Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saloon Of The Not Particularly Alive

Ok, here goes with the second part of my McKoala Smackdown punishment.

When I first felt her claws about my buttocks, I figured on bleeding to death. As it was, said naughty bear has done me something of a favour by forcing me to write my first short story since I was in my teens. Whether this constitutes a reward for anyone else remains to be seen.
One of my favourite comedy moments of all time has to be the baked bean scene in Blazing Saddles. Yes, it’s toilet humour of the most unashamedly childish kind, but when you’re a thirteen year-old pubescent teenager who’s sneaked into the cinema with his giggly best friend like Beavis and Butthead, it’s the Funniest Thing In The Entire World, and I swear we laughed till we ruptured every organ in our bodies.

In the weeks that followed, a multitude of cowboy stories were written, each one graced with fart scenes, swear words and puerile sexual references that would crack the starchy mantle of the staunchest conservative politician.

Thankfully/sadly, none of these stories have survived, but a while ago I did find an exercise book from the late 70s, crammed with the adventures of the last of my OTT cowboys, and having read it through, I figured that after 30-odd years, he deserved another gallop into the Wild West.

So here’s what I have: a 2000 word cowboy story. In the style of the originals, it’s screechingly heavy on the adverbs, adjectives and ridiculous imagery, and (for those of you familiar with the term), “Whirlioisms”. I’ve edited out the worst excesses, but left it more or less as it hit the page. There’s not really much of a plot, and surprisingly little farting or swearing — but it’s fun...

The Mucus Kid rode into town
on his trusty plastic horse.
He looked right up and he looked right down
and he saw the ground (of course).

From The Ballad of the Mucus Kid

The Kid gave the saloon doors a kick.

(updated version pending)

To Be Continued?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Iron Deficiency? Or Just Plain Bored?

There must have been many moments in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding career when he found himself at a loss after weeks and weeks of pumping, wondering why his exercise regimes, intake of Joe Weider’s sweat, and games of naked volleyball with a succession of Miss Austria contestants, resulted in so disappointing a Throbbing Sinew to Vital Organ ratio.

Having surveyed the progress of my cactus, I have some insight into the emotional mindset of said flexing Potential Governor of California in his 70s heyday.

Sadly, my two emergent blooms seem to have shrivelled up, and while they haven’t disappeared entirely, I can’t see any way of enticing them out other than by serenading them with Son of Whirl’s guitar, drizzling the entire plant with steroid cream from when I had a rash on my foot, or popping it in the bathroom window where it’s sure to get plenty of sun and moderate affection from Geoff.

Anyone got any hot cactus tips?

This image may be both copyrighted and ridiculous.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Directly Outside 8

Note: This short piece forms part of my Koala Smackdown punishment. I do have another, longer, slice of fiction stewing away in the hopper, but I’ve gone with this one first because it’s so bloody miserable. Best get it out of the way now, methinks.

Directly outside my window, horses shamble into the courtyard, their legs cut down to stumps.

None have riders, yet it is clear they have been humbled at the hands of men.

On their mutilated hoists, they gather, proud, and I wonder how they can bear to stand.

Matchsticks. Feeble matchsticks.

Pausing to rest in the mist, the horses look weary. But is it from the labour of an arduous journey? Or is something about to happen? Some unspeakable thing they dread?

As I watch them breathe the air, I sense the rhythm of my own breath; notice when I’m out of synch, adjust.

Odd to do this, I think, but odder still that all are as one. If charmed, I am, it is not by a single creature — it is by their unified souls.

Now the horses stand in a circle. Equally strange, but I no longer care how or why: I am beguiled.

A small gap opens in their ranks, and though I am far away, it is as if I am stood amongst them, waiting.

With a nod, they blow through their nostrils, blow through their nostrils — blow through my nostrils, I must.

A cloud of vapour billows from me, settling among the other wisps of silver with an ethereal billiard ball poof.

And now we rock onto our stomachs, wait.

I feel a stabbing pain, and bunch up.

Can no longer see the horses.

Am I dying?


I wake, covered in vomit. My guts are knotted and my every muscle aches, yet nothing can keep me from crawling to my feet to look out of the window.

