Wednesday, 27 January 2016

As Johnny Depp once said:

"I'm shy, paranoid, whatever word you want to use. I hate fame. I've done everything I can to avoid it."

No, really, he did... But the poor bugger still has to sit on a big pile of money $400 million high and repeatedly have sweaty, monkey sex with Amber Heard (The blonde girl off of Zombieland

Amber Heard

So I'm guessing that he considers his life a massive failure. What with all the fame and the money and having to spend 14 years gettin-jiggy-wid French popstrel Vanessa Paradis previous to that.

Vanessa Paradis

I mean, just look at the quality of his taste in available women, the poor little fellah.

But anyway, enough of comparing myself to this professional pirate impersonator.  Let us concentrate more on our differences...

I was going to do a table and be all scientific and stuff, but I wrote it out on paper first and... to be honest, I couldn't read what I'd written after most of the ink had been washed away by my uncontrollable tears.  But suffice it to say, I am not 'Best buds' with Tim Burton, I do not have Alice Cooper on speed-dial and I do not own a vineyard in St. Tropez.

But the main difference is that I would love to be famous.  I know it changes you. I know that there wouldn't be a portion of my life that was private anymore (<remember this bit for the big reveal later)

And I don't mean fairly famous... I'm pretty sure that I'm 'fairly famous' already - I mean, you guys have all heard of me, Michael Sheen (Yes, THAT Michael Sheen) wished me Happy Christmas last month. I also count Yvette Fielding, Dr. Karl Fielding and Rufus Hound as close, personal friends (As long as you don't tell them about it - I'm not sure that it's 100% reciprocal - I mean, they like and retweet a lot of my stuff... Well some of it... maybe a couple each, tops... I'm so alone.)

and Scott Page, the saxophonist from Pink Floyd, thinks I'm cool - No, really he does.

But I want a gold plated helicarrier with a giant naked picture of myself on the bottom, I want Vin Diesel to walk everywhere behind me just punching his left fist into his right palm every time i talk to anyone, whilst wearing the sunglasses from 'Pitch Black'. I want whistling lobsters as shoulder-pads.

Am I ever going to be that rich?

Not on my own, no... What I need are followers (No, not 'Drink the Coolaid' type followers - put that straight-jacket down) I mean, like a regular audience who can spread the word and increase the numbers of the Dandy Nation.

To that end, I have done the unthinkable... From tomorrow, 28th January, to 1st February 2016 All three of my Chimping Dandy books will be FREE to download onto your Kindle, or Kindle compatible device from Amazon.

Here are the Links:

Mumblings of an Irate Pangolin - My First book... Read the reviews if you're unsure as to whether to download it FOR FREE - All five star, all of the time

The Pangolin Yodels - My second book... All five star reviews again (except the one four star review). You don't need to have read 'Mumblings' before you read this one - But you know, there's no reason not to because you can download it FOR FREE

And finally...

Do you have children, are they of an age where they're not so easily scared and/or overawed by life on this big ball of snot that we call 'The Earth'? Do you read them bed-time stories, or throw a book at them and say "Read this until you fall asleep"? Well, if you do, then you should totally get this:

The Collected Children's Pangolin Primer - This is a collection of volumes 1 and 2 from above, but with all the drugs, sex and swearing taken out (I think it might say 'bugger' once... But it's used as an expletive, not a verb) - It has a picture of my Son on the front... It's pretty dim, it's a bit like those 'The longer you stare into the fog, the more zombies you will see' type thing, but he's definitely there. This can also be downloaded FOR FREE

So, if I want to be rich, why am I giving my books away?

Well, in all honesty, I'm trying to get you hooked, so that when my fiction books come out (And the Pangolin books contain some of the stories that they're based on if you need a sweetener) you'll dive onto them like an extra from 'Breaking Bad' dives onto anything blue and translucent.

Just think of me as your friendly neighborhood drug dealer - only hairier, and possibly fatter with a slightly less casually racist Hispanic name.

But seriously Buy... I mean, GET FOR FREE, my books, make me famous, I'l buy you a chinchilla or something when I am. Totally, you will probably have to remind me though.

Remember when I said that I wouldn't be worried that none of my life would be private? Well, if you get these books, you'll know pretty much everything there is to know about me anyway - And that's got to be worth at least nothing at all... Hasn't it?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

This is not the state of the nation

I’m aware that I haven’t done a ‘State of the Dandy Nation’ post for a while. In fact, it’s been so long that there are probably people reading this who don’t even know what that means.

