Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Halloween Children Story.

She'd been looking out of the window for a long time, not exactly at anything as such, just looking, watching the wind in the trees and the birds making their way home to roost for the night.  She sometimes envied their simple lives, their deeply feathered nests, their lack of complications.

As the light started to fade, she took one last glance at the landscape, wiped away the fog where her hot breath had clouded the rapidly cooling glass and left the room.  The children's voices echoed through the corridors as she walked towards their nursery, well, it was still called the nursery according at least to the brass plaque screwed to the door, they called it their playroom of course - They were both of that age when they considered themselves to be approaching adulthood, and this showed in the sometimes raucous style of their play.  Despite the fact that the room was decorated with jolly, but ultimately empty eyed, jungle animals rendered in a selection of pastel colours and still contained a wooden rocking horse and a selection of rag-dolls that had once kept Emily so enthralled.  Scattered around the room were a platoon of carefully painted wooden soldiers that had joined Richard on numerous adventures in the past, but were now relegated to duty as bowling pins or impromptu missiles.

She paused as she stood outside the door and waited for the noise to settle slightly to the point where they would be a chance that they would be able to hear her gentle knocking.  A sudden silence from the room indicated that they had, she opened the door slowly and walked into the room.

'It's supper time children, Cook says that there are sardines, or the leftovers of yesterday's boiled ham and potatoes.  Which would you prefer?'

They both looked at her with gentle, easy faces, then Emily cupped her hands around her mouth and whispered into her brother's ear, he nodded solemnly and looked up again.

'Both my sister and I would like the sardines please, with some bread and butter if there is enough?'

She curtsied and left the room, closing the door carefully behind her. Almost immediately the sounds of play resumed and she allowed herself half a smile, the laughter of happy children was one of the reasons that she took the job. They were always laughing, always happy, although oddly, in the short time that she'd been working at the Manor she had never heard Emily's voice, she always talked though her brother, the poor girl was painfully shy.

The driving wind and rain started when she was halfway down the servant's spiral stairway.  Huge, round drops falling heavily against the leaded lights of the frosted windows gave the enclosed stairwell a morose chill and created a draught that threatened to blow out her already stuttering candle. She quickened her downward pace and before long she had reached the warmth and relative safety of the Manor's large kitchen.

The only light in the room came from the open oven door of the huge range itself, the dimly lit surfaces surrounding her were adorned with the skittering shadows of carving knives and other devices whose uses were a complete mystery to her.  She was only nineteen herself and had gone 'into service' as a child, she had never really learned to cook, all of her meals had been prepared by her mother, or by the cook in whatever house she had been working in at the time.

'Have they decided?'

She let out a small scream as the Cook seamed to coalesce out of the very darkness behind her.

'Calm yourself girl, there's enough to worry about on a night like this without adding me to your troubles.  Did they want the fish?'  She watched as the pale girl nodded her head.' Aye, they usually want the fish when we've got it.'

'They asked for bread and butter too, if we have enough.'

'If we have enough?  I bake fresh bread every day! and the buttter's from Jed's cows on the bottom field, there's always butter!  How do you think I keep my youthful figure?' The Cook pirouetted slowly, in the style of a ballet dancer, despite having the bearing of a woman who would have no trouble sheltering an entire brass band beneath her voluminous skirts.  She disappeared back into the darkness towards the pantry and came back with four plump sardines which she expertly gutted, seasoned, and placed into one of the smaller ovens.  She then cut four slices of bread, each over an inch thick, and spread them with a deep layer of fresh golden butter.

'Isn't that rather a lot for them? Won't it give them indigestion at this time of night? Especially with their condition?'

'Their condition?  Oh, I see,' The Cook laughed, and sat down on a rough wooden stool to wait for them to cook. 'No, over the years we've found that it's best to keep them well fed when the weather's poor.  They don't like the lightning you see, it can set them off.  Talking of setting them off,' She patted the pockets of her apron and brought out a piece of weathered, folder paper, sealed with a large blob of red wax, 'The housekeeper gave me this for you to give to them, it's a letter from their Father, he's out in Africa you know.  You might want to give it to them when you collect the empty plates.  It can sometimes...'

'Set them off?'

The Cook nodded slowly and stared into the flames of the open oven, 'He tells them stories of what he's doing,' She turned and looked towards the young nurse, 'Did you know that he's never seen them? He left the day after they were born, on the day his wife died.  Terrible business.'

'I'd heard that she's died in childbirth, I understand that there were complications, with the twins being joined, two bodies sharing the one pair of legs and so on.  I supposed that they had to cut her open to get them out.'

'That's what the Doctor will tell you if you ask him, and that's the story that they told the papers.' She pulled her stool closer, 'But one of the maids, she's left now though, used to tell a different story.  She was there at the birth and when the poor mites appeared there was panic, no one knew if her ladyship would take to them or whatnot.  But give her her due, she did and once the doctor had tidied her up and settled her down she did her best to feed them herself.  They both tried to drink at the same time but it just wouldn't work and she was in some real discomfort with the stitches and everything, and the babies were starving hungry.' A cloud of doubt passed across her face as if she was trying to decide whether to go on. 'The next morning the house was in uproar, His Lordship had gone to see them and found the babies happily feeding themselves... Her Ladyship was cold and gone by this point.'

The Nurse felt a lump rise in her throat, 'But surely her milk wouldn't flow if she had...'

The Cook continued to stare into the flames, 'They weren't drinking, they were eating.' She groaned as she stood up and wandered to the oven and took out the pan of fish. 'These look about done, I'll put them all on one plate, be easier for you to carry it with your candle.'

She loaded a tray with the food, the candle and the letter, then started to climb the stairs towards the playroom.  She couldn't believe the tale that the Cook had told her, it was all some silly story that they probably told in the village pub to add a bit of history.  Something that tourists might find out about and pay a penny to hear the gory details of.

Knowing all this didn't stop the discomfort shooting through her when she got to the door, and the sudden cessation of noise when she knocked was more chilling than it was charming.  The children were sat in the middle of the floor, in their nightclothes, with a small table that they had prepared themselves in front of them.

'Here are your sardines, there was ample bread and butter.' She put down the tray and backed towards the door.  Emily breathed in deeply as if the baked sardines had the most delicious scent that she had ever encountered.  Richard's eyes were glittering in anticipation and she could swear that there were small beads of saliva escaping his smiling lips.

She curtsied once more and left the room.  As soon as the door clicked closed, she remembered the letter, she had forgotten to remove it from the tray.  If anything that the Cook had said was true, she could be sure that it would be the part about a letter from their Father setting them off.  Without a second thought she opened the door and went to rescue the errant piece of paper.

She froze when she saw the children,  They had both forgone the normal eating utensils and were rapidly stuffing fish and bread into their mouths by the handful.  When they heard her gasp they looked straight at her with cold black eyes like sharks, there was no white, none of the beautiful cornflower blue that they both shared, only black.  Half chewed food fell from Richard's open mouth as he started to scream, but the almost whole sardine that Emily was trying to swallow was held back by her mouthful of cruelly spiked teeth, plucked straight from some nightmarish deep-sea fish.

The last thing that she thought as the twins vaulted the table towards her was 'Ah, that's why she doesn't talk.'

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Guys, I need a favour and it won't cost you a penny.

So, if you've looked at the Blog, or liked The Chimping Dandy on Facebook, or followed the Twitter feed recently or know me personally, you'll know that I've released a book for the Kindle.  Here it is look, in this picture:

Now, take a look at the bottom of the screen... Just above that five star rating *cough*, you'll see the price.  It's in red, you can't miss it.

