Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Thorny Crown of Pricks: A Short Story

Thorny Crown of Pricks

“Twitter? Did you say twitter?” Deputy District Judge Hubert Smite fiddled with some apparatus on his desk then snorted into a yellowing handkerchief. After examining the contents, he fiddled some more.

“Yes, Your Worship. Twitter.”

“Like the birds twitter? Is that what you said? Is that what he said, Bailiff?”

The Bailiff of the court nodded and rolled his eyes in the direction of the Prosecution, the defendants, their counsel and a policeman in attendance. “Is your hearing aid working, Your Worship?”

“Yes, perfectly well, Bailiff, I popped into ‘Timothy Whites’ for a new battery and some rubber johnnies on the way here.”

The Bailiff grunted in surprise. “‘Timothy Whites’, sir? I believe they went into receivership several decades ago along with ‘MacFisheries’.”

Judge Smite’s mouth twisted in thought and he mopped his forehead with the handkerchief. “Really? Odd. Could have sworn it was there this morning. Look.” He fished in his pocket and out plopped a dozen packets of Durex in assorted flavours, onto his desk which he prodded. “See? Rubber johnnies.”

“Ah, yes, Your Worship,’ the Bailiff responded, ‘but these are from ‘Boots’ aren’t they?”

“Are they? Oh. I see. An impulse buy, to be honest, Bailiff. I saw these young people on the television in a film, jumping up and down to music, having a jolly good time, waving these around and shouting: ‘These don’t burst, safety first.’ Or something like that,” Judge Smite smiled fondly as the delightful memory danced across his face.

“Was this film an advert for Durex by any chance?”

Smite looked confused for a moment then offered some of the packets to the Bailiff. “Look. These come in a variety of flavours, you see? Caramel delight, strawberry sunburst and lemon meringue. I thought I could put them in my pudding.”

Clearing his throat loudly, the Prosecution, Willie McNab, stepped forward. “With all due respect, Your Worship, can we return to the case before the court?” Without waiting for a nod, McNab continued, waving a scrap of paper at the bench. “Now, as I was saying, this letter I’m holding, this vile piece of…filth, was sent to the accused via Twitter. It was tweeted around the world, Your Worship.”

Once more Judge Smite twiddled the instrument on his desk. “Tweeted? I’ll not have birds in my court. They make a vile mess: great big pelicans flapping round the ceiling squawking. See if you can trap them with these rubber johnnies, Bailiff.”

The Bailiff, an experienced man, who knew perfectly well what Twitter was and that condoms, flavoured or plain, made useless pelican traps, felt impatient. But having some hopes of promotion, he avoided confusing Smite. Instead he patiently explained about social media and watched as the judge dribbled into his beard, tore open a packet of custard cream condoms and fiddled with his hearing aid again.

Eventually, Smite had heard enough. He waved an unrolled johnnie at the defendants intolerantly and snorted again. “Well, yes, read the letter, Prosecution, for heaven’s sake. Before we all need a convenience break.”

“Of course, sir,” replied McNab, with a hint of edge. “This was received by the defendants and Cornwall County Council from a Mr Terry Dobwalls, address unknown, via Twitter. Allow me to read the inflammatory contents, if it please the court.”

“Proceed, proceed,” snapped Smite with a flick of the hand. The johnnie sailed across the court and was caught, mid flight, by the constable who trousered it then smeared greasy fingers down his jacket without comment.

McNab ignored the projectile and began to read: “My name is Terry Dobwalls. I am writing on behalf of local pop group ‘Thorny Crown of Pricks’. These young people have been banned, by you, from practising in a garage due to making too much noise. My point is that if you get a group of people playing bad music on bad instruments in garages they will turn out to be the next Showaddywaddy. Think of the joy and inspiration they could bring as the next Showaddywaddy. Like me, they could benefit from a long career playing in holiday camps like Butlins and Pontins.”

The Prosecution paused, cleared his throat, then finished: “Like many musicians, I started out in a garage, playing bad music on bad instruments. However I did not turn out to be the next Showaddywaddy. Instead I was the next Black Lace. I demand you bastards at the council allow them to continue, or else.”

“Thorny Crown of Pricks?” grimaced Smite, “What kind of name is that?”

“A stupid one, Your Worship.”

There was an audible titter in the courtroom from the defendants’ area. Smite leaned forwards and glared at the three teenagers, middle aged gentleman and the counsel for the defence. Catching the look, the constable moved his hand towards his truncheon but stopped as the Bailiff shook his head.

“Order in court, there,” grunted Smite, with the tone of a school teacher dealing with a naughty boy at the back of his class. He cleared his throat. “Now, Prosecution, what do you mean by ‘Next Black Lace? Like Mrs Smite’s underthings? I don’t think we want to see those in the court. Bailiff? Have you got rid of that dirty great pelican, yet? I don’t like the thought of him flapping overhead entangled in Mrs Smite’s underthings. Cruel to the bird.”

The Bailiff pinched his forehead with his right hand in pain. “No, Your Worship, there is no pelican. That was last week, during the animal cruelty trial. We caught it. You remember. You dismissed the case and gave it its freedom. We released it by the boating pond.”

“Boating pond? Why has it come back then? Is it a homing pelican?”

McNab, in the meantime, had, with a flourish, reached below his desk. He hefted up an impressive CD Player which he placed solidly in front of the judge. He then motioned the constable to come over, and between them they lifted two enormous speakers which they attached to the player and turned in the direction of Smite. “This, Your Worship, is the ‘New Black Lace’. McNab pressed the top of the player and there was an audible ‘click’.

For about a minute, the court was deafened by a hideous calypso number – handclaps, shrieks, whistles and samba beat. Then McNab switched it off. “Agadoo, Your Worship,” he explained, as the judge and bailiff removed their hands from their ears, faces frozen in pain.

“That was repellent, Prosecution. All that pushing of pineapples and shaking of trees,” shuddered Smite, wiping a tear from his eye. “They’re banging on those bongos like chimpanzees. Inflicting that wretched din on the population? Well, it must stop.”

“Noise pollution,” agreed McNab, “Malicious and quite honestly the nearest thing to pure evil it has been my misfortune to hear. An unholy racket emanating from the garage and inflicted upon the mild, unassuming residents of Helston.”

“Appalling.” Smite shuddered and leaned across his desk, looking at the constable, “They were truncheoned, I hope?”

“Ah, no Your Worship, they was cautioned and brought before you.” The constable looked embarrassed. “Truncheoning would have been out of the question on account of the fact of the matter being that their manager is an officer in the Royal Navy.”

