Friday, 30 April 2010

Toadies and Other Political Animals

After an another afternoon in Albania, I came home to the Icelandic Study (how very European of me) and began to research the word toady. This led me to lickspittle and from there I found a list of synonyms which trundled along at quite a  - well - poetic lick.

Crawler, Fawning,
Flunkey, Groveller
Hanger-on, Kowtowing
Sucking-up Toady
Yes-man, yes-man

The rhythm needs attention and perhaps the AlphBetiCal orDEr could be juggled a little, but I believe I've got the first draft of a poem to commemorate (commiserate?) the probable next Chancellor of the Exchequer. (I'd better compose one for darling Badger, too, on the remote off-chance.)

The prospect of finding Found Poetry has cheered me immensely today. I was, to be honest, being a miserable old boot. I wept during an item on cyclamens whilst listening to Gardener's Question Time on the wireless. Something in Audrey Hawthorne-Hedge's voice set me off. (Did you know, it takes five years to grow a cyclamen from seed? Five long, politically austere years ...) Anyhow, if Hart Seeley can find lyricism in the words of one Donald Rumsfeld, then I am sure the next five years will bring T.S. Eliot & Forward Prize-winning opportunities.

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

(A poem by D. Rumsfeld aged  78 and three-quarters.)

So, toady. A multi-tasking verb and noun, both short and slimy.

It is an abbreviation of toad-eater. A toad-eater was the sidekick of a Snake Oil Salesman (Ivor Brown calls them medical mountebanks). Toads were commonly believed to be poisonous - touch one and be plagued by warts - and so the toad-eater would ostentatiously eat the toad, or something squished that looked like a toad. (A bit like Ozzy Osbourne - no relation - and his rubber pippistrelles.) The toad-eater would roll about on the ground for a bit, moaning, groaning, clutching his guts, staggering from one onlooker to another, weeping for his wasted life. Then the toad-eater would be miraculously cured by his master prescribing a dose of sugared water and tah-dah! fortunes would be made. A charlatan and a stooge.

In the eighteenth century a politician's hanger-on was called his toad-eater but we must remember that a toady is not the man who resembles a toad but the poor wretch who used to swallow it.

For legal purposes, I am required to state that there is no suggestion whatsoever that Mr. Geo. Osborne has ever swallowed.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Just Another Word

"That brings me back to my original point, the curious carelessness of our time about what was once called rhetoric, the art of stating your case. How often do our propagandists - a class continually increasing in numbers and activity - stop to consider the values of words? It is astonishing to me that people whose profession is to persuade or whose passion is to win converts to a cause should be so careless of their tools and so well content to employ long, tired terms and clichés instead of seeking fresh, brief and apt ones, terms whose value in sound is so easily discoverable. Public men, with policies to urge, continue to drool and drone on platforms and in print with no discoverable awareness that they are killing their own case by the dull and ponderous language they employ."

Ivor Brown (Jonathan Cape, 1943) in a book produced in complete conformity with the authorized war economy standards.

I don't feel I need add to this ...

Scurvy Clogdogdo

Everard Wright, Esq.

Sir David Cameroon
c/o Millbank Mansions

Dear Sir Cameroon

I admire the manner in which you've handled yourself recently. You've kept yourself stiff and English. Well done, Sir! If only more politicians could be restrained. Alas, generally, they're such Common People.

I have, however, a small bone to pick with you. I've been perusing your manifesto with a keen lawyer's eye. You strike me as a bookish man, whereas I know life practically. Hence this letter.

This policy of yours to reward Married Couples to the tune of £150 per annum is ill-conceived.

I, a confirmed bachelor (and not likely to assist with the conception of anything), echo Captain Otter's views on wedlock:

Wives are nasty, sluttish animals ... a scurvy clogdogdo, an unlucky thing, a very foresaid bear-whelp, without any good fashion or breeding, mala bestia!

(With the exception of the uxorious Moira Stewart, of whom I have had occasion to write to Points of View.)

Clearly, you've trained your own particular wife fairly well - although her no show without Punch attitude must be wearing.

Still, your personal desire to keep her in capes and snakeskin diaries is no justification for penalising the singular and individual in this Big Society* of ours.


Everard Wright LLB (Hons)

* You are very right to continually emphasise the fact that Society is big and getting bigger all the time. I blame the Obesity Time Bomb.

Biblical Hebrew

If you played Countdown
in Biblical Hebrew,
you would have to say
Consonant please, Carol.

And another.

And another.

And another.

Twenty-two consonants,
some soundless -

or breath.

God resides in the spaces

between molecules
(I am told.)

Scientists know He's there
but haven't yet found Him.

O, Carol -
I think I've won this round
with a particularly long

s   i   g   h.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

That Prime Ministerial Apology in Full


Mrs Duffy / Mick Clogg /Rabid Cameroon *

I am most dreadfully sorry for calling you a

Bigot / Spigot / Lester Piggott.*

In my defence, I was only trying to be helpful to the

TV Producers / Electorate Seducers / Democratic Traducers*

Of course, what I meant to say was

Harlot / Zealot / Halibut *

It's been a long campaign and the idiot fixer - Kayleigh, an intern on a gap year - shouldn't have let me loose on the Public in the first place. When Kayleigh eventually climbs down from the roof of Party HQ, she will apologise to you herself.

Yours Sincerely / Merely / Hardly*


* Delete as appropriate

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Bloody Tmesis

Last week, a poet who goes by the unlikely moniker of Ray Speedway, mentioned en passant that inserting an expletive into the middle of a word - as in fanbloodytastic - is called tmesis. Broken Biro and I immediately made a note of this in our pocket books (I with an engraved antique silver pencil; she with a small chewed plastic biro stolen from a Turf Accountant). Then we wrestled for the right to write.

Further investigation (after I'd flattened her) reveals that tmesis has rules. One can say Abso-bloody-lutely, but one cannot say ab-bloody-solutely. Similarly, one cannot say fantas-bloody-tic. Hmmm, I've read my two examples several times and have to admit I really do not understand the Rules of Tmesis.

Never mind. Some people absorb the rules as easily as breathing. I know a builder whose every other word is tmetic. Where's the tea-bloody-pot? he'll demand. I've never fancied Aus-bloody-stralia. Costa-bloody-Brava's good enough for me. Only he doesn't say bloody.

Funny, I should mention Australia because the people of that far distant continent (though not as far distant if you live in New Zealand) are highly skilled at tmesis. Only they call it Tumbarumba. John O'Grady wrote a poem about it :

And the other bloke says "Seen 'im? Owed 'im half a bloody quid.
Forgot to give it back to him, but now I bloody did -
Could've used the thing me bloody self. Been off the bloody booze,
Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin' kanga-bloody-roos."

Now the bar was pretty quiet, and everybody heard
The peculiar integration of this adjectival word,
But no-one there was laughing, and me - I wasn't game,
So I just sits back and lets them think I spoke the bloody same

The rest of the poem is here.

No wonder we're so desperate to beat the Australians at cricket. We've got towns and villages called things like Great Snoring and Piddle. They have Tumbarumba and Iron Knob.

(I fear to direct you to the following website because you are likely to be lost to Blogland forever and never make your way home. Still, on your own head be it. X marks the spot.)

