Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Fine dining at the sign of the Goat Willow

Your hosts: Luskus, Bouree, and Master Teeth

Provender and Particulars
at the sign of the Goat Willow

We Applaud To Begin

A Confusion of Eels.

Blinded serpent fish frolic in a sauce of buttered dandy flowers. Attempt to catch and eat them whole in the Cretan manner with but a one tined fork – enjoyment for diner and eels alike.

A Worrisome Lark

A single spruced bird enchanted to sing to you even whilst within our patrons most delectable of stomachs. Prepared and served with a variety of dusting peppers for its tiny eyes.

Hot Buttered Knave

A locally reared youth brought to you haunch presented and spread to order.

Toasted Peregril

Nobly slain in mortal combat, the Slather Fiend of Hothensopet is here preserved in a jelly of brandied bees and a collation of goblets with which to raise a glass to its honour.

A Mystery Of Soup

An admittance by the patron for his scalding lack of imagination, nobility and delirious fear of more seemly fair.

We Defeat The Sea

Trampled Salt Bask

A rarity of Crete, the champion’s portion of the catch stamped by thin slaves in the traditional scaled clogs, and gathered as salubrious paste. A performance of toast accompanies.

Scolded Swordfish

We defeat this duellist of the ocean according to the Ligurean principles of Genoese swordplay. Berated for its nasal presumption it is presented in the company of a dozen naughty clams.

The Mermaid

By arrangement Fair Jacinta adopts the measure of a maiden of the sea. Might you good Sir, Master, Ritter, Lord or Prince pursue her to the dappled caves?

Of Meat

Rack of Spring Lamb

Select ones choice from the meadow of a morning. Tortured upon a stretching table we ensure that it will hold nothing back from our culinary inquisitors! Laid to rest with a crust of mint and small levers of seasonal vegetables crying in three wines.

A Surprise of Foul

Chicken lips crisped and performed atop a sweet basted flamingo haunch.

A Cunnilingus Apart

Tight selections of the day’s provender arrayed within and without Beauteous Donati. We arrange the Supple Donati in perfumed privacy within a harness of spiced, sour fruit sauces.

The Breathless Beef

Throttled steak encased within a frightened pie. Touched with a salamanders flame and performed at your table in the company of our famous pickle legion.

In Hindsight Compare

Creamed Brute

The hairiest of roustabouts topped with wet nursed cream, each whipped to your preference and allowed to settle in strawberry dribble.

The Heroes Repast

An assault of gingered blooms of such spice as only a hero might complete. Provided in two evenly balanced parts for our more competitive patrons.

Ice Blossoms

A cornucopia of ices best tastefully cleansed with our decoration of edible spoons.

Wines and Ales Presented in accordance with choice as most suitable to balance each course.

To finish, a selection of companion – pray see your host as to the daily speciality.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Strike!

Oh Paddington, put some clothes on

Parents are up in arms today with the announcement that joining public sector workers in their strike tomorrow will be a host of children's television characters. The announcement made by Pat Clifton (postman to the Cumbrian town of Greendale) on behalf of the Union of Communication Workers thanks notable entertainers from CBBC, CBeebies and cITV for their support. The dispute regarding pensions and contractual obligations is of interest to many a fictional character (who on tele now for thirty years look set to have to remain so for at least another five).
Fire Officer Sam Peyton-Jones of the FBU faced with losing the benefits enjoyed by his (retired) peers in Trumpton had this to say to Government calls to cancel the planned action tomorrow, ‘Cats will stay down wells, children lost in lofts, packages unfound until our demands are met, or till the end of tomorrow. Either way.’
Parents already faced with having to take a day off work in order to spend compulsory time with their children have evidenced horror at a day without television, with even the DVD workers coming out in sympathy. ‘What are we supposed to do, read them a fucking book?’ said Miss Scary in an outburst Arthur Lowe would never have allowed from Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men and Little Miss series of actually rather tedious children’s books.
Emergency supplies of paper and coloured pencils are being made available to parents through town halls and other distribution centres, but one parent (Mr Jonathan Brown of 32 Windsor Gardens, Notting Hill) spoke out against the strike action today, ‘If there’s no money in the pot then what do they expect?’ vowing that if modern, properly-animated children’s entertainment isn’t up to the job then perhaps it is time to return the traditional stories, told on screen? ‘Paddington’s old now,’ said Mr Brown of the bear that arrived from Darkest Peru and who since has remained with the Browns, ‘and sure, he widdles when he coughs but he can still charm the kiddies with his hard stares and irritating disdain for the common mores of civilised society.’ Then, ‘And he doesn’t do the seat-sniffing thing anymore, either.’
Miss Hoolie of Balamory informed about Paddington Brown’s stance is reported as swearing that ‘she would skin that floppy-hatted, marmalade eating scab-fucker – and let that stand as a lesson to the kiddies’.
Or not. Because y’know, no lessons Miss Hoolie.  

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lay Grouter, Seven Fingers


To a house made of angles and too many doors
The angel took Grouter for tea
They tried half those doors but none had a bell
So they knocked to attract the Trainee.

