reud the coelocanth was not a happy fish.With weary fin-strokes, he swam through the murky depths of his ornate wrought iron and concrete-reinforced tank until his fishy nose was pressed up against the glass wall which faced outward towards the stygian depths of the Wizard's lair. He could see nothing.
( like my fish?)

This was not unsual, since theWizard preferred to work his necromancy in an atmosphere which could only be described as "soupy" (and if you had seen Florentina's turnip soup, the full implication of this statement would be immediately apparent.) But today the Wizard was absent from his lair, attending a slime-mould and coffee morning, and the air within was clear and glittering. The water within Freud's tank was not. Eager colonies of supercharged, vitamin enhanced algae had set up shop over the pocked surface of the elegant perspex barrier which seperated Freud's watery world from that occupied by the (very) slightly more evolutionary advanced denizens of Mudshark Towers.

Freud scraped a small hole in the virulent lime-green paste which clouded the tank, but the busy marine plant life recolonised the gap before Freud could say "Bill Gates identifies a niche in the computer software market", and he was left once more shrouded in gloom .

"Fin rot!" bubbled Freud crossly "Three per cent copper sulphate solution and water-snails!! Time to call in .... The TV repair man!" Checking to see there was no-one watching, he gave a mighty flip of his tail, and a greenish spurt of tank water described a graceful arc from out of his tank, clear across to the other side of the room...

<--- I coloured in the flower all by myself!!

Montague Mudshark picked his way gingerly through the tangle of twine and high-density polypropylene webbing which nowadays seemed to loop and twist its way around every corner and crevice of the many corridors-to-nowhere which comprised the inner intestines of Mudshark Towers. Monty had been astonished with the rapidity with which Greogori's "Sharkophonic" network had taken hold. Even Florentina, who had long held to the belief that semaphore was the instrument of the Devil, had, after a suitably suspicious interlude, taken to the new technology like a duck to cherry sauce.

In fact, Monty was now growing a little worried at his wife's preoccupation with this particular diversion, for Florentina had become imbued with the notion that she had contacted "..the other side..", and spent many hours talking to imaginary people and fish. (Harriet Mudshark had confided to Freud that she didn't see anything wrong with talking to fish, and he had concurred, but still the nagging doubt remained within the Towers that it was an imaginary fish, and therefore unsuitable for consumption, or any form of batter)

By and large, Monty was tolerant of Florentina's imaginary retinue, since this afforded him the opportunity to collect his own stable of non-existent pals, and blame them for whatever unfortuitous happenstance might currently be bringing down Florentina's wrath upon his head. Peep was of a slightly different opinion, and was still sulking after the vinegar incident involving the imaginary Pandora Mudshark

But there had been an unexpected bonus derived from the string-fest now liberally lacing the Towers, at least, as far as Flo and Monty's domestic arrangements went. As with many long-term partnerships, the flow of Flo and Monty's conversation had dried somewhat over the decades, and sometimes it was weeks before Montague could summon the will to utter the word "turnips" in response to Florentina's query : "What do you want for dinner/a bit of excitment in the bedroom scheme of things?"

However, with the advent of the Sharkophonic Network, Monty and Flo once again experienced the delights of witty repartee, as Flo tapped out a particularly saucy recipe on her yak-yoghurt-pot sending-device, sending the vibrations scuttling off like tap-dancing earwigs down the coiling tentacles which wrapped their way around the crumbling masonry, took a diversion down at the Fin, booked an overnight shuttle to Shepherd's Bush, hitch-hiked to Estonia, stowed away on a banana boat and spend three months sunning themselves on a carribean island the size of Wales, before finally returning to the Towers in a compromising relationship involving a long distance lorry driver and a case of Yorkie bars. Here, Monty waited in a fever of anticipation for his wife's input. Sometimes, as little as 3 days would pass between comments! Truly, technology was a boon!!!

Dudley Mudshark did not think so, however, While it was true that, on the whole, Dudley was in favour of any form of mass communication, the Sharkophonic system struck him as being altogether too common for the likes of him. Dudley favoured something altogether more..... ethereal... for his Pronouncements To A Grateful Public, and for a while his vision was realised as, from the top of his crumbling tower, he addressed the nation through a magnificent bull-horn with the immortal sentiments.....

"..Mudshark Towers Calling......... Mudshark Towers Calling......"

Sadly, the bull requested the return of its horn, declaring that if it heard "Burke Bacchanale's Least Bad Songs" issuing forth from the Towers once more, he would chop himself up into little pieces and be fed to a cabinet minister's daughter!

Dudley was affronted! Why, he had not even had a chance to display to the world his now-formidable talents on the mandolin! But when Florentina informed him that the Sharkophonic network could convey to him all the secret mandolin rites and rituals he so much admired in that seminal figure of the mandolin world, "Figs" Blackheart, the game was up! Before long, Dudley was browsing through string catalogues....

Harriet Mudshark led the glum-looking TV repair man into the depths of the still-absent Wizard's lair. He looked ill at ease in such a setting, and was secretly dreading the decontamination process which awaited him afterwards in order to remove all traces of necromancy which might cling to his person. He looked at the pronged attachement connected to the Tele-Visual Scrying-Screen by a length of coiled wire.

"Gotta stick it in t'wall" he grumbled at Harriet.

"I know," she told him patiently. He scratched his greasy forelock.

"Pushed the button?" Harriet nodded. The TV repair man looked even more perplexed.

"Paid the gas bill?"

"Check," said Harriet, who was way ahead of him.

The TV repair man squirmed uncomfortably. "Buggered if I know then....."

Why don't you have a look at the thing - you know, inside!" prompted Harriet.

He shrugged. "If you think it'll do any good...." He removed the ornate screen from its rear section and thrust one hand into the musty depths. Some seconds later, he removed the hand in question, which was now covered in an oozing, green slime, and his expression brightened considerably.

