldn’t have him running round the house all day long like a wild heathen, she scrubbed him, head to foot, with gritty soap on an itchy rag and inspected his head for nits by wrenching a fine-toothed comb through his tangled locks.

He was dressed in his Sunday best, a shirt with a starched collar that chaffed his neck, short trousers creased so sharp he might do someone mischief and black books so shiny he could see his face. Biddy inspected him critically and after a final scrub round the ears with spit and the edge of her pinnie, pulled on her good coat and dragged him, screaming every inch of the way, to the nuns for schooling.

‘Jeasus, Mary and Josef, what was yer thinking?’ she roared at his father. The woman could hardly believe her ears when Father O’Malley came round to tell her little Patrick was a real heathen and if she wanted him in school he would have to be baptised. Baptised he was that very day and started school the next; the youngest in the whole place, which was really just two classes.

©Paul Andruss 2018

©Images The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

Thank you for dropping in today and part two of the story is tomorrow… as always we would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Gardening Column with Paul Andruss – Tulipmania


Paul Andruss wanted to make sure that tulips in all their glory, received a showcase and so has written an extra column this month to do just that.

Tulipmania by Paul Andruss

(E-Florist)

Everyone knows tulips so there is not much to say about them. However would a little bit of their history make you appreciate them a bit more?

Tulips are native to the southern steppes bordering the Black and Caspian Seas from South Russia to Northern Iran and Afghanistan, then east to Turkmenistan and the Hindu Kush until their habitat of blistering dry summers and deeply cold winters is disrupted by Himalayan Plateau and the desert beyond. These steppes were the home of the Turkic nomads, who were not the same, but very similar to the horsemen of Mongolia. One such tribe were the Seljuk Turks.

A thousand years ago the Seljuks migrated into the inhospitable Anatolian high plateau now modern Turkey. The Byzantine Emperor welcomed them. He used the warlike tribe as allies to provide a buffer against the Persian Empire to the east, Rome’s traditional enemy. He was quite happy to let the Seljuks settle on the almost deserted plateau because it was deemed so inhospitable, due to its extremes of blistering cold winters and baking hot summers. The Seljuks, being from the equally harsh Steppes, found it a home from home and thrived.

The plateau became their Sultanate of Rum (Greek for Roman). Due to political upheavals the Seljuk rulers were ousted by the Ottoman Turks who conquered the Persia Empire, their Muslim neighbours, and in 1450 the biggest prize of all, the city of Constantinople. By this time Constantinople was also called Istanpolis, simply meaning The City – for there was no other like her. The name later became Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire lasted from 1300 to the end of World War 1 (1918) when Turkey became a secular Republic under Attaturk.

Tulips were first cultivated in Persia. Paradise is the Persian word for garden. The Seljuks introduced tulips to Turkey from newly conquered Persia. Islamic historians say in the 1570s the sultan ordered 350,000 bulbs imported from the provinces to beautify his palace gardens in Istanbul. In the 1600s the tulip became an iconic design on Iznik Ceramic Tiles decorating the new imperial pleasure palace called the Top-Kapi (Ball-Gate) after its ornate circular-arched doorways.

Tulip Design on Iznik tile (Yurdan)

It is claimed the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador first brought tulips to Europe in the 1550s but other sources claim seeing them all over Europe shortly after this period so they were probably introduced before. In 1590 the first book on tulips was produced in the Netherlands by a botanist who had introduced them from Vienna, the closest city to the Ottoman border. Tulips quickly became highly desirable luxury items.

A tulip, known as “the Viceroy” (viseroij), displayed in the 1637 Dutch catalog Verzameling van een Meenigte Tulipaanen. Its bulb was offered for sale between 3,000 and 4,200 guilders (florins) depending on size. A skilled crafts-worker at the time earned about 300 guilders a year. (Wikipedia)

Tulips were split into groups: those of single colours (red, yellow, or white) and multicolours with white streaks on a red or pink purple or lilac flower. The most coveted and expensive were ‘Bizarres’ with yellow or white streaks on a red, brown or purple background.

(Dutch Bulbs)

Tulips grown from seed take between 7 and 12 years to flower. Until they do (due to genetic variation) you don’t know what you are getting. After a tulip flowers the main bulb dies, leaving a rosette of bulblets, clones of the original parent plant, which then take years to mature.

It was noted tulips grown from seed did not always produce these highly desirable streaks, but those cultivated from the bulblets of those with streaks did. The problem was these bulblets often died before they matured.

In those days gardeners knew nothing about viruses. Today we know the tulip mosaic virus causes the streaks… and a virus is not a good thing to be running rampant through your very expensive tulip collection.

Because of the long years waiting for seeds develop or bulblets to mature, there was a speculative frenzy in the 1600s called Tulip Mania. People bought immature bulbs knowing it they developed a spectacular flower they could sell the side bulblets for extraordinary prices as breeding stock to nurserymen.

We have the same thing today. In the modern financial world it is called ‘futures’… For example you buy next year’s wheat harvest at a reduced price hoping by the time next year’s harvest comes the price will have gone up and you will make a profit. However what you have bought currently does not exist, so if the harvest fails…

People bought the tiny new bulblets of marvellously streaked tulips, knowing as each year passed, and they got more mature, they could sell them on profitably. But if the bulb died or was not infected by the virus then the gamble failed.

Semper Augustus Tulip (Wikipedia)

In 1630 one Semper Augustus Tulip bulb sold for the modern equivalent of €28,750, or £25,500 or $34,500. A sale of 40 bulbs came in at €1,150,000, £1,022,000 or $1,200,000.
In 1637 when dealers did not show up at a bulb auction the madness was over. The bubble burst and tulips lost around 99.99% of their value. Investors were ruined.

Today breeding streaked tulips remains the holy grail of growers. It has been painstaking achieved by managing selection and cross breeding from the seeds of non-infected bulbs.
Parks and gardens dig up tulip bulbs after flowering and throw them away, because they don’t flower as well in following years. But I confess until writing this article I have never knew why. It is because, as I said, the main bulb dies and you have to wait for the new bulblets to mature.

Gardeners say dig up your tulip bulbs after they flower and dry them out. Last year I neither threw them away of dug them up, but left them in pots over summer under cover in the dry. So far the results have been a mixed bag. The tulips have survived but some have not flowered, these are obviously the immature ones. Oh well, there is always next year!

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The #Gardening Column Rewind – Light up your life with brilliant bulbs – Part 1: Early Spring Bulbs


Welcome to the second of Paul’s Gardening posts and you will discover that not only is Paul Andruss is an exceptional writer, he also has a very great knowledge of plants. This week bulbs that blossom into brilliant colour in the spring garden

Light up your life with brilliant bulbs –  Part 1: Early Spring Bulbs

When I talk about bulbs I am also including corms and tubers, basically anything with a fleshy base that sits underground. Technically they are different but you can treat them much the same way.

People think of bulbs as daffodils and tulips, and tubers such as dahlias and irises. They are so much more. Bulbs will take you right through the year. Their purpose is to provide a hit of vibrant colour for year after year. Most only flower once in the year and at different time and after flowering, die back leaving room for other plants to come up through where they stood. People often buy mixed bags of bulbs making the mistake thinking they will all come up at once.

Bulbs are relatively cheap and will romp away if you get them in the right place. Being a miser, I buy stuff from bargain shops and supermarkets. Mail order is usually pretty good for more specialist bulbs. Or plan ahead and buy bulbs, which have finished flowering, dirt cheap from garden centres desperate to sell them off. Like most things buying wisely is simply a matter of confidence.

Most spring bulbs like to be kept dry in summer when the trees are sucking up moisture from the soil and prefer shelter from the full summer sun so plant them in flower beds with good well-draining soil and with some shade, like under trees and shrubs in the garden or in pots.

As a rule of thumb all bulbs should be planted 21/2 times as deep as they are tall. Cyclamen should be planted literally just under the surface while you cannot plant tulips deep enough. The earlier in winter a bulb flowers, the smaller the flower usually is. Here is a list of early flowering bulbs running from January to March.

