Outa_Spaceman, who is currently serialising an issue of Men Only from 1958, sends in a picture of that year’s winner of the Miss Pointy Town contest . . .
Summer is here, and with it comes the annual Pointy Town Nincompoops’ Bazaar. This year, as ever, the Nincompoops’ Bazaar will be held in a particularly pointy part of Pointy Town. Preparations are well in hand, and several nincompoops have already laid out their stalls.
This year, among the bargains available to punters will be antimony, breadcrumbs, curd, digestive biscuits, egg tapestries, frozen milk, galoshes, hats, ink, joggers’ funnels, kaolin, lemon meringue pie, mother’s wreckage, narthex rubbings, obsidian cat helmets, preening equipment, quicklime, rusty pins, sausages, talc, urban pointy things, vulgar snoods, wax, xylophones, yeast bags, and zookeepers’ cushions.
In the Kathy Kirby Memorial Tent we are promised Quetzalcoatl puppets, wind chimes, earmuffs, ratcatchers’ trousers, tin, yoghourt, uncooked pork, instant mashed potato, offal, portable anvils, anchors, sock hoists, damp cloth, fierce wild beasts, glue, hornets, jam, kevlar dog helmets, limestone, zookeepers’ pin-cushions, x-rayed innards, custard, vinkensport scorecards, bait, noodles, and marzipan. There will be a flag atop the tent, and a Tannoy belting out nincompoopised versions of the instrumental bits from Kathy Kirby’s chart-toppers, played on the glockenspiel.
A map of the site should soon be available, done in crayon and pencil by orphans from Pang Hill Orphanage. The light is dim in the Orphanage cellar, and the orphans are somewhat cack-handed, so the map may not actually be very helpful. As an alternative, visitors can be guided around the bazaar by a goat on the end of a chain. There is only one goat, so expect lengthy queues. The goat is an authentic nincompoop’s Toggenburg, with three natural legs and one made of wood. The wooden leg has been given a slap of bright yellow paint to aid visibility in the more tenebrous areas of this pointy part of Pointy Town, where the enormous pointy bits block out the sunlight with pointy black shadows.
In the lee of these shadows are several specialist stalls offering mole nets, nasal sprays, blood oranges, vapour, Chumpot patent soap, xysters for bone-scraping, zookeepers’ pin-cushion holders, lettuce, kedgeree, jumping fleas, helicopter pilots’ insignia, grease, froth, desk tidies, string, asbestos, potato novelties, orpiment, isinglass, unhelpful maps, yachting caps, trick propelling pencils, rotogravures, embossed badger badges, will-o-the-wisps, and quince jelly.
Following certain unspeakable tragedies that occurred at last year’s Nincompoops’ Bazaar, the organisers are at pains to point out that no nincompoops will be armed to the teeth this time around. Of course they should not have been allowed to bring all those pointy sticks and poison-tipped pointy lances and pointy swords. Signpost chaos meant they mistook the Nincompoops’ Bazaar for the Nincompoops’ Jamboree, which was unfortunately scheduled to take place at the same time, and not that far away, but in a marginally less pointy part of Pointy Town. That both the Bazaar and the Jamboree had a Kathy Kirby Memorial Tent only added to the confusion, and the bloodshed.
Just in case anything untoward does take place this year, there will be an ambulance on site, with a crate of bandages and various gooey substances. The ambulance will be stationed next to, or near, or at least in the general vicinity of the inky-black fathomless pond teeming with blind slithering horrors, next to the swings. For the duration of the Nincompoops’ Bazaar the swings will be chained up and electrified, to discourage tinies from frolicking upon them. We do not want any swings-and-pond mishaps, after all.
If you are crawling towards where you think the ambulance is, pierced with pointy arrows like St Sebastian and rapidly losing both blood and the will to live, but cannot find the ambulance, listen out for the klaxon. The klaxoneer’s podium is among the stalls selling zookeepers’ pin-cushion holder’s padlocks, yapping dogs, x-box wiring, weird coathangers, vouchers for dough, ungodly cravats, turps, siphons, rubber Beelzebubs, quartered pigs, pips, orreries, nothing, muck, lumps, klaxons, jugs, impenetrabilia, horrid squashed things, glove compartment tat, flimflam, earwiggery, dust, creosote, buzzy bees, and aniseed.
Just a reminder that you do not need to be a nincompoop to come to the Nincompoops’ Bazaar. For a small fee you can be made an honorary nincompoop for the day, with a pointy cap and a badge and some embroidered emblems and your arm in a plaster cast and a small sluicing procedure to your brain through a trepanned vent, the trepanning carried out by a qualified nincompoop with a hand-held iron pointy twisty boring and screwing contraption daubed in a gooey substance and wiped clean with a rag between screwings. For directions to the Julie Felix Folk Singing ‘n’ Trepanning Tent, follow the pointy arrows in the flowerbeds, planted with lupins and phlox and bindweed and buddleia.
