Krakow Bird Tile

The church of St Adalbert, in the market square of Krakow, is almost a thousand years old. On one side of it there is a low wall – much more recent – on the inner part of which, for no apparent reason, a single small tile has been embedded.

On this tile is depicted a bird. This bird has recently been designated as the Hooting Yard Bird Emblem. Next time you go to Krakow, make sure you pay due obeisance to the bird by sprawling on the ground before it and thinking of Dobson.

Paging Doctor Stephen Lynn

Number Umpteen in our series of Inconsequential Yet Somehow Arresting Facts.

Stephen Lynn (above) is the doctor whose flat Alec borrows for his “inexpressibly vulgar” (and abortive) assignation with Laura in Brief Encounter (1945).

Stephen Lynn (below) is the doctor who was Director of the Emergency Room at Roosevelt Hospital in New York and who tried (and failed) to resuscitate John Lennon (1980).

Recommended Pig Reading

This magnificent book, packed with piggery, tells us, among much else, that

old-fashioned pigs … are extremely likeable characters. They are highly intelligent, exceedingly amiable … and will follow you about like a dog. They have a keen sense of the absurd and will suddenly take off in a collective giddy fit, twirling round and round to the accompaniment of hoarse pantings, guffaws, it might almost be said, of merriment.

The Pious Infant

Never has an infant been so pious as little Henry Clump, the pious infant whose life is told in The Pious Infant by Mrs Regera Dowdy – or so I thought. But when I was enmired in the research for Mr Key’s Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives, I learned of Saint Rumwold, by comparison with whom Henry Clump seems the spawn of Satan.

Saint Rumwold was born in King’s Sutton in 622 AD, the son of Saint Cyneburga and King Alchfrid. His first words – uttered on the day of his birth – were “I am a Christian”. He then asked to be baptised, and to receive Holy Communion. The next day he preached a sermon, quoting freely from the Bible. On the third day, he gave another sermon, addressed to his parents, after which he keeled over and died. We can be sure he ascended into Heaven.

Lost Books, Real And Imagined

I am currently reading – or peering at, with my iffy eyes – The Book Of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly (2005). Among other things I have learned is that we have lost a work by the ancient polymath Callimachus (c.320 – c.340 BCE) entitled On The Changes Of The Names Of Fish. I, for one, would love to read it, and I suspect it inspired a dream I had, where I came upon a copy of On The Stiffness Or Otherwise Of Bolts Of Cloth by Rotting Engineering Equipment Jr.

Film Review

Yesterday I went to see the new Walt Dinsey [sic] film Beauty And The Beast. (I know, I know. Don’t ask.) A more fitting title would have been Feisty Bookworm And The Prince With Bad Table Manners. Belle, the Beauty, as played by Emma Watson, is feisty, and a bookworm. The only other thing to note about her character is that she has a rather problematic relationship with her father’s horse, but we shall come to that.

The putative Beast (one Dan Stevens) is hardly bestial. I was expecting something like the Grunty Man, that awful figure of children’s nightmares. Other than being a bit hairy, sporting a pair of goaty horns, and growling occasionally, this so-called Beast seems perfectly civilised. He speaks in a mellifluous RADA-trained voice not unlike that of the late Alan Rickman, and has a well-stocked library. The extent of his bestiality seems to be that he slurps his soup straight from the bowl. Franz Kafka had worse table manners (his father used to hide behind the newspaper when dining with FK).

Now, about that horse. Its name is Philippe. The Feisty Bookworm arrives at the castle astride Philippe. We then see neither hide nor hair of the horse until, after an indeterminate period – days? weeks? months? – the Beast frees the Bookworm so she can rescue her father from imminent incarceration in a lunatic asylum. Suddenly, there is Philippe, fit as a fiddle, ready to gallop back to the village. Where has he been all this time? The Feisty Bookworm has expressed not a jot of concern for him, and we have seen no sign of a stable, nor even a trough. It is all very mysterious.

Hooting Yard Rating : Three stars for tiptop soup-slurping.

Sporting Glory

I often receive letters from readers crying plaintively “Mr Key! Mr Key! How can I become a tiptop sporting champion? If anyone can give me a top tip, it is you!”

Actually, it is not me you need to ask, but Hooting Yard’s tiptop sports correspondent Fatima Gilliblat. This is what she has to say:

The best way to become a tiptop sporting champion is to ensure you were born on 23 March. It was on this day of the year that champs such as Roger Bannister, Mo Farah, Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Steve Redgrave, and the bobsleighing Olympian Shelley Rudman dropped from their mothers’ wombs, as did the cricketer Mike Atherton and the pugilist Joe Calzaghe. If you were born on any other day, I am afraid that the road to sporting glory will be steep and pitiless and you will almost certainly fail.


I once saw the novelist Anthony Burgess settle down at a concert grand, put a reproduction of ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ on the music stand, and play the picture in a camp, but straight-faced, demonstration of synaesthesia. As ever with Burgess, you were not quite sure if he was taking the mick.

Stephen Bayley, reviewing books about colour in The Spectator.