That's right, it's £0.00 pounds, that's quite literally free. (Well, for a limited time at least)

How many things can you get for free nowadays? Not a lot, well, not unless you're one of those people who help yourself to a handful of pick'n'mix whilst you're walking around ASDA, or tests the car doors in public car-parks to see if you can get yourself a new car stereo or a glove-box worth of loose change (But we all know that you're not that kind of person don't we?).

So, from today until Sunday 3rd November, you can download all 407 pages, all 75 chapters of the book, if you have a Kindle, or the Kindle app for your Smartphone, Tablet or PC. with absolutely no cost to yourself.

I can see a few of you looking a bit quizzical, as if to say, 'It was only about £2 when he was charging for it, why has he suddenly made it free?  And more to the point, if I'd known that he was going to offer it for free, I wouldn't have bought it with cold, hard, cash in the first place.'

To the people who've already bought it, and want your money back, I completely understand, if you drop me an email at with your address, I'll stick you a couple of quid in the post with a signed picture of me naked for you to put up on your wall.  (In fact, if you just want a signed picture of me naked to put up on your wall, feel free to get in touch - Although it won't be a very big picture, it's quite cold in the UK at the moment.)

Why am I offering this, the first collection of my meandering musings for free? (Well, for a limited time at least).

It's all my Brother's fault you see, the one who lives in the hollowed out volcano in the Mediterranean.  He has bought our dear, pigeon shattering Father (TM) a new Kindle and, I'd quite like to be able to download my book to this new device for him without him saying 'Why have I got to pay to download your book?  It's not like you're a real author or anything, you're not exactly John Grisham are you?'

What I'd like you to do, is just take five minutes to download the book, or if you don't have the Kindle reader app, take five minutes to download that, then take five minutes to download the book, and then...

I'll start that again, it was getting away from me a bit.  I need between 10 and 15 minutes of your precious time.

  1. Download the Kindle reader for your device (if you haven't already and it's not a Kindle)
  2. Get a FREE COPY of the book From here
  3. Write a quick review (This is the most important bit for me if you've got the time)
  4. Pimp it to anyone that you think needs cheering up, you're doing a public service here people - Laughter is the best medicine, as they say in The Reader's Digest.
Thanks for listening guys, I'd really appreciate it if you could find the time to do this, I want my Dad to be proud of me, like most of us do - You can think of it as your kind act for today, you have my permission to be as grumpy as you like for the rest of the day, after you've followed the above four steps that is.

You do try to do one kind thing for someone every day right?

You should, we should all aspire to be more like this chap, The Free Help Guy, people love him, he's great.

P.S. Hopefully, sometime next month the real paper version of the book should be released, I think it's going to be about £8 and I will happily sign copies and write funny stuff in it for you for free if you send it to me with some form of return postage.


OK, I'm the first person to admit that everything above reads like I'm a needy A-hole who just wants to pimp his crappy book and he's trying to use you wonderful Internet people to do it for him because he's broke.

And whilst I'd be lying if I said that I didn't want people to read my books, because I think some of the stories are genuinely funny, I didn't decide to publish the collections to make a fortune and quit my day-job  (about a hundred people have to buy a book at full price before I see any money at all) this particular appeal is all about my relationship with my Dad.

Help me out guys?

Friday, 25 October 2013

You will be taken from here, to a place of execution...

We don't get on with our neighbours particularly well here at Dandy Towers (Which is a pity really because they're part of our extended family - My sister-in-law's husbands sister is married to the father of the family's brother... Or something... Although I don't think that they know that.)

They throw cigarette ends over the fence and mow their lawn every time we try to spend time outside, I think I may have mentioned this before.  They've stolen our bin and play terrible music too loud with the windows open so that we can't hear the TV indoors with our windows closed.  And I'm not convinced that they didn't plant the dog poop on my front garden that I trod in a couple of weeks ago when I came home steaming drunk after a night out with my brother.

Anywho, this is the story of the the day that THEY reported US to the authorities. (I know right?)

We had a pup once, called Jack, who liked to chew things.  He was the punk version of The Very Hungry Catterpillar, where he would forgo the pleasures of dogfood and plump instead for tables and doorframes and floorcoverings.  When he was about a year old, he decided to test the mettle of our other dog, a seven or so year old female Staffordshire Bull Terrier and make a bid for dominance of the pack.

The set-to started as some high-spirited snapping at each other whilst I was raking the gravel smooth on our rear helicopter landing pad.  It quickly escalated through biting of tails and chewing of ears to full on grabbing each other by the throats and shaking. There was blood, quite a lot of blood.

the first thing I thought of doing was to grab them and pull them apart, then I sucked my bitten finger and thought of something different to do.  I took the rake, spun it around like a Ninja Alan Titchmarsh and gave both dogs a couple of decent whacks across the shoulders with the blunt end.  This stopped them both dead and they looked at me as if to say 'What're you doing you bloody nut-job', then they looked at each other and thought something like, 'Hey dude, did you know you were covered in blood?'

They actually started licking each other clean as if nothing had happened... Dogs!

It was then that I heard the shouting from next door, it was pretty garbled and nonsensical if I'm honest, and it was a while before I realised that they were threatening to report me to the RSPCA.  I told them that they should, and that I was going to report them to... to... I think I said something about Some national society for Emo teens who were too scared to tell their parents that they smoked drugs whenever their parents went out.

Then for a while, peace was restored.

A few weeks later there was a knock at the door.  It turned out to be a fairly large inspector from the RSPCA, who happened to be South African.  He said that they'd had a report of mistreatment of animals and he'd like to come inside and take a look around.

He came in and we wandered through into the kitchen, the dogs were chasing around outside and he asked if he could meet them, so I banged on the window, they noticed that there was a new friend for them to meet and came bounding in like furry little freight trains.  I don't think that they both hit him in the genitals, but one certainly did, and as he doubled over, the other one licked his face.  It was a good ten minutes before the hubbub died down enough for him to sit down, and I made him a nice cup of tea. and asked if he'd like a bag of frozen peas for his testicles.

He politely declined and started asking me questions from the Eye-Spy book of dog care, you know the sort of thing, 'How many times a day do you feed them?' or 'Are their injections up to date?' or 'Have either of them ever spontaneously combusted and/or turned into a leopard?' And he seemed happy enough with the answers.  Then he said 'In your own words, can you tell me what happened?'

So I told him what I've just told you, I left out the bit about knowing what the dogs were thinking obviously, I mean, I didn't want his to think that I was barking...




Nevermind, he nodded sagely and said, in a broad South African accent (which is what you should read the following in if you can, think Joss Ackland in Lethal weapon 2) 'Sounts reasonible to may, in thu future you maight wint to kip a bickit of colt watar outsoyde thee bick door to threw ovva thim if it hippins agaiyn.'

We all nodded and had a laugh about things whilst he finished his tea, in fact, it turned out that he'd done a similar thing himself 'Bick in thee Olt Kintree.'  His family bred and sold Rhodesian Ridgebacks as guard dogs.  In case you've never seen one, this is what they look like.

They're a bit bigger than a Rottweiler and just as willing to kick your ass should the need arise. 

It seems a couple of young males were following him around one day when he was digging ditches and they'd decided to have a bit of a scrap so he laid into them with the flat of the shovel (one of those long-handled, triangular bladed ones that you see people digging graves with in Cowboy films) until, 'Neethir if thim knew which whaey wiz ip.'

He stayed for nearly two hours in fact, telling stories of other calls that he'd been to that had been sparked off by feuds between neigbours and local busybodies and left us with a tale of woe, which I'll render his tale in the first person, in English, rather than the accent he told it to us in.


