Monthly Archive for July, 2011

Stupid Ancient Greek Men

[Thomas Carlyle's] aversion for the ‘fixed smile’ of Greek statuary was equal to that of Ruskin, and his way of expressing it no less individual. Carlyle sat to G F Watts for his portrait, and Watts, as he often did in conversation with his sitters, began to talk of Pheidias. Carlyle advanced a criticism which no one else seems to have thought of. He contended that among all the sculptured beings which the genius of Pheidias had produced there was ‘not one clever man’. With the long upper lip of Ecclefechan obstinately tightened he declared that a short upper lip showed an absence of intellect. He stuck to his point even when Watts cited Napoleon, Byron, and Goethe as evidence against him. He added that the jaw of the Greek was not sufficiently prominent. ‘Depend upon it,’ said Carlyle, ‘neither God nor man can get on without a jaw.’ ‘There’s not a clever man amongst them all,’ he repeated, ‘and I would away with them – into space.’

from William Gaunt, Victorian Olympus (1952)

Thanks to Nige for alerting me to this splendid book, in this post over at The Dabbler.

The Care And Feeding Of Pigtapes

Dear Mr Key, writes Tzipi Blankette, again, Thank you very much for the helpful information about the little stint. I now wish to raise a completely unrelated matter. I read with great interest your piece on the feeding of a pigtape, and I find myself in something of a quandary. I would very much like to obtain a pet pigtape for my tiny infant, Bathsheba, but I have been told in no uncertain terms by a number of religious and spiritual authorities that she does not have a soul. One particularly forbidding Jesuit announced, in a booming voice, that little Bathsheba is the spawn of the devil. Apparently, it is rare for a baby to be born with vivid markings resembling the number 666 emblazoned atop their skull. Now she is some six years of age, her hair has grown and the markings are no longer visible, but Father Tonguelash S.J. says this makes no difference.

Spawn of the devil or no, it does seem to be the case that Bathsheba is soulless, for her innards have been examined with probes, plungers, x-ray scanners, and geothermal imaging systems, and in among all the bones and veins and tissue and sinew and liver and lights etcetera there is indeed no sign of anything resembling a soul, which as we know is about the size and shape and colour of a plum tomato, though intangible and shimmering and glorious and immortal in a way that a plum tomato is not. That being so, Bathsheba has no suitable home in which a pigtape might nest, but I so want her to have one, especially now she is going to kindergarten. You know what children are like, and I fear she will be teased mercilessly.

Please let me know if there is any advice you can give a poor addled parent at this difficult time. Yours even more sincerely than yesterday, Tzipi Blankette.

Well, Tzipi, I suggest you ignore the Jesuits and just go ahead and buy a pigtape for your daughter. Most townlets have a pigtape supplier, usually located down one of the less salubrious alleyways near the railway station. Pigtapes may need a few days to acclimatise themselves to their new environment. Set aside a small nook or cranny in your home to settle the pigtape in, and before bringing it home lay out plenty of newspaper and throw the windows open. Place in the nook a small box or carton, lined with a scrap of fabric taken from a piece of clothing worn by its new owner, in this case Bathsheba. Some wool from one of her bonnets would be ideal. To help the pigtape get used to its new surroundings, avoid making loud noises or sudden movements in the vicinity of the carton. When it has had a few days to adjust, you can introduce it to Bathsheba gently, for two or three minutes at a time. If she is clutching in her little fist a leaf of lettuce, a radish, or some breadcrumbs, all the better. It is also a good idea to put out a saucer in which you can pour the dregs from a can of Squelcho!, but make sure Bathsheba doesn’t lap this up herself. After a few days, or weeks, or months, or in some cases even years, the pigtape will be thoroughly at home, and will creep, grunting, to its permanent nest, or sty, when you are not looking.

NOTE : Mr Key wishes to thank Miss Dimity Cashew for her help with pigtape advice.

The Little Stint

Dear Mr Key, writes Tzipi Blankette, I recently stumbled upon your Hooting Yard website and so enthralling did I find it that, using clever speed-reading techniques, I have read the entire contents, dating back to 2003, in a matter of hours. What has particularly impressed me is your tremendous erudition on the subject of birds. I have always been interested in ornithology, passionately so, but my knowledge of the subject is scant and flimsy. I can honestly say I have learned more through speed-reading your work than from any other birdy source at which I have supped, to put it poetically. Yes, Mr Key, I confess I am something of a poet. The reason I am being so bold as to write to you is that I am currently working on a sonnet sequence about little stints. I know almost nothing of the little stint, but I read carefully your postage yesterday, where you gave, in a footnote, an explanation of the term “unstinting”. I would be enormously grateful if you could expand upon this, and perhaps share with a poor Plathian versifier your boundless knowledge of this tiny wading bird. Yours sincerely, Tzipi Blankette.

