Friday, 27 June 2014

Ask Lady Violet

Dear Lady Violet

I'm worried that my boyfriend's a total slob and has a very smelly car.

When I went to clear it out the other day I found a dead body on the back seat. I questioned him about it, and he blustered a bit and said that a friend had given it to him because his blow-up rubber doll had been swept out to sea last week, and that what he did with it was quite harmless. It is wearing a wet suit.

Do you think I should contact the Glossop and District Sailing Club to see if they've lost anyone? I've tried using air freshener in there but it hasn't worked.


Terylene Bollock-Phantasm
Tintwhistle, nr Glossop

Lady V:
Dear Miss Bollock-Phantasm,
Doubtless you will have gathered by now, having read my other published letter, that you are deeply embedded in the nautical pooh. As you can see, the corpse has indeed been missed, which is bad enough, but made exponentially worse by the fact that its some lunatic from Glossop who's done the missing.
Glossopians are not to be trifled with. Or blancmanged. Also, the fact that some of them have a sailing club miles and miles from the sea speaks volumes. There was a time that their watery activities took place on Wobbler's Flash, but that dried up in the drought of '76. Since then, they have fitted tiny wheels to their silly little boats. Most weekends they can be seen pushing each other around the arid bed of Wobbler's Flash, going "Yo-ho-ho".
I have made discreet enquiries on your behalf. It seems that Mr Shuttlecock and his associates are a vengeful lot, especially the McIlhenny-Blipps, who regularly employ a certain Tommy No-Nose who reliably resolves tricky situations.
I am very sorry to say that you fall squarely into the "tricky situations" category and can only advise that you immediately arm yourself, leave the country and commit suicide. All three, preferably.

I am

Yours anxiously,

Lady V.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Thought for the Day, with Justin Webly, more or less Arch of Cant

Justin here. I write in the Vale of Gloom and Despond. Despite my long and varied experience of distant shores, it is my fate to be forever English and today my patriotism is being tested. Our national football team is playing Costa Rica. Are they winning? I don’t know. Our cricket team is holding on by the skin of its teeth against Sri Lanka, so lately a place far away of which we knew little. I cannot help understanding the young man with the wire in his ear when he says, “Stuffed, Archie – that’s what we’ve been – stuffed!” And as I type I can hear my lady wife sobbing quietly.
So, what would Jesus have done? He would have straightened his back and carried on – that’s what he would have done. And so I cast around for a New Cause; a campaign to rally our tattered army. But what might that be? The Lord knows I have tried to save it from rapacious money lenders. How might I save it from a desperately average football team? I know not and must now retire. Who knows, perhaps a steaming mug of Ovaltine and sleep might bring the answers.

This morning my prayers were rudely interrupted by the young man with the wire in his ear rushing in shouting, “’E’s done it again! The loony’s done it again!” It transpires that a foreign footballer had bitten another foreign footballer. One Luis Saurez, a Uruguyan player, had used his teeth on an opponent. Not for the first time, apparently. I don’t mean that Saurez bit THIS opponent more than once, but that whilst playing for two other clubs he had similarly assaulted opponents. The young man with the wire in his ear and my lady wife were laughing helplessly, tears of mirth rolling down their cheeks and chanting, “Get yourself a dog called Saurez, Roy!”
I moved immediately to close all the windows and play some well-loved hymns on the gramophone, loudly. Outsiders hearing chanting like that could lead to all manner of misunderstandings about the Archbishopric.
Whilst I was pleased that the young man with the wire in his ear and my lady wife appeared happier now, I resolved to pen a line or two to The Holy Father in Rome. I assume that Mr Saurez is Catholic and I feel sure that the powers that be in the Vatican would rather not have one of their own roaming the world biting people. That sort of behaviour, whilst falling some way short of defenestration, does give religion a bad name.
Finally, despite our crushing defeat by Sri Lanka in the Test Matches, I do not agree with the young man with the wire in his ear’s assessment of our cricketers. They are not “a bunch of plonkers” and will soon regain the sort of sporting assertiveness needed to win without, I sincerely hope, biting umpires.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Our gardening expert writes:

Confession time, folks. I don't like lettuce. Not in the garden, not on my plate and certainly not wandering around on the plate. Call me a fussy eater if you like, but as a general rule I prefer mine to be the first mouth entered by any food that I consume. The folds and crevices of your average lettuce leaf can conceal whole populations of unsavoury wildlife.

If you're on a health fad and must eat lettuce, much safer to stick with that white stuff from the supermarket that's been nuked since birth. Or go for a small tin of vegetable salad. That's the simple way to get your Five A Day.