A young man more important within his own mind
Than bootlaces, treacle or cheese
Our Trainee with his status displayed with a badge
Only reluctantly went for the keys

To rattle and fuss and primp and to huff
To open one door with a scowl
To ask of their business in an educated voice
Little removed from an educated growl

‘Your master, the Boffin,’ the angel explained
‘Said if ever my belly should ache
‘It should come for tea (and in my company)
‘For toast, and for eggs, and for cake’

Disliking whatsoever sounded like fun
Preferring cog, screw, slide rule and a ratchet
The Trainee saw nothing funny, in anything funny, at all
Not contained in his mint collection of Pratchett

He whispered as he stalked of terrible things
Of hammers and shears for the silly
Longing to cut from Grouter his grin
Fingertips, eyelids and willy

Laughter was not, to the Trainee’s fine mind
For amateurs, for fools (and beside)
It was a mantra to be repeated precise word-for-word
A Hitchhiker, his towel, and his Guide

The Boffin, his master, his idol (his love)
Was tainted by malt and good vice
Of Carry-On films, to cure which the Trainee
In secret was making a device

A device, a machine, all packed in a tin
Whose biscuits grew softer than most
Till now they’d be taken at best for poor cake
And which the Trainee spread on toast

To go with the tea saved in drips from each cup
With a teabag that served as a sponge
With milk from a cat, and sugar from mice
And a cream (whose source we expunge)

On a tray made from bills and final demands
With glue from a stamp from a barge
For the debt on the bills was in fact rather small
And the size of the stamp rather large

Reluctant yet spineless, hateful and hollow
The Trainee took the tea as a chore
Like the visitors he left in the care of the Boffin
Where he listened by the key, by the door

Saturday, 26 November 2011

'Top Gear' Tax To Save Britain


Suggested solutions to the current financial crisis facing Britain have been rejected when on being asked whether they wanted to pay more taxes the super-rich decided they did not. Speaking through their representatives (electrum-plated goblins in ceremonial wigs of spun-unicorn) the super rich, their faces always in shadow, are quoted as saying ‘Bwah aha aha ha!’ from the heart of their sapphire-shitting volcanoes, in Knightsbridge.
Faced with such a crisis emergency measures are being brought in, two new taxes based upon the length of one’s penis, and how good a driver a man judges himself to be. Journalists have already made up quotes from civil liberty groups condemning the move, already rejected by the new Ministry Of Top Gear due to both being based upon an honour system. Every man in the country will be made to fill out a simple tax form stating how big is his penis, and how good a driver he is. Every man in the country will then have both answers displayed twice as big as anything else upon his driver’s licence, passport and any id card for work, club or indeed anything at all. Such will be official. Payment will be for the former a yearly levy, by inch, and by the latter depending on a scale of 1-100, the amount taxed using each as a multiplier. Men then who are hung like minotaurs and who are far, far better drivers than everyone else will find themselves faced with quite the very tax bill.
Of course as an honour system any man can officially possess no penis at all and drive, officially again, like their Nan. This will be displayed on his bank statement and by law be covered as part of his annual review at work.
Early calculations suggest that not only will Britain be soon able to afford new aircraft carriers after all, but that one of them will be Italy.   

Old Ink



Two more from 1998. There're bits like this all over the place when I open up a dusty old folder, file or divider.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Action Man, Greenshield Stamps (and perishable fingers)


Action Man UNIT (not pictured, dead talking beavers)

The  success of the film GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra has given rise we learned today to a British version, Action Man. Jason Statham is set to play the eponymous hero who without the benefit of futuristic weapons or nanobots is said to be more faithful to the original toy line that boys born in the 60s and 70s will remember only too well.
Statham (Action Man) is first recruited in the Bracknell Greenshield Stamp shop where despite all his friends being tank commanders and deep-sea divers is a lowly mountaineer, with a beard, but thankfully not a sailor. An early montage shows Statham (Action Man) landing on his head after his parachute never opens, losing a foot in a wonky boot, and finally annoying his grandparents no end when his first uniform and proper gun is that of a German Stormtrooper. Wearing the tracks from his scorpion tank as bullet bandoliers and flying off shallow hills in an indestructible armoured-car Statham (Action Man) is crippled by the end of the second act when his gripping hands perish to the point where he loses two thirds of his fingers.
Only when at his lowest ebb is Statham (Action Man) revived by the realisation that he has collected enough Action Man Star Tokens to gain the amazing kitbag. Also and because choice is limited, his new uniform. Neatly dressed in the red of a Canadian Mountie Statham (Action Man) is later mortally wounded by a giant dog before and not to spoil the ending, there is an air pistol.
More at the addy here but be warned, if of a certain age you might be there a while...
In 1975 this was porn to us.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Christmas Starts Here


