Butter

Ha! Despite the paucity of interesting words in the prompt today I managed not to make it about apples or an oven (though both things make an appearance in this little story).


There was once a man called Ewan Kerruish, and he lived up near the top of the Sulby Valley, not far from where the Tholt-y-Will is now, if you know the place.

Ewan wasn’t old, nor yet was he in the first flush of youth, but he was still as strong and limber as he’d ever been. He’d had a wife, but she’d died some years before, and he didn’t much miss her for she’d a tongue at her as sharp as the thorns of a sloe.

So Ewan lived very peacefully there in the shelter of the valley with his goats and his spuds and his apple trees. But one summer he found he’d got visitors, and not the welcome kind either.

No, he was being favoured by the lil’ people, and a particularly playful bunch too, for it seemed like every time he turned his back while the butter dish was out on the table, when he looked again there were tiny footprints all along the length of the butter.

Ewan was a tidy man and this vexed him sorely. So he got in the habit of putting the lid back on the butter dish the instant he’d taken some on his knife. And that put a stop to the footprints for a few days, but then one day he came in from milking the goat to find the lid of the butter dish smashed on the flagstones and that many footprints in the butter it looked like someone had been having a ceilidh.

So he thought for a bit, as he scraped off the top of the butter and fed it to the dog, then he spread what was left on the good fresh bread he’d made that morning, and ate it, still thinking. And then he put on his cap and his best coat and called the dog and took his stick and set off down the valley to Quayle’s Store.

Once there, he bought himself some more butter – which surprised Mrs Quayle greatly, as she’d only sold him a whole new pat the day previous – and a fine new butter dish with a pattern of primroses on, for he’d always liked their cheerful faces. He also purchased another item, all wrapped in a damp cloth to keep it moist.

And after smoking a pipe and exchanging a bit of skeet with them sat on the bench outside the shop, he set off back up the valley.

In his cottage, he laid out the butter dish and placed the new butter carefully in it. Then he unwrapped the big damp lump of clay he’d carried back from Quayle’s and broke a bit off, kneading it between his hands until it was soft and smooth. And he laid it out in the old butter dish, for all the world like a grey slab of butter next to the white one.

Then he cleared his throat and said, “Indeed, yer welcome to skip about on this bit of clay, for it mus’ feel good on yer feet, but I’d rather you didn’t step in me butter any more, thank you kindly”. And just in case this wasn’t enough, he added, “And there’ll be a dish of bread and goats milk on the step every evening for ye to sup on”.

He listened for a reply but heard nothing, not even a whisper.

But from that day to this Ewan Kerruish has had no more problems with his butter, and every week he takes the trampled bits of clay down the valley to Quayle’s Store, and they’re taken to Douglas on a cart and fired in an oven and painted bright colours and sold to the tourists as authentic souvenirs of the Manx fairy folk.

Writing by hand is still the easiest way!

Writing prompt #11 – 16 December

Late again, but I’ve got excuses (as always). Anyway, pick a word, any word… then write something about/not about/around that word, for 15 minutes. By hand, on a device, dictate it, spell it out in seashells in your garden…. Whatever takes your fancy.

Pratchett fans will appreciate one of the tags for this post, which is also a fair indication of where I think my choice will fall.

Also, is it just me or does cinnamon not really go with jam? Just me…? I’ll get me coat.

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Baked Apples Tea – Fruit Spice Tea Blend – Certified Organic
When did you last have baked apples? I really fancy some. I will get apples: core out, nuts, cinnamon and jam in, butter on top and into the hot oven. The anticipation is the best part!

Little

I’m a bit late with this one (it’s now after midnight), but it was written on the right day, so that still counts.

This one went off in a completely different direction than I’d expected, but that still counts too.


Did you ever see Tommy Corlett, him they always called “Little”? No? Well he wasn’t one of the lil’ people, for all that he was short of stature. No, Tommy was just a very short man, half the size of his brothers and not even up to the shoulder of his shortest sister. But he was brave as a lion, was Tommy, and nobody ever got the better of him.

