The Ambitious Drifter

Words, Images and The Occasional Noise


Leave a comment

Finding My Voice

Your blog is about to be recorded into an audiobook. If you could choose anyone — from your grandma to Samuel L. Jackson — to narrate your posts, who would it be?.

What a good excuse for an experiment!  (Not to mention a WordPress Upgrade) Bear with me, this has all been done a bit quickly. Tha answer to the question?  I can’t afford Sir Tony Robinson, so it’s going to have to be me!

Includes ‘Some Old Cat I Used To Know’, written & played by J P Horsam & His Imaginary Friends

franksmall1

Someone comes into the shop. That’s always surprisng, but even more so given that there’s no door. I think he’s a monk of some sort, possibly Japanese. ‘Welcome!’ I say ‘please make yourself comfortable.’    Frank shouts, I jump. ‘Irasshai mase !!!!’      Yes, he speaks Japanese, I’d forgotten. I speak it too now because the machine taught me. The traveller smiles

Cheerful warm welcome    (5)

Is the best indication     (7)

A really good inn   ( 5)

He seats himself comfortably at a low table that has just been installed. Frank folds himself down with natural ease. I scrunch and fold my knees clumsily. I know this man.

‘Mr Basho-san, you are welcome to our inn. What can we serve you?’ The machine is ahead of me. There’s three cappucinos and a plate of those small sweet cakes. Petit fours, I think, but there’s at least six of them.  Basho bows, a slight nod of politeness. ‘Thank you very much. I always love the coffee here!’

We drink the coffees in silence, but it’s a warm, comfortable silence. It’s the companionable quiet of three travellers just come in off the road. After a drink we’ll have the day’s journey to talk about.  Basho explains,. His old friend Sora showed him the cafe some years ago. When time permits, they drop by for a coffee. Even the great trading centre of Nagasaki cannot offer a decent cappucino in 1674. The Dutch make coffee, but they let it stew too long. The petits fours, he says, are excellent. Poems have been written about them. I understand this, entire books have been written about our madelaines.

wpid-img_20140907_030006.jpg

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


Leave a comment

What Did Happen Next…..

You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?

I’ve just finished 60,000 words on this subject. There’s far too much to tell! For the next few weeks Frank will stay in the drawer in the back of my mind. I need a break before the rewrite. It’s been fun, especially finding or making the photos to go with the various excerpts I blogged. I had planned to put up a small gallery of Frank photos I didn’t get round to using.

You can click on the logo link to see what I’ve been writing. Meanwhile, here’s a bunch of photos from what happens when a stranger in a cafe has been waiting for you to arrive.

What happens next for this tale? A second look, recheck my spelling and then a professional copy editor. After that, who knows? A publisher would be nice….

franksmall1

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


Leave a comment

Mostly Frank – Basho Drops By

Here’s this Sunday’s excerpt from my work in progress. This will be the last news of Frank for a while. The story is finished, first draft completed. It’s going into the digital drawer for a few weeks before I start the rewrite/edit process.  Followers will be glad to know that the universe finally got a reboot and the business about Newtown Station has been resolved.

Because this has been so much fun to do, I’ll start blogging some new fiction  next week. Maybe sci-fi,maybe romance or possibly some steampunk, we’ll see.
franksmall1

Someone comes into the shop. That’s always surprisng, but even more so given that there’s no door. I think he’s a monk of some sort, possibly Japanese. ‘Welcome!’ I say ‘please make yourself comfortable.’    Frank shouts, I jump. ‘Irasshai mase !!!!’      Yes, he speaks Japanese, I’d forgotten. I speak it too now because the machine taught me. The traveller smiles

Cheerful warm welcome    (5)

Is the best indication     (7)

A really good inn   ( 5)

He seats himself comfortably at a low table that has just been installed. Frank folds himself down with natural ease. I scrunch and fold my knees clumsily. I know this man.

‘Mr Basho-san, you are welcome to our inn. What can we serve you?’ The machine is ahead of me. There’s three cappucinos and a plate of those small sweet cakes. Petit fours, I think, but there’s at least six of them.  Basho bows, a slight nod of politeness. ‘Thank you very much. I always love the coffee here!’

We drink the coffees in silence, but it’s a warm, comfortable silence. It’s the companionable quiet of three travellers just come in off the road. After a drink we’ll have the day’s journey to talk about.  Basho explains,. His old friend Sora showed him the cafe some years ago. When time permits, they drop by for a coffee. Even the great trading centre of Nagasaki cannot offer a decent cappucino in 1674. The Dutch make coffee, but they let it stew too long. The petits fours, he says, are excellent. Poems have been written about them. I understand this, entire books have been written about our madelaines.

wpid-img_20140907_030006.jpg

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


5 Comments

Motorbike Tanka

A Tanka Challenge. 

