Bearing fruit

Now class, I want you to tell me what you think is the best profession in the world. The best profession….

Delmar, what do you think?

Emmy-Lou? Any idea?

Madison? Stop picking your nose.

Tommy – is your hand up? Yes, Tommy.

— Eh, is it writer, Miss?

Writer? Why do you say that, Tommy?

—  Well, cos, you know, without writers all the other professions would be totally meaningless, wouldn’t they?

What does your father do, Tommy?

— He’s dead, Miss.

Choose an orange from the basket, Tommy, and enjoy.


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New year therapy

— Doc says I should get in touch with my feelings:

Dear Feelings,

Hello, how are you? Long time no feel, ha ha. Any news your end?

Not much happening here, same old same old.

How about a drink some time in Twemlow’s, when I’m out? Maybe a light supper of cold cuts in Spelman’s? I hear they do veal now.

Anyway, just to say hello.

Bye.

— That went very well. New year, new man.


 

Comp. Lit.

Call me Twemlow. A while back, I decided to take the first bus to come along, and just go wherever it took me. At the time, I felt that if I didn’t do something, I might start knocking people’s hats off in the street. That’s the mood I was in. Anti-social, I know, but I was down in the dumps and my feet were cold. The bus was my substitute for the pistol and ball. So I jumped on the 46A to Beaconsfield (via Town Centre) and never looked back. The man you see before you today was born on that bus.

In an earlier era, I might have gone to sea in the Pequod, à la Melville, or travelled around the world in a hot-air balloon, à la Verne, but Catweazle can only rise to the Beaconsfield bus (via Town Centre). Not for me to say, of course, but has there been a sharp decline in literary standards of late? Discuss, and illustrate your answer with examples of your own, if you wish.


 

Regret

My old dad used to walk with me
along the country lanes.
Side by side in silence, then:
‘Listen son, about our little games.
It’s just a bit of fun, you see,
no need to be distressed.
So don’t tell your fuckin’ mother,
or I’ll break your fuckin’ neck.’

Then we’d walk home together,
silent as the grave.
He died before I had the chance
to make him pay.


 

The consultation

The Doc asked me if I’d had any contact with frogs recently.

— What you mean?

— You know, frogs.

— Frogs.

— Yes, frogs. Ribbit, ribbit!

—Eh?

— Green chaps. Slimy.

Then he starts jumping up and down, skinny legs flexing like an Olympian. Across the floor —ribbit, ribbit! — onto a bookcase — ribbit, ribbit! — back to his desk — ribbit, ribbit!.

— See? Frogs.

— No, I mean how recently is recently?


 

Dander’s up

Bloody annoyed right now, and with good reason: I ate a Mars bar earlier and did it help me work, rest and play? It did like fuck!

Bloody Martians coming here, taking all our jobs. If my old granddad was alive today he’d turn in his grave. There ought to be a law. And…. and…. I’m fairly sure oranges used to be a lot bigger.

I’ve a good mind to fire off a broadside — letter to the Times, I think. Strike while the iron is hot, and my dander’s up.

Started to rain again, too.

This bloody country’s gone to hell.

There, I’ve said it!


 

For the prosecution

‘You made my life a hell, Jeb Thomas, coming home drunk every night and beating me black and blue, every night for twenty years! All my teeth gone and busted spleen.’

— You see, M’Lud, how she attempts to portray herself as the injured party in this case.

‘You broke my arms three times, once when I was pregnant, that time with Josie.’

— You see, M’Lud, how she tries to deflect responsibility from herself and onto the only real victim in this case.

‘You stabbed poor Janey in your drunken rage. May God forgive you, for I couldn’t. She were just a baby, Jeb… what else was I to do?’

— You see, M’Lud, the inverted heroism defense, as old as duplicity itself.

Let the record show that the defendant is brandishing her fists, apparently in the direction of Heaven.