Every month, when this blog was new, and fresh, and throbbing, I would let you wonderful people into some of the stats from the previous month (or however long it had been since the previous time that I’d done it) – I’d include things like the top-ten all-time posts and what countries had checked the blog out more than any other, or what strange and odd things people had typed into Google to find us.

I like thinking of us as us you know… You the reader, me the purveyor of lurid scoria, the people who visit the blog purely because I very often slip a word into the Metadata that people often use when searching for pornography – It helps to foster inclusion, and it makes me giggle uncontrollably.

Did I tell you about the time when I got confused for a busty, red-headed camgirl model, for like six months or something? People were googling “IsHotMyself Dandy” (Which was the name of a site she was featured on) But were being pointed to my page, explaining about the wonderful day when I shot myself… Easy mistake to make I suppose, I’m hoping that at least some of them stayed (If you are one of those people, please leave a message in the comments… I’ll buy a red wig and post a topless photo of myself as a treat for you… Might even sign it) - I was going to post a picture of the young lady concerned... But, I couldn't really find one that was 'appropriate' - You could try the search yourself, just not a work, OK?

Anywho, nowadays, if you want to know the all-time top-ten posts, I post them on the right-hand side of the main page, so you can take a look yourself. As far as our audience goes – It’s mostly the USA, followed by Russia, the UK, then the Ukraine… With a load of European countries making up the rest of the top ten. To be honest, the only thing people have googled to find us, other than the name of the blog, are the words ‘Dzit Dit Gaii’ (Which is Navajo for ‘The Mountain that is White’) – and only goes to show that the Internet is still full of conspiracy theorists. And that they’re coming to me for answers – The poor confused lambs.


Anyway, I wanted to do something different this time, if you follow me on Twitter (@Chimping_Dandy) you’ll know that I occasionally post phrases, in the style of Redtop headlines that, when typed into Google – Show search results where this blog (in general, not this post in particular) is the first result. I thought that I might share a few of them with you… In the vain hope that you might find them funny, or odd, or a cry for help from a fat, bald man whose readership figures aren’t what they were when he was posting every day instead of having a lunch-break.

I’ll start with the most recent one…

  • Colin Firth makes an example of lesbian weasels using cutlery – Takes you HERE
  • Alvaston Nazi hunter finds pizza from 1953 – Takes you HERE
  • Stickleback tin helmet brain lesion made Benedict Cumberbatch try breast feeding – Takes you HERE
  • A drunk moorhen on its gap-year wears teenage student underwear – Takes you HERE
  • Christmas blindness blamed on primrose cannabis vodka – Takes you HERE

You know, if you get a spare minute, maybe you'd want to try this for yourself, it'll probably waste a few minutes, it might even be fun - If you find a good one, send it in - I'll say thanks and everything... Probably

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

I try all things, I achieve what I can

I had a day off from my day-job yesterday (yesterday being, in this case, 12/1/16) you know… A lot of you won’t recognise the enormity of that statement – But those who have met me face to face (or face to any part of my morphologically improbable body) will know that I don’t take time off.  In fact, I often get reminded by my colleagues, in the latter part of the year, “Oi, Dandy, you know you’ve still got 22 days holiday left to take in the next two weeks?”

But anywho, I was off work yesterday and that was the important thing.  Initially, it was because my daughter had her last meaningful parents’ evening at her senior school and I wanted to see if any of her teachers had suddenly become less ineffectual (some had, some hadn’t, as is the way of things) – Please note, I wholly appreciate that Secondary School teachers have a set of problems all their own, mostly that they’re no longer allowed to punish, discipline, chastise, castigate, reprove or otherwise beat senseless their charges, who are often taller, wider, spottier and not beholden to any kind of government ratified rulesets that tie their hands firmly behind their backs – But then some are just namby-pamby twig-eating liberal hippies (My name’s Ben Elton… Goodnight!)

Ah no, don’t go… I haven’t finished yet.

Where were we? Ah yes, day off.  As luck would have it, it was not long after Mrs. Dandy had told me that my presence was required, and then reminded me – a mere fifteen or sixteen times, that I should book the day as holiday, that I was contacted by the massively popular, Norfolk based mixed media artist, Caroline Hack – whom I’ve known, via a plethora of mutual friends on social media, for a number of years, who requested a ‘meeting’.

