What Pegman Saw – Unwelcome Guests

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s location is Mumbai, India.

wps - the unwelcome guest 190112

[1] Mehndi – elaborate designs in henna. It is believed that the more intense the colour, the more your husband will love you.

[2] Sangeet – the day before the wedding ceremony. Guests are received, and there is entertainment, often on a lavish scale.

Unwelcome Guests

The Juhu Club was a wonderful venue for Tarangi and Mithin’s wedding. Its walled gardens accommodated eight hundred guests without any sense of crowding. Two thousand rose bushes perfumed the evening breeze, whose gentle warmth was a caress. Scores of chefs, sommeliers and waiters ensured the guests were never without refreshment.

Tarangi glanced with delight at the mehndi[1] on her arms. Its darkness meant that Mithin would love her very much indeed. She exulted in the heavy gold jewellery that her father, Pralay Gangulay, had given to her at the start of this, her Sangeet[2]. It must be worth a fortune, she gloated. The metal glowed in the flickering light of the torches illuminating the scene.

“Thank you so much, Baba,” she said again, beaming at him.

But why were the police here? And who was this small, bespectacled man?

“Gangulay-sahib, I arrest you on charges of tax evasion.”


Indians are no fonder of paying taxes than anybody else. To avoid detection they sometimes keep the money in cash and use it to pay for events such as an extravagant wedding.

The Bridefarer’s Choice – Part 3

Here is Episode 3 of my fantasy serial, “The Bridefarer’s Choice”.

If you missed Episode 1, you can find it here https://pennygadd51.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/the-bridefarers-choice-part-1/.

Likewise, Episode 2 is here https://pennygadd51.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/the-bridefarers-choice-part-2/

I think the story will take another two episodes to complete. I will publish successive episodes every Monday.

I very much hope you enjoy it!

The bridefarer's choice - part 3

The Bridefarer’s Choice – Part 3

Skylarks were trilling in a cloudless pale-blue sky. It seemed a favourable omen.

Mavra, my horse, stepped out proudly, his black coat gleaming. I gloated over his harness, black leather with silver studs, knowing that the other villagers envied my wealth. I filled my lungs with the bright air, scented in equal measure by the sea and by the machair, and exulted in my strength.

My father held my bridle.

“Good fortune on your bridefaring, son.”

“Thank you, father. I shall try to make my family proud.”

A shadow fell on his face.

“If I may advise you, my son,” his voice trailed away, but then he straightened his back and looked me in the eye. “Do not be led astray by false hopes of grandeur. Mairin is a fine woman, plenty good enough for the pride of our family.”

“It is I who am bridefaring, not you, father.”

He released the harness with a sigh.

I rode steadily for two days, sometimes walking, sometimes trotting, and once – I confess it – galloping a half-mile for simple delight. I left the six villages and headed to the mountains, to Peak Town. I’d been there a few times with my father – we sold some of our catch to Michael the fishmonger.

I knew him well enough to call him friend, and we passed a merry evening in the Jack o’ Lantern Inn. On hearing I was searching for a bride, he chuckled and said “You should journey on to Merrydown. There’s a lass lives there, Scanallan, ripe for wooing. And you’re a bold chap. Red hair she has, and a big…”

“Keep it clean!” yelled someone.

“A big dowry, I was going to say” continued Michael, grinning.

“And her family?” I enquired.

“Well, that’s a thing. People say she’s a Lord’s bastard; can’t account for the size of the dowry any other way. You’ll find her serving in the Checkers Inn. And now I must be off, or Gerda will give me a black eye!”

It took me five days to cross the mountains and reach Merrydown, days that were as harsh and exhausting as any I’ve spent at sea. I was mighty relieved to reach the Checkers Inn.

But they had no room. Despite my fatigue, I had to tramp the streets, leading Mavra before I found a household that let out a room. It was not clean and it cost double what seemed fair, but it was dry and, if not warm, it was less cold than being outdoors.

The Checkers was lively, with tasty food and large portions. I could see how the inn got its name; there were half a dozen checkerboards, each one occupied. There was a constant bustle around the bar, young chaps mostly, laughing and joking with each other, and when I had finished dining I joined them.

A tall man, only a few inches shorter than me, approached me in friendly fashion.

“So, I’m Brendan,” he said. “Who are you, and what brings you to our town?”

The others fell silent, and looked at me.

“My name is Diarmid Macdiarmid. I’m bridefaring, and I heard your town is famous for the beauty of its women.”

“Bridefaring? And what might that be?”

It had never occurred to me that people wouldn’t have heard of the custom. As I explained, I could see smirks on the faces of some of the men.

“Bumpkin!” The word came from the back of the group. It was quiet, but perfectly audible. My hand sought my sword hilt, but I made no move to draw the blade.

“You have checkers. Would you care for a game?” I addressed the man who had spoken.

“Do you play checkers out in the peat marshes then?”

He sat down at a board and gestured to the seat opposite. All his friends were grinning; I guessed he was their champion.

“You go first,” he said.

As the game progressed he frowned. I won.

“Not bad – for a bumpkin.” He set up the board again, played the first move himself. He won.

“Best of three.” It wasn’t a question. He gestured that I should start. Six moves in, he made a beginner’s mistake. I hesitated and saw the sudden realisation on his face.

“Play it again,” I suggested.

He went white, his lips narrowed to bloodless lines and his dark eyes blazed.

“Don’t you dare patronise me,” he hissed.

Brendan laid his hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Easy now, Iain, easy.”

The serving woman came over quickly.

“Iain, that’s the wine talking. You’ve had enough. Time to go. Brendan?”

Brendan nodded assent, then turned to me.

