The Horrible Cave – II

I arrived at the Bird Inspectors’ Hut to discover that it had been engulfed by a tsunami and lay in ruins. A solitary moorhen was paddling about where the door used to be, but there was no sign of the inspectors. I fancied that perhaps this might be a talking moorhen which could apprise me where they had gone, and asked my question in a slow, clear, loud voice, as one might use in speaking to a recalcitrant infant. But of course the moorhen was incapable of speech! What was I thinking?

I felt it more important than ever to track down at least one of the bird inspectors and relay my theory that crows were nesting in the horrible cave, with alarming consequences. In my experience, most bird inspectors sport Italianate mustachios and preen them fanatically with oils and waxes, so I decided to head off on foot for the nearest village and seek out a shop selling oils, waxes, and other hair treatments.

I was in luck, for as soon as I strode purposefully into the village I saw not only such an emporium, tucked between a wholesaler of dinghies and a clapboard hovel, but a man with Italianate mustachios lurking in the doorway. He was sopping wet, making his moustache droop, but that made it all the more likely he had been caught in the tsunami.

I hailed him from a distance of some forty feet. That is the last thing I can remember. I have no idea what happened from that moment until today, three weeks later so I am told, where I found myself sitting in an armchair staring out at a dying lawn, being proffered cups of tea and mashed potatoes by an oversolicitous nurse. Her name, she told me, was Primrose. That name rang a faint bell in my memory. I associated it with something petrifying and terrible, but Primrose the nurse seemed to be neither. In fact her fawning was getting on my nerves.

I wanted to ask her where I was and how I got here, but she had already skipped off to fetch more potatoes. Deciding to follow her, I walked rather unsteadily into a corridor. It was painted a hideous shade of orange, and on the walls hung framed portraits of members of Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Barclay James Harvest. Was this some kind of benighted prog rock haven? I should add that these were paintings rather than photographs, although perhaps the word I am looking for is daubs. My infant child could do better, if I had an infant child, but I do not. Long ago I vowed never to bring a new being into a world with a horrible cave in it, lest the mite should accidentally wander into it. I could not forgive myself if such a thing happened.

I could hear what sounded like potatoes being mashed coming from an open doorway over to my left. Entering the room, however, I did not find Primrose. Instead I was confronted by a slobbering ghoul. It spoke – or rather, groaned – at me in Latin, for it was a Vatican ghoul. Atop its gruesome head I could see the tattered remnants of a biretta, in which a number of locusts seemed to be feeding. Were they eating the ghoul’s straggly locks, or its priestly hat? Or both? I was so fascinated by the locusts that I am afraid I paid little attention to the gravel-voiced Latin being spouted at me. At this point Primrose came in.

There you are, Mr MacTavish!” she cooed sweetly, addressing the ghoul, “I’ve been looking all over for you. It’s time for your mashed potato poultice. Come with me, there’s a dear.” She took it by what I can only assume was its arm and steered it away, still groaning. I was rather disconcerted that Primrose had ignored me completely. Perhaps I was being oversensitive. I looked at my wristwatch and saw that it was just coming up to midday. Why in heaven’s name was I dressed in pyjamas? I opened a cupboard and rummaged around until I found a shiny and brand new boiler suit. I changed into it and checked how I looked in a mirror, noting that its broad black and yellow hoops gave me a faint resemblance to a giant bee. It was time to leave this place, wherever it was. I pranced out onto the lawn and peered around, looking for a signpost.

I have always been fond of crocuses, and there was a clump of them nearby. In the absence of a signpost, I decided I could do worse than tarry awhile examining their flowers and leaves, and perhaps scrubbling in the soil to have a quick look at the corm. One should take one’s pleasures as one can, and if I was to stride onward with a spring in my step, a few minutes’ contemplation of foliage would calm my brain for the inevitable travails ahead. These were early crocuses, or Crocus tommasinianus, as no doubt the ghoul could have told me. I wondered whereabouts on his grisly frame Primrose the nurse was going to apply that poultice of hers. His head? That spindly arm? I wondered, too, how she would cope with the locusts, who would devour the mashed potato as quickly as she could apply it.

Thus lost in thoughts of potatoes, ghouls and crocuses, I failed to notice that a man had approached me, all but silently.

Good day to you, sir,” he said, clearing accumulated phlegm from his throat as he did so, “Would I be correct in thinking you know something of the horrible cave?”

I looked up, astonished, and saw that my interlocutor was none other than the so called limping irredentist, Florenzio Pabstus.

The Horrible Cave – I

Talk to any spelunker and you will soon learn that nobody who strays into the horrible cave emerges with their wits intact. Sometimes their hair turns white, they shake and gibber, they have to be fed with slops. Others retire to farmyards and spend the rest of their lives among pot-bellied pigs. Yet still the reckless and the foolhardy risk their sanity by ignoring the big signpost I hammered into the ground at the approach to the horrible cave. This is the horrible cave, reads my notice, If you have a shred of sense you will durst not enter. I spent quite some time on that wording, and ended up in hospital because I chewed the end of my pencil so fretfully that I contracted lead poisoning. It is by no means a pretty ailment, but I would much rather suffer that than the terrible derangements of those who step but once into the horrible cave.

While I was in the hospital, I was visited by a government agent who was curious about my signpost. I suspected he was from some secret agency, for he was dressed in a trim black suit and did not remove his sunglasses. He had a very close-cropped haircut, carried an attaché case which I noticed was chained to his wrist, and he seemed to exude the scent of frangipani or dogbane, which is often a telltale sign of covert operatives in my country. Standing beside the bed on which I lay splayed out, he introduced himself as Christopher Plummer. “Not to be confused with the actor who played Atahualpa in The Royal Hunt Of The Sun,” he added hurriedly, although at that time the name was new to me. I have since followed the agent’s namesake’s career with growing interest.

I was subjected to a series of questions about the signpost I had placed near the horrible cave, and answered as best as I could, given my fevered state. The agent made notes on a little hand-held pneumatic turbonotepad of ingenious design. I often find myself wondering why they never caught on. These days you are lucky to find one at a jumble sale or in a junk shop, luckier still if all the notes made on it are still readable. When Christopher Plummer had finished interrogating me in his strangely stiff manner, he depressed a knob on the turbopad and, with a surprisingly loud hiss, it clunked into hibernation mode. I watched the jet of escaping steam.

Years later, sitting in a café in a tremendous town, flicking idly through an intelligence journal, I learned that Agent Plummer had been exposed as an alien life-form from some far planet riddled with horrible caves. I thought how fortunate we were to have only one horrible cave, terrible as it was.