The horses stand, motionless, gazing at a dapple foal testing its hooves on the flagstones. The mist has cleared, and beyond the courtyard, a grassy hill ascends into the blue. Across its summit, barbed wire coils, cutting us off from the horizon.

The foal gallops into the grass and I see now what must be.

Run, foal, run. This is what we sing.
Run, foal, run, we pray.

But the further the creature races away up the hill, the larger the wire looms.

Jump, foal, jump, we cry.

My wish, like those of my newfound kin, is earnest, heartfelt and true, but before my stunned gasp is fully drawn, the foal kicks and bucks, snared in the wire. Maybe it will tear itself free and return, wounded but still alive? Or maybe the horses will gather beside it and ease its final suffering?

No: now there are men — men gathering with sticks. Their gait is workaday, careworn, and as the foal’s shudders ripple along the wire, they beat it slowly and dispassionately to death.

Long after the men are gone, I stand among the horses, till my eyelids finally sag for want of sleep. I know, in the morning, all these beautiful creatures will be gone, leaving me alone once again.

The hill and the sky will fade too, and with them, the cruel wire. But I shall not forget the foal’s sweet face as it turned to race up the hill for as long as I am trapped in this place, doomed only to witness as the world spins by, directly outside...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Highlight Of The Day

My treat? Having my chest measured by a charming young man in an M&S fitting room before purchasing a buff polo shirt and a pair of chinos that actually fit me.

As I slipped neatly into my new mix ‘n’ match outfit, I felt the hand of Gok Wan roobling over my palpitations like the pit-a-pat of raindrops on the thatched roof of a kitten sanctuary.

Then I went downstairs to the food hall and bought some weird bread rolls.

It doesn’t get any better than this...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Morning Music

Whirl walked to the Outtherarama, juggling demons into becomemoths.

‘I’d hoped for butterflies,’ he whispered, blowing lungfulls of nothing into a handfull of the same. “But at least you don’t bite.”

Moths, dust, memories; rising in incandescent clouds till I shatter the writer’s muserly illusion to cough, snagging on a face suddenly swollen with beauty’s cruelly exacted cost.

Oh, summer, mad, is here, and I will rage against its excess of summons, bury my head in the glowing sand and watch for the sun through the miracle sheen of my eyes’ timely blinds.

And lo, a champion will quiver into sinew from the light’s burning flametalons — but hey, bugger, fuck all of that, all you need to know is that my cactus continues to sprout, Sock Monkey has been sent a better sewn half-brother and the guy who lives round the corner (who looks like Rick Wakeman on an all expenses paid weekend away from having to be Rick Wakeman) still looks like Rick Wakeman. Can’t help trilling my fingers, raised aloft o’er my hips, whenever he passes by with his moderately plausible 70s prog rock beard.

So, anyhow — music.

I was talking with a friend of mine a while ago about music genres — how ambient hip-hop grunge thrash is so different from thrash ambient grunge hip-hop (maybe it’s a rhythm thang) — and we concluded that of all the evident mutations of the I Can Twang My Polyps gene, the least proliferate is the Morning Music kinda first string thing — unless you’re a sad enough muso to count among your all time favourite songs the warblings of Daryl “The Sparrow” O Hoolihan and his Dawn Chorus Chirp Ye Chirp Vagabond Orchestra.

So, what is Morning Music?

Consider the French accordion player who shimmies onto the decking of your emerging dawn verandah in tight satin trousers, prompting you to wonder if he has a slimmer, yet slightly less sexy, twin brother. The French have it, don’t they? That Ooh-la-la joie de vivre thing that sits so delicately poised between the Get What You Want At All Costs mantra and the Want What You Get At All Prices sigh like a bird. Flies. Gone.

It’s a bit late now for Morning Music, I know, but I’ve listened to this a couple of times today and ended up in a different room to where I started out, not simply because of some habitual pedestrian humdrum, or even the surprise insemination of wandery-abouty liquid by aliens intent on suppressing my latent All Flibbulatoids Beauty Pageant Prowess — but because it’s brilliant. So, late on in the day, I flap it on out.

