A Christmas curse by Jan Needle

I get very jealous when I read all you other writers’ blogs. You all seem so effortlessly serious in your choice of subject and the erudition and application you so generously put in. And here am I, pushing the monthly deadline to its outer limit (not for the first time, or the second, or the third). Look at Dennis. Spends half his life zooming around the planet enjoying himself, and still has time to produce a wonderful new volume, and make me dribble with longing for his buckshee television. And then a spiffing blog on top.

As you can see, deadline or not, I haven't got a thought in my head as to what to write. My brain is wrecked. I'm seven-eighths of the way through revising a big thriller, I've just spent a week doing a final polish on the second of my nautical novellas about Charlie (Craven) Raven, and in the interstices (try saying that to a voice recognition programme!) I've hammered out an outline and pitching document for a novel about Napoleon.

Fascinating chap, even more fascinating as a personality than Horatio himself. Did you know, for instance, that his wife Josephine was not called Josephine, and that he had two other mistresses he called Josephine as well? Weird, or what? And did you know that the Duke of Wellington hopped into bed with both of them? If they taught this sort of history in schools, I suspect we'd be much more educated as a nation.

How I see myself. Handsome, debonair author
What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that I'm tired. Writing fiction, however hard I try to kid myself, is dashed gruelling. I'm jealous of you lot for your seriousness, and I'm jealous of people who write songs. However brilliant they are, they are, like most poems, short. I could do that, I'm bloody sure I could! Except for the times I’ve tried, of course. You wouldn't compare my efforts to a summer's day.

So, I'll leave you with a curse. I know it's almost Christmas, the season of goodwill and all that tosh, but life's too short. I'll tell you an Irish story about a woman whose favourite farmyard beastie was slain by an unknown passerby. People who know the history of that island will tell you that it has a hidden meaning. So what? It's a wonderful piece of sustained cursing, and I dedicate it to all of you. Bah. Humbug.

Nell Flaherty's Drake

Oh my name it is Nell, and truth for to tell,
I come from Coote Hill, which I’ll never deny.
I had a fine drake, and I'd die for his sake,
That my grandmother left me and she going to die.
The dear little fellow, his legs they were yellow,
He could fly like a swallow and swim like a hake.
Till some dirty savage, to grease his white cabbage,
Most wantonly murdered my beautiful drake.

Now his neck it was green, and most fit to be seen,
He was fit for a Queen of the highest degree.
His body was white, and it would you delight,
He was plump, fat, and heavy, and brisk as a bee.
He was wholesome and sound, he would weigh 20 pound,
And the universe round I would roam for his sake.
Bad luck to the robber, be he drunk or sober,
That murdered Nell Flaherty's beautiful drake.

May his spade never dig, made his sow never pig,
May each hair in his wig be well thrashed with a flail.
May his door have no latch, made his roof have no thatch,
May his turkeys not hatch, may the rats eat his meal.
May every old fairy from Cork to Dun Laoghaire
Dip him snug and airy in river or lake.
That the eel and the trout, they may dine on the snout,
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's drake.

May his pig never grunt, made his cat never hunt,
May a ghost ever haunt him in dead of the night.
May his hens never lay, may his horse never neigh,
May his goat fly away like an old paper kite.
That the flies and the fleas may the wretch ever tease
May the piercing March breeze make him shiver and shake.
May a lump of a stick raise the bumps fast and thick
On the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's drake.

Now the only good news that I have to enthuse,
Is that the old Paddy Hughes and young Anthony Blake,
Also Johnny Dwyer, and Cornie Maguire,
They each have a grandson of my darling drake.
For my treasure had dozens of nephews and cousins,
And one I must get or my heart it will break.
To set my mind easy or else I'll run crazy,
So ends the whole song of Nell Flaherty’s drake.

I sang it at the Cross Keys last night. With a pint or so of John Willie Lees’s bitter. Made me feel a whole lot better!

Or as others see me?


Dennis Hamley said…
Though I didn't recognise myself in your description it cheered me up because my own description of 'incompetent twerp' seemed to coming a bit close the the bone. You don't REALLY want that TV, do you? It was bought in 2005 and only - and then intermittently - used for just a year until I came to Oxford. I think it's been switched on once since then. It needs retuning to freeview. Anything else you'd like to know about it? Be quick or else they'll all want one.

Anyway, thanks for making a virtuoso blog out of nothing. Would that I could. I'm a robot again it seems, but this time the text is almost indecipherable.
madwippitt said…
Dogs figured quite a lot in Napoleon's life too. Not necessarily all true stories attached to him, but interesting that there are so many of them. Wellington of course is best known for his horse ...
julia jones said…
Wonderful! And I usually reckon I know loads for history because of all the Jean Plaidy nd Anya Setons etc I used to read. And there was a really good one about Napoleon's love life and I damn well can't remember it now. It's going to niggle all day. Am assuming that's first effects of your curse...
Bill Kirton said…
For someone with a thought in his head, you do an excellent job of entertaining, Jan. Now please hurry up with the Napoleon novel. I'm a huge fan of his and yours so it's an irresistible combination.
Bill Kirton said…
... which should, of course, read '... withOUT a thought in his head'. Sheesh.
glitter noir said…
Great rascally post, Jan. It's taken a bit of the sting out of my losing that TV. Can't wait for the Napoleon book. Have been a huge fan of NB ever since seeing Marlon Brando play him.
Dennis Hamley said…
Go on Jan, contact them. I dare you!
Dennis Hamley said…
PS The Fiend from the Bottomless Pit was a great man. Cant wait for the Nap book.
Jan Needle said…
i got in touch with Mr Mccart and he gave me chapter and verse. Apparently his uncle is a Nigerian general, and if i'm satisfied with the new ATM card he'll let me look after the eighteen trillion dollars he's holding in escrow for his Auntie Mabel. All he needs is bank details,and the rest is easy. I was so moved by this, Dennis, that knowing you are now reduced to flogging off old TV sets I gave him YOUR details instead. Now now, don't thank me, you'll have me in tears! I'd do anything for a friend.

Talking of which, Endeavour told me yesterday that the second of my Charlie Raven sea adventures went on to Kindle yesterday for the princely sum of £1.99. Once you've got your ATM perhaps you could buy a copy, and as a thank you, do a wee review? I'm going to ask Mr McCartney as well. It's called The Death Card http://amzn.to/1GGKvQ0
Lydia Bennet said…
A rollocking tale Jan, and a good curse and praise poem too. You seem to write more books than most of us!
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