An Evening Of Lugubrious Music And Lopsided Prose

It’s not often that the command “Drop what you’re doing and go to Slough!” is irresistible. This is one of those times. Or rather, next week, Friday 9th November is one of those times, for on that day you should drop what you’re doing and go to Slough for An Evening Of Lugubrious Music And Lopsided Prose. David OutaSpaceman will provide the lugubrious music, and I shall be declaiming lopsided prose from the Hooting Yard archive. You can find details, including a handy map, here, if you scroll down the page a bit.

Addendum : Ten thrilling photographs from the evening can be found here.

Head To Head

Barring cancellations or hissy fits, next week will see the first of Hooting Yard’s new Public Seminars where matters of great import will be debated by a mix of experts, intellectuals, charlatans, rascals, and persons of fecklessness.

The topic of our first debate is Life Beyond Death, and will be an exciting head-to-head pitting the enormously wealthy best-selling author Deepak Chopra against Hooting Yard’s very own Little Severin, The Mystic Badger. Mr Chopra will argue that he has spiritual insights into life after death, based on his rigorous and expert understanding of quantum physics. Little Severin will scrubble about in the undergrowth and snuffle the air in his mystic way, thus proving a worthy opponent. Claims that the debate is weighted too heavily in Mr Chopra’s favour can be summarily disposed of. Little Severin knows just as much about quantum physics as his human opponent, if not more so, and to suggest that the badger will be outwitted is plain wrong. You’ll see.

The debate will take place in a tent in the middle of a field near Sawdust Bridge. Tickets to see Little Severin are free, but unfortunately you will have to pay through the nose to see Mr Chopra’s segment, for so high a spiritual plane has he reached through use of Transcendental Meditation and other techniques that it takes an enormous cashflow to keep him bobbing up there in the mystic aether. In addition to a wallet packed with cash, please bring some grubs and roots to donate to Little Severin’s cupboard.

Readers’ Letters

Dear Frank, writes Jonathan Coleclough, I recently attended an illustrated lecture at the History of Reading Society on the subject of chalk mining in Reading. I was delighted to see that the first screen of the presentation was a quote about brick manufacture with the single-word attribution “Dobson”. From that point on I was confident I would have a good evening. I wasn’t disappointed.

The subject of chalk mining is of interest in this area, as the enclosed photo illustrates.



The History Of Hooting Yard : Part One

It is twenty years since “Hooting Yard” first appeared in print. The words were tucked away in a squib of verse included in the 100-page pamphlet Smooching With Istvan, half of which was written by Mr Key and half by the estimable Max Décharné. Alas, like the complete oeuvre of Dobson, this Malice Aforethought Press publication is now decisively out of print.

On page 96, we find the squib in question, entitled “Slab’s Song”, the first verse of which is:

The man with the hammers is Traitor Bill

His flag is made of shoes

He shut up shop in Hooting Yard

And drowned himself in booze

This was actually written a few years before 1987, but I can’t recall when that might have been with any precision.

Hot Things

Among the most inventive minds at work today are our management consultants, those busy-brained men and women forever thinking up exciting new ideas for the world of work. We are all, I hope, familiar by now with “Hot Desking”, a revolutionary approach which allows a business to sell off half of its office furniture for the greater good. Now I learn, somewhat belatedly, that the BBC has launched a “Hot Shoes” initiative. First the furniture, now the clothes. What will be the next hot thing?

Here at Hooting Yard we always try to keep one step ahead of the latest management thinking, so we tasked Mrs Gubbins to come up with a list of hot thing initiatives. Being an octogenarian crone, La Gubbins baulked at the use of “tasked” as a verb, but we fed her a bowl of gravy pudding and offered to help find that knitting needle she mislaid, and she soon came on board.

She initially decided to set up a working party to originate and assess various hot ideas, but this was felt to be crass, until it dropped the “working party” title and renamed itself as an “ideas silo”. The silo has a hub with radii, each radius has a directional pointing device, and at the end point of each is a “brain crate”. Responsibility for sifting through the crates rests with Mrs Gubbins herself, in between her core activities of knitting tea cosies and taking naps.

