Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Crossword Puzzle - November 2014

Are you in the mood for a crossword puzzle?

No prizes this month (Just a bit of fun), but if you correctly solve this puzzle, and are the first one to send me the answers at graham@grahamdowns.co.za, before 23 December 2014, you will be mentioned on this blog as a really smart person.

Does that sound like a fair trade?

Ready? Go!


1 An Unrequited Fall (6)
3 Cheese (5)
4 For moving things (5)
5 Medieval custom (6)
7 Faucet (3)
9 South African runner (4)
13 Kevin in An Automatic Decision (3)
14 Delicious (3)
15 Noddy cop (4)
16 2001 computer (3)
19 Does with complaints (6)
21 He killed children in Bethlehem (5)
22 Belly button (5)
23 Sent before e-mail (6)


2 Jane (4)
3 Seek damages in court (3)
4 Did with the match (3)
6 City in western Ukraine (4)
8 Hooker's boss (4)
10 Wise bird (3)
11 Desmond Tutu (4)
12 II (3)
14 Raise your voice (4)
17 Type of company (3)
18 Informal you (4)
20 Water snake (3)

Good luck!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Crossword Puzzle - October 2014 Answers

Well, well, well. It's that time of the month, ladies and gentlemen. It's the day you've been waiting for, the day on which you visit my blog for the answers to the October 2014 crossword puzzle. And it's the day where you kick yourself, because you either had all the correct answers, and you didn't enter, or you find the answer to that one clue you've been struggling with, and you can't believe you never got it.

So, without further ado, here are the answers to last month's crossword puzzle:

1 Southern African tribe (5) Xhosa
4 Google range of devices (5) Nexus
7 Car by Ford (4) Ikon
8 Before (3) ere
9 Fresh (3) new
10 Mike, US SF/F author (6) Cooley
13 Witch (3) hag
14 Edgar (3) Poe
17 Drawing (6) sketch
20 Leader of North Korea (d. 2011) (3) Kim
22 Chinese cooking vessel (3) wok
24 B&N e-reader (4) nook
25 Means something other than it says (5) idiom
26 Go Well (5) Shell
2 One who doesn't complain (5) stoic
3 For chopping wood (3) axe
4 Nothing (4) null
5 For boiling water (3) urn
6 He tells the future (4) seer
7 Old American Empire (4) Inca
11 Pig sound (4) oink
12 Senior manager (4) exec
15 Federal subject in Russia (4) Omsk
16 An Australian (4) kiwi
18 Test (4) exam
19 Alcoholic beverage (5) hooch
21 Change to behaviour (3) mod
23 Nap (3) kip

So, how did you do? Were there any clues that you particularly struggled with? If so, it'd be really cool if you could post those in the comments, and we'll discuss them together as a group.

Anyhow, see you next week, for the November 2014 Crossword Puzzle... and, can you believe that next Tuesday will be the last Tuesday in October? My word, but time flies, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Witch of Wellington

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

In the small town of Wellington, South Africa, there lives a witch. She looks to be in her early sixties, but she has lived in her small house for as long as anyone can remember. She’s a friendly witch, though: grown-ups come to her all the time for advice on their problems. But for reasons nobody can explain, children are scared of her.


“I am not scared!” exclaimed Sally, “I just don’t see any reason why I need to visit the witch right now. Mom says she’s just an old woman, who doesn’t deserve to be pestered by us.”

“Chicken!” chanted the other children, and they began dancing around her with their hands on their hips and their elbows bent, making clucking noises.

Sally sighed. She was the same age as her friends, but for some reason it always felt as though she were more mature than they were.

“You can call me chicken as much as you like,” she said. “I see no reason to bother the poor woman.”

Timmy picked up the soccer ball they were playing with, and drop-kicked it over the old woman’s fence, into her yard.

“Well, there’s a reason now!” he said. “Go knock on her door and ask if we can have our ball back.”

“Maybe,” said Sally. “But now you have to go and ask for it back!”

Ben, who’d been standing next to Timmy with an amused expression on his face, said, “She’s right, Timmy. You kicked it. You fetch it.”

Sally smirked as Timmy’s face went momentarily white. His voice broke, ever so slightly, as he spoke. “Well, I’m not scared either,” he said. “We’ll see how chicken you really are, when I come back with the ball.”

With that, Timmy marched up to the witch’s front door, and rang the bell. It seemed to take forever for the door to open, and Sally wondered if Timmy would go through with it, or lose his nerve and run.

Eventually, the door did open, and the old woman stood inside it. “Yes?” she said. “How can I help you?”

Her glasses were perched low on her nose, and she stared at Timmy over the top of the frame. Timmy took one look into those eyes, and he did run. He turned around, and bolted back to Ben and Sally as fast as his young feet could carry him. Smiling, the witch stepped back inside, and quietly shut the door.

When Timmy returned to his friends, they were unable to control their laughter.

“Who’s the chicken now?” said Sally. “If you can’t handle it, I’ll go talk to her. I’ll go get the ball back.”

Sally walked calmly and confidently up to the witch’s door. She had no fear—witch or no, the woman was a person, just like anybody else. What reason should anyone have to be afraid of her?

