Drabble Blog

I recently found out that the 100 word flash-fiction/micro-stories I have been working these past three years have an actual name – “Drabble”.

The term is derived from a 1971 Monty Python book. ’nuff said!

There’s even a website to prove it.

So, ever at the rebellious cutting-edge, my newest piece – a seasonally appropriate monologue – is a variant-drabble form I’ve just invented.

It’s called a “Faux-Drabble”.

That is a piece that could pass for a drabble, but is actually 15 or so words out.

And so, I present to you Bella Basura’s First Faux-Drabble.

Cold Edges

My winter consciousness feels bound within cold edges.

I am double-thermal long-johns.

And still my ankles are frozen blue.

They  descend into hypothermic dysfunction, squishing like icy jelly when I stand on them.

 My knees feel chilly. And my elbows.

I can’t leave the house, enraptured in my unnatural attachment to a radiator. “I love You. I want to envelope you. I want to lie all over you”. I say the same to my fur-covered hot water bottle. Hot chocolate and fleecy throws seduce me. Candles and a ‘real’ fire screen-saver on my laptop too. Hygge hygge hygge my arse.

Green and pleasant, England’s winters are mild, but still my consciousness always feels bound within cold edges.

Bella Basura January 2019

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Short Change Short Bread

Okay! So Facebook tells me I have 486 fans who haven’t heard from me for a while…Hey There! I’m going to make it up to you with this dinky little flash fiction I wrote on X-mas Eve…

Muntjac Deer at my Birdfeeder December 2018

Muntjac Deer at my Birdfeeder December 2018

 

Short Change Short Bread

It would be wrong to say that I hate Christmas. It’s Xmas that I hate.
I make this distinction based solely on the evidence of one article on the internet which may or may not have been written by enthusiatic christians, or even xians. They define Christmas as a celebratory festival for the birth of The Christ. They call X-mas – the X-kiss of Mamon.
It’s pitting mercy against greed, Jesus versus Santa, like in the South Park Episode.
So, I say it’s X-mas, the knee-jerk consumerist spending frenzy of kiss-mamon-mas that I hate.
I seen it when I go into town in December, I see people herding the streets in viral catatonias, bleeping out their data, maxing out their plastic, all sightless under the glamour of a single minded compulsion to engage in monetary exchange.
And if I’m honest, I seen it start with Black Friday and now Cyber Monday, and then January Sales throughout December. Elongating the whole sordid orgy into a slow panting panicked climax  lasting several months. I seen people filming themselves in wide-eyed apoplexy as they clasp black boxed electronic trophies to their heaving breast, their mind’s eye fixated on X-mas. Mamon kiss my arse.
Rage. I seen them wander the halls of Grand Arcade Shopping Mall shedding psychic 50 pound notes, like autumn trees shed leaves. I seen it all, worse than the Night of the Living Dead.

So, I am writing this on Xmas Eve Morning contemplating my ill-advised quest into the city centre to use some gift vouchers on some new underwear (solid big knickers from M+S). I am standing stuck in an hour long queue in Marks staring at their Definitive Short Bread Collection, incidentally curated by some half-has-been you-tube culinary star. My eyes jerk among the Skottie Dog shaped gift boxes, floribundances of tartan and stags horns, the wobbly Ben-Nevis-picture-postcard topped tins, the basics economy line wrapped in vegetable-derived bio-degradable cellophane. I feel transfixed with confusion. I feel like I am falling forward into an infinite vortex. I am torn by the urge to spend all my money and a fear of debt that tugs at a cellular level. I am experiencing a strange psychic dissonance. I feel high. I feel high, like maybe a compulsive gambler feels during a horse race, like a sex-addict hunting out ever more repulsive porn, like shrodinger’s cat crouched in the gloom waiting for dinner time. The queue for the check out unfurls ahead of me, endless to a far unseen horizon. I haven’t mentioned the seasonal music pumping out. I will not mention the in-store music.
When suddenly a bell-clear voice, my own voice, rings out pristine inside my head. “But I don’t need any Short Bread”. I am swept back to my queuing reality. I feel sucked at and plucked at, unsteady as I realise that – No! I don’t need any fucking Short Bread. There will always be Short Bread, there will always be more Short Bread. Every Aunty in the UK brings Short Bread at X-mas. My mum brings Short Bread, in fact my Mum doesn’t leave the house in December without a tin of Short Bread tucked into the bottom of her Bag-For-Life. There will always be Short Bread. I don’t need to buy Short Bread.

