Barbarian chefs rule the world

Barbarian chefs rule the world

A free humorous short story…

… originally written for the Reddit Fantasy Writers Group

Hi Everyone!

I’ve been a member of the Reddit Fantasy Writers (r/fantasywriters) forum for a little while now, but until last week I hadn’t been all that active. Then, on Wednesday of last week, all that changed when I spotted the mid-week writer’s challenge. The premise of the challenge was to write a minimum of 500 words covering the homecoming of a hero and their subsequent reconciliation with their father. Naturally, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that, so I immediately set to work. An hour or so later, I’d crafted the following excerpt in the style of my first fantasy novel, Drynwideon. The only problem now, is that I enjoyed writing it so much, I’m thinking of turning it into a proper story!

I hope that you enjoy it and do let me know whether or not you’d like to see it developed further at:


Ezeran strode through the door of the small wooden hut that had been his home so many years ago and slammed the remains of it shut behind him.

“You’ve grown,” said his father, not bothering to turn around from the cauldron that was bubbling away over what passed for a fire in the tiny stone hearth. “I’ve made rabbit stew. There’s enough for you if you’ve a mind to eat,” he continued, giving the bubbling pot a stir with a spoon fashioned out of an old willow branch.

“You’re doing it wrong!” cried Ezeran, as he watched the bent and twisted figure of the man he’d once looked up to and feared, stir the thin, watery broth counter-clockwise.

“What would you know about it? Running off, gallivanting all over the countryside, questing like a bullish oaf. You’ve got no appreciation for hovel cookery, you never did,” spat the old man bitterly, sending a few drops of greasy sputum splashing into the cauldron, where it gave it some additional body, if not a uniquely displeasing flavour.

“But father, I do know! I understand it all now. It’s you who doesn’t understand! I stole the cookbook of Bloominheck the Saucerer and now all of the knowledge of the ‘Kulynary Arts’ is mine. I am the master and you are the student,” gabbled Ezeran, unable to stop the words from flowing once they had started.

“Hah!” replied his father. “Grown up and grown cocky with it! I always knew you were a big head. I blame your mother, may she rest in peace,” he continued, looking down sadly into the steaming pot as if it somehow reminded him of her. In some ways it did: she had a pot belly and was always hanging around food.

Barbarian cauldron. Rob Gregory Author

It’s all in the way that you stir it!

Ezeran began crossing the floor of the hut and stopped abruptly as his head struck the first crossbeam, snapping it effortlessly in two and sending a warning ripple through the building that suggested it would not react kindly to further abuse. Bending his head and stooping heavily, he continued the journey to the fireplace without further incident, although it took a great deal longer than it would have had he just stood up and smashed his way through the room. Finally, he reached his father and placed an enormous barbarian hand on his shoulder, causing the old man to drop to the floor screaming in agony. Ezeran picked him up and wisely moved away, still fearful after all these years of the biting wrath that dwelled inside the ancient figure.

“Look, Dad,” said Ezeran, adopting what he hoped was a gentle and soothing tone. “Allow me to explain. I’m not the same man that left here all those years ago. Yes, I went questing like a bullish oaf and I know that I abandoned you and Mum in the process, but I won and now I’m back. Admittedly, I did die at one point: that puffer-fish soup wasn’t properly prepared, but I survived and together we’ll make a better life, you and me. A simple barbarian I may have been when I left, but on my return, I’m now the world’s finest barbarian chef. Let me show you,” he continued, gently wresting the willow spoon from his father’s unresisting hand.

“Round and round the rabbit goes, where it stops, nobody knows,” he muttered to himself as he began stirring the pot clockwise, tossing in a small bouquet garni from a pouch slung around his impressively narrow waist, to neutralise the effect of the unintentionally added saliva from his father’s earlier outburst. Then, he stopped and dipped the spoon into the stew, gently blowing on it as he thrust it in front of the old man’s face. “Go on. Try it,” he said, holding the spoon in much the same way as another barbarian would hold a broadsword.

Barbarian hut. Rob Gregory Author

Barbarian hut – Door optional!

