My Hobbies

1. Eating chocolate

2. Reading fantasy novels:

    Favourite authors:

   David Gemmell (if you haven't read Gemmell's "Legend", go out and buy it today...)
   Morgan Llywellyn (her "Red Branch" got me hooked)
   George R.R. Martyn (Winter is coming...)

3. Surfing the internet (HUGE waste of time)

4. Sending email (an even HUGER waste of time)

5. Humour.  I have an email joke list containing (usually blue) jokes and images.  If you've more time on your hands than your boss knows about, and want to join the list, then jump to "Contact Me" and let me know.)

6. Movies:

    Favourite movies:-

   Enter the Dragon
    Midnight Run
    Empire of the Sun
    Scent of a Woman
    Terminator 2

    Worst movies:-

   Sophie's Choice (fell asleep.  Hate Meryl Streep)
    Bonfire of the Vanities (Hank's and Willis' roles should have been reversed)
    Phantom Menace (sorry, but it was a load of crap)
    Jurassic Park (why did they forget to put in a story?)
    Mr. TellyTubby Goes to Blackpool and has lunch

(That last one isn't really a movie, but if it was, I'm sure it would be awful.)

7. Being boring - Some people have said I'm boring, so I guess I'll have to add that to my list of hobbies.

8. Hiking.

(I love this, but getting my family out of the door on a Saturday morning is easier done than saying: "Llyanfrpllygllynllyndrobllychgridwrogoghoch."

9. Writing. This is a bit of a pipe dream, but here's one of my little stories:
(p.s. anyone who can tell me what Lalena (pronounced La-ley-n-ya) is, wins a prize.)


When the sun goes to bed
That's the time your raise your head, Lalena..

    "Curfew!  Curfew!"

    The ancient call echoed from the high turrets overlooking the Upper Gate of Castle Naevon.  The order, derived from the French call "couvre feu" or "cover fire", was targeted at the merchants and peddlers whose charcoal fires would be extinguished before the close of day.  This daily action would be followed by the gathering at the gates of the common folk who sought the night's shelter from wild animals, bandits and other predators outside the great castle's walls.

    "Curfew!  Curfew!  Final call!" shouted the watchman.  It was precisely at this moment each day that Twitcher was at his most alert.  The skinny youth, dressed in drab gray and brown rags was one of the best thieves in the walled town.  A shaggy mop of dirty brown hair framed an even grubbier face whose only notable feature was a pair of shining blue eyes sunk deep into their sockets.  Those eyes that never stopped twitching for one moment from moving this way and that had earned the lad his nickname.  No one knew him by any other and indeed, had he ever wanted to find out his nom-de-Christ, then this would have been impossible.  Twitcher's mother had abandoned him at the age of two and he had been raised by various village families, none too pleased with the extra mouth to feed.  Finally, at the age of ten, he had run away from his adopted family at that time and established himself on the streets.  His life had been one long fight for survival.  Without a trade or benefactor he had turned to a life of stealth and thieving.  The boy was well known in the town, and despite his unsavoury profession, was quite well liked.  His victims were never numbered amongst the folk of the town, preferring as he did the easier, and often wealthier targets of strangers and foreign travelers who made their way into the town.

    "Oy, oy, Twitcher," shouted out Gallen, the leather merchant's son.  "And `ow've you been, me old son?  Cut any rich picking then, `ave ye?"  The few townsfolk within hearing distance glanced at the pickpocket and laughed.  The boy, feeling the unwelcome gaze settle upon him, ducked away and was soon lost amid the swelling crowd gathering in the dwindling light at the castle gate.

    At the head of the crowd filing into the castle stood several soldiers, swords unsheathed, checking the people as they filed past into the sanctuary of the castle.  Almost one hour after the first call of curfew the last few stragglers had been admitted inside the castle gates.

    "Is that the lot then, Murdo?" asked the duty Captain of his chief guardsman.

    "Aye, sir, there was a right old pile of `em tonight.  Must be the worry from the attack."

    "Stuff and nonsense if you ask me," said the Captain.  "All this talk about witches and warlocks.  Rubbish, I tell you.  A couple of people go missing and it's all talk of magic and wizardry.  Superstitious fools!  Murdo, call the portcullis lowered!"

    "Corporal, raise the drawbridge and lower the . . . wait!"

    "What is it, Murdo?" asked the Captain.

    "Sir, a rider approaching . . . on a great white horse.  Should we let him in?"

