Sunday, 30 December 2012

An Introduction to Charles Dickens

Charles John Huffam Darwin Dickens was born in 1812, the second of about 37 children; they were all up to that sort of thing in the Victorian era despite covering legs of mutton on the grounds of public decency.

He had an interesting childhood, the tribe moving from Chatham to Bloomsbury to the Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison and to Camden; this provided him with a wealth of characters who subsequently appeared in his books and stories, and also inspired his ‘Origin of Species’, some of them bearing only a passing resemblance to what we currently understand as human. Time spent as a report in law courts introduced him to further humanoids; his speculations as their origins led to works such as ‘The Mudfog Papers’ and ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’.

In 1830, he met his first love, who was a young lady whose parents were so horrified at the prospect of a liaison between the two of them – not least that Dickens had a sister with the blatantly sexual name of ‘Fanny’ – that they sent her to Paris instead. Undaunted, Charles then got off with someone else and had ten children.

He agreed with the broad consensus that natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution, and this can be seen very clearly in the names with which his characters are favoured. Of course, names like ‘Wackford Squeers’ and ‘Abel Magwitch’ and are largely extinct in polite society these days. Anyone who finds themselves saddled with a moniker like ‘Pecksniff’, has heard of the Deed Poll Office and has a tenner to spare can join the stream of hapless Kermits and Lillicraps seeking to become less conspicuous. Thus these whimsical names died out.

Yet there was a sound reason for these monstrous appellations. In the olden days, the word ‘Dickens’ was used as an interjection. Oh yes. Someone in Shakespeare’s ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ was heard to say “What the Dickens!” So it may be that having grown up with a surname equivalent to ‘Gorblimey’ or ‘Ticklemyarsewithafeather’ coloured young Charles’ attitude to cognomenkind. He also used the name ‘Boz’ which seemed sensible in comparison. That’s how bad it was.

At any rate, his books and stories provided the ideal vehicle for these marvellous characters. A lot of his books were first written in monthly or weekly instalments in journals such as ‘Noddy’s Magical Shoelace’ and ‘Baths and Bathing’; they had cliff-hanger endings every time – which ensured his great success. He went on holiday to the USA and American fans were waiting at the docks, chanting “Is little Nell dead?” It meant that he could judge public ractions and change the plot if needs be – the first recorded instance of interactive readership. His novels also featured little girls who ask little boys to make mud pies, and then tell them how dirty they are. He was a fierce opponent of the rigid class system rampant in Victorian society. By exposing the horrible details of life in working class Britain to people who could actually read, he shamed the Powers that Be into doing something about it, very much like the Daily Mail does nowadays.

Dickens’ influence has survived long past his death. The character of Ebenezer Scrooge still continues to be used in advertising humbugs; Jamie Oliver Twist has now stopped encouraging obese school children to ask for more, and Jiminy Cricket on the hearth is played at Lord’s every year.

Charles Dickens now resides in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey (as of 1870); for a less contemplative experience you can visit the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, which is where he wrote ‘The Pickwick Papers’, Oliver Twist’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby’. It contains lots of manuscripts and proper Dickensian junk.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Ho-ho-ho (distant echo).

Well, that’s that over with and whilst there may still be a few long-distance Christmas visitors huddled in the backs of their flood-trapped vehicles, for the rest of us, a whole new unsullied year perches on Time’s Threshold, poised to float gently atwixt and atween, spreading happiness and forgetting old acquaintances for the sake of somethingorother.

Starting with New Year Resolutions. 

Don’t panic, I’m not going to share mine with you although one or two are absolute belters like never lying down in the road and absolutely never joining a religious cult whilst dressed as a chicken. No – this piece is dedicated to a very significant part of the TV programmers' art, and the ONE resolution they should make and keep. It doesn’t feature Strictly Come Dancing or surprisingly, any of the soaps, and because I’m an understanding kind of chap, it doesn’t even ask for anything to be banned. 


Am I sick of them? Well yes I am; thoroughly sick of the bandwagon jumping by programmers. I’m not an organized viewer. I never know what’s coming on (apart from The Killing or the News), but whenever I do switch on, there’s ALWAYS a bloody cookery programme there. From Hairy Bikers who are actually cooks, through Lorraine Somebody who makes puddings to assassinate diabetics with, an old lady and a chap from Hollywood who bake, bake, bake, through to the very dreadful Masterchef. Well actually, Masterchef can be quite funny – well it would be if the urgent voiceover describing contestants’ offerings said something like; “And tonight Kyle is making beans on toast”.  

But of course it never does and instead its all about exotic dishes involving cuckoo tongues broiled in yak spit served on a bed of cactus – the resulting triumphs and disasters being judged by several eye-rolling arbiters of culinary perfection.

So, ye auld programmers – get a life. Better still, get an imagination !

