Tuesday, July 25, 2017

More Breaking Than Entering

I love exploring.

The black square of the open attic hatchway gazes down on me. It sighs cold air my way, frustrated to be stirred this early on a Sunday. The chilly breath finds its way down inside my shirt as I stand at the foot of the metal ladder.

I wonder what's up there?

Five minutes ago, I listen to the complaints of ageing glosswork as I apply leverage to the painted-shut hatch. The heavy screwdriver–discovered in a kitchen drawer, but too wide for any fixture I've come across–seems well-suited to the task. I twist its heavy handle, and the wooden frame flexes and begins to splinter; it looks like I’ll need to work my round the square, else I'll be doing more breaking than entering.

I wiggle the tool free, choose a new spot, and thump it into the sealed crack.

Back in the now, my shoulders covered with a dandruff of paint shards, I poke my head up into the attic. I can now hear the wind outside through the tiles, but no light makes it past them. And again, the cold strikes me, tho I detect no damp or moisture in the smell of the place. As I look about, unable to see anything beyond the few inches illuminated from below, I pick out the familiar odour of old newspapers.

So far, no surprises. Emboldened, I thump up a few more steps and stand, my hands tracing a circle around me as I search for an upright. I curse as my wrist finds one, and proceed to fumble up and down the treacherous sawn edges of the wood for a light switch.

My shredded fingertips find a control, and I flick it hopefully.

A conical lampshade lights up above an antique table in the centre of the attic. The light from the bulb is surprisingly clean and constant, and picks out tall piles of yellowing newspapers on all sides before being swallowed by the darkness. I can't see the corners of the room, but I know they're equally full of old newsprint.

Something sits at the centre of the table, but I can't make it out from over here. Intrigued, I step up and tread the old bare boards for the first time; they move beneath me, but are quiet. The newspapers slumber on as I amble over to the table, emerging into the circle of light. I expect the small, square table to be dusty. It's not; the dark lacquered wood could have been cleaned this morning.

In the middle of the immaculate table is a small box covered in lace. The decoration is delicate and intricate, a complex asymmetrical pattern that must have been tricky to weave.

None of this makes any sense.

As I pick up the shallow box–my hands bright in the overhead lamp's beam–the outside feels sticky to the touch. Dry, but sticky. I draw it closer, and see the faint seam of a lid, and feel hinges on its back edge. I flip the lid up. It's reluctant, and to my surprise the lace shell stretches across the opening.

I frown. It's not lace.

It's covered in cobwebs.

Instinctively, I drop the box, and the cobweb disintegrates as it hits the table. Something small and metal drops onto the lacquered surface, bouncing once.

I glance about, unnerved. The dark attic gazes back, indifferent.

The light flickers momentarily as I reach for the shiny object, and I snatch my hand back. I laugh quietly, chiding myself, tho my heart continues to pound.


I reach and pick the whistle from the table. It's slim and perhaps three inches long. I turn it over in my hand, seeking markings; there's nothing there, and no corrosion or blemish. And there's no room for a pea in it, like there would be in a sports whistle.

Is this a dog whistle?

I raise it to my lips and give it a blow.

It's silent.

I blow it again, harder this time.

And from the corners of the room, there is movement. Scratching replies, a faint tearing of thin newsprint, as many coordinated legs stretch and find purchase.

An arachnid scrabbling of creatures awakening, responding to my call.

No, not a dog whistle.

I love exploring.

But sometimes you have to leave places alone.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2014

Friday, July 21, 2017

An Outbreak of Sea Fever

I must go down to the bins again, to the lonely bins by the shed,
Where a genius friend nails sky-tall tasks, a foil hat on his head,
While an engineer with square and tape, his briar pipe inching smoke,
Sees badgers jape in tights and cape, hiding things they've broke.

I must call in on Abbey soon, and bring her back for tea,
With sausage rolls and über-eclairs, plus a slice of 'za for me,
While a big black bear, his pinkie raised, and an elephant in a coat,
Scold a scoundrel lion in stolen tie, as he shares an anecdote.

I must be lucky in this life, to be right here right now,
Surrounded by the best of folk, and never knowing how,
For all I ask is a comfy seat, and the company of good friends,
And all the pizza I can eat, until this fine day ends.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2017
With apologies to John Masefield (1878 – 1967)

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Thanking Clouds In Earnest

Ah, Summer. 

I love the Summer, but I think we had ours last week. A frantic five days of insane temperatures and humidity (for the UK, that is), and now we're back to wind and rain. Tho obviously, as the season dictates, the rain is lovely and warm. 

Here's some pics. (Give 'em a click for a closer view, it's worth it.)

And yes, new stories to follow soon, honest. 

A lovely view along Norton Common in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire. I used to live near here a few years back, and I don't think the sky has changed much since. Still, I'm loving the daisies. 

