Older, Wiser, One Guinea Pig Down

Birthdays are often a time when a little reflection and soul searching are in order and once a year I try to find the time between cake and wine to indulge in such things. This year is particularly pertinent as everything is about to change for me, but most comforting are the things that stay the same. My birthday inevitably involves a pilgrimage back home to visit the family, an event that was especially exciting this time around as next week I will be taking up residence very near the family seat once more.

Birthdays are always celebrated at my grandparents’ house. Nan insists on doing all the cooking and there is always a protracted argument after the meal about who gets to do the clearing up. Weirdly, the fight for this dubious privilege plays out in an identical fashion each and every time. It begins when anyone dares to start stacking plates and Nan insists that we should ‘leave it’ and that she will ‘do it later’. Someone – usually Mumsie – then says ‘it’ll only take a minute’, at which point everyone at the table stands up to either assist Mumsie or to stop her in her tracks (depending whether you are on the side of pro-clearing up or anti-clearing up). Increasingly raised voices from the anti-clearing up side squeal ‘Leave it! Leave it!’ like there is some kind of pub closing time fight about to erupt, while the pro-clearing up side insists ‘I’m not clearing up, honestly’ as they proceed towards the sink with armfuls of used crockery. Then, Nan will have another glass of wine and scold the pro-clearing up team, who continue to insist that they are not clearing up at all. This goes on until everything is cleared up and put away and we can all move on to coffee as if nothing untoward has happened.

Another family birthday quirk is taking unseemly amounts of glee at something awful happening on the special day in question. This year, my brother was delighted to inform me that my birthday was ruined because Daisy, one of Mumsie’s guinea pigs, had died that morning. This was quite sad news but I didn’t consider it birthday-ruining. But my brother insisted – my birthday was ruined, so there you have it. Mumsie declared thoughtfully that Daisy was now ‘with the angels’ and noted, somewhat off-handedly, that there was ‘one less little mouth to feed’.

The rarely-seen Little Brother and a disturbing scene where my family came under attack from a unicorn

I feel that the passing of a family pet should be noted, but it’s difficult to know what to say about Daisy. Her entire existence consisted of little more than squeaking, eating continually and doing tiny poos all over the place. The most notable thing she ever did was die on my birthday. She was a nice little thing, very fat with lovely pink feet. She is survived by fellow furry poo-factory Fluffy, who is slightly more notable in that she is prone to weeing on your leg in addition to squeaking and eating.

The dearly departed Daisy (left) and (right) Fluffy in mourning

The arrival of my 38th year sees me still unsuccessful at maintaing coherent personal endeavours, but happily my literary output remains solid, if not a little improved over the last twelve months. The news of my return to my home town has given rise to the surprising speculation that I am planning a return to the police. The amount of people who have contacted me about this is astonishing, so much so that I almost considered it. The enthusiasm for this prospect is most flattering, but all in all I don’t think it would be a very good idea. They don’t even have proper hats any more so I’m afraid the whole thing is out of the question.


This is a proper hat

And so I find myself fairly satisfied with my years on the planet thus far, my hat collection continues to grow, along with my circle of curious and delightful friends and acquaintances. As ever, I shall strive to work harder, do better and be better. But I shall also remember to follow the example of Daisy and make sure I take the time to worry about nothing more than squeaking and eating.

The Writer Retreats

Tomorrow I shall be decamping from my Cambridgeshire lair and heading to not-quite-uncharted territory for a week or so.

Maybe somewhere pretty. Maybe not

The reasons for this are threefold – holibobs*, dedicated book writing time and shenanigans.

This looks like a recipe for shenanigans if ever I saw one

Blog activity during this time will be limited, although a Poirot episode will be published as normal on Monday. I will reply to comments as fastidiously as aforementioned writing and shenanigans allow. If you feel you might be missing me a little too much, no doubt I will be posting nonsense on Facebook and Twitter, almost certainly fuelled by alcohol and misdeeds.

Misdeeds start with a good breakfast

In the meantime, why not console yourself by pre-ordering the super new horror anthology, The Box Under The Bed, edited by our very own Dan Alatorre and featuring two terrifying tales by yours truly? Not just me, obviously, it also features some top notch scribes from across the globe.