Well, maybe the once, aye, that’s true enough. For Tommy was a mighty close man in some ways. He’d give you his own dinner if you let on that you was hungry, but if he thought you were trying to cheat him or take advantage he could be tough as nails. And that made him a hard employer to please.

And so it came about that Tommy was looking for an assistant to help out at the mill he ran down there in Ballahowin, at the foot of the hill they call Stony Mountain. But he couldn’t get anyone he liked the look of, for they was all too skinny or too fat or too handsome or something. And all the fellas who’d been mill hands before had all gone off to Laxey to work in the big new mill there so he couldn’t get anyone with experience and the ones he tried without it was worse than useless.

And Tommy was close to giving up when one day this fella came up to him as he was walking home, and he said, “Tommy Corlett, I’ll be your mill hand and the best one you’ve ever had, and I won’t take any wages for a whole month nor will I”.

“Work for a month with no wages”, says Tommy. “You must be mad. Or a fool.”

“No, I’m not mad and I’m no fool”, says the stranger. “All I’ll take at the end of that month is the flour I can grind for you in an hour.”

At this, Tommy looked hard at the man, suspecting a trick. But the stranger had an honest, open face for all that he was black haired and blue-eyed and a bit too handsome for Tommy’s liking.

“One hour’s worth of flour for a whole month’s worth of work?” he said.

“Aye”, said the other.

Tommy turned the proposition over and over in his mind, but he had little choice for he needed a mill hand something terrible and he’d already tried all the likely candidates nearby – aye, and many of the unlikely ones too. So he agreed and they shook hands on it.

The stranger’s name was Adam, and he certainly was a good worker. No sooner did he set foot in the mill than the sacks of flour were fairly flying out, and finely ground it was, so fine that you could make a loaf of it that would almost float out of the oven it was so light.

Early every morning, Adam arrived at first light and set to work, and every evening as the sun was setting he’d tidy everything away, bid Tommy goodnight and stride off into the darkness.

It got so that Tommy was buying in grain from the north of the island to keep up with Adam’s toiling. But he could sell this fine quality flour for a ha’penny more per pound, so he was well pleased overall.

Soon enough the end of the month came around and Adam came to Tommy and said, “’Tis time for my wages, and then I’ll be on my way for I’m of no mind to stop at one job the rest of my time”.

Tommy was very surprised at this and tried to get Adam to stay by offering him a proper wage, and even to put him up in his own house, but Adam wouldn’t change his mind – and just as well, too.

For when he began to run the mill for his own wages, Tommy realised the stranger had only been working at a fraction of the speed he could. He shovelled the grain and flour like a madman, filling up hoppers and sacks in the blink of an eye. And the mill stream seem to pick up on this urgency, rushing down through its channel at ten times the rate it normally would until Tommy was fearing it’d take the big mill wheel away with it. Aye, and it was a close run thing – and the mill gearing was near enough to setting alight it was spinning around that quickly, and the bitter smell of charring wood came rolling out from the machinery.

Tommy could only wring his cap between his hands and watch the mill heaving and groaning and wheezing like an overworked horse. For it was obvious enough that Adam was no ordinary man, and watching the speed he was working at Tommy began to suspect he might even be dealing with Old Nick himself.

Then suddenly it was all done, the hour was up and the old mill stood there steaming faintly in the sunshine and all creaking and clanking as it slowed down and stopped.

And the one who said his name was Adam winked at Tommy Corlett and picked up all the many many sacks of flour he’d ground, all at once somehow, and tossed them up onto his back and said, “Thanks to ye, Tommy Corlett”, and walked out of the door of the mill. But when Tommy bethought himself to run after him, there was no one there in the mill yard at all but the cat creeping back with his fur and ears all flat.

Well, from that day on Tommy Corlett was a much more suspicious man, but a much fairer employer and he never had any problem getting a mill hand again.

And what would the Devil do with all that fine white flour? Well, nobody knows for certain, but it’s true that the lights were often seen on the fairy mound at the Braaid that year, and always accompanied by a delicious smell of baking bread.

