Tuesday, 28 February 2012

London, Blue Nun, and Route 23

Route 23? Of course it is!


The news that London has returned once more to its iconic double-deckers pleases me no end. Every time I’ve been in the smoke in the last ten years things have changed, inevitably you’ll say, and you’d be right, but in little ways. The Shard for example, set up entirely to make sure the Rockingham Estate is always, even at night, in the shade. But with busses I’ve missed them not being there and so with their return I’ll be thankfully saved from missing what replaced them. Bear in mind I still don’t know what an oyster card does, and somewhere not so very deep inside I’m still wondering where the smoking carriage went on the tube trains.
                          This all bodes very well for the future. With the Olympics coming to London, and my own part reluctantly agreed to in the opening ceremony. I am assured that already people working in the city do so once more in bowler hats (developed to act as a helmet for gamekeepers), pin-stripe trousers and with a furled umbrella balanced by a copy of The Times. Even now I look forward to roaring over Tower Bridge in a nippy little MG painted with the union flag, almost certainly with a helicopter keeping chase to catch the footage of me, my mightily cheek-bewhiskered driver and a pair of young swingers in the back, ideally ageless Hammer actresses. Young Guards officers will be caught with a bit of rough in Green Park. I shall stay in a well-appointed pad where a party shall always be in full blow and where being middle-aged I will somehow be very groovy, and probably solve mysteries.
                          Ah, London. We’ll toast you with Blue Nun, drunk from a shoe, provided by Christine Kieller, on a bet with Terrance Stamp, in Ladbroke Grove, and eat breakfast at the Mountain Grill, in smart clobber, where Peter Cook will be the devil, incarnate.
                          It will, won’t it? 
                          Yeah, it will. Course it will.

Monday, 27 February 2012

No Longer Big, No Longer Clever

Everyone was on glue in the 70s


It seems very unfair that given I never read the Beano as a boy life now begins to emulate it. It’s the swearing mostly, I clearly can’t in front of the kids and that took some getting used to given that once upon a yesterday my every third word was the ever poetic ‘fuck’. When in the kitchen hammering a slap up feed* into place, or the garden more recently when Tracey Emin got stuck up a tree and the sprouts set about one another, shouting and a hollering, I wonder when the dread fear of Daddy yelling out ‘What the blinking flip is going on in there’ is going to grow thin?
                          My beloved Q tries hard but hasn’t mastered the art yet, albeit when driving. She’s a better driver than anyone else on the road, or must be because everyone else seems to be by oath and curse considerably worse. Swearing is big and clever, everyone knows that, and I feel a right plum** when my computer acts according to my nature and I in a rage scream at it ‘right you blinking flipping thing, I’ll blinking flip you, you flipping see if I don’t’. I sound like an argument in the playground of Grange Hill.
                          No, I was never one for the Beano. I was a boy for comics called things like War! and Sharks! which probably explains why I’ve caught myself saying both ‘strewth’ and ‘crickey’.
                          Logically I’ll be saying ‘borag thungg’ in a year or two, and referring to everyone as an ‘earthlet’.
                          And how zarjaz will that be?

*There it is! Beano, from when in post-war Britain a decent meal was a reward for... I don’t know, I never read the flipping thing. Foiling things I think. Back in those halcyon days of the middle-century when all it took to thwart the plans of a foreign power were boyish pluck and a robot chum? Something like that?  
**Plum? For flips’ sake!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Trench Foot In Waterloo



