Be Careful What You Wish For

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The old boy sitting next to me in our local was clearly hoping to join in our conversation. It’s not an uncommon occurrence: the banter flows freely most Saturday lunchtimes and we are, I like to think, a fun bunch on our day.

To give him his due, he did not try to force the issue: some folks engineer their way into a bar conversation in much the same way as a bulldozer might attempt to delicately penetrate a trifle.  We’re not a stand-offish crowd by any means, but a little finesse is always appreciated.  He had been dutifully restrained, but nevertheless you could sense he was dying to join in.

Having run through the usual checklist  – not an evangelist, a racist homophobe or an investment banker;  the only slight oddity was that he was drinking pints of ale with rum and coke chasers  –  we brought him into the fold, discovered his name was Jim (I’ve changed it for the purpose of this true tale) and spent a pleasant fifteen minutes or so shooting whatever breeze was wafting.

During a lull in proceedings, Jim motioned me to lean in and listen.

“You might not think it to look at me,” he said, “but I’ve been extremely lucky on The Lottery.”

I winced inwardly. This was the kind of opening gambit you might typically expect from a con artist. I envisaged a conversation that was the pub equivalent of one of those Nigerian scam e-mails. Out of courtesy, I kept these thoughts to myself and simply nodded politely and made an encouraging grunt.

“Ah, there it is!” he said “The Look! If I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it a thousand times. You don’t believe me!”

Clearly my non-verbal leakage was like an ill-maintained gutter in a thunderstorm.

“Not at all!” I stressed, attempting to repair damaged fences. “Sounds like an interesting story…”

“Well,” he said, “last year I won £800,000. But that’s not the end of it. Three weeks ago, I won another million!”

Now this was stretching a tall tale too far, but I had learned my lesson and so I began to throw in interested questions, occasionally asking for some sort of arcane detail that might normally catch out a storyteller, if only in a slight pause as they sought to fabricate new information.  All these he answered with consummate ease. At no point did he contradict himself or offer up an unlikely response.  After a while I was left with only two possible conclusions:  either Jim was an immensely accomplished liar or a genuine two-times Lottery winner.

“Anyway,” said Jim, “to cut a long story short, I’d like to offer you and everyone else in the bar a drink on me. Help me celebrate my good fortune.”

Now this was the kind of scenario that I had long imagined in my own day dreams about being a Lottery winner.  How to graciously spend my new found largesse. A pleasant enough reverie when it is unlikely ever to happen to you, but a genuine issue once it has.

“There’s that look again!” he said. “Why not let me buy you all a drink?”

My uncharitable mind had flashed back twenty years to another rich old man who, once a week on Sunday lunchtime, would routinely pop his head around the door of our regular haunt in Wembley to inform the amused topers that he had enough money to buy the pub, and everyone in it, thrice over. Old Frank had been variously considered anything from an ageing pederast to an eccentric millionaire in the popular imagination of the time. What had been beyond doubt was that he was both unloved and unwanted by the regulars. Whether his self-evident bitterness towards the clientele was the cause or the result of this state of affairs I never did find out.

“I’d be happy to accept a drink from you,” I said, making the instant proviso in my head that I’d buy him one back as contingent to that acceptance. I didn’t say it aloud, though, as I had a feeling it would have been interpreted as a failure to grasp the true spirit of his gesture. Which, upon reflection, it probably was.

Jim nodded and extracted a couple of twenties from his wallet. “A drink for my friend and his wife,” he told the barmaid, “and once right round the bar!”

This got the attention of my drinking buddies, as you might imagine, and I helped out with an explanation: “Jim has been extremely lucky on The Lottery and he’d like to buy us all a drink.”

My friends’ faces briefly registered The Look. I wondered if Jim had ever encountered anyone, aside from a Lottery representative, who hadn’t given him The Look. It struck me that everyone’s first thought was likely to be the cynical one: “Where’s the catch?”

As the drinks were poured Jim was now regaling the rest of the bar with his tale.

“The thing is,” he was saying, “if it had happened to me twenty years ago that would have been great, but I’m 76, my wife is dead: what am I supposed to do with all that money?  I can’t spend it fast enough.”

