The Curmudgeon


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Inappropriate Behaviour

Horror as EU dilutes Britain's potency

Britain is to challenge an EU agreement designed to prevent excessive harassment of the impotent by the inflated.

As the Royal BS Bank was once again caught touching up the taxpayer, Brussels' interference was repeatedly spattered by some of the British government's most senior fumblers.

"People will wonder why we don't just pull out," said the much-engorged entertainer and sometime mayor of London, Johnson Bollocks.

"A quick touch in the back pocket for a bit of innocent fun is nowhere near as traumatic as what our bankers have been through under Gordon Brown, and is certainly nothing for the EU to concern itself over."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a spokesbeing praised the banking sector's voluntary restraints, while the Prime Minister called for flexibility and various Liberal Democrat eunuchs moaned and wobbled.

The chancellor, who has groped his way around the economy for two and a half years, is expected next month to postpone once again his targets for getting to second base.

Stephen Hustler, the man held largely responsible for Royal BS's erectile dysfunction, described the whole experience as "chastening", and is thought to have asked for more.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tough Justice

The Court adjourned, and all arose;
The Judge he sighed, and rubbed his nose,
And then his eyes, for they were bleary,
Because the day had made him weary.
(Nor were his nights spent as the log -
He spent them backing up his blog.)
This Judge, it must be understood,
Thought evil bad, and justice good;
So had an awful time, of course,
Interpreting his country's laws,
Which by and large, and in the main,
Were made to spare the guilty pain,
The wealthy from undue expense,
And all the poor from recompense.
Dispensing justice from such stuff
Was quite - to put it mildly - tough.

Stappley Gymrag

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Providence Fell

An extract

The district I was leaving was among the city’s less decayed; indeed, from what I knew of history the area was only marginally shabbier than it had been before the Upheaval. Most of the taller buildings were empty, abandoned because of structural instability; a few derelicts might gather in the ground floors, but there were comparatively few visible rats, and most dogs worked for the watch crews. The residents were middle-ranking servants of the faith, employed in public order or in supervising reconstruction and allocating resources, or else in the inquisition bureaucracy. It was possible to walk for half an hour in almost any direction before seeing anything that would fit the popular designation of rubble, and for at least another quarter-hour before seeing anything that would fit the official designation.

I walked for twenty minutes before stopping to wait for the transport; the district was not so heavily populated that I could avoid recognition, and even the inquisition has not yet made everybody discreet. Rather than wait alone and perhaps be accosted by some companionable security risk, I joined a clump of half a dozen people who were too preoccupied with their own business to spare me more than a vaguely hostile glance. We sheltered from the rain and hail in what had once been a shop; the reconstruction squads had knocked out the glass from the display window, plastered over the small door beside it and sprayed the transport symbol onto the new surface. My companions, three adults and three children, muttered complaints at each other while the drizzle threw its stones.

The transport arrived, a rust-spattered bus which disgorged a few passengers: we were in luck. Some drivers still take on more passengers than their vehicles can seat, in violation of the order to minimise breakdowns; but compliance has increased somewhat since the notorious case of one badly overcrowded transport whose passengers proceeded to lynch the operator. It is suspected that the ringleaders are still at large.

We sat down and were jolted into motion. I took a book from my pack. I have always been an enthusiast and collector of books; it is surprising how many can still be found in readable condition, despite the massive numbers that were burned for warmth or piety in the confusion immediately following the Upheaval. My collection is small and select: I will read almost any book I find, but I keep only the intact copies, and then only if the contents are worth reading more than once.

This volume was one of my disposables, part of the lower echelon destined to be traded or, as now, employed to keep tedium at bay without absorbing my attention overmuch. The cover and the first twenty pages were missing, and others were partly unreadable because of water damage; but enough was left to entertain. It was a pedestrian tale about a pantheon of evil extraterrestrial gods, and about a secret society of scientists and tough guys who battled against them using magical talismans. Anyone with an interest in old books has encountered such tales by the dozen; they seem to have been a staple of literature before the Upheaval, or else to have been preserved in disproportionate numbers afterwards. Some people find them quite intriguing, especially the kind of scholar who flourishes in endless, complicated and fundamentally irresolvable debate over authorship and textual authenticity.

Gradually the road grew more uneven and the stops more frequent as, besides allowing people to embark and disembark, the driver halted at watchpoints to be informed of the day’s new blockages, collapses and diversions. Only one of the crews made any effort at an inspection, and that a perfunctory one: a woman in body armour climbed aboard and tramped once up and down the aisle giving everybody the parade-ground eye. Either she was looking for someone specific under the guise of a routine check, or her superiors were the kind who preferred noise to results.

After that, the character of the streets changed abruptly: the buildings were set further back from the road, and more of the taller ones had been left standing. Almost every window was black and blinded, so that the sun’s occasional dim flickers on the remnants of a pane caused obvious apprehension. I have heard that the original reason for clearing the lots nearest the road was to prevent ambush by thieves. One place we passed had almost entirely fallen in, so that nothing was visible except a few outcrops of brick rising from a rectangle of stagnant water.

There was little sign of activity, though admittedly my glances at the view were brief and intermittent. I saw occasional movements, particularly where the damage was least repaired; they could have been reconstruction crews, or children running wild or foraging, or packs of wild dogs. The man seated behind me was certain he saw a work crew, and wondered aloud why it was playing around among the ruins while the weeds were taking over near the road.

The terminus was a great grey pile, low and wide. A long queue was waiting where we stopped, and while we disembarked those at the head of it eyed us as though we had come here to spite them. This was not at all the attitude I was used to; in the district from which I had come, people who were unacquainted would avoid each other’s eyes altogether. In the Fell, I knew, the convention was different again, strangers being treated with benign indifference until their uses and weaknesses had been properly calculated.

