Boogie Woogie

One of the most common difficulties facing newcomers to the teachings of Trebizondo Culpeper is the complete absence, anywhere, of boogie, coupled with the almost terrifying prevalence, throughout, of woogie.

In his magisterial if incoherent Syncretic Glossary Of The “Way” Of Trebizondo Culpeper, J K Pox devotes some three hundred pages to what he calls “the boogie-woogie conundrum”. One can argue that there is no conundrum, but that doesn’t stop Pox harping on about it. As ever, he is flamboyant, and one must admire his refusal to define his terms, as if in doing so the magic, if magic it is, would leach out of them.

“When thunder claps and wolves howl,” he writes, “When the sedge is wither’d on the lake, and gigantic mutant crustaceans come a-clattering on to the sandbanks, then, then! my sweet dear ones, is when we are most tempted to admit into our souls some sort of boogie. Squash the very thought underfoot, as one might a fig during a fig-glut. No, there is not and never has been and never will be boogie, if we follow the Way with eyes bright and brows clean. There is only woogie, blessed, blossoming and blanketing, at once tough as nails and chewy as the king and queen of toffees. So we are taught by Trebizondo Culpeper and so we have embroidered upon our pullovers. Link arms and sing, as snow falls and tinkly things tinkle. Sing!”

Pox does not go on to say what song it is his readers and students should be singing. To do so may have been psychologically impossible for him, for as we know he was, when young, expelled from the Conservatoire before his studies had properly begun, following the incident described in pages 45 to 64 of Pebblehead’s bestselling paperback The Gummed-Up Tuba And The Worm-Eaten Spinet.

In Parenthesis

The greatest parenthesis in literature has already been written, and will never be improved upon. It is from Lolita, where Nabokov writes: “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.”

But one must always be on the lookout for superb phrases, or complete sentences, in parentheses, and there is a fine example in today’s Guardian. Into her review of The Woman Who Shot Mussolini by Frances Stonor Saunders, Lucy Hughes-Hallett drops this marvel: “(Rumour had it he kept a tortoise in his sporran.)”

(One day I must set to work on an anthology of great parentheses.)

Vita And Harold And Violet And Denys (And John)

“When Violet and Denys finally get married, after Vita decides just before the wedding not to go through with the plan for the two women to elope (she had heard from Harold, and ‘something snapped in my mind’), the honeymooners and Vita all find themselves in Paris together, and Vita takes Violet away from Denys (‘I wanted to say “Don’t you know, you stupid fool, she is mine in every sense of the word?”), then Denys takes her back from Vita (‘That night I dined at the Ritz, and from the open window of her room Violet watched me, and Denys sobbed in the room behind her’, and the general conclusion is that ‘That day seems to have made a great impression upon him’ – well, I suppose it would) after which ‘they went away to St Jean de Luz, and I went to Switzerland with Harold’, and then they all go back to England, but soon the girls are off again, to Paris (‘I used to sit in cafés drinking coffee, and watching people go by’ – fancy!) and Monte Carlo (‘divine’), where ‘a complication arose over Denys announcing his arrival at Cannes’ (by now his blue eyes must have been damned near falling out of his head, never mind starting), and they all form twos again and go back to London, but then Violet goes off to Amiens, where Vita is to join her, for ever this time, only when Vita follows she takes Denys along, which complicates the situation until Denys says he will leave them and never come back (‘Denys cried the whole way’), but he does come back, this time travelling with Harold and only a couple of lengths behind Violet’s father, and then Harold actually suggests that Violet may have slept with her own husband (‘I thought I should have gone mad when she said that’) so Vita makes a scene and goes off with Harold from Amiens to Paris, and Violet’s father catches the same train, but no sooner do they get to Paris than Violet turns up (maybe she was at the other end of the train), and the two girls go up to Harold’s and Vita’s room, whereupon Harold bursts in with Denys (how many people were on that train, for God’s sake?), and Denys swears that he has never done anything unbecoming with his own wife (‘I promise you there has never been anything of that kind between Violet and me’), which mollifies Vita a little, ‘but still it was bad enough that she should have deceived me even to a certain extent’, and then it all gets rather confused, except that at one point Vita goes to Paris, Violet goes to Bordighera and Denys goes to Cornwall (no mention of Harold – perhaps he’s just gone to bed), and among other places visited by the various parties are Avignon, San Remo and Venice – oh, now I remember where Harold was – he says he has been ‘spending his time with rather low people, the demi-monde’, and he sums up by saying ‘my heart feels like a pêche melba’, and then Violet fades away and Harold and Vita live happily ever after, apart from Vita’s having an affair with Virginia Woolf, and another one, just to vary things, with Geoffrey Scott, while Harold…

