Rustic Radio

Last summer, in a ground-breaking piece of rustic radio, Hooting Yard On The Air broadcast a very rare audio excerpt from the BBC’s magnificent bumpkin-and-yokel drama Lark Rise To Candleford. In this scene, one of the peasants sprawls next to the drainage ditch and recites Captain Beefheart’s “Old Fart At Play” from Trout Mask Replica. It is now available on the most recently-released podcast, or you can listen to it directly, here, without the rest of Mr Key’s babbling flummery.

OldFartAtPlay (mp3)

A Note On Gnomes

When keeping a tally of gnomes, it is important to be aware of the different varieties, including newly-discovered types of gnome. It is all very well being able to spot, for example, well-known gnomes such as garden gnomes, the gnomes of Zurich, and Rudolf Steiner’s curiously disturbing invisible gnomes, but what will it profit a man if he tallies up some types of gnome but overlooks others entirely?

Consider, for example, the exhausted pipe-cleaner gnomes mentioned in passing on page 149 of Kate Atkinson’s novel Started Early, Took My Dog (2010). To the best of my knowledge, these busy little fellows have not previously been recorded in any authoritative list of gnome-types. Now they have been brought to light, however, it is clear that one must keep an eye out for them when conducting a gnome tally.

Ms Atkinson has little to say about them, although she does note their propensity for drunkenness. We should not be surprised at this, for it does not take much to intoxicate a gnome. And we can hardly begrudge these gnomes their pots of foaming Norwegian lager after a hard day’s pipe-cleaning. Even though you are not a gnome, I expect you too would be exhausted if you were up at the crack of dawn, armed with a scrubbing brush and a bucket of bleach, off to clean pipes until nightfall.

Gnomes are particularly suited to cleaning duties, of course, even when suffering from hangovers, as they usually are. Yet somehow in his magisterial survey of common gnome occupations, Blötzmann omits the pipe-cleaner gnomes, jumping, in his alphabetic list, from oilrig janitor gnomes directly to potting shed snack preparation gnomes. From this we can conclude that the exhausted pipe-cleaner gnomes have deliberately concealed their existence from the wider world, more successfully even than Steiner’s creepy invisible gnomes, which is saying something. The alternative is that Blötzmann failed to notice them, which would mean that his survey is not as magisterial as we have been led to believe. Frankly, that doesn’t bear thinking about. One thing we learn from any half-competent gnome tally is that calling Blötzmann’s expertise into question unleashes those terrible, terrible Blötzmann Reputation Protection gnomes, with their sharpened pins and hallucinatory facial expressions.


Dabbler-3logo (1)‘Tis Friday morning, which means of course that one finds something new in my cupboard at The Dabbler. This week, a brief note on a forgotten drama by the author of God Save The King/Queen, Henry Carey (c.1687-1743), together with a link to the complete text. I hope this will be of interest to any clapped-out old thespians among my readership. Word has it that the Bodger’s Spinney Variety Theatre will be mounting a star-studded production of the play in lieu of this year’s Christmas panto.

Moptop Of Gath

1. Now there dwelt in Gath a moptop whose name was Ringo. And one day the Lord appeared to Ringo and he was sore affrighted. Ringo tugged at the fringe of his moptop so it might cover his eyes that he could hide the Lord from his sight.

2. “Be not afeared, moptop!” boomed the Lord, for the Lord always spake in a boom when He appeared in Gath.

3. And Ringo, who carried a stick in each hand with which he thumped animal hides, had dropped his sticks when tugging at his hair.

4. “Pick up thy sticks!” commanded the Lord, and Ringo did so.

5. “What dost thou want with me, Lord?” wailed Ringo. He was an hairy moptop with many rings on his fingers and an innate sense of rhythm.

6. “Thou shalt hie thee hence to Pisgah,” boomed the Lord, “And thou shalt climb to the top of the mountain and thou shalt thump thy sticks there, upon the hides of bison and salamander, stretched upon a frame, and thump them too upon discs of metal, and make a din.”

7. And the Lord made mysterious manoeuvres with his hands and blessed Ringo the moptop, and then He vanished in a cloud of vaporousness, and all was still, and Ringo was alone in Gath.

8. And Ringo betook himself with great haste to the main railway terminus in Gath where he might catch a train to take him all the way to Pisgah.

9. Now at the railway terminus there was a satrap of exceeding girth, and Ringo spake unto him, saying, “I am sent to Pisgah by the Lord, but I know not how I might journey thence from here.”

10. And the satrap led Ringo to a tank engine and commanded him in a voice of great pomp to step aboard. The engine was blue, the blue of heaven.

