Buster And Radbod

Here is another golden oldie, buried in the (temporarily hard-to-access) archives. It first appeared on the French-Canadian warbler Celine Dion’s fortieth birthday. The same day, incidentally, was the forty-sixth birthday of MC Hammer, who is frightened of hammers.

There are some questions we can answer without hesitation. Asked “what is your favourite website?”, one hundred percent of sensible people immediately shout “Hooting Yard of course!” with unhinged and hysterical enthusiasm. Similarly, when asked in which schoolbook depository they would prefer to site a sniper’s nest, an overwhelming number of would-be assassins reply “the Texas Schoolbook Depository at 411 Elm Street, Dallas, TX 75202-3317, without a doubt!” For my part, and in spite of the intervening decades, a question I can answer without even thinking is “what was your favourite weekly comic when you were tiny?” It was The Hammer Of Christ, and, within it, the strip I most adored was Buster And Radbod.

Each week, I followed the adventures of the chirpy pair with my jaw dropped and drool flowing freely down my chin, my heart and pulse rates pounding desperately. It was through Buster and Radbod that I learned to read, and I am forever in their debt.

They were, in many ways, an ill-matched fictional pair. Buster was squat, hissy, and preening, given to throwing fits and always attired in a bright yellow duffel coat and a little pointed wooden cap. He existed on a diet of chocolate swiss rolls, sprats, lettuce, and untreated milk straight from the goat. We were never given a glimpse of the goat, but it was understood that it lived in a field a short walk across the verdant hills from Buster’s house and that its name was Buttercup. Buster had more than one iron pail in which he would collect the milk, one painted red and one unpainted, and a third, extra special pail that leaked and that he was always promising to mend, but never did. Buster had too many teeth crammed inside his mouth, certainly more than a non-fictional person would have, and some of them were sharpened into fangs. He liked to sit atop a rotating plinth and spin round and round until he was sick. I was always curious as to the engine which rotated the plinth. It bore a distinct resemblance to undersea drilling equipment I had seen, either in real life or in catalogues, although of course nearly all of Buster and Radbod’s adventures took place on dry land, far from the sea. Buster was once or twice shown to be in possession of a pair of swimming trunks, they were visible in pictures of his open wardrobe, alongside a snorkel and an oxygen canister, but I cannot recall him ever wearing them. Buster had an owl as well as a goat. The owl was also called Buttercup, and Buster treated it cruelly, often pelting it with the shells of pistachio and Brazil nuts throughout the impossibly long afternoons of his idyllic fictional summertime. The owl took its revenge by regurgitating gobbets of semi-digested stoat or weasel on to Buster’s pointed wooden cap, which he would then have to rinse clean under the village spigot. Doing so was always a risky business, for lumbering in the vicinity of the village spigot was the village wrestler, a hairy brute capable of tearing an anvil in half with his great hairy hands. Luckily for Buster, the village wrestler was chained to a post next to the village spigot, and he was blind, so usually it was possible to skip nimbly out of his reach, even though, being squat, Buster was not the most nimble of cartoon characters. Indeed, he was not nimble at all. He slouched and he trudged and he often trailed one of his legs behind him, as if he were a lame child, but this was just rascality. Buster pretended to be lame to diddle small coinage from shopkeepers and the ground staff at the aerodrome, but most of them were wise to his tricks. In quite a few stories Buster and Radbod mooched around the aerodrome, trying to enter the hangars, but they were invariably stymied by one circumstance or another, be it the weather or early closing or an attack of killer bees or a rusty padlock. Once they were about to step into an unguarded and unlocked hangar when they were surprised by the ghost of Sylvia Townsend Warner and fled screaming into the hills. Other literary phantoms haunted the comic strip from time to time, for differing narrative purposes, and not always at the aerodrome. The ghost of Emily Dickinson, for example, hovers in mid-air outside the village shampooist in several frames of a particularly exciting adventure in which a toggle on Buster’s duffel coat is discovered to be a smooth round fragment from the tomb of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Buster hires a broom to fight off the ancient Egyptian ghouls who come to reclaim the pharaoh’s toggle. The hiring of brooms, sweeping brushes, dusters, squeegees, rags and other cleaning materials is one of Buster’s hobbies, along with bell-ringing, stamp collecting, making fluted paper cupcake cases, pelting his owl with the shells of pistachio and Brazil nuts, First World War battle re-enactments, tongue twisters, snakes and ladders, playing songs from the Fort Mudge Memorial Dump LP on the glockenspiel, churning up froth in a pail, bandage sculpture, tick tack, tacky tock, driving nails into mud idols, Subbuteo table football, poop tack clatter tack whizz, ping pong, hopping about flapping his arms, conjuring tricks, removing splinters from gashes, cardboard appreciation, amateur dramatics, pencil sharpening, scattering pins all over the place, bowling, bowls and dishes, and running a flea circus. I thought of Buster rather than Radbod as a role model. Buster had nonchalance, élan, a filthy temper, a ready wit, and peevishness. He was insouciant when one of his lungs collapsed. He smoked Gitanes. He sometimes wore his pointed wooden cap at a jaunty angle. He could hold his breath under water for several very very tense minutes. He rattled about in a fantastic old jalopy. He had ambitions to be a bargee on an extensive system of canals. He was a dab hand with a banjo, and not in a musical sense. Once, he felled the blind brute village wrestler with a simple flick of his duffel coat cuff, and afterwards had the grace to polish the blind brute village wrestler’s chain with a hired rag and his own home-made swarfega. He dazzled at cocktail parties. He spat upon hissing coals. He tiptoed from rooms with a swish of elegance. He was off on a frolic of his own.