Winter Aconite (RHS.org)

Winter aconite (Eranthis) is a little patch of sunshine belonging to the buttercup family. It is one of the first bulbs to come up.

Double snowdrop (Eurobulbs)

Snowdrops are easy to grow and clump well. There are about 25 species including double flowered varieties. They have a taller relative called the Snowflake which flowers late spring and into early summer.

2 foot high Summer Snowflake Leucojum Aestivum (Gardinia.net)

Saffron crocus: grown in Wales (Orange stamens are saffron) (Lovethegarden.com)

Crocus is one of the easiest bulbs to grow and will grow anywhere except in thick claggy soil. The two golden stamens of the Saffron Crocus are the spice saffron: the most expensive spice in the world. Britain used to be a thriving saffron producer but the industry died out by the early 20th Century. It is now being revived, perhaps something to try for yourself?

In the Middle-Ages merchants would often travel with a small leather bag of saffron tied under their testicles. The exact location is called the isthmus (I kid you not). As saffron was worth more than its weight in gold, it provided an easily overlooked insurance policy in case of robbery. I mean, would you go rooting down there? And don’t try pulling the old … well, if he looked like George Cooney. Let me tell you, very few medieval merchants looked like George Clooney; and none smelled like him. While we’re on the subject of smells, I can categorically guarantee the secret location is in no way related to the spice’s somewhat dusky odour.

Glory of the Snow (JParker.co.uk)

Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Siberian Squill & Puschkinia are related to asparagus and come from Turkey and Greece.

Siberian squill (illinoiswildflowers.com)

Puschkiniascilloides (Pacific bulb society)

Iris Reticulata (RHS.org)

Iris Reticulata is the earliest of the bulb irises. The delicate flowers do get hammered by the rain, but the later spring flowering Dutch iris bulbs are taller and tough as old boots. I bought 30 bulbs for under £2.00. There is no excuse not to treat yourself!

Dutch Iris (JParkers.co.uk)

As most of the above bulbs are from mountainous places with a thin well-drained soil none of this group like sitting in wet heavy soil. Therefore they tend to do better in pots or slight slopes for drainage. If your soil is heavy or clay, dig areas out to 8 inches deep, put a 1 inch layer of horticultural grit down beneath the bulbs then cover them with a mix of the soil with 50% horticultural sand and grit to help drainage.

White & purple naturalised hyacinths (Wikipedia)

Hyacinths are grown indoors for their distinctive perfume. Indoor Hyacinths are prepared by plant sellers to flower early and more compact. You cannot take them out of the garden and expect the same results. You need to buy them new each year, which is a lot easier then preparing them for indoor flowering. Old indoor bulbs will flower normally in the garden for year after year later in spring.

Hyacinthus was a beautiful boy jealously loved by the West Wind. Seeing the sun god Apollo cosying up to Hyacinthus over a discus (discus; not disco: think lethal frisbee) the West Wind became jealous. Catching the discus he caused it to veer off-course and accidently killed his beloved. From the boy’s life-blood soaking the ground, the purple hyacinth bloomed. (What is it with these Greek Gods? Couldn’t they keep it in their trousers? Ok, so the Ancient Greeks didn’t wear trousers. But that’s no excuse!)

Bi-colour muscari latifolium (fluwel.com)

Grape Hyacinths or Muscari are easy, early-blooming cousins. Recently they have been bred as bicolours.

Hardy Cyclamen (Rhs.org)

Cyclamen are another big flowered indoor plant that have small flowered hardy outdoor varieties such as Cyclamen Neapolitanum that thrive nestling under bushes and trees. Seedpods develop on the ends of the flower stems which curl back like springs. When the seeds are ripe the seedpods explode at the end of the spring hurling the seeds over a wide area, so you get plants growing everywhere.

Plants for free! You can’t go wrong with that!

©Paul Andruss 2018

Thanks to Paul for that very colourful display of flowers we can populate our gardens with. Certainly looking forward to seeing mine appear in the pots at the front of the house.

 

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen

When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.

Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.

The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.

The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

Finn Mac CoolFinn Mac Cool – rude, crude and funny, Finn Mac Cool is strictly for adults only.

When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.

The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.

Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.

Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic

Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

My thanks again to Paul for another informative post to help us fill our gardens with colour. If you have any questions for Paul on gardening, please put in the comments.. thanks Sally

 

 

 

 

Writing the Legend of the Golden Flower by Paul Andruss


Tayu (1870 Portrait – Unknown – Public Domain)

A number of things inspired the new Legend of the The Golden Flower Story for Christmas Smorgasbord. It is about the loss of childhood innocence and poses the question: What is truth?

As a child I read a Japanese folktale about the chrysanthemum. It was in one of those ‘Stories from Around the World’ books, we must have all been bought as kids for Christmas. In the story a girl with a dying mother, does an old man a kindness. He is a powerful spirit (kami). He rewards her. Her mother will live a month for each petal on a chrysanthemum flower. Only a few petals remain, so she cuts them into slivers, creating the much loved chrysanthemum pompom and giving her mother a long life.

Imperial Japanese Chrysanthemum seal & cultivated variety (Adapted)

The chrysanthemum was cultivated in China 3,500 years ago. It was arrived in Japan around than 2,000 years later. One legend says the Chinese Emperor sent the chrysanthemum to Japan hoping to exchange it for the magical herb of youth, so he could become immortal. When the flower arrived in Japan the 16-petal chrysanthemum became the symbol of the sacred Emperor.

The story is set in the 1650s during the Edo period of Japanese history. In the Edo period, chrysanthemum growing took off and endless varieties were created. During the Edo period Japanese culture blossomed. After centuries of civil war the country was at peace under a strong warlord (shogun) dynasty. Traditional Kabuki theatre originated in the Edo period. I wanted to incorporate the story of kabuki as it always fascinated me. I only learned over the past year it started out as an entertainment revolution.

In the Edo Period, large numbers of young Samurai warriors were made redundant by their warlords. They became Ronin – without a master. Ill-suited to work they ended up as hooligan gangs. Izume no Okuni was going out with a ronin samurai. She was a “priestess” (your guess as to her actual duties are as good as mine).

To make money for her boyfriend she started busking: singing and dancing in Kyoto. Like a Japanese Madonna she dressed outrageously and became a star. She taught a troupe of women a mixture of burlesque and farce, and set up a theatre company – think Bette Midler and the Harlettes. They were a massive success and so wild they were called the Kabukimono: the crazy ones.

Izume no Okuni (Unknown: Public Domain)

The Shogun banned them because they were causing public disorder and represented a satirical seditious element in a country only recently tamed. The fact they knocked about with bad-boy samurai didn’t help. He accused the kabukimono of being prostitutes. To be fair he was right. In Japan prostitution was not viewed like it was in the West. It was a career. His clamp-down created ‘business’ districts. In Kyoto this was Shimabara.

The story’s brothel owner is Yarite-San. Yarite means Madam. San at the end shows respect. She calls her old apprentice Fujiko-chan. Fujiko, a woman’s name, means Wisteria. Chan is a term of endearment. Yarite-San has black painted teeth. The Emperor’s court painted their teeth with black enamel. As most people had bad teeth, I though this levelled the playing field.

The opposite was true. It was a lengthy and expensive procedure, done weekly, to prevent tooth decay.

Prostitution was organised in Japan. There were different levels, from street walkers to high class escorts. The lowest prostitutes were kept in behind bars. No, not bars as in “do you fancy going for a drink after work?” This was to stop clients pawing them before paying up.

Yoshiwara_Girls (Kusakabe Kimbei – Public Domain)

High class escorts were orian. As skilled entertainers, they offered more than horizontal services. The highest orian (Japanese use the same word for singular and plural nouns) were called Tayū.

The charge for one night with a tayū cost more than working blokes earned in a year. Tayū were skilled in music, dance, flower arranging, poetry and the all-important tea ceremony. Clients had to go through a middleman to meet a tayū.