One small note about the werewolves patrolling the site, fangs bared, howling. Remember that these are nincompoop werewolves, and are generally harmless. They will cease stalking you if you toss them a bucketful of liver and lights and other innards from something freshly slaughtered. Even the innards of a goldfish or a newt will do. It also helps to pat the werewolves on the head, as if you are not terrified of them, and make gurgly cooing noises.
Tickets for the Nincompoops’ Bazaar are available from a number of pointy kiosks in Pointy Town, and further afield, in unpointy places which aspire to pointiness. You will require several forms of identification in order to purchase tickets. These include a bus pass, a three-dimensional computer-generated hologram of your head, a fistful of your hair torn out at the roots, nail clippings, voice-recognition tape-recordings made on a clapped-out old cassette player, a letter from your priest, your dental records, a recent utility bill, and a replacement bus pass for replacement bus services.
The Nincompoops’ Bazaar really is a spectacular day out for the whole family, including the dribbling and incontinent ones, and those with criminal records. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on, and we hope to see you there!
Yesterday I complained that London’s new whopping great skyscraper, the Shard, is insufficiently pointy. I stand by those words. It is not as pointy as it ought to be, nor, I understand, as it was originally intended to be. I think it was meant to taper up to a single pointy tip. Instead, it fizzles out in a pair of premature pointy bits which, as Marina Organ noted in the Comments, look “like a slightly worn, frayed paintbrush that needs a lick”. How pointy it could have been! The entire design cries out for it to continue up and up, way past that pair of disappointing tips, to a single pointy termination. So pointy indeed that its top ought to be invisible, like the pointy thing in Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. It is many years since I read that magnificent novel, so I cannot recall the details, but I remember that there is a pointy thing so pointy that its actual tip is far, far beyond its visible tip, as seen by the unaided eye. The Shard should have been as pointy as that. I do not wish to harp on about this – well, I do, and I will – but the building could be a hell of a lot pointier than it has turned out. An opportunity was missed.
To see properly pointy buildings, of course, one need go no further than Pointy Town. Now there is a place where the architects and builders do not fight shy of true pointiness. There is not an edifice in Pointy Town that is not pointy, certainly pointier than the Shard. Not just buildings, but statues, street appurtenances, people’s hats, even the very landscape itself – all as pointy as can be. For those keen on pointiness, it is very heaven. I am not sure if Pevsner ever went to Pointy Town, but had he done so, he would have been in raptures at the sheer profusion of pointy bits, if, that is, he was pointy-minded, which I am equally unsure whether he was or not. Let us say merely that he damn well ought to have been. “Pevsner”, after all, is a curiously pointy name, at least one suggestive of pointiness, in comparison to a name like, oh I don’t know, Stalin, for example. In spite of its meaning of “steel” or “steely”, which might evoke pointiness, “Stalin” has a softer, more rounded quality than “Pevsner”, to my ear. And Stalin himself was of course pocky, of which more later.
There are buildings in Pointy Town taller – and, needless to say, pointier – than the Shard, and this led to the good burghers of the town banning hot air balloons from floating through the blue, blue skies above. It was feared, not without good reason, that there was an unacceptable risk of a hot air balloon colliding with the exceedingly pointy tip of a Pointy Town building and suffering a puncture. Imagine the loss of life and the subsequent cries of distress from the hot air ballooning community! It hardly bears thinking about. It was much wiser of the burghers merely to outlaw the practice of hot air ballooning. In this they followed the Muggletonians, though for different reasons. You may recall that the Muggletonians, a religious sect formed in the ferment of seventeenth-century London which survived until the death of the last Muggletonian, Philip Noakes, in 1979, banned hot air ballooning on theological grounds. Believing, as they did, that God lived in a heaven that was located precisely six miles above the earth, the Muggletonians feared that an airborne hot air balloon would crash into the sky, a solid band separating earth from heaven. Cynics and nitpickers might argue that their ban was based rather on the suspicion that a hot air balloon rising happily into the air would actually disprove their contention about the nature of the cosmos and bring, not the balloon, but their entire theology crashing down around their ears. That may be a valid point, but one we ought perhaps to decline from making this week. This coming Thursday, the nineteenth of July, is the Muggletonian Little Holiday, so if we wish to pooh-pooh them, we should wait until after that celebration.