N.B. Aren’t commas brilliant?

If you’ve not heard of the hugely talented lady in question, then it probably means that you’re just not that into historic whaling or wildly inappropriate Scandinavian songs about whaling, or whaling shanties, or fabric sperm whales, or Moby Dick, or maps, or the scientific study of the actual ratio of Polar-bear head size to polar bear skull size (Did you know, the Inuit name for the polar bear is ‘Nanook’? – I know I didn’t) – If you get the chance to visit her at one of her many residencies, you totally should – She’s very educational. The Memsahib even described her as incredibly passionate (Which is odd, because I only left them alone long enough for me to get the teas in – Earl Grey they were, very nice… I hugely recommend the Coffee House at the Central Museum & Art Gallery in Derby – Good staff, very clean.)

The brilliant Nature Gallery at Derby Museum

We met up in the Nature Gallery of my local museum (see above) – Being two people who had never met ‘in the flesh’ – We agreed that, to make things easier, she would wear a badge featuring a whale and I would wear a bow-tie, as I often tend to in every-day life.  We found each other with not too much bother, as most of the other patrons were less than four feet high and we could see over them – It was a visiting school party, rather than the organised outing for morally corrupt dwarves that you lot were no doubt imagining.  

The reason for this somewhat cloak and dagger meeting was that I’d received the honour of being invested into a world-spanning art project that Caroline has masterminded.  She has produced a limited edition of exactly 100 numbered, hand-made, foot-long, fabric whales that she provides to the great and the good (and myself, and the famous author and mental health Champion James Josiah, and my good friend Nathan – whose wife Victoria has the patience of a saint – trust me) on the proviso that they ‘have adventures’ and are photographed doing so – It’s a sort of global, movable art installation you see, in a ‘here is one of my whales at the top of the Empire State Building.’ or ‘This whale is posed, ironically, on an authentic James Durfee harpoon from 1862.’ Or ‘Here is a whale being held by Russell Crowe on the set of Noah.’ It’s a sort of a big deal you see, made me genuinely proud to be a part of it, and all it cost me was the basing of a character on Caroline in my new book – The fact that I chose to base a Goddess on her didn’t enter into it at all of course. *cough*

I was also introduced to the thoroughly wonderful Andrea Hadley-Johnson and her colleague, Rachel Atherton, both from the museum. Who, apart from being stupendous people in their own right, let us surreptitiously, but very reverently, fondle a real, live (well, not live, obviously – That’d be bloody silly, we’d have drowned and/or gotten horribly gored and eaten or something probably) narwhal tusk.  They’re funny old things you know - quite heavy, hollow, and almost freakishly smooth – Which is due to all the ceaseless fondling I should imagine – And yes, I’m talking about the tusk, not the nice ladies from the museum – I don’t know them anywhere near well enough to be able to say whether the same description applies.

Mrs Dandy, a Narwhal tusk, and half a Rachel Atherton

There was a tiny amount of pomp and a smattering of ceremony, photos were taken, words were said, the Pangolin-whale was introduced to the real Pangolin who resides in the museum’s Nature Gallery and then passed into my greasy clutches with whispered washing instructions and threats that my ownership was merely a ‘Fostering’ relationship and the artist retained the right to instantly repossess it if she suspected any kind of foul-play was on the cards.

Pagolin Whale meets Pangolin (Tweet via Derby Museum Nature Gallery)

At one point, Ms Atherton asked me if I was a ‘Naturalist’ – which is a damn fair question under the circumstances, and she was politely taken aback when I replied, “No, I’m just an idiot, who sometimes names his books after Pangolins.” – Which is, from now on, how I will introduce myself to dignitaries of any type.

On the whole, it was an excellent day, I met some wonderful people, visited a truly brilliant museum (Support your local museum – Both by attending regularly and donating if you can – They are under threat), drank some splendid tea, and I became the owner of a whale, who amongst you can say that you’ve spent a dull Tuesday doing all those things?

For those of you who would like to know what number my whale was, of the strictly 100 whales involved in the project… well, It was number 101, obviously.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Evolving with the times remains an entirely foreign concept

I spent the Christmas break, treading the windy (as in oft swept by the wind) windy (as in torturously convoluted) halls and corridors of Dandy Towers, reading great leather-bound volumes of Chaucer and yelling selected quotes out of the window at the unkindness of ravens that seem to have taken up semi-permanent residence in the trees between the southern tennis court and the helipad.

