Matilda Whitethroat was brought to bed with the landowner’s child on a brisk autumn morning. Lord Edric summoned the parish priest to Matilda’s bedchamber and legitimised the babe as soon as the women had washed off the sweat of childbirth.

Then he rode off to the wars. 

Matilda moved herself and her infant back to her father’s house. And watched.

When Edric rode home he brought a wealthy young wife with him. 

Within an hour, Matilda had left the town.

Twenty years later, Eudric was bested in the tourney by a handsome young man.

“Ill-met father.” Tors Edricssen snarled.

©jj 2019

A Game of Thrones by George Raymond Richard Martin reviewed by Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

I received a copy of this book almost a decade ago the first and only birthday present I got from my father after he left us for a better place (Bermuda as it happens). He had scribbled in the front of it: “I wanted to send you Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ but they didn’t have a copy at the airport – this is almost as good. Life lessons, son, life lessons…” and then a scrawled initial.

For a time I used the voluminous volume to support my bedside lamp which was at an awkward height otherwise, its brilliance was shining directly into my eyes when I lay back on my pillows. The trusty tome did sterling service until I replaced the lamp. Then I read it, curious as to what precisely those life lessons might be.

My Review of A Game of Thrones by George Raymond Richard Martin

A loving family adopts a litter of wolf pups then is torn apart and mostly murdered. Self-seeking wins out over altruism. Lots of nasty things happen to nice people.

Highly recommended for being such a good bedside lampstand for so many years, hence four stars. 

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

You can find more of IVy’s profound thoughts in How To Start Writing A Book courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.


No one really understood why Rowena was so fond of the rose garden, but every day she would walk from her sheltered-home apartment across the busy main road to the park and sit there for a time. Even in winter when the gardeners had pruned the bushes to bare stumps with thorns.

People walking by were sometimes surprised to hear her talking to herself and even laughing.

One morning the gardeners arrived early and saw a young couple sitting on the bench chatting, laughing – then fading away.

Somehow they were not surprised to learn Rowena had died in the night.

E.M. Swift-Hook

The Chronicles of Nanny Bee – The Dragon’s Cousin

They called her Nanny Bee, although as far as anyone knew she had never been a wife or a mother, let alone a grandmother. But she was popularly believed to be a witch – so Nanny it was. She lived in a pink-walled thatched cottage that crouched between the village green and the vicarage. The Reverend Alphonso Scoggins (a person of peculiarly mixed heritage and a fondness for large dinners) joked that between him and Nanny they could see the villagers from birth to burial.
Nanny’s garden was the most verdant and productive little patch you could ever imagine, and she could be found pottering in its walled prettiness from dawn to dusk almost every day. People came to visit and were given advice, or medicine, or other potions in tiny bottles or scraps of paper – but they always had the sneaking suspicion they were getting in the way of the gardening.
But there again, digging is second nature to gnomes.

The vicar’s cousin Luigi turned up on a visit.
Where the vicar was a portly, blunt-nosed khaki-skinned utilitarian sort of a critter his cousin was svelte and smooth with eyes of burning gold.
The village sucked in a collective breath and the sensible female populace gossiped behind its work-roughened hands.
The silly ones fell like ninepins.
Matters came to a head when the daughter of the blacksmith and the niece of the lady of the manner indulged in a bout of face slapping and hair pulling outside church on a Sunday morning.
Luigi found it all highly amusing.
Nanny didn’t share his amusement. She wandered over and stood with her hands on her hips.
Luigi curled his lip. “Was there something, gnome?”
“There was. Knock it off. Or else.”
“Or else what?” He belched a small blue flame.
Nanny took a handful of something out of a pocket and blew.
It’s stupid to underestimate an earth witch, and it’s even stupider to flame a handful of potato flour. The explosion ignited the dragon’s eyebrows, and was the cause of much rustic humour.
Luigi hasn’t been to visit again.


Beach Fever

I must go down to the beach again, to the crowded beach and the sun
And all I ask is a wide-brimmed hat and a towel to lie upon
And an ice cream van playing nursery rhymes and sand in the sunshine baking
And a deckchair for Auntie Clair and the sound of the donkeys braying.

I must go down to the beach again for a walk on the promenade
Is a wide prom and a clear prom which is seen in every postcard
And all I ask is a sunny day with no grey clouds a-trying
To spoil the queues of endless folks, cold drinks all a-buying.

I must go down to the beach again to the chippy by the pier
To taste the salt – and the vinegar – just like yesteryear.
And all I ask is a seafront pub called ‘The Wild Rover’
To welcome us in with beer and gin when the sunbathing day is over.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Weekend Wind Down – Talking to Sam Nero

Sam Nero. Private eye and augmented android. He and his holographic sidekick, Sugar, operate out of an office on the fifty-fifth level of The Last City. This is an excerpt from the notebooks of Anastasia Throbb, ace reporter, and presenter of the prime-time magazine show The Throbbing City.

