Archive for the 'Prose' Category

Exemplary Slobbering Vignettes

I received an invitation to attend a swish sophisticated cocktail party, and decided to wear for the occasion my second-best bib and tucker.

On the evening itself, with the party in full swing, I was leaning insouciantly against a mantelpiece when I was approached by a fellow guest.

You are a grown man,” she said, “Why are you wearing a bib?”

I embarked upon a lengthy explanation of the phenomenon known as involuntary slobbering, citing certain vivid examples both from my own experience and from the historical records. I prattled for quite some time, holding my interlocutor spellbound, until one of my exemplary slobbering vignettes caused her to interrupt me.

Spiro Agnew?” she cried, so loudly that she caught the attention of guests on the far side of the room.

Indeed so,” I said, “And I will not qualify my assertion with that weasel-word allegedly.”

At this, she executed a startled little jump, and confessed to a terrible fear of weasels. I told her they only alarmed me when they went pop! up and down the City Road. More than once, I added, such weasel-popping had caused me to slobber involuntarily. I was pleased, momentarily, to have brought the conversation back to my chosen topic, but my new companion was now fixated upon weasels, and insisted I join her in a search-and-destroy mission in case any weasels had infiltrated the cocktail party.

With what,” I asked, “Shall we destroy any weasels we might hunt down?”

Well,” she said, “What is that?” and she pointed to my tucker.

That is my second-best tucker,” I said, “It goes with the bib.”

We can use it to smother any weasels we find!” she cried, and she took me by the hand, and led me away from the drawing room towards another part of the house where, she hinted, there might be weasels.

I never did get the chance to finish my exemplary slobbering vignette featuring the thirty-ninth vice president of the United States of America. But the weasel-frightened lady gave me her telephone number, so one evening soon I will call her, and tell her the rest of that tale, and several others, until the cows come home.

Whence Inspip Fled

Nobody knew whence Inspip fled. He was last seen at one end of Sawdust Bridge, but it was a fugitive sighting. It was not clear whether he was at the pointy end of the bridge or at the pointier end. Whichever end it was, one moment Inspip was there, and the next he was not, and nobody knew whence he fled.

In the days before his fleeing, it was said of Inspip that he was in the doldrums. But this was a mishearing. He was not in the doldrums, but on the doll drums. He was pounding out a hotcha boohoocha beat on a tiny drumkit usually played by a doll, its arms controlled, puppet-style, by strings manipulated by an adept. Inspip snatched the drums from the doll and popped them in his pocket and took them to his lair.

Nobody knew where Inspip’s lair lay. There were rumours that it was concealed in the shadows under the pointier end of Sawdust Bridge. Others had it anent the Blister Lane Bypass. After Inspip fled, the sheriff organised a posse to search for the lair. It proved fruitless, like the sheriff’s diet. “I once ate an apple,” said the sheriff, “Never again! Now I know how Eve felt.” He was a fallen man, the sheriff, unlike Inspip, who was not.

A trail of scattered talc led to a barge moored on the filthy canal, but this proved to be a red herring. (See Nashe’s Lenten Stuffe, Thomas Nashe, 1599.) Nonetheless, the barge was ransacked and turned upside down in the hunt for clues. They found a doll’s drumstick, a chicken bone. Was the chicken killed by Inspip before he fled? The posse fell upon an outlying barn. Hence the well-known song The Sheriff’s Posse In The Barn, with its hotcha boohoocha beat and emotionally wrenching lyrics and twangy guitar part.

In the end it turned out that Inspip fled where eagles dare, armed to the teeth and calling himself, by turns, Broadsword or Danny Boy. The name Inspip was erased, even from his metal tag. Such is the mystery of the patron saint of chicken-stranglers, there is not even a memorial plaque on Sawdust Bridge, either at the pointy end or at the pointier end.

Pillow Pamphlets

I have a terrible memory. I sometimes wonder if my inability to remember things might have something to do with the ruinous debauches of my Wilderness Years, but I suspect my forgetfulness preceded them, and that my memory was never much cop in the first place. I barely recall much of what I have written and posted here over the years. This morning, casting about in my puny brain for a topic, I thought “Aha! I know! I will write about Dobson discovering the Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon and deciding to write a Pillow Book of his own!”

