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.