The Commode of Falan Birling–Guest Post by Tallis Steelyard

Photo Copyright: Jim Webster




Falan Birling was a man of very regular habits. Every morning his manservant Gorrak would light a fire in the grate in Birling’s bedroom and another in the separate privy which could only be accessed from the bedroom. So accustomed to Gorrak’s movements had Birling become over the years, that he slept peacefully through the whole process. He was awakened half an hour later when Gorrak returned bearing coffee (black, strong and bitter.) Gorrak would sit up, and listen to Gorrak’s account of the day so far whilst sipping the coffee with a hard lump of sugar clenched between his teeth.

His coffee finished he would hand the cup back to Gorrak, give his order for breakfast, and taking up that day’s copy of the Port Naain Intelligencer, would repair to his private privy. There, ensconced upon the commode, he would read the paper from cover to cover, occasionally taking notes.

Then suitably at ease and ready for the day, he would return to his bedroom. He’d dress himself in the clothes Gorrak had laid out for him and repair downstairs to his day-room where Gorrak would serve breakfast. Whilst he breakfasted one of the maids would service the commode and generally prepare it for the following morning.Unless you had seen it you could not credit what a triumph of the cabinetmaker’s art the commode was. Imagine, if you will, a high backed winged chair. The frame is Aruba wood, imported from the Perfected Empire in the distant east. It has the arms and legs carved to represent the legs of fabulous beasts, the claws are inlaid with ivory. The panels are porcelain, painted with rustic scenes. Finally, the commode pan was also porcelain, the outside decorated with complex patterns in blue and gold. Birling’s little eccentricity was that he has a selection of commode pans, all identical from the outside; but inside each had painted on the bottom of the pan the face of somebody who, over the years, had irritated him beyond reason.

It was Amado, one of the youngest of Madam Jeen Snellflort’s gentlemen adventurers who took on the project of acquiring the commode. A slight youth; some tended to dismiss him as too young to mix with the others. Those who did know him valued him for his charm, dexterity, and ability to accurately reproduce any handwriting given time to practice. He decided that his first task would be to locate the commode and then work out how to move it.

Even the most limited investigation threw up the first hurdle. There was only one key to the privy room, and it was held by either Birling himself, or Gorrak when Birling was not available to open the door. Also, it was widely held that the only people who ever went into that room were the maid who cleaned, Gorrak and of course Falan Birling himself. Amado thought about this for some time and realized that unless Gorrak or the maid swept the chimney, at some point a chimney sweep would have to go in. Thus through careful inquiries, he discovered who swept the chimneys for the Birling household and managed to get a job with them. Here his slim figure and dexterity were an advantage. By and large, most chimney sweeps in Port Naain eschew the use of small children for cleaning chimneys. They’re unreliable, being given to finding snug corners to sleep in, and will cheerfully come down after a nap and claim they’ve swept everything.
So after cleaning chimneys for a month (whilst he continued his quest to learn more about both Falan Birling and his commode), Amado struck lucky and they were summoned to clean the chimneys of the Birling mansion. With Gorrak in attendance, he was admitted to the Privy and even helped throw a dust sheet over the commode. He then climbed up the chimney, sweeping as he went. Finally, he came out of the top and found himself looking down along a ridge. If he followed the lee side of the ridge it would be entirely possible to climb down some ivy and into the back garden. He returned down the chimney, taking great care to sweep it as clean as possible.

A week later Falan Birling, taking Gorrak with him, traveled into Partann on business. Birling had made his money as a skinner, tanner, glover and breeches maker. Whilst he rarely made a pair of gloves now, having people to do that for him, he did travel widely to buy the quality of hides he wanted to tan. Indeed he wasn’t averse to picking up well-tanned leather as well. Such trips could take him away from Port Naain for two or three weeks. Amado decided to strike.
His plan was founded on the fact that the Privy would remain locked and inaccessible to anybody within the house. The master bedroom where Falan slept would also be locked, and it was unlikely anybody would enter it, other than to air it before their master arrived home. For three nights he worked harder than he’d ever thought possible. He would make up a bundle of sawn timber. With it over this shoulder, he would climb up onto the Birling mansion roof and then proceed to ferry it down the chimney. This had to be done a few pieces at a time, with immense care taken to ensure that the wood stayed clean and he didn’t bring soot down with him.