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Ponsonby and Lucretia's Christmas Newsletter 1998

The early part of the year was dominated by landscaping the grounds;  Fezziwig, the landscape architect, had levelled the area behind the mansion prior to putting in the folly - a full-size replica of the Pantheon - but unfortunately the Combined Cadet Force from Tarquin's school mistook the place for a full size replica battlefield and put one of their flags through the gas main whilst doing a march past.

Luckily, those little oiks puffing at their Woodbines behind the stables were just within striking distance of the blast, and came to a tidy end.  Saved embarrassing discussions with Plod, eh what?

Once the crater had been refilled (we failed to mention that newts had moved in during the interim) and they'd taken away the protective barriers, we were able to leave the grounds and took Lucretia's mother, Morgana, to Thailand for a sunshine break.  Frightfully primitive once one left the confines of the hotel, but it was possible to obtain cucumber sandwiches, with proper cutlery.  With the air conditioning, one could quite imagine one was still in Tunbridge Wells.  Morgana expressed some dissatisfaction at the fact that all the hotel staff were foreign, mind, but we gave her a timely reminder that it can get terribly chilly in Salcombe at this time of year.

Tarquin continues to shine in his studies, obtaining top grades for his A/S Levels in Mathematics, Pure Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Statistics, Mechanics, Even Further Mathematics and The Correct Use of a Slide Rule.  He gained a distinction for Grade 8 Violin and took the leading role in the school production of 'Second from Last in the Sack Race'.   He has represented the school in rugby, cricket, tennis and athletics.  The cleaner was nevertheless disconcerted to find approximately 53 bras, worn and in varying sizes, under his bed - but then boys will be boys I suppose.

Cordelia has refused to visit the family since being released from Holloway in August.  We are hoping she will at least wear a wig to disguise the shaven head and tattoos when she attends the wedding of cousin Branwell and the lovely Camilla next March.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

On This Day

(Intrepid Pangolin reporter, Rupert Besley, delves into the archives - possibly for the last time in 2012)

Five Years Ago

In a surprise move attracting criticism from all quarters, villagers from Lubberthwaite in Yorkshire voted for withdrawal from the United Kingdom along with immediate opt-out from the European Community. In a further vote, carried in the Parish Council, war was declared on Bercy-les-Mouffles in France and Bad Dinkheim in Germany, both previously twinned with the West Riding village. Go-it-alone Lubberthwaite (motto, ‘Do It For Thy Sen’) had at the last census a population of 573.

Twelve Years Ago

Large crowds packed into the small Somerset village of Combe Zoyland for Pip Apple Day. With five ambulances in attendance and two fire appliances on standby, casualties were down on previous years as locals got through the day’s events, which began as ever with the Blossom Dance and Crowning of the Tipsy Queen and ended with the traditional de-bagging of the vicar.

Four Years Ago

Local protestors lay in the road at Lubberbeck Bridge to halt the convoy of lorries heading north to Lubberthwaite with supplies of Anderson shelters, blackout material and possible munitions. An ultimatum was issued from Lubberthwaite, currently at war with Europe.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Pangolin Readers share their Top Tips

(Or, for those who've already been and gone and got festive - Tit Tops)

Writes Mrs Yvonne Ponnidge of Goole:
“I think that as hostess over the Christmas season I need to be in a really good frame of mind, so nobody gets let in without giving me at least £50 in used notes as well as the obligatory crap presents.”

Cool, Yvonne. Very sensible in a time of financial hardship.

Reflecting the necessary seasonal cutbacks comes this from an obviously fun-loving George Osborne (address withheld because it’s too posh to spell).
“We always leave the curtains open on bitter Yuletide evenings so any passing Housing Benefit scroungers who’ve evaded my personal security chaps can see what a ripping time we’re having.”

Tough love Georgie, we love it....

And from Walter Dripping (84, and a right moaning old bastard) of Glossop:
“Christmas? Christmas? Why, when I was a lad at Christmas we got nobbut orange peel to suck and even that were second hand. I were fourteen and workin’ 47 hours a day down’t’pit before I got a bit that ‘adn’t been sucked at least twice before. And I’ll tell thee another thing....”

(That’s enough. Ed.)

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Dear Lady Violet...

Dear Lady Violet,

I suspect that my fifteen year old son is becoming increasingly sceptical regarding the identity of Father Christmas.  Each year my husband, Kenneth, despite being a monopedal man, has donned the Santa suit and performed the full 'ho-ho-hoing' routine whilst depositing presents in his stocking.  Last year on Christmas morning I'm sure I detected a hint of recognition on the boy's face.  Do you think it's time I told him the truth?  It seems such a shame to spoil the magic though.

Maureen Futtock (Mrs), Norcs

Lady V:

Dear Mrs Futtock,

I am stunned.  The fact that you have sustained this ridiculous fiction for so long has probably caused your son irreparable harm.  Experts (including myself) agree that prolonged indulgence of a boy's childish fantasies inevitably leads to bed-wetting, erectile dysfunction and lisping.  I suggest you take the poor boy aside and tell him the brutal truth at once.