I often receive letters from bird-ignorant readers in awe of my avian learning. Usually, I cast them straight into the pneumatic waste chute, because, quite frankly, if I replied to them all I would never get any other work done, and our feathered friends are just one teensy weensy fragment among my many and varied interests, which also include the Kennedy Assassination, the Hindenburg Disaster, eggs and bees, to name but four.

It so happened, however, that Ms Blankette’s letter plopped through the letterbox just as I was putting the finishing touches to my new book, Crush Your Business Rivals By Unleashing Your Inner Little Stint. This is the first in a series of management guides for top CEOs which I hope will be bestsellers in the burgeoning market for management guides for top CEOs. Unfortunately for Ms Blankette, however, I have already signed a contract with a global publishing concern specialising in management guides for top CEOs, under the terms of which I am unable to reproduce any of the text on this website. The book itself will contain ninety-nine percent of my knowledge of the little stint, so all I am able to do here to help out the fledgling poetess is to cobble together a few dribs and drabs that didn’t quite make it into my manuscript.

Under no circumstances must you confuse the little stint with Temminck’s stint. Try to remember the wise old rustic saying “When it comes to stints, there are two words / The little and Temminck are different birds”. Having said that, matters are confused further by the fact that not only are there two words for the two different stints, but there are dozens of other words for the little stint itself, depending on where you are in the world. For example, you will be making a basic error if, in some other, alien, distant land, out on a bird-spotting expedition with your pals Lars and Prudence, you point your finger and shout “Look, Lars and Prudence, a little stint!” What you ought to shout, assuming you know where you are, is “Look, Lars and Prudence, a – “ followed by one of the following terms: jespák malý, Zwergstrandläufer, Dværgryle, Correlimos Menudo, pikkusirri, Bécasseau minute, Veimiltíta, Gambecchio comune, nishitounen, Kleine Strandloper, Dvergsnipe, biegus malutki, Pilrito-pequeno, Combatente, pobrežník malý, Småsnäppa, Mazaricu Nanu, Sərçəvari qumluq cüllütü, Ar sourouc’han bihan, Corriol menut, Redonell, Territ menut, Pibydd bach, Pibydd lleiaf, Premavera, malgranda kalidro, Playerito menudo, Väikerisla, väikerüdi, Txirri txikia, Dvørggrælingur, Gobadáinín Beag, Looyran beg, Žalar ciganin, Apró partfutó, Chnchghuk Kttsar, Youroppa-tounen, Stynt munys, Calidris minuta, Ereunetes minutus, Erolia minuta, Mažasis bėgikas, Trulītis, Rivarel nanin, Kulik-vorobey, Uhcacovzoš, mali prodnik, Gjelaci i vogël, blataric patuljak, Tsititsiti-nyenyane, Chokowe Mdogo, Küçük kumkuşu, Dẽ nhỏ, or Rẽ nhỏ.

I would think that list provides Tzipi Blankette with plenty of words for her sonnet sequence, which I hope I get a chance to read before it is shoved away into a desk drawer and left to gather unto itself the dust of neglect.

Counterfeit Owls

These are not real owls. Find out where they are perched here.

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On This Day

On this day, three years ago, I noted a startling insight from the Today programme on Radio Four:

There are differences in the ways serial killers and bees behave, obviously.

Thus spake serial-killer-and-bee expert Dr Nigel Rayne. Obviously.

Marzipan Wolf

A life-size marzipan wolf makes a splendid teatime treat at gatherings of the extended family. For smaller kinship grouplets, it can be portioned up and served piecemeal after supper over several days, or even weeks, depending on the portion sizes.

The first thing to do is to commandeer the kitchen, together with any adjacent pantries, larders and icehouses. If you employ skivvies, drive them out, with a broom if necessary. They can busy themselves awhile in an outbuilding or annexe, or you can just dismiss them, with or without character references. Bear in mind, however, that when you have finished making your life-size marzipan wolf you will probably want the skivvies back in the kitchen, toiling through all the hours God sends, so whatever you decide to do, treat them with kindness, or at least what passes for kindness in your bleak forbidding grim authoritarian household.