#amwriting, havewritten

Candles

Another piece for the writing challenge. Given that most of my readers on Facebook and Twitter aren’t Manx, I’m enjoying bringing in Manx personal and place names, and Manx creatures. Today we meet the Buggane.


Now it so happened that in those days there was a Buggane living on top of South Barrule. And this Buggane wasn’t a bad feller, for all his size and his huge teeth like gravestones and his eyes as big as the roundabout at Tynwald Fair and spinning twice as fast. He kept to himself, by and large, and only took the odd sheep when he was really hungry, which wasn’t often for he was getting on in years as even Bugganes do in the end.

But he had a terrible thirst at him for the drink, and he was no more careful than you’d expect once he’d drunk a barrel or two of whisky.

And this mightily displeased his nearest neighbour, an old widow woman who lived in the hollow just there where the Ronague Road runs over the Round Table and across down to Dalby. Widow Mylchreest she was called – for though she must have had another name once she’d long since forgot it. She’d been married to Ned Mylchreest who for many years was a fisherman out of Port Erin. But when the sea took him one stormy January night, she vowed never to live within hearing of the water again, and so she moved herself and all her possessions right up there on the hills where the only things she could hear, she’d say to anyone who’d listen, were “the sheep, the wind and the Lord himself”.

But for all that she was a praying woman she tolerated the old Buggane most of the time. Two old folks together, they were, and many’s the time you’d pass before her front gate and see the pair of them sat up against the wall of her cottage, sunning themselves or having a chat or enjoying a good thick slab of bonnag with white Manx butter on it.

As well as her baking, the Widow Mylchreest devoted her time to her little garden. All hedged about with neat stone walls, it was, and as full of flowers and pleasant smelling herbs as any apothecary could wish.

So you can imagine her dismay when one night there was a terrible crashing and shrieking all around the house, and when she emerged from under the bed where she’d taken refuge in fright she found her little garden all smashed up with giant footprints everywhere.

It was pretty clear what had happened. Two days before there’d been a wedding down under the sea off Bradda, and the music and singing had carried on all the while since. The Buggane must have been invited – or at least invited himself, for there’s not many brave enough to tell a Buggane that he may not do something. And on his way back he’d got himself all tangled up with her garden wall and thrashed about until he’d found his way out again.

“Indeed and me garden’ll never be the same again”, she said sadly, beginning to clear up the wreckage and see which of the plants could be saved and which there was no hope for. She wasn’t angry, for she knew that anger at what you can’t help just eats away at you from the inside like a worm in an apple. But she did regret not picking her raspberries the day before when she could have enjoyed them with cream instead of them being squashed flat by the Buggane’s huge hairy feet.

While she was working, she heard a familiar thumping noise coming down the hill behind, and soon the Buggane himself was looking over the garden wall with a very woebegone expression.

“Did I do all that?” he asked, and his whirling saucer eyes span even faster than normal in his shame.

“Aye, me dear, you did, and I’m thinking you must have had a fair party to have been in such a state.”

“I’m terribly sorry Mistress Mylchreest, indeed I am. And your poor flowers trampled and everything.” And he looked about to weep.

“Nothing that won’t grow again”, she said briskly, even though many of her plants had taken a long time to raise.

“I’ll put it to rights”, said the Buggane. “You see if I don’t.”

“I’m sure you will”, said the Widow Mylchreest, though she didn’t really believe it, for a Buggane’s hands are not made for repairing a flower garden, any more than they are for knitting a shawl.

But the old woman had forgot how a Buggane lives a good long time and makes many acquaintances – both friends and enemies – during those long years. And this Buggane had been an amiable sort, on the whole, and had a good many favours owed.

And sure enough, the Buggane let it be known that he needed a hand – or rather many small hands. And the next day when the Widow Mylchreest got up and opened her front door she saw such a scurrying and rushing and a flurriting that she had to rub her eyes to make sure she hadn’t imagined it.