In fact, it turned very heavy and brooding as I wandered around town, peaking in this shot above one of the town's many churches. Not the prettiest edifice, to be sure. But a lovely contrast to the boiling sky. 

Better weather a few days later as I headed into Norfolk to see my good buds Zoe and Roses. I forget where this windmill is, but it posed beautifully, and didn't wave its arms about too much. It could have done with a lick of paint, mind, but I was on a schedule and didn't want to be late for dinner. 

Several months ago, I posted some nice shots of the red-leafed Virginia Creeper on Zoe's house. Between seasons, it returns to this. Not as beautiful, but very striking, especially against the red brickwork. Remember the triffids? 

I have a bit of a thing for wind turbines. I know a lot of folk don't, and perhaps I wouldn't want one on my doorstep, but they make for nice photographic subjects. 

This is the magnificent front elevation of Ely Cathedral. I spend a lot of time there these days with the frankly gorgeous Lisa; an evening walk round the town is something very special, especially with my beloved for company. I'd like to thank the clouds for their cooperation. 

Tick-Tock goes the Cathedral clock. A portion of the front elevation. The long lens did its job. 

The Octagon Tower at the rear of the Cathedral. It's really quite something, but sadly I'm too, erm, "muscular and manly"* to climb the tiny wee staircase to take in the view from its roof. 

[ * Not a euphemism for "fat". No way. *looks shifty* ]

The Cathedral does have a habit of looming from certain angles. This may be one of them. Beautiful, nonetheless. 

Closer to home, the River Ouse. The skies were having to chase me to keep up, mind. 

A slice of England. Enough said. 

To finish, perhaps nature's finest gentle creature, the humble cow. It's the eyes, I think? This one chewed cud contemplatively as I snapped it from the car. Just stood there. As soon as I pulled away, it returned to breakdancing. 

I'll get a shot of that next time.  


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Only Possible Under Sunshine

I'm in the middle of writing several new pieces that aren't quite ready to publish. Yes, not one, not two, but three. So, for now, I hope you'll enjoy joining me for a quick run-through of a weekend in Scotland. Beyond that, please be careful what you wish for.

These are what the boffins in Edinburgh call clouds.

As I crossed the border into Scotland, this rugged expanse invited me to the side of the road and asked - quite politely may I say - to be photographed. I was happy to comply. Blue sea in Scotland is a rare beast, as it is only possible under sunshine.

It then rained a lot, which felt more usual. However, the following day we drove north to Falkirk, a upwardly mobile city that has recently become home to The Kelpies, a pair of magnificent statues. I knew nothing about these, but they were gobsmackingly gorgeous.

But what is a Kelpie, Roth? I hear you ask. They're part of Scottish folklore, water spirits that take the form of horses. Traditionally, Kelpies are pretty unpleasant inhabitants of Scottish lochs, but these two lads (or ladies, perhaps) were quite charming. And, as you can see from the folk milling around their bases, pretty darned huge.

Each statue is an empty shell, with a superstructure supporting an array of irregular metal plates. The photos don't do these justice, as the musculature and motion of the Kelpie is suggested magnificently as you move around them.

Actually, now I come to look closer, the lad on the left looks pretty judgmental from some angles, verging on downright grumpy. But for his friend, the sky beckons the way to freedom.

Close detail of the the irregular metal plates. These are currently a year old, clean and free of damage. How these survive over time will be interesting. And as someone with no head for heights, I'm glad I won't be cleaning them.

Detail of the manes from the rear of the pair. Absolutely gorgeous design and execution are obvious from any angle, and well worth the long drive north to see them!

Okay, that's enough of the mythical loch-horses. This is a random field on the way to Aberfoyle on the edge of The Trossachs National Park. The skies were kind to us.

A wee mountain (with snow, if you looks closely) further along the same road, near a village called Ruskie. Nope, I'm not making this up.

Deeper into the Trossachs, north of Aberfoyle, we randomly turned into a long loop that promised great views and a few lochs. It did not disappoint. Again, the weather held out, and made these beautiful long views possible.

This is Loch Drunkie! There's nothing for miles in any direction. I suspect this is as close as I'll get to the Canadian wilderness without getting on an aeroplane.

And this is Loch Achray.

The locals were pretty laconic. Here, a Scottish teenager sits and grumbles about how unfair his life is, and wonders why he was born with horns.

My hosts, Gabrielle and Alistair. Lovely, lovely people. Thank you!

And this is the view from their beautiful home. I've posted pics of this before, but I loved the colours here. The sheep were indoors playing cards, I'm told. Most likely with badgers.

Are there badgers in Scotland? There are indeed. But, as they used to say on Tales of the Riverbank, that's another story.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tapping a Deep Rich Vein

I have no idea why I'm here.

