Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year

 Scotland  should be gearing up for one of the biggest celebrations in the calendar.

But we are not- restricted to three households, no unnecessary travel, no mixing. Not much of anything really. 


Even the football which is a huge thing at this time of year has been curtailed to 500 people in the crowd. Imagine the superbowl restricted to 500 spectators.

The Ne'er Day Old Firm Match is a highlight of the season. And it has been ruined.
It's outdoors, nobody is allowed to be drunk, and how did they arrive at the number 500?

Somebody likes to spoil the fun, that's why.

All the fireworks displays have been cancelled.

All the ceilidhs have been cancelled.

There'll be no hooching and tooching this year into next. 

If it were normal, we would be having a ceilidh- a dance with lots of swirling kilts,  drink, burling around and physical violence vaguely disguised as dancing. 

Swimming in the loony dook ( jumping into cold water by mad people) is gaining popularity. I think it started near Edinburgh, folk get together at mid day on Ne'er Day and jump in freezing cold water.

You'd think the ER was busy enough.

And the first person over your threshold  after midnight has to be male, tall and dark. This proves they are not a Viking.


The first footer should carry  shortbread and a lump of coal, and/or their drink of choice.
Nobody ever first foots empty handed. Or should that be empty footied?

Redding the house.  The house should be cleaned, the windows opened to let the old year out and the new year in.  I open the windows.

Don't think I've cleaned the house since Biden was  in short trousers.

Ashes should be cleared from the fire before The Bells.

The fire should be set and then set alight after The Bells.

You can see where the lump of coal might come in useful.

People sing Auld Lang Syne, crossing arms on the final verse and not before.    The dinner  is always steak pie, the queues outside the butchers shops today are long and 'round the corner.'  No covid restrictions there.    At The Bells the TV is absolutely awful, a very twee type of 'Scottishness' that Billy Connolly aptly called Dancing Shortbread Tins.

After all that, we can sit down in front of the fire with a glass of Advocaat,  Which is drunk at no other time of the year. It only takes one sip for you to realise why.

Happy New Year to you all,  may your  murders be plenty and prosperous!

Greetings from Bonnie Scotland,


Thursday, December 30, 2021


Stanley – Thursday

I dedicate this blog to my friend Peter Rozovsky, who is appropriately scathing about the decline of good language, particularly in newspapers.

Peter Rozovsky

Over coffee yesterday morning, I said to Michael that I wanted to write a blog on badly written headlines. [I really dislike having to reread a headline, often many times, before I understand what it is trying to say.]

What sparked my comment was a headline that I had just read from the December 29 edition of the Texas News Today ( 

Both Michael and I decided that what it meant was that the parents of a teenager were charged after he shot and killed his 5-year-old sibling. Of course, one shouldn’t need a discussion to decipher a headline, and we snickered a bit at the poor quality of writing. 

For chuckles, I then read the first paragraph of the report. Little did I know where this was going to take me.

Pennsylvania’s 13-year-old parents, who were accused of shooting and killing their 5-year-old brother in November, are now being charged with themselves.

I nearly choked. I never knew that teenage siblings were allowed to marry in Pennsylvania. I guess that the USA is so large that there is always something new and interesting.

And what did it mean to be 'charged with themselves'?

Michael and I then decided that this news report had to be a parody.

However, it wasn’t. The Texas News Today is a real online publication, and this is what it promises its readers:, the pioneer of news sources & operates under the philosophy of keeping its readers informed of what’s happening out there. It strives to be very accurate by leaving no stone unturned as it digs into the heart of every story on the local as well as international level.

Armed with this promise of good journalism, I couldn't wait to read more of the article. Here are some excerpts:

Sarah Garwig and Thomas Wolfe, respectively, endanger the welfare of their children after Connor Wolfe’s death in Penn Hills on November 22, according to a criminal accusation filed by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office on Fox News Digital on Tuesday. He has been charged with exposing him.

This was also an eye-opener, not only for the confusing writing, but also because I learned for the first time that criminal accusations in Pennsylvania are now filed on Fox News Digital.

WTAE reported that the suspect, who was also accused of possessing firearms by a minor, shot Connor Wolf after being angry with his brother who jumped into a bed in the house. is doing.

By this time, I was getting the distinct impression that didn't employ a copy editor.

While interviewing Thomas Wolfe and Sarah Garwig separately, Thomas admitted that he had left his pistol safely on top of his gun in their ground floor master bedroom. “Thomas uses his pistol as his daily carrying gun when he leaves the house.” 

