Granny’s Life Hacks – Online Shopping 

In the time I’ve lived on this earth it seems to me that shopping has come full circle. 

When I was a girl my sainted mother (a woman of humour, kindness and a very hard hand when applied to the back of the leg) ordered her groceries and had them delivered – by a man who wrote next week’s order (with a stub of pencil and painful slowness) in a dog-eared book.

These days, of course, the man who scarfed ginger snaps like there was no tomorrow has been replaced by a robotic female but the principle is the same.

Almost.

The difference?

The grocer with his brilliantined hair and nicotine stained fingers generally brought precisely what Mum ordered. And if there was a slight deviation the replacement item was very close to the original that had been ordered and was usually reduced in price by a penny or two in compensation.

So what happened in the intervening fifty years?

We all got conditioned to the hell of the supermarket and the joys of the trolley whose only mission in life was to career sideways across the car park like a drunken juggernaut. Thus it was that we mostly looked with some relief towards online orders.

And how we were disappointed. How we tried to order our modest needs – only to be thwarted by sudden death of websites, ridiculous delivery slots, and the replacement for goods that had become unavailable between the order and the fulfilment of same with random crap from the returns cupboard.

We are sorry we have run out of Cornish butter, we have replaced your order of that product with a jar of nappy rash cream. Or. We are sorry we have run out of bananas, we have replaced your order of that product with a pair of flip flops (size 3). Or…

I could go on…

So we drifted back to the weekly trolley dash and the amusement of choosing our own bruised apples.

But then.

Horror of horrors. The supermarket was declared a place of lurking plague, and we deserted in our thousands once again. 

Online we went. Whether through the offices of a creepy talking box or the efforts of our fingers. Only to find. No delivery slots available until 2023. Limits on what we could buy. 

The screams could be heard as far as the empty beer garden outside the Dog and Scrotum where the landlord sat alone drinking Old Stumpblaster and wishing he had sold up last summer.

But I digress.

Shopping online? I don’t fu**ing think so.

Me and Gyp fire up the Micra and make our stately way to the emporium. 

Gyp minds the car.

I shop.

Masked like the frigging Lone Ranger.

Bottoms up!

EM-Drabbles – Sixty-Five

Grandpa built the shed at the end of the garden and used it as a place to keep his gardening tools and the mower.

He kept it sound and when children came along it became a wendy house, with a little table and chairs for the teddy bear tea-parties.

When they were teens, he rebuilt the shed so it could be a teen-den, with record players and a TV.

When they left, it became Gran’s craft studio.

By the time they inherited the house, the shed was close to collapse.

Dad rebuilt it for Mum to keep her gardening things…

E.M. Swift-Hook

Coffee Break Read – Cooking

Dai Llewellyn was all but home when a gigantic figure loomed out of the darkness.
“Edbert, you spado, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
“No. I’m trying to save your life.”
“Come again?”
Edbert’s laughter rumbled deep in his massive barrel of a chest.
“Julia has been in the kitchen. All day.”
“Julia? In the kitchen?”
“Yes. She has decided she should learn to cook.”
Dai digested that one and braced himself just in time not to buckle at the knees when Edbert clapped him on the shoulder.

Julia met him at the door with Canis and Lupo at her heels. He bent to kiss her and she dimpled demurely.
“Good day, love?” He asked with careful mildness.
She lifted a shoulder. “Same old. Same old.”
He grinned down into her face, noticing signs of frustration at the back of her bitter chocolate eyes but deeming it safest to say nothing.
“Go and wash your hands, supper is ready.”
Dai ambled off, and he could swear he felt his wife’s eyes boring into his back. This, he thought, could be about to get sticky.