“Buy a nice house,” someone suggested.

Jim snorted. “What would I want with a bigger house? Or a different place? I rattle around in the one I’ve got, and, trust me, I’ve lost more friends since I won the money than I care to count. It’s bloody hard making new ones. You can’t even buy people a drink in a pub without coming across as some sort of sad old git trying to buy a conversation. Plus I don’t have anyone to leave the money to when I go, and I’m buggered if I’m going to leave any for the bloody Government. Have you tried spending thousands of pounds a day? You’d think it would be a breeze, but it’s bloody difficult! Fast as I spend it, the interest replaces it and more!”

The faces around the bar had now polarised on a spectrum between outright disbelief and utter bemusement. For my own part, having taken the man’s pint, I felt a strange compulsion to believe him, mixed with the sudden urge to say “Tell you what, if you don’t want it, give it to me!”

I was about to say that very thing, in jest, when it occurred to me that he might very well take me at my word. It had been a strange enough encounter already and there was still plenty of time for it to get weirder. Uncommonly, I bit my tongue.

“Why have you lost so many friends?” I asked.

“I’ve always been a pub goer,” he answered, “I’ve spent a lot of time with people who’ve happily bought me beers in the past, when I didn’t have the money sometimes. So one of the first things I did when I got my win was visit all my old haunts and try to give something back. You’d think it would be easy, but people didn’t believe me. A bit like you don’t. Some of them refused. I even got barred from a couple of my favourite places.”

“Barred? Why?”

“Because when you sit on a barstool and get pissed, you eventually fall off.”

I searched his face for signs that he was joking, but he was deadly serious.

“That’s right,” he said. “My life is one long session down the pub, only I don’t ever run out of money. I don’t have anything to go home for, so I stay and I drink and I get drunk.  Eventually I get taken home, or left to sleep it off overnight.  The way I’m going I can’t see myself reaching old age. A lot of my old friends don’t speak to me anymore. You might not want to speak to me tomorrow, after we’ve had a few more.  That’s my life.  I’m a lucky bastard, right?”

There was infinite sadness in his voice as he stared down the tunnel of his long suicide mission.

Thoughts of counselling Jim whirled briefly through my head, then I remembered an old saying: “You saved my life. Now you owe me!”

“My round,” I said, in true co-dependent fashion.

We left the pub shortly after. Jim, needless to say, did not do so until much later. I have gone over that conversation a hundred times in my head. It was not the money that trapped Jim, even assuming there was really a stash in his bank account; after all, he could give it all away in an instant. No, Jim was trapped by his needs. It was just beyond the bounds of a mere Lottery win to satisfy them.

I suppose that is the human condition.

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Have I Got News For You

The current spell of cold weather seems to have put the media into an all-round tizzy. This morning I watched Good Morning Britain to see how they would report it. What follows is, I’d like to feel, the essence of what they did. Names have been changed to avoid litigation.


“Welcome back to the Good Morning Britain studio. My name’s Amanda Periwinkle…”

“…and I’m Cornelia Scruffgrunter…”

“Later we’ll be meeting Britain’s most talented dog, Buster, who has memorised the complete works of William Wordsworth in just over a week…”

“…and at seven-forty Doctor Bob will be telling us why it’s most unwise to eat unpasteurised horse manure…”

“…but, first, our main story: you’ve have been tweeting literally in your thousands to say how alarmed you are by the strange weather.  Well, we’ve been investigating, and apparently the strange weather is all due to a disturbance in our weather patterns that has literally divided the country in half. In the east it has been snowing. In the west it has been very cold. Along the dividing line, if you stand still long enough, one half of you will turn into a snowman, the other half will freeze like a Heston Blumenthal ready-meal in liquid nitrogen.”

“That’s right, Amanda! So what’s it like to be literally experiencing different weather based purely on your postcode? We sent our intrepid reporters out into the Siberian conditions to find out. Bill Cundlebucket is in Yorkshire and Amelia Frogglicker is in Lancashire.  To you first, Bill. What’s it like in Yorkshire? I can imagine that under your padded overcoat you‘ve probably wrapped some very special thermal pants around your enormous lunchbox!”

