Further Plums

Yesterday’s Hooting Yard On The Air on Resonance104.4FM contained further plum-based radiophonic frolics. Listen carefully. I expect there will be yet more of this next week, until I have exhausted plums and turn my attention to another fruit, or even a completely non-fruit-related topic.

And don’t forget that the lines are still open for our 2016 Christmas Appeal, and will remain open untll 24 December.

Groovy Janitor

Once upon a time there was a groovy janitor. That is about all there is to say about him. He was groovy, and he was a janitor. Or, he was a janitor, and he was groovy. These two statements are not identical. We must be alert to nuance. Do we give more or less weight to his janitordom or to his grooviness? Much as we might wish to grant them equal importance, we know in our heart of hearts that to do so is blind idiocy. Oh come on, admit it. You are leaning, even if only slightly, in terms of your level of interest in this majestic piece of prose, towards the janitoriness or the groove.

As a janitor, the groovy janitor was often to be found in a corridor, with a mop and a pail, rattling a bunch of keys, or perhaps bearing down upon a fixture or fitting armed with a hammer or a screwdriver or a wrench. As a person of groove, the groovy janitor, while so engaged, would often be snapping his fingers to the latest sounds from some of our top beat groups, a long but not exhaustive list of which has been compiled by Bernard Levin. Shall we refamiliarise ourselves with the roll call?

Some [beat groups] were almost as famous, and successful, as the Beatles; some were known only to the most devoted aficionados. But all added to the atmosphere of the decade, and the isle was full of noises as never before, coming from, among others, the Rolling Stones, the Bee Gees, the Monkees, the Doors, the Cream, the Mothers of Invention, the Seekers, the Who, the Small Faces, the Pretty Things, the Animals, the Pink Floyd, the Scaffold, the Grateful Dead, the Tremoloes, the Family, the Supremes, the Holding Company, the Four Tops, the Led Zeppelin, the Shadows, the Exploding Galaxy, the Editors, the Fugs, the Gods, the Kinks, the Hermits, the Paper Dolls, the Breakaways, the Greaseband, the Casuals, the Amen Corner, the Big Sound, the Flirtations, the Herd, the Marbles, the Status Quo, the New York Public Library, the Hollies, the Foundations, the Electric Havens, the Four Seasons, the Bachelors, the Seychelles, the Love Affair, the Fifth Dimension, the Three Dog Night, the Equals, the Vagabonds, the Marmalade, the Mindbenders, the Moody Blues, the Mirettes, the Tuesday’s Children, the Plastic Penny, the Procol Harum, the Troggs, the Fruit Machine, the Union Gap, the 1910 Fruitgum Co., the Beach Boys, the Fairport Convention, the Vanity Fair, the Harmony Grass, the Aces, the Young Tradition, the Nice, the Dubliners, the Tinkers, the Fleetwood Mac, the Incredible String Band, the Web, the Little Free Rock, the Blodwyn Pig, the Liverpool Scene, the Spooky Tooth, the Third Ear, the High Tide, the Mamas and Papas, the Carnations, the Pacemakers, the From Genesis to Revelation, the O’Hara Express, the Pentangle, the Chickenshack, the Blind Faith, the Fourmost, the Searchers, the Four Pennies, the Bar-Kays, the Unit Four Plus Two, the Hedgehoppers Anonymous, the Applejacks, the Box Tops, the Edison Lighthouse, the Blood, Sweat and Tears, the Vibrations, and the Rada Krishna Temple.

From this we can adduce that our groovy janitor was being groovy, and a janitor, in the 1960s. But that was half a century ago! He is fifty years older now, creaking, wrinkle-rutted, near bald and toothless, gasping weakly from a bed in a Mercy Home. It is no longer accurate to describe him as a janitor, for he has carried out no janitorial duties for twenty years at least. We can call him an ex-janitor, or a retired janitor. And what of his grooviness? Is he still groovy? Let us ask the superintendent of the Mercy Home, Mrs Pantoofle.

The retired janitor lying sprawled in his iron cot in Hopeless Ward? You are asking me if he is groovy? Define your terms, please.”

We set out for her the chief characteristics of grooviness, in alphabetical order, supported by illustrative diagrams we have tucked in our pocket for just such an eventuality.