A nice touch - the suspect being able to interview himself! I think I may move to Pennsylvania.

The station added that the teenager said he went into his father’s bedroom to get his father’s firearms to scare his brother. But when the 13-year-old boy pointed his gun at Wolf and triggered it, he said he believed that safety was turned on, according to WTAE.  

Wolf was beaten in the head and later died in a local hospital.

Hmm. I thought that Connor Wolf (or Wolfe) had been shot.

You can read the whole article here. It isn't long.

How could such a mess reach publication stage? I wondered. As I was thinking about that, I noticed a coloured SOURCE LINK. Aha, I exclaimed. The story came from somewhere else. I clicked on the link and was surprised when a Fox News article appeared. The headline was a little different and understandable.

A little different from the Texas version.

I read the article, which was clearly written and didn't confuse the reader. You can read it here.

So, how did a decent article end up so badly? 

Perhaps didn't have the money to use the Fox News article and commissioned one of its own writers to produce a new article based on the Fox News one.

Or perhaps the writer at wanted his name on a piece rather than just using the Fox News article. So he took the original article and rewrote it (tried to rewrite it) and perhaps ran out of time to proofread it. 

Whatever the reason, the result is awful.

Any experienced writer knows the moral of this story, namely ALWAYS have someone else, preferably someone who is literate, read what you have written before it goes public. It could spare you a lot of embarrassment.

So now I am compiling a list of bad or awkward or incomprehensible headlines. I will share it next year. Please let me have any you come across. 

I wish all Murder is Everywhere readers and bloggers a very healthy, happy, and prosperous 2022. I hope we look back on it with more affection than the current year.



Wednesday, December 29, 2021

An Improvisational Year

Sujata Massey

The songs are playing day and night. Some of them are tentative, while others blow the dust off the steep wooden staircase. My son is home from college for the winter holidays and nestled in his third floor bedroom with all his electric guitars--and the amplifiers. The improvisations he makes seem endless. 


I felt as if I'd ridden up to the crescendo of a power rock ballad when the first dose of Moderna went into my arm. After the jab, a sweet slide of relief into feeling saved. Yet after the freedoms of late spring and early summer, the Delta variant, and now Omicron, are showing that I can't expect the world to do what I want for it.  


I could give up and live in a 'what we lost' world. But there is another choice.


According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the primary meaning of 'improvisation' relates to creations of music, dance and theater. The secondary definition is described as "the act of making or doing something with whatever is available at the time."

I have the privilege of sheltering in a home that I own during this pandemic with the company of family and the support of other good people nearby. Surely that makes it easier to think positive. 

And yet, my mind turns to M.F.K. Fisher.


I count Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, as she was named at birth, as one of my most important spirit guides. The barrier-breaking food writer (1908-1992), began with essays and memoirs in her 20s, when she left California to live in Europe. Fisher spent most of her life melding her literary talent with her affection for cooking and people. Her books make you want to feast and drink fine wines, but the reality is that her life was often excruciating. When her desperately ill husband died by suicide in the 1940s, she stayed in Europe, a single mother with a young child, and no obvious means of support. During this time she was always dancing on the edge of starvation, yet she found ways to feed herself and others, and wrote a hilarious book called How to Cook a Wolf with recipes for living this way that has been rediscovered and comforted yet another generation. As she writes in introduction, “War is a beastly business, it is true, but one proof that we are human is our ability to learn, even from it, how better to exist.” She goes on to say, “It is all a question of weeding out what you yourself like best to do, so that you can live most agreeably in a world full of an increasing number of disagreeable surprises.” 

I live agreeably, because I am in an old house that has settled around me over like bedsheets slowly warming.  It's an 1897 cedar-shingled summer cottage within a nine-block neighborhood within North Baltimore that was developed in the mid 1890s through the 1920s. This development, Tuxedo Park, adopted the name of an elite community in New York, although my Tuxedo Park always had considerably more plebeian occupants. The plot of land on which the house stands was bought by a woman, most likely because the developers wouldn't sell to her husband because he owned a saloon. Tuxedo Park was just a streetcar ride away from the business life of the city, including the rough-and-tumble harbor and bustling downtown.

It's my suspicion that dreams of outdoor socialization and leisure led to our house's grandest feature, a three-sided wrap-around porch, and two large upstairs porches and several balconies.

