Saturday, December 30, 2006

Considering 2006

Well, my dear readers, at this time of year one's thoughts turn to the past. It is always a rewarding experience to cast one's eyes back over the past year and remember fondly some of the events and people that have coloured one's life and brought joy to one's world. Many things have happened to me this year, some pleasant, some unpleasant, but they all share one thing in common - I can remember none of them.

Looking through the entries in my electronic diary for this year, I see many nonsensical events being recounted which I know could never have happened to me, and which I am certain I did not write. It is my belief that someone, most probably a hacker, has hacked into my diary and edited my entries to confuse me and make a farce of my project to document my daily life.

No matter. This is also the time of year to look forward (to the future). I do not know what 2007 will hold for me. The world is in turmoil: War rages in Ikea, where brave British and American troops do their best to sort out the trouble caused by the British and American governments. And as I understand it, Arran continues to develop nuclear capabilities, which will surely put Scotland's west coast at grave risk. Everywhere one looks, madness can be found. I have just seen on the news that the former captain of the English cricket team, Nasser Hussain, has been hung for crimes against humanity - whatever is the world coming to? Cricket is undoubtedly the most tedious sport devised by man, but no one deserves to be executed for their involvement in the game. Certainly, for boring the nation and causing repeats of Mork and Mindy to be rescheduled in favour of cricket matches on Channel 4, some punishment is reasonable - a light birching perhaps. If execution must take place, death by firing squad would be more than adequate - there is no call to humiliate the man's memory by killing him in such a low way as this.

In order to impose some level of control in my life in this world of derangement and chaos, I have made some New Year's resolutions which I will do my best to achieve in 2007:

1) I will become famous.
2) I will make one million dollars.
3) I will invent a hover board like the ones on Back to the Future 2.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The time between Christmas and New Year.

This is the strange time between Christmas and New Year, when one celebration is over and another lurks in wait. The tree is limp and dwindling, its ignominious fate now more apparent, undisguised as it is by the flashing green lights, the tawdry artificiality of which serves only to highlight the sad pine's dying verdancy. And I'm sick of bloody mince pies.

What is more, the festive telly is of a very poor standard this year. Admittedly they have made some effort to add excitement to Deal or No Deal? by adding a £500, 000 box in honour of the birth of our Saviour, but this can only entertain for so long. And comedy sketch show Little Britain managed to spectacularly inject some new life into its now tired format by repeating the usual sketches but setting them in different countries. It was called Little Britain Abroad and was hilarious - they have lots of catchphrases that are hugely funny like 'I am a homosexual and I live in a village', 'Yes but no but yes but no but yes', 'This computer is saying no', 'Am I bothered?', 'How very dare you', '...which was nice', 'You ain't seen me, roight?', 'I don't believe you wanted to do that!', and 'They don't like it up 'em!' Great stuff!

But on the whole, I have been unimpressed by the lack of decent films. They have only showed 14 different versions of A Christmas Carol, and only 32 films concerning the figure of Santa Claus/Father Christmas - for shame! Where is your Christmas spirit, TV bosses? And they only showed the first Jaws film - no sign of Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, or Jaws: The Revenge!

Because of the lack of appropriate viewing material, I am unsure what to do with myself. The little scottie dog from Monopoly, which I yesterday gouged out of my thigh, is bothering me. Its tiny metallic eyes seem to follow me around the room from my mantelpiece. I fear it may be sentient in some way. If I continue to feel uncomfortable, I will simply commit it to the flames - I do not want to get involved in some sort of half-baked adventure with this damn thing, which I imagine is likely if I don't keep it in check.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Disappointing Winterval

I am sorry to report that my Christmas was uninspiring and somewhat drab. Nobody visited me, I received no cards, my Christmas dinner consisted of Bernard Matthew's reconstituted turkey cold cuts and a packet of Fisherman's Friends for dessert, and I developed an ulcerous sore on my thigh sometime during the lacklustre Dr Who: Runaway Bride.

The sore was raw and sent twinges of pain racking through my body with each prod. Biting down upon a wooden spoon to help me bear the agony, I dug around in the weeping pus-filled gash with a teaspoon and eventually discovered a tiny metal effigy of a scottie dog. It was a player piece from the board game Monopoly, though how it came to become embedded in my thigh I have no idea.

I sanitized the wound with a liberal squirt of Fairy Liquid then sealed it with glue to the best of my ability. I have placed the pewter dog upon my mantel. It will make a curious conversation piece.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day!

Today is the most exciting day of the year. I arose at 3:30am and crept downstairs to see if Father Christmas had visited my home. I heard a rummaging and shuffling from the Living Room and gingerly I opened the door. Beside the Christmas tree was a fat little man dressed in a red, fur-lined suit. He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of pork fat. Turning around from his night's work of plucking presents from his sack, the jolly old elf grinned at me, a pipe tightly clenched in his teeth. Winking, he then offered me a frosty glass bottle of Coca Cola.

"Are you Santa Claus?" I asked. The merry fellow laughed jollily and gave a quick nod of his head in reply.

"Then you must leave my Dundee home. Brits are traditionally visited by Father Christmas, a being with roots in Pagan tradition. You are derived from the Christian figure Saint Nicholas and visit the homes of Americans and others. You are quite different from Father Christmas. I think you must have taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque."

The fat figure chuckled and replied, "Nah mate, we've become conflated, like. I have to cover the UK too now - the kids talk about Santa these days and only a few oldies mention Father Christmas, so I've had to step in. It's a bugger."

"Well, do help yourself to some salt Santa, and kindly forgive my impertinence," I said.

"That I cannot do - you are now on my naughty list," said Santa. "No presents for you little boy."

With that, he gave a quick nod and up the chimney he rose. Pah! This sort of thing wouldn't have happened under Father Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

Readers, I will continue regaling you with tales of my experience as a theatre critic later, but for now I will leave off that story because this is Christmas Eve, the night where dreams come true. Children everywhere will be singing hymns and throwing tinsel in anticipation of tomorrow's splendiferous wonderment. Even now, old Father Christmas will be readying his sleigh at the North Pole and loading his sacks with presents, ensuring that a candy cane, a toy soldier, and a teddy bear protudes from the top.

Today I ventured out of doors to complete my Christmas shopping. I have already bought a selection of presents from Ebay, but still need to get a few bits and bobs and some people to give them to. I've bought a 8x10 photograph of Dame Dudi Dench which has been signed by herself and Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the new James Baldwin. This will make a good gift for a film buff. I have also bought the following: a bag of chocolate limes, rock salt, Hong Kong Fooey socks, driving gloves, and a golf ball. The limes are for old Mrs Cribbage across the road who has been housebound for the last few months. The golf ball is for Dr Anthony Gland - all doctors plays golf, you must understand. For Professor Jessica Flitey, I have earmarked the driving gloves for I know she owns a car. I have an old friend in mind who would greatly enjoy the Hong Kong Fooey novelty socks - he now works as a lecturer in Applied Computing so has little sense of how to dress tastefully.

I think I will leave out the rock salt for Father Christmas - he will doubtless be sick of the mince pies and brandy left out by well-meaning fools and begin to crave salt as a counterbalance to the cloying sweetness of such treats. For my thoughtfulness, I will surely be left an extra gift.

I have asked old Father Christmas for a candy-cane, a shiny penny, a polished red apple, a satsuma, a selection of nuts, and some golden chocolate coins. And a Nintendo Wii. I hope that I have behaved sufficiently well to warrant all my requests.

And now, to bed!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The 2nd Half at Dundee Rep Theatre

I took my seat for the 2nd half of the play after buying an overpriced faux-Cornetto from a surly usher. Excitement prickled my loins as the lights dimmed and the curtain went up. I prepared to be transported once more into the world of Sweet Burd o' Bairns, a Scots translation by Matthew Fitt of Tennessee Williamm'ss Sweet Bird of Youth. As the players took to the stage, I could sense the magic of the theatre working its spell. I immediately slipped into a deep slumber.

The sound of applause at the end of the play woke me. I apologised to the fat gentlemen next to me whose girth I had utilized as a comforting pillow in my drowsiness. I gauged by the strength of the clapping and a certain level of American-style whooping that the show had been enjoyed by many, so decided that my review should be positive.

After leaving the auditorium, I met once again with my fellow critics who were discussing the play and drinking alcohol.

"A triumph!" wept Robert Dawson Scott.
"Fandabedozee!!" squealed Thom Dibdin.
"Gadzooks, but that was confounded rot, what what?" barked Neil Cooper.
"They should have shown the castration scene in full," said Joy Watters.
"And what did you think of it all, dear?" asked Joyce McMillan, directing her question to me.

Because I had not watched any of the play, I was caught a little off-guard by this question, so decided to bluff my way through by reviewing my faux-Cornetto instead.

"While not as complex and multilayered as the original, it nevertheless resonated with a certain home-grown chilliness and the kitch gaudiness of design added to, rather than detracted from, the overall appeal. Though the balance of elements never quite works, there is much here to enjoy," I said.

"I quite agree!" declared Joyce McMillan to the crowd, before whispering to me, "Though these ones didn't have the little blob of chocolate at the foot of the cone." Here she winked.

"After confabulation, we have charitably decided that the play is to be judged decent but flawed overall," said Joyce, "If only the director had sought out our advice first, we could have happily helped to iron out some of the more glaring errors of judgement. But it was originally by a ****ing yank, so what the **** do you expect?"

