Paul Dundon’s Weblog

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A little cheese and a little whine

Pub Fights with Famous Politicians

You’re in a pub with a famous politician and someone picks a fight with you. What happens next?

Paul Nuttall decks the guy before he can get a punch in. The situation escalates and in no time the whole pub is fighting.

Jeremy Corbyn patiently explains that, if you really understood the history of the conflict, you’d see that the other guy was in the right.

Tim Farron tries to change the guy’s mind by telling the guy that when he started picking the fight, he didn’t really understand what it would involve.

Nigel Farage puts on a show of friendship, buys the guy a pint, then gets the landlord to throw him out and bar him.

Nicola Sturgeon says the fight has nothing to do with her and insists she should ask how many of her mates agree.

Theresa May snaps her fingers. Demonic hordes materialise and eviscerate your opponent leaving him bloodied and paralysed. Providing medical assistance proves impossible as you no longer have an A&E department. Nonetheless the DWP declares him fit for work. In return for her services, May takes your pint and gives it to her millionaire husband.

Donald Trump agrees to negotiate with your opponent on your behalf. In the end they agree that they can both punch you a dozen times.

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Filed under: Humour

Oh, das Rheingold!

To the tune of “My Darling Clementine”

In a cavern, in a canyon
By the mighty river Rhein
Dwelt a race of dwarfs a-workin’
In a hot and fiery mine

One amongst ’em went a-swimming
And, enticed by maidens three
Tried to goose them and seduce them
But was spurned for all to see

He grew angry and frustrated
He was furious, he was sick
And the maids he then berated
And his name was Alberich

Thus rejected, and dejected,
He abjured all earthly love
And he stole the sisters’ gold there
Glistening in the sun above

Now that gold, it was enchanted
And such mighty power did bring
That the dwarf all love recanted
And he made a magic ring

Oh das Rheingold, oh das Rheingold
Oh das Rheingold is divine!
But we needed something shorter;
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Meanwhile Wotan was a-gloatin’
O’er his castle in the sky
Which he’d had two giants build him
For a promise and a lie

His wife Fricka had a sister
And he’d promised in his pride
That the ones who built the castle
Would then have her as their bride

Poor old Freia, ‘tdid dismay her
To be used as payment thus
And it made old Fricka bicker
With her spouse and curse and cuss

Wotan, calmer, tried to calm her
Then his plan he did reveal
He had asked the trickster Loge
To find a way to break the deal

Enter Loge: quite the rogue, a
God who’d been around the earth
To discover from the lover
What they deemed of equal worth

East and West and worst and best and
Rich and poor and young and old
There was but one thing that men would
Trade for love, and that was gold

He told Wotan, sugar-coatin’
This bad news with an appeal
That the gods restore the treasure
That old Alberich did steal

Loge shared it, Wotan heard it
And it came into his head
That the treasure of the maidens
Might be used to pay instead

Both the giants, they agreed it
Though of Freia they took hold
Giving Wotan until sunset
To deliver Alberich’s gold

Oh das Rheingold, oh das Rheingold,
Oh das Rheingold is on tour
We began the show at lunchtime
And we won’t be done by four

Follow fire and follow anvils
Follow smoke and follow grime
Go through mountain, cave and cavern
And you come to Nibelheim

There is Alberich, who with magic
Has enslaved the Nibelung all
And has forged a magic helmet
Making him invisi-ball

All the Nibelung work for Alberich
Mining gold for all they’re worth
And the treasure, ‘tis his pleasure
For he hopes to rule the earth

Enter Loge, enter Wotan
And they start to hatch their plot
They must get the gold from Alberich
Whether he agrees or not

Wotan chatters, Loge flatters
Of the helmet they enquire
And the dwarf boasts of his treasure
And the fear he can inspire

Loge praises Alberich’s helmet
But he’s playing now for keeps
So he asks how he’d prevent that
Someone steals it while he sleeps

Alberich quickly dons the helmet
(Such a terrible mistake)
And he shows how it allows him
To become a giant snake

“But could you be something smaller?”
Loge asks him in a goad
And to demonstrate his power
Alberich turns into a toad

In an instant Loge, Wotan
They both pounce upon the dwarf
Bind him up in chains and shackles
And then drag the poor dear orf.

Oh das Rheingold, oh das Rheingold
Oh the scoring is a hit
But it takes a dozen porters to get the
Anvils in the pit

Poor old Alberich, held to ransom
Must relinquish all his loot
For the gods they want the treasure
And the helmet charmed to boot

He surrenders all the Rheingold
But the ring he still retains
But the gods insist on adding it to
Their ill-gotten gains

Wotan rips it from his finger
Alberich swears and shouts; and worse
Lays on those who own the ring a
Truly terrifying curse

Our two giants come to Wotan
All their payment for to find
And the god he puts before them
All the gold that Alberich’s mined

So the question then arises
How much gold is Freia worth?
And the giants have the answer:
Make a pile of Freia’s girth

Oh das Rheingold, oh das Rheingold
Costs a fortune if it’s staged
But there’s usually concessions
For the students and unwaged

So the goddess Freia stands there
By this process much abused
And to satisfy the giants
Every piece of gold is used

But the giants find a chink through
Which the goddess might be scanned
And the only gold that’s left now
Is the ring on Wotan’s hand

They can’t stand it, and demand it’s
Added to their sordid fee
But the god, he starts a-shouting
“No, the ring belongs to me!”