The gravity of the constable’s statement sank upon the courtroom like the arrival of an unwanted weather system. Smite’s eyes widened and his hand pulled his chin down, temporarily ironing out some of the wrinkles. “Her Majesty’s Royal Navy?” he spluttered, reaching for the handkerchief and rubbing his weeping eye with it. “What possible excuse did he have?”

“We can never know,” concluded McNab.

“Bring him closer,” ordered Smite in irritation. “Now, what’s your name, Sir?”

With a grin, the middle aged gentleman, who had been standing alongside the three teenagers, swaggered towards the bench. He was grey at the temples and concealed a balding head with a day-glo bandana bespattered with neon hearts. A brass curtain ring protruded from his left ear like a cheap ship’s antenna. He wore tight fitting leather trousers over which some Calvin Klein underpants were worn on the outside partly concealing a spreading damp patch. His aging grey-white T Shirt proclaimed ‘Anarchy in the UK’ but the announcement was partially hidden by an unbuttoned denim waistcoat which completed his ensemble. “Lieutenant Commander O’Bounty, M’lud,” he smirked, insolently. “Mah hood calls me ‘Mutiny’.”

The constable’s jaw twitched and his right fist spasmed. Smite’s eyes widened and his fingers ripped open the nearest packet of contraceptives. He pulled a rubber johnnie out, blew his nose into it, then smeared it across his forehead. “Royal Navy?” he spluttered. “What branch can you possibly belong to?”

“The rotting, lying in the mud, thick branch?” muttered somebody, possibly the Prosecution.

“I am a flight controller,” said O’Bounty, with a snigger, ignoring the gasps of surprise from within the courtroom, “in my spare time, that is.”

“Fight controller? Fighting, eh? Well, that makes it worse.” Smite rubbed his forehead rapidly where the condom had congealed and become stuck. The bailiff stepped across, prised it loose with a pair of scissors and tossed it, underarm, to the constable. “I cannot find it in my gift to condone a noise, such as the one you allow these young people to make, that provokes violence amongst others. It’s worse than public morris dancing.”

Lieutenant Commander O’Bounty puffed out his chest. “And I cannot take seriously the words of a senile old fart with a condom stuck to his head.”

“Tart? How dare you. Now you see here. Naval officer or not, you’d better have a watertight defence,” stressed Smite, shaking. The Prosecution nodded in smug agreement and the Bailiff leant over towards Smite’s left ear.

“Good, that, Your Worship,” he hissed. “Watertight defence; you could add ‘hole you below the waterline’, too, if you’ve a mind to.” Smite nodded and scribbled it down on a pad in front of him. “Well, Defence? Has he anything to say in mitigation, before I pronounce judgement?”

The Defence, a small man in spectacles, looked apologetic. He cleared his throat. “Lieutenant Commander O’Bounty has decided, ah, to conduct his own defence, Your Worship.” It was clear that the Defence thought this a poor idea. He moved back towards his bench like a soldier on a minefield, sat down and tightened the knot of his tie.

Untroubled, O’Bounty strode forward. He turned and faced the gallery. Tossing his handkerchiefed head like a thoroughbred around the courtroom with a winning grin of greying teeth, he bellowed with the authority of a captain on the quarterdeck. “These children,” he thundered, “these poor unfortunates, have nothing to do. Cornwall County Council gives them no amenities. No entertainment. No facilities. And then they complain,” he paused for emphasis. “Complain!”

The public gallery looked unmoved. Smite had rested his head on his right hand and was toying with condoms with his left. The Bailiff had sat down and was flicking through some papers in his briefcase. One or two people began to get up and walk towards the toilets.

Unconcerned, O’Bounty continued. “They have the cheek, the unmitigated nerve, to complain, when these talented young people want to play their bad instruments badly and become, as Mr Terry Dobwalls rock n roll legend, said: ‘an inspiration to young people like them’. Even worse, they arrest me. Arrest me! Because some stupid, fickle, members of the public complain when I find them a garage to rehearse in.”

“Where exactly was this garage?” asked Smite, interrupting the tirade and turning to the Bailiff.

“It was ‘Kwik-Car-Fix’, Your Worship, on Helston High Street. They complained they could no longer work and repair vehicles effectively due to constant interruptions from, and I quote: ‘three spotty gits and their aging hippy father, bashing biscuit tins with sticks and doing the conga around the workshop floor.”

“But that’s where Mrs Smite goes for her servicing!” Smite was incredulous. In his anger, he tore into another packet of three, ripped out a ribbed tickler and stretched it with intent. “I’ve heard enough. You Crowny Thickets are in clear contraception of the law!”

“Contravention, Your Worship,” corrected McNab, “and they’re actually ‘Pricks’. ‘Crowny Thorn of Pricks’, if you recall.”

“Pricks, eh?” ground Smite, through his teeth, “well perhaps they might use these to good effect, then.” He flung what remained of the condoms petulantly at O’Bounty and they spattered onto the floor of the court. Then, with great effort, he controlled himself. He raised his aged body up, wiped his forehead again and looked at the members of the court.

“You say these young people have nothing to do? You say there are no amenities? That the council should be forced to provide skate parks, free wifi and internet cafes? As a result, you say that young people are forced, therefore, to annoy our car mechanics with noise pollution and unwanted dancing? Well, I am forced to concede, in this instance, you may be right. Therefore I intend to give you, and them, something to do. To rectify the council’s inefficiency.” He paused and glared. “You can all have 1000 hours of community service each.”

The Prosecution looked pleased. “Excellent, Your Worship. Maybe they should start by cleaning up this courtroom?”

Smite agreed, looking at the crestfallen O’Bounty with a grimace. “Yes and when they’ve picked up all the johnnies, Constable, ship all four over to Mrs Smite’s house without delay. It’s her birthday today and she informs me her lover is treating her to a candlelit supper and ‘more besides’ whatever that means. They are to post the packets through her letterbox with a rude note and perform ‘Agadoo’ loudly in the garden between the hours of 8pm and midnight.”

“If Mrs Smite or her gentleman caller protest, Constable, tell them that ‘Thorny Crown of Pricks’ have been called an inspiration to all those who play with their bad instruments. Furthermore, they are a far more effective method of birth control than rubber johnnies.”

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Petra Shazagruntova: Another Statement.

Petra Shazagruntova:
Another Statement.

Thank you so much for coming. Thank you. Thank you. I love you. A thousand times.

Amazing. It’s such a fine turn out from my friends of the press and also from you ugly members of the public in that corner by the toilets with your I Phones and crisps. 

May I ask you not to tuck in until after the conference? The smell of your cheeses and your onions makes me urge.