We must have had about fifty Liondogs (Ridgebacks) on the Farm, most of them caged up in huge pens, but we had half a dozen that lived in the house as pets.  They were the ones that we used to show customers and prove how good they were at guarding.

We would use a code-word to put them on guard, and one would go to each of the doors to the outside, and one would go and sit outside my parent's door, and they wouldn't move until they were 'turned off'.

Anyway, one day I went out late, when my parents had gone to bed, put the dogs on guard and left.  I came back a couple of hours later and I could see the lights from the police cars and the ambulance from about a mile away.  I met up with my Dad outside and asked what had happened, he said that a couple of 'Local Boys' - (That's not the phrase he used though, the word he used implied that they may have had dark skin, but it didn't begin with the letter 'N', it started with the letter 'B') had decided that the house was empty and so they were going to rob it, despite the fact that they must have walked past the dog pens to break the kitchen window.

In the time it took Dad to get up, put some trousers on and get to the top of the stairs, the screaming had started and stopped.  When he got to the kitchen there were five dogs (The other one had stayed by his side through the whole experience) and some meat, two bits of it were still wearing knocked-off Nike running shoes, spread all over the kitchen floor.

I asked him how he knew there were two of them and he said that the dogs took off like rockets when he opened the back door, so he just sort of assumed. (Something the police coroner confirmed later that day).

No charges were brought, just a simple case of a man defending his property - What a civilised country.


When he'd finished his third cup of tea, he called his base and told them to put the incident down to a malicious crank call and I walked him to the door.  As he stepped out, he turned around and said 'Ah yis, thiy also sid thit yew down't fid yerr kit.  Dew yew evin hiv eh kit?'  I pointed at the tortoiseshell cat wandering up the driveway, meowing.

'Yis, thit's thu wan thit cayme ip tew mee whin aye pirked thu Vin.' He bent down and picked up said cat, who started purring and rubbed against his face.  He leaned over the fence and stared into the next-door neigbour's front, still clutching the cat and said, quite loudly,

'Sim piple shid maiynd thir awn ficking bisniss and waind thir nicks in.' then handed me the cat, apologised, and went on his way.

He also told us some stories about his time in the Army, working for a Lieutenant Colonel Vengesai - But I think I might save those for another day.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Worst... Friend... Ever...

I'm going to make a huge assumption here, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the vast proportion of people who read this Blog are intelligent, well adjusted, attractive people who have a decent sized circle of friends and can take care of themselves and their loved-ones, to the best of their ability, with a minimum of fuss.

Does that sound like you? Is that how you would describe yourself?


That doesn't surprise me, because most of the people I know are terrifically self-deprecating and will not admit that they're good at anything, they don't like to make a fuss you see, don't like to stick their heads above the parapet.

They might say things like 'Good Mother? Me? goodness no! I'm constantly amazed that I end the day with as many children as I started it with.' or 'Well, yes, obviously I can play the guitar, and I'm in a band and I've toured with famous people and featured on many actual albums that you can buy in shops, but that other chap over there is actually talented. I'm just a noodler.'

Or, and this one is actually pertinent to the rest of the Blog, a number of people I know say things like, 'Yeah, well obviously, I write, I mean, I've got a Blog, and I've won some competitions and published some books... But I'm not really an author... Not really.'

It's not because they lack confidence, well, I suppose some of them might, but for the greater proportion of them it's because they're not dicks.  You know the sort, the ones who sit there during conversations bouncing up and down excitedly on their rapidly dampening bottoms thinking 'Yes, this is all very well and good, but when are we going to get around to talking about how wonderful I am?' or 'When is he going to stop talking about taking his cat to the vet to be put down? I have important news that involves me!'

We all know someone like that, right?

Yeah, you do... It's me.  I do that.

I only realised it last night, I was looking through my Facebook timeline and noticed that some very good friends of mine had been writing stuff and posting stuff that I had... Not exactly ignored, but certainly not given the attention that they deserve.

Which, in anyone's book, is a bit of a dick move.  I wouldn't be where I am now without my friends, none of us would.  Of course, whether you consider that to be a good thing or not depends on the quality of your friends.  Most of mine are pretty damn great and I'm thankful for them.

(I mean it would be handy if any of them were certified travelling Renault mechanics who wanted to take a look at my misfire - But you can't have everything.)

So I'm going to rectify that now, and hopefully make my dickery a bit smaller... (Please pay close attention to the 'ery' in that last sentence, it's quite important to my self-image.)


You'll all have heard me talk incessantly about The James Josiah Flash Project, it's an agglomeration of writers who do a thing called 'Flash Fiction' where you try and tell a complete story in 500 words or less.

Occasionally, a trend will emerge, or a challenge will be set to keep things interesting (as if telling a complete story in under 501 words isn't interesting enough.)

The current trend is 'The Arc' - A collection of self-contained stories, all with a beginning, middle, and end that can be read separately (Called Flashisodes perhaps?), but put a few together and it tells a bigger story, with a bigger beginning, middle and end.

There are two ongoing at the minute, and they're both great.

The first, by the Great and Worshipful Master of the site, is a multi-viewpoint account of 'The Beast of Walsall'.  It begins with The Hunter, continues through School DaysLast Days of Summer, and the very sweary Sara Jones  to (currently) The Behemoth Rises - I'm not sure if there's going to be more and it would work either way, such is the nature of Flash Fiction, but I hope it does.  I personally think that this would be a great subject for a Shockwave Animation for someone doing such things at University (or whatever it is the cool young kids do nowadays) - I really do.

The second is from serious author and long-time contributor, Neil Sehmbhy, It's relatively new, there are only two Flashisodes so far, they are the very wonderful Tea With Death and the quite frankly, brilliantly nuanced, Ginger Nuts. It's a story about Death, with a capital 'D' and Melvin, with a capital 'Melv' I like it a lot. and I'm looking forward to the next one.  Maybe we'll get one today (or last month, if you're reading this Blog on Dave)


So, there we go, friends pimped, my dickery is shrunk into flaccidity for the time-being and all is right with the world, for the moment at least.

Sorry guys...

Note to self:  Must try harder.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

You like it when I do what?

Well, it's that time again.

When I tell you what's going on in the the world of The Chimping Dandy, where reality is flexible and the Pangolins are all orange, with strangely attractive eyelashes.

Before we get to the current top-ten, which is where you all knew that this was going, I thought I'd throw a few ideas out there.

Hopefully, you will have read yesterday's post about fish... This was sparked from a real request, from a real reader of the Blog.  This is something I wholeheartedly condone, I'll admit that there are some very infrequent times when I find it difficult to think of new stuff to bore you with.  Your suggestions would be most welcome - I'll chatter on for hours about any old stuff most of the time, I don't see why I shouldn't occasionally make it something that someone actually finds interesting.  I can't guarantee how accurate any information that I present will be, but I will try to make it entertaining and possibly blasphemous.  You never know, we might all learn something.

My other idea was that maybe you'd like to contribute in other ways... I mean, obviously money and cake would be my personal favourites, but I don't see why I should have all the fun, perhaps instead of suggesting a theme, you could supply a whole entry yourselves.  We're currently on the cusp of 20,000 pageviews... Why not make it one of your ideas that tips us all collectively over the edge?


I couldn't really do any kind of State of the Dandy Nation entry without mentioning (and by mentioning I mean ruthlessly pimping, obviously) the new book.

If you have a Kindle, or the Kindle app for your smartphone or tablet or PC then you can, for £2.07, $3.15, 2.60 Euros, 311 Yen or, for some bizarre reason, $40.93 Mexican Dollars, depending where you are in this sad old world of ours, buy a copy of the book.

