Tales of the land of Oh! — 1

A brief series of tales from the land of Oh!

King of the Castle

(first published August 2014)

“This is my castle, and I’ll jolly well do what I want in it. And if anyone tries to stop me, I’ll… I’ll… I’ll jolly well stamp my feet and hold my breath and scream!”

King Kannot, ruler of the land of Oh! was clearly not in one of his better moods. It had just been pointed out to him that there was insufficient gold in the royal treasury to fund the massive fair he had wanted to hold in the castle grounds. It was to have been a splendid affair with jesters, minstrels and entertainers of all sorts, as well as jousts, archery contests and all kinds of competitions. But the royal chamberlain said there wasn’t enough money. Now he needed a new chamberlain, too.

“If I may be permitted to point out to Your Majesty,” interjected Velcro, the king’s faithful retainer, “if Sire attempts to hold his royal breath and scream at the same time, Sire may explode.”

“Well, what can I do to make myself feel better about my lot, Velcro? The peasants are revolting, and the nobles aren’t much better.”

“Sire could call a special meeting of the Privy Council at a ridiculously early hour, with an agenda of the utmost gravity and import, then not turn up Himself.”

“What a jolly good wheeze. Would they all come?”

“Could they possibly ignore a royal command, Sire?” The king’s humour had changed as quickly as ever. Velcro had a particular knack of knowing exactly what to say to get the old king into a good mood. Unfortunately for many of the king’s loyal subjects, this often involved causing great inconvenience to some of them, usually either the most hapless of the peasantry or the most lofty of the nobility or, more often, both.

“We’ll say,” the king suggested, “that we need to discuss our response to the overtures received from the next kingdom, suggesting that our royal son, the Prince Mite, should marry their king’s ugly daughter.”

“And what should be our response, Sire?”

“Our response shall be … that we shall think about it. We shall consider our options. We shall have discussions with our advisors and, of course, with the Prince Mite.”

“And then, Sire?”

“And then, Velcro, we shall tell them that we will approve the marriage at a later date.”

“That date being, Sire?”

“When hell freezes over, Velcro, when hell freezes over.” With that, the old king laughed so hard he fell off his chair and rolled around the floor.

Still laughing, still rolling, he blurted out, “But we won’t tell the Privy Councillors that, eh, Velcro?”

Some time later, after the king had recovered from his fit of royal mirth, he called Velcro to his kingly presence again, “Let’s have a feast tonight, Velcro. Summon the courtiers and the jesters, the Privy Councillors and the dancing wenches; have the hunters head out to find some meat. There will be jollity in my castle this night. It will go on until almost sunrise. As soon as the sun rises, the Privy Council will meet, and we will go to our royal bedchamber.”

And so the festivities took place. There was, indeed, jollity in the king’s castle that night, laughter and dancing, feasting and drinking, revelry and ribaldry and rambunctiousness, and goings on between jesters and wenches that we won’t go into here for reasons of modesty.

As the sun rose, the gathered company dispersed, each to his or her own home, with the exception of the Privy Councillors, who went through into the council room to await the king. The king collected his queen and went to bed.

Did I not mention that the king has a queen? Isn’t it obvious? Where do you suppose the Prince Mite came from? There’s no magic in this realm, you know.

The Privy Councillors waited patiently for the king.

For many hours they sat, chatting amongst themselves. They didn’t discuss the subject they were there to talk about, because it would be wrong to do so; just as it would have been wrong to leave the room before the king had graced them with his presence. They were rather afraid of the king.

Much as the king was rather afraid of the queen, although that, too, was never discussed.



Waist of Space, part one of the Unlikelihood series, followed Commanders Tarquin Stuart-Lane and Meredith Winstanley; hapless heroes of the Royal Space Regiment; who were sent on a mission to the Moon from which they were not expected to return. There they met with a group of aliens who had forged a living under the surface of the moon, and whose forbearswere testing a new kind of spacegoing vessel that had the ability to be in many places at the same time.

Part two, FLATUS, follows our dynamic duo as they help the aliens build their own multi-locatable craft (and the RSR to build one, too). Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having potentially three such vessels in finite space at one time? Will the ineptitude of key personnel result in disaster, or avert it?

FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?

FLATUS. Chapter two, scene one

After the habitat design team had visited and the layout of the accommodation and offices agreed, the necessary materials were ordered and delivered, allowing the Borborygmi team set about building what they needed.

Although there were, at that time, only fifteen of them in the facility, they made provision for a further sixty, making seventy-five in all. Their outline plans allowed for an initial workforce of fifty, with a further ten to provide support services including catering, and ten for domestic and what they termed emotional support.

