Four calling birds

Danger in the jungle 

(AU Jungle Book)

The Indian jungle offices are a-roaring: Shere Khan, the dangerous tiger, had been spotted again. As usual, he is on the prowl and a potential jeopardy to anyone’s youngs. A conference call had been arranged, where the owlet, the bush quail, the wren and the crested serpent eagle are trying to implement a site surveillance strategy.

„The crested serpent eagle calling! We are gathered here to get informed that Shere Khan has been seen in our jungle. Reception?”

The owlet was almost falling asleep, as the conference had been called during daytime.

„I can’t hear you, please repeat,” he said, not to admit he lost the information by dozing off.

„Shere Khan has been seen in our jungle,” the eagle leader repeated, a bit annoyed. „Owlet, I need you to stay on watch during nighttime. Can you hear me?”

„What?” the sleepy owlet asked again.

„He wants you to stay on watch during nighttime,” the bush quail repeated. „And I’ll stay during daytime, in the bushes at the entrance in the forest,” he promised.

„I’ll do it,” the owlet promised.

Now the crested serpent eagle had lost the connection.

„Pardon? What were you saying?”

„The owlet will stay on watch during night time, and the bush quail during daytime, at the entrance in the forest,” the wren said again. „I’ll watch from the other side of the forest, and you should watch from above,” it told the eagle.

„I can’t hear you, I lost the connection”, the eagle repeated, frustrated, without seeing that Shere Khan was exactly behind him.

A tiger’s sommersault… and the crested serpent eagle was the tiger’s lunch that day. Three calling birds – or rather two calling and one asleep – had remained in the conference, confused where their boss had disappeared.


Three French Hens

Three French Hens 

Carmen knew that soon her husband would be back, and she wanted to prepare him a surprise festive dinner. She asked Cathy about French specialties, and she got the following advice:

“I’d recommend you a chicken country soup, a Provensal chicken stew, since Baptiste is from there, and the leftovers can be combined into a cassoulet afterwards for the next meal. Take three hens, pluck, clean and chop them accordingly, then put the pieces to boil in a pot… for the start not until completely boiled. Cut potatoes, carrots and celery into medium pieces and add to boil together. Add tomatoes only if you don’t want the soup too sweet. Add a teaspoonful of dried tarragon, half a teaspoonful of nutmeg, pepper and salt according to your taste, parsley, thyme, 1 bay leaf and up to five peppercorns. When the chicken is almost done, take it out, let it dry and cool, and separate the pieces. Leave the breasts aside for the chicken stew, and some thighs for the cassoulet or what else you want to cook for the next meal. Two thighs, though, and the little meat you can find on the remaining pieces, are to be kept for the soup. Remove meat from bones, then cut it in small pieces and put it back for a little while to boil again.”

The older woman looked at the young wife, who had helped her in the kitchen several times, and continued the explanation:

“The breasts are to be used for the Provensal chicken. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Mix 2 tablespoons vinegar, Dijon mustard and garlic in a bowl and stir the chicken breast halves into the mixture to marinade, then cook them in the skillet until browning a little on the outside. Given that they were already more than half-boiled, they aren’t pink on the inside anymore, this is just for the taste. Take the chicken breasts out, on a plate. Afterwards, add some broth into the skillet, add two cups of chopped mushrooms and a large shallot, chopped into little rondels. Cook and stir until mushrooms are tender. Season with a mix of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage, adding as well pepper and salt.Then put back the chicken breasts in the pan with the mushroom sauce, and top each breast slice with a thin slice of cheese, to melt before serving.”

Carmen listened and took notes in her notebook – in Spanish, of course, as it was the only language she could write in.

„Do you want the recipe for cassoulet now, or would you use the thighs and legs in a different way?”

„Given that I don’t start cooking tomorrow, but when he’ll be back, I think our cooking lesson can continue tomorrow. Thank you very much for the soup and Provensal stew recipes.”

As Carmen wasn’t entirely fluent in French, she might have misunderstood something of the explanation when transcribing it. The recipes weren’t difficult, and she generally could cook. The soup was similar with what she used to cook, except the idea of having meat back into the soup. Just that… she cooked like at home in Matanzas, and she was nervous about her first attempt at French specialties.

She read the notices again in the evening, before going to sleep, deciding to buy the hens the next morning in the market.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door… and when she ran to open the door, wondering how it was already high morning, she found on her doorstep… nothing else than three French hens. How had they arrived there?

„Is anybody here?” Carmen asked, unsure who could have made her this gift.

Cathy and Honey were the only ones who knew about her intentions, but they surely had no material possibility to give her three French hens…

Mais oui, we are here, can’t you see us?” one of the hens answered in fluent French, with Baptiste’s Provensal accent. „I am Paulette, ready to serve you, and these are my sisters Pierrette and Corinne! We are from the same litter… ah… eggs batch.”

