I learn from the BBC that chickens are to be kept indoors to create a Bird-Flu-Free-Zone. This prompts a little song we can all sing as we round up our chickens (if we have any):
Bring in your chickens!
It’s Indoor Poultry Week.
Pop your chicken on the couch
And pat its little beak.
Apparently we should also be on the lookout for dead or debilitated swans, and report any sightings to the police.
I am a janitor at an evaporated milk factory in Winnipeg. I have a bucket and a mop and a bunch of keys. Sometimes I carry a screwdriver or a wrench or a hammer. My soul glows with a tremendous, overwhelming love of Christ.
As I patrol the corridors with my bucket and mop and keys, I often find myself importuned by wannabe janitors. They dart from nooks and buttonhole me, jabbering questions about janitordom. I display excessive, some might say inhuman, patience with these intemperate pleading nitwits. Only very rarely do I smite one with my hammer.
It is often cold, cold, oh! bitterly cold in Winnipeg. In the factory, the radiators need regular bleeding. When I carry out this duty, I try to concentrate my mind on the blood of Christ, which was shed for me, and for all sinners, even for the wannabe janitors, though they know it not.
Sometimes I have to wipe the blood of a wannabe janitor from my hammer. I use an old frayed much-stained rag, which I then rinse out under a spigot and peg up to dry. I have seen the face of Christ in this rag, many times.
Though I have been the janitor for untold years, I have never actually tasted the evaporated milk made in the factory. I have a horror of semi-sweetened evaporated dairy products, by dint of a childhood trauma. There was a picnic in the Blue Forgotten Hills, and a swarm of wasps, but more than that I cannot bring myself to say.
Every now and then I might come upon a wasp when patrolling the corridors. I sink to my knees and take out my pocket catechism and I comfort myself with the sacred words. Sometimes, in spite of my prayers, I am so fearful of the wasp that I piddle in my pants. I rinse them under the spigot and peg them up alongside the blood-soaked rag. I hide in a broom cupboard to conceal my semi-nakedness until my pants are dry. On these occasions, I usually take off the rest of my clothing, so I can more readily imagine myself Adam in Eden. There is a painting of a serpent on the wall of the broom cupboard.
In Foff lay patches of glue strewn higgledy. Tarps billowed in a gale that was never a zephyr. There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza. Crack out the canisters of Strontium 90.
So, at any rate, says weedy poet Dennis Beerpint in his new book, Gibberish From An Unalloyed Nitwit. Interviewed by a scribbler next to a filbert hedge, the poet was at pains to punctuate his prattle with words beginning with P. But the scribbler’s tape recorder malfunctioned, so all record of what Beerpint said is lost, as lost as a flea in a jerrycan.
What we might want to know is where Foff lies, and whether there are fleas there. On the other hand, armed with an early morning pint of milk and a copy of The Daily Hammer Of Christ, we might prefer to stroll out to where the steamrollers wheeze in the dawn light, as milky as the milk in our carton, and sing wassailing songs of long ago penned by intoxicated German Fafnirs.
Beerpint’s bucket did not have a hole in it. In Foff, it rested on a shelf in his shed. His shed was precisely twenty times the size of his head. That is how you measure sheds, and huts, and cabins, and kiosks. Look at them all lined up, ordered by size, in multiples of Beerpint head measurement. Now watch as they are flattened by steamrollers.
Now dip your fingers in those patches of glue. It is glue that will hold things together.
An occasional feature of my dreamworld is the appearance of a nonsensical word or phrase which – within the dream – takes on huge, if intangible, significance. Previous dreams have revealed to me the crucial importance of Bomba, the Glove of Ib, and the startling yet compelling realisation that my milieu is that of Dr Ludwig. All these things are of great import until I awake, at which point their utter stupidity becomes apparent.
The latest manifestation occurred a few nights ago, when I was made aware of the ancient chivalric code of Eel Zzub. By following the precepts of Eel Zzub, I would become a person of great honour and probity. The fact that such precepts were not in any way made clear in the dream was irrelevant. Eel Zzub was the way to go – at least until I woke up.
I would add two points, which may or may not be pertinent. First, it was resoundingly clear, in the dream, that the Eel of Eel Zzub was nothing whatsoever to do with eels. Second, in my waking state I could not help but recall that Zzub Books was a wholly fictitious publisher of slim volumes of twee verse, invented by Ed Baxter and listed in one of the Small Press Yearbooks circa 1990.
Yes, yes, I realise I am blundering into the World o’ Advent Calendars four days late. Just bear in mind that my health is pitiful and I have the eyesight of a mole, and bear with me. What we are going to do is to jump-start the calendar with four postages today, and you can pretend they have appeared with rigorous regularity since the beginning of the month. I shall endeavour to post the rest of them daily until Christmas or, as John and Yoko would have it, until war is over.
All these birds come from the collection of Andy Martin, tyrannical leader of UNIT, to whom many many thanks.
One consequence of my recent problems with my eyes is that I am less inclined to visit art galleries and exhibitions. Peering myopically at blurred canvases is not entirely rewarding. Spending a few days in Amsterdam, however, I felt impelled to visit the Rijksmuseum, and I am very pleased that I did. For it was in the “Golden Age” galleries that I encountered the most magnificent painting of a swan that I have ever seen.
This is The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn, painted in 1650. As so often, the reproduction barely does justice to the original, which has a gleaming, translucent whiteness even my poor eyes found spellbinding.
I saw many actual swans swanning around on the canals of Amsterdam, but none was quite as magnificent as this one.
I am determined to get Hooting Yard back on track from this unconscionable hiatus, and I have some exciting doo-dah to tell you about Dobson and Istvan and Zoltan. Unfortunately, my energy levels are barely above those of a comatose patient etherised upon a table. In spite of this, I am heading off to Amsterdam for a few days in hope of revivification. I shall sit next to a canal and strive for renewed perkiness. Back soon …