Here, Neil Cooper of The Herald produced his blunderbuss once more and fired it at a member of the Front of House staff who managed to deflect the shot with a tray of fruit pastilles. A trio of dancers from the resident Scottish Dance Theatre were the only ones to be injured, but they are ten-a-penny.

As Thom Dibdin attempted to subdue Neil Cooper and Joyce McMillan yet again, I made my escape from the building. And that, dear readers, was my first experience of the world of criticism.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Joyce McMillan

[Readers, I must apologise for my lengthy absence - there is a very mundane explanation for it, which is that my electricity was cut off by the electric people because I was unable to pay their exorbitant fees and I was thus unable to make use of my computer to update my diary. I do not see why I should have to pay for electricity when it jumps out of the sky for free and when you can create it freely by rubbing a balloon against your jumper, so I refused to pay those fat-cat, money-grubbing electric men. For 6 weeks I was able to live without electricity, but yesterday I capitulated and paid them when I learned that there is a new series of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on, which I could not bear to miss. More on the events of the last 6 weeks will follow later: for now, I will continue my story of the critics from where I left off last month]

Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman shuffled slowly over to me and gently took my hand, cradling it gently in her own wizened palms. No taller than 3 foot 4, with the vulnerability of damp Edinburgh rock, she nevertheless exuded an aura of powerful majesty and beneficence which ensured that I at once adopted a deferential tone.

"Now do tell me, Clive, why you wish to become a playwright," she said, beaming magnificently. Her breath smelled of honeyed almonds and nutmeg.

"I...I wish to become a...a critic," I said, unaccountably feeling guilty for correcting this wonderous lady, "Not a playwright, if you please."

"But of course," said she, letting loose my hand. "You must forgive me, dearie, for not making myself clear. All critics of the theatre are, at heart, playwrights themselves."

She took a crumpled tissue from her sleeve and spat into it, then dabbed it around my cheeks and mouth. Her saliva tasted of rhubarb-and-custard flavoured sweets I bought from sweetshops as a child, and the caramel apple pies that my plump grandmother used to make.

"There now child," she said, smiling benignly, "Your face is as clean as a Christmas whistle. Now then, why do wish do become a critic? Tell old Joyce your thoughts."

I told her of my new-found pleasure in picking faults in people's work and causing anguish.

"Oh my dear little man," she said, patting my forehead tenderly, "That is not what criticism is about. You must change your views if you wish to be a good critic. Let me cradle your head in my old bosom while I tell you my philosophy of criticism.

"Now then lovey, you mustn't listen to the other critics who've spoken to you this evening. They are cynical and petty-minded. The true critic is as much a playwright as the playwright himself. The true critic adores theatre and has as important a part to play in the overall success of the play as the playwright. You see, the playwright wrights the play (just my little joke there, dear), then the critic reviews it and tells the public to enjoy or dislike it. Theatre patrons would not know if the play was good or not if they did not have critics to tell them.

"Furthermore, the critic reads the play: he interprets it, he decides what the play is about and what it is saying. The critic does this so that the public knows what is going on. So you see, dearie, the critic is as much an author of the text as the playwright. A more important author even, for the critic is the one who decides whether the play will actually be viewed by the public or not - with a negative review, the public will not come to see the play. We truly make or break the piece.

"And yes dear, we do have to write negative reviews, but again this stems from a love of theatre. If we view a play egregious to our tastes, it offends us. Because we love good theatre, we cannot bear to allow such things to appear in public. Through necessity, we must badmouth the piece and use our powers of criticism to prevent the play from being seen by the general public who might erroneously enjoy it.

"I personally hate anything written by or starring Japs. Can't abide those yellow, rice-munching nips. And as for the ****ing Welsh..."

At hearing this racist outburst, Thom Dibdin abandoned his task of tending to Neil Cooper of The Herald, and scampered over.

"Oh Joyce, are you having one of your episodes again? Come, let's top up that sherry for you," he said.

"The ****ing French are the worst though - smelly, cowardly ****s the lot of them..." shouted Joyce.

Dibdin managed to calm her down with a little more sherry and a generous portion of wristwatch skittles. He had had a tough night tending to the whimsies of the other critics, but he did not look flushed or wearied. Leaving Joyce at the bar, crying into a sherry, he came back over to me.

"I think I've settled her!" he said with a wink and a tap of the nose. "You musn't pay too much attention to her - she was dropped on her head as a child. Half a mo! That's the two minute warning - we must get back to our seats for the second half! I hope you enjoy it!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Neil Cooper's Story

Next to step forward was the bluff old roustabout introduced earlier as Neil Cooper of The Herald.

"What ho, old trouser!" he boomed, sloshing beer froth from his tankard in his enthusiasm. "Cooper's the moniker. Tip us your daddle old bean and let's have no hubble de shuff about it, what. Some catarumpus this what, what? Come on, man, don't stand agog like a tantony pig - we're only critics, what, what."

With that, he playfully slugged me in the guts. Well readers, I understood not one jot of the man's introduction so I merely smiled and nodded.

"Never took to mindless flummery myself," he said, "Always prefered topping cullies and coves. All a jape of course, no real malice in it, what. Something of an unlicked cub in my nonage: a scapegrace of some renown. Wouldn't know it if you set your day lights on me today, with my malmsey nose and physog full of grog blossoms, what? Ho ho ho, you addlepated dandy prat!"

Laughing uproariously, he again issued me a hearty blow in the stomach, at which I buckled.

"Picked up many an enemy in my time - from jarkmen to doxies, from drummerers to kinching morts - there's no species of man or baggage that I haven't offended, usually while in my altitudes. Like David's sow, what! Presently, I have over 50 people trying to expend me. 14 people over 50 to be precise, making 64 people out to get me in total. I am a turk though - I have earned it all. My criticism is so ferocious that I bring out the dudgeon in all folks. In truth, this is my goal in being a critic - no truck with artistry or rot like that, what! I collect enemies. I challenge myself to find a pigeon's weakness and exploit it for all it's worth - I pick and prod in my reviews and criticism until I get the reaction I crave, and the game is afoot! Jolly good fun, old arse-candle! I recommend it!"

Here he clouted me amiably about the ear and guffawed.

"But I'll let you in on a secret, you lovable pole. I always keep my trusty old blunderbuss on hand, in case the blighters get too close to succeeding in their aim to off me. Had to blast me more than a couple of disgruntled playwrights in my time, what! Say, you're not one of the slanty-eyed buggers are you? Out to get me, eh? You're for it, you bounder! "

He produced an English flintlock blunderbuss from some recess in his cassock-like attire and waved it in my direction, roaring with glee. Thom Dibdin quickly leapt forward and subdued him with fruity skittles from his wristwatch.

Seemingly placated by Dibdin's sweets, Neil Cooper of The Herald was led to a quiet corner where he sat down and initiated a conversation with a potted plant. Dibdin gave me a wink and shook his head as if to convey the message, "Bless him, the silly old fool".

Shaken, I watched as Joyce McMillan silently slid off her stool and approached me.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Morose Reminiscences of the Critic Joy Watters

The elongated shape of the critic Joy Watters stepped forward, casting a jagged shadow across the floor. Her movements were jerky and fitful as though she had been stop-motion animated by Ray Harryhausen, while her curiously extended musculature put me in mind of the giraffe-necked portraits on the Cluedo character cards. Yes, Watters was like the dark version of Miss Scarlett. Unless of course we are talking about a round of Cluedo in which it was Miss Scarlett who committed the murder. In that case, Watters would be more of a light-hearted version of Miss Scarlett, but such a description would distort my intended meaning beyond use.

"Missster Careeeewww," said Watters, speaking very slowly like that elf from Lord of the Rings played by Steve Tyler's daughter, "Alllow me to tellll you my tale." [here I will refrain from replicating her slow speech through adding letters to her dialogue because it becomes tiresome]

"I will speak candidly Mr. Carew. Though this will be hard for you to believe, I am well over 400 years old. In fact, I am 300 years over 400 years old, making me roughly 700 years old.

"I was born in 1303 in an area of Scotland now known as Monifieth, but which was then called Munnyfeef because people did not know how to spell in those days. I have since discovered that at the very moment of my birth an earthquake in Egypt destroyed the famed Lighthouse of Alexandria, which I hold to be symbolic.

"The world was a different place back then - colder, crueller, harsher, and more people dressed in browns and greens, and had tousled hair, shaggy beards, and artistically smudged faces. Pan pipes could be heard echoing through the hills at all times and tribes of Scots sat round big fires every evening looking wistful. I lived with my grubby, struggling family in a mud hut on the banks of the Tay and subsisted entirely on barnacles and seaweed.

"When I was 18, my mother was burned as a witch because she looked askance at a dog, which was held in those days to be evidence of demon worship. I was exiled from my tribe as punishment for having a witch for a mother. Exile meant certain death for a young girl in those days: without the support of a family and a network of kilted villagers, I would undoubtedly perish. One stormy night, I simply capitulated. I made my peace with the Almighty, lay down on a heath, and waited for the elements to claim my life.

"As I lay on the cold ground, I heard a man's voice bid me arise. It was impossible to disobey. As I stood up, I beheld the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Clean-shaven, well-toned, and impeccably-dressed, he was unlike the swarthy brutes that populated my village and daily beat me. He looked exactly like Mark Ramprakash on Strictly Come Dancing.