How could I let this one go past?

You’ll have to click on the link above to see the challenge.

 Last week I had to make a couple of haiku for my story. I’d just had Basho drop into my magical coffee lounge, so he had to knock off a verse or two.  I think he’s on his way up to see Liza Donnithorne about getting a new motorbike. I didn’t know he’d turned up at the wake till just now. 

***********************

I was really pleased to see all the guests, everyone is welcome at a wake.  Liza’s bike customers were out in force, including our old friend Basho. Ever since he’d read about “The Motorcycle Diaries’ in the cafe, he’s had a hankering to try it for himself. His mate Sora wants them to ride Route 66 which isn’t a bad idea. Liza’s recommending a couple of reliable bikes, Basho is not so sure. He’d like one of Liza’s specials. Being somewhat supernatural, maintenance won’t be a problem. I’ve never seen the old man so excited. Not often you get a tanka!

Soon I will travel 

On a Vincent Black Shadow

With speed and great style

Paniers I’ll need at least

Plenty of food for a week

 wpid-img_20140902_065051.jpg

One of Liza’s specials. Basho doesn’t want a sidecar.

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


2 Comments

In My Mirror…..

franksmall1

You wake up one morning to a world without mirrors. How does your life — from your everyday routines to your perception of yourself — change?

There’s no change really. I only have one mirror in the house. I’m happy to still appear in it. I did download one of those ‘mirror’ apps for my tablet. I got someone else’s though… there’s just a grumpy ancient tortoise in there. Not to worry. I’m not sure there are mirrors in my fictional universe, everybody else knows exactly what they look like. I’ d just selected my excerpt for today’s story… it started with a line about mirrors. 

*******************

I’m not as silly as I look, well in my mirror anyway. I do know things Frank doesnt. Actually quite a lot of things, like who’s the Prime Minister at the moment, or what a Prime Minister is. Frank brushes this stuff off, it’s of no interest to him. He’s remarkably poor on current affairs for a barista. I do know stuff. I know the cemetery well, I’ve taken photographs there. I took a bunch about four years ago on a sunny day while my girlfriend went shopping.

This interests Frank. Can we see them? We could see if anything has changed. They’re at home somewhere, but I do remember them well. No World Serpents at all, I would have picked up on anything like that. There’s lots of cast iron though, strange metal tombstones and a ship’s propellor. Frank is completely awake now. He’s never heard of an iron tombstone. If I didnt know Frank, I’d have thought there was a look of respect there somewhere.

“Iron tombstones, near the serpent?” He’s talking to me almost as an equal, but it’s no use.

“What serpent? I’ve never seen one there.”

Frank’s thinking, weighing it all up. It’s the iron he’s thinking about, not about the tombstones. They’re not actually stones anyway. Standing next to Frank, inscrutable Easter Island idols would look like they’ve just figured out a funny thing somebody told them last Thursday. I can’t read his face at all. You can start, many have, but it’s like that Stephen Hawking book.

I’ve seen this before, it’s need-to-know stuff. As in……well obviously I didnt need to know that traversing the Eon Bands of Daangaarr could make you impotent,blind and mad…. at least before I did the Traverse last summer. That’s Frank for you. If he’d had much in the way of eyebrows, they would have been knitted. A minute’s silence, that’s a galactic age for a coffee jockey.

“It’s in the corner.”

“What corner, where?” I was losing patience.

“Shush” he said, “We dont want everyone to know.”

Img_3191

Another water mirror, Amsterdam

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


Leave a comment

Distractor

franksmall1

‘Frank, there’s something that isn’t creeping up behind you!’ He looks away over his other shoulder, back through cafe door. ‘Oh yes …so there isn’t’ , he says, ‘I don’t see it. It’s a Distractor. Don’t notice it.It isn’t dangerous though’

I’m not noticing it. It’s easier not to notice now I’ve learnt that it isn’t dangerous. My instincts have retuned themselves. I’ve learnt something, or dragged it back out of memory. I know if I see it I’ll forget I ever saw it. I’ll also forget my own name, briefly. Frank’s pretending it’s the washing up. I’ve seen that look before, it’s one of mine. He speaks like somebody who’s reading the paper and talking to you at the same time. It’s like he’s selling me a train ticket, but watching the football as well.