Ezeran’s father gazed ruefully at the mountain of well-toned flesh towering above him and then pursed his lips and took a sip of the broth. He rolled it around his mouth for a moment or two, savouring the taste as it flowed over his tongue. “Not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, I have to admit that it’s even better than my own creation. Well done. Well done indeed!” he said with a smile that perfectly displayed the handful of rotten teeth that he still had within his head.

Ezeran stepped back, a solitary tear threatening to fall from the corner of one eye. This was the first time he could ever remember when his father had paid him a compliment. “Father, does this mean that I’m forgiven?” he asked haltingly, fearing that his voice might crack with the emotion he was feeling.

“Well, I forgive you, but there’s something that I need to tell you,” replied the old man, trying his best not to look guilty as he spoke. “You see, I’m not really your father… he is,” he went on, pointing a wavering finger into the shadows in the corner of the room.

Ezeran span around, still brandishing the willow spoon before him. There, sitting on a bench in the darkness was the outline of a massive and even more terrifying figure than that of the man he’d always known as father, Eriksson the Brutal (retired).

“Hello son,” rumbled Eriksson casually, as he slowly rose from the bench and extended a hand the size of a small pony towards Ezeran.

“But, I don’t understand. Why didn’t you tell me?” asked Ezeran, reduced from a bold and fearless barbarian chef to a frightened and confused four-year-old in a matter of seconds.

“Well, I was never really the fatherly type, was I?” boomed Eriksson as he put a tree-like arm around his son. “Anyway, how old are you now?” he asked, steering the stunned young man towards the shattered doorway.

“I’ve just turned eighteen this year,” replied Ezeran, turning his gaze towards the grizzled old man, who it had to be said bore more of a resemblance to him than the stick thin figure, he’d called Dad for all these years.

“Good. In that case, we’re off to the pub,” said Eriksson as he ducked under the lintel. “I want to hear all about your adventures. I’m proud of you, son!”


As always, please feel free to share and don’t forget to let me know whether you think I should develop it further at:

*STOP PRESS* I’ve got a ‘Writer of the Day’ slot on the Reddit Fantsy forum (r/fantasy) on Weds 25th of July. Please tell your friends and start thinking about some fiendishly difficult questions that you’d like to ask me!

We’ve got (another) dog

We’ve got (another) dog

We’ve got (another) dog

… Or why does it always rain on me…

Okay, so I’m sitting at home yesterday, finally getting a spot of peace and quiet to catch up on a movie, the excellent ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’, starring Vince Vaughn, because wifey and the little one had gone out for the afternoon. Bliss, you might say and indeed you’d be right. I’d been trying to see this particular film all the way through without interruption for the last ten days, so now was my chance. Wrong! Twenty-five minutes from the end, with me on the edge of my seat, the car pulls up with all the windows rolled down and my little boy shouting out at the top of his voice: “Daddy, we’ve got a dog! We’ve got a dog, Daddy!”

Sure enough, no sooner had the car pulled to a halt than the doors were opened and after a bit of shuffling around in the back, my wife emerged carrying a small and absolutely terrified dog. Up until that point, I had thought that my son was playing a bit of a joke on me, but no, it was true, we had a dog.

Ben the dog, lying down sleeping.Rob Gregory Author

They’re so cute when they’re asleep… and not trying to escape!

Now, let’s rewind about forty-five minutes because there are some strange factors at play here, which need elucidation. I’m not a great believer in superstition or things like that. Being me, you tend not to be. It’s just one of those things you have to accept. However, while watching the film, I found myself musing about my tendency to overreact a little when my wife does one of her annoying, sorry… endearing ‘acts of complete randomness’, such as selling the motorbikes, ordering a running machine and expecting me to put it together when the instructions are in Thai, or holding a major religious ceremony in front of our business, complete with chanting monks, incense burning and lots of wailing… and on that occasion, it wasn’t even a Friday! Well, I just was coming to terms with the idea that maybe I should try to chill out a bit more when the dog ‘arrived’. The timing was impeccable. It was uncanny, like Buddha had decided that I didn’t already have enough excitement in my life and decided to add some more in the form of man’s best friend.