Dear Lady Violet,

I need your advice on a delicate matter. Every Christmas, my father insists on dressing up as Santa, despite the fact that I am nearly 16. I have known it was him for years as in all the pictures of Santa he    is depicted with two legs whereas my father has been missing his left one since being trampled by a cow on a childhood trip to Morecambe in 1972. I don’t want to hurt my parents’ feelings by ruining
the magic. What can I do?

Anon, Norcs

Lady V:

Dear Anon,

Leave home at once and sue your parents for psychological abuse.  Also buy a rubber mattress cover.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

"What do you mean, you still won't have sex with me?"

In a Cabinet meeting…

Well chaps and Theresa, according to latest reports from my Happiness Watchdogs, the country’s nowhere near as ecstatic as it jolly well should be, despite us bombing Libya, getting the Olympic Games, still having a triple A credit rating erm, sort of, the D of C getting preggers and us floating HM and HRH down the Thames. We obviously need another wheeze. Suggestions?

Michael Gove (for it is he):  Er, Prime Minister……..

Dave:  Call me Dave

Gove:  Right, well, yes, er Dave... now that I’m in charge of pleb education, I’ve been identifying areas where we can save loads of money.

Dave: Oooh, Mikey, Mikey! Don’t say “pleb”. You never know who’s listening. But do go on…

Gove: Er, well, yes – sorry er, Dave. Basically, from my overview of state education, it seems that your average kid’s being taught absolutely heaps of things which are completely useless, and, I’m sorry to say, rather namby-pamby.

Dave: Namby-pamby! Good grief! How can this be?

Gove: Well erm, Dave, they do things like Dance and …

Dave: Dance? DANCE?

Gove: And Drama, and Music, and Art. They have to. They’re all in the National Curriculum.

Dave: Ye Gods! They’re compulsory? Crikey Mikey, we’re breeding a nation of bloody shark picklers! But what’s to be done Mikey, what’s to be done?

Gove: Well Dave, I’ve started a consultation process, just so we appear even–handed, then when that’s over I simply rule that all those airy-fairy subjects get dropped from the core curriculum.

Dave: "Core curriculum"! I like it. Core curriculum. Yes. Got a tough, no-frills sound to it. Go ahead Mikey. Do it. Make it so.

Gove: Thank you Pri... er, I mean Dave. I think we can now confidently look forward to a lean, clean education machine, uncluttered by artistic flim-flam, but filled with Maths, English (grammar) Science and a weekly burst of Physical Training. Way too many fatties out there – sorry Eric… and who knows, with the cash we save by ditching the frilly stuff, we might make a nod towards a bit of French. (Pauses for dramatic effect) My ultimate goal is to have a Combined Cadet Force in every secondary school!

Dave: I love it! Absolutely love it “Lean Clean Education Machine”. We’ve collared the front pages already!

(Cries of Bravo, Bravo!)

Friday, 21 December 2012

Don't be Caught Out

In the depths of winter it can be easy to forget that it won’t be many months before the arrival of summer. Be prepared. There are simple steps that you can take in order to be ready for the big day. 

Calendars may need adjusting, some on a monthly basis
Temperatures rise in the summer, so thinner, lighter garments can be worn
Windows can be opened where appropriate (those over 75 shouldseek professional help from an approved agency)
Light levels are increased and extended; to combat these, optician recommended
Sunglasses are a sensible precaution at all times

Further information is obtainable from Weather Advice Free Fone Line England and is available also as a leaflet in 38 languages from your Post Office (if you still have one) and in Braille from: 

PO Box 8749,

From the Government Information Service.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How to Disguise Those Unsightly Wheelie Bins

If you're completely sick of the sight of your wheelie bin - or someone else's - what better Christmas Present than a disguise?

You can completely conceal those ugly old monstrosities by popping them in this reproduction Anderson shelter – nobody would know they were there! The shelter is beautifully finished with rust patches, and includes a pile of sandbags and a patch of stinging nettles for that authentic World War II look.  Doris Cattermole of Pewsey, Wilts, has even taken to cutting up newspapers into squares and threading them together on string and then hanging them up in a corner.

There’s an alternative product, the mini ‘Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao’. The deluxe version features a miniature bunch of schoolkids which you can pose outside. The standard one, though, is still a great garden ornament for anyone who wants an oversize-scrunched-up-foil-wrapper on their lawn. And we promise nobody will notice the wheelie bins!

On This Day

Fifteen Years Ago

Cricket was suspended for more than 18 minutes in mid-afternoon at the County Ground, Cleobury, while ground staff battled to remove from the field of play veteran streaker Ernest Piddock. Advancing steadily on two sticks, Piddock had taken up position close to cover point some five overs before being spotted by hawk-eyed assistant umpire Sid Scoggins in the course of a routine check on player-numbers positioned about the ground. That the pitch invasion had passed unnoticed was put down to a combination of low crowd attendance (in the region of 7 spectators, not including Piddock) and a brief spell of bad light at the Crematorium End.