I've spent a lot of time writing on the private upstairs porches, but rarely used the wrap-around porch. In fact, I didn't even have furniture for it.


But this spring, I decided to set up the porch like a Victorian lady might have, with plenty of settees, chairs both for dining and lounging and a a variety of tables. Most of the shopping was accomplished from online sources recommended to me by an online designer at Decorist who provided color renderings showing where everything should go--including potted palms. I followed some of her shopping links and went to the crafters at Etsy and my storage room for other pieces--and to the garden for the four old handmade Adirondack chairs.


I wanted plants on the porch, which were part of the design, but I was nervous. I am comfortable with a garden full of native plants. I’ve never kept house plants, which are often exotics, alive for very long. So the first potted plants only arrived because they were gifts from friends. And these plants didn't need much tending; they shot up with new leaves, even with my off-and-on watering.

In midsummer, a neighbor held a moving sale, searching for new owners for the dozens of potted plants that she'd tended lovingly on her building's fire escape. I ambled over to her building with a small wagon and she agreed to sell me everything I wanted--and tossed in a few more plants for free. Gratefully, I wheeled away mature ficus and other friends, large and small, and best of all, already planted in ceramic pots with a soil blend that they liked. 

 Happily, the plants accepted their new home. Feeling more confident than expected, I bought some planters, potting soil, and a variety of big plants like palms and birds of paradise and citrus. Some of the plants I watered too much, and others seemed perennially thirsty. 


Yes--I still had to do actual yard work with plants that lived in the ground. I pulled Virginia creeper and English ivy and set my spouse to battle invasive mulberry and Rose of Sharon. In fall, I divided the proliferating native flowers and shrubs I've planted in fits and starts since 2014. Coincidentally, a friend dropped by with seedlings she had no time to plant. She was also touched by desire a not to let anything be wasted.


Now that I had an outdoor room, friends came over, singly or in pairs. Sharing some pie and a cup of tea felt as special as the multi-course candlelit dinners of the before times. I arranged a weatherproof dining table and chairs on the east side, which is so pleasant in the evening, especially under the fans. The fans and mosquito lamps were shut off in cooler weather, and the guests dwindled, although a last supper with Minnesota visitors bundled up in coats and hats, was fun. As we sipped mugs of soup and ate corn muffins, I thought maybe…this could happen again on a nice February day.  



As summer’s warmth slipped away, I moved the plant family, now numbering 27 souls, from the porch into the house. I took an unused desktop computer off a kitchen table and loaded it with plants, which would get happy sun exposure all afternoon. More plants made a colony in the butler’s pantry with its west-facing windows. To make room, I had to re-home the vacuum and remember to take out the recycling bags--but all things considered, I'd rather look at plants than empty cans and crumpled newspaper.

I dove into the writings and photographs of a modern plant guru (Hilton Carter, who lives in the next neighborhood over!) and followed his directions to make cuttings from the most exuberant plants. Roots slowly grew. I also went into the basement and found old forgotten flower bulbs that had survived a few seasons in paper bags. I've planted the ones that I hope are tulips in the garden, and the ones that are clearly dormant amaryllis in pots indoors. 


I also converted a sunroom—which had been a storage room—back into a home for plants. How ironic that the architect's original purpose for the room would finally be restored. I wrote about how this sunny hideaway has nurtured me in a short essay for Femina Magazine. The sunroom is tiny, but it's an utter luxury to have two walls of windows with garden views, and seasonal theater starring birds, squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional fox.  

Most evenings, I hunger for an activity that was relaxing, yet doesn't involve the printed word, or a brightly lit screen. About once a week, I settle in a comfortable chair, bringing the lamp closer, and mend. Any sweater with moth bites is fair game, seized as well as pretty pillows that had been ravaged by the dog. The hardest repair project I undertook was my early 1960s fake-fox winter coat. I’d believed its fragile satin lining was irreparable, but I knew I could never find anything like it again. What else could I do but try?

I stitched together ripped seams and patched a hugely frayed section with a colorful scrap of fabric from my last trip to India. As I sewed, I remembered several friends I knew who were sewing masks at the start of the pandemic. I think of sewing, just like baking and gardening, as being quintessential pandemic activities. And I'm unashamed that my patches don't match the fabric. They stand out as memories of fall 2021.


The more I ponder it, the dictionary definition of improvisation seems rather limiting. I. notice that the word ‘improvise’ shares a linguistic connection to ‘improve.’