This is one of our trips together.
            Every half term, every school holiday, and my Granda Bill takes me to London. It’s not far by train. He used to commute until last year, since he moved in with us. But the family never talk about where we came from, or that side of it at least. It’s funny because whilst he, quote, married well, and my Dad’s side look down on that part they married in to I’ll find out later that all roads that don’t lead down from Scotland lead to Lambeth, both sides. My Granda Bill doesn’t care. My Granda Bill doesn’t give a stuff for any of it. He went through seven years in the army and never had to be shot at once. He was a company clerk, the eternal corporal, and he and his likeminded mates transferred each other moments before being sent anywhere nasty. Can’t really blame him can you? It meant he was in uniform before most and got demobbed two years after the war, oddly he got posted to Germany only when the surrender was made. He didn’t see his daughter, my mum, until she was two. Fly fucker.
            We go by train because we always go by train.
            You might remember them. They have compartments, and they’re smoking. And you have to lean out the door to open it. On tele a running gag would always be about British Rail sandwiches, and they weren’t far wrong. If there was a buffet car it’d be musty, damp, and there’d be a glass dome with a scotch egg, and the noteworthy sandwich and a sausage roll under the smeared horrid display. And crisps if you were lucky, but we took our sandwiches with us, always cheese. He’d make them from his bread, because his bread was different to the family bread. You had to cut it yourself, and it wasn’t stale, and the cheese would be circus strong, and there would be pickle from a jar all sticky about the rim, layers of roll-top sticky without a crust.
            We’re going to visit the sights in London. Really we’re just going to London because he can’t really adjust to not being there. He thinks it silly that no one keeps a pig and chickens in the yard, and he calls the garden a ‘yard’. Everyone used to, and that’s why bacon and eggs are such a breakfast fixture now. We’re going to some touristy place and he’ll know half the people working there. When we get off the station we’ll be picked up a taxi and it’ll be Uncle Roy or the other Uncle Roy, who aren’t related but know Bill and who secretly he’d write to first to meet us, and I spent years thinking there were only two cabbies in London. Or that all the cabbies were called Roy. And when we go home we’ll be carrying half a bloody great fish, or a parcel of giant liver, and we’ll be roundly told off.
            We’ve been everywhere everyone else goes. We’ve been to funny museums no one else goes to. We’ll walk these funny little streets and sometimes these new, equally horrid streets and he’ll tell me about who was there, once, when there was another London there. We’ll stop every hour for a cup of tea because he’s fuelled by tea. Not in a cafe. He’ll knock on a door and we’ll go in and I’ll drink this milky tea, and listen to people I’ll never, not ever, meet again. Or we’ll go into the little shacks Uncle Roy or Uncle Roy use.
            But it’s the toilets I’m scared off because the ones on the train are never working. And the ones in the station are fearfully things. Stained wood, never cleaned, shit everywhere. The one in Waterloo is the worse, or at least the one I always have to use, when I have to use it. It’s underground. On the way there’s a barbers where you can get a shave. And the toilets are an inch deep in what I hope is water (but which I know is not). And I have to sit there with my feet off the ground, and there’s no seat, and the paper if there is any is that stuff in school, paper, shiny on one side, that scratches your arse.
            So years later when the toilets cost 20p and are clean, and metal, and don’t leak, and you don’t have to read ancient graffiti you don’t understand, and they don’t smell, at all, it's a little piece of wonder. But that's a few years yet and my ticket stub is that. A rectangle of cardboard that I'll clutch in the cubicle of strange sounds and stranger smells.
            So we’re going to London.      

This Saddest Day

Now Empty

25/02/2015
My best mate died last week.
            I’ve just been to the funeral and I’m sitting here in my hotel room where the wake is getting going below, and it’s shit. We knew it was coming but we didn’t know, our certainty was all talk and a talk we’ve been having for five years now. I don’t even know what eventually kicked him off. He was overweight and every time I saw him every few months worse still. Three or so years ago he had a scare, blood clots in the leg and perhaps worse but he told us around another fag and drank another sixteen cans of lager, or a box of wine and whilst he didn’t laugh it off he certainly pretended it wasn’t there. Around us at least. I think it kept him company when he was alone, but he had no will power and had this thing where ‘no one told him what to do’. That makes him sound like some feeble oaf, and he wasn’t. He was kind, and he was gentle – and he was funny. And there were a lot of people at the funeral all of whom went to the pub with him, like me not really thinking that he’d be at it like that all the time so that over the last two years especially he was forever elsewhere.
            He got addled some time ago. Forgetful, you’d have to say things to him a few times.
            Once a year he’d swear off everything. He would lose weight, cut out the booze, get off the fags. And he never did.  I’m smoking now. Funnily enough I smoked around him (which can’t have helped) and then back with my family I’d knock it on the head for another month or three. The good die young and he was fifty, I think, but it wasn’t an accident, he did it to himself – I know that, but I feel guilty. Rationally I’ve no reason to. A few years back he asked me to phone him each night to check he wasn’t drinking. I soon stopped that because firstly he was a compos drunk, I wouldn’t know half the time – and the other half, I worried he’d just lie to me. And I didn’t need him to lie to me.
            He was fucked up at times. He hadn’t had a girlfriend since the last century, he was engaged, and they broke up, and that hit him hard. Even when mates would set him up with someone else, even when he met a girl at a party and she asked after him he would hide. He couldn’t see why anyone would like him like that, when clearly they did. It was his weight, he loathed himself so didn’t understand why anyone else would think otherwise.
            We go way back. We met in the bar of the Horticultural Halls near Victoria in the 80s. We hit it off right away. We were good friends very quickly. We shared a few flats, when I was right down on my luck I crashed on his sofa for a year. Later and he let me and Q stay when we were having our first in his big old house and we were saving. He was like that.
            I can hear the first cheers below, toasting good-old-him. But I’m not there yet, and a couple like me too. We’re getting our shit together first so we don’t shout, or rant, or spoil the occasion.
            We were mates, we were partners, buddies. We were a double-act. He was funny, though he lost that recently. We’d finish each other’s piss-takes, we were the naughty corner.
            He hated suicide. He hated it when people made that choice. He never understood it and there we divided somewhat, talked about it sometimes after a few beers. He couldn’t understand why they just didn’t go to him. But he did it too, just slower and without facing it and now he’s dead, and it was painful, and sudden and I don‘t even want to go into who told me, and me having to post the news. Two of us did that, we had much the same relationship with him, and now he’s dead.
            This group of friends we were a part of isn’t the same now. It won’t be the same again. There’ll always be this big fucking empty space. I’d like to say I half think he’s going to be down there in a minute. That I’ll get down there and he’ll be there, large as the proverbial life, pint glass raised, all in slimming black and laughing with that fleeting look in his eyes that now I’ll always remember as looking out for the robed feller with the big sickle.
            It’s not fucking right, and I couldn’t do anything then, less now.
            We were meant to grow old. And he, me and the lanky one would fall down hills in bathtubs and I’d chase Nora Batty.
            Because he’s dead, the stupid fuck, and later tonight there’ll be a half-dozen of us left, or out in the carpark, or away, or something and I know we’ll say nothing. And we’ll never say much to each other again because anything we say, we’d be thinking of him.
            I love him, and I miss him, and I want to shout at him. But I can’t.
            So that’s that.   

