Posted in Short Stories

The Lone Hawthorn Tree

We do not shout at the hawthorn tree,
That which stands alone in the middle of the path.
The path came after the tree, they say; wise men made sure none cut it down,
Rather, they built the path around it, and left it due recompense for the imposition.
The hawthorn tree is the peace-keeper, the steady presence,
To lose it would be a bitter blow, for hot-heads need little reason and less excuse.
Do not stand long, by the hawthorn tree, do not bring notice upon yourself.
Do not sit beneath it, no matter how the rain pours, or the wind blows,
It is not for your shelter that it stands.

The warring clans of Fae meet there,
A sacred place where none may fight.
It is there where peace is brokered at last,
Paid for by the broken bodies of fallen fairies,
Shattered bodies of creatures from an Other World,
Bought with the wretched tears of the grieving,
For how much worse is loss to those who do not age?
At long last, a debt paid in blood, a lasting agreement which says,
‘Enough.’

But if the hawthorn were to no longer stand,
Where then shall peace be made at last?
Where shall the queens entreat their lords to call a halt,
And say that the times comes for something new?
Peace is not spoken of at wells,
Where echoes steal the words away and drown them.
Peace is not whispered upon the heath,
Where the wind may freeze the tongue,
And snatch the chance for change away from reach.

They say an oath sworn beneath to bows of the hawthorn tree
Cannot be broken, nor taken back.
They say to approach it upon the Death Day
Is to hear it groan with remembered pain.
When all fruit fails, welcome the haws,
The hope and healing springs forth for the faithful,
The careful keepers, the respectful bearers.
Do not fear the thorns, if your heart is pure,
Only grave-wights and wicked things are destroyed by its prick.

So the hawthorn tree must stand,
Stand for peace from forces greater than our own,
Stand and grow strong, strong as our own hopes for peace.
A lone body, with no voice,
But an ever-ready ear, waiting just to listen.
Ready to hear that first and final word,
‘Enough.’
Do not disturb the peace of the hawthorn,
Do not raise your voice.

Never tried free-form poetry before, but I got a flash of inspiration and I wanted to share! Always good to try out new things, no?


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Tread Carefully…

Tread carefully, when you walk upon Our Land, my boy. Stay your step and take that second thought. We will wait here in the air long after you cease to breathe it, and our roots are nourished by your blood and bone. You have so much of both, my boy, do you really wish to give it to us?

Tread carefully, when you approach the Stones. Your people think of stones with graves, and that is for good reason. You are filled up with resources, and we can use every inch of you for something. You bring nothing of value save yourself. Do you mean to offer it up to us?

Tread carefully, my boy, and close the Gate up fast. The Guardsmen are sleeping and many of us have but waited long for this moment. We do not sleep, we do not dream, we do not hope. We only wait and watch and when a weakness is found, we strike it. Others should not have to suffer for the foolishness which is all your own, do you not think? Close the gate behind you, if tread beyond it you must…

Tread carefully, your people say that grass is made of blades, and you should listen to your elders, boy. Our fruits are laced with poisons sweet, our branches spiked with thorns. Your feet will bleed and your tears will only replenish our thirst, and you cannot afford to make us stronger. You will only weaken as we grow, and for everything we feed you, we will take back a thousand-fold. How much can you lose?

Tread carefully, for see how the storm-clouds gather above? The Huntsman rides this night, and his hounds have gone too long without feasting. The wind carries with it the sound of his Horn, and the cheers of his Riders break the night. Maybe you shall be fast and clever, able to evade them long enough they will take you for their one of their own, but you are so slow, so ill-used to these games, my boy, it is far more likely still that you shall provide them their sport in other ways. How do you think you shall taste to them when they catch you?

Tread carefully, when you think to follow the Hidden Path. It was hidden for a reason and wiser folk than your foolish young spirit learned the lessons to avoid it. Its twists and turns are beyond your mind’s capacity to hold firm, and you will not enjoy losing your grip on the world’s truths… nor on your own self. It is such a pretty, pretty mind, my boy, but it will be prettier still when it shatters into so many brilliant fragments…

Tread carefully, when you think to enter the Wilds and seek your fortune therein. You are a Tamer at heart, and the Wilds have no interest in buying what you sell. Tame things live lesser lives, shorter ones, Wild lives race along a razor’s edge and are all the more certain for it. You think to explore, but you wish to take with you more than memories and pictures and all things come at a cost. We do not give you of ourselves without consuming all that we can from you first…

Tread carefully, when you feel the Watcher’s gaze. It is not your imagination, for you cannot think of anything so terrible as Them shall be when they catch you. No, you cannot outrun them, nor outwit them. They were tearing apart those such as you long before even the language you think in. They will have their rightful prey when it wanders so willing into their den…

Tread carefully, you were not invited here. You were not wanted, and you were not sought out. You brought yourself, and that is an offering to the hungry. You are softer than you think, and know less than you ought. You are a candle trying to match itself to a forest fire.

