Arbor Low

I’m delighted to host a guest poem today, from fellow Holme Valley Poet Liz Horrocks.

Arbor Low

And so we came to Arbor Low at last.
Two muffled figures in the New Year fog:
saw ditch and bank: the grey stones, silver-streaked,
the far off moors mere faint horizon shadows.
For nearly fifty years we’d seen the signs,
but, living for the present, had passed by.
Yet now, in deadening, isolating mist,
we felt the weight of long past years;
the pressing silence of the numinous.
Then, through the thickening mist of years they came:
the old, the children, babies, women, men.
They carried new-born lambs, or harvest grain,
or brands of fire to fight the winter’s dark.
For some it was their local holy place,
its care their charge, its fame their pride. The rest
had travelled long and far to reach this moor,
past grass-green barrow, valley, wood and stream:
but all were drawn by sacred bank and stones.
And so they came to Arbor Low at last.


Liz Horrocks was born in Cardiff but has lived in Cheshire for most of her adult life. Always interested in myth and legend, she has produced a trilogy of books based around Arthurian legend, as well as many poems with legends as their theme, especially the legends of Alderley Edge, where she now lives.

pic: Alan Simkins / Arbor Low Henge / CC BY-SA 2.0

First Contact

The discus-shaped object descended in a smooth and stately fashion, landing on a flat patch of ground with barely a bump.

It was quite small and did not look threatening, though that had not prevented two Eurofighter Typhoons, hurriedly scrambled from a nearby airbase, from escorting it all the way down.

In the twenty minutes since the strange object had first appeared on radar, a small gathering of local dignitaries had hastily convened to greet it: the Commander of said airbase, the Lord Mayor of Lincoln, a Chief Superintendent of police, a professor of physics from the nearest university and the deputy editor of the local newspaper – who could hardly believe her luck.

They did not have long to wait. Almost immediately, a panel flipped out of the craft’s lower surface, forming a ramp to the ground. A single figure emerged. There was a gasp, or rather a chorus of gasps, from all the humans present. The creature had 3 stumpy legs, an assortment of tentacles and a spherical head containing a single enormous eye.

“My God, this is First Contact,” muttered the journalist, pinching herself. “And to think that yesterday I was getting all excited about fly tipping!”

After some squabbling between the dignitaries as to who should approach the alien, all five stepped forward, but it was the Lord Mayor who spoke first.

“Greetings. We welcome you to Earth. And in particular to the fine city of Lincoln, home of the famous Lincoln Cathedral.”

In response, the alien turned one of its tentacles to face the delegation, and from an orifice at its tip emerged a voice that was deep and strange, though surprisingly consistent with standard human phonemes.

“Zarg bloop ch-chow vanang.”

Determined to get in on the act, the Chief Superintendent gestured at the welcoming committee, including herself, and said, “Humans.”

The creature pointed a tentacle at itself and pronounced the word “Golog”. Then it repeated its first utterance:

“Zarg bloop ch-chow vanang.”

The dignitaries now took turns to say the things they each thought would be appropriate for a historic moment such as this. The alien waited patiently for them to finish, then responded, once more:

“Zarg bloop ch-chow vanang.”

Its huge eye scanned each member of the human delegation. Some reply was clearly expected, but the dignitaries had run out of things to say. Eventually, the alien placed the end of one of its thicker tentacles on the ground and began to throb in a rather disconcerting way.

At this point, a second alien emerged from the craft, wrapped several tentacles around its companion and dragged it back up the ramp, which then closed behind them. After a few moments, the vessel soundlessly ascended back into the sky.

Inside it, something of an altercation was going on, which could be loosely translated as follows:

“You idiot, you put the wrong coordinates in. It’s the next solar system along that’s part of the Federation. No wonder those creatures couldn’t understand you. We’ll get in so much trouble for this.”

“Don’t blame me – it was you who hired a dodgy ship with inadequate facilities.”

On the ground, the delegation watched the alien craft disappear with a mixture of puzzlement, disappointment and relief.

“Was that it, then?” said the Lord Mayor. “You’d think they would have stayed around a bit, let me show them the sights.”

“Yeah,” agreed the journalist, “a photoshoot would have been nice.” Though she had discreetly filmed the whole event on her mobile phone. “I can’t believe it’s over already.”

“Oh, but it’s not,” said the professor who, like the journalist, could not believe his luck. “They have left us a gift.” Sure enough, where the alien had stood was a grey cylinder about twelve centimetres high. “I’ll get my people to analyse the object,” he said, “who knows what we might be able to learn from it.” Surely there must be a Nobel prize in it?

He carefully placed the object in a sample bag, successfully fighting off the Lord Mayor, who thought that the gift must have been left for him, as obviously the most important member of the welcoming delegation. The five people stood around awkwardly for a few minutes, then began to disperse.


That evening, the journalist was revelling in the first TV interview of her forty year career.

“… and what did the alien creature have to say to you?”

This was the question she had been waiting and hoping for. She composed her features into a solemn expression and summoned the deepest voice she could manage. Then, slowly and reverently, she repeated the half-dozen alien syllables she had heard earlier that day. Thereby saying, in quite passable Gologian:

“Does this planet have a public toilet?”

Author Tim Taylor

I’m delighted to be featured on Val Penny’s blog today.

Val Penny's Book Reviews

It is a pleasure to introduce you to author and poet, Tim E Taylor today. Tim writes novels, poetry and short stories. His two novels were published by Crooked Cat Books.

His debut novel, Zeus of Ithome is ground breaking historical fiction. It tells a tale set in Greece, 373 BC where for three centuries, the Messenian people have been brutally subjugated by their Spartan neighbours and forced to work the land as helot slaves. Diocles, a seventeen-year-old helot, has known no other life but servitude.  After an encounter with Spartan assassins, he is forced to flee, leaving behind his family and his sweetheart, Elpis. On Mount Ithome, the ancient sanctuary of the Messenians, he meets Aristomenes, an old rebel who still remembers the proud history of their people and clings to a prophecy that they will one day win back their freedom.  A forlorn hope, perhaps. But elsewhere in Greece there are…

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