I got as far as writing an opening line about Dobson and Marigold Chew sitting at breakfast one fabulously dreary morning in the early 1950s when a faint ping! within my bonce halted me. “I’ve already done this, haven’t I?” I said, to a nearby sock, for want of any other interlocutor. The sock did not reply, but a quick search confirmed that, yes, six years ago I wrote about this very thing. Maybe you lot had forgotten about it too. Here it is again:

Capacious and pulsating it may have been, but Dobson’s brain contained many, many pockets of ignorance. He was in his mid fifties, for example, when he first came upon the Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, a work of which he had no previous inkling. He did not read it, merely noting the title on the spine of a copy lodged on the bookshelf of his friend Ah-Fang Van Der Houygendorp, the Sino-Dutch artist and mountaineer.

Back at home later that day, he mentioned it to Marigold Chew.

Did you know that an eleventh century Japanese bint wrote an entire book about pillows?” he asked.

Yes, Dobson, of course,” said Marigold Chew, “I have borrowed it from the mobile library more than once, and read it from cover to cover.”

Speaking of the mobile library,” said Dobson, and he embarked on a long-winded and pettifogging digression upon the mobile library, which in that place at that time took the form of a cart pulled by an elegant yet tubercular drayhorse, the cart piled high with hardbacks covered in greaseproof paper jackets, the drayhorse chivvied on its way by an equally elegant and equally tubercular librarian-carter, a man of grim countenance and terrible personal habits who bore a distinct resemblance to the actor Karl Johnson, noted for his roles as elderly peasant Twister Turrill in Lark Rise To Candleford and as Wittgenstein in Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein. In fact, it may even have been Johnson himself, moonlighting as a mobile librarian to supplement his thespian earnings. Dobson posited this possibility, but doubted it was true, as we, too, must doubt it until all the evidence is in.

So implacable was the pamphleteer’s babbling that Marigold Chew was unable to get a word in edgeways, and was thus given no opportunity to point out to Dobson that the Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, like all pillow books, was not actually a book about pillows, but a collection of lists and aphorisms and observations and jottings and poems and opinions and anecdotes. Had he ceased prattling for but a moment, Dobson would have learned this, and not, when eventually he exhausted the topic of the mobile library and the greaseproof paper jackets and the drayhorse and the librarian-carter and the actor and the fictional peasant and the non-fictional philosopher, gone scurrying off to his escritoire to sit and scribble the following:

I have learned that a thousand years ago, a woman from the land of Yoko Ono wrote an entire book about pillows. Such is human progress that in the intervening millennium there must be much, much more to be said on the subject. Clearly I am the pamphleteer to take on this daunting task. I shall set to work on the Pillow Book of Dobson as soon as I have taken a nap. NB: The nap will of course be research for my Pillow Book, as I shall be resting my head upon a pillow while I nap, and present my findings as soon as I wake up.

As far as we know, the promised “findings” were never written down. So refreshed was Dobson by his nap that, upon waking, he immediately put on his Iberian duck hunter’s boots, grabbed an Alpenstock in his fist, and set out for a jaunty hike that took him past the electricity pylons and the abandoned swimming pool and the badger rescue station and the allotments. All the while he hiked, he concentrated his mind on pillows – a thousand years of pillows! His brain reeled as he struggled to comprehend the sheer amount of material he would have to marshal in the making of his Pillow Book. What advances mankind must have made in the field of pillows since the eleventh century! How many heads had rested on how many pillows in that time? How many dreams dreamt during pillow-assisted dozes and naps and even comas? Pausing for a breather outside the bolted and shuttered off licence, Dobson suddenly felt intimidated by the scale of the task before him. He watched the skies for swifts and sparrows and starlings and other birds beginning with S. He rattled the bolts on the off licence door. He chucked his Alpenstock into a ditch. And then he turned for home, resolved to write, not a Pillow Book, but a whole series of Pillow Pamphlets, each to tackle a single, manageable subsection of his vast unwieldy subject matter.