On with the poetry. Our poets have not ignored the bloody power of bloody. Although not strictly tmetic, Captain Hamish Blair was emphatically sanguine on the subject of The (Bloody) Orkneys:

This bloody town's a bloody cuss
No bloody trains, no bloody bus,
And no one cares for bloody us
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody roads are bloody bad,
The bloody folks are bloody mad,
They'd make the brightest bloody sad,
In bloody Orkney.

All bloody clouds, and bloody rains,
No bloody kerbs, no bloody drains,
The Council's got no bloody brains,
In bloody Orkney.

It'll be no surprise that the Orkney Tourist Board asked him to return their bloody advance. He should have written Ork-bloody-ney, but the good Captain insisted that the temetic version of his poem sounded like a joint injury and didn't scan as well as it ought.

As a slight aside, I once read this poem to a strange man in a café. By strange I mean I did not know him from Adam. He became rather emotional and said that he hadn't been read to since he was a small boy. He dabbed at his eyes with a paper napkin. I was delighted; a positive outcome; a convert to poetry. By chance, the following day I met him again, this time in the street. He asked whether I'd consider reading him regular bed time stories and offered payment in cash. He said there was no need for me to bring a book.

John Cooper Clarke, the punk poet with the complexion of a compulsive blood donor, paid homage to Captain Blair in his poem Evidently Chickentown. Only he didn't use bloody either.

I've drifted from my original point, haven't I?

(Abso-bloody-exactly! Ed.)

Requies-hamster In Pace

Location: The reception area of a vet's.
Characters: Vet, Receptionist, M.

M: I'd like someone to look at a hamster. (SHE SHOVES A SHOEBOX AT THE RECEPTIONIST WHO RECOILS.)
Receptionist: It, um, doesn't look very well ...
M: Which is why I'm here.
Receptionist: I'll call the vet.
Vet: So, a poorly hamster?
M: Yes.
Vet: Let's have a look then. (SHE PEERS INTO THE BOX.) I'm afraid this hamster is already dead.
M (PEERING INTO BOX): No, look, he's still breathing.
M: Yes, see there - his chest is moving.
Vet (NARROWING HER EYES): Only just. Right I'll put him in a tent. (SHE PICKS UP THE BOX AND RUSHES THROUGH A DOOR.)
M: A tent?
Receptionist: An oxygen tent.
M: An oxygen tent? For a hamster?
Receptionist (TAPPING ON A KEYBOARD): Name?
M: Moptop.
Receptionist: Not you, the hamster.
M: Oh. Buster.
Receptionist: Surname?
M: He's a hamster. He doesn't have a surname.
Receptionist (SIGHING): Your surname?
M: Oh, Smith.
Receptionist (HANDING OVER A PIECE OF PAPER): Phone at lunch time and we'll tell you how Buster Smith is getting on.
M: Buster Smith?
Receptionist: Your hamster.
M: Oh, yes, of course.

Now, before I go any further with this story I have to make it clear that I do not tie fireworks to cats' tails, nor do I kick elderly retrievers when they stray into my path. And I've never put paracetamol into a goldfish bowl because 'Chips' was looking peaky. I am nice to animals. Truly, I am. I donated money to a donkey sanctuary only last week.

I mention this because the previous time I told this story I got hate mail. Don't send me hate mail.

Lunch time later that day. A telephone conversation.

M: I'm phoning to ask how Buster - Buster Smith - is doing. He's a hamster.
Receptionist: Yes, I've got a note here from the Vet. Buster's responded to the oxygen and is now off the drip -
M: Drip?
Receptionist: Antibiotics. He's rallied and has nibbled a sunflower seed.
M: Is that good?
Receptionist: Considering he was virtually dead this morning, I'd say it was very good.
M: Is he allowed visitors?
Receptionist: Come after school. 4 o'clock.

I was relieved. Buster was a much-loved hamster - though not much-loved by me. He was enormously rat-like, with long, shaggy grey fur, had poor toilet hygiene and generally smelled dreadful. He escaped from his cage on a regular basis and was awfully difficult to recapture. But Small Boy loved him and since the dwarf rabbits were stolen from the back garden the previous Christmas Eve (hopefully as a gift and not for the pot) he had pinned all his affections on Buster. Small Boy was sitting SATs that week and had trouble remembering his own name (by his own admission) so a seriously ill hamster was likely to send him seriously off course ...

4 o'clock, back at the Vet's

M: Hello again. We've come to visit Buster Smith.
Receptionist (GRAVE-FACED): I'll just get the Vet.
Small Boy: Can I see Buster?
M: In a minute.
Vet ( EVEN MORE GRAVE-FACED): I'm afraid I have some bad news for you.
Vet: Buster took a turn for the worse ...
Small Boy: Where's Buster, Mum?
Vet: We did everything we could -
Vet: More oxygen, cardiac massage ...
M: Cardiac massage?
Vet: I'm afraid he passed away this afternoon. (SHE LAYS A GENTLE HAND ON M'S ARM.) These things are never easy. (BEAT.) I'll get his remains for you.
Small Boy: Where's Buster?
M (GENTLY): Buster was very ill, darling. The vet couldn't make him better.
Small Boy: Buster's dead?
Receptionist (SHOUTING OVER ALL THE NOISE.): That'll be £68, please.
M: What?
Receptionist: £68. We take cheques.
M (MUTTERING): He only cost £3.00 in the first place. I could have bought twenty new hamsters for that!*
Receptionist (LOUDLY): Although his tail has wagged its last -
M: Pardon?
Receptionist: It's a poem we recite at times like this. People say it helps. Although his tail has wagged its last -
M: He was a hamster. He didn't have a tail!
Receptionist: Oh dear. Now's not the time. I'll pop it in the post. (BEAT.) May I see your bank card, please?

* This is the line which inspires the hate mail. And, yes, I know money should be no object when it comes to easing the suffering of a poor, dumb, helpless animal. And I know I should have been prepared to spend £3,000 if that's what it took to make Buster better and that proper pet owners don't put a price tag on their pet's welfare. And, yes, I know telling this story as an amusing anecdote is in very poor taste. And I know people like me don't deserve to have pets.

Is that it? Or have I missed anything?

P.S. We had a very nice funeral. And ate beans for a week.

P.P.S. That is not a photograph of Buster, who was at least four times the size of that cute little hamster.

Monday, 26 April 2010

You're Gorgeous

The supreme wordsmith, Inky Fool, couldn't find an English word that means ugly-beautiful. (Jolie laide, being French and gender-specific, just will not do.)

But as Inky is ever so clever, we can forgive him. And I live in hope that something will turn up ...

It is a huge oversight in terms of the English language that no such word (meaning ugly-beautiful) exists. Surely the Anglo-Saxons - not famous for their faces - had a word for it? Or the Vikings? Something that was absorbed into our common tongue?

The Scots have braw - which can be used ironically - but it's still not exactly what I'm looking for. (Although the Scots also have wallie gowdie which is worth using just for the sheer joy it brings to ones mouth.)

I wanted to write about the beautifully ugly grotesques (not gargoyles) in The Chapter House of York Minster. And I can't. At least not without referring to '90s pop sensation, Babybird who released an album called Ugly Beautiful. (Which is all you'll blimmin' well get when you put that term into a search engine.)