You can go straight to the Amazon entry by clicking on the link just below the picture, should you wish to.  It's 407 pages long, and would keep you company on even the longest journey, unless you're driving of course, then it will keep you company straight to the grave.

I'm still deciding whether to actually make it into a real book, with paper and ink that goes all over your fingers - Let me know if you have an opinion one way or the other - Obviously, the price would be higher, but if you buy a copy and send it to me, I'll sign it and write something personally prurient or pejorative in it for you as a special treat.


So, to the charts, and it's all topsy-turvey today, there've been 'developments'

The number 10 spot is now inhabited by: Barnaby Wilde (Pt. 1) - The first of my motorcycling memoirs. It contains the story of the first time I rode a trike, the first time I got painfully electrocuted by a trike and the first time I did a Jayne Torville impression... On a trike.

At number 9 is a serious post: One more rusty nail - My thoughts on the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby and how the words 'Muslim' or 'Organised Terrorism' don't mean the same as the word 'Mental'

Number 8 sees perennial favourite: Thermodynamics, it's the law! - Slowly slipping out of the charts and falling into obscurity.  It's a shame really, this is one of my personal favourites.  It's about a pigeon, and my Father, and a tortured soul that stalks the netherworld like a wilted stick of celery at the bottom of a forgotten refridgerator.

Another one of my family is laid open to the world at number 7: It was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen - This time it's my Brother's turn, this was a story from the time before he lived in a hollowed out volcano in the Mediterranean, before he had even left our family seat in fact.

Number 6 is a new entry: If you don't like, what you're seeing, get the funk out... -  This is sort of a review I suppose, of the BSH Extreme Motorcycle Show.  There are many pictures of customised motorcycles, and woeful cries about the ungratefulness of youth. 

Moving down a few places to number 5 is: Priorities - Another serious post, about a serious subject.  It describes the feelings that I experienced when my Father finally told me that he had inoperable cancer.

Now we're into what I like to call the MegaPosts, I consider anything that's had more than 400 views a success, although that's small-fry for a lot of bloggers, I'm still quite impressed that more than 400 people in the world would want to listen to me.

Number 4 is another new entry: Learn to govern yourself, be gentle and patient - Is about a huge number of things.  It's about BBC Radio 4, a virtual museum, a transvestite comedian, Neil Gaiman's wife, The London Necropolis Railway and the Steampunk band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing - It's a good read, there are pictures, including one of a Dalek - And if you try hard enough, you might just learn some history.

Another old favourite sits like a brass Buddah at number 3: Pogonophillia is for everyone, even the young - This post explains my deeply held belief (And it's not just me, huge numbers of people have agreed, even some famous ones) that men who wear beards are the Zenith of human evolution.

Probably one of the saddest posts that I've ever written at number 2, certainly if you take into account the number of readers that it personally effected: Sabian, The Token Yank - Is a celebration of the life of an old friend of mine, taken from the world too soon, and the friends and family that he left behind.  It was an honour to be able to write it.

And finally, I still have absolutely no idea why this particular post still sits proudly at number 1 like a chrome-plated gorilla on a pile of champagne barrels: No, it is not a 'Slow News Day' is a post exactly like this one, it's a Top-Ten from the beginning of September and I cannot for the life of me think why it's so popular, especially with my Russian readers - Please let me know, it can't just be that it has a metatag that reads 'Penis-pump' surely? - Or is it that I accuse Tim Berners-Lee of being a pathological masturbator?


Well, that's the top-ten for another month.

Think about what I said, buy the book then review it, pimp it to your friends, send me a question, a suggestion for a subject or a fully fledged Blog post or whatever.

Let me know your thoughts on where you want The Chimping Dandy to go.  I can't promise anything other than I'll consider it - the odder the better.

Take care gentle readers.

See you soon (especially if you go to bed and leave your back door unlocked)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Ask The Dandy (Fish)

Right, we're having a bit of a format change today, let me know what you think.

We've had a letter at Dandy Towers... Well, I say letter, it wasn't a letter, obviously, this is the twenty-first century.  I mean, no-one sends letters any more... It was a bunch of electrons, sent over the aether via the medium of social networking.  And it read thusly:

Nicki who lives in an Oak Tree somewhere in Greater Manchestershire asks...

Dear Mr Dandy,

Please can you cast your mind onto fish... Sole look depressed, Angler Fish, what are they all about?? It's been buzzing round my head now and I think it's a subject that needs addressing.
Thank you

Yours sincerely

(Aged forty mumble)


Well, what a great question... What are fish all about?

First of all, let's define fish.  A fish is a thing, measuring anywhere from less than an inch up to about seventy feet long or something.  They exclusively breathe the oxygen that is dissolved in water through gills - which are a sort of inside-out lung affairs inside the fish's head, where any right-minded animal would keep its ears.  Through sheer laziness they have allowed their webbed hands and feet to devolve into fins, which although, by some happy accident allows them to 'swim' in the 'water', makes them completely rubbish at climbing stairs.

There are of course exceptions to the gill thing, it seems that there are many kinds of fish that have the audacity to have lungs.  These are called lung-fish, which just goes to show that on the evolutionary ladder, 'growing lungs' comes a long way before 'being able to think of an interesting name for yourself'  Many types of lung-fish also have rudimentary legs, presumably to make up for the stair climbing inadequacies of their less evolved brethren.  But nobody really knows the answer to that if they're being honest.

Another thing that characterises fish is that they all have scales, except the ones that don't.  Blennies (or to give them their Latin name, Blennioidei - I'm not going to give you every fish I mention's Latin name, I just thought that one was great...) Have skin, covered in slime instead - A bit like Eels and Hagfish.

Ooh-ooh.. Hagfish, they're great too, not only do they have slime-producing skin, but they've also only gone and lost their backbones... Their skeleton is pretty much the top half of the skull and some bits of cartilage... They have no discernible brain and three hearts - Their teeth are on their tongues, not in their jaws... BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE JAWS!

And don't get me started on sharks, their skin is made of teeth... No, seriously, it is, they're called Dermal Denticles - Which, to me, sounds like a crappy alien in a badly written sci-fi story.  They're just an extension of the, like, bajillion rows of teeth that a shark has. Can you imagine the design meeting for that one?


Shark God (SG): So, I thought i's go with covering this Mo-Fo in a layer of tiny teeth, innit?

Fish Project Manager (FPM): Teeth?  Like... Teeth? Not scales, or skin, or snot?  Teeth?

SG: Yeah Man, scales has been done to death, we need somefink new, yah get me?

FPM: But wouldn't they sort of, fall out?  Teeth do that don't they? Wouldn't it leave a hole?

SG:  Nah mate, the next one in line would take it's place.  Move up into dah breach an' t'ing.

FPM: Just that one? Not the whole row surely, how would that work?

SG: [Thinks] Now that you come to mention it Brah, I's not entirely sure, I'll get that guy what did da Wombat to take a look... Safe!

FPM: Wombat God? You know that he made their poop cubic right?  You're going to him for design hints?

SG:  Ha! Yeah Bruv, square poop is da shiznit! They makes some wikkid sounds when you get a few together, all da howlin' an' da strainin' and such [Makes flicking noises by moving his hand up and down quite briskly]

FPM: Ok, give it a go and let us know how it goes.  Has to be better than those slimy things with the teeth on their tongues.  Hey! Wasn't that your idea too?

SG: [Grins and gives a thumbs-up] Aiii!


But, our askee had a couple of specific points.  Number one was 'Sole look depressed'.  Well, I guess they would.  The whole flatfish thing is a bit peculiar, imagine you're a baby sole, just hatched and full of the joys of the ocean. At this point, you're not a flatfish, you're a normal uppey-downey fish with fins on the top and a tail that points uppey and downey, not leftey and rightey like those nasty Dolphins.  They you look at your Mum.

