Whiffy Tidings has moved

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Armchair Killjoys

The constant wasp-drone of the Vuvuzela horn
Is greeted round Britain with sneers and with scorn.
But you can't just march in and ban what you hate,
You're not the British army, it's not 1898.
So instead stick to your chants and your out of tune singing.
Ah, of course, I forgot you only sing when you're winning.
When you do it's obscenities masquerading as "fun",
Cos who cares if Posh Spice takes it up the bum?

Monday, 31 May 2010

The Egregious Egret

I met an egregious egret.
He said 'There's nothing I regret.
But the time I had sex
After eight pints of Beck's
With a hoopoe I met in Tibet.'

Table For One

This steak is a good shade past medium.  It's tough!  Tough as the boots on my feet.  These potatoes are very nice, but why praise the upholstery and the sound system when the engine and gearbox are rusted?  This wine is cold, he should have stood the bottle somewhere warmer.  That's it....

'Waiter!  Hey, waiter!'

People say I don't complain enough; at least that I lack assertion.  I remain boxed and horizontal on the career ladder - this rung is sturdy, if horribly familiar, while the one above is by no means untenable, but is smeared with butter.  The drop to the ground would do me no physical damage, but would hurt my pride much more than I'd ever give credit.  Even so, all I see lined up here are identical ladders, creaking, top-heavy and apparently leading nowhere.

I occupy a table for one in life - near the back, yet facing into the room at least.  I rarely invite a dinner guest and, when I do, it's usually of no concern to me that, by the time we reach the point of coffee and liqueurs, we've decided to split the bill and take separate cabs home.  I don't complain, it's not in the nation's nature, is it? But when did we British begin to bitch and bellyache, at least raising our protestations to something more than a breathy murmur?  When exactly did we start to believe we had earned the 'right to complain'?  The right to tell another honest, hard-working human being to their face that their service, their steak and their unwarmed bottle of wine fail to reach our  artificial and uneducatedly high standards?  Those who do so may gain a material reward in juicier mouthfuls and an ersatz sense of justice, but they take a subliminal and spiritual beating through the travail of those their petty grievance directly affects.  

'I'm sorry Sir, I was attending to the other Gentleman.  What can I help you with?'

Sometimes you have to give thanks that you're sat at the table.  You're neither the overworked waiter, the deluded maître d', the invisible kitchen hand nor the cold, hungry beggar peering in.  While some of us are dining alone, we are dining. 

'Nothing.  That's fine.  That's really quite fine....'

Friday, 28 May 2010

Fish in for Compliments

The scent of fish is both persistent and foul; scrub your hands all you want there it stays.
Spare a thought then for the common salmon in social situations.
Spare another for the legions of customers queuing ten deep behind fish buying:
Hai Karate
Chanel pour homme
Paco Rabanne and
Chanel pour poisson.
Then smile in the knowledge that these paranoid creatures have forgotten that female fish love natural fishy whiff.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Dublin Meerkat's Story

'You wouldn't believe the day that I've had!'
Puffed Gerry the meerkat with rage.
'I'll tell you about it if you pour me a pint,
I've a thirst that I need to assuage.'

'Right you are Gerry' said Mick with concern,
As he poured him a large glass of stout.
His tail was limp, he was missing three teeth
And clumps of his fur were ripped out.

'Now, what in God's name has happened to you?'
'Ach, I got in a fight with a lemur.
'He'll know better than trespass my garden again
As I cracked my rake over his femur.'

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Dublin Lemur's Story

'A pint of the black stuff please!' squeaked a voice,
And left the poor bartender rattled.
'Oi! I'm down here!  Now be quick if you will!'
Quoth the voice of a lemur embattled

'It's yourself there Leonard, I'm sorry I missed
Your face as you walked in the door.
Get yer erse on a stool and I'll pour you your drink
You look like you're sweeping the floor!'

'You'll have to help out Mick, I've been in the wars.
I think my leg's broke and I ache.'
'Feckin' hell, who'd do such a ting to you now?'
'A meerkat armed with a rake.'

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

'Parallelism' : A Serial : Part Two

The reflection of Marcus Jones smiled back at its identical caster. It looked good, it felt good, it was good. Marcus always thought he looked better, more attractive, when viewed in this mirror than any other. Perhaps it was the way the light from his bathroom lamps caught it or perhaps it was the fact he tended to check himself immediately after passing waste and this cast a natural radiance – or relief – upon his pale façade.
      'Scared of mirrors' laughed Marcus. 'That old quack is in no position to advise me of my state of mental well-being.'
      He realised he was talking out loud to himself again and embarrassedly began to hum a nondescript tune as some sort of post hoc cover for his indiscretion. This too he stopped after a second. He was alone in his flat, who would have heard him? Did his neighbours hear him? He knew they'd heard him singing along to an old tape of pop hits last week. They'd knocked politely at first, then with incensed purpose. This progressed to a rapid temerity and, when Marcus finally opened the door, there was little to suggest the usual calm manner of 'wee Fergus from next door' in the face of the seething, bile-spitting demon that stood before him.
      'Will you keep that fucking noise down?' he gasped. 'And keep your fucking singing down too. If it is singing...if that noise you're making is singing and not just, just...a fucking weird racket.'
      'I'm sorry, I didn't realise.' apologised Marcus. It was true, he had barely been conscious of the sounds he had been making for the last thirty minutes. He had filled half an hour with high-pitched yelps, wheezes and squeaks and all to familiar tunes by Billy Ocean, Peter Gabriel, Level 42 and, most embarrassingly of all, Bucks Fizz. He was left out of breath, uncomfortably hot, lightly sweating and his mouth felt tight and sore.  Marcus coughed – a well-placed cough always made him feel better – and straightened his glasses in his mirror, the one which always brought out his best features.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