Last week I hiked out that way to see if my signpost was still there. Prancing majestically along the path, I encountered dozens of terrified people being attacked by cows. Sorry, that was a typing error. I should have said being attacked by crows. One poor wretch who had been pecked at was slumped beside his makeshift tent, fruitlessly trying to wrap a bandage around his head. I knelt down beside him and gave him a hand, and could not resist asking what was happening, but he was unable to speak. I surmised, however, that the crows must have flown from the direction of the horrible cave. Perhaps they nested there unbeknown to the local bird inspectors. It seemed like a good idea to forget about my signpost for the day and go to the headquarters of the bird inspection team instead, so that’s what I did.

Although it was at least fourteen years since last I had roamed these parts, I still recalled the bus routes, so after making sure the pecked man’s head bandage was not too tight, I changed direction and cut across the moors towards the bus stop. It was a dismaying sight, for the shelter was in ruins, and the glass behind which the timetable had been pinned up was smashed and the timetable itself torn to shreds. Further evidence of violent crow activity, as if any were needed.

The bus pulled up at this dismal scene a few minutes later. I clambered on board and became somewhat uneasy to discover that I was the only passenger. Was this going to be one of those frightening journeys where the driver would turn to look at me and I would see that he was a fiend in human form, cackling hideously as the bus hurtled to perdition? I had forgotten that it was Saint Eustace’s Day, and that most people, except for me and the bus driver and the people being attacked by crows would be staying indoors, in darkness, behind fastened shutters, imploring the saint to keep them safe from poisoned air for the coming twelvemonth. I hoped that the bird inspection headquarters would at least have a skeleton staff on this special day, and settled back in my seat, thinking to take a nap while the driver steered his bus around the many dangerous corners on the route.

When will I ever learn? No sooner had I closed my eyes than the bus braked sharply, jolting me out of my seat. The driver cursed, for which I reprimanded him. He apologised for his rudery, then pointed in front of him, and I saw that the road was blocked by a fanatical preacher man, naked from the waist up, caked in filth, standing on a barrel and shouting his head off in a language I had never heard before. The driver and I exchanged looks of befuddlement, then he reached under his seat and hoisted up a rectangular tin which he opened to reveal a clotted mass of stale food. He invited me to share his lunch, but I declined, given that there appeared to be a number of weevils crawling about in it. Their presence did not bother the driver, who began shovelling the food into his mouth with his surprisingly dainty fingers. I noticed that his nails were painted with bright red lacquer, flaking off in places as if it had been applied some time ago. His eating habits were so repulsive that I turned to look out at the preacher man again. He was shouting even louder now. I decided to get off the bus to try and persuade him to move his barrel to the side of the road. As I got closer to him, I nearly jumped out of my skin. Surely I was mistaken? But no, there was no doubting it. Underneath all the caked muck, I recognised my father!

Papa!” I cried, sudden tears streaming down my face. I may as well have been invisible. He ignored me and continued to harangue the sky in his unintelligible tongue, the sky that was now growing black as monstrous clouds swept in from the west. I am tempted to lie and say that my tears were copious, but I have to confess they were not. I snivelled a bit and then remembered why I had got off the bus in the first place. It was clear to me, however, that asking my father to shift his barrel out of the road would be futile. I wondered how it would be if I just pushed him over and cleared the way myself. The laws here on toppling preacher men are draconian, and I would have to make sure I did not get caught. I judged that the bus driver was too intent on bolting his food and would not be paying attention. If he saw me push my pa off the barrel he would almost certainly inform on me, for we all know the reputation of bus company personnel, hand in hand with the police force, at least in this neck of the woods, for obvious historical reasons. As for my father, would he lay an accusation against his only son? It was a risk I had to take.

Just as I was nerving myself for the odious deed, I was distracted by a mordant fancy which had been nestling dormant in my brain until that moment. I am utterly perplexed as to why it suddenly uncoiled itself, as it were, and sprang to the forefront of my mind, casting out all other thoughts. It was a vision – so very vivid! – of myself dressed in rags, exhaustedly swinging a leper bell from my withered arm.

Weird, that. I slapped myself on the forehead a couple of times to dispel the hallucination, came to my senses, yanked my father’s ankle so that he fell off the barrel, pushed the barrel over and rolled it to the kerb, and got back on the bus. The driver had finished his lunch, so, swerving slightly to avoid my father, who was sat in the road dusting himself down, he drove me to my stop ten minutes walk from the bird inspection unit. What I found there was brain-dizzying.

NOTA BENE : Younger readers should note that this piece first appeared as long ago as 2004. There are two further episodes, which will be posted in the next couple of days.

Dealey Plaza Craft Project

Fifty-four years ago, on this day, John F Kennedy was assassinated. Seven years ago, on this day, I marked the anniversary with a piece in The Dabbler …

Hello readers! I am going to show you how to make a lovely scale model of Dealey Plaza, the site in Dallas, Texas, of the Kennedy assassination on 22 November 1963.

First, get some plasticine. Before removing the packaging, wash your hands thoroughly in warm water. If your hands are really grubby, for instance if you have been doing grubby things, use swarfega. I am making no moral judgement on your indulgence in grubby practices, merely noting that warm water by itself will not suffice to cleanse the pollution from your fleshly extremities. As for your immortal soul, far be it from me to pronounce upon the peril in which it is placed by your unconscionable grubbiness. After all, I am no saint. That being said, I abhor the kind of grubbiness to which you may have fallen prey, albeit I do not make it my business to go about declaring my own rectitude, for that would be to boast, and thus itself sinful. Once or twice, maybe, I have dipped my toe in the slimy puddle of moral turpitude, and that was quite enough for me.

Now to the second stage of this exciting project. With your prayer book or catechism resting upon the work surface in easy reach, open the packet of plasticine. Intone three Hail Marys, break off some plasticine, and begin to mould it into the shape of the grassy knoll. It is advisable at this point to go and fetch your rosary beads.

Before completing the grassy knoll part of the model, open up that tin of swarfega and clean your hands again. You can never be too careful.

When you have made a passable model of the grassy knoll, take some matchsticks and press them into the plasticine to represent the white picket fence. Say a Novena. Now grab another chunk of plasticine and fashion a miniature version of the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Remember to tweak a tiny tubular shape poking out of the sixth floor window to show assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s mail order Mannlicher- Carcano rifle with which he shot the President. Some people would insert the word “allegedly” into that sentence, but not me. I have read Case Closed by Gerald Posner so I know whereof I speak..