“The long and the short of the matter is that practically everybody in this ludicrous story has a nice comfortable income, apart from the charwoman whom Vita steps across when visiting Violet early one morning, and of whom she says ‘There was a dreary slut scrubbing the doorstep’. When you have plenty of money you can not only afford to rush about between London and Amiens and Paris (where you stay at the Ritz, of course – well, I mean, doesn’t everybody?) and San Remo and Bordighera and Monte Carlo and Avignon and Venice; you can also afford (if you are silly enough to want to) to spend your time striking grotesque poses, keening over your own emotions, and saying things like ‘I had been vouchsafed insight, as one sometimes is’. The ‘dreary slut’ scrubbing the doorstep could no more afford the poses than she could afford the travel, and I would dearly like to read her diary, particularly if it contained a passage about some stupid, snobbish, affected woman who stepped right on to her nice clean doorstep the minute after she had just whitewashed the bleedin’ thing.”

Bernard Levin, reviewing Portrait Of A Marriage by Nigel Nicolson in The Observer, 28 October 1973, collected in Taking Sides (1979).

ADDENDUM : Elsewhere in the collection, Levin writes thus of Yoko Ono’s husband (in 1974): “There is nothing wrong with Mr Lennon that could not be cured by standing him upside down and shaking him gently until whatever is inside his head falls out.”

The Star On The Vest

Dear Mr Key, writes Dagmar Glossop from Shoeburyness, I recently came upon this terrific photograph at My Ear-Trumpet Has Been Struck By Lightning (where a much, much larger version can be seen), and I fell to wondering if it might be a rare snapshot of fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol. Please enlighten me.


Dear Ms Glossop, I can see immediately why you thought this might be fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol. It’s that star on his vest. The whizzo sprinter and pole-vaulter never appeared in public without such a star, on the instructions of his catarrh-wracked coach, Old Halob, for whom it had some kind of mystical quality. Unfortunately, however, the dashing young chap in the photograph is not fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol. I say this with due authority, based on two unarguable points. One, fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol, being fictional, was never snapped by any camera wrought by human hand. Two, it is common knowledge that fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol’s athletics kit, as well as being emblazoned with a star, was much baggier than the kit seen here. In fact it was inordinately baggy.

Bonkers Maisie

Bonkers Maisie in her cart, trundling past the madhouse wall. Has she read The Intellectual Part by author Rayner Heppenstall? Yes she has, a hundred times, it is the only book she owns. She can act it out in mimes while juggling several traffic cones. She trundles ‘long the rutted lane, heading for the distant sea. Sprites cavort within her brain, a brain no bigger than a bee. Dainty is her air and mien, though her cap is set askew. She is in love with Lothar Preen, the maestro. He is bonkers too.

By the sea they shall be wed, then sail away in a barquentine. Hearts of tin, hearts of lead, they shall yearn and they shall pine for the land o’ pomposity they have quit, where Mrs Gubbins’ll sit and knit commemorative tea cosies by the score, for Preen and Maisie, on the shore, like King Canute upon the beach. In the squall huge seabirds screech.

The cart’s abandoned. It will rot. There’s a moral lesson there, is there not?

Shade Of Smart

Could it be that the shade of Christopher Smart is haunting the corridors of a large and important municipal building in far away Oregon? This unlikely question is prompted by a discovery made by Brit over at Think Of England. In the course of his valuable research into the Official State Crustaceans of the USA, Brit unearthed House Joint Resolution 37 from the Oregon Legislative Assembly, adopted in 2009.