Shimabara Tayu (mfa.Org)

Tayū eventually became geisha (Art-Person). Originally geishas also offered personal services. Today they are strictly entertainers with no extras.

Young girls were sold to brothels at the age of 10 by poverty stricken parents. They became maids to the courtesans. Around 14 they became trained in artistic skills and worked their way up the courtesan grades. Officially they did not start sleeping with clients until 18 or 19.

Believe that if you will. Like in lots of other countries, including 18th century Europe, their virginity was sold to the highest bidder.

Girls were given 10-year apprentice contracts. When they paid the Yarite back they were free to leave. Very few did. Clothes, make-up and training cost money – they were kept in debt.

The Yarite made 90% on every deal. Depressingly syphilis was rife and abortion practices barbaric, many girls died young.

If a girl was lucky, a rich man might buy her contract and she would become his courtesan or even his wife. As wife or courtesan she was property with no rights. He could kill her with impunity.

Japan isolated itself in the Edo period and did not let foreigners back in until the American Pacific expansion after the 1899 American war in the Philippines. (Theodore Roosevelt fought in that as young man.) This is what Puccini’s 1903 opera Madam Butterfly is about: the affair between a geisha and an American Naval Officer.

The Chief Warlord in the Edo period was called the Shogun, like the book by James Clavell. The book is based on fact. A British pilot on a Dutch ship got to Japan, which had previously been the domain of the Portuguese. He lived during the reign of my shogun’s granddad.

Like all warrior societies homosexuality was tolerated in Japan, as it was in Ancient Greece and Rome and among the Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire. In many societies, masculinity was defined in terms of who was on top. Homosexuality and prostitution was not outlawed until Japan started adopting Western ideas in the 1900s.

Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (Public Domain)

When shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, banned women performing in Kabuki, the troupes became all-male. Happily this did not stop Kabuki being associated with prostitution. Pretty young boys playing the female roles were in a lot of demand.

Tokugawa Iemitsu preferred boys to girls, although he had lots of wives, concubines, and children by them. At 20 he murdered his samurai male lover in a hot tub after a spat. He ordered his popular brother to commit ritual suicide (seppuku).

Tokugawa Iemitsu was not a fan of foreign influences, especially Christianity. There were half a million Christians in Nagasaki. (Yes, the city we dropped the atomic bomb on was the biggest Christian city in Japan.) He threw out foreigners, including the Christian priests, and demanded Japanese Christians renounce their faith. There was a rebellion in Nagasaki. He crushed it mercilessly, crucifying the rebels.

The Japanese religion of Shinto, believes everything has a soul and the spirit world intermingles with ours. After 100 years even tools and household objects acquire a soul.

Creatures that never made the final cut of the story include an umbrella kami (spirit) and a possessed lute that encouraged to girl to play beautifully. They were taken out because they slowed down the story.

Creatures the girl meets are genuine kami (spirits) and Yokai (demons); lovingly told to her by her mother’s maid. My favourite is the Kitsune, the fox kami. Foxes are semi-divine guardians of shrines. When a fox reaches 50 years old, it learns how to shapeshift into a woman. At 100, it becomes a celestial fox with 9 tails.

Finally, if you haven’t dropped off …

I said at the beginning, this story is also about truth.

It is never explicitly said whether the spirits and demons the girl sees are real. Everything is there in the story for the reader to make up their own mind. Whatever conclusions you reach are valid.

You won’t get this until you read the story, but let me draw your attention to the Nat King Cole song: A Blossom Fell …

“The Gypsies say, and I know why
A falling blossom only touches lips that lie”

There is an argument that says we never objectively see truth. Every truth is our own subjective version. We are the hero in the story of our life. When we recall incidents we filter them through opinions and emotions and adjust them to suit ourselves. Memories are liquid.

Different versions of a story are equally true. None are absolutely true. History is simply agreed fiction.

I hope you enjoy my fiction and decide your own truth as to what this story says to you.

Exterior & interior of traditional Japanese House (Adapted)

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen

When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.

Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.

The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.

The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?

The latest review for the book

I stumbled across this book one day while reading a historical piece written by the author. He had included an image of this book cover at the bottom of his article which immediately drew my attention. This author often writes long historical dissertations so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took a chance and purchased the Kindle edition. What a delightful surprise! I couldn’t put the book down!

What I found was a fantastic story about one of my favorite subjects, faeries! Not only was it geared to the YA genre, but it also included a fair amount of historical fact to make the story shine.

When Jack’s older brother Dan is abducted before his very eyes, he is stunned by the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. The fact that Jack witnessed the strange abduction and doesn’t tell his parents only adds to his troubles. Jack’s mother is suffering from a chronic illness and his greatest hope is that the situation will rectify itself, and Dan will come home on his own.

One night, Jack starts receiving cell phone calls from Dan, and when he answers, there’s no one on the line. He tries to tell his parents and the police the truth about what happened, but every time he opens his mouth to speak, his throat closes up and he is unable to utter a single word. Faery glamours? Could be!

In the meantime, Jack starts seeing a dirty tramp hanging around his house who only speaks in rhyme. It becomes apparent that no one can see the tramp but Jack, so he enlists the help of his friends to help him solve the mystery behind his brother’s disappearance.

Jack and his friends are thrust into the magical world of the fey where the kids experience the light and the dark, of a failing faery kingdom. They learn about ley lines and how the fey evolved beside mankind. The story progresses with plenty of magic and suspense until you reach the satisfying end.

Let me just say, that this is one of the most creative books I have ever read about the fey. Jack’s friends are reminiscent of the characters in the Harry Potter series and I had no problem connecting with their personalities. The plot is brilliant, although I had a hard time separating fact from fiction. That’s what I call good writing!

I enjoyed this novel and will read it more than once. I feel children and adults of all ages will enjoy this book. Do you love magic and all things faery? Then, have a read because this book is reasonably priced and will keep you entertained for hours.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

My thanks to Paul for sharing the background and research for this amazing story, that you can read in full The Legend of the Golden Flower

As always we love to receive your comments. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Writer in Residence – Legend of the Golden Flower (Final Part) by Paul Andruss


FINAL PART

Spring was in Kyoto, if not yet in the mountains. The road into the city was lined with peasants preparing rice fields. The blossoming plum orchards hummed with bees.

The round moon-gate to the Spring Palace was flanked by pots of dwarfed cherry trees dripping in pink tinged flowers. Okurimono peered into the courtyard, thinking she had never seen anything so beautiful. Its pavilions looked to be as much of a playground for the gods as the formidable donjon of the shōgun’s castle.

The guards at the gate stepped forward, jabbing the air with iron tipped bamboo spears.

“Scram!” cried one.

“Come back in a few years. You’re too young for a tart,” laughed his friend.

Okurimono did not flinch. After the dangers she faced on the mountain road, these men seemed foolish.

“I come from the Lady Fujiko-san for Okaa-san, the Lady Yarite of the Spring Palace.”

She reached into the bento bag and presented the piece of jade.

“Step inside.” said one as the other shouted a curt order at an old servant woman.

Ignoring the soldiers, but bowing low to Okurimono, the old servant gestured her to follow.

Inside the compound, Okurimono was surprised to see many finely dressed and immaculately painted women kneeling patiently inside a cage.

“Who are they?” she asked in awe of their beauty and clothing.

“Do not look at them,” hissed the old servant woman. “They are yūjo, available to anyone with the price, no matter samurai or peasant.”  With many impatient gestures she waved Okurimono past the women.

Outside a grand house, with a majestic cedar shingled roof, the servant signalled Okurimono to wait as she hurried up the veranda steps with much bowing to the servants at the door. A few moments later a magnificently dressed old woman came out.

Remembering her manners, Okurimono, got down on her knees and bowed her forehead to the floor. ‘Okaa-san.’

“No,” snapped the old woman harshly. “Who are you?”

‘Tengoku no Okurimono,’ she answered. Kow-towing with supreme politeness Okurimono presented the jade and letter stating her business.