“Hahaha, Cornelia. That’s for me to know and you to speculate upon. I will say, however, that the Cundlebucket ballsack is, for the moment, very much out of harm’s way.”

“Good news, Bill! So, Yorkshire: we’re hearing in the studio that alarming quantities of white snow have literally fallen from the sky during the hours of darkness. Can you confirm that?”

“I can indeed, Cornelia. You can see behind me the pretty Yorkshire village of Manyamicklemakesamucklethwaite. Yesterday evening when the villagers went to bed those houses were literally free of snow. Then, in the early hours, an unimaginable number of what can only be described as “white snowflakes ” started to drift down from the heavens.  As you can see many of them have landed atop buildings and trees. Those that didn’t have fallen onto roads, paths and gardens.”

“Hi, Bill, it’s Amanda…”

“Hi, Amanda!”

“Bill, you say the number of these snowflakes is “unimaginable”. Is it possible to give our viewers at home a better estimate?”

“Well, Amanda, we’ve spoken to local experts, but it’s clear that the difficult task of counting the snowflakes has not yet begun. It may be literally days before a taskforce can be assembled. A local councillor told us that it might not even be possible to make a start until the snow has cleared.”

“I see. How are the locals bearing up, Bill? I see you have a couple of brave souls with you there.”

“I have indeed, Amanda. With me out here, a long way from her cosy cottage fireside, is Doris Fishstrangler and her husband, Eric. To you first, Doris: what do you make of all this?”

“It’s nobbut a sprinkle! Stop faffing about t’ village wi’ this bunch o’mitherin’ twerps and get back where you came from! Honestly, you’re neither use nor ornament!”

“As you can see, they’re putting a pretty brave face on it, Amanda. Back to you in the studio.”

“Thanks, Bill. In a moment we will go to Amelia in Lancashire, but first let’s get an insight into the science behind this phenomenon from our very own Weathergirl, Sandra. Good morning, Sandra. Great to see you’ve recovered from yesterday’s donkey incident.”

“Good morning, Amanda. Yes, I’m fine thanks, although the donkey did have to be put down.”

“A sad day for Blackpool’s paragliding community.”


“So what can you tell us about this strange spell of weather, Sandra ?”

“Well, it’s all due to a kink in the jet stream that is dragging cold air across from Siberia. I only read about it this morning, but I was lucky enough to be able to talk earlier with a man who really knows his onions when it comes to science. He’s written a best-selling book, he’s the current Poet Laureate and he was the inspiration for Oscar-nominated actor Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Professor Stephen Hawking in the film “The Theory of Everything”. Here’s a chat I filmed earlier.”

“So, Professor Hawking, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. What our viewers are dying to know is what, ultimately, lies behind the curious weather we’ve been experiencing recently? Where did it all begin?”

“Thank you, Sandra. That is a very interesting question…”

“What’s wrong with your voice?”

“That is because the computer is speaking for me.”

“Why does it sound like that? It’s a bit unsettling.”

“I didn’t want to sound like the bloke from the GPS.”

“I see. Can you change it at all?  Because , frankly, it’s a little bit scary.”

“No. Sorry.”

“Oh right. Well thanks for your time, Professor…”

“Don’t you want to know the answer to your question?”

“I have to run. No time, sorry!”

“I promise not to mention black holes…”

“Sorry. Must dash!”

“Well, Sandra, it must have been an honour to meet Stephen Hawking.”

“It was, Cornelia. A very, very wise man.”

“Thanks, Sandra. Well, to those of you sitting at home and worrying that the weather may literally be on your doorsteps, Sandra will be back with the weather details in just a while, and we’ll also be heading to Lancashire shortly to see if they have managed to revive Amelia Frogglicker who was struck down not ten minutes ago by hypothermia.”