As a result of her first such sift, Hooting Yard will shortly be launching a series of hot initiatives entitled “Hot Pencil Sharpeners”, “Hot Carpets”, “Hot Puddings” and “Hot Peter Wyngarde Monogrammed Cravats”. I think readers will be able to appreciate the tremendous benefits these hot things will have on the ongoing Hooting Yard project. And remember, you are important to us. Please let us know what we can do to make further 360° improvements.

Dobson’s SWAT Team

One wintertime, in a period when he was watching far too many action films, Dobson decided that he wanted to have his own SWAT team, to deploy as the fancy took him. Marigold Chew pointed out to the pamphleteer that this latest notion of his was particularly demented. She asked him where he expected to billet his team, how he proposed to pay them, in what delusional circumstances he might order them out on a mission, and, crucially, what resources he had to ensure they were given a thorough debriefing, with access if necessary to post-traumatic stress disorder counselling. Dobson replied with a series of low grunting noises, before clambering into his new oversized Uruguayan fair trade kagoul and crashing out into the downpour. The kagoul was second-hand, stained and rent in many places, but it was new to Dobson and he thought he cut a dash in it, though of course he did not, for Dobson rarely if ever cut a dash, and then only by accident.

As he trudged along the canal towpath into town, Dobson composed in his fuming brain the advertisement he planned to place in the “Situations Vacant” column of the Evening Sofa & Last Trump. It duly appeared, remarkably free of misprints, a few hours later.

Wanted. SWAT team to carry out engagements on behalf of out of print pamphleteer. Some of the missions may be perilous. Applicants should be armed to the teeth and preferably dressed from head to foot in black, with big black boots and shiny black helmets with visors. You will be able to give a full account of the vitality of your pneuma, in the ancient Greek sense of the fiery essence in the air, the creative and animating spirit drawn into the body through the lungs and generating your innate heat. Benefits include free pamphlets and lots of smoking breaks.

It did not escape Marigold Chew’s notice that the advertisement failed to address any of the questions she had raised with Dobson earlier. That evening, on the way to a peasant theatre adaptation of Airport Chaplain, she tried a different tack.

“Assuming for a moment that a sufficient tally of persons with vibrant pneuma apply to be on your SWAT team, Dobson,” she said, “What sort of missions do you intend to send them on?”

“SWAT team missions!” replied Dobson, excitedly, as their tram ploughed through a puddle of ice, “Missions that will test their valour and grit as well as their pneuma!”

Pressed to supply just one tiny example before they arrived at the dilapidated barn that had been converted by goateed trust fund gits into a “performance space”, Dobson suggested that he would deploy his SWAT team in the event of a calamitous tram collision resulting in dozens of dead and injured tram passengers. Marigold Chew pointed out that as there was but a single tram that plied the tram tracks of the town, no such collision could take place. Dobson countered that the tram might collide with a bus. Marigold Chew pointed out that the timetables and routes of the tram and the bus had been designed with just such a calamity in mind, and so clever had the planning been that a collision of bus and tram was both theoretically and physically impossible. Dobson thought she said “implausible” and clutched at that straw for a few seconds until corrected. He then aired the idea that the tram might collide with wild roaming cows. Marigold Chew was forced to admit that wild roaming cows did sometimes roam wildly through the town, and could conceivably roam wildly into the path of the oncoming tram. Dobson looked smug. Marigold Chew then landed the killer punch by asking Dobson pointedly what his pneuma-inspired SWAT team would do if sent to intervene in a scene of smashed-up tram and the tangled and bloody bodies of tram passengers and wild roaming cows dead, dying, wounded, scarred, fractured, and hysterical. Dobson had not thought beyond the excitement of his SWAT team descending on cables from their whirring helicopter, and had no ready reply. But at the very moment that he was going to improvise some unconvincing flimflam, the tram clanked to a halt next to the dilapidated barn, and the conversation was forgotten as both Dobson and Marigold Chew alighted in the snow and rummaged in their pippy bags for their Airport Chaplain tickets.