“Wait,” said the magnificently dressed old woman and hurried inside.

She reappeared moments later. “Come.”

Okurimono took off her shoes on the veranda. A maid hastened out to take her benyo bag, hat and kosode. Another appeared with towels and a bowl of jasmine scented water to wash her hands and face. A third and fourth opened and readjusted the folds of her kimonos. When the magnificently dressed old woman considered her presentable, she impatiently gestured for the inner screens to be slid open.

Okurimono followed her to a room where a large handsome old woman knelt on a cushion. She wore an ornate black wig with many combs and was dressed in the most exquisite embroidered black kimono Okurimono had ever seen, extravagantly tied with bright obi sash.

In her hand was her mother’s letter.

Knowing this must be the Lady Yarite, Okurimono dropped to the floor touching her forehead to fine woven tatami matting. ‘Okaa-san.’

“Stand up child.”

Okurimono obeyed.

“So Tengoku no Okurimono, you are my Fujikochan’s daughter.”

The old woman smiled revealing the black lacquered teeth of the Emperor’s court. It left Okurimono in doubt of her importance. She bowed trembling, barely daring to speak.

“Fujikochan was my greatest achievement and most bitter disappointment. Now she sends you. Come, tell me everything from the beginning. I am greedy for gossip of your mother and that rascal Uco.”

Bearing in mind Ucosan’s advice, Okurimono knew everything depended on her story. This had to be the best performance she had ever given. To win over such an august person as Okaa-san, she must use all her skills.

As she told her story, Okurimono was pleased to see Okaa-san smile. Once or twice she burst out laughing, without covering her mouth. She sounded as hearty and common as Ucosan. When the old woman laughed Okurimono paused, so she would not miss the next part of her tale. During these lulls she snatched sly glances at the maids giggling breathlessly behind their hands, sounding no louder than mice.

At times Okaa-san slightly declined her head, causing two maids to rush forward with dazzling white handkerchiefs to dab beneath her eyes, so no tears would mar her perfect make-up. As Okurimono paused, she noticed the maids slyly take handkerchiefs from their sleeves to dab under their own eyes.

She bowed when finished, as much to conceal a smile of triumph, as respect for her honoured patron.

“Tengoku no Okurimono: Heavenly Gift. Indeed, your mother sent me a rare gift in you. How like your mother you are. In your wild tale of yokai and kami I hear my dear Ucochan. She was always a liar,” she added with affection.

“What is it child, out with it.”

‘Respectfully, my mother is ill, Okaa-san. I beg of you, arrange an interview with the shōgun’s mother, my grandmother.’

The old woman laughed aloud. Snatching a handkerchief from a maid to wipe her own eyes, she ruined her make-up. Catching her breath she asked, “Your mother told you this?”

‘Ucosan.’ the girl replied.

“No doubt she did.”

Okurimono looked puzzled.

“Child, the shōgun’s mother died long ago and his brother ordered to kill himself before you were conceived. A rich Nagasaki merchant bought your mother’s contract. I told her not to accept; she had a place with me. Your mother did not listen.

“A few years after you were born, the shōgun expelled the Portuguese black priests infesting Nagasaki like a plague and banned all foreigners from the land. He ordered all Nippon to recant the filthy superstition of their shamefully crucified god.”

“Many in Nagasaki, rich on foreign trade, rebelled against our rightful lord. Your father was crucified, along with his family. His wealth confiscated. Your mother, as his concubine, was to be sold. I helped her escape over the mountains with what wealth she could carry.”

‘Respectfully, my mother is dying.’

“She said she was dying in her letter. What do you want, child?”

‘Respectfully Okaa-San, I came for the imperial chrysanthemum to heal my mother.’

“Only the Emperor has the imperial chrysanthemum. It is rare and expensive. Fortunately I have a taste for rare and expensive things.”

“Shall we make a deal, you and I? The flower in payment for a contract binding you to me. I shall train you as I trained your mother. Make you the greatest tayū in Kyoto. What are your skills? Do you know the tea ceremony?”

‘Yes.’

“Flower arranging?”

‘A little.’

“Can you write poetry?”

‘I can write my name, but I can sing and dance. I can show you.’

“Are you not exhausted, child?”

‘Woman is made to serve and please. Pain and weariness are her lot,’ said Okurimono formally. ‘Everything worthwhile has a price, Okaa-San.’

“Art demands the greatest price of all. It is what I taught your mother.”

A maid brought Okurimono a long necked shamisen and a plectrum. Okurimono deftly tuned the lute’s three strings and began a lament from the ancient tale of Genji.

When the song ended, Okaa-San asked. “How old are you child?”

‘In a few moons I reach my twelfth year.’

“The same age as your mother when she came to me. Normally, I do not begin training until girls are a few years older.”

She clapped her hands. A maid hurried carrying a potted plant. The imperial chrysanthemum had one large bloom, a golden daisy surrounded by sixteen broad petals. “Do we have a bargain?”

Okurimono could have wept with joy. ‘Oh yes, Okaa-San.’

* * *

With all the excitement, sleep eluded Okurimono. Okaa-San had promised to send a litter to collect her mother. By tomorrow evening, Okurimono would see her mother and Ucosan, and know if things had transpired as the nine tailed fox, Lady Mae, promised.

Drifting off to sleep, a premonition made Okurimono open her eyes and sit up. Her mother stood in her room. Wan as moonlight, she flickered to and fro like the flame of an oil lamp guttering in a draft. At times she almost faded away until Okurimono could see the panels of the shoji screen through her. This was her spirit image, her ikiryō, a living person’s soul most often seen near death, when the chains of life are weakest.

She cried out in anguish.

A maid rushed in, bowing as if to an honoured guest. “Okurimono-San?”

Okurimono knew what she had to do. ‘Bring scissors. Quickly.’

Ucosan told a story of how a girl cleverly saved her mother’s life with a chrysanthemum. A young girl, with an ill mother, met a kindly kami who said her dying mother would live a month for each petal on the chrysanthemum in her room. Cleverly the girl took her scissors and cut each petal into many strips, ensuring her mother a long, long life.

Alone in her bedchamber, Okurimono did the same, using the scissors to shred the chrysanthemum’s petals into ribbons. She worked feverishly. When she finished, Okurimono inspected her handiwork with horror. Each damaged petal was wilting.

Had she saved her mother, like the girl in the story, or merely hastened her death?

Exhausted Okurimono flung herself on the mattress and cried herself to sleep.

Next morning Okurimono saw the chrysanthemum flower was a vibrant golden globe of a thousand slender petals. Tamamo no Mae, the nine tailed fox, had sent a miracle, just as she promised.

Sunset found Okurimono expectantly waiting at the Moon-gate for her mother’s palanquin. As it grew dark, her maid came to take her to her room. She explained it was not appropriate for the patrons to see one so young and assured the girl her mother would arrive tomorrow.

Yet, it was the same story the following day. As the maid collected her once again,

Okurimono respectfully asked her if Okaa-San would allow her to return home to see what the matter was. The maid frowned at the request, but promised to ask.

In the afternoon on the third day, the maid interrupted Okurimono’s lessons with many apologies. A runner had arrived. The mother’s litter was expected.

Eagerly Okurimono snatched up the golden chrysanthemum and followed the maid to the moon-gate. Her heart pounded with excitement when she saw the closed litter carried by four strong bearers. Rushing outside the compound she waited impatiently by the potted cherry trees as they put down the brightly painted yellow kago with its sumptuous curved roof and gauze curtained windows.

One of Okaa-San’s guards opened the door.

Okurimono’s heart leapt at the sight of a delicate bright kimono.

Ucosan stepped out.

‘Where is Mama?’ Okurimono cried, afraid she knew the answer.

Ucosan’s eyes filled with tears. Spotting the globe chrysanthemum, she quickly composed herself.

