Thursday 29 September 2011

Bill Bryson's 'Being Disappointed Somewhere Else'

And my axe!

I was recently sent a preview copy of Bill Bryson’s new travelogue, Being Disappointed Somewhere Else. I include for now the extract below concerning the morning after Bill arrives in Fritz Lieber’s Lankhmar.
The pub was filled with middle-aged thugs still trying to look dashing in tights and tiny daggers. They had a certain rakish quality to them (ie. they were thin and moved rubbish from one place to another) but in the last fifty years fashion had moved on and they refusing to move with it were left in the same bars, discussing the same crimes, whilst their children had left for grander places that looked a lot like Rome and where fate had a big magic sword in mind for them. The thugs nearest looked back at me, but not from suspicion I realised so much as hope that I might recognise them. Might have heard of them, might even perhaps have delighted in their adventures, from when stories were sly, and clever and often enjoyed a glorious failure more than some dour victory. I did not and apologised with a shrug that I hoped conveyed a certain worldly air, but which I hastily converted into an attempt to settle my jacket more comfortably when my elbow caught the teapot.
I had taken a room in the Silver Eel because when I had toured mythical places with my boyhood friend Katz, the Silver Eel had been cheap. It did not allow rooms for more than a night, though you could take it again the next morning. Young men as we were then both of us were entranced by the bustling sea port and thought nothing of a city that had a Guild, for Thieves, that controlled crime, and nowadays survived (like the city itself) due to an understanding with the City of Ankh Morpork when the latter had gone from parody to comedy, to best-seller. There was no particular ill-will I knew, but a lot more people went to Ankh Morpork without ever having heard of Lankhmar at all. Which was just awful.
Similarly awful I felt was what had happened to this city, and probably because of this. The rows of New Wave fantasy alleyways about the Plaza of Dark Delights had been demolished to be replaced by an indoor mall to equip much longer stories where much less happens. Also, a Holiday Inn of astonishing ugliness. The smoky shadows of the Bazaar of the Bazaar had been cleared out and replaced with great sheets of plate glass and a Nehwon Building Society. Why such a place needs to advertise what it does continues here as elsewhere to befuddle me, with the entire window taken up with a fan of pamphlets, and a dancing girl in a cage.
But today I looked forward to being disappointed again, drinking alone, eating unsatisfactory meals and whining on, and on, and on about lightbulbs.
Which I thought was just wonderful.        

Censored Ink!

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Mary's Day Off

He’s the last of the hitchers and that makes him the king. Tall he is handsome, albeit only as nature intended. Wild, hungry and awful he is often invisible. There is a sign, cardboard, that time and the rain has left blurred so he could be heading anywhere. The King would have tossed it had it not been true. He is heading anywhere, and especially now anywhere but here. Here is Illbourne Services. The King has been here for three days.

“You’re like that old man,” says Mary.

“I am,” says The King who agrees over a burger-n-cheese (no cheese). Sometimes he dreams of shepherd’s pie.  

Illbourne Services has three restaurants, only one is open. There is a newsagent that mostly sells chocolate, and a chocolate shop that only sells coffee when each is open, which since he has arrived they have not been. Mary (though she was laid off six weeks before) still comes in to open up. She has told The King she has three children. Two that have left home and one that she wishes would. She misses the youngest most, though the youngest is the one that remains. The King had listened to Mary’s whole life that first night and in the six hours that had left they had filled in the mazes and coloured in the cartoons on the kid’s menus. Let go by memo no one has come to take back her keys. She wipes down a table already clean. She says, “Like on the radio. People spot him, walking the land.”


“Well quite. Some don’t believe it. I do. Are you going to be sick?”

She won’t let him help so he looks out at the world, embarrassed. The world is empty but for Mary’s black Cinquecento. Spoilers and a boot full of speakers. It had been her second sons, but he’s doing time for getting caught. The King catches the eye of a cat. The cat looks down and hurries away. The cool kid spied in Matalan.

The King had once been just another barbarian. From Scratchwood to Fleet, Charnock Richard to Sanbach he had stood in the 80s with a dozen others at each stop, on every A road, at every services. Students, drop outs, and people – mostly people. Ten years on and all alone, unless it was Stonehenge or Glastonbury and the highway to hell, the A303. Then last year and there had been just the two of them and when they had met on the slip for Watford Ennio Morricone had been playing, all dust and narrowed eyes. There they had stood neither moving but for the wasp that had dipped between them. An hour until there had come a ride, and that for the other. That one had nodded, understanding. He had his ride home and he touched a finger half to his cap. Now there was only The King.