Those of us who are not Muggletonians can celebrate too, by singing the praises of Pointy Town and its unrivalled pointiness. And one way we might celebrate is by doing our utmost to eradicate those parts of Pointy Town which are pocked. Yes, awful as it may be, it must be admitted that there are patches of Pointy Town that are pocky. Not as pitted with pocks as the cheeks of Uncle Joe Stalin, which were deeply and ineradicably pocked, I think following a bout of smallpox during his Georgian childhood, but I may be wrong. I am not wrong about the pocks, just as I am not wrong about the supreme pointiness of (most of) Pointy Town, just as I am not wrong about the insufficient pointiness of the Shard. I inserted that parenthesis just then to cleave as close to the truth as I could. For let me repeat, there are pocky parts of Pointy Town. How they got there is a mystery. Some say the whole place used to be pocked, in ancient times, or pre-ancient times, when the planet was young. Over the centuries those who lived there and thereabouts made it their business to obliterate the pockiness, which is why they struggled so heroically to create the pointiest place imaginable. They almost succeeded, for there is nowhere pointier, at least nowhere that has yet been discovered. If you have seen a pointier place than Pointy Town you were almost certainly hallucinating.
Yet here and there, pocks do remain, grim reminders of a time when Pointy Town was less pointy than it is now. Civic pride is strong enough to ensure that, one by one, the pocks are spotted and destroyed. This is usually done by putting something pointy in place of the pocks. Easily done, you might say, so why make a song and dance about it? To which the response is that, eerily and uncannily, new bits of pockiness appear, dotted here and there about Pointy Town, where before there was only pointiness. It is as if the pocks are at war with the points, and can never be utterly defeated. That is why every Pointy Towner, and those of us who support them, fight daily to create ever more pointy bits, and to eradicate the pocks.
Of one thing you can be sure. If a copy of the Shard is built in Pointy Town, it will taper at its top to a properly pointy tip.
Next month, or the month after, or possibly the month after that, at any rate before the year’s end, fingers crossed, there will be a rare chance to see the early films of the fanatical Teutonic auteur Horst Gack. The Pointy Town Film Festival is devoting a fortnight to little-seen but legendary works including Lolloping Around A Pond, Prancing Around A Lake, and Mincing Around A Reservoir. With their bright, gaudy colour photography, lurching camera movements, and deafening soundtracks of oompah band power ballad cover versions, these are the films that put Horst Gack on the map. At the time, he was alone on that map, a tiny, isolated speck in a vast wilderness, much of which remained blank. It still does, save for a few tentative scratches and blots where previously there was an awful void.
The critic Gilbert Dot contends that “Horst Gack brought to the filmic circumnavigation of inland bodies of water a brutal, even murderous, intensity never before seen in the cinema, or indeed in the real world”. Certainly there is something hallucinatory about these films, which feature some of the great stars of the time dressed in costumes designed by some of the great costume designers of the time. The director’s use of state of the art night-vision technology, developed by the military, in bright and battering sunlight, with vaseline smeared on the camera lens, only adds to the unprecedented visual feast.
The Pointy Town season also allows us to track the development of Horst Gack’s aesthetic, with the first ever screening of the previously presumed lost Gadding Towards A Bog. Here, he casts aside the motif of circumnavigation and has his star approach the inland body of water – but, importantly, it is an adulterated body of water, a vile bog, O vile! vile!, the vilest bog his location scouts were able to find. We, the audience, are only granted a glimpse of it, after much gadding, in the final nanoseconds of the film. It is a revelation, of a peculiarly Gackesque kind.
Gilbert Dot, when asked to define the term Gackesque, burst into tears. Pressed for an answer, his sobbing and weeping became more convulsive, his breathing grew laboured, he shook, he broke out in a cold sweat, he gnashed his false teeth, he rent his garments, he palpitated, there was the appearance of a ball in his throat, he gave signs of suffocating, his legs gave way, and he collapsed onto the street, from where he was scooped up by a passing film buff who cradled him in her arms as he lapsed into a coma. I was reminded, tintum tantum, of Bellini’s Pieta (1472).
I was reminded, too, of Horst Gack’s theoretical essay The Collapsed Film Critic, a cri de coeur which galvanised a small and indeed negligible band of artists, poets, film makers, and chancers when it appeared in the journal Intemperate Ravings By Horst Gack. Early in his career, the director had carved out a niche for himself from which he could not be dislodged. Was it a blessing or a curse, that niche, that resistance to dislodgement?