“Okurimonochan, my news is both great and terrible. Two days ago, I was happy to see your mother whole and well, her colour and appetite returned. We congratulated each other on our good fortune, as I heard a rapping at the door and my heart sunk like a stone.”

“Outside was Lady Tamamo no Mae, the nine-tailed fox, in her finest kimono. Oh my child, you had cut this beautiful flower into so many petals her life was now too long. The divine Emperor and the shōgun would demand the same lifespan from the gods. There would be no peace between earth and heaven. As she was as long lived as a divine sage, the Lady Mae had come to take your mother to dwell for evermore among the immortals.”

As Ucosan spoke a breeze snatched the blossom from the potted cherry trees. A shower of petals drifted like snow. One touched Ucosan upon the lips.

Okurimono burst into tears.

“No tears here,” said Ucosan. “It is not fitting.”

* * *

Under the tutelage of Okaa-San, Okurimono became Kyoto’s most famous tayū. Men paid five years rice in gold to spend a single night in her company. Many nobles offered to buy her contract. She refused each offer.

Of course you will not have heard of Okurimono, you only know of Kogane no Hana, the Golden Flower. The name she took on the day she became orian.

And that is her story, or at least the story she told when she was old and mistress of the Spring Garden Pleasure House, to young girls sold by their parents to train as orian, and missing their homes very much.

At the end she would add reflectively …

“That is why the word for Floating World sounds the same as Sorrowful World. For everything in this world has a price and art demands the greatest price of all.”

THE END

Please join us again tomorrow for a special post on the writing of The Legend of the Golden Flower.

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen

When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.

Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.

The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.

The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?

The latest review for the book

I stumbled across this book one day while reading a historical piece written by the author. He had included an image of this book cover at the bottom of his article which immediately drew my attention. This author often writes long historical dissertations so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took a chance and purchased the Kindle edition. What a delightful surprise! I couldn’t put the book down!

What I found was a fantastic story about one of my favorite subjects, faeries! Not only was it geared to the YA genre, but it also included a fair amount of historical fact to make the story shine.

When Jack’s older brother Dan is abducted before his very eyes, he is stunned by the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. The fact that Jack witnessed the strange abduction and doesn’t tell his parents only adds to his troubles. Jack’s mother is suffering from a chronic illness and his greatest hope is that the situation will rectify itself, and Dan will come home on his own.

One night, Jack starts receiving cell phone calls from Dan, and when he answers, there’s no one on the line. He tries to tell his parents and the police the truth about what happened, but every time he opens his mouth to speak, his throat closes up and he is unable to utter a single word. Faery glamours? Could be!

In the meantime, Jack starts seeing a dirty tramp hanging around his house who only speaks in rhyme. It becomes apparent that no one can see the tramp but Jack, so he enlists the help of his friends to help him solve the mystery behind his brother’s disappearance.

Jack and his friends are thrust into the magical world of the fey where the kids experience the light and the dark, of a failing faery kingdom. They learn about ley lines and how the fey evolved beside mankind. The story progresses with plenty of magic and suspense until you reach the satisfying end.

Let me just say, that this is one of the most creative books I have ever read about the fey. Jack’s friends are reminiscent of the characters in the Harry Potter series and I had no problem connecting with their personalities. The plot is brilliant, although I had a hard time separating fact from fiction. That’s what I call good writing!

I enjoyed this novel and will read it more than once. I feel children and adults of all ages will enjoy this book. Do you love magic and all things faery? Then, have a read because this book is reasonably priced and will keep you entertained for hours.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

It would be wonderful to have your thoughts about the story. Thanks Sally

A special post tomorrow that goes into the background and research for this beautiful story.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Writer in Residence – The Legend of the Golden Flower (Part Three) by Paul Andruss


You can read the story so far The Legend of the Golden Flower

PART 3

Beyond the ancient shrine, the village road deteriorated into a treacherous track, twisting through steep sided hills covered with pine. Here the thin dawn light was sucked from the sky by a canopy of black needled branches. Even snow could not reach the forest floor, but lay in scattered drifts obliterating fallen trees, moss covered rocks and who knew what else, leaving them shapeless and sinister.

Okurimono never ventured beyond the town in all her eleven years. Ucosan’s tales of the world were all she knew. Ucosan said mountains were deadly places where evil yokai dwelt; wicked mountain Jami, spider demons and giant man-eating centipedes. There were aobōzu, ghostly blue priests that steal children, bloodsucking spider women and shapeshifting spirits. Racoon-kami that turn into cyclops-priests, mountain weasels with curved razor-sharp claws, and badger-kami in the form of monks tempting thirsty travellers with water or tea, before turning into faceless ghosts.

In a lonely clearing Okurimono saw the sunshine had crept down from the barren peaks to the wooded slopes. Wreaths of pale mist thickened in the trees before swirling into the shadowy valley. This mist was enenra, the all-devouring monster of smoke and darkness. Enenra made it seem as if the day was reversed, and the rising sun brought deepening night.

At the far end of the clearing she spotted wood smoke, the fires of charcoal burners.

Okurimono was almost foolish enough to seek company and warmth before remembering Ucosan’s warning. Rōjin no hi, the old men of the woods, invite you to sit by the fire; then devour you when you fall asleep.

The air grew colder as Okurimono ascended ever upwards through the gloomy trees.

Weariness, like a demon on her back, weighed increasingly heavy. Perhaps a yokai would entangle her lags as she walked along a precipice. She would fall and end up another vengeful ghost of this wild forsaken place.

Afraid, she jumped at every strange noise. She grew convinced a buruburu possessed her, a spirit of cowardice and shivers. Okurimono wondered if she should abandon her quest and run all the way home. The thought of her mother made her forge on.

With face stung by the bitter wind, she blindly followed the narrow path. Climbing through the trees, until she realised she was lost. In despair she sank down beneath the low branches of a tree. Almost touching the floor, they kept the ground dry and free of snow.

Okurimono knew she must not sleep. Some trees were jubokko and would drive their roots into her if she slept, to suck her blood. She huddled fearfully against the trunk, nervously pulling the quilted kosode tighter, praying she had not been tricked by the Lady Mae.

Okurimono heard something drop through the branches. Her imagination conjured images of akateko, demons resembling severed red hands scrambling through the boughs. Or tsurube oloshi, laughing heads that drop from trees to devour you.

With a thump two creatures landed. They pulled open the pine needled branches to peer at her. She peered back, not quite believing what she saw. They were no taller than Okurimono with large heads and bodies covered with red hair. They jabbered at each other like monkeys.

Okurimono knew kijimuna tree sprites were not unfriendly. But they were tricksters and you must beware. Their favourite trick was to sit on your chest until you could not breathe. If one liked you, he might let you ride on his back and would take you where you wanted to go.

However, if one did, you must not break wind, Ucosan warned. That was impolite.

The kijimuna looked at her curiously, deciding what to do with the creature, no doubt as strange to them as they were to her. Thinking quickly Okurimono pulled out the parcel of cold rice Ucosan packed for the journey. With a deep bow she offered it to the kijimuna. One came forward timidly, snatched the parcel and tore it open. The other, fearing he might miss out, shoved in his hooked fingers and pulling out a handful of rice shoved it in his mouth.

His companion looked on in horror, before slapping him soundly across the head. He retaliated by punching his friend so violently the rice parcel flew out of his grasp. As it descended they both leapt into the air to grab it.

Okurimono burst out laughing.

Shocked, they stopped to stare at her.

Swiftly Okurimono snatched up the rice parcel from the floor, mercifully largely intact, and broke it into two, offering one portion to each. After a moment’s hesitation, each grabbed a share from her hands.

They looked at what they had. Then looked at what the other had. With an enraged howl, the first lurched at the second. His companion was too quick. He leapt up grabbing the branch with his free hand and in the wink of an eye was clambering up the tree, with the other in hot pursuit.

Still laughing, Okurimono scrambled out of her shelter to watch their antics. Waiting for her was the beautiful lady Tamamo no Mae, floating on a golden cloud. Her nine foxtails, somehow freed from her kimono, wafted through the air behind her like a peacock fan.

