Tuesday 31 May 2011

Tilda Swinton. Kate Moss, Croydon and Curlywurlies

Tuesday again and so once more it's the Tilda report.
Bill Oddie found the vast and sugar-spotted pelt of a polar bear hung above his tent yesterday. He should take it as a warning, which is more than Ray Mears got – and with only seven Ray Mears left in the wild at the last count that makes it now six. We’re living inbetween the raindrops here in Tolly Maw and everyone is in wellies in case that changes. Where we look we see only where they’ve been or where they’ve already left, still there or not.
The bears and Tilda Swinton feign a childish innocence. They’re denying what they’re doing, blatant and straight-faced lies like those of children. But it’s not jam on hand and muzzle and one of the common Tilda Swintons is sat on our birdbath trying to dab away the evidence of her murder. But the rainwater alternately freezes or boils to her touch and intrigued she won’t stop picking at it - just as I saw two more not an hour gone and with Mervyn Peake’s puppy.
The polar bears are worse perhaps. The Tilda Swintons are only acting according to their nature. They flock and more appear daily, hatched or spawned or according to Bill Oddie pulled from their own stolen reflections in the eyes of old men and unmarried mothers. He’s enthusiastic (his camera team less so). The sound technician told Paul The Interweb that he’d seen something similar in Croydon, but I don’t see it. Crisp packets blown about the town centre the Kate Moss is only a carnivore by fashion. The soundman told Paul that they’ve had to employ people to sweep up Kate Moss as too many are cluttering up the underpasses in puddles of exhaust-filtered oil bled by the walls of Croydon.
I lived in Croydon for a while and saw a clutter of Kate Moss perk up like fearful meercats when Hermione Norris was scented passing through on the Brighton Train. Literally on the Brighton Train. Picnicking on Christmas cake and brandy snaps. Laughing like your Granny.
And the bears are worse then because they do not act according to their nature, for their nature lies well to the north (and barely can they be any the more so) there where penguins are only biscuits. The bears are here because they want to be here, there is a war behind our passing and when backs are turned because the bears want it. Philip Pullman is like Andy McNab to polar bears and the bears here have all read too much.
It’s going to be bloody, and soon. I see the Albino Tilda Swinton only when I look away. She was there at the window not three minutes gone, her breath left on the glass a frosty mask with eyes. Cats are miscarrying and she’s hung the Badger Brothers by their toes from a tree, all bound in place with ropes of their own sticky intent. They are very strong ropes. Every day we notice more, the results of symptoms of a fight we might hear but never see, and then only fragments, burned feathers and red-spotted fur. Out the same window now and three Tilda Swinton are eating Curlywurlies, chocolate first with precise and tiny teeth. I keep finding abandoned toffee in the roses.
Tonight and in the village hall I hear that Bill Oddie has a plan.
The bears all wear sunglasses now and have discovered the Dave channel.   

Monday 30 May 2011

Random Ink

Mary Snips says 'Mrs Empty says'

Mary Snips bent her head the better to hear Mrs Empty. She was not one to gossip (not Mrs Empty) so when she did then Mary Snips knew best to listen. Her plastic head bobbed on Mary Snip's finger. Mrs Empty whispered. So it was said. No one in the hunt thought it strange that one of their best took her orders from the head of a discarded dolly.
Twelve in number, sometimes they were more but that rarely lasted for a baker’s dozen would fight like drunk butchers amongst themselves. Miss Twist only provided food, tools and clothing for that many. She liked to keep her hunt sharp. Mary Snips was not the most dangerous but she had Mrs Empty, and that was her power right there. She said, “Mrs Empty says we are close.” She stood to brush the muck from her britches and the tails of her red jacket. She settled her bowler hat more firmly on her head, “Mrs Empty says that we are to be nasty.”
The gutter hunt thought that a very fine thing to be. Some could remember no other world than this. Some could, but rarely thought of it. This was the world of do-as-you-please for they were the hunt and London was theirs to fish. Few could command them, a few more could best them but the hunt was not proud and would run if things went bad. Laughing as often as not as they did so. But they did not run away so very often for they knew whom to avoid, and none of them were as quick as they. Yet when the dinner bell rang they would come to pretend to be neat, and to be told, by Miss Twist, what to eat.
Mary Snips held up Mrs Empty to the closing hunt. Each had a jacket like hers, or a top hat, or a policeman’s helmet. Wrapped in rope and about their necks hung little bags of sweets. They always had sweets for Miss Twist insisted that bad little boys and girls should always have sweeties. And none were as bad as the gutter hunt, so none had more sweeties. They had slings and knives (lots of knives) and each wore a papier-mâché mask, round and indulged. Two indeed were very fat, but strong and that was rare for the gutter hunt were thin and fast and sharp as needles.
They did what they wanted but sometimes others told them what that was. This was such a time, a time to pick and prick to tease and tumble, to trip and to taunt. To jeer and to cut - they were petrol bomb bright, brief and about as benign.

