The Patience of Gryphons: part the third

Sybil was not having a satisfactory day. The whole world seemed to be celebrating but she, at home in Surrey, was fretting about the view from the terrace windows. Grey English drizzle ruined the lovely sloping view down the garden, to the point where it met with a field of grazing sheep. The leaded panes still bore their crosswise brown-paper strips in case of bomb-blast – though that was unlikely, since the War was in the process of ending. Yesterday had been VE Day. Sailors and drunken girls had danced in the streets. Some had climbed lamp-posts to wave at the seething crowds below. The radio had been full of talk of “Good Old Winnie” leading us to victory. Sybil knew she should be happy. She was a well-kept woman of thirty-seven, with a wealthy husband. They and what remained of their pre-War staff had come safely through the six years of War and austerity. Curtyss Manor had suffered no damage, from bombs or shrapnel at any rate. One wing of the house had been taken over by soldiers, for a while, and that had sustained some damage – boot-marks on the skirting board, rips in the curtains, cigarette burns all over the place… why did soldiers have to make such a mess?

It was scarcely patriotic to feel, as she did today, both restless and miserable.

Why does everything conspire to obscure one’s view? She murmured to herself. Now a spring mist was starting to creep in. A moment more and she would no longer be able to see…

Why was it, she wondered, that the sight affected her so, the sight of that lonely little gryphon at the far edge of the terrace? Why was she still annoyed at the auction house for their oversight in delivering only one of the pair. The other was perfectly safe in their store room, they had assured her, and would be delivered next time one of their vehicles was in Surrey. Shortage of petrol, of course. She did understand. They could hardly just leap into their van and make a special trip, for the sake of one garden ornament. But that gryphon, out there in the drizzle, in its lonely singularity, annoyed her. It was designed to be in a pair, it was part of set. Its current singularity irritated her and… and she couldn’t help feeling, illogical though it was, that this gryphon was missing it’s mate, or twin, or whatever you called it. It was as if… as if it was calling to her. Every time she passed this window she felt somehow compelled to look out, and the feeling was getting stronger. It had got so that she couldn’t pass the drawing room door without going in, going to the terrace window, looking out. Just to check…

To check what? What was she expecting, that the solitary little gryphon would have moved since last time she checked up on it? That maybe it would have packed its little stone bags and set off for London in search of its missing twin? Fanciful, thought Sybil, ridiculous! She was normally such a sensible person. Might it be a case of nerves? Perhaps the stress of war had affected her more than she realised.

The rain continued, but Sybil had had an idea. Her little ‘creature’ couldn’t move, but she could. She could pack an overnight bag and take the motor-car to London, herself.  The idea both scared and excited her. There was the London traffic and unfamiliar roads, of course, but that wasn’t it. “It” was that Sybil had been taught to drive by one of the officers billeted at Curtyss. Her husband had been posted overseas for a while, and it had happened during his absence.  For some reason, she had never told him that she could drive.

Had it been to protect his masculine pride? Henry did have rather old fashioned views on women drivers. It was an extension of his conviction that machinery and the fair sex did not mix. Or had it been because that particular officer had been rather handsome? He’d been married, of course. Five years married. Two young boys and a girl, he’d told her. Nothing untoward had happened; no meaningful glances, no accidental brushing of hands. They had been friends, and that was all. And he had taught her to drive. A useful skill, but one Henry didn’t happen to know about.

“Well, I shall just set forth”, she told herself. Her husband was not an early riser. She could be gone before he awoke and deal with the explanations… afterwards.  No doubt it would put it down to her age: hormones and such.

The poor lost creature on the terrace seemed to be calling to her now. Its distress had become hers, and since she had had her Idea the volume of that distress seemed only to be increasing. She could not ignore it. Ridiculous it might be, but she absolutely must set forth and fetch the gryphon’s mate.

The Patience of Gryphons: part the second

And so they waited, meditating, as each had done so many times before, on the moment their Three Hundred Years began.

As history wore on, in books of stories it began to be told that Greyclaw and Rainfeathers, Grimalkin’s gryphon familiars, nested in her skirts.

In fact gryphons do not nest. Being mythical creatures they need no physical shelter or place of rest – neither nest nor lair. What they do require is invisibility, to be obscured from the prying eyes of men, and Grimalkin’s magical skirts had provided this. A bargain is always struck between a witch and her familiars: their assistance – their company – in exchange for… Well, it could be many things. It could be power – her power allied with theirs. It could be invisibility, as in the case of gryphons. It could be as simple as food.

A cat, for example, is made of flesh and blood. She needs food, and the witch provides it. Any ordinary cat may pay for her food in trophy mice dropped on the doorstep, or in real or faked affection. A witch’s cat does the same, but with this sole difference – that she may carry her mistress’s essence from one reincarnation to the next. Felix-the-Cat and Robin-the-Redbreast – these alone of the animal kingdom are entrusted with the soul of a dying witch.