It's Saturday afternoon. The crowds in the outdoor shopping centre are surprisingly heavy, perhaps summoned to spend by the sun on their skin; there's thoughts of summer and dreams of holidays here.

The shoe shops are tapping a deep, rich vein.

I have no idea how I came to stop in this town today, or why I'm standing here now in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, watching folk passing obliviously to either side; I'm not drawn to crowds, and tend to do all my shopping online.

Unlike the crowds, I'm not here to consume.

It occurs to me that I've not been to this town in a very long time. There's no regret in the thought; I rarely do regrets. It's just an acknowledgement that my own time and tide has held my attention elsewhere.

There is certainly a sense in me that I've been away for a while.

I started writing again a few weeks ago after a long hiatus; it felt like it was Time again. I'd long since abandoned any search for my creative Mojo, content for it to head back home when it was good and ready. 

And when it did, unrepentant and mischievously grinning, it wasn't alone.

I now find myself reading the old comic books that inspired me to draw as a kid. I'm surprised to find the same feeling in them, to the point of picking up bristol board and pens with thoughts about line and form and black-and-white storytelling. I even caught myself buying paint and canvasses when I have no great inclination or talent with either.

I'm dreaming.

And standing here right now, there's even something inspiring about the crowds around me; the colours, the sounds, the energy, the atmosphere. I may not be here to consume, but I'm soaking it all up. The sun isn't hurting either; it's great to feel it on my face and in my blood.

But why am I here today?

I have no clue, but that's okay.

I set my eyes on a distant landmark, step into the crowd, and move forward against the tide.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

More Relaxed Than I Thought

I know, I know. After months of silence, I've written two blog entries in a week.

There's pizza at stake. Yes, this is serious.

The water always brings me home.

I sigh as I ease myself into the hot bath water.

This is a reward, and frankly I could do with a few more of those.

As the heat washes over me, it occurs to me that my hectic life offers little by way of solitude. What with the constant companionship of manic badgers, a necktie-stealing lion and my indefinable best friend Max Tunguska, a soak in the tub may be the closest I get to being alone in an average week*. Or relaxed, even.

[ * Well, let's call it ten days. Hey, I shower too. ]

And it is relaxing in here. The bathroom is very plain, fully tiled in white with a polished wood floor, and is brightly lit with diffuse overhead panels. I've often thought it has a surgical, almost sterile quality to it**. I did think once about killing the lights, and dragging some candles and a boombox in here for some "salle de bain" ambiance, but on the whole it's just my vertebrae and muscles that need the attention.  

** Stanley Kubrick filmed here once, I'm told. ]

The old-fashioned claw-footed ceramic bath - sat squarely in the centre of the room - isn't quite as long as I'd like (one of the few disadvantages of my height), but the water is hot and deep and I can feel warm relaxation oozing through my body.

Time passes.

A bubble breaks the surface of the bath somewhere between my raised knees.

And then another.

This is not unusual when I bathe, tho clearly I'm more relaxed than I thought.

But then a stream of bubbles starts to rise from the water. I sit up slowly, experiencing an odd mixture of alarm and curiosity, as the flow becomes more determined. Wow, it's getting pretty strong. In fact, I'm being lifted from the bottom of the bath by the updraft! Instinct hurls me splashily over the side in an indecorous pink streak.

Then things move quickly.

Two black furred hands appear on the edge of the tub, and a black-and-white figure in a brightly coloured wetsuit hauls himself up to stand where his hands had been a moment before. It's Hoth, short and heroic in a Douglas Fairbanks kind-of-way. The boy badger reaches in to start hauling something upwards.

At the same time, a second - and very similar - figure vaults over the side of the bath and lands with a splash. Sollust turns immediately to assist with the unloading of what Hoth is lugging upwards. Good grief, it's an old pirate chest! As the pair start to manoeuvre it towards the floor, a suckered tentacle breaks the surface and surges upwards in a spray of seawater. The limb is long, thick and muscular; the body it's connected to must be vast! It glistens and flexes as it explores keenly around the tub, reaching and searching for something.

Without warning, a third figure rides heroically into view on a second tentacle, a shorter badger in the same bright garb, and wielding what seems to be a very heavy baseball bat. It's Dantoo. She leaps clear of the creature and begins to set about its thrashing limbs with obvious vigour, beating them away from her brothers as one of its tentacles finds my arm and snakes round it.

I scream in shock and terror.

All three badgers freeze, and turn to look at me; they hadn't realised I was here. Even the tentacles pause, confused. After an achingly-long second, the three of them nod me a trio of salutes, and return enthusiastically to their treasure-hunting tasks.