Twenty Years Ago

Residents in the picturesque Cotswold village of Little Appening awoke to find their prize-winning village green disfigured by a series of molehills, four in all. As local historian Daphne Mildew pointed out, the green had three times in the previous fifty years carried off the title of Best Village Green in the Appenlode Valley (south-eastern quarter) and once been runner-up. Whilst a volunteer force set to work on clearance measures, a committee was formed in the village with a watching brief for future incidents.

Ten Years Ago

Birding enthusiasts from around the country flocked in their thousands to the Norfolk village of Weeting in the hope of sighting a rare visitor only twice before seen in mainland Britain. The Bearded Siberian Hedgefarter, said to have been blown off course in recent storms, failed to put in any further appearance after its initial identification on Weeting Heath. However, a single sound-recording of the bird, made in the vicinity of a tall-hedged garden belonging to Mr Trevor Letts, was sent on to experts in Cambridge for further analysis.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Dear Lady Vi,

Whilst I am only 4’3” tall and weigh a little over 5 stones, I have an absolutely huge bum. I have been invited to this year’s Glossop Hunt Ball, but wonder whether I should accept. Suggestions from friends include the adoption of a bustle or the attachment of false legs on the underside of said natural protrusion. This last seems rather silly as I’d appear to be being stalked by a headless midget. What CAN I do?


Veronica Turps (Miss)

Lady V: Dear Veronica,

Your concerns are quite normal for someone of your impressionable age, especially as headless midgets are simply so common. You will need to disguise yours as something else; possible solutions could include the addition of a turnip with a face mask to the upper ledge of your posterior, together with a cummerbund featuring a pair of hands apparently clasped to your waist. This would give the appearance of having a devoted admirer unable to let go of you, and could be regarded as something of a conversation piece.

If, however, you wish to make the acquaintance of some eligible young gentleman and feel the above would not improve your chances, you can always hire a powerchair and a pure silk parachute. Sit in the chair, which will fulfil all your ambulatory needs, and get your dressmaker to construct a skirt from the parachute, sufficiently large to cover the entire ensemble and leave nobody any the wiser as to the dimensions of your derriere.

P.S. Thank you for including the photograph of those two gigantic spheres. Was it taken at The National Space Centre?

Dear Lady Vi,

I’m sure, like me, you remember the dark days of WW2. You may also remember that it was possible in that distant time to purchase sensible, sturdy male underclothing, including the ever reliable “Dreadnought” brand which featured a unique blast-proof gusset. 

My dear husband Hugh, now in his nineties, recently blew his last remaining pair of Dreadnoughts to pieces during a curried egg binge. I have searched in vain for a supplier. I wonder, therefore, if you might know of anywhere these excellent garments may still be purchased.

I am,

Yours sincerely

Marjorie Pugh-Whaffle

Lady V: My dear Marjorie,

It seems you are the unwitting victims of the do-gooding, limp-wristed, wishy washy current legislation surrounding toxic emissions.

To avoid prosecution, and global warming, you may find it useful to contact Kelvedon Hatch Ltd, well known for their constructions which will withstand nuclear attack. Should their material not prove sufficiently sturdy, remember to keep your sunroof open whilst out driving with your husband.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Thinking about Thoughts

Maybe we should call the 'Thought for the Day' slot 'Thought for When We Can Get Around To It' because by rights there should be a new one every day. But unlike the Beeb, The Pangolin can’t call upon a small army of clerics, semi-clerics and Generally Good People to leap into the time breach with a daily thought. Of The Pangolin staff, only two actually have thoughts. The rest are fully occupied with trying to remember how a light switch works or which way round to face when sitting at a desk. Most were headhunted from BT.

Anyway, I do actually have a thought for today. Its something I’ve banged on about elsewhere, but as soon as I’ve finished this, I’m off to Tesco. To be fascinated by humankind.

It all starts in the carpark which is dominated by slow moving cars cruising. Looking for a spec nearest the door. Next is the Big Wait behind some numbskull who wants to buy seven different scratch cards, have a barrow-load of Lottery tickets checked, and exchange a slow cooker which is dinged. Huh. Beware men who keep their money in purses. All I want is a packet of fags. Disgraceful.

Then its into the maw. TV ads call it “in–store”. Hmmm. Its directional chaos. This happens to lots of people if you give them a shopping trolley sans a GPS device. They’re all over the place. U–turns, completely unpredictable changes of direction, and the mindless ability to block an aisle whilst gossiping with friends, ("Oooh, ‘ello. How’s your Jakki [or Traci, or Debbi]) or search for pineapple and mango low-fat yoghurts in the pie section.

