Archive for the 'Prose' Category

Word Of The Day : Mop

Word of the day : Mop.

Mop is the technical term for the stuff that grows on top of a Beatle, hence moptop, as in the illustrative phrase “four loveable moptops who conquered the world”. There are other meanings of mop, both as noun and verb, but you know what?, I think I have already told you about them, out of turn, when I was meant to be telling you about the word glue, as well as boggle and clunk, none of which words I was able to give proper attention to because of a flurry of correspondence from pesky reader Wlad Onanugu. See previous Word Of The Day entries to relive the full horror.

Speaking of Mr Onanugu, he has sent me yet another letter. It arrived while I was writing the above paragraph. Here is what he has to say for himself:

Dear Mr Key : Why are you telling us about mop when you said you were going to tell us instead about nap? Also, if I am keeping proper track of things, were you not meant to be telling us about pencil? I have a few further questions for you regarding parp – as well as toot and hooter and tots – but I need to marshal my thoughts very carefully before putting pencil to cardboard torn from a packet of breakfast cereal.

I confess myself utterly befuddled by Mr Onanugu’s ability to know what I am writing about before I have posted it here at Hooting Yard. The awful, terrifying thought occurs to me that he might be some sort of phantasmal being whose only existence is inside my skull, an emanation of the brain brought on by god knows what.

At times like these it can be helpful to slosh out the ears by listening to a few Beatles hits. By the way, if you are not clear what a Beatle is, you will find several references to them elsewhere on Het Internet. One word of warning : if your source of Beatle lore is the pronouncements on the subject by the late Kenneth Williams, please note that “that Beatle who married an Asiatic woman” was not, as Williams has it, Ringo Starr.

Wild Is The Wind

Like the leaf clings to the tree, oh! my darling cling to me, for we are like creatures of the wind, and wild is the wind! Wild is the wind! Wild it is! As wild as the wind in The Wind starring Lillian Gish. This wild wind howls across the desolate tarputa, so you must cling to me, my darling, and I must cling to these railings, and our clingings, yours to me and mine to the railings, will prevent us being blown away, like specks of dust in the wild wind.

I cling to the railings surrounding the huge cement hollyhock that is the only landmark for miles and miles across the desolate tarputa. It is the work of the noted cement hollyhockist Sidney Hock, though the railings are municipal. When unveiled, so many moons ago, it was painted, all green and pink and crimson, with emulsion, but the relentless wild wind has stripped it of its paint and now it is a bare cement hollyhock towering on the tarputa, a handy landmark where such as we can arrange our assignations. For we are like creatures of the wind.

Sidney Hock placed other cement hollyhocks in other locations, but this one is his masterpiece. That is why it is protected by railings. They are stout and strong, the railings, the better to withstand the wild wind. I cling to them now, as you cling to me, as the wind roars. We cannot hear each other speak, but what use is speech?

The cement hollyhockist was himself a mute, by dint of some unfathomable hysteric blot upon his brain. From the age of ten, after a picnic, not a word was heard from his mouth. He had a great feeling for the tarputa, for its desolation, for the wild wind that roars across it, flattening everything except the enormous cement hollyhock which looms above us as we cling. Here we can conduct our assignations safe from the prim and priggish villagers in their broad-brimmed hats and black frock-coats. We shall not skulk in alleyways and shadow. Out here on the tarputa, in the howling wind, we cling, me to the railings and you to me, like the leaf clings to the tree.

Word Of The Day : Glue

Word of the day : Glue.

Today I want to look at the word glue. I also want to take the opportunity to mop up the two earlier words of the day I have not yet had a chance to examine, boggle and clunk. Mop, incidentally, is a fine word in itself, so let us pencil that in for tomorrow. And while we are about it, let us pencil in pencil for the day after tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have received yet another letter from Wlad Onanugu. I presume it is another bit of wittering about parp. I cannot say for sure, because – with iron in my soul – I have thus far made a titanic effort not to open it, and thus have not yet read it. Perhaps I never will. I might shove it, unopened, into my wastepaper basket, from whence it will be tipped along with all sorts of other papery detritus, into a great roaring furnace, when I have located such a furnace.