He turns back. His lunch has gone, so too the mop and bucket. Mary looks at him in interest. Having to say something he says, “My Walkman.”

“Goodness, I remember them. I had one, Sony. Blue.”

“I need new batteries. I don’t suppose?”

He can suppose but there are none for sale here. In the newsagents no doubt, but the newsagents is closed even for last year’s best seller or a giant bag of jelly bears and Mary does not want to get into trouble for breaking in. So she says and in any case she is sure she would not know how. But Mary remembers she has some herself and waddling away returns with two from the cheap vibrator she keeps in her bag for the quiet shifts. They are old and flat but the Walkman is broken anyway, choked months before on Julian Cope still tangled and torn within. Sometimes the radio works but The King has never heard himself discussed.

Later and folding her knickers up to put in her bag Mary promises that she will look up the hitcher of whom they had spoken when she gets home. She makes him move to mop the floor where he still lies. She leaves him in the forecourt. She can’t when he asks give him a lift, she is a woman alone and it isn’t safe for her to pick up hitchers.

“It’s you,” Mary says next day, delighted. Her eldest child’s second laptop sits between them. She shows him the site, one of several, where he is under the Loch Ness Monster but two above the Limehouse Ratboy. The last photo like many is a blur, a phone job on the move. According to the site he is Lord Lucan, Marc Bolan or more likely Richie Edwards – the last offered as proof The King seen in the rain, blurred, at the Severn View services. The King knows they are all wrong. Mary says, “Don’t you have a home?”

She does he knows and comes here because of it. He did too but he hasn’t seen it since Castle Morten. Ever since he has been on the road, and ever since he has been looking for it. A converted horse box and a week-long rave with his family and his home, and then they had gone and he left to walk and (with his thumb) to follow. He can still remember his wife’s final words to him, ‘Look, who the fuck are you?’ very cruel. So The King tells Mary, without their names because he remembers not a one. There might be children.

Mary goes to fire up the grill. Today for breakfast The King will be treated to the last of the cheese, orange and tasteless but for once the ‘with cheese’, will be. When the restaurant had been newly opened they had attracted a mouse. Mary had baited a trap with cheese just like this and the mouse had been caught neck broken and the cheese untouched. Meeting the cheese it seemed likely that far from being murdered the mouse had committed suicide. Mary cooks two burgers from the four hundred that remain in the cold store. Two burgers but hold the lettuce, pickle, onions and special sauce. The buns here never grow stale or hard like cake, but become crumbly like biscuit.

Returning she says, “I wanted to travel once, more than once obviously, when I was young. You must have seen some places. This,” she sprays the laptop with a bottle she will later clean with another, “says that you’ve been on the road for twenty years. I wanted to go to Istanbul. I wanted to go to Machu Picchu, I wanted to go to Brighton, when I was young.”

“But you had kids?”

“But I had a big, fat arse. No, the mysterious and the ethical are not for me. Every time I thought about going something would come up. Ten years ago and it was my first rabbit. I’d almost got to packing my bags, I’d got a one way ticket to Worthing. I’d told my husband I was off to the bright lights, to the big city, to find myself.”

The King likes the sound of that. He says, “To find yourself?”

“To find myself a nice big cock. But he begged and he whined. He bought me a new coat and we got Sky, and inside six months I’d worn my rabbit down to a pencil. I almost went again then but you know, there’s always another rabbit. It was glamorous, like Sex In The City. I went on line last night, I said you were here.”

The King ignores the last. He stopped listening after the word ‘cock’. Outside it is raining, it looks warm, hello the summer. He ought to try and catch a ride but the only car he has seen since arriving here is that same black Cinquecento. Used to the silence he reacts slowly to it now. Mary waits for an answer so he says, “I’ve been all over. Motorways and A roads, I’ve seen places you wouldn’t believe. People too. Most used to be hitchers,” he describes those who once had been older but nowadays were of an age. They too had hitched and had always promised that when they had a car, well then. He tells of truck drivers wanting company. There is the odd genuinely nice person, and every so often a kid in a stolen Merc. He has sung hymns. He has been so badly beaten he pissed blood for three days after. He has listened, but mostly now he speaks because people want to be talked to, often not saying much beyond their name and so The King now plays a game. When taking a lift he will always use the name of the last person to have stopped. He spins a tale because people want him to, the rules; he has to use whatever he has learned but add whatever else he has not. “Once I spent the whole of the A66 being an old lady called Agnes, I’d been in the SOE during the war, captured and tortured. But still and after all that, chin up eh?”