""Madam, I am Le Comte de Saint-Inapt," the beautiful man said. "You may have heard of me. You are too beautiful, too perfect, too porcelain-hued to perish in such an ignoble way. It is fortunate you are not ugly, or I would have been forced to leave you here. Come to me."

"The man had such presence and gravity of tone, and such well-defined muscles, that I drifted into his arms willingly. There I encountered such ecstasies, such myriad heightened pleasures, and such indescribable sensual delights that I couldn't walk right for a week afterwards. But then he bit my neck and sucked the blood from my body, which put a damper on the evening.

"I awoke to find my beautiful mysterious suitor had disappeared and that I had joined the ranks of the undead. I was a nosferatu, a strigio, a moroii, a wampyr...a vampire!

"To cut a long story short, Mr. Carew, I have spent the last 700 years touring the world and meeting various famous historical figures. It's been great. One downside to the vampire lifestyle, aside from people thinking you're a Goth, is that you can create nothing new. After meeting and inspiring Shakespeare, I wished to become a playwright but found that I was unable to create anything of any merit whatsoever.

"In keeping with my vampire nature, however, I found I was able to survive through leeching from others - I could suck all the goodness from the work of others and do my best to spitefully reduce the original to a shambling, enervated wreck. I became a critic.

"That is my tale. Now, if you excuse me, I shall return to my interval drink. Of course.....I do not No, I prefer vodka and Diet Coke."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Robert Dawson Scott's Hubris

The boney and alarming Robert Dawson Scott stepped forward and deigned to recount his history:

"Mr Carew, you are new to criticism so I bid you listen carefully to my cautionary tale. This is a strange story - a story unlike anything you have ever heard. It is a story of madness - of cruel and unforgettable death - fantastic, unreal and horrible. Heed this tale. Do not make the same mistakes I did. This shall be my gift to you. Pay attention, for I will relate this tale in the historic present tense.

"The year is 1965. Picture it. I graduate from Oxford (yes, Mr. Carew, the university) seventeen years previously with a respectable 2:2 in Philosophy. I am now a successful critic. I possess a terrifying reputation as the most ascerbic, unrelenting, and caustic critic in the Northern Hemisphere. Playwrights fear me; life is good. The previous year, I attend the premiere of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming and I reduce him to tears at the interval. I earlier describe John Osborne's Look Back in Anger as "godawful dreck" and lap up the controversy which ensues. Criticism excites me and I feel I find my calling in life.

"In August of 1965 I attend a play by Erica Landor which of course I deride mercilessly. She is a fiesty broad and calls in to my office to personally reproach me the day after the review is in print. I laugh in her face and dismiss her as a talentless hack. She leaves swearing bloody revenge."

"The next week, I am invited to attend a piece of avant-garde theatre which comprises one naked man whooping around on stage and hurling faeces at the audience. I see Erica Landor at the interval and I see she talks to a friend about how this piece of theatre is dreadful rubbish. To show her up, I announce to the whole bar that Miss Landor's opinion is worthless and I personally consider this play to be among the most important and accomplished works this century. It is here that Erica Landor reaps her terrible revenge.

"'Ah-haaaa!' she says, 'Your ignoranance is betrayed! This whole night is a set up. This play is written and directed by a chimpanzee. It has no artistic merit whatsoever.'

"At this point, she introduces me to the author of the piece, an enleashed monkey by the name of Dimples. Of course, I am the immediate subject of scorn - I am laughed out of the theatre and my reputation is left in tatters. I flee from the theatre, my face red with shame.

"From this day on, every play I watch, Erica Landor and Dimples sit behind me in the audience and smirk. For two years, this goes on - my criticism suffers. It becomes intolerable. After the opening night of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (which I review as "poor") I lose my temper and drive my car over Landor and Dimples in an alley around the back of the theatre. I go back to examine them and note that they are both very dead. My tyre has driven over Dimples's hand, splitting the monkey's pinky clean off. This seems like a minor point, but you will see that it is of deadly importance shortly.

"The next night, I hear a scrabbling at my office door. Foolishly, I open it and I see the disembodied monkey finger somehow animated by some demonic force. Before I can stomp it, it slithers up my trouser leg, past my groin, up my torso, and eventually up my nose. It feels horrific. I sense it squeezing its way up my nasal passages and into my brain. I pass out.

"The next day, I wake up and imagine that my experience with the monkey finger is just a dream. I sip a cup of joe and sit down to write a review. When I go to type "Pile of excrement", I feel a sharp jag in my brain coupled with horrendous pain. I wait for an hour for the pain to dwindle. I try to type "The acting was woeful" but again the sharp pain in my brain renders me unable to think of anything but delirious agony.

"I catch on quickly - everytime I try to type anything negative in my review, the pain becomes unbearable. I know this is the monkey's finger lodged in my brain seeking to keep me in check. I weep. But I have a deadline to meet, so I am forced to turn in an entirely positive review.

"Every review I write from that day onwards is a positive one. I say nothing bad about anyone. I cannot do it."

Robert Dawson Scott sat down and wailed, "Howl! I am useless as a critic! I stink!"

"Robert," I said, "You have reviewed yourself negatively without feeling pain. How can this be possible?"

"Mr. Carew, that is the worst part of my curse. I may speak negatively only about myself. Because I am a natural critic, I long to speak ill of everyone - it is a natural impulse. The monkey pinky in my brain means I must turn all this bile and negativity upon myself for it has nowhere else to go. How loathsome I am! How ugly!"

With that, he wept and pounded his cheeks with balled fists. A cautionary tale indeed! In my future career as a critic, I must ensure I mow down no chimps!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thom Dibdin's History

As inelegant as this opening is, I will simply continue from where I left off yesterday. The critics gave off every sign of low-key hostility as I approached, but once I introduced myself as a fellow critic, they lowered their guard. I told them that I was a newcomer to the fold and that I greatly admired their work. This endeared me to them at once. Thom Dibdin, a merry, porcelain-hued pixie of a man, skipped forward and introduced himself.

In a gesture of friendship, he lifted a shirt sleeve and showed off a chunky plastic wristwatch, the face of which he flipped open to reveal some brightly-coloured candy beads.

"Help yerself to a Skittle," he said, winking surreptiously. "I keep 'em hidden in this watch to preserve 'em from decay! Works a charm!"

I helped myself to an orange Skittle. At Dibdin's insistence, I took another, plumping this time for a red one. Both were delicious.

"Now meet the rest of the gang!" he chirruped, leading me by the hand over to the other critics. "The tall sourpusses at the back are Joy Watters of the Dundee Courier and Robert Dawson Scott of The Times. They'll give ya a hard time at first, but try not to take it personally - it's just their way! The moustachioed butterball is Neil Cooper of The Herald - he's been shot no fewer than fifteen times this year and has had his hip replaced thrice! Ain't that so Neil?"

The hirsute gentleman paused from quaffing a tankard of frothy sweet stout to nod and mutter agreement.

"And this little lady on the end is Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman, bless her cotton socks!" he said, pointing to a tiny, aimiably vacant woman enrobed in towelling. She sat atop a bar stool, nursing a sherry, with her tiny legs dangling three feet from the floor.

"Now Horton, we shall tell you our histories," said Thom Dibdin, hopping from foot to foot in his excitement. "Me first! Me first!"

Dibdin fortified himself with a wristwatch Skittle and began his autobiography:

"Throughout my childhood I worked in the famous Ribena blackcurrant processing plant in Lowestoft. Being nimble and slight, I was perfectly built for scurrying into the blackcurrant husker machine and dislodging blockages whenever they occured...and believe me, Horton, they were all too common!

"One Christmas Eve, the factory gaffer, Mr. Wizbit, treated all his boys to a trip to the local Pantomime, an amateur production of Puss in Boots. It was the first time any of us had set foot in a theatre! We were so excited! Well, of course all the other fellas loved it! But I found some of the performances stilted and forced, and the set to be as creaky and unoriginal as the gags. It was then that I realised I was born to be a critic! I handed in my notice to Mr. Wizbit the very next day and headed off to Edinburgh.

"Because I never 'ad no formal schooling, I could find no position with any of the newspapers as a critic, so I took to the streets and criticised Edinburgh's many street performers. I'd stand beside jugglers, magicians, and those people who pretend to be statues, and criticise their performances. One day, I was spotted by Cameron Colley, a journalist for The Caledonian, who gave my name to his editor. Before I knew it, I was Theatre Correspondent for that venerable paper. After one season of criticising the Fringe, I was headhunted by The Stage and have remained there ever since!"

Here he danced a sort of jig, popped a few more Skittles, then invited Robert Dawson Scott to relate his history. The looming figure by the bar visibly winced at Dibdin's showy display of enthusiasm, but nevertheless stepped forward to begin his tale. Here I will break off my narrative so as not to tire your eyes. Fear not, you may read Robert Dawson Scott's history tomorrow.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Trip to Dundee Rep Theatre

Readers, I have just enjoyed a most successful evening at Dundee Rep Theatre where I believe I have now firmly established myself as a theatre critic of distinction. It was a magical night – the premiere of Sweet Burd o’ Bairns, a Scots translation by Matthew Fitt of Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth. All of high society was in attendance, the lights were bright, the Lambrini flowed freely, and the vol-au-vents were dished out to those as wanted them. I fitted in perfectly.