I presented my usual papers, which identify me as a distribution operative specialising in items for the lifting of public morale. There are some, even among my colleagues, who say that working for the inquisition atrophies the sense of humour. The watch crew took the tattered pages and handed them back with barely a glance in between; there was apparently no question of searching me. Whether this was policy or incompetence I have no idea; the further one gets from the inquisition centres, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish the two.

I left the terminus and walked half a mile into Providence Fell. There is no very obvious difference between the Fell and others of the city’s more run-down districts: one finds the same boarded and sagging houses, usually with the sturdier boards torn off and utilised elsewhere; the same giant white spiders of the mobile water reserves; the same tower blocks, long gutted to greyish frames and blotched like fungus; the same rusted cars, some burned or crippled, but a surprising number still roadworthy and in full possession of their windows and even their upholstery. This is one of the ways in which the Fell differs from other non-reclaimed districts: there are plenty which hoard petrol and have working vehicles, but in most the vehicles are generally kept out of sight or under guard, except when in rapid motion.

Few other pedestrians were visible. A group of children sat on and around the piled fragments of a recently demolished wall; they were negotiating some kind of transaction, and resumed passing their merchandise from hand to hand once they saw I would not approach them. Four men stood behind a car in front of which the road had fallen in; after much mirth they pushed the car forward until the ground collapsed under it and swallowed the front end. As I walked past I could hear them arguing amiably over who should get up and jump on the car to force it further in. An old woman, feet encased in matching plastic bags from a long-extinct consumption empire, nodded and grinned at me sociably while dancing among the random blades of ruptured paving stones.

Buy the book

Monday, February 25, 2013

Economic News In Brief

Oh dear, what a shame, lackaday!
They've taken our nice Triple-A;
But on we will forge,
For it turns out that George
Didn't care for it much anyway.

He's dug us a nice little pit,
And of course we're the better for it.
This little downgrade
Just means that his spade
Needs biggering up by a bit.

There's nothing so terribly wrong:
The economy's really quite strong.
It is surely the case
That it has a firm base
On this bottom we're bumping along.

If Moody's, or Standard and Fitch
Proclaim there's a bit of a hitch,
The opprobrium falls
On Brown and his Balls,
And the fact that the poor are too rich.

So why are we not celebrating?
Whence comes all this Gideon-baiting?
Just look what he did!
We're finally rid
Of that beastly old Triple-A rating!

Gideon Fatwick

Sunday, February 24, 2013

American Mary

Jen and Sylvia Soska 2012

A struggling medical student, Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle), tries to make some extra money by answering an ad for "sensual massage" workers, "no sex required". She takes her résumé along to the interview, and when a medical emergency arises her surgical skills net her more than the massage would have. Word of her abilities gets out, and Mary is approached by a strange, plasticised creature whose voice and demeanour are reminiscent of Betty Boop, though Beatress (Tristan Risk) is somewhat less weirdly repulsive than the cartoon character. Beatress has an acquaintance who wants to resemble a doll even more than she already does, and Mary is gradually drawn into an underground career catering for the extreme body modification crowd.

There is plenty of room for facile comparisons - with Audition, Ms .45 and the inevitable Cronenberg - but American Mary steers clear of the nods and winks that plague modern cinema and emerges as a superbly surgical black comedy. Mary is first seen in what looks like a cosily domestic pre-date scene, revealingly clad and touching up a turkey in her kitchen; as it turns out, she is practising her sutures. After she is raped by one of her teachers (David Lovgren), she finds something better to practise on. In one of the film's best scenes, another teacher, discussing how to break bad news, orders Mary to inform a family that their father has had a heart attack, and when she returns orders her straight back out again to tell them he has died. This lesson clearly gets home: even in the most extreme of circumstances, Mary's bedside manner never falters.

The film's title is unusually incisive. Mary's family are apparently comparative latecomers to the melting pot: the grandmother with whom she talks on her mobile has a foreign accent and Mary herself is bilingual. Mary lives the American dream in both its entrepreneurial and its vigilante aspects, growing wealthy through private enterprise and revenging herself on her enemy with stylish insouciance. The connotations of her name - virginity and godlike fecundity - are also explored, and emphasised by the presence of various Ave Marias on the soundtrack. Among her specialties is the addition of devil horns to foreheads, and her elderly assistant in one major operation (on a pair of German twins played by the film's co-directors) comments that he feels like Dr Mengele, whose first name was Joseph.

This barbed wit extends to the storyline, which often seems about to turn predictable but never quite does so. Mary does not become a serial killer, a vigilante or a femme fatale, although one feels at various points that any or all of these occupations might one day grace that résumé of hers. She remains the harrassed young doctor throughout, pestered by trivial cases ("Does it look like I do piercings?"), dealing with ignorant or dim-witted patients like the Penis Guy who doesn't realise masturbation counts as a sexual activity, and coping with her own jealousy and grief. The ending looks conventional at first glance, but it fits in with the film's themes: another forcible penetration, this time by the aggrieved boyfriend of Mary's unsexed first patient, means that the physician is finally forced to attend to her own wounds.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Queens and Concubines, and Virgins Without Number

That irrepressible comic talent, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has responded magnificently to the need for a new shtick at the conclave, with the suggestion that Catholic priests should be released from the rule of celibacy. As the recent sex scandals demonstrate, many of them are finding it "difficult to cope", and it appears Cardinal O'Brien believes it better for the priests to marry than for the church to burn at the hands of the Jewish-homosexual witch-hunters in the Press. A violent (or, since he's a Christian, staunch) opponent of equal marriage and adoption rights for gay people, his eminence casually shrugs off both the argument from tradition and the argument from authority: priestly marriage has happened before and is happening now and there is no explicit Biblical prohibition against it; so, as any Nazi abortionist might put it, why not? It is not as yet clear whether Cardinal O'Brien believes priestly marriage would carry the same apocalyptic risks as equal marriage - multiple partners, bestiality, even perhaps ephebophilia and paedophilia - and if not, why not. Nor is it obvious how a slippery slope towards the horror of female priests could be avoided, with the attendant hideous spectre of male and female priests marrying and having domestic arguments in which each could anathematise the other with equal authority from the Divine.