Even Lewis Carroll's invention of uglification hasn't cheered me. (If you don't know what to uglify is, you ARE a simpleton*.)

Some things are just so ugly they become beautiful. Certain breeds of dogs; odd looking babies; politicians.

But the grotesques in The Chapter House are so very ugly - they squish small children, wrestle pigs, stretch their noses and mouths,stick out their tongues, snarl, gibber, and gurn. How could they fail to be beautiful when they've gone to so much bother to achieve ugliness?

I know I shouldn't find this funny, but the UK's three-times National Gurning Champion - a man who had his teeth removed in order to make his face more pliable - died when a cliff face collapsed underneath him. Is there a sort of delicious irony in the man with the collapsible face meeting his end on a collapsible face?

For more examples of the Beautifully Ugly, click here.

* That's a direct quotation, not just me being rude.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


The economy's in a shambles, as is the airline industry (we can blame Iceland for both), as is my study (should I blame Iceland for that? O, go on then.) My kitchen cupboards have been tidier - all right, they're also in a shambles. I'll skirt over the state of my sock drawer (shambles) and knicker drawer (drawers' drawer?) Do I really need to spell it out? S.H.A.M.B.L.E.S.

And guess where I was yesterday? In The Shambles - in fact, due to the crowds of people who hadn't gone to the Harrogate Flower Show, I was shambling in The Shambles - looking at the shrine of Margaret of Clitherow who was pressed to death for her faith and not buying fudge. To clarify: Margaret wasn't pressed to death for not buying fudge. I wasn't buying fudge - which was difficult as every other shop in The Shambles sold it. (I won't tell you what the shops in Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate sold.)

I apologise if you think I'm being irreverent about Margaret. In my defence, it is as nothing compared to what the junior bugs in the Foreign Office have said about the Pope recently.

Yesterday, someone told me that in ages past, The Shambles were populated with slaughtermen and butchershops: shambles were the innards of butchered beasts which tumbled bloodily onto the street and made a mess - or a right shambles. However, research suggests that a shamble was the table or bench the beast was butchered on. No matter, shambles has come to mean mess and muddle, clutter, ruin or a scene of bloodshed, carnage and great devastation.

Perhaps because the airplanes were grounded and the airline industry propelled into complete shambles, we were saved - quite literally - from complete shambles.

Mother Tongue # 3

Location: House by a canal, somewhere in Yorkshire.
Characters: Mother, Daughter

Daughter: Mum, why have you got statues of naked men everywhere?
Ma: I inherited them from Great Uncle Alun. Do you like them?
Daughter: They're unusual ...
Ma: I wanted to put a sash on William -
Daughter: William?
Ma: The bronze without a head. I think he looks a bit cold -
Daughter: Yes, I can see that -
Ma: But your father thinks a sash would be tacky -
Daughter: Tacky?
Ma: And that William is inspirational as he is.
Daughter: Inspirational?
Ma: He might have said comforting. Or was it -?
Daughter: Did Great Uncle Alun have any naked female statues?
Ma: No, he said they were difficult to dust.
Daughter: Was Great Uncle Alun gay?
Ma: Don't be ridiculous! He was engaged once.
Daughter: When?
Ma: 1953. He broke it off.
Daughter: Why?
Ma: His fiancee phoned him wailing she was going to kill herself. Alun was so worried that he rang the police. They called at her flat and there she was, sitting in front of the gas fire eating chocolates in her stockinged feet.
Daughter: Right ...?
Ma: Well, how could he marry her after that?
Daughter: Because she didn't have her slippers on?
Ma: It made him wary of women. Come upstairs and I'll show you his engraving of the Monks of Bangor being put to the sword by the order of Ethelfrid. It's lovely.

Roll credits

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Round Two

Dear Mr Murdoch

I expect you're ever so miffed that the whole king-maker role is not going as planned. I believe your son, James, lost his rag a bit and stormed into the Indy offices threatening to duff up old Kelner (who we all know is softer than a floury white bap).

Since that Mick Clogg chap - you know, the reasonable one - started being, well, so reasonable not to mention boasting about the size of his big one ("size does matter") your beloved Rabid Cameroon has been looking steadily more gammon pink. Is that his natural hue? I ask because I'm about to repaint the littlest room and I wonder if it comes in wipe-clean vinyl silk?

I have to say that I feel it was a faux pas on Cameroon's part to admit that he couldn't keep it up with that soldier this morning. And he was meant to be taking the floor brush to politics, not rollicking in the sewers! No wonder SamCam's taken to wearing capes.

So, with all your plans going to hell in a handcart, Rupert, I'm writing to offer my services. I've got some excellent policies planned and have written my manifesto which I am sure will capture the Public's imagination.

My main thrust is that the wearing of tails will be de rigeur. (Note how easily I can slip into Fr. which will make winning the hearts and minds of Europe a doddle.)

That homo sapiens (ditto Lat.) are doomed to exist without tails is a source of great personal distress to me. (And Mick Clogg's boasts about big ones do not fall into the category of tail ownership however reasonably he might claim this to be the case.)

We'd all be much more complete with tails - we'd have better equilibrium for starters, could signal good or bad moods and they would encourage a nice through breeze in the gaps in our trousers.

Of course, I wouldn't impose a particular type of tail. Citizens could mix and match their tails according to mood: a shimmering fan of peacock feathers for dressy occasions; the slender tail of a black cat if a little flirtatious; the wagliferous tail of a Golden Labrador going thump, thump, thump on the sofa when one was feeling happy.

I've listened to two debates now - hours of my life I will never get back - and neither Gorgon Brain, Rabid Cameroon nor Mick Clogg have suggested anything half as interesting or even a tenth as original as Universal Tail Ownership.

So, do we have a deal? Or will you be sending James round to have a quiet word?


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Rescue Me

Last night, my brother sent me a text message: GU24 8AT. Google Earth. He's a chap of little conversation (having spent far too many years in Yorkshire).

If you care to look it up - and I cannot see why you would and not just take my word for it - you'll see the very large roof of a very large house and some trees. But what you won't see is an extravagant horse chestnut close to the front of the house.

You won't see it because when I was twelve years old, I got stuck in that tree - my knee firmly wedged in the forked trunk - and the Fire Brigade had to cut the tree down in order to rescue me.

(I am turning into my grandmother who, whenever she saw piles of bricks where a row of mean terraced houses had been demolished, would exclaim,"Look at those houses! They've gone!")

My mother had thrown warm soapy water over me - well, it helps dislodge tight rings from swollen fingers, so why not a girl from a tree? - and a drunken baronet (cashiered from the Royal Naval Pay Corps) had come too close for comfort with a chain saw. Meanwhile, I had lost all feeling in my feet and my brother (who had far too much to say in those days) was running round in circles chanting "I told her not to climb it, Mum, I told her not to climb it, Mum!"

I didn't like the house at GU24 8UT. We rented a flat there and were a family oddly at sea, scattered over three floors. My books from that time have a plaintive message scrawled inside the cover: Moptop, 1978, living in a house that I HATE. (Doubtless, I left them on my mother's pillow, bookmarked in case she missed the point.)

