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“Our special guest today is a Roman general and statesman, so a warm salutation and ‘Salve’ to Julius Gaius Caesar. So Julius Gaius, if I can make so bold, welcome home from your latest campaign in Asia Minor and please tell us all about it. Where did you go, what did you see and what did you get up to over those long months away?”

“Veni, vidi, vici.”

“Haha, very ‘ad rem’, to the point. Seriously Julius, there must be a little more to your campaign. I’m sure your audience is dying to know.”

“Well, no, that’s about it really. One campaign is much like another. ‘Audere est facere’, to dare is to do as we say in the military. You set off with the lads from Legio Decem; a few forced marches; a little sightseeing, getting to know the lie of the land; mingle with the natives; negotiate with their rulers, which on this occasion  culminated in a bit of slash and bash and a battle at Zela. Then we split a few amphora of wine, had an impromptu bacchanalia before a triumphant return home to the adulation of the plebs.”

“Oh ‘mea culpa’, such modesty, Jules. There must have been one or two hairy moments, a few escapades and incidents you can share with us. You know, anecdotes from the edge of the world. You must have kept a diary or despatched the odd wax tablet or papyrus to Rome you can let us in on? Just between us, ‘bona fide’, it’ll go no further.”

“No. As I’ve already said. ‘Ceteris paribus’, all things being equal, it was all in a day’s campaigning. ”

“Oh. Well you must have been showered with tributes, looted and taken treasures from conquered tribes, brought back captured chieftains in chains and cart loads of slaves for the glory of Rome?”

“Err, ‘ars gratia artis’, art for art’s sake, the usual trinkets, some gold for my own coffers, a couple of good horses. That’s about it. The lads in the Legion laid waste the odd settlement or two, got smashed and raised merry hell, as I said earlier, and generally subdued the populace leaving our ‘Roma invicta’ stamp on society. Like I said earlier, all in a day’s campaigning.”

“So, no new discoveries then. No exotic creatures, wild animals, foods and spices, drinks, customs, wonders of the world?”

“No, ‘nihil novi’, nothing new.”

“Oh. So what’s next for our glorious commander in chief? A Gallic charm offensive, silencing the Germanic hoards, ‘Pax Brittanica’, or something closer to home?  Anything you’d like to tell your audience today, Jules?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“So back to work then, Roman nose to the grindstone haha. No time in your schedule for a few weeks off; perhaps a well earned trip south to the Bay of Naples, a spot of R and R, chillaxing in Pompeii or Baia?”

“Well if you must know. I’m looking to further my political ambitions. ‘Lacta est alea’, the die is cast, as you might say, I’m crossing the Rubicon. As for you; you are the stench of a low-life latrine with the brains of a sleeping two year old. ‘Vade retro me, Satana’, get behind me Satan. No, sod it, here, you deserve this; suck my gladius. ‘Valete’.”

 

Words and photographs Copyright © 2018 by Antony J Waller

 

Written for ThirskWriteNow, a group of talented local writers meeting every two weeks at The Golden Fleece Hotel, Thirsk. (If you would like further details please contact me.)

 

 

 

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As many readers will know I belong to a local group of writers, ‘Thirsk Write Now’, and at every meeting we come up with a theme on which to write a short story to be read out when we next meet. This week the only stipulation being the tale must contain the following words:- Worm. Shortlisted. Tender. Oriflamme. Missing. Flip-flop. Orange. Car park. Quicksand. Usually stories run to between 500/1000 words. On this occasion I went for brevity!

James suspected his new novel, ‘Tender smells the Oriflamme’, written after he went missing in a car park might flip-flop.

Instead the poignant tale of a worm in quicksand was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange award.

 

Words and photographs Copyright 2017 by Antony J Waller

 

 

 

 

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The old woman was sitting in the shade of the tree. Dressed in black, following the tradition of widowed Mediterranean women, and with a scarf covering her head she was rocking from side to side; watching. A small group of people was gathered in the open surveying the dusty, stone strewn soil about thirty feet away. She extended two gnarled fingers and made the sign of the cross against her chest, bowed her head and continued her vigil. It was early afternoon, the sun was high in the sky and yet she pulled her shawl closer about her as an involuntary shiver ran through her body. She stared at the people one by one until her eyes came to rest on the person nearest to her, a younger man in a yellowing panama hat, wearing a leather satchel over his shoulder and carrying a large sketch pad. As he pushed the brim of the hat back to run his hand through his hair the sun lit up his face and she gasped. A small lizard, sensing the vibration in the air scuttled for cover under a rock close to her foot. She would sit there in the shade and watch a while longer. From his place of concealment the lizard also surveyed the scene.

