Monthly Archive for December, 2012

Postage No. 551-2012

So that is another year at Hooting Yard done and dusted. Many thanks to my readers and listeners, particularly to those who help me keep the wolf from the door by sending donations, subscribing, and/or buying my paperbacks from Lulu.

I was going to list here a few personal favourites from the Year of Our Lord MMXII, but then it occurred to me that, really, the best thing you can do is to reread the entire year’s worth of postages, all 550 of them (not including this one), at one prolonged sitting, your brow furrowed in concentration, while outside the wind howls and the rain pours down. After all, “the proper study of Mankind is Hooting Yard”, as Alexander Pope said (attrib.). The attrib., by the by, was made by me, just a moment ago.

I began the year with the demented plan to write a thousandish-word essay every day, and persisted until mid-November, when the scheme ganged agley due to my (alas, temporary) membership of the international jetset. For the Year of Our Lord MMXIII, I have devised a different project, still somewhat blurry in my bonce, the first fruits of which will, I hope, appear here tomorrow.

Meanwhile, at the turning of the year it is time to take stock, so here is a snap of the actor Nigel Stock (1919-1986), who played Dr Watson in the BBC’s 1960s Sherlock Holmes adaptations, as well as popping up in Brighton Rock (John Boulting, 1947) and The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963), among many other films.

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Monsters Of Duplicity

I strode out shortly after daybreak to check my traps. I had set them up, two of them, on the edge of the woods, and as I approached in the milky morning light I was pleased to see that in each I had ensnared a monster of duplicity.

The duplicity of the first monster consisted of its having two heads, where you would expect to find only the one. Almost all beings with heads have just a single head, perched on a single neck. This trapped monster did indeed have a single neck, but at a certain point it bifurcated in order to support a pair of heads. Adding to the monster’s monstrosity was the remarkable, even nauseating, disparity in the heads. The one on the left was a smooth and baldy head, almost egg-like. When I was close enough to study its features I saw that it had a pair of tiny piggy eyes and a minuscule snub of a nose and thin pinched lips. I saw no sign of ears. But the other head! It was misshapen and hairy and disgusting, with several eyes and noses and more than one mouth and numerous ears, and it emitted a godawful grunting noise that sent shivers down its own spine, or rather, the spine it shared with its other head. I watched those shivers snaking up and down the protruding spine with cold, emotionless fascination. I knew I was going to kill the monster, sooner or later.

But first I turned my attention to my second trap, and the second monster. Its duplicity was not a simple matter of having two heads, for it had just one, and that not a particularly monstrous head. If anything, it was a rather handsome head, a head one might easily imagine topping the beautiful body of a young Apollo. Quite what kind of body the monster had was, however, a matter of conjecture. Evidently when my trap snapped shut it did so precisely upon the monster’s neck, detaching the head from the body. Judging by the pawprints in the mud, the headless body had then fled, leaving the head lolling helpless, the severed neck caught in the fangs of the trap. Its duplicity, then, was that head and body could continue to exist, even to thrive, separately. I pondered whether to follow the pawprints, but saw that they terminated nearby, where the body of the monster had plunged into the marsh, the better to make its escape.

I popped the handsome head into my pippy bag and slung it over my shoulder. Then I bashed the heads of the other monster with my spade, rendering it unconscious. I freed it from the trap and tied it up with butchers’ string and shoved it on to my cart. Before leaving the edge of the woods, I reset both traps. Other monsters roamed these parts, and though I could trap only two at a time, I would never stint in my efforts.

Almanacke

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Over at The Dabbler today you will find Old Key’s Almanacke, a list of a dozen prognostications of what will befall us in the coming twelvemonth. The spooky thing about Old Key is that he has been proved unerringly accurate, time and time again. I am not entirely sure who he is, or was, other than that his papers were discovered in a shoebox underneath a sink in a cubby in an old manse perched on a windswept hillside. The papers, bound into a series of Almanackes, had been piddled upon by generations of feral cats. On the rotting linoleum next to the shoebox lay a wand and a pointy hat. They too had been piddled upon, by something bigger and more terrible than a feral cat.

Retorts To Cardew

When Cornelius Cardew went crackers and became, first a Maoist and then a devotee of Enver Hoxha of Albania, he repudiated much of his own earlier work and the avant garde in general. He turned his fire particularly on Stockhausen, with whom he had worked closely as both student and assistant. In The Listener (15 June 1972), Cardew published a screed with the self-explanatory title “Stockhausen Serves Imperialism”. Here are two letters which appeared in the magazine the following week:

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No doubt Messrs Britton and Pullman went straight on to a list of Enemies of the People who would be the first to be executed when the Revolutionary Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) – described by Richard Gott as among “the more perverse and irrelevant political groupings” of the time – ushered in the glorious proletarian revolution.