Radbod, by contrast, was a somewhat colourless character.

Recently I learned that a complete set of The Hammer Of Christ, bound in the hide of a cloven-hooved beast of the barnyard, and containing all the adventures of Buster and Radbod, will be for sale at an auction to be held at the dilapidated Custom House by the harbour steps in the stinking seaside resort where I usually spend my holidays. I am by no stretch of the imagination an experienced auction-goer, and I have no idea how to make a bid. Do I nod, or raise an eyebrow, or hold up a pencil, or flail my arms around? I do not want to cut an idiotic figure, but nor do I want to miss the chance to get my hands on such a treasure. It is a quandary, to be sure.

Having given it much thought, I have decided to take my lead from Buster himself. In one episode of this most marvellous of comic strips, he goes to an auction at a Custom House, not unlike the auction at the Custom House I plan to attend, and, when the lot he covets comes up, he sneaks outside and, through an aperture, pumps into the auction room a fast-acting nerve gas. Or maybe it is just any old gas, I can’t quite remember. I suppose that’s something I ought to check before carrying out my nefarious plan. If I pump the wrong sort of gas through an aperture, who knows what might happen? The problem is that, just as I am ignorant of bidding protocol at auctions, I haven’t got a clue about gases. I know there are lots of different kinds of gas and that they act differently upon the people gathered in a room into which one or other of them is pumped through an aperture, but how I am to go about picking my gas is an absolute mystery. And so, for now, it shall remain, for there is much that trumps gas research in my daily round, and right now I feel, as I so often do, the call of the monkey, and I must pick nits out of my hair and shovel bananas down my throat and swing from larch to sycamore in my larch and sycamore enclosure, beyond the back garden, by the railway lines, where hooting freight trains thunder along the track carrying vast loads of pig iron to Pig Iron Town, where I have never been, and will never go, for it is far, far away, and built entirely from pig iron.


This piece first appeared in 2010. I am reposting it today for reasons which I am sure will be obvious to the woolly-brained among you.

If you are a certain type of folk singer, or vicar, or countryside rambler, you will as likely as not be wearing a jumper or sweater or pullover made of wool. It may conceivably be a polo neck. You more than anyone will know that there is good wool and there is bad wool. I would go so far as to say that, in the matter of wool, there is no middle ground, no grey area. Either the wool is good, or it is bad, and there’s an end on’t.

If your jumper or sweater or pullover has been knitted from good wool, you should count your blessings. Depending on where you live, good wool can be hard to come by. You may have had to send away to some far distant woolly apparel concern to have one of their catalogue items delivered to you through the mails, in a packet. The costs of transportation and packaging will have added to the basic price of your chosen jumper or sweater or pullover, but the outlay is justified when it is guaranteed that the knitwork was done with good wool.

But woe betide you if for some reason you are forced to wear something made from bad wool. Bad wool comes from bad sheep. They may be diseased, or repugnant, or unseemly, or all three. That does not stop unscrupulous shearers from shearing the wool from them and selling it on to equally unscrupulous wool merchants, who in turn have it processed and knitted into garments. It is both sad and astounding what reserves of human skill can be deployed into making something out of bad wool. Spotting a garment on a market stall, or for sale from the barrow of a barrow boy, it may not be immediately apparent whether the wool is good wool or bad wool. It may not even become evident when you put it on, pulling it over your head and inserting your arms and tucking it about yourself. But if it is made from bad wool it will contaminate you, as surely as night follows day. That is the thing about garb knitted from bad wool. The knitting was bad and the garb is bad, because of the bad wool. And, disporting it upon your frame, sashaying along the boulevards of your faubourg, it will make you bad too.

