Hooting Yard Archive, May 2005

Back after a break, and what delights! Learn about the ancient mystic art of Goon Fang, toasted blob-cake, a grebe, swans, fluttering sociopathic moth-beings, trumpets and banners, and lightning rods.


Tuesday 31th May 2005
“Talk to the horse in Latin, Greek,…”
Dobson on Sport
Swan News
Monday 30th May 2005
“By his absolute contempt of law, his…”
Trumpets and Banners
Sunday 29th May 2005
“Carlin's deep-shadowed eyes were flaming pools of…”
Seaside Fun and Frolic
Lightning Rod News
Thursday 26th May 2005
“In bygone days the world was a…”
An Outing
Goon Fang : A Correction
Wednesday 25th May 2005
“For whereas in the beginning of the…”
Pansy the Adept
Tuesday 24th May 2005
“Am writing an essay on the life-history…”

Tuesday 31th May 2005

“Talk to the horse in Latin, Greek, French, English, or Spanish, or in any other language you please. Hold up your foot - ‘Live la pied’ - ‘Alza el pie’ - ‘Aron ton poda,’ etc., at the same time lift his foot with your hand… This operation is no magnetism, no galvanism; it is merely taking away the fear a horse generally has of a man.” — P R Kincaid & John J Stutzman, The Arabian Art Of Taming And Training Wild And Vicious Horses

Dobson on Sport

Dobson rarely showed any interest in sport. He did once begin an essay called Why We Say ‘Sport’ & ‘Maths’ While Americans Say ‘Sports’ & ‘Math’, but wrote no more than four or five sentences before abandoning it. Marigold Chew gives a fascinating insight into the workings of Dobson's pulsating cranium when she describes what happened next:

“In spite of the fact that he had fed his scribblings into the fire, the mere act of writing the words sport and sports two or three times sent Dobson whirling off on a new track. It was a morning of torrential rain, as usual, but Dobson donned a mackintosh and stomped out of the house. He was gone for hours. When he returned, sopping wet, he announced that he intended to write an Encyclopaedia of Sport based on an entirely novel classification. Instead of categorising sports into team and solo games, those using balls and those eschewing them, those that require bats, racquets, sticks and pucks and those that don't, his work would instead approach the topic from what he called, immodestly, ‘a Dobsonian angle’.

“Swallowing a mouthful of toasted blob-cake, I asked him what he meant. He fixed me with those beady yet watery eyes and announced that he had, while walking along the lane that leads to the ruinous sump, devised six ‘bags’ of sporting activity; spindly, apprehensive, dashing, clotted, baleful and monkey-like. There was no known human sport, he shouted, growing hot with excitement, his arms windmilling, which could not be levered into one of these categories, and his task would be to draw out the ur-characteristics of each pastime.

“I tipped my plate of cake-crumbs into the sink and asked the pamphleteer where, in this system, he would place the various activities at a mediaeval tourney, where lusty jocund swains would tilt at bagatelles and gambol with partridges et cetera et cetera?

“Dobson did not reply. Later that day, by a curious coincidence, he was attacked by a flock of partridges while waiting at the bus stop. Thereafter, at least for the next few months, all his attention was fixated upon birds, and the sport encyclopaedia was quietly forgotten.”

Devotees of Dobson will of course be aware that the bird-fixation period to which Marigold Chew refers resulted in some of the great man's best-loved pamphlets, including the matchless How I Was Attacked By A Flock Of Partridges At A Bus Stop While On My Way To The Potato Club (out of print).

A mediaeval tourney : note the lusty jocund swains a-gambolling

Swan News

Paul Emmerson writes - tersely, it must be said - “Dear Hooting Yard. I have a swan to cook. The recipes are not on the website. Paul.”

There is a very good reason why there are no swan recipes on the website, Paul. All of us here at Hooting Yard are proud to support the Eating Swans Is Unacceptable campaign, and we have signed up to its Charter. Most of us wear the campaign ribbons which, as you know, come in the form of a purple Eating Swans Is Unacceptable ribbon large enough to be wrapped around one's head as a bandanna or headscarf.

So keen are we on this cause that next month, or possibly the month after, we will be holding a special Hooting Yard Open Day, all the proceeds from which will be donated to the campaign. Mrs Gubbins is in charge of the event and she will be issuing a bulletin - decorated with embroideries and brass-rubbings of swans - very soon.