He returned to the winter sitting room, to find the table set and have his nostrils assailed by a savoury aroma.
“Something smells good.”
She showed him her small, white teeth and he gave her his best grin in return.
“Sit,” she said firmly, before serving him with a bowl of thick soup and a hunk of buttered bread.
She brought her own smaller portion and sat opposite him watching as he dipped his spoon into the bowl. He tasted with some trepidation but the soup was fine. It wasn’t as delicately flavoured by any means as Cookie’s handiwork but it was hot and meaty and filling and he had no complaints. He ate his bowlful and cleaned out the bowl with the end of his bread. Julia eyed him narrowly, and he smiled into her eyes.
“What’s up love?”
“Nothing. Why do you think there is something the matter?”
She got up with what was perilously close to a flounce and whisked away his bowl and side plate.
“Cheesecake?” she asked.
“Yes please.”
Julia brought a glass stand to the table, on which rested a cake decorated with raspberry sauce.
“That looks nice.”
She frowned at him and put a knife into the confection, which promptly collapsed with its undercooked centre dripping over the edges of the serving dish.
Dai knew he had to act quickly to avert a potential meltdown, so he stuck his finger in the gooey mess and licked it.
“Yum, yum,” he said before taking another dollop of goo and spreading it on his wife’s face.
She opened her mouth to protest and he forestalled her by pulling her across the table and licking her face, to which treatment she responded with some enthusiasm.

A considerable time later she lay in his arms and he grinned down at her.
“You can cook anytime you like….”

©️ Jane Jago

Granny’s Twenty-Fourth Pearl

Pearls of wisdom from an octogenarian who’s seen it all…

I hate being called ‘dear’

I may be as old as dirt. But that doesn’t make it okay for you to patronise me, or not bother to ascertain my name. So many times I have ambled up to a plexiglass screen to be faced by a face with a lot of orange make-up and nothing going on behind the eyes, who will then refer to me as ‘dear’ throughout.

I read the other day about an old lady in Utah, who suddenly got out a gun and blew off a bank clerk’s face. I rather suspect she had been called ‘dear’ once too often 

Mrs Jago’s Handy Guide to the Meaning Behind Typographical Errors. Part XXVIII

…. or ‘How To Speak Typo’ by Jane Jago

affrection (noun) – the fondness a male feels for his partner while his penis is turgid

chocoalte (noun) – high caused by the overconsumption of Cadbury Flake

defract (verb) – not to reflect

ehter (noun) – one who believes a kebab is the cure for all evils and later loses same kebab in the gutter someplace 

friedns (noun) – crispy bits of chip and batter from the bottom of a deep frier

frisustrate (verb) – to cook bacon until it resembles roof slates

gassropper (noun) – smaller relative of the praying mantis that lives on the smell of farts

lifst (adverb) – of walking, to lift the feet very high and put them down gently as if creeping upstairs drunk

meman (noun) – northern expression indicating the speaker’s husband

osmat (noun) – prayer mat for antipodean use

pruitan (adjective) – of dress, spectacularly slutty

recongise (verb) – to throw dog toy again

reserach (noun) – little-known dialect spoken among the nomadic peoples who roam the western borders of Germany

sxe (verb) – to establish the gender of baby rats

topato (noun) – vegetable, not one of five a day, always served fried 

wehat (noun) – small headgear

zbeu (adjective) – having the texture of elderly porridge

Disclaimer: all these words are genuine typos defined by Jane Jago. The source of each is withheld to protect the guilty.

EM-Drabbles – Sixty-Four

“The moon is in the seventh house…” Natasha lowered her voice to a thrilling whisper. “You need people around you, sensitive, loving people.”
She made three syllables of ‘loving’.
Her client shifted impatiently.
“Yes but will I get married this year?”
Natasha hated direct questions like that.
“The tides of fate do not ebb and flow in human time,” she said quickly and moved on.
“Jupiter is aligning with Mars in your sign of Capricorn. That will give you great energy. Abundant energy.”
Her client left soon after and decided to enter the marathon rather than propose to his girlfriend.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Coffee Break Read – Sanctuary

My apartment was, annoyingly, on the third floor. Annoyingly, because I needed to use the service elevator and the thing was designed to move slower than mucus. It added almost a quarter again to the time of my commute. I’d been looking for a ground floor place in a good part of the city since the day I moved in, but, on my pay, it wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Sitting there waiting to reach my floor was the time I always felt the most frustration and the time I always seemed to get the same thought: I could’ve retired and lived a very different kind of life.

Maybe I should have.

It was touch and go if I’d even live at the time. You don’t walk away from that kind of damage whistling. I’ve worked out the pension they’d have given me would’ve been five times or more than the amount I get now. That is calculated under the ‘local adjustment’ rules, designed to avoid having us CSF personnel out in the sticks living it up like a powerbroker from Central. Of course expenses are available when needed, but those you’ve got to justify to a fussy AI with zero ability to be flexible outside the permitted parameters.