Normally, I would have done a very plausible impression of a medium-sized firework (not large I’ll have you know) going off, but I had just told myself to chill out about things, so what was I going to do? Besides, as mentioned above, the poor little mite was absolutely terrified beyond belief. Shaking and drooling uncontrollably as a result of the drive home… and I am making no comment about the quality of my wife’s driving here, although I have been known to do the same on occasion… I was worried that she might collapse and give up there and then (the dog that is, not my wife… she never gives up). So, I sat down on the floor, all thoughts of my Vince Vaughn film forgotten and tried to soothe her (we’re talking about the dog now, just in case you were wondering). After about an hour, by which time both of my arms and a good portion of my shorts were covered in frightened dog slaver, she finally calmed down enough to take a little water and some food.

Empty floor - no dog. Rob Gregory Author

Dog gone! Probably off chasing motorbikes, the crazy beast!

Since then, mainly because I’m a great big softie when it comes to animals, apart from the ones that try to bite my son that is (true story), she’s become part of the family and has been renamed ‘Ben’ by myself, mainly because I can’t pronounce her Thai name (and yes, I do know that she’s a girl dog). The only thing is that she’s not a puppy and she’s not a street dog. She’s a temple dog, so is having a bit of a hard time adjusting to her new life… it’s probably due to the lack of orange robes, but if anyone suggests that I start wearing one then look out! The problem is compounded by the fact that we live close to a busy road, so I’m terrified that she’s going to get run over, as happened to one of our cats, or stolen, as happened to our last puppy (another true story).

Black puppy dog with white paws. Rob Gregory Author

Doody doody doo, where are you? Our stolen puppy, Doody. Super cute or what!

Anyway, after tying her up last night, which isn’t something that I wanted to do, being an animal lover and all that, I came down this morning only to find that she’d slipped her collar and had gone off wandering around the neighbourhood. Thankfully my wife was able to track her down and that should have been the end of it. But alas, no. When I got back from my morning bike ride (43km in case you were wondering), she’d chewed through the restraining rope and was socialising with three boy dogs from along the road, the shameless hussy! This time, I managed to get her back inside and warned her about hanging around with strange boy dogs, even if she was only trying to make friends. I know what happens in these situations! Since then and it’s only been a matter of hours now, we’ve abandoned the rope and are trying our best to get used to the idea that she’s probably a darned sight more streetwise than our son is!

Anyway, I’m not looking forward to tonight when we have to shut her inside the house to stop her wandering the streets, but its either that or spend a sleepless night worrying that she might have got into trouble. Wish me luck dear reader, as I think I’m going to have my hands full for a while here. But then I’d rather have full hands than have lovely, good-natured, little Ben squashed by a car.

Stay tuned for more dog stories (and I’m sure there will be lots) as our relationship with Ben develops in the future.

Owning a dog is a big responsibility and unlike us, you should be well prepared before you bring your new addition home. Below are some useful resources to help you ensure that it is a pleasant experience for both you and your dog:

Bringing a new dog home

The 3-3-3 rule for adopted dogs

Surviving the first night

Living with a new dog

Puppy feeding guide

How to be a responsible dog owner

In-depth guide to financing a service dog (a very useful resource for anyone with physical/mental difficulties)

2019 Update:

Well, it’s been nearly a year since we first got Ben and what a fantastic dog she’s turned out to be. To coincide with the request that I recently received from Jessie at Jen Reviews, to include the article below on preparing to look after a new puppy, I thought I’d include a couple of recent pictures, so that you can see how Ben has grown!

Please do take the opportunity to check out the links, especially the one below, which is excellent and if you do have a new dog, then I hope that they turn out as well as Ben!

22 Essential Items to Get Before Bringing Home Your New Puppy

Ben the dog. Happy and alert. Rob Gregory Author

Ben the dog, lying on my bed roll. Naughty girl, but at least she is happy!


Ben the dog, sleeping in the bar at Christmas. Rob Gregory Author

Ben, sleeping in the bar at Christmas.


To ensure that you stay tuned for more ben-related updates in future, please take a moment to subscribe to my newsletter. And while you’re here, why not check out some of my other blogs and books. I’m sure that you’ll find something to make you smile.


Thank you!

