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.

Borne

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.

Jerusalem

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.

hellosir

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

https://twitter.com/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…)

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071V9PP6F

US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071V9PP6F

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:

https://www.facebook.com/thebenthictimes/

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.

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071V9PP6F

US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071V9PP6F

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 1

The rain lashed down on the window of the Friendship Tea Rooms as Sir John and Marie stared out.

“Perhaps it will brighten up this afternoon,” he said morosely. “How long until we can return to the bed and breakfast?”

Marie looked at the clock on the wall, with the numbers 4 and 6 missing.

“About seven hours I think,” she said.

Sir John took the last sip of lukewarm tea in the cup in front of him, and put the cup down on its chipped saucer. Almost immediately the waitress appeared.

“Can I get you anything else,” she asked blankly.

“I think we’re alright for a moment,” said Sir John.

The waitress immediately glanced at a sign saying “no loitering”. Marie looked around the room, empty save for a dishevelled looking man in a gaudy outfit nursing a cup of tea. The waitress peered out at the rain.

“You’ve been unlucky with the weather,” she said. Sir John sighed.

“Two more teas, please,” he said and the waitress went away.

bandstand storm 2.jpg“Two Teas”

“We can’t stay here seven hours,” said Sir John. “We’ll be bankrupt by teatime.”

The other man in the cafe turned his tea cup upside down and spun it round. Sir John looked on curiously.

“Is he alright do you think?” he said. The man turned his cup back up and peered at his saucer. He look surprised then glanced toward Marie and Sir John. Sir John looked down quickly as the man walked over.

“Please excuse me,” said the man, “but I do believe we have a common interest. My name is Lord Hollingbury, and, if my Aunt Mabel’s parlour trick isn’t mistaken, at least one of you is, shall we say, in possession of special talents.”

Sir John looked confused at the apparent gap between the man’s appearance and manner.

“I beg your pardon,” he said.

“Well, if you need me to pardon you, you must have done something very wicked,” said Lord Hollingbury sitting down.

“Two teas,” announced the waitress as she returned. She looked distastefully at the development of social intercourse in the tea rooms and beat a hurried retreat in case it was catching.

“Let me get down to brass tacks,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I am, shall we say, gifted myself in certain areas. One might call me a magician, if you like, but I prefer the term Nouveaumancer. You are … well one of you … and I think I know who, is most certainly gifted.”

“The tea leaves tell you this?” said Marie.

“Indeed, I was carrying out a little old-fashioned divination” said the Nouveaumancer. “I think even magic has a certain … terroir, ne c’est pas?”

“Now look here,” said Sir John, “I don’t know who you are…”

“Yes, you do,” said the Nouveaumancer, “I told you. The reverse is true, I don’t know who you are.”

Sir John’s mouth opened and closed.

“I am Marie Jennings, and this is my ‘usband Sir John Jennings,” said Marie. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Enchanted,” said the Nouveaumancer, “and enlightened. You’re the investigators of the paranormal, aren’t you? I read about you in the papers. I had no idea that you were … poachers turned gamekeepers.”

“Now look here!” said Sir John.

“We’ve done that part and moved on a little,” said the Nouveaumancer. “Do try and keep up. So I presume you’re here to investigate the disappearances.”

Sir John looked confused and aghast.

“You can’t say things like that to a chap’s face,” said Sir John.

“Well which part of a chap should I address these remarks to?” said the Nouveaumancer.

“Please, both of you,” said Marie, “Lord Hollingbury … what disappearances?”

“Oh, I see,” said the Nouveaumancer, “so you ‘don’t know about the disappearances’ and I’m guessing you’re ‘just here on holiday’.”

“Yes, exactly,” said Sir John.

“Oh, well that’s a shame,” said the Nouveaumancer, “I was rather hoping to pool resources. Oh well, if you change your mind, you can probably find me at the Cock and Bull. It really is the only place in town to get half decent scotch.”

The Nouveaumancer stood up and left the tea rooms. As he walked through the rain it seemed to somehow fall around him.

“Has he gone?” said the waitress who had appeared mysteriously.

“I believe so,” said Sir John.

“Well you can have his bill then,” she said, passing the couple a small piece of paper.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 2

Welcome to Sunnyport!