Meanwhile, Paul, please take your swan to the Peter Maxwell Davies Swan Sanctuary as soon as you can. “Sir” Peter, the Master of the Queen's Music, has of course been known to eat the occasional swan himself*, but we sent Little Severin the Mystic Badger round to stare at him with unerring reproach for days on end, and he has seen the error of his ways, thank goodness.

* NOTE : See, for just one example, Roasted Swan Song : Peter Maxwell Davies Gets Into Legal Trouble Over an Ill-Fated Waterfowl.

Monday 30th May 2005

“By his absolute contempt of law, his inordinate cruelty, his prolonged massacres, and his infliction of plagues upon whole peoples, Ezzelino established the ideal in Italy of a tyrant marching to his end by any means whatever. In vain was the humanity of the race revolted by the hideous spectacle. Vainly did the monks assemble pity-stricken multitudes upon the plain of Paquara to atone with tears and penitence for the insults offered to the saints in heaven by Ezzelino's fury. It laid a deep hold upon the Italian imagination, and, by the glamour of loathing that has strength to fascinate, proved in the end contagious.” — John Addington Symonds, Renaissance In Italy


The wonderful Ed Byrne has sent in An Unhelpful Passage. “Hey dad, I got bored,” he writes, “and made a strange bit of text and pictures.” I think Ed ought to be bored more often, and send in any further results. A splendid and unique piece of work.

Trumpets and Banners

“Now and again, it will do you a power of good to spend a Wednesday morning tramping along a high ridge, blowing a trumpet and waving a banner. If you can persuade others to join you, so much the better. It will not matter if you are tuneless and raggle-taggle - the experience itself can pump vital energy into your blood, oxygenating your brain and feeding crucial nutriments into your integuments.”

That is the advice I was given by my mentor, or at least by a book handed to me by my mentor on the day I said farewell to him for the last time. It was not a day I am likely ever to forget. After the dawn calisthenics, we had sausages for breakfast. I have never tasted the like, before or since. God only knows what they were made of. Ambrosia, perhaps, or manna. My mentor was kind enough, for once, to overlook my disgusting table-manners, even going so far as to hand me several extra napkins from his precious supply. When I had finished mopping up my drool and spillages, he beckoned me with the Claw Of Gack, and we headed off up into the hills to that lair of his which until now had been forbidden to me. Had I not eaten such a gigantic breakfast, my heart would have been palpitating. As it was, my corporeal being was preoccupied with its digestive functions, freeing my brain to do the palpitations.

Once inside the lair, or cave, my mentor handed me a trumpet and a banner and the book which I have already mentioned, and then he vanished in a puff of inexplicable roseate vapour. I was alone. I waited for the vapour to disperse and then I strode out of the cave… no, I must not lie, I minced out of the cave, and I tumbled down the hillside, battering my trumpet in the process, and I rummaged around in my mentor's pantry until I found more sausages, and while I cooked them I practiced a few toots on the trumpet, and I read the book - the passage quoted above comprises the complete text - and then I unfurled my banner. And when I had finished eating all of the sausages, I set out to make my own way in the world.

My banner


You will have noted by now that the background of the Hooting Yard pages has been changed. It has gone all cloudy. This is in homage, I suppose, to the Cloud Appreciation Society, a charming website which Mrs Gubbins urges you to visit.

Sunday 29th May 2005

“Carlin's deep-shadowed eyes were flaming pools of mad menace. ‘I could shoot you both down where you stand,’ he rasped, ‘but that would be a foolish waste of valuable material… I shall turn the two of you over to the Dweller in the pool!’ Dorothy Lane cried aloud in terror. Carlin's thin lips writhed in a snarling smile… ‘Who, or what, is the Dweller in the pool?’ demanded Kent, 'And what devil's work is Carlin doing here anyway?' ‘The Dweller in the pool,’ Dorothy answered, her low voice trembling, ‘is my brother, Raoul!’ … Small wonder that the throbbing agony of so many tortured minds should combine to taint the very air with a shuddering miasma of crepitant dread!” — Hal K Wells, Black Pool For Hell Maidens

Seaside Fun and Frolic

Hal K Wells, author of today's quotation, above, was always the most measured of writers. Black Pool For Hell Maidens - which includes chapters entitled “The Clawed Ghoul”, “House Of Grisly Fear”, and “Mad Pack Of the Maimed” — was the first in his series of guides to British seaside resorts, all of them featuring both “hell maidens” and the enigmatic Raoul. Later titles included Skeg Ness For Hell Maidens, Tot Nes For Hell Maidens, and Raoul And The Hell Maidens Go Wild In Great Yar Mouth.