Thursday, 23 February 2012

BEEB! Plans Scrapped

Techno, techno, techno, techno!


The BBC found guilty today of ageist discrimination against dropped presenter Miriam O’Reilly has been forced by the announcement to scrap its own plans to oust itself in favour of the new format BEEB! Set to appeal more readily to all the important youth market the BBC has been forced to cake itself in pancake and dance like a dad, in brogues, to Blondie’s Heart of Glass, which will mean nothing to anyone since everyone in Britain today is aged under 21.
The launch of BEEB! with its controversial new line up of presenters, programming and cheap steady-cam shouting has already attracted headlines with its casting in the Celebrity News slot at 9pm with a foetus. The last in a long line of hirings and firings starting with Kimberley Zap (16) in the Newznite slot has left the BBC with egg on its face – although the announcement of a return of Top Of The Pops headed by a handful of sperm leaves doubt as to the actual composition of said egg.
With the actors on EastEnders already replaced by those from Bob The Builder it’s difficult to say how the announcement will leave the sudden reversal of scheduling. Country File having already been taken out and shot in a barn with Old Yeller due to the widely held view that there is no such thing outside the M25, that leaves the current season only with Dik & Dom Boy Detectives to rank up alongside repeats of science and gadget show Why Don’t You.
A further announcement is set to follow tonight’s coverage of the all-important St Peters Primary vrs Drew Street Junior in the Surrey under-11s quarter-final.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Meet The Stigs


A family of Neanderthal have moved in across the river, but I shouldn’t really call them that because they don’t come from a German valley. The Stigs seem very nice, Q’s spoken with the wife Mrs Stig who’s into mocking our attempts at computers whilst Mr Stig whilst it could be said works in the dump, he also owns it. It’s lucky they’re friendly since whilst racist stereotypes have them as being short, 5’5” or so that was twenty odd thousand years ago. We were averaging that at Waterloo. They’re bigger at the shoulders too, stronger, with those big old hands and much as we like to think otherwise they’ve got bigger brains. Mr Stig suffers for this arthritis and about our age they’re martyrs for their backs and knees but what struck me the most isn’t that they look, forgive me, somewhat lumpen so much as we look like children. Our features as adults are still those, in comparison, as our kids.
                          Now I’m not going to join the parade that feels guilty about my ancestors. Mine were mostly in music-hall. So sorry for ‘Woops Mr Porter’ but you’d have to go a lot further back to find where we might herald our triumph in a post-ice-age, or the competiveness for territory, our roaming blah blah blah. Shit has happened and Mrs Stig loathes people apologising when she would far rather laugh at us – not us, but just as sweeping – turning to crystals rather than medicine, looking at auras and reading the future in cards. She thinks it funny that Ming The Merciless is our shaman. But she does take the Daily Mail with her New To You Scientist, and you don’t want to get started on immigration. We’re from Africa after all. So we’ll be polite and with luck, friends.
                          They aren’t all Robbie Williams.

Fifty Ways To Use Your Pancake



Pancake day and as ever there are many more made than eaten. Obviously we’ve already wondered why we don’t have pancakes more often – and yet there they are, more left over, for shame. But it’s a waste and I hate that, so if like me you have leftovers fear not, for here are fifty uses of excess pancakes.

An ironic page marker for cookery books.
A protector for very cheap smart phones.
Sun block for bald men, better the pancake crispy.
An ergonomic tissue.
A holster for a banana, when used as a weapon.
A milk mop.
A pocket kerchief when wearing a beige tie.
A rope for safe games of tug-of-war.
A net for catching crafty flies.
A means by which wellies can be readily turned into pirate boots.
A means of storing CDs when all confused amongst their boxes.
For use in challenging only a very mildly deadly enemy to a less lethal than normal duel.
A blanket for a poorly hamster.
Wet wipes for people with greasy skin.
As a clay pigeon for Nerf guns.
An emergency nappy when camping.
A mouse mat for practising computer dexterity with a boiled egg.
A flag for attracting passing lemon vans.
A comic for the short-sighted.
As a knife for a Buddhist out mugging.
As ears when disguising oneself as an elephant.
A clue in batter-related crime fiction.
Birth control for couples that want children – one day.
An apron for vegetarian cenobites.
A sail for toy boats on a gravy pond.
The skin of a drum for tired musicians.
A ski-mask for hot summer days.
Prosthetic leaves for an ailing house plant.
A judo mat for combative mice.
A vinyl LP for a record player without a needle.
A bandage for sugar-cuts.
Underpants for shy flashers.
A patch for a threadbare batter tent.
A frisbee for the disinclined.
An alien monster for Action Man B Movie re-enactments.
A wimple for a confectionary nun.
A lead for an unwanted dog.
A present for someone you mildly dislike.
As a ghost costume for a chicken invited to a fancy-dress party at very short notice.
As jewellery for the metal-intolerant
A wallet for the cash-challenged.
As a throw to hide very small piles of mess.
A living environment for overweight pond-skaters.
As cymbals for the easily startled.
A saw for margarine planks.
A crash helmet for workers in a pillow warehouse.
A target for spaghetti arrows.
A blurry poster for fans of potato boy-bands.
A cushion for very mild piles.
And, as a buffet plate for the overweight.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

