Burlesque, a show unlike any other…

Burlesque‘ is often thought of as an excuse for men to ogle women who take their clothes of behind a fan of feathers.  In fact, this image of the art form has brought cries of censorship where town councils have banned shows as being demeaning to women.

I read an article based on the book ‘Burlesque and the Art of the Tease‘ by Dita Von Teese, (possibly the world’s most prominent current ‘Burlesquer’), published in The Independant newspaper – not often I find something interesting in there… – telling the history of Burlesque.  She follows its growth from music-hall’s Lydia Thompson through Gypsy Rose Lee to today’s celebrated yet controversial shows.

She says Aristophanes, the ancient Grecian playwright who penned Lysistrata was the original father of the ‘idea’.  In this play, the women of the town hold back their ‘sexual services’ from their husbands until they agree to bring an end to the war that’s raging.  I saw a performance of the Germaine Greer adaptation of the story recently.  Far from the bawdy comedy my wife and I expected,  we were, unfortunately, ‘treated’ to something far more serious and talky, with a couple of bits of crude humour.  The funniest part of the night was when the woman in front of us caught her glass of wine in her bracelet and spilled it over her.  Yes, I may have laughed at her misfortune, but her and her group did not know the meaning of the word ‘whisper’, so I couldn’t be too apologetic for that.


Still, I can see where she’s coming from (Dita Von Teese, not the woman with the Cleopatra inclinations – OK, Cleopatra supposedly bathed in milk but you get my drift).  Burlesque is more about titillation, humour and entertainment than it is about sex and degradation.


I’ve not seen the Cher/Christina Aguilera film and have only seen parts of Moulin Rouge.  I haven’t watched a Burlesque show on TV or YouTube and have only seen snippets from programs that have featured Miss Von Teese.  I have no idea, therefore, if the show I was going to see would be ‘real’ Burlesque or a version of, or something far remote.  I was excited to see, though.


The word ‘Burlesque’ actually derives from the Italian ‘burla‘, meaning ‘joke’ or ‘mockery’.  As I discovered on Saturday night, this is a very fitting name.

The Yardbirds, in Grimsby, is a rock club.  It’s run by the Warlocks, a ‘bikers gang’.  It’s also one of my favourite pubs and venues for music.  My wife and I both love it there.  Yes, it’s dark and yes it’s not overly big, but it is most definitely a great place for a night out.


One thing you can pretty much guarantee is a complete lack of trouble on a night out there.  The site of the ‘burly bikers’ behind the bar or collecting glasses – some of the friendliest staff you’re likely to meet on a night out – ensures no-one will cause any problems.  As such, every person in there feels comfortable.  As there’s a very diverse range of music played, a host of differing generations can be seen on a single night – all mingling together for one reason; to enjoy themselves.


I’ve been to The Yardbirds many times and seen a variety of tribute acts, from U2to the Stereophonics to Bon Jovi.  There’s AC-DCMetallica and Slipnot bands playing and a couple of years ago I had a great New Year’s Eve watching a group called Six of the Best blast out anthems from the likes of ForeignerWhitesnake and Toto while bar staff served free vodka jellies and brought in free pizza.


One of my favourite performances – if not my actual favourite – was by Mike Trampfrom the group White Lion.  He sang an acoustic set of hits whilst telling of his memories and inspirations between the songs.  My wife was a White Lion fan, though I have to admit to barely hearing of them.  The show was, however, brilliant.  The acoustic arrangements made the 80s hits sound extremely contemporary and I told Mike this when he was done.  Great stuff.

My wife and I are always looking for an excuse to visit the Yardbirds, and we’d long been wondering about the Burlesque shows that go on there regularly.  Friends had told us what a great night was to be had, so we finally managed to arrange a babysitter (thanks mum) and off we went.


I have to say, Saturday night was an experience.  It seemed clear many people in the audience  knew what to expect.  The ladies were dressed in a mix of colourful vintage dresses and basques and stockings.  There was a man with a grass skirt and flippers.  A group of girls on a hen night all in fifties style frocks.  We, ourselves, were Burlesque virgins.


Well, that cherry is well and truly popped!


Neither of us knew exactly what to expect from the show.  There was, apparently, to be some audience participation.  Sweets (sex candy) and ice creams were on sale and (a good idea on what had been such a hot day).  In anticipation, we waited for the show to start.


The hostess, Snappy O’Shea, was fab.  She had a great rapport with the audience, with a quick wit and patter.  What I didn’t expect, was to have such a big smile on my face, and laugh as much, for almost all of the night!