Then came the dreadful day when Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General, moved into the County. At the age of twenty-five Hopkins was coming close to his own death, though not as yet aware of it, only of an occasional fever and the spitting of blood. Failing health only made him more determined to add to his execution-list. Increasing weariness made him cast around for proxy means of catching witches, and he was inspired, one day, with the thought that he could conserve his own energy by pitting one witch against another.

And he had the witch Thomasine, said to be the most powerful magician in the East.  The woman had been languishing in a roach-infested cell in Chelmsford for some time, awaiting the coming of the Justice. Powerful, Hopkins estimated, but as scared of death on the bonfire as any other old woman might be. For the price of her life Thomasine proved ready enough to betray her sister witches, just as Judas betrayed Our Lord.  For every visit to every town a fee of £20 plus expenses would accrue to Matthew Hopkins and his crew: some towns had to raise a special tax to pay for them. Hopkins still imagined, at the age of twenty-five, that he would be living long enough to savour his riches.

Grimalkin sensed them coming, thin-coughing-man, he of the black hat and buckled shoes, alongside Thomasine, whose energy signature was strong enough to be picked up miles off. Grimalkin warned the little gryphons, who instantly blended themselves into her skirts and adding their power to hers. Grimalkin knew she was fighting for her life, and focussed all her energies on leading the hunters astray or blocking their path.

The soundless spell-battle between the great witch Thomasine and the lesser witch Grimalkin was to last for many days. Both knew it was a battle to the death. If Thomasine won, Grimalkin would die. If Grimalkin won, Thomasine would find herself back in the cell, awaiting the Justice of the Assize at His Majesty’s Pleasure.

Many times, Thomasine and the Witchfinder found themselves lost in scrub or woodland that had not existed a moment before. Darkness fell when darkness ought not to have fallen. Hideous music surrounded the pair, maddening them and confusing their senses. At various times both Thomasine and the Witchfinder woke from a dreamless sleep they were unaware of having fallen into. At times, plagues of frogs streamed across their path and bats curved down in daylight to tangle in their hair.

But Thomasine was the more powerful witch by far, and after many a delay was to lead the Witchfinder to Grimalkin’s cottage by the river. Matthew Hopkins men arrived on horseback and Grimalkin was dragged away to await the Justice of the Assize. And the gryphons…?

Huddled together, dangerously exposed, they prayed for the soul of the Good Witch Grimalkin. They asked for a robin to alight at her barred cell window, or that the jailhouse cat might prove to be no ordinary feline. Matthew Hopkins failed to see the sibling gryphons, even without the protection of Grimalkin’s skirts, but the Witch Thomasine did. She laughed.

Three Hundred Years, she sneered. Three Hundred Years, my lion-lings, before you shall set eyes on each other again. Greyclaw shall fly North and Rainfeathers shall fly South; and when you land, my baby-eagles, you shall each be turned to stone for Three Hundred Years.

Golden Apple Earrings

“Pretty,” he said, brushing the golden apples absently.

I kissed him – but not the way I did before –

Being pierced through the heart by the one who gave them to me.

Never play word-games with Christians, they’re superstitious,

Truly believing in Serpents and Souls and Apples,

In sunlight stippling Eden’s long-ago leaves

And Jehovah’s moon asleep in the fork of the Tree.

Between my husband’s heart and mine stretches a silver chain;

I left him easily enough, but it pulls and pulls sometimes.

The links that make our chain are dainty fine:

A break in any one and the pain may end me.

“I am the serpent in your Eden,” I said

– so much throw-away imagery –

But my lover stared at me and stepped away.

moon

earrings

The Patience of Gryphons: part the first

Gryphons are famed for their patience.

In the auction house store-room Greyclaw and Rainfeathers had been placed close together, but back to back when they needed to be face to face and eye to eye to break the curse. This would have been an unbearably frustrating situation for others but Greyclaw and Rainfeathers, stone siblings, had waited. They had waited, in isolation from one another, as wars raged about them, as buildings rose and fell, as the skies, at first empty, filled with metal birds and skyrockets. They had waited as clouds scurried above them, as rain blew against them, as snow fell made high, white hats on their heads. They had waited, Greyclaw and Rainfeathers, banished, he to the North Country and she to the South, as summer after summer passed them by, as children were born and old men crumbled into dust in churchyards. They had lived through silence and noise. They had existed so long as stone statues that they had forgotten how long they had lived.

They had waited in dusty sheds and in damp corners of stately homes. Weeds sometimes obscured them but always, eventually, gardeners would arrive with hook and sickle to hack the weeds away.

Moss grew on their beaks and blanketed their leonine flanks, but that too died, in its season. Snow formed high white hats on their proud heads, then melted.

Lovers walked by on cobbled pathways, hand in hand, scarcely noticing that one or other of the small, stone beast was watching them. Stone eyes were sightless, but a gryphon had other, more powerful senses. Greyclaw and Rainfeathers sensed each other’s presence. The moment that second brown-coated attendant walked through the door carrying an age-worn, moss-covered Rainfeathers, waves of joy and silent greetings passed between them.

“It is I, Greyclaw.”

“And I, Rainfeathers. I have missed you so, my brother.”

“Three Hundred Years.”

