Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nicholas Stuart Gray’s witch: Barbara

Barbara is the main character in The Stranger, a short story in Nicolas Stuart Gray’s book The Edge of Evening. She does not at all resemble the witch Huddle, who also appears in this book. She is described as being neither young nor old, neither ugly nor pretty. She has brown hair and violet eyes, and is slim and rather tall.

Barbara has little in common with other witches I have written about: for example, she is not seeking some black magic book, magical artefact or other item as are Dr. Melanie Powers, Rowena Cooper and Miss Heckatty; she is not power crazy nor planning to rule the world like Gwendolen Chant; she is not cruel and evil like Madame Delubovoska nor surly and unpleasant like Mrs Lubbage.

Her problem is that she is miserable: she is a stranger in a strange land; she hates her life in a world where kindness is dreadfully lacking and wants to get away from it. She is tired of people telling her to pull herself together.

She has learned magic and sorcery just to obtain the power to find a world of her own, a place that is right for her, somewhere with people who speak her language, somewhere she can meet her own kind at last and be happy. She is so desperate for help that she performs a summoning ritual and conjures up a demon – whose name is Balbarith – and orders him to obey her. She commands him to show her other worlds and how to enter them.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Defence Against the Dark Arts part VI: two amusing anecdotes

I have many painful memories of incidents in shops and on buses. I have one or two positive memories to offset the bad ones, memories that give good feelings whenever I return to them.

The honest electronic equipment salesman
Some years ago, I was very dejected after realising that I had been cheated by a laptop repair company. They lied to me when they told me that they had returned my laptop to the manufacturer: the latter said they had never seen it. I was without my laptop for weeks, and paid a lot of money for repairs that did not last very long.

I found another repair shop nearby; they told me that they got a lot of business from people like me, people who had been given bad service by the other place.

I was waiting in this shop when some people came in and asked if they sold video cameras. One of the men behind the counter said, “We only have one model, and I wouldn’t buy it if I were you: it’s rubbish!” When I told him that I admired his honesty, he said, “It’s always best to be honest. The only person I ever lie to is my wife:  I would never get any peace if I didn’t.” I thought that this was very amusing. It lifted my mood and things did not seem quite so black. 

I was much more selective when choosing the second repair company than I was with the first one, which by coincidence went bankrupt not long afterwards.

The witty bus conductor
I may have still been at school at the time of another amusing incident: it certainly happened a very long time ago. I was on a bus when a very smartly-dressed man jumped on. There was something about him that suggested to me that he was not accustomed to travelling on buses: perhaps his chauffeur was ill or his Rolls-Royce had broken down!

He asked the conductor, “Does this bus go to Marble Arch?” The conductor, a pleasant, relaxed Jamaican man, said, “Yes, Sir, it does”. The man brightened up: he obviously liked being called ‘Sir’.

He then asked “How much do I owe you?” The conductor said in reply, “Sit down and make yourself comfortable Sir, and we’ll discuss the money question later.”

The man obviously thought that this was very funny: he kept smiling to himself for the remainder of his journey.  I guessed that he could not wait to tell the chaps at his club about his unexpectedly entertaining bus journey.