In Competition No. 3254, you were invited to tweak a well-known book title to reflect the straitened times we live in and provide an extract. Honourable mentions, in a closely contested week, go to Mark Ambrose’s To Grill a Mockingbird, David Silverman’s The Great Gas Bill and to a trio of Alice’s Adventures in Poundlands (John O’Byrne, Celia Jordan and Richard Spencer).
The prize-winners, printed below, are rewarded with £25 each.
“Here it was, Guesthouse du Lac, an unexpectedly wearying half-hour walk from the Lowestoft seafront. ‘Guesthouse’ struck Edith as a rather grandiose appellation; bed and breakfast, with its suggestion of the exhausted yet somehow uncomfortable slumber following a journey and dangerously fried food, might have been more apposite. A creased postcard of Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Landscape with Mountain Lake’, incongruously affixed to the pinboard in its subfusc hallway, strained to justify the latter part of its name. This, Edith reflected, unpacking her few grey skirts and secretarial blouses, was what she could afford. Her fellow guests were a boisterous quartet of Polish bricklayers and a fastidious yet threadbare salesman with receding hair whose gingerly manner of segmenting black pudding suggested a civilised upbringing on which he had failed to capitalise. As they cautiously exchanged sallies about the weather, Edith began to imagine the relationship they would never quite have.Adrian Fry/‘Guesthouse du Lac’
“It is a most extraordinary thing, but there is nowhere so cold as the vicinity of a radiator that has been turned off. Out of habit, the three of us huddled around it, and yet I swear we should have been warmer in the snow outside. All the same, we persisted, warmed only by an outsize greatcoat George had found in his garden shed. It must have belonged to a giant, and was holed and incompetently patched, but it afforded us some semblance of dignity after fuel bills crossed the Rubicon of £1,000 a month. Harris stared forlornly at the fireplace, and the ashen remains of a complete Gibbon.A mournful howl alerted us to Montmorency’s return from the forage on which we had sent him. It had evidently been unsuccessful. I eyed him, and he eyed me back, insolently, as if to say Eat Me If You Dare.Bill Greenwell/‘Three Men in a Coat’
“‘What’s wrong, ma’am?’ demanded Mr Bounderby. ‘You do not see any sunflower spread, I suppose? You don’t care for the taste of lard?’ ‘I was thinking…’ began Mrs Sparsit. ‘No, ma’am. Let Bounderby do the thinking. I have thought my way up from the gutter – from the worst of gutters – from a time when I yearned to taste a spoonful of dripping! Yet I, Bounderby, ask my grocer for sunflower spread, and there is none. My grocer mutters about a war in the Crimea, as if that were any concern of Josiah Bounderby, of Coketown, manufacturer! Did I ask for this war, Loo Bounderby? Did I?’ Giving a perfunctory answer, Louisa thought wearily of her delinquent brother. Had there not been something oleaginous about the hand so grudgingly given to her, when they last spoke? O Tom! My doom is already upon me! Do not hurry to yours!Frank Upton/‘Lard Times’
“In these straitened times when war has destroyed modern machinery, people have reverted to old ways. Who would have thought the working horse would be brought from retirement or the ox again made to pull the plough? Though buildings have been flattened there is still work to be done in the countryside. Across the land people are using oxen in their fields and it seems that hostilities have turned the clock back a century. But at least the fields are being tilled and seeds planted and however slow the process, it is tried and true. Harvests will come and it is to be hoped that ships will sail with their cargo across the world. And so, when you see these stout animals pulling their ploughs, you need not ask for whom the bull toils. It toils for us all.Frank McDonald/‘For Whom the Bull Toils’
“‘I would not be so fastidious as you are,’ cried Bingley, ‘for a kingdom! The trolleys and belted checkouts! The beer, wine and spirits! Upon my honour, I never met with so many discounts in my life, and several are uncommonly good value.’‘You are shopping with the only credit card in sight,’ said Mr Darcy, looking at Bingley’s laden basket.‘Oh, it has the highest bonus points I ever beheld! But there is one shop behind you which is full of bargains, and I dare say, very agreeable.’‘Which do you mean?’ and turning around, Mr Darcy caught Elizabeth’s eye as she set out budget frozen foods in aisle nine. He coldly said, ‘Poundland is tolerable, but not customer-friendly enough to tempt me.’Elizabeth was left with no cordial feelings towards him, especially considering their pandemic staff shortages. She delighted in the thought that his grocery bills were ridiculous.Janine Beacham/‘Poundland and Prejudice’
“To buy or not to buy, that is the question:Whether ’tis cheaper in the end to count onThe swings and roundabouts of unit pricingOr to take up their special offer andGet extra free. But then there is too muchOf one thing, and an absence of the rest –Ay, there’s the rub! Fishpaste is goodBut heart-ache comes when there’s no ham for tea.We grunt and sweat, pushing our trolleys round,Seeking that undiscovered bargain whichAs ever is devoutly to be wished,But of which we perchance must only dream,Till we have shuffled round the aislesIn the calamity of an extended shop.My purse is out of joint! O misery,That I, Hamless, shall be ham-less at tea.Brian Murdoch/‘Hamless’
No. 3257: Filmerick
You are invited to summarise a film (please specify) in limerick form. Please email entries (up to three each) to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 6 July.