“Meanwhile, here’s the local headlines where you are…”

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Star Wars


The atrocity was carried out in full view of the world's media

The atrocity was carried out in full view of the world’s media

Tensions between France and the United States are running at an all time high after President Obama sent John Kerry and James Taylor to smooth over diplomatic relations last week. The uninvited rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend” sent shockwaves through an already-nervous French population. Said one Parisian shopkeeper, who asked to remain anonymous, for fear that he might be made to listen to it again: “My ears are still bleeding. It was an unprovoked hostile act with no warning given at all. I can’t believe our security forces didn’t pick up on this plan earlier.” President Hollande declared a state of heightened security, and it is believed he has readied a plane containing Charles Aznavour and, with the backing of most of the EU, is considering sending it to Washington unless immediate steps are taken by the US to atone for its gross violation of the Geneva Convention.

Charles Aznavour bids himself adieu before being loaded onto the plane this morning

Charles Aznavour bids himself adieu before being loaded onto the plane this morning

As the world hovers on the brink of a third world war, President Obama took the news of Aznavour’s deployment very seriously: “It is an act of naked aggression,” he told the Senate. “I want the world to know that we are ready, willing and able to deploy Bob Dylan unless France and the rest of Europe step back from the abyss. Moreover we have placed Cher and Willie Nelson on high alert.” In the UK, David Cameron told an emergency meeting of COBRA that Britain should not shrink from using its own Weapons of Musical Destruction if war between Europe and the US became a reality. “I’ve said before, there is no point having James Blunt if you’re not prepared to use him. As a last resort we would even consider sending Sir Cliff Richard or Tom Jones. That’s how serious we are. As to which side we’ll take…that’s a toughie, but the Americans helped us to defuse Cher Lloyd during a critical incident in Basingstoke two years ago. If not for their assistance, whole parts of the South might now be uninhabitable. You don’t forget friends like that. On the other hand we have to consider our position vis a vis the Eurovision Song Contest. We need our voice to be heard at the table and we need EU votes if Russia isn’t going to make us look stupid when we put Sir Paul McCartney into this year’s finals.”

July 2013. US experts place Cher Lloyd in a soundproof containment suit.

Basingstoke, July 2013: US experts place Cher Lloyd in a soundproof containment suit.

Russia itself was keeping very quiet over the recent events. President Putin was said to be secretly pleased at the diplomatic row but, as someone who has, himself, sung ‘Blueberry Hill’ on live TV, he may realise his own position in this type of issue is not entirely blameless.  He may be content to stay on the side lines for now.

A UN spokesman said it was keeping “a watching brief” and was prepared to use sanctions if the two sides did not immediately hold peace talks. As usual, this is considered to be unlikely to make any difference whatsoever.

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A Conversation With God


“Well,” I say, somewhat hesitantly. “This is awkward.”

God raises an enquiring eyebrow: “How so?”

“Well, what with me being an atheist and all…”

God throws up a self-deprecatory hand.

“Oh that!” He says. “Think nothing of it. Water off a duck’s back.”

“Really? Only I got the impression it was rather important to You.”

“If you don’t mind Me saying so, it seems more important to you.”

I ponder this for a while. “Well, it’s just that I did, once, believe in You. Went to church. Sang in the choir. Every Sunday and Holy Day. Religiously, You might say.”

God chuckles. He clearly sees what I did there.

“And did you enjoy it?” He asks.

“For a while. Especially at Christmas. Then I started having doubts. Those turned into big doubts. And, well, there You go.”

God nods understandingly. “I see your difficulty. Might I ask a question?”

“Of course.”

“Are you going to capitalize My pronouns throughout this entire piece?”

“I wasn’t sure whether I should, but I thought it best.”

“Why’s that?”

“I didn’t want to offend anyone. You know. Anyone who reads this in my blog.”

“You think people read your blog?”


“Just messing with you. About three at the last count, right? Ha, ha! So, if I’ve understood you correctly, you feel a failure to capitalize My pronouns would possibly give offence to some people?”

“People can be touchy.”

“They can indeed.”

“And — I’m going to say it — it’s all Your fault!”

“My fault?”

“Well yes. If You didn’t exist — and I’m not saying You do — people wouldn’t be so damned touchy about this and that.”

“This and that?”

“Like pork. And prawns. And drawing pictures of The Prophet.”

“And how exactly is this My fault?”

