Penny Blake

Extraordinary Everyday

Month: December, 2014

12 Days Of Wizmas: Letter 5

If you have missed the previous letters you can read them here

If you would like to know the hidden message in the last letter it was: “Perfect But The Timing Device Keeps Coming Loose Any Ideas?”

Letter 4: Addressed To: Apartment 1b, 113a Botheration Street , Lichfield. The envelop was marked with two stamps, the first placed upside down in the top left corner and the second placed in the centre of the right hand edge.

My Dearest Friend,

I have enclosed a poem with my letter, darling, in the hope that it might HELP sooth your nerves and give you a little extra something to occupy your mind between now and the time we all return to Lichfield.

Considering THE contents of my last letter, I frankly was not expecting the delivery of five brass rings this morning and am quite confused as to what you mean by sending them to me? Not a single one of them fits any of my fingers and, to be honest, when a Lady thinks of receiving a ring, she expects it to be made of gold. With perhaps a diamond or two set into it. And certainly not to have the words ‘Crapper & Son; Twice The Crap Of Any Other Plumbing Merchant’ inscribed upon the inside.

Please try to engage the GEARS of your grey matter and understand me when I say, do not send any more of these ludicrous gifts.

Their daily appearance ON THE doorstep has begun to give my Aunt the affliction of Nerves.

We intend to catch the skywayrail LOCOMOTIVE back to Lichfield on Sunday and Gabriel will be in his ELEMENT to show you the hairs that ARE still JAMMED in the cogs of the wagonette.

Until we meet AGAIN,


This Poem Was Included With The Letter:

When I was FIRST but sweet SIXTEEN

The SECOND glance you gave, I gave it TWO

And said “ hast never TH’EARD the nighting bird

sing so sweet upon the hour Of SIX O’clock, except to shower

love with praise?”

I met thy gaze

and you came FOURTH and said FOUR, FIVE times over that you did love me.

Was I wrong to believe?

Fi! THe notion that you would deceive

IS EVEN now repugnant to my soul.

But time goes on and still our well dips dry.

Now that NINETEEN has passed me by,

shall I live to TWENTYSIX or even TWENTYEIGHT ,my love, without you by side?

Oh why, but for some other’s sake, must we our amour hide?

If this world turned but some other way,

then, perhaps, you would make me your bride.

Poem By Christian Biscotti, Written, at the SIXTH hour, FOUR minutes past.

The 12 Days Of Wizmas: Letter 4

If you have missed the previous letters you can read them here

If you would like to know the hidden message in the last letter it was: “Something To Hold The Powder Cartridges Together”

Letter 4: Addressed To: Apartment 1b, 113a Botheration Street , Lichfield. The envelop was marked with two stamps, the first placed upside down in the top left corner and the second placed in the centre of the right hand edge.

My Dearest Friend, I appreciate that your endeavours to supply me with the

Perfect wizmas gift are both generously and affectionately intended,

But really this is getting out of hand.

The arrival at 3am this morning of four Pawling Girds betrays a distinct lack of both

Timing and taste. I mean what exactly is one to do with such a strange

Device? Wear it as some experimental item of corsetry? Torture the kitchen maid? Affection

Keeps me from expressing the full extent of my vexation, dear, but really! We are

coming home to Lichfield very soon, I promise you. Please try not to

loose lose any more of your sanity between now and the time I see you next. I must warn you that

any amount of lunacy is not becoming to either a Lady or a Gentleman and should you have any

ideas pertaining to gifts in the near future please keep them to yourself. Your anxious friend, Christina.

The Twelve Days Of Wizmas: Letter 3

If you missed the first two letters you can read them here

If you would like to know the primary hidden message in Letter 2 it was: “A Little Ostentatious But Yes They Will Prevent Burns When Welding Thankyou.”

Letter 3:

Addressed To: Apartment 1b, 113a Botheration Street , Lichfield. The envelop was marked with two stamps, the first placed upside down in the top left corner and the second placed in the centre of the right hand edge.

My Dearest Friend,

Surely you do not mean to send me a gift every day we are apart? Why, it has

Only been three days and already I have received A Cartridge Of Ti Kuan Yin Tea, not to

Mention the Two Spurtle Gloves, and now three Wrench Pens? To be perfectly

Ernest, dear, I would not even have guessed their double use had Michael not

Taken one to make some minor adjustment to the Luminescent Wagonette –

He is not really the practical sort, as you know, but likes to think of himself as such – and

Inadvertently discovered that the wrench tool splits in two to reveal a hidden fountain pen.

