Stickybeak’s Lexicon. Flabellate: not at all what I imagined.



Welcome to Stickybeak’s Lexicon. Here you will find my (ir)regular scribblings about words newly learnt, phrases freshly heard, and sayings just-acquired.

This is not intended as an all-encompassing dictionary; Samuel Johnson I am not. I simply fancied sharing any intriguing words and phrases with you as I discover them. I might even try using them in my writing; you might like to as well. If you do, let me know; you could even offer up an example of how you might use the word.



Some words, to my mind, simply cry out to be verbs; flabellate is one such word.

In the darker and more sinister recesses of my mind, to flabellate, or more precisely, to flabellate oneself, should rightly be used to describe the actions of a repentant and somewhat corpulent sinner. There, that’s put you off your supper.

Equally, and for mostly the same reasons, it wouldn’t be out of place if used in a house of dubious repute. Think dungeons. Think leather.

Imagine then, my surprise, (and disappointment), on discovering that flabellate is, in fact, an adjective used to describe, amongst other things, the shape of certain insect’s antennae. Flabellate means fan-shaped and comes from the Latin flabellatus, (titter ye not there in the back row), which stems from the verb flabellare. So it is a verb after all; just not used in the way that it sounds like it should. To my school boy mind, that is.

In botanical and zoological terms, something can be flabelliform if fan-shaped. I can’t think of too many occasions where I might want to use this in my writing, but it is now filed away in the Lexicon, just in case. I’d be thrilled if anyone can think up a sentence using flabellate in an interesting way. It cries out to be humorous, don’t you think? Incidentally, the comparative of flabellate is more flabellate, and the superlative is most flabellate. This just gets better.

Whilst I ponder how I can work flabellate into something I’m working on, here’s a pretty picture which explains more clearly this fabulous word’s meaning.

A beetle with flabellate antennae




Stickybeak’s Lexicon. My new, (ir)regular, series on words just-discovered.

Welcome to Stickybeak’s Lexicon. Here you will find my (ir)regular scribblings about words newly learnt, phrases freshly heard, and sayings just-acquired.

This is not intended as an all-encompassing dictionary; Samuel Johnson I am not. I simply fancied sharing any intriguing words and phrases with you as I discover them. I might even try using them in my writing; you might like to as well. If you do, let me know; you could even offer up an example of how you might use the word.

This could be fun.

My first offering for your entertainment and (possible) enlightenment comes from this posting’s title:


You will encounter this word under ‘curiosity: desire for knowledge’ in Roget’s Thesaurus. It is wedged between ‘nosey parker’ and ‘busybody’ under the sub-heading ‘enquirer’ .  I’ve never come across the expression before, and I immediately warmed to it. Perhaps it is my enquiring mind that makes me nosy about new words and expressions; I’ll  leave it to my nearest and dearest to decide whether I’m also a busybody, a word which conjures up an image of a house-coated, hair-curlered matriarch from ‘Coronation Street’ circa 1972, as in: “that Ena Sharples-she’s a right stickybeak” . Apologies to American visitors for the shamelessly British reference. I’ll try not to make a habit of it.

Now it’s over to you. Sentences, phrases and one-liners please, to include the word ‘stickybeak’.

‘A Monsoon Magnate’ A flash fiction from a Mumbai monsoon.

I’m striking a lighter note this week with this story, which was inspired by my quick trip to Mumbai earlier in the week. It is monsoon season there at the moment and I’ve no idea how the population manages to carry on with normal business under the deluge. It is certainly atmospheric.

I offer my apologies for any (and there must surely be some) religious inaccuracies in the text. I hope they don’t distract too much. They are certainly not intended to offend.

As always, comments gratefully received. More fabulous story-tellers can be located at #fridayflash on twitter and at

Mumbai Monsoon

Monsoon in Mumbai

A Monsoon Magnate

Raj peered gloomily out from underneath the tarpaulin.

