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Pandora's New Box

January 3, 2010


Well…it’s back to the grind of keeping you ungrateful fuckers amused, I suppose…

They arrange these things better in Morocco. As a descendant of a pal of the Prophet (May God Grant His Luggage Not Be Searched), I was treated with entirely appropriate consideration: Yes, Effendi; No, Effendi; Your wish is my command, Effendi; the King wonders if you might spare him a moment, Effendi

But it’s back to dealing with riff-raff, who don’t appreciate these important distinctions. Oh, well…my shoulders are broad. My patience is legendary. You’ll miss me when I’m dead (not that I believe I’m going to die: dying is too, too vulgar, my dear. I leave that sort of thing to the likes of Mowbray. In fact, I might even help speed him along to his just reward, i.e. decaying in a hole in the ground).

In the mean time, in between time, ain’t we got…erm, Terza Rima, actually…

Let’s have terza rima on what the future may hold.

Give me time to unpack, settle in and get half a bottle of Calvados down my neck and I’ll do a terza rima myself…


Noone has ever found a way of avoiding history it is upon us and around us all. The only thing when you look at the cuning vilaninous faces in our class you wonder if history may not soon be worse than ever.

–Nigel Molesworth in Down With Skool by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle (1958)

Worse Than Ever

The past’s a mess, an awful crime
But wait until tomorrow comes:
You’ll beg to travel back in time.

The future’s clumsy, it’s all thumbs
The cards it deals are often crap
And lead to losing tidy sums.

The future is a kind of trap
You’ll gnaw your leg off when you’re caught
And be tomorrow’s gimpy sap.

It’s coming sooner than you thought:
The past’s long gone, today’s too short.

  1. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 4, 2010 12:17 AM

    The strain of family-based communication over Xmas has left my life-force severely depleted, so that hole may not be far away. Oddly enough, there’s a tradition among the Mowbrays that we are descended from one of J Christ’s entourage, something which seemed to be well-known among the local community. My grandfather was often hailed with a cheery ‘Judas!’ as he made his way to work down t’pit during the General Strike.

  2. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2010 12:33 AM

    I, on the contrary, spent a very reviving holiday period. Long walks in the mountains; cooking nourishing taguines and preparing kibba (a sort of conical meat-ball with fried onions and pine-nuts in the centre, the whole covered in a crust of cracked wheat and then fried in olive oil), tabboulah, houmous, baba gannoush etc.

    Long evenings playing cards in front of a roaring fire; trips to the village, where, (unlike almost anywhere else), my opinions on world affairs were much in demand; Inez knited me a scarf that’s long enough to secure a harpoon should I ever take leave of my senses a decide to take up whaling…oh, and I smoked some lovely hash, something I rarely do now that I’m in my dotage.

    No TV, no radio, no internet, no papers…I was awfully loathe to come back at all.

  3. InvisibleJack permalink
    January 4, 2010 12:57 AM

    Futures Waiting to Unhappen

    I walk inside a wheel that turns a wheel,
    that turns a wheel in turn; a tumbling clock
    that takes me through the real into the real.

    Stars are shining rivets, novae unlock
    the shuddering spokes till the outer rim
    shatters into futures that merely mock

    the many pasts they come from – pasts so dim
    they have shone only in their feeble now.
    But what is now, to me or to that him

    that I have been or will become? Come, show
    me, now, the cities of our future selves,
    the future me shouting at myself. How

    strange they look, all those futures stacked on shelves,
    about to slip into their pasts, themselves.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

    (This poem has been written using the severe toothache compositional technique. I think that Melton Mowbray may have invented it, but I’m no longer sure of anything as my face won’t stop hurting.)

  4. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2010 9:47 AM

    You wrote that with a toothache, Jack? Bravo! Perhaps, in some people, suffering really does enoble.

    I found that oil of cloves helps, being so painful and nasty-tasting that it pushes the toothache into the background.

  5. January 4, 2010 11:12 AM

    If I don’t get my glasses fixed
    The future will be hard to see
    It’s true to say my eyesight’s mixed

    Mid distance is seen blurrily
    Further away is seen much worse
    Glasses cost a fortune unfortunat’ly

    A new purchase would be a curse
    So damn you wretched myopia
    Putting a strain upon my purse

    Causing me financial dystopia.
    But I need to see what’s out the door
    Not live in short-sighted utopia

    A cheap pair is what I’m looking for
    But it’s likely that I’ll have to pay more.