Dundee Rep Theatre is a fine establishment with an internationally renowned acting company, award-winning artistic directors, and two bars – one upstairs and one down. I marched up to the box office of this prestigious building and said, “Dear lady, I am a critic. I demand a free ticket.” The young man behind the desk was sceptical and asked the name of the publication for which I worked. Panicking, I told him I was the Arts Correspondent for The Daily Thompson, a newspaper I invented on the spot. This seemed to satisfy the chap as he promptly handed me a press pack comprising a ticket, a free programme, a token for a free interval drink, and an invitation to partake of post-show wine and nibbles.

“Thank you my good woman,” I said. “You shall get a good write up from me! Ah-ha-ha.”

Taking my seat in the auditorium, I watched in awe as the house lights dimmed, the curtains rose, and the main characters, Chance Wean and Alexandra Del Lagamachie, took the stage. I immediately fell into a deep slumber.

At the interval I moseyed over to the critics’ designated area which is specially cordoned off from the riff-raff so that we do not have to hear the untrained opinions of the great unwashed. There I conversed with my fellow theatre critics. I have illustrated the encounter to let you see for yourselves the faces of the important men and women who can make or break any play in this fair nation with just a stroke of their pen.

They are, from left to right (or stage right to stage left in theatre-speak), Thom Dibdin of The Stage, Joy Watters of the Dundee Courier, Neil Cooper of The Herald, Robert Dawson Scott of The Times, and Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman.

Readers, I will break off now and tell you more about my meeting with the critics and indeed, my review of the play, in tomorrow’s entry. It is now late and I am very tired what with all the criticising I have done today.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Pathway in Criticism is Chosen

Having settled upon my new career as a critic, I had first to decide what species of critic I would be. Should I choose to be a humble reviewer and test things out for people to let them know whether it would be worth their while trying them out for themselves? Or should I be a more academic critic and analyze things in order to show how they square with the philosophies of certain Frenchmen? I decided that I was not intelligent enough to understand or appreciate the purpose of the latter type of criticism, so abandoned that at once and elected to be a common reviewer.

But what would I review? The market for film and TV reviews is already flooded - I fear my opinion would be as a raindrop in the ocean, or as a grain of sand in a desert, or as a single hundred-and-thousand upon a cake topped with hundreds and thousands of hundreds-and-thousands. Besides which, Paul Ross's and Garry Bushell's opinions on films and TV programmes are definitive and render all others unnecessary.

I toyed briefly with becoming a food critic when indulging in a mid-morning packet of prawn-cocktail crisps and a Tunnock's teacake, but I found that I could not think of enough synonyms for 'delicious' for this to be feasible.

It strikes me that what I really seek is a type of criticism that, when practised, will garner me a certain amount of respect and will lead to people thinking me highbrow and erudite, but which is really no more effort than being a TV reviewer, and comes with free wine and nibbles from folk eager to butter me up so that I might write a better review of their product. Wait a minute - I have it... I shall become a theatre critic! I already have some experience in theatre, having once seen Krapp's Last Tape and a touring production of Rookery Nook.

Tomorrow is the opening night of Dundee Rep Theatre's Sweet Burd o' Bairns, a modern Scots translation of Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth - I shall attend this performance and write a criticism.

Glory awaits, gentle readers, glory awaits!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Early Guisers

I have just released three children from my home. They called round during Watchdog with Nicky Campbell (that is, Nicky Campbell was on Watchdog - the three children were alone). I opened the door and was faced with the unearthly sight of a vampire, a zombie, and some form of warlock.

"The sky is blue, the grass is green, may we have our Hallowe'en?" they squeaked at me.

This immediately clued me into the situation: these were no demons, but rather youngsters disguised as such in order to earn sweetmeats and candied apples. I made an unfortunate error last year and administered a sound thrashing to what I believed was a diminutive pirate attempting to steal my doubloons. Of course, it later transpired that the pirate was a seven-year-old girl wearing a costume in the name of fun, and I was left feeling very foolish. I would not make the same mistake again.

"I know you to be younglings," I stated candidly, "And what is more, I know you want money or sweeties from me. Although you are premature, as there is still a week until the witching day, I will supply you with treats but you must first perform a trick for me in accordance with tradition."

They agreed to my terms and entered my home.

"I bid you sing or dance or whatever damn thing you intend," I said, already wearying of their presence.

The vampire stepped up and told a joke, to which the punchline was "Fang you very much".

"Well," quipped I, "You won't be winning any Perrier Awards with material like that. Don't give up your day job, sonny."

The zombie then enthusiastically but tunelessly sang a brief Hallowe'en-themed ditty to the tune of 'Sing a Song of Sixpence', which went as follows:

When I'm trick-or-treating I know what to do,
I walk on the sidewalk and bring my flashlight too!
I don't eat my candy until I'm home at last...
I check it with an adult first and then I eat it fast!

Needless to say, I berated him until he broke down in tears. Americanisms sure do bug the crap outta me. I insisted he translate it into a sensible version that included the words 'guising', 'pavement', 'torch', and 'sweets'. I offered him encouragement throughout by flicking his knees with a wet dishcloth. Though he bubbled and wept until snotters flowed freely from his nose and his eyes were red and inflamed, he eventually managed it.

The last candidate then took the makeshift stage - the one dressed as either a warlock or Weird Al Yankovic. He did a handstand followed by an inept forward roll.

"Feeble!" I concluded. "Well pipsqueaks, your act is abysmal. I have missed It's Me or the Dog now thanks to your tawdry and offensive set. You will receive no treats from me this night! Get out of my home!"

With that, they trudged out, weeping with renewed vigour. I feel marvellous, dear readers! I have found something I am good at and greatly enjoy - I shall become a critic!

Monday, October 23, 2006


Last night, I am ashamed to report, I willfully allowed myself to became irredeemably inebriated through drinking liberally from a vile concoction of sake and Listerine. This imbibing was a desperate attempt to mask the pain of my earlier folly in miss-posting my letters. Gentle readers, I will not attempt to defend this inexcusable debasement - there is insufficient dignity left in my character to muster pride enough to form an authentic defence. I fear I have sullied my good name, but I also feel it is my solemn duty to report to you the truth of my life, naked and unvarnished.

Though it is now late afternoon, I have only just arisen from my squalid pit of a bed, feeling weak, bleak, and meek. I have also just been seek all over the bathroom floor.

Next to my computer I notice there are some embarrassing photographs that I assume I took yesterday night as I wandered about my rooms in a drunken stupor. I have no recollection of doing so. As you will see from my profile photograph, I sometimes like to don a sort of imama or turban in a style of my own devising. This is not done for any religious reasons, but rather, I feel it adds a touch of undefinable class to my appearance (see Fig. 1). However, last night I have evidently made a mockery of the whole thing by distorting the imama and snapping several inappropriate photographs of myself (see Figs. 2 and 3). Doubtless I found it amusing at the time, but in the cold light of day I feel only burning shame. I must have been extremely drunk to fall so low.

Fig. 1. My habitual way of wearing my imama. Charming.

Fig. 2. A 'fanciful' style. Note lack of adequate chin support and omission of billowing flourishes.

Fig. 3. Patently absurd.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An Unamusing Misunderstanding

Dear readers, my career as a journalist is over before it had a chance to begin. After working through the night on my two humorous anecdotes, eventually managing seventy-one A4 sheets' worth in total, I set off this morning to post one to Woman's Own and one to The Sunday Post.

Perhaps due to inattention caused by lack of sleep, I posted them into the glass recycle bin round the back of the Wellgate Centre instead of the postbox. I realised my mistake and tried to fish them out, but enjoyed no success. I eventually had to give up because the fumes of rotten Newcastle Brown Ale emanating from that receptacle became quite overpowering.

Ironically, this turn of events is an enormously amusing misunderstanding and would doubtless entertain readers of Woman's Own or The Sunday Post, but of course, after my disaster, I am now far too disheartened and demotivated to even think about writing to either of these publications to tell them this anecdote.

I have turned to drink to soften the blow.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Little Old Ladies

I was presented with precious little opportunity to humorously misunderstand anything today, so I resolved to overhear an amusing conversation between two little old ladies on the bus which I might report to The Sunday Post or similar publication and secure a crisp five pound note for my trouble. After my success with Woman's Weekly, I believe I can make a passable career from my anecdotes.

I rose at 4:00am and armed myself with all the accoutrements of the professional journalist, i.e., a pad of paper and a pencil so that I could quickly record anecdotes as they happened. I took my place at the bus stop at 4:15am and when a bus finally arrived at 6:24am, I sprung aboard and appropriated a seat. There I sat for most of the day awaiting two little old ladies to overhear. The conductor periodically came and asked me to pay an additional fare so that in total, I spent £28.70 in bus fares today but these are sacrifices that professional journalists must be prepared to make. At any road, I hope The Sunday Post will pay my expenses.

Regrettably, at the closing of my day's work I had recorded only two conversations between little old ladies, but both were richly amusing. At 10:48am one old lady told her cohort that a person by the name of Betty (presumably a mutual friend of theirs) had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had but a few months to live.

"Now, where is the pancreas?" asked the second little old lady. "Is that in the stomach?"

"Aye," said the first little old lady.

Well readers, I had to laugh! The pancreas is of course located posterior to the stomach, with one end extending towards the spleen and the other abutting the duodenum!! What I had here were two little old ladies who had their facts quite mixed up! One of them was incorrect - amusing enough - but the icing on the cake was that the other one waded in and confidently claimed the initial blooper was factually accurate! I jotted this down in my pad with a note that Woman's Own would probably appreciate this little gem.

