Ice Chaos

[This story was written as part of a fundraising drive for ResonanceFM, and broadcast today on Hooting Yard On The Air. Listeners were invited, in return for a donation, to provide a sentence, a phrase, a string of words or a name which was then incorporated into the text. A list of those who so generously handed over their cash follows at the end.]

“Ice Chaos” was the headline in one of the newspapers last week. This followed a day when the unthinkable happened. A flurry of snow, that settled for about twenty four hours, in the winter, in Britain (a country in the northern hemisphere)! Chaos indeed. Or perhaps just a cold snap.

It’s true, though, that extreme or freakish weather conditions seem to be on the increase. There were tornadoes in London, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami… (Incidentally, let us take this opportunity to recall the name of a seismologist involved in lack-of-tsunami warnings, Waverly Person.)

Now, it has been pointed out to me more than once that I am hardly qualified to talk about extreme weather conditions, as the only weather we get at Hooting Yard is rain, sometimes torrential, sometimes a drizzle, and this is true. What my critics fail to note is that, ensconced in a cabin somewhere over by Blister Lane Bypass, we have a superb forecaster. I speak, of course, of Little Severin, the Mystic Badger. When it comes to predicting the weather, Little Severin is second to none, not even to the BBC’s magnificent Dan Corbett. If you have not watched Dan, visit That’s The Weather For Now and be amazed. Little Severin the Mystic Badger has not yet been blessed with a fan site all his own, but it can only be a matter of time.

Before we go on, I want to make it absolutely plain that there is neither a jot nor scintilla of truth in the rumours that have been flying around. Little Severin did not pass through the catflap to the afterlife. In any case, he would have eschewed a catflap and sought a more appropriate badgerflap. Flaps for badgers, and indeed for stoats, pigs, wild hogs, otters and curlews, some of which are flaps to the afterlife and some not, are easily available, for example from Zip Nolan’s Flappery in Basoonclotshire. (That spelling is correct, as the name of the shire derives from basins, not from bassoons.)

Little Severin’s method of weather divination is simple yet brilliant. He is not known as the Mystic Badger for nothing. At various times of day or night, he emerges from his cabin and scrubbles around in the muck, like badgers do. Then he goes back indoors. Voila! Those able to read the omens and portents of his scrubbling know whether tomorrow will bring rain, downpour, or drizzle, and not only that, for Little Severin can predict more than just the weather. Few people are aware that he forecast both the Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland, which lasted for seventeen years, and the Corned Beef Wars between Ireland and Argentina, which lasted thirty, among many other world-shaking events. As far as I am aware there have not yet been any Oregano Wars. Bear in mind that a number of Little Severin’s predictions are retrospective, for as his name implies, he is only little. And mystic.

It is the mysticism which so upset Braithwaite, the one-time bus-seat companion of Clytemnestra Duggleby. It was Braithwaite, with his pipe, his face, his cheese, his keys, his rissoles, his cup, his roll-on-roll-off rim-fire thiamin, and that lip on him, the lip and the sculptured boy-hair, Braithwaite who called into question the accuracy of Little Severin the Mystic Badger’s paw-scrubbling weather forecasts. But what did he know? As Clytemnestra Duggleby attested in court after the incident with the wheezing scrivener and the invalid postscript font, he spent most of his time slumped in front of the radio, like some antediluvian beast, listening distractedly to The Sagans, (or Les Sagans) a long-running serial about husband-and-wife team Carl and Françoise and their thrills, spills, window sills and gas bills as they bring up their papoose Boo Boo. The show’s theme tune features the papoose Boo Boo singing “Meinen Mootzenzimmer” backed by an orchestra of massed banjos and ducks with electronic implants. Clytemnestra hated the drama, but adored the music, and hummed it as she went about her many and various janitorial doings in the town aquarium. It was a submerged aquarium, hewn out of the geological strata underneath the abandoned zoo, and it was rife with weird tentacled aquatic beings (actual size) including squid. According to the aquarium guidebook, “Squids are mammals, just like plants and clouds”, for the book had been compiled by Zip Nolan (he of the Flappery) in a break from writing his pot-boiler series of animal-flap related thrillers such as Creepy Raoul And The Partridgeflap, Creepy Raoul And The Beeflap (serialised in Harpy magazine), and the million-selling Creepy Raoul And The Ineffable Mystery Of The Pentecostalist Cormorantflap, which famously begins “Rendered placid by the sickening stifle, this cumbersome vision of Britney lolled like some spastic hound, a revolutionary Lolita trying in vain to calm my wayward reflexes”. Quite why Zip accepted the commission to compile the guidebook is as much a mystery as one of his thrillers, for he was no lover of waterworld – and I am not talking about the Kevin Costner film. Zip was a dry land sort of person, so much so that he avoided ponds and puddles, and made daily treks all the way from his Flappery in Basoonclotshire to consult with Little Severin The Mystic Badger about the weather, the weather, the weather.

Ah yes, the weather. Rainfall, wild winds, ice chaos. Cool-a-stoop and a heary blear, thunderstorms, tornadoes, forked lightning, slush and frost and winter sunlight, Dan Corbett, and Little Severin, the Mystic Badger.

[Those who donated money to help save ResonanceFM, and whose suggested words appear in “Ice Chaos” are, in alphabetical order: Pansy Cradledew, William English (on behalf of Fotheringay), C J Halo Goat Luncheon (anagram), aka John ‘Alcohol Nut’ Cage (also an anagram), Sandra Harris, Carolina Herbst, Lancton, Outaspaceman, Michael Pierce, Marvin Suicide, Chris Weaver, and others who wished to remain anonymous, which, as it begins with A, ought to have been at the beginning of the list, but wasn’t. I am pretty sure I have not forgotten anyone, but if I have, my profound apologies.]

NOTE : The episode of Hooting Yard On The Air including this story has been given an early podcast release. Go to the podcast archive to listen or download.

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