  6. InvisibleJack permalink
    January 4, 2010 12:13 PM

    Oil of cloves won’t work, sadly. My toothache, which has been chronic and continuous for well over a week, is probably due to the fact that my extensive collection of ulcers (gained, no doubt, from far too much ftl travel) has leeched away all of my tooth enamel. I’ve found that the only thing that can numb the incessant pain is distraction. Writing poetry or engaging in supernatural battle is usually the only thing that does it for me. After composing “Futures Waiting to Unhappen” I took myself off to bed and slept like a lamb. Whoever says that poetry has no practical use in life is a liar.

    Jack Brae

  7. January 4, 2010 12:45 PM

    Jack, am I right in thinking you live in or near Dublin? If so I have ( eventually ) happy memories of working there, suffering from severe, wanting to sleep with my head in the fridge-style tooth-ache and going to the dental hospital in the city centre who patched me up for nothing – though I did make a big donation in gratitude.

    If you don’t live near Dublin sorry to have assumed you do. If you live near Birr I encountered a few beefy blokes last October who could punch the tooth out if necessary. If you walk down the high street between 9.30 and 10.15 a.m you’ll probably meet up with them.

  8. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 4, 2010 12:51 PM

    A poem with teeth, Jack. Root canal ‘therapy’ failed, so mine is coming out shortly. I’m looking forward to it.

    Sounds like a Perry Como Christmas at the Al-Adwani compound. Mine was complicated by the arrival of son with his new German girlfriend. It’s always a drag having a stranger about, trying to remember not to swear, break wind or scratch your arse. Well, not constantly, anyway. Or simultaneously, which is my usual practice. Thankfully this gf was much better than the last one. My son’s claim is that small town Germany is like the UK in the 1950s, which I’d always taken with a pinch of salt until I met gf MK1. All right, it’s possible that a provincial person might not have seen or heard of an avocado ( I didn’t eat a yoghourt until I was 14 ), or courgette or aubergine, but to refuse to taste them is rank discourtesy. Gf MK2 not only ate everything given to her, she also insisted on cooking a German dish. I can still taste it now.

    The main problem was the excretion arrangements. My preferred seat is upstairs, but unfortunately it’s located next to my son’s bedroom. Considering the time they spent in the room, the sound permeability of the wall and the vast quantities of potentially fissile material consumed over Xmas it seemed socially maladroit to take up residence in there. So I was condemned to the cold cheerless closet downstairs. The sacrifices we make for our children, eh?

  9. January 4, 2010 1:16 PM

    MM The etiquette of defecation arrangements is always something I felt the stories of PG Wodehouse were missing.

  10. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2010 2:41 PM

    Pace Woodhouse: I can’t help feeling that some things are better left to the imagination…
    I must say, the thought of MM trying to fart and defecate quietly exemplifies a kind of essential gentlemanliness. Who would have thought? I just assumed he’s a brute…

  11. InvisibleJack permalink
    January 4, 2010 2:43 PM

    Al, I live quite a distance from both Dublin and Birr, dwelling as I do between Mars and Sliabh Luachra. Occasionally I do spend some time in Downdublin, a completely different place entirely, and on the planet Mercury (extremely boring and very hot). Anyways, I am quite stubbornly resigned to keeping my teeth and putting up with the pain for the moment. What’s making it so acute at present is the cold weather. We had a mild day a few days ago and the pains evaporated completely. I’m therefore living in hope. If the cold persists, however, I will be spending the rest of January on Mercury.

    As for those burly bouncers from Birr, I’d eat them for breakfast, teeth and all.

    Jack Brae

  12. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 4, 2010 2:48 PM

    Quite right, Al. ‘Lavatory humour’ has always seemed a total misnomer to me, since few writers ( to my knowledge ) have really explored the possibilities. Vladimir Nabokov, rather surprisingly, has some good things, from Zina Mertz’s musical tinkle in The Gift to the hushed trickle of the Czarist taxi driver in Lolita. A much-neglected area.

  13. hic8ubique permalink
    January 4, 2010 3:04 PM

    Jack~ so sorry you are in pain! I knew someone who had dental veneers applied because of lost enamel. I wouldn’t have known without being told, the appearance was so natural. Sometimes toothache is caused by an imperceptibly cracked tooth.
    Ulcers! What are we to do with you?!
    To me, your terza rima is a master stroke, especially the element of light years and non-linearity. Inspiring in every way!

    and keeping with the northerly alimentary theme…
    MM~ If your oral surgeon ‘failed’, you might get another one (with references) to have a go and probably save your tooth.
    Jack has the right idea there. Having them out sets you up for other problems later on.

  14. January 4, 2010 3:06 PM

    Gussy Finknottle’s tinkle would definitely be musical.

