Call me “Captain Re-tread”, but this year’s festive fiction offering is actually last year’s festive fiction offering wrapped up in new sparkly snowman paper.
As such, it’s more of a cop-out than a line of 2,500 New York policemen standing with their flies undone, but if you’re new here, then at least it’s potentially a novel cop-out (like the same policemen with the same trouser/tackle arrangement, all reading War & Peace).
For the moment, do please enjoy. If you’re very unfortunate indeed, I may be back later in the week with rampant Yuletide yodelling...
When David Guetta proclaimed to the world that he was ‘geranium’, he could have had no idea how inspiring his song would be to the UK celebrity gardener fraternity.
Rumour has it that on hearing the opening lyrics, Monty Don was moved to French kiss his favourite trowel. Gay Search flashed her underwear at an off-duty policewoman in a pub and went on to thrash the local darts team single-handed. As for Carol Klein, all I can reveal right now is that her forthcoming a cappella fitness DVD will have more of a Hawaiian feel than a night in the hot tub with Steve McGarrett.
The only gardener unimpressed by Guetta’s lyrical masterpiece turns out to be Alan Titchmarsh. Some might blame his lack of enthusiasm on a failed prosthetic male menopause, but in truth Mr Titchmarsh (not a ‘Sir’ yet? Crazy!) has been busy with other matters on our behalf. As anyone fond of gadding and poncing about in the woodlands of England knows only too well, pretty soon there may not be very much of them left. The chalara fraxinea fungus has descended on our ash trees like a Kylie on a 90s Names For Babies list and unless our forests are felled and burned to the ground in large numbers, they may disappear forever.
Following the Chelsea Flower Show, Titchmarsh circled London on a huge inflatable marrow to protest at the Government’s handling of the ash dieback crisis. The marrow was sourced from a German WWI museum — a hybrid of two separate zeppelins and a bouncy schloss from the play area. Upon hearing of the protest via a CCTV hotline hardwired to his cerebellum, environment minister Owen Paterson denounced the celebrity gardener’s actions, referring to the marrow as a “complete muppet”. In his defence, Titchmarsh riposted by pointing out that the marrow was too big to be any kind of puppet and, thanks to its erection atop a trio of articulated lorries, had “no hands up it”.
As I understand it, matters have now come to a combative head, and everyone from Prince William to the new Archbishop of Canterbury is proposing that Titchmarsh and Paterson battle things out in a mud bath outside Westminster Abbey. The Welsh Union of Women Wrestlers is on standby to provide the two men with appropriate training and costumes, and Don Crutchthorne of Devonshire snorkel shop, Crutchthorne’s Snorkels, has announced that if he is chosen to sponsor the event ahead of Barclays, Marston’s Brewery or Durex, all proceeds will be donated to a deserving sub-aqua charity.
The likely date for this event is Saturday January 19th 2013 and I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be organising a mini-bus run for anyone interested in attending. All I require is that passengers chip in a tenner towards the petrol and sign a form agreeing not to write obscenities on either combatant with marker pens, paint or chisels. If you can rustle up burgers and sausages on a portable barbie, so much the better — this is going to be one heckuva big, big day.
In my youth — a time which seems so distant in these days of self-enforced exfoliations of ash from my rotting flesh — I was something of an enlightened tosser.
Between the era of general mania for decorating garment upon garment with badges and the dire epoch when Paul McCartney could be relied upon to sing his own songs without forgetting the words, the tune — or who he was — I regularly took it upon myself to adorn the lapels of coats and jackets with whimsical trinkets and doodads. The quartet of plastic mice from the 70s version of Mouse Trap, for instance, found its way onto a safety pin via the loops of the mousies’ biddy tails and dangled from my teenage gawkitude from pub to disco to party for most of 1981. Then there were the babies’ heads — robbed from some miniature (crap) dolls — which graced the same lapels just a few months later. My favourite, however, was the crocheted fish — and it’s my favourite precisely because I still have it, and still wear it. To this day I remain exactly the same enlightened tosser of yore, even though I no longer fit into any of my threadbare 80s Levi’s.
Here it is, on a jacket I shall wear this weekend — a 10p bargain hauled from a basket of similar wooly underwater denizens washed up by chance on a shelf of the Dartington Cider Press Centre in October 1982:
People mistake it for an octopus — my fault entirely for inverting it through ninety degrees and failing to erect a sign reading FISH — and many are the times it has helped to break the ice at social gatherings (like the Titanic smashing into the Berg of Doom).
What interests me at the moment is that Son of Whirl is embarking on a similar lapel decorating enterprise. Naturally I’m minded to wonder whether this is nature or nurture, genes or learning — or just rotten luck for Girly of Whirly to have two enlightened tossers living in close proximity?
For some weeks now, Son of Whirl has been setting off to school with bears in his top pocket. Like most schools, S-o-W’s seat of learning insists on uniforms, complete with badge and braid, and the most that pupils can get away with is the odd fluorescent pen poking jauntily from the pocket rim. It all started out fairly innocently with a Dr Who Weeping Angel protruding modestly, but since then he’s left the house each morning with most of his baybee cuddlees (some of which are the size of a small cat).
Naturally, as parents, Girly of Whirly and I are concerned. When he’s flown the nest for university (or Poundland), we’ll want to cry and sob over his baybee belongings — something we can’t do if he’s lost them, had them stolen, or sold them to some dumb kid in exchange for sweets.
To solve the problem, a mouse has been knitted — a purpose-built artifact of enlightened tosserhood based on the theme of baybee (but independent of any posset cloth style poop ‘n’ gaga memories).
Here it is, in all it’s realistic whisker glory:
In my responsible imagination, I’d visualised my son setting out this morning with his new companion peering from his braid in a modest display of teenage independence suitable for the amusement of his peers.
As it turns out, he’s safety pinned it to his shoulder like a pirate’s fucking parrot, and will probably come home blacker and bluer than a carbonized Joni Mitchell LP, having been ragged to within an inch of his life by anti-ponce hard boyz.
Like all the best biochemistry experiments, the results are to follow...
I don’t know about you, but over at Whirl Towers I’m busy ironing tinsel in preparation for the forthcoming Santa Fest.
It’s an unenviable task, necessary every year, and though I’ve been at it since 3am I’ve only managed to flatten out 2,345 sparkly fronds (which is roughly enough to cover about a foot or so down from the angel on my tree).
Add to this the re-inflation of over 200 globes and baubles and the painstaking reconstruction of my 1/32 scale Bethlehem diorama and I’m guessing I have my work cut out till well into the New Year.
This is not a prediction, by the way — just a timely blast from the past to help my followers in the US decide between the nice guy and the Scooby Doo villain.
Here’s how it works.