When Neel makes repeated changes in his playing, he becomes more skilled. Let him be the star. I'm happy enough to have learned to sew patches and grow a plant from a single leaf. 

On January 4 at 1 p.m. EST, Sujata will chat about the creative process and all manner of things with her good friend Naomi Hirahara, who also writes historical crime fiction with Asian characters, including the highly praised recent novel, Clark and Division. For a link to this free Zoom event sponsored by Penguin Random House, please register ahead of time. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Counting Christmas

Annamaria on the Second Day of Christmas

We all know, I guess, the carol of The 12 Days of Christmas. There seems to be some confusion about counting those days. I count them starting from the day after Christmas (Boxing Day to you, Brits) and ending with the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the Magi.  That was always considered the end of the Christmas season for me as a child, since it is the day when Italians traditionally exchanged gifts by following the example of the three kings who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the child in the manger.

Murrh, by the way, is a resin extracted from several varieties of small Commiphora trees.  Here are pictures of what the trees and the resin look like. At least in this photo, the resin seems to resemble chocolate chip cookies.  Myrrh is lauded in the Hebrew Bible for its medicinal properties and was also used in making perfume and incense.  

The twelfth day will occur, as always on 6 January, and after last year, there's more than one thing to say about that day on the calendar.  I imagine that a few of us here on in MIE will have comments on January 6 as the day rolls around.

What is making Christmas special for me this year is my relationship with these three women – three generations of precious friends.


On arrival a week ago, I went directly from the airport to meet them for lunch in one of the swankiest places in town.  Its decor for the holidays was proof that, under some circumstances, nothing can impress like excess. 

Here are my own paltry efforts.

We had Christmas Eve dinner at my place, and afterwards we braved the rainy weather to have a look at this year's light displays that Florence has featured for the past several years. It is almost impossible to do them justice with photographs, but this year it was even more challenging to photograph because of the wet stuff falling from the sky. But here is a little taste.

The theme this year in the piazza Museo Galileo is a celebration of the 500th anniversary of Dante. 



The display along the Arno was the most impressive.

This season, this year is another in a long string of challenges.  Here is what I wish for for all of us.

Tricks of the Trade – Any Trade …

The inside info that makes it all real

Zoë Sharp


When you think of tricks of the trade, it’s hard not to think of close-up magic artists and those who specialise in sleight of hand, although that wasn’t really what I was thinking of. Having said that, I remember watching mystery writer James Swain as he demonstrated how people introduce loaded dice into a craps game, throwing the standard dice inside his coat and the loaded pair down the table in the same movement.

He did this numerous times, at a fraction of normal speed, and still we couldn’t actually catch what he did.


Jim’s books were full of such tips and tricks. One of the things I love about reading any book is picking up those little snippets of inside information. Any information – it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s something that isn’t obvious, that dispels a commonly held belief, or is just one of those nuggets you store away for future use.


I recall reading a post years ago in which the writer detailed the sensations and feelings and knowledge that you collect in the filter of your daily life. You might not think it’s the stuff thrillers are made of, but it is. It’s the glue that holds the whole thing together. The aspect that gives a work heart as well as flash.


The bits that make the whole thing ring true.


In the course of my own writing career, I’ve picked up all sorts of obscure knowledge – how to dislocate someone’s shoulder; how to tell if a mirror is in fact one-way glass; how to steal a motorbike; how to tell immediately if a Glock semiautomatic has a round in the chamber, even in the dark; what to add to gasoline to make the perfect Molotov cocktail; what style of suit to wear on a close-protection detail.


All useful and highly entertaining stuff.


In fact, there was a book that came out about twenty years ago called The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. I still have a copy and it contains all kinds of similar information, like how to win a sword-fight, fend off a shark, land a plane, or escape from killer bees. Just one thing though – ignore the advice to lie down if faced by stampeding horses. It’s not true that they will avoid trampling you. In my painful experience, horses will put their clumping great feet anywhere they damn well please!


But all this is pretty esoteric stuff. Most of the time, even in fiction, your characters will be going about their normal daily lives. Even if they’re not a professional alligator wrestler, or a bullfighter by trade, this can be just as interesting, if not more so. Although the Internet is a wonderful tool for research, there’s no substitute for chatting to real people who actually do the things you want to write about. It’s all about the vital bit of colour that gives a work authenticity. Just as silly mistakes of any kind – like a flower blooming at the wrong time of year – will throw a reader out of a story, so those little snippets I mentioned earlier will help to draw them in.