    The Captain stepped into the entrance of the gate and peered into the now darkening approach to the castle.  Slowly, step by step, a tall white horse advanced up the slope carrying a slender rider with cowled cape pulled down low masking the features from view.  The Captain moved forward to challenge the stranger.

    "Halt, rider!  State your name and purpose!" called out the Captain.

    "They call me Lalena," spoke the rider in a soft, yet strangely enchanting woman's voice, "and I seek shelter for the night."

    The officer's eyes widened with interest.

   "Remove your hood!" commanded the Captain.

    Slowly the rider pulled back the hood of her cape and shook free a mass of dark red curls that glistened in the light of the lanterns hanging over the gateway.  The ruddy halo framed a face of the palest ivory complexion.  The woman's eyes, blue and lustrous, seemed to bore into the very soul of the soldier who before her.  The picture of beauty that faced the soldier stunned him for a moment before he could speak again.

    "Are. . . are ye, friend or foe?" asked the officer.

    "Why, friend, of course." replied the lady softly.

    The Captain was bewitched by the being on horseback before him and slowly stepped from her path permitting her access into the castle.  The lady gathered her reins and gently steered her horse up the path, over the drawbridge and through the Upper Gate.  The soldiers of the night watch gazed in awe at the vision before them as the rider made her way through the gatehouse and into the castle beyond.

    "Thin pickings tonight," said Twitcher bitterly to himself as he reflected upon the poor night's work.  "Not one bleedin' purse.  Must be all this talk of demons, it's keeping folk from travelling."  Twitcher was skulking around the inside of the Upper Gate mulling over the idea of thieving from the soldiers of the night watch.  They always had plenty to eat and would often throw away a half-eaten loaf or some raw turnips or swedes.  It was just at this moment that he heard the sound of metal-shod footsteps approaching along the cobbled street.  Turning towards the sound he looked up and beheld the advance of a large white stallion bearing the lady with blazing red curls.  Without hesitation Twitcher jumped forward and grabbed the horse's bridle.

    "Evening, milady, and may I be of some service to you this fine evening?"

    The woman looked down on the ragged fellow at her feet and her eyes narrowed.

    "Why, that's very kind.  Yes, I do need some help.  Please help me to dismount."

    This was the moment for which Twitcher had been waiting.  In one smooth movement he palmed a small blade, no larger than his index finger, into his hand.  The lady turned towards her uninvited assistant and slid from the horse into the thief's arms.

    "There, there, milady, nice and easy does it."

    Twitcher held onto the woman for perhaps slightly longer than she would have expected, but this extra fraction of a second allowed him to slip his hand inside her cape and cut her purse strings with his concealed blade.  With the deed done Twitcher slipped both purse and blade deep inside the front flap of his jacket and once again moved to gather the horse's bridle.

    "And I suppose you'd be looking for someplace to stay the night, milady?" Twitcher suggested.

    "Why, yes I am.  Could you suggest an inn, perhaps?"

    "Well, you might try the `Pikestaff Arms.' That's a fine lodging.  Or there's old Missus Barley's place just next to the market.  And of course there's the . . ."

    "Actually, I think I'll be fine from here.  Thank you for your kind help.  Here, let me reward you for your trouble."

    "Oh, n . . .no, no, Miss, please," stammered the Twitcher, "there's no need, none at all . . " And with that the man was off down the road, almost tripping over a pile of broken wooden boxes left discarded on the footpath.

    The lady's eyes narrowed once more as she followed the figure disappearing into the gloom of the castle street lit by lanterns hanging from wooden posts in the ground.

    "`Ere, miss, you wanna watch him, that one."

    Lalena turned round towards the voice that had offered the unsolicited advice.  It was Gallen, the leather merchant's son.

    "Oh, and why so?" she asked the young man.

    "Just you be wary, that's all.  Twitcher's not the sort of bloke you want to get to close to, if you know what I mean."

    "Well," said Lalena, "I'm not too sure I do know what you mean, but I thank you nonetheless for your concern.  Now would you be so kind as to point me in the right direction of the market place?"

    "That's no problem, milady.  Just you carry on this very road and you'll reach that spot.  Just let your fine horse follow his nose."

    With that the lad turned and made off down one of the dark alleyways that led off from the main street.  The lady began to walk leading her horse by its bridle.  Some short moments later she arrived at a large square in the centre of which townsfolk were huddled around iron braziers taking warmth against the cold evening chill.  Walking round the square the lady noticed a large, gaily-painted sign that declared the building to be the lodgings known as Missus Barley's.  Tying her horse to the post outside the inn, the Lady Lalena pushed open the heavy, metal-studded door and stepped inside.