Nok Air – Thailand’s airline shame

Nok Air – Thailand’s airline shame

Nok Air

… Thailand’s airline shame…

When I first started writing this blog, I mentioned that there would be the occasional rant in and amongst the plethora of often alcohol-induced thoughts and musings that I generally provide you, my beloved readers, with. Having remained silent on the subject of rants for several months now, I finally feel that it is time to share with you the true story of my experience with Thailand’s domestic air carrier, Nok Air, or as I prefer to refer to it ‘No Care’.

The story begins in late December 2017, when I booked flights for my wife and four-year-old son, on Nok Air’s service from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani. The flight (DD8612) was due to depart at 9:25 am and arrive a little over an hour later at 10:35 am. Now, before we go any further, you need to be aware that Nok Air had a monopoly on this particular route, so unless I wanted my family to spend twelve or more hours in a cramped minibus, which as it turns out would have been a better option, I had no practical alternative available to me.

Nok Air - Rear of an aeroplane. Rob Gregory Author

Nok Air – We’ll get you there… eventually!

Anyway, we arrived at the airport an hour and a half early, with my son literally bouncing up and down with excitement about the forthcoming plane journey. Having dropped them off, I returned home and waited for the call from my wife to let me know that they had arrived safely. Around 10:20 am, I got a call from my wife, which rather surprised me because I thought that she would still be in the air. So, you can imagine my surprise when she told me that she and my son were still in Chiang Mai, as a result of a technical problem with the aircraft.

At this point in time, I was not unduly worried. After all, a short delay on the ground due to a technical problem is far better than finding out that you’ve got one at 40,000 feet!

However, my concerns began to mount when I received another call from my wife, a couple of hours later, to say that they were still in Chiang Mai airport. Now, bearing in mind that her aged mother had travelled down from Nong Khai, approximately 50km away, to meet her at Udon Thani and that there is absolutely nothing at all to entertain young children at the departure gates of Chiang Mai airport, you can understand the cause of my growing unease.

Fast forward another hour and a half, and I get a further call from my wife to say that the engineers in Chiang Mai have given up trying to fix the plane and that another aircraft was in the process of being flown up from Bangkok. Well, that was that, I thought with some relief. A hefty and unexpected delay, but at least my family would be in Udon Thani by late afternoon.

Nok Air - Aeroplane cockpit. Rob Gregory Author

Can you fix it? No, we can’t!

But no! How silly of me to assume that Nok Air could do anything as simple as getting a replacement plane to Chiang Mai on time. The said aircraft sent up from Bangkok, a journey which normally takes just over an hour was delayed both at Bangkok and then again at Chiang Mai. So, instead of departing at 3:25 pm, as promised, it was still on the tarmac at 4:25 pm!

My wife and son finally arrived in Udon Thani at approximately 6 pm that evening, after a delay of over eight hours, not including the hour and a half they spent waiting due to their early arrival at the airport that morning. Needless to say, both were exhausted and my poor son’s enthusiasm for air travel was severely diminished as a result. Now, I know that many people have experienced far longer hold ups at the hands of incompetent airlines than my wife and son did, and they really do have my deepest sympathies, but we’re talking about an almost eight hour delay on what should have been an easy one hour flight.

Anyway, having lived through the saga, by proxy, on the other end of a phone line for most of the day, I decided to strike while the iron was hot and express my displeasure at what I saw as Nok Air’s screaming incompetence while my blood was still boiling. And that, dear reader, was where the real fun began…

I tried to leave a detailed complaint on Nok Air’s website, but when I finally pushed the send button, I got the extremely cryptic message: ‘Maximum allowed length of the input text is 500’ and the message wouldn’t send. Well, I did the logical thing and edited my lengthy and delicately crafted message down to 500 words, only to find that it still wouldn’t send. It took me another couple of goes before I realised that the message referred to 500 characters… including spaces! To give you an idea of how much text that is, this entire paragraph is 747 characters including spaces. Obviously, Nok Air doesn’t like to receive too much detail when someone is unhappy with their service, something that was later confirmed when I received a response from them.

Nok Air - Complaint form. Rob Gregory Author

500 characters including spaces. Are you kidding me!

By this point in time, I was nearly shaking with rage, so hopefully you can forgive me the repetition and poor grammar in the message below, which is what I was finally able to send. Oh, and I should point out that although Nok Air have since changed their comment form to include a ‘Complaint’ option (the 500-character limit still applies, however), at the time that I tried to contact them, sending a complaint was not an option.