Friday, February 22, 2013


This is the three-thousandth post on this weblog, or possibly the three-thousand-and-first; Blogger's dashboard and post list pages diverge on the matter, and having no wish to provoke a Twitterstorm I've decided to take the cautious view. A number trailing zeroes is often the cue for introspection, reminiscence or a bit of a smug; and I have chosen the course you would expect, although I have mercifully refrained from commemorating this particular jubilee with three thousand supposedly interesting facts about my person.

When this weblog was set up, the Reverend Blair was prime minister and not as yet ascended unto his reward on the lecture circuit; the crusade in Iraq was only a year old; George W Bush had been legally inaugurated for the first and only time; the Liberal Democrats still pretended to some vague interest in liberalism and democracy; and Daveybloke was still a smooth, vacuous salesman showing barely a hint of the blundering purple-faced bully who would look so well in a tumbril. Thus far, I have got through two and a bit prime ministers of the United Kingdom, one and a half presidents of the United States and a brace of popes. A long time ago I even acquired a couple of trolls, but they grew bored with the length and structure of my sentences and disappeared even before Haloscan-that-was decided to wipe out all their comments along with everyone else's. Comments nowadays are few and far between, but that wasn't always the case; I still have the wiped ones saved, but the task of copying and pasting them one by one into Blogger's system can wait till desperation or dotage leaves me no alternative.

I began this humble wedge of the blogosphere almost nine years ago in March 2004, posting over the following couple of months a few bits of fiction written some time before. After a pause occasioned by a change of home, I started again in October with some news stories that happened to fall through a time warp; and since then I have inflicted upon a stoical internet posts in various forms and genres, including fiction, verse, Biercean fable and Satanic lexicography; book reviews and film reviews; essays and philosophical dialogues featuring Hitler, the end of the world and occasional amoebas; notes on fictitious pop-cultural phenomena; bad history, bad science, bad theology and bad cookery; and, of course, reams of dyspeptic commentary based mostly on stories in the Guardian. As achievements go, I know it is hardly Die Fackel (and it's the wrong colour, anyway), but from someone of my laziness the frequency of posting and sheer volume of words are really quite horrifying.

In between posts I have written a few books, made a small but hopefully not insignificant contribution to the appreciation of Robert Aickman and, if the page-view counts are anything to go by, acquired a select if taciturn following. Thanks to you all for your reading, commenting, linking, retweeting and reviewing; and onward in mudgeonry let us go.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Securing the Future

With a by-election defeat quite possible thanks to the idiocy of the Conservative candidate, and with the humiliation of the defeat likely to be compounded by the Conservative candidate's opponents having been merely John O'Farrell and the Liberal Democrats, Daveybloke has been taking prudent precautions against the vicissitudes of fortune and the whims of all those braying oafs and junior blue-rinsers whom he has dragged along thus far on his wonderful journey. Daveybloke has decided that some of Britain's aid budget should be spent on "peacekeeping defence operations"; partly because he hopes this will pacify the back benches by conflating foreign aid with wog-bombing, and partly because his sideline as a shill for arms dealers looks likely to develop from a pleasant hobby to a full-time occupation should the electorate happen to realise by 2015 exactly how much better off Daveybloke and his chums have made us all. A spokesbeing said that the aid budget would be used to fund "security, demobilisation and peacekeeping", which the defence budget as it stands apparently cannot cover, in spite of Trident and all the practice we've had in Iraq and points east. Daveybloke took a moment to burble sweet nothings about Justine Greening, one of his few remaining token females and the minister whose department is joining the paramilitaries; and Daveybloke praised the Department for International Development for working incredibly closely with the Foreign Office and the Ministry for Adam Werritty. Apparently the Department for International Development used to think itself "a sort of giant NGO", working towards silly things like international development. Now, however, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the Department for International Development works for Daveybloke, Rupert and the arms dealers, though not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stout Chaps Doing Fine Things

Still on his Indian tour, Daveybloke has been having a bit of a burble about the glories of Empire. Visiting the scene of the Amritsar massacre, he declined to issue a formal apology because the massacre occurred before he was born. Apparently Daveybloke believes he is visiting India in a purely personal capacity, and not as a representative of the one and indivisible United Kingdom; either that or, as befits a semi-royal Regency wastrel, Daveybloke simply regards the United Kingdom as the property of himself and his chums, rather than as anything to which he might owe a duty, even of example. Anyway, Daveybloke signed the book of condolence for the three hundred and seventy-nine incidences of collateral damage, and put the wogs in their place by quoting the mendacious orotundery of Winston Churchill, who took the Abu Ghraib approach that the whole thing was an isolated incident "of an entirely different order from any of those tragical occurrences" which go under the rubrics of police action, peacekeeping, maintaining order, democratisation and so forth.