 

Love’s logic

— The doorposts never speak, but they’re always listening! I was in here with Simon the other night, discussing the wedding plans, and I could feel the doorposts straining to hear. They leaned forward, into the room, to catch every word, and if I’m not mistaken, one of them actually laughed, or at least sniggered. The one on the right.

— Did Simon hear it?

— Oh no. Simon never hears anyone but me, the sweet silly goose!

— And… are they listening now?

— No, I don’t think so. But you’re not very interesting, are you? I mean… to a doorpost.

— And Simon is?

— Well, I am marrying him, aren’t I? And if he interests me, he’d hardly bore a doorpost, would he?

— Hardly. Good point.


 

Meanwhile…

…back at the ranch, Chad was blind-stitching the gusset of his panties. Riding the range had taken its toll, and fraying was so unsightly.

In the bunkhouse, Karl was whittling hickory into the shape of a… was it Apollo 11? Whatever the case, Chad’s birthday was fast approaching, and a thoughtful, handmade gift would strike the right note.

Chad examined his needlecraft by placing a small looking-glass near to his manly tegument, and adjusting as required.

Karl flashed a milk-white smile as he stroked and smoothed the hickory.

In the vastness of the prairie sky, a harvest moon looked down on love’s excursions.


 

Patented

I’m working on a device that makes people happy. The basic concept is this:

It runs on 2 AA re-chargeable batteries (not included), and has a moulded plastic handle for easy carrying, plus a lightweight foldaway frame for easy storage. Coated in tough, scratch-proof Teflon, it could guarantee a lifetime of happiness to the user. When not in  use, it could double as a coldframe for strawberries.

Must phone the Patent Office at once, or it’ll be the ‘Meaning of Life in a Bag’ fiasco all over again.


 

The cure

— Won’t you try my lenitive electuary? It’s a sovereign julep compounded of many simples, and it’s damnably demulcent, my dear.

— But is it a mollifying or a gently stimulating febrifuge?

— For those in grip of fever, it’s a palliative sling, my dear — so saith Pliny.

— Will it restore my youthful ardour? And rejuvenate my alabaster pallor?

— Never known to fail, my dear.

— Does it alleviate the itch associated with Grant’s Palsy? Will it banish thoughts of demons?

— Just drink it, for fuck sake.


 

The best years

In the first week of the new school term, Andrews had his wings clipped, and Porter had his heart cut out, by Brother Mallet. The next week, he flogged fiery demons from the souls of Thomson and Martin, and crushed Gaynor’s self-esteem like a ripe melon underfoot.

In this way, life at St Anselm’s Academy for Wayward Waifs settled down to its normal bustling routine, and the young scholars flourished, not physically, perhaps, or intellectually, or emotionally, but in the ways that count.

Twenty years later, Brother Mallet was found dead in mysterious circumstances.


 

Obit.

C.M. Pudding’s autobiography, Raisins and All, was published in 1995 to critical acclaim. The Times wrote: ‘One feels the soul behind the gestures, the heart behind the rhetoric, the crême behind the brulée.’

Peter Townsley, in the Guardian, wrote: ‘Pudding has finally silenced his critics, for whom the ‘raisins’ of the title were, throughout his long career, all too often used as ammunition against him. Now, at last, the cheek is on the other foot, and Samson has met his Daphne.’

In the Daily Express, Phoebe Dalmatian described Raisins and All as a ‘work of great imaginative power, a tour de force, a coruscatingly acerbic and typically scathing sideswipe at the British establishment of the 1960s and 70s. Pudding takes no prisoners in this rollicking romp that sets light to the brandy of stuffy decorum and fairly polishes the plate of paternalistic parliamentary procedure’.

The second volume, Living with Semolina, was less successful.


 

Speed

Olympic legend Joachim DeRipa won the men’s 100 metres final in a record time of 9.54 seconds. Tremendous applause followed the inspirational athlete as he made his way to the winners’ podium.

Half a world away, Inspector P.J. (‘Me Darlin’) Murphy was watching on TV in his home in London. It was his day off, and he was tired.

