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Over at The Dabbler today, I resurrected my playlet about the Fripps, and the invention of an entirely new kind of cake. Of more import, perhaps, is the comment from Brit – the third one down – the implications of which, I must say, are quite terrifying. Please have a nerve tonic ready to glug as soon as you have read it. You’ll need it.


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Over at The Dabbler you can read my exclusive World Cup 2014 preview, which is uncannily similar to my Euro 2012 Foopball Tournament preview of a couple of years back. I am hoping to bring you the best of the commentators’ startling insights (“How long is it since Ronaldo was marked by an anagram of himself?”) in the coming weeks.


In his latest Dabbler Diary, Brit gives an account of a thrilling event he attended last week:

To Bristol Grammar School, to hear Frank Key address a Sixth Form Literary Society! You didn’t expect that either, did you? It was arranged by the inestimable Roland Clare, editor of  By Aerostat to Hooting Yard, who introduced Frank with a comprehensive, lavishly illustrated and frequently hilarious lecture on nonsense. I have to say, though, that for all the amusement afforded by the surrealists, the dada-ists, John Lennon, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band and others, none of the nonsensarians are nearly so funny as Frank Key reading his own material. The only ones who come close are Ivor Cutler and the Bible.

Frank warmed up his unsuspecting young audience with Little Dagobert and the Binder Symphonies, at which there was much baffled tittering, then battered them mercilessly into submission with How to Think of Things Other Than Juggling, which contains the longest sentence he has ever written. It’s quite a thing, listening to a really, really long sentence being read aloud. One goes through a full range of emotions, from hilarity to despair and back again. It’s a journey. I could see some of the sixth formers seriously struggling at the midway point. “At least it’s not Neil Kinnock,” I wanted to say to them. But, as all things must, the sentence did at last pass, and Frank took pity on his audience and finished with a corker.

Afterwards I mingled with some of the pupils and assorted guests, including some of Bristol’s most thrusting young eccentrics and, quite unexpectedly, the well-known philosopher Julian Baggini. A youthful poet with a curly black moptop analysed Frank’s long sentence with admirable seriousness, praising its hypnotic effect. When all had dispersed, Roland and Frank and I stood around and surveyed the buffet leftovers. How deeply moving it was to watch the penniless authors methodically consume the free sandwiches.

I cannot speak for Roland, but as far as I recall I ate only a single sandwich.

Father Hopkins

Those of you who hold Gerard Manley Hopkins in awe – which I assume is every last one of you – should turn today to The Dabbler, where my sister Rita Byrne Tull explains how the great Victorian Jesuit priest was instrumental in setting the course of her life.


This sketch of Father Hopkins was drawn by my son Edwood Burn. A finished version of it will appear in Mr Key’s Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives, alongside a score of other portraits.

Comical Dabbling

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Today the Guardian yet again employs the preposterous Russell Brand as a commentator. This time his overwritten wittering is about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, which gives the “alleged comedian” (© Peter Hitchens) another opportunity to tell us that he is a recovering addict. Well, who knew? He may indeed be recovering from drink and drugs, but I think it’s time he sought help for his pitiable addiction to babbling on and on about himself. Several decades in a Trappist monastery would be ideal.

Which brings us to the more important topic of Mr Key, or rather to his cupboard in The Dabbler, which today contains a piece about the role played by comedians in the governance of Britain. Warning: I am afraid Brand is mentioned there again – I really must get a grip! – though only in passing, and you lot will be able to sluice him out of your brains by contemplating, instead, such stars of yesteryear as Wilson, Keppel, and Betty.


Baffling, Brilliant, Brutal, & Hysterically Funny

Hooting-Book-Cover-for-web-pageNow here is a treat for you lot. The splendid persons at Dabbler Editions, purveyors of e-books to the e-literate, have launched upon the world an e-anthology of Mr Key’s outpourings. By Aerostat To Hooting Yard : A Frank Key Reader contains 147 stories selected by the estimable Roland Clare, who has also written a scholarly introduction. Truly it may be said he has pored over numberless sweeping paragraphs of majestic prose and has actually managed to work out some of the things going on inside Mr Key’s brainpans.