So, New Then


So after half an evening of wasted time Google has kindly changed everything. Much as I love downloading crap that makes things worse we're now in the much better position of not being able to simply copy and paste what's been written in word, into here. So there's this 'triffic piece about fifty things to do with excess pancakes, and there elsewhere it remains.


The idea that every entry is first typed directly into here is laughable. What is it with computer-witchery that when something works perfectly well it has to be changed for no appreciable reason? If the way things are now is so amazing, why will it be in the space of a minute suddenly rubbish whenever the next old sock of tosh comes along? The formatting is worse too. I mean, look at it.


Still, lovely whilst it lasted. Unless that's solved by some means my pressing and investigating every new button hasn't revealed I can't see how any but the simplest updates can be achieved.


Bag. Of. Arse.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Tabloid: Source Of All Life

Headline later retracted due to the correct use of the apostrophe.

A yellow dwarf star set within and nurturing the solar system, the Sun has long come into disrepute for its bile, its celebrity gossip, and its association with egg sandwiches, margarine and white Home Pride bread. Providing for all life on earth the Sun has long thankfully not been quite as ‘soaraway’ as claimed, other than to fly through the rushing ether of all things in an expanding universe. A near spherical ball of burning plasma and gravity it is perhaps most famous amongst astronomers for having tits on page three.
First published a little over four and half billion years ago the tabloid was quick to blame immigrants for Saturn, itself yet to form, and to sensationalise Venus for getting it's figure back so quickly after the birth of its moon, of which it has none. Britain’s biggest selling newspaper the Sun rises every morning only because columnist Jeremy Clarkson cuts out the heart from a rival Aztec journalist whilst being protected by his elite jaguar warriors, and offers it in sacrifice before going to the pub.
With the closure of sister-paper News Of The World there is no longer any news, of the world. With the possible demise of the Sun experts suggest that the world quite apart from just completely dying will become a wasteland of ice-schooners and barbarians riding in chariots pulled by polar bears.
So there’s that at least.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Night Of the Oxymoron

Oh brilliant, all over the bloody carpet. That's just great, no really.

We’ve got a new village constable and he’s obviously not happy about it. I know a couple of rozzers, one’s in traffic and the other’s about to start up as the new sergeant at Bromley after a stint in Special Branch - but laughing-boy here wouldn’t be very interested in that. Bromley probably sounds like the setting of the new trans-Atlantic setting for CSI compared to Tolly Maw. Tolly Maw doesn’t have much in the way of crime. Apart from the many sheltering from previous fame and fortune everyone is, frankly, a ghoul. You’ll doubtless have noticed this what with the boxes bringing food and musty clothes. Monster Club was a documentary, although they’re very nice. I like it that everyone nods and says hello when you pass them by. Something I did in London a wee while back out of habit. In Euston. Leading me to being questioned by a community-support-officer about why I was in a train station and me asking him in turn if he realised he wasn’t a real policeman. I digress. As ever.
No this local bitter bookend has been posted here after the last one, well, was eaten. I mean it was mostly voluntary and everything. I’m told. Anyway, he wants to know about the bodies.
It’s Andy’s fault.
After a packed week of half-term occupation I’ve had a weekend of friends coming up. Lurch, Andy and Maurice and it’s pretty sure that the bodies are because of Andy. I mean, sure, Lurch is a basket-case after years of being called ‘Lofty’ and now waking up screaming about some war or other in his house near Hereford. And Maurice still has a big part of him back in Cambridge what with the whole invisible-member-of-a-massive-stadium-prog-rock-band thing. And whilst Lurch does admittedly still pooh in a plastic bag (not because he has to worry about leaving evidence behind on some covert-op anymore, but because he just sort of likes it). And to be fair Maurice did drive his Polo into my swimming pool (and I don’t have a swimming pool) then for bodies it’s Andy. Because Andy is an archaeologist, even if he can’t spell ‘archaeologist’.
It started with the Mummy and vengeance, and that would have been easy only the yearling Tilda Swintons have eaten all the cats. So we had to run around, briefly, because we’re a bit huffy nowadays, and there was sand and a De Havilland Moth (which I had to fly because – and bloody hell – ‘you’ve done a bit in helicopters’- ta, Lurch)) which crashed and...
...Well we had to fight off the dead. Who rose, and not happily, and drank coffee from the tea cups, and tried to use the cardboard from the loo roll when the loo roll ran out of paper. And bought, and left, a big punnet of plums they bought and ate only two of. And I’ve had to have the windows open because of that bloody zombie smell. And only buying ten fags because they’ve basically given up and what is with the peach schnapps? And the brains, let’s not forget the wanting to eat our brains.
It’s not like I’m equipped for a zombie apocalypse. I’m not some survivalist, even if I find townies funny in the country what with them walking into trees and wanting to know why the little shop doesn’t sell fire. But there’re axes and Lurch enjoyed the air pistol, and there was Maurice, pissed, with the Nerf gun. We had to use Andy’s notes to send them back, his transcript of the Book Of The Dead. And Andy’s really dyslexic so that took some time. It looked backwards to begin with, frankly.
So now I’ve got to clear up the zombies and the local constable is out there digging up the garden in case there are more. Which is fine as I should get the broad beans and early peas in really.
My missus is going to go spare when she sees the carpet though.    