‘This bloody monsoon,’ he said, ‘how is a man supposed to make a living with the heavens emptying themselves for weeks at a time?’

 Jay laid a hand on Raj’s arm.

‘You worry too much, friend,’ he said, stepping back as one of the few taxis brave enough to chance their luck in the downpour sped past, forcing a high tide of fetid street water over the pavement.

‘Of course I worry; we’re not going to make our fortunes gawping at the rain like a pair of hijras, scared our mascara might run.’

‘There’s an idea.’


‘We could become hijras. How about it Raj?’ Jay grabbed a piece of cloth and wrapped it round Raj’s head. ‘I can just see you: a pretty sari, some gold jewellery, red lipstick. All you have to do is dance; they always pay well.’

‘Very funny, Jay. No thanks. Besides, we’re the wrong caste; and don’t they have to cut their thingies off?’

‘I thought they just pushed them up inside for a while.’

Raj looked at his friend and shook his head.

‘It’s no good. I have to find something.’

‘Well, whatever it is, make sure it has a USP.’

‘What’s one of those?’

‘A Unique Selling Point.’

‘Is this some rubbish you’ve picked up at that evening class? Why you waste your rupees on that when you could be at the movies, I don’t know.’

‘So you’re not interested?’

Raj looked at the rain again.

‘Go on then; I’m all ears.’

‘Successful entrepreneurs always make sure their product stands out from those of their rivals.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Well,’ said Jay, ‘I’ll try and explain it.’ He thought for a moment. ‘We’re Hindus, right?’

‘Yes, thank goodness.’

‘Exactly,’ said Jay, ‘and what is it about our religion that we like so much.’

Raj laughed.

‘The festivals!’

Jay sighed.

‘Every religion has festivals, Raj, but ours gives us a second chance. And a third; probably a fourth, fifth and sixth too. It’s the Karma which makes it different. You’re always saying that you want to come back as a dolphin aren’t you?’

‘Yes. But I still don’t get it.’

Jay pushed his hands through his hair.

‘I’ll try and make this easier for you,’ he said. ‘Why do you always go to the same ice cream stand?’

‘Because they have the most flavours to choose from.’

Jay slapped Raj on the back.

‘There you go! That’s a Unique Selling Point.’

‘Ah!’ Raj suddenly felt inspired. Was this what they called a eureka moment?

It was several wet days before Jay saw his friend again. When he finally found him, Raj was standing behind a table he’d set up under cover on the pavement; it was loaded with new umbrellas.

‘What’s all this?’

Raj smiled broadly.

‘Thanks to you Jay, I’m in business.’

‘And why would I buy one of your umbrellas when I can get the identical item across the road?’ Jay looked at the price marked on the soggy piece of card. ‘And for less money?’

‘You’re forgetting my USP!’

Jay raised his eyebrows.

‘Which is?’

Raj pointed to the sign fixed to the tarpaulin roof.

“Stay safe from lightning with Raj’s rubber umbrellas!”

Jay laughed.

‘Umbrellas can’t be made of rubber.’

‘The handles can. Look!’

 Jay picked up one of the umbrellas and examined it.

‘It’s just rubber tubing pushed over the handles.’


‘How do you know it works?’

‘I don’t.’

‘Isn’t that a bit dishonest?’

‘If it makes me money, who cares?’

Jay sighed. He hadn’t taken the class on business ethics yet, but he felt sure that Raj’s venture would come under “How not to do business”.

‘How many have you sold?’

‘Four. But it’s early days. You don’t think Bill Gates made his first million by lunchtime, do you?’

No, thought Jay, but at least he was selling something that worked.

The two friends waited patiently throughout the morning, and despite dropping his price a couple of times, Raj only sold three more umbrellas.

‘I’m hungry,’ he announced at lunchtime.

‘Why don’t you get yourself an ice cream?’ said Jay, ‘I’ll keep an eye on your stall.’

Raj looked up at the sky.

‘But it’s pouring.’

‘Hmm, what you really need is an umbrella!’

