Archive for the 'Things I Have Learned' Category

Government Chicken Directive

I learn from the BBC that chickens are to be kept indoors to create a Bird-Flu-Free-Zone. This prompts a little song we can all sing as we round up our chickens (if we have any):

Bring in your chickens!
It’s Indoor Poultry Week.
Pop your chicken on the couch
And pat its little beak.

Apparently we should also be on the lookout for dead or debilitated swans, and report any sightings to the police.

Eel Zzub

An occasional feature of my dreamworld is the appearance of a nonsensical word or phrase which – within the dream – takes on huge, if intangible, significance. Previous dreams have revealed to me the crucial importance of Bomba, the Glove of Ib, and the startling yet compelling realisation that my milieu is that of Dr Ludwig. All these things are of great import until I awake, at which point their utter stupidity becomes apparent.

The latest manifestation occurred a few nights ago, when I was made aware of the ancient chivalric code of Eel Zzub. By following the precepts of Eel Zzub, I would become a person of great honour and probity. The fact that such precepts were not in any way made clear in the dream was irrelevant. Eel Zzub was the way to go – at least until I woke up.

I would add two points, which may or may not be pertinent. First, it was resoundingly clear, in the dream, that the Eel of Eel Zzub was nothing whatsoever to do with eels. Second, in my waking state I could not help but recall that Zzub Books was a wholly fictitious publisher of slim volumes of twee verse, invented by Ed Baxter and listed in one of the Small Press Yearbooks circa 1990.

Encounter With A Swan

One consequence of my recent problems with my eyes is that I am less inclined to visit art galleries and exhibitions. Peering myopically at blurred canvases is not entirely rewarding. Spending a few days in Amsterdam, however, I felt impelled to visit the Rijksmuseum, and I am very pleased that I did. For it was in the “Golden Age” galleries that I encountered the most magnificent painting of a swan that I have ever seen.

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This is The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn, painted in 1650. As so often, the reproduction barely does justice to the original, which has a gleaming, translucent whiteness even my poor eyes found spellbinding.

I saw many actual swans swanning around on the canals of Amsterdam, but none was quite as magnificent as this one.

In Dubrovnik

Learning that the cathedral in Dubrovnik houses a holy relic of Christ’s nappy inspired me to write the first verse of a brand new Christmas carol.

Baby Jesus
You make me happy
In Dubrovnik
They’ve got your nappy

Readers may wish to add further verses in the Comments.

Eye Eye (Again)

Last week I went for my first appointment at the Tuesday Injection Clinic (which I think of as the Tuesday Injection Club). I learned a number of things. One, that I would be attending every fortnight, rather than every month, until at least the end of the year. Two, that the entire procedure passes off efficiently and painlessly.

But the most important lesson I have learned is that I am now armed with a stupendously effective conversational gambit. Let us imagine, just for one wild moment, that one of these days I actually get invited to a swish sophisticated cocktail party where I can lean insouciantly against a mantelpiece. Now picture various other guests approaching me to engage in conversation with what they fondly imagine will be impressive anecdotes.

Let me tell you about the time I met John F Kennedy”, would say my ex-employer Elkan Allan (were he not late and lamented). Or, “One of my blog posts was picked up by the Huffington Post”, would say my sister Rita Byrne Tull. Or it might be someone telling me they had climbed Everest, or swum the Channel, or discovered the Fab Four, or any number of thrilling facts.

And now imagine a moment of silence, while I pause and play that pause for all it’s worth, and I then say, “Well, that’s very interesting”, and then I declare, in resounding tones, “But every two weeks I have needles injected directly into my eyeballs!”

I can assure you that the effect is electrifying. I have already tried it out a few times – though sadly not in the context of a swish sophisticated cocktail party – and I can report that jaws drop, eyes boggle, and questions are fired at me. I, of course, retain an air of insouciant calm.

I tell you what, as medical issues go, this one certainly beats water-on-the-knee or mad cow disease when it comes to mopping the floor with rival anecdotists.

Irresponsible Shepherds

The problem is not the sheep. The problem is irresponsible shepherds.” Thus spake – on the radio this morning – a spokesman for the majestically-named Irresponsible Shepherding Task Force in the Forest of Dean. Apparently, that rustic paradise is riddled with irresponsible shepherds who, among sundry enormities, allow their sheep to bleat in the middle of the night.

Personally, I am not surprised to learn about outbreaks of nocturnal bleating. Sheep are highly neurasthenic creatures who spend their entire lives in a state of fretfulness and nervous tension, and as a result they rarely sleep. This is probably one reason why, as has been observed by several country persons, a sheep’s ambition in life is to die.

Kaka

Back in 2007, and then again in 2010, I wrote about Kaka. Although I did not mention it specifically, I was at the time under the impression that Kaka was a foopballer. I have now learned that Kaka is, in fact, a bird. This sheds an entirely new light on things, and I fear I must go back to the drawing-board.

