Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Only Certain Thing in Life is Death and Taxes

Nell and I were in the linen cupboard taking an inventory of the manor's linen supply as well as determining what needed to be laundered and repaired before the holiday season when we heard Mrs. Clowes, the cook, verbally lambast one of our manservants. By the tone and volume of her voice, she was quite upset, so I hurried down to the kitchen to see what had upset her so.

The stockpot was on the stove, simmering away with visible signs of lunch preparations on the large kitchen table. Beyond the table stood Mrs. Clowes, her face flushed, brandishing a large wooden spoon as Giles Earnshaw assisted men with bringing in many large packing crates with the state seal of Caledon stamped on the side.

"What is the meaning of this?" I asked.

"Ah, good morning ma'am," one of the workmen said, "we are bringing in the crates the Guv'nah is giving to all of those who are being unsettled with the new Linden Laws. Since the weather outside is rather rotten, we thought we'd bring them in to the kitchen."

"You oafs are tracking mud all over my kitchen floor as well as letting in vermin and heaven knows what else!" Mrs. Clowes fumed.

I looked at the floor at the mud and the water that the workmen had brought in with them. Giles was looking rather sheepish when he too looked down at the mess.

"Sorry Mrs. Clowes, I just didn't want the crates to get rained or snowed on. The weather's been so bad lately that leaving them outside would be the end of them for sure."

I sighed deeply.

"It's all right Giles, you meant well. However, you're going to have to help with this clean up. Now, while we have the extra hands here, would you be able to move these to the Mooring Tower? Mr. Gears is out there seeing to the vehicles, he can direct you where to put them. Cook will hardly be able to do her job with all of these crates about."

Some of the workmen gave me a less than friendly look at my suggestion, but I was in no mood to tolerate their nonsense and looked them down with a steely eye. I considered fixing CHED upon them, but I decided it might be prudent to save that should things go for worse.

"Sure thing ma'am, we'll get them over there in a jiffy!" Giles said, happy to escape the fury that Mrs. Clowes would love to lash him with.

The workmen managed to get the crates out to the Mooring Tower, and I relieved Nell with the linens so she could help Mrs. Clowes and Giles tidy up.

An hour later I heard Edward arrive home from the meeting with the Guv'nah. Mr. Gears must have told him where to find me as he came directly to his study, where I had been arranging the recipes for the Steelhead Community Cookbook. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and poured himself something from one of the decanters on the sideboard.

"The weather is still showing us it's worst" he said "It will be a grand day when it decides to get over this fit of ill temper it's having". He went and had a seat on the sofa.

"I agree. It's been a trial to do anything, and usually it's so nice this time of year. I hope it improves before Christmas, or at least for when we move."

"Ahh, so you've heard the news then?" Edward asked.

"Oh indeed! A group of workmen arrived with crates in tow and proceeded to dirty the kitchen floor and annoy Cook to no end. I'd not be surprised if lunch is a bit off today...she probably is still flustered and upset."

Edward chuckled softly. "I can see her reaction now. I'm glad I was not the one bringing in the crates! The Guv'nah has graciously granted those of us moving with packing crates, which is helpful seeing as we destroyed the ones we had after the move from Winterfell."

I sighed. "Yes, yet another move. This has been the year of motion and moving. The next move I make will be inside one of those packing crates and it will be a one way trip to the graveyard! I suppose there's really no point in getting the Christmas decorations in order for here until we are moved.....providing we are moving before Christmas. When are we slated to move?"

"That's not been decided yet, I'll be receiving a cablegram as soon as the Guv'nah knows. However, it will be sooner than later, so I'd not be worrying about the decorations just yet....besides, it's too early for that just yet."

I grinned at Edward "It's never too early for Christmas! I suppose I will content myself with getting the shops ready as well as Rosehaven. I really must go there soon to attend to the bakery as well as see the new land Lunar was telling me about in his last letter. Rosehaven will need to be cleaned will for the holidays too. Perhaps now that we know for certain we will be moving we can take a little vacation to Steelhead for a change of scenery?"

Edward thought about this for a moment. "I suppose we could, I can leave a forwarding address at the Guv'nah's mansion so they can send any messages there. Perhaps we can go in a few days, once we get the packing details sorted?"

I smiled "That would be good. A change is as good as a rest they say, and I'm sure the weather in Steelhead has got to be a little less volatile than in Caledon right now. I shall write Lunar and ask him to make sure there's plenty of firewood at Rosehaven, and if he wouldn't mind lighting the fires....I'd ask Tensai but asking her to play with fire on purpose is always a risky decision."