It is a wonder that bad wool has not been made illegal. Perhaps there are happy lands where that is the case. Is that not a pleasing thought, a happy land where all the wool is good, and none of it bad? Alas, it is an impossible dream. For there will always be bad sheep, and bad shearers, and unscrupulous merchants, and ne’er-do-well traders and barrow boys.

Hence, if you are wearing good wool, I repeat, count your blessings, count them until kingdom come, and then count them over again. And if you are wearing bad wool, reflect upon the circumstance, ask what you have done to deserve bad wool. It is likely that you have brought the bad wool upon yourself, through your own contamination, for bad attracts bad, in persons and wool as in other phenomena of the boundless universe.

But Was There A Shoggoth?

Gosh, look! Another letter arrives – a real one this time – from anagrammatic reader Carlo Randle, who says:

Dear Frank

A few weeks ago, I spent a grim evening playing some kind of Lovecraft-based collaborative boardgame with friends.

Tiny plastic figures moving about on a dark board overprinted in near-black ink; the prolix and apparently arbitrary rules, printed not in a handy booklet but on large, flappy sheets tacked to the inside of the presentation box lid; the various stacks of darkly-printed hazard cards, menace cards, threat cards, jeopardy cards and so on; the strange anomaly of the ‘taxis’ by which one’s avatar might whisk about the region’s gloomy mapscape; the massiveness of the dice and their propensity to scatter the scrawny, lightweight playing pieces from their assigned places; the confusing indistinguishability of those playing pieces, which meant one frequently expended all one’s half-understood strategic nous on moving the wrong character, frustrating some ultimately crucial aspect of our glacially-paced campaign to resist or repel the Old Ones; the swiftly-escalating despair that (a) the game could not be won by the human players, because the resources of The Game (our opponent) were so lavishly stacked against us and (b) that it would nevertheless take a Troublingly Long Time before our inevitable, crushing defeat was confirmed. In that respect, I suppose, it was a truly Lovecraftian experience.

I remember my avatar’s being obliged to sidle down a kind of sewer pipe from Arkham to Dunwich, or similar, to forestall some inexpressible catastrophe which was about to be visited on the region by a tiny plastic ‘monster’ which, had it tumbled from one’s Cornflakes packet in childhood, would have been flicked desultorily into the pedal-bin without a second glance.

We lost … the game itself was declared the winner. But I don’t want to give the impression that nobody enjoyed it. Our host was cooing with delight all evening.

Yours shudderingly,

Carlo Randle (anag.)

The Potger Letter

Oh look! A letter has arrived in the post:

Dear Mr Key : I have long been an avid reader of your witterings, but this is the first time I have felt compelled to write to you. My name is Keith Potger. Last week, two days short of my eighty-first birthday, I learned that I share my name with one of The Seekers, the Antipodean folk/pop sensations of the 1960s, with whom you seem to be (over)familiar. I found it surprising that nobody had ever pointed this out to me before, but there you go, dimpus dempus, as they used to say, in Latin, or Dog Latin, or Pig Latin, or one of the Latins, if memory serves, and it may not, given my advancing years.

The reason I am writing to you is born of concern. As I said, I have been reading your stuff for a long time, and I have until now considered you perhaps the most sensible writer on the planet, if not in the known universe. Many is the time I have whacked my ancient mother on the head, to wake her from her stupor, just so I could recite to her, yelling as loudly as possible into her ear-trumpet, one of your matchless sentences, so full of wisdom and moral rigour.

But now, I am sad to say, I fear you may be teetering on the delusional. You seem to think that every civilised person knows the names of The Seekers. I pride myself on being an incomparably civilised man, in spite of recent unfortunate piddle-stains on my trousers, and until last week I did not know the names of any of them. It is only because of the far-fetched coincidence that I share Keith Potger’s name that I now know one. And yet I am quite well-informed about 1960s pop sensations in general, having committed to memory the Bernard Levin List. Indeed, when I am not shouting your sentences at my ancient mother, I am shouting that list at her, in short bursts, into her ear-trumpet, in an attempt to stimulate her catastrophically fading brain-integuments.