It is not a contest.

Won’t you turn back, my boy, before you tread further? Before you become Ours, for ill or for worse…


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Before you ‘Rewrite’ the Old Stories, Maybe Think About What They Were Saying…

It’s been fashionable for several decades now (and goodness, do I feel old remembering how long I’ve been engaging with the trend…) for us all to rewrite ‘classic’ stories, fairytales, folktales, well-known stories which are now helpfully just out of copyright limitations…

The list goes on.

And exploring these stories from different perspectives is always worth doing, but I can’t help thinking that we often miss the point of these old stories, just a little. The older stories are, the more the characters themselves don’t matter, so much as the theme and message of the plot. So maybe ‘The Prince’ doesn’t have much personality, maybe ‘The Evil Wizard’ doesn’t have a monologue exploring his in-depth motivations. But that wasn’t ever the point, was it? The point was what the story itself was trying to say. What we took away from it all, and kept with us for years and remembered in the backs of our minds, quietly shaping the people we would grow to become…

We talk a lot about ‘modernizing’ old stories, without ever stopping to think about how any story which has survived – which has made its way down throughout centuries and centuries, travelling miles and across kingdoms and continents – that story has resonated through so much time and space for a reason.

Because we will never, really, as people change very much. We still need warmth, and food, and shelter. We make friendships and fall in love – and out of it again – and argue and upset people and seek forgiveness, and demand justice. We deal with kind strangers still, when we are lucky, and have awful people try to take advantage of our weaknesses when they can. We put our trust in each other, and lend each other a hand, and try to defend each other when they need help.

The invention of cars and wireless technology and stainless steel and sliced bread didn’t change who we all were as people, not in our essentials. Oh, we may have shed light into the shadows and shown that the monsters we believed lived out in the swamps and marshes are less easy to find than we might have thought, but we never had to look all that far to find cruel monsters wearing our own faces, did we? And we forget this at our peril.

The lessons our foremothers thought were important enough to teach us, wise as they were to teach those lessons in a form which would stick with us longer than books hold their ink, or stones hold their scratches, or film holds its celluloid memories… Those lessons are still important to us all. And if we think we are too good for them, too modern, too clever, too far removed from the lives we had lived for centuries… well, it only ever seems to become more clear why those lessons had to be taught, as we learn them all over again, the hard way.

We didn’t stop living in communities, we just stopped caring for them. We didn’t defeat the tyrants, we just assumed they’d learned their lessons. We didn’t defeat hunger, and sickness, and loneliness, and grief, we just stopped talking about them and helping each other through them.

And are we any happier for that?

So much as we remembered that bread is easy to make in theory, but takes practice to make well; as we remembered that our loved ones might be loud, but we miss them when they fall silent; as we remembered that we actually really do like to sing and dance (even if we aren’t very good at it), that stories make the long days and nights go a heck of a lot faster, that making things with our own hands can be relaxing and helpful to us, as well as fun…

Let us go through some of the common themes and lessons from the stories we were once told, handed down to us from our ancestors, which not even pain and death and distance could take from us, and which are still patiently waiting for us to remember once more…

Don’t be rude to people as your default. 

We’ve all seen it, even if we’re sure that we’ve never done it ourselves, never opened our mouths and said something cruel to some stranger we were never going to see again. It doesn’t matter. It’s not a reflection of who we really are, is it? It doesn’t mean anything.

Maybe it’s a bad day. Maybe you didn’t mean it how it came out. Maybe you say that to someone else all the time and they don’t make a stink about it.

And so it’s easy to sympathize with the character who opens their mouth and ends up on the wrong end of a curse, or has an endless quest ahead of them, or some impossible task which they must now defeat. After all, it’s not like they did anything wrong is it?

But let’s be honest here, in this scenario, in this moment, you made the decision to be rude to that stranger because you thought you could do so and get away with it. If you’d known there would be consequences afterwards, well… then you wouldn’t have done it, would you? But there’s the thing about consequences, isn’t it? Maybe try to make a little kindness be your default and see if that works out better for you next time.