A pink blob of plasticine will do for Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat.

The underpass over the Stemmons Freeway is quite tricky to make out of plasticine, so you may wish to use a few bits of cardboard. Your local supermarket probably has packaging and boxes piled up somewhere for customers to take away. Go and get sufficient boxes to cut enough cardboard for the underpass, and while you are out and about, drop into your nearest Catholic church and make your confession to Father O’Flaherty. If your priest has a different name, don’t worry. If you don’t have a priest, do worry, for you will burn in hell, however skilfully you manage to complete your plasticine and cardboard model of Dealey Plaza.

When you return home, your soul now washed clean of all disgusting filth, put the finishing touches to your model by curving a rectangle of plasticine into the shape of the pergola from where the Zapruder footage was shot. If you have exhausted your tin of swarfega, plunge your hands into a basin of piping hot soapy water while contemplating the martyrdom of your favourite saint.

Place your toy Dealey Plaza in a suitable location, for example, on the mantelpiece, display cabinet, or kitchen table. Next time Father O’Flaherty drops in for a cup of tea, ask him to bless your model by sprinkling it with holy water. He will be happy to oblige, I am sure.

ADDENDUM : Gerald Posner’s Case Closed, and indeed all of the thousands of books about the Kennedy assassination, have been superseded by the magnificently hefty Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi. Over fifteen hundred pages (with exhaustive footnotes added on a compyooduh disc), Bugliosi proves Oswald acted alone, and demolishes all the many and various conspiracy theories with awe-inspiring skill. There need never be another book o the subject – though no doubt madcaps and nutters will continue with their folderol.

Lars And Maud

Lars and Maud went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
Lars fell down and clonked his crown and Maud came tumbling after.
They rolled and tumbled further down, tumbling pell mell,
‘Til they came bumping to a halt down in the dingly dell.
In the dell lurked the Grunty Man, who carried them off to his cave.
But fear not, tinies! For Lars was bold and Maud was very brave.
They shook their little fists and bawled and rent the sky asunder,
And made the Grunty Man commit a very foolish blunder.
He dropped them at the cave-mouth while he went to have a fight,
An illegal boxing match under the cover of the night.
The Grunty Man was pitted ‘gainst an awful, dreadful foe –
None other than Miss Peep, affectionately known as “Little Bo”.
She looked so pale and timorous, yet she packed a hefty punch,
And often bashed a dozen ogres before she had her lunch.
So when the Grunty Man stalked off to meet his Nemesis,
Lars and Maud ran off into the arms of Alger Hiss.
Yes, Alger Hiss, the communist spy from Washington DC!
Urbane and droll and stylish, dressed up to a T.
He took the tots to a meeting of his fellow-travelling Reds,
Where Stalinist propaganda turned their pointy little heads.
They went back to the cave and found the Grunty Man covered in gore.
Little Bo Peep had bashed him up, then bashed him up some more.
They recruited him to their cause, to overthrow the state.
Said Lars (or Maud) “We must act before it is too late!”
So Lars and Maud and the Grunty Man went back to the dingly dell,
And hid some microfilmed secrets at the bottom of the well.
But they were caught by Nixon, indefatigable in his zest
To place as many Reds as possible under house arrest.
He confined them to a house atop the hill they climbed for water,
A solid and a sturdy house well built from bricks and mortar,
Like the house of the three little pigs that withstood lupine huff and puff.
But Lars and Maud and the Grunty Man were Communists, sure enough.
So when the big bad wolf hove into view from o’er the hills,
They sang in praise of Stalin and then swallowed their cyanide pills.
And so the state was safe once more from Communist infiltration,
And Nixon was bathed in the praise of a relieved and grateful nation.
The Grunty Man and Lars and Maud were buried and forgot.
But Richard Milhous Nixon – he is not.

Originally posted in 2011.

A List Of Birds

Eleven years ago, I devoted an episode of Hooting Yard On The Air to reading out a list of 601 birds, plus an astronomer, a newsreader, 2 jazzmen, 5 film directors, and 34 stars of stage and screen. This recording – hugely significant both culturally and ornithologically – has now been made readily available, split into three parts by dint of YouTubeosity. I strongly advise you lot to listen to the whole thing, repeatedly, umpteen times a day, until you have it committed to memory. You will find it invaluable next time you are leaning insouciantly against a mantelpiece at a sophisticated cocktail party and there is a lull in the conversation.

The Consistency Of Porridge

When, recently, it was announced that the Nobel Prize for Literature had been awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro, I thought I ought to read one of his books. Leaning out of the window, I hailed a passing urchin and sent him scampering off to what passes for a lending library in my bailiwick. Now this young wastrel was either inattentive or hard of hearing, for when he returned, several hours later, he brought, not The Redundancy Of Courage but The Consistency Of Porridge, a book by the noted food writer Rex Foodwrite.

Exasperated, I smacked the urchin on the head, but I took the book anyway and sat down to read it. And what a revelation! Foodwrite gives a day-by-day account, in exhaustive detail, of the consistency of his breakfast porridge over a two-day period. His prose is at once Miltonic and Kafkaesque, Beckettian and Poeish, Bellowy and Ibargüengoitiaian. At times I was reminded of Pebblehead.

For many years I have been strictly an eggs ‘n’ bloaters man,” he writes, “But in the interests of tiptop literature of the highest quality, worthy of a Nobel Prize, I decided to eschew my usual breakfast for a couple of days and eat porridge instead. On the first day, it was thin, like gruel. On the second day, it was thick, like sludge.”

Over the succeeding 849 pages, the author proceeds to extrapolate from this pair of porridge consistencies a series of dazzling porridge-related extrapolations. Not the least of his insights is his contention that the consistency of porridge, at breakfast time, can serve as a dramatic bit of folderol in an award-winning motion picture starring a Welsh actor who is tortured by the realisation that his speaking voice is not, and never will be, as golden as that of his late compatriot Richard Burton. One only needs to hear the latter intone the words “Broadsword to Danny Boy” in Where Eagles Dare (Brian G Hutton, 1968) to know this, of course, but Rex Foodwrite goes on to provide a shot-by-shot analysis of the film, porridgeless as it is, which left this reader, at least, stunned.

When I recovered consciousness, The Consistency Of Porridge had fallen from my lap on to the floor, where it was being nibbled by mice. I never returned it to the lending library.