Everything about this song stuns gravity into momentary submission.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

It Feels Like I'm Having A Baby — Only It's A Cactus

A very long time ago (so long, in fact, that I don’t remember when — maybe before the dawn of time), Girly of Whirly bought me a trio of cacti to grace the study windowsill. That they subsequently doubled up as Items Of Torture Equipment For When I’d Been Bad is another matter entirely. All you need to know is, three cacti.

Cactus #1 is my most successful specimen ever. If it was out there in its natural habitat, it could keep a family of priarie dogs alive and well for a fortnight and a half. As a bonus, it has spikes like the beard of a benevolent dwarf, which I regularly shave into artsy curves.

Cactus #2 died. It was rubbish. Long and thin like a cucumber, it fell prey to Geoff’s curiosity one Sunday morning behind the curtains and never recovered. R.I.P.*

*Rubbish; Incredibly Prickly

So what’s the big deal? I hear you whimper. Those are the only options for all living creatures, aren’t they? Life and death?

Cue Cactus #3 — the Undead Spawn from The Pit.

This is one of those little fat ones that seems to serve less purpose than wasps. It’s never been much cop, and even when I transferred it to the greenhouse over the summer, it flourished like a camp Russian folk singer in a redneck bar. I was going to throw it out but I forgot all about it and so it spent the whole winter in the greenhouse, buffeted by wind and rain as December’s cruel fingers tore the panels from the roof. When I came across it at the start of March, its roots had detached from the compost and it was so dried and husky, it might as well have been a miniature oak tree turd. But I knew I had to save it.

As I set it alongside Cactus #1 and New Cactus (#4), Girly of Whirly made some flippant remark about resurrecting the dead, issuing a stern warning that there would be hell to pay if it started stinking the house out. Doomsday scenarios flourished for the next few days like bacteria up a cow’s backside, but then we all got used to the little dried-up ball on the windowsill — until yesterday morning. The compost, it seems, has sprouted weeds, and the cactus itself, tiny flowers. And I’m soooo excited.

Looks like I have a zombie cactus on my hands.

If I go more than a few days without posting, you’ll know it’s impaled me on its spikes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Protrudio Says — Hey! 5

As you may recall, Abysswinksback-goers were invited to partake in the following writing exercise:

“You are a ghost. In a supermarket. You can’t touch anything, scare anyone, and you may not even be an ex-human. What do you see on display that moves you? Something you recall from your mortal life? Some odd new product by which you’re fascinated? Or a sink plunger?”

I can confirm that the results are now in, and Protrudio has selected a lucky winner from the vast range of both submissions, after deliberating atop his favourite yak-hair cushion for over four and a half hours. A tough decision indeed, but in the end, there can only be one winner, and though it’s true that in many civilisations throughout the galaxy, all the spoils are typically swept up by evil fascist overlords (backed up by tons of nukes), I’m happy to report that this won’t be happening this time round as both of the entrants were humble mortals. I think. Furthermore, on this occasion, I have overridden Protrudio’s decision as there is hardly a whisker between both entries. (If it helps, he chose his own feeble effort, submitted about five minutes ago.)

So here they are, lovingly recreated in the order they were received...

First off is this one from Bevie

I watched her fill her cart. Milk. Cheese. Bread. Frozen vegetables. She didn’t seem to bother much with pricing. Just took the name brands. Hmm. Must have money to spare. The other shoppers were taking their time, comparing prices of generic labels to advertised.

It was fascinating to watch the people, myself unseen. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. After all, it wasn’t like I could interact with them anyway. As far as they knew I was just some cold spot in the store. Some actually shivered walking through me. Wish I could shiver. Wish I could experience the sensation of picking something up, dropping it into the cart, and pushing it around the store. But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even get excited about looking at this woman. I knew she was beautiful, but so what? I had no physical sensation to stimulate. What a waste. No ring on her finger. How could someone so beautiful stay unattached? What did I care? I was alone in a crowd. No one to talk to because no one could hear me. Just endless loneliness.

