Total Snitch

 

I always thought it might be nice to call in to Crime Watch one day and contribute some useful information. But then, of course, that would mean either knowing a wanted criminal or having witnessed a criminal act. And that’s not nice, really, is it?

And yet… and yet…

 

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Life of an Earwig

 

Well finally this Bibi Berki figure has gone a bit more HA Ferdinand and attempted some comedy. Peony thinks it’s not half bad but I think it’s demeaning. Apparently the series is all about earwigged phone calls. I’m hoping for something a bit more explicit in future episodes. (The link to the podcast is below.)

As for the neighbours, Poppy came round the other day to say that the council is pulling down their summerhouse because it has exceeded height restrictions. She had the gall to accuse me of “dobbing her in”. I sent her packing, saying I had no idea what she was talking about and didn’t know anything about height restrictions anyway.

“What did Crappy want?” asked Peony when I returned to the kitchen.

“She’s upset because the council are pulling down her new summerhouse.”

“Serves her right,” scowled my daughter. “I can hardly wait to see all 272cm of it removed.” And then added a little more furtively: “I think that’s how high it is. That’s how high it looks from here anyway.”

Here then, for your “entertainment”, is Serving Suggestion.

 

 

Noisome Neighbours

My new neighbours are settling in and “redesigning” the garden. At the moment, this seems to mean burning rubber items that give off noxious clouds.

I leant over the fence yesterday and mentioned to the mother, Poppy, that the council would not be happy with the sight of her burning rubbish in a built-up area. She paused and appeared to be holding back tears.

“Oh that’s a terrible shame,” she commiserated. “I hate the thought of anyone feeling sad.” And she slung a section of polyester carpet on to the flames.

I’ve kept the windows closed to keep the gasses out but John, who is staying with me at the moment, is intrigued and wants to report them. If he’s serious, I won’t hold him back. A 10-year old’s lungs are surely sacrosanct.

The new neighbours are very exercised about Brexit, by the way, but I’m not sure how. They’ve put a poster in their front window simply saying “Brexit”.

“What’s the point?” asks John.

“I dunno. To give an impression they care about something,” I tell him. “But without offending anyone. They probably don’t want to miss out on all the fun.”

Now, talking about neighbours, I realise that I haven’t mentioned the last two podcasts by Tempest. The most recent one is, in fact, called The Neighbour and makes me think that a bit of carpet-burning is not all that bad. The one before is called Under and Peony tells me she doesn’t like to take a bath since listening to it.

(Peony is very contemptuous of the neighbour being called “Poppy”, says it’s a very lame and desperate kind of name, not the kind of flower that would impress anyone.)

You can find the two new podcasts here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Powerful Smell

I was rather pleased with my comic headline for the last podcast I mentioned here – about opening up flies to reveal nasty shocks – but I have to rein it in a bit now, because this one is a much sadder piece, a story about loss, longing and very strange sightings. Bibi Berki is undoubtedly a more serious writer than I am but I know a know a good, involving, unnerving tale when I hear one. Give it a listen.

You can find it at https://tempestaudio.tumblr.comWardrobe smilep ic

Who can be arsed to turn a page?

Well, a lot has happened since I last wrote anything here. Four marriage proposals being, I suppose, worth a passing mention – three made to Peony, two by her best friend, Justine, (“at last we can be the nuclear family John craves”) and one to me. All were turned down. Laurence is now being comforted by a Russian radiographer.

I really don’t mind the radiographer, the only awkwardness in the whole situation being the fact that shortly before we broke up – and in an effort to prevent that disintegration – Laurence somehow wangled me the post of writer in residence at his hospital. I hoped this might prove a sinecure but in fact it’s unpaid and I’m obliged to produce two short stories and three poems a year to justify my title.

I can’t write poetry to save my life or anyone else’s but I’ve discovered a wonderful app (how often do you hear those words these days?) where you simply put in a few basic commands and it juggles with some arbitrary vocabulary and produces a brand new poem for you. The process is, I think, perhaps even more gratifying than had I dreamt up the things myself. You simply have to fill in three basic requests, for example:

Subject: Spleen operation

Mood: sombre, nervous

Form: free verse

And it produces an original – a highly original – creation for your negligible efforts. The most enjoyable part for me is perhaps the wonder of the randomly selected titles, no two ever the same, and rarely do they have anything to do with the poem to which they’ve been attached. My favourites to date have been the gentle nostalgia of Oatcake Britain and the rousing Wash Him!

The short stories I write myself and the process is the same laboured scratching-out exercise it’s always been.

But Peony said to me after reading the last one: “Mum, I despair in your crap brain, I do.”

“Do you? And why is that?”

“Because nobody reads anything anymore. You’re a slag heap.”

“Surely I’m on one rather than actually one.”

(She thinks I prevaricate, can’t face the truth. I just want her to get things right.)

“Enough,” she said. “Just pay attention to me. Don’t think about readers. Think about listeners. Everyone listens.”

“They do?”

“You wanna story? Stick the buds in. Who can be arsed to turn a page?”

As ever I needed time to ruminate. I always dismiss her dismissings of me and then I wish I hadn’t been so dismissive.

And so I present to you – very soon – original podcasts, yes podcasts. Like our earliest ancestors who could not be arsed to turn a page, we now listen to tales told by others and the only difference is that we’re not sitting around a campfire with jackals circling us just out of sight, but we’re pressed up against a whole heap of other jackals in public transport as we head off to work.

The same old words.

