The Ambitious Drifter

Words, Images and The Occasional Noise


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The Affair of The Seven Notes

Stirred by the Discovery Prompt ‘Notes’ it was easy enough to recall a mysterious murder I was able to solve, with some small difficulty, last year.  I was spending a quiet few days in the historical town of Narbonne, in France. The inestimable Hotel de Paris has a singular check-in routine.  Check in is from 2.30pm, but the hard working staff take their rest between  1pm and 5pm. One is provided only with a code to the front door. Inside, I was led to expect, there’d be all the information I needed to make myself at home.

I let myself in and found 7 notes placed on the reception counter. Each one, I knew, contained a key and a message of welcome. I was the first to arrive. The hotel, small, but comfortable, was deserted. Next to reception was a satisfyingly spooky spiral staircase up to the rooms. I shall not divulge the names on the envelopes. It is far too recent for that.

I felt like Hercule Poirot…. I would not have been surprised to hear of a murder that night, probably in a room locked from the inside.

I did see my fellow tenants at breakfast the next day. Sadly they did not include a retired Major-General, a shifty guy & a young woman, an alluring woman of a certain age, or even an American millionaire (incognito).

The murder then, happened in my imagination… the setting is real.

When this plague is over, I will certainly return. It was a very enjoyable stay.PSX_20200423_203352


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The Hidden Man

Been a while since I put up any flash fiction. This was a response to a Faber Quickfic Challenge from some weeks back. The prompt was a photo of a child’s hobby horse discarded in a bin.  I got a bit Midsomer… for the fun of it. I might see if I can turn it into a proper story.

The Hidden Man

The morning after Michaelmas Night is never a pretty one, but this was the worst in living memory. There was a body, not the snoring kind you’d usually find in the pub car park, a dead one.     ‘Everyone’s a Mummer’ thought Sergeant Miles, ‘twenty seven people disguised in fancy dress, the Hidden Man and a Pantomime Horse.’ That was just the performers. Most people in the village brought along a hobby horse, most had flaming torches too. Now she was looking at a costumed man in blackface. Turned up his toes, as they say. No one was sure how he’d died yet. The local doctor, reputedly one half of the Horse, was yet to appear.

The identity of the dancers should not be revealed, that was the custom. Everybody knew it was Ron from the pub, his brother and a bunch of the other lads. Alright, round them up and get some statements. Oh yes, check who’s missing. There’s a dead Morris Man in the skip behind the mini-mart. We don’t know his name yet.

At least it was a man. In recent years there’d been Lady-Mummers, as the parish newsletter had delicately called them. Given the costumes, it hadn’t seemed to matter much. Someone muttered ‘No good will come of this!’ They’d been right. She guessed that the hobby horse was the murder weapon. It was not home made.   ‘At least’, thought the Sergeant, ‘I have an in’.

Her own village secret. She’d been the Hidden Man.

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The old bridge at Schowham, Morcestershire, UK.


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Where Do You Come From?

Some flash fiction for this week’s challenge. Thought up as I got my dinner ready. The essential question, ‘Where do you come from?’

The storm, they said, was a once every two hundred years one. But I don’t know how they count off the time. The tree had been through two at least, but this one had been too much. I heard it go over, through the walls and with my feet. It sounded closer than it was.  It was off in the woods, a bit up the road. In the morning it stood out like a missing tooth, a gap in the trees where the light came in. The council men were already there, it’d blocked off half the road. The tree had gone clutching a fist of soil, wrenching out a crater and toppling rocks down the hill.  They’d already sawed the trunk in half.  In the hole there were stones and bones. The police had just been called.

They arrived in a hurry, as you’d expect, but didn’t stay here long. This may have once been a murder, but it was not for them. They taped off the scene and warned us all, ‘no taking souvenirs now!’  They left slowly, disappointed I think. Some time later, a white van came. Archaeologists, I guess. I’d fought the urge to fossick, but I was curious. Besides, I’d been left on guard. My neighbours had better things to do.

I’d spent a quiet hour staring at his skull, as close as I could be without touching. The jaw was intact, there were lots of teeth. His lower half was still in the soil, bones sticking out from the crumbling hill. He’d slept by the tree for some five hundred years, maybe more, they said.

It’s beyond the houses, there isn’t much here, just the forest and the ancient road. It’s a pilgrims’ way, still used today. Before the saints came it was a Roman road, but I don’t think he’d be that old. There was not much to see really, it was all quite quick. He hadn’t been buried with anything much. The leather he’d been wearing, gone with the cloth, it’s too damp here for much to survive. There were no spears, swords or treasures, just the bones were left. Good teeth, they told me, he was probably not old, and yes, he had been a man.