I dreaded that first robin so, wrote Emily Dickinson in reference to spring and her native Amherst, Massachusetts. Here and in Tolly Maw it is winter that the robin heralds ‘neath that bright red-spotted vest but not Christmas which has no robin but instead starts with lights, and splendour and flickering Santas made of a hundred colourful bulbs. You know the midwinter festival approaches when someone’s house starts to attract low flying aircraft and whilst the very idea of so much as a single red bulb or sprig of artificial holly outside my door brings about the vapours, I love it in others. Tacky, awful and over there – brilliant.
I can’t help it, or I won’t, either way. I love Christmas and it’ll get more tiresome for you all as the brief weeks remaining skip by. We went to Tolly Maw’s formal switching on of the lights this Sunday gone. Great wheels and caged cats, spokes of amber and Tesla coils juddering and impatient until released to fill our town with soft, illuminated wonder. Yet despite all and Tolly Maw like Cockermouth did before does do a very good Christmas. The food is German, the wood and toys are Swiss. The beer is British but served by Swedes, and candy canes vie for space amongst lanterns and puppets dressed in their best and kept short-stringed to avoid mischief.
So this then the first sign of Christmas! A terrible, tacky display and I think that’s just wonderful. Less than five weeks to go until by local tradition Windsor Davies and Don Estelle creep into cottage, hovel and shacks to leave presents for the good and small carpet mines for the bad.
But why no robin?
He’s been taken hostage by the Joker of course.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Carpala, Dorsalgia, Vex, Prince Albert - and Barry


The statue of Prince Albert found upon Holborn Circus has been blamed over the years for many a traffic accident. Being a bloody great statue this is understandable what with its immensity only compounded by its solidity, its ability to dodge out of the way of oncoming traffic has over the years (if anything) degraded.
Raised a good thirteen years after the death of ever-thereafter increasingly-unpopular monarch Queen Victoria it was the City of London’s tribute to the man who we most remember now for a piece of genital jewellery and the brass-clad spaceships that would have been of at least equal surprise to him. Victoria’s decades of mourning that followed we politely ascribe to the dwindling thereafter of steam-powered corsetry rather than the regular consignment of hearty German sausage that resulted in the Queen being almost perpetually pregnant.
The statue showing Albert dressed-up in the full fig of a Field Marshall is as was typical for the time, mounted. As most people know the horse itself denotes the nature of the subject’s death if he were a military man. One leg raised means killed by the enemy. Two legs raised means killed by one’s own side. Four legs planted means nobly shat to death by at least one of a fascinating collection of battlefield dysentery, and actually having the body of a horse from the waist down means the sort of classical education that leads to the likes of Stephen Fry making doe-eyes at a lovely mare. The plinth upon which the horse stands shows Albert’s achievements, the museums and great works he oversaw on the one side and the very tight trousers he made fashionable on the other.
It is however the four statues about his own, attendant to that plinth, that might hold the answer. If we cannot blame drivers for careless road use (enormous metal lump in shape of dead Prince notwithstanding) then it might well be the statues about the statues to blame. The first Carpala, essence or spirit of wrist pain. The second is that of Dorsalgia, muse of intriguing bedroom toys. The third is Barry, spirit of curly beards and unconvincing cross-dressing. The last though is that of Vex, muse of small things jumping out of large boxes, carbonated drinks, and traffic accidents.
So perhaps there are no accidents, only acts of worship?    

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Mary's Day Off

He’s the last of the hitchers and that makes him the king. Tall, he was handsome once. Wild, hungry and awful he is invisible. There is a cardboard sign that time and the rain has left blurred so he could be heading anywhere. The King would have tossed it had it not been true. He is heading anywhere, and especially now anywhere but here. Here is Illbourne Services. The King has been here for three days. Three more and Noddy Holder will be right.
“You’re like that old man,” says Mary.
“I am,” says The King who agrees over a burger-n-cheese (no cheese).
Illbourne Services has three restaurants, two are shut. There is a newsagent that mostly sells chocolate and a chocolate shop that only sells coffee. Neither is ever open. Mary (she said, laid off six weeks before) still comes in to work. She told The King of her three children. Two that have left home and one that she wishes would. She misses the youngest most, though the youngest is the one that remains. The King had listened to Mary’s whole life that first night and in the six hours that had left they had filled in the mazes and coloured in the cartoons on the kid’s menus. Let go by memo no one has come to take back her keys, she said. Mary wipes down a table already clean. She says now, “ People spot him, walking the land.”
“Hitching. It’s a funny time of year for it. Everyone’s so full of good cheer they don’t want to spend time with anyone that’d spoil it. Feed the world, man.”
“Well quite,” she says, dismissively. “Some don’t believe he exists. I do.”
“Like Santa?”
“Are you going to be sick?”
She won’t let him help so he looks out at the world embarrassed. The car park is empty but for Mary’s fridge-coloured Cinquecento. Spoilers, a crumpled near-side and a boot full of speakers. It had been her second sons, but he’s doing time for getting caught. The King catches the eye of a cat. The cat looks down and hurries away. The cool kid spied in Matalan.
The King had once been just another barbarian. From Scratchwood to Fleet, Charnock Richard to Sanbach he’d stood in the 80s with a dozen others at each stop, on every A road, at every services. Students, drop outs, and people – mostly people. Ten years on and all alone, unless it was Stonehenge or Glastonbury and that highway to hell the A303. Then last year and there’d been just the two of them and when they’d met on the slip for Watford Ennio Morricone had been playing, all dust and narrowed eyes. They’d stood neither moving but for the wasp that had dipped between them. An hour until there had come a ride, not his. His rival had nodded, understanding. He had his ride home. He had touched a finger half to his cap. Now there was only The King.
He turns back. His lunch has gone, so too the mop and bucket. Mary looks at him in interest. Having to say something he says, “My Walkman.”
“Goodness, I remember them. I had one, Sony. Blue.”
“I need new batteries. I don’t suppose?”
He can suppose but there are none for sale here. In the newsagents no doubt, but the newsagents is closed even for last year’s best seller or a giant bag of jelly bears and Mary doesn’t want to get into trouble for breaking in. So she says and in any case she is sure she wouldn’t know how. But Mary remembers she has some herself and waddling away returns with two from the cheap vibrator she keeps in her bag for the quiet shifts. They are old and flat but the Walkman is broken anyway, choked months before on Julian Cope still tangled and torn within.
Later and folding her knickers up to put in her bag Mary promises that she will look up their hitcher. She makes him move to mop the floor where he still lies. A little later she leaves him in the forecourt. She can’t when he asks give him a lift, she is a woman alone and it isn’t safe for her to pick up hitchers.