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Me And The Olympics


So Sebastian Coe won’t get the message.
“I understand that the Olympics are a really big deal,” I say, “but I’m not sure what you want me to do about them?”
“Not about them Al,” he says. God I hate being called Al. It’s what you say when you get hurt. And not a vicious, manly sort of hurt, like fighting a tiger sort of hurt. But more a sort of forgot-the-cupboard-door sort of hurt. Isn’t ‘Alan’ short enough. Is the second syllable too much of a reach? “It’s the opening ceremony. We’re short a performer.”
He wants me up some ribbons doing acrobatics? He can’t possibly expect me to compete. What would the event be? I ask him explaining that it’s been coming on to three decades now since really I did anything sporty. Juggling? On the grand scale of things I’m a better juggler than I am a guitarist no matter who I’m distantly related to, but that still makes me only enough of a juggler not to be someone who is not a juggler. It’s not even a category is it? It wasn’t on the census. Skateboarding? Much the same, going in a straight line apart from very wide corners cannot possibly be an Olympic event. He’s got in for me, he doesn’t fool me. It’s because I killed his fucking paladin. It was a long time ago. I killed a lot of people’s paladins. Probably everybody’s paladin. Fucking paladins.
He says, “Mark Thomas has dropped out.”
“Has he?”
“Mark Thomas, Al,” there it is again. It’s because I call him Sebastian. Yes, that’s definitely it.  “A comedian, well a social commentator. Like that Chumbawumba, or one-hit-wonder I call them.”
“They’ve had a million albums out, Sebastian. Tubthumping was just some awkward fluke. They were going a long time before and are still going now. They just look like they’re going to a dinner party now. Less nuns.”
“Anyway, you do know Mark Thomas?”
“I know Mervyn Peake,and Terry Thomas, and Michael Praed runs the post office. Everything in the post office is pregnant. Even reading out the blog to your girlfriend will get her pregnant. But no, not personally. He was on the radio last night. He proposed that we should demonise spoons in society.”
That’s stuffed him, “For why?”
“So as to reduce knife-crime amongst the young. Look, what was he going to do?”
“He was going to take the piss. It’s a very British thing. I’ll be there, Branson will be there, we’ll all be dancing, badly, in blazers. You’ll piss yourself, only,” he says, “don’t do that. The Queen will be there too. It’ll be Bognor all over again.”
True.
But, “I don’t do that anymore, Sebastian. I’m settled, I’ve got kids. I’m nice now. Blame the internet. Hidden by silly names people are just bloody rude to each other in the certain belief they won’t get a smack in the mouth. I’m quite polite now.”
“Al, baby – the big lights, the bright city. You owe me, Al. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Sir Tasslehoff...”
Shit, I knew it was the fucking paladin. “Sebastian look, time’s change. You can go on line now. You can... do things with phones. Do people still farm? You can farm, on line. I’m certain you can. People seem determined to tell me about it. Or notify me. I’m pretty sure that apart from me the only people in the whole country who haven’t farmed on line in the last year, are farmers.”
“You owe me, Al. You owe me big.”
I suppose I do.
Bloody paladins.     

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Please Sir!

