The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 5

Sir John, Marie, and Lord Hollingbury sat in a snug in the Cock and Bull with a view overlooking the harbour and a small collection of fish themed horsebrasses. Lord Hollingbury was sipping his second double whisky, Marie had a glass from the only wine bottle in the pub, and Sir John had a pint of ale which was going cold. Marie’s wine glass was some distance away from her. When she had taken a sip of the wine she had said some words that Sir John didn’t know she knew.

SS Ch 5“*&!% ç*#&!”

“So,” said Lord Hollingbury, “did anything seem out of the ordinary in that church.”

“I have to confess,” said Sir John, “that I have no idea what you regard as ordinary.”

Lord Hollingbury pulled a small moue.

“Yes, you have a point,” he said. “Well did anything seem out of ordinary to you then?”

“The decoration was bizarre, the vicar was deranged, and the atmosphere was oppressive. There were motifs that I’ve seen in no church before, even some of the more esoteric ones.” said Sir John.

“Strangely, we’re in agreement,” said Lord Hollingbury,” perhaps it’s the scotch. Mrs Jennings, as an etranger, what was your view of the strange place.”

“It is nothing like I have seen either, and there was something … some energy or some feeling I cannot describe,” said Marie.

“Do go on,” said Lord Hollingbury, “I suspect at the end of that marginally incoherent sentence is something rather interesting.”

“Do you mind!” said Sir John. “That’s my wife you’re talking to.”

Lord Hollingbury smiled.

“Sir John, with the greatest possible respect, I’m fairly certain that if Mrs Jennings were in any way offended she could make me drop my trousers and walk down the promenade singing loudly and get me to thank her afterwards.”

“That sounds like the sort of thing you’d do anyway,” said Sir John.

Touché,” said Lord Hollingbury.

Messieurs,” said Marie in exasperation, “let me think. There was something there. Something I haven’t felt before. Every creature is a little different you know, has a different … pattern or … feel to it. A … a gargoyle doesn’t feel like a pookah, say. But this … this was more different than anything. Like a different sort of mind.”

“Something different even from the paranormal creatures?” said Lord Hollingbury. “What might that be?”

“I can answer that,” said a man with unkempt white hair who suddenly sat down at their table. They all looked at him.

“What was the question?” he asked.

“Is everyone in this town some kind of lunatic?” said Sir John.

“I rather think they are,” said Lord Hollingbury. “It’s starting to endear the place to me.”

“I’m not mad,” said the man. “I can answer your question because I’ve lived here all my born days. So I can answer any question. I see you, all huddled up, you’ve seen something and you want to know more. Well I can help, see.”

“That’s very noble,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Is this desire to help driven by some inexplicable civic pride or is there some ulterior motive?”

“I’m sure the gentleman is just keen to assist,” said Sir John irritably. “Not everyone has a hidden agenda.”

“Indeed, I don’t have a hidden agenda,” said the man and pushed an empty whisky glass in front of him.

“Oh Sir John,” said Lord Hollingbury, “ever the innocent.”

A bottle of whisky was procured for the table, glasses filled and the man began his tale.

“See, like I say, I been here all my life. My name’s William Joseph, and I tend to the lighthouse. My father did the job before me and my grandfather before him. So this place is in my blood, And good blood it is, too. You know this place had a reputation for long life. Well that were true. My grandfather was 130 when he died and was fit as an ox to the last day. And do you know why?”

“He was an inveterate liar?” said Lord Hollingbury. The lighthouse keeper looked shocked when a hand landed on his shoulder.

“Come on Bill, time to stop getting drinks from the visitors in exchange for tall stories.”

The pub landlord beamed down at the quartet and looked at Bill Joseph.

“There’s a game of cribbage going in the corner, why don’t you go and join that instead.”

Bill Joseph got up grumbling and wandered over to the where the landlord pointed.

“Sorry about that,” said the landlord. “Nice chap but a bit do-lally.”

“Well, we seem to be running short of leads here,” said Lord Hollingbury, who then looked at the bottle of scotch he had bought. “As well as drinks.”