Sunday 29 May 2011

The Tulse Hillbillies

It’s nearly June and here in Tolly Maw it’s been raining for days, albeit hardly (and by definition) – solid. You’re not meant to begin by talking about the weather, and it irritates me too in a novel or other story but in here and its relative. For with the weather and indeed making that weather, we have visitors. They’ve been up on the Irritables all night where bell-mouthed and alarming their weather engine coughs up cloud. I wouldn’t mind because I remember the video, but it’s neither Kate Bush not Donald Sutherland. No, we have the Badger Brothers and it’s no real surprise that camping up they’ve done so on the Irritables for the Irritables are the nearby hills, and the Badger Brothers are Tulse Hillbillies.
Normally camping out in the ancient woodlands of Norwood the persistent stories attached to them regarding missing dogs, moonshine and when alone and dressed in pots and cushions their battling – are all frightfully unfair. The Badger Brothers are some of the last of the indigenous people of South London, long predating the railways and haircuts. Their way of life is not ours to question. Who are we to say that a firm handshake is more correct as a greeting than a long and manly lick of one another’s faces? Are we to really assume it is the Badger Brothers that are behind the regular theft of washing hung up to dry? Washing here entirely composed of faded and most likely ill-fitting bras? Are we just jumping to conclusions based upon their under-wired tents with worn elastic guy ropes? I think so.
In these modern times we tend to forget about the likes of the Tulse Hillbillies. What with their charming giggling and the way they wee a little whenever they tell the truth. Ancient guardians of the capital they are the Rangers of South London, watching over us as we watch tele, or have a bath, or even a poo.
Now here and licking their wounds (quite literally) they have built their weather engine, and I fear to ask why. The storm is gathering and the Swintons beat the night with screams within this wounded thunder.
Whilst here and the Badger Brothers stand to protect us. Or are waiting for Eliza Dushku to make a Wrong Turn. One of the two.   

Saturday 28 May 2011

Quickly now - biggest structure in England?

Yeah, not the Shard. Think again, yes – still not the Shard. It won’t even be the Shard when the Shard has stopped being built all over London Bridge in order to make sure that the Elephant never, ever, gets any sun. So come on, the tallest free standing structure in England? It’s the Emley Moor Tower, which you won’t have heard of and more so ever seen. Because it’s hidden. Hidden very cleverly by being in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire? North, not quite at the Penines. Bit across from the Lakes. Yes as well, the Lake District is very much in the North though I’m quite aware of the plans to move it to a much more convenient spot between Devon and Dorset. It does seem a very long way to come doesn’t it! And golly, what is it with all the rain?
Yorkshire then and Emley Moor where there are (many will be relieved to hear) farmer’s markets. Times are hard and so there farmers stand in lines to service smarter people with better accents. Word of warning, you might be paying but you’ll not be tops. The joke about sheep and welly boots?
The tower! It is classed as not only Bloody Big but just twelve yards inside the lowest point of Fucking Hell That’s Big. Roy Castle once tap danced with a hundred-and-twelve children (and a trumpet) up it. It used to be bigger but in 1969 it fell down. Now it is 200 foot shorter, rather lazily topping out at 1084 foot – and it just won’t straighten up for anyone. It learnt its lesson. And here it is, biggest free standing anything in England.
It doesn’t do anything. It’s just bigger than anything in London. Apt (they would have it) and especially so at the farmer’s market.
In Yorkshire. No, not like Peter Kay, That’s Bolton, Lancashire, which is...      

Friday 27 May 2011

Andy Warhol, a Telephone Box (no Wendy James)

If there’s a bus I’ve never seen it, but we have bus stops (four at least that I know of) because the smoking laws the way they are it’s only actually legal for the under sixteens to have a fag, and by common if unspoken by-law only in bus stops. I don’t smoke, not now and for two years nearly too which is of course a good thing for all sorts of reasons (if the one bad is that I don’t get to enjoy a smoke). I gave up because of things like cost, my sprouts and because I just got no pleasure from it any more. Mostly though, I’m just too old to be cool any more.
Mervyn Peake hates it when we come here but he’s only a head you might remember and so doesn’t whine so very much for an old man. He hates it here because of the graffiti, because the kids that do smoke don’t so much as scratch a big willy inside the shelter. Not without Andy Warhol’s say-so, who directs them (a modern day Fagin with a silk screen) and claims it all for himself as here where we have repeated again and again his Mrs Brunner and the King. But I need to take the air what with the bears setting up camp in the gardens backing on our lane and the telephone wires a foot from the ground, weighed down by Swintons who whilst weighing less than their knickers, then still that’s a lot of knickers.
I slept in a bus shelter once. It had no timetable and I still don’t know where it was, as I left and got a ride and never asked. I almost slept in a telephone box too when I missed the last bus back, and there oddly in Aldershot in rain hard enough to have popped down to the nearby Browning Barracks and applied to jump out of perfectly good airplanes in a maroon beret. With my VIth form only three miles away but home ten it hardly seemed worth walking all that way and the better for a few hearty ciders there the phone box was.
I hunkered down, I almost slipped into a frozen slumber. Almost because the door was pulled violently open and there the Neatest Man In The World raised his hat. He asked if he might use the phone box and there not being much that I could say to that, I stepped out. There in the still hammering rain I at first idly watched as this dapper gent with a tuneless hum pissed long and hard. This was one of the phone boxes you no longer see. Big and red, with a raised lip and a proper door. The tidy gent stepped out leaving a good inch of frothy piss behind and unfurling his umbrella returned upon his way.
I was very wet when an hour later and in the grounds of my college I finally crashed in the open vestibule of the sports hall. I had sobered and walked from Aldershot to Farnborough singing all the way The Weight.
I was at class on time for once too. Stinking, but on time.
Bloody Andy Warhol.   