Comprehensive school kids - no really

A new Awful Czar has been appointed today, leading already to any number of witticisms playing on the two words, the first implying the performance of the second.
Chortles!
Recent figures recently released today about recent things shows that Awfulness is up mumblety-mumblety percent. Faced with the rise of Awfulness amongst the young, two measures are being put forward. The first to tax it, the second to make Awful people enter council-sponsored Awful Domes whereby two men enter, one man leaves. Or women. Or a sort of gestalt awful gender. Like skinny Goths. And the sort of young heavy metal lads you don’t see any more that despite the denim and the Iron Maiden look less like Hell’s Angels than, well, Goths look like they think they look. I quote.
Concerns have been raised widely in various frightening papers about the spread of Awfulness away from clearly disturbed young people eating madness-cake and smoking banana skins to pretty much everyone under the age of middle. Sprayed with orange squash, everyone of the age less than middle has been infected with Awfulness, a disease that costs an unspecified country, maybe this one, who knows, a kazillion pounds a year in ill-advised high-heel topplings alone.
‘Back in my day,’ Awful Czar Clive Lighthouse-Family has announced, ‘We were never young, and we didn’t waste our time at Oxbridge on tatty-trade degrees such as Media Studies – where jobs can be had much to my dismay, but Classics. The country’s shortage of Classical degrees is why we’re not Hellenistic Greece. The birthplace of Democracy, whereby these beardless-youths wouldn’t have the vote they never cast. In schools such as Fenn Street and St Trinians even teenagers had the good grace to be well into their twenties,’ and, 'In my day.'
The new classification of age-before-middle is said to include having been too young to have ridden a chopper pushbike, enjoyed a packet of spangles, or still wonder to this day what happened to John Craven on Newsround*?
*It’s a whole body-snatchers thing, in case this includes you. 

Monday, 13 February 2012

Aunt Minerva, Victims Of Waugh


Lord Woolten Pie, 1971
“When I reached your rooms, which were at the top of the stair, I paused and looked back at the commons, just coming into full view below me through the grey mist of an early morning,” said Henry Lord Rockingham. He did not test the cord that had been used to tie both hands to the chair. He faced the door. By the shadows of the small room a dressing gown seemed to lean against it, a misshapen figure.
            “I understand you, sir.”
            “Do you? I wonder.”
            Ludovic took a book from near the curtained window. The only light in the room came from an insufficient bulb, the fringes of whose lampshade made lines on the room’s single rug, something old that in places showed the weave. He had to tilt the lamp to show the book to his captive, Brideshead Revisited, of course.
            “Ah,” said Henry. He had received the same through the post not a week before, mislabelled to another but to the address delivered, in Hampstead. When he had heard that in Oxford Lord Sebastian Flyte had been seen the synchronicity of it had peaked his interest. He had come himself. He had learned an address. He had climbed as he had said, a stair.  “I rather wanted to meet the fellow.”
            “There’s never been a film, sir. I checked.”
            “No, no I dare say you’re right. How did you know that Waugh would peak me?”
            “Need we go into that, sir?”
            “I’d be awfully grateful.”
            “I’m Ludovic. Formerly Corporal Major. You like Waugh, sir, you tell me.”
            Sword of Honour, Henry recalled. And that they had made a film of. The strange little man that Waugh’s literary stand-in Crouchback had met in Egypt. Who deserted him, then saved him, but not without the murder of Major Fido and a sapper officer whose name eluded Henry for the moment. Here in the form of Freddie Jones, character actor. Henry wondered what would happen if they met? He had never considered that before. “How did you know about me?”
            “I’ve been very forthright with you. sir. I ‘d like to think you appreciate that. You’re a gentleman and I’ve always thought that war should be fought by such people. But all proper gentlemen are now very old. Allow me a little mystery. You’re not that well hidden. Not really. But I’m  not stupid, sir. I hope you allow that much? I know I’m not right. I always kept my diary. I always was a bit of a reader. I was on the little picture house, and by it was the book. I had a bit of a read. I met someone else like me a bit later, but he was daft. Confused, still in the story. Not me, sir. I saw him picked up, so I followed your dandies. So who’s Aunt Minerva, if you’d be so kind?”
            Henry allowed himself a small smile. He learned more tied up than he ever did otherwise. Ludovic had already said what he had claimed he wouldn’t. Or close enough for Henry to guess what remained, “If you untie me...”
            “...No, sir. You’re going to tell me everything. And don’t try and lie, and say you’ll look after me, or use me, or any of that. You tell me what I want to know, like a proper gentleman, and I’ll leave you here. You don’t and you know me, sir. You know me as well as I know myself. You know what I’m capable of. Spit it out, sir.”
            So Henry spat.
            And Ludovic who was a dago-type listened and made his notes. And Henry knew that Ludovic was going to be troublesome, something new. But troublesome tomorrow might not mean troublesome today. So Henry Lord Rockingham told the dago-type what he wanted to know. Or certainly what he needed to hear (which was not perhaps quite the same thing).   