“Actually,” said Sir John, “I think I have an idea. Marie, we need to send a telegram home.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 6

WH Rugbinder: A Biography

Tea Fiend“Can there be any greater depravity?” WH Rugbinder

Many remember Victorian writer Wilberforce Horacio Rugbinder for his classic text on contemporary mores, The Multitudinous Vile Sins of the Working Class That Will Cause Them to Burn In Hell. At the time it was considered a well-meaning and insightful account of the slum life in Victorian London, although by modern readers it is regarded as a little prudish and judgemental. In particular, the forthright and voluminous chapters condemning the practice of having a day off from work are seen as contrary to modern thinking. However, few people know that WH Rugbinder published other works on moral topics too. This little article hopes to correct that situation.

WH Rugbinder was born to a middle-class family in the borough of Ealing. After an unremarkable schooling where he made few friends, he entered a seminary in the hope of becoming a priest. Unfortunately, this was not to be as Rugbinder clashed with his teachers on a number of theological points. In particular, they objected to his assertion that not just the priesthood but the laity, should be celibate. Leaving the church unfulfilled, he spent time in London to understand first hand the problems caused by sinning. His first attempt at a book, Diary of a Tea Fiend, relates in a semi-fictious way the descent into debauched existence that befalls a young fellow who becomes obsessed with tea drinking. After losing, in short succession, his wife, his livelihood, and the good opinion of his family, he ends up drowning in a bath filled with Oolong. This remarkable book was self published at no small cost and sold almost ten copies.

Rugbinder then went on to confront another beverage related evil in the form of coffee. This time he took a wider view and interviewed a multitude of “coffee pot heads” as he called them. His analysis and conclusions were again self published in a luxurious leather-bound book with gold leafed lettering on the cover. Unfortunately, this was to be a terrible error as the cost of each copy of The Tyrannical Evil of the Foul Plant Known as Coffee, its Effects on Diverse Patrons of Coffee Shops in London, and the Inevitable Decline of Morality that Accompanies Drinking It was to far outweigh the cover price and so nearly bankrupted Rugbinder.

It was this experience of extreme poverty that was to force Rugbinder to live in the poorest parts of London and to lead to his final tome, which was his most popular in terms of sales. Unfortunately word of the contents reached his neighbours and Rugbinder was forced to flee London. His final attempt at a book, The Comfort of Solitude was uncompleted. He left behind no family, children, or indeed, friends.


With thanks to Breaking the Glass Slipper for inspirational twitter chat…

And to Angela McFall for the lovely tea service

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 4

“This is hardly typical church material,” said Sir John looking at the inside of the holy building.

The walls were a deep azure and baize green. Complex, sinister murals adorned them at every angle, showing bizarre aquatic imagery. Here, a deep sea fish, its baleful eyes regarding the world with disdain. There, a many tentacled creature holding a collection of strange, unworldly objects. Above, on the ceiling, was a mosaic of stars, arranged in a form like no constellation man had seen. At its apex, a gibbous moon hung proud and sinister. The altar was similarly peculiar, draped with fish nets and lobster pots, buoys and rods. Behind the altar was a man, arms outstretched but on a boat, not a cross. Seahorses, lobsters, dolphins and jellyfish all leaped towards him. Above his head a triangle hung in space with one eye staring unblinking into the world.

Aquatic 1“Strange Feeling”

“Is this one of those modern churches?” said Lord Hollingbury. “The ones where they do a lot of singing and dancing?”

“I don’t believe so,” said Sir John. “I have no idea what this is at all. Marie, does it seem … normal?”

“To my eyes not at all,” said Marie, “but I feel no magic. Or, rather, no magic I recognise. There is … something … some strange feeling.”

“It’s probably a natural reaction to the colour scheme,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I have to concur, I see a whole lot of strange, even for me, but nothing I recognise.”

“Well, what is it all about?” said Sir John.

“Jesus!” came a loud voice from behind them. They turned round to see an older man, wild hair, disheveled beard and manic eyes walking towards them. He was dressed in black with a tired looking dog collar.

“He was a fisher … of men,” continued the vicar. “He would have understood. He would have seen these paintings and statues and known what they meant.”

The vicar had drawn up to the trio now.

“Not like a bunch of land-lubbers and city dwellers,” he finished and glared at them all.