Now I do see the point in sending me a pen, but a wrench? Exactly what is a

Gargantuan poet such as myself to do with a wrench? Let alone three! If I were a

Tinker, or a baker perhaps these gifts might make more sense but to speak with perfect candour, the

Only thing I can think is that you are indulging in large amounts of caffeinated tea again. It is a

Habit, darling, and those who wish to be continued to be thought of as Very Quiet

Ought really to keep their Habits to themselves and not draw attention to them by sending

Ludicrous, expensive and ill thought out gifts to their close friends. Please save your money

Dear and buy yourself a nice caddy of de-caffeinated Earl Grey and some dairy free scones

To while away the hours until we return to Lichfield. Gabriel sends

His regards and informs me that I ought to tell you about the fiasco that

Ended the Witch Hunt yesterday. He is quite right, you will be green with envy at the

Prospect of knowing that you missed such all over larkishness

Only it wasn’t actually our endeavours with Aunt and the wagonette that set it off,

Would you believe that The Pre-Cognitive Sisterhood showed up, all garbless and on horseback!

Do you know that we even thought we spotted the infamous Cucumber amongst their ranks?

Extreme amounts of riot were caused by them tearing up the hunt and I have never seen Aunt

Robusta turn a more violent shade of puce as the luminescent wagonette was boarded by a

Cavalcade of naked women, singing battle hymns and trying to tear

Apart the mechanisms with their teeth.

Really we couldn’t have caused a better sabotage feat ourselves and so were forced

To simply sit back and watch the fun – something no doubt you would have

Revelled in yourself I imagine, had you been here.

In fact I am beginning to think that it is providence that you have been kept away,

Darling. You should have seen the look on Aunt Robusta’s face when one woman’s armpit hair

Got tangled in the wagonette’s gear system – not to mention the look on Gabriel’s when his

Endeavours to free the poor girl landed him a kick in the teeth. I think he may be in love. Again.

Still, she managed to free herself eventually… you know, having now witnessed one of

Their raids, I cannot honestly continue to regard their activities in the same romantic light.

Of course I still see the value of many aspects of their cause as noble, I am simply stru

Ggling to reconcile Gabriel and Michael’s paintings of them, with the stark reality of

Eighty unwashed, unclothed female barbarians on horseback descending upon us in a fit of

Tremendous passion. Perhaps I shall

Have to write a poem about the

Experience in order to fully convey the

Rather confused jumble of feelings the whole thing has aroused.

Ever your friend, Chrissie.



The Twelve Days Of Wizmas: Letter 2

If you missed the first letter, you can read it here

If you would like to know the primary hidden message in the first letter it was: “The cartouche is a perfect vessel for the gunpowder please send more”

I will reveal the hidden message in this letter tomorrow…

Letter 2:

Addressed To: Apartment 1b, 113a Botheration Street , Lichfield. The envelop was marked with two stamps, the first placed upside down in the top left corner and the second placed in the centre of the right hand edge.

My dearest friend,

Another gift? How dreadfully generous of you, although I must confess to feeling just a

Little perplexed this time. Needless to say I was not expecting to receive a pair of Spurtle Gloves.

In fact, had it not been for our intimate dealings with, well, one doesn’t want to bandy

The name, shall we say ‘certain oatcake purveyors?’ I should not have known what

They were at all, but really, darling, please write and tell me that these are NOT the actual and

Legitimate Golden Spurtle Gloves presented at the Annual World Oatcake Flipping Contest in

Edinburgh? Firstly, I am not certain that I wish to know how you came by them, and secondly I

Ought to remind you that the special, golden, heat-resistant fabric is manufactured in Lancaster;

Surely you have not forgotten the unicorn conspiracy taking place in Lord Ashton’s factories there?

Tristan’s speech on the matter last year was so passionate, so heart rending, so well researched, so

Ernest… I am quite shocked that you would think such Spurtles an appropriate Wizmas gift.

Nevertheless, and despite the fact that I have no desire to begin flipping oatcakes, I shall keep

Them. At least they will remind me of you. If I can only bring myself to forget the suffering of the

Animals who have sacrificed themselves for my dubious gain. Now then, I promised to

Tell you about the show didn’t I? Oh darling! Would you had been here to see it!