Hark! a voice comes from the rafters
Telling Wotan to desist
And he scans the gods around him
Wondering what it is he’s missed

For ’twas Erda, and we heard her
Sing a story of the deep
For the waters hold her daughters
And the gold is theirs to keep

Good ol’ Wotan starts emotin’
‘bout the power of the ring
But our Erda cries blue murder
And berates the greedy king

Wotan hears her, and he fears her
So the ring he will release
His compliance leads the giants
To depart the gods in peace

But the giants start to quarrel
And to squabble and to scold
And the one he kills the other
And then leaves with all the gold

Oh das Rheingold, oh das Rheingold
Oh das Rheingold is a thrill
We’ve been here two solid hours
And the music’s playing still

Wotan’s happy with his castle
Having beaten all the odds
And he calls its name Valhalla
As a home for all the gods

Dear ol’ Freia, slightly greyer
Can return to tend her tree
Giving all her golden apples
And their immortality

Cousin Donner smiled upon ‘er
And a storm he quickly sowed
Giving thunder for a fanfare
And a rainbow for a road

See the gods, they cross the rainbow
Leaving Loge feeling vexed
He will not go to Valhalla
‘Cos he knows what happens next…

Oh das Rheingold, Oh das Rheingold
Take it from the horse’s mouth
How four dozen simple verses
Save you visiting Bayreuth!

Filed under: Humour

Weather Report

“And the weather today will be: disappointing. Beginning with high expectations in the morning, these will fall to more realistic levels around lunchtime, giving way to a sense of resignation early afternoon. A short storm of complaints is expected early evening, followed by a return to unfounded optimism at nightfall.”

Filed under: Humour

Repetitive Complications

Credit due to Jim St. Ruth for developing the original gag

Phil stopped staring at his beer when he saw another glass placed on the table. Looking up he saw his two friends, David and Ian.

“Christ, Phil, you look terrible,” said David, ever the optimist.

“Yeah, mate,” said Ian, taking a seat, “what’s up?”

“I’ve just been to the doctor,” Phil replied, shifting slightly so that David could sit down. “He says I’ve got a bad case of expositionosis.”

“Expositionosis?” said David. “What’s that?”

“I’m glad you asked, David. It’s a condition which affects actors who have had too many parts of a certain kind in plays and television shows, specifically, the minor characters with lots of lines who have the job of explaining what’s going on to the audience.”

“It sounds terrible.”

“It is. The afflicted person starts to speak in a long-winded but emotionless manner, favouring long, multi-clause sentences over the patterns of natural speech, often using multiple conjunctions and quite unnatural constructions, combining unrelated details, as my friend Basildon Bond once remarked, in order to provide the main characters with the information they need without alerting the audience to the significance of what is being said.”

“Is there a cure?”

“There are some experimental treatments, but they’re extremely costly. For a jobbing actor like myself, barely scraping a living doing rep in this fine city of Birmingham, it would take some kind of miracle before I could afford anything. You’re both in the same position; you know how tight money is.”

“Well,” said David, suddenly animated, “you can count on us to do everything we can to help. If a miracle is what we need, then that’s what we’ll have to find!”

Phil paused. “That’s the other interesting thing about expositionosis. It’s mildly contagious. The first sign is that people around the infected person suddenly become filled with resolve to do something about whatever they talk about, promising to take action and signposting some future adventure and conflict.”

“Oh,” said David, suddenly deflated, and a little alarmed. “So am I – “

“Don’t worry,” said Phil. “Those symptoms are almost always temporary. It’s actually quite difficult to contract the disease. Even so, if I recall correctly, there are now five people in our company who have contracted it over the last year. In two cases, it was an even worse condition – expositionosis with repetitive complications.”

“Repetitive complications?”

“Repetitive complications. These seem to occur when the actor has been in too many plays written for audiences with a limited attention span. A limited attention span – meaning the writer has to say everything more than once. Repeat things, reiterate them, state them in several different ways.”

“Different ways?”

“Usually, but sufferers often find themselves just repeating things.”

“Repeating things?”

“Repeating things. It’s enormously debilitating. And, of course, mildly contagious.”

“And you say five people have come down with this in our company?”

“That’s right, five of us. It’s almost as if someone had it in for us.”

“But who could that be?” asked David. He paused. “Asking open questions is another temporary symptom, isn’t it?”

Phil nodded. “Everything seems to have started just after Karen died in that terrible accident.”

“Yes, I remember”

“It was when we had that freak tornado, a weather phenomenon almost completely unknown in this temperate climate.”

“Yes, I remember”

“She was caught right in its path and her car was thrown from the road.”

“Yes, I remember that happening. We all went to the funeral together".

“She was killed instantly. You must remember. We all went to the funeral together.”

“For fu –“

“Sorry. It gets the better of me sometimes. The puzzling thing is that you can really only contract the disease through an exchange of bodily fluids with an asymptomatic carrier. Someone who has the disease but doesn’t show the symptoms, something which is often the result of it being combined with some other related condition. Karen might have been such a carrier – I think she had cryptophrenia.”