Having been forced to trip merrily down Memory Lane by a text message, I started thinking about all the times I've been rescued. (I shan't list them all; you'll only worry.)

And then I realised that I haven't been rescued in ages.

So I'm thinking of sitting in an airport lounge and getting repatriated somewhere. A Government Official could carry my hand luggage onto the coach - it'll be a photo opportunity. In fact, he could carry me onto the coach. That's bound to be worth a constituency or two. I'm talented at looking exhausted. If I pop a pair of the Small Boy's socks in my pocket I'll pass the she-hasn't-washed-in-days test and my hair is naturally unkempt.

I could pretend to be Welsh. Anyone can speak Welsh. Cobble a handful of consonants together and make throat-clearing noises - you'll easily pass as a Child of the Valleys. And then I'll get repatriated to the Welsh-speaking region of Patagonia. (From where I'll pretend to be English and get rescued again.)

But even if I just get carried onto a bus - and immediately frog-marched off it again - well, that little rescue will be enough.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Heart of the City

In the space
between two heart
Copper birds shake off their chains
A radio tower slumps, rubber-spined
Stone lions slip from plinths
Cathedrals lumber closer
Superlambanana bleats
Bronze statues query pigeons
Remind me again, who am I?
Anfield & Goodison wrestle
Three flirtatious Graces sing
Make us a mirror, River
Theatres belch trapped laughter
Parks play Chinese Whispers
Avenues of trees pass it on, pass it on
Docks stroke the flanks of ships
One-way systems unravel
city bones of wood, iron, glass, stone
and life pulses through the City
breath in its lungs
blood in its veins
and - at its heart - you

We want answers and we want them now!

Phooey to all these I said/you said/he said discussions. Trident-schmident! Tax-schmax! Volcanoes-schmolc -

I'll stop there: I'm making a point but it's giving me indigestion.

There are real, serious questions that not one single politician (of whatever persuasion) has been persuaded to answer. Questions that have been vexing large sections of the population for years. Me especially.

Should pineapple ever have a place on pizza?

Who invented the Bourbon Biscuit and have they done time for it?

Martine McCutcheon?

Why are Dave, Mick* and Gordon not engaging with the Issues of the Day? I blame Jeremey Paxman for letting them off lightly.

*Edit: Nick. The man in the yellow tie is called Nick.

Monday, 19 April 2010

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Sir or Madam

I am taking a moment from my busy schedule of needlepoint, deportment classes, quadrille practice and conversational 17th Century French to firmly suggest that I have had enough disgruntlement in my life this year and therefore feel I am deserving of a Disgruntlement Pass for the rest of 2010.

I hardly think this is too much to ask.

Whilst I am making demands, I'd also like the word 'scum' to be added to the list of words due to be rehabilitated this decade. I know you are planning a public awareness campaign about the name Adolf. You say it has been the recipient of general opprobrium for over seventy years and if we are not going to drown in Jacks, Connors, Joes and Harrys, then we need to spread our nominal net a little wider.

Fine. There is nothing wrong with the name Agnes either, so rehabilitate her whilst you're at it.

But back to scum. Apparently, I cleverly - and regularly - achieve the status of both middle class and scum. I never put roquette on my open sandwiches (closed sandwiches are infra dig), nor do I have a 'Weekly', nor do I sponsor a one-legged seamstress in Papua New Guinea - and crow about it - so I fail to see how I am in any way middle class.

I am not well-bred enough for Upper Class. (Father was in Trade.) I haven't found a satisfactory term for the - hmm - little girls' room (twee!), lav (common!), washroom (I want a pee not a wash!), and I'm never sure whether I should say napkin or serviette. Though I do use proper cotton handkerchiefs. All things considered, perhaps we could focus less on class and more on scum ...?

I wish to reclaim the word scum. I want it redefining. In fact, I shall personally redefine it. For am I not fragrant? Do I not float like the lightest of thistledown, dancing in the gentlest of Zephyrs?

Well, I'll grant you a less thistledown-like woman you are unlikely to meet, but I am fragrant. I currently smell of Ginger & Nutmeg, an expensive cologne from a chic emporium with haughty saleswomen where I dithered and shilly-shallied about the purchase for months; spraying it on my wrists, wandering off through the cobbled streets of Deva Victrix, sniffing, getting other people - often strangers - to sniff me. How foolish I was to be so cautious! It is a daily delight to smell like a steamed pudding.

Scum is the scent of sticky, stodgy desserts. Scum is the throwing-caution-to-the-winds purchase of reckless (some might call it cavalier) sofas. Scum is the art of making men in uniform giggle unexpectedly. Scum is an unseemly devotion to ones virtual fish. Scum is not buying the spray paint (with which you plan to deface several unsightly political billboard posters) on your debit card in case the unique chemical identifier in the paint is traced to the store, CCTV cameras and, eventually (due to the pigeon chest and dragging left leg) to oneself.

Scum is - quite clearly - delicious. I am proud to be scum!

So, if you could put your considerable all into reclaiming it - phone grumpy old Rupert, Paul, Jeremy and Nick and get them onside - I foresee a happy and satisfactory resolution for us all.

Yours in anticipation,


P.S. I enclose an S.A.E. (1st Class) for the prompt dispatch of the Disgruntlement Pass. Merci.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Poetic Sex

I think I should regret sleeping with a poet.
Risk seeing my immortalisation in verse -
or worse, the act of love itself described.
All that cleaving, splitting, spearing,
prancing about with his rampant lance.
Petals, rosebuds, blooming flowers -
a fruit basket of ripe metaphors -
when really it was only sex.

He might notice the varicose vein
on the back of my knee, my uneven breasts,
the ropey scar above my pubic bone, the arse
that lost the battle with gravity.

His tongue would trace the silver
snail tracks of stretched skin,
cursive writing, legacy of pregnancy.
Reading my stories with observant eyes,
tasting secrets with his lips, licking
the words right out of my mouth -

I'd be plagiarised.

Would my thighs be pale and trembling,
like semi-set blancmange?
Or merely warm and welcoming?
Could my neck inspire?

Far better to sleep with plumbers
who appreciate the pipe-work.
Electricians know an on-off switch
and can make sparks fly.
The upholsterer comes home
to well-padded hipbones, a bolstered chest.
The cartographer finds his way without a map -
but isn't afraid to ask directions.
The potter, joiner, the mechanic -
 all are clever with their hands.

But the poet, the tender, cruel poet with his gift for words
I'll leave for all the other more courageous girls.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Sofa, so good

I am saving up.

I am saving up like billy-oh.

I am saving up because a new shop has opened. I noticed it yesterday as I was completing my paper-round. It sells sofas. Not any old sofas. According to the legend above the shop, it sells Cavalier Sofas.

You can see why I am counting all my pennies and putting them into a jar. How much joy could a cavalier sofa bring to ones day-to-day existence? Even the prospect of a cavalier sofa is bringing me joy. Just the name of the cavalier sofa is bringing me joy. Sitting on a cavalier sofa is bound to be an adventure. An adventure filled with joy.

Think of all the things you could do on a cavalier sofa ...

The shop also sells cavalier carpets, but I suspect they may verge on life-threatening. In my experience, you need a carpet* to be dependable, not cavalier.