The Pointy Town season will give us an opportunity to judge, if we so wish. But there are many cineastes who will stay away, in a huff. For them, Horst Gack can never be forgiven for the volte face he performed with the release of his middle period extravaganza Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness? Redux, a shot-for-shot remake of Anthony Newley’s 1969 musical starring Anthony Newley, Connie Kreski, Joan Collins, Milton Berle, George Jessel, Patricia Hayes, Stubby Kaye, Victor Spinetti and Bruce Forsyth. So close is it to the original that, when the films were shown back to back, only one critic out of twenty was able to say which was which. Gilbert Dot was that critic, and I would dearly like to ask him how he perceived what nineteen others could not, but he remains comatose and cradled in the street. Apparently, he is contractually bound to remain in situ, along with his cradler, until such time as Horst Gack has flown in and set up his cameras and filmed the unconscious critic in extremis. Industry gossip has it that the director has embarked on a series of film adaptations of his early critical essays. Some will denounce this as self-referential navel-gazing of the worst kind, but they are unlikely to say so to Horst Gack’s face.
That face! It was the subject of his next feature after the Newley remake, a four-and-a-half-hour musical entitled Horst Gack’s Face : A Hootenanny. Much of the music was recycled from Hieronymus Merkin, adapted for frantic and deranged Appalachian barn dance arrangements. The camera lingers on Horst Gack’s face, filmed using state of the art night-vision technology, developed by the military, in bright and battering sunlight, with vaseline smeared on the lens. Several critics, Gilbert Dot among them, have called it the most frightening film in the history of cinema. It is perhaps pertinent that it was produced by Hammer Studios.
There are rumours, so far unconfirmed, that Horst Gack himself will attend the Festival for a Q and A session after the showing of the final film in the season. This is his foray into what he called “cinematic terrorism”, the notorious, and notoriously lengthy, Hitchcock With Eggs. With not a jot of permission from Alfred Hitchcock’s estate, in fact quite the opposite, Horst Gack joined together into a single film the director’s entire canon, and inserted an egg into every single scene. Technically brilliant and absolutely terrifying, it was condemned, by Gilbert Dot among others, as “pointless, tasteless, and a thumping great insult to the Master of Suspense”. The response of the Hitchcock estate is not suitable for family reading.
Although the precise date of the Pointy Town Film Festival is still up in the air, I understand that queues are already forming outside the ticket booth in the Pointy Town Zippety Doo Dah Dance Hall, Scout Hut & Cinema. Whether those queuing have the faintest idea of what they are letting themselves in for is not for me to say.
Cyclops With A Broom!, Dobson’s pamphlet on the one-eyed crossing-sweeper of Sawdust Bridge, is one of his very few efforts to address the subject of one-eyed crossing-sweepers. With Sawdust Bridge, of course, he was on more familiar turf, having written a full account of this crumbling yet still majestic structure in A Full Account Of Sawdust Bridge. It is a tragedy of colossal proportions that both these pamphlets are now out of print.
My own pamphlet-in-the-works, A Tragedy Of Colossal Proportions, is an attempt to come to grips, once and for all, at long last, without fear or favour, in the nick of time, huncus muncus, no holds barred, warts and all, in sickness and in health, do or die, with all due respect, up to a point, now or never, come hell or high water, with the precise lineaments of the pamphleteer’s working methods during the composition of the first mentioned pamphlet, the one about the one-eyed crossing-sweeper of Sawdust Bridge, the one entitled Cyclops With A Broom!
I have been fortunate enough to gain access to certain papers, once thought consumed in the conflagration which laid waste the Potato Building at exactly the same time as, yet decisively unrelated to, the Tet Offensive. The authenticity of these papers has been questioned by preening young Dobsonist Ted Cack, on a number of television chat shows, some of them still available for viewing on the iTarbuck and similar devices. I have addressed every single one of his pernickety little fiddle-faddles, in the pages of several journals, learned and unlearned, and also by employing a trio of rough tough ne’er-do-wells to lie in wait for him at dusk and to have at him with clobberings. It was perhaps somewhat mischievous of me to arrange for this twilit ambuscade to take place on Sawdust Bridge. I wanted to leave young Ted Cack in no doubt as to who had engineered his clobberings, without him having any proof. I wanted, as politicians are so fond of saying, “to send a message”, and equally, I wanted to ensure that for young Ted Cack, and as politicians are also so fond of saying, “lessons would be learned”. I think I succeeded in these ambitions, for there has been not a whisper from within the walls of the clinic wherein the upstart Dobsonist languishes, hovering in that unfathomable realm betwixt life and death.
It was that very realm Dobson was to probe as he struggled with the writing of Cyclops With A Broom!. His first encounter with the one-eyed crossing-sweeper of Sawdust Bridge came about when Dobson was skim-reading an article in Monocular Factotum magazine, a back number of which he found discarded in a dustbin near a splurge of lupins on the towpath of the filthy canal. Sprawling on a bench to rest his weary legs, the pamphleteer leafed through the tatty, damp pages to pass the time. He describes what sparked his interest in one of the papers I have access to, and which Ted Cack says is counterfeit, a scrap torn from a seed catalogue in the margin of which Dobson scribbled
Sawdust Bridge crossing-sweeper. One eye. By all accounts hovered in that unfathomable realm betwixt life and death. If true, of brain-numbing significance. If not, pish! Investigate with a view to writing a pamphlet.