Next, acquire a large glob of marzipan. It should be at least the size, if not the shape, of an average adult wolf. If you are not sure what that is, make study of wolves, for example by combing through reference books, preferably illustrated, by watching informative documentary films at the local fleapit, or by stalking the heaths and moors at dead of night. Remember that in moonlight it can be difficult to judge distance, so get as close to any pack of heath or moorland wolves as you possibly can. Wear dark clothing and night-vision goggles, if they are available in your neck of the woods.

Once you are alone in your kitchen with a wolf-size glob of marzipan on the countertop, you can proceed to mould it into the shape of a wolf. The basic idea is to go for absolute verisimilitude, so that the members of your extended family or smaller kinship grouplet do a double-take.

“My oh my! What on earth is a wolf doing, sitting there without a care in the world on an enormous cake-stand in the middle of the dining table?” they will exclaim, before blinking a couple of times and adding, “Oh! Silly me! Look, it is all yellow and made out of marzipan!”

It can be a very tricky effect to pull off successfully, especially if you are cack-handed. Nor should you even begin the project if you are suffering from delirium tremens or from any other condition which causes you to shake uncontrollably, such as having recently spent five hours atop a vibrating platform or watched a terrifying non-documentary film about spooks and ghosties and monsters at the local fleapit.

Steady-handed, then, mould the marzipan accordingly, and place it on the aforementioned enormous cake-stand in the middle of your dining table. You are now ready to throw open the doors of the dining room and beckon your extended family or smaller kinship grouplet, who will be lounging around in the parlour glugging sherry and exchanging anecdotes, or, if puritanical, as they probably are given the bleak forbidding grim authoritarian nature of your household, sipping from tumblers of tap water and frowning in silence.

Bon appetit!

Dick Van Dabbler

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This week in The Dabbler I provide a unique insight into my working methods, casting a frank and unstinting* gaze upon the creative process involved in the writing of the masterpiece that is Porpoises Rescue Dick Van Dyke.  Mention of which reminds me that, several days after publication, there may be one or two readers in far-flung corners of the earth who have not yet bought copies. You know who you are. Zip thyselves o’er to Lulu and make purchase now, tardy ones!

* NOTE : “Unstinting”, in this context, means “not involving at any stage the participation of a stint”. As any fule kno, a stint is a type of bird, specifically a very small wader known in North America as a peep. They can be difficult to identify because of the similarity between species, and various breeding, non-breeding, juvenile and moulting plumages, but you shouldn’t let that stop you.

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Persiflage And Facecloth

Readers will recall the podcast Airy Persiflage, wherein from time to time its onlie begetter, Walter O’Hara, turns his attentions to scribblings by Mr Key and the recitation thereof. In his latest outpourings for podpersons, Mr O’Hara tackles Ambrose And Signor Ploppo (accompanied by “young Gar”) and The Cruel Sea.

It is perhaps worth giving some background to Mr O’Hara’s choice of the latter piece. The other day, he “befriended” me on Facebookcloth. There, I noted that he can lay claim to having posted the most sensible status update ever to appear on the social networking site, a transcription of The Cruel Sea in its entirety. Several of his Facecloth friends wondered what he was wittering on about and made various (wrong) guesses before he revealed the sordid truth. At which point I stepped in to say how delighted I would be were he to recite the piece on his podcast. And lo! it came to pass!

Complete and (initially) unattributed transcription of Hooting Yard texts as Facecloth updates is clearly the way forward. Let us hope it catches on.

Urgh

It is my lot as a scribbler to research subjects so you don’t have to. It is selfless and noble and ill-paid work, but I do it uncomplainingly – well, apart from those times, increasingly frequent, when I buttonhole bystanders at the bus stop or in the post office queue and unburden myself by delivery of a dyspeptic harangue. But otherwise I do not complain. So when Outa_Spaceman left a comment on the piece Find The Bailing Bucket, seeking further particulars of Urgh the howler monkey – mentioned at the very end of the page here – I set to the task with a will, with vim, even with gusto. Granted, at one point I did shout out of the window at a passing hoodieperson, but otherwise I spent uninterrupted hours with my head buried in the sorts of reference works where one might expect to find out all there is to be found out about howler monkeys. I can now present my preliminary findings.