There is nobody called Smart among the Representatives and Senators who passed the Resolution, but it is clear to me that the mad poet’s spirit hovered over whomsoever drafted it. Granted, it uses “Whereas” rather than Christopher Smart’s favoured “Let”s and “For”s in Jubilate Agno, but otherwise this could be a lost fragment of that great poem:

Whereas the Dungeness crab fishery is the most valuable single-species fishery in Oregon, making Dungeness crab an important part of Oregon’s economy; and

Whereas the Dungeness crab is an iconic Oregon symbol; and

Whereas the Dungeness crab is the most delicious of the crab species; and

Whereas the Dungeness crab annual harvest begins each year on December 1, when Dungeness crabs are hard-shelled, full of meat and in their prime; and

Whereas the Dungeness crab harvest ends on August 14 to minimize handling, so that post-molt, soft-shelled crabs can fill out undisturbed; and

Whereas this management method has served the resource well for decades and ensures that the Dungeness crab fishery is truly sustainable; now, therefore,

Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

That the Dungeness crab is the official crustacean of the State of Oregon.

Pebblehead Goes To Porlock

Some years ago, I wrote about Dobson’s foolish theory that the person from Porlock who fatally interrupted the composition of Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge was, in fact, some kind of pod person from a parallel Porlock beyond the stars. I noted at the time that Dobson had never seen fit to devote a pamphlet to this twaddle, leaving us in some doubt as to the nature of this pod person, and in utter ignorance about the Porlock from whence it came.

Most people who have studied the matter conclude that the person in Dobson’s theory was a flesh-eating space zombie hatched from a pod, the pod itself brought to the vicinity of the Exmoor cottage in which Coleridge was staying by a primitive interplanetary cargo ship, intentionally or otherwise. But if this were so, and one such pod person came bashing upon the cottage door, how did the poet survive such an encounter? Survive it he did, of course, going on to live a long(ish) and fantastically talkative life thereafter.

Other questions surround the matter of Porlock, whether – in the theory – the pod-packed cargo ship crash-landed in the Somerset village of that name, or whether there is, somewhere in the mighty universe, a planet Porlock where are bred pod persons.

The latest writer to turn his attention to this fascinating business is Pebblehead, whose brand new bestselling paperback is entitled Person From Porlock! Note the missing Pod prefix. Pebblehead’s book is a first-person narrative, as if recounted by the “person on business from Porlock” himself, beginning a week before he strides o’er the loam to the cottage where Coleridge is ensconced, and ending, years and years later, as he faces death in a Victorian Porlock workhouse, his business, and his wits, having failed. In a tremendously exciting passage, Pebblehead has the raving and babbling person from Porlock imagining, on his deathbed, an encounter with his pod-doppelgänger who, it transpires, has been skulking about in his wake, like the familiar in the story by J Sheridan Le Fanu, ever since the fateful day in 1797 when he rapped upon Coleridge’s cottage door.

Several readers have pointed out the efforts Pebblehead takes to emphasise that this part of his narrative is, in his own words, “the hysterical drivel of a brainsick maniac”, and taken this to be a barb aimed at Dobson. Could it be that the paperbackist is limbering up for his long-rumoured unauthorised biography of the out of print pamphleteer, a work in progress which, it is said, will topple Dobson from his plinth in the pantheon of pamphleteers? No word comes from Pebblehead’s “chalet o’ prose”, only the sound of the indefatigable hammering of his fat fingers upon his battered and bloody keyboard.

Person From Porlock! by Pebblehead is published by Hefty Airport Bookstall Paperbacks Ltd, and is available from all good airport bookstalls.

Here Be Dragons

One can truncate it slightly, and omit the inverted commas, without altering the essential meaning. This is the best headline since that business about Blunkett and the cow:

Norman Tebbit attacks child in dragon outfit

NOTE : Hmm. The Daily Mail has changed the headline on its story, thus making my truncation and omission comments meaningless. All I can say is that it’s a good job I posted this version before it was lost.

Notes Towards A Dictionary Of Great Composers

Here are two things I learned today, which, taken together, have planted in my brain the idea of writing A Dictionary Of Great Composers. These would be the complete entries for those named, and dozens, nay, hundreds of others would be similarly brief:

Schubert, Franz. Upon his deathbed, his final wish was that someone would bring him some books by James Fenimore Cooper.

Tippett, Michael. He referred to the refrigerator in his kitchen as “Bernard Levin”.