How To Kill A Simian With The Help Of A Belgian

I met a walloon who carried a balloon
'Tiens, voila un ballon!' he cried
So I fed his balloon to a passing baboon
But he choked and the poor baboon died

Monday, 17 May 2010

Beggar My Neighbour

London, 1820

Every night the huge cast iron doors to the Savings Bank clanged shut at seven o'clock and the same stout gentleman with the bushy yet meticulously clipped moustache would carefully lock them, always mindful of potential attackers.  For this reason it was not uncommon for him to be accompanied by an armed guard, but tonight his companion seemed altogether unseasoned.
     'Keep an eye out for anyone untoward will you Carberry, there's a good man.' he grunted, searching for the lock with a heavy key.
     Young Carberry, having served his first day as a clerk, searched the street almost theatrically until his eyes rested upon a wretched beggar beckoning to him from the side alley.
     'Mr Pitt,' he whispered.  'There is one man, although I fancy him more disconsolate than dangerous.'
     Pitt, still wrestling with the lock, as he did every night, glanced over and scowled.  'That lamentable fellow again?  Curse him.  I have lost count of the number of times I have found him sprawled across that alley drooling utter incomprehension.  The man's a clear lunatic, yet every time I alert Bow Street or those at the asylum to his presence he evades them.  Nothing wrong with his brain in that respect, but clearly a cuckoo nonetheless!'
     The door secure, Pitt and Carberry climbed into the waiting carriage.  Carberry stole a final glance at the beggar who was now waving a filthy scrap of paper in their direction while making a series of desperate, unintelligible sounds.  As the coachman geed the horses onward, the beggar slumped crestfallen against the alley wall and began to weep.
     He wept silently until nightfall when a sudden tap on his shoulder aroused him from his sorrow.  Looking up he met eyes with one of two women.  They appeared well yet clumsily dressed with their stockings showing and earthy stains upon their dresses.  He wondered if they had had fallen victim to an accident of their own.
     'Allo there ducky, you are awake then.  You lookin' to dip your 'Ampton wick tonight?  You lookin' to get your greens?  Look at 'er, she's 'ad a green gown already this evening!' she laughed.  'Ha!  Course not, you don't look as if you 'ave enough money to get by, let alone pay for a good 'our of our company.'
     The beggar winced; angered that he had spared his concern on common street molls.  He turned his head and looked angrily down the alleyway, wishing them away.
     'Cat got your tongue 'as it?' she snapped.  'Cor, tell you what Cynthia, I don't know 'bout 'is tongue, but look at 'is hands.  Some rat's definitely been at them fingers.'
     The smaller and younger of the two prostitutes leaned forward and let out a theatrical shriek.
     'Neither 'e 'as Betty, there's just stumps where some of those fingers ought to be.' she cried. 'Ooh, 'e makes me feel sick 'e does!'
     The beggar turned his head towards the baying pair, casting them an icy glare. His eyes burned and, quickly, he opened his mouth to revealing a thin, grisly, serpentine flap, the remainder of what had once been his tongue.  The two women screamed and turned and fled like rats from a snake, hastily exiting the alley.  Alone once more, the beggar bowed his head and closed his eyes.
     He recalled vividly the events of six months ago:  his emergence from the common law court, the words 'we find the case in favour of Mr Peacock' ringing deliciously in his ears; the second he paused to triumphantly sniff the air; the three thick-set opportunist yobs who grabbed him and the wicked, pernicious gleam of the amputation knife they briefly paraded before his terror-struck face.  Roughly, they bundled him into an alleyway, not dissimilar to the one by the bank, stripping him of his finer possessions as they beat him hard with foot-long wooden cudgels.  Finally, his leather drawstring wallet was emptied of the few shillings it contained.
     'Is this it?' grimaced the shortest of the three men.  He was scrawny with sooty grey hair and torn breeches and had clearly adopted the role of leader some time ago.  'We bag ourselves a rich geezer from that courthouse and this is all 'e as on 'im?  You two morons, told you 'e didn't look posh enough.'  He looked down at his victim, 'you're not rich at all aintcha?  What are you doing 'anging around a place like this?  Mumford, the blade please.'
     Mumford, the tallest and ugliest of the three men handed the amputation knife to his leader and formed his four teeth and black gums into an aberrant grin.  The short man grabbed the blade and a handful of Peacock's hair and Mumford held down his arms and legs while the third man prised his mouth open.
     'I'm sorry we 'as to do this over such a small amount, but this is what we do.  Keeps us safe.  We're  'onourable gents see?  We don't go about killing no-one, but still we can't have you waggling your tongue about us.  So, out it comes.'
     Peacock howled and began rolling his tongue back as far into his mouth as he could.  He snapped at the fingers of the man holding his mouth open, receiving a punch to the face in retaliation for every successful bite.  After a particularly heavy temple blow, the small man seized his chance.  He reached into Peacock's mouth, pulled his tongue and sliced it off.
     The beggar flicked his eyes open.  Try as he might, he could not block this memory.  The feeling of cold, unforgiving steel followed by excruciating pain.  His futile attempts to scream.  The small man laughing, taunting him with catcalls of 'hold your tongue' while the other two men stuffed his own handkerchiefs into his mouth in an attempt to stem the crimson cascade from his mouth.  Then came the charitable unconsciousness which presently overtook him: he remembered nothing of the further dismemberment of his fingers or being dragged to the gates of the nearby infirmary where his attackers abandoned him.
     He began to unfold the scrap of grimy paper, ritualistically crossing his hands to gain purchase with the few fingers that remained.  Again he read its now quite faded contents:

A promise to pay on demand to the order of Richard Peacock the sum of ten thousand pounds.

     The judge's blessing.  His birthright.  A hard-fought inheritance wrested from the grip of an insidious uncle.  An uncle he dared not now go to.  For his help he did not need, not if he could simply convert this cheque to hard, spendable currency.  But how?  Those with the power to do so considered him nothing but a vagrant or a cuckoo or an unwanted nuisance perpetually on their doorstep?  He thought of his Brighton home he had yet to get back to and the forty five mile walk that would most probably kill him.  No, it remained easier to scavenge on the bountiful streets of London and find rest at night in her compassionate alleyways - at least until he could find a way to finally gain access to a bank.
     Again he imagined what he would do first once the cheque was cashed.  No trader would turn him away if he offered them a large sum of money.  Money talks, even when you cannot.  A good wash, a good night's sleep, brand new clothes and a feed.  Then he'd charter a fast carriage to his seaside home.
     'There 'e is!' a voice sounded.  The beggar looked up in alarm.  The prostitutes had returned with a stocky, red-haired man wearing a brown bowler.  'The vicious blighter's an animal.   Oh, if ever I have to see that little flickering snake's tongue again.  Go on 'Arry, give him what for!'
     The red-haired man delivered a series of full, vindictive blows to the beggar's head and body.  His thoughts quickly turned from his rehabilitation to nothingness as, again, he drifted into unconsciousness.
     The next morning Carberry stood outside the huge cast-iron doors to the Savings Bank.  He thought himself a trifle early, but what did ten minutes matter in comparison to the good impression it created?  Bothered by a high-pitched wheezing emanating from the alleyway beside him, he investigated its source.  There he discovered the beggar from the evening before.  His face was a battlefield of purple bruises, his eyes encrusted in blood.  He did not move at all, save for a faint movement in his chest as he attempted to keep breathing.  In his gnarled hands he firmly clasped the same filthy, blood-spattered piece of paper.   The beggar recognised Carberry as a bank employee and, with difficulty, raised an arm to motion him over.  Moving gingerly towards him, he flinched as the beggar held out the piece of paper but took it and read it.  As Carberry's eyes widened, the beggar's closed and, as the clerk's mouth opened in amazement, so the beggar's formed a final, peaceful smile.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

'Parallelism' : A Serial : Part One

Marcus Jones sat cross-legged in the surgery waiting room.  He smiled and nodded as Marge, Dr Fenwick's heavy-lidded receptionist, exited shaking her head while trying to suppress a wry grin.  Marcus looked around this now familiar room: the “look after your heart” poster featuring a cartoon of a matronly old woman feeding hot soup to a bed-ridden cartoon heart and, just below it, the grinning photo of a man who looked very much like him (early thirties, a thatch of unkempt hair, ludicrously thick glasses) greeting the tag-line “have you checked your testicles recently?” with a triumphant thumbs up gesture.   Marcus surveyed the random magazines arranged neatly on a side table and thought the subscriber a very poor judge of periodicals.  Finally he opted for a well-thumbed copy of Boy's Stuff, a magazine which appeared to be partly concerned with the latest gadgets, yet mostly with models in various states of undress.  He knew he was alone in the room but still cast a furtive glance around before turning to a special feature on the Apple iPhone – pictured nestling between the enormous assets of a blonde twenty year old.

      'Mr Jones...' began Dr Fenwick, '...what a surprise.  Won't you step into my office, please?'

      Dr Fenwick appeared as tired as his receptionist.  His dusty grey hair packed still tightly into suggestive curls, a generation on from their jet black heyday, but his skin and stomach had long since welcomed in gravity.  Marcus followed him across the hall to the usual office – a desk, a chair, a couch and a wall of framed certificates.  Marcus scanned them, as he did every time, looking for Second Prize in the Sack Race or a humourous World's Greatest Lover.

     'Mr Jones.  Some time ago, in fact I have it here...' sighed Dr Fenwick fishing through back appointments, 'Ah yes. Six weeks ago you came to see me for the first time, telling me in the process that you have not been registered with a GP for a decade.  Can you tell me why it is then that this is your fourteenth visit to my surgery since that time?'