“It’s you,” Mary says next day, delighted. Her eldest-child’s-second-laptop sits between them. She shows him the site, one of several, where he is under the Loch Ness Monster but two above the Lord Numb. The last photo like many is a blur, a phone job on the move. According to the site he is Lord Lucan, Marc Bolan or more likely Richie Edwards – offered as proof The King seen in the rain, blurred, at the Severn View services. The King knows they are all wrong. Mary says, “Don’t you have a home?”
She does he was told, and comes here because of it. He did too but he hasn’t seen it since Castle Morten. Ever since he has been on the road, and ever since he has been looking for it. A converted horse box and a week-long rave with his family and his home, and then they’d gone and he left to walk and (with his thumb) to follow. He can still remember his wife’s final words, ‘Look, who the fuck are you?’ very cruel. So The King tells Mary, without their names because he remembers not a one. There might be children.
Mary goes to fire up the grill. Today for breakfast The King will be treated to the last of the cheese, orange and tasteless but this time the ‘with cheese’, will be. When the restaurant had been newly opened they had attracted a mouse. Mary had baited a trap with cheese just like this and the mouse had been caught neck broken and the cheese untouched. Meeting the cheese it seemed likely that far from being murdered the mouse had committed suicide. Mary cooks two burgers from the four hundred that remain in the cold store. Two burgers but hold the lettuce, pickle, onions and special sauce. The buns here never grow stale or hard like cake, but become crumbly like biscuit.
Returning she says, “I wanted to travel once, more than once obviously, when I was young. You must have seen some places. This,” she sprays the laptop with a bottle she will later clean with another, “says that you’ve been on the road for twenty years. I wanted to go to Istanbul. I wanted to go to Machu Picchu, I wanted to go to Brighton, when I was young.”
“But you had kids?”
“But I had a big, fat arse. No, the mysterious and the ethical are not for me. Every time I thought about going something would come up. Ten years ago and it was my first rabbit. I’d almost got to packing my bags, I’d got a one way ticket to Worthing. I’d told my husband I was off to the bright lights, to the big city, to find myself.”
The King likes the sound of that. He says, “To find yourself?”
“To find myself a nice big cock. But he begged and he whined. He bought me a new coat and we got Sky, and inside six months I’d worn my rabbit down to a pencil. I almost went again then but you know, there’s always another rabbit. It was glamorous, like Sex In The City. I spoke to a few people last night, I said you were here.”
The King ignores the last. He stopped listening after the word ‘cock’. Outside it is raining, the windows blur, hello the holidays. He ought to try and catch a ride but the only car he has seen since arriving here is that same Cinquecento. Used to the silence he reacts slowly to it now. Mary is waiting for an answer so he says, “I’ve been all over. Motorways and A roads, I’ve seen places you wouldn’t believe. People too. Most used to be hitchers,” he describes those who once had been older but nowadays were of an age. They too had hitched and had always promised that when they had a car, well then. He tells of truck drivers wanting company. There is the odd genuinely nice person, and every so often a kid in a stolen Merc. He has sung hymns. He has been so badly beaten he pissed blood for three days after.
He has listened, but mostly now he speaks because people want to be talked to, often not saying much beyond their name and so The King now plays a game. When taking a lift he will always use the name of the last person to have stopped. He spins a tale because people want him to, the rules; he has to use whatever he has learned but add whatever else he has not. “Once I spent the whole of the A66 being an old lady called Agnes, I’d been in the SOE during the war, captured and tortured. But still and after all that, chin up eh?”
“A66?”
“Right through the Lake District.”
“Ah,” says Mary, “My second son once sent me a postcard from Devon, Dartmoor anyway.”
“It’s a wild and beautiful place.”
“Not the prison.”

