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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!'