Before I begin, can we have a big hand for the makers of ‘Comfi-Cups Sports Bras’, ‘Hold Yours in Place and Play, Before, During and After’, for providing this hotel, the carpet and microphones today? I adore The Bognor Regis Open, I really love playing here. I cry when I leave each year.

No tournament in Bognor? Oh.

Why was I not briefed?  Why was I not told of this by ‘Comfi-Cups’? Well, there should be one here, there really should. I hereby demand a face saving tournament.


Firstly, I would like to announce, here and now, that I am severing all my ties with the ‘Comfi-Cups’ Conglomerate PLC. They can take their sponsorship deal and do one as far as I’m concerned. Piss off. And take your shoddy hotel with you, too. And those monsters in the corner by the bogs.

Now, I know many of you thought I called this conference to discuss an appeal against my two year ban from the professional tour due to accidentally taking performance enhancing Tixylix Cough Mixture for ten years.

But I have a much more important thing to say to you.

This week there has been some controversy regarding equal pay between the sexes on the tour by some of my male colleagues. They claim that men should get more prize money per tournament than us girls because more people watch them on the telly. And because their games are much longer, more physical and offer extra entertainment.

Even worse, they say that we women are riding on their coat tales and that we should get down on our knees and suck their…wait, what? They didn’t say that? Oh, OK. Knees and thank them. Right, got it.

The legal people at ‘Comfi-Cups’ have informed me I should not reveal the names of exactly which players said these outrageous and inaccurate comments in case I get sued. But if I mention the following very cunning pseudonyms: Mandy Curry, Jaffa Nudall, Noblick Djokostrap and Todger Bederer, I think you’ll have a pretty decent idea of who I’m pointing my racket at.

What the deuce are they talking about? That’s a bit of a tennis joke amongst us tennis players, that is.

These so called male players claim that only they have the star power to pull in the big crowds? Well, I tell them to stop talking crap. Look at how many of you are here now! All pointing and clicking your cameras at me. More energetic and physical than me? Nonsense. Look at how hard I have to grunt and shriek during serves and when I sometimes have to return the ball.

In any case, I get plenty more money than them from my sponsorship deals with ‘BetServe’, ‘Dunlop’ and ‘Nikky’ and all the photo shoots for the Sunday Glossies and tabloids. Full centre courts? Don’t make me laugh. I get full page centrespreads, Mr so-called-Special K Kissysnorey, so why don’t you stick that down your base lines and do one?

Well, I used to, anyway, until they all pulled out due my unfortunate ‘Tixylix’ mix up. But they’ll be back, you’ll see. They’ll come crawling back with their wallets between their legs, the backstabbing bastards. Game, set and match to Petra.

What’s that? Not ‘Nikky’? ‘Nike’?

Oh, sorry.

So let’s draw a line under this and have no more ‘equal pay is wrong’, shit. Next time one of those puffed up peacocks strut across court demanding a pay review on hawkeye, remind them they have no challenges remaining and that we’re all in this racket together.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Seven Seas Sagas / EPISODE 39: ‘WHIRLPOOL’

The Seven Seas Sagas


Rear Admiral  Thundertosser’s Log
The Bridge, HMS Rigid

Position - North Atlantic
Somewhere sou'-sou'-west  of Reykjavik, Iceland:

“It’s night, at sea.

And she's blowing harder than a pygmy’s blowpipe out there, on the briny. Told the crew to batten down the hatches and prepare for a big blow. That’s how hard she blows today.

I was tossing all night.

Still, a bad day sailing is still better than a good day in the office still, even when the sea’s a swelling; and one bad night in the hammock is worth two bad nights between a hussy’s sheets, poking the frontage. That’s my motto. Always has been, always will be.

Petty Officer Tongs and Midshipman Stonkly are up the fo'c'sle, man handling their stanchions, keeping a weather eye open in order to repel all boarders. It’s quiet. Too quiet. Well, apart from the howling, remorseless winds and the lashing sea, that lashes them both like the lash of a cat on the back of an old sea dog. Still no sign of the enemy.

In these quiet moments, well relatively quiet moments, awaiting the attack, I often wonder where such nautical sayings hail from. ‘Repel all boarders’. What is a boarder? Someone with or holding a board? Someone withholding a board? Somebody who is bored waiting with a board? We can never know. Only the sea holds such secrets. And she is a jealous mistress, is the sea.

But wait. Who approaches? Is it the enemy?

No. It is Able Seaman Blowpipe with my cocoa.”

How now, Blowpipe?’ How goes the night?

Sorry about your cocoa, sir, it’s all down my whites. I’ll never shift that stain now. Look at that mess on my trousers.

Yes it is a bit sticky, isn’t it?

Yes. Brown and sticky, sir.

Hmm. I wouldn’t want the enemy to catch you looking like that, Blowpipe.

I wouldn’t want the enemy to catch me at all, sir.

No. Of course not. Quite right, quite right.

I don’t think I could stand all that torturing, sir.

Come now, Able Seaman, your naval trainning would allow you to withstand some minor torturing. I’d be there, Blowpipe, moral support and all that.

Would the minor torturing be of the scrotal variety? The testicular kind, sir? I’d worry I might crack under the pressure, sir. I saw that James Bond film, sir, down the mess deck. With the carpet beater, sir.

Which film do you mean, Blowpipe? ‘Casino Royale’?

No. ‘James Bond Gets His Knackers Thrashed with a Carpet Beater’, sir.

Ah. Don’t know that one. Get the Chief Petty Officer to pop it into my cabin, will you?

Yes sir. When will they get here, sir? The enemy? Will it be soon, sir?

Stop worrying about the enemy and get on with washing my officer’s smalls, Blowpipe.

Your knicks and socks, sir?

Yes, my knicks and socks. Had these on for a week now. They’re getting stiff and salt crusty.

Yes sir. Don’t worry, sir, your replacements are in the emergency bridge tumble drier now, sir.

Good. But…what’s that? Oh my God, Blowpipe! Look at that Whirlpool!

What, sir? Where, sir?

There! There! Sound the red alert and get Tongs and Stonkly off the fo’c’sle!

You’re right, sir….but it’s too late, she’s going to blow, she’s going to blow! Get down, sir!


Yes, sir?

Is it safe to come out yet?

Yes, sir. Only a minor fire. I’ve put it out with your cocoa, sir. But, sir…I’m afraid your knicks and socks are completely burnt.


Yes. In the Whirlpool, sir.

Hell and damnation, Blowpipe. I told the Chief we should have got one from 'Hotpoint'.

Meanwhile. On the fo'c'sle

What was the Admiral on about, sir?

God knows, Something about Zanussi exploding dishwashers I think.

Oh I see, sir. Subtle that. The punchline, sir.