“What’s that? God, you’re right, this is irritating.”

“It’s a pathological reluctance to share information which it is perfectly natural, if not positively advantageous for you to share. It comes from playing too many lead roles in detective dramas. When in possession of crucial information about, for example, the identity of a psychopath who has already tortured and killed a dozen people in order to cover their tracks, the rational person tells as many people as possible in order to decrease the chances of their own demise and indeed in the hope that said psychopath might, for example, get arrested. The cryptophrenia sufferer, however, keeps this information to themselves until they are able to reveal it in the most dramatic manner possible, making only vague allusions and promises to explain themselves later. The condition is sometimes fatal, although that often depends on the number of psychopaths living in the area.”

“My God,” said David, “I think you’re right – it would certainly explain what Karen said to me before she died.”

“What was that?” asked Ian.

“Pretty much nothing.” David paused. “You’re sure these symptoms are temporary, right?”

“I’m sure.”

“Even the repetitive complications?”

“Even the rep – oh, for goodness’ sake –“

“You remember she said she had a son she’d given up for adoption years ago? She said she thought he was here. But she wouldn’t say who it was, she just promised to tell me when she was sure.”

“Classic cryptophrenia,” said Phil. “That must have been just before the accident?”

“About half an hour. But if everyone has contracted expositionosis after that, she can’t have given it to them, can she?”

“No. There must be someone else involved.”

“So who’s infected?”

“Myself, James Taylor, Alison Warner, Patricia Holt and Sarah Dinkley.”

“Well, you and James were both in ‘Gay’s the Lord’, Alison and Sarah were in ‘A Kiss Before Flying’ and Sarah was in ‘Smooch!’ so you’ve all been exchanging saliva. In fact, you’ve all kissed – “. He stopped. He and Phil both stared silently at Ian. There was a very awkward silence.

“Yes, you’ve all kissed me. Ian. The quiet, asymptomatic carrier of expositionosis. Why am I asymptomatic? Because for a long time, I’ve suffered from monologorrhea. And before you jump in to explain what that is, Phil, let me tell you.

“Do you know what it feels like to grow up as an orphan? To never know your real parents? Of course you don’t. You have no idea how it is to wake up every morning wondering what made you such a terrible person that the woman who gave birth to you couldn’t bear to keep you around.

“And in fact, neither do I. I had no idea I was adopted until I was twenty six. And my adoptive parents were fantastic, never criticised or punished me, bought me extravagant presents and still take me on holiday every year.

“But I contracted monologorrhea at a very early age. And that means I take everything, even good fortune, as a personal affront which has to be rectified by a diabolical plan. The plan doesn’t have to be effective, or even particularly sensible: just devious enough to require a long-winded explanation.

“You see, the main symptom of monologorrhea is an obsessive compulsion to speak in multiple paragraphs. It’s actually quite demanding, modulating the tone of one’s voice to give the impression of a line break. But I’ve had many years of practice, suffering under the burden of this terrible disease. The real challenge isn’t the delivery, though. Not by a long chalk. The problem is coming up with schemes sufficiently convoluted to be worth explaining in a roundabout, long-winded manner which leaves one’s listeners inexplicably silent but always on the verge of worrying about what they’re doing with their hands.”

Phil began to speak. “So what was the –“

“I don’t need your help!” snapped Ian. “I’ve given more monologues than you’ve had hot dinners.”

“Well,” said David, “as jobbing actors barely scraping a living doing rep in this fine city of Birmingham, we can’t afford all that many – “

“That’s enough from you too!” Ian shouted. “I’ve started this monologue and I’ve got to finish it before we all lose the will to live.

“No doubt you’ve realised that Karen was my birth mother, so I will spare you the details of that discovery. How she became suspicious when she found out I had been adopted, knowing where I came from and when I had been born. How she hired a private detective to trace me through the orphanage. How he managed to get a DNA sample by buying me a drink and stealing the glass. I won’t mention that I realised something was going on, followed him and broke into his office, so that I knew the truth before Karen did.

“All I will say is how overjoyed I was, and how wonderful it felt when Karen called to say she was coming to see me. At last, I was going to be reunited with my real mother.

“And then there was the accident, and I never saw her again. My chance at happiness snatched away.”

Phil went to speak but Ian continued forcefully. “Why take it out on you? you ask.” He reached into his bag and pulled out an iPad. A few swipes, and the screen was alive with graphs and equations. He placed it on the table for the others to see. “It all comes down to chaos.”

“My God,” said Phil. “The Butterfly Effect!”

“Yes,” said Ian bitterly, “The Butterfly Effect. That preposterous post-modern nonsense the five of you insisted on staging. A butterfly flaps its wings in Central Park, there’s a hurricane in Ecuador. An actor declaims Rupert Brook dressed as a shark dangling from a feather boa, and there’s a typhoon in Birmingham. Karen knew that production would end in disaster. She did everything she could to prevent it. But you had to go ahead. You had to have your moment of intellectual posturing. And she paid the price!