I ought to make it clear that it is not my habit to treat all correspondence from readers so shamefully. Usually, I pore over your letters, rereading them a couple of times, until I have winkled from them every last drop of whatever it is they contain – wisdom, wit, top tips, a scattering of breadcrumbs – and then I chew the end of my pencil before scribbling a response. If you take the trouble to write, I ought to take the trouble to reply. So I have terrible misgivings about Mr Onanugu’s latest missive. But quite honestly, if I have to bang on about parp yet again, this series is never going to get anywhere.

After I wrote that paragraph, my terrible misgivings got the better of me, and I decided after all to open, and read, Mr Onanugu’s letter. If it turned out to be all about parp again – and toot and hooter and tots – then so be it. I would frame a response which, I hoped, would dissuade my pesky correspondent from ever putting pencil to paper again for so long as he lived.

As I reached across my desk for the letter, however, I knocked over an opened can of Squelcho!, from which I had taken only a single dainty glug, with the result that I ended up with a puddle of fizzy luminous highly-coloured chemically-enhanced liquid on the floor. I was not entirely sure how high its acidic content was, but I feared it might start eating through the floorboards, like the blood of the alien in Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979). So at once I fetched a mop to mop it up. See what a great word mop is? It is both a noun and a verb. One mops with a mop. And I won’t even begin to talk about Beatle-hair!

Anyway, I was so exhausted after my mopping (with a mop!) that I had to go and take a nap. Which means that I will have to set aside boggle and clunk and glue for another day. On a more positive note, it could be argued that I have already composed an illustrative sentence for tomorrow’s word of the day, mop. Perhaps I can substitute nap for mop, tomorrow. Wait and see.

Word Of The Day : Clunk

Word of the day : Clunk.

I had hoped, today, to deal with the word clunk, as well as catching up with yesterday’s word, boggle, which as you recall had to be postponed while I addressed further matters regarding parp. Alas, I am diverted from my proper course by another letter from Wlad Onanugu. This time he writes:

Dear Mr Key, I was touched by your thoughtfulness in recommending to me further reading on the knotty problem of parp and toot and hooter and tots, et cetera. Indeed, I was so touched that I am afraid to say I let a few tears run down my cheeks. My weeping and snuffling soon ceased, however, when the significance of those parenthetical words “(out of print)” appended to the recommended title sank in. Sure enough, as I trudged around the bookselling kiosks of the dilapidated seaside resort where I live, I discovered that this Dobson pamphlet was completely unavailable. I was met with blank stares, looks of incredulity, a pitying pat on the head, and, by one particularly apoplectic bookseller, the threat of his slavering, sharp-fanged guard dog.

Eventually, at a jumble sale at the local self-esteem ‘n’ diversity awareness hub, my rummaging did unearth a pamphlet by Dobson. A glance at the Gestetnered cover, however, revealed that it was devoted to a wholly different topic. The title was Several Potentates Of The Ancient World With Collapsed Lungs & Their Concubines (out of print). I bought it anyway, for tuppence, and took it home hoping that perhaps the pamphleteer might have a passing word to say somewhere about the whole parp toot hooter tots business.

Arriving home, I snapped open a refreshing can of Squelcho!, plopped myself down in my armchair, and began to read. Shortly thereafter, I was weeping again, but this time from brain-jangling frustration. The pamphlet seemed to me the most utter poppycock, and try as I might I could wring no sense from it whatsoever. If this is a typical example of Dobson’s work, I am feeling quite relieved that I did not continue my search for the pamphlet you recommended. Please send me a postal order for tuppence as compensation.