I was about to leave when I saw her take something from the shelf: Jiffy Pop Popcorn. I loved popcorn. My favorite snack. Memories filled my mind. Peeling off the cardboard protection. Shaking the foil pan over the stove. Listening to the popping and watching the aluminum foil rise up like a volcano about to burst. The burst of steam when I cut the top open. The beautiful smell of buttered popcorn filling the kitchen. The wonderful taste as I put it in my mouth. The choking, because I had taken too much. The darkness. And then looking down at my lifeless corpse. Hmm. Maybe I should keep following her. Might have someone to talk with soon.

And here’s one from Queen Viciouspants herself...

Margaret can't see the supermarket. It wasn't here when she was alive, she says. All she sees when I take her there is farmer Atkins field.

- Where are the cows? she asks and I point to the sliced meat section, but the joke is lost, because she can't see that either. While I stand in the middle of the tinned vegetable aisle, she stands beside Atkins Oak, which she says is the biggest tree she's ever seen. She circles it to show me, passing through racks of tins and packets and most of the fruit and vegetable department. I agree that it must have been a big tree.

Margaret is upset that she can't see the cows; she swears Atkins Field should be full of them. They should be able to be here, like us, she says. I've never worked out why we can't see the ghosts of animals. Margaret doesn't know either. I say we shouldn't worry, surely that must mean they are all happy in some animal heaven, but I can't help looking back at the sliced meat when I say it.

- I'm happy, says Margaret. - Why am I not in some kind of heaven?

I don't know why she keeps asking me that. She knows I don't have an answer.

I make Margaret go to the supermarket with me a lot, despite the lack of cows. I like to go there. Although I could spend as long as I like looking at the magazine covers, the sweets or the toys, all the things I used to to like to look at in the supermarket, I don't. Instead, I follow the route Mum always took, starting at fruit and vegetables and going up and down every aisle, because she never knew what she might have forgotten to write on her list that she might remember just by looking. I walk quietly like she always wanted me to. I don't complain and I don't moan, I just walk. Up and down. Looking. Following the aisles, not skipping a section or cutting through any racks. Up and down. Margaret doesn't really understand, but she follows me where she can, skirting the tree at times and reappearing halfway down an aisle. She doesn't talk either.

I always finish at the toiletries section where Mum bought her anti-perspirant and talcum powder. I stand in front of her favourite brands and that's when I really wish I still had a sense of smell. I'd like to smell my Mum. Just one more time.

More dilemmic horns than a herd of buffalos picking straws to see who wins a trip to the nail bar, n’est-ce pas? That said, if both lucky winners would like to email me their details, I will arrange to mail out their choice of prize from the following juicy offerings: chocolate, gravy, whisky miniature, rawlplugs, pencils, a potato or a crap crap crap crap crap mystery prize.

Meanwhile, over to Protrudio...

Slurpilicious wibblings of unadulterated yumminess! Did Whirl mention I wrote about a giraffe, by the way? Lost in Tesco, looking for bananas? When it dawned on me that said creatures of the plains rarely dine on bananas, the deadline had passed. But I submitted it anyway, hoping my moving lines about the poor giraffe’s attempts to peel the largest of the bunch with her phantom please excuse me. The last time I was moved to tears like this was when my soft scoop chocolate ice cream blaster got a stray almond stuck in its squirt nozzle...

But, on! Up! Between!

My recipe for this time around, although technically edible, is actually more a form of protection for those moments when you find yourself suddenly ambushed by undersea molluscs or kraken. So, frying pans at the ready...


For this audacious expose of raptures, you will need

5 slices of bread (big and roughly square)
3 eggs
2oz linguine
A feather from a colourful bird
1 Mallet
1 six inch nail

First off, bring a pan of water to the boil, marvelling as the bubbles rise to the surface like miniature crystal balls in a sea of possibilities. Next, deftly ponce five small plates onto the worktop like you were a Harlem Globetrotter spinning a quintet of basketballs, and distribute the whipped innards of your three cracked eggs evenly between them, adding a little salt and pepper and gayly singing

Eggs eggs eggs I love you
Eggs oh yes it’s true
The clarity of your albumen
shows you’re never blue.
And yes your yolk is sunny
occasionally runny
yellower than honey
perfect on roast bunny.