     'You could say I was making up for lost opportunities.' said Marcus, his gaze drifting back to the physician.

     'But there is no need to keep making appointments.  In fact, I really make a stand here and insist  you keep away from here until there's actually something wrong with you or I will recommend you are removed from my patient list.'

     'Doc, I'm thinking of referring myself to a psychiatrist.'

     'What the devil for man?  You told me six weeks ago you had no psychiatric history, your family had no history of disorder and the few cognitive tests we did do showed nothing untoward.'

     'I've been reading.  I'm worried.  Seems everyone and their dog is a crackpot nowadays.  They catch it early you see, they catch it in schools now.  They name them after Europeans with big beards.  But they didn't test us back in my time at school.  We were just “highly strung” or “quiet” or “prone to absent mindedness” and some poor buggers were “disruptive” and sent home.'

     Dr Fenwick sighed, 'It's true that the diagnosis and categorisation of psychiatric disorders continues to move forward, but if you were in serious danger from yourself then it would have been picked up a long time ago.  Very few of us are not affected by neuroses in some small manner.  I myself suffer from an irrational fear of mirrors – spectrophobia it's known as.  But you have my leave to pester a psychiatrist the same way you have me.'

    Marcus thanked Dr Fenwick and turned to leave, Fenwick coughed causing his generous jowls to shudder.  'I'm not surprised you're so scared of mirrors.' thought Marcus.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Just a Metaphor?

Release the fox, jump on your horse!
Tally ho!  Tally ho!
Oh Nicholas, you'll enjoy the feel of blood on your face.
We're hunting in shadows no more
And is this really just a metaphor?

Friday, 7 May 2010

The Job That Dare Not Speak Its Name

'What is it you do?  What's your line of employment?
A question I answer with less than enjoyment,
For when a new acquaintance asks that of me
I blush, then I grunt, then I answer.........'I.T.'
'Oh he's just acting shy, he's a guru, a whizz-kid!'
Oh no, there's a reason I'm seldom hubristic:
Your first impression is 'boring and square',
It's ok, I agree, it's a view that I share.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


A rotund creep in an ill-fitting suit
Tried his luck with a lass at the bar.
'Well hello there, aren't you terribly cute?
Can I give you a lift in my car?'

'You greasy git, not on your life!'
She replied with egregious sneer.
'Get away from me and back to your wife.'
'I will when I've finished my beer!'

Friday, 30 April 2010

Shooting Birds at the Airport

While walking to work today I was surprised to hear gunfire coming from the airport runway that I pass on my right.  Now, although "shooting birds at the airport" is not yet an official job description (although many list it as a dream occupation), shots are still fired on occasion to scare non-itinerant birds.  Here is a poem regarding what may happen if the birds fight back:

A solitary watchful crow on a stile,
Surveyed all around with a satisfied smile.
When a buck-toothed youth with malevolent charge,
Through a shotgun sight did the lone crow regard.
Yet his aim was as poor as his mind was opaque,
And with relative ease the lone crow escaped.
He sent out the word and fellow crows flocked,
And this murderous murder hatched a neat plot.

'We're being hunted down and we do not know why.'
'I know,' sounded one, 'it's those things in the sky,
The humans want none of us blocking its path.
If you get in the way then you've cawed your last!
But if we all flock together, attack it up there,
We can take this great bird out with speed and with flair!'
'It just might work' cawed the leader with scorn,
And the kamikaze crow squadron was formed.

So this doomed squad of heroes, all fuelled by vengeance
Flew alongside the plane then straight into the engines.
One engine clogged up and the rest followed suit,
'Mayday' screamed the Captain and looked for his 'chute.
And the plane started hurtling down to the ground
And soon all was silent, save for the sound
Of a solitary watchful crow on the stile,
Surveying the crash with a satisfied smile.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Liev Schreiber Met Justin Bieber

Liev Schreiber met Justin Bieber going to the fair.
Said Liev Schreiber to Justin Bieber 'what have you got there?'
Jeepers Schreiber! Brothel creepers! You see, they're back in fashion
I take my style tips seriously, you could say it was a passion.
'I see' said Schreiber pensively, 'then perhaps you'll answer this...
Is there a soul above the age of ten who knows that you exist?'
'Of course not' laughed the Bieber, 'I'm pure imagination!'
'Please keep it that way' grumbled Liev, 'you're nowt but irritation!'

Bowled Over by Duckworth & Lewis

Despatching a Yorker, off-stump to mid-wicket
These two men we grant our accord
Duckworth and Lewis' gay tales of cricket
Will storm the Novello awards

They'll beat Dizzee Rascal and Paolo Nutini
We'll joyfully drink to their health
With a toast of a Scotch or a large Martini
To the sound of Novello himself

The Button

So, it was suicide. We all knew it was suicide. To say John had been miserable this past month since Suzanne left him would be an understatement – he had become a wretched human being. He had lost his strut, that confident swagger; in its place the stooped gait of a geriatric. With this in mind, it’s a wonder he ever managed to climb to the top of the tower block in the first place.