I confess that I marvel at his achievement. He had to manage a long and almost vertical climb, up a chimney not much wider than his shoulders. Obviously when on the roof he could show no light. Then within the chimney itself, he had to work in almost total darkness, save for two small lanterns planted carefully on ledges left for that purpose so that chimney sweeps could work. All the while he had to transport his planks, wrapped to protect them from soot, in such a way as they didn’t knock on the walls. This tapping would be audible around the house as it was carried in the stonework.Once the wood was in place, he started phase two of his plan. There was no way he could carry the commode out up the chimney. His chances of smuggling it out down the stairs on his own were limited. It would take at least four men to carry it safely through the house. So he built a crate round it, padding it well with old bed linen, and with each commode pan boxed separately within the main crate. Again the problems were immense. First, he hung a curtain over the privy door to stop light leaking out around the edges and into the master bedroom. Then he had to do something to muffle the sound of hammering. The last thing he wanted was for the staff to become suspicious. Finally, when the crate was assembled and everything was solidly packed and wouldn’t move, he set to work on the privy door lock.

Actually, this was comparatively easy to deal with. Because he was already on the inside, he merely had to unscrew the lock mechanism from the door and then open the door. Using to lengths of round rod as rollers, Amado dragged the crate into the bedroom. Given his obsession with silence, this took up a good part of the night. Finally, that done, he went back into the privy, fastening the lock back onto the door. He then climbed out via the chimney for what he hoped would be the last time.

It was now his other skills came into play. Whilst in the bedroom he’d acquired an old volume of Falan Birling’s journal from some years previously. Using this as his guide he mastered Falan’s handwriting style. That done he wrote two letters from Falan. The first was to his Major Domo, explaining that he wanted the crate in his bedroom sent south into Partann. He also explained that he was going to ask Mythop Brothers, Carters, to collect it. He also wrote to Mythop Brothers to inform them that he had a crate he wanted taking from his house to a barge waiting on Stonecutter Wharf.

From that point on Amado was almost unnerved at how smoothly things went. He watched from a pavement café as the cart arrived to collect the crate. It was obviously expected and the cart was taken round to the back of the house. It reappeared an hour later with the crate sitting on it. At this point, Amado made his own way to Stonecutter Wharf to get there before the cart. When it arrived he watched the carters load it onto the barge Vilan’s Hulk. The Hulk took it across the river to Roskadil. Herhor who paid over a considerable quantity of cash. Whilst Madam Jeen was investing it for her hospital, the collector celebrated his acquisition by purchasing another commode pan. This was identical to the others, save that on the bottom of it one could see the face of Falan Birling.













The Picture of Unter Judd – Tallis Steelyard Sedan Chair Caper Book Tour

Another interesting and amusing tale by Tallis Steelyard and penned by Jim Webster.

Annette Rochelle Aben

The Picture of Unter Judd
Madam Jeen Snellflort’s gentlemen adventurers set themselves high standards. They understood that any wandering thug with a big stick could steal something. For them, the mark of a gentleman adventurer was that nobody could pin the crime on them. One of them, Bagwis, decided he would raise his game and would try to steal the picture of Unter Judd, the first chair of the Council of Sinecurists, without anybody realising the painting had gone.
The painting hang hung on the back wall of the Grand Sinecurists Dining Room. Indeed old Unter Judd had, metaphorically at least, stared down upon the acquisition of Lady Edan’s fan. Given that in his time Unter had been a pirate and condottieri it is even possible he approved of the whole episode.
Bagwis always posed as an artist. Although not really burly enough to be a sculptor, he was a…

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Snow Job

Wise and hilarious words by Russell. He has a new book out, “One Idiot Short of a Village” available on Amazon.

What's So Funny?

Recently, I’ve started humming a lot. Connie says I didn’t do that before my hearing loss accident. She did some research on the intranet and evidently there’s a name for my condition; Musical Ear Syndrome.

Some people hear Symphonies, Rock & Roll, Country, or Gospel. So far, there are no reports of people hearing Rap (that would be a living hell). While my condition may be a little annoying to others, they can always change the channel just by giving my ear a twist.

If you’re new to Friday Flash Fiction, the little keyboard tap dancer who hosts our 100-word ditties is Curly Templestein Wisoff-Fields. If you’d like to participate in this exercise of madness, head over to her blog for step-by-step instructions. To view the ensemble of practicing fic-titioners in the writers in FFF Hollywood Squares Authors Block click here.

copyright – Dale Rogerson

One advantage of…

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Our Review of Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan Chair Caper by Jim Webster @JimWebster6

Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan Chair Caper by Jim Webster

anita dawes and jaye marie

Today, we are hosting Jim Webster’s Book Tour, to spread the word about his newest story, Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan Chair Caper.