There was new plants everywhere, fine flowering beauties and the biggest vegetables with the glossiest leaves you ever did see, and herbs of all types too and even a rosebush of the special type called “Governor’s Lady” which she knew for a fact only grew in the Bishop’s garden.

And all about them were crowds of lil’ people, pushing and pulling and digging and directing with such boundless energy that it made her feel tired just to watch it.

So she went back into her cottage and shut the door and sat by the fire quietly singing sea shanties to herself until the rustling and bustling outside had stopped. She’d have rather sing psalms, but Them Ones tend not to be too keen on that, and she did want her garden back.

Finally, there was a big sigh, then a ripple of fairy applause, and then a rushing noise as of hundreds of tiny feet skipping away. Then silence.

And then the sound of the Buggane’s heavy tread and his careful knock on the door.

“’Tis all done, Mistress Mylchrees’”, he said, when she opened the door. And indeed it was, as pretty as a picture with hollyhocks and peonies and delphiniums and all the things you’d want in a cottage garden, and even some you’d never think of, like a young palm tree and a walnut and a fig.

“Well they’ll never take”, she said looking at these intruders with her hands on her hips. “And if they do I’ll be long gone before they fruit. And what’s this?” And she pointed to a candle standing in a little lantern, fixed atop the wall. As she turned she could see there were others of the candles, all around her garden wall.

“They’re to light me way”, said the Buggane proudly. “When I’m off out I’ll light them for ye, and then I shan’t be crashing through your garden again.”

“Hmm”, said the Widow Mylchreest, though secretly she thought it a good idea, and like to make her garden a magical place after dark.

And indeed it was – and not just after dark, either, for those three trees all grew tall and bore fruit the very next year. And the Widow Mylchreest’s coconut, fig and walnut loaf was eaten and talked of in those parts for many a year to come.

Just because you’re free writing doesn’t mean you can’t cross bits out.

Writing prompt #9 – 14 December

For the how/why of the writing challenge, see here.

As I always say when talking about my infrequent attempts at running, I enjoy what it feels like when I stop doing it. In this case, “it” is this writing lark. The results are fun. The process – or rather the procrastination – is less amusing. I’ve been up now for 2 hours and still not actually got around to writing my 15 minutes’ worth or doing any work.

I could blame the prompt of the day, which doesn’t contain any words that spark my imagination, but no – I hadn’t even looked at it until I uploaded it just now. I suppose the only thing to do is just…write.

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New Year Tea – Herbal Tea Blend – Certified Organic
How do you bring warmth into the cold season? I use lots of candles with lots of different colours I collect them from wherever I go. This year I have even made some myself from beeswax. Oh, what a smell!

Ginger

This is my eighth piece for my tea-inspired December writing challenge. Took rather longer than 15 minutes, but I don’t want to be writing two-part ones all the time. I’ll try to stick to the time limit tomorrow. Or not!


Now the reader who’s been keeping up with my little tales will be thinking there’s no bad ones and never a cross word spoke on the Isle of Man, and that all it takes to turn a man from surly to cheerful is the right woman. And there’s some truth in that right enough. But the island is a place like any other, with joy and sorrow and some that’ll never be happy no matter where they are in life.

And one such was William Jowett, and it wasn’t just that he was an Englishman in Mann that made him cross – though there’s enough about the place that makes them brought up to different ways gnash their teeth and tear their hair.

No, this Jowett was as mean-spirited and miserable a one as ever lived, and he’d have the coat off a starving man’s back sooner than give him a little longer to pay what he owed. For Jowett was a moneylender – that’s to say he worked for the Bank in Castletown, and made it his business to know everyone’s business and find ways to charge them for it.

Well known in the town he was but not well liked, for all that he had a fine big house out by Derbyhaven and a wife and two boys at King William’s College, and plenty of servants to make life easier for him.

And so one day Kirree the witch, fed up of hearing the townsfolk carrying on something awful about this Jowett, decided to do something about him and his penny-pinching ways. She went to the Bank, all neat and tidy dressed as she could, leaving her blue cat and her tall hat and even her witches’ broom at home, so them in the bank didn’t know but that she was just an ordinary old woman.