They come the next day so that they find The King where suffering winter’s sleet he has made himself a shelter in the play area. The sides both protected by and advertising exclusive membership of the RAC the little hut at the top of the slide has gained all the charm of a bus shelter. Coming out for a piss The King is knocked by a sound boom, recoils from a camera and is hedged in by optimistic London jackets sharing umbrellas complaining about the opening times of the empty Costa. He sees they are not from the BBC, but from the other side. A camera on him he steps backs from the bright light. A man with earphones and a special-forces vest sneers. Another with a serious face nods seriously and asks four times the same question until it is judged he has done so seriously enough. It takes a fifth attempt and then only once the make-up girl is satisfied they have the right sort of wet on The King do they allow him to answer.
“No one calls by. It’s miserable.”
The journalist can see that. The King has a large brolly above him and out of shot. More wet is applied from an atomiser between takes. The King continues, “They roar by waving a thumb, they laugh and call out abuse. Sometimes they stop and then drive off when you’ve run up. I lost my pack that way once. I learned a lesson that day.” Now and though no one else is on the road it’s harder, he tells the news crew. No one hitches and increasingly no one ever did. Students don’t drive clapped out heaps, everyone’s middle class except for the working class, who hate hitchers - bloody scroungers. “I’ve been here for ages now. I can’t go up on the motorway and no cars are coming in. This time of year it should be better, but it’s worse.”
“They call you The King, but who are you really? We need to know. Frankly, you need to know. You really do. Do you want to stay here else?”
The King caught, he plays his game, “My name’s Mary, I’ve got three kids. I work in the burger bar.”
Soon and in the cold the news crew have what they're getting even if not what they want. Shortly they are packed and loaded to go. Ahead of them already and warned that the camera would be on him The King waits up the slip, thumb out. He holds out his notice as the two vans slow to get their shot before rolling away and to the distant sound of the world.
Laughing, the sound man jerks his hand at The King.
It’s Mary’s day off. She’ll try again tomorrow.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Einstein: 'I know what you are, but what am I?'

Marty, the flux capacitor!

The Journal of High Energy Physics is to publish the first of the claims by Italian physicists that they can disprove Einstein’s assertion that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Probably because you’d keep on bumping into stuff. Way back in 1905 Albert Einstein through his theory of special relativity described that the speed of light in a vacuum (some 169,282 miles per second) would require an infinite amount of energy to better. Also, you would keep on bumping into things. Famously when a reader seeing this and with a little borrowed knowledge snortled that in a total vacuum the chance of bumping into anything was as next to zero as to be a certainty, Einstein with astonishing foresight regarding the internet and this blog in particular pulled a face and made the jerky-jerky motion with his hand. Yeah, you smart arse.
When the Italians were asked why their work at Cern in Switzerland is concerning itself with having a pop at Einstein – who can’t after all answer back – as opposed to their more popular work on a functioning Stargate Dr Alberto Sordi (Count Emilio Ponticelli in Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines) answered by breaking into song before his many children whilst Eric Sykes on the orders of Terry Thomas sawed part way through his experiments after applying extremely strong contact glue to several available surfaces. The inevitable sabotage of the Cern Hadron Collider will result in Dr Sordi buying a series of replacements from Tony Hancock, each more farcical than the last.

Reclaim High Fidelity!


With Christmas closing (and man, I love Christmas) I’m at the stage where I’m not allowed to read any new books. Not from the library, certainly not from the bookshops, on the chance that they’re already pegged to be bought for a present. Inevitably this leads to rereading one of the house-full of lovingly tatty paperbacks I possess and for no reason other than they were there I’ve hit up a couple of Nick Hornby.
Fever Pitch was mentioned here recently and then just now and here’s High Fidelity. The boy’s tale of record shop owner Rob making lists and enjoying vinyl, grumpily entering middle age and... hang on though, if you don’t skip bits it seems to actually be about relationships. Not boy’s relationships either, but miserable ones, looking-back ones, ones to do with shoes, or should be. And holy crap, High Fidelity’s a bloody girl’s book! Having been dumped by his girlfriend Rob after a lot more looking back on past relationships than is necessary in a book about records – it is about records isn’t it – embarks on a brief affair with a beautiful and cool folk singer. Job done you’d think. No, no, boys would still then yearn for...
...records. There, fixed it.
I’m scared now what’ll happen if I pick up Robert Llewellyn’s Thin He Was And Filthy Haired? Or that Tony Parson’s Stories We Could Tell won’t be about the transition from prog to punk and one hectic night at all – but instead be about some Daily Mail journo whose about-as famous former wife leaves him and...
Gah! Stop it.
The Great Escape is on.
Why are they talking about Prada, on camels, and why does Dickie Attenborough now look like a dying woman, with a face, like a foot?  