But the worst by a long way are the older shoppers who lean on their trolley handles with their elbows, giving the trolley little steering and a 35 foot turning circle. Old ladies, jaws thrust forward take no prisoners, never say excuse me, and never wait their turn.

And when its over and you return to your car, you can’t get in it because there’s a bloody Micra or a Suzuki Wagon R parked so close you can’t use the driver’s door. Once, and only once, whilst I was entering my car via the passenger door, the owner of the Berlingo which was blocking my driver’s door actually arrived back at his vehicle. I stopped doing gearstick avoidance contortions and got out. I asked him to move his car. “Why?”, he asked. I told him. “Oh I won’t be long” he said. So I counted to ten 47 times and waited. As he drove away, against the traffic arrows (you get to the exit quicker that way), I noticed that he’d left his shopping trolley in the parking space he’d just left.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

More Xmas Gifts for Gardeners

First choice is a fabulous book, ‘Recipes from your Rockery’. You’ve already had more than your fair share of tedious tomes dictating what to do with the produce from your vegetable patch, but this remarkable volume tells you how to make the most of an area of your garden not normally associated with delicious food. It features such classics as mud pies, rock cakes, pebble cakes and, for the modern gardener, chocolate concrete. Published by the British Dental Association, it also includes a money-off voucher for your first eight bouts of denture repair. Notice how I didn’t say “something to get your teeth into”. Arf arf!

I’ve also found this ‘Love ‘em and leave ‘em’ sack, available from the RHS. Looking remarkably like an old-fashioned mail bag, you simply put your fallen leaves in one of these, dump it in a corner of the garden (preferably someone else’s) and when you return three years later, you’ll have forgotten where you put it. If your relative’s looking green all over - and not just the fingers - they also provide handy storage for the body while you wonder whether to call the police or not. Of course, this may mean you end up in an institution where you make mail bags yourself, but these days we’re all in favour of participating in the wondrous cycle of nature.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

"Just because you got three little reading lights for Christmas,
doesn't mean you have to wear them all at once".

Are Poinsettias Really Dangerous?

Every household is invaded with poinsettias (euphorbia punchemingobbia) at this time of year;  they're an indispensable present for someone who's already got a shedload of socks, eighteen bad taste jumpers and cellars full of bath salts.

And every household is similarly invaded with Auntie Gertie who will tell you that they're poisonous and that you should be moving next door if one of these arrives (which would be OK but next door have got them too).

The idea originated in Glossop in 1934, when a small child munched its way through the family poinsettia and was then run over by a bus.  There WERE queries as to whether this was poisoning, but the story was repeated at the bus stop, Diana's Diner and the Cats' Protection shop - and passed into urban mythology.  There was some initial confusion with helleborus niger, and because 'Christmas Rose' was the name of the madame of the local knocking shop.

However, Professor Anna Prongg has been conducting a seventeen-year investigation into the toxicity of the poinsettia.  It took so long because not that many people live on a staple diet of poinsettias, and had to be force fed.  Only one case of serious poisoning was found during all that time, but closer scrutiny showed it was the result of overindulgence on brandy and mince pies.

"Mind you", she said. "These things taste so awful that you're more likely to get poisoned by the saveloys at Diana's Diner.  I'd rather eat stuff off the bird table".

Monday, 10 December 2012

On This Day

Eight Years Ago

The Big Cat spotted on several occasions roaming wild country on the edge of Exmoor was formally identified by a panel of Big Cat experts as Big Tiddles, owned by Mrs K Johnson of Withiel Florey.

Two Years Ago

In a series of televised lectures given from his Caribbean hideaway, Lord Cuttles of Barbados delivered an urgent plea for better education in schools and a greater understanding in the world at large of the value of art in modern society.

Fifteen Years Ago

Fog in the Solent threatened to cause the cancellation of the all-important play-off between Wroxall and Lowtherville in the title race for champions of the Ventnor District Rings League.

Little Known Christmas Facts

  • 60s/70s singing ensemble, The Carpenters, were named after Jesus’s Mum and Dad.
  • Eskimos have no words for Christmas.
  • Couples who buy each other matching sweaters have a problem.
  • After WW2 the names of Santa’s reindeer, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Donner, Blitzen und Messerschmitt, were tactfully changed with Rudolf replacing the latter. (But he was no good in a tight turn).
  • Eskimos don’t get presents.
  • Consuming copious amounts of brussel sprouts, chestnut stuffing,mushy peas and Guinness can lead to family breakdown and a visit from the Fire Brigade.
  • At about 10am on Christmas Morning 1897, a lighter than air vessel piloted by Prickard “Balloons” Merryweather, the American adventurer and string magnate attempted to make landfall on the tiny Pacific island of Ooya-Ooya. A passing albatross collided with Merryweather’s conveyance, fatally piercing the gasbag’s fabric. The journal of Dr Felix Kaate- Fude, Ooya-Oooya’s resident missionary states:
    “At the start of the second verse of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, our Divine Worship was rudely interrupted by an immense farting sound and I and many others saw what I now know to be Mr Merryweather’s vessel hurtling away through the sky at a very great speed.” 
  • Prickard Merryweather was never seen again.
By Andy Davey

Sunday, 9 December 2012

BBC’s long-serving weather forecaster Carole Kirkwood shocked motorists and threw the country’s transport system into chaos today when she announced that temperatures “may well fall to below freezing” overnight. 