It feels like silence falls around me, mouths move but no sound comes out, the queue to the checkouts, the altars of the mass of Mamon, surges and undulates like a mexican wave of wealth, a John Carpenter film in real-time. Except now I know I don’t need no Short Bread, I am freed from that spell.
Fortified with my newly realised knowledge I leap out from the queue, flinging my packet of over-priced knickers to the floor, witnessing aloud, let the spirit flow through me that I am a just conduit for the voice of his love, I call out loud in my favourite voice-“No! I will not kiss my arse with the Mamon-pants of Yule! No! No! I will not!”.

 

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bella.basura on Instagram

I have recently started posting on Instagram. #bellabasura

I am re-photographing the whole of the Skull Collection for this first project.

Strawberry Fair Skull. Tealight holder, Shoreditch 2018. Gifted by Adam Crawford.

Strawberry Fair Skull. Tealight holder, Shoreditch 2018. Gifted by Adam Crawford.

#theskullcollection

Over time I will be gradually updating the photographs in the Skull Collection archive on this site.

Silver Earring. The Great Frog, Carnaby Street 1982. Collected by Bella Basura.

Silver Earring. The Great Frog, Carnaby Street 1982. Collected by Bella Basura.

 

 


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Mosaicked with Swimming Horses

One-off performance in the Cambridge festival of Ideas
of Mosaicked with Swimming Horses
19th October, Upstairs at Waterstones Sidney Street

Click here for more details and to book tickets
and to view the 2018 Cambridge festival of Ideas Programme

 

 


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The Worm of Haftvad

Last weekend I had a wonderful time at a storytelling event at Buckden Towers. A group of us stayed all weekend sharing tales from the Shahnameh, a Persian text by 10th century poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi. The schedule organised by Marion Leeper was wall to wall storytelling, it was pretty intense but rewarding and enjoyable with long breaks to chat, make new friends and eat loads of food, biscuits, cake and pudding.

Here is the script of the tale I related.

Haftvad and The Worm

The tale I am about to tell reputedly happened during the reign of King Ardeshir almost 1800 years ago, and it was related to Fedowsi in the tenth century by a travelling snake-oil salesman.

High atop a precipitous mountain, somewhere in modern Iran there still stands a glorious citadel built in mud. It has become known to us as Arg-e-Bam – the castle that exploded.

It’s turrets gaze out over the surrounding country, a magnificent mountain castle keep of unparalleled splendour, it is still the world’s largest adobe building, more extensive and breath-taking than the ancient mud ziggurats of Ethiopia.

But who built this opulent fort? we ask ourselves, which munificent princeling created this enduring wonder? – the answer is nobody knows, his name has not come down to us through history, it has been buried in the shifting sands of time. Arg-e-bam was founded by a man with no name.

But I am getting ahead of myself, at the beginning of the story there is no mountaintop citadel, there is only the modest town of Karajan.
That distant town nestled in a rich fertile valley crescent, cupped between the shore of a clear glassy  lake. And  the abundant forest foothills of a craggy, scree-riven  mountain. Karajan, A small dead-end of hard-working tranquillity.
This small moth-eaten town at the far end of a minor tributary path that meanders on into a circuitous ancient route that leads on to the laden caravans and the astonishing marvel of the ancient Silk Road. (gong)
In the  town of Karajan – that scraped a paltry existence through the crafts of spinning and weaving –  there once lived a man with seven sons who the Shahnameh tells us was called Haftvad. Now the strangest thing about Haftvad was that he had no name, Haftvad simply means “The Man with Seven Sons”.

So, Haftvad had no name and neither did his sons. But the strangest thing is that Haftvad also had a daughter, and he took no notice of her. He took notice of his singular beautiful daughter, the most important person in this story. Haftvad’s daughter, who also has no name. Haftvad’s only daughter,  his one daughter, his first, his number one, his prima. And because I think she deserves better than to be nameless, I shall call her Alif, like the first letter of the  alphabet.

The people of Karajan lived in a state bordering on poverty. And like his neighbours, Haftvad made a living in the town, a small living, more than just surviving, but not much more.  It was a poor but cheerful town.

The people worked hard, carding and spinning and weaving the most exquisite fabrics.  Even the children worked hard. The boys spent their nights high in the mountains with their herds, or days in the fields tending fibrous crops. And each day, from early in the morning the girls, the unmarried maids of the town, tramped out into the hillsides, with their heavy distaffs and their bales of wool, and they  spent their day on the hillside, spinning, not returning until nightfall, laden with skeins of yarn. These were poor resourceful girls who were able to spin most anything into thread of some kind. They could spin cotton, linen, stinging nettles, hemp, , they would spin sheeps wool, goats wool, rabbits wool and when they could get it – they would spin the finest, beautifulest, most sought after yarn of all, from the wool of a worm.

girls spinning illustration from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh

The thread the girls spun was taken down into the town at nightfall and stored to be weaved into long bolts of fine cloth by the rest of the townsfolk.