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Call Centres, Fingermouse, and the SOE


Since even here in Tolly Maw I get phoned four times a day to be sold something (especially and oddly, legal advice) there must be money in it. According to no research whatsoever but by shouting out the window I learn that that call centres are a multi-bazillion-mazillion pound business. That’s so much I had to make the numbers up, literally.
I don’t mind the creepy ones so much, you know: ‘Hi can I speak to Mr Roux please?’
‘Who’s this?’
‘Hi Mr Roux, I’ve got your son held hostage by tigers. If you don’t pay up these tigers will eat your son. With beans they will have him. Yum yum, Mr Roux. Tigers.’
‘There’s no Mr Roux here. I lied. It just says Mme Roux on the bill.’
‘Can I speak to Mimi Roux please? We have her son. Also, tigers. Hungry tigers tell her.’
‘Mme is just how you write ‘madame’ you fool. She also has no son.’
They’re just fishing. It’s annoying but not so much as the ones that ring me to tell that my front door has Dutch elm disease. If I can just unlock it for them, they’ll be right over. I was just wondering why they bother phoning me when with modern visa cards and spending habits, phone surveys and lists they must know that I don’t spend any money at all, on anything, ever. There’s just nothing much for me to buy, not as they would see it, and yet there’s someone telling me that I’ve almost certainly been overcharged on a loan agreement I must have made. I am (it’s worth pointing out) the only person in Britain never to have taken out a loan. Never had a credit card. It drives my bank half apricot, what with just being in credit and all that.
None of which compares to the ear-bashing I got when I lived in Cumbria from a young chap that thought I was taking the piss, when I said I did not have a mobile phone. After all, why would I want Gareth Hunts like him phoning me up when I’m out (therefore busy) to talk about a phone on which he’s phoning me?
I don’t like to rant here. I’ve tried hard not to and for months now. But my phone is at best an effort what with it being a suitcase pack from SOE still stamped 1943, and to answer it I have to work out the length of the aerial each and every time. I used to have the solution. I used to answer the phone, always, as a mouse. Some of you reading this might well remember. I would speak in a mousy voice and whenever they tried to sell me anything I would tell them that no, because I’m a mouse. And it was great fun. I actually looked forward to answering the phone, although they’ve clearly sussed me now and use recorded messages. I’d still speak like a mouse now only nowadays and if two thirds of my calls are junk lines, then what is left will be the school, or Q’s work or worst of all the hospital psychiatric unit who with my eldest Catnip undergoing such long diagnosis might be able to make a few jumps if Mr Morgan thinks he is Fingermouse.
I kind of miss all that heavy breathing we got in the 70s.
Apparently.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Next Door, Will Self & Will Self Argue


As some of you know (that whilst moving to Tolly Maw has been if not a rewarding experience then at least a diverting one) one thing only has been causing me a great deal of stress. Such a small word but one that scarce encapsulates the disturbed nights, the pacing, the pint after pint of moderately weak lemon & lime squash (which is getting harder to find) and the incessant, annoying, beard. I can hear it now. Growing. But it’s not the facial hair that is leaving me a bloated wreck, a blotting-pad of a beached sea lion left too high, too dry on a stony beach, a terminal beach - but our neighbours. Not Mervyn Peake’s head I hasten here to add who has been as supportive as a creative head can be, but those on the other side. For months now Will Self has been living some dispassionate odd-couple life with his elected life partner, Will Self.
It’s pretty clear that like so many others you hear of but never actually meet, they love each other too much to leave and leave each other too much hate to live. I’ve complained and even gone to the Parish Council but without a record there’s not much they can do, apparently.
So I’ve started to keep notes. And so far this month –
November 1st, 2011. Morning.
Will Self is loudly calling Will Self a ‘selfish, facile speck of fucking issuance’ over who’s turn it was to buy the cornflakes, of which they have none after using them to make macaroni pictures of Martin Amis, after they had no macaroni.
November 3rd, 2011. Morning.
Will Self wearing only the box from a George Forman grill is demanding that Will Self stops hiding all the booze. Will Self, loudly and for two hours, screams that Will Self must produce more booze or he’ll ‘fucking castrate Will Self with hair tongs’. Will Self replies that Will Self ‘wouldn’t fucking notice, eunuch being from the Greek ene, and ekhem, so a fucking bed keeper’ and ‘hair tongs, what fucking hair?’
November 4th, 2011. Afternoon.
Argument about hair. Will Self storms out to shed to return with garden sheers. Sounds of a struggle followed by screams reminiscent of a teenage girl after having had to shoot her first pony. Will Self loudly calls Will Self a ‘fucking Westworld cowboy’.
November 6th, 2011. 4am.
Woken by sounds of Will Self shouting encouragement to Will Self. Cannot determine about what. Corks fly and at 4.20am a scratchy LP of a bugle announcing the charge is played, many times.
November 6th, 2011. Afternoon.
Dressed in armour made from pillows, newspapers and in one case a birdcage Will Self and Will Self have a battle in the street. It takes half an hour before the first blow, which is greeted with snortles on the part of each and much sneeringly shouting of the word ‘schadenfreude’. They smoke fags if only to flick the butts at one another, each time whispering more quietly, yet more pointedly, ‘schadenfreude’.
November 8th, Late evening.
Windows broken, much shouting and demands for pistols made upon one another. Violence spills out into the garden where having at each other now with forks Will Self and Will Self spit tar at one another as to who used the last of the ‘Dark Angel Green’ on whose ‘Fucking Space Orks’.
November 11th, Night.
Will Self wakes half the town when he drags Will Self out of the house, the last screaming like bags of lit kittens, the first furious and calling to the gods for vengeance. Will Self helpless before the onslaught of Will Self is pinned to our garden gate with antique nails and a toffee hammer, but laughs and demands ‘who’s fucking Voldemort now?’. We cannot see what the cause of the claim nor the violence is, Will Self only shouting ‘Bruce Almighty?’ for an hour before setting about Will Self with a grass snake.
 November 13th    
Both Will Self and Will Self have taken to fighting crime in the personae of ‘Zeitgeist, The Man Of Now’. Zeitgeist came round our house at lunchtime demanding ‘two large gins, two pints of cider. Ice in the cider’ before the one pissing on the single worn shoe of the other declared his self ‘Zeus’ and the other therefore ‘Danae, you fucking princess of Argos’. Both then shouted that they had a heart condition, and it would therefore be murder to hit one another. Whereupon they snogged. 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pong, the Movie