11. And with chugs and wheezes the tank engine with the moptop aboard set off along the branch line to Pisgah.

12. But lo! unbeknownst to Ringo the satrap of exceeding girth had so arranged things that the engine was shunted into sidings half way between Gath and Pisgah, and there it sat, and would not move.

13. And thus did Ringo the moptop find himself marooned and far from Pisgah, and from the mountain top, and his two sticks dangled from his beringed fingers with nought to thump, and he wept.

Global Dominion

Hooting Yard’s campaign for global dominion continues apace with the first of four “sponsored” episodes of Norm Sherman’s Drabblecast fiction podcast. Hear Mr Key read a story with added music and sound effects! My thanks are due to Norm and to Salim Fadhley. Follow the link and home in on episode 188, and remember there are three more to come, each with Hooting Yard-related enticements.

Treats In Store

Back in the summer of 2008, I had cause to mention Sabine Baring-Gould, author of innumerable works including a sixteen-volume Lives Of The Saints, a study of werewolves, grave desecration and cannibalism, and a biography of Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875), the eccentric country vicar who spent much of his time smoking opium in a clifftop hut made from driftwood, talked to birds, dressed up as a mermaid, excommunicated his cat, and kept a pet pig.

I am pleased to report that this morning, at the London Library, recalling Baring-Gould, and brimming with glee, I borrowed his Hawker biography (The Vicar Of Morwenstow, 1886), a collection of pieces entitled Curiosities Of Olden Times (1869), and a biography of the great man himself, Onward Christian Soldier : A Life Of Sabine Baring-Gould, Parson, Squire, Novelist, Antiquary 1834-1924 by William Purcell (1957).

This trio of tomes will, I expect, contain much that is diverting and instructive and I shall share the more startling bits with you when I buckle down to reading them.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I must apologise for the dearth of decisive prose at Hooting Yard over the last while. At first I attributed the absence of fizzing sparks in my cranium to my becoming enwrapped in M P Shiel, but I am beginning to think there is another cause. My mind is haunted, haunted I tell you!, by the image of those friendly porpoises pushing octogenarian surfboard man Dick Van Dyke safely to shore from his imperilment upon the sea. Is there any other subject worthy of the attentions of the writer of today? I think not. But then, how to treat, in mere prose, an incident that seems to me more and more numinous and mythic?

No doubt I will shake off this sluggishness and return to the fray, but right now I feel hampered by my sheer inability to do justice to The Greatest Story Ever Told.

O Say Can You See

O say can you see only indistinct blurs? As you squelch through the marsh on your way to the pig sty.

In the cold misty dawn you are poked at with twigs by the sprites of the marsh who are strident and captious.

You’re not wearing your specs. You’re disorientated. You sink to your knees in the vapours of marsh gas.

The sprites harry you, and they hector you too. You spill all the pigfeed out of your tin pail.

Such a dawning as this, on a wet Wednesday morn, it does make you wonder why e’er you were born.

Haunted By Hopkins

With my head still buried in tales by M P Shiel, I find myself wondering if our author was haunted by the spirit of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Rather like that wonderful game Cheese or Font?, one could ask, of certain short passages, Shiel or Hopkins?

Consider the emboldened patch of this sentence, from the apocalyptically bonkers Shiel story Vaila:

“As he lifted a latch the metal flew inward with instant impetuosity and swung him far, while a blast of the storm, braying and booming through the aperture with buccal and reboant bravura, caught and pinned me against an angle of the wall.”

Dead Priest At Two O’ Clock

“The habit is now confirmed in me of spending the greater part of the day in sleep, while by night I wander far and wide through the city under the sedative influence of a tincture which has become necessary to my life. Such an existence of shadow is not without charm; nor, I think, could many minds be steadily subjected to its conditions without elevation, deepened awe. To travel alone with the Primordial cannot but be solemn. The moon is of the hue of the glow-worm; and Night of the sepulchre. Nux bore not less Thanatos than Hupnos, and the bitter tears of Isis redundulate to a flood. At three, if a cab rolls by, the sound has the augustness of thunder. Once, at two, near a corner, I came upon a priest, seated, dead, leering, his legs bent. One arm, supported on a knee, pointed with rigid accusing forefinger obliquely upward. By exact observation, I found that he indicated Betelgeux, the star “a” which shoulders the wet sword of Orion. He was hideously swollen, having perished of dropsy. Thus in all Supremes is a grotesquerie; and one of the sons of Night is – Buffo.”

M P Shiel, Xelucha (1896)