I see,” says Mrs Pantoofle, though as she is wearing a pair of very stylish mirror sunglasses we cannot be sure of the truth of this remark.

I would say,” she continues, “Taking everything into account, that the ex-janitor has indeed retained his grooviness. Only the other morning, as one of the skivvies attended to his bedpan, she noted that he was babbling incoherently in his weak and reedy voice. With great presence of mind, she made a tape of his gibbering on the Mercy Home cassette recorder. We played it back during the staff meeting at lunchtime, while eating fruit. At first the tape yielded nothing intelligible, but when we pricked up our ears and concentrated very hard, we realised the retired janitor was reciting “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. What could be groovier than that? It fried my wig, daddy-o!”

The moral of this story is that, while janitordom may fade away and vanish, grooviness prevails. Let that be a lesson to you.

Note To Self

Yesterday I mentioned, in passing, Will Self. This is never a good idea. I am reminded, however, that I really need to stamp my big black boot down and make something very clear. First, back in 2009, we had the question posed “Is Frank Key Will Self?” And now, just the other day, this:


While I am flattered by Mr Bugs’ complimentary remarks, I am equally appalled to find myself compared in any way with the preposterous figure of Self. Perhaps the most laughable thing is the idea that he is some kind of edgy intellectual maverick. From his many appearances in the Grauniad and on the BBC, I think it is clear that he is in possession of the Middle-Class Student Wanker’s starter pack marked ‘This is what you think’. All his opinions are predictable and orthodox. If there is such a thing as the “metropolitan liberal elite”, he is a card-carrying member. For example, he believes that everyone who voted for Brexit is probably a racist. Such simplistic twaddle will always get you applause and whooping from a Question Time audience, a fairly reliable indicator of vacuous dimwittery.

I fear, however, that I will forever be linked with the wretched Self, given that his one useful contribution to the world was giving Mr Key a light for his cigarette in the midst of a downpour in south London.

The Orgasmatron On Wheels!

What on earth is going on in Stroud Green? Mick Hartley spotted this mysterious vehicle.


For an account of a home-made Reichian orgone accumulator, see here.

A Question About Bats

I have not bothered to look this up in any reference books, so please forgive me if the answer is blindingly obvious.

What, I would like to know, is the quality inherent in the excrement expelled by bats that is related to human madness? I am thinking of the phrase batshit crazy. We do not commonly say, for example, catshit crazy or giraffeshit crazy or puff-addershit crazy, or at least I have not heard these phrases used at the sort of swish sophisticated cocktail parties I try to barge my way into. But reference to the droppings of bats is made frequently.

Answers in the Comments please, unless you are batshit crazy yourself, in which case you would be more appropriately occupied reading something by Will Self.


A hand-drawn map by my son Sam. Click to enlarge.


The Fox And The Dog : An Important Update

Several years ago we took a long hard look at the well-known story in which the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. So compelling was our analysis that there was general agreement, in both vulpine and canine circles, and more broadly, that no further light could possibly be shed on the matter, at least not in our lifetimes.

But lo! What is this? Writing from the fair land of Denmark, Jacob Thoegersen has added a comment to the original potsage [sic] which, frankly, blows the whole thing up a fresh spout. (I don’t think that is a common phrase, or even means anything, but it damned well ought to become part and parcel of our parlance, daddy-o.) To ensure Mr Thoegersen’s contribution does not lie neglected in the archives, here is his comment in full:

I thank you for your review, my dearest Mr. Key, which I think – in broad strokes – sums up the most pertinent questions to students of the story, the ‘pillars’ of our discipline.

I think you will agree with me also that many of the factual questions you raise will in time be answered upon careful scrutiny of video documentation now published (or is that ‘leaked’ one might speculate) about the incident:


I advise all people to see the video and form their own opinions, but in my eyes, the dog appears to be standing, it is of a light brown (cappuccino?) colour, and the fox does indeed appear to be in a somewhat playful mood – if ‘playful’ and ‘mood’ can be properly applied to canines.

Of more interest, perhaps, to students of the story is the new insights the video give about the performance of the actual jump. How many of us, for instance, had in our mental reproduction of the scene envisioned the fox *landing* on the dog. If I am not much mistaken, the photographic evidence of this occurring will spawn much renewed interest, will force us to rethink many interpretation we had come to accept as self-evident, and, we may hope, open up entirely new avenues of research into the psychological implications of the story.