I visited him last week, hoping to raise his spirits with a comedy DVD I knew we both liked. It took three knocks on the door and a rap at the window, before he materialised. He peered uneasily through heavy eyelids like battered roller blinds, and, after a couple of second’s thought, grunted and motioned me inside.

You could never have described John’s house as stately or opulent, but Suzanne’s Bohemian nature and near-obsession with mirrors and beads had always lent it great character. Robbed of haphazard flair, his living room seemed cold and austere: a stockade for melancholy. I had never realised, but I should have guessed, that nearly all the furniture displayed in their house had originally been Suzanne’s. Those wonderful, heavy oak cabinets and dressers that had dominated each room were now gone leaving only tell-tale indentations in the carpet where John’s hastily re-assembled flat-pack monstrosities could not cover them up.

John simply sat. Where once he would erupt with uproarious laughter, bent double and shaking with convulsive mirth when we watched comedy together, today not one smile could crack his inscrutable expression or one chuckle break his sorrowful trance. Paradoxically, our silence became one of comfort. The pressure to offer questions or pleasantries which neither involved his immediate break-up nor my own steady relationship became too great within minutes of my arrival. Besides, John was responding in grunts, sighs and only the odd syllable of clarity.

Presently he began to tell me, slowly, of his attempts to reconcile the relationship. I nodded in sympathy, simultaneously recalling the fervent manner in which, five years previously, he had first related this budding romance to me. We had arranged to meet, as we did every Thursday night, in the Pig & Whistle for a drink and perhaps to enter the weekly pub quiz. John was uncommonly late - my pint of bitter being nearly drained - and blundered over to my table carrying a carrier bag brimming, almost choking, with a variety of used buttons. He explained that he'd picked them up from the market that afternoon for his new lady who was "creative" and "liked making weird things". It mattered not as I had never seen John more effervescent: the pile of buttons reflecting vivaciously in his sparkling eyes, his broad grin never wavering even when his enthusiastic hand gestures knocked the bag over forcing a tide of buttons across the floor.

We hugged briefly before I left. Just outside his front door I stooped to pick up a solitary, cheerless button - washed colourless by unseasonal rain.


Gerald Tomkins is blessed, nay cursed, with a name so mundane, so vapid it practically predisposes his nature to all that meet him long before he proffers his signature limp handshake of welcome.  It is then fortunate that he still excels in his professional disposition as a middling salesperson for highly functional yet decidedly uninteresting software.  A moleish, middle-aged man in a budget suit standing five foot four in generously-heeled hush puppies may look out of place in a techno club or an inner-city skate park, but at a software sales conference it is practically uniform.

    Attending the annual Softmart conference at the less than stately Slough Manor is both Gerald's business highlight and personal lowlight each year.  The future of his small software house practically depends on him returning with a number of new contracts but the process leaves him feeling spiritually drained.  Nobody, he says, can ever connect with him as a person.
This year Gerald stands nervously behind a trestle table clearly last hired by a somewhat unruly youth group.  Only by strategically placing piles of brochures is he able to cover up their crude yet inventive graffiti.  Humming the melody to ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order, he sheepishly tries to make eye contact with the gathered representatives.  Those who do make this visual pact, however, are surprised by the knowledgeable, professional pitch they become party to – just as surprised as they are by the same curt refusal Gerald gives anyone who suggests ‘a drink to seal the deal’.

      ‘Hey! That’s Blue Monday, right?’ sounds a voice.

    Gerald looks up from a stack of brochures he had been repositioning.  His slate grey eyes meet another pair of sparkling azure, lightly obscured by overhanging curls of dyed red hair and accompanied by a grin of pure lipstick.

    ‘Oh...yes, yes it was.  Look, are you interested in software?’ replies Gerald quickly changing the subject and gingerly offering the topmost brochure.
    ‘Sure!’ she beams.  ‘It's just that I love New Order and it’s always nice to meet another fan.  I’m Angela Smith, I work for Vasco.  We’ve actually heard quite a lot about your workflow management software – event-driven notifications, polling sources for redundant content...’

    ‘Well, er, it’s all there on the brochure,’ stammers Gerald.  ‘I...I think the electronic stuff’s their best.’

    ‘Electronic stuff?  You mean the software?’ replies Angela quizzically.

    Gerald feels his cheeks redden and his legs begin to shake.  ‘No...no, I – I’m talking about New Order.’ he gurgles.

    Angela smiles and studies the brochure, picking out various parts for extrapolation, Gerald doing his best to expand on them while simultaneously preventing his paper piles from being swept away by the breeze from the rusted ajar window behind him.

    ‘It sounds just like what we’re looking for,’ she says presently before laughing, ‘of course, your excellent taste in music swings it!  No, seriously, we would like you to visit the office to install a demonstration next week if you’re available.’

    Gerald takes a deep breath. ‘I will be delighted to,’ he squeaks before bravely adding, ‘I think the bar is open, would you like a drink to seal the deal?’

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Ice Cream Pirates

It was a Tuesday afternoon when I lost my first tooth.  I know it was a Tuesday because Granny always takes my sister Annie and I to the chip shop for lunch on a Tuesday and I could still taste fried haddock with chips.  I also know it was summer because bigger boys were all around the seafront playing pirates near the harbour.  They were using headscarves as pirate hats and Darren from up our street had one with a Jolly Roger on it and a smart eye-patch.