“Right through the Lake District.”

“Ah,” says Mary, “My second son once sent me a postcard from Devon, Dartmoor anyway.”

“It’s a wild and beautiful place.”

“Not the prison.”

They come the next day and earlier than Mary so that they find The King (where facing more summer rain) he has made himself a shelter in the play area. The sides both protected by and advertise exclusive membership of the RAC the little hut at the top of the slide has gained all the charm of a bus shelter. Coming out for a piss The King is knocked by a sound boom, recoils from a camera and is hedged in by optimistic summer jackets sharing umbrellas complaining about the opening times of the empty Costa. He pisses in a knee high hedge and does so on camera. A girl asks if they can do that again. A man with earphones and a special-forces vest sneers. Another with a serious face nods seriously and asks four times the same question until it is judged he has done so seriously enough. It takes a fifth attempt and then only once the make-up girl is satisfied they have the right sort of rain on The King do they allow him to answer.

“No one calls by. Anyway it’s hot and it’s raining.

The journalist can see that. The King has a large brolly above him and out of shot. More rain is applied from an atomiser between takes. The King continues, “They roar by waving a thumb, they laugh and call out abuse. Sometimes they stop and then drive off when you’ve run up. I lost my pack that way once. I learned a lesson that day.” Now and though no one else is on the road it’s harder, he tells the news crew. No one hitches and increasingly no one ever did. Students don’t drive clapped out heaps, everyone’s middle class except for the working class, who hate hitchers - bloody scroungers. “I’ve been here coming up for a week now. I can’t go up on the motorway and no cars are coming in. The rain makes it worse.”

“They call you The King, but in case anyone out there can help, might know you even, can you say what your real name is?”

The King caught, he plays his game, “Mary, I’ve got three kids. I work in the burger bar.”

An hour before the news crew are satisfied. Another and they are packed and loaded to go. Ahead of them already and warned that the camera would be on him The King waits up the slip, thumb out. He holds out his notice as the two vans slow to get their shot before rolling away and to the distant sound of the world.

Laughing, the sound man jerks his hand at The King.

It’s Mary’s day off.

Monday 26 September 2011

Spooks, Series Ten


I don’t care how silly it might seem but episode three of series ten of Spooks better involve Harry and a returned Malcolm finding the lost, mythical city of Hamunaptra. There armed with the Book Of The Dead they can bring about the return of Ros Myers, because for fuck’s sake. 

New Facebook

With the changes coming to Facebook next week everyone in the whole world that found their common cause for bloody uprising will be relieved to know that not only is Facebook going to return to a steady drip of meat-juice and personality gravy – but also that it is to be compulsory.
Part of a raft of proposed changes to come in time for the 2012 Olympics criminals are to be tagged with Blackberries so that whilst they inflict their tedium upon society as a whole, they will also confess to it as they do so, albeit with multiple exclamation marks, full stops spelled lol, and with update buttons such as ‘on the rob’ and ‘selfish sense of entitlement felt at’. The choice of Blackberries is set to wipe out white-collar crime completely by 2014. Government Worry-Czar Nick Shark is also set to release advice on securing a household’s valuables in the event of such a burglary, mostly by putting anything of value inside a book.
A society then where not merely can anyone with nothing to say, say it often but where now they can do it loudly. Not only will everyone have to give a shit, there shall be a button to press to do so. But it will only stay pressed for a very, very brief time.
Updating my blog whilst updating my blog whilst updating my blog whilst updating my blog whilst... 

Saturday 24 September 2011

Lay Grouter, This Fist Then

But then you escaped? The preacher’s wife asked
I escaped, answered he, with some fright
And the most I have seen of a bright Thirstday sun
Is all that remains of this light

You have come to the light! She declared with a squeal
Oh Allegory Wise! Did she wail
Oh Metaphor be praised! For she lived a good life
Where reason would never prevail

My fine, bright, poor boy you must come fast within
She coughed to improve on her clarity
And you shall be washed in the Masters good grace
And I shall be washed in my charity

For you have been beastly, and dirty and foul
But trust in my worthy theocracy
And you shall be brought to the Three Blessed Parts
Of Allegory, Metaphor and Hypocrisy

She took him within and she drew him a bath
And she washed him with flannel and spite
And his rags did she burn on the fire of her faith
A fire set to burn all the night

And she stood and she prayed for the sinner returned
To his entrance to her Master’s good lands
But Grouter was dirty not just in his hide
And Grouter had quick little hands

The preacher’s wife opened her eyes with a snap
As she felt the hard hands on her breast
And she demanded to know what our Grouter quite thought
Of his claws planted high on her chest

And what, she enquired, in a shocked little voice
In a voice swiftly sharp, and then curt
Did a young man intend when he sought hard to find
The intent that might lie in her skirt?