According to the Dabbler, the anthology is “baffling, brilliant, brutal, and hysterically funny”. It is also dirt cheap, well within the means of even the most impecunious reader (few, if any, of whom are as impecunious as Mr Key himself). And remember, you do not need a Kindle to read a Kindle e-book. There are plenty of ways to read this earth-shattering and heart-rending tome on any of the electronic contraptions you might have lying about in your hovel. Just ask your nearest computer whizz person.

So the basic idea is that you go and buy the book from or or amazon.wherever-you-are. You then award it five stars and post a review explaining that it is the most noble effusion of the human spirit since [insert previous noble effusion of your choice]. You then harry and hector everybody you know, and buttonhole strangers in the street, also to buy the book. And on the seventh day you may put your feet up and actually read it.

Come on, readers. If you cannot make this the bestselling e-book of all time, you can at least ensure that Mr Key is in with a chance of winning the mrs joyful prize for rafia work.

N.B. Those of you active on Facecloth and Twitter should strain every sinew to splurge news of the book all over the place. Remember, you will get your reward in heaven.

Dabbling With Dagobert

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Over at The Dabbler today, the tale of Little Dagobert, The Strongest Boy In The Universe. This acts as a preview for the imminent Kindle anthology By Aerostat To Hooting Yard : A Frank Key Reader, published next week by Dabbler Editions. I shall have more to say about this definitive collection next Tuesday, when it will become available. In the meantime, please bear in mind that you lot will be harried and hectored relentlessly until you have (a) bought a copy, and (b) harried and hectored, in your turn, every single person you know to buy a copy, and (c) propelled it, if not to the very top of the e-bestseller lists, at least to the point where I am in with a chance of winning the mrs joyful prize for rafia work.

Dabbling In Eden

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The monopod flautist Ian Anderson once sang about the time “when the Eve-bitten apple returned to destroy the tree”. I have no idea what he was going on about, and I suspect Mr Anderson may just have wanted something to rhyme with the “sea” and “to be” endings of the preceding lines in his song.

In any case, it is the time before the apple returned to the Garden of Eden that concerns me today, over in my cupboard at The Dabbler, the editor of which found this splendidly apt picture with which to illustrate the piece.


Almanacke Anomaly

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On New Year’s Eve, you will recall, we published Old Key’s Almanacke, a set of eerily unerring prognostications for the coming twelvemonth plucked from the aether by Old Key. Now, in today’s Dabbler, Old Key’s Almanacke reappears … yet each and every prognostication is different! What in the name of heaven can this mean?

The best way to find out, of course, would be to question Old Key himself. But where to find this eldritch figure, shrouded in a moth-eaten black cape besplattered with stars, a pointy hat atop his potato-shaped head? Old Key is famously elusive, and indeed some say he does not actually exist.

Even if he does exist, I have to say that the appearance of two entirely different sets of prognostications casts doubt on the worth of Old Key’s scrying skills. It may be that, slumped over his fiendish diagrams in his mountaintop redoubt, he simply makes it all up.

ADDENDUM : Dear Mr Key, writes Poppy Nisbet, I confess myself befuddled. One minute you say you do not know where to find Old Key, and indeed question his very existence, and then in almost the same breath you describe his appearance and pinpoint his location to a mountaintop redoubt. If anybody is unreliable here, it is you! Please explain what is going on.

I would happily respond in excruciating detail to Ms Nisbet, but unfortunately I have been issued with a notice to cease and desist by Old Key’s legal representatives. They have not specified from what, precisely, I should cease and desist, and I am not taking any chances. Nor would you, if you saw the huge malevolent snorting and stamping trio of horses, Freeman Hardy & Willis, astride which the lawyers came thundering to my door.