Those tricks of the trade.


And until you think about it, you don’t realise what you know. To this end, I phoned my sister, who’s been a professional gardener for years. "Give me some tricks of the trade," I said to her. "Things that people wouldn’t know unless they’re involved in your line of business."


There was a long pause, and then she came out with a couple of belters:


“If you don’t want to use slug pellets to keep slugs away from your plants, tip used coffee grounds round the base of the plant instead. Got to be fresh coffee, though – instant doesn’t work.”


“To stop squirrels digging up your crocus bulbs, plant the bulbs with dry holly leaves and chilli powder. Curry powder also works, but they really don’t like chilli.”


For myself, working as a photographer for years allowed me to come up with one or two interesting factoids of my own:


“If you want to take a soft-focus shot, breathe onto the lens just before you press the shutter. It will clear from the centre outwards, giving an instant soft-focus effect, and saves coating the lens with Vaseline, which will take forever to clean off.”


“Resting the camera on a bag filled with rice or split-peas will take up a surprising amount of vibration and will dramatically reduce camera-shake during action shots. I used to use a bag of pearl barley or dried split peas for all my car-to-car tracking photography to keep it pin-sharp.”


“If you’re taking a female portrait shot in black-and-white rather than colour, cosmetics will create shadow rather than provide highlights. Hence blusher should be applied into the hollows beneath the cheekbones, to add definition, not on top of them.”


And that led me onto another make-up tip I read in an in-flight magazine:


“Professional make-up artists heat up mascara before applying it, to give a much fuller effect and increase the even coverage.”


I’ve no idea where that will come in useful, but I’m sure it will somewhere. And, as a motorcyclist, here’s an invaluable one:


“Always carry the metal lid of a jam jar with you on the bike. You never know when you’re going to have to park up on grass. The lid can be placed under the foot of the side-stand to stop it digging into the soft ground and causing the bike to fall over – which is not only extremely embarrassing, but can also be costly in repairs.”


And as for these others, they were picked up all over the place:


Graphic designers: “If you have a client who is unable to approve a proposed design without putting their stamp on it, just put an obvious error in the proposal – a logo that’s too large, a font that’s too small, or a few judiciously seeded typos. The client requests the change and feels they’ve done their part, and your design, which was perfect all along, sails through to approval.”


In a parking lot: “Improve the range of your car alarm remote control by putting the remote under your chin. It uses the whole of your body as an extension of the antenna.” (Wouldn’t do that too often, though, if I were you …)


Horse owners: “Baby oil works wonders to de-tangle a horse’s knotted tail, without pulling out lumps of hair by the roots and getting yourself kicked in the process.”


In restaurants: “If you’re serious about your food, eat in big city restaurants between Tuesday and Thursday, when the chef’s not just interested in turning over weekend covers, and he’s had his day off, so both he and the produce are at their freshest.”


For those with a delicate stomach: “Don’t order anything in hollandaise sauce. The delicate emulsion of egg yolks and clarified butter can’t be refrigerated or it will break when spooned over poached eggs. Unfortunately, this lukewarm holding temperature is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. It’s also very likely not only to have been made hours before serving, but also from the heated, clarified butter that’s been collected from the tables, with other people’s bread crumbs strained out.” And you can thank Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential for that nugget … as well as for:


“If you’re worried about the hygiene standards in a restaurant, check out the restrooms. If they’re dirty – and those are the bits the customer is allowed to see – imagine what the kitchen’s going to be like, away from public view.”


One for wine buffs: “It’s no longer necessary to allow wine to ‘breathe’ by pulling the cork and letting the open bottle sit for an hour or two before serving. This is a throwback to the days when wines were stuffed full of chemicals at bottling. It can still make sense for vintages earlier than approx 1980, when letting a wine stand dissipates the charmingly named phenomenon known as ‘bottle stink’. But, today’s wines are much cleaner and healthier than a generation ago, and exposing a surface area of wine the size of the bottleneck to air is unlikely to have any effect on the great bulk of the wine in the bottle.”


Wildlife documentary makers: “If you want to replicate the sound of polar bears rolling around in the snow on your latest documentary, but don’t fancy getting close enough to actually record the real sound, replicate it by scrunching custard powder inside a pair of nylons.” (Seriously, it worked for Sir David Attenborough!)