Candide Camera

The other day the BBC Parliament channel showed a repeat of the general election coverage from February 1974. This is precisely the kind of thing I can watch, avidly, for hours. I rarely essay political topics here at Hooting Yard, but when not engaged in high level research into matters Dobsonian or limning the contours of Bodger’s Spinney or whatever else I prattle on about, I can be a terrible political pointyhead. There is a special fascination with old archive footage – the haircuts, the fruity pronunciation, the clunking technology, the on-screen fug of tobacco smoke, the impossibly youthful appearance of people still in the public eye, the phantoms of those who are dead and gone…

Of many treasurable moments, one in particular stood out for me. Jeremy Thorpe was down in his Devon constituency, on camera yet speaking to the London studio via a large green telephone receiver clutched tight against his ear, and as he signed off he said he was planning to spend the weekend doing lots of gardening before returning to the fray on Monday. Back in the studio, Alastair Burnet said, very casually, “Jeremy Thorpe there, very Voltairean… now, some more results…”

I cannot imagine any presenter today making that comment, either because they wouldn’t be capable of doing so, or, if they were, it would be considered too obscure a reference for the viewers, who need to be treated like slow-witted infants.

I will, of course, be glued to the screen for hours come the forthcoming election, and will enjoy every minute of the coverage. But if any reference at all is made to anything outside the hermetically-sealed world o’ Westminster, it will be to an airhead “celebrity” rather than to an Enlightenment philosophe.

Hell Broke Loose

John F Ptak at the invaluable Ptak Science Books blog has a superb post on Ranter and anti-Ranter pamphlets of the 17th century, in which he celebrates their way with titles, like this one:

Hell broke loose: or, the notorious design of the wicked Ranters, discovered on Sunday last at Black-Fryers Being a true relation of the strange proceedings of Mr. Vaughan, and his wicked proselytes; and their entring of Black-Fryers church in sermon time, like so many spirits from hell, with four damnable papers in the hands, containing such horrible, audacious, and abominable songs, the like not to be parallel’d in former ages. With the manner how this onsolent Ranter traced the streets from Black-Fryers to Saint Paul’s Church-yard, in his Holland shirt, without doublet or breeches, a treble cap, like the Pope’s miter, with silk fring, and white shooes, and stockings. With their damnable plots, and conspiracies against the ministers of the gospel: their examination before the right honourable the Lord Mayor of London; the sad and woful speeched, made by the ringleader of the Ranters, concerning the city magistrates, and golden chains: and the committing of them to Bridewell till the next sessions. 1650

Pre-Glacial Grunty Man

“Snow! Gor had traveled far, but never had he seen a storm like this with white cold in the air. Again a shiver that was part fear rippled through his muscles and gripped with invisible fingers at his knotted arms.

“‘The Beast of the North is angry!’ he told himself.

“Through the dark and storm, animals drifted past before the blasts of cold. They were fleeing; they were full of fear – fear of something that the dull mind of Gor could not picture. But in that mind was the same wordless panic.

“Gor, the man-animal of that pre-glacial day, stared wondering, stupidly, into the storm with eyes like those of the wild pig. His arms were long, almost to his knees; his hair, coarse and matted, hung in greasy locks about his savage face. Behind his low, retreating forehead was place for little of thought or reason. Yet Gor was a man…”

From Two Thousand Miles Below : A Four-Part Novel by Charles Willard Diffin, published in Astounding Stories between June 1932 and January 1933. New research suggests Diffin may have been writing about a fictionalised version of the Grunty Man who is, as we know, older than the Earth itself.

Uncake Day

In some cultures, it is traditional for Uncake Day to take place shortly after Pancake Day. On Uncake Day, sacks of flour are hidden away behind wooden partitions, eggs remain uncounted and ignored in their nests and cartons, and milk from cows is used to make pap or slops for the benefit of bedridden invalids. No pan may be used for the making of a cake, on pain of excommunication from whichever faith one professes, or execution, by the severing of one’s head or the ripping of one’s heart, bloody and throbbing, from one’s chest, depending on the savagery of that faith.

It has been said, by Clunk among others, that the savagery of a religious tradition is in direct correlation to its cake dogmas. Woolly-minded, cardigan-wearing followers of weedy milksop faiths will have few if any prohibitions on the eating of cake, including the pancake, that most panny of all cakes. Such vapid belief systems also use cake as a celebratory foodstuff at every opportunity, rather than acknowledging its numinous quality by restricting cakey joy to one or two days a year, as the barbaric and blood-drenched religions do.

In a certain light, when cooked just so, a pancake resembles a miniature edible sun. That, surely, tells us all we need to know.