The first thing to do is to cast from your mind everything David S Nelson of Falls Church, VA,* has to say about Urgh the howler monkey. He is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I think I know why. Mr Nelson has almost certainly garnered all that stuff about berries and anacondas and noisy breathing and disgusting bananas from a collection of newspaper cuttings held in a cardboard box in the archives of one of the less reliable howler monkey information centre libraries. It is a common enough mistake. You would not guess, from the PR guff put out by this particular library, that it is a hotbed of disinformation, possibly funded by Communists and similar weedy-brained ne’er-do-wells, but I guessed, because I am fab that way, and don’t you forget it!

The newspaper cuttings are convincing forgeries, but forgeries nevertheless. By dint of the pincer-like precision of my research, if I mean pincer-like, and I think I do, I can reveal exclusively that the deliberate counterfeiting of details of Urgh the howler monkey’s biography served a malign purpose, but fortunately not one with cataclysmic world-juddering implications. Indeed, if the fiendish scheme had come to fruition, it would have had an effect only within the immediate vicinity of the information centre, and the effect itself, hideously awful as it would be, would have dissipated within a day or so. It makes one wonder why some weedy-brained ne’er-do-wells will go to such lengths, it really does. But perhaps that goes some way to account for the weediness of their brains.

Having jettisoned the twaddle eagerly lapped up by Mr Nelson, what are we left with? A monkey, a monkey which howls, and which is called Urgh, By God!, it is not beyond the wit of man to track down such a creature and apprise oneself of the facts. That is why, tomorrow, I shall embark upon the next stage of my research. Having pored over the hefty leather-bound directories on the mahogany shelves of a reliable howler monkey information centre library, and made voluminous notes in my notepad with my propelling pencil on the location of a number of promising howler monkey colonies, I have already purchased a return ticket to travel potentate class on a freight container ship sailing tomorrow morning for an appropriate continent. My pippy bag is packed and I’m ready to go, I’m standin’ here outside a door, as Denver might have put it. I am brimming with almost laughable self-confidence that, upon my return, I will be in a position to write the definitive warts and all biography of Urgh the howler monkey, guaranteed to be one hundred percent true, and fully illustrated with pencil sketches, watercolours, rotogravures and mezzotints.

* NOTE : I think it is worth mentioning here that there is one inhabitant of Falls Church, VA, who proudly sports a Hooting Yard lapel accoutrement. But it is not David S Nelson. It is one John Huston, who, as a Hooting Yard reader, probably knows more about howler monkeys than Mr Nelson will ever learn.

Alphapod Soup

Alphabet Soup

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Find The Bailing Bucket

The 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest awards have been announced, and there is some terrific – that is, awful – stuff duly honoured. Go here for the winners and runners-up.

There is one passage that, to my mind, doesn’t belong in the list. I would have been proud to write the sentence that made Mike Mayfield the runner-up in the Adventure category. Far from being “bad” writing (deliberately or otherwise), I think this is superb, and rather Hooting Yardy:

Sensing somehow a scudding lay in the offing, Skipper Bob tallied his tasks: reef the mains’l, mizzen, and jib, strike and brail the fores’l, mizzen stays’l and baggywrinkles, bowse the halyards, mainsheets, jacklines and vangs, turtle and belay fast the small cock, flemish the taffrail warps, batten the booby hatch, lay by his sou’wester, and find the bailing bucket.

Long long ago, when I was wet behind the ears, I wrote a story which began: “Oh, I so wanted this to be a seafaring yarn.” Then and now, I could learn a thing or two from Mike Mayfield.

UPDATE : Readers who follow the link to By Aerostat To Hooting Yard and read it for the first time should note that the Dobson in the story is completely unrelated to that well-loved character Dobson the out of print pamphleteer.  Just so you know.

Lapel Accoutrement Poll Update

At time of writing, Krishnan Guru-Murthy has nudged ahead of Yoko Ono in our poll to decide on the luminary most deserving of a complimentary Hooting Yard lapel accoutrement. Could it be, I wonder, that the email I fired off to him at Channel 4 News the other day bore fruit?

Dear Mr Guru-Murthy

You are currently in second place (behind Yoko Ono) in a readers’ poll at Hooting Yard to choose the luminary most deserving of a complimentary Hooting Yard lapel accoutrement. Might I suggest you vote for yourself and encourage others in the Channel 4 newsroom to cast their votes in your favour?

Clearly something is going right, as many of my readers may be under the impression you are a fictional character, and they still vote for you!

Yours sincerely

Frank Key

Some readers may be appalled by what they see as a morally reprehensible attempt to influence the outcome of the poll. Let me assure these virtuous souls that I fully intend to fire off similar letters to De Botton, Huffington, Tempah, and Ono. But not Balls, for Christ’s sake, not Balls!