He speed-dialled Scotland Yard and while DeRipa was still holding his medal aloft and waving to the crowd, he was hustled to the ground, handcuffed and immobilised by six burly lawmen.

‘You can run but you can’t hide, me darlin’, said Murphy, as he watched from his favourite armchair.


 

Warning

Clumsy booby John Huffam is in the news again. The oafish blockhead was descried entering the Blue Dragon on Saturday evening, then furtively leaving the premises a full six hours later, accompanied by beautiful Estella Moncrief, eldest daughter of Lief Moncrief, the Laird of Ballintrae.

What went forward in the interim, we wonder?

Did SHE vouchsafe the tryst, or did HE purloin it?

Is she now compromised, or even — undone?

Whatever the case — never stoop to a boor, Estella!

— From “One Who Knows”.


 

Swinging Betsy

The Reverend Gilead told the Court: ‘The trine mersion in water is very symbolic. The first mersion figures our birth to this world, the second our death, the third our glorious rebirth to everlasting life.’

And so the ducking-stool was built, under the Reverend’s close supervision. He had estimated Leonora’s weight by observing the length and breadth of her shadow at Matins and at Evensong, and averaging out.

It took six weeks to build the apparatus, and required the combined skills of three carpenters and two blacksmiths. A deputation was sent to Stella Maris Rest Home in Norwich to consult with Jeb Postlethwaite, retired Master Mariner, about submerged rocks, whirlpools, and eddies in the River Ouse.

When completed, the ducking-stool extended fifteen feet into the river, and was so efficient that it could be operated by just two men, Tom Elliott and his brother Godber. They tested it repeatedly for a week with diseased sheep and moribund goats, and in the end became quite fond of it. They nicknamed it Swinging Betsy, after their grandmother.

And so, the Great Day dawned, fresh and clear. People began to assemble at the riverside from six in the morning: families with picnic baskets and folding stools, sportive lads and lasses gaily attired, ancient crones in bath-chairs nursed by slaveys. Sarah Sowerbutts had a stall near the bridge, selling simnel cakes and flagons of negus. From sunrise to nine o’clock, the murmur of the crowd rose steadily from idling breeze to rushing wind.

But at five minutes to the hour, all fell deathly silent, when a carriage bearing Leonora was seen to leave the Cambridge Road and head slowly towards the river. All eyes followed it, and then strained to see Leonora as she stepped onto a wooden dais. Clad in black, she appeared calm, demure, even beautiful.

A murmur spread through the crowd, but all eyes remained fixed on the figure in black.  An infant cried, somewhere near the bridge.

The Reverend Gilead joined Leonora on the dais, and the whole world fell mute again, save for the waters of the river. Facing the congregation, the Reverend read aloud the Twelfth Order of the Consistory Court of Rheims, and the people bowed their heads. Then holding a wooden crucifix before him, he turned to look directly into Leonora’s face. He spoke in a rich, somewhat sad voice:

— Do you renounce Satan and all his works?

— Yes.

— Fuck. Now you tell me.


 

Celeb update

Teen icon Slap Dash is in the news again — for all the WRONG reasons.

The hunky heartthrob was seen coming out of Quangos at 4am with a mystery BLONDE. ‘He came out of Quangos at 4am with a mystery blonde,’ a bystander said.

This comes just WEEKS after jilted ex Patsy De Loreo revealed that Slap used to BITE his fingernails during their lovemaking trysts.

An insider revealed that Slap is about to announce an exciting NEW project that could see him linked to reality TV star Natassyya Del’Whinge.


 

A memorable evening

Dick of Devon and the mooncalf opened the proceedings by leaping up and down and whistling ‘Don’t mind me, Mrs Flanagan’.  Not the strongest opening, but then Dick left the stage to be replaced by the  mandrill, who told the most lurid jokes as the mooncalf, seated on a conch shell, mimed his words. The bishop left at the beaver joke, but the rest of the audience was highly entertained.  The act was rewarded with wild applause and shrill hoo-hooing, and the mooncalf had to be dragged off stage, such was his rapture at the ovation.