They notified these numbers to Tarquin during one of their regular progress meetings. He arranged for additional inflatable splints to be made and provided in time for the arrival of the extra personnel. The shuttle Sir Prijs was pressed into regular use to ferry Boborygmi between earth and its moon, much to the annoyance of its new captain, Jason Strangename who, when he was given the job on Joan Wenberg’s transfer to Meredith Winstanley’s team, believed (incorrectly, as it happened) that he would be commanding, if not a craft on active combat duty (why he believed that was a possibility isn’t known, there being no active conflicts in the sector), at least one on regular security patrol with the odd chance of some real action – that he was currently not much more than a glorified bus driver irked him considerably. You see, Jason was one of those who joined the service with the sole intent, or at least desire, of ending up in a combat situation, which he planned to come out of praised, lauded and feted – the fact that he’d be far more likely to come out of any such situation dead never entered his mind.

Over time, the Borborygmi completed the internal work and swelled their numbers to the level they needed to start work on FLATUS. The day came for work to start on that project but first, in keeping with the best traditions of Borbor and Earth societies, there had to be a ceremony.

Chief Borborygmus Marshgass III, accompanied by his Chief of Staff, Malodor Skatole, came down and appeared before the gathered masses of humans and Borborygmi. Because of the higher gravity, he too was forced to wear inflatable splints, which rendered it impossible for him to wear his full regalia. You will recall that when Tarquin first met the Chief, he was wearing his full ceremonial garb and looked like a five-and-a-half–metres-high Krusty the Clown, which scared Tarquin out of his wits, or would have done, had he any out of which to be scared. As it was, he now looked like a Michelin man wearing a Krusty mask, something that wasn’t entirely lost on Tarquin, whose reaction to it was identical to the reaction his claim to movie-star good looks received from Meredith, Joan and Patsy.

“Tarquin, what’s the matter with you, man?” Meredith asked while Patsy and Joan dragged him back to his feet.

“Have you seen old marsh gas?” he spluttered out.

“While you are composing yourself, Lieutenant Commander,” she said, “consider how you would feel, were these aliens or anyone else to treat His Majesty’s ceremonial robes and crown as an object of mirth. Consider also how His Majesty and his retinue would react to such a display of disrespect.”

“Wouldn’t happen,” Tarquin said, “our King never looks like a complete fool.”

Commodore Meredith Winstanley stood to her full height of 140 centimetres (as we have suggested before, this was not a lot; she could still get on most rides that require one to pass under a bridge to keep grown-ups out), fixed Tarquin with a harsh gaze, and said, “Consider yourself on report, Lieutenant Commander Stuart-Lane. You may absent yourself from this meeting.”

Tarquin looked at her blankly. “You ordering me out, Merry?”

“Now!” she yelled. She looked at Patsy and nodded.

Patsy grabbed Tarquin’s arm, and said, “Come on, Sir.”

“You can’t pull me about,” he yelled, “I am a commissioned officer in the Royal Space Regiment. Unhand me.”

Joan Weinberg walked across to Tarquin, placed her hand on his shoulder and said, “No, but I can. Now, are you going to walk out of your own accord, under your own steam? Or would you prefer I and CPO Pratt help you?”

“I’ll go,” he said, starting to walk towards the exit. Turning, he said rather loudly, “You haven’t heard the last of this, though. I’ll take this up with—”

Rear Admiral Alasdair ‘Reggie’ Farquharson, previously unseen by Tarquin, appeared from the midst of a group of higher-ups and asked, “With whom, Stuart-Lane?”

Tarquin turned and ran out of the building, weeping softly.

Outside, he saw Jacob Postlethwaite waiting for him.

“You crying, mate?” he asked.

“No. Not at all. Chaps don’t cry, do they?”

“Okay. What’s made your eyes leak?”

Tarquin told him the full story from the scare he had when he first saw the Borbor Chief, up to the indignity of being thrown out of a major diplomatic event by what he referred to as a jumped up pastry cook.

“And what’s more,” he added, “I am the official human/Borbo— Oh. I’m not supposed to talk about that. Supposed to be hush-hush. I didn’t say anything, okay?”

“Okay. But is that really a thing?”


“Being scared of clowns?”

“Yeah. It’s even got a name. Coulrophobia, it’s called. Lots of people have it.”

“So – what? All clowns, or just some?”

“Does that matter?”

“Only if you don’t want me to blab what you just told me.”

“Nearly told you.”

“Whatever. I got enough.”

“Okay. Yah. All clowns with me. But only if they have all the costume and full make-up.”

“And that’s why this chief fellah didn’t get you this time.”

“That’s right. He had the makeup and hat, but wearing the inflatables just made him look ludicrous.”