Nok Air - My original complaint letter. Rob Gregory Author

Express your displeasure in 500 characters or less. This should be interesting!

The following day, I rather surprisingly received a reply from Nok Air, the text of which is shown below. Perhaps less surprisingly, the response pointed to their ‘No refund’ policy and basically tried to give me the brush off with a fairly stock standard reply. Well, to me, it had the opposite effect and to paraphrase the ‘Half Man Half Biscuit’ song entitled ’24 Hour Garage People’, I suddenly found that I had lots of time on my hands and plenty of things that I now wanted to say to Nok Air.

Nok Air - Their first response. Rob Gregory Author

Let battle commence!

Now, you need to be aware that although I had demanded a full refund in my original complaint, I wasn’t actually all that worried about it. For me, it was more a matter of principle. In other words, my wife and son had been subjected to an unacceptable delay, caused by Nok Air’s farcical inability to organise themselves and therefore some kind of compensation, even the offer of a modestly discounted flight for my wife and son in the future, would have been an acceptable outcome. However, this was not to be…

Nok Air - My initial reply. Rob Gregory Author

Air Wars Part 2 – The Customer Strikes Back

My initial reply above, while perhaps a little blunt, gave me the opportunity to point out to Nok Air that maybe they should consider adopting a more flexible approach to their ‘No refund’ policy, given the exceptional circumstances that were involved. However, my suggestion quite literally ‘fell on deaf ears’, as I received no response at all from Nok Air. Undeterred, in fact, spurred on by this development (or lack thereof), I tried a different approach a few days later: sarcasm.

Nok Air - My second reply. Rob Gregory Author

If at first you don’t succeed, give sarcasm a go!

Aha! This worked and I got a response. Obviously, the staff at Nok Air were smarter than I had given them credit for. But alas, I was once again proven wrong, when all I received was the same lacklustre explanation, this time with reference to the care that they had provided in accordance with Thai Ministry of Transport regulations.

Nok Air - Responding to sarcasm. Rob Gregory Author

Haven’t I already heard this somewhere before?

Well, this was just like a red rag to a bull. No acknowledgement of the underlying issue, just a continuous, dogged reliance on their ridiculous policy and doing the bare legal minimum to ensure the comfort of their passengers, which seems to stand a little at odds with the mission statement on their website:

“Nok Air strives to be the number one choice among low fare airlines in Thailand, providing customers true satisfaction through affordability, reliability, convenience, innovation and care.” –

Needless to say, a further communication from yours truly was required, this time pointing out in words of one-syllable or less the root cause of my displeasure and noting the difference between their attitude towards customer care and that of a more reputable carrier, something which they may have wished to strive towards.

Nok Air - What more can I say? Rob Gregory Author

Can I make it any clearer?

The response from Nok Air and yes, I did receive one, spoke volumes to me. Well, not volumes in the sense that it was a detailed response to my complaint and an acknowledgement of their pitiful performance, but volumes in the sense of their entire approach towards customer care and satisfaction. Basically, they told me to get stuffed (see below).

Nok Air - The final communication! Rob Gregory Author

Nok Air or No Care – You decide.

Since then, I have had no further communication from Nok Air, which suits me fine, as I have no intention of ever using their service, such as it is, again. Nor would I ever recommend it to you, dear reader, unless of course, you want to experience the ultimate in unsatisfactory airline service, at less than attractive prices, underpinned by a total and absolute lack of concern for you, their fare paying passenger. In fact, I’d rather recommend Ryan Air than this bunch of half-wits!

Nok Air - Aeroplane landing at sunset. Rob Gregory Author

It’s a long way to Udon Thani – Especially if you’re flying with Nok Air!

Here endeth the first rant… you have been warned!

Space, the final frontier – 1960’s style

Space, the final frontier – 1960’s style

Space, the final frontier – 1960’s style

A couple of weeks ago, I published a blog called ‘London Lost’, about how I’d found a box of old slides from the 1950’s and 60’s and spent a very pleasant hour or so flicking through them to see what secrets they held. While most of them were family photos, some were of London and others were part of a collection about space, including the Apollo 11 moon landing and one of the first ever spacewalks. At the time, I promised to share those with you in a future blog and so, not being one to dilly-dally, here they are.