‘Granny, when can I start playing at pirates?’ I asked.

‘Next year I expect,’ she replied.  ‘When you’ve started school and made some new friends.  Those boys are a bit too old for you.’

We left Granny’s house and were about to go to the bus stop to take us home when another bigger boy ran down from the high street shouting ‘Van crash!  Free ice cream!’ at the top of his voice.  Darren and the pirate boys started to run up the side street to where the other boy stood.  There they stopped and cheered and ran off again up to the high street.

Annie smiled.  ‘Come on!’ she cried, ‘Or there won’t be any left for us!’

We hurried after the boys.  When we got to the high street we stopped and gasped; Mr Rossi’s ice cream van was on its side and everywhere we looked were ice lollies, fizzy drinks, chew bars and cold, lovely ice cream.  Mr Rossi was not hurt and was shouting at another man a few feet away, waving his arms in the air while local children helped themselves to what had landed on the ground.  We checked to see Mr Rossi was not looking and picked up an ice lolly each and crammed several handfuls of treacle toffees into our pockets.

Darren had picked up a huge vat of ice cream the same size as himself from the van and was hobbling around trying to balance it.  Mr Rossi suddenly turned round.

‘You boy!  Get yer hands off that ice cream!’ he shouted running back to his van.

Mr Rossi grabbed Darren by the arm causing him to topple over and the vat fell to the ground, opening and covering them both in vanilla whip.  Everybody laughed and I did too, but I hid mine behind my hands because Annie says that if Darren ever sees someone smaller than him laughing at him he will deck them.

‘We’d better catch our bus’ said Annie taking my hand.  So we walked back down to the seafront unwrapping our ice lollies.  It was very sunny and I couldn’t wait to taste the delicious, cold orange flavour so I bit hard on the corner.  My tooth, which had been wobbly for the past week, broke loose in my mouth and I nearly swallowed it thinking it was a hard piece of lolly.  Annie told me to keep it safe and place it under my pillow that night for the tooth fairy always rewards you if you do.

Monday, 19 April 2010

A Winter Meeting

Carefully pulling on his tatty leather jacket, making sure to fasten only the three well-affixed of six dull buttons, Tristram departed his dusty basement flat and thirstily sniffed in the crisp tonic of early Winter air.  Although he hated the clichéd phraseology of ‘exercise your body, exercise your mind’, he had little to lose by it; a good walk and time away from the computer – besides, he had run out of milk.

Around the corner, a hundred yards from the local Middle School, he happened upon a chattering of local schoolkids bustling, whirling and roaring their way along a highly-polished ice slide.  Tristram watched enviously as one hapless, pudgy boy with thick ginger hair and a permanent cowlick toppled unceremoniously mid-slide only to receive the thick, leather sole of a boot squarely on his backside as an unsympathetic classmate deliberately crashed into him.

“Makes you wish we were young again, don’t it?” said a voice.  Tristram turned, meeting the kindly, wrinkled face of an elderly gentleman.  He recognised a nostalgic sparkle in the old man’s eyes as if looking in a mirror.  Vivid memories of snowy schooldays flooded his mind.  For a second he was the pudgy, downtrodden schoolboy scrambling precariously along the ice.  He was one of a hundred unremarkable children sitting in uniform rows at Christmas assembly and laughing as their good-natured Headmaster Mr Jenkins told  them, with a certain inevitability, to be careful not to suffer from ‘tinsel-itis’ during the holidays.  Now, thirty years later, he found himself reminiscing obliviously for a time when winter and especially Christmas brought him excitement, hope and warmth and not the frosty, unsympathetic smugness of the satirical 'festive' radio special he was supposed to have finished writing.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Volcanic Panic

Aeroplanes grounded, the sky deepest slate
A nation at standstill, no food on our plates?
We'll be back to the ration books, one egg a time
Inferior tea bags and foul British wine
With volcanic ash still filling the skies
Frozen good stores will get a surprise
As customers double they'll soon understand
It's won't just be Mums who go to Iceland

Friday, 16 April 2010

Gone Fishing

“Fill your boots Lads!” I cheerfully choked as young Brian and Terry helped me sort through Alan’s old things.  I’d been dreading this moment, but life goes on as they say and his hoard of teenage effects has been littering his old room, and with it my mind, for far too long now.

Terry held up a shabby, misshapen hat, “What about this Mr Pearson?  This’d be good for my next fishing trip.”

My eyes welled up.  You’d never think of him as the shrewdest mind, but young Terry Jones really does have one of the worst cases of foot-in-mouth disease I’ve ever known.

“Terry, put that back!” snapped Brian, Terry’s older and wiser brother, who had been absent-mindedly leafing through a pile of Loaded magazines.  “Think about what you’re saying.  He’s sorry Mr Pearson.”

“It’s fine lads.” I eventually reciprocated.  “But no, I-I’d rather like to hang on to that if you don’t mind.”