It may seem odd for the originator of the Big Society thingy to refuse an empty gesture, especially of a sort that was pioneered by the Reverend Blair himself; but Daveybloke is far more worried about the barbarian hordes on his own back benches than he is about the reactions of a few Indians. One can only imagine the reaction from the wogs-begin-at-Brussels brigade to any hint that the Gove-Ferguson™ model of history, with its brave white capitalists bringing civilisation to the natives, might not be quite the thing any more. Instead, Daveybloke burbled that when it comes to Empire we should "learn from the bad and cherish the good". Yes, a lot of innocent people died, but we did, after all, build some jolly fine railways; and, quite apart from the Koh-i-Noor diamond (we're not giving it back, in case you were wondering), the present Government certainly cherishes such famous subcontinental treasures as poverty, corruption and caste.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Royal Purple

Daveybloke has taken time out from his day job as a weapons salesman to have a bit of a burble about Hilary Mantel. Two weeks ago at a London Review of Books event, Mantel gave a speech titled "Royal Bodies", in which she said some unflattering things about the latest model of Windsor foetusmobile and - which is the same thing, only worse - about the media's treatment of the royal circus animals. The British press, with its customary respect for nuanced debate, hauled on its hobnailed moral armour and lumbered feet first to the more pregnant lady's defence. Daveybloke, nominal employer of the News Corporation flunkey Jeremy C Hunt and diluter of Leveson by the grace of St Rupert, had little choice but to join in the chorus of righteous indignation; though doubtless he was genuinely affronted on a personal level by Mantel's implied sneer at bland, custom-built plastic mannequins. Indeed, such was Daveybloke's outrage on the Duchess of Cambridge's behalf that he managed to get her title wrong: he referred to her, with cringeworthy Blairiness, as "Princess Kate". Fortunately, one of the servants did have sufficient presence of mind to inform him that Hilary Mantel writes books.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Speaking As A Mother

An attempt by the Conservative candidate in Eastleigh to follow the Daveybloke example and use offspring to score political points seems to have backfired rather badly. Having implied that state schools were not good enough for her son, Maria Hustings-Hutchings is now pleading the inevitable misinterpretation and proclaiming that she didn't mean Hampshire state schools; she meant those other state schools, the cockroach-ridden dives of Essex. Genuine state schools are perfectly fine by Maria Hutchings-Hustings. Indeed, many of Maria Hustings-Hutchings' best friends are state schools, she would happily let her brother marry a state school that wasn't gay, and there is no doubt in the mind of Maria Hutchings-Hustings that state schools have their virtues, presumably including exotic cuisine and a marvellous sense of rhythm; though unfortunately, now that the playing fields are gone, probably not athletic prowess. However, while out campaigning today with the almost equally reality-based Theresa May, Maria Hustings-Hutchings let slip that she herself is a state-school effluvium; a rather unfortunate attempt at damage limitation, given that Maria Hutchings-Hustings is about as brilliant an advertisement for state education as David Davis is for council housing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Geologists? Who Needs Them?

Having taken a while to cogitate, the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith has responded to the court of appeal's judgement on using the unemployed as a means of getting the taxpayer to subsidise private companies. Duncan Smith had a sneer at people who think they should be given information just because they've got a degree, ordering them to contrast shelf-stackers with geologists and ask themselves who is more important. Geologists, as we know, are the sort of people who tend to bring up objections to nice, harmless activities like fracking; much as historians tend to object to the Gove-Ferguson™ version of our island's story, and doctors tend to object to the butchery of the NHS, and lawyers tend to object to the foam-flecked rantings of the Home Secretary and the Minister for Justice and Heterosexual Hostelry. Is there a pattern here, perhaps? Duncan Smith himself, of course, is notable for being the Conservative leader who was sacked for being too dim for the Stupid Party and too repulsive for the Nasty Party; now, as a functionary of the former party of law and order, he has decreed that when he comes into conflict with the law, the law must be "rubbish".

Saturday, February 16, 2013

16 February 1106

It was nearly closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Hooligan Motts stood behind the bar, polishing glasses and maintaining his imperturbability; Granny Forbus sat in front of the door, muttering imprecations against the universe. In their enigmatic corner, Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust kept breaking off their enigmatic negotiations so that the gaze of one or the other could drift upwards to the ceiling; those like Pippa Twelve Toes who tried to follow the gaze with their own saw nothing but beams and bats. From the card-players' table came an occasional muted curse as Limbless Fred perpetrated some new and hideous shuffle; from Melon Head Myrtle came the unsprung rhythm of desultory fingernails tapping on the bar; from Ten Gallon Harry came snores.

"Sixteenth of February, eleven hundred and six," announced Hooligan Motts. "Nearly closing time."

The snoring of Ten Gallon Harry was momentarily interrupted, and the rhythm of Melon Head Myrtle's finger-tappings was momentarily sprung, only to unspring itself again with the sullen obstinacy of a senile mattress; then the doors opened and a monk strode in. He was large and portly of figure, and the face inside his cowl was fleshy and rubicund; but his nose was long and sharp, and the eyes on either side of it moved about constantly.

"I am Brother Francis, of the Peterborough abbey," he informed Hooligan Motts, having ordered wine and been served a generous measure of fiftieth-century Mobberly Plonk. "I am gathering information," he continued, "concerning the public's reaction to the new star, to be documented in the Peterborough Chronicle."
"New star?" said Pippa Twelve Toes, who had followed a celebrity or two in her time.
"It's a comet," said Malvolio Quabbage.

"A new star in the heavens," said Brother Francis; "its appearance this day, in the first week of Lent, and during such portentous and significant times, is thought to be an omen of most significant portent. Would you disagree with that, madam?"
"I suppose," said Pippa Twelve Toes.
"There are, for example," said Brother Francis, "sources who ascribe the star's appearance to the disagreement between King Henry and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are in no doubt that the omen has been sent by God as a reminder to resolve the investiture controversy in accordance with His divine will. What do you think of that, madam?" he inquired of Melon Head Myrtle.
"I think a person's investitures are their own business," said Melon Head Myrtle.
"Archbishop Anselm is a most learned man," said Brother Francis; "it was he who devised the commercial theory of the Atonement, whereby man's debt to God is passed on to the Saviour like a promissory note, which is a most apt and beautiful doctrine for a nation of entrepreneurs."
"But if the Saviour should choose to pass the debt on again," put in Malvolio Quabbage, "perhaps even with interest, to someone who passed it on to somebody else, and so forth, might this not cause a certain lack of stability in the market?"
"The Saviour would never pass on the debt," said Brother Francis; "for that would be the act of a usurer and a Jew, and could never happen under a properly regulated fiscal system. In any case, I am here to chronicle the people's opinions as to the new star."
"It's a comet," said Malvolio Quabbage.