There was, initially, a comment about the council not allowing the show on their own premises due to it being degrading to women.  If that’s your opinion, then you are entirely entitled to that.  There were certainly more women in the audience than men, however, and they were having a great time.


Yes, there were boobies, it has to be said.  The boobies had their nipples discreetly covered.  But it was all done in fun, and a lot of fun at that.  The highlights, for me, were Brenda the lollipop lady and Fifty Shades of Beige, in which a ‘lucky’ man from the audience was brought on stage to act out a hilarious version of the popular ‘mommie-porn’ phenomenon.  There was also the woman who had ‘scored’ that night and had a man in her room – if only she could quickly get out of the umpteen layers of body-smoothing underwear she’d squeezed into.


Add to this a Birdy Dance unlike any other I’ve seen, some traditional strips from behind feathers, much laughter and the cheap drinks I’m delighted the Yardbirds continue to sell, and this was certainly a night that was DIFFERENT.

 On reflection, I think the Cats Pyjamas Burlesque Company could possibly have swapped the two halves of the show about.  I felt the first half was stronger than the second.  This, though, didn’t spoil the night for me.  It was very enjoyable and (for the first half very and for the second half a fair amount) a lot of fun.  We were teased, we were entertained and we were very pleased we had finally given in to the lure of the feather fan.


Their next show is going to be a Halloween Spooktakular and is on the 26th of October.  I’d thoroughly recommend going, especially if you haven’t already.  We spoke to a young man stood next to us.  He’d not been to the Yardbirds before and having such a display as his initiation has simultaneously caught him in the headlights and thrilled him.  You may feel the same, but you won’t be able to help enjoy yourself.

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The difference between a writer and an author….

What’s the difference between a writer and an author?  Or is there even one?  I write.  I’m not sure which of the two categories I fall into, or if I have a foot in both, but I write.  And I do that because I can’t help it.

I never have been able to.

Apparently I started to write when I was very young, and I’d draw pictures to go along with my stories.  I remember writing lots of stories in school, and English was my favourite lesson.  The teacher, Mr. Staniforth, was passionate about teaching us the craft and about books.  One of my main memories from that time is when he read To Kill A Mockinbird to us.  Apart from it being a great story, he put feeling and heart into the telling, and we were all held under the spell.  Maybe that’s a romanticised version of what really happened, but that’s how I felt.  I wanted my stories to hold people that way.

I wanted readers to pick up something I’d written and not be able to put it down.

And now I’ve managed that.  I’ve created a story that does that.  It’s a great, wonderful, humbling feeling.

Life, unfortunately, has a habit of getting in the way.  I have a full time job.  I have a family.  I know I’m not even slightly alone in that – it’s a club with millions of members.  But it means I have very little time for writing, and, when that’s something I feel I have to do – that the muse is almost a caged beast waiting to be set free – it can be hard!

Once, for various reasons, I didn’t write anything for almost a full year.  I wasn’t ‘in the right place’ (or should that be the ‘write’ place).  I hated it.  I felt that writing would be a release for the problems that I was facing, but it wouldn’t come.  The urge wasn’t there.  The beast was sleeping.  Or it was lying on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails, soaking up the sun, oblivious to my predicament.  Other times, I can’t stop.  I’m chomping at the bit to get the words down, even though I never know what those words may be.  On holiday last year, I went to Egypt.  It was a place I’d wanted to visit since being a child.  I’d always been fascinated by the pharoahs and their mythology.  When I walked in the Valley of the Kings, and stayed in a hotel right on the Nile, seeing the sun set to the left and the hills of the Valley to the right, it was amazing.

I wrote 15,000 words of Sin there.  It was bliss.  I couldn’t stop.  Sin was finished a few months later.  It had taken ten years from the initial short story that then formed the prologue to the novel.  I’d written a great many other things in that decade, but Sin was always there, lying in wait.  My ‘Dark Half’.  even now, with the book finished, he can’t stay quiet, hence his blog.

I never know where a story will take me.  I don’t plan – or very rarely do – the outline or the characters.  I just start.  A title, a phrase, something fragmented like that, and I find out what’s going to happen as it does.  I suppose that’s a weird way to do it.  Some people can’t get their heads around how I can write like that, but I do.  It’s a journey for me and, if I’m surprised along the way, then maybe the readers will be too?