I am minded to observe, however, that should you persist with the absurd fancy that everybody knows The Seekers, my mother appears a mental colossus in comparison. This could be merely the top of a slippery slope for you, Mr Key. I note that you also seem to believe that everybody can reel off the names John, Paul, George, and Ringo (plus Yoko), barely without thinking. What in the name of heaven are you blathering on about? John Paul – without the comma in between – is the name of a pair of late twentieth-century pontiffs of the Holy Apostolic Roman Catholic Church. As for the other three names, in that context they are frankly incomprehensible, and you have obviously made two of them up. I screamed all five names repeatedly into my mother’s ear trumpet, and the dear woman showed not a flicker of recognition. This, for me, is the acid test.

Speaking of the ancient Mrs Potger, I must end this letter now to go and attend to her. The cup affixed under her chin to collect her drool is almost full, so I must empty it into the drool-vat in the pantry.

Please try to get a grip, Mr Key. It will be a tragedy if you lose your marbles.

Ever yours,

Keith Potger (not a Seeker)

Antipodean Chicken-Dyeing

You will be pleased to learn that Mr Key has returned from his sojourn on foreign shores, refreshed, revivified, and ready to shower you once again with sweeping paragraphs of majestic prose. I am not going to tell you much, if anything, about my jaunt, but I think it is worth noting that I met, on my travels, a man called Dave, from Australia who, when young, used to dye chickens different colours. It was not entirely clear to me whether he did this as a form of gainful employment, or for his own entertainment. It might even have been art. I mention this because it occurred to me that an Antipodean chicken-dyer could prove a useful recurring character in the various doings recounted here at Hooting Yard. We shall see.

Oh, one more thing. I was startled to discover that Dave was unable to name the four members of The Seekers. I have long believed – with good reason – that it is the mark of any civilised person, and certainly of any civilised Antipodean, that they can rattle off those names without even having to think, much as one might list John, Paul, George, and Ringo (not forgetting Yoko, of course), or Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. I have no doubt that every single one of my readers will be as baffled as I was by Dave’s inability in this regard. Perhaps a lethal chemical constituent of the dyes used on those chickens long ago bedizened his brainpans.

Bloated Janitor

There was a bloated janitor, and all his friends were dead.
Echoes of their voices bounced round inside his head.
He was terribly stressed.
And so, to blot out the echoes of the past, he fled
To Chris and Tim and Lindsay, to Dagmar, John and Fred
Who played Unrest.

(With a nod to The Plain People of England.)

The Nylon Duke

Behold the Nylon Duke. He is fashioned entirely from nylon, every last bit of him, yea, even unto his cartilages. He is a nylon wonder of the world.

The Nylon Duke is pulled along, flat on his back, on a cart, by a great grey drayhorse with its bright and battering sandal, from village to village. At each stop along the way, in villages leafy or otherwise, he is hoisted upright by a system of winches and pulleys. The villagers gather and gasp and gawp at the sight of the Nylon Duke. They bring offerings of potatoes and similar root vegetables, piled high on the cart before being transferred into sacks by the Nylon Duke’s attendants. These attendants are not made of nylon.

Elsewhere, there is a Nylon Duchess, and there may be a Nylon Dauphin, and there are even rumours of a Nylon Dunce. But in this land there are not enough great grey drayhorses to pull them on carts around villages. A Dearth Of Drayhorses is an oft-reprinted tract which goes some way to explaining this situation.

Consider the Nylon Duke in the round, in all his pomp and finery and nylonosity. Would you begrudge him your potatoes? Think hard before you answer, for fig eider remprent, scou binder ad fig, as it is written, as it is engraved, as it is tattooed upon the foreheads of the attendants.

The Nylon Duke’s given name is Bob.


I have previously expressed my intolerance of phrases such as “going forward”, “robust and transparent”, and, heaven help us, “diverse ‘n’ vibrant”. Another horror I have thus far overlooked is “nailed”, as in “he’s really nailed it there”. For the avoidance of doubt, there is only one thing that can be nailed, and that is Christ to the cross. If you are a barbaric heathen and have no idea what I am talking about, see below.


Crucifixion by Horace Pippin, 1943

Exemplary Slobbering Vignettes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whence Inspip Fled

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

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

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

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

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

Pillow Pamphlets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Awareness Week

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


Brain Awareness Week

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

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

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

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

Eye Jab Day

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

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

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

Onwards to jab time!