Don’t put yourself forward for skills you don’t have, and don’t let other people do that for you either. Sooner or later, you’re gonna be taken seriously, and then how are you going to do it?

Remember the stories which begin with someone telling a few tall tales? ‘My daughter can spin wheat into gold.’ ‘I can run faster than even the wind.’

There’s a lot of career advice out there about making up a skillset for a job. Stretching the truth a little. No one has to know, do they? It’s easy to think that you’ll get away with these things in an age of Google, sure, but there are still expectations to manage, so don’t just think you can bluff your way through everything, or attempt the impossible without it falling through on you. No, you can’t take this project from first draft to ‘ready to publish’ in a few hours, no matter how much coffee you drink. No, you can’t make nine elaborate theatre costumes in one weekend all by yourself, especially without all the measurements. You are human, and you are allowed to acknowledge that, and if The Plan rests entirely on you suddenly being Superhuman, then it was a bad plan all along.

And you will be the one to pay the price, if you allow someone to think otherwise. There’s no shame in not being able to perform the Labours of Hercules, and you will not achieve god-hood if you try. You just end up tired and frustrated and outfaced by the scale of the problem before you.

The Selfish Die, Cold and Alone. And No One Mourned Them.

I know we like to say that the victory write history, and that’s often true. But people have longer memories than they are sometimes given credit for and they will remember. The dead do not bury themselves, after all, and the people who only know how to take will find themselves short on options when their own hour of need comes knocking.

You cannot eat gold, nor burn it, and no matter how heavily gilded your palace, it will be awfully echoing and empty without friends to share it with. You can buy sycophants, but you will tire of their empty smiles soon enough, and no matter how you plead that is all you will get from them.

‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Don’t You Dare Wish For Better.’ It Means ‘Everything Has A Cost, Choose Your Wishes Wisely’

There’s been a bit of a vogue to misinterpret this one, but I think we’re in the ideal time to recognize what our forebears had already learned the hard way. Everything comes with a cost, and if you don’t know about it up-front then you sure will have to grapple with it after the fact.

Maybe you wished for the huge, varied wardrobes of clothes you saw on tv and instagram, but now you know about the environmental and human cost of fast fashion and you have a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe you wanted a dog or cat for cuddles, but it turns out that living beings which you are responsible for take a lot of time and energy and care and cash, and a cat can live for fifteen years or more. Maybe you wanted that promotion, but you’ve just realized that you were working so many Saturdays and evenings that you’ve not seen your friends in nine months and some of them have stopped calling. Maybe you really like those restaurants that your SO can’t eat in, but you didn’t want to research alternatives and now you just don’t seem to go out together so much.

Making a decision isn’t about having no cons to weigh against the pros, but rather about thinking carefully about whether the pros outweigh the cons after all, and by how much. And you can’t avoid the cons by not reading the small print or doing a bit of research; they always find their way to you, sooner or later. There are no vacuums outside of labs, you are not an island, and sometimes getting what you want means thinking about how it affects other people before you do it.

And who knows? There might be a better way forward if you only look for it.

You are never going to beat Death forever, and trying makes you miserable.

One thing that we keep coming back to as a society time and time again is that it is the quality not the quantity of our years that matters most. Laughter might not be easy to find, but it’s one of the last things on Earth that’s free, so help yourself and share it around. Ditto hugs, when we can and when they are welcomed. You’re not immortal, and neither is anyone else, so don’t put off loving them until later, ok?

No one is too big, too powerful, too rich, too scary that they cannot be brought down in the end.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year.

But one day.

If you fear that, then you know which role you are playing in this tale, and maybe it’s time to rethink a few things.

The ‘lone hero’ who succeeded actually had a whole team behind him. The elder brother who went off on his own didn’t make it.

I know the standard Hollywood film script likes to focus on one person for a story, and framing is important, but remember how the younger brother takes the time to talk to the people around him? To ask them questions, to listen when they give him advice, to rely upon the kindness of others, and repay them that kindness back in full or fuller in his own turn? And he succeeded in his quest, won the day, and rode home victorious with a bonus prize of cool new friends he gets to proudly introduce to everyone.

Well, the older brother didn’t, did he? He just strode off, confident in his own strength, his own wisdom and his own weapons. And sometimes his little brother rescues him, but others he does not.