Young Grouter was trembling but still he did say
That he planned to set out his snare
For his youth it was spring and a rabbit he sought
And if not a rabbit - then a hair.

And the Preacher’s Wife trembled with shock as she felt
A feeling unfelt in her nethers
And her thoughts turned to thoughts she kept to herself
Of fine oiled leather and feathers

And she took up a switch that was kept by the door
And she groaned as she beat on her thrall
But Grouter did shout and run from her hand
For beating was not it at all!

In a frenzy she whipped, and she swiped and she switched
Her desires unleashed and uncouth
But Grouter in terror he fled from her needs
Out the window and on to the roof.

War, Soggy Drums, and Swithing

I’ve been woken after a bare hour of sleep to the thub-thub-thub of a soggy-skinned drum. My family (if not other animals) have all come down with the same cold. That unfaithful germ has worked his way and left me with mop and a bag of rags to clear up after him. My youngest sprout, the brave and bold Bosswell, has had it worse and refusing to be upset as ever then as ever again she has spent the night angry. So I mopped and I calmed, cuddled and whispered stories so as not to disturb her fellows just as snotty, but they with the benefit of sleep. Despite the growling of small dinosaurs throughout the cottage I too managed to sleep, until now, not long after then, until the sound of that drum.
Thub-thubber-thub, thub-thubber-thub.
Not so very far away and on the green that drum is calling together the men of the village, to pitch up with pike, club or firelock for they are King’s men and for Parliament on this day a bustle of scouts from John Lox’s Stilbourne Blues entered Tolly Maw in 1644. Our own Lord Maw being a royalist in an area not otherwise so, sheltered safely in our mists. Old as he was but with a very young wife he was excused from battle, a royal incident that to this day excludes the men of Tolly Maw from war if they can demonstrate that they are in the vernacular ‘possessed of the good will of wife as to swithe or begat’. So in Tolly Maw you actually have a choice, whether to make love or war.
The Battle Of Tolly Maw was not even a scrap that followed the proper noisy slaughter of Marston Moor. There where Fairfax and Manchester defeated Prince Rupert and sent him running. Since I’ve over-egged the Rupert pudding of late I’ll make no more of the obvious. None fled here but within a week and local Stilbourne had been ordered to scour the land for defeated Royalists. The Blues entered before dawn but as the legend goes a young boy throwing rocks at squirrels* saw them and raised up a warning on a drum that he found, and which no one thereafter could lay claim to.
The Tolly Maw Militia was aroused and formed upright on the green, apart from those excused by dint of being able to get upright in the pink. The battle itself consisted of little more than abuse and bluster until the Inn opened. Whereupon they retired to do the same, just with a jug between them. And today the local re-enactors are coming together to do just that, with abuse, and a lot of drinking, which is rather the point of re-enactment anyway. And oh now here they are and the abuse has started.
‘Cromwell is so fat that when we ran around him we got lost.’
‘Prince Rupert’s mirror breaks each morning, because it knows not to get between Prince Rupert and Prince Rupert.’
And bloody so on.
Thub-thubber-thub, thub-thubber-thub.
And the sprouts too are now waking up. My sweet Q has gone already to work. I have a horrible feeling I might soon be conscripted.
Thub-thubber-thub, thub-thubber-thub!
*Actually he was setting fire to kittens, but my readers whilst they will object to nothing - the nothing they will always object to is this.       

Friday 23 September 2011

Gym'll Fix It

If you’ve long harboured a hankering for gyms to return to proper, manly places where an oaf can put on big shorts and hit another oaf whilst eating a fried egg and Mother’s Pride sandwich -  then Murderers is probably for you. Having myself the perfect heterosexual physique (a potato with four cocktail sticks for limbs) I was convinced that someone, somewhere was having a laugh at my expense when the leaflet came through the door last weekend. It was a striking sort of flyer, unbleached tripe with the details scratched deep with what looked to be biro. Worried as I was to be faced with an array of gleaming knees, gaunt faces topped with bulging eyes, and the sort of thighs one more normally sees on an especially well exercised turkey it was then with some initial relief that I found quite the very opposite.
In Murderers there are no rowing machines, no exercise machines of any kind that I could see (which was probably as well as I’ve not the first idea what any of them would be called). What there was, was a boxing ring, a side of lamb hung from the ceiling and a lot of the sort of medicine balls and bowling pins that you only normally see being hurled at policemen from the windows of a Leyland Tiger by the girls of St Trinian’s.
Here ugly, malformed men punched more just like themselves so as to send one another’s teeth in prepaid envelopes to Gold R Us. Other men sat and scratched their enormous balls with a broken bottle. Across the gym a young man was being shown how to batter his prospective wife, whilst another was being buggered for ‘being a poof’. Three of the fattest sat who somewhat like the Graeae had to share amongst them, in their case, a capstan full-strength and a single opinion, rather than a tooth and an eye.
I left whilst still I was able and if I remain for the now the same shape, then it is perhaps better to eat a pie than be one. 