"There are, for example," said Brother Francis, "sources who ascribe the star's appearance to the disagreement between King Henry and his brother, Robert Littlesocks, as to the disbursement of the estate of their father, William the Conqueror. By the Conqueror's will, Robert was made Duke of Normandy and the late William Rufus was made King of England, thus splitting the country in a most blasphemous fashion."
"Wasn't it already split a bit," asked Melon Head Myrtle, "what with the Channel and all? And what did Henry get out of the arrangement?"
"Henry received five thousand pounds in silver," said Brother Francis.
"A most apt and beautiful bequest for a king of entrepreneurs," said Malvolio Quabbage.
"As for the English Channel," said Brother Francis, "it was placed there at the Creation, and therefore is a product of the same divine will which now urges us to maintain our nation's natural and reasonable extent. For was it not that same divine will which, at the very time the Conqueror set sail for England, placed another new star in the heavens, as a signal of God's favour towards the enterprise?"
"I suppose," said Pippa Twelve Toes.
"It was another comet," said Malvolio Quabbage.
"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.

Friday, February 15, 2013

PM's Rear Dewlap Contaminated

Fury at foreign horse neck horror

The Prime Minister's rear dewlap has been found to contain traces of horsemeat and veterinary drugs, Downing Street sources say.

A routine medical check revealed that the bulge at the back of Cameron's neck included "enough equine DNA to build a small shire pony", according to a spokesbeing.

In an official statement, Downing Street said the Prime Minister's health was in no danger, but that as a precautionary measure all his food would now be pre-tasted by Liberal Democrats.

The revelations could mean more political trouble. Eurosceptic Tory MPs expressed concern at the possibility that the horsemeat might be of foreign origin.

"We are definitely worried about this," said Nigel Noblett of the backbench Desperate Whinge group. "If there are French or Romanian influences in the Prime Minister's neck, it could turn policy on its head."

A Labour spokesbeing said that the findings confirmed the Government's "utter disarray" on immigration and neck issues.

The Prime Minister habitually uses his rear dewlap to store his speeches, and it is thought that the rubbery consistency of the flesh is useful in protecting his family from the weather.

It is thought that Samantha Cameron habitually spends ten to fifteen minutes each night extricating the Prime Minister's collar from beneath the bulge, using Vaseline and a small spatula.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Separate Identities

Daveybloke has been toddling around Eastleigh promising to protect its residents from the tsunami of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants who want to come over here and pinch their legal aid; or whatever is left of legal aid after Chris Graybeing has finished with it. Daveybloke expressed a certain moral indignation about foreigners who decide (sic) to become ill and use the NHS without having paid any taxes, although he seems happy enough about private companies deciding not to pay taxes on their profits. Daveybloke also burbled a bit about the wonders of "going green" which, like the Big Society thingy, appears to be something he expects the proles to do for themselves while the Government gets on with the serious business of privatising, profiteering and fracking.

Meanwhile, without much hope of winning the by-election, Labour have cannily made the Boris Johnson choice, fielding a media-oriented joke candidate who should at least generate a few friendly headlines. John O'Farrell distinguished himself during the 2005 general election campaign with some emails to your correspondent which managed to equal the patronising inanity of Michael Howard's Daveybloke-inspired dog-whistling. Eight years later, here O'Farrell is in Britain's leading liberal newspaper, expressing momentary outrage about the coalition before laying into the real enemy, namely those otherworldly purists who objected to New Labour for being virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives. Another phrase for that sort of thing, says John O'Farrell channelling Nick Clegg, is "losing elections". O'Farrell shrugs off such peccadilloes as the Iraq catastrophe, the Afghanistan quagmire, the torture flights, the domestic snoopery and the PFI scam as "difficult policy choices and compromises" and appears to think that anyone else would have done much the same; which rather begs the question of what difference it would make to vote for anyone else instead of Labour. Anyway, it seems that the Milibeing has inspired O'Farrell to reinvent himself as a life-long One Nationer, in the glorious, pragmatic centre-left tradition of Harold Macmillan and Thatcher's wets; which is certainly jolly encouraging.

UKIP and the Deputy Conservatives... oh, well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Watering Down

One of the Prince of Wales's little charities has been following its sponsor's example and firing off green-ink missives to government officials. The charity, which was closed in 2010 over allegations that its professional ethics approached those of the banking sector, lobbied the Department of Health over the treatment of homeopathy on the NHS Choices website. Homeopathy "involves the use of remedies so heavily diluted with water that they no longer contain any active substance", rather like electing Ed Miliband leader of the Labour party. The NHS chief medical officer has dismissed it as "rubbish", and has expressed surprise that parts of the NHS continue to offer such remedies as though they were actual medicine. The original draft of the NHS Choices information stated: "There is no good quality clinical evidence to show that homeopathy is more successful than placebo in the treatment of any condition … Furthermore, if the principles of homeopathy were true it would violate all the existing theories of science that we make use of today; not just our theory of medicine, but also chemistry, biology and physics"; which doubtless explains why the present faith-based Department of Health censored the statement out. "We may well be subject to quite a lot of challenge from the homeopathic community," squeaked one representative of the bureaucratic community in a marginal note to the draft; whereupon the relevant officials at the Department of Health reacted with the usual British professionalism, pluck and gumption, and did as they were told.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tough Guys

To regulate the British Press
Would take a statesman brave,
And staunch beneath tabloid duress,
And rather unlike Dave.

The British Press must always stay
Cantankerous and free,
Beneath the toothless grinning sway
Of warmed-up PCC.

For Dave's a chum of Michael Gove,
Who's one of Rupert's monkeys;
And Jerry Hunt, that little love,
And suchlike gormless flunkeys.