“People do Your bidding. Only last week some people doing Your bidding killed a few people who were mocking them for doing Your bidding. Plus a few others who happened to be in the way.”

God subjects me to a long, contemplative stare. “I can’t help thinking you’ve got this all the wrong way round,” He says. “But first things first. You doubt My existence?”

I nod.

“Well let Me set you straight about that. I do exist.”

“I beg to differ.”

“Well let Me put it another way. Does Justice exist? And Honour? Dignity?”

“Of course.”

“You never doubted it?”

“Not for a moment.”

“Well there you go.”

“There I go what?”

“If Justice, Honour and Dignity exist, how can I not?”

“But those are just abstract nouns. Labels we give to something intangible so we can talk about it among ourselves and make sense of things.”

“Exactly so.”

“So You’re saying You are an abstract noun?”


“But people think You are real! That You made us! That we should do Your bidding!”

“I can’t be held responsible for what people think. They don’t do My bidding. On the contrary: I do theirs. They created Me in their image.”

He sees the look on my face. “I know,” He says. “Ironic, isn’t it? Basically I’m a WYSIWYWTS.”

“A woozywoots?”

“What You See Is What You Want To See: You want a Smitey God, I’m Smitey; you want a Loving God, I’m Loving; you want an Intolerant Sourpuss Who Insists Women Shouldn’t Get Educated Above Their Lowly Station, hey, I’m your guy! As a matter of fact, that’s exactly why I’m a guy. I play the part you give Me. I am your mouthpiece. I am the justification you seek for whatever it is you want to do in My Name. Am I making Myself clear?”

“You are. Very clear. I think I get it now.”

“You’re welcome. Anything else I can do for you?”

“Any chance You could pass that message on to the people who keep killing each other?”

“Don’t you mean ‘Any chance that the people who keep killing each other could work that out for themselves?’ ?”

I nod glumly.

“Not a snowflake’s chance in Hell. For them I don’t do that kind of message.”



“Well. Nice talking to You.”

“You weren’t.”

Right. Of course.

I’m talking to myself.

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Fragile 2


Watching the events in France these past few days made me remember the Japanese Tsunami and the blog I wrote at the time:

It isn’t that the Islamic terrorists caused anywhere near the amount of carnage of which Mother Nature is capable. On the contrary: compared to the tsunami, their legacy was, statistically-speaking, tame. In terms of media attention, however, their targets were selected for impact and had the desired effect.

What’s common to both events, though, is that they have the potential to focus the collective mind on the utter futility of killing each other when the randomness of the Universe already has you firmly in its sights. We exist, in the entropic scheme of things,  by dint of fortune: killing each other over abstract religious differences  is a wee bit like survivors of a shipwreck shooting holes in their own lifeboat because they couldn’t agree on the correct colour for its rubber  hull.

Seeking a bright side, it is this: four satirical cartoonists died ensuring that satirical cartooning will forever become an even more prickly thorn in the side of those intolerant idiots who think that you can kill critical thinking if you kill some of the critical thinkers. Like a hydra, the cutting off of one head will serve only to spawn many others. Until this week, the last time I drew a cartoon was in the Seventies. Yesterday I rediscovered the urge, thanks to the atrocities in Paris. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Je suis Charlie. And so are most of the rest of us.

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Erdogan’s Tales of Wonder!


So it is a well known fact that Muslims discovered the Americas.

Only a blind fool would deny this, although there are many, many blind fools in the so-called First World countries, may the scales one day fall from their unseeing eyes!

The truth is incontrovertible. Did Columbus himself not write in his journal, Standing On The Shoulders of Giants, that he visited, in Cuba, a Muslim bazaar and purchased a large number of cigars and a fez from a man named Abdul? Quod erat demonstrandum, as the old Turkish phrase has it (stolen from us by the scurrilous Greeks and passed on to the Romans. Another example of their brazen effrontery, damn their eyes, for they are the sons of swine!).