I am sorry that Mr Onanugu found Dobson’s prose intractable. There is a possibility, however, that he may well have stumbled upon a copy of the notorious “rogue” edition of Several Potentates Of The Ancient World With Collapsed Lungs & Their Concubines. This was the one where the original text – a model of shining clarity and Dobsonian oomph – was translated into Hungarian, and from Hungarian into Tagalog, and from Tagalog into Dog Latin, before being translated back into English. It was the work of the mischievous literary prankster Hector Nuisance.

Tomorrow I hope to crack on with boggle, and clunk, and tomorrow’s word of the day, glue.

Word Of The Day : Boggle

Word of the day : Boggle.

I am afraid that before we move on to boggle, we have unfinished business with yesterday’s word of the day, parp. Reader Wlad Onanugu writes :

Dear Wordmaestro, I am confused by your maunderings on the word parp. You say it is pretty much identical to toot, but then proceed, in your illustrative sentence, to refer to a hooter, rather than, as I might have expected, a tooter or parper. My mental chaos is compounded by the fact that you also make mention of tots, virtually the same word as toots, though entirely different in meaning. I looked forward to improving my word power with your new series. Instead I find myself quite dreadfully unhinged.

Mr Onanugu will find it helpful to consult Dobson’s pamphlet Parp. Toot, Hooter, Tooters, Parpers And Tots : A Complete Guide For The Bewildered (out of print). I have not read it myself, but am told it is almost, but not quite, “the greatest pamphlet ever written”.

Word Of The Day : Parp

Word of the day : Parp.

Parp is a verb, pretty much identical to toot. Here is an illustrative sentence: In an apoplexy of rage, he parped his hooter. To act out this sentence, for example in a classroom full of tots, you will need a hooter. You should also smear your face with beetroot juice to give it that “purple with rage” look, and be able to boggle your eyes convincingly. Tomorrow we will consider the word Boggle.

The Rotating Grave

Rex Rotograv, the avant garde rotogravurist, left instructions in his will that he was to be buried in a rotating grave. Like William Beckford, the rich and eccentric author of Vathek (1786), he wrote the will in a ship’s cabin, on the hat of a valet. Unlike Beckford, Rotograv did not have his own valet, so, with the aid of his personal magnetism and the promise of a portrait in rotogravure, he commandeered a valet from a passenger berthed in a nobbier part of the ship. Also unlike Beckford, who died in his cabin sailing home from the West Indies, the rotogravurist survived his voyage, as, one hoped, he might, given that in his case the ship was a ferry plying the short distance between the Port of Tongs and Tantarabim, crossing the Great Sopping Wet River four times daily. Upon disembarking, Rotograv realised that he had neglected to produce the promised rotogravure for the valet.

He had already experimented with a rotating grave for one of his dead horses. Rotograv was fond of horses, and liked to go galloping along the clifftop paths of his bailiwick seeking scenic loveliness which he would then “interpret” in his avant garde rotogravures. His artistic skills far outstripped his capabilities as a husbander of horses, however, and the attrition rate was dreadful. Rotograv lost count of the dead horses he buried.

The idea for the rotating grave for the horse Duvet came to him in a dream. Duvet was still alive at the time, but died the very next day, when Rotograv was galloping along the cliffs to see the abandoned lime kilns at Loopy Copse. Poor exhausted Duvet perished from a baffling medical condition the like of which does not bear thinking about, and which you would not understand in any case unless you happened to be a tiptop expert in horse health, and even then you might scratch your head in wonderment.

Duvet’s grave was powered by a pneumatic contraption and did a full 360° rotation every five minutes. Oh, it fairly spun round and round!, disturbing many a mole and other burrowing creatures.

For his own grave, as described in detail with imperishable ink on the valet’s hat, Rotograv envisioned a variable speed of rotation, now fast, now slow, depending on the atmospherics above ground. It would be a stupendously complicated feat of subterranean engineering, but, he thought, and hoped, he had many years ahead of him to finesse the design.