She's lying there, on her side, panting.  OK, so maybe the stress of being a new mother has taken it out of her a bit, so you swim over and hold out your lucky fin to tell her that everything's going to be OK, and she should just have a bit of a rest whilst.... Oh My Neptune! both of her eyes are on the same side of her head! - She must have been so tired after the spawning that she became unconscious and hit the seabed so hard that it knocked her left eye onto the right side of her head... You instantly brand yourself a bad child until you start to mature... And your left eye starts to move... Slowly... onto the right hand side of your head and you start to favour your left-hand side, which goes white.  You realise that it wasn't your fault - You're finally free from guilt... Huzzah!  Then you happen to catch your reflection in a submarine porthole, and see that you're ugly...

So terribly ugly.

And tasty, deliciously tasty

Yes, I'd say that that would make me depressed.  I'll give you that one.


And Angler Fish... They're pretty odd too.  Let's see what the average man in the street knows about them.

  • They're dog-ugly
  • They live in the dark
  • Some of them light up
  • They have a fishing rod jammed into their forehead
  • The males are tiny compared to the females

Well, yeah, that sounds about right but there are some even stranger things about them.  The fishing rod type lure thing is actually part of their dorsal fin which has done a bit of lone migrating to the top of their heads, leaving the rest of its dorsal finny buddies on the fish's back as is normal.

And you know how, if you're needy, you might say to someone 'I literally can't live without you'?  Well, in the case of certain male Angler Fish this is true.  Many of them are born without a fully formed gut, or even jaws, so they can only be fed by the female, who may be up to hundreds of times bigger than they are.

But she doesn't do that wonderful chewing and spitting out thing that lots of other animals do... Anglers are the hipsters of the seabed, and that would be too mainstream.  For the male Angler Fish, there is only one choice - To bond with the female by clamping onto her soft underbelly and waiting for her skin to absorb him whilst drinking her bodily fluids.

Yeah... Ewww right?

Well, that's not the end of it, over time, he almost completely disappears... Except for his testicles which stay firmly attached to the little bump that remains and fully functional.  So every time Mrs Angler Fish decides to pop out some tiddlers,  she can fertilize them herself... Kinda.

Oh, and another thing?  Ever had Monkfish Tails in a posh restaurant?  That's Angler Fish butt you're eating right there...


To recap:

Fish are small or huge, breathe air or water, covered in scales, skin, slime or teeth, have fins or legs, lay eggs or give birth to live young, eat other fish, plants, microscopic creatures or people and generally float about in the sea without a care in the world like a fat bloke from Halifax on Wakes Week...

Except when they're flying, or walking, or making a little mud igloo for themselves to survive an arid winter, or swimming up a stream of urine to lodge themselves in the end of your penis with their spiky fins.

Best thing to do, in my opinion, is to steer well clear.  A lot of them are bitey, even more are poisonous, those that aren't are slimy or will try to kill you even after you've eaten them by lodging their tiny bones in you epiglottis.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Minidandy's Birthday

As you can probably tell, by the title of the post, that it's my Daughter, the MiniDandy's birthday.  Her fourteenth in fact.

I couldn't really do anything else than tell a quick story about Lady Dorleith Ahralia, Captain of the Edward Teach, In nominate ruler of the Open Lands and High Voort of the Shattered Spire (whatever that is) and what happened on HER fourteenth birthday.

Or this is what she told me happened at least.


'Wake up!' Her mother's strident voice echoed through her cabin as she was roughly shaken awake.

'Five more minutes, yeah? 'K thanks bye...'

'No, no, no... You need to get up, we're under...' A large munition detonated against the hull, shaking books from the small bookcase by her bed, 'attack. I need you to man a gun.'

She rolled out of bed, suddenly more awake than she had ever felt in her life.  Pulling on a ship-suit, some socks and her favourite old boots, she made her way forward, heading for the bridge.  She was constantly buffeted by a tide of crewmen desperately trying to get to their duty stations, alarms were blaring and Alexander, the A.I. that controlled the systems onboard the Grabthar's Hammer was providing almost constant status updates in his calm, measured voice.

'Attention gunnery crews, we have Spiders inbound on multiple vectors, the Baroness has announced that "firing at will" is the current standing order.'

Dorleith stopped at a corridor junction and tried desperately to clear her head and remember where her gunnery station was.  All of the corridors aboard the Hammer looked the same and her Mother had removed all of the signage, working on the theory that her crew should really know where they were going by now.

Another explosion rocked the ship and she stumbled against the wall, looking up she saw the engraved brass head of Alexander directly above her, staring down.

'Alexander, wh...'

'Ion cannon seven, deck three.  You're welcome My Lady.'

She turned back the way she had come, slid down a steel ladder without touching any of the rungs and made her way to the control nexus for deck three's ion cannons.  Settling into the seat, she put on the gloves and helmet that comprised the control system and activated the interface.  Immediately she became cannon 7, wherever she looked, the barrels that were her arms pointed, whenever she punched, a beam of blinding blue light shot out into the early morning sky.  Her first few shots were wild and uncontrolled, even though she had practiced and been drilled for this moment since she was twelve years old.

Eventually she emptied her mind and relaxed into her position, everywhere she looked there were Spiders.  The targeting scanners that were her eyes picked out the separate targets and displayed details of speed and range and the probability of a clean hit.   She picked out a target that was closing at 200 miles per hour.  Zooming in, she saw that the spider had a huge rotating drill attached to its carapace and was planning to board.

Her first few shots bounced harmlessly off, the spider was obviously shielded.  She clenched her fists and felt the buzz of the stored energy building in her arms.  Her next double punch almost blinded her, but caught the mechanical arachnid straight in the sensor array.   Immediately, the light in its eyes died, the drill stopped spinning and it fell away into the clouds, far below.

Heartened by her victory, she spent the next ten minutes furiously punching Spiders from the air.  whooping and yelling as the force of her blasts removed legs and mandibles wholesale and the creatures themselves spiraled to the ground.

The sky started to clear, the immediate area around the airship was almost devoid of targets, but Dorleith continued to fire at anything that moved.  The trill of the incoming message alert had been playing in her ear for three long minutes before she noticed it.

'Cannon 7?'

'Aye Cannon 7, ceasefire was called five minutes ago, stand down and return to the Nexus.'

She took off the helmet and gloves, stowed them back in their receptacles and ran her fingers through her long, red, sweat-soaked hair.  As her eyes got used to the sudden darkness she noticed that the Gun-Commander was scowling at her.  'You're to report directly to the Baroness on the Bridge... My Lady.'  He bowed whilst simultaneously shaking his head.

She looked at him for a second, perplexed.  He nodded towards the exit lock, 'I think she meant now.'

The adrenaline was still pumping as she entered the Bridge, walked over to her Mother's command chair and waited patiently for her to finish reading the battle reports.   Baroness Bhin-Dhee Lohlephel of the Rustholme slowly turned to address her young daughter.

'Happy Birthday.'

'Thank you Mother, I...'

The Baroness pressed her index finger to her lips. 'I just wanted to explain to you why you weren't currently in the Brig.' She waited for the whorls of confusion to reach their crescendo on her daughter's face. 'The cease fire was called a good five minutes before you actually ceased firing.  What you should have done at that point is explicitly described in the name of the order.  Cease... Fire... Are you suffering from some kind of hearing deficiency?'

'No, I...'

'Insubordination then perhaps?  Did you think that my order was some kind of recommendation?  Something you should only do if you couldn't think of anything better yourself?'