Car drivers: “If you live somewhere with a very hot climate, always fill your tank on the way to work in the morning, not on the way home. This way, the ground storage tanks will be at a lower temperature so the fuel will be at its densest, giving your more bang for your buck.”


Airline cabin crew: “A fractious infant can be quickly quietened by the addition of a helping of gin in the milk formula.” (Hey, don’t blame me, I’m just reporting what I heard!)


If you’ve got an ant problem, but have pets or small children in the house: “Put down bicarbonate of soda instead. It makes them explode, apparently.”


Cigar smokers: “Don’t dunk the end directly into the flame when lighting the cigar. Rotate the cigar gently above the flame. Do not inhale the smoke, just taste it in your mouth and blow it out. And don’t smoke it too fast, or it will burn hot and ruin the flavour.”


I should point out at this stage that all the above are comments and snippets picked up from a variety of sources and, should I ever feel inclined to use them in a book, I’d certainly double-check the facts before I used them.


OK, your turn. What little snippets can you pass on from a day-job, past or present? What do you know?


This week’s Word of the Week is legerdemain, which is the skilful use of one’s hands when performing conjuring tricks, deception or trickery. The word comes from the French, léger de main, which means light of hand, or dexterous.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

A Mystery Writer's Night Before Christmas...and Second Wedding Anniversary



Whenever I think of Christmas, I think of traditions.  This year I have an additional memory to treasure on this Christmas Day 2021, for in three days Barbara and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary, all but two months of which were spent with Covid lurking in the background, Yet, I'm happy to say the bliss continues, undoubtedly attributable to my superb choice of bride. :)

To all of you from the many different corners of our world who so kindly follow us on MIE, the very best of the Holiday Season, no matter how you may choose to celebrate the time.  As I’m blessed to be part of the MIE family I have a little tradition I like to sneak in here during the holiday season.  It’s something I composed for my Christmas Eve post a few years back and whether or not you’d like seeing it again, it’s a tradition so we’re stuck with it…though updated to include the new members of our MIE family. I take great pleasure in brutally fracturing the classic poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston—history is still not sure who wrote it, so apologies to both. 


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a laptop was stirring, nor even a mouse.
The reviews were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that new readers would soon find them there.

The critics were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of best-seller danced in my head.
And DorothyL in her wimsey, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for the hiatus nap.

When out on the Net there arose such a chatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the keyboard I flew like a flash,
Tore open the browser and dove in with a splash.

The glow on the screen cast like new-fallen snow,
A lustre of brilliance onto writing so-so.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the sight of a blog with ten writers so dear.

With a little bold driver so quick with a thrill,
I knew in a moment he hailed from Brazil.
More rapid than eBooks their creations they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now, Kubu! now, Su Lin! now, Charlie and Emma!
On, Vera! On, Justin! on, Hiro and Rei!
To the top of the Times! to the top of them all!
Now Anderson, slash away! slash away pall!”

As wry thoughts, that before the final deadline fly,
When they meet with an obstacle soar to the sky.
So off to their blog-posts these non-courtiers flew,
With a sleigh full of ploys, and opinions not few.

And then, in a twinkling, I saw not from aloof,
The prancing and gnawing of hard comments and spoof
Taking aim at some points so to bring them to ground,
Brought on by hard thinkers of Southern Cross sound.

The writers were dressed from each head to each foot
In bold clothes that were tarnished with gashes well put.
A bundle of ARCs each had flung on its back,
They looked like kind peddlers bringing books to a rack.

Their eyes—how they twinkled! Their dimples how merry!
Their cheeks like Jeff Bezos’s, their noses like sherry!
One’s droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
‘Til his bottle of bourbon fell out on the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
Threw up smoke of the kind to fire scotch from the heath.
He had a broad face that would fill up the telly,
And as he reached for his bottle mumbled, “Just jelly.”

Neither chubby nor plump, more like jolly and svelte,
I laughed when I saw him, ‘til his stare I felt.
But a wink of his eye and no twist to my head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

They all spoke not a word, but went straight to their work,
And filled all the bookshelves, then turned with a jerk.
And crossing their fingers aside of their noses,
And giving great nods, passed around the Four Roses.

They kept all at play ‘til the ladies gave whistle,
Then each turned as one to read an epistle.  
And I heard them exclaim, ‘ere my charger lost might,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-fright!”

And, of course,“Kala Kristougenna.”
 —Andreas Kaldis