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“Look at this,” I told Peony, alerting her to the beautiful new artwork for Intelligent People. “I’m re-launching the book to show off its brand new cover.”

“A new cover, you say?” she asked, failing to look at it at all, let alone admire it.

“Yes.”

“But are they all the same old words inside?”

“Yes.”

All of them? Exactly the same?”

“Yes. They are.”

“Oh,” and she repeated “Oh” once more just in case I hadn’t caught the profound disappointment in it the first time.

 

WUVVLY BOOKS – A REVIEW

 

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We told you how much we wuvved HA Ferdinand’s Mrs Tempest’s Marriage Bureau. Well here’s the new one and it’s just as weird and wonderful. It’s called The Baron and we caught up with HA herself to learn more about it.

WB: You say your books are comedies of manners. What does that mean?

HA: It means laughing at the stupid things certain people say and do.

WB: Isn’t that cruel?

HA: Is that a problem?

WB: Give us a summary of the plot.

HA: OK. Well, simply put, it’s about a mother and her very outspoken daughter and a young man they pick up, well he hangs on, only we don’t know why he hangs on, and they apply for a job at a stately home, although they’ve already got jobs but they thought it would be fun and an adventure, and when they get there they meet these people who are on a mission to save the world from itself, and she – that’s the mother – really likes them, only she doesn’t know…

WB: Hold on, hold on. It doesn’t seem that simple.

HA: No, it is really. All my books are.

WB: And they’re short. They’re all kind of short.

HA: Mercifully short, yes.

WB: Do you like writing them?

HA: Bloody love it.

WB: So, the characters in this one are just crazy. They’re like upper class commies. Does that happen a lot in the UK? I don’t think we get them in the States. Are they based on real people?

HA: Well you know how it is…you read things, you hear things, the next thing you know you’ve built a new fictional world and peopled it yourself.

WB: That’s a yes then.

HA: Can I just ask…you rated the last one “very wuvvly”. Does this one get the same rating or a “very, very wuvvly” or indeed a “very, very, very wuvvly”? What is the net worth of a wuvvly?

WB: It’s got a “very wuvvly”.

HA: Well thanks for that, I suppose.

WB: You really crack us up!

 

More hoedown than showdown.

They only went and sacked me.

I had it coming, to be honest. After all I did engineer it that my boss’s wife walked in on him and his mistress in mid-session in a conference room.

And I did write every detail of their sordid little office romance in my ebook A Sordid Little Office Romance which – thanks to my colleague, Amanda – managed to work its way around the entire law firm in less than forty seconds.

So much for the precious anonymity of Danby Houghton.

Cortez called me into his office and drew himself up into disciplining mode.

“You know you have to go, my darling,” he said.

I was a little taken aback at his tone but I should have known that he would do things his own extraordinary way.

“Yeah, I know. Sorry,” I said.

“You were very good. Very good.”

I smiled graciously.

“I was a legal secretary for years. I can do this job blindfold.”

“Oh not that, you great ape! I mean the book. So my marriage gets a knock – yawn, whatever – but I star in a book and, you know, Raphael is so me. That bit about the rucksack full of hand cream, underwear and French poetry. I mean, how did you know? Have you been peeking?”

“I…I…did I get that right then?”

He nodded vigorously.

“Well I never.”

“And my sexual prowess. I blushed, darling. Boys and girls. How did you know!”

“It’s just a bit of fiction,” I whined. “It doesn’t mean anything. I never intended to offend anyone. The whole thing was meant to remain anonymous.”

He leant across his desk and dropped his head dramatically on to it.

“Cortez Baignton doesn’t do anonymity,” he informed me, mumbling into the teak.

“I bet poor Mrs Baignton wishes he did.”

I don’t know how I had the gall to say something like that, but what did I have to lose? He couldn’t sack me twice.

Fortunately he slapped the desk top and gurgled a kind of laugh.

How does he get away with it? A man in his position. He must be really raking it in for his firm for them to turn a blind eye to his extravagant ways.

Laurence came in to help me collect my stuff. I didn’t ask him to. There was only a notebook and a plant and those were technically office property anyway but I refused to retreat empty-handed.

“So,” he said, catching sight of Cortez coming out of a meeting room. “This is the man who dropped you so abruptly, is it? Well. I. Never.”

“Laurence don’t!” I hissed.

But he seemed to be inflating his chest and pushing it in the direction of my baffled boss.

“Oh hello,” said Cortez coming over, his curiosity ignited. It was still sexual curiosity at this stage. It always is first thing with him.

“My God but I could lamp you for this,” said Laurence totally unexpectedly. I’ve never heard the like. Not from him.

Cortez raised his eyebrows. He took a swift glimpse of his vast gold watch.

“I’ve got a meeting,” he sighed and left us.

“That bloody told him,” said Laurence with mysterious satisfaction. “I’ve got a meeting my arse.”

“He has got a meeting. I handle his diary, remember. It’s with two clients and it’s in conference room three.”

“Yeah right.”

Oh what’s the point.

We left the building and I was glad actually that Laurence had come. Glad to be going back in the sealed isolation of a car at any rate.

I think I might miss going out to work. I hadn’t wanted to go back at first but once I was in that busy, brain-dead milieu it was a relief. And briefly I was part of the real world again, having some kind of minor impact on my society.

“God but I could have lamped him,” Laurence muttered once more as he swung the steering wheel with a degree of flamboyant recklessness.

I put a hand on his knee and understood that this was his moment now, not mine. And I prefer that really. I was never meant to be in the driving seat, will always feel more comfortable looking out through the passenger side window.