Being earnest

I went to gloomy Père Lachaise
to mingle with the dead,
to ponder all the books they wrote
and that I should have read.

Oscar Wilde is buried there
(I’ve got his Wisdom of).
Molière is also there,
and Herbie (‘Klutz’) Labov.

Lying in their marble vaults
or under leafy sod,
I like to ask them (for a laugh)
‘Any sign of God?’

I do find graveyards funny,
like a cancer with no cure.
It’s hard to be in earnest
when just one thing is sure.


I was writing a job application when the phone rang:

— Hello?

— It’s resumé, not resoom.

— What?

— I said it’s resumé, not resoom, line 2.

— Oh right, thanks.

— Also, it’s jail, not jale, line 7.

— Smart, aren’t you?

— Line 8, sentence, not sentense.

— Got it.

— And making licence plates is kinda weak. Write digital enumeration in the transport sector.

— Oh nice! Thanks.

— And it’s ask, not axe, line 14.

— No, now there you’re wrong, buddy. I axed them real nice is correct. Should I highlight that?

— Not a transferrable skill.

— Ok.

— Also, a certificate in needlework is worth diddly-squat.

— How do you spell that?

— Oh Jeez!

— Who is this, anyway?

— Department of Corrections.


Villanelle in V

Villains vie with varlets in the Village of the Vile
virile vampires violate the virtue of their virgins
vigorous villagers vent their views in voices volatile

Vigorous villagers vent their views in voices volatile
Virtue vaunts her value in a void
villains vie with varlets in the Village of the Vile

Villains vie with varlets in the Village of the Vile
vacuous victory vindicates vengeful vice (and vice-versa)
vigorous villagers vent their views in voices volatile

Virtue’s vacant villa, like a virtuous vegetarian,
veers into a verdant vale of voiceless valerian.
Villains vie with varlets in the Village of the Vile
vigorous villagers vent their views in voices volatile.

That fateful day

Let’s see if Osbert Mostyn
can recall that fateful day,
when all the day was full of fate
as earth is full of clay:

‘I do recall it, very well,
though I were just a lad,
the day that fate filled up the day
and made that day so bad.’

‘Fate was all around, that day,
we couldn’t move for fate.
Fate from early morning
till the day grew very late.’

‘The early fate was bad enough,
but the later fate was worse:
I stayed at home all day, that day,
and cowered beneath fate’s curse.’

‘Then lo! the fate just disappeared!
It held no longer sway!
Since then we’ve been pretending
that the earth’s not full of clay.’

On this day

Tommy (‘Tosser’) Doyle was born in Wakefield, CA, on this day in 1902. He was sickly from birth, and was diagnosed with Kaempfer’s Dropsical Palsy (KDP). His mother gave him strong doses of beetroot juice in his early years, and blueberry baths every day. By the age of ten he could lift both his parents and a mule with just one hand, and in a single graceful motion deposit them on the roof of the family barn. News of his prodigious strength spread rapidly in Wakefield and beyond, and throughout his teens he  made a living by depositing heavy things in unusual places. At the County Fair in Misery, TX, he tossed six Baptist preachers and a Model T Ford a distance of 3.2 miles, a record that still stands today.

His big break came in 1921 when Hollywood mogul Lou (‘The Screw’) Carew spotted him and signed him on a five-picture deal with Megamug Movies. It was then that Tommy adopted his screen name, ‘Tosser’, for a string of low-budget movies, including Attack of the Toxic Tossers (1923), Toss Me To The Moon (1924), Toss That Cabbage! (1925), and Toss or Be Tossed! (1927).

In 1926, he married starlet Dolores Twilb, but the marriage didn’t last. In a freak accident during their honeymoon, Tommy picked up his bride and tossed her two miles out to sea. Her body was never found. Tragedy struck again when he broke a fingernail on the set of Alien Tossers (1928). From then on, his fortunes declined and he fell into depression, alcoholism, penury, prostitution, perdition, paranoia, and a large uncovered manhole on Pepper Street, Pensacola.

He spent his final years making occasional appearances at county fairs and hillbilly hoe-downs, but his heart was no longer in it. He died in 1942. Near the end, he confided to his diary: ‘Beetroot juice and blueberry baths. Gonna kick your ass, Momma’.


Life lesson

‘It’s bad luck to meet twins before noon, or to find a pea pod that holds nine peas;
for good luck, carry a boiled scummel in your left pocket for three days and bury it near a cairn on the fourth day.’ 

