Something Fishy This Way Comes

Warning, this article (as with many others on this site) may contain sarcasm.

You may have seen this picture before. It is from the Newsnibbles archive, courtesy of Mrs Bush, and may contain fish...

You may have seen this picture before. It is from the Newsnibbles archive, courtesy of Mrs Bush, and may contain fish…

You may have noticed that in recent weeks an increase in the number of discount supermarkets which are recalling products due to quality control concerns.  The local media, one can only assume for lack of a more interesting story have jumped all over it, warning its readers of the dangers of these products and advising their immediate return.  Since we are a media outlet of international acclaim (someone, somewhere must have acclaimed us, right?)  we have not been reporting on the recalls.  We have readers all over the world, local supermarket issues would be of no interest to them… until now.

The latest supermarket to jump on the recall wagon is Lidl, under fears that its tins of herring may contain fish… No, really.

According to The Western Daily Press (which may, or may not contain Tories),

German discount supermarket is recalling its own brand tinned herring fillets because it does not warn shoppers they may contain fish.

It goes on to list other ingredients that are included, but not listed (at least not in English) in a variety of herring related products including that the herring fillets in mustard do not list that they contain mustard.

If you are allergic to herring, or mustard, or both, do not eat the herring fillet in mustard.  Seriously, that is not a good idea.

As you know, here at Newsnibbles, we don’t just report on other people’s scraps, oh no.  We have done our own investigative report into other products that may be improperly listed.  Having made one of our interns get up off the sofa and check the fridge we have discovered that a punnet of red seedless grapes does not contain a warning that it may contain grapes, and tomatoes do not warn that the product may contain tomatoes.  If you are allergic to either grapes or tomatoes we would recommend you not eating these products either.

For those of you who still aren’t sure, we have a definition of herring pasted below, c/o  Wikipedia (don’t cite them at university, kids, the tutors don’t like it).

Herring are forage fish, mostly belonging to the family Clupeidae.

Herring often move in large schools around fishing banks and near the coast. The most abundant and commercially important species belong to the genus Clupea, found particularly in shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlanticoceans, including the Baltic Sea, as well as off the west coast of South America. Three species of Clupea are recognised, and provide about 90% of all herrings captured in fisheries. Most abundant of all is the Atlantic herring, providing over half of all herring capture. Fishes called herring are also found in India, in the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal.

Herring played a pivotal role in the history of marine fisheries in Europe,[2] and early in the twentieth century their study was fundamental to the evolution of fisheries science.[3][4] These oily fish[5] also have a long history as an important food fish, and are often salted, smoked, or pickled.

If you have any food related questions, perhaps the best way to deal with a herring, in either tomato or mustard sauce (may contain tomato, or mustard, and probably herring) then we will be posing our questions and yours to celebrity chef and fashionista Tallulah Grace, you can just comment below, as sending an email is clearly too much effort for any of you.

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Sophie’s Shaun Hunt

47. Championsheep

On the head me sheep!
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51. Shanus Romanus

My name is Shanus Romanus, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife… I think I see a crow…
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42. Sgt. Shepherd

We’re Sgt. Shepherd’s Lonely Hearts Club Herd
We hope you will enjoy the show…
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Feathers and Toast: Saving the World, One Sandwich at a Time

When Ready Steady Cook was cancelled in 2010 my life lost all meaning.  I was left with nothing to do in the afternoon but job hunt whilst eating slightly mouldy cereal bars and trying to find a way to enter into the adult world.  Let’s face it, no-one wants to watch stupid people attempt to answer questions that they could answer at home with the help of Google, and lose every week to a bunch of smug gits who read the encyclopaedia before bed. At least with a cooking show there is a chance of a serious injury to keep you on the edge of your seat, potato peelers can be sharp, proper training must be given.