Said Carole (81) "There may well be flurries of snow in some areas." Environmentalist Sir Denzil Pannick commented; “If this is not clear evidence of global warming, I don’t know what is. Ice and snow in December! I ask you!  The BBC’s roving reporter Clarisse Mole has been out and about on the streets of Glossop to get local reaction to the news.

"Yes that’s right Bill and public opinion here is really very clear. Nobody could give a toss."

Meanwhile in London, Chancellor George Osborne, speaking at the annual Rich Ba$tard$ dinner assured his audience that economically things were going to be a bit bleak until 2018, but that he’d do everything in his power to ensure that millionaires like himself would not suffer.

A real true, honest-to-Ghod, cross-your-heart-an-hope-to-die Nativity Story

Years ago, a primary school teacher friend, working in one of the less fashionable areas of Birkenhead had with the rest of the school staff tried really hard for a snag-free Nativity play. Rehearsals had gone well. Scenery had stood up. Then two days before the event, the mother of “Joseph” played by a child who today would be described as “challenging” rang to say that Joseph had a streaming cold and wouldn’t be coming into school. 

All hands thought this a pity because the kid in question hadn’t hurt anybody during rehearsals and obviously enjoyed performing. There was a sigh of relief nonetheless and the Innkeeper was promoted to Joseph whilst a lamb became the licensee. However, on the afternoon of the performance the original Joseph and his mum turned up at school, mum explaining, “‘E’s gutted ‘es goin’ to miss it. I can’t do nothin’ wid him. Can ‘e still ‘ave ‘is part?” 

Hurried negotiations took place and against all the odds the original and now quite snotty  Joseph agreed to become the inkeeper, kindly allowing the original inkeeper to retain his promotion. The lamb returned to the fold without demur. Staff were amazed. Original Joseph, quite apart from being challenging, was normally a right little ratbag and this generosity of spirit was very encouraging.

That evening, the school hall was packed. The school orchestra murdered Away in a Manger, the curtains opened and the tableau came to life.

The familiar tale unfolded and new Joseph and long-suffering Mary (a large plain child called Roxanne) approached the inn door. 

“What do you want?” asked ex–Joseph.
“We’d like to come in,” answered new Joseph.
“Well you can’t” shouted ex- Joseph, “You can fuck off ‘cos you got my part!”, burst into tears and left the stage, over the front, and went and sat with his devastated Mum. 

Revenge is sweet.

By Bill Stott (and he drew the picture).

Friday, 7 December 2012

Xmas Gifts for Gardeners

The ‘Peeping Tom’ recordable video spy trowel. It was in one of those mini-catalogues which has gadgets which will cut your cakes into representations of William the Conqueror and suchlike. 

It looks like a trowel, digs like a trowel (well, you have to do the digging really, a bit like walking boots or climbing ropes) BUT is actually one of the world’s smallest and most discreet video cameras. 

It’s a great way to spy on your unsuspecting neighbours, or even record the wildlife in your garden, if you’re that way inclined. Alternatively, if you just like to lurk in the undergrowth - this fabulous device will provide the perfect excuse.

Two days before Christmas. 1994. Still no present for my sister.

The Sussex Brewery in Emsworth is one of those pubs that lays sawdust on the floor and keeps a fire going throughout the whole year as if burning the evidence of some terrible arboreal crime. The regulars, easy going refugees from the outside world, who drift in and out like the daily tides, look upon life with the sort of unhurried cosy benevolence found within the hardy men who work on the land and sea. 

I was drinking with a farrier called Steve whose expertise with the hoof was matched only by his phenomenal capacity for ale. Never a man to let work get in the way of the far more serious pursuit of drinking he’d start work before sun up in order to get in the pub by lunch. The unusual upshot of this was that most of his clients had never seen him work and some had never even met him, finding their horses mystically and perfectly shod in time for their early morning ride. Around the time we’d shared the first gallon, in walked Alan Loader the fisherman.

Anyone want to buy some crab?” he shouted.

I peered into the writhing bucket of monstrous crustaceans and made the sort of decision that is only made in a pub; that I’d come eye to stalky eye with the obvious choice for my sister’s Christmas present. Of course! What do 26 year old girls want? A huge live five pound crab! I paid Alan, borrowed a cardboard box from Malcolm the landlord, put the crab in and placed it next to my barstool while Steve and I got on with the vital job we’d awarded ourselves, of solving enormously complex global problems.