Spade

It has been an industrious week at Hooting Yard, what with the publication of a brand new paperback and the production of those lovely lapel accoutrements. Global domination has never seemed so surely within my grasp. Whatever next?, you may ask. Fridge magnets? Monogrammed bomber jackets? Hooting Yard tea-cosies? Tee-shirts?

Mention of tee-shirts is as good a pretext as any to bring to your attention this splendid (if unrealised) design by recently-deceased Hooting Yard aficionado Martin Clare, recorded by his brother in a funeral tribute.

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Dobson And The Pit

“I think,” said Dobson, at breakfast one foul and rain-sodden Tuesday morning, “It is time we had our own mosh pit.”

Marigold Chew raised an eyebrow.

“Do you actually know what a mosh pit is?” she asked.

“Not exactly,” replied the twentieth century’s greatest out of print pamphleteer, “But I suspect it would be a good use of that part of the garden overhung by laburnum and sycamore and larch. You know that patch o’er which hangs leafage so dense that it is forever in shadow, and is home to brambles and nettles and dockweed. I cannot even remember the last time I sat or stood in it nor even walked though it, nor can I recall ever seeing you doing so, O cherished one. It is unused ground, and no ground ought to be unused on this earth, according to some authorities.”

“Which authorities might they be, Dobson?” asked Marigold Chew.

“I think there is a maxim to that effect in the Maxims of Bombastus Dogend, or I could be thinking of Listerine Optrex, also a great one for maxims. I can check later.”

“So let me get this straight,” said Marigold Chew, marshalling with her fork the last few caraway seeds on her breakfast plate, “You intend to dig a pit in a shady arbour in the garden, and dub it a mosh pit, without any clear understanding – without any understanding at all – of what a mosh pit is?”

“I shall look it up in a thick and exhaustive reference book,” said Dobson, mad with cornflakes.

“So you will be going to the mobile library?” said Marigold Chew.

“That is my plan,” said the pamphleteer, and he got up from the table and proceeded to don his Andalusian Sewage Inspector’s boots.

“Today is Tuesday,” said Marigold Chew, “So the mobile library is in quite a different, and distant, bailiwick.”

“And you think I am going to let that stop me?” shouted Dobson melodramatically as he crashed out of the door into the downpour.

Untold hours later, Dobson came crashing back through the door, sopping wet, with a gleam in his eye and a thin, pained smile playing about his lips, as if he were Ronald Colman shooting a scene for Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942).

“Well, Dobson, what news?” asked Marigold Chew.

Dobson took his pipe from his pocket, crammed into it a thub of Rotting Orchard Fruit ‘n’ Conkers Pipe Tobacco from his other pocket, lit up and puffed, and said:

“I had a deal of difficulty finding the thick and exhaustive reference book I sought. Actually, before that I had a deal of difficulty finding the mobile library itself. There is a new mobile librarian, of wild and untrammelled mien, with an unruly beard, whose grasp of the schedule is weak. He had driven the pantechnicon to quite an unsuitable bailiwick, near cliffs, where the native peasants, having never seen the mobile library before, stood in a ring around it, holding aloft their pitchforks and sticks tipped with tarry burning rags, gawping. I think they may have had it in mind to sacrifice the mobile librarian on a pyre.”

“Gosh!” said Marigold Chew.

“Be that as it may,” continued Dobson, “I barged my way through the seething peasant throng and climbed into the pantechnicon. The wild beardy person was engaged in some sort of haphazard reshelving exercise, oblivious of the peasants outside. The mobile library holdings, including several thick and exhaustive reference books, one of which was critical to my research, lay scattered about higgledy-piggledy. Oh! I was sorely vexed. But I found what I wanted eventually, under a pile of paperback potboilers by Pebblehead. And – “

“You have created a puddle on the floor, Dobson,” interrupted Marigold Chew, “So soaked you are from rainfall. Finish your pipe and mop up the puddle and then you can continue your tale over a nice piping hot cup of ersatz cocoa substitute.”

And it was during the subsequent conversation that the out of print pamphleteer revealed to his poppet that he had indeed discovered the nature of a mosh pit.

“Apparently,” he said, “A mosh pit is an area where gaggles of frenzied teenpersons hurl themselves about in an uncoordinated and rambunctious manner to a soundtrack of improbably loud and thumping and often discordant electrified racket played from an adjacent stage or platform by persons not dissimilar to the denizens of the mosh pit.”