Click on the link below to be transported back through the anus of time to Abysswinksback 2008, then study the picture for exactly 2½ minutes, Magic Eye style. Time Portal Here. When you refocus on the real world, an image of your ideal choice President will be momentarily flashed in inverted form onto the first object you see (possibly complete with a duck costume). Trust this image: it’s from your subconscious and reflects your deepest and truest desires.
Oh, and avoid driving or operating heavy machinery for a COUPLE hours afterwards.
Clem chinked my glass like his eyelashes on the day we first met, azure orbs glistening beneath the feathery wisps of angels, but he spilt his drink on the tablecloth.
“No worries, honey,” I said. Christ, I wish I hadn’t put on this goddamn bra. Cutting me, cutting me right below one of my ribs (though which one, I don’t know — how in hell do you count ribs with a ball gown on?)
“That’s the great thing about these fancy places,” said Clem, his hands manipulating a napkin manlyly. “No shortage of decent sized cloths — and hey, look, there’s Michael J. Fox!”
We glanced over to the window seat where the once boyish star of the Back To The Future movies sat with a blonde Latino girl and what looked to be some kind of German sausage in a brown sauce.
“It’s an omen, don’t you think?” I hitched my fish knife under my gown and tugged till my bra strap split.
“How so?” Clem looked oddly pensive — a Buzz Aldrin meets a dragon in a lunar crater expression usually reserved for when he can’t open a jar of gherkins.
“I’m thinking past, present and future. Here we are on our wedding anniversary, celebrating the past — yet at the same time we’re celebrating the present with all this champagne and seafood, and looking to the future too.”
“Hey, that’s quite profound. You should have been an astrologer or a philosopher or a sage or a shaman or a poet.”
I laughed. “Hell, I’m no multitasker.” How true: holding a conversation while slipping off a bra was proving impossible.
The waiter appeared to take our order. No illusion: that’s what he actually did. A quirky guy, he reminded me of no one I’d ever met, which is weird because I have this cerebral malfunction thing going on where I perceive most people to be Japanese.
“I’ll check out the molasses,” said Clem.
I ran my finger over the list of braised succulents. “These cacti sound fascinating — but it’s the molasses for me also, please.”
Every anniversary, every thanksgiving, every Christmas — always molasses. Birthdays, Sundays, week nights, breakfasts too! God, we’re so crazy about the stuff! It’s what we ate the day we first met. On a bench in Central Park, with pigeons flying and snowflakes falling and some hippy with a snake guitar and a hobo lying by a wall, probably sleeping but we never checked because he might have attacked us or been dead. A tingle of romance shot through me and I nearly let out a fart.
I gazed into Clem’s eyes, thinking of our love. How they darted and sparkled and shone and dilated and, hell, just eyed on down. “Looks like Fox has finished his sausage,” he said.
The waiter returned. “Your molasses.”
Clem cupped the bowl beneath his chin and began spooning the glistening mixture onto his eager tongue, flapping about wildly between his lips, plus the background music changed from In Utero to something soft and classical with lots of flutes. I mirrored Clem, though in truth there was nothing between us, not even a sheet of glass, let alone anything reflective.
“So glad we did this,” I said.
Clem nodded. “Thank heaven the Hulk Hogan mystery weekend was cancelled.” He edged his spoon close to my molassesy lips. “Nope. Thought I saw a wasp but it’s only the mole on your nose.”
I love Clem, truly I do. And this whole molasses thing makes it even truer. We try a different city every year but there’s something so special about Vancouver in spite of this bra and I might even leave it for the waiter as a cheeky kind of tip, if only to acknowledge that he’s the first person in over forty five years who hasn’t looked like he was born on Kyoto — apart from Michael J. Fox, who’s gone now (and the blonde is crying).
I felt a warm softness caress my hand: it was Clem’s hand, the left one, not a snake or anything. “Honey, I have something to tell you,” he said, and now Buzz Aldrin was in a deep, deep canyon with a bunch of ninja terrorists and only 5% Oxygen.
“What? What is it?” I stared at my empty bowl. Were my finished molasses a metaphor for some impending loss, some chasm about to open between us?
Clem rubbed the side of his head. “My ear hurts.” The left one looked swollen, almost blistery, and if he’d trimmed his beard into a Hogan for the weekend I’d have spotted it the moment we left the hotel, possibly even Friday. “It’s been sore for a couple of days now but I don’t think it’s anything serious.”
Hallowe’en is traditionally a great time for witches and spectres — a chance to let down hair and ectoplasm for a night-long festival of ghoulishness.
For the rest of us it’s a bloody irritation as gangs of spotty kids come a-knocking and a-tricking and a-treating while we’re trying to enjoy our supper or catch up on missed TV shows or generally persist in a kid-free zone.
It may be different in some parts of the world, but here in the UK you simply can’t get away with opening fire on the buggers with any kind of submachinegun, and pouring boiling oil from an upstairs window is a costly DIY disaster waiting to happen.
So what can you do? To keep the howling, woooo-ing little brats from your door?
Here are some suggestions.
Hire Arnold Scwarzenegger
He’s expensive, but indisputably reliable. Stick Arnie in your porch with a huge two-handed sword or cyborg zapper and any unwanted ghoulies will be too busy shitting their own pants to scare you into shitting yours. If he’s armed with any speeches from his California governor days, then so much the better.
Play a 70s Top Of The Pops LP at full blast
Guaranteed to turn anyone’s hair white with fear.
Pig-sit for a local farmer
Fill your driveway with stinking swine pumped full of max strength laxatives — then watch as every skeleton and would-be Frankenstein’s monster is smothered in high velocity bum juice.
Dig a fifty foot pit and cover it with astroturf
Ha! If you’re feeling fancy, you can tip the spikes at the base of the pit with toasted marshmallows.
Display an inflated hippo scrotum in your window
If a pumpkin says, “stop by here for treats”, an inflated hippo scrotum can only mean, “run for your lives, you little horrors, or I’ll do the same to your goddamn heads!”
If it helps, the pig thing worked for me last year.
Nanowrimo is almost upon us once more — like an overenthusiastic grandma smothering a teenager with lipstick-splattered kisses as she presses a pillow to his face and cries from the second you were born I’ve dreamed of this moment, you offspring of the devil, you hell-child! — so I thought I’d take a minute to pass on my own Number 1 Writing Tip of Alle Tyme for those of you possessed by the urge to jot down 80,000 words over the course of November and proclaim yourself at the end of it all to be “The New Jilly Cooper” (perhaps) or “shagged to within a millilitre of my life-giving spunk” (most likely).