At 4:31pm a different pair of little old ladies sat in front of me. When the conductor came and asked for their money, one of them asked, "How much is it to Whitehall Street?" The conductor replied that it would cost 60 pence. The little old lady craned her neck, cupped her ear, and said, "Was that 50 pence you said?" to which the man answered, a little more loudly this time, "No dear, I said 60 pence." She turned at once to her crony and quipped - no word of a lie! - "I thought he said 50 pence!"

What a misunderstanding! That canny old buzzard! I was near crippled with laughter but managed at last to write down an account of the event. This is certainly one for The Sunday Post.

A successful day! I have spent a great deal of time crafting these anecdotes into publishable copy. Thus far, I have 12 A4 pages worth of material on the first story. I must return now to work on the other.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Woman's Weekly

Today started exceedingly well for me, dear readers. Women's Weekly received my electronic mail in which I told them of my humorous anecdote yesterday, and they have awarded me five pounds sterling for my efforts! I decided to have another amusing misunderstanding today so that I might earn another five pounds for myself.

I picked up a piece of Lego that I found in the hall and ventured outdoors. My intention was to feign a collapse in the street and grab hold of a small child as I fell. When the small child shouted, "Ah, let go!" I planned to produce the piece of Lego and say, "Did you say 'Lego'? Why child, here is a piece for you!", whereupon we would all laugh heartily at the mistake and the child's parents would treat me to a fish tea.

The actual events of the day were disappointing. I earned myself a punch in the neck from an irate father. I did manage to work a misunderstanding into the situation by saying, "Oh, you're the child's Father you say? So you are a priest then, are you Father? Will you hear my confession then?", but this only earned me a box on the ear.

I have decided that Woman's Weekly will not be interested in publishing this story.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An Amusing Misunderstanding

Readers, I have felt for some time now that I have not been living well. With all my numerous adventures, I have neglected my health. I have eaten and drunk very badly over the last few weeks, often going several days without any cochineal or fruit. My rooms are in dire need of repair and my body feels similarly tired and spent.

I consulted the programme How Clean is Your House? wherein a matronly sow and a spinster revealed how one might clean a fetid house using only vinegar, lemon juice, and bicarbonate of soda. Next I consulted the programme You Are What You Eat in which Dr. Gillian McKeith, the glamourous Perthshire sauce pot, berated a guarantuan hulk for eating too many doughnuts and chips and told him to change his ways by drinking dandelion root tea and eating hollowed out bell peppers with pureed chick peas.

Oh readers, in a terrible misunderstanding reminiscent of the Mr. Twiddle stories by Enid Blyton, I got my wires crossed and ate gallons of vinegar, lemon juice, and bicarbonate of soda all day, while I tried to clean my windows and hob with pureed chick peas in a hollowed-out bell pepper.

Boy, I sure did feel foolish as I copiously vomitted! I have written to various magazines with this humorous anecdote and I hope one of them will give me five pounds.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Plea to London Readers

Although I admit that I am somewhat relieved that the whole business with Patrick Bossert is finished with and out of my hands, I feel honour-bound to at least try to aid in the capture of Mr. Templeton Collysnook of London. I have no means of getting to London myself, but I have prepared a photofit likeness of the cad so that if any readers of my electronic diary who dwell in the Capital should see him, they might perform a citizen's arrest.

Here is the bounder:

As you will note, he looks not unlike a younger Terry Wogan or a scrawnier John Updike or a less Korean Daniel Dae Kim, with something of Carrie Fisher's jaw. There is a hint of Paul Shane around the temples with the nostrils of William Randolph Hearst. As you can see, the forehead is almost identical to that of Zooey Deschanel, and the chin is Vera Drake's, but I am undecided on the jowels - they look something like a paler Michael Fishman (D.J. from Roseanne) or a clean-shaven Greg Evigan (B.J. from BJ and the Bear) or a besmattered Anthony McPartlin (P.J. from Byker Grove) or a fatter William Shatner (T.J. from T.J. Hooker).

Good luck catching the cove!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mr. Templeton Collysnook

Dear readers, what a day of long misery I have endured. The lawyer appeared at my residence at precisely 9am and punctiliously removed his glove before shaking me by the hand and introducing himself as Mr. Templeton Collysnook of London.

"Welcome M'lud," I ventured. "Would you care for some Um Bongo? It is the drink of choice in the Congo, don't you know."

"'Mr. Collysnook' will suffice," he said. "Further honorifics smack of obsequiousness to my mind, and that I cannot thole. Now, your use of the trade name 'Um Bongo' and reference to the lyrics of the advertising jingle created by Gerber Foods Soft Drinks Limited under the name Libby's, would most likely qualify for fair usage under British copyright law, but I will recommend that when you inevitably come to relate this episode of your life on that infernal blog of yours, that you refrain from posting any images that are the exclusive copyright of Gerber Foods. Doubtless you will be tempted to post an image of the hippo that apocryphally took an apricot, a guava, and a mango, and, while dancing a dainty tango way down deep in the middle of the Congo, mixed it with additional fruits to create the sunny, and indeed, funny, one they call 'Um Bongo'. I would advise that you eschew the temptation to do so, as it would be illegal to reproduce this image in electronic format. It may be acceptable if you drew a picture of the hippo yourself, provided the image was used in either an educational setting or an obviously parodic fashion, but otherwise it is best to bypass the whole thorny issue entirely by omitting any image."

"But would you like some of it to drink?" I asked.

"No thank you," he said. "Do you have any Kia-Ora?"

"I do," said I, "but I fear you would find that it's too orangey for you. Besides, it's just for me and my dog."

"Shall we ignore the issue of beverages for the moment, Mr....?" he said

I told him my name and he expressed doubts that I was a real person and not a fictional persona used on a website. He asked to see my birth certificate, which I gladly showed him. After a while he seemed satisfied that I, Horton Carew, was indeed a real person.

"This is truly remarkable," he said. "Well, Mr. Carew, it seems we at Norton & Walters owe you an apology. Mr. Norton will be astonished to hear that you do actually exist and are not the hamfisted creation of some wag and/or hack."

His confidence in my existence was pleasing to hear. I offered him a seat. He warned that, legally, my offer was worded in such a way that it implied he could keep the seat in perpetuity, but that he would let me off lightly and only use it to sit upon for the duration of his visit.

"Now then Mr. Carew," he said, "You're in a spot of bother here. Allow me to speak plainly. You must remove from your website your false claims about our client Patrick Bossert, OBE, and all accompanying images. If you fail to do so, you will be stuck with a hefty fine and conceivably a stretch in the big house. Mr. Bossert is alive and well and is not an evil manifestation or criminal overlord as your website suggests. His business reputation has been inestimably tarnished by your falsehoods. His children find themselves daily bullied in school thanks to your lies. What do you say to that?"

I told him firmly that I believed my account of Bossert to be true and that the images I had used constituted fair usage, and as such, I would not be removing them from my website.

"Tell me Mr. Carew," he countered, "Do you genuinely hold that Mr. Bossert's soul is trapped in a 5 by 5 by 5 Rubik's Cube? Does that sound like the rational thought of a sane person? Or even the rational thought of a sane Dundonian?"

"I will concede that my assertion beggars logic," I conceded, "And yet it remains the whole truth of the matter. What is more, I can prove it."

With that, I climbed the ladder to my attic and retrieved the Rubik's Cube from behind the old board game, Mr. Pop. It was frosty to the touch. I presented it to Mr. Templeton Collysnook, who put on a pair of blue latex gloves and placed the Cube inside a clear specimen bag with the greatest of care.

"Thank you Mr. Carew," he said, "I shall take this back to London for experimentation. Our lab at 11 Welham Square will clear up this nonsense once and for all."

I protested that he would not be allowed to take the Cube, that it was essential to the future of the world that I keep the Cube safe, and that Al Gore himself had ordered me to be its Keeper (I made up the part about Al Gore, because I find it often helps to drop names).

"Nevertheless, Mr. Carew, I shall take this item from you."

He stood up and made for the door. I beseeched him to leave the Cube behind but he ignored my beseechings with a wry grin.

"What of the copyright infringements?" I moaned as he let himself out.

"Forget them," he said, laughing, "I have what I came for! I am afraid I could not care less for your copyright infringements. In fact, I have a little phrase and song, which I invented myself, that I like to sing at moments such as these...

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase,
Hakuna Matata! Ain't no passing craze
It means no worries for the rest of your days
It's our problem-free philosophy
Hakuna Matata! "

And with that he skipped off, singing the above lyrics that he completely invented himself. Well, dear readers, I fear that thanks to my negligence Bossert's wicked soul may be free in 30-40 years time, when the 5 by 5 by by 5 Cube is solved. I pray that when that day comes, I will already be dead.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Preparing for the Lawyer's visit

Tomorrow a lawyer will surely visit. I am imbued with a terrible sense of dread, but have decided the best course is to make the lawyer feel comfortable and welcome so that he will pass on a good report of me to Godfrey Norton.