But fear not, my life has found new meaning with the discovery of Feathers and Toasta new brand of cookery show for the new millennium.  Tallulah Grace is so much more than a chef.  Her moves in the kitchen rival Ainsley’s Strictly story, and she clearly has classical training in the field of mime.  Whilst it is never stated within the show itself, it is clear from the way that she handles a baguette that she received most of her professional training in France, probably in a Michelin starred establishment.  Despite this, Tallulah has the great skill to make cooking accessible to all, taking on such challenges as the great ham sandwich, or poached eggs, and making them seem easy.

Her time spent in France has also imbued her with the most fabulous sense of style, and her outfit choices are just as much of a reason to watch as her prowess in the kitchen.  The occasional slips into French throughout the show make me, as an audience member, feel really sophisticated.  It’s like watching a French film, only without the pesky subtitles, or the overly drawn out sex scenes…

What makes Feathers and Toast most perfect is that it is designed for the Twitter generation.  You know who I mean, those people (of varying ages) with the short attention span, those that have to get up three times in the cinema because they haven’t conditioned their bladder to hold it for an entire hour and a half, and there might be something terribly important happening on the internet.  The shows are approximately five minutes each, just perfect for anyone with five minutes to spare.   Being on Youtube you are also not conditioned to a specific time, you can check in and out, or if you are a binge watcher like me then you can watch both series in the space of an afternoon.

Watching Tallulah is not just entertaining, but good for the soul.  She is a great humanitarian, and her show has literally saved a life.  The life in question is Marge, who now occasionally guest hosts and I’m sure has her own fan base, as her hip moves are just awesome.

It’s been a long time since anything has impressed me enough to actually write a review unprompted (mostly stuff is submitted here, cos we is totes amazeballs, and I is hip and down with the kids) or I have a minion, erm, member of the team do it… but Feathers and Toast has inspired me.  Tallulah has inspired me, and I hope she inspires you.  Check out the trailer below, and don’t forget to subscribe, darling…

Update, we are currently in negotiation with Tallulah’s people about the possibility of doing an interview with her.  If you would like to send your cooking questions in, you can. The address, as always is newsdesk@newsnibbles.co.uk

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LARPing – A Report by Samuel Z Jones

This week, Profound Decisions bravely hosted a game of Empire LARPing. I say bravely, because it takes courage to arrange a three day pitched battle in a field in March, with a hurricane allegedly sweeping in across the Atlantic.

Enough LARPing enthusiasts gathered to create a tent city, divided into two quarters by a literal river of mud. Like the very River Styx, a moat eight feet deep, half full of water and walled with thorned hedges, separated two worlds: On one side, the OC, or “Out of Character” quarter of bright nylon tents, cars and camper vans; on the other, thoroughly hedged-off, the IC, or “In Character” quarter, a medieval tent city fit to besiege a castle. Lacking a castle in the vicinity, the most enthusiastic assembled to besiege the local woodland instead. More on this anon.

“In the IC” or “in the OC” became immediate jargon to explain where any one of our brave squad might be heading or soon to be found. The O/C Squad numbered Maddy, Len, Tash, Sam (your brave reporter himself), and our brave leader, Nick. In I/C, we were the Crimson Reaper Cartel; Aurora, Tolliver, Talia, Nathrach, and Prince Drogon: One undead sociopath, one self-avowed “Master Delusionist”/professional liar, one apparently naïve elven noblewoman, one sword-wielding maniac, and an undead prince recently resigned from leadership of a powerful faction to start a cutthroat band.

IC and OC, the politics of the Empire largely eluded us. Almost immediately, Prince Drogon departed to visit his old faction , the Ashen Tower, to negotiate his release from the death-vow of their brotherhood and pass on his royal titles to a new successor.

OC, all we really knew in advance was that the good Prince’s new Crimson Cartel were, on balance, not nice people at all. IC, the allegedly good Prince showed his comrades a map, and revealed that the empire was besieged on three fronts. He explained that failure to control piracy at sea had provoked an invasion on a fourth front: A fleet of Grendel warships had disgorged a ravening legion of orcs upon Imperial shores. Said orcish invasion was the occasion of the battles planned for the second and third days of the event. No more we knew.