After sharing a laugh, we both sat in companiable silence, mulling over our own thoughts. I started to do a mental inventory of all that needed to be packed and what supplies we might need. I was very sorry to be leaving Argylle and would miss it, but I was certain that we would weather this nasty storm and eventually the sun would shine again in Caledon for us.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hey Steelhead! Let's Get Cooking!!!

As a reminder to everyone who is in the Steelhead Group, we are putting together a community cookbook for Christmas/New Year's this year. If you are in the Steelhead group, please, PLEASE submit your favorite recipe(s) for food/drink. The cookbook is going to be only as good as what is submitted, so all recipes are welcome. Everyone knows that the *best* cookbooks are the ones put together by communities...mostly because it's real food, made by real people with ingredients that you don't have to travel the world to find.

My typist is going to be away for the week of November 17-22, but please drop your notecard with your recipe on me anyhow and I'll collect them when I'm next in world. Thank you and I look forward to seeing the submissions!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Name's Bond....

Last night was Bond (but NOT Bondage, unless you counted the table with the laser, and the apparatus to dangle you over the shark tank and....oh, well never mind!) night at the Steelhead Hotel and Ballroom. Amid the elegant surroundings of the Ballroom were several Bond girls (in various states of dress or undress) as well as a few James Bond doubles (or would that be triples or quadruples?), not to mention villians as well.

The turn out was superb and Sheriff Fuzzball Ortega had an excellent playlist of Bond theme tunes, songs from the various films as well as suitable ones just because (Man for All Seasons by Robbie Williams, for example). A special effects orb was handed out, and I apologize, but I cannot remember by whom, which made some of the dancers look like silhouettes in the opening sequences of the James Bond films. From the comments going around the room, everyone had a splendid time and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I did as well.

Sadly, due to my terrible slow rezz and painful cam movements, I didn't get any pictures beyond what I took with the Gun barrel poser the night before (Thank you to Professor Avalanche for that as well as the sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads). However, I'm confident in saying it was an excellent event, enjoyed by all who were able to attend.

Next event: Disco Night in Steelhead Harbourside. Friday, November 21, 7-9 pm SLT. Follow the green dots and boogie down!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

Let's take time to remember the sacrifices made in the past, as well as those that continue to be made today.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oooh! Another fun quizzy thing!

You are The Empress

Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, luxury, dissipation.

The Empress is associated with Venus, the feminine planet, so it represents, beauty, charm, pleasure, luxury, and delight. You may be good at home decorating, art or anything to do with making things beautiful.

The Empress is a creator, be it creation of life, of romance, of art or business. While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her
What Tarot Card are You?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The dark seas swell and the thunder rolls

I turned the collar up on my ulster as I waited impatiently for the trolley to arrive. "That blessed thing is always running you over when you don't want it, but never around when you do!" I mumbled. The rain continued to pour, undeterred by the evil look CHED gave it or my grumblings.

I had been out in Caledon doing various shopping that needed to be attended to, and while Edward had been able to give me a ride to Victoria City in the Parsival, he had his own business to see to in Babbage and could not give me a lift home. Finally, the trolley rumbled into sight and I hopped on and burrowed as best I could into my coat on the trip back to Victoria City. I was thoroughly sick and tired of this unseasonable and unusual weather and relished the thought of the warm fires back at Primbroke Manor...not to mention my bathtub filled with steaming hot water.

Finally, after a trolley, train and boat travel, my feet were planted firmly on Argylle. Clutching my basket of purchases, I stumbled up the hill to the manor, my wet hems clutching my ankles and tripping me. Water dripped from the brim of my hat and trickled down the back of my neck. It truly was not a day fit for man nor beast.

Mr. Gears met me at the door and relieved me of my purchases. He also managed to catch me as I tripped on the carpet, and being hobbled by my wet skirts nearly fell. Nell Humphreys, the maid, came and took my drenched coat, hat and gloves and murmured sympathetic musings about the horrid weather. I smiled softly and started to contemplate the joys of my hot bath when the front door loudly banged shut and Edward blew in.