Back in the facility hall, three of the leading Borborygmi gave rousing speeches. Chief Borborygmus Marshgass III gave a keynote speech welcoming the first real development in Borbor diaspora society (or at least this branch of it) in more than half a millennium. When he stood down, Flatulon Grumpblast, having been appointed FLATUS Project Manager, spoke at length about his plans for the design and construction of the vessel, and his hopes for its eventual place in what he termed ‘the grand odour of things’. Both of these speeches sounded, to the humans present, like rousing, military marches; calls to arms with, of course, reggae overtones. It’s not every day that the audience to occasions like this take to the floor and start dancing. By way of balance, Methanie Grumpblast, in her role as Grand Demander of Explanations and Answers, laid out, in detail that was more pain-giving than painstaking, what could be regarded as the small print of the project. She spoke of safety matters, of terms and conditions, of … let’s be honest, if this were in a box on a screen, you’d just scroll down to the bottom without looking at it and click on ‘I agree’. The dancing had stopped. Well. Who dances at funerals? That was how Methanie’s speech sounded to human ears. Totally, utterly, unquestionably and, I dare to say, irredeemably dirge-like.

Following the Borborygmi, it was the turn of the senior RSR delegates to do some speechifying. Rear Admiral Farquharson gave a prepared speech in which he officially welcomed the aliens to Earth, to England and to Swindon. He expressed his gratitude that they had chosen this planet to bring their wondrous vehicle construction plans to fruition (”Who knew they had chosen Earth?” Meredith remarked to Joan, “I thought it was all just an incredibly intricate series of coincidences.”) and wished them great success in their endeavour. The last speaker of the day was Meredith herself. She was brief and to the point.

“What we have to do now, this very instant,” she said, “is to cut the cackle and get on with the job of fitting out the facility to allow our guests to start building FLATUS. To that end, the Royal Space Regiment’s work-area design team will arrive later today and hold initial talks right away.” Then, to great cheers, she shouted out, “Let’s get this show on the road!” and walked off the podium.

Tuppence a bag

Will anyone buy some grain to feed the pigeons? Anyone?

You wouldn’t think, to look at me, that I was once a successful businesswoman, would you? I was, though. Had my own design of reusable, biodegradable bags and sacks that were mouse- and rat-proof. It was doing well until it was taken over by one of those big multinationals on a share-swap. They converted production to single-use plastic bags. Bang went the biodegradable, bang went the rodent-proofing.

I’ll tell you something else you probably didn’t know about me, too. I never used to believe in karma. I thought it was complete bunkum. More than that, I used to ridicule people who did believe in it. I would tell them that they must take responsibility for their own actions, and the consequences of them. That it was useless to stand around waiting for some impersonal whatever to step up and arrange payback for the ills that people had done to them – and you just know that they had never, ever done anything bad to anyone else. According to them, anyway. That was the thing with people who believed in karma, as far as I could see at the time. They believed it was a something that would deal out payback to people who had wronged them. They could never accept that many of their own actions had consequences, too; that the pranks they had pulled on others, the people they had maybe stepped on during their climb to the top, would have had a valid call on karma – if it existed.

Here’s the thing, though. I used to get a good income from my business, but when the takeover happened, I had to rely on dividends from the shares I had, and that wasn’t enough to live on. Fortunately, I had stashed away as much of the stock of my bags and sacks in the factory as I could. It’s a good job I did. You see, I was a threat to their business, the same as everlasting light bulbs were to the traditional manufacturers. They did no more than put a torch to all the stock in the factory before they converted it to make their rubbish.

And so I now sit here every day, selling food for the birds to anyone who’ll buy it. I bring it in my bags; I’ll never use these rubbishy plastic ones, they’re not strong enough, for starters; and sometimes people ask me about them. I’ve even sold a good few. People are starting to see these awful, flimsy; single-use plastic bags for the garbage they are. That’s why I’m starting to believe in karma, isn’t it? People are starting to refuse the plastic bags, the government have even put a tax on them to discourage their use. What do people want now? Why, reusable, biodegradable bags and sacks, of course. And if they’re rodent-proof as well, that’s even better.

Course, it means the dividends I get from the shares is going down all the time, and at the same time, those sharks who conned me out of my business are losing money, too. I don’t usually enjoy seeing folk suffer, but I’ll make an exception for those people. I know I’ll end up with nothing, but as long as I have some bags left and grain to put in them, I can feed these birds and earn a few coppers – enough to keep body and soul together.

Would I consider restarting my business? A few years ago, yes. But not now. You see, I talked it through with the birds. They’re more than happy with what I do for them, and they’ve pleaded with me not to stop. And what can I do against that?

You may well laugh, but these birds are wiser than you think. We’ve had some serious, in-depth conversations about the issue; they are as against single-use plastic bags as I am, and for the same reason – the threat to the environment.

Stop laughing. Why are you surprised I can talk with them? Of course, they understand what I am saying, as I understand them. Yes, we do have a common language. Haven’t you heard of pigeon English?

I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 166, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.