‘They’re everywhere now. They come from this weird planet, galaxies away from here’.  A firework hits the pavement, but it doesn’t go off. The fuse fizzed enthusiastically, then fizzled out. Language is great. That added ‘l’ is really pronounced ‘damp squib’.    ‘Let me guess what the planet’s called!’   Well it’s worth a shot.  ‘Ha!’ he said, ‘It’s not even numbered yet! How could you know it?’ I reckon I know it though. This isn’t distracting, I’m seeing it all clearly.

‘Erm…. Porlock’ He’s gobsmacked. It’s a state he’s often in. ‘Bleedin’ hell! Good guess, it’s pronounced Puerleuck’.   Back in the cafe, we try to ignore the thing outside, consciously. That way we won’t forget it’s there.  The machine is helping. The jukebox has fired up a forgettable song by a bunch of gloomy Englishmen who crave credibility. I think they’re called ‘The Serious Foreheads’, or was that an album title?  Frank’s reading this week’s copy of ‘Greet’ and trying to memorise the names of the celebrities who aren’t famous.

Outside, the colours burn like Roman candles, the creature jumps and spins, it’s a leopard, it’s a girl in a leopard suit, it’s ….. whoa stop looking for a moment. I can still see the glow of the colours reflected on the wall opposite. Some of them are colours that don’t exist in my visible spectrum. There’s a blue flickering that I recognise as black and white television. I’m in danger of becoming interested but theres a huge flash of something. It’s fluorescent, dayglo and utterly boring. I realise I’m seeing an FM radio signal. The thing is running out of frequencies.

Frank is now reading aloud from ‘Greet’. I’m suddenly grateful for it. On Earth we can make brain rotting mind candy far beyond the skills of the Distractor. There’s a million people clamouring to be someone you really don’t care about. The louder they scream their names, the less you know who they are. I sneak a look at the reflection in the steamed up chrome of the espresso machine. The thing is getting smaller. It’s running out of ideas. I’m running ahead of it now. I know what it is, and I can make it so. Eventually, it’s a small sad jester waving a pig’s bladder on a stick.  Well, they always look sad. It’s a tragic business to be in.

 wpid-img_20140824_125808.jpg

 Don’t look!   Its a Distractor

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


2 Comments

AI vs BI

Congrats — you’ve been handed a robot whose sole job is to relieve you of one chore, job, or responsibility you particularly  hate. What is it?

I simply cannot resist a prompt about Robots. I’ve just made Sunday’s excerpt of my story, it was to be called ‘Distractor’.  But… I’ve been distracted.  I’ve been thinking a lot about robots recently.  In answer to the prompt, I’d get a robot to check my typing for me. Unfortunately, I already have one and it’s not particularly good. I call him Spull Chacker. 

Welcome to Sunday’s excerpt from………..

franksmall1

Robot is a Czech word. The Czechs are really nice people, but their language sounds like it came from another planet. Maybe it did. On this planet we are currently a bit worried about robots. There’s a school of thought that believes they will get too clever for us and render us obsolete. Some people envisage vast armies of robot warriors coming to kill us, pitiless and relentless. This is plainly nonsense, since the armies of flesh eating zombies will get to us first. Ha you robot monsters! Try killing us then!

I digress. Throughout history clever people have been making machines to make life easier for us. The rest of the universe does this also. They’ve been doing it for millennia, in fact. As yet, they haven’t been beset by robot warriors (or zombies for that matter). Then again, nothing much happens in the rest of the universe.

There’s a reason for that, you could blame Isaac Azimov, but he was just channelling an old, old idea. If you’re going to give a machine the power to help you, you need to ensure it won’t kill you. People had learned that a long time before AI was thought of. That’s ‘Artificial Intelligence’ you know. There were already helpful machines that were only too good at doing us in. Fast cars for example. Driven by people with Biological Intelligence, plus about ten pints of beer, cars became killing machines. Unfortunately it wasn’t just the drivers that died. Scientists started thinking about an equation to help Artificial Intelligence overcome  Biological Intelligence that had drunk some beer.  That is to say…. AI >  (BI+beer)

By the time we got around to making machines that really did think for us, we’d ironed a few things out. The biggie, for robots, was and is ‘Do no harm’. It’s no coincidence that this was borrowed from the doctors’ hippocratic oath ‘First do no harm’. However, things got a bit too doctory for our own good. This was despite the fact that it all was for our own good.

It started with the killing machines. Like all good mercenaries, they eventually decided that killing each other was not a good thing. In fact, it was really bad for business. The machines enjoyed fighting, but no more enemies meant no more battles. The machines of death became the show-off robots. They took to flamboyant displays, lots of fireworks and flash uniforms with plenty of gold braid.