Marigold!” he announced, bustling through the door, “I have had a brainwave with regard to my working methods on the pillow project!”

I did not know you had embarked upon a pillow project, Dobson,” said Marigold Chew, “And what have you done with the Alpenstock?”

Oh, I chucked it into a ditch,” said Dobson, “I shall go and retrieve it later. But first I must write out the plan for my Pillow Pamphlets, updating a thousand years of pillow history since Sei Shōnagon wrote her book about pillows long long ago in far Japan!”

But so exhausted was the pamphleteer by his hiking and his brain activity that before sitting at his escritoire he took another nap. He thus set a pattern for what was to follow. Every time he determined to set to work on the Pillow Pamphlets, he convinced himself that further practical pillow research was necessary, and lay his head upon a pillow, and fell asleep.

The project was eventually abandoned when the pamphleteer’s attention was distracted by cataclysmic world events, and he turned his energies to writing his famous pamphlet On The Inadvisability Of Taking Daytime Naps During The Unfolding Of Cataclysmic World Events (out of print).

Brian Awareness Week

Yesterday I told you lot it is International Brain Awareness Week. I neglected to mention that it is also International Brian Awareness Week. This is the time of year when we make sure we are aware that the full name of Cornelius Cardew, the firebrand Marxist-Leninist composer and author of Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, who once threw Yoko Ono out of his house, was Brian Cornelius Cardew. Why did he drop the Brian? It seems a far more “proletarian” name than Cornelius, so one would have thought he would embrace it. As Wilcox – a non-Brian – noted, “it’th a mythtery”.

c_cardew

Brain Awareness Week

As you lot probably already know, today is the first day of International Brain Awareness Week. But not at Hooting Yard! No, here we decided instead to celebrate International Lobster Brain Awareness Week. Who gives tuppence for the paltry human brain when we could be raising our awareness of the majestic brain of the lobster? It is an organ that, as one noteworthy lobster enthusiast claimed, is quite possibly the pinnacle of God’s creation.

The first thing you ought to know about the lobster brain is that it is roughly the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, or Biro. Imagine that! There are several other things you will wish to know, but we have a whole week ahead, so be patient.

If there is anything in particular you are keen to be made aware of, with regard to the brains of lobsters, please add your questions in the Comments. We have a team of lobster experts standing by, ready to answer them.

Nota Bene : Please feel free to frame your questions in the language of lobsters.

Eye Jab Day

This afternoon I shall be undergoing what seems like the umpteenth injection of a needle directly into my eyeball. It occurs to me that at some point I ought to write an account of what goes on at Tuesday Injection Club, introducing you lot to some of the characters I encounter, the doctors, nurses, and ancillary staff and the other patients. I can also attempt to answer some of the burning questions that are raised, such as why do I never get offered a cup of tea? and who is that mad woman who marches to and fro brandishing a clipboard but never actually speaks to anyone?

I shall be interested to discover if, this week, I experience the Black Spot. Sometimes, after an injection, I have a Black Spot in my eye for a day or two, and sometimes not. The first time this happened it was mightily disconcerting. Now I treat it with airy familiarity, and imagine it as something that might have inspired a tale by J Sheridan Le Fanu.

My more devoted readers will no doubt be asking but Mr Key can you actually see any better? to which the answer is, no, not yet, I am still perceiving the world through a blur of hazy mist or a haze of misty blur.

Onwards to jab time!

Large Door

So glorious, the Large Door. Behind it, one prince in one palace. A cage bird in a birdcage. Ruffled feathers and one cardboard box on its side. Clever men with enormous brains next to an armoire. Salutes made hilarious by puppetry. There are pianos and machine guns.

There is one prince. There is a chatelaine with a wooden leg. There is a cage bird in a birdcage. There is blood on the rug. There is a cake in the pantry. There are candles on the cake. A clever man with an enormous brain has put a cardboard box over his head.