    James Joyce had some pretty earthy dumps if I remember.

    Must change subject quickly.

    The single sock in the spin dryer. What’s that all about? Etc. etc.

  15. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2010 3:28 PM

    Bastard….that sock must be one of mine…I always wondered where the buggers went…

    Remember Joyce’s ‘smellow, yellow furrow…’?

  16. January 4, 2010 4:24 PM

    According to Eddie Izzard the socks are sacrificed to the laundry god, which seems to make as much sense as anything else to explain why they seem to lose their partners.

    Now I came here to see what was occuring to cheer me on my first day back at work and I see you’re talking shit as usual gentlemen!

    Talking of Izzard, did anyone catch the remake of Day of the Triffids? I thought it was quite good actually, although somehow lost the claustrophobic and desolate nature of the original 70s one.

  17. InvisibleJack permalink
    January 4, 2010 4:28 PM

    Thanks Hic and all for the kind words re the poem and my rebellious teeth.

    Single socks in the spin dryer? It’s known amongst space travellers as Missing Sock Syndrome. Why it happens primarily to socks and not to other small items, such as knickers, has possibly something to do with the Special Spacial Displacement of small auto-generations of static electricity (explaining, perhaps, why only one sock travels through the Space/Time continuum and leaves its compatriot behind). Most solar systems with cultures advanced enough to have washing and spin-dryer technology have reported missing socks. In our own solar system they usually turn up just short of the Oort cloud and amass at a single point. The planetoid known to NASA as 2003/UB313 (or “Xena”) is actually a pile of frozen socks. As NASA has correctly identified, it has an atmosphere of frozen Methane and Nitrogen, they very stuff that socks give off when in such numbers. Yes, the universe is a strange place.

    Jack Brae

  18. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 4, 2010 10:55 PM

    I’m not sure how much of a later on I have, Hic, but thank you for the thought.

    Do you mean the Duttine version ( 80s, surely? ) of Triffids, Poll? I thought it was far superior to the abomination served up over Xmas. Izzard was particularly poor, though I must admit I have never found him even slightly amusing. The project reminded me of the recent version of the 39 Steps, another excellent book given a slipshod glossy treatment which completely failed to capture the spirit of previous adaptations. I somehow missed the remake of Survivors, a 70s series which I liked a lot at the time. Did you see it?

  19. hic8ubique permalink
    January 4, 2010 10:59 PM

    I, Perpetua, the laundry goddess, am taking a mid-cycle pause to inform you that the laundry god
    does not exist.

    Jack~ the singularity at the terminus of a black hole is the first port of call for space-voyaging socks, but as each singularity can by definition only accommodate one sock at a time, the remainder end up toe by heel as you expertly describe.

    Now Alarming~ I seem to recall wetting myself was a recurrent (sorry) part of the PGW experience.
    Remember distraught Anatole reporting Bertie trying to get in at the skylight?
    “He was making faces against me!”

  20. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2010 11:21 PM

    One of the greatest comic scenes in all literature, (in my opinion) is the prize giving at Market Snodsbury Grammar School, where a drunken Gussie (or ‘that blasted Spink-Bottle’ as Aunt Dahlia calls him) outrages decency.

  21. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 4, 2010 11:36 PM

    Right Ho, Jeeves, I think. There’s also a superbly worked ending and the fabulous Madeline Bassett.

  22. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2010 11:49 PM

    Ah, Madelaine Bassett, who believes that the stars are God’s daisy chain and that every time a fairy blows its nose, a wee baby is born.

    Daughter of Sir Watkyn, who thinks Bertie appeared before him for stealing bags at railway stations.

    Much loved by Spode, leader of the Black Shorts (“surely you mean ‘Blackshirts’?”, “No, Blackshorts”, “You mean, as in footer bags? How perfectly foul”).

    Bertie is at his finest when he gives Spode a roasting, secure in the knowledge that he knows Spode’s secret (which he promptly forgets):

    You think people are saying ‘there goes Spode, Man of Destiny’. They’re not. They’re saying ‘there goes that frightful ass Spode, swanking around in footer bags, etc..

    Wodehouse was incomparable…

    • Polly permalink
      January 5, 2010 3:21 PM

      My favourite line ever is an exchange with Spode. He says about Bertie:

      “…he is a butterfly, who toys with women’s hearts and throws them away like soiled gloves!”

      And Bertie says, “Do butterflies do that?”

      That really did make me laugh until I cried.

  23. January 5, 2010 12:34 AM

    The toothache-made pome spooky-good. There’s a spare, but mighty, book of unexpected verse to be squeezed from this blog. Of paper, I mean. Ever consider it, M? Annual event?