To most people this hat would appear unremarkable: made of once fine Harris Tweed and covered in hand-tied fishing flies.  It had been my father’s and, as I grew up, there was barely a Sunday afternoon when I would not see him leave the house wearing it, his rod and tackle bag clutched in either hand.  It had long been his ambition to share these stolen afternoons at the waterside with me, but the gentle pastime of angling and a Kevin Keegan-obsessed, highly-strung ten year old really do not mix awfully well.  On the two occasions we did venture to his favourite spot by the river near Cambury Manor, he snapped angrily at my attempts to break my “keepy-uppy” record with an empty bottle of Dandelion and Burdock and erupted with apoplectic rage when I dared skim a flat stone across the water’s surface.

“For the love of Pete, you silly young tyke!” he bawled, convulsing with ire. “You’ll scare away the fish with your blessed tomfoolery!”

“But father, we’ve barely seen a stickleback all day.  Besides, aren’t you scaring them off now by shouting at me?” I demurred.

No, fishing trips with my father never did turn out to be happy occasions.  The closest we came to bonding was as we “legged it” together from the Cambury Manor Squire – who’d clearly been alerted by my father’s clamorous protestations – like a couple of apple-scrumping schoolboys, my father trying carefully not to drop his catch – that elusive stickleback.

But my father’s fishing legacy sat rather better on the shoulders of my son Alan – a keen angler from the day he could hold a rod without losing his balance - and, some years before his death, my father passed down his treasured hat and tackle bag to him.  Initially proud to wear the hat, Alan bowed to teenage fashion sensibilities and replaced it with a black Nike baseball cap a year after my father passed away.  I doubt either would have given much cushioning against his tragic fall by the riverside when a loose bank of earth gave way causing him to strike his head on a large rock and be carried unconscious down the River Aire.   I’d lost a son...and finally gained a hat.

“Thanks Mr Pearson!” shouted the two boys, their arms laden with various records, magazines and posters as they shuffled down the path through my front garden.  I looked hard at the hat.  After wiping it free of dust and re-affixing two my father’s hand-made flies, I placed it on my head and looked sternly at myself in the mirror.  Without switching my glance, I reached for Alan’s old rod and my father’s tackle bag which had sat mocking by the hatstand these last three months.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Turn of the Scrooge

‘Scrooge!  A moment of your time if you please.’ boomed Fezziwig.

Ebenezer Scrooge carefully placed the battered, weather-worn crate he had been carrying on the table outside the office of his portly employer.  He adjusted his bow tie, straightened his lapels, whetted his lips and raised his right hand to knock.

‘Come in man, there is no need to knock if I have already requested your presence before me.’ grunted Fezziwig as he tipped burnt tobacco from his malodorous pipe.  ‘Now, sit yourself down, we have much to discuss.’

Scrooge squatted on to a cheap footstool and faced Fezziwig’s desk.  Leaning furtively in the direction of the office's sole source of heat - a lonely candle - he pondered the connotations of the phrase “much to discuss”.  More so he pondered quite what mood the old blighter was in today.  Given the absence of a “yo ho” or “chirrup” from his curt request and the acidic stare that greeted him as he entered, it seemed more than apparent that his employer was enduring a low spell – and that meant nothing but hard, frank business talk.

He recalled warmly the old man's jovial performance that previous Christmas Day and, although it had occurred some six weeks ago, the image of Fezziwig and his entire company of workers dancing, drinking and making very merry together lived strong in both his mind and heart.   Mr Fezziwig was altogether different that night.  Granted, from Midday he had liberally supped mulled wine from the huge brass bowl  that Mrs Fezziwig had wheeled in, whooping and coughing theatrically before declaring it "the best batch of bishop yet".  Yes, whether insisting Scrooge and his equally bookish co-clerk Dick Wilkins drop their quills and join his family in an exhilarating square dance or leading all assembled through a chorus of The Wassail Song, the outgoing side of Fezziwig really appealed to Scrooge.  It was his Protean duplicity: this downcast, mirth-drained, hard to please misanthrope before him he feared.

‘Now,’ began Fezziwig, his wire-rim eyeglasses slipping as he looked down angrily at an open ledger. ‘Business recently has been frightful.  The lack of commerce during this perishing winter and various financial vagaries have left me with little choice.  Not to put too fine a point on it my fine fellow, either I dismiss you or I dismiss Dick.’

Scrooge shifted uncomfortably but tried to remain stoic.  Dick Wilkins was practically his younger brother.  The two were apprenticed by Fezziwig barely a month apart; they shared sleeping quarters above the warehouse; there was barely a living soul he felt closer to.  Scrooge smiled, then immediately felt a pang of guilt.  Perhaps there was one.

‘I’ve given it considerable thought,’ continued Fezziwig.  ‘My daughter Belle thinks very fondly of you and harbours a wish to become your wife.  I will give you my blessing, continued employment and a token promotion if you should espouse her.  Do we have an accord?’

Belle Fezziwig twirled enthusiastically, showing off an elegant, blue, deeply-flounced gown.  Scrooge stood several feet away, his eyebrows raised in admiration while his jaw loosened into a wide, yet not unattractive gawp.

'Yo ho Ebenezer!' called her father beckoning, 'I know you are friendly with my other daughters, but have you met my eldest, Belle?  As fresh a rose today when she stepped from the carriage as that which sadly departed us six months ago.'

