If you are a keen traveller with an interest in gravy, you will already be aware that there are two recommended forms of transport to suit your palate, the gravy boat and the gravy train. Some years ago it was announced that a cheap and safe gravy booster jetpack was being developed, but alas! funding for the project was fumbled, as is so often the case, and the company behind the scheme collapsed amid bitterness and gall like something from the Book of Lamentations. There the story might have ended. Yet according to a fascinating documentary due to be broadcast next week on the soup-, sauce- and gravy-focused online channel Slops TV, one of the key figures involved is still working away at the idea from a potting shed on an allotment in a dismal little town somewhere in the back of beyond. Hooting Yard is always keen to salute inventors, be they cranks or visionaries, so we managed to obtain a transcript of part of the programme:
Itâ€™s rather cramped in this potting shed on an allotment in a dismal little town somewhere in the back of beyond, and there is very little light, so you probably wonâ€™t be able to see much apart from oppressive gloom. Also, weâ€™re having a few problems with the camera, so the gloom will be not just oppressive but juddery. Iâ€™ve just sent a runner back to the studio to see if we can get a repair person or a replacement camera, but Iâ€™m not holding my breath.
I was holding my breath a few minutes ago, however, because the man Iâ€™ve come here to see released some valves and the potting shed was filled with fumes, which luckily have dispersed. Apparently, the fumes were so toxic they could fell a field of cows in eight seconds flat, from a huge distance, so I consider myself pretty lucky that Iâ€™m still talking to you.
So who is he, this man squashed into a cramped potting shed on an allotment in a dismal little town somewhere in the back of beyond releasing valves that let toxic fumes escape, endangering himself, and me, and Prudence the camerawoman, not to mention thousands of cows for miles around? Well, he wonâ€™t tell me his name, and he wonâ€™t speak. He wants to remain anonymous because of the top secret nature of what heâ€™s up to, and he wonâ€™t speak because heâ€™s too busy resealing the valves and mucking about with all sorts of other gubbins.
Now you might think that, faced with an uncooperative subject and a faulty camera, we would just pack up and go home. But here at Slops TV we donâ€™t know the meaning of failure. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™ve become the top soup-, sauce- and gravy-focused online channel on the web! We press ahead with the big stories where the faint of heart and the weak-minded would falter. As it says in our Mission Statement, weâ€™re â€œnot just about soup and sauce and gravy â€“ weâ€™re about the burning ambition and uncontrollable frenzy of a hothead who simply doesnâ€™t understand the word NO!â€ Even Prudence had to sign up to that one, and sheâ€™s a Quaker, or a Mennonite, one of those Quietist sectsâ€¦ and a damned fine camerawoman if I may say so.
See, now sheâ€™s managed to find a sliver of light coming in through a gap in the roof of the potting shed on an allotment in a dismal little town somewhere in the back of beyond, and even though the camera is even more juddery than before, you might just be able to get a glimpse of me presenting this exciting programme, flailing my arms around in an intriguing way. You still wonâ€™t be able to see the man weâ€™ve come to film, because heâ€™s skulking about in the gloom doing something to a pneumatic pump. I think heâ€™s holding a pair of tweezers in one hand. In fact, heâ€™s only got one hand. Like a lot of crackpot inventors he wears a prosthetic arm after losing the one he was born with in an explosion during one of his experiments. But that was then and this is now, and the tension is building as he patiently goes about his tinkering in the darkness. Like a mole or other burrowing animal, he is perfectly able to work in Stygian gloom, because heâ€™s been doing this for years, fashioning all sorts of contraptions designed to make the world a better place.
Iâ€™ll let you in on a little secret. Itâ€™s not actually related to soup or sauce or gravy, so forgive me for going off message, but this one-armed man with his tweezers working diligently in a cramped potting shed on an allotment in a dismal little town somewhere in the back of beyond is the man who gave us the retractable bloater skewer, that invaluable device which allows us to retract the skewer on which we have skewered our bloaters. Who can imagine a breakfast of bloaters where such a simple tool is not, at the very least, an option? Oh, you can say, I donâ€™t want to retract the skewer from my bloaters, thank you very much! You can say that, and it might even be true, but Iâ€™ll bet there are times when the thought niggles away at you that, thanks to our friend here, you at least could if you wanted to.
Prudence has very helpfully pointed out to me that soup, sauce, and gravy can all serve as accompaniments to bloaters, so I wasnâ€™t going wildly off message after all.