Sam Nero didn’t want to meet with me. It took six months of poking and prodding, and outright bribery before I found a man who was both willing and able to lean on this most archetypal of private investigators and make him talk to me. In the end, a friend of a friend introduced me to a man who goes by the name of O’Halleran, who promised me an hour of Sam’s time. Rather to my surprise, it even seemed as if he was going to deliver.

He sent two huge mutes to my office and they escorted me to a back-street diner where a sullen-faced waitress stuck me in a booth and stopped chewing gum for long enough to mouth “sit”. I sat and waited, concealing my growing impatience as best as possible. I was just about to make as dignified an exit as I could when a shadow fell across the table.
“Miss Throbb, I presume.” The voice was lazily amused.
I turned and got my first look at Sam Nero in the flesh. He was about six three, maybe six four, wide at the shoulder and narrow at the hip, and his face looked as if it had been designed to meet the expectations of every pre-pubescent female in the city. It was hard, and sculpted, and sported what I could only assume was a permanent five o’clock shadow. I turned my attention to his companion, a lush-bodied bottle blonde who looked at me as if she could discern my innermost secrets. I think I hated her on sight.

They slipped into the booth opposite me, and something about the pair of them set the hairs on the back of my neck prickling. For a moment I was floundering, then I realised what had spooked me. There were two of them, but only one shadow. While my flesh was still crawling, the waitress appeared with a pot of coffee and two tall mugs. She put a mug in front of Nero and one in front of me before favouring me with a sneer and sloping off.
“Doesn’t your lady friend get coffee?”
The voice that responded was feminine and breathy and sounded to me as if it had been honed over a lot of years of practice.
“I never touch the stuff. Ruins the complexion.”
Then Nero laughed. It was a deep sound that sent little shivers running around all sorts of inappropriate parts of my anatomy.
“Be nice.”
“I was being nice, Sam. You should know that.”
She laid a red-nailed and possessive paw on his forearm and he smiled.
“Sure you were being nice, Sugar. I’d just like to keep it that way.”
“Sugar?” I think my voice went up an octave, I mean what sort of a prehistoric monster calls his woman sugar?
“It’s my name. Sugar Kane. That’s Miss Kane to you.”
Mentally cursing my luck I turned my most winsome smile on Mister Nero.
“Sam,” I said. “May I call you Sam?”
He raised a lazy eyebrow and looked me up and down for a moment before laughing that damnably sexy laugh again.
“I guess so. It’s what Ma Nero named her little boy.”
“Is it really? I mean I can find no record of a family called Nero, let alone a male child called. Samuel?”
“Nah. Just Sam. And where I was born nobody keeps records.”
“And Miss Kane. Where and when was your sidekick born?”
“That ain’t the sort of question a gentleman asks a lady. Not if he wants to keep wearing his face. You can ask if you are that stupid.”
I looked into his companion’s icy eyes and quickly framed another question.
“The first record I can find of a Sam Nero is about four decades ago when a licence to operate as a private detective was granted. Would that be you?”
“The age of the applicant is stated as being forty-two.”
“Sounds a responsible sort of age to me. What say you Sugar?”
They exchanged a look of such naked trust that for a second even I felt de trop. But I pressed on.
“But that can’t be you, Mister Nero. If it was you would be in your eighties by now. And you don’t look like an eighty-year-old man to me.”
“Neither he does.” The blonde seemed to be laughing at me, and I didn’t like the sensation one little bit.
I made my voice hard and assertive.

“In my book, Mister Nero, that makes you an impostor. I’m sure the authorities would love to look at my findings and throw you into jail for a good long time.” I leaned forward and slapped the palms of my hands on the table hard enough to sting.
Nero laughed.
“Think again, sweetheart. The authorities as you so sweetly call them know precisely who I am. Next question.”
He took a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes out of his pocket and lit up.
I coughed.
“I do not care for tobacco smoke,” I said icily.
Nero sneered at me.
“Door’s over there. Make sure it doesn’t hit your ass on the way out.”
I was incensed, but some vestige of intelligence stopped me leaving. This was my only chance to persuade an icon of old-school cops and robbers violence onto my show so I swallowed my bile and tried for a forgiving smile. The obnoxious Sugar shrugged her shoulders and her rather overblown assets jiggled.
“I think the lady has decided to forgive you.”
He grinned lazily, and twitched a mobile eyebrow, sending my hormone count soaring yet again. This man was hot, hot and dangerous. I needed him to boost my flagging ratings, and maybe for the odd other job or two.

I set myself to charm him, sipping my coffee and running my tongue along my lower lip. He watched with what I can only describe as detached amusement, and I felt my anger begin to rise up once more.

“What’s with you Nero?” I snapped. “You come here sneering, and looking down your nose at me…”
He leaned back and crossed his long long legs.
“Wasn’t me asked for this meet. Suck it up.”
I drew in a breath and tried for calm.
“Fair point Mister Nero. I asked to meet you.”
The blonde bombshell laughed huskily.
“I think the lady is after your body, Sam.”
“Why’d that be Sugar?”
“As if you didn’t know, big boy.”
“And as if you didn’t know old Sam’s heart is yours alone.”