Donning sportswear from your favourite Olympics (mine is Mexico, 1968: great sombreros), javelin the linguine into the boiling water, carefully noting the recommended cooking time. Incidentally, if you’re ever confronted by Prawnspawn Gladiator Mutants while you’re trampolining on the thick-set skin of a wayward blancmange, I’ve discovered said beasts of death, destruction and disgraceful table manners are allergic to guacamole. Just a tip.

As the linguine begins to soften, soak your bread in the egg mix and fry, one at a time till the surface of each slice glistens with oil and has the texture of scabrous herring. Then, using the mallet and the six inch nail, beat four holes along each edge of the first four, leaving the fifth half done so if you folded it in half, you wouldn’t have mirror images — just one side with eight holes in and the other with none. Whatever the recommended cooking time of the linguine, aim to be two whole minutes shy as the last nail ka-chunks into the bread.

Now it’s time to sew the bread together with the linguine. Overcook it, and your Helm of Stupendousness will literally fall apart at the seams. When you’re done, you should have an inverted box-shape, with a flap, which you can flip up to make a brim. Simply crystallize the brim edge with a blowtorch, pop your feather in the top, and you have yourself the dinkiest hat this side of...the place where they have lots of dinky hats.

Time now to bid you all farewell once again, and I trust that you’ll experience an unusually high degree of fun as you cavort your way through the next fortnight clad in your home-cooked hats. Whether worn at work or at play, Protrudio’s Celebrated Helm of Stupendousness cannot fail to invite whoops of delight from all around, and, should your undergarments unravel in a Stray Thread Caught On Passing Bus catastrophe, may be donned as a temporary G-string.

Happy cooking!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On The Couch With Sock Monkey 2

SM: You mentioned baboons...

WO: Yeah, I know. Buzzing, buzzing, all day long, in my head, like evil gnats.

SM: Baboons like gnats?

WO: Yeah.

SM: Describe them.

WO: They’re like, all hairy and mean looking, pointing their huge backsides at me and chittering away with that weird kind of noise they make, and the leader—

SM: They have a leader?

WO: Yeah, a big one. And every time I shake my head to get them out of my mind, he goes round with a cricket bat, spurring them on to bare their backsides quicker, squealing waiieeee waiieee waieee.

SM: Actually, it’s pronounced ‘wayaye’, like Alan Shearer accepting an offer of casual sex.

WO: He does that?

SM: It’s just an example. Tell me more about the gnats.

WO: Oh, I was being poetic.

SM: To be honest, Mr Ochre, it would help me if you could keep things as factual as possible—

WO: You mean, like Alan Shearer?

SM: Hmm. Point taken. I take it you’re referring to the quality of movement the baboons evidence as you imagine them mustering en masse about you—

WO: Wait a minute. Who said anything about mustering en masse? They take it in turns, the little fuckers. And they’re real, I tell you, real.

SM: So you can touch them?

WO: Of course I can’t touch them, stupid. There’s an electrified fence patrolled by gorillas...

SM: You never mentioned that.

WO: I never got the bloody chance.

SM: Well, you have now.

WO: You want more? Like ‘electrified fence patrolled by gorillas protecting the baboons whizzing like gnats to bare their backsides at me while being beaten with a cricket bat by their enraged leader’ doesn’t clarify my predicament perfectly?

SM: Enraged, you say. Why is the leader enraged, do you think? Have you upset him?

WO: Of course I’ve upset him. Wouldn’t you? Every time he starts up with that infernal waieee waiee

SM: Wayaye...

WO: Whatever. Every time he does that, I jab him with a poker.

SM: Where from?

WO: The fireplace. Where do you bloody think?

SM: So how do you get the poker from the fireplace to inside your brain where all the baboons are?

WO: Have you never been to the circus?

SM: (cough) Of course I have. But that’s all behind me now. Your point?

WO: You must have seen someone swallow a sword. It’s exactly like that, only instead of a sword, it’s a poker, and instead of my throat, it’s my ears.