Thursday 26 May 2011

Random Pencil

Auf Wiedersehen, Cheryl Cole

Well that didn’t last long, and after only her first scrap with the Differently Empowered Of America it seems that Cheryl Cole is being booted out of X Factor. Not only it seems is she unable to run very well but worse and despite sessions with a better writer no one can understand her without the use of subtitles. And Subtitles doesn’t belong to X Factor, but home-grown super group Britain’s Got Talent. For myself if they’d just said she had a crap power (as is obvious) I would have left all well alone – but really, her accent? How thick can it be, half her team mates are telepaths!
Cheryl Cole’s accent was perfectly fine I’ll point out when in the 90s she solved crime as Spender. And where were all the complaints when in the decade before that she hefted bricks on a building site in Dusseldorf (with comedian Bill Bailey as it happens, then known as ‘Bomber’)?  Her accent seemed to trouble no one when as a singer she broke into the mainstream with her 1994 smash Crocodile Shoes. All this and whilst still maintaining her day job as a Detective Sergeant for Oxford CID, where by day - and whilst also Spender remember -  she would be bemused for the late Inspector Morse (formerly Flying Squad), and by night right wrongs in her superhero identity as Cheryl Cole.
Albeit mostly by having a bit of an old weep, pet.
Picture - Adam Hughes.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Brigadier Eustace Scrubb UNIT

They’re ennobling Brigadier Scrubb today, which I suppose follows the line that made Nelson a Lord and Wellesley a Duke but in the case of those two stalwarts of Britain’s devoted war against wine and bendy breakfast rolls they did at least serve in the nation’s armed forces. Scrubb’s rank is company rank and yes I’ve heard the arguments for and against but much as the city boys might want it, the East Narnia Trading Company is not actually a nation state. Its armed forces then are mercenaries and Scrubb’s raising to the peerage only goes a long way to shining a much kinder light on a thoroughly despicable chapter in England’s history.
Even if your reading begins and ends with Jolly Freddie Forsyth then you’ll know something of ‘Dragon’ Scrubb. It was he upon whom the character in Forsyth’s second novel Not A Tame Lion was entirely based.
For those of you otherwise, I’ll be brief. He was born in 1933 Eustace Clarence Scrubb (and he nearly deserved it). A time of highly charged politics Scrubb’s parents Harold and Alberta were vegetarian, non-smoking teetotallers. Meeting in Cambridge Harold was the notorious ‘fifth man’ recruited by the Comintern alongside Philby, Maclean, Brush, and if rumour is to be believed ‘K’. During the Second World War Scrubb was one of those that discovered the first of the slip doorways, in his case the Treader Portal. At sixteen he was well placed to accept an early commission (such as it might be termed) in the hastily formed East Narnia Trading Company, a Company that ventured forth in the name of trade to freely exchange talking wood and fine beaver pelts, faun ivory and mostly-horse meat for what pretty much equated after just one year to a lot of .303 calibre lead. It was Scrubb that put an end to the primitive leader of the primitive land, the heretical ‘Lion of Aslan’ in an epic battle between claw and Centurian tank.
It was then later in the 1960s when with the Slips so opened threats began to come in the other direction and the East Narnian Trading Company hired over many of its most experienced officers and men to the newly formed Unwelcome Narnian Intrusions Taskforce. Scrubb soon rose to take charge of this ‘UNIT’, himself recruiting to the role of Scientific Advisor Dr Susan Pevensie – noteworthy for having once worn lipstick and nylons.
Scrubb so served until faced with scandal when in 1974 evidence came to light that suggested he had personally killed Jon Pertwee (who everyone of course liked but of whom Scrubb warned would ten years later turn into Colin Baker). A defence considered justified to his role in UNIT.
Retired shortly after Scrubb has since dedicated himself to reason, science, the appreciation of ‘firm young knees pounding the Velodrome’ and lobbying for society to recognise the need to have shot anyone suspiciously able to write, paint or otherwise make up things.
Also, talking mice.     
Pictured the BBC Biopic The Last Battle. Nicholas Courtney (Scrubb), Liz Sladen (Dr Pevensey)

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Albino Tilda Swinton, Bears and Die Hard.

It seems there is something scarier than a flock of Tilda Swintons watching you whilst you put out the bins. Oh, certainly they move only when you’re not looking. That a stalking Tilda Swinton can find entrance to any house through the presence of open scissors is not under dispute. Indeed you are right to fear a Tilda Swinton’s ability to steal both happiness and loss through your tears. All these things and many more are rightly held as folklore and none of them help (as many a Tilda Swinton hunter will tell you, albeit with empty eyes stitched with rough garden twine), not when as now a Tilda Swinton emerges from amongst that great and creeping murder of Tilda Swintons, as the much feared Albino Tilda Swinton.
Yesterday the Albino Tilda Swinton was a monk seeking the first few chapters of Holy Blood And Holy Grail. The day before and she developed a serum to walk invisibly about Tolly Maw but y’know, so she said (in a voice that is many voices not quite together). This morning and she was Monsieur Zenith, cat-dabbling with Sexton Blake on the Rue le Frufru (or the bakers where they do buns, as it is known to anyone else). With Rod Hull she suffers from dreadful ennui and I fear then soon it will be blood, souls and all for the toff Arioch.
The problem with this is not so much the stop-motion movements of hand and face. Nor the sheer and overpowering sense that all things considered then still Tilda Swinton is almost without doubt going to leave only blood and a little hair of you if ever when drunk, you thought you were in (there). No, none of these nor the ability to cut glass with a kiss at fifteen short paces – it is and worse still, the bears.
Whether they are natural enemies or because when an Albino Tilda Swinton is made they hear it however far, there are and trying to look inoffensive in my garden – polar bears. Big ones. These are bears to whom you do not take a shotgun because that will only mean that you’ll then be hunted by a polar bear with a shotgun. And they’re gathering and they’re trying not to look at the Tilda Swintons as the Tilda Swintons pick at road kill or Findus Crispy Pancakes.
Several are already haunting the corner shop on top of giant Fox’s Glacier Mints. One wears sunglasses. Two have vests. Last night they all sat next door and watched Die Hard.
They’re going to count to three, there will be no four.  