“So now it’s time for you to suffer. For all of you to feel helpless as your sentences become longer. As your conversation becomes more and more repetitive. More and more – God, you’re right, that is annoying – My torment will be your torment. And there’s nothing you can do.”

There was another uncomfortable silence.

“You may be right,” said David at last. “But you two are not the only ones with an unusual condition. You see, I suffer from – “

“No!” shouted Ian, suddenly alarmed.

“Yes! Deusexmachinitis.”

“Of course,” said Phil. “A propensity to hide one’s true identity and capabilities until the situation becomes desperate, and only then to make an intervention which it would have been better to make much earlier.”

“Yes,” David continued. “You see, I am not simply a jobbing actor barely scraping a living doing – oh, for God’s sake – I am Inspector David Warner of Scotland Yard’s Biological Crimes division. We’ve known about your activities, Ian, since you infected James Taylor.”

Phil interrupted, “Then why did you let him –“

Deusexmachinitis!” insisted David. He placed a bottle on the table. “Drink this. It’s a cure for your condition. It takes effect immediately.”

“Then why didn’t you – oh, right.”

“You, Phil, have your cure, and you, Ian are under arrest. The day has been saved thanks to my unexpected and basically inexplicable intervention. The good have ended happily and the bad unhappily. Now drink up: it’s time for you to come along to the station.”

“So just to be clear,” started Phil, “Karen and Ian both discovered that she was his birth mother, and then – “

“For God’s sake!” shouted the others. “Just take the medicine, Phil,” said David. “Just take the medicine.”

Filed under: Humour, Writing

My name is Bond. Basildon Bond.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword.

They have no idea.

The year was 1949, the place, East Berlin. I was working for MI5 heading up the most elite unit of operatives ever assembled. While other spies worked on surveillance, defection and assassination, we worked on something much more important: propaganda. We wrote the words that steered the hearts and minds of those trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

We had been recruited from the ranks of journalists and advertising copywriters, pushed through basic training (speed writing, translation and memorising Roget’s Thesaurus) and then deployed in the field with nothing but a pen, a notepad, a convincing cover story and a small fortune in Deutschmarks. And naturally, those pens became the heart of our very lives. Developed by the brightest boffins Britain could boast, they came in many shapes and sizes, each designed to match the skills and needs of the owner.

Our lives depended on those pens. Because we never knew when duty would call. We never knew when we would have to pen a few words condemning communism, a ditty to dispel doubts, a bon mot to boost morale. At any time of night or day we might be called upon to find a motivating metaphor, an appropriate analogy or a singly scintillating sentence. Alliteration and assonance (as well as relevance and resonance) had to be second nature. And worst of all, we had to be able to do it all in German.

Our lives depended on those pens, and that was how I knew Vickers was in trouble. Vickers, the Yank, the only one of our number recruited from Madison Avenue and not Fleet Street or Soho. Visiting his apartment to pass on a new compound noun I found him gone, but his pen still there. In plain view. Plain view, for heaven’s sake. There was no doubt about it – he’d been kidnapped.

Vickers was a good man and a fine operative. He had been brought in to replace Stephens who, although dedicated, had always suffered with his nerves. After a particularly distressing assignment involving hanging propositions and a long chain of malapropisms he had returned to London where he had finally lost his grip on reality and his life had fallen apart.

Only one man in East Berlin would risk something so audacious as kidnapping an established agent. Alexander Goldfink, arch-villain, evil genius and inventor of the notorious Wonder Filler self-replenishing fountain pen. His factory in West Berlin created the pens used by the enemies of the free world across the globe, from Stalin to Mao to the petty dictators of Africa and the Far East. He claimed that they came filled with ink, but the truth was that they came filled with evil. He had prospered under Hitler’s regime and now exported his hate-filled Schreibgeräte throughout the world.

It was a cold December night as I trudged through the snow on Konigstrasse to find Der Tintenbrunnen, the inauspicious dive bar which served as Goldfink’s HQ this side of the Wall. The tiny door was marked only by an old and faded sign and a single lantern. I knocked twice, cursing the biting wind as I stood and waited. I could only hope I wouldn’t be recognised.

The door opened and I came face to face with one of Goldfink’s henchmen, a huge man at least twelve inches taller than me and probably twice as heavy. Of course, size isn’t everything when it comes to an all-out fight, and I could tell from the tattoos on his arms that spelling wasn’t his strong point and that he probably had little regard for good penmanship. I was pretty sure that if push came to shove, I could take him.

He led me down a narrow flight of stairs to a smoke-filled cellar where a few dozen people were drinking, grouped around rough wooden tables. Most of them were writing; everyone had a pen. Suddenly he turned and stopped me.

“Your pen, sir. I am sorry, but patrons are not permitted to bring pens onto the premises.”

Curses! There was nothing I could do. I reached into my coat and took out my instrument. Reluctantly I handed it over.

“Please be assured that we will take good cares for it.”

As I suspected – his grammar was weak too. For a moment I thought about distracting him with a double negative and wresting the pen back from him, but thought better of it. There was no benefit in causing a scene.

He stood aside, and waved me into the room. I walked over to the bar as he walked back up the stairs to resume his duties as doorman.

“What can I get you?” asked the barman.

“What do you have?”