Hoth hops down from the bath to join his brother, and the pair of them drag the chest out through the now-open door, trailing seawater behind them. At the same time, Dantoo's bashing of the tentacles goes up a gear, and after a monumental blow that would have sent any ball clear out of the park - that kid is strong, I tell you - both limbs whip back into the water.

The girl badger hands me a large fluffy towel and races out the door, slamming it behind her.

Time passes.

I peer into the tub cautiously, but see nothing but bathwater. I can't help but stand back to examine under it for a moment. Yes, the clawed feet hold the base of the tub some six inches above the floor.

I sigh wearily. This makes no sense but - once again - I'm experiencing it.

I bet Max has got something to do with it.

My heart is still pounding, but there's a sense that the moment of peril has passed. Casting the towel aside, I slip back into the hot water. It's exactly as I remember it.

And in a minute, I'm dozing off.

The water brings me home, and I guess I'm not the only one.

I close my eyes and enjoy the solitude.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Results are Generally Positive

This entry is dedicated to my friend Lisa Chapman, who has pleasantly "encouraged" me (and ultimately bribed me) to write something new. It's been a while. Thanks Lisa!

One of the prime delights of a warm Spring day is a sit in the garden.

You know how it is: a new season, fresh air, sunshine, birdsong, and the chance to think problems through without the four walls peering over your shoulder.

All things are possible.

And so it is today.

In fact, I'm mulling over a very interesting problem right now, tho somewhat sleepily.

I'm in a recliner under the big oak tree in the back garden, enjoying the scent of blossom in the shade of noon. My eyes are closed; this helps my concentration*. Tiny motes of warm sunlight dance lazily behind my eyelids as the tree moves in the light breeze.

[ * Allegedly. It certainly helps me focus when trying to nap. ]

I sigh and embrace the moment as my mind turns the problem over...

A light tickle on my knee results in a gentle twitch from me as my ancestral memory-of-a-tail flicks a fly away. A second tickle and a stifled giggle a few moments later raises my head from the recliner as my eyes open.

My first glance takes in blonde hair, a bright dress, and a big smile.

Hey Abbey, I say, as my own smile trots into view. It's okay, I wasn't asleep.

Oh, I know, says my neighbour easily, stooping for a moment to admire the snowdrop and crocuses around the tree. I'm sorry to disturb you, tho; I could see you were thinking. This sounds like teasing, but I know she's not joking. I idly wonder what colour my aura was a moment ago?

Oh, to see ourselves as others see us, I sigh. She beams at this misquote of Burns. I move my shoulders to wake the muscles up and then meet her eye. What's up?

I was hoping I might ask a favour, she says. I nod and make an affirmative noise. Would you mind picking us up from town later? She clasps her hands together in an endearing fashion. Around four o'clock, please?

I frown; this might be a problem. But I juggle a handful of tasks and priorities in my head, and the results are generally positive.

Not a problem, I say, I have one big task to do this afternoon, but I'll be done in plenty of time. 

The problem is hanging over me, but I'm pretty sure I can sort it.

You’re sure? she asks, running her hands through her hair lightly. My mind hiccups, but I recover magnificently.

Yes, it's to do with the car, but the lads will be helping me. She nods, juggling her own thoughts; Hoth and Sollust are very competent young engineers, but she knows the boy badgers are easily distracted. It'll be fine, I reassure her. Anyway, who's "us"?

Oh, Dantoo and I, she replies, glancing back at the house. I've promised her a look at some lovely old folklore books in the University library.

Folklore? I'm intrigued. But before I can ask, Dantoo comes out of the open back door. The young girl badger strolls up from the house, carefully carrying a glass of what looks like lemon fizz. This takes a while; her black-and-white legs are only little. She presents me with the drink with a smile and raises an eyebrow.

Thanks, I say, sipping. It's sharp and cold, perfect for the day. Mmmm, that's perfect. She nods happily, and turns to tug at the hem of Abbey's print dress. As my neighbour looks down, Dantoo points at her wristwatch, a chunky thing in pastel plastic. A tilt of her head indicates the question.

Abbey nods. Yes, Indigo will pick us up at four from the library. Do you know where your brothers are?

Dantoo indicates with a looping wave towards the house and a wild flourish that the duo are doing something indeterminate but worrying in the front garden.

Abbey and the youngster step closer. I receive a peck on the cheek from the pair of them, and they head off. I'll send the boys your way, calls Abbey over her shoulder. Have fun!

A moment later I'm left with my own thoughts in the garden.

I take another sip of the drink; it really is perfect. And then, settling into the recliner again, I turn my mind back to the problem.

But instead of closing my eyes, this time I stare up into the high branches of the oak and regard the problem directly.

I have no idea how Hoth and Sollust managed to get my car up in this tree, but I hope they have a plan to retrieve it that involves neither a saw nor explosives.

I sigh.

Yes, all things are possible.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2015