It seemed to me as if they had completely forgotten my existence and I rapped my nails against the crazed china of my mug.
“I’m still here,” I grated.
“Why so you are.” Nero looked me up and down a bit more, and the silent insult in his stare had the blood rushing to my face and I blushed for possibly the first time in two decades.
“Why are you being like this? You have been chauvinistic, unpleasant and downright rude. Why? What have I ever done to you?”
He got up from his seat and looked down at me with a most peculiar expression on his face.
“It’s not always about you. I am what I am. How I was made…”
Then he was gone, and the woman went with him. Two entities with one shadow…

You can read the Sam Nero Stories by Jane Jago in Sam Nero PI, which is available to download FREE today and tomorrow. You can also find Sam Nero in The Last City – a science fiction anthology from Dust Publishing.

Granny Knows Best – Fashion Over 50

Let’s get this out in the open, shall we? Some fashionista aged twelve or thereabouts throwing her six stone three around on the topic of what mature women are allowed to wear.
She can just rack off.
I’m n years old (where n tends to infinity) and I’m going to wear what I bloody well like. If I want to wear a fur coat and no knickers, I shall. If I want to go to the supermarket in a tiny bikini, I shall. If I want to wear a bright purple tracksuit and orange Converse high tops, I shall. If I want to wear double denim spray on, I shall. If I want to wear something beige with an elasticated waist (unlikely), I shall.
It’s nobody’s business but mine.
Don’t patronise me with suitability, or the idea that certain garments will make me look younger. They won’t.
And anyway I’m old and glad to be
So. Up yours. I’m off to buy the most unsuitable garment I can find.


It’s not nice being called a ‘big girl’ every day of your life. Susannah had grown tired of it but the invitation to the masked ball came anyway.

Mother sneered.

“Surely you don’t intend…”

Father looked over his spectacles. “It’s not optional, my dear, the gel must go.”

Mother sighed, but Father’s mistress was rather more helpful.

The feathered mask and basque gave her a confidence she had never before felt.

It was a shame for all the pampered debutantes that the country’s answer to Prince Charming was a sucker for big boobs.

Princess Susannah was still a big girl.

Jane Jago

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Joanne Kathleen Rowling reviewed by Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

Sometimes I wonder if my maternal parent is indeed all she claims to be on that account. Could it be, perchance, I was secretly adopted and hail from a genetic line in which the aesthetic principle is celebrated more absolutely? Alas no. The results of the DNA test were pretty clear on that point.

But you will understand my confusion, nay – my utter bafflement at the birthday gift I received from Mumsie last year. I had hoped it would be yet another copy of one of the vibrant tomes by She Who I Am Not Worthy To Name, but instead it was a children’s book – in Latin. When I challenged her choice, suggesting that whilst I was ipso facto her child, I was no longer in childhood, quod erat demonstrandum. But she was not impressed.

“Moons,” she told me, “stop pratting around. Your father paid for you to have an expensive education so use it. Read the book.”

Needless to say ‘Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis’ still sits unread in my writing den where it’s presence is discreetly muted by shadows. However, so I could convince Mummy I had read the blasted thing, I was compelled to procure an English edition.

My review of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Joanne Kathleen Rowling

A boy who is being generously raised by distant relatives, shows extremes of ingratitude and against their wishes takes off for boarding school seduced by the blandishments of those who try to persuade him he is some kind of messiah.

The school, called Hogfarts or something similar, is the educational facility of a secret cult which regards normal people as an inferior breed and calls them ‘muggles’, whilst endeavouring to promote a master race of magic users. Hogfarts uses a hat to choose which house a pupil should be in and the unfortunate child, who is called Harry, is not selected for the superior house and thus has to make do with some rather second-rate companions.

Amongst his adventures, Harry finds a mirror, a dog and a chessboard. He turns out to be quite good at sports, which was not something I had expected as he seemed the geeky sort. He also finds an invisibility cloak but uses it for the most boring things like sneaking around the school. Harry eventually succeeds in stopping a two-faced individual from getting hold of some pebble, but despite his dramatic victory he still finishes the book back where he started.

Two stars for being available in both Latin and English and thus sparing me Mumsie’s scathing vitriol.

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

You can find more of IVy’s profound thoughts in How To Start Writing A Book courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.


A big wedding was important to Laura. Ever since she had been a flower-girl for her cousin Amelia’s wedding when she was five, she had been obsessed with the idea. She filled pages with plans and designs for dresses, cakes, flower arrangements.

So it was probably nor surprising when she grew up she decided she wanted to be a wedding planner.

Tim was a gardener for one of the big estates where she had a job. It was love at first sight. 

They married in a drive-through in Los Angeles and Laura thought it the best wedding in the world.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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