"By the gods it's a wretched night out there!" he exclaimed as he allowed Mr. Gears to remove his coat and hat. "I'm glad I had the Parsival, even though the lightning made piloting her a bit of a task. Getting from the mooring towers to wherever I needed to be was the tricky part." He looked over at me in my disheveled state and said "I see you made it home too my love. I was wondering if you were going to make it home. I did pass by the shop in Victoria City, but I didn't see you there, so I assumed you had made it home on your own muster."

I smiled "I just made it home actually, and am thankful to be here. It's nights like these that make you appreciate the comforts of your own hearthside."

As the servants hustled off to their various duties, Edward drew me into a warm embrace. I returned his hug, allowing myself to relax in his arms, the ticking of his mechanical arm a familiar and comforting sound and combining with the beat of his heart it soothed me to no end. After a few moments he quietly said "My love, I'm afraid I've got some very terrible news."

I pulled away slightly and looked at him fully in the face, trying to read his expression. "Are you alright?" I asked, wondering if he'd be injured during his travels.

"I'm quite well, my dearest but I'm afraid I've got some very dire news regarding our island and what is going to become of it. The Linden Government has issued their decree, which is not as hopeful as we had hoped it might be."

"Oh wonderful! I'm shocked no one has yet successfully managed a military coup on these dear Lindens," I groused. "I'm sure if we used Tensai's technical know-how and gathered Des, Lunar and the leaders of other lands together, a better and less stupid government could be achieved. They are so complacent that we are just going to sit and suffer and not go where they cannot control us that they think they can issue what they want without recourse."

Edward listened to me rant on for awhile longer before gently placing his fingertip on my lips and smiling at me sadly. "I know it's upsetting, but I'm afraid at this time there's not much we can do but comply with their edicts" he said.

"So, what might these new laws be?" I asked with ill humour.

"First, Argylle as we know it will be no longer. They are implementing new laws that will only allow 10 persons at most onto private islands like Argylle and their surrounding waters. As well, they are not allowing construction, they want these areas to remain wild and uninhabited. I have no idea why anyone would want to pay tax on such an area, but possibly some people will. They have also created a 'Homestead Act' where people may purchase an area of land similar in size to Argylle but will be severely curtailed in settling it. As an additional deterrant, owners are not allowed to have groups of more than 20 persons at any one time on these Homesteads. I am not sure if this is to discourage rebellious crowds from forming or what their reasons are, but that limit is in their rules. The third option is one that is quite complex and would require Guv'nah Desmond's authority to do. Of course, turning one's back on it all has always been an option, but one I'm not willing to look at" he said sternly.

I quietly mulled this over in my mind, looking at each option in turn. I took a deep breath and looked around the hall of Primbroke Manor, where Edward and I had worked diligently turning it from an abandoned manor house to a home. I thought of the hours spent pruning and gardening, of the amount of labour Edward invested to build the underwater observatory. I also thought of my fellow Dukes and Duchesses, the community events that they've held, which gave Caledon it's particular zest and acted hubs for the community as a whole. I was thankful that the first Duke of Greystoke was not around to see this day, where he would not have been able to host a zoo, a winter wonderland and so many other wonderful events at Greystoke. I was certain Caledon would survive, but how many other places would not?

We heard Mr. Gears approach us, to announce that dinner was served. I gave Edward a small smile and we proceeded to the diningroom to eat.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night....

It was the evening of October 30, and Edward and I were making our way home from Penzance after the broadcast of the radio play. We travelled in silence, Edward piloting us home while I gazed at the star filled sky.

Our automaton butler, Mr. Primary Gears, was awaiting our arrival at the door. He took Edward's overcoat, hat and gloves and my wrap as we made our way into the warmth of the main hall of Primbroke Manor. The wood panelling gleamed softly in the flickering firelight and made the room even more inviting. The other servants had retired for the evening, so the house was quiet and still.

"Will you or m'lady require anything this evening?" Mr. Gears asked.

"No, you may retire for the night, we will be fine on our own." Edward replied.

"Very well sir." Mr Gears said before going to his storage area.

Edward headed for the parlour, not ready yet to settle for the night. I followed him, sensing that perhaps all was not well and in time he might need someone to serve as a sounding board for his thoughts.

As I settled in on the sofa, Edward prepared his pipe, taking considerable time tamping down the tobacco and making sure the draw was right before he too, sat down. He puffed away in silence, the crease between his eyebrows becoming deeper, his teeth clenching on the pipestem every now and again. I knit a few more rows of my lace edging, discreetly keeping an eye on him and finally decided to break the silence.