Rupert

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When I was a tot, one of my treasured books was a Rupert Bear Annual, the only one I ever owned. I pored over the stories in this volume again and again, looking at the pictures, reading the tales in the rhyming couplet captions, and then rereading them in the prose versions printed below. Nutwood seemed a mysterious and magical world, where a bear lived with his ursine ma and pa, counted an elephant and a badger and a pig among his pals, where the local bobby was a dog called Police Constable Growler, and where the cast of human characters included an eccentric professor with a dwarvish valet and a mystic Oriental Yoko Ono type named Tigerlily, not forgetting Beryl the girl guide and an assortment of fisherfolk, tinkers, peasants and explorers.

I have very few mementoes of my childhood, and the Rupert Annual was among those I thought lost. I could not, at any rate, recall the last time I had seen it. Occasionally I would rummage in secondhand bookshops seeking a copy, though on the rare occasions I found one it proved to be ruinously expensive.

Then, last month, visiting my sister in Maryland, I discovered what had become of my annual. In the late 1970s, my mother had given it to my niece, and ever since it had been sitting unremarked on a bookshelf in my sister’s house. I learned this, however, on the way to the airport at the end of my stay, when for some reason Rupert Bear cropped up in conversation.

How thrilled I was this morning to unwrap my sister’s Christmas gift – the treasured book from my childhood. And how astonished I was, leafing through it, to realise how much of Hooting Yard is there in embryo. Weird countryside, picnics, entanglement in bracken and thorns, eerie mists, aquatic sea beings. . . all this stuff must have entered my head long, long ago, and nestled there. I shall examine the book more thoroughly and, perhaps, in due course share with you lot the more Hooting Yardy elements I find therein.

And to my sister, much thanks! She appended this verse (appropriately in rhyming couplets) to the wrapping:

A Valediction for Rupert

Oh Rupert! Since we needs must part
I wrap you in compelling art

Of books beloved from long ago,
Their whereabouts I do not know.

Like you they may have flown away
Without permission, I dare say,

And sit now on some distant shelf
Unloved, neglected, by themself.

Dear Rupert you were never lost
But treasured, read, and tossed

About by little ones who loved you too
Just as much as Frank must do.

Safe journey home where you belong
And think of me, I shall be strong

And shed no tears as you depart
For books still live within the heart.

NOTE : My sister, by the by, is Rita Byrne Tull, whose Dispatches From The Former New World appear in The Dabbler.

A Picnic In Poxhaven

We bundled our picnic things into gunny sacks and set out upon the road to Poxhaven. It is a long straight track, some say a ley line, pitted with many puddles, the road to Poxhaven. “Oh where are you going?” asked passing peasants, and we replied, “We are heading for Poxhaven.” And soon enough through mist and rain we saw a signpost and on the signpost, scratched it seemed by the claws of a werewolf, were the words “To Poxhaven”.

In centuries past, when town and city and countryside were ravaged by the pox, teeming thousands fled to safety along this road, to find a haven from the pox in the seaside resort of Poxhaven. Now it is for picnics we go to Poxhaven. Even in mist and rain you will find no better picnicking spot than among the many many picnic spots of Poxhaven.

There are werewolves too, werewolves that roam the streets and alleys and mews of Poxhaven. In centuries past they fed upon the pox-riddled escapees from town and city and countryside who made it as far as Poxhaven. Now the werewolves howl in hunger when dusk descends upon Poxhaven. It is a custom, and one we follow, when our picnic is done, to leave for the starving werewolves a few leftover picnic sausages, injected with the pox, upon a seaside picnic spot in Poxhaven.

As we trudge home, along the old straight track, in the dusk, we hear the grateful howling of the sausage-gobbling werewolves of Poxhaven.

Conquistador

A rare coloured hyperrealist mezzotint by the noted hyperrealist mezzotintist Rex Hypertint. It shows Spanish conquistador Lope de Aguirre, “El Loco” (1510-1561), trying desperately to get a signal on his iMonkey during his last, fateful trip down a very big South American river.

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Aeroflot Flies, Dying Swans, Etc.