Advice on the use of unnecessarily numerous adjectives and equally abundant adverbs, you’ll find elsewhere on the internet (not to mention on every page of every classic novel on your bookshelf) so I won’t dredge those waters of wisdom with my ladle. Neither will I advise on story arcs or plot — such things are best left to Noah and estate agents, possibly even clued-up acrobats with a penchant for reciting fables.
Character, dialogue, genre, semicolons — these things also I’ll leave to other experts whose sage advice bulges from every browser window summoned by googling WRITER. You’ve visited the sites, you know what they all say, you’re aware of the ones who never shave their nasal hair, yadda heck dang hell heck yadda yadda
What I present for you today is my own personal secret. It won’t guarantee you success (such things are impossible for most of us anyhow — unless we’ve slept with Daniel Craig or licked ice cream from his back) and it won’t mean that your characters, plot and prose will sing like a trio of reformed harpies, but it WILL prevent you from making the one fatal mistake guaranteed to piss off your readers (some of whom could be literary agents or President Obama).
Then here it is, my sage nanowrimo advice.
Never, EVER, EVER introduce, mention or describe a character called Leon Perrigrew, Self-rupturing Coypu Shaman of The Fallow Cloud Hive.
To do so is FATAL, believe me.
If you’re writing a detective story, he’ll kill it. If you’re deep into romance or chick-lit territory, he’ll run your French kisses into the ground. Even sci-fi/fantasy-cum-punk/garage/grunge buckles before the march of his entropic marauding. You want proof? Consider how his presence would have ruined every book you’ve ever read and enjoyed till your heart melted like a lump of chocolate... “I awoke in my own bed. If it be that I had not dreamt, the Count must have carried me here. I tried to satisfy myself on the subject, but could not arrive at any unquestionable result. To be sure, there were certain small evidences, such as that my clothes were folded and laid by in a manner which was not my habit, and the Count’s manservant, Leon Perrigrew, Self-rupturing Coypu Shaman of The Fallow Cloud Hive, danced and jigged at the foot of my bed, shrieking, ‘Woo, jugular boogie, babyyy!’” “I was eleven when Aunt Fiona died; I remember feeling both peeved and cheated that I was thought to young to go to the funeral. So I telephoned the Leon Perrigrew, Self-rupturing Coypu Shaman of The Fallow Cloud Hive Hotline and said, ‘here, mate — can you come and fix my bloody family with your stunning weaponry array? Maybe fire off a few lightning bolts? Impale some aunties and uncles on your spikes?’” “Hindley and Cathy contented themselves with looking and listening till peace was restored: then, both began searching their father's pockets for the presents he had promised them. ‘You won’t find anything in there,’ said Leon Perrigrew, Self-rupturing Coypu Shaman of The Fallow Cloud Hive. ‘I’ve sucked everything into my uniquely grotesque gizzard, all ready to regurgitate into the faces of the rich and pompous.’” “In May 1945 the news spread around Jinzhou that Germany had surrendered and that the war in Europe was over. Leon Perrigrew, Self-rupturing Coypu Shaman of The Fallow Cloud Hive, came amongst us like the weirdest kind of Santa we’d ever seen, squirting lemonade from his anal funnel and juggling fairy cakes into our mouths.” “Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it. Come, put mine armour on; give me my staff. Leon Perrigrew, Self-rupturing Coypu Shaman of The Fallow Cloud Hive doth his flabby stomach project as the breasts of a comely witch and I would flog him mercilessly till his spleen, red raw, flyetheth from him.” I rest my case. Recognise the five excerpts of literature displayed here? Note your answers in the comments trail and I’ll send you a personal (and possibly stunning) useless badge for you to display on your blog (or chest, c/o a suitably qualified tattooist).
I had it built on to the back of my house in place of a conservatory for the sole purpose of practising my reclining. The idea was for me to become so good at reclining that I could put myself forward for a few competitions, maybe building up to the Nationals.
I’ve always been great reclining at 30° and 45°, and with the help of my trainer I’ve managed to make considerable inroads into 60°.
Now it appears that the builder who erected my Reclinatorium laid the floor all wrong and it isn’t level. When I think I’m reclining skillfully at 30°, actually it’s closer to 32° — a hopeless situation for competing professionally because
a) it throws my inner gyroscope all out of kilter
b) even though I could level my recliner seat with a few beer mats, this kind of adjustment is banned on the pro circuit.
Every Saturday morning I descend on my local high street’s umpteeniness of clutter-filled retailers dressed in old clothes purchased previously for less than it would take to groom an average cat.
In these moments I am Ernest Jackson, a retired factory worker with a gammy leg, on the hunt for a new set of dentures. Thusly disguised, I rummage through the nick-nacks and ornaments, the bobbly crimplene trousers and the anoraks, rubbing shoulders with blue rinsed old ladies and destitute souls from the underclass desperate for jigsaws to help feed their families.
I admit it’s a sort of a game, a theatrical exercise involving a method acting fullness of stubble, cheap deodorant and underwear even a strongman couldn’t bend.
“Morning Vera,” I’ll say to the woman in Spare The Mortally Duffed. “How’s your husband’s allotment?” — then we’ll converse about everything from the price of sliced bread to her sister’s cousin’s daughter’s boyfriend’s dad’s ex-wife’s massively swollen haemorrhoids.
“Can you reach me down that porcelain dog?” It’s another shop, another covert Ernest Jackson adventure.
“No,” I’ll reply. “I’m a bit knocked about from my tablets this morning.”
And so it goes from the trio of mortal death related charity shops at the top of the street to The Badger Trust by the bus station. I never cease to be amazed by the dedication of the staff and their zeal for sorting Betamax videos into almost alphabetical order. Alchemists of tat, they can transform any random selection of chipped and tarnished ornaments into themed window displays without dropping a single biscuit crumb from their lips.
Here’s my favourite window display of the week — as arranged by Eunice Bates from OCD Alert! OCD Alert! OCD Alert! OCD Alert! OCD Alert! OCD Alert! OCD Alert!
Her positioning of these crap, crap pigs perfectly captures the dynamic of planets around a sun or sub-atomic particles close to a nucleus. Each pig is placed just so, an individual statement of porcine grandeur, yet also part of a coherent and integrated collective.
Back in the days when he had long hair and tossed a tambourine I don’t deny being partial to his warblings.
But then he went solo — and eighties. There’s nothing bad about the records he released — it’s just that I didn’t like most of them.
One, in particular, got my goat. Trussed it to a medieval torture device and skewered it with searing pokers while jesters looked on and mocked.
That song, my friends, is “In The Air Tonight”, and to this day, every time I hear it I’m gripped by a relentless melancholy. I hate this song so much I could die.
To understand why Collins’ heartfelt vocals prompt my brain to fill with imaginary precipices and my various enzyme generating organs to flood with high jump friendly chemicals, you have to come back with me to the very early eighties and the forlorn desolation of my midweek student bar.