“I see your little friends have banished the fear yokai,” she said with amusement. “You have done well, Okurimono. The hardest part of your journey is over. Above the next ridge your descent begins. I have sent a friend to guide you.”

Okurimono bowed in gratitude. When she looked up the celestial lady fox was gone.

Somewhere in front of her, Okurimono heard chi-chi-chi and followed the sound to a small bird, standing on a moss covered rock. When it saw her, it fluttered onward to a branch, scolding her to hurry. This was yosuzume, a mountain sparrow kami. Each time it seemed she might catch the sparrow it flew off once again, to wait for her approach. In this way Okurimono soon found the lost path.

As the sparrow flew off, Okurimono heard something in the undergrowth. She was not afraid.

Stories said mountain sparrows led travellers to okurio-kami, the escort wolf. It was the protector the celestial fox, Lady Mae, meant.

Okurimono never saw her wolf escort, although he never left her side. The kami stayed hidden in the undergrowth. Whenever she crossed a bridge, or the forest thinned, the wolf was magically waiting on the other side.

By noon she reached the pass. In the far valley she saw villages surrounded by rice fields and beyond them a pall of yellow smoke, from the wood fires of Kyoto. Standing on a mound, high above the smog, was the mighty five-tiered stronghold of the shōgun. Pale stone walls and fluted tiled rooves rose pagoda-like, one storey upon the other, into clear blue sky. It was so beautiful Okurimono thought it must be a house for the gods. It was in that beautiful place Okurimono would find her grandmother.

©Paul Andruss 2018

The final part of this beautiful story tomorrow.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen

When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.

Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.

The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.

The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?

The latest review for the book

I stumbled across this book one day while reading a historical piece written by the author. He had included an image of this book cover at the bottom of his article which immediately drew my attention. This author often writes long historical dissertations so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took a chance and purchased the Kindle edition. What a delightful surprise! I couldn’t put the book down!

What I found was a fantastic story about one of my favorite subjects, faeries! Not only was it geared to the YA genre, but it also included a fair amount of historical fact to make the story shine.

When Jack’s older brother Dan is abducted before his very eyes, he is stunned by the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. The fact that Jack witnessed the strange abduction and doesn’t tell his parents only adds to his troubles. Jack’s mother is suffering from a chronic illness and his greatest hope is that the situation will rectify itself, and Dan will come home on his own.

One night, Jack starts receiving cell phone calls from Dan, and when he answers, there’s no one on the line. He tries to tell his parents and the police the truth about what happened, but every time he opens his mouth to speak, his throat closes up and he is unable to utter a single word. Faery glamours? Could be!

In the meantime, Jack starts seeing a dirty tramp hanging around his house who only speaks in rhyme. It becomes apparent that no one can see the tramp but Jack, so he enlists the help of his friends to help him solve the mystery behind his brother’s disappearance.

Jack and his friends are thrust into the magical world of the fey where the kids experience the light and the dark, of a failing faery kingdom. They learn about ley lines and how the fey evolved beside mankind. The story progresses with plenty of magic and suspense until you reach the satisfying end.

Let me just say, that this is one of the most creative books I have ever read about the fey. Jack’s friends are reminiscent of the characters in the Harry Potter series and I had no problem connecting with their personalities. The plot is brilliant, although I had a hard time separating fact from fiction. That’s what I call good writing!

I enjoyed this novel and will read it more than once. I feel children and adults of all ages will enjoy this book. Do you love magic and all things faery? Then, have a read because this book is reasonably priced and will keep you entertained for hours.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

It would be wonderful to have your thoughts about the story and  hope you will join us tomorrow for the final part of the story. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Writer in Residence – The Legend of the Golden Flower (Part One) by Paul Andruss


PART 1

The priests kept the entrance to the shrine of the sun goddess Amaterasu, free of snow. It was here Okurimono sang and danced, protected by the temple wall from the worst of the mountain wind. Even in this sheltered place the wind’s ferocity drove all feeling from her fingers and face. The young girl stamped hard and clapped her hands around herself in comical exaggerated movements as she entertained, simply to keep warm.

Her mother’s maid, Ucosan, constantly reminded Okurimono she must learn to endure pain if she wanted to be like her mother. The mind and the body are at war, she said, and the will must conquer weakness. When Okurimono complained, Ucosan told her, pain is a woman’s lot. Everything in this world has a price. Art demands the greatest price of all.

Without hesitation or pause, Okurimono bowed when a group of pilgrims threw coins; no doubt charmed by the sight of a young girl singing and dancing so exquisitely. The payment was welcome. Ucosan had sold nearly all of her mother’s jewellery and silk kimonos to survive. Now with winter refusing to leave the mountains, money was scarcer than ever.

Yet money was not the reason Okurimono danced at the shrine. She danced to honour Amaterasu and her mother’s patron Uzume, the goddess of mirth and revelry. When the storm-god destroyed Amaterasu’s rice fields and killed her maid, Amaterasu retreated to a cave. The world grew cold and dark.

Not one of the gods could tempt the sun from the cave until Uzume, the dawn goddess, danced and sang such comic songs the other gods grew helpless with laughter. Overcome by curiosity, Amaterasu ventured out to see what caused the merriment.

Okurimono did not dare to think one of the goddesses may be gracious enough to notice her devotion and drive away the demons causing the bloody flux on her mother’s lungs. This hope she kept locked in her heart, in case an idle thought betray her to the many vengeful kami and yokai that haunted wild, forgotten places.

Uzume’s dance, to tempt the sun back to the world, was the first Okurimono learned. Her mother once said, they were the first steps Izumo no Okuni taught her when she was as young as Okurimono. Her mother had smiled, fondly recollecting those comic and often rude Kabuki performances. She told her daughter how the refined clients of Shimabara’s most famous tayū would have feigned outrage at such ribaldry; no matter how they might secretly enjoy it. Then she laughed, hearty and common as Ucosan. How Okurimono wished her mother would laugh like that again.

Tempestuous clouds hid the mountain tops. The day grew dark as night. The pilgrims hurried to seek shelter in the inn. The streets were empty and shadow haunted. A storm was coming. It was time to leave. The old priest tending the shrine came to lock the gates. Watching the wind shake powered snow from the pine trees on the hills, Okurimono pulled on her broad-rimmed bamboo bonnet and quilted kosode.

The peaks above the trees were lost to the swirling white of the blizzard. Snow women demons prowled blizzards. White of hair and skin they sucked warmth from any person they caught. She threaded the scattered copper coins on her purse-string with numb fingers; reckoning their worth in bowls of rice. Dutifully, she bowed to the elderly priest, leaving a few precious coins as an offering.

Turning a corner, the full force of the storm hit Okurimono. Stinging snow blinded her. Wind snatched breath. Feet froze, sinking past her ankles in the deep drifts. The world was lost to thick flurries. All she could do was to bow her head until her chin touched her chest and keep walking.

Approaching her home, the wind paused. Driven snow eddied helplessly, its purpose momentarily forgotten. In the eerie calm Okurimono saw faraway snow women searching for victims. She heard a snow woman scream. They had found her. It was not a snow woman, but a huge black eagle flapping over the roof tops. Birds did not fly in snowstorms, unless they were demons. This was not good.

Okurimono watched the bird drop something from its claws. A pale golden ball of fur hit the deep snow lying on the pitched roof. She watched it roll. Instinctively running forward, with arms outstretched, she caught the bundle, clutching it to her breast.

Only when she had it tight and secure did she dare look. A tiny fox cub mewled and stared at her with large intelligent eyes. Safe and warm inside her padded kosode she felt its little heart frantically beating. Sudden as it came, the squall died. The last snowflakes fell, slow and gentle. The snow women fled.

The fox cub was an omen. Okurimono was sure of it.

* * *

Okurimono took off her shoes to enter the house.

The old woman scowled to disguise her relief.

“Foolish child,” she snapped. “Have you forgotten about the snow women? What have you there?” she asked without waiting for a reply.