Monday 23 May 2011

Die Brad and Janet

It’s an hour till where elsewhere they’d be calling time, but it’s a hotel (and a wedding) and so there’ll be none of that here. So why am I drinking blackcurrant and lemonade? Why then do I sit in a big old hall, nearly alone, with a book and for company the sounds of others having fun? Ah but it is you see, a very bad wedding.
“So you say.”
I do. I did, albeit not out loud. Mme Roux like everyone takes it as common knowledge that if I am holding a book I am short of company. If I am reading it I want conversation. Here and for once that might be true.
I say, “I don’t know anybody.”
“And you are hungry?”
I am. It took us five hours to drive here. Q my good lady has been invited to this wedding, one of her oldest friends and not seen for an age and three days. We arrive having taken permission from Tolly Maw to do so, Q, myself and the sprouts our daughters. Catnip and Bosswell. We arrive and the service is fine and then here and the hotel – where we have Bucks Fizz to drink. And I cannot, because fizzy wine would bring on my gout. Which is why Mme Roux has plopped herself next to me, here much later. So fizzy wine and then much later we are in the reception - and the speeches are first.
They are long and without a few hours boozing, a little lost on me.
At length and we are served. First compote I cannot eat. Then for the main – roast beef, which I cannot eat and with juices lovingly touching all else. There is more fizzy wine to drink, also red wine. I can again have neither. There is a single bottle of white, between eight of us. There is talk of ties, of cars, and other things. I am unable to join in, I am the only man here with neither. At length there is a pudding. It is a rich chocolate tart. Not being eight, I have to pass. I have a bread roll.  I drink water. Bread and water. Jolly good.
Now we are here as said because this is a friend of Q. Now Q and I do not have the benefit of others, or the benefits indeed. Our family live not close. We have no one to take our sprouts for a while. We cannot go out then, not together. And this time it is her time. I will take the sprouts back to the hotel room (too hot, too stuffy). I will read. This is acceptable, more than.
But Q is feeling ill. She is not well. She goes back to our room and by eight in the evening she and the sprouts are asleep. The light has to be out. I know... no one. It is in any case a kit wedding. A hotel, probably expensive but frankly awful. There is a band, they are playing Radar Love. The women are dancing. The men are sweating at the bar. There is between them barbed wire, whizz bangs and sinkholes.
I am therefore in the room beyond. Alone with my book and a soft drink because I cannot read in my hotel room. It is dark you might recall.
“But tomorrow you are going to hitch onwards?”
I was indeed. There and not far to meet up with a chum and go then to meet two other chums. Then I will hitch across the country home – because of the Rutger pieces. Look them up. Just there on the right.
And now it is morning and no one wants me to go. Catnip is also having an episode because early, and onset and she’s not all there at times. And just such a time is now. So I can’t and we turn about back for Tolly Maw.
Dammit Janet!  

Thursday 19 May 2011

Dirty Mac

This is my computer and it’s such a proper computer that it’s just referred to as my ‘computer’. It has the latest in reel-to-reel technology and as previously described whilst I do have the interweb then his name is Paul, and he does so on a bike. My computer is good for typing and for causing dry ice to bob about the suggestion of a Minuteman missile it’s all Top Man and Chelsea Girl. What it does not do is lap dance. Nor does it get me excited. We’ve been given permission to leave Tolly Maw tomorrow, for a wedding. There I will meet a lot of people I will never meet again and they will whilst treating their erections like the tiller of an idling canal boat get very excited about their walky phones.
I don’t have a walky phone. I certainly don’t have one with a stabby screen. I’ve got hobbits that want me to, eager hobbits in roll-necks so frankly there’s no chance. But there will be people and they will want to discuss their phones with me.
Their... phones.
Phones. Say it five times and it’s The Fonz, which is barely even a little better. But aye and as I say, what my computer does not do is lap dance. So if there’s nothing much here for a day and a wet bit, you’ll know why. Because my computer in sensibly armoured underthings does not need to titillate nor will I cast it away on the morrow.
I know what my computer will be doing. Can you say the same for yours?
Your cheeky minx in her suave Parisian Mac.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Dead Letter Drop

Here where people once buried were not so much planted as covered Postman’s Park is notably higher than the ground about it. All those bones and how lovely does the grass grow? Space was ever at a premium and digging down liable to produce a macabre harvest – so the dead of London are here in layers. In the city proper, not so far from Aldersgate and St Pauls, the park is made up of several former graveyards and overseen by the former centre for the General Post Office it came by its name for the curiosity it accrued.
It’s true that the GPO on fine days would eat their doorsteps and drink doubtless from stone bottles before engaging with Dick Van Dyke in that scary, leg-waggling dancing they all seemed to do back in VictorianGeorgianCockneyland. But that is not the reason for its name. The ground made of the dead and the stones cleared away to be replaced by notices, like adverts for the lost, here and letters can be posted and replies secured from the very same dead. Only useful if one has an interest in one buried there for they’ve long since stopped taking messages.
Of course and what then do the dead say? Theologians, goths and the handsomely depressed might (and have) queried the afterlife. The messages returned are ever to the point, but the point being that the living should (it seems) bugger off.
The dead have a point. It would irritate the fuck out of you if when enjoying a wholesome pretence at a ‘game’ on your Wii (hint, if you’re not half buried in your own filth it’s not a proper computer game) dead Albert Finney was knocking on the door and demanding to know what was new in the land of the living.   
Call Of Doom: Super Special Special Soldier Get Fit Ninja, apparently.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Great flocks of Tilda Swintons