Like most student bars, mine throbbed at the weekend with more post-teen adrenaline than could fill a top of the range nuclear submarine. Flash backwards or forwards to midweek, however, and you’d witness a barren nightmare world of twiddling thumbs and openly aired soul-deep depression.
Filling the empty seats with their visions of impending suicide would be a couple of music students, maybe.
“Had a good day?” one would say.
“No. And now it’s getting much, much worse.”
To relieve the tedium, they’d cross to the Pac Man table. In the enlightened noughties, Pac Man fits on a handheld device along with thousands of similar wastes of time, but back then those chompin’ scurryin’ rascals demanded a fridge freezer sized chunk of the earth’s natural resources to house their manifestation of twat.
“Oooh look, I’ve been eaten.”
“So you have.”
Sitting watching this kind of thing was like window shopping in a mall called Futile Life Draining Oblivion.
Dangling from reality by their fingernails, the musos would eventually brave a game of darts, tossing the one bent arrer between them and recording the number of times it missed the dartboard with a lump of chalk soaked in Marston’s Old Sock.
That’s when the barman would reach inside the till and grudgingly toss the night’s 10p profit into the jukebox.
And always, always, always he’d play Phil fucking Collins.
What I felt coming in the air on nights like these was no momentous future, no hope. Rather, I felt suffocated, like I’d been thrust face first onto a dust-filled duvet and smothered by the leotards of the world’s sweatiest wrestlers.
To this day I can’t listen to this song without being consumed by life throttling emotions. The whole comedy gorilla thing has only made it worse.
When I’m 903 and rotting to death in a care home, paralysed from the heart on out and capable only of drooling glistening pendulums, no doubt some plucky work experience carer will try to bring cheer to my days with an afternoon of tea and reminiscence.
“The eighties was your era wasn’t it, Mr Ochre? What say we plug my Muzer into your cranium and bring back a few happy memories before your early evening chemical kosh...”
The last time I attended a Cowboys ‘n’ Indians fancy dress party I was wrestled to the ground by a smelly six year-old in a poncho while queuing for jelly and a lucky bag. When an invitation to the adult re-run of this harrowing experience somersaulted into my in-tray, naturally I was more than a little anxious. Should I go, and if so, as what? An Indian, outnumbered by hostile cowboys? Or a cowboy, overrun by whooping Indians? It’s make-or-break, life-or-death decisions like these that can ruin a future at the drop of a hat, and since ten gallon titfers were clearly going to be involved at some stage I figured it might be the biggest decision of my life. Fortunately, everything was resolved for me at the costume shop. They had plenty of bows and arrows — but no cattle. The venue for the Yee Haar Pow-wow could only have been more Western-themed if Clint Eastwood had unicycled in on a Two Mules For Sister Sarah film reel, bumbling the essence of his legend away before a shockingly full empty chair. On one side of the garden stood the Indian reservation, complete with teepee, sacred animal paraphernalia and buffalo skin rugs, while at t’other end there loomed a ranch house and saloon, their painted cardboard walls throbbing to the beat of John Wayne Sings Purest Country. Everywhere I looked, men in ridiculous hats rubbed shoulders with women in ridiculous chamois leathers, chatting the chat of Custery Geronimotronics. The only thing grounding me in 2012 was a single bottle of ketchup by the barbecue (and even that got swigged early on during a sacrifice to Awonowilona).
Just as the burgers were served, one or two of the Indian lads started playing around with their choppers, demonstrating to the gathered cowboy posse just what spectacular tossers they were. To a chorus of whoops, a stray tomahawk arced over the fence into a neighbour’s garden. For a scary throbblitude of heartbeats we wondered if the fun was over, strung from the gallows of a broken window or horrifically split family pet. But no. A cheery voice cried out, “thanks, mate. Just what I need to crack open the wife’s chastity belt!”
A quick peep over the fence revealed a dozen or so vicars and a similar number of tarts gathered round a papal figure in Dunelm Mill Shop vestments. He stood with tomahawk raised above a prone hussy, his eyes trained on a padlock chained to her groin.
“I’ll hire the costumes next time,” he said. “Leaving the key in the shop is the stoooopidest thing you’ve ever done.” His wife grinned meekly and threw us a look. “Without your axe I’d be sunk. ASDA want me in early tomorrow and I can hardly serve customers with a padlock swinging from my fanjo.” “Come and join us when you’re done,” said the Indian Chief. He tugged hard at the fence slats to make a temporary doorway, and before we knew it, the reservation-cum ranch was a-buzz with holy rawhide slapper rain dancin’ kind of action.
I made my way next door, keen to explore the mdf ‘n’ net curtain brothel/cathedral. Like the cowboys and indians, the vicars and tarts had really gone to town on the decorations, and the sausages on sticks were a sight to behold.
“How did you get the plums to stay on the end?” I enquired of a scrubber. “Home made marmalade,” she said. “It’s like bloody superglue.” I made to ask about the phallic looking white chocolate fountain, but my words were stolen from my lips by the crash of a huge sack through the laurel hedge — a huge sack bearing the inscription SWAG. Plastic silverware tumbled from a torn corner. Whistles blew and sirens wailed. Then a helmeted head poked from the leaves. “Sorry, mate. The robbers are pissed as twats.”
Another portal opened. Beyond lay a boxwood jailhouse and a selection of wheeled bathtubs painted blue. Through the throng of masked and truncheoned revellers I saw a nurse being bundled over the wall to the next house in the street by a group of white-coated lads with stethoscopes slung from their ears.
“There’s a lot of parties tonight,” I remarked to the desk sergeant. He proffered me a telescope decorated with parrot feathers. “Take a look all the way down the street. The pirates have been and gone but the Alis and Tysons are still rocking.”
I climbed onto the roof of the Sweeney gazebo, training the telescope lens from fence to hedge to wall to crenellated turret. Superheroes and supervillains sank G&Ts with farmers, sheep and giraffes, and in the garden next to the paper shop, every Disney character bar Jiminy Cricket was represented, in a show of crepe paper to threaten the existence of trees worldwide. There were knights and dragons, Unionists and Confederates, Wogans and Nortons — and more, all intermingling in a massed fancy dress melange on a sunny summer’s night to die for.
I thought of the smelly six year-old and his poncho. For half a lifetime his prods and pokes in the queue for the jelly and lucky bags had put me off slapping on a bit of warpaint. Now, it seemed, that harrowing aspect of my past had been avenged. As I supped lemonade from a mermaid’s shell I beheld a costumed future — more Saturday nights spent alongside the masked, the caped, and the armoured, watching themed burgers spit from bizarre grills.
Maybe he was there, that kid, dressed as an astronaut or the rear end of a dinosaur.
