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RJ Askew

'I would recommend this book if you like literature that makes you think' - reads the most recent review of 'One Swift Summer'. 

But not all readers want to think and many never stray from the comfort of their chosen genre.

Still, read and let read. And, to be fair, even the direst trilogy-of-trilogies fantasy trounces the fare on our Twitter and Facebook feeds

That said, perhaps your average ebook genre story is reminiscent of an own brand supermarket pizza. Food of a kind. Just don't read the labelling.

Our ability to think elevates us as a species and defines who and how we are as individuals. It's astonishingly beautiful - when you think about it.

So too is reading, especially when we grapple with a demanding title that stretches our intellectual and emotional responses in new and nourishing ways.

So, if we are what we read, let's have the allegorical soup, the metaphysical mackerel, and the piquant poetry sorbet. Please. 

Friday Blog

A sepulchral Victorian fashion

ST. ALBANS, Feb 27 – Strictly speaking, when some wag deploys the term ‘as p----d as a newt’ about someone in their cups, they should really say, ‘as p----d as a mute’.

The mutes in question were paid mourners, especially favoured in Victorian times, when they knew far more about the dramatic potential of Death than we do, inclined as we are to do our best to ruin a good Death by turning it into a ‘celebration’.

Bedecked from head to toe in fifty shades of black, mutes were hired to attend funerals as the silent friends of the deceased, to stand outside the departed’s house, or the portals of church or cemetery, there to usher the spirit on its way with a touch of visual solemnity.

All that standing around embodying sepulchral melancholy must have taken its toll. And so it was customary to ply said mutes with copious quantities of drink after the internment. Not surprisingly the mutes did not hold back and, it seems, were often the worse for wear.

Not a bad job, all things considered. Maybe we could revive the role. Anyway, here is a short homage to the lost art of the Victorian newt, sorry, mute – been at the gin.


Come, silent sentinels of Death!

Let your hats be steam-punk stovepipes,

Tall, black, out-blacking black, jet, noir ..

Shall be your crepe, a-swaddling heads,

Beards dyed Death adumbral, black inked,

My ink shall die in every eye,

Indelible not – my life’s run.

And you, mute sirs, black-capped, silk-gloved:

Stand, without my door, standards raised,

Black-wrapped and dripping doom, stand you!

Mute. Shud’ring as you feel Death .. pass ..

Your glass! Hand me your glass, mute swan!

Let’s to the bar, let life be loud!

Sepulchral mutes, you’ve stood me proud.

by R J Askew