An hour later my memory was jogged by the arrival of a notoriously vicious Jack Russell known aptly as “Biter” and his tipsy owner Terry, a length of bind-a-twine their umbilical link. On attempting to show him my new acquisition I looked down to see a cardboard box, empty on its side. A panicked and chaotic search posse was quickly thrown together and, after much knocking into furniture, barking and at least one spilled pint we found the crab under a deep fitted corner seat. We tried all the tools at hand to dislodge him to no avail. A bar stool was too big, legs of chairs were too short and bare hands were out of the question as the pincers that he had held up in a boxer’s defence looked as if they’d snip through a bike lock.

Then Terry decided to send in Biter. Biter, unafraid of ominously armed unknown sea creatures scrabbled under, let out a loud yelp and as a clear act of annoyance turned around and bit his owner. They both left to the other side of the pub so quickly it was unclear as to whose blood was whose. A secondary crowd layer materialised and suggestions came flooding in from newly qualified crab-prising experts. Ropes covered in super-glue, starve him out, smoke, an air rifle and a newly baited lobster pot were some of them. Steve wanted to do something with a horseshoe. The suggestion to “find its natural predator” was countered by the fact that Biter was everything’s natural predator and therefore we’d already tried it. A tweed clad stranger put in the most compelling argument. In order to pacify lobsters and crabs before cooking them one puts them in the freezer. If you can’t bring the crab to the freezer, bring the freezer to the crab.

Malcolm? Can we borrow your dry ice fire extinguisher?”

The noise of a dry ice fire extinguisher going off in confined spaces is similar to standing next to a jet afterburner. The young barman who’d agreed, with the cloudless enthusiasm of youth, to cover the crab in dry ice hadn’t reckoned on the sheer power of the blast. Most of the dry ice shot round the corner straight back at him burning his bare arms and neck in icy spots. Slushy lumps of ice went pink soaking up the blood on the floor. The frost covered crab, meanwhile, had been blown out into the middle of the pub. Exposed but dazed he waved his claws about like a horribly disfigured conductor. 

Biter bit Terry again, this time in sheer exuberance, someone managed to put the cardboard box on top of the crab and we quickly wound packing tape around it. Another round was bought and we soon relaxed into conversations based mainly about regretting having a video camera on us, sympathising with various injuries and crab serving suggestions.

Christmas morning 1994.“There’s something moving inside my present from Guy! Has he got me a puppy?”

Guy Venables

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Magwitch Pyke Reports

Pangolin North East correspondent, Magwitch Pyke, reports from just north of Whitby where homes are ready to fall into the North Sea.

“That’s right Kerry – thanks to recent torrential rain and recently upgraded insurance arrangements, several houses have slid down the already dangerous cliffs into the sea. I have with me Reg and Rita Dracula whose families have been in the area for quite some time. Reg – I understand that you and Rita were enjoying your evening meal in front of the television when you noticed something was wrong.

(Reg) That’s right. Black puddings – made of pig’s blood y’know – best you can get these days and Rita and me never miss Corrie, then suddenly the screen goes blank and we’re knee deep in water"

So you actually travelled down the cliff inside your doomed house?

Certainly did. Ruined the black pudding and the telly’s all waterlogged.

So what does the future hold for you now?

We’re off to Rita’s sister’s in town. She’s got a 48inch plasma screen telly and her new bloke works at the pig farm near Staithes.

Thanks Reg – and with that, it's back to the studio.”

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

On This Day

Dwain Cuttles showing off

Fifteen Years Ago

Britart phenomenon Dwain Cuttles brought traffic to a halt in London’s West End at the opening of his live event, Me Me Me, in which Cuttles posed in the display window of Bondyke’s Gallery as the Rokeby Venus and made an exhibition of himself.

Five Years Ago

In an impassioned speech to members of the Policy & Resources Committee meeting in Heckerswyke, Councillor J Peastake Smythe painted a grim picture of the menace posed to municipal railings, structures and property by the spread of metal rust. This, he warned, was a silent killer that could bring about the untimely suspension of council services and, in the fullness of time, even threaten life and limb. As sole proprietor of Metallife Preserving Paints Ltd, Cllr Smythe was able to bring to the subject an intimate knowledge of the workings of rust acquired through thirty-seven years in frontline services in the war on corrosion. Speaking on behalf of all present, Committee Chair Mrs JP Smythe thanked the councillor warmly for his expertise and input, noting down the need to place an order for state-of-the-art paintwork solutions before time ran out on such an opportunity. As she reminded her colleagues in a closing flourish, ‘for a ha’porth of tar the balloon went up.’