The story of the one-eyed crossing-sweeper of Sawdust Bridge which appeared in the magazine, and which Dobson was to plagiarise, fatuously, in his pamphlet, was one which had apparently transfixed the citizens of Pointy Town for a few short weeks in the nineteenth century. This “Cyclops with a broom”, as Dobson dubbed him – though why he added an exclamation mark is anybody’s guess – was a shabby yet sinister figure who appeared on the southern side of Sawdust Bridge, armed with a broom, sweeping, sweeping, on a muggy summer morn in 1861. He neither spoke nor responded to others’ speech, seemed impervious to the heat, was unresting, and swept the crossing by the bridge, back and forth, from dawn until dusk. He appeared again the following day, and for a further six days thereafter. On the next day, there was no sign of him, nor did he ever appear in Pointy Town again.
Again, in the papers, this time on a shred of Kellogg’s cornflakes carton, Dobson pinpoints the nub of the matter, as he frets with the best way to approach the tale, short of outright plagiarism, a temptation he was, alas, unable to resist.
This broom-wielding Cyclops business. Alive or dead? Man or spectral being from that unfathomable realm betwixt life and death? How to winnow wheat from chaff? Enter realm myself, via sortilege and traffic with wraiths and mumbo jumbo? Or could just copy out magazine article word for word, and change some of the adverbs.
As we know, Dobson chose the latter course. It was his unmasking as a plagiarist, and his insistent denial of guilt, that led directly to that whole sorry interlude in the pamphleteer’s career popularly known as the time of “the watercress infusion”, not to be confused with the Robert Ludlum potboiler of the same name.
But as I have pored over the scrap torn from a seed catalogue and the shred of a Kellogg’s cornflakes carton, I have become ever more convinced that, before resorting to copying out verbatim the Monocular Factotum article and changing some of the adverbs, Dobson did actually enter into that unfathomable realm betwixt life and death by means of sortilege and traffic with wraiths and mumbo jumbo. It is an astonishing tale, of pamphleteering on the brink of reason, and one which I hope to present with great flourish in my own forthcoming pamphlet. The world is waiting.
There is a possibility that young Ted Cack may be restored to health and discharged from the clinic before my pamphlet hits the airport bookstalls. If so, I want to announce here and now that there will be neither a jot nor scintilla of truth in the charge the callow upstart will lay at my door, that I have plagiarised entire, changing some of the adverbs, every last word of my pamphlet, by simply copying out his own unpublished research paper.
I wish I could remember where I saw it. I remember distinctly what it said. NOW! GET QUADRUPLE POINTS!!! The writing was in big bold bright block capitals, red, I think. There was an accompanying graphic and some smaller print, which it might have been a good idea for me to have read. As it is, not only do I not remember where I saw it, I have no idea what I need to do to get the quadruple points, nor indeed what I might do with them if I got them. I just remember the blazoned promise, so urgent, so life-changing.
It is not that I am particularly seeking to change my life at this moment. I am reasonably content. But there was something about the big bold bright block capital words that gave me pause. Not sufficient pause, admittedly, to pay attention to the graphic and to read the smaller print. What lodged in my head was the thought that, right now, I was being offered the chance to quadruple my points. Only a fool would walk away. So I suppose I must be a fool, for walk away I did, either literally, if I saw it on a hoarding while traipsing the streets, or figuratively, if I saw it on one of those advertising leaflets that fall out of magazines and which one tosses into the wastepaper bin having barely glanced at. If only I could remember, I could retraipse the same streets, or rummage in the bin… but thereagain, perhaps I saw it in another context entirely. I would feel even more of a fool fruitlessly traipsing or rummaging, in pursuit of what, after all, might be a chimera.
For what are the points I can increase fourfold? Do I already have some? What would be the implications of having four times more than I already have? If the points are redeemable, as I understand some points are, then having four times as many is clearly going to be a good thing, for the more points I have, the greater their redeemable value, in any coherent universe. It hardly matters what they are redeemable against, if “against” is the word I am looking for, which I think it is. If it turned out that my points were redeemable against something of no worth to me, still, I could barter them, with another points-possessing person, who might be overjoyed to be able to redeem his points for whatever gewgaw or frippery I had turned my nose up at.