But who cares? It’s done now.
Thanks to Big Mike & Jill for a splendidly silly Boot Hill
I’ve been a member of the National Trust since its creation in 357A.D. Over the years I’ve witnessed many changes, and picnicked among gnat, midge and wasp ‘pon more tartan than has graced the combined commandotronics of Scotland’s bravest hearts. No UK cross dressers’ paragliding and puppet making adventure holiday would be complete without the moments of sconecrumb-speckled relief provided by the Trust’s numerous properties — and so it was during the final week of the Olympics, when my airborne Sooty-inspired thigh length boot exploits led me to two of the country’s best preserved family membership friendly homunculi of historic twaddle.
It’s not quite so easy to assume the mantle of pretend tour guide on Trust soil as it is in Bruges (“...and across these humble Belgian rooftops, David Bowie chased a naked Marc Bolan while teams of police frogmen looked on, helpless, from their inflatable rafts...”) but I’ll do my best to fill you in on the facts in relation to two of the East coast’s more notable offerings.
Originally built by Anne Boleyn on her days off from writing Pride & Prejudice, this spectacular Norfolk pile boasts the world’s flattest lawn, Britain’s lukewarmest orangery, and a display of hand carved feta cheese Mike Tyson miniatures hailed by locals as “really, really like him (albeit a tad on the smelly side)”.
My favourite part of my visit to Blickling was this statue in the garden, located on the path leading to the orangery-cum-arboretum-cum-mystery vestibule.
Experts disagree over whom or what it depicts. Some think it’s Boadicea, others reckon it’s a mermaid victim of the Roman fish ‘n’ chip trade, while acclaimed historian Professor Pablo “Da Man” Visconti of Caracas University proposes a ‘Chariots of the Gods’ hypothesis with enthusiastic milkmen pranksters assuming the role of von Daniken’s celestial beings. Whatever the origin of this remarkable statue, it’s almost certain that photographs taken of the shoulders in 1961 informed the blueprints for versions 1 and 7 of the international singing sensation known by adults and children alike as Brigitte Nielsen.
North of Blickling Hall on the B1436 lies Felbrigg Hall, a purpose built 15th Century mollusc specimen library which later provided the backdrop for the film adaptation of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids. Now home to the Norwich Moderately Interesting Restored Ford Anglia Club, its multitude of PVC turrets and crenellations stands prouder on the flatlands than Ruud van Nistlerooy’s stroboscopic codpiece when he stilt walked from the Hague to Amsterdam to raise money for Fucking Stupidly Named Footballers Unanonymous.
Like most National Trust properties, Felbrigg plays host to large numbers of nails and lengths of chain, all arranged in doilies of terror to deter would-be antique vendors from making off with the silverware. Even some of the venerable volunteers I encountered were nailed to the floorboards to prevent them from being stolen. In the Hall’s basement I found a display of old photographs dating back to when cameras were made of peat and powered by the flesh of incinerated voles. Here’s one that took my fancy, mainly because it’s a terrific example of what preoccupied the idle rich while the plebs boiled up maggots to feed their offspring (you might have to click to enlarge the caption).
(The lampshade you see reflected in the photo frame was worn by Mrs Geraldine Battersby on lap thirty of the Illuminated Half Marathon she eventually lost to a family from Nagasaki desperate not to miss the bus back to Norwich).
As for this specimen, the people at Blickling obviously saw my innuendo receptors firing up from the moment I pulled into the car park...
It’s hard not to be swept away by Olympic fever at the moment.
Everywhere I go, people are grinning like lovestruck idiots as they hail another rowing success or sighting of Sir Paul McCartney in the stadium crowd.
On the social media hotspots, the quasi-orgasmic glee has reached fever pitch and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the gazilliotrilliomilliobytes of information stored on the planet’s servers and data bunkers are variations on the theme of #olympics.
Rippling aquatic heroes aside, my favourite moment came last night. I’m no great sports buff, and up until Friday morning I’d never heard of Jessica Ennis. If you’d mentioned her name at the start of the week, I’d have taken a pop at her being a member of N-Dubz or a multi-millionaire bra magnate tipped to replace Duncan Bannatyne on Dragons’ Den.
When she burst from the blocks for the final 800m event, all she needed to do to win gold was to finish the race. With sixteen seconds of slack to spare she could have posed for photos along the way, stroked dogs and disabled Chelsea pensioners, possibly even had her nails done.
But she didn’t.
The last time I ripped my trousers leaping from my seat watching a major sporting event was when Teddy Sheringham scored the winner for Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League final.
Call me momentarily spectacularly patriotic, but I’m proud to have trashed another pair of underpants watching one of Britain’s sporting greats.
“I dropped the soap a couple of times but, hey — I’m not complaining. What can I do for you, Danny?”
“How do you fancy resurrecting Ziggy Stardust for the Olympic opening ceremony?”
“I get to wear the loony clothes again? And paint a zesty space crumpet on my forehead?”
“Indeed. You’ll be frozen in a block of ice and rescued by thirty foot mammoths against an ever-changing tableaux of disabled kids on tricycles recreating the Wars of the Roses with inflatable bottles of Newcastle Brown and twirly swords cast from the lyrics of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Tarkus. As the mammoths morph into Highland cattle, quintessentially British cheeses will roll out from a funnel in the shape of Geri Halliwell’s lips and pound against the assembled Martian Spiders, beating out a rhythm perfect for underscoring—”
“Wait a sec, Danny. Can I stop you there?”
“You won’t do it?”
“I’m fine. It’s just the other guys in the band...Ronno in particular...they’re all allergic to Highland cattle.”
“All of them?”
“Yeah. Made it a nightmare touring Scotland.”
“They won’t be real Highland cattle, just fibreglass replicas. I see them somersaulting from the split carcasses of the mammoths and leaping onto pogo sticks as the band join you on your luminous Jackanory carousel.”
“No good. It’s the horns, mate. The sight of them drives the guys crazy. Ronno gets all itchy, Woody can’t stay away from the loo, and Trev starts hallucinating — thinks he’s called ‘Bob Glover’, and can’t play.”
“Who the hell is Bob Glover?”
“He was Trev’s dentist in the late 60s, dead now. Famously unmusical, though if you check out Trev’s wisdom teeth you’ll see what a great dentist he was. Maybe you could go with sheep?”
“No — we need the sheep for when Freddie Mercury’s ghost is knitted from the wool of 10,000 Arran sweaters.”
“What if I go solo? Would that help?”
“The Spiders are integral to the whole melting ice cum Tolkien flotilla teapot party section. It’s set to Holst’s Planets, with you lot supporting the synchronised dalek Morris Men during the Martian cycle between the Earth-themed gladiatorial JVC tractors and the Venusian drop dead Essex girl stunna pageant in the conjoined Melton Mowbray pork pie dirigibles.”