Electricity has been installed. Jasper in overalls. Millet strewn under the birdcage. Echoes of chivalry or typhoid. Weeping widow in widow’s weeds behind an arras weeping. Also wooden leg. Wood from banister railings. Interior railings be damned! Breadcrumbs in the millet.

Intricate wiring courtesy of Jasper. Chatelaine’s oxygen pump. A vase of genetically modified lupins. Such tiny lupins. Such a hysterical prince. One prince without a cardboard box. The throwing of fits. The tidiest annexe. The marmaladeless larder.

Grief embroidered on a pin cushion. Tallow candles guttered. A worm in the birthday cake. Slime and cobwebs near the clever men at the armoire. The result of the Honved cup tie. Smoke from the attic. Hippies encamped in the grounds in tents in perpetuity. Elsewhere harpies.

Platitudes of sausage and gristle. One eye of one prince in one palace. Milk, lumber, string. Delirium of Jasper besotted. Bluebottle splattered on the wainscot dead. Funereal violins. Jug on the mantelpiece. Warped perspective of cardboard box and birdcage.

Saturday tennis. One lupin wilted and turned to stone. There is a freak thunderstorm. A bat was seen. One bat in one sky in one hour. Muffled gunfire o’er the hills and far away. Jasper running with scissors. The chatelaine’s leg hankering for its balcony.

Terrible giddiness of one prince. Enter the clairvoyant pig. Ten tin drums and a tuba. Vinegar blush of cloth-eared gran. A clever man hangs a Hazchem banner from the ceiling. Startling vulgarity of the firstborn. Dix Pap, Cray Lars. The bluebottle was a doll.

Drastic measures of Jasper in extremis. One prince chucks one golliwog from one window. Pity and guff. Heresies enumerated by the chatelaine in sight of the cage bird in the birdcage. Soup before marmalade. Fenland memento mori.

This could continue interminably.

Large door.

The Latin Mass

I am old enough to remember – albeit dimly – the Latin Mass. For younger readers, and non-Catholics, I should explain that until the mid-1960s, throughout the Catholic church, Mass was conducted exclusively in Latin. The priest would deliver the liturgy in Latin, and the congregation, when required to voice responses, would do likewise. The change to the use of the vernacular came about when Pope John XXIII instituted various liberalising reforms. There remain a few recalcitrant diehards – notable among them being the father of Mad Max star Melvin Gibson – who cling to the Latin Mass, although I understand this is much disapproved of by the Vatican, and may even be illegal.

On the council estate where I grew up, there were many Catholics but no Catholic church. To save us from having to trudge a fair distance to St Bede’s, the parish church, an arrangement had been made that a pub on the estate would host our Sunday Mass. Thus every week we would troop into the Moby Dick on Whalebone Lane. We used the main bar area of the pub, with chairs temporarily aligned in rows, though I cannot recall what served as an altar. I do remember that towels were draped over all the beer pumps at the bar. After Mass, a goodly proportion of the congregation, and probably the priest too, would remain in the pub waiting for opening time. My parents were not drinkers, though, so we were herded home.

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Around the same time as the introduction of the Mass in English, the service itself was moved to a new community centre on the estate. Thus passed a particular, and in retrospect profound, part of my childhood.

I stopped attending Mass when, as a nincompoop teenager, I turned my back on the faith. Then, and for many years afterwards, if I thought about the Latin Mass at all, it was as a prime example of the stupidity of religion. How preposterous, for people to gather together to listen and respond to what for most of them (and certainly for the infant me) was a babble of incomprehensible gibberish!

It is only recently that I have realised the significance of this early experience. One must bear in mind that for the vast majority of people, there was nothing remotely swinging about the 1960s. Particularly on my council estate, it was a dull, pinched, grey (or beige) time yet to emerge from the austerity of the immediate post-war years. We had no television, telephone, refrigerator, central heating, or other home comforts. Life was uneventful and devoid of any but the most paltry excitements. (I now look back with nostalgia for the peace and tranquility.)