Shut up, Tongs and mind your stanchion.

Right you are, sir. Oh look, sir. Port side. A whirlpool.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Black Box Recorder: A Cautionary Tale

Black Box Recorder
A Cautionary Tale

‘What does this sign mean?’

Brian Binks scrunched up his eyes, dug at the inner portion of his right nostril with his left thumb, wiped the thumb on the car seat and made a guess. ‘I dunno, do I? Black box recorder?’

An ushanka wearing man, seated next to him, held a flash-card between his fingers and thumb, and pushed it closer to the face of the driver. ‘Nyet. Try again.’ The card showed a road sign with an outer red triangle. On its white background, in bold black, was a thick oblong and a saloon car tipping over into some wavy lines.

Binksy had left his glasses at home. The whole shebang looked like a bad hair day tipped on its side. ‘Warning. Rubbish barber ahead?’

‘Nyet. Is nothing to do with barber, drivelling idiot. Try harder.’

‘How am I supposed to know what that is? Nobody taught me that at car school, Mr Shishkinov,’ grumbled Binksy. ‘Why can’t we use the computer test in the office, anyway? It tells us the answers.’

‘Nyet. I have disabled the computer. For this you must use your brain, Binks.’ Shishkinov held another card up. This time the road sign had a giant exclamation mark on it.

Binksy blinked at the punctuation two inches in front of his eyes. There was a long and uncomfortable silence. ‘Warning, performing clowns on unicycles ahead?’ he hazarded, at last.

‘Nyet. Funny, Binks. You must make joke, da? This is not joke, though, your driving test is serious. You must pass for your job. No car, no job. No job, no car.’

‘Clever, that, Mr Shishkinov, a sort of…circular logic. Not unlike that unicycling clown on your road sign.’ Binks sighed. ‘Without my glasses it looks like a great, black teardrop on a wheel. Why did you make me leave them at home?’

Shishkinov hissed impatiently and removed his leather ushanka. He used one of the hanging flaps to wipe his eyes. He then threw the remaining pile of cards on to the floor beneath his seat, replaced his hat and tied the flaps underneath his chin in a business-like manner. He did not look at Binks, but muttered. ‘In Russia there is much snow, not clowns on bicycles as you say. In such conditions driving is hard, Binks. Without your glasses it will be as though you experience the Siberian roads, da?’

‘Why would I want to do that, Mr Shishkinov?’

The driving instructor secured himself with a seatbelt and leant forward. ‘It will important for you, Binks, very important. You might say vitally so. Now. Switch on the ignition and proceed out of the car park in an easterly direction. Signal left on reaching the road, da?’

‘Da,’ said Binksy, thoughtlessly. ‘Sorry. I didn’t mean to…er…you know, say that. I meant yes. It just slipped out, Mr Shishkinov.’

‘It’s nothing to me. Proceed,’ snapped Shishkinov, impatiently. ‘Now when I slap my hands on the dashboard, so, I want you to…’ He stopped speaking and glared at the driver. ‘Binks!’ he shouted.

‘Yes, Mr Shishkinov?’

‘Why are we not moving?’ Shishkinov shook his finger at the windscreen, gesturing at the car park in anger.

‘Sorry, Mr Shishkinov. What’s the ignition? I wasn’t taught that at car school.’

‘Not  taught  at  car  school,’ said Shishkinov, with a deliberate, hanging space between each word. His hands balled into tense fists that gripped the arm rests between the seats and his face contorted. ‘Then what exactly were you taught, you pridurok?’ he spat, ‘What did that skatina driving instructor tell you to do?’

‘Well I was going to ask you about that,’ said Binksy, ‘where exactly is Mrs Whittington? Is it her day off?’

Shishkinov looked over his shoulder to where a large black tipped golf umbrella lay across the back seats, furled up. He looked at his watch. ‘Day off? Nyet. She was…taken ill at short notice, Binks. She became…unavailable for work.’

‘Oh, I see. Sorry, to hear that. She was ever so friendly during lessons, especially after a vodka or two.  She taught me everything I know about driving. I thought this test would be a doddle. Oh dear, it’s all going wrong, Mr Shishkinov, isn’t it?’ Binksy looked a little red faced and worried.

‘Get this car moving, Binks,’ ordered Shishkinov, abruptly, once more looking at his watch.

‘You want me to start the car?’ Binksy watched as his instructor nodded vigorously. ‘Car, start!’ he commanded. The car roared into life, released its hand brake and proceeded in a sedate fashion across the car park to the road. It indicated, turned right and moved at precisely five miles an hour below the speed limit down the high street. It avoided other cars and pedestrians with precision and almost immediately stopped at a pedestrian crossing to allow a party of Belgian tourists safe passage. ‘You only had to ask, Mr Shishkinov.’

‘This car drives itself?’ enquired Shishkinov.

‘I thought you were a driving instructor,’ said Binksy, surprised, ‘course it does. It’s got a black box recorder. It does everything, Mr Shishkinov, you should know that. You just tell it something and it does it. You never get lost, you never kill anyone and you get to your destination safely.’

‘I knew that,’ snapped Shishkinov, ‘of course I knew that, I was just checking you knew that, Binks. So why have instructor at all, eh?’

‘It’s a government initiative to make sure we don’t break the ‘no smoking in cars’ law and get fined for giving our children cancer.’ Binksy looked smug, pleased that he wasn’t going to get caught out by an obvious trap.

‘Da,’ grunted Shishkinov, ‘Nyet smoking.’

The car moved forward again of its own accord and honked at the Belgians in a friendly fashion. It indicated left and glided smoothly down a one way street towards a red brick school building. Several children were skipping in the playground. The car began to decelerate and was soon negotiating the road humps adjacent to the school maddeningly slowly.

‘Do you want vodka?’ asked Binksy, ‘I do. Vodka please, car.’ The dashboard opened and without fanfare a small glass appeared. Binksy reached across his instructor to take it.

However, as he did, Shishkinov snatched his wrist away from the glass and shoved him violently back into the driver’s seat. ‘Nyet, vodka for you, Binks,’ he screamed, ‘there’s been a change of plan!’

Binksy started in alarm. Shishkinov had snatched the black umbrella from the rear seat and was now thrusting it at his exposed neck. A growing look of mistrust and fear began to creep across his face. ‘Mr Shishkinov,’ he asked plaintively, ‘why are you pointing your umbrella at me? I wasn’t intending to chuck vodka at you. Mrs Whittington and I always had a drink during this part of the circuit.’

Shishkinov tipped back his head and laughed maniacally. ‘You think that your pathetic country is the only one with advanced technology? You fool, Binks. You blind fool. This is no ordinary umbrella; this is a poison tipped umbrella. Now drive. Drive! Take me to Russia. East, Binks, drive east! Unless you want to end up dead.’