SM: You stick a poker in your ears? No wonder you’re delusional.

WO: Not all the way, you twat. Just enough to scare him.

SM: And does it work?

WO: No.

SM: Uh-oh, there goes the Proboscis Monkey Buzzer. Time’s up.

WO: Again?

SM: Again. Same time next week, Mr Ochre?

WO: It’ll have to be a fortnight, I’m afraid. I’ve got the decorators in.

SM: Refurbishing, are we?

WO: That, or casual sex...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Was Hoping For A Lighting Bolt, Or Death By A Zillion Scorpions — But, No...

Dear All

Alas, I have not met the Koala's kind, generous and loving challenge of writing a mere 100 words six days a week. You may not see me for some time, because the depth of the clawmarks in my butt make it impossible for me to sit in a computer chair.

I understand that the only way to be free of the humiliating stain of displaying my 'The Koala Kicked My Butt' badge, and to placate the enraged Koala, is to write a minimum of 2000 words in a single week and also to direct the Koala to some highly witty web site or YouTube video where she may laugh off her disappointment in me. That modest target has been set by the Koala while in a relatively good mood. Further infringements will incur further challenges of increasing complexity.

I also understand that a Goblin, disguised as JJdeBenedictis, will shortly appear and pull out all my toenails.

Yours sincerely


Monday, May 11, 2009

A Casting Off Of Albatri 8

Paper Scissors Stone

Creature at large.

May snarl or kiss.
Up to which of us
is this?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Protrudio Says Go Write! 5

You know how it goes. One minute, you’re tucking into an avocado-themed salad ciabatta, flipping through the sports section of The Guardian for photographs of Theo Walcott being shamelessly tackled, the next, you’re impaled mid-squidge by the wayward spring coils of surprise as droobulent flails of molten custard spurt through the gap between the sofa and the coffee table like the luxury hypocaust heating system of hell itself had been diverted under your living room and spontaneously ruptured in a cataclysm of ballistic pilae stacks, shattering the rarest exhibit in your wall-mounted Beatrix Potter thimble collection.

So — I wipe my lips on my napkin and wait for the inevitable rubber-clad culinary hero of renown to ride the final vanilla-yellow wave in his stylish polystyrene canoe and flop, stomach-first, onto the hearth rug.

‘Time for a competition?’ I ask, troubling a sliver of sun-dried tomato from my half-chomped ciabatta husk.

‘Too right, Big Nose — and this time, there’s Killer Prizes!'

To be honest, I’m sot sure how I feel about hanging out with Protrudio. Sure, there are tales of his exploits in the far-flung reaches of the transdimensional sweet course that bring tears to my eyes the size of glazed strawberries, and when he ripples his stomach laughing at my jokes, he could massage the tension from the most disturbed of psychopaths merely by pressing his rectus abdominis against the root of their necks, but on the downside, it takes me several days to hose down the house and pluck all the blobs of congealed custard from Geoff’s matted fur with a flea comb.

That said, here’s the writing contest...

You are a ghost. In a supermarket. You can’t touch anything, scare anyone, and you may not even be an ex-human.

What do you see on display that moves you to tears of joy or sadness? Something you recall from your mortal life? Some odd new product by which you’re fascinated?

300 words, by 11.49GMT Friday May 15th, delivered to my email inbox ( with your favourite vegetable as a Subject header.

As ever, Protrudio will pick the winner and reward all participants with a recipe from his Tome of Culinary Treats.

Your choice of a prize from the following tantalising selection...