By hindsight, warm and dry again at home, with tea on tap and pizza near to hand, Prince Drogon and his Cartel were akin to Blackadder assembling the Seven Most Evil Men In The Land… Early in our misadventures, the Prince recruited another conspirator, which still left us one one Evil Man short. Not long thereafter, the first gruesome murder was done. But not by us. While the evil Cartel were at their evil work, a band even more evil snuck into the woodland camp of the Nevar Nation, and brutally stabbed up the wife of the Nevari high chief. Nathrach and “#6” hurried to the scene of the crime, and came upon the Nevari conducting a séance to learn the assassins’ identities from the murdered queen’s ghost. Seriously, her character was dead. They caught her alone in camp and ganked her six to one with foam daggers. She had to lie there being dead until someone found her, then lie there some more while they figured out she was dead IC, keep lying there while they found a wizard, then do the whole “woo, I’m a ghost, they murdered me!” (she did it way better than that), then go down to the admin tents to get a new character… Her IC husband had to do the whole grieving thing, they’re not allowed to be married IC anymore, the whole Nevari tribe are on the warpath…

Sam is the one with the sword.

Sam is the one with the sword.

We never heard any more about it, frankly. The Nevari live in the woods and they don’t have any money; the Crimson Cartel turned out to have no business with them, and our bold scouting mission among the fierce Nevari, even into their mourning rituals, booted no further adventures for Nathrach and Evil Man #6. OC, I thought it was rather cool. This intrepid reporter snuck in and out of a forest séance by moonlight, toting a greatsword and accompanied by an armoured mercenary I’d met about ten minutes previously.

Back at Crimson Cartel HQ (a bell-tent we had rented for the weekend), intense discussion of money ensued. The Cartel was not short of IC cash, and we immediately pooled our resources. The Prince required certain funds, but Tolliver, the Master Delusionist, attempted to convince the band to elect him treasurer. At length, the Pirate Rule was applied, the Prince departing with half their shared wealth in gold, while his evil crew divided the silver between them.

Within five minutes, the Master Delusionist attempted to give his entire wallet to the first tavernier they met. Fortunately, Nathrach was there to intervene and the barman an honest fellow: Tolliver volunteered his purse to Nathrach’s keeping, and the evening proceeded. Proclaiming himself a master alchemist, the great Tolliver demonstrated his incredible Potion of All Purposes.

This mystic brew, he averred, granted any man who drank of it confidence, courage, superhuman strength, silver-tongued wit and even invisibility. Shortly thereafter, he vanished beneath the table, and was seen no more that night.

The next morning, an almost football match element of LARPing was revealed to me: The gathered warriors split into two teams. One side continued to play in their characters, risking their IC lives on the field, while the other side donned latex masks and battered plastic armour to play the orcish legion of Grendel. Tomorrow, the sides would switch, like teams changing ends at half time, and the heroes of yesterday would mask-up and go orcing.

On day one, I and the squad added orc-masks to our costumes, and joined the greenskinned invaders. Those playing heroes IC took a real risk with their characters; while they each had many Hit Points and healing magic, dead was dead. As orcs, death in battle earned only a time-out and redeployment. For slain heroes, there was only the sad wait in line to see G.O.D, the Games Operation Desk and roll up new protagonists.

Yours truly is, quite frankly, well schooled in the way of the two-handed sword and strode out confidently to prove it upon the muddy field against all who dared my reach.

The orcs assembled and were divided into units. Orc chiefs divided us into mobs, bellowed out half a dozen basic commands for simple formation fighting, and picked out the bravest self-proclaimed berzorcers to form into commando squads. By happy fortune, I found myself volunteered along with my comrade of last night, the mysterious #6, for what became The O-Team: Murdorc, Cannibal, Human-Face, and your brave reporter, BA Berzorkus. Seriously, I could not make this up.