There was thus something quite magical and passing strange about those Sunday mornings. We gathered in the gloom of the pub, while a man dressed – improbably – in often colourfully embroidered raiment stood, with his back to us (as the priests did in those days), intoning a litany of words, and always exactly the same words, which we did not understand, and bore no relation to anything we heard elsewhere, in any circumstances. Indeed there was nothing about it that had anything whatsoever to do with the world we inhabited the rest of the time. It was baffling and bizarre, but, by dint of weekly repetition, comfortingly familiar. And it was deeply, deeply serious.

It has now dawned on me, at long last, that, in my own faltering yet determined way, I have been trying to recreate this numinous childhood experience by babbling, once a week, in Hooting Yard On The Air on ResonanceFM.

Ancestors

Oh look, a tubercular peasant, slouching through the muck. His tunic is a filthy rag. He lacks both grit and pluck.
If he had either, he’d stand tall, and shake his fist at God, and he would stride on o’er the hills, chuckling like Ken Dodd.
But he has never laughed, not once, in all his peasant years. And there is nothing, just a void, in between his ears.
Your ancestors were all like this, or most of them, at least. A slouching, snivelling ignoramus … “And what rough beast…?”

Dough Cormorant

The other day, in my potsage [sic] about a man of the cloth, I made reference to a dough cormorant. Since then I have been inundated with letters from readers asking how they might go about making one. I am happy to report that the fashioning of a dough cormorant is child’s play – with two provisos. First, you need to ensure your dough is of the correct consistency, and second, you must have a basic understanding of bird anatomy, with particular reference to the cormorant.

Regarding the dough, you will need the physical strength to knead it, thoroughly, to achieve the right consistency. If you are too weedy to knead, you may have to consider employing a professional dough-kneader, and they don’t come cheap, at least in my experience. Recently, in connection with a different project, one not involving cormorants, I needed a supply of dough of very precise heft, and I was simply not up to the task. At the time, I was convalescing from an injury sustained in an accident when, funnily enough, a deranged cormorant was let loose in the confines of a baker’s pantry in which I happened to be present. Upon my release from hospital, and bent on my dough-related project, I had no option but to hire the services of a professional kneader, and it cost me an arm and a leg. Not literally of course. I doubt that a kneader exacting such a price would attract much custom, although I am willing to entertain the idea that in certain circumstances a person could become so dough-desperate that they would pay it.

The consistency of your dough will be as nought, however, if you are bird-ignorant. Let me put it as plainly as I can. You will need to know what a cormorant looks like. The cormorant is a type of bird, and birds are those things you see flying overhead, silhouetted against the sky. But it is well worth bearing in mind that not everything you see flying overhead is necessarily a bird. If it is enormous, and metallic, and has jet engines, it is almost certainly an aeroplane. Conversely, if it is tiny, so tiny that it is barely visible, it is likely to be a midge or a gnat. There are all sorts of other things that appear flying or hovering or being buffetted which are not birds, such as bees and wasps and hornets and wind-borne plastic carrier bags and heat-seeking missiles, to name but five.

Several types of bird, including the cormorant, are mentioned in the Bible. The theologian Loptap has argued, convincingly, that almost all birds are Roman Catholic, although one or two espouse Lutheranism, and chaffinches are notoriously godless. Personally, I have grave doubts about the partridge, but as a general rule let Loptap be your guide.

You can work out the differences between the cormorant and that well nigh limitless class of things-which-are-not-a-cormorant by studying diagrams and drawings in books such as The Bumper Book Of Diagrams And Drawings Of Cormorants.

When you are reasonably sure that you know what a cormorant looks like, simply take your lump of dough and mould it into the appropriate shape. Hey presto! You have a dough cotmorant.

To satisfy yourself that your dough cormorant is of an acceptable standard, and will not be mistaken for a dough model of another bird, or worse, of that-which-is-not-a-cormorant, it is a good idea to compare it with photographs in books such as The Bumper Book Of Photographs Of Dough Cormorants.

In nomine patris et filii spiritus sancti.