Carmen was shocked to find out that hens could talk. Yes, they had French names, they wore French bonnets, to her surprise, and fine lace round their necks… And they were able to express this well.

”I am Carmen, and I haven’t seen talking hens before,” the woman said with a trembling voice.

”We brought you gifts,” the one named Corinne said, pointing with her wing to a pile of packed goods next to them. ”Please, have a baguette from me. I can give you a recipe what to spread on it… but I don’t want to boil in your soup.”

”I brought you some wine from Bordeaux, and I have plenty of stories to tell you, if you want to allow me in your yard. But I don’t want to become a Provensal stew,” Paulette continued.

”And I brought you French cheese. It is tasty, special… and I can give you recipes for it. Only if this keeps me and my sisters away from your cassoulet,” Pierette stated. ”And all three of us promise to give you tasty eggs if you keep us in your yard and out of your cooking pots!”

”Well, I hope you don’t have any Cornish hens in your yard,” Corinne added. ”These limeys, even if now they are our allies in theory, are not to be trusted.”

Carmen wanted to reply that she had heard this before, but nobody should hate based on nationality. Ultimately, she was Spanish and Mulatto and she married legally a Frenchman who loved her, despite the provisions of the Code Noir about which she had heard. But right then, a hawk appeared from the blue sky, trying to take one of the hens. Carmen defended her, losing the baguette to the hawk and getting caught by its claws on the wrist.

Carmen’s wrist was in pain, she wrestled to escape… and she opened the eyes in her bedroom. During the dream, her wrist had hit the bedpost. Dawn was breaking. Now she was sure that she’d buy the three French hens, but she’d keep them to lay eggs. She’d name them like the ones in the dream – Corinne, Paulette and Pierrette. And she’d take what Cathy cooked, instead of trying for herself anything fancy.


12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

The First Commercially produced Christmas card, 1843.

Am primit acest tag de la Anasylvi și l-am acceptat imediat, fiindcă scriitorii trebuie să fie, în primul rând, cititori.


On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: a partridge in a pear tree.

The partridge stood alone in the pear tree. What is your favorite stand alone? Potârnichea stătea singură într-un păr. Care este cartea de sine stătătoare preferată?

Toate pânzele sus, de Radu Tudoran. Ea mi-a stârnit dorul de mare și povești cu corăbii. Am citit-o de vreo 30 de ori sau mai mult… si am văzut și filmul până l-am învățat pe dinafară!


On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: two turtle doves.

Love is in the air! Who is your one true pairing? Dragostea este în aer! Care este perechea ta preferată?

Sunt prea multe… am câte una aproape în fiecare carte! Ori de câte ori vreau să amintesc o pereche, mi se pare că le nedreptățesc pe celelalte. Dar, dacă tot trebuie să răspund, aș da două perechi din Stăpânul Inelelor de JR TolkienAragorn & Arwen și Faramir & Eowin.


On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: Three French Hens.

In the spirit of threes, what is the best trilogy you have read? În spiritul celor trei, care este cea mai bună trilogie pe care ai citit-o?

Cei trei mușchetari, După douăzeci de ani, Vicontele de Bragelonne, de Alexandre Dumas.

Și aș mai spune una, dar nu sunt convinsă că e chiar considerată trilogie, din moment ce a treia carte nu a fost scrisă de același scriitor, deși este continuare clară: Tai-pan și Nobila Casă de James Clavell, cu continuarea Cei nouă dragoni de Justin Scott.


On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: four calling birds.

Since series usually consist of four or more books, what is your favorite series? Din moment ce seriile conțin patru sau mai multe cărți, care este seria ta preferată?

Michel Zevaco – seria cavalerilor Pardaillan (sau a Faustei? Că e aceeași…).


On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: five golden rings.

One ring to rule them all! Who is your favorite villain/antagonist? Un inel pentru a îi stăpâni pe toți! Care este personajul negativ preferat?

Aceeași Fausta a lui Michel Zevaco.


On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: six geese a laying.

Creation is a beautiful thing. What is your favorite world/world-building? Creația este un lucru minunat. Care este lumea creată preferată?

Oscilez între Tolkien cu al său Middle Earth… și restul, și Narnia de CS Lewis.

Mai era o carte SF pe care am citit-o demult, pe locul 3, dar nu mai știu cum se cheamă autorul (cred că român). Cartea se chema Belami… nu e cel de Maupassant, era o navă spațială aterizată pe o planetă cu oameni sălbatici… Și fata din navă a domesticit un astfel de om sălbatic și l-a numit Belami. Colecția aceea SF de pe vremuri, cu alb sus și fotografiile coperții pe un fond albastru. Și colecția avea ca emblemă un fel de săgetuță albastră.