We set out into the woods, half a dozen trudging columns of orcs spacing out to “camp” among the trees. The military verisimilitude truly began with a period of “Hurry up and Wait”. The O-Team and those near us, in true orc style, staged a Circle of Treachery, standing in a loose ring and hewing merrily at one another by surprise. Berzorkus stood back, leaning upon his sword, not wishing to dishearten his fellow braves by lathering the lot of them. No, really.

Then one orc, armed with sword and buckler, set upon him. Berzorkus swept his sword on guard, holding his foe at the full length of the blade. Confronted with five foot of greatsword at his throat, the brave orc hesitated; the criss-cross circling of sword and buckler ceased, and he went crosseyed within his mask. Berzorkus slashed out his throat, stuck sword and shield aside and smote him again in the kidneys, then turned to face another foe who came immediately on.

Dropping to a low stance, Berzorkus twitched his sword behind him, this time hiding the length of his blade. The second foe plunged in from the high guard, sword and axe in either hand. Berzorkus’ blade flashed up, parried twice and struck twice again in a flurry, laying open his opponent’s ribs and throat. Two more followed, no less swiftly struck down.

Then the mighty Murdorc challenged him, and they exchanged blows, hewing two-handed with greatsword and cleaver. Petty wounds were dealt and received in turn, but Berzorkus fell back apace before Murdorc’s onset: His foot struck upon a tree-root, and Murdorc dealt him a decisive blow to the side.

In the remaining minutes, we sat under a tree OC, peeled off our masks, smoked cigarettes and passed around a water bottle. Then smoke was seen through the trees, and a horn heard in the distance. Masks went back on and the orcs assembled; the humans were advancing. Within sight of Berzorkus formed three shieldwalls, lines of orcish pikemen defended by shield-bearers. The O-Team moved out to skirmish in the gaps between the nearest two lines of shields, using the woodland as cover from enemy archers.

The humans advanced in columns, led by fully-armoured knights with sword and shield, pikemen in the second rank, men with maces and hammers following and archers skirmishing on their flanks.

Both sides manoeuvred, the lines shifting about approaches through the trees. At the first clash, the humans came through a narrow way, a causeway edged with deep mud and heavily wooded on either side. The orcish shieldwall closed to meet them, the humans led by a long-haired knight in pure white armour. Advancing from the human shieldwall, he stood against four pikemen and almost succeeded in breaking through the orcish line. But Berzorkus was in the second rank; as the shieldwall parted, his greatsword smote upon the knight’s shield, halting his advance. Another swordblow blow fell and the knight slipped in the mud, falling to one knee. Pikes and halberds rained upon him, the greatsword joined by axes and cleavers as the orcish line rallied. The knight made good use of his shield in his retreat; the orcs let him go, jeering in victory.

The lines of battle fell back and reformed on either hand, the human advance halted on every front and the orcs manoeuvring to maintain their advantage. Berzorkus and Murdorc took position again on the flanks, advancing under cover of the trees until they crouched within ten feet of the enemy. The humans had formed a loose redoubt, shield-bearers strung out in open order across the widest approaches and archers guarding the narrow ways. As Berzorkus and Murdorc crept closer, the main orcish forces began their advance. Spotting a human archer distracted, Berzorkus roared and charged. Alerted too late, the archer sought to flee; Berzorkus hewed her down with repeated blows. Roaring again, he turned to face another archer. This man at least managed to draw his sword; Berzorkus cut him down in turn, the red mist descending. He was through the enemy line now, behind their shieldwall, the archers scattering from his path. Then the white knight came against him again, striding suddenly from the human mob. Berzorkus attacked him without pause, forcing the knight at once to his own defence. But the human archers rallied, two of them falling on Berzorkus from either hand with their shortswords…

Fortunately, orcs are effectively immortal. Heroically cut down, I lay in the mud for the obligatory three minutes, then trudged off to the re-spawn point. Miraculously recovered, Berzorkus joined the orcish reinforcements marching to cut off the human retreat. Following the same tactic as before, Berzorkus joined the skirmishers on the orcish flanks. A human knight was attempting to co-ordinate the retreat, rather bravely risking his life to see their archers safely back behind a hastily re-forming shieldwall. Berzorkus sadly missed a chance at the knightly hero’s back, being delayed by sneaking through the undergrowth in the attempt. An archer presented the next best target in charging range: Berzorkus roared and set upon him.