And, speaking of Nick Clegg and co.,
Of fragrant reputation,
Will they not let the Murdochs know
Their proper, lower station?

Of course not. Nicky still has pride
In what he is about:
Why should he take the victims' side
When he could sell them out?

To regulate the British Press
Is quite a parlous trick,
Requiring something more or less
Completely unlike Nick.

Boggler Gloogh

Monday, February 11, 2013

11 February 1355

It was practically closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel, and Hooligan Motts was polishing up the taps with a three per cent solution of Crudworthy's Traditional Horrific, and keeping slightly more than an eye on the doors. Some sort of commotion was going on outside, composed largely of bell-rings and shouts, at such volume that even Ten Gallon Harry was stirring.

"Eleventh of February, thirteen fifty-five," Hooligan Motts announced as a precautionary measure. "Nearly closing time."

The shouting continued, but the bell-ringing stopped. Malvolio Quabbage was so far emboldened as to prod Ten Gallon Harry in the nose with the sharp end of a green and purple umbrella which he had purloined from Melon Head Myrtle's banana daiquiri. The nose of Ten Gallon Harry was noted for its sensitivity to umbrellas, but there was no visible response.

Hooligan Motts had just squeezed the last of the Crudworthy's Traditional Horrific into the reinforced steel bucket which was the strongest available receptacle aside from Granny Forbus' evening stomach, and had taken slightly less than half his eye off the doors, when the doors burst inward and admitted a great deal of noise and a large liveried personage with a scarlet face and a hand-bell.

"Oyez, oyez, oyez," cried this apparition, almost in the ear of Granny Forbus, who twitched with annoyance and sucked her malevolent teeth. The liveried personage shook his hand-bell vigorously, and the resulting clangour caused Limbless Fred to spray cards across half the room, thus winning by default a game which had seemed hopeless only a moment before.

"Oyez, oyez, oyez," repeated the liveried personage, who seemed to believe that he warranted some attention.
"Nearly closing time," said Hooligan Motts.
The liveried personage blinked at him, then began again: "Oyez, oyez - "
"Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah," mimicked Granny Forbus inaccurately.

Having gained the attention he sought, the liveried personage took a breath so deep that his leather belt creaked, and proceeded:

"Whereas upon the evening of the tenth day of the present month, being the feast of Saint Scholastica, a most rude and unseemly disorder did occur in the Swindlestock Tavern, property of our most respected mayor, John Barford, and whereas certain students at the University have prevailed upon the said John Barford in a most naughty and saucy manner with a deadly weapon, namely a flagon which was among the legal chattels of the said Swindlestock Tavern, and whereas - "
"Just a minute," said Granny Forbus.
"And whereas," continued the liveried personage, "the said John Barford having sought due and legal redress by the most lawful and holy means, namely by ringing the bells of St Martin's Church, the said students proceeded in a most blasphemous and heretical fashion to ring the bells of St Mary's Church, and whereas - "
"Hang on," said Granny Forbus.
"And whereas," continued the liveried personage doggedly, "the said John Barford, fearing for his safety and for the safety of the said Swindlestock Tavern and all the chattels and flagons therein, did most lawfully call upon his loyal friends and customers to muster in his defence, and whereas there did then ensue a great and noisy disorder in the streets - "
"That's more like it," said Granny Forbus. "Tell us who won."
"Streets, the said John Barford, in his capacity as injured party and mayor of the town of Oxford, now calls upon all able-bodied males, including all burgesses, villeins, churls, serfs and scroungers, along with any deadly appurtenances accruing thereunto, including scythes, rakes, pitchforks and similar items of a chastising nature, to join with him in the defence of the king's peace and the furtherance of appropriate educational values," concluded the liveried personage. "Given upon this, the eleventh day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand three hundred and fifty-five. Oyez, oyez, oyez."

Oblivious to the scowl of Granny Forbus, which was curdling the dye in the back of his coat, the liveried personage strode to the bar, where Hooligan Motts served him Old Groveller's in a half-pint porringer and Ten Gallon Harry opened one eye and asked whether anything might perhaps be going on. "Ears are ringing," he complained.
"There was a fight here yesterday," said Malvolio Quabbage, "and it looks as if there's going to be another one today."
"You see?" said Pippa Twelve Toes to the liveried personage, pointing out Malvolio Quabbage. "That's how you make an announcement. Nice and concise because yakking goes packing."
"But an announcement from the mayor," protested the liveried personage, "must necessarily be delivered with a certain ceremony. We must show respect to our betters."
"That's all very well," said Pippa Twelve Toes; "but anything with a lot of long words tends to annoy Granny, especially if she thinks there's a fight buried in there somewhere. You don't want to annoy Granny, not when she's sitting between you and the door."
"Good in a fight, is she?" inquired the liveried personage with sledgehammer nonchalance.
"Well, I wouldn't want to get on the wrong end of her," said Pippa Twelve Toes. "I'd rather face an able-bodied male with a chastising appurtenance any day of the week, and more besides."
"She could pass for an able-bodied male," speculated the liveried personage; "upon the field of battle, with a hat over her brow and a weapon in her claw, who would notice the difference?"
"Now, now," said Hooligan Motts to the liveried personage, "we'll have no recruiting here, thank you very much."
"But 'tis a proclamation of the mayor," protested the liveried personage.
"Not in here it isn't," said Hooligan Motts. "Special license."
"On whose authority?" demanded the liveried personage.
"The owner's," said Hooligan Motts.
"Mayor Barford will wish to speak with him," said the liveried personage. "Whereas heretofore and in perpetuity the granting of special licenses within the precincts of - "
"Mayor Barford will have to wait a while," said Hooligan Motts hastily. "Closing time, you understand."
"I shall convey your respects," said the liveried personage, finishing up his Old Groveller's. "No doubt Mayor Barford will wish to pay a visit here tomorrow, once these students have been properly instructed in the ways of discipline." Taking up his hand-bell, the liveried personage bowed politely to Pippa Twelve Toes and made his way to the doors.