“Yes, I know,” said Marigold Chew, “I could have told you that this morning over breakfast. I assume that now you know what a mosh pit is you no longer want one in your own back garden.”

“Quite the contrary, my sweet!” shouted Dobson with unnerving zest, “I am all the more determined to dig one! Hand me that spade!”

And though it was now dark, and the rain was pouring down more heavily than ever, Dobson was soon enough out in the garden, under the dripping leafage of laburnum and sycamore and larch, digging a pit. Positing that he had taken leave of his senses, Marigold Chew retired to her boudoir to listen to Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra on the wireless.

At some point in the small hours of the morning, Dobson came back indoors. He was covered in mud, as if he had been toiling in the trenches of Flanders fields during the Great War, the cause of the shellshock suffered by Smithy, alias Charles Rainier, the character played by Ronald Colman in Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942). Marigold Chew was fast asleep, but she was woken by a repetitive dull thumping noise, as of bone cushioned by flesh bashing against wood, over and over again. She went downstairs to find Dobson slumped at the kitchenette table, repeatedly thumping his forehead against its polished wooden surface.

“Whatever is the matter, Dobson?” she asked.

Dobson looked up.

“The mosh pit is dug, my dear! It needs but a complement of frenzied teenpersons to be deposited within it. That is my quandary, that the reason for my despair.”

“Please explain Dobson, you have me utterly befuddled. Though it be the middle of the night I am going to put the kettle on for a nice piping hot cup of powdered milk slops enriched with filbert nut flavouring. Pray continue.”

“Well,” said Dobson, “It was only when I had finished digging the mosh pit, and clambered out of it, and stood back to admire my work in the brilliant illumination of Kleig lights, that I realised the fatal flaw at the heart of my design.”

“Which is?” asked Marigold Chew.

“We have not space in the garden sufficient to erect a stage or platform next to the mosh pit,” moaned Dobson, “Thus nowhere to assemble a grouplet of persons to provide the necessary soundtrack of improbably loud and thumping and often discordant electrified racket to which frenzied teenpersons so minded will mosh.”

“Look on the bright side,” said Marigold Chew, “We may not have our own mosh pit, but now we have an all-purpose pit. There is a myriad of usages to which it could be put. I can think of several immediately, but I will refrain from telling you right away. I think you need a disinfectant bath and a good night’s sleep.”

“Perhaps you are right, buttercup,” said Dobson, “And in any case there may be such an activity as moshing for the deaf, or moshing to the sound of a lone piccolo, or other types of moshing yet unimagined by frenzied teenpersons, and by unfrenzied teenpersons too. Tomorrow I shall go the mobile library again, assuming it has not been shoved over the cliffs by the baffled and menacing peasants, and I shall undertake further and more rigorous research..”

“That is an excellent idea, Dobson,” said Marigold Chew, “But before plunging into your disinfectant bath, just tell me one thing. Why on earth did you want to have frenzied teenpersons hurling themselves about in an uncoordinated and rambunctious manner to a soundtrack of improbably loud and thumping and often discordant electrified racket in your own back garden in the first place?”

Alas, whatever Dobson said in reply was drowned out by the piercing shriek of the now boiling kettle.

Some days later, Marigold Chew hoicked the spade and filled in the pit under the leafage, still dripping with rain, of laburnum and sycamore and larch, and strewed over it brambles and nettles and dockweed. Never again did the word “mosh” ever pass Dobson’s lips. Other matters had attracted his attention, as related in his pamphlet How I Witnessed The Sight Of A Wild And Bearded Mobile Librarian In Hand To Hand Combat With A Snarling Gaggle Of Brain-Bejangled Peasants (out of print).

Porpoises Rescue Dick Van Dyke

It has become common in recent years for the annual Hooting Yard paperback to be published in late autumn. This year, however, Mr Key has decided to tap the summer reading market. Now you can sprawl on the beach at a dilapidated and unseemly seaside resort clutching this fantastic new anthology to your heaving bosom!

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Porpoises Rescue Dick Van Dyke contains 250 pages of majestic sweeping paragraphs, together with discussion notes for your Book Group and a photograph of the Parp-O-Phone! It even has wider margins than earlier books, so you won’t need to crack the spine to sup your fill of what one critic (Snigsby) called “Mr Key’s delicious prose nectar”.

As ever, these timeless words are ignored by the accountants and airheads of the literary establishment, so the only way to get your copy is to hie over to Lulu. Do so right away!