I have put out a tray of mini Mars bars and have plucked out almost all of my chin bristles. I hope this will give the best of impressions.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A terrible foreboding

Readers, Mr. Godfrey Norton has sent me a further electronic mail. He asked for my home address, which I foolishly provided to him. He means to send one of his insidious law team to visit me! On Monday morning! I fear I am in trouble.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My response to Godfrey

Once more I turned to What Shall I Say? A Complete Letter-Writer for Every Occassion (c. 1900) for guidance on how to respond to the lawyer Godfrey Norton. I realised that we were now down to serious business - there was no room for anything but the gravest letter template. Leafing through that venerable tome, I found a blueprint for how to write a letter congratulating parents on the loss of their child, which I felt was the most apt and which really captured the gravity of the situation I found myself in. Here is what I wrote to Godfrey Norton:

Dear Mr. Norton,

The news has only just reached us that little Ethel has died of scrofula in the Cottage Hospital, and I am writing immediately on behalf of the whole family to offer you and Mrs. Norton all the condolences of true friendship. We feel for you most deeply in your terrible loss and grief, and if there is anything we can do at this sad time I do hope you will not hesitate to let me know. Could Walter come to me for a few days? I would look after him with the most loving care.
With the utmost sympathy from us all and trusting God may give you strength and fortitude,

I am, dear Mrs. Twiggs,
Yours affectionately,
Cynthia Long

I hope this shows our Godfrey Norton that I am someone to trust.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Law Responds

Today I received an electronic mail from Godfrey Norton, the lawyer of London. Here it is:

From: Godfrey Norton
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 09:31:52 -0500
To: horton.carew@googlemail. com
CC: "Carrington, Allister", "Bubbs, Cheryl", "Gauthier, Ryan", "Weiser, Ellen", "Walters, Jennifer"

11 October 2006

Dear Sir/Madam,

I note that You have chosen not to comply with the demands set out in my previous email (03 Oct 2006). Mr. Bossert, O.B.E. therefore formally requests that Norton and Walters issue You a Final Cease and Desist Order. You have until Friday 20th October 2006 to remove from any website owned or operated by You or on Your behalf, all images of Mr. Bossert, all defamatory, fallacious and/or offensive material relating to Mr. Bossert. Failure to do so will result in You being prosecuted for Libel and Copyright Violations.

On a personal note, I have continued to read your webpage and note you have published my letter and have used it as 'comedy' material in the storyline of your fictional character, Horton Carew. I do not find this amusing and would ask that you refrain from doing so in the future. Furthermore, please do not send 'comedy' emails about 'Agnes' to my work address. You are not nearly as funny as you think you are and your 'blog' is the work of an immature adolescent scratching his pimples. If you continue to send similar emails, I will take legal action.

Very Truly Yours,
Godfrey Norton, managing partner
Norton and Walters
20 Paul Street

Readers, I do not know what I should do! This law man seems convinced I am imaginary. I must think carefully and send him a further electronic mail or two to convince him not to attack me with statutes and legal clauses.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another Letter to London

Again no reply from the lawyers! I begin to think the original electronic mail was bogus, sent by some wag to alarm me. Nevertheless, I turned once more to What Shall I Say? A Complete Letter-Writer for Every Occasion for guidance in case the lawyers are genuine.

I wanted an example of a formal letter in which the writer forcibly voices disapproval for some slight similar to that of the lawyer Godfrey Norton failing to respond to me. Example 77a. To Cease Attentions. From a Father (p. 62) seemed to answer my requirements reasonably well, so I sent that off to the law firm this afternoon. Here is a copy:

Dear Godfrey Norton,

My daughter Agnes informs me that you have lately made it your business to intrude upon her most persistently during her homeward journeys from the office where she is employed, and that you have even pressed your attentions upon her at the public restaurant where she takes her lunch.

I am writing now to say most firmly that these attentions are viewed by my daughter with the greatest disfavour and I hope you will desist immediately from giving such annoyance.

Yours faithfully,
Horton Carew.

Re-reading this now, I cannot help but wonder if Godfrey Norton will be more confused than anything else, for you must know that I do not have, nor ever have had, a daughter called Agnes, and he has shown no interest in pestering her inappropriately. Even if I did possess a daughter by the name of Agnes, I would have no qualms in permitting a wealthy London lawyer to court her. She should be grateful for whatever attention she gets as she is certainly no looker. We have always struggled for money, and we cannot afford to turn down a swanky London lawyer - this could be the making of her! Agnes, what are you thinking of?

With this in mind, I have hastily sent Godfrey Norton an additional electronic mail. It went as follows:

Dearest Godfrey,

Further to my earlier letter, I have reconsidered my position and would like you to know that you can pursue Agnes to your heart's content. Keep plugging away at her and she's bound to cave in eventually. Good luck to you sir!

Yours faithfully,
Horton Carew

P.S. She adores chocolate limes. Use this information however you wish.

There now, that should get our lawyer man back on side. I hope we get a reply shortly, for Agnes's sake.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Second Reply to Godfrey Norton

Ladies and gentlemen, I have still not received a reply from Godfrey Norton the lawyer. I reasoned that he must be in some way affronted by my casual letter. Not intending him any offence, I wrote another electronic mail to him, but made every effort to do it properly and officially.

I consulted my copy of What Shall I Say? A Complete Letter-Writer for Every Occasion (London: George Newnes, c.1900) which gives examples of letters for considerably less than every conceivable occasion. I say this as it offered no blueprint for a letter to admonish a lawyer for slackness of reply.

The best I could find was No. 80: Reproaching a Lover (p. 64) which I sent off to Godfrey Norton this morning via electronic mail. I had to adapt some of it, but I sought to keep as much of the mannerly and polished prose in tact, as it is bound to make a good impression. Below is a copy of the letter I sent:

My dear Godfrey,

It is only after very careful and anxious thought that I am writing this letter, and it is because I have felt that you are growing cold towards me that I am doing so. Your office affairs seem to fill far more of your time than they did in the first glamour of our engagement. You used then to play tennis with me every week-end, but now you have taken up cricket instead. Even on Sundays you appear to prefer motoring with the Wilkinsons to taking walks with me.

I know there is no other client in this case, Godfrey, but it does seem to me that there is a growing coldness between us, and it is simply breaking my heart. Do come to-morrow evening and let us talk the whole matter over, dear. I love you more than ever, but cannot help feeling that matters must not continue as they are. Shall I send back your ring?

Your loving

I do hope this will do the trick.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Word on the Idleness of Lawyers

Again there has been no reply from the lawyers Norton&Walters of London. I assume this is because they are not in the office at the weekend, lawyers being notoriously lazy about working. I fully expect they have not set foot in their place of work for the entire duration of the weekend, idle as they are. They have most probably spent their weekends having long lies, visiting garden centres, or picnicking with their families, the soulless, money-sucking demons that they are.

These evil black-hearted laggards abandon their clients for two whole days every week and spend those two days relaxing and enjoying themselves, no doubt imbibing upwards of a glass of red wine with their spouse on Saturday evening while languidly watching The X-Factor. It sickens me to think of these hardhearted, uncaring swine being paid through the nose to help people, only to work on cases for just five days throughout the week before unthinkingly dropping everything for two whole days to have a rest and spend time with their loved ones! Foppish, lazy lawyers feel their work is so important that they can only work for 5 days per week before having a two-day break from their so-called labour. Decadence to the point of heresy! Disgusting!

Readers, never trust a lawyer - they are low, callous, stony creatures with no hearts. How I hate them.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Electronic Mails

Still no reply today! I did receive 4 electronic mails today, each of which set my heart a-racing when it appeared in my inbox. One was trying to sell me a product that would enable me to keep going all night, but I value regular sleep so I do not see how this would be beneficial to me. Another was from who had apparently weighed up my previous purchases and decided that, based upon this information, I might like to buy Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Shock! Horror! Astounding Artwork From the Video Nasty Era by Marc Morris et al, James Lear's The Back Passage, John Hancock's Let's Scare Jessica to Death, or Pixar's A Bug's Life. Another electronic mail was from Prince M'butu Azaka from Nigeria who had been deposed and has a fortune from diamond mines which he wanted to store in my bank account. The fourth was from Prince Uzami Abdullah from Nigeria who was in the same boat, so I sent his details to HRH M'butu Azaka so that they might be able to help each other out or at least set up a support network for deposed princes.

Today has been rather a wasted day I am afraid: I have achieved nothing of note, but I have ordered A Bug's Life from where it was cheaper than Amazon - I am a clever consumer.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Trying to de-stress

I have spent most of today checking and rechecking my electronic mail folder to see if I have received a reply from the London law firm. I am very nervous about it. I am beginning to regret my hasty letter yesterday: it is perhaps a little too confrontational. The last thing I want to do is to rile a lawman.

Deciding I was harming myself by sitting for hours at a computer, not least by risking Deep Vein Thrombosis, I determined to abandon the infernal machine and take a well-earned hot bath to relax certain of my stiff and weary joints. Shamefully indulgent, I know, but I felt I deserved a treat.

I removed the various cuts of meat in the tub that have accumulated since my last bath and filled it full of water and Radox Herbal Bath. Sinking beneath the steaming water, I felt my muscles unknot and my stress evaporate. I tried to visualize relaxing imagery such as woodland glades and beaches, which worked tolerably well. I remembered the advice of an old friend of mine, who now works in the Stress Management sector in Leicester, who claims that listening to Enya is a surefire way of reducing stress. Unfortunately I do not know who Enya is so I lay in the bath and remembered the theme tune to Engie Benjy, an animated programme on CITV about an engineer and his sentient van, which was the closest equivalent I could come up with.