Every day the West forgets the lessons handed down to them by their Muslim torch bearers. For example, was it not John Yogi Baird who showed how moving pictures might be beamed through the divine ether so that we all might marvel at Allah’s grace? A gift to the world that was greedily appropriated by the dark forces of the West; a gift turned over to paeans of wickedness extolling heathen dogs who lie with other heathen dogs of similar gender and sing like wailing mongrels rather than the devout scholars they profess to be! Or Glee as I believe it is known among the Godless hordes.

Needless to say, it is an unassailable fact that the first men on the Moon were Muslims who built, at the behest of the Great Prophet, a ship of gold towed by twenty thousand chickens, which admirable birds, sacrificed and chargrilled, later sustained the virtuous scholars who manned the ship. Centuries later the absurd Americans attempted the same feat and never stopped to ask why their mission was called Apollo. The ignorant fools!

My friends I could tell you more tales. Tales of greatness and wonder. Tales that would burn a thousand lifetimes in the minds of men! But for now, please excuse me: I have a country to ruin.

Zihinleri serbest kalması, zorbalık Gerçeğin!

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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With Apologies To Gilbert and Sullivan

It’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day, so I felt a reblog of this might be in order.

Kind of Lime

September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Garrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!


I am the very model of a modern movie buccaneer,

When playing Captain Jack, it’s like a Rolling Stone has snuck in here,

Although the script has major holes that you could drive a truck through, dear,

I know the slightly druggy stance will still advance my film career.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with characters satanical,

The whole gamut, from A to Z, from putz to puritanical,

But here I am, again, alongside extras wearing manacles

To save us all, once more, from foes impressively tyrannical

To save us all, once more, from foes impressively tyrannical!


I’m very good at slightly otherworldly folk, like Scissorhands;

My Michael Jackson made a breeze of Willy Wonka’s businessman:

I won Winona over then tattooed her on my arm, just here

I am the very model of a…

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What Do You Think Of It So Far?


Exactly 30 years ago today Eric Morecambe died. I couldn’t help wondering what the Afterlife was like after that:

SCENE: The Pearly Gates.  St Peter, dressed in traditional white robe and complete with halo, is updating a large ledger. There is a knock.

ERIC [offstage]: Anyone home?

ST PETER [somewhat testily]: Ring the bell please.

ERIC: The bell?

ST PETER: The bell to the gate. You can’t miss it. It’s a big chain with a fancy handle.

ERIC: Like Freeman, Hardy and Willis?

ST PETER: I beg your pardon?

ERIC: Why, what did you do?

ST PETER: Did you find the chain?

ERIC: I’m trying. But this long metal rope with a big knob on the end is in the way.

ST PETER: That’s the bell chain, you buffoon!

ERIC: Ah right!

[Nothing happens for a few seconds]

ST PETER: Are you alright out there?

ERIC: Would you like me to pull it?

ST PETER [sighing noisily]: If you wish the bell to ring, I heartily suggest you do.

ERIC: Right you are, sunshine!

[Sound effect: a toilet flushing]

ERIC: Sorry about that. It was a long walk up all those stairs. Let’s try this one…

[Sound effect: the clanging of a huge bell]

St Peter gets up, walks slowly to the gate and opens it. Eric pokes his head through the gap, waggles his glasses at the audience and looks St Peter up and down.

ERIC: Good evening, young lady. Is your father home?

ST PETER: I beg your pardon?

ERIC: No need to apologise, miss. Could you let your dad know I’m here, only it’s been a long day and I was hoping to get settled in my room before the football. You can get Match of the Day up here, can’t you?

ST PETER: Match of the Day?

ERIC: You must know it. Jimmy Hill. Big chin. David Coleman. Lots of balls. And that’s just the commentary.

ST PETER: I think you’ll find the football season is over.

ERIC [grabbing St Peter by the robes and pulling him face to face]:  Now listen here, Sonny. I signed up for the deluxe package.  Cigars. Beer. Dancing girls. And footie on tap 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  [He puts St Peter down, brushes imaginary dust from his robe, and pats the bemused saint’s cheek]  Nice halo, by the way.

ST PETER [coughs]: Erm. Thank you, I’ll see what I can do. I should be able to rustle something up.

ERIC: They can’t touch you for it, sunshine! Wahay!

ST PETER: Just for the record, what’s your name?