The barman pulled a roll of cloth from under the counter and unfurled it before me. Inside was the motliest collection of pens I had ever seen. It might have been eight years since the Biro brothers had fled Germany, but their pernicious influence was stronger than ever and the collection of inexpensive plastic ballpoints before me made me sick to my stomach.

I placed DM100 on the counter. “You have nothing for the connoisseur?”

“Perhaps – “ he began, and then stopped as he glanced nervously behind me. “But it seems you have more pressing business.”

I looked over my shoulder to see two more of Goldfink’s henchmen. It seemed I had attracted someone’s attention. Taking me by the elbow, the one to my right steered me around and led me towards the end of the cellar where the other opened a small door. A few steps along a damp corridor led us to an office where a small man, who I recognised to be Goldfink himself, sat behind a desk, examining my pen under an anglepoise lamp. The henchmen pushed me into a chair and withdrew. I waited in silence as he finished his examination.

“Erasable gel ink with a retractable fountain nib. Only one man would dare to bring a pen like this into my bar.” He looked at me for the first time. “Basildon Bond, I presume?”

“Indeed. Forgive me. If I’d have known you were here I would have introduced myself instead of waiting for your assistants.”

Goldfink flinched only a little at my ill-constructed subjunctive. “Tell me, Mr Bond,” he began. “How did you find us?”

“Hanging over the door, I saw your sign,” I said, watching his lip curl slightly as he processed the dangling participle. “The colour of the ink was quite recognisable. It was a simple deduction given the data that was available.”

“Your little tricks will not work on me, Mr Bond. Today, almost everybody uses data as a mass noun.”

“I’m sorry to be so out of touch. It’s just that we have less operatives in the field these days.”

“Fewer!” he shouted, suddenly irate. “Fewer operatives! Operatives is a countable noun!” He took a deep breath and regained his composure. “Still. This is your pen, is it not?”

“I don’t believe it is. In fact, I don’t know to who it belongs.”

Goldfink gave a tiny yelp and a shudder. Pressing my advantage, I continued. “So – are you going to tell me what you brought me in from out there for?”

“Do not provoke me any further, Mr Bond, or Vickers will suffer for it.”

“Vickers?”

“Yes, Mr Bond.” Goldfink stood up and moved to the end of the room where a curtain obscured a section of the wall. He pulled it back to reveal a truly hideous sight. In an adjoining room, Vickers sat at a small wooden table illuminated by an overhead lamp. His arms were chained up, loose enough to allow him to write. His brow feverish and his face pained, he was scribbling away on tiny scraps of paper. Every few seconds he wrote a few words, then screwed up the paper and threw it to the floor. The mountain of paper balls surrounding him was testament to the time he had been there, as was the expression of anguish on his face.

“My god!” I exclaimed. “What have you done to him?”

“It is not what we have done to him, but rather, what he will do for us. You see, Vickers will spearhead a propaganda campaign within the US government. The purpose of this campaign will be to have them create a global communications network, rather like the existing telephone network. It will allow people not just to have conversations, but to publish all their thoughts and ideas. It will be hailed as a wonderful invention, a triumph for democracy and education. And then do you know what will happen, Mr Bond?”

“Enlighten me.”

“Millions of people will speak their minds to the world, and they will have nothing to say. And more to the point, they will not know how to say it. They will mix their metaphors. Split their infinitives. The will confuse “there”, “they’re” and “their”. And they won’t care in the least. The English-speaking world will be awash with badly spelled, badly punctuated trivia. Words will come to mean nothing, and people like you and me – we will become obsolete. But America and your own country – they will be ripe for conquest by the proud, grammar-loving German people!”

“He will never do it!”

“Oh, the Vickers you have worked with would never do such a thing. This is why it is necessary for us to break his will.”

I looked more closely at the terrible scene before me. “You swine! That’s – a Biro! No – it’s an imitation Biro! And – no, no, you wouldn’t!”

“Yes, Mr Bond. Look closely. The ink is green. Vickers has been composing short verses of condolence for the last thirty six hours, every one of them hideous to his refined sensibilities. Soon he will find himself in the same state as your friend Stephens.

I realised it was time to bring out the big guns. “Ah, Stephens. I remember him. He went to London, insane, and then under.”

Goldfink screamed at the awful syllepsis. “No, no!” he cried.

“It’s no use Goldfink!” I shouted. “Once one has scraped the bottom of the barrel, you have to stop flogging the dead horse!” He screamed even louder, falling to his knees. “I don’t mean to take the wind out of your saddle, but it seems to me you’ve been burning the midnight oil at both ends.”

“Please Mr Bond! Please! Stop!”

“Vickers may be a little green behind the ears – “ Goldfink was beating the floor with his fists by now – “but he still keeps his shoulder to the grindstone.”

“Stop! Take Vickers! Leave me be!” Goldfink held out the keys to Vickers’ chains. I grabbed my pen and marched towards the doorway.

“Damn grammar Nazis,” I snarled as I snatched the keys.

Releasing Vickers was the work of a moment. Barely able to grasp what was going on he smiled weakly at me as I threw away the chains.

“Come on old chap,” I said. “Time for you to go home.”