Unlike the slides in ‘London Lost’, which had suffered the ravages of time, albeit in a way that I think greatly enhanced them, most of the space slides haven’t done quite as badly and retain more of their original and in my view, fabulous 1960’s colour palette… which you just don’t get with today’s ultra-clear, high definition images. Okay, so they are a little grainy, but then what do you expect for pictures taken almost fifty years ago?

So, once again, grab yourself a cup of something warm (or cool, depending on where you’re from), sit back somewhere comfortable and lose yourself in a pictorial journey through time and space.

Starting from the beginning, we’ve got a few general images of the Earth from space, just to help set the scene and let you know where you are… or where you should be if you’re currently somewhere else.

Space - Earth from Apollo 12. Rob Gregory Author

Unless you are ET, this is your home. Abuse it at your peril!


Space - Earth from 160,000 miles. Rob Gregory Author

Earth from 160,000 miles. I can see your house from here!

Then we have a few slides of the Gemini missions, namely Gemini 4 and 7, which preceded the Apollo missions that ultimately placed a man on the moon, back in 1969. The Gemini missions were important because they allowed key techniques and manoeuvres to be perfected before the Apollo missions were launched.

Space - Gemini 4 spacewalk. Rob Gregory Author

Gemini 4 spacewalk – Not quite walking on the moon, but not bad nontheless!


Space - Gemini spacewalk close up. Rob Gregory Author

Only the second ever spacewalk and already the tape player has packed up!


Space - Gemini 7. Rob Gregory Author

Gemini 7 from Gemini 6 – Please engage reverse… now!

Moving on, we’re now right up there with the big boys, starting with Apollo 9, which saw the first successful test of the complete Apollo spacecraft, including the famous Lunar Module, or ‘LEM’.

Space - Apollo 9. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 9 in orbit above Earth, just in case you were wondering.


Space - Apollo 9 and LEM. Rob Gregory Author

The LEM… not to be confused with Lemmy from Motorhead. Do so at your peril!

Then, it’s the main event. The one that everyone (or almost everyone these days) knows about, Apollo 11. Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, the first two men on the moon and poor old Michael Collins, who piloted the command module alone while his colleagues were bouncing around on the lunar surface. Some people get all the luck!

Space - Apollo 11 Launch. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 11 – Are we there yet?


Space - Aldrin descending the LEM. Rob Gregory Author

This is a bad time to be scared of heights, Buzz!


Space - Aldrin on the moon. Rob Gregory Author

Now, which camera do you want me to look at, Mister Kubrick?


Space - erecting Apollo 11's solar sheet. Rob Gregory Author

Neil, what was this bit for again? Erecting the solar wind sheet during the Apollo 11 mission.


Space - Looking at the LEM. Rob Gregory Author

Inspecting the LEM foot pad – Looks OK to me. In fact, it looks amazing!

In lieu of a brief interlude after all that excitement, here are a couple of calming images of our nearest celestial neighbour, the moon. Beautiful, alluring and sitting a mere 252,000 or so miles away, completely beyond the reach of most of us!

Space - the moon. Rob Gregory Author

The Moon – Your next holiday destination?


Space - The moom in close up. Rob Gregory Author

Some nice looking craters on the lunar farside, but watch out for Clangers!

Following that, we’re on to some of the less well-known Apollo missions, namely Apollo 12 and 14. Funnily enough, there aren’t any pictures of the Apollo 13 mission, which saw Captain James Lovell and his crew stuck in space for six days, following an accident, until they made a heroic and successful re-entry into the Pacific Ocean, on 17 April 1970. Arguably, because of the Apollo 13 film by Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise and the now sadly departed, Bill Paxton, the Apollo 13 mission is probably NASA’s best-known space mission, even though it didn’t achieve its original objective.

Space - Apollo 12. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 12 – One good launch deserves another!


Space - Apollo 12 astronauts. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 12 astronauts – Just for information, you need to put these guys inside, before you launch the rocket!