I wondered, I still think now, why was he left out here? It’s twenty minutes to the centre of town, was he close as that, or had he just set out? I think he was a stranger, to be buried right out here. I’m sure he was a pilgrim, come from far away. There were no friends or family, that’s why he was resting here. It doesn’t matter now if he had made it to the shrine. He died on a pilgrim road, so his salvation was assured.

I dreamt of him several times, but it wasn’t with any fear. I think he’d had a pleasant face, maybe an honest smile. I wish we could have talked, but all I’d want to ask, is ‘Where do you come from?’ and listen to him speak.  I would not want to ask him  now  ‘Where are you going?’  It  doesn’t seem to matter after all this time.

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Forest road, La Curie, France.

More Fiction

 Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


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The Pie In The Sky

A Weekly Writing Challenge. 

This week I invite you to write about pie.

Flash fiction fresh out of the oven. Oh goody, no one’s used it yet….

I’m not sure when we all began calling it ‘the pie’, probably after our stupid media guy did his last interview. Management had hated it, the press had gone wild. Dull subject, great tagline.   ‘Yep’ he’d said ‘It’s just like a fly on a pie. We’re gonna land, penetrate the crust, scoop up a bit of what’s inside and go home.’     It was my line originally, but I’m not owning up to it. He’d wanted an analogy. You know what those are? Yeah, one of those. The probe was just a six hundred million dollar fly. There was a four mile wide pie hurtling past the Moon. Yep, they have a crust. We wanna know what’s in it. My bad, should have drawn a few more pictures for him.

The press were delighted. You can guess what came next. ‘Pie in the sky’. Alright, we now know that six hundred million dollars worth of pie could feed a lot of orphans for a long time. Somebody worked out the numbers. You’re ahead of me, aren’t you? Yep, they made a pie chart. Management again, not amused, especially the nameless ones that have to talk to the Senate Committee about the money.

It wasn’t all our money either. The Brits had put in a few pounds and a team of helpers with incomprehensible accents and  long sideburns. ‘We have finger in pie!’ screamed the Daily Morrow. Not much text, but a large photo of an undiscovered model called  ‘Miss Delia Honeypie’. The team at Nullborough University didn’t mind that at all. I gather she’s in line for an honorary doctorate if the probe gets home.

I was the one that had to front the angry mob, my bosses bosses bosses. I’d expected to be one of those fairly cute extras in a zombie film that gets eaten alive early on. It wasn’t that bad. It turned out that our rulers are practical people. They’d weathered great storms than this one.    ‘So what’s in it for us?’ they asked. Several people asked that in different ways. It was only the last of them that summed it up so succinctly. I’d got this worked out already.

‘It’s like  that Bruce Willis film.’ I said ‘Where he saves the world and all that.’ There was a sigh of relief. Of course, saved by popular culture.

‘Anyway, if we know what’s in these things, we’ll know what to do if one crashes into us.’ That went down well. ‘So we can blow up the pie, right?’ said someone who hadn’t said anything yet.     ‘I guess so’ I said, ‘if we armed a probe.’ They seemed disappointed, wasn’t that the right answer?      ‘Erm’ said someone ‘we can’t blow this one up?’ I explained. We don’t know what it’s made of, we haven’t got a bomb and no one would see it anyway. It’s the wrong side of the moon. Well that seemed to work.

All was good. The new media person was able to get a selfie with Bruce Willis. It turned out he was quite willing to help out his country by standing next to Miss Delia Honeypie. She’d cost us an airfare from London, but we got a lot of positive coverage. It’s all mathematics really. The less coverage she wore, the more coverage she got.

I stayed up for three days and nights trying to manoeuvre the probe onto the pie. Flies make it look really easy. Then again, this pie wasn’t just left out on the windowsill to cool down. It was zipping along at 34,058 miles an hour. Well about that. We made it up really. Anyway, we landed finally and I went off to bed. Team Krusty over at Nullborough could do the rest. Little Jack Horner had sat quietly in his corner for long enough. Time to put in the thumb. This was the proof of the pudding. See? I’ve been reading too many English newspapers.

I got about six hours of the well deserved and then the phone rang. I put in another two hours happy slumber and the damn thing rang again. Better see what’s happened. ‘Yeah, me’ I said, ‘What?’.       Well some good news. ‘You’ve won the sweep!’. We’d all put in suggestions as to what we’d find up there. ‘Giant carbon dioxide slurpee’ was generally expected to win. We’d all put in a few silly ones too. Hey, we’re scientists!