This drove me to distraction and I was forced to quit the bath. I am now more stressed than ever and am checking my electronic mail at 20 second intervals.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My Reply

I have written a response to the legal firm in London which accused me of copyright violations. If any of my readership has a grounding in legal jargon, perhaps they could help me revise it before I send it back to them. It is important I achieve the right tone - I wish to appear confident and forthright, and I wish to indicate that it is in the public interest to publish the naked and unvarnished truth about Patrick Bossert's villainy.

I have started off the letter in what I hope is a friendly, informal manner, to get them onside, but then I have switched to a more formal tone:

Wotcher Guvnor,

Ta very much for the letter, like. It's a real swell one. You sound like a really good lawyer, and I wish you well, like.

Now, good sir, to the meat of my missive. I refuse to remove my story of Bossert, and accompanying images used for illustrative purposes. Bossert is an evil fiend and the truth must be told.

What do you say to that, Mr so-called-lawyer-of-so-called-London?

Many thanks,
Horton Carew, who is not fictional thank you very much.

I think it reads rather well. I will attach a .jpg image of a chocolate eclair as a token of good faith.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Letter From a Lawyer

Dear readers, I am amazed and know not what to say! After returning safely to the beautiful city of Dundee, I had thought that all my troubles were over but something curious happened today.

I received an electronic mail from... I cannot imagine how such a thing is possible...indeed, it is bizarre to the point of...I do not know.... I cannot explain...I think the best thing would be for me to reproduce the electronic mail in its entirety:

From: Godfrey Norton
Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2006 16:27:40 -0500
To: horton.carew@googlemail. com
CC: "Carrington, Allister", "Bubbs, Cheryl", "Gauthier, Ryan", "Weiser, Ellen", "Walters, Jennifer"

3 October 2006

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write on behalf of Patrick Bossert, M.B.E, Director of Transformational Outsourcing at Atos KPMG Consulting. It has come to our attention that you and/or your affiliates (hereafter known as You) are using without permission on your internet website http://hortonsfolly.blogspot. com part or all of a number of images of Mr. Bossert, including some or all of the following:

  • front cover of Mr. Bossert's book, "You Can Do the Cube" (Middlesex: Puffin Books, 1981)
  • back cover of same

Additionally, You have published, via the fictional character 'Horton Carew', libellous material related to Mr. Bossert, which constitutes a slur on his character and is detrimental to his reputation. Mr. Bossert does not permit the unauthorized use of his name, copyrighted works and trademarks. Such use infringes our client's trademark rights, copyrights, and/or constitutes unfair competition. Mr. Bossert hereby demands that You immediately remove from any website owned or operated by You or on Your behalf, all images of Mr. Bossert, all defamatory, fallacious and/or offensive material relating to Mr. Bossert, and that You provide me with a letter by October 13 2006, in which You confirm that You have complied with the foregoing and that You agree not to resume such use.

Very truly yours,

Godfrey Norton, managing partner
Norton and Walters
20 Paul Street
W1s 4GG

Readers, I fear I am in some sort of trouble with The Law! Bossert's soul is trapped in a Rubik's Cube in my loft - I cannot see how he is in any position to complain about copyright violations. That should be the least of his worries. My grasp of legal terminology is weak and palsied, so I do not understand why he refers to me as a fictional entity. I assume he doubts the truth of some of my tales, the curr.

As far as I can decipher, by posting pictures like this...

...I am breaking The Law in some way.

Readers, I do not wish to end up in jail! I do not know what I must do!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Back in my House

Well dear readers, my story of the Cube is almost at an end. I hope I proved an adequate narrator and I did not bore or confuse the more restless or feeble-minded among you. When I awoke in a ditch around the back of Dundee Airport, I found myself bruised and raw in odd areas, though none of my important bones appeared broken. Dazed and cold, I made my way haphazardly home, stopping first at Tesco Riverside to buy some milk and a newspaper and some fortified wine.

I discovered that my name, Horton Carew, was mentioned in the Dundee Courier under the heading "Local Man Causes Rumpus in Wildlife Park", along with a story painting this other Horton Carew as some delusional lunatic who had accosted a bespectacled schoolboy and snuck into Camperdown Park to carve off the paw of a spider monkey. The boy, who apparently escaped safely, reported that the man had repeatedly assaulted him with a Rubik's Cube throughout the whole sordid affair. The police were keen to catch up with this man who shares my name as they believed him to be out of his wits. Dear God, I hope no one read that article and assumed it referred to me! I hope the authorities promptly catch this man who shares my name and subdue him. I would hate for any of my old school friends to read that and mistakenly think it was I who had done those things. For then I would never be invited to any school reunions.

When I returned home, I committed that newspaper to the flames and had a cup of tea. I noticed there were a great many ants all over the floor - goodness knows where they came from - so I poured some boiling water from the kettle onto them and they quickly expired.

I had a vague notion that I should throw the 5 by 5 by 5 Cube into a volcano, but I settled for placing it in the attic behind Mr Pop, an old board game I have long treasured. I hope Bossert's Cube will never fall into the hands of easily corruptible puzzlers.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Leap Home

And so it came to pass that I prepared to set off on an epic quest to reach Dundee with the 5 by 5 by 5 Cube. I had estimated that it would take just under two years to walk to Dundee from San Diego, and began asking the committee of puzzlers if they might provide me with a packed lunch to sustain me on my travels. The puzzlers conferred for some time and concluded they would jointly fund a trip home via private aeroplane for me, so that I could get to Dundee quicker.

I began to panic as I am greatly afraid of flying. Thankfully, a Chinese delegate told me I wouldn't be expected to fly the plane myself, which calmed me somewhat. To be safe, however, they all agreed I should be rendered unconscious for the flight so that I did not become agitated and risk jeopardising the mission.

I'm afraid I can remember little else, for you must know that someone slipped a drug into the Fanta I had been drinking and I very soon blacked up, or rather blacked out. I did put up a small protest, and insisted I have something of the late Perkeo to honour his memory. They allowed me to cut off his cold, gnarled hand and keep it so that I could later make it into a memorial keyring. But soon after that, I became unconscious.

When I eventually blacked in again and regained consciousness, I found myself in a ditch around the back of Dundee Airport bespattered with clay and suffering from hazy and sordid memories. My entire body was slicked with morning dew which led me to believe I had remained stationary in that ditch at least overnight.

The Cube was still in my pocket - thank Christ - but some grubby thief, either a sticky-fingered air stewardess while I was asleep on board the plane, or a passing tramp while I lay in the ditch, had made off with my severed dwarf hand and replaced it with a vaguely simian looking paw, which was, of course, no substitute.

Readers, I know it is my job to tell you the plain facts of my adventures, but in all honesty, it is difficult to do so when so much of my memory is patchy and befuddled. In writing it just now, yet more memories return to me, some of which are terribly confusing and distress me.

I think I must stop for now while I try to make sense of things.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Aftermath

As I knelt beside the crumpled cadaver of Perkeo in that dismal hall of puzzles, I became cognizant of the crowd. They had gingerly encircled an object that lay on the stage at the exact position where Bossert's 4 by 4 by 4 Cube had exploded and he had met his end. What further madness was this? They reverentially approached something at the locus of the still smouldering blast zone with the air of pilgrims outstretching their hands to touch a piece of the true cross, or the likeness of Christ in a bagel.

Still shaken from the harrowing pain I had earlier suffered, I limped towards the crowd of puzzlers and raised my voice to an authoritative bellow.

"What transpires here, you cursed rouges?" I thundered. In truth, I had intended to say "rogues", but I was so impassioned that I misspelled my imprecation. No matter, for as soon as I approached, they each stepped back in awe of my domineering presence. I can be quite butch when the situation demands it.

In the centre of the ring of agog puzzlers there sat a Cube, steaming gently. This was of course confusing because we had all witnessed Bossert's 4 by 4 by 4 Cube exploding. It was then that the full horror of what I was seeing struck me. It was unthinkable, but I was forced to think about it nonetheless. It was unimaginable, though after I saw it, it became all too easy to imagine it because it was there in front of me. It was unbelievable, but I had to believe it anyway what with it being there. Gentle readers, this Cube was a 5 by 5 by 5...

"How can this thing have come to pass, you course brutes?" I probed, again misspelling a word in my fervency, though thankfully far fewer people noticed this time.

Up spake a bookish looking Swede: "We believe that Bossert's wicked soul overloaded the 4 b' 4 b' 4, causing a rift in the space-time continuum, and causing the Cube, in common parlance, to 'blow up', as it were. We believe that at the exact instance that the 4 b' 4 b' 4 Cube became overloaded, a larger Cube was spontaneously created that would be robust enough to accommodate the recalcitrant soul of Patrick Bossert. Hence this awful 5 b' 5 b' 5."

Readers, this was quite beyond my ken, but I was not about to admit any ignorance in front of this rabble, so I feigned understanding.

"It is as I conjectured," I said.

"And of course, this Cube must never be solved, for if it is, Bossert's soul will be released into the world," said the Swede, "And that would be disasterous. What we see here is a terrible weapon."
Certain puzzlers quickly indicated that they wished the Cube for their own. Treachery and greed, readers, treachery and greed: how quickly it consumes lesser men. A Canadian puzzler stepped up and said, "It is a gift. A gift to the foes of America. Why not use this Cube? Give Canada the Cube. Let us use it against the US!"

A terrible shouting match began, which got a bit hectic. All the while, the Cube glowed kind of malevolently like. I made a decision.