“Best you make friends with some of the townsfolk before you try stealing one of our women.” He offered me his hand, and I shook it.

As the party left, I looked at the serving woman. She was indeed handsome. Now that I was paying attention I could see her hair was copper under her headscarf. She looked at me with green eyes.

“Do they allow you time away from here for relaxation?” I asked.

“Relaxation with a boy?” she mocked. “That’s the wine talking again for sure. I think you’d better go home, child.”

I thought of home that night, as I lay sleepless in the cold bed. Mairin would be a fine wife. But what if she turned me down? She’d been very upset and angry when I’d told her I was seeking a noble bride.

A noble bride! I snorted with derision at the thought. I couldn’t even persuade a serving wench to spend an evening with me. That said, if she were the daughter of a king, as the Oldest had read in my fate…I dozed, dreaming of red-gold hair and red-gold wealth.

I left the house in the morning, planning to meet some of the town’s traders. A skinny young man stopped propping up the wall of the house next door. He started whistling. I heard footsteps from behind, and from the side streets as we crossed. I glanced round. There was a group of half a dozen men. Two of them had been in the inn the previous night. I loosened my blade.

Iain stepped out from a porch, in his hand a quarterstaff that he pointed at me.

“Why do you bar my way? I intend naught but courtesy towards you.”

“If that is so, return to the hovel where you’re staying, settle your account, and leave town this morning.”

“I have business in the town.”

All the time we were speaking the other members of the group were moving to completely encircle me. Each held a quarterstaff.

“I ask you – in courtesy – to leave our town. Do you demur?” His voice was the silken purr of the wildcat; his eyes were madder than the rolling, bloodshot glare of a horse galloped to exhaustion.

“I ask you, in courtesy, to move out of my way so I may continue with my business.” I half-drew my sword.

Iain nodded.

The blow from my right caught me on the elbow. Gritting my teeth against the pain that shot up my arm, I pulled my blade fully from the scabbard and adopted a crouch position. A staff cracked across my buttocks. I hadn’t been struck like that since I was twelve! They were playing with me!

I let out a roar of rage and sprang at Iain, my sword seeking his heart. He parried expertly, easily, with his staff.

“We are in every way your betters, bumpkin. Down on your knees and do homage!”

“Like hell!”

The memory of the Oldest’s prophecy ‘You need not fear blade or fire or hemp; but beware of water, beware of the sea,’ heartened me.

“What do you say, bumpkin? Your sword against my staff?”

I nodded. If that was what he wanted. I’d aim to wound, not kill. My breath came short.

The other men stepped back a pace, still enclosing us but leaving enough room for our combat. Iain smiled, mockingly.

I raised my blade and took guard.

The Bridefarer’s Choice – Part 1

Well, I’ve decided to try my hand at a serial once again. The genre is fantasy (a first for me – I’ve never tried this genre before). Episode 1 is complete and published below.  I know where the story is going, and I think it will take four episodes to complete it. I will publish successive episodes every Monday.

I very much hope you enjoy it!

The Bridefarer - Part 1 171127

The Bridefarer – Part 1

Diarmid was a big man. He stooped to enter my house, and his broad frame blocked the sunlight.

“Reverence, Oldest One.”

I inclined my head, acknowledging the respectful greeting.

“Enter, be seated and be welcome,” I responded, with the formal words of hospitality. “You come to tell me you go bridefaring?”

He grinned. “Not a difficult conundrum, Oldest.”

And, indeed, it was not. At nineteen, it was high time Diarmid was married and settled. Besides, he was dressed for travel and carried a sword. I pointed to it.

“Do not be too quick to draw your blade, Diarmid MacDiarmid. You go seeking favour, not conquest.”

“Blades tarnish if they are never drawn.” His voice and manner were light.

“Better a tarnished blade than a dead bearer.”

I busied myself brewing a herbal tea.

“Here, Diarmid MacDiarmid, drink this. Drink slowly, and leave the herbs in the bottom.”

He sniffed it, sipped it. It was a bitter brew. Little creases showed at the corners of his eyes, but he drained the cup. I took it from him and looked at the residue.

I felt the hairs on my neck prickle with anticipation. I have ‘the sight’. It’s often a blessing, when you can reassure someone that they will have a full life and die of old age. But sometimes it’s a curse.

“All I can tell you from this reading is that you will live out your fate. For some, the way is…malleable. Choices will make a difference for them. That is not so for you; your fate is fixed, as straight and cold and strong as the steel of your blade.”

I looked up at him.

“All men die,” he said; but his face was pale. “I do not fear death.”

“You must drink again before I can tell you how your bridefaring will prosper.”

In truth I knew already.

He grimaced but nodded assent, and slowly drank from a second cup. As he handed me the empty vessel, he looked me full in the eyes.

“Tell me the truth, now, whatever it is.”

“I would never do otherwise.”

I stared into the cup. The story was the same.

“Your bridefaring will be successful. In a town far from here you will win the heart of a beautiful young woman. Her hair is red-gold like the setting sun in October; her eyes are blue-grey like the ocean after a storm. She is a king’s daughter, but those among whom she dwells know this not.

You will wed her, and return to your home where she will bear you a son. But, Diarmid MacDiarmid, I say this to you. You need not fear blade or fire or hemp; but beware of water, beware of the sea.”

Diarmid laughed, colour restored to his cheeks. His dark eyes were smouldering at the thought of the beautiful woman who would share his bed.

“I am a fisherman, Oldest. I must always beware of the sea. I bid you farewell, with many thanks for the favourable reading.”

He fiddled in his purse, drawing out a gold coin.

“For your good words,” he said.

I took it silently, and he left.

When he had gone I sat many minutes, my mind wandering the paths of the future.