He did not. The day after returning home from across the Great Sopping Wet River, an infuriated and bare-headed valet came rushing up to him in the street, demanding the avant garde rotogravure portrait he had been promised. A fight ensued. Rex Rotograv was unarmed, but the valet, as valets do, carried a stiletto. And so passed from this world a man unparalleled.

Ubiquitous Majors

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From today’s Daily Telegraph. Thanks to Gareth Williams for bringing it to my attention.

Dustman

My old man’s a dustman. He wears a dustman’s hat. Unless you are a dustman yourself – or a milliner – you may be unfamiliar with the dustman’s hat. I am neither a dustman nor a milliner, but I am wearing my old man’s hat as I write, so I know exactly what I am talking about.

Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili, the pockmarled, moustachioed Georgian, famously renamed himself Stalin, the Man of Steel. At the height of the Solidarity protests in Poland in the early 1980s, Lech Walesa was conflated with the Man of Iron of Andrej Wajda’s film of that title. Neither steel nor iron, my old man is a Man of Dust.

I said that he wears a dustman’s hat, but then contradicted myself by saying that I am wearing it. I ought to have said he wore a dustman’s hat, before I stole it from him and plopped it, at a decidedly non-rakish angle, on my own head. Just as I stole from him his cardigan and his tobacco pouch and his Italian-made and unexpectedly stylish Armando Del Foppo boots.

I hasten to add that the old man is not my father. I call him “my” old man because he is the latest in a series of old men I have abducted off the streets and chained up in my attic. I help myself to whatever they have about their person that takes my fancy, be it hat, cardigan, pouch and boots or, say, wig, dentures, walking stick and ear trumpet, and I commission Old Ma Popsicle to take up to them a bowl of gruel or milk slops once a day. But being old, my old men invariably die within a few days. I haul the corpses downstairs and into the garden and bury them in the flowerbeds under the Pointy Town moonlight. Old Ma Popsicle is sworn to silence. I know far too much about her past for her to blab to the coppers.

Wellbeloved Gutters

Meet me at midday at Wellbeloved Gutters, and we can swap dogs and consider the drainage.

Did I want to exchange Rags for Scamp? It did not seem as if I had a choice in the matter. It was not that I had any affection for Rags, he was flea-ridden and sick and dishevelled, but he was my Rags. Lord knows I had little else to call my own, certainly nothing else living and wheezing.

I used to have my own cart, on wheels, but it toppled down a slope and fell to bits at the bottom. I was distracted for a mere moment, by a bittern, or was it a plover?, but a mere moment was enough for me to let go of the handle of the cart and for its subsequent ruination. Then I was a man without a cart. Shortly afterwards, I obtained Rags, by accident, outside a milk bar. The dog attached itself to me. It followed me home, if you can call the wooden pallet in the shelter of the viaduct home.

I called it home, for a month or two, before fate swept me up and plopped me in a hotel. Rags had to stay outside, on a patch of ground near the car park. I fashioned a kennel for him out of bits of hardboard and nails. The patch was in the lee of one of the hotel’s huge forbidding windowless back walls. I know nothing of architecture, but it struck me as an unusually designed building. The innards were somewhere between palatial and gaudy. What a trick fate played to plop me there!

I tried to imagine Scamp – big, bounding, brisk, panting Scamp – sitting half-in, half-out of the kennel, eating from Rags’s bowl, in the shadow of the hotel. I tried and failed. So I went down to the lobby and asked for some notepaper and scribbled a reply.

I will meet you at midday at Wellbeloved Gutters. I am happy to consider the drainage. But a dog-swap is out of the question, for the time being.

I pressed a coin into the mitt of an urchin and sent him off to deliver my message. Then I obtained some bones and jelly and went out the back to feed Rags. His chain had been smashed to pieces, as if by a maniac’s axe. Untethered, Rags had fled. I returned to the lobby, slumped in an armchair next to a palm tree, and bunched my fists.

Later, torrential rain fell on Wellbeloved Gutters. The rain drained away as rapidly as it fell, for they are highly efficient gutters, probably the most efficient gutters in Pointy Town.