Remarkably, in the ensuing weeks, Dobson received several applications from SWAT team wannabes. It is to his credit that he granted each one a lengthy interview, less so that irrespective of what they said he rejected them all on the grounds that their pneuma was deficient. One hopeful felt crushed by Dobson’s decision, called on him armed with documentary evidence of absolutely fantastic pneuma, and became belligerent. Marigold Chew set the crows on him and he fled. The following spring, he and Dobson passed each other in the street. They spat at each other.

Civic Platform

Yesterday I mentioned Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform, and I am reminded that for a long time now there has been talk of creating a Hooting Yard Civic Platform. Unfortunately, the discussions have been mired in disagreement, unintelligibility, hysteria and pomposity, but perhaps it is time to let bygones be bygones and crack on with the job. Any future Hooting Yard Civic Platform will be robust rather than weedy, and it will be fit for purpose. Those are really the only two things we need to bear in mind, for all else is “as a vapour of haze in a mist of unknowing”, as Mrs Gubbins put it the other day, while talking in her sleep. It is difficult to overstate the importance of Mrs Gubbins’ contribution to this project. The crone is nearly ninety now, and has very few teeth in her head, but she has been around long enough to see an impressive number of Platforms, both Civic and otherwise, come and go. Our Platform, when it is built, will rest on solid foundations, and we must thank her for that, even if she is likely to be taking an afternoon nap when we do so.

I had hoped to bring on board a squad of zonk-eyed Milibands to kick-start this new, energetic phase of Civic Platform development, but Mrs Gubbins’ head turned green and septic when this idea was mooted, so I abandoned it. Instead, I got a pot of paint and daubed NOT WEEDY, ROBUST on a makeshift proto-Platform donated by Old Farmer Frack. Apparently it is made out of bits of a cow byre that he smashed up one night, but it serves its purpose admirably and looks very civic, plopped in the middle of a field rife with bracken. Mrs Gubbins, whose head is thankfully back to normal, has planted some nettles thereabouts, to add what she calls “a dash of Spartan rigour” to the scene. Whether the Spartans made use of nettles in such a way is not something I know about, and nor I suspect does La Gubbins, but it is always best to humour her fancies.

Attractive as the proto-Platform is, it lacks a certain coherence, for it remains unclear what kind of initiatives and policies will be launched from it. And believe you me, I intend the Hooting Yard Civic Platform to be a launch pad for a bewildering number of initiatives and policies. That is why a particularly damp and gloomy cellar in Pang Hill Orphanage will be the headquarters, soon I hope, of the Pang Hill Orphanage Think Tank, from which ideas will fizz. It would already have been set up had I been able to bash into Old Farmer Frack’s head the notion that, as a mad bellowing rustic, he is not a suitable candidate to be the Think Tank’s Director. He has his heart set on the position, bless him, even though it does not involve cows, but I am hoping to fob him off by making him an Honorary Patron.

Which brings me neatly to the main point of this otherwise witless bibblydib, which is that you too can apply to sit alongside Old Farmer Frack at the snackbar counter reserved for Honorary Patrons of the Hooting Yard Civic Platform. To be considered for this unbearably thrilling way of spending your twilight years, all you need to do is to complete the following sentence in no more than ten thousand words: “I will prove to be a robust rather than weedy patron of the Hooting Yard Civic Platform, because my first priority will be…”

Mrs Gubbins will sort through all the entries posted in Comments over the next couple of weeks, in between naps and nettle husbandry.

Polish Tusk News

Is it just me, or does Donald Tusk sound more like the protagonist of a contemporary American novel than the next Prime Minister of Poland? “Donald Tusk” could be a plutocrat in a fat Tom Wolfe paperback, or a sidekick of Oscar Crease in William Gaddis’ superb A Frolic Of His Own.

Mr Tusk’s Civic Platform is likely to form a government in coalition with the Peasants’ Party. Why haven’t we got a Peasants’ Party here? I’d vote for a peasant to be put in charge of things. Not a farmer, nor a Countryside Allianceista, but a proper peasant, in a smock, with a piece of straw in their mouth, and a stock of folk wisdom which I may well find incomprehensible. There must be a peasant called Hoouhmne who could be persuaded to run for office, the sort of Prime Minister who would award honours for the cultivation of Curiously Lumpen And Hirsute Root Vegetables so that Miss Hathorn wouldn’t have to strike her own medal.