“Rev Philips, I suppose,” said Sir John.

“You suppose a lot,” snapped the vicar. “You suppose a lot indeed, but in this case you are correct.”

“We were sorry to ‘ear about Mr Wombly,” said Marie. The vicar’s head snapped round to look at her.

“He were a good man, they all were.” he said. “They will return. Oh yes, they will return at the resurrection.”

“So the church is primarily for fisherfolk?” said Lord Hollingbury. “Hence the, er, remarkable decoration.”

“Our parish is the sea,” said Reverend Phillips. “Our flock is a shoal. We tend to the fisherfolk as our patron saint would want it.”

“Who is that?” said Sir John.

“Saint Zyggryk” said the vicar.

“Polish? Hungarian?” said Lord Hollingbury. The vicar just glared at him.

“What are you all here for anyway?” he asked. “This is a place of worship, not a holiday home.”

“You’re in this guide to the town,” said Sir John, showing the vicar. He snatched the guide away and read it quickly, his lips twitching as he did.

“Them new folk,” he said half to himself then handed the guide back to Sir John. “You don’t want to believe everything you read.”

“Unless it’s in the Bible,” said Lord Hollingbury cheerily. He was rewarded with a glare.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” he said pointing to the door, “but I have to prepare for a service.”

The trio took their cue to leave and the vicar watched until they had walked down the street before closing the door.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 5

The Omega Device

Recently one of our household devices decided to “give up the ghost” and break down on us. It was rather a nuisance as, despite our obvious literary success, we have no Miss Henderson to step in when things go wrong (or indeed get violent). So the errant appliance was despatched to be repaired. On its return we were rather surprised to discover the faulty component had been left inside. Once past our initial shock, we looked at the object in question with eyes of writers and artists….

It needs a few gears I suspect, some paint perchance, but I think you can expect to see this appear in a story in the not too distant future. But what, we wonder, will it be?

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 3

The mournful foghorn sound carried over the bay to the small harbour whilst the beam from the lighthouse pulsed in counterpoint. The clinking of ropes on masts and the groaning of hull wood issued from the boats, barely visible in the fog. One final sound completed the symphony of Sunnyport Harbour:

“Come see the picturesque port,” said a man’s voice, dripping with sarcasm, “for a glimpse back in time to a gentler world.”

Mon cher,” said a woman, “please.”

“The only glimpse back in time here is to the primordial soup!” said Sir John, emerging from the fog and clutching a leaflet. “Enjoy the view; an artist’s paradise.”

The couple reached the edge of the harbour and looked across to the lighthouse, barely visible in the smog.

foggy faros“The Holiday?”

“You know it’s not too far to get home,” said Sir John. “Half a day most. We could be sipping brandy and eating biscuits by tea time.”

Marie smiled and put her head on her husband’s shoulder.

“But mon cher,” she said, “you know how it is. There’s no peace there. Mr Bosch would come by with some invention that would break and make a mess. Miss Henderson would come in and roll her eyes at the mess. Morag would need walking and someone to go with her, so she wasn’t caught as a stray. Then Inspector Symonds would come round with another case to see if there was a supernatural influence. There wouldn’t be, but he and Miss Henderson would exchange meaningful glances.”

“Inspector Symonds and Miss Henderson?” said Sir John. “Are they sweet on each other?”

Marie smiled and nodded.

“But he’s so…” started Sir John. “And she’s so…”

“Indeed,” said Marie, “that is the way of the heart.”

“I suppose you’re right,” said Sir John. “And at least it isn’t raining. It could be worse.”

“Aha!” called an aristocratic voice. “Just out for a little walk are we, by the harbour?”

“And now it is worse,” said Sir John.

Lord Hollingbury emerged from the mist.

“That’s a curious coincidence for two people who, and I quote, aren’t investigating the disappearances.”

“It was in the tourist brochure,” said Sir John, “although having visited the harbour, the disappearances seem a little less mysterious to me.”

“We heard about Mr Wombly,” said Marie.

“Yes, it seems the old drunk was swallowed by the drink,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Seems rather ironic.”

“Apparently he was a reformed man,” said Sir John. “I don’t imagine you know what that means.”