The last Transformers movie having recently been panned by the internet for having too much talking, meetings have begun regarding the proposed new Pong movie. Released originally on the Atari so far back in the soup of time that computers were still regarded by the sort of people everywhere who now complain about the richly-paced plots of the Transformers franchise as being bent, Pong would have broken all sorts of new ground for home entertainment had it actually been anything of the kind. Born into a time when computer programmers needed someone to hand them tools Pong allowed two, then later four, adversaries to play a game that had they been like other kids in the 70s they would have known was already being done better (and by a ball).
Problems had arisen however where now the original and ripely rich back story to Pong has come to the fore. Screenwriters led to believe the simplicity of the game represented only a game of ping pong, of tennis, or at a stretch something that could have football on the cover have stumbled on what you all of course already know. That starting as a young boy Pong encounters an escaped convict called Magwitch lurking about his mother’s (Pong’s) grave. Pong is scared into thieving food for the villain from his cruel older sister and her similarly horrid husband. Later he encounters an aging Lady Bracknell and her petulant adopted-daughter Estella, a whole raft of new characters all of whom are cruel Pong. He apprentices to a blacksmith and by circumstance is raised to society where he at first behaves badly, finding himself surrounded by yet more cruel people but by now a strapping young blacksmith.
Pong is saved from ignominy by a lawyer, Jaggers  (who is probably Arioch according to a throwaway line in Elric At The End Of Time) who reveals that Pong rather than being a wretch is actually a rich young man, whereupon cruel society instantly forgives him until Pong loses all his wealth. There is all manner of confusion as to who is Pong’s benefactor.
It is Magwitch.
The pair flee on a train together but are forced to jump and then progress over the Scottish hills and dells until finally back in London they discover that the 39 Steps are those leading to the sea in a cove, in Kent. There they are able to hand over the plans for the by now fully functioning Death Star.
Or there’s loads of explosions and, like, stuff.

Friday, 11 November 2011

New President for Iraq


It has surprised many that in the recent, ‘no more, not again, you have to do it properly this time’ elections held in Iraq over the last fortnight that the new leader of New Iraq is David Mitchell. Hailed as the only sensible choice for a nation badly in need of a leader able to smugly mock the leaders of other, less Footlights-experienced nations Mitchell has already promised to bring about the sort of middle-class literate evil that only a man of his talent, dead eyes, and lack of ever having suffered a bit of a smack can reliably promise.
Mitchell, the son of classic Dr Who villain The Master (back before The Master inexplicably thought he was Bez from the Happy Mondays) has promised that in his storyline he will need at least six proper half-hour episodes in order to be defeated, and that no amount of ‘simply running around Hogwarts’ as evidenced in recent series of the long running BBC television show will see his end.
Which is about as close as we can expect it seems to a bit a joke. Because President Mitchell (or Caeser as he has chosen for his official title) is quoted this morning, when asked to make with the funnies, as saying, ‘Oh yes, because I’m a comedian that’s all I’m good for. I write for the Guardian too you know, and I’ve had a book, probably more than one, published too. Which has nothing to do with the comedy. Well I’m very sorry I’m sure, but some of us have got some dictating to do. And not like a secretary. I’m not actually Mark off Peep Show,’ then. ‘Hang on did I say that out loud? Did I think it? Oh god, what if they heard me?What if they’re hearing me now? And I bet they all did it last night too. Bloody foreign affairs journos with their limbs, and they’re funky blue helmets. I bet they’re all bloody shagging Victoria Coren, too.’
He then concluded by pointing out he could have people killed now, and probably jolly well would too.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Starch, and the Jelly People

 Hmm, sugary...