Pilgrimage To Pointy Town

Reports reach me of dismal doings at the Pointy Town Tourist Board. In an attempt to drum up visitor numbers, a faction on the Board is engaged in not just the rewriting of history, but its wholesale invention. The latest brochure invites me, and thousands like me, to take part in the so-called Pointy Town Pilgrimage Trail, experiencing “the sights and sounds and tastes and smells that greeted those ancient wayfarers who embarked upon the Pilgrimage to Pointy Town in days of yore”. This is shameless twaddle. In the ancient days to which the brochure refers, Pointy Town itself did not exist. All a wayfarer of yore would have found was an area of curiously pointy ground, with a few ponds on which ancient ducks and swans clamoured. It is true that the pointiness of the land led later to the erection of a town, but in ancient days there were not even any wattle-and-daub dwellings there, and the area has no caves to speak of in which ancestral Pointy Towners could have sheltered from the filthy weather.

The Tourist Board wants us to believe, if I am interpreting the illustrations correctly, that thousands of years ago saucy pilgrims with terrific hairstyles fetched up in Pointy Town from all over the land, and even from lands beyond, and celebrated the general pointiness of things by holding strange ancient ceremonies, traces of which can be found today. For example, there is a gaping pit around the corner from the present post office, and this is meant to be evidence not of botched contemporary roadworks but of a rite involving herons and vipers and bees and hairy men. Where all these herons and vipers and bees and hairy men are meant to have come from, and how they gathered around the pit, and what they did once there gathered, is all left a bit vague. As, to be frank, is the claim that the post office itself stands on the site of the Pointy Town Thing, an ancient parliament on the Icelandic model, and predating the Icelanders’ own Thing by a good few centuries. I am assured that next time I lick the reverse of a postage stamp at the post office counter, I am doing so at the very spot where an ancient Pointy Towner named Anaxacaractagrax proclaimed The Brimmings, whatever they are meant to be. This same Anaxacaractagrax is supposedly related, how we are not told, to Atossa, the imperious mother of Xerxes, which gets the Tourist Board into all sorts of chronological and geographical knots.

Indeed, there are so many knots, vagaries, and plain implausibilities in this invented history that only a fool would be taken in. That being so, it has to be said that there are plenty of foolish people around, for the Pointy Town Pilgrimage Trail is proving to be a thunderous success. Last week I decided to hie over there for the first time in years to see what was going on. I didn’t bother taking the brochure with me, for I had dropped it into a puddle and it was not yet dry. I wore galoshes and the hat of a peasant for my trip, and rather overdid breakfast in the dining carriage of the pneumatic railway train which wheezed, with many spluttering halts, through the horrible countryside towards Pointy Town, the pointy bits of which were visible long before we finally hissed into the station. Having memorised the tourist brochure as best I could, I was aware that the station was part of the pilgrimage trail. It was here, apparently, that the counting of birds took place, the tally posted on a flag hoisted high. What numeric system was used, what material the flag was woven from, and with what instrument the flag was marked: none of this was made clear. Those ancient folk may have had a sort of hemp, but we know for a fact that they had no ink. And, in any case, how did they get all the birds to stand still and be counted? I was already thoroughly exasperated as I made my way to the station canteen for one last plate of sausages and treacle and a bowl of cornflakes and a beaker of tea. Imagine my disgust when I saw that the beaker was stamped with a pilgrimage emblem, and an accompanying leaflet informed me that it was a reproduction of the beakers used by Pointy Town Pilgrims at celebratory feasts on the eve of the Docking Hack.

