An exhibition of Hooting Yard rarities, scarcities, orts and scantlings will take place at The Menier Gallery, 51 Southwark Street, London, from Tuesday, 10 March to Saturday, 14 March 2020. The show should be open from 10am to 6pm (4pm on the Saturday) and there will be a ‘fans and friends’ private viewing on Tuesday from 6pm to 9pm. If you would like to speak to the Duty Git concerning the exhibition, please email HelloHootingYard [at] gmail [dot] com.
Dear visitors to the Yard,
For those of you who may not yet be aware of the tragic news, I am sorry to report that Mr Key left this world for The Great Beyond late last week. I do not know what he may find there but, however implausible, I am fairly certain that it would a) amuse him and b) he would find a way to write about it if he could.
Though those of us left behind may feel bereft for quite some time, we can take some small comfort in the many pages of prose he left for us here on the site and the hours upon hours of blathering available at Hooting Yard on the Air, courtesy of Resonance FM.
It is hoped that an exhibition of Frank Key rarities, scarcities and snippets may be mounted in London at some time in the near future, along with a reception to allow his devoted fans a chance to celebrate the time we had with him.
Should you wish to support us monetarily in this latest endeavour, please consider donating to his JustGiving page or sending your hard-earned cash to the radio station that was his spiritual home for so many years.
Yours in sadness and with a zest for crumpled things,
In the current transgender hoo-hah, the implications for women’s sport have prompted much controversy. If big burly blokes who “identify as” women, like “Dr” Rhys/Rachel McKinnon, are allowed to compete in women’s events, what are the odds that, given their physical advantage, they will start winning everything? There are already enough instances of this happening to make women’s prospects seem bleak.
It so happens that the future of women’s sport was televised almost half a century ago, on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In his fight against Petula Wilcox, boxer Ken Clean-Air System is not explicitly identified as trans, but of course those were far less enlightened times.
Click on the link for (poor quality) video.
On a cold wet afternoon in November 1965, Athol and Bruce and Judith and Keith let it be known that the carnival was over. The cat was out of the bag. I was but a tot at the time, with only half a dozen summers behind me, but I knew this was a call to action. If I did not do something, where would it end?
First things first. I decided to put the cat back in the bag. It was a cloth bag, pink and green with a scattering of yellow dots, like the dawn rising on a buttercup-splattered meadow, with a draw-string fastener. My mother used it for keeping her buttons in – so many buttons! – until I tipped them out near the fireplace. I picked up the bag, drew it open to its full extent – impressive forward-planning for one so young! – and went in search of the cat.
I waylaid Pontius – that was the name of the cat – by the wainscot in the parlour, picked him up by the scruff of the neck, and tried to shove him back into the bag. But, like most cats, Pomtius was not tractable, and he struggled in my grasp, flailing, and clawing savagely at my face. Had a passing snapper photographed the scene, it would have resembled Neon Park’s cover design for the Mothers of Invention album Weasels Ripped My Flesh, although that picture was not executed until 1970, it would have shown a six-year-old boy rather than an adult male and a cat rather than a weasel, and would most likely have been black-and-white rather than full colour. Most of my memories of that time are monochrome, when I call them to mind, which is more and more often these days.
Howling, I dropped Pontius, who skittered off at high speed towards the catflap and the open air. I also dropped the bag. Clutching at my bloody cheek, I went in search of my mother and bandages.
Restarting the carnival would have to wait. Alackaday, I was soon distracted by other matters – a tumbler of milk, snakes and ladders, picking up buttons – and I quite forgot about the carnival. Only today, more than half a century later, have I remembered that it is up to me to get it started again. I will, I will, after I have taken a nap.
In the early 1960s, my paternal grandmother went mad and was carted off to a Mercy Home for the Baffled and Bewildered. It was run by an order called the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, and my grandmother spent her final decade contented and happy. Surrounded by nuns, she perhaps believed that she had realised a lifelong ambition, and become a nun herself. The home, in Lytham St Annes, was – still is – called Stella Matutina.
More than half a century later, at the beginning of last year, my brother acquired a dog. It was the first time he had ever had a pet pooch and, by all accounts, possession of the dog “changed his life”. The name he gave to this dog was Stella Matutina.
I find this psychologically fascinating. It would be intriguing to plumb the depths of my brother’s psyche in relation to dogs and mad grandmothers and nuns. As the psychiatrist remarked in Fawlty Towers, “there’s enough material there for an entire conference”.
One consequence of my hopeless eyesight is that, over the past couple of years, reading has become somewhat difficult. Even armed with industrial-strength magnifying spectacles, issued by my eye doctors, it is a strain to read standard size type.
I have always loved books as physical objects, and eschewed their digital, electronic counterparts. But having been given a Kindle Fire tablet as a birthday gift, I have become – of necessity – a convert to the e-book. I can read again, voraciously, without having to peer like a little mole.
Thus, in the last few months, I’ve been splurging, my reading life as demented and enthusiastic as ever it was. I’ve reread Beckett (Molloy) and Kafka (America), Henry Fielding and Mickey Spillane, read Theodore Dalrymple’s marvellous book on litter (Litter : The Remains Of Our Culture), Melanie Phillips’ memoir Guardian Angel, Francis Iles, Derek Raymond, and James Hadley Chase, H P Lovecaft, William Hazlitt, and Sir Thomas Browne, and am currently bingeing on Georges Simenon. What a wonder he is.
Midway through our thrilling milk-based calendar, back in December, the Hooting Yard website went kaput. Boffins worked tirelessly to repair whatever damage had wrecked the innards, and I think it is now germ-free at last.
Unfortunately, at around the same time, Mr Key himself went kaput. There was general physical debility, catastrophic problems with my eyesight – still pitiable in spite of ongoing injections of a needle directly into my eyeballs – and, I am afraid to say, a brain which came to resemble an empty vacant void or vacuum, in which nothing stirred.
In the meantime, I celebrated my sixtieth birthday. I cannot simply sprawl around peering vaguely at misty shimmerings and dribbling into a tin cup. No! I must crack away at that damned keyboard again, however slowly and fitfully, and try to unleash further sweeping paragraphs of majestic prose!
It’s all a bit of a palaver, with ludicrously magnified screens and hit-and-miss typing – not to mention a compulsive desire to take a long snooze – but I shall do my best to revivify your favourite website.