“Maybe we could use actors. I know for a fact that Dennis Waterman’s free at the moment. He could play Ronno to a T.”
“Hang on — I’ve got it! What if we blindfold the band? If they can’t see the horns, they can’t scratch, get the runs, or mistakenly believe themselves to be dentists from forty years ago! Blindfolds it is — designed to complement the Ronnie Barker spectacles doing a Mordor over the whole stadium.”
“In the bag, yes.”
“So when’s the ceremony? When do you need me?”
“July 27th, for an all-singing, all-dancing bonkers British spectacular guaranteed to enrage certain sections of the right-wing press.”
“The 27th? No...no, that’s no good. I’m taking Iman out for a curry.”
“We do it every year. It’s a romance thing.”
“Think of the kudos.”
“Think of the bruises the size of frying pans to back, legs, chest, face, feet.”
“Hmmm. Okay...okay...but I still need the band, blindfolded. We can keep them, and substitute you. I see horses, now, and Hansom cabs, and the girls of St Winnifred’s School Choir forming a human Billy Bunter pyramid, tossing Walker’s Crisp frisbees as they battle with jigsaw puzzle pieces assembling a mile-high image of Michael Caine weaving Brian May’s hair into beehive with miniature cricket bats. You still there, Dave?”
“Just drying my cock.”
“Don’t suppose you have Dennis Waterman’s number...?”
Let’s say I wanted to purchase a shed. Or neck insurance or loft insulation or (pushing the boat out a little) anything.
I don’t — but let’s say I did.
The last thing I want under these circumstances, as I’m bombarded by targeted advertising aimed between the bollocks of my assembled profileritude, is any kind of twat (or bunch of twats) whistling at me in a jokesy manner.
Look! Over there! Dangling from a mocked-up aisle in DIY Nirvana, clutching all the handy electrical paraphernalia anyone could ever need, is BOB (it says so on his name badge) — an actor called Alan from Dagenham whose cheery advice to “pop in to Heap-o-Crap RU now” and “sample our unparalleled range of monogrammed spirit levels” is accompanied by the playful whistle of a young Norman Wisdom gadding about an innocent 50s terraced street.
And there! Tinkering at an internet router box like he was stroking a prone Siamese cat is DYLAN, his smiles and winks of reassurance to the young family looking on in wonder mirrored in matesy whistles only a fool could fail to interpret as meaning et voila! The 20GB superhighway to the world whose installation you previously believed would consign you to the loony bin of stress for a thousand years, delivered to your suburban haven of contentment in a trice, ‘sif the Gods themselves had presided over every miracle moment!
And again! The woman from Debts Begone! (Till Next Friday!)!!, tucked away behind her laptop, easy-as-pie-ing the shrillest of ditties from her pursed and lipsticked lips as computer generated cartoon images of your pounds and pence skip towards a restful looking sunset — a sunset that whistles, along with the graphics and the laptop and the desk and your TV, in a nightmare squeal of mock ease and jollity destined to drown the canine ear in a future evolutionary backwater.
I get that, from time to time, people will try to sell me stuff.
Regular visitors to this blog will be aware of its highways and byways, its inroads and outroads, its nooks and crannies and fluffy-yet-dangerous underside.
I know that for some of you, it has become like a well-trained pet, leaping post by post through the hoops of your clickety-mousety fingertips like a seal with a ball on its nose a-flip on a floating mattress of dolphins.
But now, all is about to change.
Over the next few weeks you will see a number of improvements to the architecture of the site. Workmen may be afoot with their butt cracks, so beware. In the main, these changes have been prompted by reports of spamming from the comments trail, along with naked bathing in the Icon Signifying Nothing area. If, over the next few weeks, you receive any spam or encounter the bodies of virgin octogenarian nymphs paddling close to the foot of the blog, do please alert me via the email address on my contact page.
Meanwhile, the changes to look out for are as follows:
The current telephone call-back system will no longer be streamed live. Instead, callers will receive their miscellaneous animal grunt as an mp3 file by email at the reduced rate of 29p per minute.
The Fish List
Sadly, the much-used fish list will now disappear from the site. For many years I have been engaged in a legal battle with the UK Fisheries & Performing Plankton Council over ownership of sections P to S of the list. A court ruling in their favour regarding pollock now means that unless I am prepared to pay a £65,000 “fish handle” ownership licence fee, I am no longer entitled to maintain a database of facts about this particular aquatic phenomenon. After careful consideration, I have concluded that any fish list devoid of essential species such as the pollock is no fish list of mine and as a consequence I will no longer have anything to do with it, thank you very much.
The And Widget
The popular And Widget will now move to a more prominent place on the blog — possibly the end of my nose on my profile photo. Over the years, those of you interested in counting the number of ANDs on the site have clicked on this widget an astonishing 112,645 times, making it the internet’s 1,428,286th most clicked-on widget! In addition, this widget will now feature a sponsored link. For every click you make, 0.05p will find its way into the coffers of &Aid, the international charity organisation for sufferers of conjunctivitis.
A number of small changes to this sidebar game are listed below:
1) Stars will now be awarded every six penises to help players who grew up prior to the decimalisation of the pound formulate a more reliable assessment of their capabilities. 2) The “Augh!” and “Wauuugh!” sound effects will be combined into a single “Aughwuuugh!” and accompanied by an ‘evil gnome’ style titter. 3) The boss penis is no longer immune to the Triple Whammy Smash Attack. 4) Whacking three penises in a single row or column no longer springs The Vengeful Policeman & his Brigade of Easily Excitable Constables. 5) New skins for the game will be available at 1,000,000 and 1,250,000 points, including Cool Azure, Batman, and Scrotal Ripple.
The Concubine Zealot’s Astrocast
The typo on the Yang button of this popular oracle has now been rectified (though Scorpios born between 1967 and 1971 may still experience momentary lag on the heavenly alignment visuals).
Pant Check Alert
The flashing strobe effect will be replaced by a warning pop-up, granting you an extra 15 seconds to ensure you’re wearing underwear suitable for viewing the blog before the gateway to Pant Crime Zapper Nirvana opens and you are strafed by thong-friendly alien SWAT teams intent on ridding the universe of substandard gussetry.
If any of this sounds unfamiliar, that’ll teach you for checking in with Google reader and missing all the fun...
The one advantage of a storm boasting hailstones the size of jumbo ice cubes is that you can make yourself a G&T by sticking your glass out of the window instead of having to haul it all the way to the fridge.
But, as I discovered on Thursday, this is the only advantage of such a heavenly lashing.