Thursday 22 September 2011

Lay Grouter, Four Fingers Full

Yet Grouter had earlier made good his escape
Before the chair it was sent to the tree
Intent as he was on debauchery hale
It served him best, of the court, to be free

He had walked hardly far when from high up above
He was hailed in a whispering drone
By a single-winged angel all painted in grey
Sat atop of a painted grey throne

With the crowd in the court and the street therefore clear
The angel felt able to speak
So he called to young Grouter to climb to his roost
Where the wind made the lead gables creak

But the climbing was awkward for all over the brick
Was a thin shining sheen of fresh prayer
And though sticky as spit on a salesman’s palm
Young Grouter was soon in the air

Though light as a promise received from a Lord
Young Grouter did nonetheless fall
And struck hard a preacher’s wife square on the head
Who sent up a quarrelsome call

Young man, if in seeking to travel about
The preacher’s wife said with a scowl
Pray remember that roads are the beast that is best
Unless the beast that you are, is an owl

And I see by your manner and the boots that you wear
That you come from without, from a cave
That further your eyes that do twitch back and forth
Mark you out as a burgling knave

Our Grouter protested and fell to one knee
That his eyes could not help but to loom
Because in a cave there is never much light
And that light that there is, is all gloom

As for his stoop and his quick little hands?
Young Grouter did not wish to be rude
But his clothes like his hands were terribly small
And if once he stood straight, he’d be nude

The preacher’s wife sighed before pinching his cheek
That hung from his skull like a bag
And asked when our Grouter had lastly been fed?
And if all his clothes were a rag?

He bent and he whispered into her round ear
That his garments were made up of rips
That his meals were marked by what else remained
Of toenails, and dandruff and lips

The youngest, he hissed, of a very large brood
The youngest of fell Mother Droop
Who treasured him best for the length of his bones
And the stock they would make for a soup