Freeing up a good part of your vegetable patch means cutting down on tiresome chores like digging and hoeing. Ground thus recovered can then be paved or permanently gravelled to provide a good base for a shed or even two. It's surprising just how many sheds you need in gardening.

This month's jobs: time to power-wash the patio, not forgetting adjacent walls, barbecue area and parking strip. Use an electrically powered weedbrush to get between the cracks of masonry slabs and remove all signs of algae, moss and unwanted greenery. Water-cannon garden furniture and ornamental figures. Remove targeted bird excrement from wind-chimes. Apply a double dose of strong disinfectant to inhibit the spread of unsightly lichens on solar-powered lamps. Scoop dead fish from pond.

Summer is always a hectic time for being outside and taking on Mother Nature. Enjoy!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Thought for the Day, from Justin Webly, more or less Arch of Cant

Hullo, Justin here...
I write as the young man with the wire in his ear, my lady wife, Blanche the Diocese Secretary and several other people who I assume must hold positions here at the Palace, were assembled in the Great Library in front of a television of frightening proportions. It was delivered earlier in the day and I did remark upon it at the time, to which my lady wife replied, “Well you don’t think I’m going to watch the match on that antique you peer at Songs of Praise on, do you?”

For a moment I was nonplussed then I remembered that, of course, that was the night the England Football Team made its first appearance in the World Cup, and I have to say that a certain tension had been building here, as had supplies of what appear to be tins of export lager.

As I think I may have said earlier, my game is cricket. In the days when I still played (Bishop’s fifth eleven), there was a certain English tranquillity about it. Our home ground was Langley’s Bottom, quite near to Glossop. Crispin, the Bishop of Glossop, was an inspiring leader, swinging his mighty bat at anything that moved, including fielders. I batted down the order at Number nine and as I recall, made 8 not out once, on a beautiful day in late August, also having been called upon to bowl my slow off-spinners earlier in the game. I think I came away with 1 for 209. I gained my single wicket because the batsman had nodded off.  But then, in those far-off days, winning was entirely secondary to taking part. There were no clenched fist victory salutes. Even the Bish, so fierce in attack, was first to commiserate with the opposition’s wicket keeper after felling him with a mighty leg side slog. I can hear his words now, as the unfortunate player was rushed to Intensive Care – “Oh I’m most dreadfully sorry!” (then aside to a blood-spattered umpire – “That bugger won’t stand so close next time, eh?”)
Try as I might during our marriage, I signally failed to interest my lady wife in cricket. Even the Barmy Army, an amusing mixture of enthusiasm and alcohol, fails to move her. Instead, she favours football and an entirely different kind of physical confrontation. And so it is that here I sit, penning these few words under the stairs in the Lower Kitchen. I was invited to join the throng in front of the enormous television in the Great Library, but was asked to leave after I said I hoped the best team won. I feel sure that if Jesus had been asked that question, he would have given the same answer.
But my time in this small space will not be wasted. I am about to compose a letter to all the leaders of the warring factions in Iraq. It will be a fairly firm epistle. It will rebuke them for being so very beastly to each other, and will also suggest that they refrain from bolting heavy machine guns to the backs of Toyota Landcruisers. Owners’ manuals clearly show that a heavy machine gun will severely compromise said vehicle’s road holding. Especially when discharged.
I must begin...

Pip pip


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Full moon, low tides, exposed mussels - and we've had SUCH larks, picking 'em off like grapes and dropping them on people's cars so they shatter both shell and windscreen. Such poetry.

Unfortunately, like peeling grapes, this is all rather time consuming. However, Hastings Borough Council installed bird feeders for us gulls all along the sea front; they're not so efficient at keeping them topped up with goodies, mind. Here's a nice picture of one:

However, the tourists dun us proud. Biff notices nearly an entire portion of fish and chips that someone had puked up on, and what looked like worms in red sauce but turned out to be some Oriental concoction.

I reckon about forty of us must have descended. To show our appreciation of the generosity, we removed the rest of the feeder contents and decorated the sea front with them.

Then we decorated a few passers-by in our own inimitable fashion.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

How many of you out there remember good old Ted Thump, one-time Head Keeper at the now sadly defunct Glossop Pangolin Sanctuary? Of course you do! – so no prizes there then. And who could forget Ted’s death-defying march with Gloria, the Sanctuary’s only remaining pangolin up the M62, to seek a new life in Goole?

Well, as reported some time ago, things didn’t work out for Ted and Gloria.