* Though think of all the dangerous things you could do on a cavalier carpet ...

Friday, 16 April 2010

That Leaders' Debate in Full

Location: TV studio, all hot lights and melting make-up.
BL: Blue Lagoon (as in The Creature From The)
RM: Red Mist
YF: That Yellow Fellow

YF: Yes, you could reasonably say that I am wearing a yellow tie. I am a reasonable chap but I'd much prefer purple (another two-syllabled colour) -

BL: Frankly, we have let you down. We have let our nannies down, our butlers and our parlour-maids down, but most of all we have let ourselves down -


YF: Politics can be different. (LOOKS AT THE CAMERA AND SMILES VERY REASONABLY.) We need more local colour in politics - but not yellow because it makes my teeth look -

BL: Yes, and on that subject immigration really needs to be sorted out frankly. I'm not racist but a cap -


YF: I think a reasonable and fair immigration policy -

BL: Frankly, a cap is necessary -


YF: It would be reasonable to say that there are good caps and bad caps -

BL: I visited Crosby. No-one there was wearing a cap. Instead they were setting fire to houses and frankly murdering people left, right and centre -

YF: So you accept there is a centre? And it's not just an unreasonable choice between Left and Right? (HE WINKS AT THE CAMERA.)


YF: We should stop young burglars becoming old burglars -

BL: Old burglars are a drain on the pension system. By 2030 there will be 11 billion old burglars in the UK. Frankly, the system cannot cope!


YF: The Government is producing Colleges of Crime, it would be reasonable to suggest that short sentences aren't working.


YF: Those aren't actually sentences -

BL: At my old college, one never studied crime. One did Latin, and Greek and Fives and Flogging. We need to -


YF: Things need to change -


BL: We've been advocating shorter Lords for years now, no-one over 5' 3" -

YF: If I may say something, and I know this isn't very reasonable, but I'd like to attack the Status Quo -


BL: I want to set teachers free! Frankly.


BL: Teachers wanna be free to do what they wanna do. And they wanna get loaded. And they wanna have a good time. That's what we're gonna do - Oh, gosh, I've got children -

YF: Well, I think it would be reasonable to suggest that we get rid of all pot plants and paperclips in Whitehall -

BL: And another little stork will be peeping down my chimney soon -


And so on and so forth ...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ging Gang Goolie

As a child, I wasn't allowed to join Brownies or Guides. Instead I was marched off to Christian Endeavour which was as much fun as it sounds. The highlight of any meeting was Miss Pick's Illustrated Bible Stories using Fuzzy Felt on a green baize board, and the occasional sword drill.

No, nothing as exciting as weapon training. Sword drill entailed tucking a copy of the Revised Standard under your arm and clutching it with your other hand. The Group Leader (not Miss Pick, because she'd be untangling her Fuzzy Felt*) would shout "2 Corinthians, Chapter 3, Verse 12" and you'd rifle through your Bible until you'd found the verse, leap to your feet, proclaim said verse and be presented with a pencil from the Scripture Union Bookshop, printed with the message The End is Nigh.

O, what a jolly time we all had. I spent many Tuesday evenings counting the diamonds in the moth-eaten Turkish carpet that covered the uneven floorboards of the vestry. If I close my eyes, I can still see that carpet ...

The younger generation of moptops went to Woodcraft Folk (Hitler Youth for Hippies) where they made greetings cards for prisoners of conscience at Christmas time, appliqued anti-war banners and got food poisoning at the annual summer camp where the camp cook did dreadful things with lentils.

Now the Small Boy is an Explorer. So far he's earned several badges. The Chopping Up A Piano With An Axe And Setting It On Fire Badge and the Dismantling A Photocopier Over Several Weeks And Bringing Home Odd Looking Bits of Electrical Components Which Clog Up The Hoover Badge.

Tonight he earned his third badge: The Riding Around A Field On a Sit-Upon Lawnmower Badge.

I'm not entirely convinced Chief Scout of the World Baden-Powell** would approve ... But then he was fond of watching boys bathe naked. I expect the Skinny Dipping in a Shallow Stream Badge will be saved for the warmer months.

*smut intended
** spooky coincidence. Robert Stephenson was BP's godfather. RS is SB's distant ancestor from whom he gets his middle name.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Accidents in the Home

Don't swing on your chair
or you'll fall into a rice pudding!

This is the story.
A vast dish cools
on sand-scrubbed stones,

Sunday chicken stretched
to ten, Megan calls
I want the left leg! then

leans back, slips, falls -
a panicked arc.
Pudding boils
on milky skin and frantic screams

before the dark claims her.
Three days she lies       
- teetering.

Scalds caught her neck,
a scarlet scarf squeezing breath;
burnt arm, back, breast - a puckered
vest of carelessness. A lapse

that leaves undressing for the bathroom,
days spent on beaches fully clad,
a softness
under that hard, scarred skin.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Sex (Part 2)

I had a very useful idea this week. Very useful. The School Governors (I'm an upstanding* member of Society, don't you know) were discussing the school's sex education video. They discuss it at every meeting - I have my suspicions as to why - and never come to a conclusion save for the video being unsatisfactory.

I suggested that we make our own - a suggestion that was not minuted. Given the political climate, my idea seems eminently sensible and cost-effective. Who knows what the next Schools' Budget will be like? We might not be able to afford chairs let alone educational videos.

A friend, taught by monks back in the Mists of Time (Ouch! Ouch! Pax!) was told by Brother Brian: "Boys, you have reached the age when no doubt you will be having certain thoughts. Don't."

Later my friend was informed (by a nun) that if ever a girl sat on his knee, a Yellow Pages Telephone Directory should be placed upon his lap first.

I am collecting unwanted/outdated editions of the Yellow Pages just in case. As I said, the political climate is uncertain.

The actors - male and female - in the school's current sex education video clearly come from The Hairy Casting Agency - we're talking wrists to ankles - and they wander naked up and down landings, getting in and out of beds, occasionally appearing in freeze frame whilst the narrator explains what's what. It makes the children anxious. They assume one must don a gorilla suit before having sex. (Which would help prevent teenage pregnancies, so it's not without its advantages.) The animated - in all senses of the word - sperm are the size of handbags, and this adds to the general level of distress.

When Small Boy watched the sex education video, he was pale and feverish for some hours afterwards.

"Would you like to talk about it?" I asked (crossing my fingers and hoping the answer would be no). "Is there anything you'd like to ask?"

"Yes," he said weakly from his prone position on the sofa. "How does pubic hair know when to stop?"

* unintentional. Probably Freudian.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Overheard Conversation #17

Location: Foyer of a Police Station. A pale wood counter with a bell.
Characters: Woman, middle-aged (though it pains me to say it). Police Officer (even older - ha!)