‘So?’ I said, trying to sound interested. ‘It’s a muddy icecube then? Water?’. There was a silence. Then one of those ‘erms’ that people say before the have to say things they really don’t want to say.  Another silence. ‘It’s a chocolate raisin!’. Oh not again. Mars had been bad enough, how could we cover this one up?  The universe is one big sweetshop. Still, I’d beaten Hoskins again. At least it wasn’t really a pie.

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From the International Pie Observatory. La Curie, France.

More fiction

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science’. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


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Sorry Is A Hard Word

Someone’s left you a voicemail message, but all you can make out are the last words: “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you months ago. Bye.” Who is it from, and what is this about?

A Daily Prompt

I played it back a few times, it wasn’t a voice I knew. After about the fifth time, I did know something though.  It wasn’t a voice I liked.  The message system was running fine, nothing had been missed. She was simply one of those people who picks up the phone and starts talking. ‘Wait for the beep’ I’d said… in English and bad French.Someone hadn’t waited.

I’m a creative type of guy, good imagination (some days). My mind did what minds do in this situation. It ran a gamut. That’s a gamut of emotions. Is there any other sort of gamut out there worth running?  My mind wandered. A flash of clear light, gamut…. en francais that’s ‘gamme’… a range.  Running a gamut and wandering off, that’s just like me.I’ve got a  whole range of emotions in no particular order.

So.

 It wasn’t my doctor, he’s French. I ruled out that particular aspect of bad news.  Was the news actually bad?  My caller’s voice hadn’t made that clear.  There was a slight impatience there, I could hear that.  There was also some kind of relief. This was something she’d finally been able to get off her chest. It was also something she’d meant to say a long time ago. It was almost boring for her now.    I’m being dumped?  I’m being dumped by a woman who’s voice I don’t recognise?  Well no wonder she dumped me. Maybe I’ve failed to get a job I can’t remember applying for. I wouldn’t hire me then, my memory is no good.

Was it good news, somewhat postponed? There’s always the Lotto, but I check my own numbers. It was all a puzzle, but I’d run out of gamut.  If I hadn’t been told months ago, then I didn’t need to be told today did I?   I ran a quick survey of the bleedin’ obvious for the ‘well duh!’ scenarios. Nope. She hadn’t told me, no one else  had told me either. I made amental note to look up gamut and promptly forgot about it.

A few days later I was down in the kitchen when I heard the sound of my own voice. Someone was talking over me. Ah yes. The answering machine, my ‘not at home’ speech. I didn’t quite dash, that’s not my style, but I got upstairs anyway. I’d recognised the voice. A successful lunge for the receiver, she was still there. ‘Hello?’ I said, friendly but questioning. Silence. Then about another half a silence, then a breath. ‘Oh’ said the voice ‘Wrong number, sorry. Bye!’.

Twice this woman has rung me up to tell me she’s sorry. I think it must be a quite  hard word for her to say. I’ll never know though, will I?

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My mind went blank. I was in a very dull place.

More Fiction

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science’. 

Mostly Frank

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A Perfect Crime

From a series of interviews with Mr A G Bell at the Queen Adelaide Sanatorium, New York State.

He speaks about the irony of his confession.

 Compiled and edited by Mr Latimer Naseby 

I have since been told that it was the perfect crime. Can you believe such a thing? The path of science is strewn with fatal mishaps. Indeed Icarus the victim is better known than Daedalus the inventor. How could I have caused this disaster? I was obviously working in my own small laboratory in the garden. The irony Sir, I was congratulated upon my luck at surviving! The evil of it still oppresses me. I know I must account for myself in the afterlife, madman or not. I must face those poor people at last.

I made my confession even as the blaze was being extinguished. Needless to say, this was met with great astonishment by the officers I spoke to. It was assumed that I had been driven temporarily insane by the tragedy. Some kindly souls understood that I felt responsible, as it was my experiment that had caused the fire. Even my very confession was seen as evidence of my madness. Could a killer do such a thing as this and then be so calm? I was placed in a hospital, but I was not under arrest. I did receive the first of many doses of tincture of laudanum. This, I believe did help me bear the burden of my crime. It was some years before the mass of it fully crushed my heart. I will never escape that weight now.