ADDENDUM : The Redundancy Of Courage is a novel by Timothy Mo, not Kazuo Ishiguro. This rather destroys the conceit of the above potsage [sic]. Oops.

Homage To Wallace Stevens

Conducting my regular Hooting Yard Prose Audit, I was dumbstruck to discover that only once have I written about fubbed pannicles, and that was five years ago. In lieu of anything new to say about this most important of topics, here is a timely repost.

In an appreciative review of the second, expanded edition of Harmonium (1931), R P Blackmur remarked that “the most striking if not the most important thing” about Stevens’s verse was its vocabulary, a heady confect including such rarities as “fubbed”, “girandoles”, “diaphanes”, “pannicles”, “carked”, “ructive”, “cantilene”, “fiscs”, and “princox”.

From Wallace Stevens : Metaphysical Claims Adjuster by Roger Kimball, collected in Experiments Against Reality (2000)

It was a dark and stormy night. Off the Kentish Knock, on the wild and churning waters, the HMS Whither Art? was being tossed about like so much flotsam. The ship’s captain, Captain Plunkett, was all too aware that it was here off the Kentish Knock on a similarly dark and stormy night in 1875 that the SS Deutschland had been wrecked, and five Franciscan nuns, including a peculiarly tall one, had suffered death by drowning. Captain Plunkett had no Franciscan nuns aboard his ship, unless there were stowaways of whose presence he was ignorant, but well he knew the HMS Whither Art? was in equal danger of wreckage on so dark and stormy a night. It would take all his mastery of the nautical arts to bring the ship and its crew safely through to dawn, and port.

Clinging to the wheel, he cried out for the first mate, First Mate Hoon. Weedy and neurasthenic yet impossibly valiant, Hoon came staggering on to the bridge. He was sopping wet, drenched by both the teeming rain and by sloshing seawater.

Hoon!” yelled the captain over the howling gale, “It has suddenly occurred to me that we may have stowaways aboard of whom I am ignorant, nuns, Franciscan nuns, hiding in the pannicles! Detail a detail of deckhands to search every last inch!”

Aye aye, captain!” yelled Hoon, “But I’ve just had a report over the ructive hooter from the princox that the pannicles are fubbed!”

Captain Plunkett took one hand off the wheel, curled it into a sort of perch, turned it towards his head, and bent forward, resting his mouth and chin on his hand, striking an attitude almost identical to Rodin’s Thinker. He was thinking. He was thinking how it could have happened, on his watch, that the pannicles had been fubbed. He was thinking how it had come about that he had not heard the princox’s message over the ructive hooter. He was thinking that he had completely forgotten the name of the princox. And he was thinking that, if there were any stowaway Franciscan nuns hiding in the pannicles of the HMS Whither Art?, then they would surely have been carked by the fubbing. When he had finished thinking, he lifted his head, put his hand back to the wheel, and cried aloud again to Hoon.

Hoon! Scrub that last command to detail a detail of deckhands!”

Aye aye, captain! I have obliterated it from my brain so rapidly and thoroughly that already I have forgotten to what the word ‘it’ refers!”

The wind continued to howl and rage, the rain to teem, the sea to slosh, and the storm to toss the ship upon the waters.

Hoon!” cried the captain, “What is the princox’s name?”

I know him only as Alan,” shouted the first mate, “As in Ladd or Whicker or Freeman, known as Fluff.”

The princox is called Fluff?” cried Captain Plunkett.

Aye, captain, by those of the crew who are radio enthusiasts.”

Detail Fluff to man the diaphanes, Hoon!”

Aye aye, captain!”.

And Hoon left the bridge, staggering below decks in search of the princox. The storm did not abate. The captain struggled manfully with the wheel. His head was now empty of thought. He was engaged in an elemental battle, man versus sea, or man versus storm, or better, perhaps, man versus stormy sea.

Meanwhile, on one of the decks, poop or orlop, one of the girandoles had been torn loose from its cantilene and was clattering about perilously. First Mate Hoon, making his slow unsteady way to the princox’s nest, saw what had happened and realised he had to make an instant decision. There was no time to think. He could not afford to curl one hand into a sort of perch, turn it towards his head, and bend forward, resting his mouth and chin on his hand, striking an attitude almost identical to Rodin’s Thinker. He staggered back to the bridge.

Captain Plunkett!” he screamed, “One of the girandoles has been torn loose from its cantilene and is clattering about perilously on the poop or orlop deck!”

Where is Fluff the princox?” cried the captain.

Still in his nest I expect,” yelled Hoon, “For when I saw that one of the girandoles had been torn loose from its cantilene and was clattering about perilously on the poop or orlop deck, I made an instant decision to tell you about it as soon as I possibly could!”

You should have used the ructive hooter!” cried Captain Plunkett.

Believe me, captain, I would have done had you heard the ructive hooter message regarding the fubbed pannicles. But you did not, and I dared not risk that a second ructive hooter message would go unheard by you!”

That shows good seamanship, Hoon,” cried the captain, “Let me pin a golden star to your cap.”

Thank you, captain. I appreciate such recognition, it compensates for the lack of pay and the worm-riddled biscuits.”

And all of a sudden there was a lull in the storm, and the captain and the first mate looked up at the stars in the sky. For a few precious moments, the HMS Whither Art? was safe upon the sea. And down below in the pannicles, the sudden calm prompted five stowaway Franciscan nuns of whose presence Captain Plunkett was ignorant, one peculiarly tall, to pop their heads out from the rickety fiscs wherein they were hiding, and to sing a hymn of thanks to Almighty God, that He had delivered them from the fubbing.