Like most of the girls and women of the town, Alif’s dark sleek corkscrew hair was twisted and coiled up with a beautiful woven headscarf, she looked very fine. Indeed, all the girls and women dressed well, they were poor, but lived in a town where off-cuts and remnants of luxurious cloth were bountiful. All the maidens of the town were impeccably dressed, and wanted only jewels and shoes to be mistaken for princesses. They lived the opulent lives of a rag man’s daughter.

This rhythm of life persisted through time, unchanging and consistent until one strange day when Alif found a worm.

That day started the same as any other fine autumn day. The girls gathered at sunrise and made their way through the fall trees, their leaves tipping orange. They found a clearing in a mulberry grove and spun with laughter and gossip and hard work. At lunchtime they sat in a circle and chatted over their food together.

Fedowsi tells us –
It was just  at that moment Haftvad’s daughter found
A windfall apple lying on the ground
And picked it up – now listen carefully
Because this story’s quite extraordinary:
She bit the apple then, but as she tried it
She saw a little worm there coiled inside it:

Well now, we’re all familiar with the story of the maiden, the snake and the apple, and I can almost hear you calling out: “No! No! Don’t eat the apple! Don’t eat the apple!”.
But have no fear, this story is about Alif, not Eve, it’s not about a priviledged trustafarian snowflake cupped in the palm of gated-community paradise. This story is about Alif a practical down to earth girl, a lowly spinster living in a threadbare textile town, somewhere south of the Silk Road.
So Alif restrained herself, looking at the maggot in the mulberry apple,

She scooped it out and gently found a place
For this small worm inside her spindlecase.
And as she took up her cotton she said
“By God I swear, today I’ll spin such thread,
Helped by this apple’s lucky worm, that you
Will be amazed at what I can do!”
The girls began to laugh – in their delight,
There faces glowed, there teeth shone silver-white”

Which just goes to show that although they were poor they could still afford toothpaste.

Well, come sunset that day, the girls gathered up their spindles and counted the skeins of yarn they had spun. And true to her prediction, Alif had spun much more than she usually did. The other girls were agog at Alif’s productivity. “That truly is a magic worm!” they exclaimed “You should take good care of it” “it is a blessing” Alif agreed as she marked the amount on the ground then ran like wind-bourne smoke to show her mother how much she had completed. From that day on Alif fed the worm each morning and kept it safe in a box under her bed. Alif said to herself “I am going to spin so much thread, by the grace of this worm, that I’ll never be poor again”.

– And so, Alif fed the worm everyday
And the worm increased in size day by day
Alif’s spun more and more thread by the week
Her father grew richer and richer every month

Alif looked at the growing worm and admired it’s smooth sleek scaled black skin. And here’s the strange thing she noticed about the Worm – it had a tiny weeny wincey mouth and the hugest fat stomach you have ever seen.  So it could eat only the smallest of morsels, but could never eat enough to fill it’s big empty belly. And Alif wondered for moment if the Worm was a metaphor for greed, but then she stopped herself because she was a down to earth parochial girl and the fancy Chinese concept of a hungry ghost was beyond her comfort zone.

Every morning Alif fed the worm a piece of the apple, and however much cotton there was, Alif magically spun it into thread.

The image of the girl miraculously spinning preternatural amounts of yarn often appears in European fairy tales. And generally the girl is tricked by some disguised evil magician so that her only escape from forever spinning is to solve a riddle by guessing a name, or hand over a newborn child or kiss an ugly reptile. Not so in this story because  – the Worm, like almost everybody in this story, has no name to guess, Alif has no first born son to sacrifice, and although she’s poor, she’s not about to go snogging with a maggot, however beautiful it’s black and orange crackly skin. Alif has standards.

So, in the story of Haftvad and the worm there seems there is no quest, no riddle or tribute to pay. The magic worm gave Alif the ability to spin monumental amounts of thread and asked nothing in return beyond it’s basic needs of food and shelter. And over time Alif’s prodigious output is such that her family are no longer able to keep up, they need to employ people, more and more people, to help weave the copious thread into cloth…

After a time Alif’s father began to notice her and wonder at her miraculous skill, the source of his burgeoning wealth and he questioned her. “You spin so much that it seems that you’ve taken a fairy for a sister”.