People are outraged round here at the latest interference from ‘that London’. Westminster Council have made it impossible for Tilda Swinton to creep about the streets in the company of her straight jacket clad henchmen after complaints topped a dozen regarding the actress’s habit of stealing everyone’s voices and cutting out their hearts. Early plans to make a new Princess whose screams would break Tilda Swinton’s spell came to nothing when it transpired that the new Princess was not, after all, the Slayer.
Swinton, known for her roles as Jardis of Narnia and the Archangel Gabriel is now set to drift down the streets of Tolly Maw not blinking nearly enough. Bob and Terry in the pub have it on good authority that she is getting a council flat, a new car and a million-billion pounds and this I am told must be true, because ‘you could not make it up’. If it isn’t enough that in Tolly Maw we are set to endure London’s deported Tilda Swinton Bob tells me that it’ll open the gates to hordes of Tilda Swintons, great flocks of them creeping about like crows (and Disney crows at that).
Tilda Swinton originally introduced into Westminster in an attempt to keep down an over population of Helena Bonham Carters (that had been worrying at tourists like randy weasels) is liable to have a nasty surprise when it meets our own wild Terry Thomas.
Personally I’m scared they’ll breed.          

Monday 16 May 2011

Gout, and the 1924 pattern Rolls-Royce armoured car

Mme Roux wants to know why I can’t come out to play.
Today would be fine but she wants me outside a year ago and then when I could not walk, when (well) - I could not walk. She knows this and I wonder why then she is so insistent unless it is because I am her excuse, and she doesn’t really want to try for the saddle in the Tangra Mountains. It was still chin-deep in snow back then and if her Rolls is armoured then it isn’t heated.
“You seem alright now, darling?”
I do and it’s nice of her to say so. In my head and mirrors aside I’m still that lean little beast of twenty-three summers, and she likewise although she looked the same then – I ask about that, she sniggers. A half life away for me and last Tuesday week for her. The minx. She rather likes it that I suffer from gout. It suggests somehow a long hard time tracking the source of the Limpopo, or hunting polar bears with not so much a Martini Henry as a Martini & Rossi. I met her first in Berlin, when she ordered a dry Martini and got three vermouths.
So gout and a summer in pain, and such pain it was that whilst I was getting better then still when meeting Mike Moorcock I was like he on a stick. Gout, but no Limpopo. An agony and since controlled by diet.
She thinks that very funny. We laugh but it’s her in the shapka and Czarist blues, and here and if rainy then still here and rainy in May, She wants to know the form of my abstinence?
Beef. So no steak and no proper pasties. No Sloppy Giuseppe (the last one in Rome and ’46). No hearty stews, no lean with the mustard spread thick. Neither also marmite, vegemite or elsewise other Princes of toast. Nothing pink. No offal, no hardship - but for liver which alone it seems I always enjoyed. No Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. No wine that is fizzy. No wine that is red, which always made me sick but thankfully and with tea I am safe. Not too many laughs, no cure for sanity. No nose, know, know, there’s no limits.
She thinks gout is to do with too much live cheese, crusted port and those little round hats worn with smoking jackets. But it’s arthritic, which is not so much to do with polar bears (with or without syrupy Cinzano). Can’t walk, can’t sleep, every second thought is - and I have the evidence – ow. Not much good for the mountains though Mme Roux says I could do it seated. Right up until and like last time we are hounded by Chinese bandits. Which is a hell of a thing in the Tangra range, for the Tangra range is in Bulgaria.
She’s trying hard to sulk and doing it badly. I was right, I’m a skive. Mme Roux turns up at the oddest times and her times are at odds with my own. I’ve got no gout right now but it’s on my mind because not having it I’m watching with sharply whittled eyes for the first signs of this year’s bout. It’s there somewhere.
And like me it misses the occasional steak.          

Random Ink

Sunday 15 May 2011

Statistics show that whilst you are reading this, Terry Thomas is with your wife.

I was woken just now not so much by the milkman, but by Terry Thomas who is tapping the bottle for the cream. I’m watching in wonder trying not to, having lifted the curtain, move it the more for fear of disturbing him. A hundred this year yet spry as a young cat the still remarkable Terry Thomas is crouching to enjoy the cream which he sups through a long straw, one held or concealed between the gap in his two front teeth.
Born in Finchley but educated at a miner public school, he escaped working the coal face until the Second World War where as a variety of awful British officers he damn well had the lower classes out of bushes and at the Hun after declaring the entire army to be ‘an absolute shower’. Taking possession of the best of all small moustaches from a young Leslie Philips, Mr Philips was thereafter reduced to a rather camper form of creepy seduction. Indeed and figures released by Equity in 1990 show that whilst Leslie Philips might have enjoyed a higher degree of success as regarded giggling, slap and/or tickle Terry Thomas was already having someone frightful redo his fly buttons, and (I quote) ‘probably your sister’.
But here he is now, cleverly easing up the foil tops of the milk with his clever little Terry Thomas hands. He’s been in Tolly Maw since the early 90s having suggested his own death in association with an STD and Michael Parkinson. Also through crashing a ridiculous monoplane in his last attempt at the London to Paris air race in 1965. He left behind a series of wives, all unknowing of one another and all in separate rooms in the same house, in the same Guildford.
Turning his back on his two sons (Maurice and The Tank Engine), Terry saw out the next few years servicing Tolly Maw’s assorted sisters, aunts and flustered school teachers. Indeed so occupied is he even to this day that the poor fellow is rather turned-about as to which bed is actually his own, unable to climb into one not already warmed by an unsuspecting other.
I have to go. Bill Gates has snuck up to the garden gate and Terry Thomas unaware is attempting a cup of stolen tea. If I don’t get out there to scare away the one from the other it’ll be tweedy threads everywhere and disturbed Brylcreem on the roses.
I’m never going to get Alastair Sim out of the rug after the last time as it is.   
Art by Alan Davis.