  24. January 5, 2010 10:00 AM

    Erm Maybe it was the 80s Mowbray, it all seems a long time ago now and I seem to remember bad jumpers and haircuts. I was thinking a bit more about these remakes being worse than the originals and I think the problem is that because effects are so marvellous these days, with CGI and whatnot, that the viewer is no longer required to use their imagination, in fact the imagination is effectively muted by the need to take in all the action on screen. This makes us feel dissatisfied with the whole experience. Suggestion has always been more effective than reality hasn’t it? We’ve all got brains and we enjoy something more if we have to use them.

    I like Eddie Izzard in general (what was that phrase “in an abstract sense”?) but he didn’t suit that part, not authoratitive enough, especially as he was dwarfed by Jolie Richardson.

    No I didn’t catch Survivors, I’m afraid I got it mixed up with Survivor (the reality show) which was to be avoided at all costs!

    Happy New Year all by the way, sorry I didn’t say that before. I notice you’ve all been beavering away with some brilliant poems over the festive season.

    Misha – your holidays sound wonderful and relaxing. I used to ignore all forms of news and so I appreciate the calm that ignorance brings, although I bet you were looking forward to coming back really…

  25. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 10:15 AM

    It was lovely, Pol but I must admit, I’m a urban creature by nature. And a happy new year to you, too.

    It’s a nice idea, Steven. Sadly, it sounds like work and I have a medical condition that causes me to break out in a cold sweat at the thought of work.

  26. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 5, 2010 12:09 PM

    It was 1981, I’ve since discovered, Poll. I think the decline in quality is more to do with the adaptation itself. Large sections of the plot ( of the book ) seemed to have been dropped in favour of simpering lurve scenes, which had the Mowbrays screaming FUCKSAKE GET ON WITH IT at the screen. CGI ought to make it better, but I think it makes the designers lazy. Instead of thinking up novel ways to keep the audience involved they just slap on a few more miles of blazing buildings, dead bodies etc. It’s not an adequate substitute for the atmosphere created by living actors. I mean actors, too, not drawling expressionless wooden-faced dolts like Izzard.

  27. January 5, 2010 12:26 PM

    Rummaging through a second hand book-shop I happened upon an autobiog by Eddie Izzard. It was no slim volume and approximately half of it was photos of Eddie looking soulfully around a variety of locations. I don’t find him funny but am prepared to accept others do but this book seemed predicated on the fact that people find him physically attractive as well.

    I don’t see it myself but Polly, given your feelings for CHristian Bale, can you shed light on this phenomenon? I know women like men who make them laugh but surely it’s stretching things a bit far for Eddie Izzard to pose so many times in front of minor tourist attractions????

  28. January 5, 2010 1:24 PM

    “I have a medical condition that causes me to break out in a cold sweat at the thought of work.”

    I once used my cell phone to ring up a coffee companion so I wouldn’t have to A) leave my seat or B) raise my voice… to ask for a spoon. I “hear you” (as we put it in the U.S.).

  29. January 5, 2010 2:45 PM

    I’m playing catch-up so, ah, nudes and future days – terza rima and quatrains…

    I’m hammered in cycles, a sword to a plough
    Then back to a sword in the days’ shove and tug
    From stasis to rush, ever absent from now

    The future’s miasma, a djinn and a drug
    A dark smoking screen, a back molar that aches
    A sloping and wordless wend back to the dug

    Precise, your smile engulfs and slakes
    Your now, your undraped throat unnerve
    Your up-hooked knee my past unmakes
    Your belly constellates its curve

    Casual, hands behind your head
    Dark citrus in the angle-poise
    The curl-hid crease, the cream-white bed
    So common to divine alloys

    History, like space, is in greater part dead
    An absence of gravity, warmth, light or laws
    A blankness, a tundra, its life-essence sped

    And all of those facts that we’ve learned, every cause
    That dominoes out its effect, that seem graced
    Are weightless inventions, are seas without shores

    You anchor all the days misplaced
    The casual slough, the stroll to shower
    With lift of hip, breast’s swell, embraced
    Encircled and retrieved, each hour

    There is, in you, some Willendorf
    A mystery of lime and clay
    That summons cave-fire, does endwarf
    This atheist with cause to pray

    And all things ahead, in their tyrannous way
    Send us cavorting in hope or in fear
    Preparing, forecasting the eel-hours away

    I worked at it once, but I’ve proved no true seer
    Did ever a day pass when no one called ‘ruin’?
    I’ll drown my almanac, unrope the weir