Space - Apollo 12 descent. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 12 descent. Hang on, if there’s no one there, how come the camera is still running?


Space - Apollo 12 splashdown. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 12 spalshdown… or down to earth with a bump if you get it wrong!


Space - Apollo 14 rocket. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 14 – Saturn 5 rocket. I built one when I was a kid; a model one that is.


Space - Apollo 14 firing room. Rob Gregory Author

Apollo 14 firing room – When I push this button…

Finally, to wrap things up, we gaze outward, as man has done ever since he first looked at the heavens to see some of the most iconic astronomical groupings in space, including the Orion Nebula and the ever-dazzling Pleiades, or Seven Sisters as they are also known.

Space - Orion nebula. Rob Gregory Author

The Orion nebula – A great big, but very pretty, cloud of gas.


Space - The Andromeda Galaxy. Rob Gregory Author

The Andromeda galaxy. Home to the ‘Andromeda Strain’, so don’t even think of visiting!


Space - The Pleiades in Taurus. Rob Gregory Author

The Pleiades in Taurus. If only all stars looked like this.

Note: Originally, all of these images would have come from NASA, but seeing as they were part of a commercially available collection that was intended for sale, I don’t think that they’ll mind me dusting them off and sharing them with you just this once. I hope that you enjoyed them!

If you liked this blog, then please check out ‘London Lost’, as well as my other blogs. And please do feel free to share more widely!

The Garden Party

The Garden Party

Or what happens when you let an author loose

… A humorous short story about English garden parties…

The following tale was inspired by the classic British comedy series, ‘Stella Street’

Deep in the bowels of the palatial mansion that I call home, lies my ‘prison study’. You may have heard me refer to it in a previous post and it is the place where I spend most of my time when I’m trying to write. In fact, I’m sitting here right now, on a splinter-ridden, one-legged stool, watching the water drip off the damp stone walls and run down my monitor screen. I could wipe it off, but there’s no point, as another rivulet will be along in a moment and besides, the screen might get blurry.

Anyway, I am required to sit here for at least twelve hours each day as part of the agreement that I foolishly made with the United Brethren of Illustrious Scribes (UBIS) and their parent organisation, the Global Authors Guild (GAG), when I first became a ‘struggling author’. So, every day, I enter the prison study and shut the heavy iron door behind me, trying to suppress the shudder that threatens to rise up inside as I hear the dreaded time-lock activate. Then it’s down to work, trying to craft high-quality blogs that will entertain and delight readers from all walks of life, hammering out as much of my latest novel as my tortured brain will permit and of course, Tweeting, Facebooking and social media’ing endless inanities into the Intersphere, in the hope that I will be able to attract a follower, or dare I say it, a customer to my website.

However, although this sounds like a pretty bleak and foreboding existence, it does occasionally have its upsides and last week, my masters released me from my bondage a couple of hours early, so that I could attend a garden party that was being held by Brian May, one of my neighbours and owner of the local hairdressing salon. Now, Brian is a lovely chap and when he holds a garden party it is legendary. But he is known to be a bit of a queen, so you need to be careful about how you dress and what fragrance you choose to wear. I chose a nice, pale green ‘off the shoulder’ number, with a touch of Dior, so I knew that I was fine. Anyway, when I got there, the party was already well underway and I was very pleased to be able to catch up with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who run the garage down the road. They’d had my car in for some work for a couple of weeks and I wanted to find out how things were going. Unfortunately, the pair of them had already got properly stuck into the hotdogs and Pinot Gris, so I couldn’t get much sense out of them. Honestly, those boys always overdo it, they just can’t get no satisfaction.

The Garden Party - Pinot Gris. Rob Gregory Author

Be careful not to overdo the Pinot Gris, boys!

After an overly friendly peck on the cheek from Mick, I left them be and wandered over to the drinks table, where I bumped into Johnny Depp, our local greengrocer. He’s a wizard with a set of knives that’s for sure and was dicing cucumbers by the dozen, tossing them expertly into a jug of cold Pimm’s No1, which he was draining as fast as he was filling it. We had a bit of a chat about the current state of the greengrocery business, which unfortunately is struggling and may explain why Johnny has recently developed a fondness for the booze and partying, but he did mention that he was going to the Caribbean shortly, so maybe the break will do him some good.

