Friday 12 October 2012

#FridayFlash - Minuet

The strains of a string quartet echoed among the icicles of the Palace. The violins soared above the muted refrain of the cello, and Lady Winter twirled and spun across the ballroom. Her heeled boots traced filigrees in the glittering crust of frost that coated the floor. The quartet stood on a raised dais near her throne of ice. Their skin glowed pale blue in the late afternoon light.


Lady Winter ceased her twirling and turned to face Adage, her faithful butler. He nodded once, and stood to attention in the doorway. Lady Winter snapped her fingers and the quartet ceased playing, musical notes hanging frozen in the air.


"M'lady, my apologies for the interruption, but there is someone to see you."

"Is it someone interesting?"

"That is not for me to decide, m'lady. His name is Ulf Bauer, and he hails from the village of Pennendorff."

Lady Winter cocked her head on one side and thought for a moment. Pennendorff lay just five miles from the Palace - the closest any humans dared come to her home. The villagers were stalwart and sturdy, as proven by her quartet of musicians. Even without her enchantments, they'd pandered to her every whim for weeks.

"Very well, Adage. Send him in."

Adage stepped aside and bade the villager to enter. A very short man, pale of cheek and gaunt in build, stumbled into the ballroom. His fingers grasped the brim of a faded hat, and his hands shook with cold. His nose glowed red in an unremarkable face.

"Bauer, is it? What business have you at the Winter Palace?"

"Beggin' your pardon, m'lady, but I come on behalf of me village." Bauer fiddled with his hat, eyes darting around the room as he fought to avoid Lady Winter's gaze.

"I'm familiar with Pennendorff." She shot a sly grin at the string quartet, now motionless on their dais. Their faces froze in eternal grins, but their eyes screamed for help. Bauer started, recognising his neighbours among them.

"Well, er, well y'see, m'lady, winter came a bit early, and we din't have time to bring the 'ole 'arvest in. Food's runnin' a bit short, y'see, and, well, we was wonderin' if you could maybe end winter a week or two early so we can start foragin'." Bauer stared at the floor.

"Why would you ask me to do that? Why not visit Lord Spring and ask him to come early?"

"Oh, m'lady, we ask you because you're more powerful than he is. Oh yes, m'lady, we know that."

Bauer nodded several times, and Lady Winter pursed her lips. Annoyance and displeasure burned in the depths of her frosty eyes.

"Flattery. Bauer?"

"No, m'lady. It's the 'onest truth, yes it is."

Lady Winter glanced out of the window at the lawn. An idea struck her. She looked at the villager, a smirk hovering around her mouth.

"I'll make a deal with you. If you can win a game, then I'll end winter early." Her tone thawed, the ice replaced by a sheen of honey.

"Really, m'lady? Oh, you're ever so good - ever so good, indeed! What's the game?"


Bauer's face fell. He looked at the floor again.

"I'm afraid I don't know how to play, m'lady."

"That's alright, Bauer. You don't need to know the rules."

"I don't?"

"No. For I shall be playing for you. Or, should that be, I shall be playing with you."

Confusion clouded Bauer's face. Lady Winter snapped her fingers, and the villager's bewildered expression froze in place as thick frost clung to his entire body. Lady Winter skipped around him, examining her handiwork. She squealed and clapped her hands with delight. Adage appeared at the ballroom doors.

"Is everything alright, m'lady?"

"Perfect, Adage, perfect! Have this pawn taken outside. My chess set is finally complete! I think I might invite my sister to play tomorrow."

Adage disappeared to fetch help to move the pawn. Lady Winter twirled across the ballroom to the window to admire the chess set on the lawn outside. If she used a pawn to win the game tomorrow, then she would keep up her end of the bargain. Otherwise...

* * *

The original image is of the ballroom at Peterhof Palace in St Petersburg, taken by Chilli Head. Wintry editing by me.

Sunday 7 October 2012

The Goings On of Icy

I haven't really done many posts about myself for a while, I suppose in part because I can't think who'd be interested (well, that, and most people who read my blog follow me on Twitter so you get to hear my rants waffle on there). Still, I figured I should probably do some sort of update about what I'm getting up to at the moment.

First off, where the heck has the year gone? Can't quite believe it's October already. It just seems like yesterday that I was getting excited to go to Venice in July, and the whole summer stretched ahead of me like a season of promise and potential. Now it's nearly Halloween...

I finally bought a Kindle! I also got it a very cool Frankenstein cover. I'm currently reading Helen Howell's Jumping at Shadows on it, and it's so much easier reading off the e-ink screen that it is the screen on my Android. That'll make it so much easier taking books to and from work - plus it's lighter, so hopefully it'll make my bag lighter, and thus less stressful on my back. But isn't the cover cool?!

The second year of my teacher training course kicked off in a big way on Friday so I'll be devoting a lot of time to that between now and May. Between that, my day job, my PhD and editing on The Necromancer's Apprentice, I won't be taking on any new commitments until at least Easter or so! I expect to be rather busy over the coming months.

Speaking of my PhD, I'm currently working on my second 'big' chapter (my first being my literature review, in which I summed up which texts I'm planning to use in my discussion). This chapter is an overview of the horror genre within cinema, ranging from around 1910-1978. That's a lot of horror and I've only got about 8000 words in which to do it, so I'm finding keeping to the word limit to be a whole lot harder than the actual work. I'm reading some fascinating books so it's all very interesting, and I get to watch horror films and claim it's research. I've just finished writing the section on German Expressionism, which special emphasis on The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Nosferatu and Der Golem, and I'm moving on to horror's "classic" age, in the 1930s. Many critics seem to think that one neatly leads on to the other, pointing to the move of Paul Leni to Hollywood in the 1920s, but to do so completely ignores the horror production within silent Hollywood, namely films such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde starring John Barrymore in 1923, or Lon Chaney's starring roles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923 and Phantom of the Opera in 1925. Madness, I tell you.

Anyway. Watching all of these classic horror films has me staring at the exceptionally beautiful leading ladies, and it's got me experimenting with my own image a tad. Behold! Me with curly hair, retro makeup, and a suitably vintage Photoshop treatment. I actually went out like this last night, my look complete with fake beauty spot, false eyelashes and suitably slinky black dress, but I can't help thinking it makes me stick out like a sore thumb in Newcastle. Still, it's a look I'm fascinated by, so I'll probably spend the rest of the year working on variations of it. In case you're interested, the makeup I used is a combination of Max Factor, No.7 and Soap & Glory.

I think that's enough waffle from me. What have you all been up to?