Trevor Belshaw Author

Author of Out of Control

Month: July 2019

The Steampunk Instant Messaging Machine

From 2011

‘What an interesting device, Sir Oswald. What does it do exactly?’ Albert Parkin straightened his cravat, leant back in the stiff leather chair and took a sip from his brandy glass.

‘This,’ said Sir Oswald, ‘is my latest invention. I call it the IM machine. It is capable of sending short messages to recipients anywhere in the world. Providing they have one of these devices of course.’

‘Doesn’t the Telegraph system already do that?’ asked Albert.

Sir Oswald nodded. ‘Yes, but this little beauty can be set up in a person’s own home or office.’ A huge grin spread over his face. ‘No waiting for the delivery boy.’

‘It does looks very impressive,’ said Mrs Parkin from the back of the machine. Her head appeared through a cloud of steam. ‘How does one send an instant message?’

Sir Oswald puffed out his chest and stood proudly in front of the contraption. He opened a small door and threw in a single lump of coal. A fresh burst of steam hissed from a valve at the rear making Mrs Parkin scurry round to the front. She laid a soft hand on Sir Oswald’s arm as a small cloud of smoke snaked from a funnel on top.

Let’s say,’ said Sir Oswald, ‘that I wanted to send a message to Mrs Pettigrew, my secretary at Crankshaft and Piston Ltd. All I would have to do is this…’

Sir Oswald pulled a red lever, twisted a dial, then pulled on a green handle. He turned to Mrs Parkin with a smile as a panel slid to the side and a typewriter keyboard presented itself.

‘Voila.’

Sir Oswald fingers danced across the brightly polished keys. As he hit return, the machine emitted a small toot. There was a crunching of cogs, and more steam hissed from the safety valve. To Mrs Parkin’s delight a thin strip of tape appeared from a slot in front of her.

At Sir Oswald’s invitation, Mrs Parkin pulled the tape from the slot and read aloud.

‘Mrs Pettigrew. Please reply to this message immediately.’

Sir Oswald fed the tape into a second slot just above the first, and pressed the return key again.

‘Shouldn’t take a minute,’ he preened. ‘We have an identical machine in the office. We’re hoping to have thirty of them littered around the county by the end of next year.’

Sir Oswald poured himself another brandy and strolled back to the IM machine.

‘It’s taking longer than usual,’ he said with a frown.

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The Country Park

From 2009

The Country Park

By Ruddred0 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33165150

I live in a village called Ruddington, part of the borough of Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire.

The village itself dates back to Saxon times, though a recent excavation on the perimeter found stone arrowheads dating back to 1500 BC. Looking at certain members of some of the older families of the village, I can well believe they have been here that long. Two spring to mind immediately. They both have beards, long straggly hair and the wife of one of them has a fur coat.

Close by the arrowheads they found the remains of a Roman villa. Try as I might, I have yet to discover any of their distant relatives. No orgies have been reported in my lifetime.

 Such is the gossipy nature of the village, that if as much as a threesome had been planned, the entire village would have heard of it before number three had taken his coat off. A full-blown orgy would have seen a horde of Ruddintonians peering through windows long before the participants got as far as second helpings.

Ruddington is home to the famous Framework and Knitters Museum. I have to shamefully admit that this is a place I have never visited. Maybe it’s the thought of those dark old satanic mills that puts me off, maybe it’s the anger I would surely feel when I saw the conditions those poor Victorian wretches had to work in. But mainly I think it’s because I would be bored rigid. Cotton and wool, whilst worthy commodities, do not do a lot for me.

The museum is situated just beyond the church in the centre of the red brick village. Ruddington may sound as if it is named after the colour of its soil, or the brickwork on show; but it is actually named after a Saxon called Rudda. The name Ruddington means “the homestead’ or ‘ton’ of the Ruddingas (Rudda’s people).

I believe an ex-village hairdresser is a direct descendent of Rudda. I’m sure she used an axe as a hair cutting tool, there is no way you could make it look that rough, using scissors.