But no, I chose this.

I didn’t want to give up doing the job I loved just because some of the bastards I was trying to stop had made mincemeat out of me from the pelvis down and left most of the rest shattered and broken. When they assigned me to this placement, it was in the expectation I’d be doing a lot of data collection and providing hosting support for those who were sent in to clean up any real problems—people like Grim Dugsdall. And yes, I did a fair amount of that, but I also pulled my weight and more with the workload. They hadn’t expected that.

Home was my personal sanctuary and the one place in the entire galaxy I could feel at ease. Here, everything worked for me and around what I needed. It had taken some setting up, but it meant from the moment I got in through the door I could feel relaxed. Normally I’d have an ambiance selected on the way home so the stiff grey furnishings would be overlain with the appearance of opulence or grandeur, depending on my mood or more usually set to cosy, But today I didn’t bother, just cancelled the quiet music which I had preset to greet me and made sure the internal monitoring system for the apartment was shut off.

My hiding place for the few unauthorised items I kept handy wouldn’t fool anyone in the CSF for long, but then that was never my intention. If ever my own people came searching my home, I’d have lost the plot and be in freefall. I licked my fingers and pressed. The wall panel behind my bed slid open as its biometric sensors read my DNA.

From ‘The Invisible Event’ a Fortune’s Fools story by E.M. Swift-Hook, in the Challenge Accepted anthology.

Granny’s Twenty-Third Pearl

Pearls of wisdom from an octogenarian who’s seen it all…

Telephone Sales

There is no way this ‘elderly lady’ is going to be buying anything on the telephone. Which means I need to have developed coping strategies.

I have three:

Sometimes I just take the phone outside and leave it in the garden. I pick it up later.

Sometimes I blow a very loud whistle I happen to possess in close proximity to the phone.

Or if I am feeling particularly sadistic I play along – confusedly dim. Until they want money when I sweetly say my son has power of attorney and he will call them when he is finished in court…

Author Feature: Crazy Alien Escapade – with Romance by Mike Van Horn

On a world somewhat like Earth, but three thousand light-years nearer to the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, three rebellious young aliens met in secret to ready a spaceship for a forbidden adventure…

 “We will be violating our most profound taboo,” said Novan in his voice of doom. “Traveling to unknown worlds—unauthorized primitive unclaimed worlds—looking for living beings we are commanded to leave alone.” His full name was Rleza-novan-nga, engineer and navigator. He had recently transitioned to his male phase.
“Yes! Won’t it be fun?” responded Alala. Analala-noa, still early in her female phase, was the researcher and inventor, and was deeply attracted to newly-male Novan. “And why are you using the language of the Talkis, Novan, instead of our beautiful Singi voice? You think just because you’ve made your transition to male you should talk like a tall upright Type 1?”
Novan stood erect on eight tentacles, balling up his four front foot tentacles. His newly-emerging male skin pattern and texture shone deep red. 
“Look, he thinks he is a tall Type 1, lording it over us,” scoffed Alala. “Why don’t you stand on just two tentacles, like a real Type 1 biped?” She tried to push him off balance; then he chased her around the enclosure, making hooting noises. She squealed with joy, her skin patches glowing bright pink.
Nala ignored their chase. “Are you having second thoughts, Novan?” she asked. Bvar-nala-nga, also a young female, was the chronicler and songteller. Her pale green and mauve skin patches rippled rhythmically. “We all know this is crazy. We risk everything if we do this. 
Novan spoke: “Yes, we’ve all traveled to the tame worlds of the Confederation. On this trip we’ll face so many more hazards. We’re likely to die. We plan to jump to worlds never before visited by any from the Confederation. No idea what we will encounter. Life forms inimical to our health and survival. Microbes that aren’t controlled by our toxin protocols. Alien races that view us as hostile invaders. “
“We won’t land on worlds until we’ve evaluated the hazards,” Alala replied, still enthusiastic. “Look at the other side. Suppose we discover exciting new worlds. When we return we’ll be greeted as heroes.
“If our leaders allow us to return. Such trips are forbidden. They’re likely to lock us up as soon as we land, to prevent us from telling others of our exploits. We’ll be shamed and shunned and exiled.” 
Alala said to him, more sober now, “It’s not too late to turn back or follow a different path. We could send out robotic probes to these worlds and not travel there ourselves, therefore be less likely to get into trouble.”
“No,” Nala said, crossing her arm tentacles in a sign of negation. “Ever since we deciphered the song of the crystal,” she said, looking at the small piece of metal on the table, “we’ve known we were going. None of us would be satisfied if we changed our minds now.”
“Agreed,” said Alala. “We have but one chance. If we don’t take this adventure now, we never will. The Elders will take control of our lives. You, Novan, will be assigned to a drab male existence far from our clan Haw. Nala, you’ll have to sing the propaganda songs of the Elders, meant to keep our people in check. And I? Assigned to raise juveniles I have no clan connection with.”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Nala. “We’ve all agreed that our fates if we remain on this world are worse than death. Thus undertaking a hazardous journey loses us nothing. Death is the worst that can happen to us.”
The two females gazed intently at Novan, who drooped his eyestalks. “I agree with you. I’m not having second thoughts. I just wanted to make sure we all know that this is a perilous journey we are undertaking, not a childish lark.”