Saturday 14 May 2011

'Crickey' (the autobiography of Sir Ernest Penfold KCMG)

Retired by some six years now the former Chief of SIS Sir Ernest Penfold’s explosive autobiography is set to appear on the bookshelves of the nation with shockingly good timing after the recent killing of world terror leader No#1 ‘Baron’ Silas Greenback. Greenback rather hastily buried in a pond ‘according to the ministrations of his warty sort’ long the nemesis of Sir Ernest it can only then be with some satisfaction for the roguish old spy master that his revelations so well coincide with the news. Also, it won’t hurt sales at all.
From extracts already published in The Observer we know that then plain Penfold was recruited into Century House in time to take a very small role in what here at least is confirmed as a very British coup against Harold Wilson. To a growing punk soundtrack Sir Ernest makes claims that had not Wilson stepped down claiming ill health that there was every chance that an interim government would have taken over. Sponsored by media mogul Greenback and involving even the armed forces, Penfold was on duty when the army ‘added security to Heathrow’. It made the papers (especially Greenback’s Mirror) but in Crickey Sir Ernest states the manoeuvre was entirely without government sanction. A demonstration of force, a conspiracy involving even Penfold’s own Chief (here called only ‘Colonel K’).
In the years that followed and as a dedicated field officer, Penfold was put in place as the Control for what he describes as a ‘purpose made blunt object’. One Austin ‘Danger’ Mouse. We learn in Crickey how close our country has come to disaster, how perhaps Silas Greenback rose to his eventual and most famous crime in 2001, but before that how close we all were to being drowned in custard. To being conquered by washing machines, or how we might have had to endure the unimaginable power of The Bad Luck Eye Of The Little Yellow God.
It is then not so much a book about Sir Ernest Penfold, nor even Austin ‘Danger’ Mouse, so much as the road that led but recently to that hidden enclave and a raid, and the death of ‘Baron’ Silas Greenback that already is seeing conspiracy theorists slick their monitors with the hot men’s cream of a certain kind of truth.
Perhaps in this tale of smoke, mirrors and custard that can be taken as a metaphor for perhaps the last, great spy master of England.      