This time, he roared too soon and saw too late that the archer wielded a crossbow: The lad (who wasn’t more than fifteen, poor kid), jumped in terror, whirled and shot me in the fricking face at close range. Bam, straight in the eyeball. Berzorkus swore like an enraged b@~*#& and advanced three more steps, raising his sword to do murder, before it registered, both IC and OC, that I’d just taken an arrow straight through the eye. In all good sportsmanship, I toppled and died, offering the brave young archer a thumbs-up from the floor while he was still apologising.

While I lay dead upon the field, two churlish knaves stood over my corpse and debated whether to loot my mighty greatsword. Fortunately, and by no chance whatsoever, I had it firmly trapped beneath me, and neither of them was inclined to risk rolling the demented Berzorkus over to steal his sword.

Respawned, I joined the orcs again for the final phase of battle. Orc chiefs marched among us, extolling us all to really get our orc on for a final effort. The humans, we were snarlingly assured, had been soundly battered six ways from Sunday, and all that remained was to choke their final retreat and crush them entirely. We duly rallied, the human shieldwalls crumbling before us; orders came to hold back. Gathering a mob to hold the final escape route, we sang orcish warsongs, bayed like mad puppies (edited) and beat the heck out of each other in orcy enthusiasm.

Scattered groups of humans began to flee, trying to sneak past us in the woodland. We hunted them down, six of us closing in upon a rather nicely armoured valkyrie and her excellently bearded Viking companion. Menaced on all sides by upraised orcish weapons, they surrendered and cowered together, the valkyrie bitterly complaining of their imminent murder and looting, and the aforesaid long march of shame to the mystic Tent Of Character Rolling. Just as our chief drew steel to murder them both, orders came down that the battle was won; we had made total slaughter of the foe, and they quit the field in bitter defeat.

I had barely seen my teammates during the battle; we caught up on the march back, grinning and recounting our deeds of butchery. Ditching our orcish wargear, we returned to the where the IC tent had once stood. What was there now was a pile of canvas. The darn (edited) thing had collapsed. We hadn’t set the blooming thing (edited again, honestly) up, and spent the next ten minutes hauling the pesky (really Mr Jones) thing back upright and pegging it down. Frick’s sake (OK, you can use Frick). Mutter, grumble, complain, cuss, etcetera. With the soon to be utterly hated tent temporarily secured, we set out upon a tour. Strolling around the tent-city, we visited bars and tradehouses, fought a friendly duel, and immersed ourselves in the game.

Then the rain began, and we retreated to the OC in the face of rising wind. Halfway along the dangerous mud-track between worlds, the heavens darkened. Night seemed to fall early and a wind arose. The deluge began, and we fled for the car, picking up a stray LARPer not of our company along the way. Six of us piled into car, our driver sitting in the boot. For two hours, the rain beat down without mercy. Fortunately, we had booze and food. As good a time as possible was had by all, until the rain stopped and we all dried off enough to venture forth.

That night, we attended a feast, of sorts, and more drink was had by all. The tent miraculously did not fall down, and we three lads slept in the IC while the girls withdrew to the relative safety of the OC tent near the car. Only Nathrach had the foresight to bring a sleeping bag. Prince Drogon and Tolliver the Delusionist were better friends by dawn, for want of warmth.