After the intermission, the Cat-a-Mountain took to the stage to rambunctious applause. Her now famous manic dance routine, with its contortions and operatic gestures, virtually brought the house down. What a loss to Cornish theatre when she moves to the West End in September. But this was a splendid send-off for a performer who has delighted young and old alike for over ninety years. At routine’s end, Dick of Devon, in his role as MC, presented the Cat-a-Mountain with a bouquet of tansies and burlwort, and the audience rose as one to its respective feet. Then the whole company joined the pair on stage for one final, moving rendition of  ‘Kitty, what’s your caper?’ A fitting finale indeed, and a memorable evening.


 

How we learn

Ug tugged at the branch and was rewarded with a heap of shiny red
baneberries that dropped at his feet. Experiencing happiness, he squatted
on the ground and began eating the rubicund crop with what we now call
pleasure. The taste might be described as piquant, though Ug was not familiar with the term. His partner Ugeen, and daughter Uglet, perceived him with growing interest.

He had eaten about ten berries when he suddenly began to sweat prodigiously, a cold, sickening sweat that was quite a novelty to Ug. He felt dizzy, and the termite mounds in his garden seemed to spin about his head. Then he felt a spasmodic contraction of his throat, and a violent heave, heaving, AAARRKK of his stomach. His innards, were he aware of them, fought for air, but came there none.

Ug dug into the soil with his fingers and with a single explosive
YYYEAARRKK crossed over history’s one-way threshold.

In that way, Ugeen and Uglet, as well as all future generations, learned the meaning of the word bane.


 

Appeal

Judge Horatio Macauley Smallweed
Royal Courts of Justice
The Strand
London WC2A 2LL

Dear Your Honour,

In the matter of Catweazle v Regina, I wish to bring to your esteemed attention the following matters of utmost importance.

Scattergood & Nesbeck cost me 25,000 smackers in legal fees, and that’s after their loyalty discount. For that kind of money, I expected a thoroughly professional service, but what I got was a travesty.

For example, my counsel should have de-emphasised the evidence a lot more skilfully. After all, a severed head with my fingerprints on it does look bad to most jury members, but Scattergood & Co. simply “backed off” at that point. A simple case of botched records would have put me in the clear on that one.

Also, Exhibit C, the torso in the oven — what chance did I have once that was unearthed? It should have been deemed inadmissible on grounds of tampering with a crime scene, or sine qua non, or even extra-judicial bakala bakalorum.

In light of this unfortunate case, I’m calling for root-and-branch reform, with a full public inquiry into the admissibility of body parts as evidence to hang a man by the neck until dead.

Let’s hope my campaign (Registered Charity No. 342167) can prevent any further  miscarriages of justice, and you can help by purchasing one of my 100% cotton ‘VICTIM’ T-shirts, available in a wide range of colours. Click here to order, and share on Twitter.

Yours etc,

Catweazle
PN53378092
Belmarsh

Contact

The birds are at juke in the hedgerow,
travellers have camped for the night.
an ocelot sleeps on the awning,
in the courtyard, a lone anchorite.

I stand at my casement window,
adrift among endless seas,
then the sky is lit up like a flaming cup
by a meteor shower in the east.

A streaming spate of silver light,
ten thousand souls set free.
I look into the courtyard,
and the anchorite looks at me.


 

First lesson

If you go just slightly beyond the common baked bean, you’re entering a whole new realm of enquiry, which a single lifetime is hardly long enough to explore.

Take the mung bean, for instance. Common enough — granted — but how many of you can say that you’re really familiar with mung beans? How many? I thought so.

And how many of you know the connection between haricot beans and the fall of Stalingrad? How many? None!

Can anyone tell me the difference between the field bean and the bean of Molucca? No one!

Who discovered the powerful narcotic properties of St Ignatius’s bean? Anyone? No!