My personal analysis on the history of studies in the dog-and-fox story is that the community can be roughly divided between parabelists, historist and omenists – of course proposing this meta-theory will infuriate many if not all scholars in the field, but alas, so is my burden…:

Parableists see the story as a parable, to be read for its symbolic and moral implications (far too many and multiform to mention here – not least because the emergence of the video, I think we all must now agree, renders the entire avenue of thought untenable). To parableists (or the agniostics if you prefer) it is irrelevant whether the event actually occurred or not; the story has very real social and human significance today irrespectably. Historists see the incident as an actual occurrence of the past; omenists, on the other hand, see it as prophetic vision of a future, possibly, messianic event (not unlike the less well researched story of the lamb lying down with the lion published in a much inferior literary piece of drivel whose name momentarily slips my mind but which may be familiar to your readers).

The new video evidence should feed much renewed interest in the two latter schools of thought: Is this the final proof that the quick brown fox did indeed jump over the lazy dog – and when and where did this then happen..? Or is this the sign that Armageddon is upon us? I think we all agree that we are living in intensely interesting – what could be traumatizing – times. I for one shall sleep little while this new evidence is being scrutinized in labs and offices around the world.

As to the implications for our field as such, I believe this could be the time that lay people, average Janes and average Joes around the world, realize that we are not, emphatically not, crackpots and monomaniacs. Our studies have very serious and very real implications for the future of mankind. I foresee a future of even more specialized journals and conferences, and perhaps even an international newspaper dedicated to fox-and-dog’ology. I foresee a future where any serious national newspaper worthy of its name will have a daily section or a weekly supplement on current trends and new findings on a par with their treatment of business, culture, weather, TV and politics. I foresee in other words, brothers and sisters, a future where we will receive the same media coverage as our colleagues and rivals in dogs-on-skateboard’ology. I have always held that an important component in their media flair was the constant outpouring of new photographic evidence which is only too eagerly lapped up (if you will excuse the pun) by newsrooms.

These are exciting times, Mr. Key, and I trust you will follow the development closely in your show. You have always been a leading light in independent coverage of the news the people really want to know about.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE : Mr Thoegersen has now added a further, perhaps even more compelling, comment.

Plums On The Radio

Fruit-lovers among you will be delighted to learn that I devoted the first Hooting Yard On The Air of the new year to plums. That is, all the pieces I read on the show made mention of plums, in several cases plums of the Carlsbad variety. This was received so well by listeners that I am seriously considering taking a plum-based approach to next week’s show too. It is rare in the history of radio broadcasting, I think, for a single type of fruit to be granted such prominence in a programme not otherwise fruitcentric, or not ostensibly so. Should any fruiterers wish to give me a free bag of plums in recognition of my efforts, please do not hesitate to approach me in the boulevards and thrust a bag of plums at me.

You can listen to the show here. If by chance you are allergic to plums, or simply abhor them, preferring, say, peaches or persimmons, you may wish instead to go and lie down in a darkened room with cotton wool stuffed into your lugholes. It is entirely up to you.

Bulletin Of Key Optics

Potsages [sic] are likely to remain criminally sparse for the time being. This is due to the state of my eyes, which make it something of a strain to peer at a screen and attempt to tippy-tap keys with reasonable accuracy.

Following a series of fortnightly injections of a needle directly into my eyeballs, the other day I had an assessment by the consultant, who recommended … further injections of a needle directly into my eyeballs! So that will keep me occupied in the coming weeks.

I do have some ideas skittering around in my bonce, which I shall do my best to post here if and when I am able. One such scheme is A New Life Of Christ. I intend to remain faithful to Biblical sources, while mucking about with nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and, why not?, plot, characters, and setting. When Galilee moved to Shoeburyness … and lo!, the Lord did topple into the bottomless viper-pit of that seaside place.