The Tarleton Sentence

So baffled were the police by the teeming ramifications of the Inspip case that they had no idea what to do, until a dejected inspector threw in the towel and suggested, reluctantly, that they call in Tarleton, the amateur’s amateur, in hope that he might hack a clearing through their mental forest, to which Tarleton’s response, upon receipt of the coppers’ telegram, was to instruct his helpmeet, the dwarf Crepusco, to pay them a visit and pull one of his faces at them, to which Crepusco’s response was “Are you sure?”, said in a trembling voice, for he was all too aware that when he pulled one of his faces the effect on those who saw it was akin to something from a story by H P Lovecraft, reducing the witness to a horror-stricken gibbering wreck, fit only to be chained up in an asylum for the incurably insane for the rest of their days, but Tarleton insisted, telling Crepusco to pull face number forty-three, expressive of fathomless and bitter contempt, so the dwarf toddled off along the lane towards the police station, and on his way encountered, as chance would have it, one of the teeming ramifications of the Inspip case, in that, not too far along the way, he tripped and toppled into the bottomless viper-pit of Shoeburyness, and was mightily surprised, after falling just a few feet, to land with a crunch upon a false bottom in the viper-pit, a platform installed by unknown hand, possibly but not definitively Inspip’s, the crunchy nature of his landing caused by the bescatterment, upon the platform, of eggshells in great abundance, with no sign whatsoever of the eggs’ innards, the albumen and yellow yolk and whatever else an egg expert might descry inside an egg, there were just the shells, upon which Crepusco landed, crunchily, before sitting up and rubbing his bonce and wondering why he had not continued to fall, forever and ever, as ought surely to have been his fate, the viper-pit of Shoeburyness, like that of Gaar, and several others, being notorious for being bottomless, according to the guidebooks and gazetteers available from the souvenir kiosk located at one end of a sort of modern-day ley line, along which magnets ceased to function and clumps of vetch and bindweed withered, at the other end of which stood, surrounded by an imposing fence fitted with floodlights, the police station, wherein the frazzled coppers were still awaiting a response from Tarleton, the amateur’s amateur, and busying themselves meanwhile by rummaging, for the umperumpteenth time, through their miles of filing cabinets in which every last scrap of information regarding the Inspip case was kept, from that very first report of an eye-witness, a preternaturally alert passer-by, who had tested negative for hallucinogens, thrice, and who had brought, breathlessly, panting, panting, to the coppers’ attention the curious circumstance that in Scroonhoonpooge Model Village, the aviary, behind the milk factory, was life-size, and filled with real birds, such that they would appear enormous and monstrous to the tiny little figures populating the model village, and their caws and chirps and chirrups and trills deafeningly loud, and that this anomaly was just the kind of thing Inspip would clap his hands with glee over, though try as they might not a single officer could say with any certainty, hand on heart, that Inspip had form in the area, nor indeed that he even knew where the Scroonhoonpooge Model Village was, given that all reported sightings of him for the past two decades placed him elsewhere, and he had been banned from consulting maps and atlases for even longer than that, ever since the Botched Shadow Puppetry case, when he was, albeit briefly, in cahoots, or “up to his eyeballs” as Detective Captain Cargpan put it, with Babinsky, the lumbering walrus-moustached psychopathic serial killer, an alliance that was mercifully short-lived, thanks to Cargpan, the very same Cargpan who, now, rummaging in one of the filing cabinets, chanced upon a tattered black-and-white snapshot of an unidentified acrobat performing an unidentified feat of acrobatics which would have seemed physically impossible were it not for the photographic evidence, and on a whim, or accident, the detective captain looked at the snapshot from a geometrically unlikely angle, and saw suddenly what nobody else had seen before, himself included, which was that, in her poise and turpsiletto, the acrobat seemed to be personating the exact lineaments of the stick-figure in the corner of an emblem on the flag of a secret society the doings, or misdoings, of which had ravaged several important colonial outposts and not a few unimportant ones at the tail end of the war, one of the wars, and which had long been thought consigned to the dustbin of history but which, Cargpan now realised, with a Lovecraftian shudder, could indeed still be active, and engaged in nefarious shenanigans, here and now, and particularly in the model village at Scroonhoonpooge, and he grabbed a butcher’s pencil and began scribbling frenziedly in his coppers’ jotting pad, and then he rummaged in some of the other filing cabinets, and tore some of his hair out, until he jumped up on to a desk in the middle of the situation room, gaining the immediate and rapt attention of all the other coppers, to whom he cried, ear-piercingly, “Where are the eggs? Where are the eggs?”, and they all knew at once he was referring to the various birds’ eggs laid by the anomalously life-size birds in the aviary of the model village, and, gosh, this is exciting, at that very moment Crepusco the dwarf, who had managed to clamber out of the temporarily non-bottomless viper-pit of Shoeburyness, came blundering into the room, dozens of bits of eggshell clinging to his clothing, and he was about to pull his fathomless and bitter contempt face, number forty-three, when a sixth sense stopped him, seeing the blazing eyes of Detective Captain Cargpan and all the other coppers gazing at him with an unmistakeable gleam of dawning understanding and clarity, as when pennies drop from heaven, every time it rains, and the clouds burst and it was raining now, as it always rains on the feast day of St Bibblybibdib, for yes!, this all happened on St Bibblybibdib’s Day, which is why it is significant, and why I have told you about it, for had it happened on any other day in the calendar year it would hardly be worth mentioning, and it would have remained one of those untold stories of Tarleton, the amateur’s amateur, untold and unknown, never collected in any of the many volumes devoted to his doings, all of which, like the pamphlets of the pamphleteer Dobson, are out of print.

The Raid On Entebbe

The Raid On Entebbe (disambiguation).

The Raid On Entebbe can refer to :

a hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israeli Defence Force at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976;

a 1977 film dramatisation of the incident starring Peter Finch (whose surname is also the common term for medium-sized passerine birds in the family Fringillidae);

the given name of a pet hamster kept by the potboiling paperbackist Pebblehead.

Pebblehead was once asked in an interview why he had named his hamster The Raid On Entebbe. This is what he said by way of reply:

I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t got a pet hamster. I grant you, there is a small cage over there, fitted with a wheel for a small mammal to run around on like a mad thing, and lined with excelsior, or wood wool, for the comfort of such a small mammal, and, yes, there is a strong hamstery odour in the vicinity of the cage. But I challenge you to show me an actual hamster.”

Thus challenged, the journalist interviewing Pebblehead pointed to what looked undoubtedly like a hamster, nestling in the corner of the cage, almost covered in excelsior, and fast asleep.

Blimey!” said Pebblehead, “Where did that come from?”

A press statement was later issued on Pebblehead’s behalf by a crack team of brain-doctors.

For some time now, Pebblehead has been suffering from what the medical profession terms intermittent hamster-blindness. The condition is debilitating and incurable, although the symptoms can be alleviated with a combination of intravenous drugs, eye drops, and frenzied activity, for example, bashing out potboilers on a typewriter at the rate of several novels a week. Incidentally, all of us have previously served as commandos in the Israeli Defence Force, so if you know of any hostages who need to be rescued from African airfields, do drop us a line.”

Pebblehead’s latest potboiler, Invisible Hamster Mayhem!, is now available from all good petshops.