A Man Of The Cloth

There was a man, he was a man of the cloth. I’ll repeat that. There was a man, he was a man of the cloth. Let that sink in.

When asked to identify himself, by a sentry say, the man would say “I am a man of the cloth”, and when he saw a flicker of doubt on the sentry’s face, a puckering of the brows, a purse of the lips, a narrowing of the eyes, he would say “Would you like to see my cloth?”, and he would take from his pocket a frayed and filthy rag, besmirched with remnants of food, soup stains and eggy smears and embedded crumbs, and he would hold it by two corners, between fingers and thumbs, to give the sentry the clearest possible view.

The sentry, perhaps cocking his rifle, would say something like “That is not a cloth, it is a frayed and filthy food-splattered rag”.

To which the man, the man of the cloth, would reply, “I did not say it was a cloth, I said it was the cloth”. He would say this with such conviction that the sentry would be jarred and disconcerted.

What do you mean, the cloth?” he would ask.

Is that not self-evident?” the man of the cloth would snap back without missing a beat, further discombobulating the sentry, who could do little but shake his head.

Sensing the sentry’s confusion, the man of the cloth would say, “Let me help you. I am a man of the cloth, and this is the cloth. You have now seen it, so I shall scrunch it up and replace it in my pocket, and I trust you will let me pass, unimpeded”.

Usually, this folderol would work like a dream, and the man of the cloth would be allowed to go on his way.

But there was an occasion when he met with a sentry of fearsome mettle, who would not be bamboozled. This particular sentry had long ago learned to give no quarter where attempted bamboozlement threatened. He still suffered from awful nightmares about his rookie days, and the incident with the ne’er-do-well bent on infamy, armed with a bottle of bleach and a dough cormorant, and the other incident, on his very next watch, with the other ne’er-do-well, fanatically committed to an enormity, carrying a lump of marzipan and a framed portrait of Nobby Stiles. This sentry was not to be bamboozled again, so he shot the man of the cloth.

He shot him in the ankle, hobbling him, and as the man of the cloth had not yet scrunched up the cloth and replaced it in his pocket, as he toppled to the ground and released the cloth from his grasp, between fingers and thumbs, it fluttered and was about to drop beside him, when a sudden gust of wind lifted it into the air and blew it away, o’er fields and filbert hedges, away, away, it was swept away and gone (see “Resignation” from A Character of a True Christian, Abiezer Coppe, 1680).

The man of the cloth ought to have resigned himself to his loss, but he did not. As soon as his ankle mended, he set out in search of the cloth. He carried with him, as succour, a cloth, which rapidly became frayed and filthy and food-splattered, but he was painfully aware that it was merely a cloth, not the cloth. He wandered the world, and wanders it still, o’er field and filbert hedge, o’er tor, fell, and hill.

Incey-Wincey Quartet

Should you need to placate a squalling infant, here – reposted from several years ago – is a handy quartet of incey-winceys.

Incey-wincey badger, scrubbling in the dirt
Puts some sticks together and builds himself a yurt
He’s a New Age badger, his name is Little Kurt
Careful now, his feelings are very easily hurt

Incey-wincey lobster, clacking in the sea
His brain’s completely alien to that of you and me
Incey-wincey lobster, much bigger than a bee
The lobster’s very strange, and is never ever twee

Incey-wincey goat-boy, creature of two realms
We can see you darting in between the elms
Half of you is human, the other half’s a goat
Incey-wincey goat-boy, drowning in a moat

Incey-wincey Stalin with his pockmarked face
Keeps all his medals in a big briefcase
Lurks in the Kremlin hatching plots and schemes
Incey-wincey Stalin haunts your childhood dreams

Borp

I stumbled upon Borp shortly after Himmelfarb. It was my good fortune to have an emotional cushion. I had prayed for a pillow, but I got a cushion, so I could not complain. There was old black and white footage of Lasse Viren on the box. I thought I spotted Borp behind the box. This was not something I expected, and it caused those tremors I thought had gone forever, like the Gurglings.