  30. Polly permalink
    January 5, 2010 3:11 PM

    Well Al, I don’t fancy Izzard as I suspect that he fancies himself enough for the both of us and he’s a bit short. I discovered him fairly early in his career before he was brave enough to dress as a transvestite and that was when he was at his funniest, when he was more raw I suppose. That’s true of a lot of comics I think. Michael McIntyre seemed to have a very similar sense of humour, but now I’m SICK of the sight of him. It’s precisely when people or things become “phenomenons” that I switch off from them. I’ve been interested in Izzard’s transition into “serious” acting though as it’s a newer task for him so hopefully he’d be a bit fresher. People are insufferable when they think they’re good at something and stop trying and just rely on their own winning formulas, like bloody Peter Kay… say things your gran used to say loudly and in a surprised tone and wait until people laugh. It’s not intelligent! This does get me back to Izzard though, when he first started he was refreshing because he didn’t fancy himself, he was honest, his humour was clean (ie not cheap smut) and intelligent. He joked about the Greeks and Romans and referred to the classics, he did an entire show in French and some in latin I think, and he was good at making it all seem haphazard and then getting back round into a circle back where he started (I think one tour was called Circle). I went to see him in Leeds once and we missed the train as there were about 4 encores, all at the crowd’s request, so he was admired.

    People get too big and grow the head to go with it and get lazy.

    I suppose as far as the attraction goes, he started off very honest and women appreciate that. Plus he’s a bloke you COULD go shopping with and who’s opinion you would trust when choosing lipsticks…

  31. January 5, 2010 3:24 PM

    Eddie Izzard started cff in street entertainment doing escapology and allegedly was not very good at it. Although the world of jugglers, street magicians and entertainers is so viciously competitive that it’s difficult to tell whether this is sour grapes because of his subsequent success or a fair comment.

  32. January 5, 2010 3:57 PM

    I went to see Stuart Lee on Sunday. He had a few wry (then shouted) words to say about McIntyre, Frankie Boyle and the Top Gear men. Self-righteous and self-immolating all at once. Oh, and funny. I’ve seen Lee several times in the last sixteen years or so; he’s one of the few current performers who I suspect people will still be talking about in decades to come.

    Eddie Izzard was funny, then he wasn’t. Like most comedians.

  33. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 4:09 PM

    I neglected to say, good poem, Al. And XB, I see you haven’t lost your masterly touch.

    I have no opinion of Izzard. My only exposure to him has been his brief appearances in one or two of the Oceans 11 films…

    But an alleged comedian I find baffling is Jimmy Carr. What the fuck is the point of this utterly pedestrian twerp? Oh, yeah…and Frank fucking Skinner…and David Baddiel…and the one who’s doing a game show called Heads or Tails (in which people flip a coin to win prizes and an audience watches them do it. Seriously. I am not making this up).

    Surely the one non-negotiable aspect of being a comedian is that a comedian must be funny? The aforementioned are as funny as bowel surgery.

  34. January 5, 2010 4:47 PM

    A show I co-directed was in the next-door space to Jimmy Carr at the Gilded Balloon a few years back, just before he started getting onto TV. The theme of his show was fame and how to get it, which seemed precient. He was very sharp, very funny, the nastiness well-balanced with self-deprecation. He always said hello and looked rather shy but since seems to have discovered that reward comes from playing to the Nuts demographic. Like Al Murray, he seems to have become what he once satirised. I shared a stage with Murray once, many moons ago in my half-a-show-long career as a professional comedian.

  35. Polly permalink
    January 5, 2010 5:23 PM

    Wow, star-struck again there ExB! You seem to think that being a comedian for only half a show is a bad thing, you probably were the best comedian ever as you didn’t drag it on too long. Best to show you can do it and then get on with better things…

  36. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 5:32 PM

    Yes, I was especially struck by XB’s cunning use of a lampshade (he placed it on his head, the wag), his squirting bowtie, his false nose…and the jokes!

    “My wife’s a light eater: when I turn on the light, she eats”.

    Boom boom, indeed. A landmark performance and as you rightly say Pol, it’s best to go out at the top of your game…

    Sandro’s sensual, irreverent style, gyrating hips and black leather jacket sent young female fans into a frenzy; his ”babes,” as they were known, would scream wildly, pull their hair and throw their undergarments onstage.

    – from the orbituary of Sandro, the ‘Agentinian Elvis’, The NYT, today

    Eerily reminiscent of XB’s last show…

  37. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 5, 2010 6:34 PM

    You’re not Harry Hill are you, ExitB? I know what you mean about Murray. I’ve had to explain more than once that he is satirising the views of the Pub Landlord, not espousing them. Some people find that hard to grasp. Stewart Lee I thought was quite funny ( only seen him on TV ), though a little predictable. His habit of repeating sentences and phrases drives me insane.