When she got to the door, Sally rang the bell. A few moments later, the door opened. The old woman smiled warmly at Sally and said, “Why, hello little girl! What can I do for you?”

Not losing her confidence, Sally replied. “Excuse me, Ma’am,” she said, “but one of my friends accidentally kicked our ball into your yard. May I get it back, please?”

“Yes, I know,” replied the witch, “but there was nothing accidental about it.” She sighed, and continued, “Very well, come inside.”

The woman led Sally through her house (which looked like any normal-looking house would be expected to look) and into the back yard. Sally found the ball, thanked the woman, and was about to leave, when the woman stopped her.

“Just a second, Sally,” she said.

“H-how do you know my name?” gasped Sally.

“Never mind that, Sally,” returned the witch, “but I heard the way that horrid Timmy spoke to you. When you get back, you be sure to give him a message for me, okay?”

“Umm, okay.”

“You tell Timmy for me, that if he wants to act like a pig, he should look like one, too.”

Sally smiled sheepishly, then nodded and scurried away.


“You were gone a long time,” said Ben, when Sally returned, with the ball under her arm. “How did it go?”

“It went fine,” said Sally. “She's just a nice old lady, like I said. Nothing to be afraid of.” Then, turning to Timmy, she added, “But she did give me a message for you, Timmy.”

Timmy stared at her. “If it's about me running away...”

“It's not about that. She said I should tell you, if you want to act like a pig, you should look like one, too.”

“Yeah,” said Timmy, “and what does that mean?”

Sally's eyes went wide, as she stared into Timmy's face. His nose began flattening before her eyes, and then growing a deep shade of pink. His nostrils grew larger. His ears elongated into diamond-shaped tips on the sides of his head.

Ben looked behind Timmy, and saw a short, curly tail sprout out through his pants.

Timmy watched the two staring at him. “What?” he said.

Image: © Copyright Peter Facey and licensed for reuse under the Create Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Free Audio Stories on YouTube? You're Welcome!

This may be old hat to you, but I have to say I was honestly surprised to find completely free, legal (I think), full length stories on YouTube.

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling really depressed. It didn't look like I was going to meet my lofty Goodreads goal of forty books this year. And then it came - my daily HARO newsletter, containing a link to an article entitled 10 Scary Stories You Can Listen to Right Now. I was super excited! I decided that I could easily read a story while listening to another one, and very quickly got back on track. I started with the first story in the above list, and then found others. Now, I am pleased to report that I'm back on track.

So, after a week of listening to audio stories on YouTube, I would like to share with you what I've listened to, and what I thought:

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Alvin Schwartz

The book is narrated by actor George S. Irving, and he is AWESOME. He really breathes life into the stories with his own inflections. My favourites were One Sunday Morning and the Brown Suit.

Some of the stories are very good, and I got into them instantly. Some I couldn't get into at all. Some of them are told in about three or four minutes, and some are over in thirty seconds.

Clearly for children (obviously), I don't think I would've enjoyed it nearly as much had I read it. Hearing it read TO me? Priceless!

The Dunwich Horror

H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft is someone I've been meaning to read for quite some time now, having been fascinated by Cthulu and the mythos for many years, ever since I started roleplaying.

After listening to this story, I can attest to the fact that he was insane in his genius... or perhaps genius in his insanity.

In the town of Dunwich, a child called Wilbur Whately is born. We don't know who his father is, but his mother and grandfather are strange people indeed. Wilbur begins to grow and learn far faster than any normal human, and within a few years, he is dabbling in things and raising a demon from the dead.

The descriptions of the horrors are very vivid, and I felt myself shuddering more than once. I'm not sorry I decided to finally pick up this author, and I will most definitely be reading more in the series. If you enjoy horror, you should, too - he may well be the father of modern horror!

One for the Road

Stephen King

One for the Road is somewhat of a sequel to 'Salem's Lot. I don't think you'll miss much if you read this one without having read Salem's Lot, but don't read this one if you intend to read its predecessor, or it'll be spoilt for you.

A man shows up at a bar one day, in a town a short distance from Jerusalem's Lot, saying that his car ran out of fuel in the Lot, and he left his wife and daughter there while he came to look for help. The narrator and his friend finally agree to drive him back to fetch them, but they're not happy about it, because of the legendary creatures that inhabit the Lot.

The pacing is fantastic, and the tension builds perfectly. The ending is quite satisfying. I don't know who the audio-book narrator is, but he does a fantastic job in reading! I don't know if I would've given the book five stars if I'd have just read the book myself, but I strongly recommend you go listen to the YouTube video!


I don't listen to a lot of audio books. I often find that I struggle to concentrate, and I certainly can't focus on what I'm supposed to be listening to if I do anything else at the same time! I guess I'm just not built that way—multi-tasking's not my thing.

Despite that, I've realised once and for all that narration does matter. I've listened to some really badly narrated audio books before, and then I've listened to these. Granted, I still can't concentrate on the story while doing anything else at the same time, but other than that, I had no problem following any of these stories.

If you think audio books are only for old people, or only for children, or you haven't listened to one since you were a child yourself, I urge you to give it a go.

In fact, you might even see me reading some of my works on YouTube, before long (spoiler alert)!