The Janitor And His Pail

It’s the Weekend o’ Janitors here at Hooting Yard. Yesterday we had that guff about the janitor and his mop, from 2014. Today we have related guff, also from that year, about the janitor and his pail.

The relationship between a janitor and his pail is a matter well worth our attention. Some janitors will call their pail a bucket, but it is much of a muchness. It may well be that, for the pernickety, a pail and a bucket are not quite the same thing, but we are not pernickety, at least not today. Today we are having one of our non-pernickety days. Good heavens, we did not even time the boiling of our breakfast egg to the second, as we do on our pernickety days. No, today, we plopped the egg into the pan and set the burners roaring beneath it and we wandered away, picked up the post from the doormat, kicked the wainscot, kicked it again, God knows why, chucked the post into the wastepaper basket – it was all flyers, flyers – put the kettle on, extracted from our majestic bouffant a small beetle which had taken up residence, Peason-like, and placed it on the windowsill, opened the window, adjusted the position of the vase of hollyhock cuttings, turning them towards the light, though Lord knows there was little enough light, so early was the hour, and pottered and puttered in other dithery ways before returning to the kitchen to set the burners unroaring beneath the pan, without checking the time on our wristwatch, rather judging that a sufficiency had passed for the egg in the pan to be toothsome when shelled.

On a pernickety day, on the other hand, we would not leave our post, by the cooker, but count the minutes and the seconds, gazing from wristwatch to pan and back again, and as the second hand on the watch tocked to its appointed spot we would immediately lift the pan from the roaring burners, extinguish them, hoist the egg from the seething waters and transfer it to its egg-cup – a souvenir egg-cup from an ill-starred seaside resort – sure in the knowledge that it had been boiled for a very specific and particular length of time as recommended in Blötzmann’s Manual of Egg-Boiling (second edition, lilac series). Thus the variation between our pernickety and our non-pernickety days, a variation designed to crack us from the bonds of rut.

What does all that have to do with janitors and pails or, if you prefer, janitors and buckets? Little or nothing, like the littleness of the light as we tuck into our early morning boiled egg, like the nothingness at the core of our all too mortal soul.

The Janitor And His Mop

Few relationships are as close, and as intense, as that between a janitor and his mop. He may sense an attachment to his bunch of keys and his pail and his dog, but he cherishes his mop more than anything.

I have spent several years interviewing janitors, and invariably they volunteer the information that their mop is their most treasured possession. They will say this, loudly and with vehemence, even when their dog is sitting obediently at their feet, gazing up at them in adoration. I am sure there is a monograph to be written, one day, upon janitors and their dogs, but I shall leave that joy to another scribbler. It is not that I am averse to dogs, well, I am, but it is not my aversion that dissuades me from writing about them. Were a janitor to spout effusive folderol on the subject of his dog, during one of my interviews, I would note it down accordingly and include it in my finished piece. I do not provide verbatim transcripts, preferring instead to give the reader an impressionistic or expressionistic or borderline hysterical portrait of the janitor through gorgeous words. Not all of these words will have been spoken by the janitor, nor by me, but they seem to hover in the aether in the janitor’s vicinity. That is what I try, as best I am able, to communicate.

It remains a remarkable fact that the thousands of janitors I have interviewed over the years have expressed boundless love for their mops. Often they are moved to tears, or, contrarily, to gales of unbridled glee, or sometimes both, turn and turn about. It is an emotionally wrenching experience, for them to be interviewed, and also for me, as the interviewer, broaching the topic of the mop and not knowing whether I will need to provide a napkin for them to dab at their tear-stained cheeks, or a similar napkin for myself to wipe off the flecks of spittle sprayed over me by janitors in the extremes of happiness. It occasionally happens that the dog, if it is frisky, will try to catch the napkin, either of the napkins, in its jaws, and scamper away with it, as if it were a bone. They are mysterious creatures, dogs, and often quite stupid. The mop, being inanimate, is much more predictable, and much less bother.

For reasons I have not yet been able to fathom, no publisher has expressed an interest in my book of janitorial interviews. It thus remains in manuscript, hand-written, with a butcher’s pencil, in a series of exercise books, some lined, some unlined. For the past several months I have had these books stored in a cupboard on the ground floor of a large building in a central location, near a bank, into the vaults of which I wish to transfer them for greater security, when I can afford the fee to do so. In the meantime, the cupboard is kept locked and watched over by a janitor, one of the few I have not taken time to interview. He prowls the corridors, rattling his bunch of keys, deploying his beloved mop, and followed everywhere by his dog. Insert apt Latin phrase to conclude this piece with a freight of significance.

Originally posted in 2014.

Dobson Goes Doolally

Dear Dr Fang, wrote Marigold Chew, I am writing to you, as the most eminent brain-quack I can think of, to ask for your help. Dobson has gone doolally. Yesterday he was as right as rain – a curious phrase, I grant you, but let us not dwell upon it – sitting at his escritoire scribbling away, then trudging along the towpath of the filthy old canal in the pouring rain, chucking pebbles at swans.

He remained reassuringly Dobson-like at breakfast this morning, tucking into a bowl of boil-in-the-bag koala bear brains ‘n’ mashed plums and blathering inconsequential poltrooneries, just as he always does. It was only when he drained the last dregs from his tumbler of post-breakfast Squelcho! that I noticed something amiss.

Instead of putting on his Uruguayan Notary Public’s boots and crashing out of the door into the teeming downpour, as I expected him to do, he stayed sitting at the breakfast table, a thin smile playing about his lips, a fat beetle scuttling through his bouffant, a blob of marmalade on his cravat.

Look! Can you see it, O my cherished bundle of utter loveliness?” he said, pointing at a corner of the room.

I could see nothing, save for some dust.

It is my little man, my homunculus. He has been following me about, in his satin and tat, in his frock coat and bippety-boppety hat. He whispers words I can never quite hear.”

I asked Dobson what on earth he was talking about. He continued to prattle.

Even were I able to hear him, I am not sure I would be able to understand his whisperings. Not only is he a foreign little man, from remote and distant parts not shown on any map, but he always whispers with his mouth full. He is forever stuffing his gob with smokers’ poptarts, of which he seems to have an endless supply. Have you noticed any packets missing from the larder, O my buttercup?”

You mean the pantry, Dobson,” I said, “No, I have noticed no such thing.”

Larder, pantry, pantry, larder,” he went on, excitably, “Sofa, cushions, chaise longue, pouffé. Lay me place and bake me pie, I’m starving for me gravy. Leave my shoes and door unlocked, I might just slip away. If I slip away, perhaps I can escape my little man. But it’s likely he will follow me. God knows, I haven’t been able to shake him off these past seventeen years.”