All of Jim’s stories are excellent reads, and this one is is absolutely hilarious and we urge everyone to read it. Not enough laughter in the world lately!

Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan chair caper.jpg

Amazon Book Link:

Rather than his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with one gripping adventure. A tale of adventure, duplicity and gentility. Why does an otherwise respectable lady have a pair of sedan chair bearers hidden in her spare bedroom? Why was the middle-aged usurer brandishing an axe? Can a gangster’s moll be accepted into polite society? Answer these questions and more as Tallis Steelyard ventures unwillingly into the seedy world of respectable ladies who love of sedan chair racing.

Our Review

I discovered that the sedan chair was named after the town of…

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Book Launch! Tallis Steelyard and the sedan chair caper – Jim Webster #Kindle

The book launch of Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan Chair Caper

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Port Naain has a long and convoluted history with the noble sport of sedan chair racing. Doubtless there are more tales to be told than are suitable in mixed company… but if anyone can tell them, it is Tallis Steelyard. One such tale is that of the Sedan Chair Caper …a heroic quest instigated by Madam Jeen Snellflort.

I am honoured to open the Tallis’ tour of the blogosphere to promote his new book with the first chapter of a gripping adventure. Further episodes with be published here:

Tuesday 13th,  Lady Edan’s Fan – Anita Dawes and Jaye Marie

Wednesday 14th The Picture of Unter Judd – Annette Rochelle Aben

Thursday 15th The clockwork automaton of Thannial Jett – Bridges Burning

Friday 16th The commode of Falan Birling – Musings On Life & Experience

Finishing on Saturday 17th with The Luck of Bedag Keep – Chris the Story Reading Ape 

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ICE Given G0-Ahead To Arrest, Detain And Deport Non-Criminals / Pillars Of Communities

What is going on in the U.S. these days? What kind of a country have we turned into?

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of kirstjen nielsen Kirstjen Nielsen, with Gen. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, her former boss

The below details tell a tale of how the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been directing its ICE agents to detain for deportation good men and women who are pillars of their community as well as criminals in order to meet a numbers goal as set by the current Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen,  the hand picked replacement by her former boss and hard line anti-immigration proponent, the president’s current Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

Matthew Albence, the top official in the DHS agency’s immigration enforcement division,  describes the administration’s goal as simply restoring the rule of law. That’s what Nazis said at Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946.

What has been happening is nothing short of evil. If this is the way Republicans want to win in the upcoming 2018 November mid-term elections, then…

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Top Ten Gifts Not to Give on Valentine’s Day

A great Valentine’s Day don’t give list from John W. Howell.

Fiction Favorites

Ten things not to do on Valentines Day

The inspiration for this list was an inquiry on Google asking for the top ten gifts given on Valentine’s day. There are lovely things passed from one to the other on the Hallmark occasion. There are also some significant landmines waiting for the unsuspecting or clueless gift giver. Here are just ten.

10 On Valentine’s Day, do not give your love a message ball foot massager. If you do at best, your concern for the treatment of Plantar Fasciitis will be noticed. At worst, the hard rubber ball can double as a weapon in the wrong hands. (I think the concern for health now turns to you, Dalziel. That lump looks pretty bad. Follow this pen with your eyes.)

9 On Valentine’s Day, do not give your love a thumbs up cell phone holder. If you do, at best the question will come up, “How many times do I need to set…

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The History of sedan chair racing in Port Naain

Another amusing tale from Tallis Steelyard.

Tallis Steelyard

The Finding of Moses by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

A number of people have asked me about sedan chairs and tradition we have in Port Naain of racing them. Now it is doubtless possible to go into great detail about this. Whilst not myself an aficionado of the sport I know plenty who are, and I could doubtless thrill you with the names of winning pairs, their times over fixed distances and all that sort of thing. But frankly it would bore me to write it.

Still I do see the need to give an overview and so I shall attempt instead to do that. After some discussion with those ladies who know these things I think I can say that it was Lady Balat who made the sedan chair respectable. Now to be fair, Lady Balat never owned one and almost certainly never travelled in one. She went everywhere by palanquin. Not only that but her conveyance was…

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