  38. January 5, 2010 7:18 PM

    Not Harry Hill, I’m afraid. He’s had at least two successful gigs.
    The show I was involved in was terrible (and, to be fair to my one-time partners in hilarity, inaudible due to the venue’s ignorance of how to mic a sketch show). But it was the kind of revue comedy that really doesn’t travel outside an arts-based home-turf student union audience. I still wake with a start, thinking I can hear the slow-clapping of engineering students. They got their money back.

    Stuart Lee’s repetetition fell very flat on TV. Live, it builds the tension and absurdity of what he’s saying. For me, at least.

  39. January 5, 2010 7:40 PM

    re; Stewart Lee I agree XB. He constructs his shows very well and I too felt that the repetition on the TV shows didn’t quite work.

    The gag about Tom O’Connor and sardines where he says the same joke about 15 times with little alterations each time is great. If you transcribed it the form would probably look like a poem or song lyrics.

    I’ve died many many times performing outside but somehow on stage it’s far far worse.

    Both for the performers and the audience.

    Time grinds to a halt when you’re in the audience watching someone on stage who’s not very good. I still remember an alternative cabaret open spot in 1985 where a woman who was quite clearly mentally ill did a 10 minute routine. Everyone had their head in their hands thinking why? why? and it seemed to last about 3 hours. It lurched from a graphic description of her condition to a dance with frogman flippers and an umbrella. Actually that sounds quite good but believe me it wasn’t.

  40. freep permalink
    January 5, 2010 7:50 PM

    That was a bit colossal,that poem exitb, a most elegant slouch down Pessimism Street. I like the eel-hours a lot, and I rather like ‘endwarf’, even if it is a term for very special occasions. Nice to see the bar full, and the smoke curling. I was tempted to do a little something on the subject of, or inspired by molars, like Jack (my specs are ok just now, al) since I had one tooth drop out a week or two ago, and another is just waiting for me to twist it out of my mandible. Jack, that was a spinning piece of work that must have helped more than cloves.
    I promise to pay the cureator of this site, on demand, the sum of one poem concerning times to come, but exitb has put in his last line a word I was putting in my first line, so I will go away and rearrange. Almanack came to me while I was sitting on a snowbound 518 bus outside Pegswood today, unsure whether to jot words on a page or feel abject about my dentition. I daresay if I were a woman I could have mulititasked and done both

  41. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 8:14 PM

    Speaking of comedy acts, buying a new heater for a fish-tank today reminded me of an Antonin Artaud/Theatre of Cruelty-type sketch that I enacted years ago.

    It was in the depths of a bitterly cold winter and I’d just moved into a new flat in Brixton. A friend gave me a goldfish bowl, complete with g/fish as a housewarming gift. All went well until I returned home one day to find the goldfish floating belly-up.

    I’d come to rather like having fish in a bowl so I toddled around to the local pet shop to replace the dead fish. One tank in the shop was filled with striking little fish with a vivid blue stripe down the side. Neons, they’re called. I bought a dozen.

    Once home again, I quickly cleaned out the bowl and gravel and filled it with fresh water from the cold tap.
    I picked up the plastic bag containing the Neons and emptied the fish into their new home.

    To my horror, the fish hit the water and promptly sank to the bottom of the bowl. Rather like Basil Fawlty in that sketch where he holds the brick up to his ear and shakes it, hoping it’s something other than what it appears to be, I tapped on the glass, thinking that perhaps the Neons had suddenly decided to take a nap.

    No. They were stone dead.

    Of course, imbecile that I am, I had failed to note that Neons are tropical fish and the tank that had held them in the shop was heated. I’d dropped them into water that was little above freezing.

    It was, in effect, a fish execution.

    Everyone I told about this laughed their heads off.

    That’s entertainment.

    • January 5, 2010 11:23 PM

      A friend of mine couldn’t understand where her goldfish were going to, but they were gradually disappearing. The mystery was solved when one landed in my drink and a pile of dead fish were found under the table, turned out they’d been playing chicken swimming over the pump that was too close to the top and would shoot one out every so often. Being goldfish they kept on forgetting the risks…

  42. January 5, 2010 9:07 PM

    I learned about death via a fish in a bowl.