“Goolies is thick” said Ted at the time. “They don’t appreciate pangolins”, he observed.
Goole Council confirmed that it had been unable to offer Ted a small grant to build a new sanctuary. A spokesperson commented; “If you think that at a time when we can only afford one wheelie bin per street the Council would want to fund this old loony, you’re as barmy as he is.”
Our reporter Glenys Bland caught up with Ted and Gloria on the towpath of the Goole/Swillage canal where Ted has recently found casual work as a fishing gnome on board Swillage Spirit, an especially splendid narrowboat – the pride and joy of Jaz McKiller, local burglar and Dangerous Person.

Glenys: So, Jaz – you took pity on Ted and Gloria?
Jaz: No. I needed a gofer to open locks an’ that an’ I make ‘im dress up like that ‘cos it scares kids. I ‘ate kids I do.
Glenys: And what about Gloria the pangolin?
Jaz: Is that what it is? I ‘ate pagnolins I do.
Glenys: Well Ted, it sounds like you’ve fallen on hard times.
Ted: Yeah
Glenys: And do you mind dressing up as a gnome?
Ted: Yeah, but I knock off at six.
Glenys: Is Gloria as miserable as you are?
Ted: Worse
Glenys: What on earth does she eat out here?
Ted: Dogs and cyclists mainly.
Jaz: Oi Ted! Don’t you go tellin’ the bird stuff like that, you’ll ‘ave the coppers down ‘ere again. (to Glenys) That bloody planglinole thing ‘ad a couple on a tandem last week. Ate the bloody bike too it did. And their Jack Russell.
Glenys (to camera): So, as the sun sinks behind the Genetically Modified Crops Research Centre (GENMOCRESCEN), we watch Ted, the six foot gnome, accompanied by a tubby pangolin trudging off towards the lock, there by the sweat of his brow, to earn a crust; to dream wistfully of Glossop Days and…
Director: “CUT, CUT, that’s enough of the poetic shite Glenys. Let’s go to the weather….”

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Another Day, Another Thought - From Justin Webly, more or less Arch of Cant

Hullo, Justin here…

Well, what a week it has been! As you may have heard in the news, I (and the young man with the wire in his ear) have spent time over in la Belle France, taking part in some of the many and varied ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings. 

In the interests of authenticity, I chose to sail across the Channel in the company of some of the Old Soldiers returning to the scenes of their own personal triumphs and tragedies. I was surprised at how very sprightly these old gentlemen were and rather taken aback at their colourful language and attitudes to things European. I confess to availing myself of the earplugs provided on HMS Bloater after an hour or more of “Bleedin’ Jerry” and the Germanic skill at penalty shoot-outs. 
Sadly, I was robbed of the admittedly limited social skills of the young man with the wire in his ear due to his being laid low by spectacular sea-sickness. The poor boy spent the short voyage hiding in a lifeboat going, “Wuuuurp. Jesus! Wuuuuurp. Jesus!” At least, some of my protestations of faith seem to have rubbed off.

After disembarking and having the young man with the wire in his ear hosed down I was privileged to have been able to mingle with many of the international politicians present. The American President was charming, and struck exactly the right note in his various speeches. Sadly, the French head of state had to endure mutterings of “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” from a small, exceptionally ancient and grumpy group of U.S. ex-G.I.s.
But my attention was drawn to Vladimir Putin. I got the impression that other dignitaries were reluctant to seek his company. He is a most peculiar-looking fellow, with a large flat head and really unnerving eyes. The young man with the wire in his ear, by then recovered and very anxious to point out all the other young men with wires in their ears, reminded me that Mr Putin was once the head of the KGB, and no stranger to speaking harshly to people. In a lull in the proceedings whilst a fight between British ex-paratroopers and a group of much younger German diplomats was broken up, the young man with the wire in his ear invited me to look at some pictures of Mr Putin on his snazzy little computer, showing the Russian leader chopping down trees in a state of semi-undress. Or riding a horse in a state of semi-undress. Or gazing into the middle distance in a state of semi-undress. These things are obviously very important to the Russian people, but I found them rather strange.

“Can’t see Nigel Farridge poncin’ about in his undies, eh Archie?” commented the young man with the wire in his ear.

Soon though, we were Blighty bound, me on the good ship HMS Bloater, whilst the young man with the wire in his ear left me in the safe hands of Captain Whilloughby Strains-Upward (RN), leaving French soil himself on the Eurostar train rather than risk any more of the “Wuuuurp! Jesus!” business. I’m sure Our Lord would have understood.

Pip, pip etc,