PC: Can I help you?
PC: How can I help you?
Woman: I've been receiving nasty emails -
Woman: I have them here. (SHE WAVES A SHEAF OF PAPER.)
PC: Do you know who is sending these emails?
Woman: A poet.
PC: A poet?
Woman: A disgruntled one.
PC: And he's sending you emails - Why?
Woman: Because's he's very cross.
PC: No, why's he sending them to you?
Woman: I run a poetry group -
PC: You're a poet, too?
Woman: Well, yes, I suppose I am. But I'm not writing very much at the moment.
PC: Hmm... So a very cross poet is sending you, another poet, emails? Do they - ahem - rhyme?
Woman: Officer, I am very well that this sounds like a plotline from Midsommer Murders - perhaps you could read the emails? (SHE HANDS THEM OVER.)
PC (SCANNING ONE): He is cross, isn't it? More than cross -
Woman: Furious?
PC: He likes the eff word -
Woman: And the C word. (SHE LEANS OVER AND POINTS AT THE PAPER.) He uses it six times in one sentence there.
PC: Is his spelling always this bad?
Woman: Yes. (SHE POINTS AGAIN.) See, just there he says I'll wake up in hospital with my kneecaps missing.
PC: Does he now?
Woman: And no teeth.
PC: Pleasant chap. Why you?
Woman: Why me what?
PC: Why's he sending 'em to you?
Woman: Because I asked him not to send me any more emails about hanging Tony Blair.
PC: He wants to hang Tony Blair?
Woman: Amongst others.
PC: Others?
Woman: He's not overly keen on the Dalai Lama either. (BEAT.) And the Pope makes him apoplectic
PC: That was quite poetic, Madam.
Woman: Thank you.
PC (SELF-CONSCIOUSLY): I write a bit of poetry myself.
Woman: Really?
PC: Nothing fancy. (BEAT.) Humour mostly. (BEAT.) Would you like to come through? I'll need to take some details. (SHOUTS) Bob! Bring a tea through for Sylvia Plath here!

Roll credits

Drop the Ball

I was once given a small book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Sweaty Chicken Soup - or somesuch. I forget what exactly. It was a (mutters) Self Help Manual, full of wistful photographs of tanned, lean-limbed people and postive suggestions.

However, one page did prove useful. I read it whilst I was waiting for someone. (The gasman, the postman, Leonardo - again, I forget who exactly.) I stored the information in my constantly churning tombola and it floated to the surface at just the right moment several years later ...

... Last summer, in fact, when I was sent on a training course with an organisation who are the subject of much internet chatter. Are they the Illuminati? The Masons? Blue Lizards who've puffed molecularly and - one could say - spectacularly out of long-dormant volcanoes? I can't say more than this as they are dreadfully litigious. What do I care? I met some nice people and had several good lunches.

On the third day, a session with NLP practitioners was scheduled. I can't help feeling that NLP is money for old rope. If I remember rightly, the NLPer said the physical reaction for fear is the same physical reaction for excitement: increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shallow breathing. It is only the label that Society has given the reaction which differentiates between pleasure and anxiety. I must retrain my brain not to accept negative labels. Next time someone runs at me brandishing a machete screaming 'I'm going to chop you up into little pieces' I must remember to tell myself that I'm excited. Excited.

Anyway, we were put into pairs and instructed to reflect each other's insecurities and anxieties but in a positive manner, in order to stop them being insecurities and anxieties. Well, that was the theory.

I was paired with a lovely chap. Let's call him Lorenzo (for that was his name). English was not his first language, although he spoke it very well.

Lorenzo: I am anxious about my workload. Everyone comes to me with their problems. They are piling up on my desk. I don't have time to do my own work. I am drowning in problems.
M (WHISPERING): What am I supposed to say?
Lorenzo (ALSO WHISPERING): I don't know. I wasn't listening to the instructions.
M (WHISPERING): Something to do with reflection ...?
Lorenzo (WHISPERING): Bravo! Yes, you must repeat back to me.
M (WHISPERING): But if I reflect your problems back at you, it'll be awfully depressing.
Lorenzo (WHISPERING): This is true ...
M (WHISPERING): Shall I improvise?
Lorenzo (WHISPERING): Yes, but you must do it quickly because that woman is watching us.
M (LOUDLY): Tell me your problems, Lorenzo. What is troubling you?
Lorenzo: I have too many problems to deal with! People come to me: I can't do this, I can't do that. What should I do about this and that? My desk is overwhelmed with problems! I cannot work for problems!
Lorenzo: Yes?
M: You must visualise all these problems as balls.
Lorenzo: Balls?
M: Yes. All these problems are balls. Some are little balls, some are big balls.
Lorenzo: The problems are balls?
M: Yes, balls. People are throwing your their balls. And you are catching them.
Lorenzo: Yes, this is correct.
M: And now your arms are so full of other people's balls that you are not able to handle your own balls.
Lorenzo: This makes sense.
M: You are being buried by other people's balls.
Lorenzo: Yes!
M: Your own balls are being neglected.
Lorenzo: Yes!
M: So, when someone throws you their balls, either drop them -
Lorenzo: Drop them?
M: Or stroke them gently and throw them back.
Lorenzo: Stroke them gently ...?
M: Yes. You must never grasp anyone else's balls firmly. A gentle, fleeting touch and back they go.
Lorenzo: But - this is genius! Cara, grazie mille! You have changed my life!

Minutes later we regrouped and were asked to report back on what we had learned from the exercise. Lorenzo was very excited.

'It has been life-changing!'

The NLP practioner beamed.

'Moptop has told me I must stroke other people's balls lightly as then I will be able to handle my own balls with confidence.'

The beam vanished.

Who says self-help books are a waste of time?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Things I Do When I Should Be Doing Something Else

  1. Check my pockets for loose change
  2. Bake cakes
  3. Make jam
  4. Make chutney (It's all been inedible so has been given up as a bad job.)
  5. Read novels
  6. Read poetry
  7. Visit bookshops
  8. Play chess
  9. Play online Scrabble (Abandoned as it Got Out of Hand.)
  10. Play with my virtual fish. Singular.  (Don't ask.)
  11. Get cross with the Daily Mail
  12. Fire off emails to the Daily Mail
  13. Wash windows
  14. Pull up dandelions
  15. Groom my eyebrows
  16. Rearrange my notebook collection
  17. Stroke the pure, virgin paper in my notebook collection
  18. Daydream
  19. Drink coffee
  20. Dust the bookshelves
  21. Paint my toenails
  22. Write lists
  23. Walk round the park
  24. Stare at the river
  25. Witter
  26. Trawl Facebook
  27. Do Sudoku puzzles
  28. Make bread
  29. Listen to BBC Radio 4
  30. Doodle
  31. Ink in all the Os in the newspaper headlines
  32. Despair at Disgruntled Poets
  33. Debate with Disgruntled Poets (Argue with an idiot and a spectator won't be able to tell the difference.)
  34. Search for quotations by P.G. Wodehouse and Mark Twain
  35. Despair that I never have and likely never will say anything as clever (see above).
  36. Wonder at the idiosyncracies of antique glass
  37. Consider the clouds
  38. Chop vegetables
  39. Make soup
  40. Be distracted by dictionaries, looking for the word that I thought I'd remember but have forgotten when I was looking for another word which meant something else entirely
  41. Roam Blogger
  42. Dehead Lady Penelope
  43. Think about what I really ought to be doing
  44. Be overwhelmed with guilt
  45. Sigh loudly
  46. Lie down
  47. Stare at the cracks in the ceiling
  48. Calculate how little time I have left to do the thing I ought to be doing
  49. Play Winner Takes it All on the piano. (Badly.)
  50. Pick up my pen, put it down again. Google recipes for quince.