I can’t say how many heads we broke or infinitives we split getting out of there, but it was just half an hour later that I found myself putting an exhausted Vickers to bed in his apartment. A stiff glass of whiskey had calmed his nerves and I watched over him as, clutching his pen, he fell into a deep and restful sleep.

An hour later, back at my own flat, I too drifted into slumber, knowing that once again I had done my bit to defend right and freedom.

Or had I? How much of a threat was Goldfink, in reality? After all, he was clearly a madman. A global communications network where the proper use of language counted for nothing. The very thought!

Filed under: Humour, Writing

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

(To the tune of “Let it Snow”)

Oh your family are truly frightful
Argumentative, mean and spiteful
Not to mention a little slow;
Let it go, let it go, let it go

Yes it’s hard to stay bright and perky
When they’re fighting about the turkey
And your brother won’t share his blow
Let it go, let it go, let it go

Now you know that you must stay strong
When they say that we suck at life
And then tell us where we went wrong –
Honey please step away from the knife!

Oh I know that it’s really trying
When your grandma just won’t stop lying
But since we need them for their dough
Let it go, let it go, let it go!

Filed under: Humour

Scooby Doo meets Bob Newhart

Hello? Yeah, Mike, this is the sheriff. What’s that, you need backup? Well, see, Mike, last time you called in for backup it didn’t turn out so well. You want to tell me what’s going on? You’ve arrested the Mayor. Okay. Mike, the Mayor is kind of an important guy. Why did you arrest him? Well, I’m sure he has done something really bad, Mike, but I’d like to know a little more. A property scam. Well, that sure does sound serious, Mike. Okay. Uhuh. You say all the people who’ve sold up and moved away from Winterhaven over the last few months, that was all the Mayor’s fault? I know he’s not the most popular Mayor we’ve had, but I don’t – oh, I see. The Mayor was making them move away. And how was he doing that, Mike? Uhuh. Hmm. Okay. So, let me get this straight. The Mayor wanted to buy up some property, so he got an engineer at the power plant to fake his own death… then dress up in a scuba suit… covered in electrical coils… so he could break into the plant and cause blackouts? Well, I guess that’s enough to give anyone a blackout. What’s that? He didn’t break in? Well, how did he get into the plant, Mike? It’s not like a man wearing a scuba suit doesn’t attract a little attention. What’s that you’re saying, Mike? The tunnel? The Mayor dug a tunnel from the pet store to the plant? That’s half a mile, Mike. Tell me – look, I don’t mean to be – have they changed your meds again, Mike? Oh, I’m sorry. You’ve got witnesses. They told you all about it? Who, Mike? The kids. The kids in the psychedelic van. And, er, how did the kids find out about it, Mike? Parrot? Is that a person, Mike, like a Mr Parrot? The kids found out about the Mayor because they interrogated a parrot. Okay, Mike – what’s that? The kids didn’t interrogate the parrot. Well, who did, Mike? Did you interrogate – it was the dog? The talking dog. Are you telling me the kids own a talking dog? They don’t own him, he just travels with them. I don’t really want to get into that Mike. Let me just get things straight. Some kids in a psychelic van come to you and tell you that their dog has interrogated a parrot and found out that the Mayor has dug a tunnel under half the town so an engineer who’s faked his own death can dress in a scuba suit and wreck the generators. Uhuh. Well, Mike, I think you should come back to the office. No, I don’t think you should bring the mayor. A flight risk? Are you talking about the mayor, Mike, or the parrot? No, no, I’m sorry, I am taking this seriously. You just get back to the office, and I’ll call Dr Baker. You and he can have a nice long chat. No, there’s no need to bring the scuba suit, Dr Baker will probably have a nice suit lined up just for you.

Filed under: Humour

Ten Things that Made Me Laugh in 2010

It’s the time of the year for lists. Hopefully this one will give you a few laughs. In no particular order:

The Uncomfortable Plot Summaries
Someone is Wrong on the Internet
Jerusalem by Spitting Image (an oldie, but the first time I’ve found it)
Some excellent science journalism
Rachel Maddow on Bill O’Reilly
How Does Homeopathy Work?
Pixar vs Dreamworks
A bizarre murder case
Being condescending
And finally:

Filed under: Humour

Further Uncomfortable Plot Summaries

These aren’t a patch on the originals, but I thought they were worth a go:

  • Alice in Wonderland: Unstable teen spoils engagement party
  • Codename: The Cleaner: Ethnic minorities duped into doing government dirty work
  • Daybreakers: Pharmaceutical executive spearheads radical blood donation programme
  • Eagle Eye: Supercomputer becomes radical Democrat
  • Gamer: TV broadcast ends badly for software billionaire
  • Moon: Artificial life form wins sympathy of android, escapes controlled environment
  • Night of the Demon: Foreign visitor offers unlikely explanation for railway accident
  • Pontypool: Government over-reacts to local radio health broadcast
  • Seven Percent Solution: Cocaine addict hijacks train, assaults foreign dignitaries
  • St Trinian’s II: School treasure hunt wrecks matinee
  • Surrogates: Policeman with self-image problems destroys peaceful social order
  • The Fantastic Mr Fox: Aging thief causes trouble for whole community
  • The Informant!: FBI agents discover some people dishonest
  • The Men Who Stare at Goats: Aging hippie rejects young reporter for older rival
  • The Orphanage: Inadequate household storage leads to suicide
  • The Prisoner: Poor succession planning leads to kidnap, murder
  • The Vampire’s Assistant: Entertainers killed in adolescent spat
  • The Wolfman: Antiques dealer wins trust of brother-in-law, shoots him
  • Zombieland: Vigilantes take over funfair, slaughter plague victims

Filed under: Film + TV, Humour

My Best Pal (Scooby Doo Fan Fiction)

It’s the eyes that first give them away.