“Time and Tide wait for no man!” I would scream repeatedly at their dispassionate mawkish beaks

“Murder will out, this is my conclusion!” I shouted more than once (Mainly because at that point, I had accidentally misidentified them as crows)

It was usually at the point when my face started to turn a rather fetching shade of puce, that Heckmondswyke would appear from the serving staff’s hidden walkway to bring me a steaming cup of weasel coffee and the latest edition of ‘Making a Gimp-suit for your Clydesdale’ (Part 1 - £1.99  Remaining 624 issues - £5.99) to calm my nerves. I would sit on the granite window-seat of the Ladies Tower wondering exactly how I would tell Mrs. Dandy that I had, once again, accidentally defaced another pair of bespoke doe-skin promenading trousers during my excursion.

It was whilst I was being given a wet-shave by the upper-bathroom houseboy that the dear Memsahib suggested that we try an alternative method of recreation that evening… Knowing my love of entertainment where fresh-faced Sons of the Empire (The British Empire, that is) take on the foul revolutionary Colonial powers and give them a sound thrashing, often seeing them on the business end of a bloodied nose and comically disheveled hair, she suggested that we watch the splendid Colin Firth vehicle ‘Kingsman’ – You should all go out and watch this film immediately. It is splendid, as I may have mentioned previously.

It led, as most things seem to do, to a heated discussion, as to what constitutes a ‘Real’ Gentleman – And more worryingly, whether today’s modern woman actually wants a Gentleman as a partner in the first place.   As you may probably have gathered from the name of this blog, I consider myself sufficiently more flamboyant than the average person to identify with the ‘Dandy’ classification.  As funds, situation and time allows – I generally overdress for any given occasion. It’s my ‘thing’… Along with identifying with the tenets of an earlier, simpler, age, and attracting peoples’ attention by poking them firmly in the shoulder or haunches.

To my mind there are several, easy things that one may do to be perceived as a Gentleman. (In no particular order)

  • Never eat until all participants in any given meal have been served.
  • If the meal is self-service, serve yourself last.
  • Always hold open a door, and in the case that you are holding it open for another male, offer a questioning glance. If the glance is replied to with a shake of the head, let the door go and do not look back.
  • Never wear a hat indoors. Unless it is used as an obvious Gentleman’s affectation.
  • Realise that a hat may be reversed only under specific circumstances (e.g. driving in an open-topped car)
  • Never give advice that has not been requested.
  • When walking with a female, or child, always walk on the side nearest the road. When walking a dog, the opposite is true.
  • Always be kind to shop and/or restaurant staff.
  • Know that there are a selection of situations where it is preferable to come second, especially when it is not technically a race.
  • Judge a person’s character on their deeds, rather than their appearance.
  • Be able to shine a pair of Oxfords to a mirror finish.
  • Admit when you are in the wrong.
  • Correctly wear cufflinks as often as humanly possible.
  • Respect the opinions of others, no matter how obviously wrong they are.
  • Tell the truth, constantly (people get used to it eventually) and as a continuation, do not cheat, or steal – For that way Caddishness lies
  • Know which cutlery to use for eating a banana.
  • Be able to launch (and safely recover) a falcon.
  • Never get angry to the point where you lose yourself in an argument.
  • Be able to identify the birds, trees and animals of your native country.
  • Do not hesitate to put a suffering animal out of its misery.
  • Never start a fight, but always finish one.
  • Know that there are circumstances where each and every one of these rules may be safely bent and/or broken, so that your Gentlemanliness will remain intact.

Leave me your thoughts… Gentleman – Could you keep to these rules more often than not?  Ladies – Would a Gentleman be more attractive to you if he did?

Could you suggest any more?