The first time I flew in an aeroplane was almost forty years ago, on an Aeroflot flight to the Soviet Union. My abiding memory is of the many flies buzzing around within the plane. Perhaps it was an Aeroflot thing. I mention this because, having flown to and from Maryland a few weeks ago, I am still debilitated and twitching and shattered by whatever hideous germs were aboard the planes I sat slumped in for hours. That is why the unaccustomed silence at Hooting Yard has persisted, for longer than I would have thought possible.

Yet there is a certain appeal in being an invalid. One gets the opportunity to emit tremulous and woebegone sighs, for example, like unto a dying swan. Having said that, I do not think I have ever witnessed the death of a swan. Perhaps they do not sigh, but shriek or whoop. I could slaughter a swan to find out, when I am better, but, if caught in the act, I would no doubt be arrested and roughed up by Inspector Cargpan and his goons down in the basement of the local nick.

My local nick, incidentally, which is now closed down and shuttered, is the very same one where Alfred Hitchcock was once locked up. His father, who was a pal of the local coppers, took the young Alfred to the station and had him chucked in a cell for a while, not because he had done anything amiss, but to show him what would happen to him if ever he did do something amiss. It is not difficult to see the germ of many a later Hitchcock hero’s predicament in that childhood incident. It would be interesting to discover if an icy blonde and an egg were somehow involved, and then we would have the key to the adult Hitchcock’s obsessions. Some say swans are among my own obsessions, and they may well be correct. I cannot, however, recall any childhood traumas in which a swan played a significant part.

Another thing about the invalid state is that my dreams seem particularly vivid. Last night, for example, I dreamed that my mother was still alive at eighty-seven, had become a keen aficionado of Het Internet, and had, for the past few years, been engaged in a daily exchange of emails with Keith Richards, for whom she had become a sort of ancient Muse. When I awoke, I found it very very difficult to acknowledge that this was merely a figment of my fuming brainpans.

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Keith Richards’ ancient Muse, before she was ancient

Exhumation

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Over at The Dabbler today I have exhumed, and slightly tweaked, a very long sentence which first appeared as part of the text of Crop Circles : The Crunlop Experiment, an out of print pamphlet from the last century. In the comments, Brit suggests that “Ikea would reduce all that to three simple yet bewildering black-and-white pictures”, which reminded me of the diagram accompanying another Hooting Yard craft project from 2004, to wit:

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Hooting Yard Haiku

In my debilitated state, felled by germs and much given to whimpering, writing one thousandish words upon any subject at all is quite beyond me. On the other hand, if readers are to read then writers must write. It occurred to me that I might just manage to bash out a few haiku, distillations in a few words of what we could call the Hooting Yardanschauung.

A bog
Beyond the viaduct
In the downpour

Dobson
At his escritoire
Scribbling twaddle

A hobgoblin
On Sawdust Bridge
Eating a sausage

Tiny Enid
Flooring a ne’er-do-well
And kicking his head in

There are four for you to pore over. There may be more to come. Now for the Lemsip!

Monkey And Nougat

An eerie silence may have descended upon Hooting Yard itself over the past few weeks, but elsewhere our global outreach service has not been wholly idle.

Over at The Dabbler last Friday I considered self-esteem ‘n’ diversity awareness community hub nomenclature, with particular reference to the example set in South Africa, where some lucky tots attend A School Called Monkey.

Meanwhile, at the Drabblecast, golden-voiced Norm Sherman gives a reading of my thrilling space adventure The Nougat Nozzles Of Neptune. Many thanks are due to Salim Fadhley for arranging these matters.

In Search Of The Most Pious Man

I have to say this not writing lark is curiously seductive. My trip abroad, followed by a period of feeling like death warmed up, has led to a sort of unplanned holiday from Hooting Yard and indeed from Het Internet generally. After bashing out three hundred and twenty essays in three hundred and twenty days, not to mention a myriad of other postages, it is with some relief that I have refrained from tippy-tapping sweeping paragraphs of majestic prose.

However, this does mean that I have failed to impart to you much decisive information, without which you are probably wandering the earth lost, twitching and shattered. I am thinking, for example, of a recent dream, in the course of which I attended a party at a retirement home for outrageous old thespians of the Donald Sinden stripe. One of these ageing hams was swaddled from head to foot in cloth of the deepest crimson, bemoaning that he had devoted his life to interpreting a minor character in a minor work by a minor dramatist. We then gathered for a screening of In Search Of The Most Pious Man : A Life Of Jesus, a film directed by Carrington Holmes.

I have tried, in my waking hours, to discover more about the dream film and the dream film director, to no avail. It seems neither of them actually exists. They ought to.