Friday 13 May 2011

Random I... pencil

Logan Runs Still

I was going to set down a piece on Logan’s Run. Logan first ran with me as a boy, when I came across in fact the second the books, Logan’s World and in a flea market in America. It was on our first proper big holiday, previously and it had been a caravan in Littlehampton or a few days in Bognor, at Butlins. Yet I had not packed any books probably assuming that it was going to be one giant whirl of steak and Mickey Mouse. I found then Logan and after World managed to hunt up Run. I was aware of the film of course and there was thereabouts a series of same on the tele. But I had seen neither. A mate of mine and I probably first clicked because of Logan, and Damnation Alley and a few similar. He posted up a piece on Logan a while back on a site we both inhabit. It’s very good and so with his permission, I’ve reposted it here, excellent as it is - 
Some things in life may change, but as far back as I can remember, Logan’s Run has always been my favourite SF novel. Published in the late sixties, it’s an amphetamine rush of a story that takes place over the course of 24 hours (a narrative device that works well to maintain a sense of tension and impending doom – the reverse chapter numbers effectively become a countdown sequence) written at a galloping breakneck pace that takes the reader through a series of brilliant set pieces.
A lot of people have seen the film but don’t realise how much the novel differs from the cinematic treatment. Set sometime in the future following a critical mass point where the world’s population exceeded the planet’s ability to sustain it, and a profound shift in the demographic towards young people (as it happens, the exact opposite of what we now face in the 21st century), the novel postulates a society where euthanasia at the age of 21 is compulsory. During your short lifespan you can indulge yourself on the kind of hedonistic luxuries that the late sixties rock star lifestyle seemed to offer a select few, but once the life clock embedded in the palm of your hand begins to blink red/black you’re on your last 24 hours, after which it’s time to turn yourself in for deep sleep.
Most people are satisfied with their allowance of years, but those who don’t take hope from the legends of ‘Sanctuary’ – a mythical place where people are free to enjoy the three score and ten years of their ancestors. Society enforces its deep sleep policy by sending ‘Sandmen’ to hunt down these runners and terminate them. The Sanctuary line is organised by a legendary figure called Ballard (named after JG Ballard) who, according to the apocryphal stories, has lived well past his 21st birthday. No one knows what Ballard looks like, or where he lives, or whether he is even real. But to the Sandmen, he is some sort of bogeyman – their very own Osama Bin Laden.
Logan 3 is one of the best Sandmen and, alongside his partner, Francis 7, he has a near perfect record. But at the start of the novel, Logan 3 is on ‘last day’ – his palm clock is blinking red/black and in 24 hours he will turn himself in.
But what to do on your last day?
Many people would binge on one last flurry of sex and drugs, but not Logan who decides he’s going to leave his ambitious mark on society by finding ‘Sanctuary’ and destroying it. His one clue to the Sanctuary ‘underground railroad’ is a girl, Jessica 6, who knows the first stage of the secret pipeline. Logan decides to take advantage of his blinking life clock, convince her that he too wants to run, and then use her to find Sanctuary and kill everyone associated with it. This differs considerably from the film version of Logan who is portrayed as a misguided victim of the society he supports. In the book, Logan is, from the outset, a faithful and determined member of the police force, intent on murdering society’s enemies.
The film made the mistake of switching the setting from the entire planet (therefore, by implication, there really is nowhere to run to, as the whole world wants you dead) to a single domed city. In doing so it misses out on many of the gripping set pieces found in the novel. Gone is the penal prison camp in the arctic circle where convicts are dispatched on a one way trip by mono-rail to be deposited in a frozen wilderness. This prison needs no guards or walls, because once you end up there, there is no way out and your life is lucky to be measured in months. Gone is the crumbling underwater city, long since abandoned by people, but still maintained as part of the secret route to Sanctuary. Gone are the packs of drug-crazed gypsy sky riders who raid the barren plains, and gone is the great complex built inside the Crazy Horse mountains. Some aspects of the book remain, such as the cubs in Cathedral – young children addicted to the combat drug muscle that speeds up the metabolism, but runs the risk of killing you if you take it over the age of 16, but by and large Nolan’s vision of late sixties hope and hedonism gone bad is sanitised.
Gradually as the book unwinds, and Logan gets closer to his own personal last day, he begins to question his position as the formidable angel of death, and when the final chapters arrive, the dénouement of what Sanctuary is, and who Ballard is, are both very well executed and logical. But there is no corny ‘love conquers all’ sequence where he suddenly repents. Nolan treats the reader with a little more respect than that.
The book is a classic example of a multitude of fresh, exciting ideas packed into a short, tight narrative. Like many of the books published during the short lived ‘new wave of SF’ it is lean, experimental in form, but also gripping and dynamic in its scope. The only other book from this period that has a similar pace and feel (if not concept) is Roger Zelazny’s ‘Damnation Alley’.
It is of course, out of print… and tracking down second hand copies is very difficult, which is strange because it sold well. It is tellingly significant that my own copy is battered and worn – a rare condition in my otherwise pristine book collection – but testament to the difficulty I’ve had in locating a cleaner copy. They just do not seem to exist whenever/wherever I look online.
Nolan later wrote two sequels, Logan’s World and Logan’s Search. The former is a great read, the latter less so.
And I couldn’t agree more.
Copied across by the kind permission of Rob Nott, whose piece this is.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Tom Clancy's Showaddywaddy

Tom Clancy’s new novel ‘Shoddy Wadi’ having reputedly secured Belgium as a publishing advance hits the shelves next week. I’ve been sent an advance copy and I would be the most sherbet of knaves then not to offer up a review. As ever I dislike reading too much of the plot of any novel in such things and so I will follow my own preferences - but it will surprise no one to find that in this John Clark is back. Herein John, Vietnam veteran, criminal, American Dad and scathing critic of any weapon but a simple pistol has to compete with great swathes of his own novel diverting into tightly paced plot and really rather graphic weapon porn.
In a story that tell us how great English bread is Clark on the orders of Harrison Ford has to find the Holy Grail. The only clue uncovered by suit-wearing desk-jockeys at the CIA is the word Showaddywaddy. Clark’s long term partner Domingo Chavez has been killed between novels and indeed to recover this very information. Now Ding’s son (and Clark’s grandson) Inigo Montoya is after revenge against a mysterious six-fingered man, and as an aside to find the one-armed man that...
...ah hell, I don’t know, there was all this stuff about a special-forces submarine tank that shits machine guns.
And hell, apparently they could have done with a special-forces submarine tank that shits machine guns ‘back in 3rd SOG’
And couldn’t we all?

Random... more pencil

Tuesday 10 May 2011

George (No Dragon)

This is George, George makes stuff up. He’s pretty good at it and really he’s just having a laugh. So good in fact that he’s rather trapped in his own lies, or to be fair his stories because there’s nothing really mean about George. It’s all got a bit out of hand now. It’s the media that’s to blame, after all whenever you see Mark Lane Folly on the tele, there’s George taking people round and telling them it’s a castle. It does look like one, but it’s a folly nonetheless and if indeed the Royal Armouries can be found there then yes, of course, that exactly why they built a bloody folly. So George tells me and all desperate because people keep on giving him money to tell his stories, and as he says – look at him, he’s even taken to wearing an old Wimpy Bar mascot costume and still they think he’s a soldier. What is he camouflaged against? The 1980s?
But they won’t listen and trapped in it all George is getting sillier. If the ravens fly away the tower will fall (they’re not even ravens, what you see are Bermondsey Fighting Chickens). The crown jewels are in that building. The Kray twins were imprisoned here. William ‘the Conqueror’ a Viking from France built it when, and get this, the conquering that so named him, was here. I mean, French? Nothing he says is any more real than divining rods, goblins or Sidcup.
He can also fly. And played for West Ham. And is up for a role in the remake of The Breakfast Club.
So there’s that.    