I am told I was eventually charged with multiple murder. I had kept a journal, my intentions, all my plans were laid out clearly. I am a meticulous man, as you may gather. I had even kept the receipts for the explosive chemicals I had ordered. I did not attend the court, I was in no fit state to do so. I have not seen the transcripts either, but the proceedings have been described to me. Scientists, some known to me, were called to testify that I had indeed planned the destruction of the college. Many of the chemicals I had used are not naturally explosive. The exact details of the electrical triggering mechanism were suppressed. There is one quote I remember, but it brings me no pride. ‘If this was not such an evil plan, it would have been a work of genius.’

As you see Sir, I gained fame and recognition of my work. It was not how I intended to be remembered. That I have lived so long is not a comfort to me. I believe it to be part of my punishment. I have grown so old as to be able to read about myself in history books. They are far too kind to me, much too innocent. My telephone would have been a success, I’m sure of that. I’m also sure it would have caused misery and disaster in the summer of 1863. I have read that many telegraph operators died or were injured in that terrible summer. How many more would have perished in their own homes, talking on my telephone? To think, Mr Naseby, I had planned for my wires to be brought right into churches and concert halls!

And yet, Sir, I remained a scentist. I know that my calculations are utilised on the Optical Telegraph. I thought about it, you know, when I was planning to kill my poor colleagues. At that time, every sight, every event had special meaning for me. I would walk  in the college gardens in the early dawn. I saw the beads of dew on the leaves and noticed how the new sunlight was refracted through them. I was being shown the path of light, even as I plunged further into the darkness.

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Daguerreotype, aftermath of the Boston explosion 1859.

Reproduced by the kind permission of the Royal Institute of Photography, Kandahar.

This is another excerpt of an ongoing fiction work ‘Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science’. I will be publishing new parts twice weekly.

Mostly Frank

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Dressing For All Hallows’ Eve

Some more flash fiction for the Daily Prompt.

A Walk On All Hallows’ Eve.

In the small town by the sea All Hallows’ Eve was a serious time. If you went out at all it was warmly dressed from head to toe. The old folk didn’t go at all, they’d seen it all before. There were some things best not seen, unless you wanted woe. The children were kept in that night, which just bred curious minds. Forbidden was too strong a word, discouraged seemed to be more apt. Then again there was a vague sense that this was a night to experience, when you were ready to see it. The folks you’d see out at that time were the curious, in all senses of the term. The mad, the strange and people who like to stare.

The year I was there they told me all this, as if it was something I’d need to know. I was an outsider after all, so I was bound to be that way inclined. A foreigner, a stranger, the word meant both things. I was not from so distant a place that I didn’t understand. Halloween was a custom in my town too. We had our own stories, but these were mostly history now. We had not seen witches for centuries. We remembered our dead at Armistice or Christmas.

The pubs were full of stories here and every bar had its own historian. History, stories, it’s the same thing really. History is just the tales you can believe. In this town the night was called  Samhain, a word from before the saints. The island was full of saints, their churches were everywhere. Still, they hadn’t banished this ancient name, maybe they’d given it power. I could never find out if the nineteenth century mystics had exhumed it, or if it had sat quietly there for centuries like the ancient stone rings, just waiting to be explained. I think that the night has always been known, but the old name may have been lost for a time.

They said it was the night when the Other World comes closest to our own. The barrier between them becomes opaque. The Dead, they said, leave this way, passing finally into the realm of the spirits. It does not mean that the living can stop grieving for them, but it’s the day the Dead stop grieving for themselves. What passes back that night is not explained, the living do not need to know. All we can understand is that the saints are out in force the next day. That is the day to visit our dead, but not the night before.

It was a strange still night when I went out with the young men from the pub. I knew it would be a cold night before I stepped out the door. I could sees a high clear moon through the smoky window. Outside I could see stars, more than I’d seen before from there. Even in the summer there’s nearly always a mist comes up from the sea at night.

It was supposed to be a walk home, back to my boarding house. It was a night for a stroll though, a fine night after a few pints. ‘We’ll go up here’ one of the young lads said ‘you’ll get a better view.’ Someone laughed. One said ‘No fear!’ but he came along with us anyway. It was up the side of the pub, heading to the crest of the hill.

I knew the place on the map, ‘Roidin an Phuca’ they call it. It’s almost certainly haunted, if you listen to any of the tales. The Pooka is there, but he is an old presence, much older than all of the saints. He was there before the men arrived, this night means nothing to him. His road is always open.  There was a fort up there once, but it’s just a name now. Only drunks and young men need to go that way at night. But up we went to see the view, to watch the moon light up the stones. Here and there, across the crags, there were odd reflections, rocks made shiny by wind and rain.