Marble Arch was originally built as the front of Buckingham Palace and whilst I know it was only moved round the back – still it was moved round the back. Outside the grounds and long serving now as a traffic island under which only the Queen, the Royal Horse Artillery and the late Frank Muir are by tradition able to pass it was... look, it was moved. That’s enough isn’t it? Bloody great lump hitched up on bricks and taken I hope in a single night with the presumed aid of dozens of gaily striped passenger-balloons. It has rooms, it used to be a Police station and it was once described as resembling a ‘giant sugar erection’ which must have made someone jolly happy come Christmas morning.
But none of that is the strangest thing about it.
Because and I can’t believe no one told me, but when I went by there in the early hours last this was the statue that now accompanies it.

There’s doubtless a very good story behind them but you know what? I don’t want to know. Some things are best just are, and these just... are.

It May Bring Rain


Because we all knew that the limits were 1955 to 1989 that was where we stayed. It’s why we never go there now, too many tourists.
Simon’s dancing with Audrey Hepburn and all hail to the king, baby – Moz has got bongos.
 I say with suspicion, “It’s not jazz is it?”
Jerry thinks this is very funny. He snortles around a carafe of very rough red that he’s still getting looks about. For a beatnik bar they’re very strict on age and Jerry’s not helping things with his Tintin quiff and Bakelite glasses. There’s an oath when a pigeon shits on Rob’s suede. He can’t believe it for a moment. He just stares, which is when the pigeon punctuates the pause with a full stop that plops into his glass. Jerry says nothing but doesn’t help by taking off his glasses for a good clean they do not need.
 “Right,” says Rob.
We’ve come here for a quiet evening in a quiet year. Simon’s choice, the date for his date though he’ll deny it later. I still think this Beatnik crap is jazz. Moz picks up on the tempo because Moz can smell trouble, normally because he’s the mass that makes the gravity to pull it in. He’d interfere if only to save the wine but he’s got this massive leg on him right now and whilst he can run it’s only in circles. Simon hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care. If it was Paris then it would be all lowered brows and tutting, telling clicks of the tongue, but he’s on with Hepburn and an adventure won’t hurt him there one bit. In an hour there’ll be a speed boat, or a train or something thrilling with a motorcycle combination. So Jerry conveniently cannot see, Simon’s up for the adventure and Moz as I say has this massive leg on him at the moment.
What Rob has is a gun that takes the time of two guns to draw. It’s something like a Blackhawk, or a Redhawk, or a Magnum, or all three because when Rob practises against cans he can’t see the point in picking them up again for another go. It’s not like he’d do the same with people. It’s about a foot long and with his arms that means he’s only got two more to reach the pigeon.
“Rob,” I say.
Jerry takes a hasty phone call on a book of matches.
“The fucker,” says Rob, “will rue the day...”      
And I’ll be down one pigeon but hey, I’ve got a lot of pigeons.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Tat, Scarves and the Cocteau Twins


Nick Hornby writes in Fever Pitch, It was probably for this reason that I was so intrigued by her tastes and whims, and fancies, and her belongings induced in me a fascination for girls’ rooms that continued for as long as girls had rooms and I understand what he means. Fear not, I’m not tapping this out on some pink laptop by the light of a taped penlight. For reasons of Christmas I was checking what lurked in what packed boxes still the other day, and in one I found Q’s room. This does not mean she has a box to which she might retreat, for it is a box with little space in it, but one that smells of sandal wood, or jasmine, or whatever the hell that incense is that smells like girls did when you were a much younger man.
It’s true to say that even back then, then really being the 80s, the early 90s then just as music was finally getting a lot – a lot – better then so too were girls. The quality of both improves quite markedly between, say, sixteen and twenty-one. It couldn’t be us could it? Surely not, not with our records in a cardboard box and our tapes, our C90s with every album ever recorded, ever, taped, as long as every album is by Tull, Rush, Zeppelin and anything else from the 70s that got us through the 80s.
No in this box was a girl’s room. Boy’s rooms were not so nice. True we paid less attention perhaps to hygiene and similarly so girls had the funny idea that the only thing to constitute an ashtray, was the ashtray. Indeed, they had an ashtray. It was normally a pub ashtray in the same way that apart from one faded Danger Mouse mug the boy’s flat would otherwise have only many, many pint glasses from which to drink. Girl’s decorated everything with floaty scarves like everything was Stevie Nicks. They had small tape decks that played only the Cocteau Twins. They had bits of tat, of glass, or ornamental things, junk jewellery and a single copy of a single book. Greer, or The Unbearable Lightness, or bloody Mists of bloody Ava-bloody-lon. And their rooms would smell nice, and be all half lit, and of course there would always be a girl there (and let’s not be coy, young skinny-people’s sex too).
In contrast and despite owning far more stuff, boy’s rooms were far emptier. Tapes, records, a lot of paperbacks, and quite often the girl you were meant to be with. That was back home though, now, now. We were all young once. Or some of us were. Actually, a few of us were.
And all this was in this box. Bits of wonderful tat that boys don’t understand because they don’t do anything. Scarves and mirrors, random things for putting joss sticks in, and joss sticks. Ribbons and pins, a Strawberry Switchblade single and a single tape deck, and only one poster, The Cure or Alien Sex Fiend doutbless.
But what wasn’t in this box was the girl, because back home and she’s there already.
But snakebite still does not and never should have, black in it.