My name is Minowski, and thanks to my inability to keep my mouth shut when it’s good for me, I’m sheriff of Io-31 Spaceport. They founded Io-31 when mercury mining was still going strong. It didn’t last, and within a year the place had become the last outpost of law and order in the solar system, with every reject from the Jupiter colonies winding their way there to try and get a way back to earth. Some made it, some didn’t, but every last one of them would kill you as soon as look at you.

So one night I’m having a quiet drink in Sizlack’s bar. I’ve spent the day listening to people telling me they’re seeing ghosts near one of the abandoned mines. Turns out there’s some sort of gas being produced by chemicals in the rotting machinery that’s making people see things. All I want to do right now is get half a bottle of sythecol inside me and hit the sack.

But then I spot them – four kids, two guys and two girls, sitting in a booth in the corner. Now kids, we don’t see many kids at Io-31. So I figure, these are either runaways, or they’re on the game, or both. They don’t look like sex workers, though; they’re dressed just like ordinary kids. So they’re runaways, or they’re grifters, or…

Then I see the eyes. A little too settled, a little too knowing. Too old. These aren’t kids at all. And that doesn’t leave many possibilities, and I don’t like any of them.

The pretty girl stands up and walks to the bar. She’s well groomed, slender, and poised, just the opposite of her frumpy friend. She touches the arm of a man standing there drinking, and whispers something in his ear. He can’t believe his luck and motions to Sizlack to bring her a drink. She opens her purse as if to pay but he stops her; it’s a nice touch on her part, I think, whatever the grift is. Because this has to be a grift.

The three at the table are watching her as we drink. They don’t say anything; they’re just biding their time. Then the bigger guy gets up. He’s got a footballer’s build, looks like he can bench 220. Suddenly, his face is all thunder, and he stalks up to the couple at the bar, who by now are all over each other, and taps the guy on the shoulder. The guy turns around, first curious, then concerned, then defensive as the blond kid starts to get wound up.

So this is how it’s going to go. The blond kid is going to take a swing at the guy. The guy is going to go down. The girl is going to get his wallet. Sizlack is going to throw the kids out so by the time the guy comes to, they’re miles away.

I walk across the bar to where the action is about to go down. Blondy is just pulling back his arm to throw a punch. I step between him and the mark and grab his fist.

He’s ice cold, like there isn’t a drop of blood in his body.

I’ve found it’s best to stay calm and friendly in the face of trouble. “My name is Minowski, and I’m the sheriff here. I just thought I’d say hello and – ”

I already know what I’m dealing with. I don’t need to be proven right by him throwing me across the room like I was a rag doll. Still, it’s always nice to be proven right.

I land on a chair near the booth where the frumpy girl sits waiting with the lanky boy who looks like he’s going to need to start shaving real soon, but not yet. It crosses my mind, as the chair shatters beneath me, that it must really piss him off to be caught in the middle of puberty like that.

Across the bar, Blondy weighs up his options. “C’mon, gang,” he shouts, heading towards the door and pulling the pretty girl with him. The two in the booth stand up and the girl follows quickly. The lanky guy hesitates to let her pass. I grab a broken chair leg and jump at him, pinning him back against the wall of the booth, the sharp end of the wooden leg poised over his unbeating heart. He looks down, terrified.

“Like I was telling your buddy,” I say, “I’m the sheriff here, and I think you and I should have a little talk.”

He thinks about it. I think the truth is, he really wants someone to talk to. People don’t know how lonely it is living on the wrong side of the law. And my guess is that this guy is pretty much the runt of the litter where his gang are concerned. He relaxes and nods. I motion to Sizlack and a moment later there are drinks on our table.

“You got some ID, kid?” I ask. He fumbles in his pockets. “Forget it,” I say. “It’s gonna be fake anyway, isn’t it?”

He says nothing for a while. “How did you know?” He casts his eyes to the chair leg then back to me.

“That you and your friends are vampires? Partly because your friend threw me across the room with one hand. Partly because he don’t have a blood supply. And partly because you might look like you’re sixteen but your eyes… your eyes have seen way, way too much.”

He gives a hollow laugh.

“Most people don’t believe in vampires.”

“I know different. I know you don’t see them in the bright lights of the big cities. But my family had – dealings with them back in the old country. And in the shadows of a place like this, it’s no surprise to find – ”

“We’re not killers, right? Like, I can hardly even stomach blood.”

“I believe you. So humour me. How old are you?”

“Next month I’ll be exactly one hundred.”

“So, born 1953. A good year.” I raise my glass in a toast and he laughs again. “What’s your name?”

“Norville. Norville Rogers.”