 

Three people, two well tanned local men and a fair haired woman, were moving shovelfuls of sandy soil and stones held within a wood frame which formed a box some two feet high, and filling a shallow trench in the ground. They had almost finished the task and the men were sweating, their clothes were damp from their exertions. The woman stopped, leaned on her shovel and tugging the red-spotted handkerchief from around her neck wiped her forehead. She was younger than the men and not yet touched by the sun and the Greek summer. She glanced in the direction of the man in the panama hat and motioned with her shovel, her meaning clear.

He nodded, closed the sketch pad with his drawing of the woman’s face taken earlier from the recently excavated mosaic floor and placed it inside his satchel which he had already dropped on the ground. Stepping forward he took the shovel and felt it in his hands. The wood was worn smooth and the metal where the blade met the shaft was hot to the touch. The two other men stopped to watch, their part of the task done. He added the last of the earth from the pile onto the ground by his feet and smoothed it flat, patting it down in a final symbolic gesture. As he stood he said, “Thank you for allowing me to gaze upon you, Eleni. I hope you will see the light of day again soon and not have to wait another two thousand years.” He turned to the girl and added, “Perhaps we can come back next summer.”

From beneath the tree the old woman crossed herself again and muttered. “You can bid her farewell, Englishman, but you will meet again far sooner than you think.”

He handed the spade back and went to retrieve his hat and satchel. As he picked it up the sketch pad fell out onto the ground. The face of a beautiful woman, Eleni, dark hair, curled and tied high on her head, blue eyes, full lips and an enigmatic smile stared back at him from the ground. He knelt to close the drawing pad, to push it back inside and secure the flap. That’s when he caught sight of the old woman in the shade of the tree and wondered where she had come from. Most of the locals and the old women chose to sit in the shade of the trees by the harbour enjoying the gossip and the relief of any breeze off the sea, not here amongst the stones and ruins with hardly a tree or shade in sight.  She was watching him intently and nodding, muttering something to herself which he could not quite make out. He thought about offering her a drink of water and started to pull the bottle out of the bag.

“Ohee, ef haristo, no, no thank you,” she said with a shake of the head holding up her hands palms towards him, waving him away.

He smiled, pushed the bottle back into his satchel and did up the flap. “Yasou, goodbye,” he said and turned to follow the two men and the woman who were already heading back towards their hot dusty car parked in the open by the rutted track. As he passed the site of their dig he stopped and looked back at the ancient land and the distant horizon shimmering in the haze. In the shade of the tree the lizard came out from beneath his rock. The old woman was nowhere to be seen.

 

Words and photographs Copyright 2017 by Antony J Waller

 

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Finally, in paperback, some of my short stories.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1545002061

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The small village of Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe can be found nestling in the shadow of the Hills to the north of York, closer to the Moors and the sea than to the Yorkshire Dales. Typical of most Yorkshire villages of its ilk Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe’s roots go back through the centuries, though the angst and demeanour of life in the village is very much a part of the present day and not the past. This and subsequent stories are how village life and events are observed and perceived by Walter and Nimrod, two of the village’s more stalwart inhabitants.

* *

It was Tuesday in Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe and black bin collection day. Nimrod was ensuring his wheelie bin was correctly parked at 90 degrees to the kerb. Satisfied it was he gave the bin a final shuggle and lifted the lid to check the contents.

“Lost summat, Nimrod?”

“Morning, Walter. Nah, just checking the stuff I should be recycling is hidden beneath the rubbish. I’m using the recycling bin to store logs. And there’s a bit of garden waste in there too. I’m not paying to have my green bin emptied.”

“They’ll catch you one day, Nimrod.”

“Then they’ll have to be up early.”

“Fit for the Arms tonight?”

“Is the Pope a catholic? I’ll be there, Walter. See thee later.”

* *

Tuesday evening was dominoes night at The Whiteskelfe Arms. A game of penny a spot and five pence a corner washed down by a couple of pints of Brown Belch. And to round the evening off the Arms signature supper dish, a pork pie submerged beneath a sea of mushy peas covered in mint sauce. A proper Yorkshire aphrodisiac after a game of bones.

* *

Nimrod was already hugging his first glass of Belch and staring into the flames licking the logs in the fire place when Walter slid onto the wooden pew beside him.

“I wonder what the origins are,” he said, eyes still fixed on the fire.

“Chinese I think,” replied Walter. “Then mid 18th century European.”

“No, not dominoes. Tuesdays. Where do Tuesdays come from?”

“Eh? What’s that got to do with owt?”

“I was interested, that’s all.”

They both took a sip of Belch and looked into the fire for an answer.