O, Little Radish

By popular demand, here is another verse by a sulky Bulgarian poet, written circa 1982. This one is entitled O, Little Radish and purports to be by Fratsin K Yecebit. (My poets’ names sound Turkish rather than Bulgarian, but I was young, so young …)

Tomorrow morning we will
Drink vinegar
Here in this trench.
I haven’t paid
Any of my debts
And I don’t intend to.
They can brandish guns at me
Or twigs.
I’ll make my peace
And whip it up with a whisk.
Send me your cash now.
Send me the lot.
I’m the man you ought to
Shove in the vat.

Sulky Bulgarian Poets

Along with the Undimmed by Death postcard, I unearthed another set of six cards from the same era. These are hand-drawn and hand-written, and collectively titled Sulky Bulgarian Poets. Unfortunately, the drawings are cack-handed and the “poems” are atrocious – with one exception. Number 5, “In Fish And Shipping”, is attributed to sulky Bulgarian poet Elvis Targnegescubit, and, though it pre-dates Hooting Yard, I think it is a worthy addition to the canon.

In despicable visions of
An unholy refrigerator,
Another refrigerator,
In implacable discussions of
A swordfish,
A carp,
An enormous schooner,
A small schooner,
A tiny ship, ship-ette,
In all these I have said,
Irrefutably, not once,
But with venom,
I am a very fat man.

A Postcard From The Last Century

In 1982 I spent much of my time making postcards, which I sold for a pittance to eager punters from what would now be called a pop-up stall in Norwich. Below is an example of the sort of thing I was doing.

The source material for both words and images was a huge pile of National Geographic magazines from the 1950s and 1960s acquired from various second-hand bookshops. To create the captions I employed a cut-up technique akin to that used by William S Burroughs and David Bowie, but far more amusingly than either of them ever did, particularly the former, a tedious gun-toting drug-addled uxoricide.

Younger readers may find it difficult to fathom, but in Norwich in 1982 it was well nigh impossible to find an affordable colour photocopying facility. I thus sent my originals to my friend Peter Ross in London, and Peter organised the copying and sent me the results by post. I then employed scissors and glue to mount the hysterically funny images on to card, ready for sale to East Anglians.

I think Peter is still in possession of most of the original artwork, but this one came to light the other day. The captions read as follows:

Undimmed by Death

Who were they?

In this convivial land, trendy youngsters like Walter And Jorg searched the ground for clues.

Walter and Jorg are each identified by separate name captions.


Boxing Day

One of the most fab of Boxing Day traditions is the annual gathering around the bottomless viper-pit at Shoeburyness. Forming a circle around the pit, and holding hands, the participants come dressed in motley, with trimmings of gimp passementerie. Eyes fixed steadily upon the viper-pit, they then recite passages from various works by Alain de Botton, before singing, to the accompaniment of bassoon and piccolo, “More Than A Feeling” by Boston. They then remain in silent contemplation until sunset, at which point they disperse, all except one, bent on self-obliteration, who is taken by the wrists and ankles and flung, voluntarily, into the pit.

I attended today, as I have done for countless years past, and I am pleased to report that a fine time was had by all. The sole disappointment was that, as usual, not a single viper slithered out of the bottomless pit to grace us with its vipery Boxing Day presence, dammit!

The Christmas Baby-God

May the mewling and gurgling of the Christmas Baby-God warm the cockles of all Hooting Yard readers on this day and throughout the coming twelvemonth.


Cetacean News Roundup

I am grateful to reader Theo Gott, who reminded me of this seasonal squib which originally appeared here six long years ago.


The television presenter Adrian Chiles read the newspaper headline Porpoises rescue Dick Van Dyke and was consumed by jealousy. Ever since he was tiny, Chiles had hankered to feature in an exciting news story alongside sea creatures, and now his thunder had been stolen by the octogenarian pretend chimney-sweep! It was too much to bear.

Yet, rather than turning his twisted mental havoc upon Dick Van Dyke, the West Bromwich Albion-supporting anchorman began to plot vengeance against the very sea creatures which until now had fascinated him. In his mania, he decided to obliterate the largest sea creature he could obtain, to obliterate it in the most disgusting way, by eating it. And he decided to make of his revenge a festive occasion, by arranging his foul dinner to take place on the day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

What demons swept through his maddened mind, to so finesse his unutterable act? Alas, no hint was given of his motives in the newspaper report which followed, in the cheaply-photocopied Weekly Cetacean News Roundup, under the headline A Whale’s Christmas In Chiles.