One man cannot slay the dragon; he needs the blacksmith who lent him a sword after he fixed the roof; he needs the sleeping herbs offered by the old lady he helped gather firewood for; he needs the words of wisdom from the little boy he pulled out of the mud, handed along from his grandfather. Nothing is accomplished by one man alone. Acknowledge the community effort for what it is. Nothing is achieved except when it is attempted together.

If the task is impossible, you’ve not got enough hands to help you.

Can you sort through the lentils and rice grains all alone? No you cannot. You need your army of ant-friends. Can you fill up the storeroom with nuts in an hour? No, you need your squirrel-helpers. Can you stuff a thousand pillows with feathers in a night? Nope, it’s the mice’s time to shine and come to the rescue, isn’t it?

We’re a communal species, no matter what some twit with a neck-beard might say. We survive by working together. We instinctively seek each other out. We are miserable when we’re alone. Ask for help honestly, and be willing to give it in return. No one remembers when the job which was attempted alone failed, they celebrate when it was successfully completed by a team. Just remember to have plenty of tea and cake on hand while you work!

Lying is a risky way to get what you want. Some people might be fooled, but others will not.

“Tell me which of these is your lost axe? The one of gold, the one of silver, or the one of iron.” Hmmm…

Sometimes people are asking you a question they already know the answer to, and are letting you dig that grave for yourself. Oh, bluffing and cleverness are valuable skills, and they are important skills to learn, but use them carefully. If you’re asked a straight question, a straight answer is a lot easier to remember and live with, and being caught out in a lie is never going to go well.

Do what you can, even if it doesn’t seem like much.

In a world filled with news articles full of people sitting on mountains of resources handing out scraps, it’s easy to think that there is nothing you – who has so much less already – can do, nothing that really matters anyway. But sometimes the small gestures matter most.

Sometimes your simple kindness can make the big difference someone needed. Maybe bringing the lady at work you know is just really struggling right now a drink and a biscuit isn’t going to solve her problems, but she’ll be delighted to know someone noticed. Maybe you can’t help with someone’s over-filled desk, but telling them that they’re doing an awesome job even if no one else acknowledges it will give them a boost. Maybe telling that jerk on the bus harassing that man where precisely he can get off isn’t going to help his victim with all the times he’s going to have to deal with it this week. But he’ll know that at least one time he wasn’t alone and someone was prepared to stand up with him.

Have faith that you are vital and worthwhile, and that your genuine kindness and willingness to listen and reach out will be important to the person who needed it. Don’t hold back. Share what you can and remember that we all need that shoulder to lean on, and your shoulders are just as good as anyone else’s.


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That Time When No One Talks About The Unnamed Guardian…

For those of you who haven’t been to Oxford before, this is Oxford’s train station…

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It’s not the most glamorous place in the world is it? I remember hearing when I first moved down here that the town wasn’t at all keen on this whole ‘train’ idea, and many people were sure it wouldn’t catch on at all. So rather than build a nice swanky train station like London has in spades or York, they just sort of… shoved it out onto what was at that time the outskirts (ha! Oh, urban sprawl, you aggressive weed…)

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And for a long time I sort of believed this story too…

However!

No more shall we calmly accept this mundane tale! No indeed! We shall instead acknowledge the battle of a brave soul who has for so long gone unrecognised!

For if you go to Oxford’s train station, and you walk into the main hall and look up, you will see a small figure, sitting above the main doors…

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She’s only small, and you can easily miss her, but there she is… the Guardian.

There she sits, watching over us all. No matter the season, the time, or the weather, she remains at her post through it all, unstinting in her duty of care.

If you ask a member of the station team, you may be given a name for her. But if you ask more than one for her name, you will find that you get a different name every time. This is only sensible, I suppose, for Names are Important, as we have discussed here before.

Now you may say to me, ‘Cameron. You’re being ridiculous. She’s a plastic owl to ward off a few pigeons; this isn’t a big deal.’

But that’s where you’re wrong!

For one thing, if she were there to simply ward off a few pigeons, she’d be hilariously bad at it! I didn’t actually manage to get a photo of the feathered terrors perching on top of our girl, contrary creatures that they are, but I assure you that there were plenty of them doing so! And the good people of Oxford train station wouldn’t keep her around if she didn’t function! What do you think she is? One of our ticket barriers?

So she must be there to ward off another threat, a bigger threat than mere pigeons…

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Now you might wonder to yourself, what possible dangers are there hanging around at train stations, but I urge you to remember your folklore for a moment…

What are the places you must be most careful of, the places where a moment of unwary complacency can cost you all that you hold dear?