My temper did not improve as I lumbered slowly into town. There seemed to be not a single street, building, lamp-post or duckpond that had not been hijacked by the Tourist Board for its counterfeit history. Even when I popped into a snackbar for elevenses I could not escape. Sitting down to a hearty pan of pig haunches and suet, I was joined immediately by a local person sporting the hat of an indigent, who barely took time to introduce himself before regaling me with his theory that the ancient Pointy Town pilgrims were not freeborn men and women, but abductees, yoked together like farmyard creatures, driven to the town by brutish captors for purposes we modern sophisticates could only guess at. He had drawings, of course, which he took from an inner pocket of indescribable grubbiness and spread out on the snackbar table, almost knocking over my tumbler of fermenting berry slops as he did so. He talked me through each drawing with some excitement, explaining that the sketches had come to him in fits of entranced lucidity. I was not surprised to see spaceships patrolling the sky in about half of these scribbles, but, curiously, he made no reference to them in his babble. He was insistent that I go along with him to see one of the most pointy bits of Pointy Town, where, he promised, he would show me incontrovertible evidence of his abduction theory in the form of fragments of yoke and chain embedded in ancient shards of bitumen. But I was having none of it. When I had finished my snack, I knocked his hat off his head and swept his drawings off the table, stamping them into the floor as I left.

Back on the street, I checked my bearings by the eerie late morning light and headed towards the town centre, where I wanted to visit the Tourist Board Office. No one, it seemed, was willing to call into question the falsification of Pointy Town history. Emboldened by my breakfasts and elevenses, I determined to give the liars a piece of my mind. It was unlikely that, single-handed, I could dismantle the rash of ahistorical poop engulfing what had been my favourite town, but at least my spleen would be vented, as spleens require venting, preferably after a good lunch. As I pranced alongside the graveyard wall, I reflected on the disservice these bumptious numbskulls were doing to the true heroes of Pointy Town past, men like Ferenc Puskas, the legendary Hungarian football ace, who though he had no connection with the place whatsoever, and indeed had never even heard of Pointy Town, let alone ever visited it in life, was nonetheless a numinous presence in every park and garden and patch of mud, at least as far as I was concerned. It mattered not to me that the Pointy Towners themselves were blind to his ethereal dash and verve. Puskas, for me, was as much a presiding spirit of Pointy Town as was the medieval chieftain Bruno La Poubelle, who laid out the winding pathways of the old town, planted the grassy knoll, built the pergola and the schoolbook depository, and made some of the pointy bits even pointier than nature intended. But where was La Poubelle to be found in this new dispensation? It looked to me as if the Tourist Board had erased him, and it was with a sick heart and a sick brain that I crashed into the Café Spigot, next door to the Tourist Board Office, to have my lunch.

Tucking into a gigantic helping of jugged hare, lobster and branflakes, I rehearsed the uninvited lecture I planned to give to the wretched begetters of the Pilgrimage Trail. I was assuming that they would all be there, next door, skulking about, inventing fresh idiocies, counting the cash they had fleeced from the ignorant. Only during the cheese, sponge and nuts course did it occur to me that today was a public holiday, and the office was likely to be shut. Yet by now I felt impelled to make the lying gits feel the lash of my tongue. I would uphold the glory of the ghosts of Puskas and La Poubelle and dash their pasteboard chaff aside, or squash it underfoot, or crumple it in the palm of my hand, or whatever one does with chaff in Pointy Town. As I took dainty sips from my post-prandial cuppasoup, I remembered that Pebblehead had written a bestselling paperback called A Basic Survey Of Methods Of Pasteboard Chaff Disposal In Pointy Town, and resolved to break and enter the library to consult a copy. Armed with Pebblehead’s techniques, perhaps I could destroy the heritage horrors disfiguring the town and enwrap it once again in the protective blankets of La Poubelle and Puskas.

The library was out beyond the seven tiny warehouses and the fairground, which meant that I had to negotiate my way past the doll hospital, the most frightening place in Pointy Town. Ever since I had first visited it, decades ago, as an ambitious cub reporter sniffing out a story of gruesomeness, treachery, and doll-related frightfulness, it had been the locus of my nightmares. I never did write up the story, and resigned from the Pointy Town Herald & Thunderclap soon afterwards. Thus began my long exile from the town of my birth, my estrangement from all I held dear. The intervening decades have been hard on me, but as I swept along Midge Ure Boulevard I realised that time has been harder on the town itself. All I had cherished seemed to be either vanished or in decay, and even the pointy bits on the approach to the warehouses seemed blunter and less pointy. Was the Tourist Board solely responsible for the ruin, or were there other, wider, more sinister forces at work? I pulled my windcheater tighter around my torso and popped into a roadside tea room for a mug of tea and a jumbo packet of arrowroot biscuits.