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Like a Moth to the flame…

Sin again, hijacking away!  Today, I’m chatting to a fiery red-headnamed Scarlett.  Scarlett is a woman of many talents and it’s a pleasure to have her with me.  I think, perhaps, she enjoys this asylum more than she possible should…

What’s your name?
Scarlett Flame
Interesting name.  It fits.  Where are you from?
Manchester, England, UK, The World lol
Do you like living there?  If not, where would your favourite place to live be?  Is yes, where would you least like to live?
Yeah I do love living here because my friends and family are here.  But I would love to live somewhere near to a beach (I love the sea you see!).  Not somewhere too hot though as being a redhead with freckles I would burn too easily.  I am open to suggestions though.
I used to live near the sea, before my current residence, of course.  You sort of get used to it and forget it’s there!  If you’re a writer/film-maker, is this your ‘day job’?
No, I wish it was but I am still a struggling writer
I wonder if even Stephen King and Dean Koontz see themselves, still, as ‘struggling writers’?  Not financially, I’m sure – but struggling with the ideas and wrestling the words?  So, tell me about your latest project.
I have two projects on the go at the moment (three if you include my blog!).  The first is my novel The Prophecy Unfolds (Dragon Queen).
The second is an Anthology of short erotic stories, I haven’t decided on a title yet!
They sound intriguing.  Two differing versions of ‘fantasy’!  How do you feel about bacon?  A crazy person once said it was the food of the gods.  OK, I admit that person was myself…
love bacon.  Yum.  Crazy about the stuff – especially smoked bacon.
Good girl.  That’s what I like to hear.  What is your favourite film?
Hard one this.  I love Avatar (I want to be about 10ft tall and blue after watching it!).  But also love all the Lord of the Rings films too
Avatar is excellent, but I would have to veer towards LOTR myself.  I wanted to be Gandalf, though a younger and less ‘beardy’ version.  Have you always wanted to be a writer, or is it something you found yourself doing one day?
No, as a child I wanted to be a vet but I have always kept diaries and wrote some poetry too.  I started to write due to my love of reading really, with the thought that I too could produce a work of fiction equal to or excelling them.
I’m sure you can.  That’s exactly the right attitude.  Do you have so many ideas they dribble out of your nose if you don’t get them down, or do you have to hunt around the floor and the back of your sofa to find where your Muse is hiding?
Ha-ha.  Yeah I have epiphanies sometimes as I am driving or when I wake up and then I have to write down scenes I have dreamt.
At least it’s not waking up as you’re driving.  I hope not, anywho.  If you were in an asylum, what would your particular delusion or psychosis be?
Being watched I think.  I used to imagine pictures could watch me as a child, lol.
You should be glad you didn’t go to school at Hogwarts, then, with all those moving paintings!  What genre(s) do you write?
Lots.  Paranormal Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Steampunk (really a subgenre).
Wow!  You’re head must be swimming with ideas!  What genres(s) do you read?
Virtually everything from scifi, thrillers, erotica BDSM, paranormal romance, nonfiction, cook books, you name it.
Do you have time to sleep?  Oh, that’ll be where the sleeping whilst driving comes in, I suppose…  If these are the same, what attracts you to them.  If they’re different, why do you think that is?
I am better at writing in my own genre (I think), but I intend to test this by writing in some of the others too.  But I still enjoy other genres, especially thrillers and horror too.
Bacon – just cooked or crispy?
Crispy of course!!
Of course.  How else?  Now you’re in the asylum with me, how do you aim to get out?  Do you have an escape plan?
Well, in real life I am a nurse, so maybe I could pretend to be a member of staff and sneak out by pinching someone else’s uniform!
A woman in uniform, hmmm?  Well, good luck with that plan.  It may even work!
My pen name is Scarlett Flame, and as well as writing my first novel I write a Blog under my pen name (don’t forget it’s two t’s!).  My Blog includes book reviews, band, hotel and restaurant reviews around the area of Manchester where I live. Music is a bit of a passion of mine, so I include information of venues and live music. If you follow me on twitter you will often find me playing at being a DJ.  Writing and reading are my two main passions.
My interests include reading, writing, especially the genres Paranormal Romance, Thrillers, Scifi and anything that involves fantastical beings. I also like going to the gym, especially weight training and Pilates!
Some of my favourite books are The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings Trilogy and books by authors such as Anne Rice and Dean Koontz (especially the Brother Odd Series).
The working title of my first book is The Prophecy Unfolds (Dragon Queen). This is the first in a series of books and is an erotic Paranormal Romance set on a Steampunk world called Syros. In my book there are werewolves, dragons, dragon riders and many other paranormal characters.
An excerpt from The Prophecy Unfolds (Dragon Queen) by Scarlett Flame:
I’d sat there enjoying my book for about ten minutes when two things happened.
Firstly, I became aware that a hush had suddenly descended on the forest and I could no longer hear the scampering of the squirrels or the birds singing. When I looked up I could no longer see any of them around the area they had occupied only a few minutes earlier.
The second thing was the sound I did hear. I can only compare that to the sound of a barrier being broken, a whoosh and a slight popping noise. Yet immediately after this, the birds and squirrels were back, chirping and moving through the grass once again.
I shrugged, went back to the page in my book and continued to eat. However, after a while a feeling of uneasiness descended on me. I raised my head to find myself being watched.
The watcher was a tall, broad-shouldered man with dirty blonde hair tied at the nape and vivid blue eyes. I estimated him to be about 25-30 years old. He was regarding me silently and with intensity. His odd clothing caught my eye. Old fashioned garments, dark trousers laced up the front, a long-sleeved suede jacket of a similar material, and leather boots.
I turned my head to look for any cars or vans on the car park and jumped as I spotted two more men – one to my left and one I could see in my peripheral vision to the right.
The man on the left was dressed similar to the first, but had sandy hair and sea green eyes. In contrast he wasn’t quite as broad, although equally tall (all three were over six foot). The last had dark hair to his shoulders that hung loose, and the most amazing violet eyes.
The appearance of these men with no noise and staring at me in rapt fascination, not uttering a word, spooked me. My heart was beating so loud and fast I thought that I was having some kind of heart attack.
But the most unnerving thing of all was all three men looked familiar, a déjà vu sort of moment. I had dreamt about these three men for so long. I knew immediately these were the shady characters from my dreams. Dreams that repeatedly haunted my sleep.

