At Snail’s Pace, In Sepia

As the world collapses around our ears, there are a few glimmers of brightness to keep us in good cheer. I, for one, have been heartened by the inexorable rise of the sepia-tinged, snail’s pace computer game, and am in a mildly non-comatose state following the announcement that Collective Farm Administrator 2.0 is about to hit the shelves in time for Christmas.

Available for X-Crate, PlayBusStop, and WeeWee, this mind-numbing game allows players to wallow in the sheer unadulterated tedium of administrating a collective farm in some godforsaken rustic hellhole fifty years ago. Sitting at your desk in a corner of a virtual barn, you have to make bureaucratic decisions about cows, goats, tractors and similar farmyard appurtenances, fill in lots of paperwork, and drink weak and watery pixellated tea from a grubby pixellated samovar while you await the arrival of the regional collective farm supervisor, who could appear on the screen at any moment, but may just as likely never arrive at all.

To give a flavour of the game, here are a couple of screenshots.



For added verisimilitude, scenes such as these remain “stuck” on screen for days on end. Sound effects include the mooing of a tubercular cow and the puttering of a tractor about to run out of fuel.

While you await delivery of your pre-ordered copy of Collective Farm Administrator 2.0, you may indulge in further rustic fun and frolic, this time in full colour, by following this link. My thanks to Ed Baxter of Resonance FM for drawing it to my attention.

I Was Puny Vercingetorix

I Was Puny Vercingetorix : a novel by Lars Talc (2003) is not a novel and it is not by Lars Talc. It is not a book at all. It is an objet d’art.


In the words of art critic Cosmo Hoxtonwanker, “it is a bold, transgressive, edgy work, interrogating notions of authenticity, desire, and jouissance while incorporating both dippiness and a Playmobil figure holding a vacuum cleaner under some streamers. If it was for sale, I would pay millions for it.”


It is not for sale.



Proof at last that Hooting Yard’s eco-credentials are second to none! It is two and a half years since we raised the important issue of carbon hoofprints, with reference, I recall, to a vagrant goat god. Well, we were scorned and ridiculed, but now, eventually, as I suspected would happen, the world has caught up with our visionary eco-consciousness.

Mr Eugenides provides the valuable service of directing our attention to a recent study:

The eco-pawprint of a pet dog is twice that of a 4.6-litre Land Cruiser driven 10,000 kilometres a year, researchers have found.

(Incidentally, I think it was our Antipodean correspondent Glyn Webster who created a superb compendium of wisdom by tapping “researchers have found” into Google. Perhaps he can post it in the Comments.)

Of course, our tireless endeavours to be the most eco-superduper website in the universe continue apace. Even as I write, earnest beardy besandalled Cassandras are hard at work in the Hooting Yard Eco-Pod tallying up stats on the carbon talonprints of a crow, the flipperprints of sea lions, and – thrillingly – the eco-suckerprints of various squelchy aquatic life-forms.

Watch this space.

Service Pack Six

To enhance your Hooting Yard experience, and to provide you with unalloyed glee – or at the very least a short break from your habitual sobbing into a filthy napkin – it is recommended that you download Hooting Yard Service Pack 6.

Service Pack 6 contains a bundle of exciting features which integrate Hooting Yard with popular web drivel such as Witter, Faceditch, Dobsonpamphlet, Piffle, Skippy, Zippy and Michel Foucault’s Insurrection Of Subjugated Knowledges Lite. As an added bonus, this update will cause your computer to do a lot of buzzing and whirring for no apparent reason, and it may even hiss and emit jets of steam.

Press the button below when you are “in the zone”*. Note that the button will remain inactive until you enter “the zone”, which you can do by casting aside that filthy napkin and rereading every single word posted in Hooting Yard since December 2003, learning selected passages by heart, and then declaiming them in a booming voice from atop an atoll or a grassy knoll, stunning passers-by with your erudition.


* NOTE : The zone referred to ought not be confused with other zones into which you may be enticed from time to time.


I am occasionally cajoled by well-meaning friends and readers to submit stories to one of the legion of online literary magazines. I never do. No doubt, were one of my pieces accepted, I would gain a marginal increase in readership, but for some reason the idea of spreading like a rash over the interweb doesn’t appeal. I think, too, there are elements of diffidence and fastidiousness which make me reluctant to seek editorial approval. Sheer idleness also plays its part, for I am happy enough to allow publication on the rare occasions when an editor approaches me, rather than vice versa.