The tea room, I learned, was annexed to the Pointy Town badger sanctuary, and imposed a surcharge on each biscuit sold to fund its badger work. Admirable as this initiative was, it made for a tremendously expensive snack, and I began to worry that I would not have cash enough in my pippy bag to afford supper before catching the train home. I also needed to drop into an ironmongery to buy, or rent, the tools necessary to effect my breaking into the library. I was counting out my remaining coins on the tea room’s formica tabletop when a moustachioed old timer sidled over to me. He wore the hat of an ingrate, and gave off a distinct aura of bitter gall. I was in no mood for another snackbar conversation with a conspiracy theorist, so without a word I turfed the oldster’s hat from his head, scooped my coinage back into my pippy bag, and made for the door.

I was halfway towards the ironmongery merchant when I realised that the elderly ingrate, now hatless, was following me, but making no attempt to catch up. I stopped, and he stopped too. I took one pace forward, and he took two. This was because I have a long, loping stride, whereas my pursuer took more cautious, rickety steps. I was surprised he did not topple over. Using binoculars, I scanned his face, to which I had paid little attention in the tea room. So bushy and magnificent was his moustache that it was difficult to see beyond it, but it struck me that there was something familiar about him. He tugged at a corner of my memory, but I could not yet place him. Tucking the binoculars back into their pouch, I walked on, occasionally checking to see if he still trailed me, and he did.

The afternoon sun blazed high in the sky as I reached the spot near the municipal flowerbeds where I expected to find the ironmongery. Many, many years had passed since last I was in Pointy Town, but I hardly expected to find this landmark emporium gone. It was, after all, the most inspiring ironmongery in the whole province, a magnet for bolt-cutting enthusiasts near and far. Yet no trace of it survived. In its place stood a plinth atop which was a hideous cement statue of a saucy pilgrim with a terrific hairstyle, holding a cement placard announcing that this was the end of the Pointy Town Pilgrim Trail. It was ugly, it was spurious, and a magnificent ironmongery shop had been bulldozed by the philistines on the Tourist Board to make way for it. I was livid. I was also dashed in my plan to buy, or rent, tools with which to jemmy the lock on the library door. What now?

I leaned against the railings surrounding the plinth and took from my pocket a bag of brisket and toffee. Munching on these would steady my nerves, and allow me time to think. Just as I bit off a mouthful of brisket, I was overcome by an aura of bitter gall, and the ingrate who had been tailing me suddenly materialised at my side, in a manner I was unable to comprehend and cannot describe. He simply stood there, lugubrious and mournful, with flies circling his hatless head. He was close enough that I had no need of binoculars to examine his face, and I forced my eyes to peer behind the moustache, trying to recall where I had seen him before.

I grew up in Pointy Town, and had an idyllic childhood. I remember tents and swans and dramatic hiking incidents. I remember flag days and sing-songs and buying my first, child-sized, bolt-cutters and other ironmongery items. I remember toads and pastries and gutta percha. I remember hearing the name Ferenc Puskas on the radio, and the sound of thousands cheering. And I remember lolloping home from the library clutching my favourite book, A Lavishly Illustrated History Of Pointy Town For Pointy Town Tinies. And I remember the frontispiece of the book, a mezzotint by the mezzotintist Rex Tint of the medieval Pointy Town chieftain Bruno La Poubelle, with his fantastically bushy moustache. He it was – or his wraith – who stood beside me now. No wonder he was engulfed in an aura of bitter gall, witnessing the desecration of the town he raised from a patch of pointy ground. I gaped at him, pop-eyed, nearly choking on my brisket. Then the sky, so sunny a moment ago, was plunged into an uncanny blackness, and I felt La Poubelle’s hands upon my shoulders, shrivelled yet firm, and I felt the rustle of his mighty moustache upon my forehead, and then I, too, was enveloped in his aura of bitter gall. But I felt most intensely an ennoblement of my spirit, and a startled recognition that with the potency of my brain alone I could smash to smithereens every vile Tourist Board Pilgrimage Trail bubo throbbing with venom in the Pointy Town I loved. I could obliterate them in an instant, if I wished. The blackness evaporated, the sun blazed again as it always did on this blessed town, and I dipped my hand into my bag of brisket and toffee, ready to offer a bite to Bruno La Poubelle. But the apparition had vanished. I was alone by the railings, beneath the cement statue of the spurious saucy pilgrim with the terrific hairstyle. I had the power to dash it to dust. How would I choose?