“Come to pay me respects to Mr Jowett”, she said to the clerk on the desk, “and brought him some of my own home-made gingerbread, the good it is that even a fine gentleman like Mr Jowett has never tasted its equal”.

The clerk wore a very white shirt with a very stiffly starched collar under his jacket, and this was apt to making him cross and unhelpful to all those who asked for his aid – and isn’t that always the way with the sad folk doomed to dirty their hands with the business of the Bank? But the smell of warm ginger coming from Kirree’s basket was so tempting that he thought he’d better tell Mr Jowett in case he heard tell – as he surely would – of this wonderful gingerbread and how it had been refused entry to his office.

So the clerk went and told Mr Jowett and in the shake of a duck’s tail, Kirree found herself in the finest room she’d ever seen.

“Sure and you’ve an office finer than the Governor himself”, she exclaimed, turning around and around to admire it, while the scent of the gingerbread wafted out to fill up even the far high corners of the room.

And Mr Jowett, seated behind his enormous mahogany desk, couldn’t but feel hungry, even though he just eaten the four courses that was all he allowed himself in the way of lunch.

Presently, Kirree stopped her spinning and sat on the mean, narrow chair meant for visitors, placing her basket on the desk and beginning to rummage in its depths.

“Here we are now”, she said, removing the biggest, boldest and above all tastiest-looking gingerbread man Mr Jowett had seen in his life. “This is a gift from me to you”, she said, “to show you my admiration for all you do for all of us poor ordinary folk here in Castletown and all around”.

Mr Jowett smiled his thin smile and nodded his pinched head and he may have even uttered a word or two. But in the next instant he was clutching that gingerbread man in his hands and biting and chewing and swallowing and biting and chewing and swallowing as if he’d never eaten for weeks.

Kirree looked on with a smile as he ate, and soon it was all done and Mr Jowett was using a finger to chase the last of the crumbs around on his shiny black trousers.

“V-very good”, he finally managed to squeak, as the warmth of the ginger spread throughout his body. And not just through his body either, for it seemed as if the warmth of the spices had made their way into his head too, and everything seemed just a little brighter and more pleasant than it had a moment before.

“Well I’ll be leaving you now”, said Kirree briskly, standing up and gathering her basket.

“Oh but must you rush off so soon after giving me this delicious gift? Surely you’d like some tea, or coffee perhaps? We keep some for our very best clients, you know, and you are definitely that, dear lady. Or perhaps I can lend you some money?” He leaned confidentially over the desk and whispered, “We have such a lot of it here, you see, and I often think it must be a lonely and boring life for all the notes and coins stuck down there in the vault all the time with never a glimpse of daylight or the chance to change hands”.

Kirree thought it was just possible she’d overdone the special spices, but it was too late now and anyway he’d been asking for it, so she declined politely and went on her way. And from that day on, William Jowett was the most jovial and charming of men to everyone he met. He lent money to all those who asked for it, and he might have got in trouble with the Bank’s owners excepting that Kirree had a stern word with the townsfolk. “I’ve sorted the bank man for ye”, she said. “But you’d best not be taking advantage of him, for if ye do they’ll be sending another one – and worse – from Douglas to replace him.”

So Mr Jowett’s loans were always repaid on time and his head office was happy with him, and so was his wife seeing him so much more generous and ready to please than before. His servants, too, his horse and his cat and his dog all thought him greatly improved. Only his sons, come back from school for the holidays, thought him altered for the worse, for they were already well on the way to becoming bankers themselves.

Mr Jowett only received his name after I’d finished!

Writing prompt #8 – 13 December

For the how/why of the writing challenge, see here.

Today’s sachet is a spicy one – can you write a spicy story in 15 minutes?

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Ginger Sun – Spice Herbal Tea Blend – Certified Organic
Do you know what you will give to your loved ones? I toss up gift ideas every year. When I review the year, I always realise what makes me most happy: time spent together. What about you?