It was at this point that I asked Dobson if he had taken leave of his senses. But he ignored the question.

He came seventeen years ago, and to this day he has shown no intention of going away,” he said, “Sometimes he moves his arms as if they were the propellers on a seaplane, the Gnome Omega-powered Fabre Hydravion, for example. I have to place extra paperweights on my escritoire when he does this in close proximity to it, to prevent my papers being blown away. Are you sure you can’t see him?”

I assured Dobson that I could not.

I think the propelling of his arms is an attempt to dry his hands,” he continued, “His palms are horribly moist. Indeed, for such a tiny man he is surprisingly moist in every particular. Yet whenever he follows me into the bathroom, he shuns the towels. They seem to frighten him, as nothing else does. Imagine that, being frightened of towels! Tea-towels, too, especially those of a souvenir variety, bearing depictions of important buildings and tourist attractions. Once he vomited all over the tea-towel we bought in the gift shop at St Bibblybibdib’s Cathedral. When I tried to launder it he snatched it away from me and tore it into strips and fed it to his chaffinch.”

What chaffinch?” I could not help but ask.

There, perched on his shoulder, tiny but weirdly luminous. It is the only chaffinch I know that glows in the dark. Or eats linen. Or monkeys. It ate the little man’s little monkey, which he kept at the end of a length of string, during the Tet Offensive. It ate the string too. It is quite a chaffinch!”

By now I was convinced that Dobson had gone doolally. Thinking a violent bash on the head might bring him to his senses, I went to fetch a hammer. When I returned, there was no sign of him, and the front door was ajar. I looked in the shoe cupboard, but all of his many many many boots were lined up neatly along the bootesquade. Had Dobson done the unthinkable, and left the house in his socks?

Indeed he had. Towards midday, also known as noon, when the hands of the clock both point upwards in an uncompromising vertical, I received a call from the seaside police. Dobson was sat on a pier, bootless, cradling in his arms the limp body of a strangled eel, and staring out to sea. His socks were wet, his cravat was awry, and there were traces of choc ice around his mouth. A ring of lumpenproles had gathered to taunt him. I rushed out and jumped aboard a charabanc heading for the seaside.

The police had removed Dobson from the pier and installed him in a cubby within the seagull sanctuary. I had to use all my powers of persuasion to get past the armed security guards. I found Dobson sprawled on a bunk looking bewildered.

Wincklemann is gone!” he cried.

Wincklemann?” I asked.

My little man, my homunculus,” he said, “He followed me at a trot all the way to the seaside, and while I was at the kiosk on the pier buying several choc ices he lost his footing and fell from the pier into the sea, the sea, the terrible vast wet sea. I fear he drowned therein, my little man.”

It occurred to me that if Wincklemann were as tiny a man as Dobson claimed him to be, it was likely that he was so light in weight that he would bippety-bop, like his hat, upon the water, rather than sink. Then it further occurred to me that Dobson had gone doolally, and that this purported homunculus was nothing but a figment of his fuming brain. I was still carrying the hammer, so I gave Dobson a smart crack on the head with it, hoping to restore his reason.

Alas! The hammer blow had quite the opposite effect. While rubbing his bonce, Dobson gazed into the corner of the seagull sanctuary cubby and let out a joyful yell.

Wincklemann! You have escaped from the clutches of the wild wet sea! Where once you were moist, you are now soaked to the skin. Were you not fearful of towels I would dab you dry. But I am so happy to see you. What is that you are whispering to me in your foreign guttural tongue?”

Of course, there was nothing in the corner except for some dust and a stray seagull feather. After signing some papers, and feeding cream crackers to an injured seagull, I was allowed to bring Dobson home. It is now early evening, and he has insisted on setting a third place at the dinner table, and carefully portioning out a helping of jellied hare ‘n’ jugged eels ‘n’ jagged shards of frozen celery for his invisible little man. I am at my wits’ end, Dr Fang, or at the end of my tether, whichever end is likely to snap first, and I need your help. Please come at once.


Dear Mrs Wincklemann, wrote Dr Fang, At your request, I have conducted an examination of the brain, for which my fee is forty-five panes, ten soilings, and sixpins. Please pay in cash by midnight, or I will confiscate the brain and place it in a jar in my cupboard o’ brains, cackling as I do so.

It is my considered opinion that you are suffering from a common malady, viz. indulging a phantasy that you are a personal friend and confidante of the twentieth century’s titanic, if out of print, pamphleteer. In your case, there is an intriguing level of displacement, where you imagine it is not you, but your husband, who is bosom pals with Dobson. Incidentally, your husband is indeed an extremely tiny little man who could easily be mistaken for a homunculus. Perhaps that is what caused the illusory vapours in your brain.

As I say, it is not unusual for insignificant riffraff such as yourself to attach themselves to illustrious figures such as Dobson. I know of another patient who spent many years convinced she was on intimate terms with octogenarian Francophile pop songstress Petula Clark. If you take the pills I have given you, six per day for seventeen years, your symptoms will surely alleviate. I also recommend close reading of Dobson’s pamphlet At No Time Did I Ever Cradle In My Arms The Limp Body Of A Strangled Eel Upon A Pier While Taunted By Lumpenproles, And I Have Signed A Legal Affidavit To This Effect; And Other Essays, Together With A Spirit Photograph Of Petula Clark Holding Hands With A Homunculus (out of print).

Dobson In A Mosh Pit

I think,” said Dobson, at breakfast one foul and rain-sodden Tuesday morning, “It is time we had our own mosh pit.”

Marigold Chew raised an eyebrow.

Do you actually know what a mosh pit is?” she asked.

Not exactly,” replied the twentieth century’s greatest out of print pamphleteer, “But I suspect it would be a good use of that part of the garden overhung by laburnum and sycamore and larch. You know that patch o’er which hangs leafage so dense that it is forever in shadow, and is home to brambles and nettles and dockweed. I cannot even remember the last time I sat or stood in it nor even walked through it, nor can I recall ever seeing you doing so, O cherished one. It is unused ground, and no ground ought to be unused on this earth, according to some authorities.”

Which authorities might they be, Dobson?” asked Marigold Chew.

I think there is a maxim to that effect in the Maxims of Bombastus Dogend, or I could be thinking of Listerine Optrex, also a great one for maxims. I can check later.”

