What do Coleridge, Arabic water carriers and the American penal system have in common?


Image: Pixabay


Do you know? No? Well, come with me and let’s walk it through.

I began this post by looking up al words, intending to write a Wednesday Word Tangle about English words with Arabic roots. There are some crackers, too –

alembic, alcove, algebra, alcohol, alchemy, alkali, algorithm.

What a lovely list of interesting words – covering everything from chemistry (itself derived from alchemy), architecture, mathematics, distillation … Clever bunch, those ancient Arabic scholars. Then I stumbled across another word that I hadn’t realised was from Arabic at all and my mind got to drifting as if across a wide ocean …

… this word may derive from the Arabic al-qadus – a ‘machine for drawing water’

… which links to a British / American rock group, famous in the seventies for falling in love with each other, scrapping like Itchy and Scratchy, breaking up, writing heart-breaking songs about the whole affair, then making their now-ex sing them for years afterwards …

… which also links to an American prison situated in San Francisco Bay, now a tourist attraction, but once notorious for holding the most troublesome inmates, including Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and Robert Stroud – famous for his love of birds …

… which also links to an epic 19th century poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a seafarer who meets Death, loses his soul in a game of dice and is cursed to wander the earth, relating his tale of woe to all who will listen

Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.

… which also links to a brief sketch by Monty Python, with John Cleese in drag as a terrifyingly aggressive ice cream lady, selling the most unappetising of intermission snacks a cinema could possibly offer

Do you know what it is yet? Then allow me to explain …

Al-qadus relates to the word saqqa – the Arabic word for pelican. The word was jumbled with the Latin for white – albus – and somehow attributed to a totally different seabird – the


by English sailors.

The British / American rock band are Fleetwood Mac – they of Tusk, Chains and Go your Own Way fame. They also wrote an instrumental piece named after a sea bird with a giant wingspan …



The American prison is – of course – Alcatraz, named after the Spanish word for the pelicans that roosted there, derived from the Arabic al-ghattas (any pelicaniform diving bird), another possible root of ALBATROSS.

The poem is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and the seaman in question shoots an ALBATROSS, thus cursing the rest of his crew to endure unpleasant deaths and himself to wearing an unweildy, seabird necklace …

And Monty Python? Watch this.



With thanks and love as always to Kat, founder of W4W.




Love Nudge Competition. Monday: Attraction


Image: Pixabay

Good morning lovely people and welcome to the first day of the Love Nudge competition.

Each day up until and including Valentine’s Day, I’ll be posting a story prompt – a Love Nudge – to inspire you to write.

Today’s Love Nudge word is


So why not pop something in the comments box: poetry, prose, elegy, blurb for a cereal packet. Do as you feel.

Judging will start the week commencing 15/2/16 and I’ll announce the winner sometime after.

Take a look here for the full rules and happy writing.


Much love to all who have already shared and taken part in this prompt – you’re all wonderful people.


Beads beaming with her blood: the murder of Charlotte Dymond

Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

Yesterday, I posted my short story, Summon the Nine Dancers.

Now, when I wrote this, I didn’t make the link between it and The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond by Charles Causley. I should’ve done. You see, I studied Causley’s poem when I was at school and some of the phrases stayed with me for a long time.

Her Sunday beads among the reeds, Beaming with her blood and Come quiet now, you pretty poor boy and They sent him smartly up to heaven, And dropped him down to hell.

The poem relates pretty closely the murder of the real Charlotte in 1844. Matthew, her disabled lover, was eventually hanged for her death, due to some pretty damning physical evidence, though he claimed to be innocent of the crime.

Moorland, a flirty girl, a scorned lover and a knife … You can see why Causley and I were both drawn to the tragic story. The rhyming scheme may not be to everyones’ taste, and it’s a little melodramatic, I suppose, but haunting nontheless.

‘The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond’ by Charles Causley

It was a Sunday evening

And in the April rain

That Charlotte went from our house

And never came home again.


Her shawl of diamond redcloth,

She wore a yellow gown,

She carried the green gauze handkerchief

She bought in Bodmin town.


About her throat her necklace

And in her purse her pay:

The four silver shillings

She had at Lady Day.


In her purse four shillings

And in her purse her pride

As she walked out one evening

Her lover at her side.


Out beyond the marshes

Where the cattle stand,

With her crippled lover

Limping at her hand.


Charlotte walked with Matthew

Through the Sunday mist,

Never saw the razor

Waiting at his wrist.


Charlotte she was gentle

But they found her in the flood

Her Sunday beads among the reeds

Beaming with her blood.


Matthew, where is Charlotte,

And wherefore has she flown?

For you walked out together

And now are come alone.


Why do you not answer,

Stand silent as a tree,

Your Sunday worsted stockings

All muddied to the knee?


Why do you mend your breast-pleat

With a rusty needle’s thread

And fall with fears and silent tears

Upon your single bed?


Why do you sit so sadly

Your face the colour of clay

And with a green gauze handkerchief

Wipe the sour sweat away?


Has she gone to Blisland

To seek an easier place,

And is that why your eye won’t dry

And blinds your bleaching face?


Take me home! cried Charlotte,

‘I lie here in the pit!

A red rock rests upon my breasts

And my naked neck is split!’


Her skin was soft as sable,

Her eyes were wide as day,

Her hair was blacker than the bog

That licked her life away;


Her cheeks were made out of honey,

Her throat was made of flame

Where all around the razor

Had written its red name.


As Matthew turned at Plymouth

About the tilting Hoe,

The cold and cunning constable

Up to him did go:


‘I’ve come to take you, Matthew,

Unto the magistrate’s door.

Come quiet now, you pretty poor boy,

And you must know what for.’


‘She is as pure,’ cried Matthew,

‘As is the early dew,

Her only stain it is the pain

That round her neck I drew!


‘She is as guiltless as the day

She sprang forth from her mother.

The only sin upon her skin

Is that she loved another.’


They took him off to Bodmin,

They pulled the prison bell,

They sent him smartly up to heaven

And dropped him down to hell.


All through the granite kingdom

And on its travelling airs

Ask which of these two lovers

The most deserves your prayers.


And your steel heart search, Stranger,

That you may pause and pray

For lovers who come not to bed

Upon their wedding day,


But lie upon the moorland

Where stands the sacred snow

Above the breathing river,

And the salt sea-winds go.

If you’re ever in Bodmin in Cornwall, there is a memorial to Charlotte near the spot where her body was found and a courtroom re-enactment of Matthew’s trial at Bodmin’s Shire Hall