Lightning Rod News

The above graphic is not merely a sensible warning. Glyn Webster (for it is he) reminds us that during the American War of Independence there was quite a spat between Benjamin Franklin and King George III regarding the correct design of lightning rods. Franklin advocated the use of a sharpened end to the rod, which many English electricians of the time took issue with. Benjamin Wilson, a member of the Royal Court circle of George III, believed that the pointed rod actually elicited lightning strikes, and that rods with a rounded sphere were safer. Other English colleagues favoured the use of blunt-tipped rods. King George III's involvement in the dispute was politically motivated rather than having any scientific basis. As Franklin was one of the signatories to the 1776 American Declaration of Independence, the use of sharpened rods was seen to be an upstart Republican idea. Further fuel was added to the fire when the Purfleet powder magazine in outer London burnt down after a lightning strike, and the Franklin rods were blamed. The King ordered that all lightning rods throughout the empire were to have a cannon ball placed on the top of them, or be removed.

You can read more about this exciting dispute here. Meanwhile, if your enthusiasm for lightning rods remains unquenched, you really ought to read The Lightning-Rod Man by Herman Melville.


The ghostly grebe that haunted the windswept coast of Flappings never frightened Gunther the Pipsqueak. Gunther had a rare medical condition. He was unable to perceive birds with any of his senses, including the sixth. Although he was a pipsqueak, Gunther had an active sixth sense, as well as an eerie and befuddling seventh sense, but eerie and befuddling as it was it was also incapable of apprehending any of the myriad forms of bird life with which our planet is blessed, or some would say cursed.

I think I must have been about forty before I learned that there were people who hated birds. Of course there are many folk who are frightened of all things avian, but fear is not hate, or not exactly. I was to discover, however, that there exists a subculture of bird-haters, or more accurately owl-haters. They have their own samizdat journal, of surprisingly elegant typographic design, entitled The Samizdat Journal Of Owl-Haters, which is available on subscription.

Despite not having a clue what an owl was, Gunther was a keen reader of the journal, for he had somehow got it into his head that through its lonely owl-hating hearts columns he might find himself a wife. He spent long evenings in his woodcutter's cottage on the edge of the Flappings forest poring over the advertisements and pencilling a cross next to the ones that attracted him, but so shy was he that he could never pluck up the courage to pick up the metal tapping machine to make contact.

One Easter Sunday, after a night made miserable for all but Gunther by the skirling of the ghostly grebe, the pipsqueak's ma confronted him in his workshop. She was as splendid an example of genteel decay as one was ever likely to meet, and Gunther found himself trembling whenever she came a-visiting. On her wrist she wore a little leather cuff on which perched her tame hummingbird, but of course her son knew this not.This morning, the purpose of her visit was to persuade Gunther to place his own advertisement in the personal columns. Knowing that he was functionally illiterate, she offered to write something for him. After tea and scones, she did so.

A few weeks later I was skulking along the sandbanks on the Flapping coastline, armed with my ectoplasm-bottling jar and a pair of spirit-binoculars, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghostly grebe. I sat down to rest on a sitting-place, and a gust of wind blew a scrap of paper into my hair. It was a page torn from The Samizdat Journal of Owl-Haters, a publication new to me. Thus I read it with the avid curiosity which is my defining quality. Here is what I read:

Pipsqueak oblivious of birds seeks soulmate. Avid curiosity preferred. Contact metal tapping machine number 87341.

I never did see the ghostly grebe. But within a week, dear reader, I married Gunther, and we have lived happily ever since in the woodcutter's cottage on that windswept and grebe-haunted coastline.

Thursday 26th May 2005

“In bygone days the world was a peaceful place, in which our forefathers knew not the blessings of Bile Beans … They were sound trenchermen, who called their few ailments ‘humours’ or ‘vapours’ and knew what peace of mind meant. Sixty years ago there was one lunatic in every six hundred people; to-day there is one in every two hundred.” — Isaac G Briggs, Epilepsy, Hysteria And Neurasthenia

An Outing

Listen, tiny ones. If you are good I will take you on an outing. I will take you to the old balsa wood factory on the edge of the big blue lake. Every Thursday afternoon at two o clock, there is a tour of the factory especially for tots. The hooters sound and everyone lines up at a kiosk in the car park, and Mister Verdigris appears in his towering hat, with bells on his sleeves, and ribbons and bunting, and hamsters nestling in his pockets, and he takes the lucky people, the ones with tickets, on a tour of the factory.