We turned to look back. Below us the town was just a glow, the presence of light without a light being seen. Out at sea there was the moon. It was a flat sea, rare enough round here. A line of light lay across the water, coming exactly our way. ‘There’s the path’ someone said. That was clear enough, I could see the road that the Dead went down, across the sea and off the edge of the world.

There was a wind coming up and it was getting sharper. Best be off home now, we all agreed. Down we stumbled past the pub, it was still lit up but quiet. There was no singing that night, no shouting either. All of us remembering in our own quiet thoughts, the ones we’d known who’d gone down that road before us.

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Ancient field walls, Aran Islands, Ireland.

More fiction….

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


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The Butterfly Keeper

The weekly writing challenge. 

In the Butterfly Effect, initial conditions that exist all play a part in happenings that progress around us. To describe its namesake example, the flap of a butterfly’s wings, one scientist proposed, could affect the course of a hurricane……             Scrawled as I warmed my pizza………………….

The Butterfly Keeper.

They say that every storm has its butterfly, something has to kick if off. Does everything that sweeps the air smash down a forest somewhere? There’s someone I can ask, not far from here. There are storms that never came, I’ve seen them in his room. He looks a lot younger than me, quite annoying really. Then again lots of people are like that these days. I don’t know where my days went.  He’s called a collector, but you must add keeper and killer to that. I’m not sure I really approve. He does it well though, impossible wings pinned in a glass case. It doesn’t look right to me. They’re not meant to be seen like this surely, nailed up that way.
‘What would happen if I opened the lid, pulled out the pin?’ I asked, pointing to a pair of airy illusions. His mood got darker, there was a storm within his eyes. Then he was fine. I must be careful with him, changeable weather this. His voice is flat, like he’s reciting something he’s known for a very long time.
Not that one, a tree in Walden Wood will crash, falling across the pond. It’s January frozen hard, it will stay that way till March. A man will come with a rope to take it before the thaw. Alas it will take him. He swims well enough, but the chill will only leave two day’s breath left in his lungs. He’ll be found on a Friday, his journal not complete.’
I was surprised. ‘Even now? If it ever gets free?’ I see he takes it seriously. ‘Most certainly, all my work would be undone That there next to it is the Great Fire of York, a lantern falls. Not the first fire, not the last, but it will kill a King. He must go on to Bosworth Field.’
Through his window I can see his garden, in the English style, rows of blooms and herbs. ‘The others,’ I said ‘do they get away? You cannot trap them all!’
No, that is the way of it. Some trees must fall to allow life to others.’ He intones this like a priest.
Who decides? I wonder to myself. But which of these creatures can bring death upon a harrowing wind? If I got a net myself, could I save a city or a hero? Maybe I’d pardon a tyrant to stay on his bloody path.
‘Not for us to judge’ he says, reading my thoughts, ‘I take what I can. Whatever is left must do its work.’

I leave him making labels, history that will not be. I hear the bees in the garden, watch the cabbage whites on their peaceful flights. Which of them, I wonder, is a whirlwind maker?

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Botantical Gardens, Amsterdam.

More fiction….

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


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The Man Who Listens To The Sea

It’s a Sunday, so time for a bit more fiction. Written yesterday. Naseby’s diaries are full of the stuff.

On Inishmore beyond the Back Fort I followed the coast, walking as close to the cliff edge as I dared. Today the sky seemed more fierce than the sea, it was an unrelenting blue. That water was an unexpected mirror, only moving gently as you looked closer at it. I passed a couple making love, lost in themselves on a ledge down below me. I’d seen these kids in Kilronan. Only the young could be so obliviously comfortable in that precarious space, Diarmuid and Gráinne on their flinty bed. They did not not see me and I did not stare.

Presently I heard a repetitive thud, it seemed to come through my feet. It was a muffled single drum or a far off cannon. I felt, but did not see, the cave of the blown spray. Poll an tSeideain, I found its name later and copied it down in my notebook. I knew it was there but dare not go closer. It is a great square hole chopped right through the cliff to the sea. Even on this quiet day, the water kept kicking away, a bored boy booting at the wall.

I met a man who sat at the edge of the cliff. He was not so close as to ever slip, but there was still a grand view. I sat with him for a while. He was not a man you’d notice much, old but not ancient, dressed plainly like many around here. You might have passed him in the street, not thinking to stop and talk. Out here though, almost alone, it seemed the thing to do. We both had our pipes so it seemed companionable to smoke. He told me he was listening to the ocean. It was,  more or less.  his life’s work.