The Importance Of Scroggins

The importance of Scroggins lies in its custody. Not one cupboard, but two, are necessary, each fitted with a heavy padlock. The keys should differ from each other in minute yet decisive particulars and be kept secreted at the bottom of the garden, hanging from the branches of a pugton tree, disguised with tinsel or birdlime so that they appear to be organic growths upon the tree. The tree itself ought to be fenced off with railings, railings with spikes, spikes!, sharpened spikes. Only then can Scroggins be said to be held securely. If you wish to allow visiting times, make them at dead of night, in mist or fog, with full documentation. Have a dog, too, one that howls. Ignore the distant beating of drums. Drums are the playthings of toddlers.

From The Archives

This piece first appeared on Thursday 19 March 2009.

Dixon went to Dock Green. It was a small patch of grass, hardly a lawn, at the edge of the dock. The dock itself was one where huge steamers came into port from faraway lands, carrying all sorts of exotic cargo. The cargo was mostly packed into wooden crates, which were winched from ship to dock by dockhands. When it was lunchtime, the dockhands sprawled on the green, the small patch of grass, and prised the lids off their Tupperwares and unscrewed the lids from their flasks. They ate their bloater paste sandwiches and drank their tea and while they chewed and swilled they talked to each other about the cargo they had winched ashore that morning. The wooden crates usually had lettering stencilled on their sides and tops describing what the crates contained. One might read FRUIT GUMS, another GIRAFFE BRAINS.
Leaning on a fence, smoking his pipe, Dixon listened carefully to the chitchat of the dockhands. He used to be a policeman. Now he was a spy. His mission was to find out what cargo had been winched ashore that morning and report back to his spymasters. His spymasters were shadowy figures who sat behind a big desk in an unlit room in a skyscraper in town. The room was unlit so that Dixon was unable to see them with any clarity and thus recognise them and thus be able to identify them at a later date if ever questioned.
Dixon could have just blundered around the dock and read the stencilled lettering on all the crates but he preferred to listen to the chitchat of the dockhands because he could not read. He used to be able to, when he was a policeman, but he had lost the ability. One day, one September day to be precise, he had been chasing a miscreant and lost his footing in a gutter and banged his head, and after banging his head he forgot everything he had ever known, even his own name, and where he lived, and how old he was, and what he did for a living, and how to read. In short, he was an amnesiac.
One of the spymasters came to the clinic where Dixon had been put. To disguise his identity, the spymaster wore a mask and modified his voice with an electronic device. He offered Dixon a job at Dock Green. This day I am telling you about was Dixon’s first day. While he was leaning against the fence smoking his pipe and listening to the dockhands, he forgot all about the unlit room in the skyscraper and the shadowy spymasters who had sent him on his mission. He became very interested in the fruit gums and giraffe brains and the winching mechanism and he walked on to the ship to take a closer look.
Dixon was still on the ship when it steamed out of port on its way to a far distant land to collect more cargo. One day, out in the middle of one of those big oceans that make up so much of the planet’s surface, he received a bash on the head from a violent sailor. Then Dixon remembered everything. He remembered he was a policeman, so he tried to arrest the violent sailor for bashing him on the head. But the law of the land holds no sway at sea, and the ship’s captain locked him up in a cabin until they made landfall.
The first land they came to was a tiny rock. The captain and the violent sailor took Dixon by the arms and legs and shoved him off the ship on to the rock. It was almost barren, encrusted with barnacles and other shelly denizens of the sea and rocks, but there was a small patch of grass. Dixon dubbed it Dock Green and fashioned a flag from his cravat and found a stick for a flagpole and planted his flag in the grass. And he devised a fishing rod and a bow and arrows and a desalination unit, for he was a resourceful policeman, and he ruled over his little kingdom, where there was never a whiff of crime, for many, many years.Â
NOTE : Younger readers, and those unfamiliar with British television of decades past, may like to know that an inaccurate adaptation of this story was the basis for a long running series.