"Oi you, oi you, oi you, too," sneered Granny Forbus, and flicked something at him to speed him on his way.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Sad and Shocking Thing

A very public but very civilised divorce was played out in Eastleigh today as Nick Clegg's separation from reality received formal confirmation. Despite his long and intimate acquaintance with the Bullingdon Club, Wee Nicky claimed to see no reason why the by-election should not be conducted "in a grown-up, forthright way" between the confidence tricksters in the orange corner and the braying oafs in the blue. Wee Nicky acknowledged that people would be worried about jobs, housing and fair taxes, then urged voters to elect a candidate from the coalition, which has sacked hundreds of thousands of people, shrugged off the housing crisis and thrown money at the rich while demolishing social security. Best of all, Wee Nicky said that the by-election was a great opportunity for the Deputy Conservatives to highlight their achievements, which are so very distinguishable from the Conservatives' achievements and so very spectacular that they all seem to have slipped my mind for the moment. "I personally am always against any kind of whiff of stitch-ups because it is important to give people a choice," Wee Nicky proclaimed, repudiating in a single sentence the entire coalition agreement and the abolition of the National Health Service.

The Deputy Conservatives do in fact have a chance at winning Eastleigh: they own the council, and their Real Conservative opponent is a right-wing lunatic who stood in 2010 and managed to increase Chris Huhne's majority by a substantial margin. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, will result from the ongoing tragic estrangement between Wee Nicky and the physical universe.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Conspiracy Theory

Daveybloke's badger-busting environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has sufficiently recovered from Parliament's recent demolition of the marriage vows to notice that British beef isn't all it should be, especially when it happens to be a Romanian immigrant. Consumers are annoyed that certain processed chunks of dead animal have turned out to be processed chunks of a different variety of dead animal; the preference may seem arbitrary, but then Steven Spielberg has never made a film about a war-cow. The horse-meat scandal, proclaimed Paterson, is a "straight fraud", quite unlike what happens when the public votes blue to go green only for the blue party and its little orange chums to put the forests up for sale and declare open season for frackers everywhere. "This is a conspiracy against the public," Paterson whinnied; indeed, given his government's obsession with getting out of the way so that profiteers may do as they please, he surely protested too much. The idea of a Conservative minister in glamorous food-bank Britain being concerned over what the proles eat is disconcerting, to say the least; could something more sinister be going on? With the approaching announcement of a royal commission to kick Leveson into the long grass, could somebody be trying, on behalf of Daveybloke and Rebekah, to destroy certain evidence of an equine persuasion?

Friday, February 08, 2013

Police Dog Horror

Unelected cop dog bit four in north

A police dog has run riot in the Derbyshire town of Glossop after escaping from its kennel.

The dog attacked a thirteen-year-old girl and two men who provoked it by trying to help her, besides another suspect in a separate incident.

It is not as yet clear whether the dog is an isolated rotten apple, or whether it has been doing a brilliant job under difficult circumstances and was placed in an impossible situation.

A spokesbeing said Derbyshire police would be looking into the circumstances of how the dog got out of its kennel, which forensics experts described as "a jolly good place to start".

It is thought that the office of Conservative Party biker Andrew Mitchell has been investigating the possibilities for a photo-opportunity, although this may depend on the photogenicity of the victims and whether they can speak English.

Estimates of the teenager's dress sense and sexual precocity will probably be available soon from the Daily Mail.

Glossop specialised in fustian during the eighteenth century. Derbyshire is in the East Midlands, but borders on Greater Manchester which makes it virtually in the north.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

U-Turn; or, The Learning Curve

Oh, deary me! Oh, what a shame!
No doubt the weather is to blame,
And teachers, and the Whitehall crew,
And probably a spad or two -
Who have not done enough, I fear,
To help me with the Twittersphere.

I signed the Bible, full of pep,
Yet now I'm on the naughty step!
But children, future of the nation,
Fear nothing for your education.
You need not worry. Even now,
I'll screw your schooling up somehow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Leveson Unspiked

The House of Lords, that paragon of democracy which works so well that the Conservatives ruptured the coalition to protect it from reform, has repaid the favour by voting against the Government on the defamation bill. Their amendments include a low-cost arbitration system for victims of the press, which may sit ill with the Government's abolition of legal aid; and a system of statutory press regulation, which Rupert Murdoch does not want and which for some reason or other is equally unacceptable to Daveybloke and his chums. There have been some listless cross-party talks, but Lord Puttnam complained that "anyone who reads the bill as it stands will not find so much as a hint of the fact that we live in a country that has spent much of the past two years debating the fallout directly attributable to the unaccountable power of newspapers over our public life and over the lives of ordinary citizens. It is almost as if Leveson never happened." Of course, Daveybloke has been jolly busy putting the Euro-wogs in their place and setting Timbuktu to rights; and the Milibeing has not been exerting much pressure, presumably because he hopes to be working for News Corporation himself in a couple of years' time.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A Fallen Titan

He has a certain driving force -
For which he's thanked his wife, of course.

He hucksters principles and hocks
Integrity for that red box.

He is a Liberal Democrat,
And told a fib. Imagine that.

Fidler Widgett

Monday, February 04, 2013

4 February 211

It was almost the hour of closing at the Gallows and Glockenspiel, and Limbless Fred had just told Throaty Gubbins in considerable detail exactly what he could do with his laryngeal prosthetic, and exactly where he could do it, and was just working up to one or two hints about the method.