These Roads to Portishead, by GASS Light

Oh, can’t anybody see
We’ve got a war to fight
Never found our way
Regardless of what they say
My father stood by the barred gate of our cottage, face red and neat, angry – and that was the last time I saw him. The last time then as now, so I didn’t have to look back to see him as I have done a hundred times since. A hundred times and a hundred dreams in which I return here often, to the sound of bees and the breeze in the wild grasses, the bracken and green nettles.
It was again a bright Monday morning, the same last lazy week of July. It was the turn of the century, or thereabouts, 1900, 1901. I felt myself to be nineteen, hard at the edges from ten years of smashing adventure and soft in the centre from never being further from Kirrin than the next clue. Nineteen and with sticking plaster on one knee. I carried a small tent rolled up about my umbrella, both well worn and the better for it. A bundle made of spare clothes, a tin of treacle biscuits and a little cheese had my Webley 1 in the middle and the strap over both shoulders so that I walked with purpose alongside the millpond. Dragonflies and a cabbage white came too to say their farewells. I was by afternoon truly on the road. I’m sure when first I walked it that I was closer to Truro by a day before I saw the first of my fellow vagrants. But on this occasion it was with the promise of a little rain and an early night that saw me first greet then pause to gossip with the man I half recognised but could not at first place. A lifetime again will do that.
Back then and the motorcar was scarce heard of. Blacksmiths had still not made that early-eager transformation into mechanics. We were years yet before everyone knew their way about tools and an engine, and decades before they knew nothing about either. Craftsmen then would walk the country looking for work. Young men would quite literally seek their fortune. The real tramps had their own codes and manner of speaking, travellers that wound a regular route a year in length to where they were something of a local character, albeit to many localities. They would always have a twist of tea and a tater or two. A round-nosed cob called Charley I came upon near to Exeter would give me my first billy after laughing at the little milk pan I now recalled having tied to my bundle also. And there it was.
I was saying goodbye. I was closing all the doors and hanging up the keys. I was shutting up shop, closing the business. I had gone fishing. It was summer and I was on my holidays. It was twenty-something years until I would be caught and left bloody, weeping in the snow of Podkamennaya. Adam might have saved me but had declined to do so. In 1973 there would be eleven of us, self-elected to see out the end of the world. To close all the doors, to hang up all the keys. To shut up shop, to close the business. There will be no sign that will say ‘gone fishing’ but there won’t be anything, at all, anyway. There is no such beast as ‘why’. I’ve hunted it, I know. And I sit now by the hedge. On the other side two coney are still and frightened frozen, trembling and low in the pasture grass whilst a tatty-backed ewe tries to urge away two half-grown lambs. They bounce and bleat and laugh it seems at the delight of it all. They’ve never heard of mint sauce.
 I was surprised it was Alf. He wasn’t even part of the same milieu. Still that was the slides for you. Some would scoff that there are many worlds, the many changes and chances of possibility spawning an infinity of histories. Some then would be entirely right to do so. The number is finite, albeit rather a large number. Less now. That was rather the point. It was narrowing down to one and that one entirely out my hands. So for myself if no one else I was closing all the door, hanging up all the keys.
“Well,” he said, eyeing my boots and good twill shorts, my jersey, shirt and cap with distaste, “you’re a funny bleeder, ‘ent you?”
“Hello Alf,” if he was surprised I knew his name he didn’t show it. He wasn’t ephemera like so many now, even here where the sun was remembered. Gods want people (and one of them certainly) to worship him. They forgot let there be light, but they were pretty sharply in with the let there be an audience. Gods that believed in fate, in destiny, in being in certain places, told what to do. Alf had not the first idea what I was talking about. I was surprised to find I was talking about it too. He was in good company because most of you are a bit further than wondering too.
“’Ere, I fort you was a lad. Early on, that voice you’re using.”
I was pleased by that. I introduced myself, George Kirrin. You might have heard of me. You have actually, you just don’t know from where. Or don’t realise it. I was as good as any boy when a girl. “The voice Alf, that’s because the writer is male. You presumed it being in the first person that I was too.”
“Aye, well...”
“But you’re not a king here, Alf. Or a gangster, or even much of a gambler, and I don’t think this time you’ll die in Spain, or discover the source of the Limpopo. You shouldn’t be here Alf, you’re in a different story. Stories, sorry.”
He grinned, he doesn’t mind. It was so clear this time around but soon and the century will turn, and that’s that. I’m down unbelievably to plan ‘d’ because of people who are still coming up with ‘a’. Perhaps on the next flip, Dominick.
“Spare us tuppence,” says Alf.
“Tuppence, wisely invested, la-te-da Mary Poppins? You don’t exist Alf.”
“No one exists, love. The world was born in 1968 and lives from 00 to 00, or 01.”
I’ve never liked exposition and since most of those that started reading this have already gone on to Gok Wan below, this is all a bit strange. I can say what I like.
And what I like, is?

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Bangers & M*A*S*H (new crime drama)

Spun off from successful girls tele How To Look Good Naked, Bangers & M*A*S*H is the new crime drama set to take the ratings  - and you - by storm, girlfriend! Gok Wan reprises his role as Gok Wan (half-Romulan fashonista) last seen in How To Look Good Naked, H2LGN. Whereas in that show Gok showed middle-aged women that they're middle-aged women, and further are middle-aged women-shaped now having empowered them, he sets them against crime. Bangers & M*A*S*H is set during the filming of a consecutive episode of H2LGN and whilst the subject (invariably a middle-aged woman that is unhappy to not be Kate Moss) is empowered by Gok to show off a frankly normal fat arse, here it is also to kick butt and fight the weekly monster. Drawing on Whedon’s Doll House, Anderson’s Joe 90, and Cruise’s Mission Impossible, the week’s now fabulous middle-aged woman is freed from her secret self-comparison with the Croydon-waif, by being taken to Croydon. I mean, ugh.
Teaming up with Gok (here set to portray Gok Wan) is the medical-examiner-cum-forensic-scientist Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda). In a case of what came next for the clowning MD after his experiences with a laughter track in the Korean war, Hawkeye and Gok solve crime through a combination of made-up technology and high street fashion. The villain tracked down they will invariably send in one of the empowered middle-aged women – the ‘Bangers’ to use whatever specialist skill set has been programmed into them, in big knickers. Usually chip-pale ninja or special-forces mum.
 Bangers & M*A*S*H, because bloody hell and no one thought to tell me Spooks started again last Sunday?