"I will take it," I said, quietly. Here I snatched up the Cube and wedged it awkwardly into my pocket. "I will take the Cube to Dundee. Though...I do not know the way."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Perkeo the Brave

I stooped to Perkeo's hunchbacked form which lay twisted and rasping 'pon (upon) the concrete floor. I greatly pitied that brutish cove, repellent though his bloodied face appeared, and thanked him for his courage in coming to my aid when all hope seem'd (seemed) lost. He tried to speak, resulting only in a sad bubble of blood gurgling from his fat split lips and staining his crooked teeth red. Kneeling down, I cradled Perkeo's grossly enlarged head in my lap to offer him some semblance of the parental love and comfort cruelly denied him all his days: 'twas (it was) the least I could do for the stunted abberation.

"Sir, I owe you my life," I whispered, stroking his bulbous forehead in what I hoped was a gentle nurse-like manner. "I am pleased you found your mettle in the end. Though your lumpen body is frightful and your skin pendulous and coarse, your spirit, if it could be seen in the form of the living, would assume the figure of an upstanding and heroic man, smooth-browed and clean of limb, and with eyes that flashed undaunted courage. A little like David Boreanaz."

Hearing this tender obituary, he wept freely and unashamedly, exhuming decades' worth of deeply buried raw emotion. He looked pretty ridiculous. Perkeo tilted his misshapen face towards me, his cracked voice sputtering what I knew were to be his last words:

"...We cry life isn't fair
Beneath our cries the truth is there:
A power that will break the spell
We should know very well
Is locked within ourselves...

Then, glowing with the angelic dignity of the truely selfless, he expired, after first voiding his bowels.

Readers, as I sit and write this entry, I am moved almost to tears. I must leave the narrative again in order to sit in a darkened room and weep until I am spent.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bossert Tries to Solve the Puzzle

Dear readers, I hope I have not misjudged the duration of the gap between diary entries. It was my intention to leave you on a cliffhanger, so that you would remain interested and be eager to come back to read more. I fear I may have left you waiting too long and many of you will have lost interest and sought out some other electronic diary to read. Most likely, one written by a plump woman in Michigan and her useless struggle to lose weight. Good riddance to you. Either that, or you have become so agitated and excited that you are now whipped up into some sort of a frenzy and will not be able to concentrate on what I have to tell you. I am sorry for this, but you must do your very best to calm down, because I will now continue from where I left off.

I must tell you that as soon as he began trying to solve the marvelous and outrageous 4 by 4 by 4 Cube, Bossert became utterly absorbed. The crowd at once protested against Bossert's crime against puzzles: some brayed, some booed, some threw jigsaws at his chin. Bossert remained oblivious. His fingers blurred as they slipped and slid across the Cube. Faster and faster they flew as the Cube's sections swivelled and clicked so rapidly that smoke began to billow from it.

In my position as human battery for this evil puzzle, my pain grew more and more acute. But Bossert had greatly underestimated the power demands of his creation - each of the puzzlers in the room, honest men and women all, were drawn nearer, sucked towards Bossert's terrible Cube. Beyond their control, they flicked through the air, many evaporating as they made contact with the dreadful puzzle, their souls torn asunder and wasted as fuel for the horrible Cube. The rest managed to grab hold of spare pillars and so on.

All seemed lost. I, frozen in time, was unable to act as Patrick Bossert's ultimate puzzle became a hellish vortex that would suck up all souls in the world until the puzzle was solved, something that would surely take years. Bossert's miserable dwarf held tightly to a door handle to prevent himself flying into oblivion. I wished fervently that he would soon perish as no soul deserved it more, but then I saw him looking at me with something approaching pity. He pitied my poor tortured state, dear readers, even though his life was in imminent danger.

Before I could be too surprised by this, Perkeo did something else to make me more surprised and so the latter surprise trumped the earlier surprise. You see, he grinned at me, winked, then let go of the door handle. As he flew through the air, spinning wildly towards certain death, he raised the leash he had previously used to enleash me, and thrashed it like a whip at Bossert's bespectacled face. Bossert dropped the puzzle in his shock, and was at once sucked into the Cube. The Cube promptly exploded, and I was at once released from my time bubble. The puzzlers were likewise released from their descent towards death.

In the aftermath, a few uncertain cheers went up from the shaken puzzlers, but most sensed that the mood was not yet celebratory. For you see, I fear that poor Perkeo received the brunt of the terrible explosion and lay wheezing, near death, upon the floor.

I ran to his aid.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Ultimate Puzzle Revealed

I am afraid I left the narrative on a 'cliffhanger' yesterday. This is a trick I have learned from Noel Edmonds on Deal or No Deal? He is extremely sophisticated in his use of it - he will take the phonecall from the Banker, who tells him what the cash offer is to be. Instead of immediately informing the contestant of the Banker's cash offer, he often says, "Let's take a break first", at which point the studio audience groans and the programme stops for adverts. The reason the audience groans is because they are very eager to hear the Banker's cash offer and are now forced to wait an excrutiating three minutes before learning what the offer is to be and how it affects the course of the game. The audience at home is similarly desperate to find out how things will unfold, and is more than willing to endure the three minutes of adverts in order to get back to the programme. It keeps them watching and keeps the excitement levels up. That Edmonds is a master and I have learned from him.

I now must tell you the nature of Patrick Bossert's ultimate puzzle. It will be difficult for many of you, incompetent as you are, to understand the complexity of it. Even I, who have been through some of the Scottish secondary school system, struggle to comprehend it.

Bossert flung off the black cloth and revealed his puzzle to the horrified crowd. I thought at first that it was another Rubik's Cube, but I could see that the puzzlers in the room recoiled in terror at the first glimpse of it, so I supposed that they had observed something about this cube that I had missed. Bossert grinned maniacally and held aloft the cube.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he twittered, "I give you....Cube Plus! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hee!"

It was at this point that I realised what was unique about this cube. Readers, I advise you to pour yourself a liberal slug of brandy or some similar restorative before continuing because the nature and complexity of this cube will shock you.

Gentle readers, this cube was not 3 by 3 by 3, as was Rubik's original and nigh-on impossible Cube, but rather..... (I feel sick but must continue) .... it was 4 by 4 by 4!

Bossert let loose a torrent of frenzied laughter and directly set to work on solving this insane puzzle. The crowd tentatively began cautionary chants, such as, "Too far, Bossert, too far!" and "You're mad sir, mad!" and "You'll never solve it!" and "Impossible!" and "You speccy c___!" Bossert was so absorbed in the puzzle that the words of warning could not reach him. With a freakish rictus twisted 'pon (upon) his face, he stood twisting the 4 by 4 by 4 Cube rapidly in his hands, oblivious to the chaos surrounding him.

The crowd grew uglier and uglier, especially the Welsh stall, while all this time I remained frozen and in the most abject of torture and misery.

Again I will use the device of the cliff hanger and leave you desperate to discover the Banker's offer and how I came to escape from my predicament. We will now take a break.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Readers, I have taken a tincture of senna to calm my nerves and fortify my constitution. I now feel suitably equipped to continue my tale of woe. Bossert fired the Proton Pack directly at my face and at once I was overcome with an unutterable agony that filled every nook and cranny of my world. Revelling in my misery, he produced a strange device from some hitherto unseen crevice, and pressed a button upon it. The wibbly luminous beams eminating from the Proton Pack immediately froze, as did I. I noted that a bead of sweat fleeing from one of my forehead pores became suspended in mid air. Bossert let go of his Proton Pack, which remained stuck fast in air, and turned to address the crowd.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, but somehow contrived to make the words rhyme, "The device I have just used will be familiar to many of you. It is a humble Rubik's Clock, which I have doctored using a science of my own devising so that it can pause time."

At this point, the French contingent spoke up, and Bossert quickly replied, "Yes, it is just like in the CITV series Bernard's Watch."

The Canadian team promptly appended an additional comparison, and Bossert confirmed, "Indeed, it is also similar to the remote control used in the new Adam Sandler film, Click".

The Croatians also tried to get in on the act but Bossert had to correct them by saying, "No, it is nothing like the eponymous green distillation invented by Professor Gibberne in H. G. Wells's short story 'The New Accelerator', for that made subjects move at a vastly increased speed, and it only seemed to them as though time had paused."

He continued, "I have frozen Mr Carew in time, at the precise moment that his soul has been extracted from his body, and also, happily, the moment at which his pain is the most heightened and exquisite. For you see, my Rubik's Clock Time Device (RCTD) does not freeze Mr Carew's mind, so while his body is fixed fast in time, his mind is free to witness the horror he is experiencing and free to endure the terrible pain he is suffering. I could retain him in unbearable agony until the end of time itself if I chose to."

At hearing this, I tried to panic but could not, as the act of panicking requires the passage of time.

Bossert went on, rhyming all the way, mind: "His soul is now available to permanently power my ultimate puzzle. The puzzle is of such devious and morally repugnant difficulty that a human soul would quickly burn down - this way, I can use the same soul, frozen in time, without resorting to mass genocide." A puzzler from Jersey protested that this made no sort of sense, but Bossert had Perkeo shoot him.

The Schoolboy Cubemaster attached one end of a pair of jump leads to my frozen chest and the other end to something concealed beneath a black cloth. At once whirring could be heard and a bright blue glow issued from 'neath (beneath) the cloth.

"It works, it works," said Bossert. "Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for the unveiling of the most fiendish, the most outrageous, the most unbelievable puzzle ever devised..." Here he whipped off the cloth and revealed...

I will come back to this tomorrow, as I wish for you to be kept in suspense.