* Chocolate

* Gravy

* Whisky miniature

* Rawlplugs

* Pencils

* A potato

* Crap crap crap crap crap mystery prize

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Much About Crutch

The problem with the internet 'being down' (which it is, as I write, btw — not with swine flu or depression, just 'not working') is that

a) (and my list will inevitably grow as I go along...)
a) (See? I’m already having to cheat to forestall the inevitable...)
b) (OK — I’ll start again from scratch...)

a) I’m going to have to write this post out longhand (and I now see how foolish I’ve been with my original attempt at a list).

b) Unless I can locate a suitably trained eagle to convey the details whitherward, it’s going to be a while before they reach any of you. This, of course, assumes that
i) A suitable trained eagle can be found.
ii) The training undertaken by said eagle was indeed suitable — ie it hasn’t been taught solely to peck out people’s eyes.
iii) I can get any eagles I find to convey the contents of this post to everyone I wish to read it.

c) This post is no longer about what I originally intended before I discovered the internet was down and may, in fact, no longer constitute anything worth writing out x times to relay worldwide by means of x+t eagles, where t is a number of eagles deployed as a safety net (a poor choice of metaphor I know, but bear with me. If you’ve hung on in here up to now I figure you’ll tolerate anything, up to and including spontaneous unconsciousness) should one or two of the original eagles perish prior to delivering their messages.

That being said, what, now, ought the post to be about?

In the spirit of the randomness afforded by this current moment’s internet glitsch, I select the following quotation from page 27 of Walking and Working Sticks by Theo Fossel as a guide.

It says, “Shaved or reduced holly sticks can be stained or (is that ‘fumed’? Can’t read my own writing — quelle Une Queurre de Plonque...) to give an effect that looks like a watermark in the wood.”

Fine. But now I have this mighty tome in front of me, I’m much more interested in Theo Fossel...

Sadly, there isn’t much of a bio in evidence, save this brief extract from the dust jacket.

“The author, Theo Fossel, studied forestry on the continent and has always been deeply interested in the countryside. From boyhood, he has whittled sticks from hedgerows and has found his life gradually taken over by his hobby.”

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but since this yellowing book was published in 1987, Fossel has to have written it in the pre-internet era. So did he use a typewriter to generate the manuscript, or did he (like I’m doing now) write everything out longhand? Or, being Mr Stick Whittler, did he...

Hmmmm. I think I know what might have gone on.

Fossel carved the text for this book onto a series of small twigs using the very whittling techniques that had captivated his enthusiasm since childhood, and then conveyed these matchstick manuscripts to his publisher using a flotilla of trained sparrows, each one individually marked with a blob of Humbrol enamel to facilitate sorting prior to going to press.

Presumably, that’s why not a single eagle has swooped down onto my desk, in spite of my shrill squeaks of I’m a litter mousie! Weeek! Weeek! Weeek! It’s well over 20 years ago now since flocks of sparrows descended on Apostle Press, but I can’t imagine the eagles have been too keen to change their feeding habitat.

Meanwhile, further details of Theo Fossel, along with those of the fascinating art of stick carving, may be found here.

Back soon...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bank Holiday Monday? Oh, Spare Me.

Bank holiday Monday.

That can only mean one thing.


Oh — and the Mother-in-Law.

I’d like to say I’m feeling optimistic (after all, it is only 9am and things could change), but if truth be known, I’m ready to shoot myself now.

Oh — and a garden centre. I’m bound to be dragged round a garden centre at some stage to look at some useless bedraggled shrubs. In the rain. Next to a crap outdoor pond. And a fifty quid crap bench. With a couple of twats on it.

Oh — and Son-of-Whirl will almost certainly create some sort of stink. Either he’ll have lost his new trainers or ripped his trousers or lost his phone, or he’ll feel ill or whine endlessly from Parva to Magna looking like his face is stuck down the snout of an invisible 3000W vacuum cleaner.

Oh — and what’s the betting we’ll stop off at some foul Ye Olde pub stinking of roast pig’s arse “for a quick half” only to find the whole place packed with surly locals playing darts, baiting dogs and burying their dead in the snug?

Oh — and no way will Girly-of-Whirly pass up the chance to drive us three hundred miles down the motorway to an abandoned retail unit on the offchance there might be a kitchen utensil sale.

Oh — and there’s bound to be a selection of rubbish cakes for us all to chew on when we finally shamble through the door having been thoroughly entertained by the multiple horrors of a flat tyre, Son-of-Whirl being sick, Mother of Girly of Whirly complaining about everything, and the repetitive thud of my forehead on the dashboard as I cry, “what have I done to deserve this? Please let me die now!”