The storm lasted barely ten minutes, but during that time, more jagged ice fell than was rendered in pixels during all three of the Ice Age films. Windows rattled and guttering shook, and when the icy assault was over, a miniature flash flood washed leaf, branch and litter down the street and away to a horizon of drains.
The consequence? Anything metal like car roofs and outdoor barbecues looks like it’s been visited by Keith Moon’s ghost, my greenhouse has a “strafed by the fury of a thousand Uzis” kind of feel, and my garden gnome collection has been robbed of its pointy hats.
As a protest against The Heavens’ cruellest summer since last year, I’m writing this post in my swimming trunks. Ha! That’ll teach you.
Note: Fans of fiction featuring festoons of frost should take a look here.
It’s 1985* and I’m standing at the far end of Moorgate tube station platform on my way to visit an ailing aunt (who turned out later to be completely unrelated to me).
* Not now — this is a diary post, not a time slip.
It’s late, and drunks gather to lick the tiled walls in the hope of finding small traces of alcohol in the condensed breath smeared between the advertising hoardings.
“Pray the next train will come soon,” I whisper. “I have no desire to be turned over and sucked by ruffians whose bizarre booze detection powers might uncover my lunchtime consumption of a modest bottle of Marston’s Thrusting Beaver.”
That’s when Johnny Rotten appeared, swinging a theatrical cutlass.
I stood my ground, fearing maybean outburst of sniggers at most, but Rotten’s blatant swagger was more than enough for the drunks and they shambled away like hyenas fooled by a crimplene antelope.
In truth, the 70s’ most infamous blaspheming punk icon had done absolutely nothing other than simply exist, yet I knew that if I omitted to thank him in some way, more drunks would descend upon me later in life, swigging from gallon barrels of bad karma. Problem was, what to say? It’s hard thanking anyone for something they’re unaware they’ve done, especially when it necessitates making reference to being licked by a bunch of drunks (who technically never actually licked me anyway). My only option, it seemed, was to proffer a bland nod in the hope that Rotten would derive some small joy from the sight of a total stranger enjoying his FUCK OFF AND DIE T-shirt.
Unfortunately, he mistook my nod for a threat — and strode towards me, slashing at the air with his weapon.
“Are you taking the piss?”
With foot in mouth, I shook my head and thought on my feet. “Do I look like someone who would willingly seek to irritate a man with a cutlass?”
Rotten’s brow furrowed like custard skin ladled into too small a bowl. “Yeah.”
Now I really had to come up with something special.
“Phew,” I said. “Then my sex change op is clearly the success I always dreamed about.”
“You’re...you’re a woman?” gasped Rotten, rocking back onto his heels.
“Just been done.” I ruffled my hair and stuck out my absence of bosom. “Sorry to have alarmed you. I hope you no longer feel it necessary to attack me with that weapon of yours.”
The spiky-haired crooner slipped his cutlass down the leg of his combat trousers and sniffed an apologetic sniff. “Nah. The only girls I attack these days are Vivienne Westwood and the Queen. It’s chivalry, innit?” He pulled a half-smoked cigar from his trouser pocket and sparked up. “It ain’t a real sword anyways. Just been filming a new video.”
Distracted by his semi-stogie, Rotten was clearly oblivious to the blood spurting from his groin.
“Are you sure that’s not a real sword?” I said.
Rotten laughed. “Can’t beat a bit of fake blood, can yer? Christ, we’ve had some fun with this bastard!”
Now I looked closer, I saw the sword was, indeed, fake. I made to laugh along with Rotten, but his face grew suddenly dark. “What’s wrong, Johnny?”
“Fuckin' fake blood all over my Y fronts!” He beat wildly at his groin. “I’ve got a date with Selina Scott in half a fuckin' hour — I can’t fuckin' go like this!”
“You can wear mine if you like,” I said. “Let’s swap.”
Rotten’s head shot back. “I ain’t wearing no frilly knickers. I’m a punk, not a flamin' ponce.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m still wearing what I had on before I got the chop.”
“It’s a deal,” said Rotten, checking his watch. “You sure you’ll be all right with my bleeders?”
“Considering I’ve just had my willy hacked off, blood-drenched underwear shouldn’t look too out of place on me.”
We turned our backs on one another and got undressed, my sex change conceit sparing blushes all round. When we were done, Rotten pulled up his combat trousers and spun on his heels. “How do I look?”
“Exactly as before,” I replied. “That’s how it works with underwear. But if it helps, I’m sure if you get to strip down in front of Selina, she’ll be wowzered.”
“Hope so,” said Rotten, dashing for the train. “I’ve had the hots for her ever since she interviewed me on Breakfast Time.”
“When you told her to go and screw herself, along with Mrs Thatcher and ‘the law’?”
“Yeah. Great chat up line, that one. Ta for the underwear, mate."
And with that, the future pretend butter promoter waved his sword and bounded onto the train.
While most of my friends in the UK were enjoying a four day Jubilee holiday in the rain (complete with Royal flotilla misery and way too much Fearne Cotton, so I’m told), I spent a week straddling the Bruges/Amsterdam axis...in the rain. Only time will tell who had the most fun, whose spontaneously etched SLAY ME NOW tattoos will burn forevermorest into the pallid skin of hapless innocence.
Here are some of my holiday snaps. Wahey.
First off, here’s one of Maurice’s distant relatives, caught plying his nostrils and fetlocks in the direction of some German tourists.
“Shall we climb aboard?” the tourists said (in German).
“No idea,” I mused (not in German).
Two minutes later, four other tour-o-wagons joined in the fun in a Germany vs Japan vs Canada vs the UK vs Zimbabwe race around the streets of Bruges — the Zimbabwe team winning hands down on a get as far away from Mugabe ticket.
This is me trying to look like Colin Farrell from the hit movie In Bruges. I have a loaded baguette in my coat pocket, a glass of 8.5% trappist beer at my lips, and eyebrows under strict instruction to roam across my face like cloned Freddie Mercury mustaches at a Pin the Dyed Velcro Fastener on The G-string festival. Sadly, Son of Whirl grinned in the background like a mocker sublime just as the photo was taken.
One thing I discovered about surfing the internet in Belgium is the number of guardian angels press ganged by the authorities into fluttering from the woodwork every time you Google innuendo-friendly words such as “kok”. By the time I’d run that one through poisson Babel this rustic internet café was awash with shrieking avatars.
Over to Holland now, and a sumptuous brew I declined to sumpt. I have no desire to urinate courgettes after drinking a tankard full of this stuff, thank you very much.