I was sent some tickets in the post yesterday, as a special treat. I know that Tim the radio meteorologist says that Thursday will be a day of driving rain and howling gales, and I know that it will be the fourth day of our fast, and we will be famished, but I am determined that we go. The alternative is that we spend yet another afternoon trying to tether the wild goats, and I am not sure I can take much more of that, so the balsa wood factory it will be.

* * *

First there was the grass verge of the car park, and then a lawn, some derelict outbuildings, including a shed wherein rotted the remains of the hanged janitor, and then the factory itself, its cavernous interior lit by thousands of gas jets, and eerily silent save for the occasional buzzing of a saw or the distant, insistent pounding of a pulper from the annexe over beyond the railway tracks, a sound borne in on the wind.

After that, up the metal stairway to the offices, always deserted on Thursday afternoons, even tiny shoes making the floorboards creak, and shelves upon shelves stacked with higgledy-piggledy piles of files and papers and dockets, and Mister Verdigris took the hamsters from his pockets and placed them on a bed of straw next to an important-looking desk, its surface polished to such a gleam as left the children dumbfounded, and resting on it nothing but a fat, new fountain pen and the biggest bottle of ink you could imagine, and the pen had never been used and the bottle never opened, for the lids of both were jammed by dint of mischievous sprites that scampered in the rafters overhead.

And it was up to the rafters now, up to the attic, past boxes and crates filled with rusty and inexplicable machines, redundant cash registers and forgotten magnetic recording devices, through a narrow corridor littered with broken brooms, and host to a mysterious gurgling noise, until we reached the chamber at the end, and our tour guide in his towering hat kicked open the door, so violently!, and we entered a room lit in a blue, blue glow, like heaven, and there in the corner, sprawled on a divan, we saw Pinocchio, dexterously plucking flies out of the blue air with his tiny fingers, and biting the tiny head off each tiny fly with his tiny teeth.

Goon Fang : A Correction

Further to yesterday's item Pansy The Adept, Pansy Cradledew has asked me to publish the following statement:

I fear that in your ill-considered witterings about the ancient mystic art of Goon Fang, you gave the impression that I am an Adept. There are many - indeed, countless - levels of eptness within Goon Fang, and I wish it to be quite clear to your readers that I am an Inept. If you do not publish this correction on your website, I shall have no choice but to make a visitation to Haemoglobin Towers and enact the Goon Fang movement known as The Fluttering Sociopathic Moth-Being, guaranteed to give you hideous nightmares for the rest of your life, believe you me.


One enticing item that arrived in the post while I was away was from Elizabeth Shipley, who kindly sent this fragment from the novel The Clandestine History of a Lost Key, Without Which the Boathouse Cannot be Opened Nor the Oratario Performed by Miss Eglantine Cadenza:

Chapter 203 “A Dentist Remember'd”

Emeritus Professor of Greek Per Eliasen crouches beside the telephone in his Aarhus apartment. He has the impression that everyone who rings him is a piano tuner from Leighton Buzzard by the name of Ron. He is poised, hungry for Ron's next delphic utterance.

While he waits, he rereads Nella Buck's exquisite first novel, Lids Without Jars, Jars Without Lids. He has reached his favourite part, wherein Jasper begs Amarinta to acknowledge maternity of his child, and Amarinta stabs Jasper in the throat with a tuning fork, and then both wander out to see if the post has come. Meanwhile

[several lines here obliterated by a marmalade stain]

railway junction.

“More cake, darling?” As she passed the Battenburg, a peacock drifted beneath his nose. It gave him a cool, appraising stare, as if it judged that he might be about to steal its wallet. It then withdrew, but not before a flush had risen to his

[squashed insect here, prob. of the order Dermaptera.]

By the time of her return to the Public Baths that evening, Drusilla Prunt regrets everything. But it is too late. Already the little dressmaker is there, lurking in brine, her extravagant smalls decorously asink. “Hydropathic Cures, 10 Shillings a Limb” she insinuates, eyes akimbo.

[There follows an apparently unrelated recipe for Buttonhooks In Aspic.]