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The Froggers

The Froggers

 My garden pond is teaming with wildlife at the moment. We have Koi Carp, Goldfish, a couple of Green Tench and a few dozen newts, frogs and toads. I also have two energetic Springer Spaniels. Both of them are accomplished frogger’s, Molly, my black and white Springer, could frog for England at the ‘frogging Olympics’ if such an entity existed.

She is so accomplished that she sometimes comes trotting into the house with three frogs at a time, her mouth gently but firmly closed over fat bodies, leaving a tangle of green legs hanging out of the sides. Usually though, it’s only one unfortunate creature that has been caught unaware s as it came out of hiding, thinking it’s safe to go about catching dinner.

Maisie, my liver and white Springer, isn’t quite as adept at catching them, though she could still be an international at the event. She likes to see them jump, so she’ll give them a whack with her paw, then chase after them and repeat the exercise until they are steered in the direction of the pond. She knows they live there; she saw them in the bottom when we dug it out a month or two back.
Once the escapee is back in its watery gaol, she’ll go in search of another, looking under shrubs, stones and bits of old log we have scattered about the place.

Occasionally she’ll pick one up and trot around the garden with it. If we spot her, a quick ‘leave’ will see her cough up the absconding prisoner. She will then guard it carefully until we, the warders, stroll up to return the inmate to its watery cell.

Molly doesn’t give up her prize anywhere near as easily. She is a hoarder, a collector, an expert on the species. It really doesn’t matter if she has a frog or a foul-tasting toad. Once they are caught, they don’t get released until they been carefully inspected, catalogued, sized and sexed. We always groan when we see her with one, as we know what a tough job we have ahead of us, trying to negotiate a ransom.

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The Winter of 63

By Richard Johnson, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6589924

Another of the articles I wrote for Best of British magazine.

Winter is almost upon us once again. I wonder what the next few months have in store for us weather-wise?

Looking back, I can’t remember many bad winters over the last forty odd years, none that match the winter of 1963 at least. It stands out in memory as the worst (and best) winter I have ever experienced; I was nine at the time.

We kids welcomed the snow and all the extra time off school. We made snowmen, toboggans from bits of old wood or old pram parts and the most lethal pavement slides you ever saw. We had one on our road that would carry you a good twenty five yards. Adults hated us for making them; as I said, they were lethal. Once a fresh covering of snow had landed there was no telling it was there until an unsuspecting adult tried to negotiate the pavement. I can remember my father getting a letter from the milkman saying we would have to pay for any more breakages ourselves. The slide was there for almost three months so you would think he’d have remembered where it was after his second or third fall.

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After The Flood

In the early 1960’s we moved from our old Victorian slum to a brand-new house on a brand-new estate in Kirk Hallam, Ilkeston. I was about seven at the time

The old house, which was tied to my father’s job at the iron works, had been flooded. We lost just about everything; the waters had come half way up the stairs.

The flood struck at 8.am on Sunday 4th December 1960. The normally placid Nutbrook stream, swollen by heavy rain, burst its banks and flooded the Ironworks and the bottom half of Crompton Street. The water carried a hidden danger in the form of highly flammable, Benzoline oil that sat on the surface of the water. I didn’t know until years later that the oil had been a problem. I remember my father sitting on the sill of the upstairs window of our house as he smoked and chatted to the people next door. Cigarette stubs were flicked into the water at regular intervals.

We were rescued by the fire brigade who took us all to a community centre where we slept in sleeping bags on the floor for a few nights.

It was a major adventure for us kids but not so much fun for the parents or the older members of the community. I could have slept on a clothes line in those days but I doubt some people there got a wink of sleep.

We were fed soup and sandwiches by the Salvation Army. Before the evening meal we all had to stand and sing ‘I’ll be a sunbeam.’ My father, a reluctant Christian at best, would move his lips like a poor ventriloquist then burst into song on the final line of the chorus.

A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam;
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
A bloody fine sunbeam am I.

During the day we played Beetle, Draughts, Snakes and Ladders and Monopoly. The older residents must have been sick to death of Ludo, but they gritted their teeth and played on. I think they’d have done anything to keep the more energetic kids on their backsides, sat at chairs and tables instead of hurtling around on the parquet floor.

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