So let me get this straight,” said Marigold Chew, marshalling with her fork the last few caraway seeds on her breakfast plate, “You intend to dig a pit in a shady arbour in the garden, and dub it a mosh pit, without any clear understanding – without any understanding at all – of what a mosh pit is?”

I shall look it up in a thick and exhaustive reference book,” said Dobson, mad with cornflakes.

So you will be going to the mobile library?” said Marigold Chew.

That is my plan,” said the pamphleteer, and he got up from the table and proceeded to don his Andalusian Sewage Inspector’s boots.

Today is Tuesday,” said Marigold Chew, “So the mobile library is in quite a different, and distant, bailiwick.”

And you think I am going to let that stop me?” shouted Dobson melodramatically as he crashed out of the door into the downpour.

Untold hours later, Dobson came crashing back through the door, sopping wet, with a gleam in his eye and a thin, pained smile playing about his lips, as if he were Ronald Colman shooting a scene for Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942).

Well, Dobson, what news?” asked Marigold Chew.

Dobson took his pipe from his pocket, crammed into it a thub of Rotting Orchard Fruit ‘n’ Conkers Pipe Tobacco from his other pocket, lit up and puffed, and said:

I had a deal of difficulty finding the thick and exhaustive reference book I sought. Actually, before that I had a deal of difficulty finding the mobile library itself. There is a new mobile librarian, of wild and untrammelled mien, with an unruly beard, whose grasp of the schedule is weak. He had driven the pantechnicon to quite an unsuitable bailiwick, near cliffs, where the native peasants, having never seen the mobile library before, stood in a ring around it, holding aloft their pitchforks and sticks tipped with tarry burning rags, gawping. I think they may have had it in mind to sacrifice the mobile librarian on a pyre.”

Gosh!” said Marigold Chew.

Be that as it may,” continued Dobson, “I barged my way through the seething peasant throng and climbed into the pantechnicon. The wild unruly beardy person was engaged in some sort of haphazard reshelving exercise, oblivious to the peasants outside. The mobile library holdings, including several thick and exhaustive reference books, one of which was critical to my research, lay scattered about higgledy-piggledy. Oh! I was sorely vexed. But I found what I wanted eventually, under a pile of paperback potboilers by Pebblehead. And – “

You have created a puddle on the floor, Dobson,” interrupted Marigold Chew, “So soaked you are from rainfall. Finish your pipe and mop up the puddle and then you can continue your tale over a nice piping hot cup of ersatz cocoa substitute.”

And it was during the subsequent conversation that the out of print pamphleteer revealed to his poppet that he had indeed discovered the nature of a mosh pit.

Apparently,” he said, “A mosh pit is an area where gaggles of frenzied teenpersons hurl themselves about in an uncoordinated and rambunctious manner to a soundtrack of improbably loud and thumping and often discordant electrified racket played from an adjacent stage or platform by persons not dissimilar to the denizens of the mosh pit.”

Yes, I know,” said Marigold Chew, “I could have told you that this morning over breakfast. I assume that now you know what a mosh pit is you no longer want one in your own back garden.”

Quite the contrary, my sweet!” shouted Dobson with unnerving zest, “I am all the more determined to dig one! Hand me that spade!”

And though it was now dark, and the rain was pouring down more heavily than ever, Dobson was soon enough out in the garden, under the dripping leafage of laburnum and sycamore and larch, digging a pit. Positing that he had taken leave of his senses, Marigold Chew retired to her boudoir to listen to Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra on the wireless.

At some point in the small hours of the morning, Dobson came back indoors. He was covered in mud, as if he had been toiling in the trenches of Flanders fields during the Great War, the cause of the shellshock suffered by Smithy, alias Charles Rainier, the character played by Ronald Colman in Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942). Marigold Chew was fast asleep, but she was woken by a repetitive dull thumping noise, as of bone cushioned by flesh bashing against wood, over and over again. She went downstairs to find Dobson slumped at the kitchenette table, repeatedly thumping his forehead against its polished wooden surface.

Whatever is the matter, Dobson?” she asked.

Dobson looked up.

The mosh pit is dug, my dear! It needs but a complement of frenzied teenpersons to be deposited within it. That is my quandary, that the reason for my despair.”

Please explain Dobson, you have me utterly befuddled. Though it be the middle of the night I am going to put the kettle on for a nice piping hot cup of powdered milk slops enriched with filbert nut flavouring. Pray continue.”

Well,” said Dobson, “It was only when I had finished digging the mosh pit, and clambered out of it, and stood back to admire my work in the brilliant illumination of Kleig lights, that I realised the fatal flaw at the heart of my design.”

Which is?” asked Marigold Chew.

We have not space in the garden sufficient to erect a stage or platform next to the mosh pit,” moaned Dobson, “Thus nowhere to assemble a grouplet of persons to provide the necessary soundtrack of improbably loud and thumping and often discordant electrified racket to which frenzied teenpersons so minded will mosh.”

Look on the bright side,” said Marigold Chew, “We may not have our own mosh pit, but now we have an all-purpose pit. There is a myriad of usages to which it could be put. I can think of several immediately, but I will refrain from telling you right away. I think you need a disinfectant bath and a good night’s sleep.”

Perhaps you are right, buttercup,” said Dobson, “And in any case there may be such an activity as moshing for the deaf, or moshing to the sound of a lone piccolo, or other types of moshing yet unimagined by frenzied teenpersons, and by unfrenzied teenpersons too. Tomorrow I shall go to the mobile library again, assuming it has not been shoved over the cliffs by the baffled and menacing peasants, and I shall undertake further and more rigorous research..”

That is an excellent idea, Dobson,” said Marigold Chew, “But before plunging into your disinfectant bath, just tell me one thing. Why on earth did you want to have frenzied teenpersons hurling themselves about in an uncoordinated and rambunctious manner to a soundtrack of improbably loud and thumping and often discordant electrified racket in your own back garden in the first place?”

Alas, whatever Dobson said in reply was drowned out by the piercing shriek of the now boiling kettle.

Some days later, Marigold Chew hoicked the spade and filled in the pit under the leafage, still dripping with rain, of laburnum and sycamore and larch, and strewed over it brambles and nettles and dockweed. Never again did the word “mosh” ever pass Dobson’s lips. Other matters had attracted his attention, as related in his pamphlet How I Witnessed The Sight Of A Wild And Unruly Bearded Mobile Librarian In Hand To Hand Combat With A Snarling Gaggle Of Brain-Bejangled Peasants (out of print).

Originally posted in 2011.