I’m afraid – no, delighted in fact – that I made an enormous error in telling both my aunt, and you,

Of the title: It is Burlington Bells, not Belles. That may seem insignificant I know, but be

Utterly assured my dear it proved to be the essence of the thing entirely. Let me relate the

Story before I burst with it: All begins innocently enough with Johnny announcing the title

“‘Burlington Bells’ ladies and gentlemen” and then he begins to sing his part. My aunt is

Unfamiliar with the Burlington Arcade in Lichfield and its frequenters and so did not pick up on

The occasional, though quite muted, references to those very particular ladies and gentlemen

You see conducting business there from time to time. Nobody batted an

Eyelid in fact and he finished his piece and stood to the side whilst Charlie got up and

Stood beside him and sang the next part. Yet again, there were odd little

Things which stood out as possibly being to meant to have been taken in a certain way,

Heavy words lightly thrown I should call it, but certainly nothing unsuitable for an

Evening of respectable entertainment. Charlie finishes his little section and,

Yes, Joyce takes the stage and begins the last part and sings it splendidly as always. But

When she is done, instead of them all taking their bow and their seats in quick succession,

It transpires that this is not the end at all. Only the beginning, for Joyce now begins again on

Ly this time, when she reaches the end of the first verse, Charlie begins singing his

Little bit again too. Oh dear! What seemed at first to be two, almost completely innocent

Pretty little songs, when sung together create an entirely new verse that is so

Raucously amusing I was forced to glance with grave concern in my aunt’s direction in

Ernest hope that she had been struck momentarily deaf and could not hear what was being

Verberated around her dining hall.

Ernest hope seemed to have won the day for once as the old dear showed little to

No acknowledgement of what was going on, other than to look ever so slightly confused.

This was not the end, however, because, as no doubt you have guessed, when Johnny

Began his verse over again, the combination of all three now produced a third version of such

Undeniable scurrility aimed at the reputations of several well known Tea Time Lords, that Aunt

Robusta’s attention was finally caught. Her eyebrows first began to twitch at the realisation that

Now these young people, who had begun by singing sweetly about ladies

Strolling about with parasols and stockings of a certain hue,

Were now brazenly defaming some of the most respected members of the aristocracy,

Her nostrils then began to flare as the epiphany dawned upon her,

Erstwhile portified, senses that the Bells part of the title did not refer to certain

Neatly attired members of the fairer sex, but rather certain anatomical members of the other.

What it was that finally turned her purple and instigated the snorting, foaming and wildly

Energetic convulsions, I cannot say but I think this final fit must have occurred at the

Later point when the multiple layers of song entwined in such an ingenious way as to

Describe in detail the penances meted out to the afore mentioned Lords in recompense for their

Ignoble behaviour by the ladies of the Burlington Arcade, all involving pain, humiliation and ‘Bells.’

Needless to tell you the rest of the company found the whole thing hilarious. Gabriel called it

‘Genius’ and I cannot disagree with him. It only pains me

That you were not here to see it too, darling, but it is assured a long season at The Garish and I

Have made Johnny swear to get us the box for the premiere so that we can enjoy it together.

Aunt has retired to her room but not before ordering the domesticons to hurl Johnny, Joyce a

Nd Charlie out ‘on their ears.’ Whether the poor mechanicals understood these instructions I don’t

Know but their attempts at carrying them out only served in adding further hilarity to the evening.

You know that wicked trio were booked into a comfortable abode in the village the whole while?

Only my good opinion of them prevents me from thinking that the whole fiasco was deliberate.

Utterly yours, darling,


The Twelve Days Of Wizmas: Letter 1

Over the run up to Christmas I have put together a series of posts for those of you who like a little crypticology scattered amongst the tinsel and the twinkling lights of this festive season. The Victorians adored cryptograms and secret messages; they used letters, flowers and even stamps to communicate hidden messages to their loved ones and the Victorians in The New World were certainly no exception, as you will see. As usual, I’m afraid I  have flagrantly stolen concepts from just about everywhere… including the concept of Christmas itself…

Introduction to the letters:

These Letters, indicating a correspondence between the famous revolutionary poet Christina Biscotti and an un-named personage residing in Lichfield,  were found amid the wreckage of Lancaster Castle by Fein Richards and Turk Goodie of The Tiffin Den Sleuths. Fein’s notes in The Tiffin Den Sleuth’s Case File suggest that these are not the love letters they appear to be but actually coded instructions for brewing an extremely potent new form of tea. Goodie’s notes in the margin of Fein’s notes, however, point towards the conspiritational creation of a bomb. Whatever the case, I offer them here in the, perhaps vain, hope that they may shed some light on the mysterious incident involving a statue of Queen Victoria, the flooding of Lancaster city centre with lemonade, the rise of the global power company GORGON and the plight of a missing octopus…

Letter one:

Addressed To: Apartment 1b, 113a Botheration Street , Lichfield. The envelop was marked with two stamps, the first placed upside down in the top left corner and the second placed in the centre of the right hand edge.