Raj pushed Jay out of the way and grabbed a bright green one from his display.

‘Very funny clever clogs. I’ll be back in a minute.’

Sheltered under his green canopy, Raj started out across the road.  The lightning which struck the metal tip of his umbrella killed him instantly, melting the rubber tubing into his singed palm.

After what felt like seconds, but could equally have been an eternity, Raj opened his eyes.

‘Oh,’ he said quietly, ‘it’s you.’

‘Indeed it is,’ said Vishnu, ‘who were you expecting?’

‘What happens to me now?’ said Raj, nervously eyeing the god’s four arms.

Vishnu peered over the edge of his lotus flower.

‘You’re going back down there.’

Raj heaved a sigh of relief.

‘Thank you, Lord Vishnu.’

‘You don’t know what you’re going back as yet.’

‘Please, Lord Vishnu,’ he said, ‘I didn’t mean to be dishonest.’

‘Too late,’ said the deity, flicking through his natural history encyclopaedia, ‘yes, this will do. And it’s the right weather for it.’

‘Dolphin?’ said Raj hopefully.

Vishnu slammed the book shut.

‘No,’ he said, ‘toad.’

Raj began to cry.

‘I don’t know why you’re so surprised,’ said Vishnu, ‘it’s Karma. My USP. Remember?’

© flyingscribbler 2011

‘Meatloaf Special’ A flash fiction served with a side of Formica!

Silence, they say, can be deafening. The lack of noise from my blog over the last two weeks* has finally made itself felt and I have written this for your entertainment.

This was inspired by a visit to a fantastic diner in downtown Philadelphia; all Formica, swivel seats and neat aprons. This dishevelled guy came in and sat down.  Without a word passing between him and the waitress, she served him coffee, cream and a menu. It got me thinking and hey presto! The diner in question is Mrs K’s Koffee Shop and you must go there if you happen to be in Philly. It will now be my regular lunch spot when I’m in town.

*My excuse for the silence: multiple jet lag plus a trip to Kew Gardens to see Jamie Cullen last Friday and a weekend sailing  the Solent with friends. I was even allowed to steer the boat for a couple of hours. All very Howard’s Way. (If you know what that means you must be (a) British and (b) over 40.)

As always, comments and feedback very welcome and I promise to read as many #fridayflash stories as possible.

Mrs K's Koffee Shop

Mrs K's Philadelphia

Meatloaf Special

 Old Jack’s seat was hallowed ground. Despite the fact the he hadn’t shown up for a few weeks, Cassie had dutifully kept it empty; mainly because he wouldn’t want to sit anyplace else, but also out of respect and loyalty for the diner’s most faithful customer.

The door swung open.

‘Take a seat, hon. I’ll be with you in a minute.’

Not a regular, thought Cassie. Looks like she just smelt shit. If they don’t like diners, why do they come in? Plenty of delis and salad bars to go to.

‘Leave that one empty though.’

Typical. A regular just wouldn’t do that. Cassie placed a menu and coffee on the counter in front of Jack’s seat; didn’t matter if it wasn’t drunk.

‘Coffee, hon?’


‘Specials today are French Onion soup, Meatloaf and Key Lime Pie.’

The woman stared at Cassie’s name badge for at least five seconds.

‘Thanks. Cassie.’

God, she hated that. They always thought it would intimidate you; make you wait on them better or something. Bullshit.

Cassie walked back to the counter, tapping Old Jack’s seat gently as she passed it.

He always had the meatloaf on Thursdays.

‘So, what’ll it be?’

‘I’ll take the chicken salad.’

I knew it, thought Cassie.

‘No problem.’

‘Can I ask a question, Cassie?’

Here we go.


‘You waiting for someone?’ The woman points to Old Jack’s place.

‘We keep that one for a regular. He likes it there. I’ll get the salad.’

Nosey bitch. Cassie didn’t like questions from strangers; they always led someplace she didn’t care to go. What did she want anyway?