Oh — and when all’s said and done, and Son-of-Whirl has gone to bed and Mother of Girly of Whirly lies safely nailed inside her coffin, the celebratory Pinot Noir will be corked, I’ll caramelize the gourmet supper beyond recognition (or drop it on the cat), and there will be nothing to watch on the telly but ten whole channels devoted to how Dale Winton likes to take it up the arse — or Jaws III.

Maybe I ought to lock myself in the shed and wait till tomorrow...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Forthcoming Attractions

Click to enlarge.
Image c/o
If I have violated copyright, those blasted wailing kids have violated me with decades of bloody Oom-Pah-Pah...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Feelin' Blooby

Past the open carrot troughs where
Maurice resides and gleeful bloggers are to be found shouting, there lies a short lane to a forest of bliss.

This, by the way, is my secret back garden. I share it with hundreds of other people (and a squat farmer who insists on trying to run me down with his tractor), but as it’s only ten minutes from my real back garden, I don’t particularly care.

As a writer, I treasure this place. Sometimes, I wander round with a notebook, sometimes I dress in clothes, but I’m always on the hunt for ideas. It’s physiological nonsense, of course, but I find my brain functions at its creative best when I’m on the move — although I ruled out trying to speed the process up by riding a bicycle shortly after colliding with a muscle-bound jogger and his equally muscle-bound dog. I think it’s because I appreciate the kind of moving scenery it’s hard to duplicate in a study without recourse to earthquakes (or, picking up from
McKoala’s Disneyland post, Hex at Alton Towers).

Anyhow, that’s by the by. What matters for the moment is that the bluebells are out in force, tinkling their chimes into the elven sublime. I’m no great believer in fairies (though as a child, Larry Grayson had me seriously pumped with collywobbles), but on a sunny day when there’s no-one else about you can almost hear them whispering like a pair of laddered tights.

They say:
“Bugger off, Whirl. Bugger off, Whirl.

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Life Is A Strange Third Prize In An Alien Auction That Some Spoddy Invertebrate Pustuloid Might Actually Win

Ever had the feeling you’ve been temporarily inhabiting someone elses skin? Or hide? Or carapace?*

Or that they (whoever they are) are performing the same trick beneath the surface of yours (whatever it is — and however it looks first thing in the morning) ?

I mention this because my thoughts for today’s post (and I’m not presuming regularity of purpose for myself here)** have not only meandered hither and thither like a thitheryhithery snake o so slithery, but have morphed from within and without as if Wallace and Gromit held sway over the laws of physics, accompanied by that odd sound only octupi make when vain trolls stretch them tentacle-first over their heads, presuming them to be hats.

It’s not that I’m hearing voices (apart from someone in a neighbouring garden, tucked away behind a neatly trimmed hedge, evidently either struggling to prune the foliage with scissors or enthusiastically fucking a horse), or floundering in the silence for want of benevolent phantoms (though I have to say, my team currently lies second in the Daily Telegraph Fantasy Spectre league), or even stalking whippets*** — it’s just that I seem to be all over the place this morning, squishing between sandwich slices of surprise and...why, it’s almost like Mongoose fur, like an explorer of the unknown finding himself suddenly off the beaten track of the bizarre new vista he hadn’t the faintest idea about in the first place.

The great thing about life,**** is that this happens. And look! A monster ciabatta creeps across the forthcoming lunch break of my dreams. And I share a universe with Gibberellin. Hoorah!

Truly, I feel like Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon with a stowaway racoon hanging onto his nipples for dear life.

When I find out what this is all about, I’ll let you know.

* Or circum-throbb-o-aura? Yipes!

** Like the strike of a woodpecker’s beak against a mossy trunk, irrespective of the mood of the elephant.

*** Did you know that in 2008, the Metropolitan Police devoted 8,274 man hours to dealing with enquiries about suspicious dog molesters? That’s 528 whole hours more than the Neapolitan Police spent chasing up vendors of (and I quote) “inappropriately sourced vanilla”.

**** Besides ants, which are brilliant creatures — like squirrels, only without fur and potentially easier to muster en masse into a travelling circus.