Back to back they could effect nothing to break the spell. It was all in the eyes. Greyclaw and Rainfeathers had waited three hundred years to be together, and eye to gryphon eye. Now they were indeed together, but…

“Our time draws closer. Patience, sister.”

“Patience indeed, my brother. And rejoicing.”

“Patience and Rejoicing.”

Three hundred years had passed. Grimalkin’s curse had expired, and might be broken.

 

love potion2

‘Her familiars were two little griphons that nested in her skirts’

 

To Tweet, but what to Tweet – that is the question

I just opened a Twitter account. It was my intention, in fact, to join all three – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – in a single day. Then I could then have written a smug and witty post entitled:

I joined Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in a single day (and now I need a little lie down)

Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to use that one because it’s taken me most of the morning to join Twitter and my nerves are already shot. I need the little lie down now. What if, in my experimentation, I accidentally tweeted some really foolish thing and everybody in the whole universe was splitting its sides laughing at me?

Pssst: why is the past tense of I text (absolutely counterintuitively) said to be I text rather than I texted, yet the past tense of I tweet remains I tweeted? Or is it in fact I tweet with a silent ‘ed’ and I just don’t know that yet?

And now of course I have no idea what to tweet. I googled What am I supposed to tweet, then? And Mr G replied: Think of it as small talk

I’m pretty bad at small talk. Also, I have no confidence that Kim Kardashian, say, or Olly Murs or The Queen would want to know that I just made myself a cup of coffee, or that the tumble dryer sounds as if it may be about to tell me it’s completed its cycle by piping the musical motif from Close Encounters of the First Kind. You know – the one where the hero builds a huge, fascinating mud-pie spaceship on the kitchen table and then hares off across the USA in search the real thing? Which no doubt is more than 140 characters.

How I hate that tumble-dryer noise, by the way. There must be a way to silence it, in the instruction manual. Which is lost.

There is nothing interesting about my life I realise now, too late.

Nothing at all.

Nothing.

Whereas I can’t seem to stop writing blog posts I can’t seem to think of anything at all to tweet or have tweeted. Or have tweet(ed). And what makes it worse is I have no Twitter followers. Understandable since this is my first day in the Nest, but… I’d be tweeting into thin air. Wouldn’t I?

Why am I putting myself through all this? There was a kind of logic behind it, I think. I had come to the conclusion that I ought to use the only two things I had – a computer and a compulsion to write – to make money. This sort of thinking has never worked in the past but I don’t seem to have access to any other sort.

So I asked Mr G how to make money through writing online and he sent me to one of those Wiki-whatsits with Janet and John-type illustrations. Wiki-whatsit listed a number of ways but warned me in Big Red Letters (no, it didn’t, I made that bit up) to establish a social media presence in advance. It didn’t tell me why, in any great detail, but I think the idea is you’re forming a kind of network – a bit like the network of links constantly forming and reforming inside La Tour Abolie, and between La Tour Abolie and other blogs/websites except that this is… outside my blog – like allying one complexifying

(cut out the red-wigglies, Spellcheck, there is such a word!)

network of links to another? Everything feeds back into, enhances and magnifies everything else? Everything hangs on the instant findability of information? Have I got the idea?

Please not that! I thought. I’ve managed to avoid it for so long.

I shall draw an analogy. Yes, I shall. Or maybe will.

As many of you know, I am a big fan of TV science fiction series but can only watch them in unevenly spaced, non-sequential gobbets on Freeview. At the moment I am watching not one but two ancient seasons of Stargate. One of the characters, Teal’c, has this thing inside his chest, like a worm with feelers, and there’s this big X in his chest where he’s been cut open at some point and, at moments of high drama and stress, he reaches into this X and pulls out the worm thing, which is actually called a symbiont, and he the host.

Well, how I feel about that symbiont is how I have tended to feel about Twitter, and social media generally. Something along the lines of: why would you ever want to?

It’s one of those schizoid things I expect – something to do with transparency and inadequate boundaries – ontological insecurity. It’s that instinct that other people could walk all through you if they wanted to, walk all over you…

On the other hand I sometimes do feel, when watching some TV debate, that I would like to say something pithy and devastating about Donald Trump, say, or… or Donald Trump. I have even sometimes mused If only I was on Twitter…

The other annoying thing is it means plastering my real and deadly dull name around the internet. Some of you already know because you asked, and I confessed, that I am not so much of a Rosie as a Linda. Rosie is the name of my favourite moggy. People came to address me as Rosie because rosiebooks2009 was the username WordPress concocted from an old email address when I joined. I would love to be a Rosie but sadly I’m a Linda. Every woman in the entire world is a Linda; there were at least four in my class at Junior School.

To add insult to injury I am, perforce, a Clark. I married an interesting man with the least interesting surname in the world. After we got divorced I had other things to worry about than fiddle-faddling about reverting to my maiden name. So, call me either. I’m both.

So, my Twitter ‘handle’ (handle?) is @lindaclark944. Quite what good that will be to you at the moment I don’t know.

Perhaps I ought to tweet that I have just posted a post about tweeting?

Yes, that might be a start.