‘Doesn’t look much like he’s coming for his coffee, does it?’


‘Your regular. He hasn’t been here all day.’

‘And how would you know that?’

‘He hasn’t though, has he? Cassie.’

Cassie slipped into the booth.

‘Do I know you?’

The woman shook her head, eyes locked onto Cassie’s.


‘Old Jack? You know him, don’t you?’

‘Naturally. Although of course,’ and here the woman paused, suspending her knockout punch above the table for just long enough, ‘that wasn’t how his family knew him.’

Breathe, Cassie, breathe.

‘He’s dead then.’

‘That he is.’

‘I thought as much.’

‘But you still set a place for him? Why Cassie?’

‘We care for our customers here.’

‘Even if they have no business eating downtown?’

‘What did you say your name was?’

‘I didn’t.’

Cassie stood, arms folded.

‘As I said, we look after our customers, and that’s what I’m going to do now. I’ll talk to you after the rush; I do not expect you to leave this table. Got it?’

‘Leave? Before finishing this fine salad?’

The coffee remained in place during the lunchtime period, turning colder with each customer opening the door. Finally Cassie wiped the empty counter clean and removed the cup before sitting down in the booth.

‘What do you want to know?’

‘What was my father to you, Cassie?’

Cassie sat back in the seat, open mouthed.

‘How dare you!’

‘You can spare me the sordid details, Cassie, but please don’t deny it.’

‘What’s your name?’


‘Right, Jane. Listen very carefully. Your father came in here every day for five years. Sat there at the counter, had his coffee and a plate of food. We spoke a little then he left. That’s it. Nothing else.’

‘So how do explain this?’

She pushed an envelope across the table. Official looking. Thick paper.

‘Open it. It’s addressed to you.’

Cassie read the envelope. “Cassie, Waitress, K’s Diner, Main Street, Philadelphia.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘You’re in his will, Cassie. Why would that be?’

 Cassie felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

‘I don’t know. He was just a customer; came in one day, said he couldn’t work. He looked terrible, so I told him to take a seat and that he could always find a plate of food and an ear to listen. That was it.’

Jane put down her coffee.

‘Dad had a breakdown and quit the business; but it was still his. Funny though; I remember him storming out one morning muttering something about not having space to think.’ She looked round the Formica interior of the dinner, flaring her nostrils. ‘And this is where he found it.’

Cassie reached across the table for Jane’s hand.

‘There was nothing going on; Old Jack was just a customer. I liked him. In fact, it was him who listened to me mostly, grumbling about my divorce, the kids, you know.’

Jane was silent for a minute, then straightened her back and placed her hands together on the table.

‘Cassie, I apologise for my rudeness. It’s just that none of understood what was going on. We knew he was getting better but not why; I guess we assumed there was someone, you know, helping him.’

Cassie grabbed a napkin from the dispenser and wiped her eyes.

‘I suppose I must have helped him, in my own way.’

‘He obviously thought so.’

‘If I thought for one minute I was keeping him from his family,’ Cassie began.

Now Jane reached out for Cassie’s hand.

‘Don’t,’ she said firmly. ‘The truth is, we didn’t know how to help him.’ Jane paused for a second. ‘It was his heart, by the way.’

Cassie looked at Jane and nodded.

‘I’ll miss him.’

‘Me too.’

The door opened suddenly, its draft sending a napkin flying off the table.

‘You have a customer,’ said Jane softly.

Cassie turned her head; a dishevelled looking man with greying hair and an unruly beard was looking round, deciding on a seat. He turned to the counter and headed for Old Jack’s. Cassie stifled a gasp and gripped the edge of the table until he’d settled himself.

‘Don’t let me keep you,’ said Jane, ‘besides, looks like someone needs a coffee.’

© flyingscribbler 2011

‘An Alpine Folly’. A new flash fiction. #fridayflash.