If only I knew the precise nature of the points I was being offered the chance to quadruple. I almost wrote “the once in a lifetime chance”, for who knows if I will ever see those words, that promise, ever again, in all my days? I rue my ignorance. Rue, rue, rue, that’s me. I know so little about the points that I don’t even know if I already have some. But that is the inference, is it not, of the wording GET QUADRUPLE POINTS!!!? Unless one starts with four points as the minimum, but that doesn’t quite make sense. It is as easy as pie to think of situations or circumstances with three, two, or even a single point,
Consider, for example, a cathedral city with a majestic pointy steeple atop its cathedral. That might be the only point in the city, if, say, the remainder of its architecture is rounded and blunt and unpointy. Such a city is conceivable, though off the top of my head I cannot think of a concrete example. Equally conceivable is the idea that, if the burghers of the city took up the opportunity to GET QUADRUPLE POINTS!!! they might find themselves commissioning an architect to design three more buildings with pointy tops, or, the cheaper option, install three pointy lightning rods here and there across the city, thus increasing its pointiness fourfold at a swoop. If they then quadrupled their points again, they would have sixteen points, and if they quadrupled them again, sixty-four points, and if they quadrupled them again, two-hundred-and-fifty-six points, at which point the mind, or my mind, begins to boggle. Carry on like that and you are in Pointy Town territory.
Perhaps that is akin to the process by which Pointy Town became the pointiest town on earth. It cannot, of course, have begun with a pointy-steepled cathedral, for a cathedral would confer city status, usually, and for all its unfathomably numerous points, Pointy Town remains – is proud to remain – a town. But by all that is holy is it pointy! There have been several surveys of the town in recent decades, and none has been able to find even a smidgen of bluntness or roundedness or anything remotely resembling unpointiness. Each and every one of the surveyors has been defeated in their attempts to come up with a definitive count of the pointy bits in Pointy Town, so we cannot say if the total number is a multiple of four. I would like to think it is, but alas I am never going to know. I did, off my own bat, try to count the pointy bits by studying images of Pointy Town on Google Earth (Pointy Version) (Beta), taking the resolution as high as possible, to the point where steam was hissing out of my computer, but somewhere around the two and half million mark my counting was interrupted by a godawful din outside my window, where a cat and a crow and a squirrel were engaged in some kind of bestial contretemps. Being a fool, as, reluctantly, I have already admitted to, I had not been keeping a tally of the pointy bits of Pointy Town, with a butcher’s pencil on graph paper, which is what I would have done if I was no fool. So I would have had to start counting all over again, and quite frankly, I decided I had better things to do with my time. What those things might be, I leave for you to wonder about.
In Pointy Town, when they bury a dead Pointy Towner in the Pointy Town cemetery, they dig a pointy grave using a pointy shovel. The gravediggers have pointy spades, too, but they are not as pointy as the shovels. The shovels could not be more pointy.
There is a price to be paid for all this pointiness. It is a price paid sometimes in blood, sometimes in coinage, and sometimes in toads. Pointy Towners will roam the marsh flats outside Pointy Town collecting in baskets the toads that live there. Most of the toads have pointy bits, though perhaps they are more knobby than pointy. Pointy Town’s genetic engineers are working hard to breed a pointier toad. If and when they succeed, the knobby toads will become worthless as currency and will be left to go about their toady business in the marsh flats undisturbed.
A highlight of the Hooting Yard year is the annual jamboree jointly organised by the Sawdust Bridge Community Pole-Vaulting Collective and the Pointy Town Avant-Colliery Marching Band. Sebastian Coe may have described tickets for the 2012 Olympics as “the greatest tickets on earth”, but clearly he has never seen a jamboree ticket, a thing of unsurpassed beauty not just on earth, but on any other planet or planetoid or flaming ball of gas in the known or unknown universe. Had he done so, he would eat his hat, with knobs on. It may look like a mere slip of thin beige cardboard with a few letters and numbers printed upon it in bold black ink, but this year, as every year, the jamboree ticket was designed by the noted ticketist Rex Tick, a man who knows more than Sebastian Coe could ever learn about the design of tickets, had he but world enough and time. And he has not, for all those naked wrestling bouts with William Hague in a basement gymnasium at the Palace of Westminster have taken their toll, and now he is reduced to uttering hyperbolic twaddle whene’er a broadcaster’s microphone is thrust towards his gob.
The gob of noted ticketist Rex Tick, however, is taciturn. He is a taciturn fellow. In fact, one wit dubbed Tick “the taciturn ticketist” on precisely that account. The fruit of his taciturnity is the unparalleled beauty of his ticket designs. Every year he comes up with something of such blinding glory that some foppish aesthetes have been known to buy a ticket without any intention of attending the annual jamboree, in that squelchy, squelchy mud-strewn field. No, the dandies put their ticket in a frame and hang it on the wall of their boudoir or salon, to impress their equally foppish pals with the exquisite delicacy of their sensibilities. So I am told, at any rate, by Rex Tick’s sister, the vamp Dot Tick, who has been seen “stepping out” with an art critic or two.