ERIC: John Eric Bartholomew, but you can call me “Sir”!

ST PETER: Very droll, sir.

ERIC: One last thing, how long ‘til Little Ern’s due?

ST PETER: About another 15 years.

ERIC: Only it’s his round.

ST PETER: I wouldn’t hold your breath.

ERIC: You’ve met him then!

ST PETER: Of course. Short, fat, hairy legs and you can’t see the join.

ERIC: Oi! That’s my line! [He takes a brown paper bag from his pocket] Have I shown you this one…?

[Exeunt Stage Left]

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A New Year’s reprise for my attempt at Wodehouse. The news story that inspired it is, somewhat alarmingly, true.

Kind of Lime

Woman Hits Breeder With Chihuahua
A woman, angry that her new puppy had died, pushed her way into a dog breeder’s home and repeatedly hit her on the head with the dead Chihuahua, St Louis police authories report. The 33-year-old woman said she had taken the puppy to a veterinarian, who advised her it was only 4 weeks old and should be returned to its mother. But before she could return the puppy, it died.


“Ah there you are, Jeeves,” I said as the great man shimmered into the room. “Just in time, too. I have need of your grey matter.”

“Indeed, sir?”

A mask of horror shivered fleetingly across his normally impassive features.

“Aha!” I exclaimed. “You have noticed!”

“Indeed, sir.”

I fixed him with an intense Wooster stare, one that would have pierced the hide of many a lesser man. “Do I detect a scintilla of disapproval in your tone, Jeeves?”

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Third Degree Burns


It’s New Year’s Eve and later, after a few snifters, we’ll no doubt be singing Auld Lang Syne. But what on Earth does it all mean? Fear not, my faithful friends! I studied Burns at school and, as my gift to you as we part with 2013, I am happy to bring you the inside dope on what was going on amid that impenetrable thicket of Scots. You’re welcome.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?

Should we forget our old friends and not remember them?

[Note how Burns uses this tautological device to drive home his point about forgetting things. Like the thing he just said.]

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Should we forget our old friends and Old Lang Syne!

[Old Lang Syne was a teacher of mathematics at Dalrymple Parish School where Burns first learned some of the things he later forgot. At that time, of course, Old Lang Syne was Young Lang Syne, second son of the headmaster, the original Old Lang Syne. To this day the debate rages furiously among scholars as to which of the Old Lang Synes is referenced in this poem. Some have even posited that Burns was referring to both. A sort of co-Syne.]


For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

My best drinking bud, let us drink a cup of something alcoholic to the memory of Old Lang Syne.

[A cup of kindness is generally held to be a corruption of “a cup of Kidney’s”. Kidney’s Old Peculiar Dark Ale was a perennial favourite at the Tam O’Shanter Inn, Alloway, where Burns spent many a long day between poems.]

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For certain you’ll drink several pints of Kidney’s Old Peculiar, and so will I, to the point that we will toast Old Lang Syne over and over again with little memory of having done so already.

[The device of repetition is deployed by Burns throughout the poem, capturing the essential tediousness of a conversation between two drunkards.]


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;

Basically we’re both at that stage of inebriation where we’ve totally pissed our pants but don’t care because we’ve now moved on to the optics.

[Gowan’s Fine Scotch Single Malt Whisky was another staple at the Tam O’Shanter. After a particularly heavy session on it, Burns was once moved to write an ode to a louse.]

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

But we’ve come a long way since Old Lang Syne. Which reminds me, we must drink a toast to him.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;

We’ve been piddled in the pub all day

[The Burn was a tavern notable for being frequented by poets of all persuasions. After heavy drinking sessions a favourite line among locals was: “Aye! Burns is burned in The Burn again the noo!”]

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

And it feels like we’ve drunk an ocean of ale

Sin’ auld lang syne.

Jings! We really should drink a toast to Old Lang Syne, before we forget.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

Give me your hand, my best drinking buddy, I’ve just realised that after nineteen pints of Kidney’s and a couple of bottles of Gowan’s I am feeling such friendship for you that I might very well let you stroke my manhood. After all, it’s what Old Lang Syne would have wanted. Here’s to him!


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