There appears to have been very little action here at the flyingscribbler blog. However, appearances, as we all know, can be deceptive. Whilst the blog has, I admit, been uncared for of late, I haven’t been sitting on my laurels. No, indeed not; I have been sitting in my deck chair researching Greek Mythology. And that’s all I’m telling you about that. (Regular visitors might have a clue why). I’ve also been preparing a flash fiction for a competiton, which is now done. So this week, I have had enough time for this little piece. It is rather on the experimental side, so I hope it works.

It was triggered by a recent trip to Dubai. Have you been? It is, in my opinion, just the other side of too much. A ski slope in the desert? Impressive would be one word. Not mine.

I should point out that any similarities to nations in the Gulf or Europe are entirely accidental. (They wouldn’t actually be reading this. Would they?).

An Alpine Folly

The meeting to decide the date of exchange of the alpine nation’s sovereignty with that of the Gulf state took place in camera.

The specialised team of interpreters, selected for their knowledge of the finer points of Arabic and the convoluted declensions of various European languages, had been vetted by both parties, as had the stenographer; their discretion was vital to the successful outcome of the talks. In any case, attempts to leak details would be dealt with ‘efficiently’ and ‘definitively’.

‘Gentlemen,’ said the Emir, ‘I believe we have proven beyond doubt that the establishment of a permanent alpine environment in the desert is not only desirable, but also eminently achievable. I myself have skied on the slopes of the prototype, although,’ (and at this point the Emir deferred modestly to his alpine counterpart), ‘without a single degree of your own finesse.’

The stenographer paused, fingers hovering, whilst the assembled rulers, politicians and scientists enjoyed the joke. Not for the first time that afternoon, she had to stop herself from recording her impression of “(nervous laughter)”.

‘The scale of construction is,’ continued the Emir, ‘immense even by our current standards. To those who might suggest that it is an impossibility, I implore you to look at what we have already achieved: island communities visible from outer space; the tallest structures on earth; the world’s largest airports. All built on time and on budget, without the constraints of other nations’ pecuniary labour laws.’

 “(shameful silence, ten seconds.)”

The alpine President whispered to his aide briefly before speaking.

‘We are satisfied with your proposals,’ he said, ‘and we hope that you find our own equally acceptable. Our projections for desertification of the alpine meadowlands are based on a sound scientific analysis of current and future data; the exponential surge of energy consumption you promise in order to maintain our synthetic alpine environment requirements will in turn deliver the necessary conditions which your own future generations will need to continue your unique way of life in our former homeland. Indeed, gentlemen, it is this very symbiosis which makes our endeavours so satisfying. Merely adapting to the planet’s changing environment is not an inconvenience which nations such as ours should have to endure.’

“(uncomfortable silence, five seconds. degree of embarrassed sweating.)”

The President continued.

‘This is, I am sure you will agree, an act of supreme selflessness; a collective philanthropy which will bequeath certainty and continuity to our grandchildren. We should not, nor indeed will not, be bound any longer by international treaties which are doomed to failure. Bilateral action, such as ours, is the only conceivable way forward.’

“(general agreement. relieved smiles. some forced.)”

The Emir sipped his sparkling water, placed his hands firmly on the table and smiled.

‘This is a new era in both our nations’ histories. The rest of the world will come to envy our decision to act now; they, sadly, will wish they had displayed the same degree of foresight which we ourselves have implemented.

“(selfish bastards. can’t believe I’m hearing this.)”

‘There is no significant argument to convince our governments that sharing our wealth with less fortunate nations will result in a favourable or advantageous future for our vested interests.’

“(could at least try.)”

The President rose to his feet, holding out a steady hand.

‘So, Your Highness, if we are agreed, I suggest we leave the finer details to these very able people.’

The Emir shook the President’s hand firmly.


“(someone should know about this.)”


Later, after her interrogation, the stenographer contemplated her mistake in entering her own thoughts into the machine. She rubbed her bruised cheek, brushing away a tear.

“(I never even got to say goodbye.)”


© flyingscribbler 2011