‘I can’t, Mr Shishkinov, it’s no good getting cross. The car only goes round in its pre-programmed circle. We’ll be back at the car park soon.’ Binksy looked distressed. The car, oblivious to the drama taking place within, picked up pace having passed the school. It indicated left again and started to crawl down a tree lined avenue and away from the town centre. ‘It’s the black box recorder,’ he continued.

‘Then, you die!’ snarled Shishkinov, ‘Like Mrs Whittington.’ And he shoved the point into Binksy’s neck.

Brian Binks yelped in pain. He snatched the umbrella from the enraged Shishkinov and flung it onto the back seat. ‘That hurt,’ he complained, ‘and I don’t think you should be doing that during a driving test.’ He glared at the instructor, then, hearing some commotion alongside, looked to his right. Two policemen and an angry looking woman with a red bruise on her neck were jogging beside the vehicle. They were easily keeping apace. Binks jabbed Shishkinov in his side. ‘Look. It’s Mrs Whittington.’

Her voice could clearly be heard. She was pointing at the car. ‘There he is, officer. Jabbed me in the neck with a wretched umbrella…stole my car…claimed to be working for the Russian secret service…’

Shishkinov looked aghast. ‘Damn!’ he growled, ‘how were they able to track me down so quickly? I planned everything. The last detail. Nothing was overlooked.’

Binksy looked puzzled and then understanding crossed his face. ‘Of course, Mr Shishkinov. It was the black box recorder, it tells the police everything we do and everything we’re up to at all times. Straight to government central. And thank heavens it does, da? Car stop!’

The car gently cruised to the kerb. As it did so, Shishkinov reached into his pockets and lit a cigarette in resignation. The smoke hissed out of his nostrils and he muttered quietly. ‘Da. And they complain that we have a police state. Incredible.’

The passenger side door opened and a grim faced copper, wielding a giant rubber truncheon pulled the instructor from his car. He cuffed him efficiently, took the cigarette and ground it into the tarmac. He thrust the truncheon violently into Shishkinov’s stomach and watched as he doubled up, fell to his knees and gasped for breath, winded. ‘Now then, sir, smoking is a health risk, you know. Bad for the lungs, makes breathing difficult.’

‘Da. Thank you officer. You make good joke.’

Relieved his ordeal was over, Binksy walked over to his instructor. He was holding the flash-card with the road sign. Alongside the car was the real thing, towering above them, a gigantic, black, exclamation mark, surrounded by a red triangle.

Binksy looked at Shishkinov for approval. ‘Look! I worked it out. That sign means warning! Danger ahead!’ he cried. ‘Do I pass my test?’

Shishkinov, still wheezing, said nothing.

Without his glasses, Binksy frowned. Rubbed his eyes. Scrunched them up again, blindly. Blinked. Blinked again.

‘And look, Mr Shishkinov. Are those clowns over there, on unicycles? I could swear they are, you know.’

Saturday, 12 March 2016

2013 TX68

2013 TX68

Come, friendly asteroid, smash into this planet.
Don’t avoid it, get here and ram it.
Plunge into the magma and out through the crust,
Tear it all to pieces, reduce it all to dust.

Come, asteroid, burn and blaze the air overhead
to filter and percolate the impure and the dead.
Bleed it dry, so it can no longer ooze or flow
to choke those who remain on the earth below.

Unthread the necklace of satellites in orbit above.
Shatter, obliterate and get rid of
the ones that spy, the ones that pry,
the ones that send the waves that fry.

Twist up the aerials, screw down the dishes,
send the mobile phones to sleep with the fishes.
Buffer all the downloads, freeze up the web
so those who stay on can start living instead.

Plough your furrow straight into the church.
Pulverise the palace, the state, the purse.
Scatter your burning seeds through the city,
Destroy it all; show no mercy, no pity.

Make haste, come now, the need is great
to wipe the slate clean, chalk it down to fate.
With billions of tons of clinker and granite
come, friendly asteroid, smash into this planet.

Apologies to John Betjeman

Friday, 11 March 2016

Petra Shazagruntova: A Statement.

Petra Shazagruntova:
A Statement.

Thank you very much for coming. Thank you. Thank you. I love you.

My public.

Forgive me, at this terrible time I feel…close to tears. You move me.

And I’d like to thank the makers of the FigFuxs Body Armour Sports Bra, ‘sexy comfort, intimate moments and impact reduction in one’, for providing the hotel, carpet and microphones today. Available in a variety of colours and at low prices. Guaranteed to help ball movement on and off the court.


I know many of you thought I was retiring due to injuries, but that was just a big, fat lie, put around by other jealous grunters on the circuit. These grunters are rude, nasty people and, furthermore, do not grunt nearly as loudly as me. They are jealous of my glamorous looks, fine figure and strong personality. I’ll probably sue them when I get round to it, just you wait.

In any case I would hardly announce my retirement here would I? In this, frankly, seedy, downtown Brighton hotel on this ugly beige carpet provided by FigFuxs Bras. No, I would not.

I have a much more important thing to say to you.

Firstly, I would like to announce, here and now, that I am severing all my ties with the FigFuxs Corporation. They can take their sponsorship deal and do one as far as I’m concerned. Secondly, I have to admit that I might have, somehow, failed a doping test during a recent tournament.

Now this has come as a terrible shock.

It’s as much of a shock to me as it is to you, my family, my fellow professionals and all my other sponsors excepting FigFuxs. I would like to reassure you that I had no knowledge that I had been taking any performance enhancing drugs whatsoever over the last ten years. In fact I was so astonished that, to start with, I thought it was malicious lies spread by those rival grunters that I might have mentioned earlier. Or possibly FigFuxs.

How could I, Petra Shazagruntova, have done such a thing? I know you’re asking yourselves that? Well I scratched my head for a possible reason and for such a foolish oversight. Then, it came to me.

For many years now I have taking ‘Tixylix Cough Mixture’, available on demand in high street chemist ‘Boots’ (other chemists are available). I had to take it due to my throat getting sore from so much grunting activity. As you may imagine them grunts come at a price. That price is my throat.

But…and it’s a big but, my public, fellow professionals, family and sponsors, I can only think that ‘Tixylix Cough Mixture’ contains performance enhancing substances that have suddenly become banned in my sport. The fault is mine.

It is every player’s responsibility to know what is in ‘Tixylix Cough Mixture’ before they take it. This remains true even if you’ve had three hard sets of high pitched shrieking and severely painful gruntage and your throat is burning like a bastard.