'It's just that I...'

The Baroness waved away the communications officer who had bought her a data tablet that required her authorisation and looked directly at her daughter.  'Do you know how many Spiders you shot down?' Dorleith shook her head. 'I'll tell you, fifteen.  You shot down fifteen of them, including three that were set on boarding my ship and trying to wreak as much havoc as they could have done, which would have no doubt have entailed the death or injury of many valuable crew-members.  After the ceasefire however, you shot down nine ducks, an albatross, one of our camera drones and number four gasbag, which is why we are currently listing...'

Mr Britt turned around and grinned.  'six degrees Ma'am.'

The Baroness nodded at him and continued, 'six degrees to port.  Do not repeat this next time you are manning a gun.  Birthday or not you'll spend a day in the Brig.'

Dorleith looked up and could feel hot tears welling behind her eyes. 'Yes... I mean, no Mothe.. Ma'am.  I will try to be more careful.'  She curtsied deeply and started to slowly back her way towards the door.

'See that you do.  Oh, and Dorleith?'  Her daughter froze and stared at her like a kitten that had fallen down a well lined with rabid dogs. 'The next time you come onto my Bridge wearing mis-matched socks, I'll skin you alive.'

Monday, 14 October 2013


Inundated! I've been positively inundated with people who are gleefully telling me that next month is going to herald the shutting down of the entire United Kingdom.

It won't be because some chap in the US Congress has decided that 'Oh yes, and I managed to bankrupt the World' will look good on his CV.

It won't be because Michael Gove, Secretary of State for badly planned Victorian Educational systems has decided that all exercise books should be replaced by slates and crumbly pieces of chalk and people who can't even speak English convincingly should be taught Latin.

It will be that we are gripped in 'The Worst Winter for the past ONE HUNDRED YEARS!!!!!'

What can we expect from this MegaWinter or HyperWinter or (My own personal favourite) WinterNado or whatever we're going to hype it up as?

It seems that the pesky old Jet Stream is in the wrong position you see, instead of sliding wonderfully across the Atlantic Ocean like a basking shark full of rancid helium and then hanging a left and heading towards the Scilly Isles.  It's barreling away underneath us, dipping a toe in the Channel and then hooning off over western Europe

This causes what Meteororororologists call 'A Localised Area of low Pressure' and the winds from the Arctic all get sucked in to fill the gap with their spiky teeth and icicle claws.  Lovely.

So, they're expecting it to be the worst winter since 1913 eh?  So what was so bad that happened in 1913?

Ah... Well, It seems that extensive investigation shows that in the early part of the year we had 10' snowdrifts in the grim North and virtually no snow in the South at all - What does that tell you? It tells me that it's warmer in the South than it is in the North.  Because I'm generous, I won't charge you for that wonderfully informed piece of information, it's a free gift - From me to you.

So, if we're going to suffer the worst weather 'since' then, it means that it's not going to be any worse, which means that depending where you are in the country, you will probably experience somewhere between zero and 120 inches of snow.  It will probably be colder and windier on the high ground and in the valleys there will be wetness.

Effectively, the same as there always is during a British Autumn, Winter and Spring.  Should it shut the country down as soon as office workers jump excitedly up and down as the first feathery flakes float past their windows?  No!

Will it? Yes, of course it will - The UK is not prepared for any particular weather pattern that it ever has to face.  Whether it be heat or cold, wet or dry, humid or whatever the opposite of humid is, we're singularly unready for anything except the ability to complain at a moments notice.

What if we had really strange weather? how would we cope with these things if we fall to pieces when we can't see the road-markings because of a light dusting of the white stuff?


There's stories of giant hailstones, as big as golf-balls occasionally falling in the UK, you know, breaking windows, scaring horses, playing the drum parts of White Stripes songs on a bit of rusty air-raid shelter - But did you know, bigger things exist, they're called Ice-Bombs - Some of these things are 9" across and fall out of the sky like bricks.

What would happen if these things came as part of WinterNado? - There would be a huge boom (if you'll pardon the expression) in the Lean-to/Conservatory repair market and people with loft conversions will be jamming the helpdesk line at Velux.


It's not just in the Bible that animals rain from the skies you know.  There have been several documented instances of fish, frogs and worms raining down from the heavens.  The normal explanation for this is that the precipitate (The things what are flung from the sky) are picked up by typhoons and waterspouts, carried miles through the air and deposited on normal God-fearing people who immediately think that the Rapture is starting.  There have also been reports of birds falling from the skies, zoologists investigated these reports and found that it was due to a strange avian behaviour called 'landing'

What would happen if these things came as part of WinterNado? - Knowing the luck of the average Brit, the animals that fell from above would be Snapping Turtles and Blue Whales, which, if you were to look on the bright side, would both solve our food crisis and teach children in the immediate vicinity of a 'turtle-strike' not to poke their fingers into things that they don't recognise - Which is good advice to all of us I think you'll agree.


Coloured rain is another popular 'Extreme' weather condition.  Well, I say extreme... I mean it's just rain, that's not clear.  You can have coloured rain in a plethora of designer colours and it's often due to contaminants or Algae in the body of water where the rain originally came from.

What would happen if these things came as part of WinterNado? - The Thrash Metal band 'Slayer' would sue anyone who used the phrase 'Raining Blood' on their Facebook feed - Presuming that the rain was red that is, if it were green then I suppose you'd be fine saying things like 'OMFG! It's, like, totally raining snot.' Which Slayer probably wouldn't care about that much, until their next album came out.


But all joking aside, if it does snow, take it easy out there, allow extra time for your journey, only travel when you have to and all that jazz.  But if you can get away with it, ring into work and say you can't get the car off the drive, or the train's not running, or the motorway is knee deep in freshly fallen marmosets.  Go sledging, have a snowball fight, fill a dumb person's hood with snow and then tell them that it's raining.

But don't, whatever you do, stick your middle finger in something that looks like a giant Pukka Pie with an evil face - You'll never be able to say goodbye to your boss ever again...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Learn to govern yourself, be gentle and patient.

I was driving home last night, through the sleepy little Hamlet of Castle Donington, famous for The Download Festival, Motor Racing and Old people shaking their skinny fists at low flying airliners shouting 'Go away great silver birds, you'll not be predating off of my expensive koi carp today!' And giving it large with a rusty blunderbuss, before being carted away to Jeremy Hunt's home for the criminally unusual and foul smelling.

It was about 18:30 (or half-six, for those of you who've never had to say 'Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes,' to a platoon of guardsmen on the dusty plains of Matabeleland) and I was listening to The Home Service on the teak and brass-bound Blohm und Voss radiogram in the Dandymobile.  When the programming was interrupted by a live report from a wonderful place called the Museum of Curiosity.

The Museum, touted as the largest virtual museum in the entire Universe (Other dimensions are available, your experience may vary) opens its doors every Monday at around that time and invites some generally odd, but in some way celebrated people to donate objects to the museum that the hoi-palloi will enjoy cooing over whilst not really understanding their relevance.

Yesterday, their venerated guests included:

  • Evolutionary Anthropologist Professor Volker Sommer - Who may, or may not, condone recreational sex with chimpanzees
  • Musician, Ex Living Statue, American and Artist Amanda Palmer (wife to that nice Neil Gaiman bloke, but she stands infinitely tall on her own credentials of course and often doesn't mention that in polite conversation)
  • Musician and Transvestite Occult Comedian Andrew O'Neill

Here are Andrew and Amanda, I'll let you figure out who is who (Hint: Neither of them are Daleks)

All of whom were a delight to listen to, all uproariously funny in their own way, but I'm not going to critique the humour value of the broadcast itself, because as you well know, I alone do the comedy around here.