dixonofdockgreen

Dixon went to Dock Green. It was a small patch of grass, hardly a lawn, at the edge of the dock. The dock itself was one where huge steamers came into port from faraway lands, carrying all sorts of exotic cargo. The cargo was mostly packed into wooden crates, which were winched from ship to dock by dockhands. When it was lunchtime, the dockhands sprawled on the green, the small patch of grass, and prised the lids off their Tupperwares and unscrewed the lids from their flasks. They ate their bloater paste sandwiches and drank their tea and while they chewed and swilled they talked to each other about the cargo they had winched ashore that morning. The wooden crates usually had lettering stencilled on their sides and tops describing what the crates contained. One might read FRUIT GUMS, another GIRAFFE BRAINS.

Leaning on a fence, smoking his pipe, Dixon listened carefully to the chitchat of the dockhands. He used to be a policeman. Now he was a spy. His mission was to find out what cargo had been winched ashore that morning and report back to his spymasters. His spymasters were shadowy figures who sat behind a big desk in an unlit room in a skyscraper in town. The room was unlit so that Dixon was unable to see them with any clarity and thus recognise them and thus be able to identify them at a later date if ever questioned.

Dixon could have just blundered around the dock and read the stencilled lettering on all the crates but he preferred to listen to the chitchat of the dockhands because he could not read. He used to be able to, when he was a policeman, but he had lost the ability. One day, one September day to be precise, he had been chasing a miscreant and lost his footing in a gutter and banged his head, and after banging his head he forgot everything he had ever known, even his own name, and where he lived, and how old he was, and what he did for a living, and how to read. In short, he was an amnesiac.

One of the spymasters came to the clinic where Dixon had been put. To disguise his identity, the spymaster wore a mask and modified his voice with an electronic device. He offered Dixon a job at Dock Green. This day I am telling you about was Dixon’s first day. While he was leaning against the fence smoking his pipe and listening to the dockhands, he forgot all about the unlit room in the skyscraper and the shadowy spymasters who had sent him on his mission. He became very interested in the fruit gums and giraffe brains and the winching mechanism and he walked on to the ship to take a closer look.

Dixon was still on the ship when it steamed out of port on its way to a far distant land to collect more cargo. One day, out in the middle of one of those big oceans that make up so much of the planet’s surface, he received a bash on the head from a violent sailor. Then Dixon remembered everything. He remembered he was a policeman, so he tried to arrest the violent sailor for bashing him on the head. But the law of the land holds no sway at sea, and the ship’s captain locked him up in a cabin until they made landfall.

The first land they came to was a tiny rock. The captain and the violent sailor took Dixon by the arms and legs and shoved him off the ship on to the rock. It was almost barren, encrusted with barnacles and other shelly denizens of the sea and rocks, but there was a small patch of grass. Dixon dubbed it Dock Green and fashioned a flag from his cravat and found a stick for a flagpole and planted his flag in the grass. And he devised a fishing rod and a bow and arrows and a desalination unit, for he was a resourceful policeman, and he ruled over his little kingdom, where there was never a whiff of crime, for many, many years.

NOTE : Younger readers, and those unfamiliar with British television of decades past, may like to know that an inaccurate adaptation of this story was the basis for a long running television series.

Was Edith Sitwell A Rastafarian?

In 1927 Sylvia Townsend Warner attended a party at Edith Sitwell’s house. She did not enjoy it. “The room [was] full of young male poets and old female rastas”, she noted. I suppose rasta must have had a different meaning for Sylvia, and she was not surrounded by elderly female rastafarians, though I prefer to think this is what she did mean. The vision of Sylvia Townsend Warner, Edith Sitwell, and several aged dreadlocked rastafarian women calling on Jah to deliver them from their sufferation in Babylon is too splendid to be scuppered by foolish matters such as historical truth.