This solipsistic drivel was prompted when I was pointed towards The View From Here. One’s first port of call is invariably the “about us” or “guidelines for submissions” bit. Now, I take an excessively judgmental approach to these things. Is this, I ask myself, the kind of website whose imprimatur I would value? Here is what The View From Here has to say for itself:

… we showcase the weird, unusual, thought provoking and occasionally bizarre. We classify ourselves as “Bohemian Eclectic” — yes, we coined the term. Our stories will make you wonder, laugh, cry and generally FEEL something. We expect to elicit a valid emotional response from our readers.

I make no comment on “Bohemian Eclectic” nor on that peremptory use of the upper case. But I can’t help wondering what on earth is meant by a “valid” emotional response. Here at Hooting Yard, we hope for an invalid response, where invalid is a noun, with the stress on the first syllable. A correct invalid response is the fey mopping of one’s brow, the call for a bowl of pap and slops in a weak and reedy voice, the groaning of the withered as a poultice or mustard plaster is applied to one’s pustules and buboes. Reading while shakily downing a draught of Doctor Baxter’s Invigorating Nerve Syrup is also encouraged.

NOTE : I should point out that The View From Here is by no means alone in announcing itself in terms which find little favour with Mr Key. There are much worse examples littered around the interweb.

Googie ‘n’ Bee

The two most consistently popular search terms leading interweb hikers to swing open the gates of Hooting Yard, far ahead of all rivals, are bees and ectoplasm. Occasionally, some befuddled soul gets here after searching for bee ectoplasm. Another favourite, much to my delight, is Googie Withers, though the 92-year-old screen siren gets misspelled as Google Withers in some searches, which makes one wonder what is going on inside some people’s cranial integuments. And then of course there are the search terms which are arresting in their singularity. Today someone came to Hooting Yard because they wanted to find out about character flaw of mediaeval peasant.

Anyway, perhaps I should write a piece in which Googie Withers, taunted by a particularly pesky bee, paralyses it with a splurge of ectoplasm. Or, alternatively, a bee taunted by a particularly pesky nonagenarian actress stops her in her tracks by emitting a jet of ectoplasmic bee goo.

Either scenario could provide heroic tot Tiny Enid with the perfect pretext to come clomping club-footedly to the rescue, of either Googie Withers or the bee.

Which scene warms your cockles? Vote now and vote often!

In which scenario would you prefer to see plucky tot Tiny Enid intervene?

Old Ground

Here are some of the topics I have considered writing about today, in no particular order…

The interior workings of the brain of a moose.

The delivery of a brand new Snodgrass-Ponsonby Machine, to replace one sent for repair.

Two Mossad agents playing pingpong in a dismal hangar.

Nelson Eddy, by a waterfall, calling “you-oo-oo-oo”, to Jeanette Macdonald, because he has sprained his ankle and wants her to call an air ambulance.

A map of Vange, with all its unmarked pathways marked.

A discursive yet exhaustive history of the unbutton.

… but each of these subjects has been done to death by Dobson, in a series of pamphlets. It is true that the pamphlets are out of print, but it’s old ground, old ground. I think I shall instead turn my hand to a mashed potato waltz, and whistle down the wind.

Conscious Squirrel!

At the beginning of the year, you may recall, in homage to George Orwell’s egg-counting mania, I began a daily squirrel count. Alas, I lack the single-minded diligence necessary for so useful a pastime, and I am afraid the count petered out on, er, the second of January.

I mention this solely as a pretext to draw to your attention this squirrel.

It is said somewhere, possibly by Dobson, that every fictional hero has an antipole, an eerie opposite that features in an – almost certainly unwritten – mirror of the original work. (If it was Dobson, it is a shame he never developed this thesis into an entire pamphlet.) I think we can safely say that what we have here is the antipole of Unconscious Squirrel!, the unconscious squirrel.

The R Numbers

1. For reasons which remain obscure to me, the text of John Ruskin’s Praeterita is arranged in numbered paragraphs. At least, such is the case with the Everyman edition which I am reading. I have seen other versions where the numbering is absent. This practice is not a substitute for, but rather an addition to, the conventional division of the text into chapters. The numbering, however, is continuous through the chapters, so that, for example, Chapter II of Volume I (“Herne-Hill Almond Blossoms”) begins with paragraph number 36. The book was originally published in three volumes, and each has its paragraphs separately numbered, so that Volume I contains paragraphs numbered 1 to 260 in twelve chapters, Volume II 1 to 235 in twelve chapters, and Volume III 1 to 86 in four chapters, at which point Ruskin abandoned it.