One Hundred, Not Out

... and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets, I have reached post 100 on this blog and - and! - on this very same day, which shall be a Red Letter Day in my diary, I have completed the Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword. Completed as in answered every single clue, with good fit, and with all the answers making perfect sense. In other words, I have not just inked in letters that form obscure and archaic expletives in Croatian.

What has a disturbing illustration of an insect got to do with this? You may well ask. And if you do, I'll answer - because I'm very good at answering at the moment, having finished the Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword only this morning.

My very baddest friend - differentiated from another friend, the Grate Fiend, who is also extremely bad but directs her wickedness in different directions - once made me read out the Test Match highlights from my phone over lunch. It was all men vigorously rubbing their balls against their thighs and bowling maidens over - and that was the BBC, not some smutty satellite channel. I got some odd looks from the people at adjacent tables, I can tell you, and someone's fettucini clearly went down the wrong way.

Several people - okay, men - have tried to explain the rules of this tedious game but I cannot fix them in my mind. Surely anything that is played over five whole days, breaks for afternoon tea and then has an indecisive result cannot be classed as a sport?

Crossword compilers are very fond of cricketing allusions, but luckily yesterday's Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword didn't have any, which may be why I was able to solve it. (As in answer every single clue.)

36 down - Final stage of astronaut's journey must be practical and realistic (4-2-5)

52 down - Silver is removed from hallway - it's no longer used (5)

The last clue solved- which had puzzled me for almost 24 hours - was 1 across. Female priest in Mass not normal (7).

There's a trick to doing cryptic crosswords. My mother, whose day isn't complete unless she has done the Telegraph's Cryptic Crossword, says one needs to get into the mind of the compiler. This has become increasingly more difficult since newspapers started using computer-generated crosswords. There is very little wit or joy to be had in a computer-generated crossword.

There was a how-to series in The Guardian - in fact, there have been several over the years - but I found it more puzzling than the puzzles themselves. What I do find fascinating is that cryptic crosswords highlight the way my brain works. I can stare and stare and stare at a clue and draw a blank. The next day, I glance at it again and get the answer straight off. My brain likes tangents and approaches things side on. It makes connections between numbers and so-called sports and insects. It doesn't like to think too hard - basically it's workshy and idle - and if I try to force it in one direction it revolts and lies down, refusing to cooperate.

In thinking - a little too hard - about how my brain works, I now have an image of wild horses galloping round in circles, trampling men with red balls and stains on their trousers.

I have an acquaintance - a former bricklayer - whose job involves asking questions of patients whilst their brains are being operated on; the tops of their skulls flipped open like the shell of a soft-boiled egg. Logically, I know that I haven't got hundreds and thousands (15 down - Sweet little things paired off in accommodation - 8,3,9) of thoughts and words rolling round in my head like a ever-churning tombola, but to be on the safe side, the top of my skull had better stay put - in case the former bricklayer gets trampled in the stampede.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Crystal Clear

A long, long time ago I was dragged along to a Crystal Healing Workshop. In Cambridge. (Where else?) It was run by two women - long skirts, bangles, hennaed hair - named Amber and Topaz. (I am not making this up.) They spoke in very breathy, gentle voices as though a breeze was threading through a thicket of bamboo; the slender, elongated leaves rustling ever so slightly. (Crystal Healing Workshops do odd things to your analogies.)

Amber and Topaz informed me and the Americans - there were a lot of very serious Americans at this workshop - that the colour blue is a healing colour. But I expect you knew that? Blue skies, blue seas, blue eyes, blue Smarties ...

Tune into the colour blue, said Amber (or Topaz). Stand up, walk about the room, make small circular movements with your hands at hip height. Breathe.

I was having trouble breathing. I was standing in a corner of the room, facing a wall, avoiding eye contact with any of the serious Americans. I was trying to control my shoulders. (They were somewhere up near my ears.) An American with very black hair and halitosis asked if I was having an asthma attack.

Have you ever been in a situation where you really ought not to laugh and it's awfully difficult not to? I once saw a young man stuff his whole fist in his mouth in an attempt not to laugh at a very serious poetry reading. He failed.

After we'd tuned into the colour blue*, Topaz produced a whacking great lump of rock from her embroidered shoulderbag. The stone was black and misshapen, like a clinker raked from the ashes of a fire.

This crystal, said Topaz shimmying the stone in her hand like an ex-Miss Great Britain flogging fake diamonds on a cable T.V. shopping channel, is revered by Native American Indians. Isn't it, Amber?

Yes, said Amber. It is.

It is revered, continued Topaz, because of its amazing ability to assist and improve memory.

What's it called? asked Amber.

I'm afraid I don't remember, said Topaz.

At which point I fled the room in a less than decorous fashion.

* This post does not contain a subliminal political message; I've banged on about politics a fair bit of late and it doesn't do to bore. I'd just like help in identifying the lump of black rock - on the off-chance it will improve my memory. Not that anyone needs reminding about Margaret Thatcher ...

Friday, 9 April 2010

And They're Off!

1 - Fistum Handy (130-1) 68 stone, 2 hands (which are not afraid of Hard Work). Lumbers like an old carthorse but shouldn't be underestimated in a fight to the finishing line. Last race before retirement unless his owner, Pauline, shoots him first. Out of P&O Cabins and Endless Class War. Tough going. Red nylon (as silks are not for the likes of him.)

2 - Gorgeous George (26-1). Slippery little gelding who'll weedle into any gaps but has absolutely no tangible experience. Heaven Help Us All is a safe bet. Out of Cocked Pinkie and Fancy Wallpaper, abandoned Giddy Gideon. Likes the going rolled by the Head Gardener, trimmed with antique silver nail scissors and weed-free. Blue silks (of the highest quality.)

3 - Call Me Dave (11-2 joint unfavourite). Out of Eton Mess and Beat The Boys. (Dammed by Bullingdon and His Posh Pants). Suggestions of early doping but, as is ever the case with all pedigree ponies, carpet-brushed. Smooth on his feet but is there substance beneath the soft surface? Staying Power (144-1) might be his downfall. Came out of Lamont's Lament's stable; trained by Something of the Night (666-1). Blue silks (of even higher quality).

4 - Son of the Manse (11-2 joint unfavourite). Short-tempered stallion with a tendency to nip; heavy in the haunches. Out of Brown Bottom and Moral Compass. Likes the going fair and even; plans to redistribute the Tote. Could be ham-strung by Terminal Sulk but would like a sure start. Currently training with Lags Behind and led a merry dance by Rupert's Grudge. Red silks with gloomy grey flashes.

5 - Cactus Burner (81-1). Nifty little thoroughbred who likes a jump (30 at the last count) but is much happier in a two horse race. Out of Imperial Russian and Champagne Charlie. Suffers from memory lapses so might wander off course but will charge at the barred gates (of Westminster) in this his maiden race. Double Dutch was an early partner, followed by Amateur Dramatics. Yellow silks.

Rank Outsiders - too many to mention.

Ladies & Gentleman, place your bets!

Wildlife on One Special Edition

The BBC aims to be the standard bearer for fair, accurate and impartial election coverage, offering unprecedented breadth, depth and insight.