He told me he could hear the long music of the waves, the slow measure as it crossed the sea. It was a myth, that seventh wave, the pattern was more complex. It was woven like a shawl and then draped around the rocks. ‘How long have you been here?’ I asked him. ‘Very long’ he said, ‘I saw them build the tower there, heard them heaving the stones for that great circle of walls.’

He said he had to ignore the voices of the birds, shallow and grasping things that rarely stopped to sing. I thought of the inland blackbirds, who seemed to broadcast joy. He told me he was hearing a storm off Newfoundland, the angle of waves hitting the coast told him where it was from.

There are great storms beneath the sea, behind this clean mirror a storm might rage. You’d never see it. Your boat could be taken with barely a ripple. He said he heard the old ships scrape as they were shoved and dragged by the deep tides. He could hear them slide inexorably down the slopes of the mountain that no man would ever climb. He’d heard the bell, St Gregory’s bell.

We parted with a wave and I set off overland, back across the fields to Cill Einne. I promised him a pint if our paths should cross in town. That night in the bar, I knew better than to ask if anyone knew of him, or indeed what his name was. I had not caught that. It was neither asked nor proffered. The tower that he pointed to is just a name in a field.

Later, as I came down the hill to my B&B I could see the sea, still peaceful in the evening light. Every now and then it shrugged, like a man might in a dream. I felt I knew a little more about it now, at least I could hear it breathe.

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Near the cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland. 

More fiction….

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

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A Journal Found

From the journal of Hepzibah Jamieson, electrician and scientist. Compiled and edited by Mr Latimer Naseby 

Tuesday 29th April 1851.

I spoke to a journalist today, it was the first time I’ve ever been interviewed for a public newspaper. I will confess, I began the meeting in somewhat of an ill-natured mood. I had taken against the woman as soon I had received her letter. It was only with IKB’s encouragement that I decided to meet her at all. I had formed the notion that she would want some item about fashion, or some other ‘ladies’ matter. I dreaded being asked the question ‘What is a fit and becoming hat for one to wear to view the Exhibition?’. My fears were soon allayed.
I make a note to myself, examine predjudices at all times, make no hasty decisions. Mrs Singh turned out to be an intelligent woman and I enjoyed our conversation. I am flattered to be included in her ‘Women of The Exhibition’ series. The talk was of neither gowns nor hats, nor even the gentler sciences such as medicine or horticulture. I was able to speak freely as an engineer and an electrician. But engineers are not all automata or speaking clocks. For her readers do enjoy what she called ‘the human interest angle’. Her question ‘What do you look forward to seeing most when the Exhibition opens?’ allowed me to show my own sense of excitement.
Of course, I’m looking forward to it all, who isn’t? I walked the halls as the exhibits were being mounted and saw the most fascinating things. I have no idea in some cases what they are. To be honest, I’m looking forward to seeing everything ‘new’, the future as it is being built. This did seem a bit of a wooly story for an engineer to be telling, so I mentioned a few specifics. I’d read of Dr Merryweather and his Tempest Prognosticator, I do not think it such an absurd idea. He purports to be able to foresee the advent of storms by observing the behaviour of leeches. My Dear Father used to tell me that his bees appeared to realise when it was about to rain. As to my own experiments, well it is time to leave off writing today. I am reminded that I should see to my hives at once!

Wednesday 30th April 1851.

A busy day, very tired in the evening. If we have sunny days, the panel will generate enough current to easily power the telegraph. IKB stopped by and was, as usual, very encouraging. What a fountain of ideas is that man! He suggested we could put a panel atop of every pole that carried the telegraph cable along the railway line. On a bright day we would have no need to connect the Leyden jars. He thought we should be looking closely at the storage of energy, because on a good day, we’d have power to spare. I resolved to put further effort into refining my capacitance device.

The great hall was the scene of much frantic energy, the air full of hammering, shouting and metallic screeches from new built machinery. The place smelled strongly of wet paint and hot mineral oil. I know that some people will be at work all night. I tried to find some peace and quiet in the plant displays, but the place was full of men hoisting palm trees into place. I wonder if anything will be ready at all!  I came back to my lodgings with a headache, the smell of turpentine still in my nostrils.

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 Detail, Rogerson’s Patent Atmospheric Solenoid Switch. 

This is another excerpt of an ongoing fiction work ‘Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science’. I will be publishing new parts twice weekly.

Mostly Frank

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