Ten Years Ago

Celebrities of stage and screen jostled with collectors and serious art investors to place their bids of purchase at the opening night of YBA star Dwain Cuttles’ art experience, Suck Eggs. Sole item for sale was Mr Cuttles’ grandmother, Enid, currently in a care home near Eastbourne and represented in the
exhibition gallery by a single Polaroid photograph on the far wall. Critics and curators hailed this as a new turning-point in the Cuttles odyssey.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Cassie Polevaulter

Starbucks Boss Quizzed on UK Tax Avoidance

Yesterday, Mr Vinny Baloney, CEO of the coffee giant Starbucks faced hostile MPs on the Commons Select Committee investigating Rich Ba$tards.

Asked by Margaret Polevaulter MP, mother of the world-famous cartoonist, how he could justify Starbucks paying so little corporation tax, Mr Baloney said; “Aw gimme a break, sister! Are you for real? We do it because we CAN. Your tax rules let us. D’you think we’d’ve come here if you’d got your butts in gear?” Responding to Ms Polevaulter’s suggestion that soon UK tax law would be tightened, Mr Baloney said “You do that and we’re outta here and you’ll be stuck with another few thousand more unemployed kids."

Breaking news...

"In the wake of the story of the release of the SAS soldier jailed for the possession of an illegal pistol and ammunition comes news of a second soldier detained by police in Glossop, Derbyshire, after being seen driving a tank down the A36.

The solicitor acting for Pte Kyle Gumm said, “My client realises now that his action was ill-advised. In fact, he found the tank (reported missing two days earlier) behind some huts at the local army camp. He decided to nip down to Tesco in it as it was raining. I should stress that at the time of the incident, the tank wasn’t loaded."

Saturday, 1 December 2012

For Sale

With many regrets, I'm having to put my treasured collection of the lower portions of earwigs on the market.  A couple of samples are shown here to give an idea of the high standards I strive to maintain.

My assemblage numbers 4,673;  they have all been gathered in Rutland despite the fact that that county has changed names a couple of times.

Offers in excess of £650 please; display cases to be sold separately.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Britain's longest living married couple in care home in Glossop!

Barbary and Ophelia Wemmick, both 129, have the longest lasting marriage in Britain - they've clocked up a whopping 104 years, and are still going strong!  Of course, they're rather frail now, but they've outlasted scumbags who put them in a home in the first place and are now the proud owners of all their relatives' houses!  
Lucinda Dedlock

They're well-respected residents of Sunnyfluffywuffybunnyview Care Home in Bag End, Glossop, where the owner, Lucinda Dedlock, waxes lyrical about them.  

"They're such a devoted couple", she trills. "And they're always tucking into the delicious food we serve here at Sunnyfluffywuffybunnyview, and participating in all the marvellous activities we offer here at Sunnyfluffywuffybunnyview and no wonder they've lasted this long at Sunnyfluffywuffybunnyview.  Especially when you consider what happens in some care homes.  Why, there were rumours that one of our competitors had failed to notice that an elderly couple had died, and continued to change their bedpan and deliver the Daily Mail!

And it is CATEGORICALLY untrue that we are more interested in marketing Sunnyfluffywuffybunnyview than in looking after our customers; also that we regard events like this as an opportunity to put photos of our upholstery and curtains into The Glossop Bugle.  Now, did you catch the name of this care home..."
Barbary and Ophelia Wemmick, Britain's longest surviving married couple

Pangolin Sports Personality of the Year

Yes, it's that time of year again, and after what's been an amazing twelve months of sporting achievement, it's your turn to vote for your favourite 2012 sporting personality.  Of course, here at Pangolin HQ, we've kept our sports editor, Brenda Ripething, hard at it, spotting the front runners....

Here's what Brenda thinks...

'Well Bob, who can forget Ronnie Smallbone, captain of Tottenham Wanderers, hero of a tense Cup Final against Sir Alex Sourpuss's Manchester Excited?  Ronnie scored the winner as Wanderers ran out, victors in an epic 19-18 battle.

Smallbone just never gives up. Here's that dramatic picture of him getting cramp inside the area. A definite contender.

And, of course, everybody's hearts were in their mouths as Dipthong McCoy, the pride of Pinner, waited anxiously for the scores to come in at the end of what turned out to be his gold medal winning 500m Freestyle Lurk.  Said plucky Dippo, "Well, I've been lurking for years in and around Pinner, but it's so nice to do it in public."

Scotland swept the board at Wimbledon this year, and here the victorious Isle of Mull Ladies' team serve up some aces.  A great outfit including, far left, the conjoined McPhew triplets and on the right, doughty one-legged captain, Elsie Hopper.
And let's not forget motor-racing - lots of fans out there!

This year's World Champion is fiery Eddie Splean, the Anglo-Irish-Inuit speedster in his 23,000cc Spermicelli. Eddie's seen here in typical mood, at the start of the final Grand Prix, refusing to wear a flat cap like everybody else.

So let's get those votes pouring in!  Remember, it's the usual address, and don't forget your bank details and PIN number!'