I'd like to concentrate for the moment on Mr. O'Neill, who was wearing a very fetching grey tartan dress at the time, which was splendid! I like to see people dress up for civic occasions, don't you?

The item he donated was a Third Class ticket from the London Necropolis Railway. (Which you should in no-way see as a shameless plug for his SteamPUNK band, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing's new double 'A' side single The Gin Song / Third Class Coffin - Available from all good retailers and also iTunes from yesterday - 7/10/13) And it looked like this:

The ticket was for a coffin, on a 23 mile long one-way trip from the London Necropolis Station out to the Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. 

Why did the dead need their own railway? And why were there different classes of tickets? - Well, I'll tell you.  In fairness, you could just Google it like I did I suppose, but where's the fun in that?

In the 1850's London was running out of space to bury people, a lot of the 2 million residents were regularly dying of typhoid and smallpox and dropsy and the vapours.  So many in fact, that people who had just got comfortable in their graves and had barely rotted away at all, were turfed out to make way for people who were more freshly dead.  The exhumed bodies were often just left to rot in piles, or fashioned into novelty candelabras for the budding tourist industry.  

Now, I don't know if you lot compost your kitchen waste, but if you do, you'll be no stranger to that sweet smelling liquid that you find dripping out of the compost bin when it's a bit warm... Well, it's not just potato peelings that make that stuff, cadavers do it too and generally they're a lot bigger than your average King Edward (Unless it's actually the body of King Edward, then it's exactly the same size as a King Edward).  If that stuff gets into the water supply, which of course it did, you may as well just change your name to Plague Akimbo and beat yourself to death with a self-reciprocating brass edged polo mallet.

So, they thought about building a massive 94 storey high pyramid on Primrose Hill to hold 5 million rotting corpses... No, really, they did, it was going to look like this, it was going to have steam powered lifts and everything... Smashing!

Thomas Wilson's Pyramid Mausoleum - Great Plan!

But before construction began, they realised that this was a bloody stupid idea and decided that foisting their problem on the people of Woking was a much better way of dealing with it.  So they built Brookwood which was, and still is, the largest cemetery in the UK.  But then they had another problem, getting the dearly departed from the place of their demise to the place of their interment was a bit of a trek, there are (entirely ficticious) reports of pallbearers wearing their legs to stumps walking there and back fifty times a day.  So they built the above-mentioned railway.

There were a couple of platforms, one for Anglicans and one for heathens, child molesters, sellers of tuppenny potions, snake charmers, smut peddlers and general undesirables... Or Non-Anglicans, as was the parlance of the time.  And there were different levels of tickets for both types of people,  this not only impacted on how comfortable the seats were for any mourners who chose to ride the train, but it also indicated the reverence with which your remains were treated - A First-Class, £1 ticket (£79 in today's money) got you entry to the corpse equivalent of the Virgin Trains lounge at both ends, brass handles for the coffin and Kenny G style saxophone music during the journey.  If your family could only scrape together the two and six for a Third-Class ticket (about £10 today), you were stuck in an old orange crate, loaded into an open carriage with a pitchfork, the train would stop suddenly at the other end and you would go shooting off into the weeds where your earthly remains would probably be carried off by foxes.

It ran for almost one hundred years, from 1845 to 1941, when some Austrian chap called Adolf decided to rain fire down upon it with great vigour from the heavens.  You can still see the frontage of the the London Terminus on Westminster Bridge Road, it looks a bit like the Firestation from Ghostbusters - It's one of those hidden bits of history that the UK's famous for, you should do some research, it'll keep you busy.


Anywho, if you're at all interested in Steampunk music and have got bored of Abney Park (and who hasn't Am I Right?), then give The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing a listen, they have songs about Brunel and being polite and everything, and if that's not a reason to listen to their stuff, then I don't know what is.

Caution, may contain the occasional profanity - But we're all friends here.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Defying Gravity?

Well, that was a bit of a weekend!

I had Friday off work as my dear Brother, you know, the one who lives in the hollowed out volcano in the eastern Mediterranean Sea came over to the little old Baltic state of England for a visit. There was beer, and Chinese food - It was great, we watched Most Haunted and everything, it was like the good old days.

On Saturday, I went to a party. It was the Eighteenth Birthday of someone I've known for quite a while - Probably ten years or so (and no, I don't make a habit of befriending eight year old children specifically so that I can be invited to their significant birthday parties... Not... specifically...)

Anyway, it's not like it's the only eighteenth I've been to recently, there was this Fancy Dress one last year.  And it certainly wasn't the strangest party by a long way, I mean, there was the one with all those transvestites and where that chap offered his wife to me as a nutritional supplement.

But this was a bit of a first.

I'm about to go full-on middle-class, hold on to your re-enforced Burberry gussets.

Let me give you a bit of background - The Birthday Boy, let's call him George, as that's his name.  Is a great... Well, I suppose he can officially be called a 'bloke' now.  He's one of those people for whom 'over-exuberant' is a oft-used adjective (amongst others). He plays the guitar, the drums, and has been known to occasionally beat the living daylights out of any piano keyboard that's been too injured to run away from him.  Horribly, horribly talented.  And a nice guy, which makes it even worse.  You can't hate him, which tends to be my reaction to people I consider to be in any way more talented than myself, lucky there aren't many of them about.

That's George, on the stage there. (he's bigger than that normally)

He also goes to our local Performing Arts College and is a bit of a 'Thesp' in his spare time. (This is important, try to remember it.)

The party was held in a 1940's church hall, there was catering and a proper professional DJ with lights and lasers and smoke and a karaoke and songs that had been written (and I use the word 'written' incredibly loosely) in the past few years and everything.

It was a mix of family and friends... So far, so average, you might be thinking...

But, there was a large contingent of - Well I was going to say kids, but Young People is probably more politically correct, from the Performing Arts College.  If anyone in the room had happened to have a flamboyance meter with them, it would either have exploded or, at the very least, the needle would have been quite badly bent against the stop.

I know what you're thinking, especially if you read my post last week about musical theatre, yes, a lot of the male students were indeed, obviously and faaaaaaaabulously, 'Friends of Dorothy' (but no doubt great chaps) and a lot of the female students fell into the standard three young actress groups:

  1. Very attractive, slim girls for whom talent will always come second to looks when being selected by a lecherous producer for roles.  These people would have to be truly, truly awful (or not willing to regularly subject themselves to the casting couch) not to succeed.
  2. Plain girls who can sing and dance and could be dropped into the chorus of any show anywhere and be great, but they will have to work at it and maybe take a second job and get used to rejection.
  3. Sturdy girls, or as I like to hear them described, normal sized women, who have insanely good voices but will all end up fighting for the same roles (Mama Morton in Chicago for instance).

You know that feeling when you're a little drunk at a party where there's a karaoke and someone gets up who can actually sing?  Where there's that sense of shock, then jealousy, then wonder?  Well, imagine that happening twelve times in a row.  (OK, not everyone was brilliant, and I'm fairly sure that a couple of local dogs may well have exploded purely due to harmonic resonance.) There were a couple of truly great performances, worthy of an X-Factor contestant whose entire family had been killed the previous day in a freak custard tanker accident.

We were treated to pretty much the entire soundtrack of 'Wicked' - With one notable exception (See the title of today's post) and a few things that I didn't completely recognise, with me not being a huge fan of the genre and everything.

Then we come to the dancing.  There was a wide age range there, so obviously apart from the standard jigging about party music, there was a waltz (ever seen a waltz at an 18th?  No, me neither) and there was Gangnam style and Whigfield's Saturday night and suchlike - where everyone forms up into lines and does 'the dance' with varying degrees of style and grace.

