A macabre profession

I crept into the crypt intent upon a grim and grizzly task. Having scaled the walls of the cemetery after darkness and prized open the door to the vault, I crouched just inside, silently waiting and listening for any movement outside. I could hear nothing but the wind in the distant trees and saw no sign that my nocturnal visit had been noticed. Leaving the door open a fraction, I cautiously covered the crack with my coat before lighting a small dip and venturing further inside. I did not want any patrolling rozzer to look through the graveyard gates and notice a flickering light from within.


Learning to fly

“Fly with a woman? Rather you than me, mate!” he said, pointing to the end of the field. Photo: spotterguide.net

It was a crisp Autumn afternoon as I drove past the airport building and around to the side road where the private aircraft were kept. Biggin Hill Airport is a former RAF base just outside of London and you could still see some of the wartime barracks and the airmen’s chapel beside the more modern air terminal. I wasn’t interested in any of that. I was there for a flying lesson. My first ever flying lesson. An 18th birthday present from Mum and Dad.

“Endora School of Flying?” My Dad had said, laughing, when Mum told him the name of the establishment she had booked for my birthday treat.

“What’s so funny about that?” she asked.

“Well, sounds like the old witch from that telly program.”

“Oh, don’t put the boy off, Graham.”

Learning to fly

Burial Party at Beckenham Parish Church

Photo: Lychgate at St George’s Church, Beckenham – courtesy Jackie Andrews

Parson William Hogarth stood under cover of the lychgate, awaiting the arrival of the body of dear departed brother Jeremiah Stodart with some foreboding. The family were known to the good people of the Kent hamlet of Beckenham as drunkards and ne’er-do-wells and the affair was as likely to end in an unholy debauch as it was to be a sober and somber interment. It did not help that the heavens had opened up, and the parson’s cassock was subjected to considerable muddy splashings from the wind blowing in the torrential rains.

He might have expected the burial party to be late. When it eventually arrived, the motley cortege consisted of assorted rural labourers, sporting their best hats and cleanest smocks, some clearly staggering from a morning spent imbibing their breakfast. Thankfully the body was borne upon a cart rather than being taken up on the shoulders of the brethren, who would undoubtedly have dropped the cadaver in their drunken state. A rude cloth covered the mortal remains of the deceased and dragged in the mud and horse shit. Hogarth was thankful that he would not have to handle the earthly remains of the deceased.

Burial Party at Beckenham Parish Church

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The Brothers of Logan County

The first Odd Fellows Funeral held in the town of Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, 1889

Martin Cheney stood on a hillock at the edge of his claim, looking out over the eastern trail to see a small cloud of dust raised by a lone rider. It was a warm, muggy August afternoon in Logan County in the Oklahoma territory, some hazy sunshine, and no rain for weeks. Cheney stood looking, waiting. He knew who the rider was.

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The Plumes of Enceladus

Deep within the cloudy mass of Saturn’s E ring is no place to discover your Ship Nav is failing.

Our earlier approach had been nothing short of awe-inspiring. As we flew towards the swirling grey globe of the gas giant and its colossal rings, ‘we’ being the ship and me, I just sat in the pilot seat and stared and stared and stared. I knew I would never see anything quite like this again. Closer-up, it was a different story. What had been a vast bright bow of blue, stretching off into distance space either side of the ship, now become a dense cloud of microscopic ice particles, more grey than blue. It felt like we were trapped in a giant, ghostly snowstorm.

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A Time for Empathy?

Image: NASA – The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman

Deep Space Transport Vessel (DSTV) Endurance – inbound – ending a 28-year mission to the Moon, Mars and the far mining outposts of the Asteroid belt. It is a happy ship but something strange is happening. As the mission proceeds, strange gets stranger…

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