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Wetter than an otter's pocket

We have a TV program over here in the UK called ‘MostHaunted’; I think that I've mentioned it before.  For those who don’t feel like clicking on that link, it’s about a group of friends and family who travel to old castles and pubs and disused military installations and try to interact with the spirits of the departed.  The sort of program that, if it were to have been made in the USA for instance, would have to have the words ‘For entertainment purposes only’ written in large, friendly letters somewhere in the titles, so that none of the viewers had to deal with any uncomfortable ideas or suddenly have the urge to ‘try this at home’. (Believe it or not, I've spoken to one of the cast of the show about this very subject – I shan't name-drop which one*, because I'm not like that, but she says that she hates that whole ‘For entertainment only’ thing)

The Most Haunted team

Anyway, last night, I had a dream where I was some minor member of the team, on an investigation (I'm a bit of a fanboy of the program, so this was only a matter of time I suppose – and if one of the production team are listening, I really wouldn't mind tagging along one night – you could do a ‘no-name blogger special', you've already got the Internet presence after all.) – But the odd thing was, I remembered it when I woke up.  So, in true Robert Louis Stevenson style, I wrote it down. We also have/had very similar moustaches you know, Stevenson and I, but that’s neither here nor there.

Bear in mind that it was a dream, so the details aren't going to be factual or accurate, and I've added some bits so that it makes a little more sense. I suppose I could have embellished it a bit more and saved it to be next years’ Christmas Ghost Story, but I’d probably have forgotten it. I hope you like it.


The minibus that the hotel had found for us was older than I was. I remember turning to Stuart, pointing to a hole surrounded by rust at the bottom of the door, and shaking my head, but he just shrugged and carried on resignedly loading the gear on to the rear seats as if to say ‘Yeah, but what’re you gonna do?’.  It was starting to get dark, but at least the rain had finally stopped.  Normally, we’d get there nice and early set up in the daylight, take a few readings, set up the radio mics and suchlike.  But our shiny new crew-bus had decided that that was all way to easy and had thrown a strop, as well as some vitally important part of the engine.  The guy in the garage said that the part had to come all the way from Germany, and it would be a couple of days at least, so that was nice.

Once we were loaded, the trip around the ring-road did little to lift our spirits, we’d hit Leeds’ rush-hour and everyone and their brother was wanting to go the same way as us.  At least it gave me some time to think about the job.  It was only my third gig with the team and I was still very much ‘back-room’ staff. I wasn't ruggedly handsome enough to be in front of the cameras I suppose; it didn't help that I wasn't much of a screamer either, so I had limited entertainment value – I’d had enough contact with disembodied voices and doors opening and closing on their own in my own home to let it shock me in a damp, disused factory by the river in Heckmondwike, which was lucky really, as that was exactly where we were heading.  We’d got the call a few weeks before, from the PR team of a development company that was converting said factory into flats. They asked us if we’d like to work on something a bit more ‘current’ than we’d normally been used to.  It seemed that they’d been excavating one of the buildings to see if the foundations were up to the change of use they were going to put them through and had found some strange ladder-shaped configuration of rotting railway sleepers about a metre down.  Then the County Archaeologist had somehow got wind of it and had wanted the chance to take a look before they all got dug up. Everything was going well until they found the first body and they'd had to call the coroner. The bodies weren't recent, probably dating from about when the factory was built, but their numbers, and the method of their burial was very odd.  They’d found seventeen bodies so far: two adults – A man and a woman, and fifteen children all of similar ages.  They were lying peacefully, no sign of foul-play or struggle, wrapped in the remains of Hessian sacks that were all neatly tied at the top with leather thonging. They had been laid to rest in the spaces between the rungs of the ‘ladder’; it’d given the construction guys quite a shock when they first found them, But it wasn't until the bodies had been taken away for reburial that things really started to get strange.  It was as if someone had opened the  ‘I-Spy book of Hauntings’ at page one and started ticking things off in order. 

There were cold spots, which you’d probably expect in a Victorian factory next to a river. The same could be said for the unexplained draughts and rattling doors.  Then the reports of half seen shadows and disappearing lunchboxes had started, then someone claimed that he had been reaching behind him for a hammer when someone had gently placed it into his hand, although he was the only person in the room.  It all came to a head when the Yorkshire Evening Post ran a story from a builder who had left the job after being followed around for his entire shift by the sound of giggling children.

I think the developers thought that getting us involved would give them a bit of positive publicity, maybe they were right, I don’t know much about that side of things.  The house I live in is haunted and I manage OK. Maybe they thought they’d get some free publicity.  When we got to site, the rain had just started again, you could see the mist of it blowing past the floodlights that were spread around.  A man wearing a hard-hat and a hi-viz jacket waved us through the gate and we parked up next to the other, working crew-bus that the talent had used to get there earlier in the day and made our way over to the group, who were huddled under ‘Most Haunted’ branded golfing umbrellas and looking into a hole.