At the bar, a grizzled gentleman sat in his waterproof toga and downed measure after measure of Muddler's Cudgel, several barrels of which Hooligan Motts had acquired by suspicious means during a brief and unscheduled sojourn in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had been trying to get rid of the stuff ever since, but it was too oily for Melon Head Myrtle, too disorienting for Limbless Fred, too carcinogenic for Pippa Twelve Toes, too assertive for Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust, too alkaline for Malvolio Quabbage, and Granny Forbus had used it to cause explosions in the ladies' room. The grizzled gentleman knew nothing of all this, however, and Hooligan Motts was not aware of any evidence to indicate that he would have cared.

"Fourth of February, two hundred and eleven," said Hooligan Motts. "Nearly closing time."

The grizzled gentleman reacted by reaching for the bottle of Muddler's Cudgel and refilling his earthenware cup. The bottle was almost empty, and Hooligan Motts was reasonably sure that by the end of the day he would be able to dispose of it in good conscience, without pouring any of the contents down the drain and thereby risking the plumbing.

The grizzled gentleman raised his cup in the general direction of Hooligan Motts, although by the nature and quantity of his previous imbibings the direction was very general indeed. "To the Emperor," he said.
"What Emperor would that be, dearie?" asked Melon Head Myrtle.
The grizzled gentleman bleared at her. "The Emperor of Rome," he said; "his glorious and terrible majesty, Lucius Septimius Severus Eusebes Pertinax Augustus Caesar, the scourge of the Senate, would-be conqueror of Caledonia and soon, no doubt, to be made a god."
"That's nice," said Melon Head Myrtle.
"He was from Lepcis Magna, you see," the grizzled gentleman said. "A great city in Africa. From a cultural point of view, it was most unfortunate. He was far too civilised for us, here in the barbarous north."
"I don't think you're barbarous, much," said Melon Head Myrtle charitably.
"He did have his good points," the grizzled gentleman said; "put up some fine buildings, and executed people in commendable quantities. In most cases he even took the trouble to have them found guilty of something first. If only he hadn't wasted so much time and effort on this business of conquering the Caledonians. It isn't natural, you know."
"I know, dearie," said Melon Head Myrtle. "Unnatural bunch all round, emperors are. They're known for it."
"We do, after all, have a wall to keep them out," the grizzled gentleman said.
"I shouldn't think that would help a great deal," said Melon Head Myrtle. "Most emperors are a determined lot. The ones I've known have been, anyway."
"Not emperors, Caledonians," said the grizzled gentleman. "The wall was put there to keep the Caledonians out, thus enforcing the Pax Britannia and enabling us to punch above our weight on the imperial stage."
"Really," said Melon Head Myrtle, who liked a bit of wrestling here and there.

The grizzled gentleman gulped his latest cupful of Muddler's Cudgel and his eyeballs reacted in the customary fashion, protruding momentarily from their sockets as though a large leather surprise had been forcefully applied to the back of the grizzled gentleman's head.

"And even supposing he had managed to conquer them," the grizzled gentleman resumed, once his optics had settled back more or less into their accustomed orbits, "and even supposing they could have been persuaded to settle down and become law-abiding Roman citizens, what then? What would happen, for example, to our representation in Rome? Would the Caledonians consent to be represented by the present Britannic ambassador? I very much doubt it. Or would there be two ambassadors, one for the Caledonians and one for the island proper? Either way, it would make for dreadul instability, to say nothing of the confusion over our tribal identities. You can see the problem, I'm sure."
"Oh, yes, dearie, I can see problems all right," said Melon Head Myrtle. "Sounds like his glamorous and terrible majesty died just in time to save everyone a lot of unpleasantness."
"At least he made sure of the succession before he went," said the grizzled gentleman. "He named his two sons joint emperors, to stop them squabbling about it."
"Well, that's one way to keep two brothers from fighting," said Melon Head Myrtle. "Ask them to share something both of them want."

The grizzled gentleman grasped the bottle once more, and upended it over his drinking vessel. When the last trickle had transferred itself he put down the bottle, picked up the cup and swivelled unsteadily to face the patrons of the Gallows and Glockenspiel, or as many as middle-aged binocular vision addled by Muddler's Cudgel could encompass.

"The emperor is dead," the grizzled gentleman proclaimed; "long live the emperors."
"Eh?" said Granny Forbus.
"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Eyes of Certain Crudely Fashioned Dolls

I see the unrolling dry
glistening chipped stare
of my fellow passenger:

Blind and too blue,
his porcelain plastic eye
blinks just when I do.

Otto Sigil

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Putting Things Right the Osborne Way

Even in a well-ordered Big Society the prefects must step in now and again, and Triple-Dip George has informed the Royal Bank of Scotland that any international fines it incurs for rigging the rates must not be paid by the British taxpayer; at least not "on this occasion". The public will protect the bankers from fines incurred in the United Kingdom, as market forces and fair play decree; but it seems that international fines would, in the present state of the Conservative Party, be a pasty tax too far. A senior spokesbeing was duly extruded to proclaim the virtues of this sublime stroke of statesmanship, which surely ranks with telling train companies to stop killing people for profit or informing health companies that abuse of patients is to be avoided whenever it is expedient to do so.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Substantial Community Benefits

Some uppity northerners have refused to agree to the burial of nuclear waste near the Lake District. This might be considered a predictable decision, except that Cumbria is already host to Sellafield, the well-known improver of the Irish Sea; and one of its MPs is president of the Deputy Conservatives, so clearly the residents have a fairly relaxed attitude to living with toxic waste. Possibly the Government's plan to save the environment (viz. to turn the whole country outside Westminster into a free range for shale-fracking cowboys) has concentrated a few minds. In any case, the official Deputy Conservative doormat at the Ministry for Energy Profiteers, Ed Davey (not to be confused with Ed or Davey), is now faced with the task of finding bribes of sufficient magnitude for the local councillors to change their minds. Even amid Triple-Dip George's economic ministrations, this should not be as difficult as it sounds; after all, it is hardly a question of keeping some hospital open.