All of the political parties accept the need to explain their policies in a relevant manner and engage the interest of the 'switched off' voter.

In order to achieve this, The BBC has commissioned a series of special programmes. In this ground-breaking Wildlife on One special, Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, presents a documentary about lions. Over to you, Nick.

Nick: What are lions? Lions are a species which comprises of individuals which resemble each other and may interbreed. So White Lions are lions, although lions and tigers are all large cats which share many resemblances and can interbreed but shouldn't, because lions are not tigers just as sausages are not chops, or a lasagne a cottage pie - no self-respecting English woman would ever put garlic in a cottage pie - even though they all contain meat, including the lions and tigers. Only a foreigner would eat a lion, a tiger or a lasagne.

Nick: Here we see the Tawny Lion. Note how it lounges around doing very little, being a drain on the Savannah and claiming bogus illegal antelope-seeker status.

Nick: Whilst the poor White Lion yawns with exhaustion after another hard day roaring at foreign visitors. How much happier the White Lion would be if he was working in a British factory making British goods for British people! Corrupt Government policy ensures that White Lions are moved to the bottom of the list for a place in a Council Zoo. Not to mention the lack of levitating magnetic railways in their locality - something we would address immediately. I believe in levitation. Always have, always will. And I will personally fuel several offshore windfarms. But back to the lions -
Nick: Another Tawny Lion standing around doing nothing. When I am Prime Minister, I will deport Tawny Lions who are here illegally - which means all of them. No more Tawny Lions will be allowed in the country except for truly exceptional cases: larger than average size manes, roars which span three octaves, the ability to juggle three impala whilst drinking a glass of water.

Nick: The pale White Lion, with the calm, gentle and friendly personality, gambles [sic] through the green pastures of England, an indigenous species happy to feast on chops and sausages from British butchers. No more raw wildebeest. Or lasagne.

We will introduce competitive sports and corporal punishment for little baby lions and compulsory Billy Smart's Circus training for all the rest. We don't want our lions jumping through Brussel's hoops! My party represents the Best of British! Who else will give you magnetic levitating railways? Take pride in the pride!

Next Week Vince Cable judges Strictly Come Dancing and David Cameron licks Nigella on Can't Cook, Won't Cook.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

A Bumpy Ride by Rev. M. Tawdry

Are you sitting comfortably, Children? Then I shall begin.

Gordon was a great big engine who lived in a station with a highly polished black door. Gordon was grumpy and let off steam - toot! toot! - when he got cross which was often. (Allegedly.) Sometimes Gordon used naughty words and the Fat Controller (of BBC1) had to bleep them out. And sometimes, when Gordon got very cross, he crashed into the back of other engines and tried to knock them off the rails. This made Christopher, another smaller, grey and not so important engine, get all huffy and puffy because he didn't like anything running into the back of him. Actually, Christopher only got huffy because he said he'd be buggered if he'd get puffy.

"I'll be buggered if I get puffy," said Christopher.

Percy Posh, a smart engine that only pulled First Class carriages (called Samantha) lived in a well-appointed shed in a nice part of town. But Percy wanted to live in Gordon's station with the shiny front door.

"I want to be the Most Important Engine in the country," said Percy Posh. "I want to live in the station with the shiny front door."

Gordon growled. "Push off, Percy Posh!" Toot! Toot!

Gordon put on his brakes on and became very difficult to budge. All of Gordon's carriages (called David and Edward and Harriet) queued up behind Gordon and got in the way quite a bit too. Sometimes it was difficult to tell whether David and Edward and Harriet were helping Gordon or trying to push him off the rails and into the scrapyard where an engine called Tony lived. (Tony had turned a strange bronze colour and drank a lot of oil.)

So Percy's other carriages (called George and William and Kenneth) queued up behind Percy - except for Kenneth who sidled into a siding and puffed up a lot of thick, grey smoke - and between them all the railways came to a standstill for a whole month (although it felt like much longer), which was very boring for all the poor passengers who just wanted to pop to the shops and not have to think about who should be the Most Important Engine in the country.

A passenger called Motorway Man came and waited on the platform whilst all the engines were huffing and puffing (except Christopher who, we've established, only huffed) but he was somewhat of a distraction and really of very little interest, Children, because he liked nasty cars and horrid, horrid motorways and new-build housing estates, not lovely old stations or big, shiny engines, and could not run his own finances let alone a railway, so we'll discard him.

The End

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Bed & Breakfast Association: Epsom/Ewell Branch

Area Standards Sub-Committee - 6th April 2010

Represented by Bideawile (2 beds, 1 en suite), Wits End (1 double, 1 single, jacuzzi bath, gold taps), Dunroamin (family room, colour TV), Thistledo (1 double, bunk beds, Goblin Teasmaid).

1. Mrs Lyle (Bideawile) reported that a recent guest had put the complimentary shower cap over the smoke alarm and puffed on a pipe. It had taken three boil washes to get the smell out of the candlewick bedspread and the ruffle trim had shrunk on the left leaving it all puckered when she dressed the bed.

1-i. Mr Grayling (Wits End) established that he wouldn't give house room to a puf -

2. Time was limited said Miss Pugh (Thistledo) and reported that the local water seemed much harder these days and consequently her consumption of Fairy Non-Bio had increased two-fold.

2-i. Mr Grayling (Wits End) reiterated he had no room in his house for fai -

3. Very limited, agreed Mr Singh (Dunroamin) and had Miss Pugh (Thistledo) tried those knobbly balls? They had been sold in Woolworths (a moment's silence for that great emporium) in the household section but she might be able to buy them on the Shopping Channel?

3-i. Mr Grayling (Wits End) insisted that as far as he was concerned, they could keep their knobs and ba -

4. Moving on, said Mrs Lyle (Bidawile), a vegetarian family who had stayed for a week had played havoc with her sewers and after the plumber had sorted out the Water Closet, she'd made a loss.

4-1. Mr Grayling (Wits End) said they should all stay in the sodding clo -

5. Is that really the time? said Mr Singh (Dunroamin) and passed round a flyer from the local garden centre. All bedding plants 25% off. Mr Singh had planted up his window boxes with primulas and pansies and they looked lovely.

5-i. Mr Grayling (Wits End) emphasised that no bloody pans -

6. How delightful! said Miss Pugh (Thistledo) but she had to admit she had a soft spot for tulips, always a gay display.

6-i. Mr Grayling (Wits End) asserted that he'd take a shotgun to any ga -

7. I was thinking of red, white and blue for the summer, said Mr Singh (Dunroamin). Aubretia. Patriotic hanging baskets, something to honour Her Majesty the Queen.

7-i. Mr Grayling (Wits End) said he didn't care what the European Court of Human Rights said, no mincing quee -

8. Has anyone thought of offering dinners as well as breakfasts? asked Mrs Lyle (Bidawile). She'd found a lovely recipe for minced dumplings which you could put in the oven on a low heat and which were hardly any bother at all.

8-i. Mrs Pugh (Thistledo) said did she mean faggots?

8-ii. Don't even think about it, said Mr Singh (Dunroamin) and kicked Mr Grayling on the shin.

And so the meeting was drawn somewhat poetically to a close. Date of next meeting: 6th May 2010