“Germanic gods,” said a voice.

Walter and Nimrod averted their gaze towards the newcomer as he scraped the legs of a chair on the stone floor and plonked himself down opposite before setting his glass down on the table to join them.

“Now Sid,” said Walter. “Hope you’ve brought some money. I want to be touching it this week.”

“Tuesdays,” said Sid.

“Oh, don’t you start as well. What is it with you two and Tuesdays?”

“If you’ll let me finish,” said Sid. “I was about to tell you about Tuesdays.”

“And Germanic gods” added Nimrod.

“That’s where Tuesdays come from,” continued Sid. “An Anglo-Saxon warlike deity, ‘Tiwesdaeg’. It all goes back to the Romans who called it Martis dies, day of Mars, after their god of war.”

“An apt night for dominoes then,” said Nimrod. “Least the way you two play.”

“Supposed to be a good day for getting married too.”

“You mean better than a Saturday if United are playing at home,” Walter chipped in.

“You’re a font of knowledge Sid,” said Nimrod.

“Well, if you want superstition, it’s a good day to have your hair cut or your nails. It’s supposed to bring wealth or a new pair of shoes.”

“I’d best make an appointment then, if I don’t take all your money playing doms, said Walter.”

“And don’t sneeze on a Tuesday or you’ll meet a stranger. And if he’s left handed…”

“Ey up lads. What’s thee gassing about? You haven’t got the dominoes unboxed yet?”

“Now then, Harry. We were just saying about strange left handed men who worshipped Germanic gods and got married on Tuesdays.”

“New boots, Harry?”

“Hope you clipped your nails before we start.”

“You’re crackers, you lot. Must be Tuesdays.”

* *

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Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

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The small village of Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe can be found nestling in the shadow of the Hills to the north of York, closer to the Moors and the sea than to the Yorkshire Dales. Typical of most Yorkshire villages of its ilk Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe’s roots go back through the centuries, though the angst and demeanour of life in the village is very much a part of the present day and not the past. This and subsequent stories are how village life and events are observed and perceived by Walter and Nimrod, two of the village’s more stalwart inhabitants.

This week souvenirs are discovered in the village and they’re not being discarded by disgruntled tourists!

…..

Walter was genuflecting in a moment of rapt concentration when a familiar voice drifted over the low garden wall.

“Are yer knees givin’ out or ‘as t’teken to prayin’?”

“Shit,” replied Walter.

“I beg yer pardon?”

“Dog poop, Nimrod.  Some bugga’s dog keeps desecrating me lawn.”

“Ah, I wondered why you had bald patches on yer green sward. You’ll have to erect a sign.”

“What? Dogs can’t read.”

“Yer daft bat.”

“So what then? It’s not exactly conducive to a serious game of croquet if yer ball strikes a hardened chocolate sausage and is deflected past the hoop. ”

“I’m going to keep watch. Sit up all night with a flask of soup and a torch.”

“Well your Mary won’t like that. And the dog might not be regular. Could take a while. Have you got a jam jar with a lid.”

“Eh? Nimrod, I’m not looking to preserve it.”

“Doh. We’ll take it to the vets and ask him to run it through his spectrometer for analysis. It’ll tell us what the dog eats for its supper.”

“Oh great. Then all I have to do is ask round as to what folk feed their dogs on.”

“Aye, well it’s only an idea.”

“Sometimes, Nimrod, I wonder about you.”

“Sorry, Walter, lateral thinking’s not so easy at my age. My creativity is thinning.”

“Aye, like yer head.”

As they cogitated and scratched their thinning thatches a little cream coloured Schipperke trotted into sight and completely ignoring the pair squatted in the middle of the lawn.

“Well would yer look at that.”

“Brazen, I’ll give it that”, added Walter

They watched as the dog completed its ablutions, scratched away at the grass and trotted off again.

“Oh ‘eck,” said Walter. “I recognise it now. That’s Mrs Braithwaite’s pooch. She lost her Jack a few months back and dotes on that dog. Always talking to it. I haven’t the heart to say owt. I can’t.”

They looked at the steaming deposit on the lawn.

“Then I’m afraid,” said Nimrod wistfully, “you’ve got another souvenir to add to your collection”.

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Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

 

 

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It’s here…

Available on Amazon from today

 

A specially selected collection of stories and poems, showcasing the talents of members of the thriving writing group, ThirskWriteNow, produced in celebration of the group’s fifth anniversary in September 2016.
Covering virtually every genre, this eclectic mix is guaranteed to delight the most demanding of readers. Step inside and prepare to be be transported, tantalised, amused, intrigued.

Look inside this book.

 Golden Clippings

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