On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: seven swans a swimming.

Who needs seven swans when all it takes is one good animal sidekick? Who’s your favorite animal sidekick? Cine are nevoie de șapte lebede când tot ce trebuie este un bun animal ca tovarăș? Care este animalul preferat?

Hatatitla și Iltshi, armăsarii negri ai lui Winnetou și Old Shatterhand (în ordine inversă, parcă Iltshi = vânt era al lui Winnetou). Karl May a fost întotdeauna unul dintre scriitorii mei preferați.


On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: eight maids a milking.

Milk is so 18th century. Which book series takes beverages/food to a whole new level? Laptele s-a învechit. Care serii duc mâncarea la un alt nivel?

Sunt de acord cu Anasylvi că seria Nemuritor de O. G. Arion îți face o poftă de mâncare teribilă în fiecare volum.

Când eram mică, aș fi zis 1001 de nopți (pe care eu le-am citit în versiunea de 4 volume mari cu copertă neagră, traduse de Eusebiu Camilar, nu 14 volume mici BPT), fiindcă aveau și acelea un stil de a descrie ospețele sultanilor, iar pentru poporul de rând smochine și curmale care îți făceau poftă (în vremea lui răposatu’, când nu se găseau).


On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: nine ladies dancing.

Dancing is just one skill of a lady! Who is your favorite kickass female lead? Dansul este doar o abilitate a unei doamne! Care este personajul principal feminin pe care-l admiri?

Sunt prea multe… și menționez două, puțin neașteptate probabil. Una este Emily Bender – Tahua din Old Surehand de Karl May, care m-a fascinat în clasa a șasea (și de când este Emilia unul dintre numele mele preferate), iar celalaltă… Angelique din seria cu același nume de Anne și Serge Golon. Ceea ce nu înseamnă că nu ar fi o întreagă listă…


On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: ten lords a leaping.

How about your favorite leading lad? Dar personajul principal masculin?

Captain Blood de Raphael Sabbattini. Sau poatelogofătul Radu Andronic, din seria de romane istorice dedicată lui de Rodica Ojog Brașoveanu.


On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me: eleven pipers piping.

What is your favorite book or bookish thing with a musical influence? (It can be about music, reference music a lot, etc.) Care e cartea ta preferată sau accesoriul legat de cărți preferat cu o influență muzicală?

Cred că se cheamă JOSEPHINE – povestea vieții lui Josephine Baker, scrisă de ea însăși, de unul dintre soții ei, Jo Bouillon, și de Mariana Fitzpatrick. Am citit despre viețile tumultoase ale multor cântăreți, însă a ei m-a fascinat integral. Mai ales faptul că a adoptat doisprezece copii de diferite rase și naționalități, care au trăit împreună ca frații.


On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: 12 drummers drumming.

Drum roll please… what is your favorite read of this year? Tobele, vă rog… Care este lectura ta favorită a acestui an?

Mâța vinerii de Doina Ruști. Fantezie istorică bine documentată, superbă.


Cine vrea să ia leapșa, cu menționarea sursei, este binevenit!

A partridge in a pear tree

Anasylvi’s literary tag (which will be published tomorrow) reminded me that I have a few writing challenges with the Twelve Days of Christmas. Here is the first one:
The newlyweds’ fruity nest

Andrea had talked with Honey, with Maribel, who knew people and places around in Basse Terre, and with Carmen, who had enough people in her store in order to spread the word, about his desire to invest his shares of the Spanish treasure into a little house on the sea shore. But when the deal presented itself, it was Carmen and Baptiste who told him about it. One of their neighbour’s father-in-law died, and the man, who didn’t have any heirs left, intended to sell the in-laws’ home.

It was rather on the smaller side, but exactly how he had dreamt it to be: a two-story house made of wood, on a raised basement, with a gabled roof, with three rooms with no hallways on the ground floor, the two, squarish, front ones opening on the porch with doors having many small panes of glass. There was a sort of wide attic room under the roof, at the first floor. If they were to have children, he thought, the attic could be divided with timber walls in three, even four rooms. The kitchen was behind the house, as well as a roomy yard which ended in an orchard. The orchard wasn’t big, only seven mango trees and nine orange trees. And if Honey wanted, there was room in the yard for growing flowers or a few vegetables.

It was a bargain Andrea couldn’t miss, and a good surprise to present his fiancee, together with a discussion meant to fix the wedding date and to see what else was there to accomplish for each of them meanwhile.

„We finally are houseowners, legally established in Basse Terre!” he told Honey, fluttering the purchase contract.