    ‘a most elegant slouch down Pessimism Street’

    Thanks for the kind words. Freep, I truly intended the happiness of the nudity to balance the angst of an unknowable past and future *ahem*, the time changes shifting tone like We Can Work It Out (‘life is very short’, etc). I thought I was being rather positive. Although, as someone once said about myself and my beloved, ‘I always picture the two of you wearing black…’

  43. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 9:34 PM

    By the way, XB, as a fellow 60s Garage fan, this might interest you. After posting a music vid, I received this message:


    i wrote the song “what a girl can’t do” in 1967 and recorded it with the (Reekers) Hangmen…it was a #1 regional hit in D.C. topping the Beatles… my name is Tom Guernsey…you did a great job with the video…who are you??…

    …followed by:

    if you send me your address i will mail you a copy of the “Meet The Reekers” cd that you can listen to and then we could talk about some video possibilities if you are interested,,,this obviously would be a “labor of love” but i think there are a couple of tunes on the cd that you could do a really hip,retro, funny job on using old footage…

    let me know about all this and have a happy thanksgiving


    ps. you should definitely start saving your work with hard copies,…its quality stuff!!

    Tom and I have been corresponding ever since and in fact, the CDs were waiting for me when I got back on Sunday, although I haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet. Tom got in touch after seeing the following vid I’d posted which is the song he’d written being performed by some long-ago pals of mine:

  44. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 10:10 PM

    Obama Will Brief Nation on Underwear-Bomber Investigation, today

    Presidential briefs, exploding briefs…it’s all go in the exciting new world of deadly underpants.

    I must confess to feeling a twinge of pity for the deluded sap. It’s bad enough being Richard Reid AKA The Shoe Bomber, but to spend the rest of your life in prison is bad enough without being forever known as The Underpants Bomber.

  45. January 5, 2010 10:21 PM

    Great song, great video. Thought it had a pretty sharp production, then realised its an 80s (?)cover. Knocking the Beatles off the charts – what a mighty achievement. Wonder which song it was, Hello Goodbye or Penny Lane? can’t find the DC charts online.

    I was prodding my father for memories this xmas. He’s from Liverpool and used to watch the Beatles at the Cavern in the early sixties; ‘the Beatles were great, but it was all about where you were from. The Searchers, they were my band.’

  46. January 5, 2010 10:26 PM

    I read a fantastic quote in a 2000s retrospective on the BBC site today:

    ‘It was a bad decade for Michael Jackson…’

  47. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 5, 2010 10:28 PM

    I didn’t realise Stewart Lee’s repetitions were deliberate. I thought it was just an irritating mannerism, or a bit of filler. If I’d paid to see him I would be demanding half my money back on the grounds that 50% of the act is recycled.

    So what did you call yourself onstage, Al? Eddie Taylor? Ed Taylor? God, not Teddy Taylor? CK Gilchrist sounds a bit of a mouthful. If I’d been your manager, Exit, I would have gone with a simple Christ.

  48. January 5, 2010 10:33 PM

    I’ve been trying to get people to call me that for years.

  49. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 10:36 PM

    Lay off that, XB. Remember how it ended for the last chap who called himself that?

    Yeah, that Lyres cover of Tom’s song was ’81 (I’m pretty sure) and featured on an LP called On Fyre.

  50. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 10:54 PM

    From Billboard magazine, 2/19/67:

    Hangmen Cause ‘Swingalong’

    FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Jack Shaver, owner of Giant Record Shop, said last week a mob of teen-agers turned out to hear The Hangmen and when police cleared the store because the crowd created a fire hazard a near-riot ensued.

    Shaver said browser bins and display cases were smashed and two girls and a boy fainted during the chaos. He said damage was estimated at $500.

    Shaver said The Hangmen are from the nearby Washington area and are local favorites. He said he had sold about 2,500 copies of their single, ‘What A Girl Can’t Do’, on Monument, and it was No. 1 on local charts.
    He said school was out that day because of snow and the store began filling up at noon for the 4 p.m. show. He estimated 400 ‘were jammed and packed’ inside and some 1,500 were outside.

    Shaver said traffic was snarled, police came, declared the gathering a fire hazard and began clearing the store. He said The Hangmen had been playing for about 15 minutes at the time and it took half an hour to disperse the crowd.

    Shaver said he had had record stars perform at his store before, including Johnny Rivers, Johnny Tillotson, Peter and Gordon, and Ramsey Lewis, ‘but they never created anything like this.’

    He said he did not have insurance to cover the loss.

    Judging by the above date, XB, it would be Penny Lane they knocked off the charts. Hello, Goodbye topped the charts at the end of ’67 (in the US).