    The first thing to hit Lalena as she entered the inn was the smell.  The rich cooking odour of garlic and grilled meats filled the air.  This mixed with the smoke from clay pipes gave the inn an overbearing air.  Lalena reeled from smell and steadied herself against the back of a large oak rocking chair.  She fought to keep down the feeling of intense nausea with which she was overcome.  Stepping forward into the room she caught the attention of two elderly gentleman playing cards at one of the inn's small wooden tables.

    "Sirs, could you. . ." Lalena paused for breath.  "Could you please direct me to the landlady?"

    "Why, of course, milady.  That's Missus Barley over there by the fire," responded one of the men.  "Are you need of help?  You don't look too well."

    "No, thank you kindly. . . it's just the smoke. . . I'll be fine, really."

    Lalena paused for one more moment and then made her way over to the large woman who was placing new wood onto the large fire that burned merrily in the hearth.

    "Good evening.  Would you be the Lady Barley?" inquired Lalena.

    "Well, not too many folks round here calls me `Lady' but I think I'm the one you're looking for.  Do you need a room?"

    "Yes, please, just for the night.  I'll be leaving early tomorrow morning, before sunrise in fact.  I just really need someone to tend my horse and somewhere to rest for a few hours."

    "Well, you've come to just the right place.  Would you like to eat something?  We've a fine roasted pig that's about ready to eat."

    "No, I just really need to rest.  Please have someone help me with my bags."

    "Yes, milady, right away.  The room will be one silver piece for the night and another for the tending of your horse."

    Lalena moved here hand towards the pocket of her dress and paused for a moment as she noticed the absence of a familiar bundle against her waist.

    "Two silvers?  Why, that will be fine.  Would you mind if I paid you in the morning?  I really must wash and freshen myself from my journey.  Oh, and there is just one other thing," said Lalena.  "Would you by any chance be acquainted with the lad, Twitcher?"

    "That rascal!  Why, what's he been up to now?"

    "Oh, nothing at all.  In fact he did me a great favour when I first arrived in your town and I never managed to thank him for his deed."

    "Well," said Missus Barley, "if I know Twitcher, and I do, then I expect you'll find him over at the `Pikestaff Arms' gambling at jackstones with some of the other local lads."

    "Thank you, Missus Barley, I'll perhaps pay him a visit later on in the evening. . ."

    The Missus Barley called over to a young lad and instructed him to show the lady to her room.  Lalena thanked the innkeeper and made her way up the wooden stairs.  Once in the room she waited for the lad to leave and then made straight for the window swinging it wide open onto the street taking in large gulps of cold night air.

    "Yeah, beautiful she was, and I helped her down from her horse n'all!" said Twitcher.

    "Twitcher, you're always full of stories, aren't you?  And most of them fairy tales at that!" said Rafe, the village Smith.

    The small group of men laughed together at the expense of the ragged creature who had spun a tale of a fine lady with flowing curls of blood red hair riding into the town upon a brilliant white charger.

    "Why, look, Twitcher, it looks like your lady's no tale after all!"

    All eyes in the inn turned towards the elegant woman who had just entered the room.  Scanning the assembly Lalena over to the group of men whom, only moments before had been doubting her very existence.

    "Master Twitcher," she began, "might I have a private word."

    From the very point of her arrival in the inn Twitcher had been frantically searching for a way out of the building.  He soon realised he was trapped and decided to rely on the defense of those in the room against the lady newcomer.
All eyes now trained on Twitcher who stood staring in Lalena, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.

    "Go on, lad, talk to the lady when you're spoken to!" said Rafe.

    "What do you want?" said Twitcher rather too quickly.

    "Simply to talk.  I mean you no harm.  Perhaps we two could sit at that table over there?" said Lalena gesturing with a gloved hand towards a table and two chairs in the far corner of the room.  Slowly Twitcher rose to his feet and, head bowed, eyes looking this way and that, made his way to the appointed table.

    "Master Twitcher." said Lalena as they both settled themselves down in their chairs.  The commotion that her entrance into the inn had caused had now died down and the patrons once again settled down to their activities.

      "As I said just now I mean you no harm but I believe you have something in your possession that may belong to me."

    "And what if I have?  What's it worth?" said the scruffy youth.

    "Let me just say that if you return the items to me then I shall provide you with a gift more valuable than a few silver coins.  I shall give you a gift worth more than all the riches in this town!"

    "Oh, yeah!  Do I look like I was born yesterday?" said the Twitcher sarcastically.