But the tickets are not the only things of eye-popping splendour on show at the jamboree. When they come vaulting into view from across Sawdust Bridge, the athletes of the Community Pole-Vaulting Collective display, on their jerkins, insignia designed by the noted heraldic emblemist Rex Blem. Consisting of three Bobnits rampant engrailed azure on a field gules, with boisson gingembre lashant, sewn into place over their pounding hearts, the emblem has thrice won the Top Pole-Vaulting Club Insignia Cup awarded by the Academy Of Pole-Vaulting And Bird-Spotting And Shilly-Shallying (Sawdust Bridge Branch). Rex Blem himself has never turned up to accept the cup, for he is a recluse with a fear of cups. According to his sister, the flapper Dot Blem, the great insigniaist drinks his tea from a flask, and has his boiled eggs balanced in a contraption of wire and rubber bands and balsa wood.
It comes as something of a surprise to learn that the avant-miners of the Avant-Colliery Marching Band from Pointy Town have no insignia of their own. They seem happy enough to have co-opted the generic Pointy Town badge, emblazoned on the backs of their helmets. What they lack in visual zip, however, is more than made up for by their musical prowess. With their tubas and xylophones and oompah-parpers, they march across the bridge in the wake of the pole-vaulters, playing a repertoire including Scriabin, Arnold Bax, transcriptions from field recordings of howler monkeys, and Kinnie The Explorer.
The field in which the howler monkeys were recorded is, of course, a very different field from the squelchy, squelchy mud-strewn one in which the jamboree takes place when the Community Pole-Vaulting Collective and the Avant-Colliery Marching Band have crossed the bridge and successfully negotiated their way past the heavily-armed sentries. Drawn exclusively from the ranks of the most sociopathic cadets, the sentries have their own insignia and their own music, buzzed directly into their ears by transmitters which pick up signals from the netherworld. Ticketholders have nothing to fear from the sentries, but woe betide the fool who tries to skulk past their concrete huts ticketless. What do you think is the reason for that line of heads impaled on spikes, stretching as far as the eye can see?
Thanks to Roland for the Community Pole-Vaulting Collective (and insignia) and to Robin for the Avant-Colliery Marching Band.
As an adjunct to my Maddinathon, I investigated the work of Guy Maddin’s old mucker in the Winnipeg Film Group, John Paizs. Paizs directed, among other films, Top Of The Food Chain (1999), a highly amusing homage to 1950s alien invasion movies.
I mention it here because it is a film that can be watched with real pleasure by those of us bored to tears by those endless examples of what one critic has dubbed “the cinema of Pointy Town”. Indeed, one could get no further from Pointy Town than the setting of a key scene, where the atomic scientist Dr Karel Lamonte (who works at the Atomic Academy) reports: “We found the remains of a dead human corpse, deceased, in the hilly, lumpy, bumpy part of town outside of town.”
As if to drive home the anti-Pointy Town point, the “lumpy, bumpy part of town outside of town” is pointedly mentioned several times.
Hooting Yard Rating : dozens upon dozens of bright pointy stars.
This intriguing snapshot was taken exactly one hundred tears ago today in the Big Hangar At Pointy Town, a big hangar in Pointy Town. We can see a number of people, now all dead, standing or milling about, and, with a single exception, not one of them is paying attention to the large and mysterious crate. The group slap bang next to the crate is peering past it, at something else, we know not what. Others are seen walking past, as if oblivious. In the foreground, however, we see a diminutive figure, possibly a curious infant, who seems to want to move towards the crate but is being bustled away by its guardian or governess, dressed in hood and cape.
Can it be that the tiny one, alone of those in the hangar, knew what the crate contained, was attracted to it by invisible forces the nature of which must remain to us as mysterious as the crate itself? Some say this snap is the sole evidence of the arrival in Pointy Town of the Grunty Man. For it is thought that, with uncharacteristic cunning, he had himself concealed in the crate and shipped across the mighty oceans, from the pestilential land that spawned him to the fair shores of our own continent!
If this is so, we are compelled to ask – who was that infant? And what became of them? Answers on a postcard, please.
(Snap spotted at Ptak Science Books)
One twentieth-century Thursday, under a leaden sky, the balletomane Nan Kew was gadding about the boulevards of Pointy Town when she encountered the Swiss dramaturge Rolf Turge, accompanied by his deputy dramaturge Bob Dep.