There were Gurglings now, but they seemed to come from Borp. I was minded to take a closer look, but a little voice in my head urged caution. Lasse Viren continued to pound along the track, like a nonfiction Bobnit Tivol. I turned the sound down, the better to hear Borp. There were definite Gurglings.

Interrupted by a whistling kettle, I decamped to the kitchen. Well, I ought properly say kitchenette, if not kitchenettette. It was tiny. The kettle was correspondingly tiny too. But the whistle! It was so loud that it drowned out the Gurglings. This was a small mercy, and I was reluctant to remove the kettle from the hob. Had I tried to do so, it would in any case have been held fast by the hobgoblins.

I had been trying to eradicate these from my kitchenettette since before Himmelfarb. There was a spray, but it did little good. On the advice of Baines I fashioned a crucifix from stalks of rhubarb and suspended it from a rafter with a chain. Nobody told me Baines was a cretin.

I whirled about in the kitchenettette trying to work out what to do next. Outside, a crow landed on the lawn. Then another, and another. Soon there were so many crows I could no longer see the grass. I felt sure this had somehow been contrived by Borp, even if I had absolutely no idea how or why. I tried to concentrate my mind on Himmelfarb.

I summoned up what faint courage I had and returned to the parlour to peek behind the box. Lasse Viren had vanished from the box, to be replaced by Emil Zatopek, who was running in a different direction. He looked like a man wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt. I know that is not an original observation, but it had never seemed more true. I gawped and almost forgot about Borp. But then the sound of the Gurglings snapped me back to the present. What use were athletics to me now?

Then another question forced itself into my brain. Why were the crows on the lawn silent? Should they not have been cawing? That is two questions. It is no surprise that I dithered. I had dithered on Himmelfarb, had I not?, and look where my dithering got me. Beset by kitchenettette hobgoblins, and with only a useless spray and a rhubarb crucifix to counter them! Baines would be made to pay, in his cretins’ coinage.

I was ready to throw in the towel. That is of course a reference to the boxing ring. Lasse and Emil were strangers to it, it was a different kind of box they were on. Was Borp behind it? I had to know. But I also needed that towel, just in case. And I realised I had clean forgotten where the airing cupboard was. I slumped in a chair and picked up my album. It would have to serve as my emotional cushion for the time being. I opened the album at a random page, and I gazed, and gazed and gazed, for hours, until becalmed, at a photograph of Rasmus Tholstrup the cheesemaker, with his wife and infant son.

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From The Past …

I posted this thirteen long years ago, in March 2004, but it still makes me laugh, so I thought I’d pop it in again:

Is nothing sacred? In this age of pointless but seemingly obsessive rebranding, news reaches us that Snow White’s diminutive pals, the seven dwarves, are to be given new names. From next Friday, apparently, they are to be known as Wretched, Spiteful, Incontinent, Wistful, Lippy, Rancorous & Preening.

Drama

Exterior, the gate of the Wasp Zoo.

Sentry At The Gate Of The Wasp Zoo : Halt! Who goes there?

Voice Offstage : I am Perkins, Bringer Of Mothballs.

Sentry At The Gate Of The Wasp Zoo : You may pass.

Enter Perkins, Bringer Of Mothballs. He is dressed in cardboard boxes save for his hat, which is made of birds.

Perkins, Bringer Of Mothballs : Have you heard the news from Chappaquiddick?

Sentry At The Gate Of The Wasp Zoo : Yes. Poor Mary Jo Kopechne.

Perkins, Bringer Of Mothballs : This is a very bijou wasp zoo.

Sentry At The Gate Of The Wasp Zoo : It is. But now I have no further words, and nor do you, for there is a fatal flaw in this little drama, viz. its incoherence. Now we must simply stand here on stage, silently, for several hours, until such time as your hat-birds fly, fly away.

Perkins, Bringer Of Mothballs : But they are not living birds. They are stone dead and taxidermised.

Sentry At The Gate Of The Wasp Zoo : Did you not hear what I said? Hush ye! Hush ye!

Several hours pass, until the audience bursts into thunderous applause.