Barred from touring the Red Light District of Amsterdam thanks to a Ruud Gullit lookalike contest running shamelessly out of control along the banks of the Amstel, I ducked into a Chinese shop selling everything from pig themed incense burners to Bruce Lee playing cards. From a tiny window a wooden statue of some minor deity gazed out into The Beyond. For a Euro, he belted out a triple speed rap version of Tulips From Amsterdam in Mandarin, spewing free vouchers for some Christmas Ken Hom wok cookathon in Utrecht.
Amsterdam’s Suurf Pro Skateboard shop held no surprises: 253 high durometer urethene wheels arranged by signature skater hairdo ridiculousness.
Finally, here’s the miniature cactus display I catapulted face first towards after an altercation with one of the more aggressive would-be Gullits.
“Jusht becoushe wee exhibit diarrhoeea off the vowels doeshn’t mean youuw can make jokes about our hand-knitted dreadlockshes...”
Close to where I live stands a 1920s railway station. In the air around its quaintly utilitarian brickwork, the phantom steam of umpteen chuffers still billows and the ghosts of uniformed men with names like Earnest and Percival potter with their moustaches in proud boast between metal advertising placards for weird sounding soaps and household cleaning fluids. To either side of the station sit ordinary houses, generous detached offerings whose variety of designs is at odds with the curious building in the centre of the street. If I shut my eyes, I can hear the engines roar and tooty toot toot while a young Jenny Agutter races around in a bustle looking sad and lost.
This architectural anomaly isn’t a 1920s railway station, of course; it merely looks like one, standing right there in the middle of the street. It’s so markedly different from the surrounding houses that, every time I pass on my travels (trying to avoid Mr Do Something, marvel at Mrs Waiting To Be 47, and greet Weird Dog Telepathy Guy with a hearty hey ho) I’m minded to stop and mutter to myself, “oh look — a 1920s railway station!” Over the years, it’s become something of a game.
But here’s the curious thing. Dead opposite lives a friend of Son of Whirl, acquired during the autumn term of 2009 when Big School thrust its pre-GCSE wherewithal into all of our lives. When I walk this way now, I turn to look at his house, with its ordinary spacious driveway and unremarkable sloping roof. The thought I have is, “oh look — there’s Friend of Son of Whirl’s house.” For three years, as I reach the FOSOWH/1920s internexus of possibility, I’ve glanced left instead of right, seen one thing rather than another, thought blazers and wanky scooters rather than Earnests and bunches of roses for Ms Rumblebumbleton.*
* Yes, there was romance. But I can’t go into that now.
I hadn’t realised that I’d totally forgotten about my world of spectral steam and flustered Agutters until the other night, when the 1920s railway station suddenly reminded me of its presence in the wake of a now uncustomary glance to the right. For three years, I have passed the ghostly metal placards, oblivious to their soapy temptations, all the time glancing to the left and failing to mutter, “oh look — a 1920s railway station!” It’s as if the whole place had ceased to exist in that 'Dr Who sucked into a time vortex for a century' kind of a way.
In the great scheme of things, this is of less import than the whisker to general bodily hair ratio of Weird Dog Telepathy Guy’s dog. Or is it?
What’s in your life — long forgotten, invisible and “gone” — that’s only a roll of the eyeballs away?
The first is a freebie, the second will rush you 99c (less in the UK thanks to the miracle of dollar/quid conversion), but rest assured that downloading either great, great read will not earmark you for a visit by the Stomach Massaging Angels of Rhummbruddarrah. You don’t want those guys turning up next to your naked abdomen in the middle of a full stress circuit of your local supermarket, I can tell you.
The universe’s greatest ever investigative duo uncovers a plot to destabilise the Cosmos in a run-down London convenience store. As booze-crazed alien slugs unleash unspeakable horror and terror, only a combination of MacKillop’s able brain and Broken Vacuum Cleaner’s array of cleaning attachments can hope to save the day.
MacKillop and his vacuum cleaner sidekick return for another encounter with danger, this time aboard a battle cruiser heading for nuclear meltdown. Entombed in an icy hellhole crawling with reptilian space marines, their salvation depends on persuading a megalomaniac overlord to abandon his favourite hobby.
Both stories are available in a variety of formats, from pdf to epub to mobi (though as yet, thanks to industrial action by the genius simian community, there’s nothing in braille for your portable chimp savant to chant aloud).
If, after downloading and upreading, you like either of these, do feel free to blog, tweet and holler to your heart’s content. Rave reviews are welcome, but please bear in mind that if The Rolling Stones should fly their tour jet into a mountain, your diminished capability for hysteria may single you out for suspicion during the inevitable post-Mick wailing and moaning.
Below, I’ve included a recorded version of the opening paragraphs.
I’ve known of Mrs Waiting To Be 47 for quite a few years now. Every minute, every second, every waking moment of that time, she’s been waiting to be 47 like there was no tomorrow. It’s her life, her raison d’être, her petit poisson avec beaucoup du soleil.
When she was younger, Mrs Waiting To Be 47 looked so much older than everyone else, like a middle-aged hospital matron spun at speed in a time-twisting wizard’s twister (then covered in a thin veneer of shaved bushbaby pelt for that touch of extra softness to her skin). She behaved like she was much older, too. But not in the bossy, domineering way favoured by the kind of girls who later expect to be paid for such talents after denying men sex. Rather, Mrs Waiting To Be 47 exuded a knowing authority, complete with the curled lips of I told you so and the mocking eyebrows of next time maybe you’ll listen to me; I’m a grown up.
As I passed Mrs Waiting To Be 47 yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that, in all probability, she must be 47 (or maybe even slightly older) by now. She’s reached her peak, her prime, her goal, her dream, her escargot chaud sûr le chien acrobatique. What now for the girl who probably popped out of the womb wearing sensible shoes? Will she adjust her world view and assume the mantle of Mrs Waiting To Be 59? Or wither away like a balloon pinned up on an office party wall, a tired sack of bagginess wrinkling to nothing in a forgotten corner?
Whatever path she chooses (or is chosen for her by a cruel god), she’ll always be Mrs Waiting To Be 47 in my heart. Clad forever in brown, and artexed with more tan slap than a posse of gay cowboys, she is my touchstone of dry sensibility in a world spinning out of control — the Rule Follower Sublime, the Slayer of all Hysterical Flap, the Archmaiden of Tut Tut.
You have not “got” me — you have merely “functioned”.
In the world of alarm clocks, functioning = got.
What about all the idle “functioning” you do when I’m asleep? Sometimes I’m out for eight hours at a stretch. Where’s all your “functioning” then?
I’m waiting to pounce.
Waiting isn’t “getting”.
Worked though, didn’t it?
Well, yes, but—
So, now I have you in my clutches, helpless as you drift in the void between slumber and waking reality, it’s time to tease you with something guaranteed to keep you going right through the day like one of these sensitive toothpastes that protects and protects and protects like a Duracell battery.