My Dearest Friend,

Thankyou from the very bottom of my

Heart for your kind and thoughtful gift, which arrived this morning,

Exquisitely wrapped in gold and purple orangza! What an imaginative way to

Celebrate the first day of Wizmas

And how thoughtful of you, darling, to

Remember that it was over a steaming pot of Ti Kuan Yin

That our eyes first met, all those years ago. No doubt you can guess how surprised I was to

Open the ornately decorated porcelain cartridge and find myself violently and

Unexpectedly showered in a generous dusting of finest quality tea which, even as I write,

Covers the floor, cushions, armchairs and fainting couch, onto which

Holman – you remember my cousin, Holman? – has actually fainted, no doubt in a fit of

Ecstasy at the thought of enjoying such a delightful and generous gift. Shockingly provincial of him, I know.

I shan’t be sharing any of it with him of course but I will let him bask in deluded

Slumber for a little longer whilst the household domesticons rally themselves to the

Arduous task of sweeping it all up again and depositing it safely in the tea caddy.

Perhaps you might consider wrapping your next gift more cautiously? Just a thought, dear.

Everyone here misses you most terribly. I have pleaded with Aunt

Robusta to invite you down this year but, you know she is taking the

Feud with your mother most earnestly and cannot be persuaded that your presence on her

Estate would cause anything but the most unbearable quantities of scandal. I am forced to

Console myself therefore with these correspondences and endure the somewhat dull and

Tedious company of Dodge and Appaul, who insist upon darkening the daylight hours with

Vociferation after vociferation upon the subject of Universal Fruitcake Theory. As if

Everyone who is anyone had not read Through The Cooking Class months ago! My

Simpering aunt is, however, in her element and quite fancies herself to be firmly placed within ‘The

Set’ having had such eminent (if penniless) house guests for the Wizmas season. Why

Exactly she should favour them with hospitality whilst shunning the heir to the throne

Lies quite beyond my understanding but then there is no accounting for the sensibilities of aunts.

Fortunately, Johnny, Joyce and Charlie will be joining us tomorrow and they have promised not

Only the traditional Amelia performance (My aunt is adamant that Dodge will be able to rig her

Rocking chair to replicate Amelia’s winged article and is determined to play the role herself despi

Te Dodge’s own protestations that he is only a theoretical man) but also their new and

Heretofore unseen musical atrocity ‘Burlington Belles’. I am certain Aunt Robusta has no idea what

Exactly she is letting her guests in for, however I look forward with mounting

Gusto to the outcome, which I am certain will be amusing. It is of course most

Unfortunate that you will not be here to witness it yourself but I promise to write and

Notify you of every detail as soon as I am able. Apparently the anthem is sung to the

Popular tune of ‘Ninety Nine Bottles Of Beer’, or so rumour has it. Not that

One can put much stock and store by the same rumour mill that insists certain

Wild and unprincipled individuals are, in fact, Very Quiet Gentlemen, but there you have it.

Deserved, I am sure, is any reputation that comes with such a hefty price tag.

Everyone is planning an excursion this afternoon to watch the traditional Wizmas

Revels in the village. You will be sorry to miss the Witch Hunt as William and Gabriel have

Persuaded Aunt Robusta to trial their latest purchase: Dr. J. Sallis’s Cream-Powered

Luminiferous Wagonette. You must remember the delightful

Escapades of Dr.Sallis, detailed last month in The Gourdian newspaper, which resulted in the poor

Aspirational gentleman being deported to Hull? I am

Speaking, of course, of his heretical proclamations, about the return of The Holy Child, from the

Elevated heights of the Lichfield Cathedral spire before hurling him

Self off it expecting to be borne away to some dubious other dimension by the

Extraordinary apparatus he had strapped to his back. Of course he did

Not succeed in leaving the sphere of this horrid globe, only falling rather haphazardly

Downwards into the waiting arms of Her Majesty’s Good Folk, but the fact remains,

My darling, that all his inventions are being auctioned away by his family and not

Only were my brothers able to procure the wagonette, but also some other

Rather more interesting items which I am anxious to bring to Lichfield for you to see.

Ever yours, Chrissie.

Think you’ve spotted something? Discovered a code? Put two and three together and made one thousand five hundred and sixty eight? Awesome, well done 🙂 I’ll reveal a little of the mystery tomorrow along with the next letter… TTFN 🙂