“Well, Mr Rogers, what are you doing in my spaceport?”

My mark of respect wrong-foots him, and he drops his guard a little.

“We’re looking for something. Someone.” He takes down most of his drink in a single gulp.

“Tell me about it. Maybe I can help you find them.”

“It’s a long story,” he says, and drains his glass.

I motion to Sizlack again. “I’m in no hurry. And if it gets you troublemakers out of my sight quickly, I’m willing to help.”

“Okay, like, it’s 1969. My pal Freddy Jones gets given a big old van by his dad when he gets through drivers’ ed. We think, hey, let’s drive up to coast to Frisco and see the sights. So, like, Freddy’s got a thing for this chick Daphne Blake, and she’s got this friend Velma Dinkley who we’re sure is a dyke but is kind of funny, you know? And my best pal, Robbie Scoble, he’s been to Frisco before and knows some people there. So we all get in the van and head north.

“And it’s great. We have like the best time in the world. And then we meet these guys in a bar who invite us to a frat party in Sunnyvale. They give me some weed and it’s primo stuff, man. So I really want to go to this party. Robert, he’s got a bad feeling about it, he’s heard that Sunnyvale is a pretty nasty place. And he’s my best pal, so I really want to listen to him, you know? But I really want some more of that weed. In the end, he gives in, and we go.

“And the place is like, full of freaking vampires. We didn’t stand a chance, man. They turned us all. Freddy. Velma. Daphne. Even my best pal, Robbie. Man, I cried. I’d known that dude since kindergarten and I had to watch while they drank every last drop of his blood.

“It takes us a couple of days to get our act together. We knew it would be tough to go home. Hell, we knew it would be tough to do anything. We couldn’t even, like, go out in the daytime. Then one morning, Velma comes back to the van. She’s been gone all night and she’s, like, really excited. She’s met a witch who can help us. And I’m like, Velma, you don’t believe in witches and she’s like, I don’t believe in vampires either so fuck you.

“So we go see this witch, right? It turns out she’s a priestess of some trickster god, and this trickster god has an enemy he wants killed. And if we find this enemy, and kill him, this god will make us human again. So we’re like, how do we find him? And the witch tells us that this guy is into the whole frighteners scene and we have to look around for people being scared, spooked out, and generally terrified by things that go bump in the night. So we’re like, how do we do that when we can’t even go out in the day?

“So she casts this spell, which like – like, she fixes it so we can go out in the daylight and we don’t need to drink so much blood and we can get by on ordinary food, so long as we eat a lot of it. Like, then we start on the world’s longest road trip, looking for this trickster god’s enemy. We chase down every spooky mystery we can find, and almost every time it’s some nut job in a mask hiding a pile of loot.

“We built up quite a following, you know? After a while we could tell the cops anything and they’d believe us. No-one seemed to worry that we never got any older or we had a dog who could freaking read. This one time, we brought down the mayor of Winterhaven. He was running a crazy property scam with one of his buddies dressing up in a wetsuit and sabotaging the local power plant. So, like, we figure out what’s going on and we’re thinking no-one is ever going to buy this. But we go to the police with this crazy plot, right, and they’re like, no problem, it’s you guys, and they just, like, arrest the mayor on the spot. The mayor, dude.

“That’s when Velma realised we could get away with anything. She really is the brains of the gang. I mean, Freddy has his plans, and people, well, people think I’m funny, but it’s Velma who makes things happen. Anyway, Velma goes quiet for a few days, and then says we’re going to Sleepy Hollow. Next thing we know, we’re chasing after a headless horseman who turns out to be a businessman stealing a diamond necklace because he’s going bankrupt. We catch him, and he starts saying we’ve double-crossed him.

“Double crossed? Well, yeah, because then Velma tells us that she planned the whole thing and put him up to it, told him we’d lend some cred to the whole headless horseman thing. In the meantime, she’s made a stack doing some kind of crazy deal with his company’s stock. So now he’s totally ruined and Velma sells the company’s assets. And we’re like, rich, man. Which is good, because hamburgers were getting real expensive back then.

“Velma looks after us pretty good, but sometimes money gets tight and we have to hustle a little – like you saw.”

“So you’re here because of what’s going on in the abandoned mine?”

He nods.

“I can save you some time there. There’s no nut-job but there is a lot of dangerous gas which is making people see things. I don’t think your god’s enemy is here.”

I see the look of dejection on his face. They’ve been searching for almost a century and I’ve just handed them another dead end. Then I see a flash of blond at the door to the bar. “Still,” I say, “your friends are.”

He waves and motions them to join us. As the three kids walk over, I see they have a dog with them, a Great Dane, who bounds forward joyfully towards us, running to Norville’s seat and putting his front paws up on Norville’s legs, nuzzling into his neck before settling back down.

“You never told me,” I say, “what happened to Robert.”

He pauses. “The spell – the witch said that if one of us would give up the last of their humanity, it could be shared with the others to make them almost human again.” He takes hold of the dogs head and looks affectionately into its eyes. “Only Robert Scoble was brave enough to make that sacrifice.” He turns to face me. “We call him Scooby, now. And, like, he’s my best pal.”

Filed under: Film + TV, Humour

My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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