Monday 9 May 2011

The Canals of Mars (and a Condom)

First recorded in the 19th Century by Giovanni Schiaperelli and mapped most fully thereafter by the Irish astronomer Charles Burton (though such was recently revealed to have been based entirely on an account rendered by Simon Lindsay regarding his early hikes there*) the theory of the Canals of Mars was put to rest by that bastion of (and final arbitrator for) Reason, QI. But this morning and the previously thought lost Beagle Explorer revived. And here then as you’ll see, there are canals after all.
The waterways found are indisputably canals. Already there is evidence of a lost bike, two men that sound Scots (but are not) arguing on a bench, and the necessary seven punks pissed on Special Brew to fulfil the Strummer Equation. More exciting still and evidence of some civilisation has also been observed. Whoever the Martians are, they live on noodles and their vast, sprawling markets contain not one single thing of practical value whatsoever. The pubs (scientists are already suggesting) aren’t as good as they used to be either.
This ties in with the previously poo-poo’d accounts of such luminaries as John Carter, Percy Lowell, Mr Xxx and of course, Captain Lindsay. More exciting still and already it is thought that a vital clue to the source of life on Mars has been found, in this case a badly baggy condom being chewed on by a rat.
Richard Branson is reportedly designing a ship to take tourists to Mars, or at least himself. Mr Branson when spotted this afternoon escaping the Belsize Park B&Q with armfuls of Liftwood, Ether propellers and Victorian service revolvers refused to be drawn further.
*Hunting Dinosaurs.  

Random Ink

Saturday 7 May 2011

Gabe 'The Toad' RIP

It’s sad and it was ever going to happen, and for a toad he lived longer than any other of my acquaintance but in the early hours of this morning Gabriel ‘The Toad’ passed away noisily in his sleep. Legend is a word bandied about too much nowadays, as is genius (and less so cloaca which is just funny in every way) but both have rightly been pinned to Gabe. He was a Lakes toad and it was my privilege to have met him on several occasions, lastly when we both performed at the Cockermouth Wax Lyrical at the Kirkgate. He was old then and had to be helped to and from the stage in a biscuit tin. A gentleman and actually that, the last descendant of the line of Toad Hall he was a true folk hero, and of course musician – but despite both always stood the first round.
It’s possible you won’t be aware of Gabe’s work. His early hits were old when I was a boy, when his Bony King Of Nowhere was the surprise number 2 in the pop parade and on Top Of The Pops he famously had to appear twice, covering as he was also for Keith as Gimme Shelter was also in the charts that week. Indeed it was his long time collaborator Madeleine ‘The Rag Doll’ that joined Mick Jagger on the vocals both on the recording and for that performance. Other hits followed by Gabe, Turtle Calypso, Stinky Stilton Cheese and then revived and brought to a new audience in early 90s by The Wonderstuff, Uncle Feedle. Gabe was ever big on the folk circuit and that was clearly enough for him, though booked by Glastonbury as the Saturday night novelty act on the Pyramid Stage he received a twenty three minute ovation. It was perhaps because of this that he was cast as the well-received Hagman in the ITV drama series Sharpe, for which he also provided incidental music.
I never knew it was Gabe that was behind the music for the 1973 (and really now, only) production of The Wicker Man. He let me ramble on two years ago lightly taking the piss and comparing he to that, and Cumbria together – and he let me, only to let on at the end and much to his amusement.    
I’ll miss him but this is how it is, the heroes of our childhood and youth will pass away on us. I was honoured then to know him, albeit not as well as I should have liked. Gabe, the world is more loved by your having passed on by.
Fellside Recordings are re-releasing Gabe’s Greatest Hits. http://www.fellside.com/Shop/Details.asp?ProductID=599

Friday 6 May 2011

Harry Potter/Inbetweeners Reboot

Hagrid and Harry Potter

Harry: No one would get fingered for a bet Ron... with the possible exception of your sister.
Ron: Take that back.
Harry: You’re right I do take that back. On the other hand your mum would probably get fingered for a packet of biscuits.
You have to applaud the vision. The Harry Potter series is not quite finished in the cinema yet and they’re already remaking the last three films but this time and typically so, as a gritty reboot. Transplanting the entire cast of The Inbetweeners into Hogwarts no longer do 16 year old boys worry about the difficulty of Advanced Potions and instead pass an increasingly spunky biscuit.
Professor Snape (Dylan Moran): You’ve had an eventful day bunking off Defence Against The Dark Arts, buying butter beer illegally, defacing Hermione’s landing and insulting Harry’s dead dad. Have I missed anything?
Ron: We also hit a spastic with the Snitch.
Less concerned now with Lord Voldemort (‘Paedo’) or the Death Eaters (‘Benders’) Harry being both rich and the school’s sporting hero is no longer quite the outcast previously portrayed . Indeed and beating Voldemort (a whole scene revolves around those two words) every year, he is to quote Ron, ‘balls deep in clunge’.
And I can’t wait.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Cheryl Cole To Battle Magneto

You’ve probably seen in the news that Cheryl Cole has been signed up for X Factor in the States. This is probably good news and of course we wish her well battling Magneto. Formerly of rather crap British super group Girlx Xallowed the Geordie mutant, seen here in her new team uniform, had been quoted as weeping a bit. Cheryl Cole (more publically known by her super-identity Cheryl Cole) recently caused confusion when on a booked appearance at the San Diego Comic Con it was revealed she had never been the Chief Engineer on the wimpy version of Star Trek.
The daughter of classical British actor George Cole and Princess Dejah Thoris (Mars), Cheryl Cole was educated at St Trinians where it was revealed in the News Of The World last year that she had once stolen a race horse, a train and had attacked Joyce Grenfell with a hockey stick.  
Art, Adam Hughes.