Then 'Beat It', by Michael Jackson came on.  We were treated to a pretty accurate rendition of the video (with some parts of Thriller' thrown in for good measure) as performed by people who had possibly had one too many WKD's - It was a huge hit, there were applause and everything.

Then the DJ (Who was great, by the way), knowing his audience well by this point, played the Jason Nevins remix of Run DMC's 1983 hit 'It's Like That'

So there was a dance off, obviously... I mean what else could one do? OK, so we were in a church hall in the East Midlands, not under an overpass in West Detroit, and the people taking part were not wearing baggy jeans and ironically over-large beanies - But the thought was there, they carried it off pretty well. And again, it was something I've never seen before.

Maybe this is a fairly standard party nowadays, maybe I'm just out of touch,  maybe the average 18th party now involves unicycling unicorns and hot and cold running meringues in a selection of flavours and sizes.

I certainly hope so, there should be another one coming up next year, and every year for the next ten or so years.

*Strokes Beard*

*Knods Knowingly*

[Exits Stage right to maniacal laughter and lightning effects}

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Cir-her-her-cle oooof LiIiIife!

Back in August 2004, I took a trip to that London place, you know the one, the Capital of England (And you thought that was 'E' right? LOL), that sits on the River Thames, where Kubrick filmed the battle scenes for Full Metal Jacket (The old Beckton Gasworks) and Ridley Scott filmed most of Aliens (Acton Lane Power station)

Was I visiting scenes from movie history? No, I wasn't, but in fairness it's quite difficult to wander around London and not see a location from a Richard Curtis film.  I was going to see a show, a musical, a professional terpsichorial display of the highest order. Otherwise known as 'The Lion King'.

Now I know that there are people out there who will be saying things like 'A musical? but that's how gay men spend their free time!'  Well, traditionally, perhaps they do, that and ordering multiple copies of the 'Queer as Folk' box-set from Amazon...  And, erm,a lot of casual bumming, obviously.

But, you know, in a mixed group, some of the 'West End Shows' can be really very good. I've seen a few and on the whole, if you can get a cut-price deal to go and see one, they're well worth it.

But on this occasion, we're talking about The Lion King.  There were six of us on the trip in total,  Mrs Dandy and Myself, my now-American artistic benefactor and her husband, and two more people, one male, one female, who were not at that time, nor have they ever been, before or since, involved in a relationship with each other... Just friends, OK?

As my job at the time involved moving around the country quite a lot and staying in hotels, the group trusted me to book somewhere for us all to stay.  Once I'd confirmed that everyone favoured a budget hotel, so that there would be more money left over for beer and other frivolities, I set to work, trying to find a budget hotel within walking distance of the Lyceum Theatre, in WC2, that had two double rooms and two singles.  Believe it or not, I managed it, Great looking place, All of the rooms were en-suite, Central location, easy walk to the theatre, £25 or so per room.

That should have rung alarm bells right? Yeah? - Not with me it seems.  We had a great trip down on the train, all shiny faced excitement, cans of British Rail Strongbow and talking slightly too loud,  When we arrived outside the hotel, it still looked great, it was quite a large building, that overlooked one of those nice gated private garden type things that you see sometimes on the TV.

We went inside, and frankly it was a bit dingy, the owners and staff were all natives of some unidentified Eastern European country and had raised surliness to an artform.  There was a little light confusion as to whether we'd already paid, which got everyone off on the right foot and we were all given directions to our rooms, which were spread at every possible corner of the building.  The directions involved a lot of pointing, and words like 'Go stairs two floor, turn *handsignal for left* three doors. toilet at both ends corridor'.

Now, being sharp witted, I picked up on this and said 'Aha! Excuse me, my good man, but the booking form clearly states that the rooms are en-suite!' and I waved the printout from the Internet under his bushy moustache.  He inhaled, and the paper disappeared into his nasal cavity, losing me all of my documentary evidence in one fell swoop, then he replied, 'Room have shower in, toilet at end of corridor.'

So we made a plan to unpack, then go for a beer and some lunch, said our goodbyes and went to our rooms.  We went up two flights of stairs, turned left, went down three doors and pushed.  The room was... Small, yes, that's a kind word... Small. There was a (barely) double bed and a long-dead potplant.  Most of the room was taken up by a hardboard box that stretched from floor to ceiling, that was covered in the same 'Early Mental Hospital' style wallpaper as the rest of the room and had a concertina door on it.  My curiosity finally got the better of me and I opened the door.  It was, of course, the much vaunted en-suite shower.  To say that it was a bit of a lash-up would be to despoil the good name of lash-up showers such as the ones that Colonel John Blashford-Snell made out of three bits of bamboo and a sloth, whilst trying to transport a Grand Piano up the Congo some four years previously (look it up).

It was whilst I was examining a particularly unusual piece of fungus, emanating from the shower drain (hole in the carpeting inside the box) that I decided that a quick trip to the conveniences was in order.  I left the room, made for the end of the corridor and gingerly pushed open a door with many panes of frosted glass in it (and one perfectly clear pane at face height, when you were sat down.) The toilet could not have been more Victorian if it had a hairy German bloke, wearing a T-Shirt that said 'I [heart] Saxe-Coburg and Gotha' and an unfeasibly large pierced penis, sat on it.  I attended to my urgent business and pulled the chain (as it had a high-level cistern, like back in the day) and nothing happened other than a faint gurgling.  I pulled a few more times, in the style of Ned Beatty trying to start an outboard motor, but finally gave up and went back to the room.

It was then that I noticed that the doors didn't have numbers on.  You know that scene in every single film set in a hotel? The one that sort of zooms in then back out again down the corridor full of doors?  Well, let me tell you, that actually happens.  I went from door to door, listening carefully to see if I could heard the sound of Mrs Dandy silently complaining about the room.  But I could not, so I chose a door at random and opened it.

It was then that I noticed the urine-soaked corpse of a tramp.

No, seriously.

He was a tramp, he stank of urine, and he was dead... Probably - If he wasn't, then he was sleeping so deeply that his chest wasn't moving at all.  Now, I've seen enough horror films to know that if you go down, alone, to the reception of a hotel run by unidentified Eastern European types to say that you've just discovered a dead body, then you often find yourself being served to your friends for breakfast the next day.  So I backed out of the room, apologised (OK, so he was dead and couldn't technically hear me, but that didn't mean that I shouldn't be polite) and closed the door.

We all met up again in the lounge, had a long pub lunch, told everyone the story of the toilet and the tramp, then went back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.

The next few hours or so passed by quickly and will remain undescribed to spare the blushes of my dear wife.  Suffice it to say that there was no bar, or indeed mini-bar, so we had to resort to the old fashioned way of passing the time with only a bed and a dead plant for company, and it was only due to one of our party knocking on the door and asking if we were ready that reminded us of the time (and it seems that answering 'give me about thirty seconds and I will be' will earn you a slap from your wife)

We went to the theatre, had a great time, then came back to the hotel and had a few drinks in one of the rooms that had a working balcony until the early hours of the morning.

Breakfast was an interesting affair, the advertised Full English Breakfast turned out to be a single sausage and a piece of bacon each, calls for beans and/or tomatoes and toast fell on deaf and slightly frightening ears and in true tabloid style, we made our excuses and left.

The trip to the railway station was fairly uneventful, apart from not being able to find the tickets, going back to the hotel to look for them and then finding them in one of the ladies handbags and having to run to get the train.  And we put the whole sorry business behind us.

Until just over nine months later... The MicroDandy was born...