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Foopball News

I must say that thus far the Euro2016 foopball tournament has proved somewhat disappointing. No commentator has yet matched the majestic observation, at the 2010 World Cup, “for a moment there, he looked like a baby gazelle who’d just plopped out of the womb”. But perhaps things are looking up. Today I have learned that the Italian defenders “are like tawny owls”.

Portal To Plovdiv

It is far too long since we turned our attention to the fair city of Plovdiv. Word reaches me, however, of the intriguing appearance of a supposed watering-hole in north London, pictured below. I say “supposed” because, reportedly, nobody has ever been seen either entering or leaving this mysterious establishment. My hunch is that it is some kind of portal to Plovdiv. Boffins are probably hard at work tweaking the complicated gubbins designed to rend asunder the laws of physics so that, on stepping through the door, one is instantly transported – teleported? – to Plovdiv itself.

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Many thanks to Max Décharné for the snap.

Park Bench

This confounded Hooting Yard hiatus has gone on long enough. My apologies for the silence. I am hoping to give my brain a good kicking to get it back on track.

Regular readers will know that the municipal park bench is a recurring motif in my prose. Imagine my unalloyed glee, then, to discover the existence of an actor and director named Park Bench. One of his films is called The Secret of Goat. These things make me extremely happy.

Tin Jaw

I was intrigued to learn that the new president of the Land Formerly Known As Burma goes by the resounding name Tin Jaw. At least, that is how the BBC pronounces Htin Kyaw on the Today programme.

Though I wish Mr Jaw no ill, past or present, I cannot help wishing that he personifies a spectacular variant of nominative determinism and that, at some point earlier in his life, he suffered a catastrophic injury to his face which led to him being surgically fitted with a tin jaw.

A tin jaw is perhaps not as gritty and heroic as, say, an iron jaw, but it is a fine name for a head of state.

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The Kibbo Kift Universe

John Hargrave, founder of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, wrote an article in 1925 entitled “A Short Exposition of the Philosophical Basis of the Kibbo Kift”. It includes a passage where Hargrave insists on the “unity of the unique units of the Universe”:

teapots, chairs, mud, electric light bulbs, fingernails, hammers, steam engines, mountains, hats, shoes, needles, tram tickets, lilies, telephones, tents, dynamos, walking sticks, cow dung, churches, iron foundries, neckties, cats, human beings, steel plates, bricks and mortar, glass, sealing-wax, trees, thoughts, tables, music, flowers and flower-pots, clouds, gutter-gratings, books, food, buttons, machine guns, beads, rain, clocks, boots, ferro-concrete, eggs, sunlight, coal, stars, solar systems, slugs, pictures, maggots, wheel bolts, smells, darkness and light, collar-studs, speech, seeds, birds, bootlaces, insects, skeletons, pepper-corns, babies, Space, Time, Matter, all religions, all Spirits, all Matter(s) … all, all, are actually the ONE GREAT POWER.

This is quoted in Annebella Pollen’s book The Kindred Of The Kibbo Kift, which you will recall I recommended during the run of the 2015 Hooting Yard Advent Calendar. If you need any further persuasion to obtain a copy, please note that it has recently been acclaimed as “the most beautiful book in Switzerland”.

My Brother

Watch, listen and learn. Click on the “song” link below.

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song

Camber Rilnt

Who now remembers Camber Rilnt?

In the long ago, when I was a teenperson, Camber Rilnt was, if not quite my hero, certainly a totemic figure, one I held in awe. I pored over his name with something akin to reverence. Today, on a whim, I tapped “Camber Rilnt” into Google, and it yielded absolutely no results whatsoever. There are millions, probably billions of pages on the world wide interweb, but if Google is to be believed, Camber Rilnt appears on none of them. He has vanished down the plughole of history.

Ah! But I did find him, not once but twice, hiding in plain sight, in a manner not traceable by Google’s algorithms, but present nevertheless. Camber Rilnt lives on!

As for you lot, devoted Hooting Yardists all, do you remember Camber Rilnt? Can you track him down on the web, perhaps in places I missed? Feel free to plunge into the Comments Bath to let me know.

Self-Indulgence At Croydon In Fruit

The Oxford University Press recently published Volume VIII of its majestic Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. The latest book – a snip at £110 – is devoted to the Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks. As a good Catholic, Hopkins kept a record of the sins he committed, and this new edition includes the previously suppressed details. We learn, for example, of frequent bouts of ”O.H.” (“old habits” – I think we can guess what that means) and of occasions when unseemly thoughts are prompted by the sight of choristers, “cart-boys”, and other young men.

But several other entries are suggestive of the fathomless depths of the poet’s sickening depravity and moral turpitude. He confesses in the privacy of his diary to “looking at and thinking of stallions” and worse, much worse, “self-indulgence at Croydon in fruit”.

How Hopkins escaped prison is one of the enduring mysteries of Victorian Jesuit literature.

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