Number 8 in Hot New Releases!

By the time I return on Monday 25th September, I will be a year older, most likely none the wiser and in all probability quite a bit fatter. The big pants are on standby.

Lucy x

*A small holiday

**Special Edition** The Professor’s Birthday

Today’s post is in honour of a very special birthday boy – Professor VJ Duke! Many happy returns, dear boy, on behalf of my good self and FictionFan – and all the Punchy Family!

I am nervously adjusting my hat and wrestling with a tie that refuses to sit straight under my collar. Why is it that when one needs to look her very best, the reflection that stares back resembles something of a tramp in fancy dress?

Today is a most important day. It is the birthday of one of our best-loved travelling Fellows, the eminent Professor VJ Duke. Many of his far-flung friends and colleagues will be joining us for an elaborate surprise party at a secret location (organised by the beautiful and brilliant FictionFan) later in the day. The noise in the Porters’ Lodge far exceeds what should be deemed acceptable at such an early hour. Daddy Salami and Ruber are sulking particularly loudly.

“Hey, cur-noodle,” Daddy Salami addresses me. “I don’t see why me son Ruber couldn’t make the birthday cake. He is the world’s greatest chef, after all.”

Before I can reply, Mr Ratherquite (accompanied, as ever, by his giggling Ladies) steps in.

“Sir!” He bellows. “You are most rude and crude. Deputy Head Porter is a lady, and no lady should be referred to as a cur-noodle.”

“Shut up, Ratherquite” replies Salami. “No one even invited you.”

“Even more reason that I should be in attendance!”

“Now listen,” I say, keen to delay any arguments until the actual party itself. “Manly Man said that he would take care of the cake and I have every confidence that he will do the Professor proud.”

“Well, if you have every confidence in that dunderhead then you are more of a cur-noodle than I first thought!”

I ignore Daddy Salami’s remark and turn my attentions back to my rebellious tie. I am joined by The Dean who has brought me a much-needed cup of tea.

“I say, Deputy Head Porter” he says, handing me the steaming mug. “Do give the old boy my best. Tell him that we will catch up for drinks and escapades very soon.”

“Does anyone know how old the Professor actually is?” asks Ruber. “I don’t think he even has a proper age.”

“I know exactly how old he is!” The Dean snaps back. “Just as he knows my true age. But we swore an oath of blood never to reveal the truth.”

“More importantly,” I add “Is to make sure that blasted Amelia doesn’t turn up and cause trouble. We are all under strict instructions to keep her away, is that understood?”

The Ladies quiver as the very mention of the name, and fan themselves ferociously.

“Quite so, quite so!” Mr Ratherquite says. “That girl is an abomination. She upsets the nerves of my dear Ladies.”

I check my watch. Where is Manly Man with the cake?

“Hey honey-butts, I’s hopes you not been worrying about me,” Manly Man enters the Porters’ Lodge. “I done got the cake right here.”

He drops a heavy box on the counter, which makes a worrying clanking sound.

“What d’ya call that?” asks Daddy Salami.

“It’s the Professor’s birthday cake, like you asked for” Manly Man replies. We all gather round the box and take a peek inside. Oh, dear…

“Oi! You cur-noodle stupid brain!” Daddy Salami roars. “That’s not a cake! That’s a model of the Starship Exercise!”

“Yeah, well, if we done put some candles on it he won’t know the difference.”

“Blimey,” says The Dean “He’s going to break a few teeth on that.”

“It’s a very nice gesture, MM,” I say gently “But it was a cake we were hoping for. Still, I am sure he will like this just as well.”

“Idiot,” huffs Ruber. “I knew I should have taken care of the cake.”

Just then, the door to the Porters’ Lodge flies open and Schwarz Tauptinker bundles through.

“Chickit!” he says, by way of announcing his presence. “Whats you all doing here arguing? The party’s gonna start at 10:00, you know.”

With that, I gather together the assembled guests and we head at speed to FictionFan’s castle…

To go to the party click here!