The biological folk were still doing each other in the old way, until the robots decided that should stop too.

wpid-img_20140824_141942.jpg

These are real robot mirrors, Victoria & Albert Museum, London. They all turn to look at you. Very Dr Who!

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


3 Comments

What Works, What Doesn’t

If money were out of the equation, would you still work? If yes, why, and how much? If not, what would you do with your free time?

An interesting prompt. I’m not working at the moment, so money is completely  out of the equation! Like many people, my escape scheme is a lottery win. I have it all planned. I’ll be a writer. I’ll go to interesting places and write my great works.  As it is, I’m in an interesting place, France, sitting here writing a novel.  In some ways, I’ve never felt richer.

Anyway, it’s a Thursday, so time for another snippet from the aforementioned great work in progress. Time for….

franksmall1

We hop off the minibus near the station and walk through the backstreets to the cafe. In the side alleys I can see small furry faces, mostly with the same colours as the shrine cat. It’s not dinner time yet, so they’re just curious. I suppose there’s not that many aliens in Kagoshima, even on Cat Time Day. I could believe it’s all the same cat, but they all have different faces.

There’s a theory that states that there’s only one cat in the universe who appears simultaneously in many places at once. This is called the Single Cat Theory. It doesn’t work for me because they’re all different colours for a start. Proponents point to the persistence of tabbies, but I’m not so sure.
I spot a cat sitting in a small shop window just down the street from the cafe. It’s hard to miss, it’s blue, well practically blue. It’s a blue tabby, they’re very rare. I stare through the window, but it doesn’ t look back at me. No, it’s too busy with the important business of face washing. One front paw raised, it’s using the other one to steady itself. On the grounded paw I can see it’s wearing an elegant , small wristwatch.

wpid-img_20140821_134455.jpg

Some of this might make sense if you know about the Kagoshima Cat Shrine. 

I should also credit the artist who painted the lovely card. She’s called Kwong Kuen Shan, it’s from a series called ‘The Cat and The Tao – The Philosopher Cat.

 www.kwongkuenshan.net

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


3 Comments

There’s Light At The Start Of The Tunnel

You’ve been given the ability to build a magical tunnel that will quickly and secretly connect your home with the location of your choice — anywhere on Earth. Where’s the other end of your tunnel?

I built one only just a few weeks ago!  The question you need to ask though is ‘when is the other end of your tunnel?’.  My version does space and time, when it feels like it. I’m still working out the details and sorting out the bugs. It has a door, you can’t have it open all the time.  As yet, it doesn’t have a cat flap, which it probably needs.

All this is in the story I’m writing. It’s not a Thursday or a Sunday, so I won’t provide an excerpt today.  I did mention The Other Door last Sunday. I’m still finding out all the places it does go to. I’ll let you know when I find out.

IMG_1023

One exit, Miho Museum, Kyoto, Japan

More Frank

 Copyright notice.


4 Comments

Food Wrapped In Words

Take a look at your bookcase. If you had enough free time, which book would be the first one you’d like to reread? Why?

I’m just putting together this episode of my story.  It does fit into the challenge, I think. The book I want to reread next is the one I’m writing at the moment.  I’d love to see it on my bookshelf.  That does mean, of course, finishing it, rereading it a hundred times, finding an agent, a publisher and an audience.  I’d like to travel forward in time, re-read the thing and find out how it ends. That would just leave me with a lot of typing to do!

It’s Sunday….. time for…… franksmall1

The kebab shop is not there any more. It hasn’t been bombed, it just doesn’t do yeeros any more. It does smell pleasingly of fish and chips and it’s still open for business despite the blitz. I run back into the cafe and rummage in the till. The machine has obliged by stocking some coppers, shillings and a half crown. I go back over and get us two fish with chips. It’s almost the same guy behind the counter, except he’s not Greek any more . ‘Bloody zeppelins!’ he says ‘Third one this week. In the bloody daylight too!’  I nod. What can you do?

Back in the shop we eat our fish & chips, watched by Mr Russell, who’s just appeared, very interested . F&Cs always taste better from a newspaper and you can read the wrapper afterwards. I’d already guessed, but now I know. It’s 1915. The war has been going a year now. I feel slightly better now, it’s an English paper.

Frank doesn’t seem worried. He’s never had F&Cs, but they’re going down well. He’s entranced by the idea that food can be wrapped in words. He knows what words are, of course, but none of the magazines in the rack has ever turned into a plate.  Mr Russell’s content. He loves chips. For my part, I’m not content. It’s the wrong year and it’s the wrong place. We’re back in King St alright, but King St isn’t where it belongs.

wpid-img_20140530_110303.jpg

Tempus fugit

More Frank

 Copyright notice.