    Here’s Tom and his band doing the original version:

  51. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 11:38 PM

    Here’s an interesting interview with Tom on (“home of the sleazy sound”)…and here’s one on…and another on

  52. January 5, 2010 11:40 PM

    There were plenty of photos of those exploded underpants on the news luckily there were no photos of what was in them.

    also heard that someone who took part in the test ID card pilot scheme in Manchester was told he’d need a further proof of identity when he presented it before trying to board a ferry. The customs people didn’t know what it was. Good start.

    Just watched “Death of Mr. Lazarescu”, Anyone seen that? what a film. Drags you through the bureaucratic nightmare of the Roumanian health-care system. Not a date movie but strong stuff.

  53. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2010 11:44 PM

    From now on, I’m going to carry a photo of myself. The next time some uniformed busybody asks me to identify myself, I’ll take out the photo, examine it carefully and say: “That’s definitely me…”

    I’ll probably end up renditioned to Uzbekistan…

  54. January 5, 2010 11:49 PM

    Just make sure your name isn’t Mr. Lazarescu or you’ll be endlessly shuttled around hospitals.

  55. mishari permalink*
    January 6, 2010 12:00 AM

    I’m pretty sure I saw it on Film4 not long ago. Grim stuff…

  56. freep permalink
    January 6, 2010 4:30 PM

    The Almanack of John Pikestaff

    I seen it get here, guv’nor. Sable night.
    Often it comes, skulking at the day’s end.
    They can’t stop it, can’t make the blackness bright

    Or clean the mucky sky when the sun descends.
    That government, they don’t know bugger all;
    They think clouds and weather are our good friends.

    That’s why, guv, you need my Future’s Chronicle.
    Look here: ‘Sunday, sixteenth of May.
    A tempest bold will demolish Hadrian’s Wall.’

    See? And this: ‘February; Our Lady’s Day.
    Four men on horses will the Crown destroy.’
    The voices told me that. And this they say:

    ‘Beware the first of June – The End of Human Joy.’
    So, take my advice; get in a stock of tins;
    This year will make the bloody siege of Troy

    Look civil. What’s it about? Our black sins.
    We done it. You and me. Looked in the wrong place.
    O there’s good news too. These primrose bulletins

    Say July’s a pearl. We’ll see the red face
    Of the sun for an hour. And on the third,
    Deep blood will drown the globe. Our dumb race

    Will cede our domain to the fish, the bird,
    The reptile and the tree. That’s it. My final word.

  57. mishari permalink*
    January 6, 2010 4:53 PM

    Great stuff, freep…apocalyptically ominous. Thanks for the heads up.

    I’m frantically buying firearms, dried beans and Worcestershire sauce.

  58. freep permalink
    January 6, 2010 5:12 PM

    Ah, you’re a great man for the weapons, Mish. I’ve got a very nice catapult in the shed, which I bought to fire pebbles at the gross pigeons which elbow out my garden songbirds. (Not sure where a pigeon’s elbow is located). But not being a tribesman I have bottled out, and no pigeon has yet been knowingly menaced at my postcode. Given the slightly apocalyptic nature of the snow, I may have to dig out said catapult and practice on the dogg.
    Stockpiles of Worcester sauce sounds very wise. Tabasco goes further.

  59. January 9, 2010 11:28 AM

    Mishari + XB here’s a link to a wonderful artist who could be eligible for your little known artists blog I think this clip will be on Radio 4’s PM today.

    also a web-site set up by his colleagues after his death shows a few examples of his extraordinary body of work.

    I bought a few drawings at bargain prices at an auction designed to raise money for a trust for him and they’ve made me as happy as any art can make you. He was known but not to the degree he should have been.

  60. mishari permalink*
    January 9, 2010 3:55 PM

    Interesting artist, Al. That painting your first link goes to looks very like a Cezanne self-portrait, even the colours.

    Sadly, though Pearson’s neglected, he’s not completely and utterly unknown and so doesn’t make the cut…

    Christ, it’s treacherous out there, like a skating rink. Earlier, we took the dog out to Victoria Park. The children accused me of cruelty because I kept throwing snowballs for Honey to fetch.

    I’d wind up as Honey bounced around eagerly, eyes fixed on my hand, and throw it. Off she’d race. In the mean time, the snowball had hit the ground and disintegrated. Eventually she’d trot back looking baffled and we’d do it all over again.

    Taking advantage of her good-natured credulity, I suppose, but highly amusing. Eventually, even she caught on and came back with a stick she’d found, shaming me into playing fair and square.

  61. huskylover permalink
    February 19, 2010 11:23 PM

    Love reading your page, I usually find out random interesting facts.
    Emily Randall from Husky

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