Graveyards, yes, ruins and standing stones, sure, but also? Crossroads.

Nothing good comes of being too relaxed by a crossroads, does it?

And what are train stations but big, modern crossroads? Oh, sure we don’t tend to bury our unquiet dead there, but train stations are where large groups of strangers are pressed closely together, no one looks too hard at another’s eyes, nor do we count their fingers. Everyone’s in a hurry, no time to ask enough questions, lots of quick decisions being made. And then we’re off! Never looking back, never sure who the person we just spoke to was or whence they came…

Train stations might fool you with their florescent lighting and their pop-up coffee shops, but think about it even a little and suddenly they look much more Otherworldly, no?

But fear not!

For at Oxford, there is one who stands guard against the Lord and Ladies of the Otherworld! The silent sentinel figure of the owl…

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Photo by Agto Nugroho on Unsplash

She is an apt choice in many ways. In the North of England, my own place of origin, it is said to be good luck to see an owl, and if you’re are at either the beginning or the end of a long train journey then I can assure you that you’ll take any piece of good luck you can find!

On a less … owl-friendly note, owls have long been associated with evil and wickedness owing to their nocturnal habits and liking for the quiet of graveyards and ruins. In Kent it was said that the owl kept to the nighttime hours because she had once won first prize in the animal kingdom’s beauty competition and the jealous losers punished her by only allowing her to come out at night. Poor love.

More to our purposes here, since the early Roman times and continuing right up and into the 19th Century, it was considered that nailing a dead owl to the door of a house or barn would ward off evil and ill-fortune (I think out of the idea that an owl caused the ill-fortune so an owl could jolly well take it away again.) And while that’s clearly awful and you should never do such a thing to the noble and majestic owl, a plastic owl is a perfect modern replacement, don’t you think? Can’t get more dead than being made of plastic now, can you?

All around the world, owls are often credited with powers of prophecy, wisdom and being the messengers between this world and … others. I can certainly think of no better guard against the inherent evil of public transport terminals than our dear Oxford Owl! She’ll see through any mischievous being who tries their luck on the unwary, that’s for sure! And any who have seen the talons and beaks of an owl will know that her vengeance will be both swift and vicious indeed!

So when you next pass through Oxford’s train station, look up on your way out and tip your hat to our noble guardian. She’s doing a hard and thankless job up there, but we are all safer for her presence.

Does your local train station have a guardian? What is it? As I travel around the country in the coming year I’ll keep an eye out myself…

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Lloyds of London, the Scottish Natural Heritage and the Loch Ness Monster…

Or: The Magic That Walks Among Us – Part 2

Ch.20 - The Magic that Walks Among Us

Author’s Note: This post was started months and months ago, and then ended up getting left on the wayside as I got tied up in other things. Now it has become more topical in the daftest, worst possible way, I thought I’d come back and finish it…

OK, so!

Ages ago I did a post on real-life experiences with magic, otherwise known as That One Time the city of Carlisle accidentally cursed itself and everyone just had to deal with it.

At the time of writing, I wasn’t really planning on turning it into a series at all, but then I stumbled upon a couple of comments on an internet thread, and did a bit more digging and low and behold I have another case study for us all to enjoy!

As writers, especially fantasy or science-fiction writers, we like to imagine that the discovery of a real-life example of magic would throw our whole world into turmoil. It would be a sensation! It would revolutionise everything!

For example, imagine some nice ordinary angler was fishing away, minding their own business, on the banks of the Loch Ness, in Scotland? And after a long day of not much happening – which I understand can happen a lot in fishing? – at last! There is a nibble on their line! And then there is an enormous tug! And another one! And finally with a great heave, up comes …

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The Loch Ness Monster!

Now, after what I assume must have been a … somewhat fraught few minutes, in which the angler in question apparently develops the kind of Herculean muscles necessary to haul up something of the estimated size and weight of ol’ Nessie, well… What happens next?

I mean, after he rings his wife up and panics to her, and she asks him if he’s been drinking again, and he finally assures her, presumably through a lot of camera phone photos that he really does have Nessie on the shore with him and she panics and all that.

What next?

Actually, it turns out, what comes next is that some lovely people from the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Department will be wanting to have a Conversation with our unlucky angler immediately. It would also mean that this heroic, lone office that actually has it’s paperwork in order would swoop in to finally make use of those forms they’ve been sitting on for a while.