There is something strangely compelling about watching an amateur boffin at the top of his game. This reminds me of the time I was sent to do a report on a retired pig farmer who had devised an entirely new kind of bird scarifier. It was made of blotting paper and reconstituted meat substitute and dust, and the idea was that you attached it to a bunch of balloons and launched it into the air over your pig sty, and it would stop your pigs being attacked by savage starlings and guillemots and chaffinches. That old pig farmer also had a prosthetic limb, as a matter of fact, but in his case it was a leg. He, too, worked from a potting shed, but rather than being on an allotment in a dismal little town somewhere in the back of beyond, his was at the edge of a dilapidated cluster of buildings that had once been his pig farm before he retired, set in a sylvan vale, with brooks that babbled and dingly dells. It was certainly the most idyllic dilapidated pig farm I have ever filed a report from. The retired pig farmer gave me a demonstration of his invention, and I am hoping soon that this chap in the gloom is going to do likewise. At the moment he is messing around with some flaps and nozzles and I get the impression that he doesnâ€™t want to be interrupted. So while Prudenceâ€™s camera is still rolling, letâ€™s take a quick look outside.
Well, as you can see, itâ€™s pretty grim. These are blizzard conditions. I can see some hollyhocks and a turnip patch, but thatâ€™s about it. Itâ€™s actually quite difficult to get your bearings. In fact, I think weâ€™ve strayed too far from the potting shed because I canâ€™t even see it anymore. Weâ€™re in a sort of white nothingness. Ah, now, I donâ€™t know if you can see this on your screens, but Prudence is pointing her camera at a sort of wraith-like being who is beckoning to us. It canâ€™t be my taciturn crackpot inventor friend, because itâ€™s much taller than him, much, much taller. Weâ€™re going to follow this impossibly huge albino ghoul and, this being Slops TV, you can come with us.
Weâ€™re heading past some sleet-lashed potato beds now, and there seem to be more wraiths, a whole crowd of them, in fact, beckoning to us and groaning. This is fantastic! The spooky part is that we never seem to be getting any closer to these gigantic phantom beings. We must be a fair spit from the potting shed by now, judging by how far weâ€™ve come, but the wraiths are still ahead of us, just at the edge of our vision. Their groaning and keening is getting louder, though, more desperate, and thereâ€™s something quite menacing about it.
Oops, I think I just trod on a cabbage. And now I canâ€™t feel anything at all under my feet. Itâ€™s as if we are in a complete void, white, limitless, and desolate. Prudence tells me that weâ€™re now surrounded by wraiths, theyâ€™re behind us as well as ahead of us, at both sides, above us and below us, and the moaning and keening is growing ever more insistent and hideous and implacable. I havenâ€™t known anything like this since the report I did from the Abyss of Doom in the
Do not believe the lies – all the technology required to make a cheap and efficient gravy-booster has existed for more than ten years. The fact that our stores are devoid of such products is evidence of a conspiracy orchestrated by the boat and train people.
As a child, I remember being informed that dinner-party tables in the new millennium would be adorned by high-tech gravy launchers: Precision controlled machines which would catapult specifically calibrated blobules of gravy onto the plates of the hungry. I have never lost sight of this vision, even if it remains science-fiction for the moment.
Do not think that I am content to sit by – I have begun a letter writing campaign which will expose the perfidity of the train and boat people; I have written to Sting, Bono and the Society of Jesus – one of whom I am confident will take up my case.
for “train and boat people”, read “train and boat oligarchs”, for that is what they are.
Chief among the Train and Boat oligarchs of course is undoubtedly song-smith Burt Bacharach…
The Gravy Plane has, as we all know, all but been erased from the public memory since the 1958 Munich Air disaster…
I fear Mr. Shuddery’s initiative may fall on deaf ears as we know that Mr. Bacharach will simply offer Stig & Nobo a chance to write a song with him and thus neutralise their petitioning…
Look what happened to Lives Costello…!
He must have had a highly persuasive argument for the gravy booster to warrant a whole albums worth of collaboration…
Work on a parallel product, the groovy baster, was all-but complete at New College, Oxford, in the late 1920s, but it came to naught on the death of the Warden in August 1930.
Caution in this matter would indeed be well-advised. Before his career as unhinged and emotionally unstable athlete, Mr Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne was once a promising, bescholarshipped postgrad student at MIT. Some say that uncautious boasting of an unheretofore dreamed-of Centrifugal Gravy Accelerator reached vigilant and brooding ears, with consequences all too sadly apparent.
It is furthermore rumoured that Thomas Berthold was whistling “Close to You” in a provocative manner throught West Germany’s notorious encounter with England in the 1990 world cup : and I am certain that I do not need to tell you from what sordid receptacle the “bratensosse” was poured over pork dumplings served an the victory dinner held in the Teutonic dressing rooms in the wake of the match.