Monday 19 September 2011

Lay Grouter, Three Fingers Deep

He escaped to the door that first came to his eye
Wherein came the sounds mostly fraught
Of grown men in battle with wild, rusty words
For Grouter had come to the court

The judge was a Peedle, a full-feathered bird
That ate only the cream from ├ęclair
And though there resulted no manner of flight
The Peedle was known to be fair

Nesting twice yearly on old varnished wood
In a nest made from wigs and a sock
Known for her wisdom her first ever judgement
Had been to send all the lawyers to the block

A barber before her had brought forth his case
Of an employee who never replied
For though he had told his always sad news
The employee had never yet cried

The Peedle then asked for the employee to say
In defence of his lack of commotion
(For in the town where happiness was ever on hand
It was hateful to show no emotion)

But the employee refused and moved not a limb
Preferring instead his own silence
A stance that in turn drove the barber to shout
And threaten the employee with violence

The case here before us, the Peedle announced
Is perhaps of them all the most witless
Yet you condemn yourself roundly by your demonstration
Of the crime that all here now witness

The Peedle announced in the barber’s favour
But elected to point out, to be fair
That though the accused was dipped in his guilt
The employee was also a chair

The chair it was sentenced to hang by its neck
From the tree that stood tall by the gate
And there every morning the crowd that would gather
The chair they would sharply berate

The chair was so served and was hung by the neck
But when came the time to be so berated
The chair had escaped far into the night
For the chair and the tree were related.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Nice One, Truly (Campaign For Real Fear)

Peter Tennant covers my winning piece from last year’s Black Static 17, as he goes through everything to appear in that excellent magazine from issue 1 onwards. Have a good cruise through at:
I've not really mentioned the piece here as picked up as it was for further publishing in audio and podcast format, I've not heard anything since signing the paperwork. We live either way content that it achieved what it did. 

School For Scoundrels

The trail of the missing Alastair Sim has finally led him here. We don’t have much in the way of law enforcement but what we do have can be frighteningly cold. Because what we have is Ian Richardson. Richardson whose cold, dead eyes and threateningly calm voice have served the country as the ever efficient head of every secret service, government and even Porterhouse is in no mood for any nonsense. His charm has no warmth. A bunch of dahlias on the occasional table rather than wilting in the cold of his presence have straightened themselves up more smartly. Inspector Richardson has that effect on people. If he were a Commissar cats would denounce cats, and cats denounce one another. Not that cats take much urging in that department.
Precisely polite he wants to know if I’ve seen Alastair Sim? He stands on the rug where the last of that great actor has left his mark upon the world. Ian Richardson was never in School For Scoundrels. He does not like it mentioned. It’s my own fault. When making the tea only an hour ago and on seeing what a grey day was promised I hoped to find on tele this afternoon that very film.
I’m bored silly you see with action movies, and robots, and CGI and flashy trash generally. I want to sit and watch black and white, to chuckle at Ealing. I’m not turning into my Dad. I watched this stuff eagerly on weekend afternoons, each one a treasure when found. If a film didn’t have Sean Connery in a dinner jacket, or Lancaster or Mosquito bombers in it – my Dad wasn’t interested. He’d snort at the opening of Passport to Pimlico. He’s scowl as The Ladykillers began. He’d demand to know when The Man In The White Suit appeared if I was ‘really going to watch this rubbish?’ He wanted Pussy Galore or 633 Squadron, or it was off to the allotment with him. And of them all my favourite was, is, School For Scoundrels. And it’s not even an Ealing.
Made in 1960, it boasted much of the same stable. Alastair Sim, Ian Carmichael and... Terry Thomas. Terry who knowing what’s going on with Inspector Richardson and I is at the window now, peering in, dabbing at his purposeful forehead with a monogrammed and bloody rag of Sea Island cotton.
School For Scoundrels is Terry Thomas, and where Ian Carmichael learns to best Terry Thomas by being taught such ‘gamesmanship’ by Alastair Sim. Gamesmanship being the art, of being, Terry Thomas. Of being a cad, a conman, of charmingly getting one over the other chap whilst dressed just so and which really every contestant on The Apprentice should be made to watch eyes held open like Alex under the Ludovico technique to the sounds of  a little Ludwig Van.
Inspector Richardson leaves in such a way to make sure that he knows, what I know, whatever that might be. At some point he’ll make a suggestion I don’t doubt, to go somewhere, to pick up something, to stand on the platform beside a person and in the crowd jostle. I’ll need to be sharp to turn the tables. I’ll need to up my gamesmanship.
So I hope that School For Scoundrels is on this afternoon. And also now if you’ve any sense should you.   