„I want to see our house!” she said with enthusiasm.

Yes, she wanted to sail with him when he’d give up piracy and they would have their own ship, as Andrea was dreaming. But until then, she could get the comfort of owning a house, of being the one who decides how to run it…

The enthusiasm waned when she saw that the house came with a too big yard, in her opinion, and an orchard. Not each orchard – she hated mangos and she wasn’t especially fond of oranges either. At least those were acceptable… but on the table, not in her own yard.

„Andrea, what have you been thinking in buying this orchard for us – which means, for me to take care of it while you are at sea? Besides the fact that I never eat mangos, I don;t know how to take care of an orchard. Nobody of my immediate family had ever owned any piece of land!” she said, deeply concerned.

Of course nobody of hers had ever owned any piece of land, since Honey was born in a house of ill repute… but she wasn’t sure that her fiance knew this detail of her childhood.

„Besides the fact that the house with all the surroundings came at a good price, I thought exactly that an orchard is easier to manage than an agricultural field. Be it for crops or vegetables, it would have needed more knowledge than any of us two has. We can learn from the neighbours what to do with the orchard, how to take care of it. And when the fruits are ready to be harvested, who asks you to eat mango if you don’t like it? They can be sold for a profit, as such or processed in confiture, syrup and things like this. Maribel can become one of your customers. For oranges, Carmen can sell some to the ship captains, to have them at sea. When we’ll have our own ship, Honey, we’ll save money if I load supplies from our own orchard…”

These were good points she hadn’t considered. All being said, if she thought better, she could get accustomed to owning a home with an orchard. Maybe Carmen would teach her about reviving the yard with some flowers… And some time later, when they’d have children, maybe she’d get accustomed to grow a few chicken and a milk goat… But these were dreams she wasn’t sure would ever get accomplished.

„All right, you convinced me. What’s following then, a partridge in a pear tree?” she laughed, hugging him.

„Where have you seen pear trees in Tortuga? A partridge in an orange tree!”

Not that he’d know how a partridge looked like either, or if they lived in the West Indies.


Un DA sonor

(Rostit acum 16 ani)

Aștept cu nerăbdare ca, mână în mână,

să rostim un DA sonor,

două inimi într-o singură bătaie,

ce va răsuna în urechile noastre o viață.

Pentru ceilalți poate fi o vorbă oarecare,

pentru noi – clădirea magică a unui nou început.

Voalul purității, înflorit, mă înconjoară

și răceala firului de aur binecuvântat,

chezășie a jurământului nostru de credință.

Mă pierd în adâncurile albastre

ale ochilor tăi plini de iubire,

în timp ce rostim un DA sonor.

Lumina inimilor noastre,

bucuria sufletelor noastre,

viața scânteind în ochii noștri,

printr-un DA sonor

își jură onoare, iubire și respect,

devotament și bunătate.

Rostim un DA sonor,

știind că de-acum ne e dat

să pășim împreună pe drumul vieții,

umăr lângă umăr,

trăind unul pentru celălalt

până la apusul vieților noastre.

A Consultant’s Letter To Santa

Nicholas C. Rossis

One read I always look forward to this time of the year is The Economist’s special Christmas issue. This is a double one and crammed with fun articles I savor during the holidays.

This year’s issue had a hilarious take on consultants, describing what they might tell Santa if they were asked to look at his business model. Enjoy and buy the issue yourself (or visit The Economist) for more fun reads!

A Consultant’s Letter To Santa

Santa | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Image: Pixabay

Thanks for asking us to have a look at your business model. Our staff have now recovered from their frostbite and have a number of significant suggestions for a revamp before next year.

First, the brand name. The business seems to use several different monikers, including St Nicholas, Santa Claus and Father Christmas. We suggest settling on one of the three. Father Christmas is clearly paternalistic and gender-biased. St Nicholas is…

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A Young Legionary In Bethlehem: The Christmas Story Never Told

Dracul Van Helsing

The young legionary had had a bad day.

After a night of rowdy drinking, he had forgotten the standard for his regiment.

And had left it overnight in the little town of Bethlehem.

The officer in charge of the regiment was thankfully merciful.

Instead of court martialing the young legionary for his most serious offense, he just sent the young legionary back to Bethlehem to retrieve it.

Although being sent back to Bethlehem was punishment enough the young legionary figured.

For Bethlehem had to be the most god forsaken place on this earth.

“Have fun in Bethlehem, Pompey,” his fellow legionaries had said to him.

Pompey was his nickname.

Pompey of course had been the name of the Roman general who had lost to Julius Caesar in the Roman civil war.

It was an inside joke that earned the young legionary his nickname.

As Pompey set out from Jerusalem towards…

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