“So, that’s where you found them?” Yvette asked the foreman who was desperately trying to look comfortable for the camera.
“Yes,” he replied, “we’ve extended the trench, but those seventeen… people were all we found. We’ve just had the go-ahead to remove the wood and check the foundations.”
“Well, we’ll do our best to find out why they’re still here and hopefully help them to cross over,” she turned dramatically, straight to camera, “on tonight’s Most Haunted.  OK, cut there, we’ll add the sting and that’ll do it I think.” Then she turned to me, somewhat less dramatically, “We’re set up in that building over there, the Foreman said it has all the mod-cons, which means it has a working kettle and a jar of instant coffee. Did you remember to bring the milk?” she took a sip from a large Starbucks takeaway mug.

I smiled and nodded, then started unpacking the gear from the van.  The room that she’d indicated turned out to be an old machine shop that had had most of the heavy machinery removed.  The walls were red-brick under a coating of grease and the steel tables were all welded to the floor.  It took me the best part of an hour to set up the desk and connect all the wiring and I was still hunched under the desk when Karl walked in.  He kicked the sole of my boot to get my attention and I cracked my head on the underside of the table whilst cursing his ancestry in Klingon.

“Oops, sorry mate. Just been talking to one of the site security guys.  It seems that the next building down the river is a bit of a ‘hotspot’ at the minute.  We want to setup some lights and stuff in there, but there’s no juice. Can you throw a cable down there?”
“Yeah Boss, no problem, I’ve got a reel in the van.”

I rubbed the growing lump on my head as he went outside and I muttered something unsavoury under my breath.  Grabbing the cable, I wandered down towards the building Karl had mentioned, bumping into Yvette, who was sheltered under an umbrella, looking down into the oily river below.

“Thinking about going for a swim?” I asked, trying to attract her attention without actually using the words ‘Can you move out of the way, because this reel of cable is really heavy.’
“No, I was just wondering why they were there, why they were buried and then had a factory built on top of them, why they were in sacks?”
“Cheaper than coffins,” I replied, “perhaps you’ll get to ask them later?”
She smiled and nodded, still looking into the water. She blinked and turned to me as if she’d just remembered something, “Let me show you where we need lighting.”

My million candlepower torch showed that the building was very much like the one we’d set up camp in.  A couple of the skylights were broken, letting the steady stream of rain make growing puddles on the floor. A bramble bush had made its way inside through a half-opened fire door and some of the heavier, cast iron framed machine tools were still there – More expensive for the previous owners to move than they were worth.  The main difference was the sound of a steadily ringing telephone.  I pointed at Yvette, putting my thumb and little finger up to the side of my head with a questioning expression.  She shook her head in response.  The sound echoed off the damp brick walls, making it sound like it was coming from everywhere at once. We crept around the darkened room, tripping over the corners of lifting tiles, the sound getting louder as we headed away from the door and towards the furthest corner.  Even when there was no further to go, the ringing still sounded wrong somehow, like it was muffled or I was wearing earmuffs.  But it was still urgent, the ringing bells demanding to be answered. I scanned the torch backwards and forwards over the wall, but saw nothing except a single 1940’s metal sign, advertising that ‘Careless talk costs lives’ with a child-like drawing of a busy train carriage.  I gently touched the sign and pulled my finger away with a yelp as it vibrated at the same time as the phone rang.

“It’s behind there,” I whispered, as I took a screwdriver from my belt and slid it behind the sign, easily levering the rusty screws from the brickwork.

In an alcove, completely covered by the sign, was what seemed to be an old army field telephone with a mouldering canvas cover.  I tipped my head towards it and pointed again at Yvette, who shook her head and took a step back. The phone rang another four times before I plucked up enough courage to pick it up. At first I could just hear the wind, then faintly, but getting louder as if the person on the other end was getting closer, I heard a calm, male voice.

“Tell them it’s all right, I’m the first one here, but it’s all right. They shouldn’t be scared.”

Then the line went dead.  I lowered the handset, constantly looking at it as if I expected it to turn into a snake in my hand at any moment.  When I put it back onto the cradle I realised that the braided cord coming from the box ended abruptly in a knot of corroded copper wires about an inch away.  There didn’t even appear to be a cable that the phone could have been connected to in the past.  Then the realisation hit me just as the phone began to ring again...

*  *cough* It was Yvette that told me *cough*