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Ten Years Ago

On this day, exactly ten years ago, on 14 May 2004, I posted this on Hooting Yard:

BASHFUL COCTLOSH TRAUMA SURGEON

Being the title of a novel by Maisie Pew, due to be published in September. It is a book of ten chapters, their titles being:

I. The Gelignite Zombie Person From Didcot

II. Pudding Time

III. Paste, Then Gruel

IV. Our Hero, Dr Slab, Goes Haywire

V. Being A Chapter In Which Lovecraftian Shudders Are Experienced By A Barnyard Person And A Ferocious Bat-Being

VI. Tord Grip

VII. The Other Gelignite Zombie Person From Didcot

VIII. That Sinuous L’Oreal Toss Of The Hair Performed By A Pirate Gang

IX. Shoes? Boots? String?

XII. Mild Peril Fop Dilemma

Long-term readers, and those with their wits about them, will know that, contrary to my claim, no such book was ever published. This is because (a) I made it up, and (b) “Maisie Pew” did not then, and does not now, exist. I made her up too. Of course, I could have written Bashful Coctlosh Trauma Surgeon myself, and I may even have planned to, but I never did. I still could. I rather fancy it would be a pulpy potboiler. If I followed the practice of certain eminent pulp writers, I might be able to bash it out in a week or so. The thing to do would be to start typing and not fret too much about felicities of style and wotnot.

Incidentally, for those who care about such matters, “Coctlosh” was a sort of proto-Hooting Yard, or proto-Pointy Town. It was a fictional location which was the setting for a few stories I wrote as long ago as the late 1970s, each of which featured Josef Bong. Mr Bong was stolen from The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek, where he is mentioned, just once, in passing, in – I recall – a newspaper cutting, where he is described as a “Brave Driver” (of a train). My Josef Bong rode a horse, mounted upon which he arrived in Coctlosh in the first of the stories, on a blistering hot day. I do not remember much else about these ancient texts, which are – alas – lost. Burned, I think, in a frenzy, long ago.

Baines

You are a very sinister servant, Baines, said Lord Boggis, addressing, as he thought, his manservant, Baines, By which I mean that, having brought me my muffin and tap water at eleven o’ clock on the dot, as instructed, you have been dismissed, with a lordly gesture of my lordly arm, to return to the pantry or to wherever it is you hold sway, in the bowels of this my mansion, there to go about your duties, whatever they might be when you are outwith my presence, running a tight ship, awaiting the sound of the bell which calls you back upstairs next time I require your services. Yet, having been dismissed, you have not gone, but are to be found lurking in the corner of the room, in shadow, barely visible, betraying your presence by the faint outline of your frame and by the almost imperceptible sound of your breathing which, if I deploy my ear-trumpet, I can hear, indubitably. This behaviour is most untoward, and is quite likely to send me into a flap. When you are dismissed, you should go. When you are summoned, you should come. I cannot countenance this intermediate state, where you loiter, neither going nor coming, hovering as it were, in an uncertain realm between tidy absolutes. Look, I have not touched my muffin nor glugged my tap water, and it is ten past the hour. That is evidence of my discombobulation. I cannot rest while you are standing there, sinister in shadow. You have been in service in this my mansion for several decades, Baines, and never before have I known you to fracture my peace in so unprecedented a fashion. Even when you had that mishap with an icing sugar siphon pump attachment and had to have a metal plate inserted in your skull, even then, and afterwards, you carried out your duties with aplomb, and I had no complaints to make. Thus I am baffled, baffled!, by your frankly bewildering conduct, or rather misconduct. It may be that you have taken a loopy turn and will need to be carted off and replaced by a brand new manservant, though how in heaven I am ever to find one as reliable as you have been, until now, is quite beyond my wits to discover.

Lord Boggis prattled on, not realising that the sinister figure lurking in the shadows was not his trusted servant Baines. It was the Grunty Man! and he was merely biding his time before laying waste to the mansion and every person in it..