Cue much mwah! mwah! kissing of both air and cheeks, immediately after which Nan Kew, balletomane that she was, began babbling excitedly about a new ballet she had seen only the other day, a work of contemporary urgency in which the Hungarian toxic sludge disaster was interpreted in the form of ungainly cavorting and the tooting of piccolos.
“I agree it is both urgent and contemporary,” Rolf Turge managed to interrupt after ten minutes or so, “But it lacks the even greater contemporaneity and hectic urgency with which a dramaturge, particularly a Swiss one, would imbue it.”
Bob Dep remained silent, for unlike many a deputy, he was not facetious.
“Even were I to concede that so unimprovable a ballet could be improved,” said Nan Kew, “Surely an indigenous Hungarian dramaturge would out-turge one from Switzerland, no?”
“Might I suggest,” said Rolf Turge, “That so ballet-bedizened is your balletomane brain that the grand heroics of Swiss dramaturgy fall outwith your pond of competence?”
Had they not been such fast pals, Nan Kew might have taken offence at this. As it was, she made a mental note to ponder, next time she could concentrate on something other than the ballet for a few minutes, Rolf Turge’s curious choice of the image of a pond to represent her area of knowledge and expertise.
Bob Dep, who was skilled in the telepathic arts, chuckled and butted in.
“Ponder ponds as you like, Nan Kew, but the guvnor’s usage merely reflects his, and my, current preoccupation, which is the pond plays of Maud Wasp, the waspish playwright.”
“Have any of them been adapted as ballets?” asked the balletomane, predictably.
“Not as such,” said Bob Dep. If examined, this could be seen as an enigmatic statement, but though he was telepathic, the deputy was as enigmatic as he was facetious, which is to say not at all.
Nan Kew was about to resume her seemingly endless blathering about the Hungarian toxic sludge disaster ballet, but before she could do so Swiss dramaturge Rolf Turge blurted out a dramatic expostulation.
“Look!” he cried, “A hole has been dug in the road, by some agency unknown to us, though we might surmise it to have been a fellow with a spade.”
He pointed, as only a Swiss dramaturge could, with an elegant beringed finger at the hole, and both Nan Kew and Bob Dep peered where he pointed.
The two gentlemen and the lady then contemplated the length of dug-up pipeline exposed by the digging. At that very moment, the astonishingly tall Renaissance man Peter Blegvad was passing by, and he executed a drawing of the scene, helping to make it vivid for us.
But not, perhaps, as vivid as we would like. The original drawing was fanatic with detail of Nan Kew, Rolf Turge, and Bob Dep, so much so that one might have mistaken it for a hyperrealist linocut by noted hyperrealist linocutter Rex Hyper. But when Peter Blegvad showed the finished drawing to the trio, they became strangely fractious, and insisted that he obscure their features. Reluctantly, he did so, as you can see.
Unbeknownst to Peter Blegvad, the balletomane and the dramaturge and the deputy dramaturge were each of them on the run from the Pointy Town police force, following a series of crimes against the performing arts. How one might commit such crimes is a mystery, as Mrs Robert Fripp might put it. Maud Wasp would put it more waspishly, were anyone to ask her opinion. But nobody did, for she lived in an ivory tower, with her pet wasp Martin, in an atmosphere of Jacobean tragedy.
One of the more unusual features of Pointy Town is that its sots and topers gather in beer palaces and gin gardens, rather than the more familiar vice versas. This idiosyncratic arrangement of drinking dens is thought to date back to the time of Robin Hod, the bricklaying outlaw dressed all in green, who stole from a ditch to give to a Boer. Who knew there were Boers in Pointy Town? It is possible that I have misheard or misunderstood the legend, wittered at me by a passing storyteller I met on a beaten track, and that Robin Hod fenced his stolen goods to a boor, or even a bore. There are plenty of both in Pointy Town, as you quickly learn if you spend any time in one of the beer palaces or gin gardens. What has always puzzled me, more than the possible colony of expat Boers in Pointy Town, is the nature of Robin Hod’s ditch theft. I mean, what could you come upon in the average ditch that would be worth stealing? Some mud? Brackish puddle water rife with tiny wriggling beings? A broken and rusty and abandoned pram or bicycle? Certainly not the latter, for the ditches of Pointy Town are famously free of such unsightly excrescences, swept clean, or clean-ish, as they are, once a week, on a rotation system, by the Pointy Town Ditch Maintenance Patrol. It is thought that Robin Hod recruited his so-called “merry men” from the ranks of disaffected or incapable Ditch Patrol has-beens. He tried to teach them bricklaying, but the lure of the beer palaces and gin gardens was too powerful. It was almost magnetic, if you can imagine such a thing.