Not for us the pleasures of a soothing spoon of ‘Tixylix’ at the end of the day, we must endure the agony. From now on I will never ever take ‘Tixylix’ ever, ever again, I promise and cross my heart, hope to die.

My hope is that, as I now throw myself upon the mercy of my professional association, they understand that my mistake was not my fault. Well, it was my fault, a bit, but it was also a fault that anybody could have faulted on. I guess it was a ‘double fault’. And we all make those, don’t we?

Thank you for your understanding. Thank you my public. Thank you my sponsors.

Thank you, ‘Tixylix’.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Bacon Fondule

Smales and Swagger


‘Bacon Fondule’

Warning: These continuing erotic explorations of elderly couple Penny Smales and Gerald Swagger are not intended for a younger audience. Please do not read if easily offended or aroused.

Early morning in a dark bedroom.

Daybreak is just beginning to illuminate the inside. Shapes can be seen. Clothes flung in a heap. A ripped polythene bag out of which has spilled little bottles of fluids:  ‘Boots No. 7 Passionate Massage’, ‘Drive Him Mad and Bad’ and ‘Crème Uber Maintaino-Stiffo’.

Some of these are missing their lids.

An IKEA four poster bed dominates the room. Ropes and hand-cuffs are neatly organised on a chest beside it. A riding crop, nurse’s uniform and truncheon are carefully hanging on hooks from the wall. The air inside the room is thick and gritty.

Gerald Swagger is snoring from somewhere within the bed.

More light comes from a flickering candle at a desk to the side where a naked Penny Smales is writing with an old fashioned feather pen. She dips it into an ink pot, writes, dips, writes.

Penny: (Quietly) …performance was reasonable. I think that the crème was a success. It maintained peak stiffness for at least 40 seconds longer than usual. Next time I will try dancing naked with a net and smear it all over with a trident, like in that film we saw about Titans on sex-film night. I wonder if you can get tridents in 'Age Concern'? Memo to self : Check the 'Age Concern' trident situation.

Gerald: (Suddenly Awake) What’s that bloody stink? Have you been using candles again? I told you I don’t like you using candles, didn’t I?

Penny: Go back to sleep, dear. You need your strength for your morning fonduling.

Gerald: (Farting noisily) How can I bloody sleep with that stink, fat arse? What’s this on my knob?

Penny: That’ll be bacon, dear.

Gerald: Bacon? Why have you put bacon on my cock?

Penny: I heard about at Bingo. A website called ‘Sex, Bacon and the Liberal Bedroom.’

Gerald: Liberal party? Are they coming? I can’t stand that Paddy Pantsdown or Nick Clegg! Bastards! Have they got bacon on their knobs too?

Penny: Turn your hearing aid on, dear.

Gerald: It’s got bacon on it. I’m not putting that in my ear am I? I’m not walking around with some bacon sticking out of my ear. People will point and say ‘look at that silly old twat, he’s got bacon in coming out of his ear'.

Penny: No. The liberal party are not coming, but you will be.

Gerald: (Loudly): What? I can’t hear you. This bacon is stuck down my earhole. This bacon on my knob won’t come off neither. Bloody hell! It’s been sellotaped on! Did you sellotape it on when I was asleep?

Penny: No, I used rubber bands.

Gerald: Rubber Johnnies? How am I going to cook this bacon now? I’m not sticking my knob under the grill, am I? What if the Rubber Johnnies melt onto the grill? How will I get it off? Brillopad?

Penny: (Taking her walking stick, rising from the desk and hobbling seductively to the bed) Don’t worry. I have a method of ‘getting it off’ that I think you’ll like.

Gerald: (Alarmed) Get back you stupid old fool! It’s bloody raw! You can’t eat raw bacon, can you? You’ll get tapeworms!

Penny: Oh, I never thought of that. It’s all this pursuit of pleasure. They don’t warn you about that, do they, when they say it adds years to your life?

Gerald: No you didn’t think, did you? Now kindly, if you don’t mind, remove this bacon off my cock. I’ll take it back to the butcher, tell him it went off and see if he’ll give me some more.

Penny: But once you’ve gone, he’ll put it back out on a tray and sell it to someone else.

Gerald: And what’s wrong with that? It’ll be pre salted. Now untie me and go and charge up the Shopmobility cart.

Friday, 4 March 2016

The Interview

The Interview

‘It’s the WORST way to end a relationship’.

The sign kept drawing my eyes, over and over.

I was sat on one of those uncomfortable metal framed chairs. You know the ones, the material is canvas and the seat looks as though someone has nailed it on with metal spikes.

The cushion was dented, warm and I had noticed a suspicious brown stain. I shifted and waited. It felt damp. My eyes fixed on the sign again.

It depicted a passenger, the fatality of a car crash. Underneath was a cartoon drawing of a pint of lager. The victim’s head was severed, his mouth twisted and screaming. Below someone had scribbled on the wall: ‘I want what he’s having.’ And a felt pen arrow pointed to the drink.

The dead driver was not shown but I thought there must be one, unless it was one of those new Google self drive jobs. Which made it worse. Who wants a car to be pissed?

I waited. My chair was positioned by a battered double door arrangement. The room itself, inside the college building, was a very strange affair. A sort of metal box on stilts that was reached by a spiral staircase. Sort of secluded but still within, if you can picture it.

How did I feel? A bit tense, but not too bad. You try to anticipate their questions. Don’t arrive too early, time then to get twisted up with nerves. Not too late, though, bad impression and sweaty. So, okay, there you go.

Diana Ross played through my head. ‘I’m Still Waiting’. Faint scuffling noises from within could be heard: the candidate before me, I thought, so I listened.

Finally. The two doors pushed outwards and a dowdy looking woman escaped, visibly shaking.  A woman followed her, dressed in a suit. ‘Thank you, thank you!’ she bellowed down the staircase, ‘we’ll be in touch.’

She looked at me, rolling her eyes. ‘Teacher? Dear me. Hopeless.’ She said this grimly, sizing me up. Did she mean me or the woman? Her expression changed and she thrust out a hand. ‘You must me Morris, right? I’m Doctor Saggers, come in, come in. Sorry we kept you waiting.’ 

I followed her confidently into the conference room. Behind a trestle table desk sat two other suits. She gestured towards them as they stood up to shake my hand. ‘James Bottomley and Proffessor Huffield, they’ll also be interviewing you for the post today’. Then she waved towards the far corner. ‘And this is the elephant in the room.’

At first I didn’t really look. Just one of those annoying clichés that senior teachers tend to come out with, like ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘paradigm shift’ or ‘run it up the flagpole’. Then I did. Look, I mean.