“You are nothing but a furtive tangoist,” breathes Drusilla, greatly daring.

“BACK one, two, quarter-turn . . .” purrs the sodden sempstress. “Three, four, STRAIGHT back, gentleman--”

“Pah!” cries the hapless Drusilla, striving in vain to stuff her gloves into her ears.

“--gentleman starting with his left foot, lady with her

[The rest of the page appears to have been nibbled away.]

Wednesday 25th May 2005

“For whereas in the beginning of the world, the heavens, and earth, and Elements were settled in their natural places, the earth being left slimy and soft in many places, and then dried and stricken with the heat of the Sun, brought forth certain tumours and swellings in the surface and uppermost parts. In these tumours were contained and cherished many Putrefactions and rotten clods, covered over with certain small skins, this putrefied stuff, being moistened with dew by night, and the Sun heating it by day, after a certain season became ripe, and the skins being broken, thence issued all kinds of living creatures, whereof, they that had quickest heat, became Birds, the earthy ones became creeping beasts, the waterish ones became Fishes in the sea, and they which were mean, as it were, between all these, became walking-creatures.” — Giambattista Della Porta, The Second Book Of Natural Magick


Continuing with correspondence received during Hooting Yard's break, the estimable Max Décharné sent this:

Some years back I bought an old book called New Familiar and Progressive English and French Dialogues (With Dialogues on Railway and Steamboat Travelling, and a Comparative Table of Monies and Measure) by Richard and Quetin, published by Hachette, 1876, which I was recently looking through again, and it remains one of the finest phrase books I've ever encountered.

Some of it sounds like the dialogue from a porn film: ‘You oblige me in so willing a manner, that it encourages me to apply to you again and again’, ‘I am delighted that you make use of me so freely’, ‘You may dispose of me as you will’, ‘It is impossible to do a favour in a more pleasing manner’ 'I have never experienced such satisfaction', ‘I believe I shall go mad with pleasure’.

Then there's the section entitled ‘To express horror and fright’: ‘It is abominable, horrid, infamous’, ‘It is violating all that is most sacred in nature’, 'It is enough to freeze one's blood with horror', ‘There never was anything seen so abominable’, ‘The mind revolts from the idea of such a crime’.

Or perhaps, when visiting those tourist spots in Paris, and one feels the need to ‘express dipleasure and grief’: ‘I am ruined beyond remedy’, ‘My misfortunes are at their height’, ‘I am swallowed up with affliction’, ‘After so many misfortunes, it only remains for me to die’.

Then, select phrases for when one chances upon Michael Howard: ‘His babbling absolutely splits my head’, ‘There is something repulsive in his address’, ‘It is difficult for me to surmount the disgust with which he inspires me’, ‘Has he sworn to tease us all day?’

When training for a post in the Diplomatic Service, there's the useful section headed ‘of age and the different periods of life’: ‘Your aunt appears very aged’, ‘His brother, who is younger than he, is quite decrepit’, ‘He is in a state of extreme decay’, ‘He already has one foot in the grave’

And, of course, these random phrases which might come in useful among friends: ‘What a quantity of asparagus and artichokes!’ 'My eldest sister had the whooping-cough, the youngest had the measles, my eldest brother the small-pox, and the youngest a miliary fever', ‘Shall I help you to undress?’, ‘I will take charge of the bread and butter’.

Splendid stuff from Max, as ever. Even more correspondence tomorrow.

Pansy the Adept

Here, for your edification and instruction, is a translation of the War Song of the Huitznahuac, taken from Rig Veda Americanus, Sacred Songs of the Ancient Mexicans, number eight in Brinton's Library of Aboriginal American Literature, edited by D G Brinton (1890):

1. What ho! my work is in the hall of arms, I listen to no mortal, nor can any put me to shame, I know none such, I am the Terror, I know none other, I am where war is, my work is said to be in the hall of arms, let no one curse my children.

2. Our adornment comes from out the south, it is varied in colour as the clothing of the eagle.

3. Ho! ho! abundance of youths doubly clothed, arrayed in feathers, are my captives, I deliver them up, I deliver them up, my captives arrayed in feathers.

4. Ho! youths for the Huitznahuac, arrayed in feathers, these are my captives, I deliver them up, I deliver them up, arrayed in feathers, my captives.

5. Youths from the south, arrayed in feathers, my captives, I deliver them up, I deliver them up, arrayed in feathers, my captives.