Friday, 10 February 2012

Double Negative

Defying simple addition
Daughters and fun
You never get anything done
Projects begun
Remain so
Unless, and mathematically odd
There’re two of the little bleeders

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Aunt Minerva, Number 84, 1987


Charlie Chaplin came here to browse, to read, to buy. That tickled Alf. Marks & Co had closed, he did not know why. He had worked with them, or for them, found a few works put away by his Pops back in the war. Marks & Co had been part of the book ring. An arrangement whereby certain sellers and collectors agreed what to bid on (or not). In advance, lowering the prices from outsiders. There had been a quiet little scandal. But that had been Marks & Co whereas this was 84 Charing Cross Road. This shop and that were both Marks & Co, they both had the same address on their letterheads. Had. But this was the gentler book shop. This was the quietly bumbling, distant gazing, softly hands-touching-across-the-sea of a post-war Britain with a faint sigh, with parcelled eggs and where a cake was not a treat, but something daring.
Alf knew all this because he had been to the film not the night before with a bit of soppy tail, and here it was. Right down to the Polite Bookseller, with his brown paper and string face. Alf said, “They’re harmless.”
“But they are dago-types?”
“Oh yes,” but harmless, like he said. In the film last night all this, just exactly like this, a not-love non-affair across the years and ocean, by letter, the only shock a cultural one. Like a horrid, doomed extra-marital. Just without the thin-benefit of the fucking.
Alf Bittersweet knew he dressed snappily, and two decades before everyone else would have known it too. Everyone else had done. Alf Bittersweet had enjoyed twenty birthdays with twenty-nine candles on the cake. Simon Dee had robbed his look, the bitch. Here and he was twenty years too early. This was austerity Britain four years after wartime rationing, so now it was just rationing. He had not been paying attention. The prize-bullish man that had come to meet him had taken to sizing up Polite Bookseller. “Harmless,” said Alf again.
“Thought in Aunt Minerva we were meant to put down dago-types?”
“You new?”
The man flicked a look at Alf. Alf winked. Alf knew the type. Good family, Guards officer, Welsh by the tie if not by the accent. Missed the Falklands, never missed an episode of The Professionals, newly introduced to Aunt Minerva. Still thought there actually was an Aunt Minerva. “I’ve been told what we do. I was in Northern Island, Armagh, my platoon was...”
            Alf scarce listened. Some dago-type had stepped out of some film, only not like here, not all sepia whimsy and frayed ribbon. Something bad.
            “It wouldn’t die, I almost did. So don’t tell me...”
            This time some bluster. Some sort of threat. Don’t play with the hard man. Aunt Minerva loved this sort. Rough and bold. Angry. Never missed an episode of The Professionals, again. “They only go away, they only die,” said Alf interrupting, “if it’s like in the film, or so bloody impossible to do otherwise that even Saturday serials couldn’t change it. Take him, take Frank Doel. Looks like Captain Bligh, dies from peritonitis, I looked it up. I can’t remember if it says that in the film, and it’s the film that counts. It’s lucky that the Polite Bookseller couldn’t hurt so much as a feeling ‘cause I’m buggered how we’d work that one.”
            “Then...”
            “Hardly, you’re not here for that. Not for him. Maybe he’ll endure. Maybe he’ll have a sequel, of sorts. Live on after this place fades. Wake up with his wife with a little bit of mirror. Have his twenty years. Manage an Our Price, or Athena. I don’t care. He’s not your concern. He’s not the threat. Your man,” said Alf, “is one Captain Peter Skellen.”
            The name was familiar to the well-spoken ruffian, just not quite enough. He said, “How will I recognise him?”
            “Trust me sweetheart, you’ll know him when you see him.” He looked and spoke like, and was, the one that wasn’t Doyle. Alf did not know how bad he was, but if he was half as awful as the film then Aunt Minerva was in for a stormy one.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Headless Model Lisle Prestzl Shocker!


Outrage at twenty-two inch waist model Ioana Spangenberg has died already in the follow up to yesterday's hype regarding a freak (and a bit of a frightening one at that) with the signing to the new Mrs Frisby’s lingerie range of Lisle Prestzl, a model with a perfectly normal waist but no head. Mrs Frisby’s have released a statement to the effect that Miss Prestzl’s work is not exploitative, and is indeed positively empowering to the no-headed - a genuine and mostly ignored affliction.
Not new to the scene, the headless Miss Prestzl has been modelling provocative lingerie for more than eighteen months now, only (the ranges aimed at men buying for wives and girlfriends) none of the target market previously noticed  

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Happy Birthday, Charlie

They're queer folk in the Shire. Not pictured, Dickens.

Today we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. Sadly such a mouthful is compulsory as there is no English version of the phrase ‘birthday’. Dickens a social commentator, author and shadowy avenger of the night was not in his time best known for bleak expectations and great houses so much as his efforts to right-wrongs in the name of social-justice. In these more sugary times we tend to forget that Dickens not only wrote ‘for shame’ a lot, but rather more militantly used to jump out upon unsuspecting mill-owners and startle them for their workhouse ways. It is indeed from this that we still enjoyed until 1956 the sound of Policemen saying ‘What the Dickens?’ when faced with A Clue.
Dickens is similarly less well known for his early genre pieces, specifically crime fiction, early whodunits in which in the first person we are invited to detect away, probably saying ‘What the Dickens’ at each startling revelation and try and beat the narrator in learning who was the villain all along. I remember as a young boy, when tired of Sherlock Holmes, being directed by my mother to the enthralling tale of Horrible Horror At Madness Mansion. There I pondered like the very boy-detective myself down to the last two suspects, Mr Flumsy, and Beadle Badsoreness. Of course you all know the twist, of which the works were famous, and which brought about Dickens only angry mob when in Oliver there was none.
So raise a cup of humble to Mr Dickens. Happy birthday sir, you with your giant hat. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

John le Mesurier Sighs, Snow, and Grand Designs

Hancock stealing le Mesurier's slot. No change there, the cad. 