My old dad was a trove of wisdom such as this, and I have thrived on his trove all my life. I have never been hit by a bus, and I was just one number short for the Lottery jackpot last Saturday.

So listen to your parents: they are just as crazy as you are.



Phantisticall magorias are teeming in my brain:

Cybernetical colossi clash with devilish deviations,
gargantuan gargoyles grapple spectral spooks,
monstrous mutants maul misshapen mastadons,
and fiery phantoms feed on odious ogres.

But in a quiet casement, near a spray of scented lavender,
sits thoughtfully a mid-day sprite, reading The Cat in the Hat.

Outrage in Pilchardstown

June 26.
Around 2pm, local resident Arthur (‘Tick-tock’) Carmody was struck about the head and body by two burly salmon as waited for a bus in Pound St. He suffered some bruising to his face and person, and was treated at the scene. The assailants escaped down the alleyway between Crofton’s Hardware and Nelly Pearce’s old place. Onlookers said that while Tick-tock often played the Tom Noddy about town, he did nothing on this occasion to provoke the attack.

In a curious twist, the incident comes almost a year after another resident of Pilchardstown was assaulted by a shoal of bream near St Anselm’s Church. Townspeople were quick to point out that both incidents happened on a Wednesday.


Foreign affray

London, June 6
. Shortly after 2am, a set of ruffianly fellows took to throwing cudgels in the thoroughfare near Covent Garden, until a squadron of constables routed them with musket and ball.

Some of the retreating brigands invaded a premises in Maiden Lane, and in the  character of shrove-cocks, spread alarm among the gentlefolk who were just then present. The proprietress, Mrs Sarah Sowerbutts, said ‘My girls were sore affrighted by the affray’.

Acting resolutely, Constable Henry Procter (2nd Holborn Div.) led a charge that saw the arrest of some fifteen ruffians. They are thought to be of foreign origin, variously from Po-Land, Austro-Hungary, and the Russian Empire. An onlooker said ‘…coming over ‘ere, causing may’em!’


The honest trade

I wandered lonely as a crone
who has nor friend nor telephone,
and made my way to a sylvan glade
where Nature’s sweets were all arrayed.

All about the curlews curled,
and twemlows piped To-whit!,
while just ahead in a bobbing bed
of bluebells sang a tit.

Jonquils jostled feverwort,
twined tendrils with St Joan,
and all above this verdant stage
a sunny sun sunshone.

You’d think that such a comely scene
would lighten my sad mood:
but you don’t know me, reader
— I’m not that kinda dude.

I blew that creepy sylvan gaff,
and ran to The Honest Trade:
— I’ll have a pint with you, Sir,
and call a spade a spade.

The memory

The night we stole a monkey from the Munda Wanga Zoo,
the time we swapped the Citroën for a ‘bicyclette-à-deux’,
the day we swam butt-naked in the lake near Vissieux,
the week we spent in Galway, ‘a room without a view’,
the night we clung together on that mountain in Peru,
the time you sent an email that you’d found somebody new
— memory’s a bastard, cos it’s all about you.

Twemlow’s magic

Haughty authors hie
to the town of Hay-on-Wye
for the festival of books every year.

Readings and signings,
publishers’ receptions:
‘We’ll pay you twenty pounds
for your next haiku collection!’

Julian Barnes is telling yarns
about his love for France.
Germaine Greer is in top gear,
she’s wearing cowboy pants.

Martin Amis wanders in,
looking very sour.
He says his muse is slowing down,
the last one took an hour!

So why can’t I go to Hay-on-Wye
and be with famous authors?
Twemlow’s magic doesn’t work
like Harry bloody Potter’s.

On the outside

When I get out I’m going straight to Rosa’s Cafe in Camden, and I’m gonna order a 10-oz steak with pepper sauce, mashed potatoes, honey-glazed baby carrots, apple pie and ice cream, and a big mug of hot, sweet tea.

I’m gonna sit there for three hours with a copy of The Sun. I’ll read the sports pages first, obviously, then work my way through from page one to the end: all the muggings, stabbings, robberies, murders, corruption, road rage, neighbours from hell, love rats, 12-year-old mums, tragic grans, lotto louts, have-a-go heroes, missing kids, celebrity pregnancies, and loyal border collie Rolf, who burrowed through ten feet of garbage to alert neighbours to the plight of 94-year-old Albert — a war veteran — who died six weeks earlier.