Okurimono took the fox cub from her quilted coat to show Ucosan.

With a look of wonder, the old woman cooed, gently stroking the pup’s pale fur.
The animal yawned unperturbed.

‘The snow women came. He protected me.’

“The goddess heard your devotion and instructed Inari to send one of his messengers. The good god of prosperity is smiling. Let us show your mother.”

Okurimono took off her wet heavy coat. ‘How is Mama?’

“She took some soup today,” said the old woman carefully. “Come, she waits.”

Okurimono’s mother was wrapped in quilts. Her skin looked white, except for a single patch of colour under the dark stained hollows of her eyes. She smiled; lips grey and bloodless.

Okurimono knelt before her mother, taking her hands and touching them to her forehead. Her mother’s hands were colder than Okurimono’s, and she was caught in a blizzard. In contrast, Mother’s forehead felt hot and damp as she kissed it. Her mother suppressed a cough.

“Come child, eat,” said Ucosan hastily.

With a backward look at her mother, Okurimono knelt before the irori, grateful for its radiant warmth. Ucosan placed slivers of tofu and dried fish on two bowls of rice and a ladled broth from the cooking pot. One she gave to Okurimono, the other to the fox cub.

Later, Ucosan told Okurimono to entertain her mother with a song. Picking up the long-necked gottan, the girl tuned the lute’s three strings. Her mother gently corrected Okurimono’s mistakes until stopped by a coughing fit. Okurimono did not mean to look as her mother took the cloth from her mouth. Seeing bright arterial blood, she lowered her eyes, ashamed she might shame her mother.

After making her mistress comfortable on the futon, Ucosan drew a battered paper screen to divide the room. Returning to Okurimono, the old woman thoughtfully stroked the fox cub’s silky fur, as it lay by girl’s side, nestling on the hem of her kimono.

Ucosan liked to reminisce about her mistress. Okurimono learned everything she knew of her mother from Ucosan. It was not polite for a woman of her mother’s quality to speak of herself. Her role was to serve others.

As always Ucosan began by saying her mistress, the Lady Fujiko, was the most accomplished tayū of Shimabara’s floating world. Okurimono knew the story by heart, but cherished the telling. It left her feeling close to her mother in a way she no longer could; now she was older with responsibilities.

As a child her mother was adopted by the renowned Izumo no Okuni, a priestess who danced and sang to earn funds for the temple in the dry river beds of Kyoto. Okuni became famous for her strange affectations of mixing men’s clothing with women’s and wearing the cross and beads of the sour smelling Portuguese black priests. Her antics shocked and amused the Nippon people, to whom politeness and obedience was everything.

Okuni taught a group of destitute women acting, singing and dancing so they could make a living. Known as kabukimono, ‘the crazy ones’, they put on amusing versions of the great sagas. Audience favourites were the Tale of Genji and the war story of Heike, with, most outrageous of all, its women samurai. The women played all parts, male and female, riotously mimicking love-making between man and woman, man and man, woman and women, or even men pursuing men, who were in fact girls dressed as boys.

The more famous the kabukimono became, the more the shōgun grew displeased. Their performances attracted crowds from all walks of life. The warlord of all the Isles of the Rising Sun did not think it seemly for peasants to mix with nobles and samurai. Order required everyone to know their place, and keep to it.

Angered, the shōgun banned women from performing kabuki, dismissing them as little more than harlots. Privately, many wondered what business was it of his, how they put a little extra rice in the bowl? The shōgun preferred all-male kabuki troupes. It led some to suggest the ban was prompted by his preference for men in other ways too.

Unable to perform, the female players fled to their old lives. Now they were celebrated as skilled performers, they were taken to the heart of the floating world rather than being forced to live on its fringe. Okurimono’s mother, still a girl, no older than Okurimono, was the most exquisite and talented of all the kabukimono. Okaa-san, the revered owner of the Spring Garden House trained her as orian.

“Of course, your mother became the most desired courtesan in the land,” said Ucosan. “So famous she attracted the eye of Tadanaga, the shōgun’s brother. Tadanaga was born with all the blessings: a great military leader, clever and charming. Loved by all, he loved only your mother. He bought your mother’s contract from Okaa-san and they lived together happily, until his jealous elder brother, the shōgun, accused him of treachery and ordered him to commit seppuku. Your mother, knowing she was lost, fled over the mountains to this village to protect your life.”

Seeing the child was falling asleep, she added, “Come let us all sleep with your mother for warmth. Bring our friend too. I have an old bed for him.”

‘Do you think he is really kitsune?’ Okurimono whispered, heavy eyed.

The old woman laughed. “He opened an eye when you spoke. If he is a kami, he is a young one.”

‘Perhaps he came to make mama better.’

“Spring will cure your mother better than any spirit.” Ucosan replied. Seeing disappointment on Okurimono’s face, she relented. “Perhaps he will protect her until Amaterasu comes to shine her warmth and bring the world alive.”

©Paul Andruss 2018

Part two of this beautiful story tomorrow.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Thomas the Rhymer a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen

When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.

Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.

The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.

The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?

The latest review for the book

I stumbled across this book one day while reading a historical piece written by the author. He had included an image of this book cover at the bottom of his article which immediately drew my attention. This author often writes long historical dissertations so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took a chance and purchased the Kindle edition. What a delightful surprise! I couldn’t put the book down!

What I found was a fantastic story about one of my favorite subjects, faeries! Not only was it geared to the YA genre, but it also included a fair amount of historical fact to make the story shine.

When Jack’s older brother Dan is abducted before his very eyes, he is stunned by the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. The fact that Jack witnessed the strange abduction and doesn’t tell his parents only adds to his troubles. Jack’s mother is suffering from a chronic illness and his greatest hope is that the situation will rectify itself, and Dan will come home on his own.

One night, Jack starts receiving cell phone calls from Dan, and when he answers, there’s no one on the line. He tries to tell his parents and the police the truth about what happened, but every time he opens his mouth to speak, his throat closes up and he is unable to utter a single word. Faery glamours? Could be!

In the meantime, Jack starts seeing a dirty tramp hanging around his house who only speaks in rhyme. It becomes apparent that no one can see the tramp but Jack, so he enlists the help of his friends to help him solve the mystery behind his brother’s disappearance.

Jack and his friends are thrust into the magical world of the fey where the kids experience the light and the dark, of a failing faery kingdom. They learn about ley lines and how the fey evolved beside mankind. The story progresses with plenty of magic and suspense until you reach the satisfying end.

Let me just say, that this is one of the most creative books I have ever read about the fey. Jack’s friends are reminiscent of the characters in the Harry Potter series and I had no problem connecting with their personalities. The plot is brilliant, although I had a hard time separating fact from fiction. That’s what I call good writing!

I enjoyed this novel and will read it more than once. I feel children and adults of all ages will enjoy this book. Do you love magic and all things faery? Then, have a read because this book is reasonably priced and will keep you entertained for hours.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

It would be wonderful to have your thoughts about the story and  hope you will join us tomorrow for part two. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Twelfth Day of Christmas with guests Paul Andruss, Olga Nunez Miret and Carol Taylor


We have finally reached the last of the Christmas parties.. and in this one I want to do a personal thank you to the remaining regular contributors, and someone who has helped me with my books this year, who have not as yet featured in the parties. Paul Andruss, Olga Nunez Miret and Carol Taylor.

Here is Slade to kick the party off with Merry Christmas Everybody. Amazon

Over the last eleven parties I have shared my memories of Christmas past, and I have enjoyed stepping back in time. I am so pleased that so many of you have shared yours too, as it demonstrates that the best gift of all is the time spent with those we love.

I hope that you have an amazing few days, however you choose to spend it. There will be a few things posted over the next week should you be at a loose end.. and a very special treat from the 27th to 31st with a wonderful Japanese short story from Paul Andruss which will have you captivated.

There will also be some funnies and videos and I will be in from time to time to catch up on all of your festive posts.