“Someone that was dull because they drank who became duller because they didn’t, I would say,” said Lord Hollingbury. “But I’m impressed, I hadn’t heard that story. You’re ‘not investigating’ is really yielding results.”

“Why are you investigating?” said Marie.

“Well, lets just say there was an embarrassing situation back home in Brighton. I thought it would be best for all concerned if I was out of town for a few days. The nunnery in question was asking awkward questions in public.”

“So you came here…” said Marie.

“And was thoroughly bored. I was forced to drink all day to cope. Then I found out about these disappearances and suddenly I had something to do. To complement the drinking all day.”

“These are human beings,” said Sir John, “It’s undignified to be so flippant.”

“Sir Jennings,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Being undignified and flippant is a way of life for me. It’s in my nature.”

There was a silence as both men looked at each other.

“Lord Hollingbury,” said Marie. “You remember what I am?”

“Yes,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“So imagine what is in my nature.”

There was a small rise in temperature, an imperceptible change of light.

“Forgive me madam, sir,” said Lord Hollingbury. “My manners are sorely lacking,”

“Apology accepted,” said Sir John, who didn’t look like he meant it.

“So, as you are not investigating and I am, tell me how the sot Mr Wombly became a sober member of society.”

“Apparently it was Rev Phillips church,” said Sir John, “if that makes any sense to you.”

“Oh yes,” said Lord Hollingbury, “that makes a lot of sense to me. I keep hearing about this church. I would rather suggest we visit. It seems to be connected to more than one disappearance.”

“Good idea,” said Sir John.

Mon cher,” said Marie, “the holiday?”

“Well the church is on all those awful tourist guides,” said Lord Hollingbury. “So you could call it sightseeing. Look, I’d go alone, but I have a morbid fear of churches.”

“Why is that?” said Sir John.

Lord Hollingbury pursed his lips and looked at Sir John.

“Well I’m hardly typical church material,” he said.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 4

The Benthic Bookshelf

19c Kindle19th Century Kindle

Dear Readers

A few new and interesting literary efforts have come to my attention of late. I thought I might share them with you, lest you have missed them, along with my own thoughts on the topic.

Last Days of New Paris

When one is writing a novel set in Paris (as you do), one naturally feels drawn to reading books on this most wondrous city. This book though… this is the Paris of the imagination. I’ve always enjoyed Mr Mieville’s ouevre-hopping efforts, but this is something special. Surrealist dream creatures fight Nazi nightmares while an American magician-scientist heads for the city. It mixes real and fictional events and people seamlessly and could almost be Magic Surrealism.


I have to confess to being only a handful of pages into Mr Vandermeer’s latest wonderbook, but already I am entranced, intrigued and a tiny bit scared. I devoured the Southern Reach Trilogy, enamoured with its spooky, dislocated feel and so was pleased as punch to see this book arrive on the virtual shelves. All being well, I shall sit on the terrace this very evening and read this with relish.


From Skizz, and Halo Jones, through V for Vendetta and Watchmen, The Extraordinary Gentlemen and Unearthing, I feel like Mr Moore has always been part of my literary life. I believe, in the parlance of the young people, that Alan Moore does, indeed, know the score. So when he unleashed on the world a million-word behemoth I knew I should purchase it. I’m approaching this book in the same way a runner may approach a marathon. Little by little we shall get to the end. I am accordingly ten percent through (an amount of words that I would be perfectly pleased to call a novel) and relishing in the deep, rich stew of language that is being served.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

As yet unread, this sits and stares at me and demands I attend to it soon. I have long been an avid reader of tomes on human consciousness and, as this blog attests, have an interested in cephalopods. This book then is almost too perfect. In fact, I would pay good money for the cover alone.

Well that is all I wished to share with you. Hopefully I may have brought you some new bibliographic delights. And whilst it shames me to do this, I would feel remiss if I didn’t remind you that our own literary effort is loose in the world. I hope you have a marvellous weekend with some excellent reading material.

Well, Hello Sir!

This charming chappy came to visit us today. He was around the size of a gentleman’s thumb.


With his handlebar mandibles and waistcoat wings, he really does look smashing!