'Really Father!' blushed Belle. 'Mr Scrooge, finally I make your acquaintance.  Descriptions in the letters of my sisters precede you, but I fear do not do you justice.  Will you walk with me awhile?'

'I would consider it a pleasure my lady'

Old Fezziwig brusquely repeated himself, 'Do we have an accord?'

'Sir, my love for your daughter is matched only by my love of my work here.  I graciously accept your offer.' replied Scrooge with a firm handshake.

'Good.  I shall inform Wilkins.  I shall be sad to see him go, but frugality dictates this course of action.  You should write to my daughter at once to inform her of my intentions.'

'Yes, sir.'

'One further word of advice Scrooge.  The world of business favours those with a hard nose and crushes the delicate of will like grain under pestle.  Your affability will see you well through life but to be successful you must cultivate a ruthless streak.  We shall discuss your affairs further in the near future.  Good day now.'

‘Good day Sir and God bless us, every one!’

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Prooper Nouns

In a bid to winover our wordless rabble
Proper nouns march their way towards Scrabble
So verbally-challenged nincompoops
Can score triple points by laying Greg Proops

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Encourage Your Physiognomy (Revisited)

You can't beat an egg.
I've tried and it's impossible.
It always cheats by nicking £500 notes from the bank when you're not looking.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

One Up Man Ship

I make it ingenious.
U make it ingenuous.
I win.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Question is "Why Do They Do It?"

Being about the relaunch of the classic Police Academy series.

When Orwell wrote of 1984
He didn't predict screwballs taking the fore
And the stories of bumbling, zany recruits
Fackler, Hightower - all in cahoots

Reformed criminals Jones and Mahoney
Captain Harris' head up a pony
Zed and Sweetchuck clowning around
A stir fried shrimp from out of town

Be it an assignment to Miami beach
With a hapless boss whose face is a peach
The odd tango at the Blue Oyster Bar
Or the hilarious destruction of Copeland's car

So it seems the series will now be remade
Old friends and new back out on parade
And for any out there who said it was bad
I've got three words - don't move dirtbag!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A Clew of Bookworms

Today is World Book Day, so with little derision
Switch off your computer and television
And pick up a tome, a volume, un livre
And rediscover the joy to read, yeah!

May I recommend the wonderful 'Wordwatching' by Alex Horne?

Friday, 26 February 2010

BBC6 - Common Sense Nil

From a Times article leaps deplorable rumours
BBC cuts - or just Auntie's bloomers?
Pre-empting a Tory term, keen to please those
Who push those in power for the Beeb to close

6 Music and Asian Network condemned?
Websites to close?  Limit the spend?
Instead do the opposite - increase the coverage
Keep spreading the vision of Peel and not Muggeridge

"But I pay for Sky too" a dim nation bleats
Who wilfully subscribe to a glut of repeats
"I can't afford both and I can't pick and choose"
"And I'm missing 'Pig Wanking with Rebecca Loos'"

A great institution, the pride of the nation
All please stay tuned to this red hot station
And in your broadcasting radio and television
Let choice, not quick fashion, rule your decision

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

It's PC Gonemad!

All ye sassenachs, boy this'll hurt
Some tartan pranksters have knocked up a shirt
That pokes harmless fun at the Scots' ancient foe
Puerile, pointless yet racism?  No.
But Grampian Police, with a lot of spare time,
Then told the young scamps, "this may be a crime"
These humourless killjoys made no arrest
Can the public expect anything less?

A whiffy response to this.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

How Could You Fucking Do This To Me?

I work, I provide, I pay dues to the taxman
Yet the BBC, specifically Paxman
Turned my living room blue for more than a second
With results further reaching than he ever reckoned
And his short, sharp apology showed miniscule thought
While the nation's heads turned from a foul Prescott shot
But before we denounce him like we did Jonny Ross
Just remember it's funny - so who gives a toss?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Widdecombe Resigns From Anti-Bullying Charity As Revelations Come To Light

Ann Widdecombe

Bully Beef
Cripes that Ann Widdecombe's got a bloody cheek
She made her name as Bully Beef in "The Dandy" every week!

Where has Matt Dillon been.....again?

With surprise we saw Matt at the BAFTA Awards
Revealing Best Supporting Actress
Where has he been - was he treading the boards?
Or fast asleep on a mattress?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What If? Vol.2.2 : Blinded

Each window, equidistant from the others, is covered by a pre-chosen height of blind.  This late in the day it is not rare to see the blinds raised fully as employees gaze at the road home.  However, most remain covered, protecting desk vampires from the low, mid-afternoon sun.

Theresa squinted and hissed under her breath.  She loved and hated mid-winter.  While the nights were longer and alcohol-sodden revellers made easy targets, she hated how the bright, low sunlight crept around her eye level without warning.

What If? Vol.2.1 : Plant Pots

Two rubber plants lend a loose feeling of life to the office.  One stands proud in a vibrant, leafy robes, while the other stoops, diseased, perhaps plotting against its rich brother.

The palatial plant along the corridor had long made the caterpillar jealous.  Having eaten his way through his ragged current abode, he plotted daily a route to the sweet leafs just beyond his reach.