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They’re poets and they know it!

And the results are in!

Well, the poems are anyway. I have great pleasure in showcasing the wonderful works of the four primary schools who joined me for the madcap poetry workshop at Humberston Academy. The workshop was part of their Festival of Literature and I had a fantastic time with the students, as you’ll see from my previous blog posts. 
To see the fruits of their labours, please drop by here : http://flipandcatch.blogspot.co.uk/p/humberston.html
Thanks, once again, for the pupils of Humberston Primary, Middlethorpe, Primary, New Waltham Primary and Cloverfield Primary. It was great to meet you all. 

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I had a dream…

I had a dream last night, and you were there.


And you.


And you.


But, not you.  Unless you were the night.  Unless you were the darkness that crept around me like a skulking fox, waiting for the moment to leap and catch its prey.  Killing not just for sustenance, but for the taste of blood.  For the crunch of bone.


For the pleasure.


I had a dream last night, and you were there.


I felt your pain.  Felt the impact of the bullet and the slicing, burning flesh.  Saw the look of fear on your face.  Saw the blame.  Felt the guilt.


Not your guilt.  Mine.


And in my dream, I saw myself.  I stood.  Watched.  My face bore no sign of pleasure.  There was no indication, either, of horror or sorrow.  Merely acceptance.


But I am sorry.  I awoke to find my pillow wet from tears.  I still hear your scream and I can still feel the fading warmth of your hand in mine.  I held it as you went.  Tightly.  Hoping the pressure would keep some part of you alive, trapped.


It didn’t.  You were fast cold.  The chill is in my own hand – it lingers to remind me of what I did.  What I do.


Often, when a dream that is a nightmare stays with you once you wake, the brightness of the morning washes the dark stain clean.  The sun uses its rays as a spear to impale the tainted heart of your mind’s subconscious horrors.


Not this morning.  Not this day.


Not ever, really.


I feel the cold hands and hear the cries.  Yours and my own.  Except, yours are, most likely, my own anyway.  And vice versa.  Crying out together, in sweet, sadistic harmony.


You weren’t the fox.  You weren’t the night.  That was me.  As much as I watched, I also participated.  I can pray forgiveness and beseech that it wasn’t my intention or fault.


It doesn’t matter.  It was still me, the blame wrapping itself about me so I am unable to shrug it off.  I put myself in here, in this asylum, so I may prevent, or at least avoid, such things.  So that darkest part of me can remain caged.  So that, when I dream of you – whichever ‘you’ you may be – you do not die.  You smile.  Breathe.  Dance, perhaps.  Be alive.


But, I am the night, in my dreams.  I am Sin when awake.


Forgive me, for I am Death.


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