    "No, I think you're a very clever young man, and for that reason I shall make you the following offer.  Visit me in my room at Missus Barley's inn one hour from now, bringing with you the bag that you cut from my waist and I shall reward you with a gift the value of which you could never imagine."

    "And if I don't?"

    "Oh, you will.  You've no desire to stay a poor ragamuffin for the rest of your life, have you?"

    "Well. . .I . . ." began the youth.

    "Well, I think I'll see you in one hour's time."

    Having finished her proposition to the young man Lalena stood up from the table and walked directly out of the room, bowing to the group of men with whom the Twitcher had been sitting upon her arrival.

    By the time Lalena returned to her inn most of the patrons had set off for home and the pungent smell had somewhat dissipated.

    "Ah, Milady, you're back." said the Missus Barley.  "Did you find the lad?"

    "Yes, you were right, he was with a group of friends at the `Pikestaff Inn' as you suspected."

    "He's a rum sort that lad.  Never really understood him."

    "Well, Missus Barley, I think I'll retire for the night.  Oh, by the way, could you possibly make me up a plate of the roast pork you mentioned before?  And perhaps some red wine?"

    "Yes, milady, not a problem.  I'll send the boy up with a tray in a few moments."

    "Thank you.  And good night."

    "And a very good night to you, milady"

    Lalena answered the knock at her door moments later and allowed the young man who had helped her with her bags to enter carrying a tray of roasted pork, some boiled vegetables, black bread and a pewter decanter of wine.  He placed the tray and shyly retreated from the room.  Lalena took the food and drink and set it out on the small wooden table by the window.  Having prepared the meal she sat down on a comfortable padded chair and waited for the arrival of her guest.

    Lalena had been sitting in the armchair for some time when she heard a light knocking at her door.  Narrowing her eyes and licking her lips she rose from her chair.  Crossing the room Lalena slowly opened the door to reveal the Twitcher.

    "Quick, let me in, before the Missus sees me!" he whispered nervously.

    Lalena opened the door and the youth slipped quietly inside.  Lalena shut the door gently and turned to view her guest.  The young man had entered the room and had immediately noticed the meal set out on the small wooden table.

    "Go ahead, Master Twitcher, it's for you.  Enjoy the food.  Oh, and have some of this excellent wine."  The young man pulled over a wooden chair to the table, sat down, and fell ravenously onto the meal.  Lalena raised the pewter jug and poured him a generous helping of the wine into a crystal goblet.

    "Why, err. . .thanks. . ." the youth mumbled between mouthfuls of roasted pork and black bread.

    Twitcher finished the meal, sat back and was unable to suppress a large belch, the result of too rich a feast on a shrunken stomach.

    "Ooh, pardon . . . manners."

    "Now, Master Twitcher, perhaps we can get down to our business?"

    "Ah, yes.  Well, here's your pouch, and a very strange pouch it is too." said the Twitcher as he handed over the small doeskin bag.  "But there's nothing inside but some dirt, I think it's soil.  Honest, I never took no money, honest!"

    "Yes, Master Twitcher, I know.  There never were any coins inside the purse.  Just the . . . soil, as you said."

    "Well, all right then, but what about our deal?" said the Twitcher feeling suddenly very sleepy.

    "Ah, yes, our little bargain." said Lalena.  "I told you I'd reward you with something more valuable than all the wealth in this pathetic little town of yours!"

    "But. . . wha. . . what do you. . .?" The Twitcher was finding it very hard to keep his eyes focused on the lady with the flaming red hair who stood proudly before him.

    "I can offer you the gift of eternal life!" said Lalena, her eyes wide with lust, a wild grin spreading across her beautiful face.  The canine teeth elongating, dripping with saliva as the bloodlust came over her.  Before her the young man had slumped into unconsciousness as the drugged wine took its effect.

    "Ah, Master Twitcher…  As a thief you should know never to rob from a Stealer of Souls. . ."

* * * * *

10. Fishing.  (I don't know why I put this in the list.  I don't really like fishing.)  Fishing is boring.

11.  Music  of a 70's fan musically, kind of caught in a time warp.  Lover of prog rock bands like YES and Genesis as well as noisesome rockers like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Saxon and Iron Maiden.  Only time I get to listen to these bands is to and from work in the car (unless I'm giving someone a ride home...).

12.  Martial Arts - Started this in 1973 after being beaten up by a local hoodlum in Giffnock.  Still training at Shotokan karate despite tearing my cruciate ligament in my knee and having ligament replacement from my hamstring.  Why?   Best not to ask...