With dawn, the bold Prince bounded forth to further politicking while his gallant band fought a rearguard action against the Evil Tent Curse invoked by the unholy storm. Many other tents were struck down, the rain having temporarily abated only for the wind to redouble, the soggy archers in the clouds falling back to allow the gale to beset us like unseen cavalry. Storm! Storm, I tell you! Rain and gale and a gathering darkness as of the wrath of the gods! Mighty Thor, forgive us the brutal orcing of that valkyrie and her beardy Viking, it wasn’t me, I didn’t stab either of them… Alright, I did chop the Viking a bit, but then they surrendered and I thought it was all rather sweet, I swear…

Our prayers went unheeded; the evil wind cursed the OC tent too and we were forced to retreat again. The bold Prince found his heroic band huddled together in a half-collapsed nylon shelter, passing around cups of tea and cigarettes. Morale was fraying. Mutiny had been discussed. Pirate democracy was again invoked, and the team voted that a brilliant time was being had by all, but that we should stop now, while it was still fun. The prince bounded off to battle, while the rest of us packed up. Many other far more veteran and far better equipped LARPers were pulling out. In deference to the die-hards who joined arms in the field for the second round, the angry gods witheld their full fury to watch the day’s battle. The IC tent collapsed twice more anyway. We put it back up only to clear out our gear. Packed, we wandered the vanishing tent-village, admiring the full-time hard-corps orcs (who apparently take it really seriously) and the remaining best stalls. The Prince returned with glorious news; victory! Our side, this time the bold human heroes, had triumphed again. As orcs, we had inflicted horrific casualties; we had anticipated embittered reprisals and savage orcery, now their turn had come. Nonetheless, we gave them another thrashing, which cheered our spirits immensely.

The car failed to start. A likewise stranded blacksmith gave us cake. We waited an hour for the mechanic, but nonetheless managed to escape ahead of the returning fury of the storm.

For my first experience of LARPing… I’m already a vocal fan of camping and archaic melee combat. Both? Awesome. I fully intend on doing it again soon. But it’s jolly (edited) tiring. This weekend, I’ve marched through miles of mud, slept rough, drunk myself stupid, waded through melee, and been battered as if by the fury of a rainy demon-god. Everyone should do this regularly.

And if you think you’d like to LARP, here is the website.

Samuel Z Jones is a prolific Fantasy author

Click on the unicorn to be transported to a magical fantasy world...

Click on the unicorn to be transported to a magical fantasy world…

with over fifteen novels and numerous other works to his name. He espouses a complex theory of worldbuilding, and maintains that fiction is an exercise in psychological portraiture of people who do not exist.

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Sophie’s Shaun Hunt

48. Posy

A beautiful summers day for a beautiful flowery Shaun.
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49. Jasmine

‘I said I like your colour scheme’
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50. Shear-lock Holmes

My dear Holmes I’m afraid you have been mis-quoted.
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Journeys With Jack

Wow, Wow, Wow, (Not Bow wow wow!!).  Seville in Spain was wonderful.  Me, a mere mutt was allowed into a Palace; The Plaza de Espania.  Up and down sweeping staircases, bounding onto balconies, posing with the rest of them.  It was lovely and she could not stop smiling and saying how wonderful it was.  Orange trees, horse drawn carriages, outside cafes, I had arrived.  The orange trees meant an endless supply of things to chase and fetch as we walked through the City.   Some of those Spanish horses were a bit grumpy though, Judy never minded (much) when I pulled her tail or sniffed her legs.  They did abandon me though to visit the Cathedral and the Alcazar.  I think if they had tried harder they could have got me in.  Now that I know how Spain classify dogs and that I fall into a handbag size (how insulting!) I know I can go almost anywhere!  

After Seville we went on to Cordoba.  What a night I had.  While walking along the river she got chatting to a young Spanish man… obviously it was only dog chat as he had with him such a fabulous specimen of a black fluff ball.  We ran and romped for miles along the river and then he took us on a bit of a tour of the City.  Lots of narrow cobbled streets with the most intriguing smells.  The Bridge as the sun set was another of her wow moments.  She even persuaded the man of the family to stop for wine under a patio heater (he does not approve, damaging to the environment you know). Had I not said he was there?!  I was left behind for the tour of the Cathedral the next morning, but that certainly had them raving, (in that very English way of theirs).