Alif laughed because she knew there were no fairies in this tale. “it’s from the apple and the little worm inside it” she said, then she showed Haftvad the miraculous worm and explained everything to him.

At this point the story totally changes direction,  and Alif simply disappears from the narrative, it truly now becomes the story of Haftvad and the Worm. Because at this moment, Alif’s father – Haftvad –  instantly took control of the situation. Haftvad assigned assistants to care for the worm and he used his new found wealth to build a castle keep on the nearby mountaintop for the Worm to live in. And as Haftvad’s wealth grew he assigned courtiers and soldiers to attend the worm and he extended the castle keep into a grand Fort, where the worm was indulged, safe secure and comfortable. The Worm continued to grow. As Haftvad’s wealth grew he incorporated a magnificent citadel around the fort on the mountaintop. And Haftvad assigned Viziers and Generals to serve the giant worm. Although in truth the Generals and Viziers franchised out the day to day care of the worm to some dodgy private security firm. Haftvad realised that his continued wealth was dependant on the whims of the worm and he did all he could to appease it, keep it safe and keep the money rolling in.

And the town prospered, and the women and girls of Karajan were soon able to afford the jewellery and the shoes to make them the very simulacra of princesses.

Alif, of course, kept on spinning, she was the goose that laid the golden egg, endowed with the blessing that turned to a curse. Like Ariadne she had to spin for her life.

And as this is no fairy tale, it is as it always is in real life Haftvad’s conspicuous wealth and power attracted the attention and envy of malcontents, thieves and kings. At first Haftvad easily suppressed these attacks by the grace of the magic worm, and through a combination of largesse, cowardice and the brute force of his seven sons – each of which commanded an army of 10,000 soldiers a piece. Haftvad grew in power.

Alif spun on as was her destiny, the eternal spinster silhouetted, momentarily glimpsed through the dim light of history.

Haftvad’s fortress citadel became so well-known that they say even the winds of heaven didn’t dare blow around it.

Twice King Ardeshir himself rode  against Haftvad and twice the King was trounced.

Defeated, the King and his armies returned home. The Worm’s reputation went before him. Skirmishes broke out but as soon as the soldiers heard of the tale of the almighty worm they lost heart and fled. So it was that finally, Ardeshir resorted to underhand methods, he devised a cunning plan to kill the Worm itself and break it’s spell. And so in the end the Worm was brought down through a combination of trickery, flattery  and ill-conceived drinking games with the worm’s guards.

As the Citadel trembled and shook from the explosive death throes of the Worm, King Ardeshir pronounced from the ramparts of Haftvad’s vanquished citadel “I fed the worm molten lead; his power is gone.” Hadvad and his sons were executed and their names were erased from history.

High atop a precipitous mountain, somewhere in modern Iran there still stands a glorious citadel built in mud. It has become known to us as Arg-e-Bam – the castle that exploded.

It’s turrets gaze out over the surrounding country, a magnificent mountain castle keep of unparalleled splendour, it is still the world’s largest adobe building, more extensive and breath-taking than the ancient mud ziggurats of Ethiopia.

Submissions for Edgewords Renewal Anthology

The deadline for Edgewords Renewal Anthology draws closer, next week in fact, so please do get your finger out and send us your wonderful SHORT fictions and poems. There is a word limit of 300 words or 30 lines – details are on the Edge Cafe website – here.

The new anthology is edited by Munizha Ahmad-Cooke, Lisa Evans and Jean Dark. We have had several very wonderful submissions already, and the 19th September deadline is now looming. We are still waiting for you to send us YOUR contribution.

We recently recorded Munizha’s beautiful piece -Ripe – which appeared in the first Edgewords Anthology, you can listen to our reading of it here.  It was recorded a few week ago at Lisa’s, in the home studio she shares with her partner Colin. So many thanks to Colin for making the recording, we had such a lovely afternoon!

Follow this link to send your submissions to us – Edgewords Renewal Anthology

The Edgeworders. by Victor Manuel-Ibanez for Oblique Arts. 2017.

The Edgeworders. by Victor Manuel-Ibanez for Oblique Arts. 2017.

The first Edgewords Anthology was published last year, and came about through a series of Creative Writing workshops during September and October 2017. We were lucky to have the support of Oblique Arts, The Edge Cafe and Cambridge City Council who made the project possible.