A Bite of… Mike van Horn

How much of you is in your hero/villain?

A lot. My heroine, Selena M, is a singer. She writes deep soulful songs but is afraid to perform them in public. I write deep philosophical pieces that I’ve never shared with anybody. She got rich performing maudlin country ballads. Her most famous is “Cotton Candy Lovin,” which she’s sick of, but is the most requested. I’ve written twenty-some business books, which powered my business for a quarter century, but my heart is in my science fiction stories. 
But see, she had a singing alien that showed up and together they rekindled her passion for singing. My alien muses are of the insubstantial nature, but they do keep me focused on sci fi.

Would you rather live in this world or the one you create in your books?

I write the worlds I’d like to live in. Most of my stories take place on Earth in the near future, so it’s pretty familiar. I’d love to go to the clubs Selena performs at: Berzerkly, Club Xanadu, Slick Slims Slither Inn. They don’t exist, but they should. 
I would also love to have Selena’s spaceship and travel to the worlds she goes to, and hobnob with her alien buddies. 
I don’t do dystopias, hostile alien invasions, or evil monsters. 

Who are the four people–living, dead, or fictional–you would most like to entertain at a dinner party?

I’ll invite Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson, because I’ve modeled two of my main characters after them.
I’d bring back Ursula LeGuin, because I love her stories, and she’d be an excellent counterbalance to these two powerful men.
And of course I’ll include my heroine, Selena M, because she’s a sassy chick who takes no guff, and she’d love to hang out with these folks. 

Mike van Horn in his own words:

I started writing science fiction over thirty years ago, but writing to make a living got in the way. Lots of how-to books aimed at small business owners. Two books published traditionally, plus a dozen self-published, all built around our consulting business, The Business Group.
A few years ago I saw that if I was ever going to get my stories told in this lifetime I’d better get going! Since then I have concentrated on sci-fi. Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard started out as a short story, but metastasized into a trilogy, and I’m now working on Book 4.
I have an MBA from UCLA, and most of my career I’ve run small consulting firms. I’ve also started a restaurant, fixed up old apartment buildings, and run an export management firm. One thing I’ve never done is work for a large corporation.
Writing science fiction is by far the most fun!
My wife BJ is also a writer and a consultant. We live north of San Francisco in a house that’s too big, surrounded by oak trees.

The best place to find Mike is on his website where you can also find his blog and sign up for his newsletter. As Crazy Alien Escapade is yet to be published you can check out Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard, the first book in the Agate and Breadbox trilogy, while you are waiting.

EM-Drabbles – Sixty-Three

A niche beside the doorstep once held a scraper to clean mucky boots, but as long as I could remember we’d called it ‘the begonia niche’.

The key was there, under a bulbous pot of begonias. I picked it up and for a moment, I was just home from school to a house of baking smells and laughter.

It didn’t take me long to find what I wanted – the photograph album, the mantle-piece clock, a few trinkets – parts of my history.

When I left, I slipped the key back under the begonias – so the house clearance people could find it.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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