The elephant looked back from the end of the table. So big, it practically reached the ceiling. It stunk, to be fair. I watched as its trunk reached towards the floor and it took some straw from a scattered bale. It munched, trumpeted and eyed me with hostility. The stench was quite overpowering.

‘That’s an elephant,’ I said.


Bottomley and Huffield had clipboards and they were nodding and scribbling with pencils. I could well imagine their comments. No shit, Sherlock.

‘I mean, well, how did it get here? How, did it get…in this room, I mean, the stairs…’ I blustered, helplessly.

‘Why don’t you ask it?’ suggested Doctor Saggers. Her hand was underneath her suit, fiddling with elastic and her she was twisting her shoulders uncomfortably.

I walked towards the beast. As you do when you go to an interview and there’s an elephant. ‘Hello. The name’s Morris. Morris Minor. Er…so tell me, how did you get in this room, Mr…er...sorry, what’s it called?’

‘Chuckles,’ said Doctor Saggers, still twisted. ‘Damn!’ there was a sound of snapping elastic and Saggers’ frontage descended. ‘There goes another one. I should sue ‘Playful Promises’, I really should.’

Then the elephant charged at me. Looking back, it was quite frightening, it really was. I tried not to scream in panic. The trestle table split in two and one of the tusks caught my arm, ripping my jacket. I fell over and tasted a mouthful of soiled, half chewed straw and peanuts.

Huffield helped me up. ‘It attacked me,’ I protested.

‘Well of course it did. It interpreted your actions as hostile.’

‘Actually,’ said Bottomley, confidentially, dusting me down,’ elephants don’t really understand English, you see? They’re not brilliant at interviews at all. Most interviewees don’t try to engage him in conversation.’

Huffield glared at his colleague. ‘That’s not been scientifically tested, has it? You can’t prove that. Where’s your data? Some of Chuckles’ responses have been quite astute this morning. He understood me when I offered him peanuts. He definitely moved towards me.’

‘Yes, but you were jumping up and down waving a packet of ‘KP Original Salted’ shouting “here they are, elephant, here they are” weren’t you? That’s hardly scientific, is it?’ Flecks of spittle were coming out of Bottomley’s mouth and his fist was clenched around the clipboard.

‘He definitely moved his trunk. I saw signs of recognition.’

For a moment it looked as though the two might start fighting, but Doctor Saggers intervened with a smile. ‘Shall we get back to the interview?’

‘Do you always have elephants?’ I asked, warily, taking my seat in front of what was left of the table. Chuckles paced to and fro, pawing at the floor, crashing clumsily into furniture. He began to dismember an overhead projector and toss bits around the conference room. He looked bored.

The three seated opposite me ignored the elephant and looked back at me as though I’d been very stupid. ‘Of course not,’ snapped Bottomley.

‘Some sort of initiative test? How will the candidate respond upon encountering an elephant?’ I asked.

‘Don’t be thick, Morris. That would be cruel.’ Bottomley frowned. ‘Do we look like we’re cruel sorts to you? In point of fact, we heard the expression ‘the elephant in the room’, liked it and thought we’d try one out.’

‘And it’s been a complete success,’ bellowed Huffield, slamming his clipboard down in triumph. The noise startled Chuckles. He trumpeted and turned his gaze upon us. I felt my blood draining from my face. I looked at the exit doors.

‘Now, now, Morris, don’t be alarmed,’ soothed Doctor Saggers, placing an arm on my shoulder. ‘You’re a teacher. In our profession we are often called upon to face challenges like an elephant in the room. It’s Friday afternoon, period 5. It’s been raining all day. How are you going to ensure the elephant understands the lesson’s learning objective? How are you going to show that the learner is making progress?’

I honestly didn’t know what to say. The elephant trumpeted again. It sounded annoyed.

‘Did you check your data? If you did, you’d have noticed that Chuckles has Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD,’ continued Doctor Saggers, patiently, waiting for my response.

‘And Irritable Bowel Syndrome,’ added Bottomley.

‘And a missing eye, with an eye patch, like a pirate,’ shouted Huffield,

Shaking with fury, Bottomley stood up and grabbed Huffield by his tie, pulling him close so that they were toe to toe. ‘It does not have a missing eye. I said no to the missing eye scenario, you bastard. We agreed. No missing eye and no eye patch.’

Huffield shoved him in the chest forcefully and Bottomley descended. He struck his chair. ‘I want the missing eye. I’m allowed the missing eye. I’m having the missing eye.’

‘It’s not realistic,’ screamed Bottomley, standing up. ‘You don’t get elephants with eye patches, Professor.’ And, with that, he launched himself at Huffield, Kung Fu style, with his arms and legs extended.

But, ready, Huffield countered and neatly side-stepped with an Ali-shuffle. Bottomley smacked into the mid riff of the elephant, feet first, arms flailing and dropped his clipboard. I cowered in the corner. Seeing a metal waste paper basket, I seized it and placed it over my head in one motion.

Chuckles glanced around, from where he had been chomping on an Interactive Whiteboard, mildly irritated. He gazed balefully at the prostrate Bottomley. He reached down with his trunk. The gesture didn’t seem too friendly.

Quickly, Doctor Saggers stepped towards me and rapped on my protective basket. ‘Now, Morris, come out from under that dustbin and tell me: how will you deal effectively with this situation?’

‘I don’t care.’ I heard myself saying. ‘You show me.’ I knew I’d blown it. There was no way they were going to give me the position. You can tell, can’t you? I watched as the animal’s trunk encircled the screaming Bottomley and raised him high above its back. I thought it was going to chuck him out of the window.

Doctor Saggers approached the elephant firmly. ‘Now. If you do this, Chuckles, you will have to accept the consequences. It’ll be a phone call home and a detention. Put James Bottomley down and we’ll discuss it in a restorative justice session with me, Professor Huffield and your parents. You’ll have a chance to state your case. Proceed and I’m afraid we might even be talking about a fixed term exclusion and a parental interview before we readmit you to the college.’

Chuckles snorted in derision and flung Bottomley through the air. He landed painfully at my feet. Huffield gazed in contempt at his prostrate colleague from behind the protection of an overturned swivel chair. ‘He understood that all right, didn’t he? Hah!’

Then the beast moved towards me and Doctor Saggers. I seized my chance. Flinging the bin in its general direction I hurtled for the door. Made it. Out. As I descended the spiral staircase I could hear the three of them still squabbling.

Now, looking back and me telling you all of this, you might ask why I hadn’t made a better fist of my interview, why I put that bin on my head and why I decided that teaching wasn’t for me? Well, listen, I’ll tell you.