“I rather felt I’d given the game away with Bod.”
Where elsewhere and the country is neck-deep in snow here in Tolly Maw it is, and I quote god here, all rather lovely. God (as you might remember incarnate as John le Mesurier) sits on the only sofa not being used as a big-shelf for many-dollies. This leaves me only with the hard wooden chair on which to sit but that’s less of a problem than one might think as I’ve scarce had the chance to sit down. For John le Mesurier is a thirsty god and I’ve rarely looked about to be seated without the deity rattling cup on saucer in such a charming way I have to be about kettle and teabag once more.
The birds are chirruping, the Will Selfs are gambolling on their lawn and all unaware of the Tracey Emin (now fitted with a bell about her neck – albeit a doorbell) that stalks them. We watch nature’s delightful cycle, that natural circle of everything but we being terrified, nervous and dead long before their time. Or right on time, as John le Mesurier decides. Or perhaps he delegates?
“I delegate,” he agrees. “Or rather being frightful, I leave it to others.”
He’s up here because he does so hate being angry. Back down south and Arch-Bishops are burbling about gay-marriage, and the middle classes are burbling about Bishops. And it’s none of it all a part of John le Mesurier’s grand-design. Or his Grand Designs, but no one listens and mention of his rather charmingly vague plans puts him in need of a cake, so I have to hunt up tin, slice and plate.
“They all point at me, the darlings,” says John le Mesurier. “You think they’d be more grateful? Or only a little?”
“Your Grand Designs?” I say. I have to do it from the work surface because his appearance rather startled. By rather meaning very-much, and by startled screeching like a stuck cat and vertically jumping my own height in surprise.
“I put it on the frightful box for them,” he says. He adds as I clamber down, “Kevin McCloud, earnest fellow. Programme to do with chaps building hobbit-holes, or all of glass, or the one made of straw?”
“I saw that one,” I say.
“Everyone saw that one, dear heart,” says John le Mesurier. Grand Designs is god’s grand design to make everything on television occupy the teatime slot on a Sunday. Albeit all the time. He’s tried to show the difference. A tired old jab at reality television, but one apt. After all it takes quite some talent, quite some effort. Throw ten balls in a crowded-anywhere and you will probably hit ten people that don’t argue all that much, get to know one another and given that all they have to do is one task a week – do it. So ten balls sucked into vacuity, then well...
He sighs.
I say, “Is that wise, sir?”
He at least pretends to appreciate the quote. But snow, and not here, because we’re godly folk in Tolly Maw, though our vicar is Ming The Merciless and god is John le Mesurier, and worship is best through a black and white film. On a Sunday, afternoon, before tea. And is there a black and white film on? Something Ealing, something holy? No, because if John le Mesurier is not an angry god then he is a sad god. And the best he can do is Carry On Screaming.
So it’s snowing everywhere else and it’ll be slushy, and icy, and filthy in the cities. Unless you sit down with tea, cake, and Carry On Screaming.
“And Bod?” I say, knowing he narrated.
“An anagram,” says John le Mesurier. A clue, and just like Dan Brown – no, it’s not.     

Friday, 3 February 2012

Nelson The Great

Pulling a bona trick

Those who wonder at David Blayne’s ability to stand on things for a few days would do well to turn their attention to the famed magician, Nelson The Great. Still stood atop a column in Trafalgar Square the noted illusionist is set to come down this Saturday after smashing all previous records with a frankly impressive one hundred and sixty nine years. Previously excluded from the record by a book-keeping error, (having been up there since 1843) representatives from Guinness erroneously remarked when last they counted ‘what, only since quarter to seven?’
Nelson The Great known for his naval-themed performances lost an arm during his set at Santa Cruz and is still the only known magician to ever pull off the catching-a-bullet-in-the-spine trick, after which for an encore he escaped from a sealed barrel of brandy after only three months at sea.
Often misquoted, commonly regarded to have said ‘England Expects’ by flag before that performance historians now agree a more exact translation would have been ‘Ta-da!’.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Soup Is... People!


The film Apollo 18 is being released today in its original format. Edited at the last minute it was formerly a harder sci-fi story but early screenings showed that the moon people, all the more horrifying for resembling pink stuffed toys, would be unlikely to appeal to the kids market. The original story (based upon the documentary work of Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate) boasted beasts made more hideous by their seemingly cuddly appearance. Triggering the entirely reasonable ‘Aghghgh clowns!’ fear response the story followed the landing on the moon with the discovery of dustbin lids used as hatches.
Invited within by the seemingly innocent moon people the astronauts uncover a horrifying secret, the moon monsters serving a mysterious ‘Dragon’, the film ending with one astronaut screaming the oft-quoted last line itself from the Firmin/Postgate series – ‘The soup is... people!’.
Nice to see they kept in the Iron Chicken mind.