"Is everything all right my love?", I asked tentatively

Edward paused in his smoking for a moment before answering. "As well as one could expect." he replied. "Why do you ask?"

I leaned over and gently tried to smooth the lines between his eyebrows. "I cannot recall the last time you've smoked your pipe, to the point where I question how good that tobacco is anymore and by the intensity of your puffs, and the fact that I'm sure you're leaving teeth marks in your pipe stem, I seem to think something is troubling you. You also have not been yourself these past few have scarcely seemed to notice that Cook has been making the most wonderful meals and you've just been abnormally quiet. This leads me to believe that something is troubling you, and I would be delighted to help you with it, if I can."

Edward looked at me for quite some time, drawing the odd puff off his pipe before he set it aside on the table.

"Have you heard anything in your travels about a new land tax that has been suggested?" he asked.

I thought about this for a moment. "I've heard rumblings of something of that sort, although I've not been out in society much as of late. I know that the letters from Lunar used to be filled with his plans for a new home for Tensai and himself once they had cleared more land, but in the most recent letter he just said that he's had to put them back on the shelf for the time being. What are these new taxes?" I asked.

"What has happened is that the world Government, the Lindens, have decided that private islands such as Argylle are too costly for them to administrate, and as such have decreed that they will be implementing a 66% tax increase as of January first of the upcoming year."

I stared at him blankly, my mind racing over the figures and costs of the taxes of Argylle. I had never paid much mind to the financial end of matters regarding our island home, Edward had always had a firmer grasp on what land transactions entailed, but I knew enough to know that this truly was not a good situation at all.

"What has the Guv'nah said about this?" I asked , "Since we pay our taxes to him, and he is the title bearer of all of the Duchies in Caledon, I am curious to know his stance on what this all means."

"An emergency meeting was held in Oxbridge the other day, and the long and short of it is that he is adopting a wait and see pose. He is stressing that there is no need to panic, that Caledon will remain, but perhaps altered. I have been in contact with him, telegraphing him and will be remaining in close communication with him until this is resolved."

I sighed deeply. "I have never understood the Linden government. They seem to make the most arbitrary decisions, but I suppose they can as they are a dictatorship. They stew and quake, fret and tremble about some things and then plow blindly into other decisions. This could really start a rebellion, if not an all out revolution."

Edward chuckled slightly "Oh, I think they have created a malestrom that they did not expect in their wildest dreams. The newspapers are filled with nothing else but this...people are writing letters to the editor in massive numbers, some eloquently written, others take a more....heated stance. There have been good suggestions but ultimately, it will be the Lindens who decide what step they will take from here. I can't help feeling that they are suggesting such a massive tax increase, so that when they come back with one that is more tempered, it will seem like a gift and we'll all be pleased with it."

I snorted delicately.

He continued, "This has wide reaching ramifications though. Not only is Caledon affected, but our neighbouring sister state of Winterfell is as well. There are many, many communities that will feel the sting of this knee-jerk decision, some will be altered drastically. It's even been rumoured that Antiquity will not survive this at all. If this goes through, it has been said that the Grand Duke will allow all the lands to go back to the Government and all the residents will be essentially homeless."

"That's rather like throwing the baby out with the bathwater." I said. "I suppose we can be thankful that we will not be homeless, we still have Rosehaven in Steelhead, although I doubt we could keep our staff there. I'm sure with a good character, they could find employment in other homes in Caledon, as good help is so terribly hard to find."

Edward sighed. "No, we will not be homeless, that is true, but I would be sorry to see this all go. We will have to sit down and take a hard look at the accounts and see if this tax increase is justifiable and feasible. Until we hear official word from the Guv'nah about his next step, we will have to just be patient and wait."

"Oh lovely...patience was never one of my better virtues." I grumbled. "However, you are right. There's nothing we can do but sit tight and bide our time. I do hope though, that the Linden Government change their stance at least a little bit and perhaps for once try a little clarity rather than their usual 'clear as mud' way of sharing information."

"Yes, and perhaps someday pigs will fly!" Edward laughed.

I giggled, "Well, if bunnehs can, I'm sure pigs are next!"

We settled again, Edward puffing on his pipe in a more relaxed manner and myself to my knitting. I couldn't help feeling that the spectre of this new decree was lurking though, like the fogs that came in off the water at night. Was this some sort of Hallowe'en game of Trick or Treat? I softly sighed and resigned myself to being patient. Only time would tell what would happen next.