I retraced my steps to the town centre, beaming as I passed the ducks and swans clamouring on the pond and tipping my peasant’s hat to the demonstrators from Gorgeous George Galloway’s Respect Party who were marching against something or other, or in favour of something else. A beetle-browed university lecturer dodged out of the demo and pressed a shoddy newspaper upon me, so I tested out my new powers by swatting him aside merely by raising an eyebrow. I was pleased to note that as he hurtled over the horizon at inhuman speed, his pile of newspapers burst into flames. I went back to the Café Spigot and ordered a dish of bloaters and spam and goose grease and fudge sundae, and as I sat waiting, I decided that I would let the evening train leave without me. I had come back to Pointy Town, and now I had work to do.

On The Air

I forgot to mention earlier that your favourite radio show, Hooting Yard On The Air, is now broadcasting again, live from the gleaming new studios of ResonanceFM. The show is on at the new time of 6.30 PM on Thursday, and is repeated at 1.00 PM on the following Monday. Podcasts will resume shortly, and I will drop a note here when the Podcast Maestro has got that organised.

That Boris Johnson Letter In Full

Continuing very briefly with the political slant, I felt impelled this morning to fire off an email to Boris Johnson. This is what I wrote:

Dear Mr Johnson

I just stumbled upon an online sample of quotations from your collection Lend Me Your Ears, in one of which you claim that ping-pong was first called whiff-whaff. I think you may be mistaken. Ping-pong was, at least in Britain, originally known as “Gossima”, and marketed as “Causing immense excitement and healthy exercise and is the nearest approach that can be to the game of lawn tennis as played out of doors” (1901).

I trust that in the mȇlée of your constituency duties and campaigning for the London Mayoralty, you will do the decent thing and arrange for a correction to appear in any future edition of the book. Ideally, of course, you will also make a public statement on the matter. Such willingness to acknowledge past errors does smack a little of Stalinism, but may go down well with the ping-pong community.

Yours sincerely,

Frank Key

The Reinvigoration Of British Politics In Three Easy Steps

Here is my three-step plan to reinvigorate British politics.

Step One : The Liberal Democrats elect Chris Huhne as their next leader.

Step Two : A cabinet putsch in the Labour Party sees Geoff Hoon oust Gordon Brown.

Step Three : Returning to their roots, the Conservatives ditch David Cameron and replace him with a proper toff, Lord Home. As is the way with the aristocracy, his name is not simply pronounced as it looks, but as “Hume”.

Done and dusted.


The Hoouhmnes


Mystic Woo

It’s easy to be cynical about the idea of reincarnation, and even easier to mock the countless websites devoted to mystic woo in all its forms. But today I had what platitudinists would term a “wake up call”. At Past Life Analysis, you will find a simple “analysis program” to answer the question “Who were you in your last life?” It looks idiotic, and I do not recommend reading the Disclaimer, but when I entered my birthdate I was flabbergasted to get this result:

Your past life diagnosis:
I don’t know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation. You were a fictional athlete, a sprinter and pole-vaulter named Bobnit Tivol, and you won many tin medals under the guidance of a cantankerous chain-smoking coach called Old Halob.

Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Seeker of cakes and celery pie. You could have had great insight into ancient Etruscan soap-making techniques. Others perceived you as a pioneering prophet of Edward De Bono’s revolutionary “Six Hats Thinking System”, even though you only had two hats.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
You fulfil your lesson by taking well-earned naps. You came to this life to learn to brim with compassionate intensity whenever you contemplate the spindly inmates of Pang Hill Orphanage.

Do you remember now?

To which the answer is : Great Heavens to Betsy, I do!