6. The god enters, the Huitznahuac, he descends as an example, he shines forth, he shines forth, descending as an example.

7. Adorned like us he enters as a god, he descends as an example, he shines forth, he shines forth, descending as an example.

An adaptation of this song, with slightly amended words, wassailed to the tune of Carry On, Wayward Son by stadium rockers Kansas, has been heard around Hooting Yard every day for the past couple of months, ever since Pansy Cradledew became an Adept of Goon Fang. Often confused with the traditional martial arts of the East, Goon Fang is - as David Bowie once said so regrettably - “a completely different kettle of poisson”. I asked Pansy to explain for readers what it means to be an Adept of this ancient mystic art. She scribbled a few words on the discarded wrapper of a toffee apple, as follows:

It is not without reason that Goon Fang is shrouded in mystery, for when the powers of both Goon and Fang are combined, the Adept enters the Plane of VerEecke, a state of being both terrifying and a bit frightening. If I tell you anything more, my Goon energy will be dissipated and my Fang plasma will curdle. The plasma is of course invisible, and mighty, but should it curdle the very stars in their heavens will explode, so I am keeping mum for the time being.

Pansy agreed, however, to share with us this photograph of a Goon Fang workshop held in a secret location:

Tuesday 24th May 2005

“Am writing an essay on the life-history of insects and have abandoned the idea of writing on How Cats Spend Their Time” — W N P Barbellion, The Journal Of A Disappointed Man


Back after a longer than expected break. Much has happened since Hooting Yard was last updated. For one thing, I had to go to Rome in an attempt to become the Pope. I was disappointed that Vatican officials chose not to use the traditional method of ensuring that John Paul II was really dead, by striking him three times on the forehead with a special hammer while shouting his name. Lamentably, they relied on modern medical practice. After that, it was downhill. Instead of me, they chose one of the cardinals. Ah well, maybe next time. And to think I had already chosen my pontifical name. After all those pious ones (usually spelled Pius) I was going to be Impius the First. However, I have changed my mind during the last week. On his visit to Washington, George Galloway memorably called Christopher Hitchens a “drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay”, and I think Pope Popinjay has a nice ring.

What else have I been up to? Much of my time has been spent working tirelessly on a book entitled Essays On String, Killer Bees, Slops And Pap. Astute readers will note that my title is plagiarised from one of Dobson's out-of-print pamphlets, but the two works could not be more different. Where Dobson is gullible, I am drawn to flimflam. Where Dobson is trenchant, I am bleak. Dobson likes words beginning with B, whereas I have a zest for crumpled things. Extracts from my essays may appear here during the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, it is time to catch up with some of my regular correspondents.


Velma Nebraska forwarded this:

For lovers of good writing, listed below are the ten winners of this year's Bulwer-Lytton Contest, aka the “Dark and Stormy Night Contest” run by the English Department of San Jose State University, wherein one writes only the first line of a bad novel:

10. “As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.”

9. “Just beyond the Narrows, the river widens.”

8. “With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.”

7. “Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: ‘Andre creep… Andre creep… Andre creep.’”

6. “Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.”

5. “Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from ekeing out a living at a local pet store.”

4. “Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.”

3. “Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.”

2. “Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word ‘fear’; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death - in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.”

1. “The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, ‘You lied!’”


In the Antipodes, Glyn Webster has not been idle. He has spent valuable time devising Hooting Yard Scrabble®, the rules of which he expounds as follows:

1. Acronyms, Roman numerals, proper nouns and non-English words are allowed.

2. Ordinary tiles may be used to represent accented letters.

3. The blank tiles may be used to represent apostrophes, ligatures or non-Roman letters.

4. Any word previously made up by Frank Key is acceptable.

5. A misspelt word is acceptable, providing that the misspelling appears in the canon of Frank Key.

6. If Frank Key creates a new written work in the course of a game he must replace all the tiles on his rack.

Glyn has also produced what he calls a “cheatsheet” containing all permitted words in Hooting Yard Scrabble®, which readers can pore over with breathless enthusiasm here. I feel I ought to point out that, when rule five refers to misspellings, these are spellings - often archaic - which appear in quoted passages, rather than infelicities of my own. Should you be able to drag yourself away from Glyn's majestic wordlist, there will be further news from correspondents tomorrow, together with an introduction to an ancient mystic art of which Pansy Cradledew has become an Adept…