Cordoba was cool, but Segovia was freezing! There was snow on the ground and no heat in the van.  It’s a good job they are soft touches and I am small and can sneak under that duvet in the middle of the night.  No Gas, honestly how did they manage that?  We walked and walked to keep warm and to see the amazing aqueduct built by some Romans a long long time ago. He was impressed, this was his real ‘wow’ moment.  Even I cannot scent hundreds of stone arches. I think sometimes they asked a lot of me, scenting several Spanish cities in a shortish period of time is hard work, I do not think they appreciate it.  I might have 4 legs to walk miles, but they are short ones and I feel they have asked a lot of this lean mean walking machine!

Well over the mountains and back into France.  She has the border crossing thing cracked, not sure she even noticed this time.  They were talking about it all changing though possibly and not knowing what would happen at all the boarders if something changed.  Bit over my head really, being just a dog!  We always stay at this one nice place on the way back, but although I might have a proper house to run round for a few days I have to go to the men in white coats and it’s not nice.  They poke my ears, look in my eyes and then, the lady in the white coat just gave me something nice to eat, no nasty injection (weird).  Well that was followed by a trip on the boat and home.  Mind you look at the view, it’s not all bad!

See you later folks, Jack

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Urban Rat Hunt UK

A special report by J C LeSinge

Probing the moist underbelly of the street-youth hoodrat epidemic still plaguing our youth like an unspoken plague…*

*NB, this is likely to be a joke, and contains adult language…

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Sophie’s Shaun Hunt

69. King of the Carnival

Stop right there, thank-you very much. It’s carnival time!
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41. Jarsberry Ram

You might remember a similar Gromit in the same spot, Fruit seems to be theme
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70. Justice Lamb

Alright I confess I’ve not done them in order

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Becoming Raff

By C H Clepitt

Part One: Who Am I?

 

Raff pulled his collar up and headed down the cobbled street.  It was late and there was a smell of smoke in the air, combined with sewage and a sort of burnt sulphur that lurked generally in the atmosphere at this time of night.  He was heading to the Red Monkey Tavern.  He had been there for the past three nights and liked the atmosphere.  He would order beer and sit quietly in the corner and people watching.  As he approached the Tavern entrance he plunged his hands into his pockets, focused firmly on his feet and headed in through the crowds of men and working girls who gathered outside.  Just as he was about to enter the building someone shoved him hard in the side, causing him to sidestep into another group of men.

“Watch where you’re going, boy!” A rugged looking man shoved him hard in the chest.

“I’m sorry,” he gasped, stepping backwards into someone else.  “I’m sorry!” he gasped turning around to see who else was going to push him.

“Oh don’t worry, darling,” a woman with a scar that disfigured the entire left side of her face was looking a Raff curiously. “I’ve had worse.”

“I’m sorry,” he said again.

“Don’t be sorry for me, darling.  You need to be sorry for yourself.  Come inside and buy me a drink before one of these great oafs takes your head off for looking at ‘em funny.”

She took his hand and led him through the crowds into the Tavern.

“Thing is, darling,” she said to him as they drank their second pitcher of ale. “You’re little.  I mean proper slight, any one of these idiots could kill you just by punching you.  And you’re quiet, gentle spoken like.  I’m sure there must be some nice gentleman’s club you could frequent where you won’t get stabbed or anything.”

“I like it here,” Raff smiled.  “No-one knows me, and mostly they leave me alone.  I feel like I can really be myself here.”

“You’re lucky, not many people here get to be themselves, we all have to play a role.”

“What’s your role?”

“Ha, I’m the madam, darling!  Ain’t no-one gunna touch me now I got this, but ain’t no-one gunna touch any of my girls, I take care of them, for a percentage.”