It’s still a long way off, but it gives me something to live for.



Have you ever tried to shave an egg?

It’s tempting, I know, but take it from me — it’s just not worth it.

I’ve spent years shaving eggs, and I’ve even become quite skilful at it. I can shave an egg with one hand tied behind my back, blindfolded, in a cage with a Tiger Shark, six feet under water, at midnight. But even that doesn’t satisfy, at least not in the long term.

Now I just wish I could turn the clock back. We only get one chance in life, so please don’t waste your time shaving eggs.

Shaving sharks, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fulfilment.


Knowing Missy

I was sittin’ on the porch with Delmar, just jawin’, you know, after dinner, and of course Missy was there. Missy was always there.

She had some kind of stitchwork or ‘broidery or somesuch. Anyhow, she paid us no mind, just sat there, real busy, real quiet.

I always liked little Missy — not in that way — but you know, just kinda liked her for herself. Hard to know if she was fifteen or fifty, and it didn’t seem to matter none.

Well, Delmar asked me if I could stand more coffee and he just turned to Missy and her eyes were closed, and her hands were in her lap, and she was still holding the needle.

And Delmar hollerin’ ‘Missy! Missy! Missy!’, but I knew.

I like Delmar, but I never went back after that.


The old story

People with four eyes tend to have very keen vision, and none more so than Elmer Twilb, the celebrated optician and town tease. When Elmer fits a new pair of specty-cules to an upturned nose, he always says: ‘See?’. And the upturned nose always says ‘Yes, I see now.’ Then Elmer says ‘Now turn and look out the window. Can you read that sign on the building opposite?’

— ‘Oh yes… it’s quite clear.

— What’s it say?

— Well…

— What’s it say?

— Well, it’s a sort of advert for…  gentlemen’s entertainment. I can read it perfectly clearly, thank you. We don’t need to….

— Oh I see! But you don’t mind pulling the bellrope in private, do you? Ding-ding, ding-ding! 

— How much do I owe you?

— I suppose you’ll go home now and twang the banjo, eh? What a specty-cule! At least those people opposite are honest about it.

— Just let me pay you and leave, please.

— The old story: if you don’t pay for it across the street, you pay for it here — and a lot more too! It’s eight hundred for the frames, and six hundred for the lenses. Plus three-fifty for the non-scratch phototactic coating. Plus tax.

— Just take this. Goodbye.

— Mind the step.


The line of duty

I was spotted recently at the royal wedding, and ever since then my phone hasn’t stopped ringing:

— Was that you with the 7th Earl of Melmontshire?

— Was that you with Demerara De Courcy-Devereux? Is she as delightful as they say?

— Was that you with Prince Percival Poggenpohl von Schoenberg-Schlesvig-Holstein?

— Was that you shagging a horse behind the privet hedge?

Of course, one doesn’t confirm or deny anything, but I refer the interested reader to the next editions of Town & Country and Horse & Garter, and to my forthcoming Compendium of Upper-class Nancy-boys & Tarts (C-NTS).

All in the line of duty.


Going low

See the lowly earthworm
as he crawls along the ground.
Now there’s a lesson for us all
— wisdom most profound.

The earthworm’s not ambitious,
for money or for fame,
he pays no heed to politics,
doesn’t know the leader’s name,

He doesn’t have a passport,
so he can never lose it,
and even if he had a phone
I’m sure he’d never use it.

He has no fear of terrorists,
or planes that get mislaid,
though he frets a little sometimes
about the gardener’s spade.

Oh to be an earthworm,
the lowest of the low!
If I keep writing crap like this,
I won’t have far to go.



How can I achieve my dreams
when all about me this world seems
as mad as summer nights in Tanganyika?

Can I ever be, as I so wish to be,
the man who put the chic in chicken tikka?

Will I ever sail my twemlow across the Bering Sea?
Will the beldams ever drop their drawers as soon as look at me?

Will I win the Nobel Prize, or bask in Belle’s adoring eyes?
Will I ever tell myself the truth, instead of telling lies?

The onset

Like most people, I stopped buying from Rolls Royce in 2002, following the ‘faux mahogany’ scandal.  I can still remember when that story broke, just as I was shimmering down the Boulevard Raspail in a Silver Shadow II  (the two-door version, by Mulliner Park Ward). I stopped at the nearest Concessionnaire and traded it in for an Aston Martin DB7 Zagato.