Here is a photograph of the writing group by Victor. I think we look like a rock band! In fact, we are pausing during a workshop, at The Mayan Pyramid near Snakey Path on a writing expedition to Cherry Hinton Hall.

 

Edgewords Renewal Anthology Submission Form

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Jonny Trilogy Part Three

A Last Poem For Jonny

Jonny Marvel's Head by Toby Ilsley 2018

Jonny Marvel’s Head by Toby Ilsley 2018

This is a room hung with grief
Swags of bombazine and
Weeping weeds wilting
Sick with perfume
There are no selfies
Nothing of us close friends sitting
Talking laughing weeping
Talking furiously to keep the madness
On the other side of the door
This is the place of the end
Doors curtained off
With dust-pleated damask
No social media here
Just straight talking
And jags of silence
So there’s nothing to show
for those times of grace
nothing to offer
to the land of Instagram
nothing to show
but I don’t want to leave here now
don’t want it to be
time to go now

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Dream Damaged

I have just posted up my first attempt at a Youtube video.
Dream Damaged

Derelict Elm 14

 

 

The text is one that I’ve had knocking around for sometime. It’s one that I used extensively when working with Jonny Marvel on Thee Sex Toy Library Experiments during 2015 to 2017. I have reused the text here with sounds, samples and support from Eli Saxman and Shakey Navel-Bones. The images are of a supposed derelict Elm in Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge. June 2018.

 

 

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The Jonny Trilogy. Part Two

Last Night

The King of Mill Road - by Souffle Washboard

The King of Mill Road – by Souffle Washboard

We didn’t go to the big tribute party in the pub,
We stayed behind
I didn’t feel like consoling those who’d just found out
Who were realising for the first time
That they’d never watch him drunk-boogie again
Who noticed his absence
Because Jonny wasn’t there anymore, to buy them another pint.

Like my gran-dad on hearing of the death
Of his friend in Finchley – Old Bootsy.
Finchley was country in them days
and Bootsy had a small orchard in his back yard.
Gran-dad sat down in his chair
Rolled himself an Old Holborn
And puffing away said
“Well! Bang goes me cooking apples”

We stayed behind
And went down to the Charmers Garden
We built a fire and sat in starlight
Nobody wept, uncontrollably, theatrically
We laughed, and groaned and rolled our eyes
And fell silent one by one.
In the silence Jonny gently sang Sea Song in my head.
But Jonny wasn’t there anymore, to see the wink of shooting stars.

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Jonny Marvel 1968 – 2018

Today I wrote this for Jonny.

Meerkat with Binoculars - 2018

Meerkat with Binoculars – 2018

Dammit Jonny…
Sitting in unbearable still, lamental and heartbroken,
I recall the sound of Jonny laughing,
The black sheep love child of Sid James…
And Mutley – QiQiQi!
Then I remember the broken legged meerkat
with binoculars left anonymously by my gate.

Dammit Jonny…

Searching for old photographs,
I come across a carrier bag
Of Jonny’s books, borrowed the other christmas
And I can’t bear to look at them for grief.
I turn away and drink more coffee.
Then I remember his jibe
about the coincidence of my menopause
and the break up of my marriage.

Dammit Jonny…

The only two photos of Jonny I can find
Were taken at my wedding picnic
Taken at the same time, consecutively even.
KT, Jonny, Marc Vaubert de Chantilly, Pat, Kat and Jesus.
Jonny’s looking overheated, chill in the July heat
A scarf, or sarong, or pashmina-thing,
He’d know what to call it,
Slung nonchalantly around his shoulders.
In the sunset gleam his skin shines like porcelain,
He looks fragile.

I wish I had a photo of him, ten years later,
Rotund and hale with ill-health, serenading
A whole drunken Strawberry Fair Benefit in The Dev,
With That Robert Wyatt song, acapella.
And I weep into the washing up.
Dammit Jonny…
I love you.

 

Liminal Phases at CB1 Cafe. Temporary Temple Promotions 2015

Up til now I have been lost for words at Jonny’s sudden death. Finally I have managed to write this poem. Jonny and I were not always on good terms in recent months. I felt wounded and raw when I heard of his death, and confused. I have been looking at Jonny’s Diary of a Foolish Man site, which Jill Eastland had set up in 2013. Jonny and I worked together on content for the website during 2015 and 2016. All we managed was to upload  photographs, and set up links to recordings, of his Awkward Instant performance with Justyna Latoch and Vapour at ReWorks Outer Music festival in 2012.

Check out the links below

Jonny’s website

Ady Panic’s poem

Liminal Phases

That Robert Wyatt song