2. The numbering of paragraphs does not support a critical apparatus appended to the book, such as a commentary, notes, or what have you. Hence my perplexity. It appears to be simply idiosyncratic.

3. I have noticed, while reading, that my eyes tend to glance over the numbers without registering them. And yet, when I first opened the book, and saw the numbering, I found it very pleasing. I cannot quite articulate why. Of course, it acts as a handy aide memoire for any nuggets of arresting Ruskinian prose one wants to recall. However, I think there have been quite enough quotations from Mr R. posted at Hooting Yard over recent months.

4. I am not sure what, if anything, is the purpose of this post, other than to practise a bit of paragraph-numbering off my own bat. In my experience, it is these odd and inconsequential postages which attract a greater number of comments than usual. We shall see.


Readers may be aware of my views on Twitter. Briefly, I ahbhor it, despite the vaguely ornithological resonance of its name. I am assured, however, that it is increasingly the medium through which people keep abreast of that which is critical to their leading a well-ordered life. And what could be more critical than the doings at Hooting Yard? I have therefore arranged – via the indefatigable technoboffin – for a “tweet” to be generated whenever a new item appears on this website, and whenever a new podcast becomes available from ResonanceFM. I will most assuredly not be tapping idiotic drivel in to Twitter every five minutes.

If you wish to “follow” Hooting Yard, the stuff on Twitter appears at, unsurprisingly, @hootingyard

NOTE : I will also use Twitter to draw attention to intriguing links, for example this one, about a cork-, gutta percha-, and linseed oil-based floor covering called Kamptulicon.

Boffins’ Work Done

The boffins have now completed their work, and so exquisite has it been that you lot won’t even know anything has happened. But, by the long grey beard of Methuselah, it has! New Hooting Yard may look identical to old, tired, dull, pasty-faced Hooting Yard, but it is revivified and a-throb. Steam was pouring out of the funnels late into the night. I saw it with my own eyes.

Actually, a couple of vague traces of the boffins’ work are apparent. The three postages from yesterday have had to be reposted, and I have added the original date in the interests of fanatical and pointless accuracy. Also, any comments made on those postages have vanished into the murk, so I would ask readers who spent hours crafting their pearls of wisdom to type them out again and repost them.

It is at times like this we all ought to whistle along to Time, forward! by Gyorgy Sviridov (1915-1998)

Boffins At Work

[Originally posted on Friday 24 July]

Boffins are at work mucking about with the Hooting Yard website to ensure its continued gorgeousness for years to come. While they go poking and prodding around in its innards, you may note some hiccups. Fear not. As Julian of Norwich said, “all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of thing will be well”.  Very sensible woman, that Julian. Had a pet cat.

Bad Gas And Forts

I was about to begin tippy-tapping a piece entitled Bad Gas And Forts, with no clear idea in what direction it might go, nor of much beyond the title itself, when it struck me how many years, indeed decades, that phrase has been lodged in the pea-sized yet pulsating Key cranium.

Sometimes I wonder if all the main lineaments of my prose were present in my teenage, indeed pre-teenage, brain.

There was a time, in the seventies, when I created, on paper, a number of bands. These being the days before punk, my phantom line-ups included players of the cello and bassoon and theremin as well as guitar, bass and drums. I devised album and track titles and liner notes – much as I have done in recent years for Vril, to my continuing astonishment – and wrote record and concert reviews. Weirdly, I don’t think anyone ever read these teeming pages of an alternative musical universe except me… and I wonder if indeed I ever read them (as opposed to writing them) myself. Doubly phantom, then, unread words of an unreal world.

Nearly everything I wrote between the ages of eight and, oh, twenty-two or twenty-three is lost, swept away and gone. Some of it may even have been burned. This is probably a good thing. I suspect I would not be the only one to cringe at some of the adolescent twaddle.

And yet, every so often,  fragments from the past come twinkling to the fore, such as, from 1973 or thereabouts, the invented album by an invented band whose invented name I can no longer recall. The album was entitled Bad Gas And Forts, and it was a masterpiece.