Saving Elsie Bear


There’s been a skip outside a house up the street for a couple of weeks now, gradually filling with rubble from demolition, then off-cuts of wood, then spare bits of insulating board. Each time we walk past we automatically check the contents and think, can we use any of that? Untreated wood gets hauled out and put n the stove, and we’ve been considering the insulating board for a couple of days, when this morning I spot… a furry foot.
“No!” I cry in anguish, “you can’t do that!” and I pull hard, and there is  a rather unprepossessing brown bear in a grubby white dress with sailor collar.  She is semi stiff with frost, and not exactly clean. A immediately names her Elsie, and we carry her home to defrost.

It always upsets me when perfectly good bears are left are left at roadside shrines for accident victims.  Bears should be comforting the bereaved, not sacrificed on altars.  And those bears you see grimed and polluted, tied to the radiators of HGVs and waste disposal trucks, presumably rescued from waysides and bins, but what a way to treat a bear – couldn’t they be sat on the dashboard?

“Time for an Alton Towers moment”, A says as I strip off the sailor-dress ready for a spin in the washing machine.

“What’s Alton Towers?” asks Elsie, embarrassed to be caught in her under garments – only her feet and arms and head have fur; the rest is plain white cotton, like a nineteenth century wax doll.  Elsie’s head is over large, the dress has to come off downwards.

“Whee…!” says Elsie, and that’s all we hear from her for about an hour.

Elsie is recovered from the wall of death and put on a radiator to dry out, none the worse for the adventure.  Hilary Behr (prof) who is on the radiator too, sniffs disparagingly.  She once wrote a thesis on the teddy bear in popular culture with the subheading prop or icon, which she will make available to this blog if the public make enough fuss; and she has regular comments to make about what she calls marketing opportunities.

“What’s a marketing opportunity?” Elsie asks, and “will you turn me over now, this side’s done.”  She is still minus the dress, which is in the washing machine now, but may need bleaching.

“Careful, or she’ll have her paws under the table.”  A says, heading off to bed.  She can talk, she is personally responsible for a small raft of rescue cases that sit on her window sill together with ghastly zombie bears that she has been given by devoted students at various points in her teaching career, and hasn’t the heart to dispose of.

“Lets get one thing clear,” H Behr (D Phil) says, “This  is a charity case, as in going in the next charity bag, this radiator isn’t big enough for another bear.” There is a chorus of approval from the radiator, where  Liberty, Jezza, Eric, Sylva, Ron, Buffy and Jake gently warm their stuffing.

That’s the trouble with stuffeds.  Give them a name and they’ll take a personality, a political outlook and an entrenched attitude to other toys.  There is a subtle jockeying between the stuffeds and the knitteds. I think the knitteds, led by Eric the dinosaur are currently in charge. The Cats of course treat them all with contempt; although they never tangle with them, they know which are their toys, and which are Toys… I think it’s much the same as when  cats chase squirrels, they always do so at the exact speed the squirrel is going, so that they run away, but they don’t get caught; so no one has to work out whether they are actually prey or not.

“You do know they aren’t real?” Julian asks, as he tries to get between me and the laptop.  I recoil from his whiskers and encourage him off.  He settles himself to sleep with his shoulder against my thigh, muttering “not another bleeding stuffed,” as he gets himself comfortable as only a cat knows how.

Elsie Bear and friends especially for Carrie and her friends in Bromley. copyright Cherry Potts 2012

© Cherry Potts 2012

What the Well-dressed Witch is Wearing


'Picasso' halloween lantern © Cherry Potts 2011

The latest news from the catwalks … um … doorsteps of South London, where the fashions of the night come to your door for a minimal payment of handfuls of jellied eyes, chocolate bites and the occasional satsuma is… dayglo is the new black.
Of course you can’t just assume that the show will come to your door, you need to show willing and advertise your openness to revellers with the traditional lantern. This year ours was a cat, and we got several compliments on its raffish charm, including that we had been channeling Picasso!

© Cherry Potts 2011

Back to our report: This Hallowe’en’s hairstyles are streaked candy pink or pumpkin orange. Make up is livid, but carefully applied for that just risen look, and for those tired of the nightly routine of makeup fit for the dead? A mask!

A wide range of styles available to suit every mood… one size fits all.  Hats are generally traditional in height though wide-ranging in shape and colour, with an interesting voodoo influence.

© Cherry Potts 2011

For the younger ghoul: pumpkin, spider, cat and skeleton outfits are de riguer, with phosphorous glow a key element in the design.
The night was not without casualties, small undead who had eaten too many gory treats were heard to whine and wail more authentically than their parents would wish, one particularly rabid group of zombies had to be threatened with the trick we had up our sleeve to ensure there would be enough bait (sorry, treats) for all the neighbourhood monsters, and our cat Elton got a lot of exercise running up stairs every time the door was banged upon.

At the point when the more stalwart Julian started flinching at the doorbell we extinguished our pumpkin and settled down for dinner and the remaining eyeballs...

marauading ghouls receiving their bait © Cherry Potts 2011

This did get me thinking about Horror as a genre.  I really don’t enjoy horror, I can’t abide zombies, torture or graphic violence, although I used to watch Buffy with great enjoyment.  I couldn’t even bear to read Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man because it had a zombie in it, the whole idea turns my stomach, and that’s the only Pratchett I’ve not read.

But I do like a good ghost story, if like is the word, appreciate might be closer to the mark. M.R. James springs to mind, and tends to stay there late at night, wiffling about in my subconscious, it’s all suggestion and oblique reference.

Witch and familiar © Cherry Potts 2011

I’ve  written a couple of ghost stories (All Hallows, Eye of the Beholder) and they are definitely not in the M. R. James mould; They aren’t meant to be frightening: I think of my ghosts as lives unfulfilled, trailing on after death, which is a bit frightening, actually.  So there’s a moral there, if  you don’t want to become a ghost, live life to the full!

There are plenty of witches in my writing, Sorcha and Ashe in The Dowry Blade, Hraefn in Sky Hunter, Wind lover, Adamanta in The Bone Box, Beth and her awful aunt Brenda in Blood will Tell, Cicely in All and More, and I don’t think any of them would subscribe to dayglo streaks in their hair!

© Cherry Potts 2011

Many Merry Mermaids


This is just a bit of nonsense, based on a writing exercise in which every word in a sentence must start with the same letter.  Stops you using ‘the’ and ‘and’ and ‘I’ unless you are very clever, which I’m not… perhaps with a bit of practice!

Many Merry Mermaids

Many merry mermaids making mischief make mariners miserable.

Slowly sinking ships sail sluggishly south, sad sailors send semaphore signals shoreward.

We welcome wistful westerly winds – whistling wordlessly, we watch white whales while walking with witches who wonder when we will wake.

Dawn dreamers don’t dally: delve deep, drown deeper; drink deadly draughts, dance delicately down.

Full fathom five.

Bone by bone.

Many merry mermaids make much mischief.

copyright Cherry Potts 2010