Ignorant, crapulous fools! You let your whole lives go by and you don’t even consider these questions! Not one of you! That’s it! Stare at your shoes — I’m sure you’ll find the answers there — like snot-nosed schoolboys, and yet governments around the world allow people like you to vote! Says a lot for democracy, doesn’t it?

Now open your books at page 4, Historical Overview: From Mung to Malabar.


 

Introductions

A roustabout meets a musard in the Fox & Garter.

They both order pints of nux vomica and soon they’re gostering like old pals, though it’s mostly a one-way goster.

The roustabout tells tales of gold mining in the Forest of Dean, truck driving  in the Alaskan wastes, and feverish dalliances with busty beldams worldwide.

The musard, for his part, has no tales to tell, and is content to listen and muse. He is by nature mumchance to the point of unsociability.

— So that’s how I ended up in Alaska, see? Turned out she was the gaffer’s daughter, wasn’t she? Had to leave a bit sharpish after that — no pay either. Legged it out of there like a scalded cat. Applejohn, his name was.

— Applejohn? From Norwich? Matilda?

— Yeah, we used to call her Waltzing… Why?

— My sister. Jumped off the cathedral roof. Only fifteen.

— I’ll get this.


 

Home movie

Don’t you speak to me like that, Jeb Thomas,
for I’ll not take it any longer.
I know I’m not bright or smart
but that don’t give you no right to lord it over me
like I was nothing.
If you was a man you’d look away but no you don’t.
You like to see the pain you cause, don’t you?
Why don’t you film me now, make a movie you can watch
over and over when you want a thrill, me up there on the screen
with my wrists and neck and face and no words.


 

Taverna

As we entered the tiny tavern, a lazy Lascar lounged by the door on a bango mat, while all around the rhythmic pulsing of belchwood bongos blent with bulbous babillons to encoomb the starry night. Nimbly stepping over the Lascar, we took a table by the only window in that place, and waited. And waited. Then one of our party (it may have been Cedric) noticed that the menu was written on the ceiling, in quite garish colours, but perfectly legible from any one of the three tables. ‘How thrilling’, said Leonora, as we craned.

‘Oh look’, said Cosmo, ‘they’ve got poulignon en jus. A firm favourite with my great uncle Verna’.

‘Has your great uncle Verna been to Babel?’ I enquired.

‘Oh no, but he kept a trained Lascar for many years, up at Donnington.’

‘I hope he was better trained than that Lascar’, I said, motioning significantly towards the recumbent form on the bango mat.

‘Infinitely so’, said Cosmo. ‘Why, he could even play the clavichord — sweet, sweet Bach during  supper.’

Just then the recumbent form reached out and lifted a sugar palm besom into the air, and — still recumbent — erased poulignon en jus from the menu. ’Something something off’, he seemed to say, or words to that effect.


 

Settling in

I’ve been getting the feel of my new surroundings:
It’s well-appointed, airy, modern in the best sense.
I mean progressive but not to the point of Dali on the walls,
which always struck me as intellectually jejune,
like that care worker with his Kindle.
No, it has an effortless charm, which quite suits me.
Best of all, it turns out the warden here is
related to my no. 3, the musician in the canal.
Talk about a small world, eh?
Once I’m settled in we’ll have loads to talk about,
and I might get my CDs back.


 

When psychologists meet

— Hey, Arnie! Good to see you! How are you today?

— Yo Dirk! I’m out-going, creative, and charismatic. You?

— Oh, you know me! Quiet and mystical, but a tireless idealist who tries to inspire others.

— And the kids?

— Doin’ just great! Marcia is a bold and innovative experimenter, and Josh is spontaneous, energetic, and altruistic. His reliability cannot be doubted.

— Aw, that’s just great. And how’s your wife? I haven’t seen her for a while — she ok?

— Well, she’s a strategic thinker, you know? Bold and imaginative, one of nature’s leaders. She left me for a thoughtful and charming artist.