Because of course the first thing on the agenda is ‘Do we have the forms correctly filled out yet?’

Real life, it seems, has no time for our sense of dramatic tension. Go figure.

However, it does mean that we must now take a moment to sit down and truly appreciate the fact that back in 2001, during a period of very heightened interest in Nessie and the catching thereof, the heroes over at SNH sat down in a serious office, in their serious grown-up suits and seriously asked the question: “Wait. What if someone actually catches the old girl?”

Yes. That happened.

In fact, this has actually happened a few times over the course of recent history, and friends, I cannot tell you how much every single one of these conversations delights me!

NessieWay back in 1971, Cutty Sark (the whiskey manufacturer, not the boat) offered an award of one million pounds (because of course that’s the figure you’d pluck from the air as a reward) to anyone who could capture the Loch Ness Monster. But, and I can’t imagine why or how this happened, they began to get cold feet. Because I guess in the 1970’s it was starting to look like this might actually happen?

In fairness, back in the 1970’s there had been a lot, and I do mean a lot of interest, and there were a huge number of sightings coming in every year, and a (excuse the pun) boat-load of scientific expeditions trying to find any trace of Nessie they could find. Monster-hunter, the late Robert Rines, took an underwater photo (right) deemed so convincing that scientists at Harvard and the Smithsonian Institution expressed genuine and serious interest. (It was later connected to a strobe light, I think, and thus disqualified.)

So I suppose that at the time, it might have looked like there was a very good chance that the whiskey-men would have to actually stump up some serious cash any day now.

And that clearly hadn’t been the plan.

So the nice people at Cutty Sark asked Lloyds of London, the insurance people, to underwrite the contest. The insurance company actually agreed to this, but only on the condition that it would get to keep Nessie.

Yes, Lloyds of London wanted to keep Nessie.

I have… a few questions, number one being: What on Earth was Lloyds of London going to do with their very own folkloric sea-monster?!

Where would they even put it? Did they want her alive? Was an intern going to have to feed her and take her for walks, no swims? Were they going to feed under-performing managers to her?

Lloyds Nessie NewsprintNow, in fairness, initially Lloyds had apparently turned the Cutty Sark people down. Not, I  feel I should stress here, because someone in the board room said ‘Hey, Mike? This seems a little silly, and all. Maybe we have better things to do around here?’

Please!

Nope, apparently they also considered that the risk that they would have to pay out on this thing to be “too great.”

Yes.

People who were around in the 1970’s? Your world sounds like it was amazing, and I would almost like to move there…

Anyway, in true British fashion, Lloyds got called chickens for not wanting to stump up the cash on the off-chance of finding Nessie, and Lloyds said ‘What the heck? Let’s go for this crazy scheme.’ Again, the 1970’s sound like they were a whole fantasy novel on their own, and I’m mad I didn’t get to write it…

If you’re curious, the contract apparently went as follows:

“As far as this insurance is concerned, the Loch Ness Monster shall be deemed to be:

  1. In excess of 20 feet in length.
  2. Acceptable as the Loch Ness Monster to the curators of the Natural History Museum, London.

In the event of loss hereunder, the monster shall become the property of the underwriters hereon.”

Which also means that another development in this – frankly amazing – story would have been that some unsuspecting researcher in the Natural History Museum could have one day, out of the blue, received the single greatest phone call of their life. Again, just picture the scene!Ch.24 Loch Ness Monster

“Hello?”
“Ah, good morning, are you the person to speak to about sea-reptiles?”
“Yes, how can I help?”
“Oh good! We need you to come and identify Nessie for us.”
“…What?”
“It’s Lloyds of London calling.”
“This explains absolutely nothing, but thank you.”

Nowadays, thankfully, the question of what on earth do you do with the Loch Ness Monster once you’ve gone and caught her has been nicely cleared up by those lovely people over at SNH. There is, as is the way with government, a code of practice all drawn up to offer protection to any new species found in the loch, including a monster. It stipulates that a DNA sample should be taken from any new creature, and then it should be promptly and carefully released back into the loch.

Put that thing back where it came from or so help me, indeed.

So … Sorry, Lloyds of London, no pet sea-monster for you…

In the event that you feared that the insurance companies of the world have settled down about Nessie though, I am happy to report that a touch of magic still remains for us all.

Back in 2005, when Scotland’s biggest triathlon was happening in and around Loch Ness, the swimmers were all insured, for again no less than £1 million, per swimmer, against being bitten by the Loch Ness Monster. You know… Just in case?

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