I caught a glimpse of Doctor Saggers’ notes in all that mayhem and what was written on Bottomley’s discarded clipboard. Both clearly said, ‘other phrases we like the sound of:’

‘Release the Tiger’.

For Smithy

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Hilary Trumped

Hilary Trumped

Citizens, friends across our country, today
we can all rise together. We can
break down the barriers, seize the day!
Pardon me… I just farted.

At this moment, our country is strong.
Our country is strong when you are strong,
Giving the strength that only you can.
Sorry…I let another one go there.

I’m grateful to you voters. Yes, grateful.
You voted for me. Voted for a better tomorrow!
I must apologise, to you, Senator Finklestein,
I think it’s all the excitement.

Let’s work for every vote, let’s contribute.
Do everything you can, volunteer.
Ask not what your country can do for you
citizens, oh, sorry, what must you think of me

Senator Finklestein? I can only think that
it must have been that curry we had last night.
Perhaps if you stood over there, the
vile smell might not be as strong.

Citizens! We will not divide ourselves.
We must never embrace a ‘them and us’ society.
I believe we must share and share freely.
Like that honker I released just now.

One last heave and we can reach the summit!
One final effort. One final push.
And so, I turn to you, my friends and you,
Senator Finklestein, to ask where: where is the…

oh, shit.


What Went Well: An attempt to use rhetorical techniques, of sorts
Even Better If: You did not indulge yourself in puerile nonsense about the very human act of breaking wind. We all do it, Pearce. Do you really think a Senator farting is funny?
Do Now: Rewrite and remove any mention of air biscuits, gas, farts, botty burps and poo-poo.
Mr Beaker

Tuesday, 1 March 2016



Finally, the revolting noise stopped.

The lederhosen clad tuba player adjusted his green felt hat and marched over to the three cornered men. “The sound of the Bavarian oompah music, you like, yes?” His sweating clumpy-palm was held out for payment.

One drinker took a pull from the beer stein and swore in English as the pewter rim bit at his lip.

“I come from Bavaria,” persisted Clumpy, resting his tuba on the floor. Silence. In fact the entire bar was quiet. It had emptied into the next door pub upon his arrival as he had begun the first tune.

Only these three had remained, smothered in misery.

Clumpy scratched his beard and pulled off his green feathered hat, tipping it over to make the point and holding it towards them. More swearing. ‘Ah!’ he exclaimed, with understanding, ‘You English!’ He scrabbled in his shouldered leather satchel, pulled out a well beaten magazine and placed it on the table. ‘Big Issue?’

‘Piss off,’ snarled the biggest, rising to his feet.

Snatching his tuba, Clumpy took to his toes and the bar was silent once more. Well almost. From the darkest corner of the table came sound of sobbing.

‘For shit’s sake, Bob, will you please stop crying? Jesus.’ Big Bloke spat and sank back down.

‘Well, what are we going to do, Jimmy? We was supposed to be in Prague, not bloody Düsseldorf.  What am I going to tell Maisie? She’ll kill me.’

‘I shouldn’t fret about her. When she finds out we was kicked off that plane, the wedding’s off, mate.’ Jimmy frowned. ‘I should worry about where you are going to find that twenty grand. And how you’re going to get Wayne home from hospital.’

‘Oh, God, Wayne, I forgot him. Why did he do it? I mean, jumping out of the plane, spinning his knob around and shouting, "look at me, I’m a helicopter." What a cock.’ And Bob’s shoulders shook once again.

The third man, silent until now, spoke up. ‘It is a massive cock,’ he insisted with emphasis, ‘Enormous. Wayne’s always been proud of his tool. And quite right too. He was only trying to impress the stewardess. It’s her loss.’

‘You’re right there, Albert. Even when a nipper at nursery, he told me that he’d had the biggest potty,’ claimed Jimmy, with an air of authority. ‘Course, I wasn’t there, but I’d no reason to disbelieve him. If anyone was going to achieve penis-powered flight, it would be our Wayne. I reckon that pilot was just plain jealous once he’d seen it. That’s why we was turfed off.’

Contemplation descended over the three men. Then Jimmy shook himself back into the problems of the present. ‘How’s your back and arse, Albert? Still smarting?’

‘You mean where you cuffed me to the baggage rack as in-flight entertainment and the stripper thrashed me with her leather thong? Yes, still stings a bit. Worth it though. I copped a great look at her rack.’ Albert raised his 'London Irish' replica shirt and contemplated the red weals cut into his legs, sides and nipples. ‘Look at those!’

Jimmy chortled. ‘You’ve got bigger tits than she had.’

‘Yes, come to think of it, hers weren’t much to look at. She flattered to deceive in that department. Don’t tell her though. Might scar her for life.’

‘That pilot said Wayne was a disgrace and a public nuisance,’ quavered Bob.

‘No. He said Wayne was a pubic nuisance. There’s a difference,’ snapped Jimmy.

‘Can’t we just stay here? Let’s stay here. What about the press? This will get out, Jimmy. Don’t think it won’t. I blame you for this. You organised the stag do.’

‘Shut up. I'm thinking.’

Silence again. Then, from somewhere outside, the revolting noise of badly played tuba recommenced. The Keller soon began to fill up. Men jostled for position at the bar, clutching next door’s steins and barking orders.

Followed by an unwelcome increase of tuba noise. Soon, the red and sweaty face appeared at the door. With sickly self-belief Clumpy marched up and down to the sound of his own tuneless racket, grinning and gurning horribly, pounding the Keller floorboards until the steins rattled in time. Jimmy could take no more.

‘Right. I’m having that bastard. He’s played last tune,’ snarled Jimmy, rising so quickly the table overturned.

Tuba chucked away as soon as the table hit the decking, Clumpy dashed for the exit. Jimmy hared after him aiming a vicious kick at the abandoned metal, a brutal leather truncheon swinging from his fist. Both tore across the concourse outside screaming, the first in panic, the second in bloodlust and fury. Finally, nowhere left to run, the tuba player sank to his knees.

‘You bastard, you bastard!’ screamed Jimmy, raising the truncheon and pulling him to his feet by his lederhosen straps. ‘You ruined our night out with your shit-awful playing, your pathetic accent, your bloody-felt-bloody-hat, with feathers… I’m sick of foreigners like you, coming over here, disturbing the peace, ruining our environment with your noise. ’

‘No, no, please!’ begged Clumpy. ‘I call the police, I get the police.’

‘I am the police!’ exclaimed Jimmy, shoving him viciously in the chest. ‘And you’re nicked.’

Footsteps. Bob and Albert joined him. Jimmy looked around, getting his bearings. Old Street. Just a quick drive to the station.

He pulled the cuffs from his pocket and reached for the van’s keys.