While I was chatting to Johnny, we were joined by Morgan Freeman, the village butcher. Incidentally, his shop is right next door to Johnny’s greengrocers if you’re ever looking for it. I had to give him a pat on the back, the poor fellow. He’s always been the serious type, but we’ve gotten along fairly well over the years and he’s always been extremely generous when weighing out his meat, to me at least. Anyway, a couple of girls from the next village made some pretty unpleasant allegations about him a year or two ago and since then he’s had no end of trouble, including an unwanted Police investigation from Inspector Huey Lewis, which made the news and no doubt about it. I must say that I was rather surprised, but glad to see him out and about, as he had become something of a recluse for a while there.

The Garden Party - Kebabs. Rob Gregory Author

Brian always puts on a lovely spread when he’s entertaining.

Glancing around Brian’s back garden, I was quite impressed by the turnout. Matt Damon, who owns the organic farm with all the poly-tunnels on it was chatting happily to Gwyneth Paltrow, mobile beautician, over a glass of Merlot, although I suspect that there might have been something else in his drink, because Matt was starting to look a bit like a Martian from where I was standing. Major Tom Cruise, from the local army base, was also in attendance, looking fantastic in his uniform with all the shiny buttons and medals on it. I must admit that I had always thought he was taller, but then I’d only ever seen him from a distance before. Nonetheless, he was putting on a magnificent show, impressing a host of young ladies with one-armed push-ups, squats and a range of other extremely manly exercises, which for me would be a mission impossible. I was a bit concerned to see young Kevin Spacey, the wannabe journalist from the free weekly paper, taking such an interest in Major Tom’s athletic posing, but then I’ve always worried about him. What with his religious upbringing and all that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already committed all of the seven deadly sins and is working on the next bunch.

As always at these type of gatherings, there was a moment of unpleasantness when Gwyneth’s boyfriend, Robert Downey Jr, who owns the local gym and is always training for an Ironman event, started picking on Matt. Thankfully, however, Father Bill Nighy, our well-loved vicar stepped in and calmed things down before they got out of hand. He really is a wonderful chap and so dedicated to the local parish. I mean he’s there all day, every day, locked away in the crypt, praying and then out and about every night, prowling the village in search of unworthy souls that he can send to the Underworld. I wish I had his dedication, not to mention his complexion.

The Garden Party - Backgarden. Rob Gregory Author

Brian’s back garden – Not bad for a hairdresser, although the hedge could do with a trim!

As the evening wore on and the sun dropped below the sky, things started to get a little bit silly. Pint-sized Danny DeVito, our resident undertaker, had obviously had a bit too much wine during the afternoon and was mocked unrelentingly by Roy Orbison, the blacksmith, for talking to a garden gnome for half an hour non-stop. Sting, who works at the little hotel in the centre of the village, arrived on his moped and caused a stir by trying to steal some of Major Tom’s girls from him. He nearly succeeded by the way, until Tom pushed him into a plate of blue turtles and someone called the Police.

Finally, with the garden party in full swing, the place was momentarily stunned into silence with the arrival of local bank manager, Harvey Weinstein, with a gaggle of young ladies of dubious origin in tow. He’s been a very naughty boy, that one, but because he’s got everyone’s savings locked up in his bank, no one can do anything about him. So, according to the excellent book entitled ‘The Freddy Mercury Guide to Successful Garden Parties and Marquee Events’, we simply ignored him and carried on talking amongst ourselves.

Well, I don’t know what time it was or how much I had had to drink, but the stars were just beginning to fade when Brian called an end to the garden party. Just at that moment, when I thought that I might be able to sneak another quick glass of Chardonnay from the drinks table, a heavy hand landed with a bone crushing thud on my shoulder and I was spun around into the impassive, ape-like face of one of my UBIS masters’ underlings. How they manage to get a gorilla to wear sunglasses, let alone shoehorn it into a suit is beyond me, but there was no arguing with the brute and probably for the best, I was escorted home to my prison study, where the door was slammed shut behind me.

So, there you have it. The life of a writer may seem like quite a solitary and unrewarding pursuit to some, but we do occasionally get out and when we do, it’s always fun!

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