“Sounds lucrative.”

“You want a girl, you ask Polly, I’ll sort you out, any type, I got em all.  I’ll do you a sweet deal too, cos you’re nice and ain’t said nothing about me scar.”

“I’m alright for now, thank you,” Raff began awkwardly.  “I don’t think you should worry about your scar, you’re a nice person, people will see beyond it.”

“Oh sweetheart, not in my line of work they won’t.  So, you got a sweetheart, or don’t you like girls?”

“I don’t really know what I like,” he said truthfully.  “I like who I am, here, now, with you.”

“Well, ain’t that sweet, I’m here every night, gotta keep an eye on my girls though, so you’ll have to excuse me if I leave you.”

“Of course.”

“‘Ark at ‘e! ‘of course’! I’m sitting with a proper gentleman.  I’ll get your story out of you eventually.”

“Maybe.”

It was dawn when Raff left the tavern and headed down the streets home.  He scrambled over the fence into the back garden to his parents’ home, and up the large oak tree that overlooked his bedroom window.  It was a bit of a jump, but he’d discovered that if he didn’t look down then it was easy enough to make the distance.  Grabbing the window ledge he pulled himself into the window and landed on the floor with a heavy thump.

“Isabelle?” his mother’s voice called from down the corridor.  “Are you alright?  Did you fall out of bed again?”

“I’m fine mother,” he responded, quickly changing out of his evening clothes and pulling a night dress on over his bound breasts.  “Just tripped on the chair.”

“Well hurry up, we’re having brunch with Sir Thomas at eleven, and you need to be looking your best, I have a new dress being delivered for you.

“Yes, mother.”

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7 Questions

Seven Questions is a section of Newsnibbles where we ask one of our Twitter followers seven questions (duh).  Because we do it via email they are free to answer in more that 140 characters, which is nice.

Today we catch up with Stephanie Oram or @stephanieoram1 as we know her, to find out all about her new book!  Excitings!

1. Is there a person in your life whoimage1 is the inspiration for Bernard Jiggle?

If anyone inspired me to start writing about Bernard’s adventures it was my eldest son. He’s now 16 and a strapping 6 footer, but when he was a little squidge he was never without a costume acting out different scenarios for us. His imagination amazed me & Bernard was born. My son also came up with Bernard’s fabulous name…cheers son!

2. What do vegetarian zombies eat?

What do vegetarian zombies eat, well I think that answers itself! They are fond of all vegetables, most partial to carrots, Brussel sprouts make them fart & they hate cous cous.

image23. Do you prefer your custard cold or hot?

I prefer my custard cold and preferably in a doughnut.

4. What do your family think of your story?

My family love the stories of course! Actually I think they are secretly hoping I grow up soon.

5. What is your all time favourite ever book (I am twisting your arm, pick one).

My favourite ever book has to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Love, tragedy, revenge it’s got it all! Heathcliffe is so deliciously wicked and Cathy a classic windswept heroine.

6. Pet couture, pro or con.

Personally I’m not a fan of pet couture, after all they have their own fur coats don’t they! If your pet is happy to be dressed up and that is most important thing (my little Eric was once dressed in a pink tutu and he really enjoyed it but that’s another story!) then there are some pros. You could accessorise your pet to match your outfit, dress them up for special occasions (gives the relatives something to talk about) and there’s no harm in popping your pet in a coat when it’s cold.  The cons…you are potentially going to look like a nob (can I say nob?) if you take your dog out wearing a pink tutu (the dog that is).

7. Do you have a favourite badger?

Do I have a favourite badger, can I have two?  First and foremost there’s Policeman Badger a very important member of the Tufty Club (I’m a child of the seventies!).  He taught me how to cross the road, bless him! Secondly Badger from Bodger and Badger, he’s a badger who wears a little red beret and who eats mashed potato, I don’t think I have to say anymore!

If this interview has inspired you to go hunt your own vegetarian zombies, you can on Amazon.

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