But now, almost two decades later, I’m beginning to re-assess my thinking on that memorable day. Is it age, perhaps, and with it, the onset of wisdom? Or is it that indefinable quality that only Rolls Royce can offer the true devotee?

No, it’s just that some bastard stole my car, and I’ve got to get home. Nanny’s made a special cake for my birthday.


Cook’s Corner

Try Twemlow’s ‘Country Chicken’
if you think you might be missin’
out on protein or some other

Fry it up with delmars
and pilbeams from a can,
then serve it hot, and like as not,
you’ll feel a whole new man.

Try Smeeton’s ‘Pungent Pickle’
if your tastebuds need a tickle,
or your palate is as pallid as a corpse.

Try Smeeton’s with Thai sausage
or with leek and onion potage:
you’ll be laughing like a horse with no remorse.


Foot soldiers


Breakthroughs in podiatry
don’t often make the news,
but all those instep insights
mean you do get the proper shoes.

Take Elmer Twilb, Podiatrist,
as our first example:
without his pioneering work
I’d neither stomp nor trample.

Let’s not forget good Dr Scholl,
the Hero of the Callous.
To wear his comfy toe-pads
is to glide about a palace.

Podiatrist, chiropodist,
call them what you will,
I praise them at the shoe store
every time I foot the bill.


Twemlow’s Herbarium

Acacia Hermetica, good for snakebite.
Arsesmart, a balm for all manner of evil.
Aqua Salva, can revive a dead cow.
Aqua Vita, can quell a noisy beldam.
Belmain, prevents scrofulus in lawyers and infants.
Bishop’s Crowbar, disperses wicked thoughts.
Blinny, blent with cowslips, is good for sickly porkers.
Derbyshire Kale, induces night-sweats and fevers.
Chickwort, a salve for knotted pilbeams; also good against earthquakes.
Duckweed, cures all manner of pustules, black kelbs, and botches.
Fumaria, eases the bilious flux in geese and clergy.
Horse Tar, applied to the nether lips, can cure the scummox.
Ibex Cincinnatus, cools the brainpan and relieves guilt.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit, good for pregnant beldams.
Lemanwort, good against hypocrites.
Sorrel, taken at night, a caustic for pungency.
Tincture of Bezel, good against calamity.
Trumpwort, good for a laugh.
Verba Ludica, good for a lively brainpan.

Society column

Mantled in Murmansk mink, Leonora Cazenove stepped gracefully from a cab in Drury Lane, amid a throng of well-wishers. She looked radiant in a Chloe Deluce evening dress and sequined shoes by Patrice. Her escort for the evening, Honeyfritz Belmondo, was effervescent in a velvet ensemble and a crimson Oscar Wilde hat.  He smiled and waved flamboyantly to the crowd, while Leonora, more reserved, glided quickly into the brilliantly-lit foyer. The fabulous pair had arrived for the opening night of Give Us a Dab o’ That, a light-hearted farce from the pen of Lionel Smooch.

This is the third time the celebrity duo have been spotted together, so rumours are swirling about in the beau-monde. Has Leonora found love again, following her very public split from Joachim Cumbersnatch? Can playboy Honeyfritz finally put an end to those sordid rumours about his personal life? I, for one, have never believed the catty innuendae of the gutter press (though the hat doesn’t help, Honeyfritz, dear), and I wish the couple several weeks of happiness together.

The professor & the protons

Professor Twilb, the physicist,
was weary night and day,
cos all his little protons
would not line up and say:

‘I’m a happy little proton
and I’m easy to predict.
Just listen to Professor Twilb,
he’s got the whole thing licked.’

Instead of which, those protons
dance in arcs and arabesques,
cavorting like delinquents,
their trajectories just a guess.

‘How I hate those little bastards!’,
said the weary physicist.
‘I’ll never understand them,
or predict their turns and twists.’

Just then a senior proton
(older than the rest)
stood up and cleared his tiny throat
and puffed his tiny chest.

He said: ‘Don’t fret, Professor,
you’re not the first or last
to be puzzled by us protons
as we skip and caper past’.

‘We’ve been around a long time,
(since time began, at least)
and we’ll still be here long after
your physics is deceased.

By then, of course, you’ll be with us,
dancing pastourelles.
So why not turn your microscope
and analyse yourself?