Tatty Seaside Town“Tatty Seaside Town”

So readers have been asking in their droves: where is Sunnyport? Those photographs seem familiar…

A cursory glance at a map of Southern England will reveal no such place. It is of course a fictional location, but as all such places, one rooted in some real experiences. We thought it might be informative and enlightening to list some of the ideas that run behind the town.

Inaptronymic placenames: it is the author’s general experience that the pleasantness of English seaside town-names is indirectly proportional to how agreeable the towns really are. Thus “Claphole-by-Sea” would be perfectly nice, but “Haven Bay” would be a crime-ridden rat-infested nightmare. Incidentally, the same applies to hotels and public houses. Any public house called The Friendship will have an undercurrent of violence, and any hotel called the Bella Vista will face a gasworks.

Sunnydale: which holds a special place in our hearts even twenty years on.

Innsmouth: “you’ll never leave” – a local town for local people.

Seaside holidays in the nineteen seventies: for many reasons the author does not wish to relate his experience of holidaying in B&Bs of various kinds, nor expand on the manner of hospitality extended in such places. To our readers who visited the English seaside in decades past, I am sure the reasons are clear.  To those who missed such an experience, the first chapter of Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small island” should serve as an introduction.

And one thing that is not an influence on the fictional town of Sunnyport…

London-by-Sea: The self confessed “tatty seaside town” of Brighton (and Hove) will quite often be the “location shots” for Sunnyport. As a previous resident of this wonderful and unique town I can wholeheartedly state that Sunnyport is not Brighton. Brighton is much, much weirder.

Don’t forget – the first four Jennings and Jennings stories can now be purchased from Amazon…

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071V9PP6F

US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071V9PP6F

 

 

The Sunnyport Shadow: Prologue

bandstand sun 2“Diverse Diversions”

Dear Mr Sir Jenkins

We are delighted to accept your booking at the Shalimar Bed and Breakfast in Sunnyport. We are looking forward to seeing you in May at our most salubrious establishment, which we feel certain will be ideally suited to a gentleman of your refined tastes.

You neglect to mention in your booking request if you have visited Sunnyport before. I have taken the liberty of assuming that this is your first visit to our seaside paradise. Forgive me, then, for any redundancy and permit me the time to avail you of some of the town’s attractions. For in truth, I delight in such a task.

Sunnyport is one of the premier resorts on the south coast of England. It benefits from an unusually sheltered aspect leading to a microclimate which, I truly believe, can be described as mediterranean. The town itself expanded around one hundred years ago when the healing powers of the unique sea air were discovered to have been responsible for the extended lifespan of its inhabitants, then mostly fisherfolk. As you can imagine, people flocked from far and wide to breath the healing air. That gifted the town its first wave of tourists and such seekers of the healthy airs still regularly make the pilgrimage to our town.

But there is more to Sunnyport than fine air! Indeed, the town and its surrounds are of such an unnatural beauty that many a soul has been moved to tears on first arrival. You may recall that the poet Samuel Porlock wrote his famous “Ode to a Roman Ruin” here and the composer Edward Engerland wrote “Oh Stormy, Stormy Sea” in the Cock and Bull public house.

Sunnyport truly has it all. Indeed, any coastal resort would swell with civic pride if only it had our advantages. But the town fathers of Sunnyport are not the kind of men to rest on their laurels. No sir, for they have of late fashioned a most wondrous promenade replete with bandstands, teahouses, and diverse diversions to entertain our guests.

So whether you are exploring Sunnyport’s heritage in the old harbour, marvelling at its lighthouse, promenading with your good lady on the front, taking the sea air, or simply basking in the sunshine I guarantee you will find your stay in Sunnyport an experience you will remember all your life.

In order to secure the reservation we require settlement of the account plus a deposit equal to one half the value of the account, a local tourist tax fee equal to one quarter and finally a linen and cleaning charge equal to one quarter. You may check in to the establishment any time between the hours of two and four in the afternoon and checkout is by nine am strictly. Guests are requested to vacate the premises between the hours of nine thirty and five in the afternoon to permit cleaning. Guests must wear formal dress in the communal areas at all time and noise is strictly prohibited between the hours of ten at night and eight in the morning. Failure to comply with any of these rules may lead to ejection from the premises and loss of fees.

Yours most cordially

Mr Francis Pimplenick

Proprietor and owner Shalimar Deluxe Bed and Breakfast

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 1