Now time to get on with the party…..

A favourite carol of mine as a child was  “We Three Kings” original title “Three Kings of Orient”, also known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are” or “The Quest of the Magi”, is a Christmas carol that was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857. At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and he wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City.

Here is a wonderfully dramatic version with fabulous graphics by Clamavi De Profundis

Time to meet my first guest Paul Andruss, who has already saved his most favourite Christmas Gift ever in a separate post that you can find HERE.

Paul has been the Writer in Residence and Gardening Expert for the last 18 months. He stepped back from his regular posting in the autumn as he was working on his own projects. He has popped in from time to time, as with the short story later this week, and hopefully he will be back occasionally in 2019 when he has the time.

I am very grateful for the amazing posts covering such a broad spectrum of subjects, all meticulously researched and brilliantly written. The blog has definitely been enriched by their inclusion. And I can highly recommend that you read Thomas the Rhymer which is Paul’s fantasy novel especially if you love Harry Potter.

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Anyway, I was wondering what I could give Paul for his virtual gift and thought perhaps being a very keen gardener, and bearing in mind his Japanese themed story later this week…..he would enjoy this.

Day 12 (5th January also known as Epiphany Eve): It is a celebration of the life and works of St. John Neumann (1811-1860). He was born in Bohemia but emigrated to the US and became a Catholic priest and later Bishop of Philadelphia. He was the first American bishop to be canonized due to his devotion and also for founding the first Catholic diocesan school system in the United States.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Twelve drummers drumming and all the rest of the verses that have gone before with both their alleged coded and spiritual meaning and the more modern acceptance of this cumulative song probably of French origin. There are many different versions that are sung around the world with local and national gifts replacing the originals. The spirit of the song however is still maintained from the Faroe Islands to Australia as children get excited about the upcoming holiday season.

In many countries Twelfth night is a huge celebration with parties to celebrate not just the Christmas season but also the official end of winter which began on October 31st on All Hallows Eve or Halloween. This practice goes all the way back to the Romans and their celebration of Saturnalia and different cultures celebrate in various ways. This would be the day that the Christmas cake would be eaten, or roles reversed between master and servant or King and Queen of the night with licence to behave disreputably!!

Having lived in Spain for 17 years we celebrated Christmas with our friends and also their festival on the 6th of January of Dia de Los Reyes. It is almost as important as Christmas itself in Spain, especially for children who have waited twelve days before getting their presents, although I suspect there are still plenty opened on Christmas Day. However the party starts on the 5th with parades in all the towns and villages with Three Kings leading the crowd and throwing sweets to the children.

The Spanish version of the Christmas cake is a Roscón, a sweet, donut-shaped bread covered in glacier cherries and sugar. A plastic toy rather than a sixpence is buried inside the mixture, so dentists do quite well in the days following! Although for those whose teeth remain intact they will get good luck for the remainder of the year!

This leads me very nicely into my next guest Olga Nunez Miret

Olga has been a wonderful friend and support for the blog and for so many others in the last five years. She is an avid reader and writes in-depth reviews that delight their recipients some of the reviews are on behalf of the Rosie Amber Review Team.

About Olga Nunez Miret

Olga Núñez Miret is a doctor, a psychiatrist, a student (of American Literature, with a Doctorate and all to prove the point, of Criminology, and of books and people in general), she writes, translates (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and although born in Barcelona, Spain, has lived in the UK for many years. She’s always loved books and is thrilled at the prospect of helping good stories reach more readers all around the world. She publishes a bilingual blog (http://www.authortranslatorolga.com ) where she shares book reviews, advice, talks about books (hers and others) and about things she discovers and enjoys.

This year Olga translated Tales from the Garden Volume 1 for me into Spanish. If you are looking to reach a new market for your books that I can highly recommend her services. She also asked if I might like to participate in an anthology in aid of victims of domestic violence and my story ‘Diana’ was included in ¡Que entre la luz!  published in the summer. Olga and I were interviewed on When Women Inspire on the anthology by Christy D. Birmingham.

¡Que entre la luz!

Read the reviews and buy Olga’s books in English and Spanish: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B009UC58G0
Blog: http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Please visit Amazon or Olga’s blog to view all her books.

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One of the early reviews for Deadly Quotes.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this latest book in the exciting “Escaping Psychiatry” series by Olga Núñez Miret! It’s “Deadly Quotes. Escaping Psychiatry 3.” This isn’t just another “psychological thriller” — it’s written by a real-world forensic psychiatrist, and her expertise is clear in the entire series.

I see catchy quotes everywhere I look. I’m okay with that – I confess that I like quotes. So I got a kick out of the fact that the author used quotes as part of the mystery. Psychiatrist and amateur detective, Mary Miller is back – and she’s dealing with a thrilling take on quotes. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Happy reading.

I wanted to find something beautiful for Olga as her virtual Christmas gift and found this.. which I hope she enjoys…Louie Schwartzberg

On the subject of food…here is one of my most remembered Christmas puddings. The sherry trifle and even as a very young child I would finish every last morsel. I think my mother was under the impression that if sherry went into a meal it was non alcoholic….

Like most of the traditional foods featured during the last twelve days trifle has a long and illustrious history dating back to the end of the 16th century. Originally trifle referred to a thick cream flavoured with spices like ginger and sweetened with sugar and sometimes rosewater. In the middle of the 17th century eggs were added to form a rich custard. Another 100 years and the custard was poured over jelly using gelatin.

The trifle that we now consider to be the jewel in the festive dinner crown has the addition of sponge soaked in sherry or sometimes port or brandy and layered with fruit such as peaches, jelly, custard and thick whipped cream…Here is an Australian site with plenty of different variations for trifles to suit all tastes…Trifles galore

There is a phenomenan attached to the dessert. If there should be any trifle remaining in a bowl that has been placed in the fridge overnight, the next morning it has usually disappeared except for a couple of pieces of glacé cherry on the bottom of the bowl and a scrape of cream on the side of the dish. Legend has it that after all the gifts have been distributed and the work is finished for the year, Santa allows the elves a night of revelry and permission to visit any home where trifle has been on the menu and indulge….yeah that is the official version, honest!

The obvious choice of guest to follow the food selection is our own food and cookery expert Carol Taylor, who ran a very busy catering establishment in Thailand before retiring.

 

Carol has worked tirelessly this year to bring wonderful recipes to the Food Column including two amazing Christmas menus for a traditional dinner and a vegetarian alternative. She is taking a well earned break over Christmas, spending it with her family who live close by in Thailand. I am so delighted that we connected two years ago and I hope that if you do not already follow Carol on her blog that you do that now.. You will not only find recipes, but a wonderful array of exotic Thai ingredients and articles on avoiding waste food and the environment at CarolCooks2

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:  https://www.amazon.com/Phuket-Island-Writers-Anthology-Stories-ebook/dp/B00RU5IYNS

I asked Carol for her most special Christmas gift………

Years ago when I worked for the Halifax I had a love/hate relationship with my line manager he was a nice bloke but very straight laced at work and sometimes we clashed as to certain things I was not prepared to do come hell or high water…But had touches of being really funny in his lighter moments or at staff jollies.

One day after such one staff jolly and definitely too much to drink …When I got home I threw up…The next morning..I was missing a tooth the only tooth I had on a plate and it must have disappeared down into the system of no return…

So it was an emergency dental appointment and a call to work…
The dentist also thought it was highly funny as did Andrew at work…

Some months later at our staff Christmas Party when we pulled a name out of a hat and bought appropriate presents for the said person…I will say he must have thought about this for months…lol

He got my name …I received a 6 pack of Becks Beer and a bag of sweetie false teeth…He kept his distance as maybe he wasn’t sure whether I would see the funny side I did, and still do…as did everyone else but it was the best present and still makes me smile…

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a set of false sweet teeth, but I think that’s because the dog ate them….

And that is not as far fetched as you might think…….Merry Christmas Carol…

Thank you for dropping by today and have an amazing Christmas… thanks Sally…