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 2

“Insufferable, pompous, arrogant, debauched idiot,” muttered Sir John as he sat in the breakfast room of the Shalimar.

“Are you still going on about Lord Hollingbury?” said Marie.

“Well of all the nerve,” said Sir John.

“Can I get you tea or orange juice,” said Mrs Pimplenick, landlady of the bed and breakfast.

“Do you ‘ave any coffee?” asked Marie. Mrs Pimplenick looked aghast.

“We have tea,” she said.

“Can I get tea and orange juice,” asked Sir John.

“It’s one or the other,” said Mrs Pimplenick in exasperation, pointing at a small menu on the table.

“Two teas then,” said Sir John. “For a change.”

Chapter Two“Two teas.”

A man came into the breakfast room wearing overalls. He carried a large box which had the warm odour of smoked mackerel.

“Here you go Mrs P,” said the man. “This month’s delivery.”

Mrs Pimplenick looked put out.

“This should really be delivered via the tradesmens entrance,” she said, suddenly acquiring the diction of a minor royal.

“Its bloomin’ heavy though,” said the man as Mrs Pimplenick rolled her eyes.

“There’s been another one you know,” he said.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said Mrs Pimplenick, trying to indicate Sir John and Marie by a tilting of her head. The gesture seemed to go unnoticed as the man continued.

“Another disappearance Mrs P,” he said, “another fisherman who didn’t come home. That’s the third this month. Mr Wombly this time.”

The landlady made a snorting noise and her accent descended several social strata.

“We’ll they’ll be mourning that loss in the Cock and Bull,” she said. “He never seemed to be out of there. I’m surprised he lasted this long.”

“That’s not true anymore,” said the delivery man. “He is, well he was, a reformed character. Went to that new church that Rev Phillips runs. He got right off the booze and on the straight and narrow. Tragedy is what it is.”

“Excuse,” said Sir John. “What disappearances are these?”

The delivery man turned round and saw the Jennings for the first time. He face dropped in shock.

“Oh, oh, its nothing,” the delivery man said. “Just some local gossip.”

Mrs Pimplenick walked off shaking her head and carrying the large box of mackerel easily in her large arms.  When she reached the kitchen the man leaned over the Jennings.

“But the gossip is there’s something not right about the water. Ever since they made that promenade, people have been disappearing. Fisherfolk and the like. All locals, never the tourists. Which is just as well as people here don’t want it getting out. Bad for business see. Don’t tell anyone I told you.”

At this the man left, looking about himself as he did.

“That must be what that lunatic was talking about yesterday,” said Sir John. “Something wrong with the water eh, maybe…”

Mon cher,” said Marie, “we are supposed to be ‘aving a holiday.”

Just then Mrs Pimplenick returned with two cups and a teapot.

“I’m afraid I’m out of milk,” she said, “so you’ll have to have it black. Also the sugar doesn’t come until Tuesday.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 3

Thanks For Dropping By…

Thanks for coming…you’re welcome…come by again…

Yes, sadly The Benthic Week is all over. There has been laughter and tears, music and dancing and an overconsumption of jelly (or jell-o if you will). But, we are stacking the chairs, sweeping the floors and handing out goodie bags (1 slice of cake, 1 plastic octopus, some wakame flavoured sweets and a “Clackprattle and Pook” colouring book).

Normal service, such as it is, will now resume. Stories will be back to Tuesday and our usual posts on a plethora of topics will be at the weekend.

We only have time to leave you with two more things. We are now fully into the modern way of things by having joined something called Twitter @thebenthictimes

And finally, a lovely combination of shops I discovered round the corner from our new house. One featuring a painting of an octopus and the next with the sign “Be unique”. I could barely think of anything more Benthic. (With the possible exception of this book of course…)



Be Unique

Have a wonderful weekend!

Only Howarth Kids Remember This

%22You Serpent!%22“Like if you remember one of these, share if you used one”

So over on the nightmare of horrors that is Farcebook, we are enjoying having retro pictures from Benthic Times past. You weren’t aware we had a Facebook page? Oh yes, we are here:

Come join us where you can say “greetings my good man” and enjoy some retro fun.

And on the topic of retro fun, if you wish to catch up quickly and easily with the first four stories, you may do so here.