"Aha! I know what your problem is!! You've got algae!"

"Uh?" queried Harriet, eruditely

"A marine plant life, varying in complexity from diatoms to large, multicellular thalloid forms displaying alternation of generations...

Harriet felt immensely relieved. For a moment there she had been unsure if the TV repair man was adequately qualified, but it was obvious now that he knew his stuff!

Now on more familiar ground, the TV repair man continued confidently: "What you want," he explained, "is a Pleb"

Harriet blinked, and he explained; "Wonderful things, Plebs. They live on algae. An absolute must for Televisual Scrying-Screen cleaning!!"

"I shall get me to the Pleb shop and purchase one this very day!!" annouced Harriet delightedly.

<--- I'm getting a bit fed up with this flower now. I expect you are too

Dudley was not the only one experiencing communication problems in and around TheTowers. Despite his best efforts to avoid the horrid event, time and technology had finally caught up with Peep and his beloved Doghouse, in the form of a large, brass gong which had recently appeared at his front door, in deference to local fire regulations. In vain had Peep pleaded that his Asthmatic Parrot ® Smoke Alarm functioned perfectly as far as informing him when his by-product burgers were cooked; Regulations were regulations. (or perhaps they were small invertebrate life forms called Fortinbrass, Peep could never quite remember which...)

Peep stared at the shiny, yellow presence, and glowered, as only he could. No officialdom would blight his otherwise blissful existence with unwanted Distant Early Warning systems! He vowed to be free of the wretched encumbrance, or his name was not Enoch, Prince of Frogs!

The egress of officialdom into the Mudsharks' erstwhile tranquil existence had caused problems to more than just Peep. Down at The Fin, Lord Roberto, the robust landlord of that worthy establishment, had also been subject to unwanted assistance by those who wished to see The Fin transmogrified into the sort of wholesome, cheerful environment where sweet little old ladies could get quietly pissed and molest attractive young men, and no peasant, however vile or low his centre of gravity, need fear the Pot Noodle of Doom ever again.

To this end, Lord Roberto had been required to keep upon the premises a Hound of such proportions as to make the legendary Baskerville mutt seem a mere whippet in comparison.

Florentina, who had studied mal-formed organisms in her youth, was quite taken with the beast, and found much pleasure in demonstrating its friendliness by thrusting one chain-mail-gloved hand down its throat until its eyes fairly bulged with pleasure.

"It's all a matter," she panted, as she swung the happy animal around her head by its tail, "of recognition."

<--- what do you think of this one?

"See," she beamed happily, "he knows what to expect from me!"

Alas, the same could not be said of the guard-dog's relationship with the Wizard. No incantation, however powerful, seemed to mollify the beast, and the unfortunate Wiz found himself exiled to The Fin's nearby rival boozing emporium, The James T Fivebar. Lord Roberto was understandably worried at this turn of events, for the Wizard's presence accounted for a significant proportion of the profit margin of The Fin, owing to the magickal way he was able to make the warm liquid which plopped from the tarnished spouts therein vanish without trace. (if you didn't look too closely at the floor of the Sorcerors' Rest Room)

Yes, The Wizard's presence was sorely missed, and Florentina had devised a cunning plan to facilitate his re-entry....

Still sulking down at the Fivebar, The Wizard was not there to witness Freud's joy when, later that afternoon, the TV repair man returned with, and installed, the promised Pleb. Harriet had to admit that it was a novel approach to dysfunctional scrying-screens, but the Repair Man's obvious erudition won her over, and she left the Pleb in place as she departed in search of his Wizness, to tell him the good news.

Freud waited until he was sure Harriet had gone before he poked his fishy head up from the syrupy depths of his malodorous marine habitat.

"Pssssst..." he pssssted at the tiny, scrawny Pleb, who squatted within the TV's innards, slurping eagerly on the strands of algae still hanging from the magical circuitry. "Over here, mate..... Have I got a binge for you!!"

Peep smiled smugly to himself! It was all a matter of applying rational thinking and logical reasoning. Was he the sort of hound to let officialdom get the better of him? No! Fire alarm, indeed! If there was one thing Peep detested it was periodic interruptions to his peaceful existence watching re-runs of Dangerman. The logical way to ensure the thing never went off was to ensure zero possibility of fire. "Okay", he conceded to a sceptical Dudley, "it makes a bit of a mess of the furniture" (Dudley was sceptical that anyone would notice!!), "but you soon get used to the water... and I can remove labels from beer bottles without ever having to have a bath again! Yes, what every home needs is a permanent sprinkler system....."

Back at The Fin, the rest of the Family were gathered round a warm mug of lager discussing the day's doings:

"So your Repair Man actually repaired your Screen??" asked Gregori, somewhat sceptically

Harriet frowned. "Well... not exactly. I mean, not in as much as we can actually see anything on the Scrying-screen. But it hardly matters - dear old Freud is supplying us with so much more entertaiment these days... why, I had almost forgotten what he looked like!!"

She paused briefly, as if considering some otherworldly conundrum "I wonder, though".. she continued, "exactly who his over-fed friend is...."

The Wizard did not reply. It was true he had returned to the fold and was once again ensconced within the warm and sticky interior of his favourite refreshment parlour, but at what cost!

"But it suits you, O Wiz," chortled Florentina cheerfully

The Wizard pulled Florentina's pink floppy hat down over his spectacular barnet and refused to be mollified.

"I admit," he said, "that pretending to be you has, indeed, deceived the Rottweiller of Destiny."

"But, " he continued crossly, hitching at his apparel, "don't you have a slightly longer skirt....?"

Returneth thou now to The Towers.... (quick, before anyone noticeth that you've gone!)