Saturday 17 September 2011

The Greek Economy (with stop motion skeletons)

Brian Blessed (firm favourite for gold in the cock-wrestling event)

Given the problems with the Greek economy it should perhaps have been no surprise that the answer to such is to lie not with financial aid, the world bank, or the gnomes of Zurich but with a recently announced quest for the Golden Fleece. Ever since King Cretheus was murdered-to-death by Pelias over the inevitable problems following the expulsion of Nazi Germany, the communist and loyalist partisans have brought the country to the brink of ruin, what with all the laughter, and beards, and the chasing of nymphs. Said by scholars to represent kingship, alchemy, or the development of mining in a pre-literate society it in fact represents a bloody great golden fleece. If scholars had spent more time on a Saturday afternoon watching jerkily animated skeletons there would be a whole lot less of this sort of rot.
The coming 2012 Olympic will be set to give to each medal winner the chance to compete for a place aboard the ship, and therefore the quest. The ship named for the famous wife of the late shipping magnate who provided for just such an event, the crew shall take as is right the name of the ship for themselves. These Sillycowthatmarriedkennedy-a-nauts will provide the skills necessary to defeat a giant Plasticine hydra, they the best athletes and warriors in the eyes of the Gods. Champions of dressage, table tennis and badminton will set forth during the closing celebrations of the games in order to fight off harpies and foolishly bring to life the bronze god Talos (currently to be found you might recall, in St Pancras).
The whole crew shall wear as their official uniform the same little leather pants promoted by the film 300, even the girls, of which there shall be none – who shall in such a case be officially listed as ‘beardless youths’.
A name lost to boy-bands now ever after. 

Lay Grouter, Two Fingers True

He stepped by the tree to encounter directly
A weasel with marbles for eyes
With a ledger composed of tedious marks
All made from the bile of flies

Seeing Grouter, the weasel he paused in his stride
And warned him of the fun to be had
In the town where the wine was dreadfully strong
And the girls were so terribly bad

He accorded young Grouter a thin glassy stare
And opined that he was just the sort
If accorded the chance at devilish glee
There was little that he might be taught

The weasel declared that if Grouter were wise
(A possibility the weasel well doubted)
He would best turn about and return to his cave
Advice that our Grouter then flouted

The young man then asked about the best place
Where a young man might do as he please?
Where a young man might meet an experienced girl
And by chance then might pick up a disease

Exclaiming disgust at the thought of such waste
The weasel then bade him most sweetly
To instead find a book, with numbers within
Where sums could be added most neatly

The pleasures in life lay, the weasel averred
In numbers most suited by occasion
And not in the flesh where idle men root
But in a well turned quadratic equation

What sort of fellow, fair Grouter demanded
Would pass by a party invited
Where gaiety came, wrapped up in fine silk
And instead in grey numbers delighted?

With a snort like a pig upon losing its tail
The weasel espoused his derision
Of drinking and jesting and fine summer nights
(But mostly of fleshly incision)

He explained nonetheless, with his nose in the air
His grey skin in dire need of good ointment
That he was more or less possessed of no soul
And was therefore a chartered accountant

Young Grouter recoiled in horrified fear
And fled in swift terrified flight
For in all the land could be found no worse a wraith
Than those that could drain all delight

Friday 16 September 2011

When I Grow Up

Mark Silvester's always too busy nowadays

It seems that whilst our grandfathers all wished to be engine drivers and fighter pilots, when asked recently boys in the 13-15 year brackets were divided as to their aspirations. Slightly edging ahead and especially in the suburbs came ‘Gangsta’, with ‘Space Marine’ a close second. The current favourite for the #1 music download this Christmas is a rapping champion of the Emperor’s divine fury, in the 41st millennium.
It wasn’t like that when I was a child, even when as a young teenager I made all my much older chums record for posterity their dream future in the letter col of a popular fanzine. I found the issue last night when going through great stacks of old paper, and here they are:
‘A wizard.’
‘An elf. A girl elf. With tiny tits. And a penis.’
‘Jerry Cornelius. Stringer for the NME 1970-74. Green Arrow, circa issue # 78-79. David Callan. Robin Hood series 1&2, not series 3.’
‘Leslie Philips.’
And, 'Voltan the Axe'
It was a manlier time. Oddly as it turns out now roughly thirty years later one of them did become Leslie Philips, one did end up as an assassin with a decent collection of toy soldiers, and ironically the last has recently been chosen through fierce ordeal to be taken aboard a mighty sky galleon to be all bald and angry at Space Orks.
So, swings and roundabouts.