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Friday, 27 February 2015

http://mukto-mona.com/bangla_blog/

You stare at the blank screen.

It can take minutes, sometimes hours. Sometimes nothing comes at all. Sometimes it's so poor and expresses so badly what you wanted to say that you wish it hadn't come at all. But usually something comes and you're grateful, grateful because, when something comes you can hope - hope that it will build, hope that you might feel that pleasure-rush behind the ears, that quiet ecstasy that radiates around the base of the skull when you do get it right, or read it when someone else has. Usually though, you're grateful for nothing more than that the screen is no longer blank. But it's the good days you do it for, when it comes before you can even get yourself before the screen, your fingers do their merry dance in a blur and the flow of words picks you up and transports you - the images shine, the meanings resound and you follow every twist and turn, every pause every punchline as if you are outside it all; you are not writing so much as something is being written through you: you, your eyes aglow, your skull aflame. And then it fades, the words cease and those guiding hands put you back down, you go back to the routine, back to the drone, back to the blank screen.

And there you are, today, back in front of the screen, trying to will the whirring of the wheels in that free mind of yours, trying to wipe away the grime and the grit from the windscreen of your consciousness, trying to see. Trying to write down what you see. There may have been words, you may have made a start, the piece may have been completed, you may have had about you that quiet smile or look of mild consternation as you finessed the almost finished article, squeezed those last few drops of meaning, irony, humour or remorse from whatever you were writing. We won't know what it was you were writing, only that that was what you were planning, or what you had done or what you were in the middle of doing when they came.

They came, I imagine, from behind you - the coward's way. Because you would have had a desk with a screen, by a window or a lamp so that you could type facing towards the light. I know this, because that is what we all do, no matter how ineptly, no matter how pointlessly, no matter how reviled or acclaimed. It doesn't matter. We just do it because that is what we do. We type towards the light.

So now all we can do is to go here and hope to see your words one day replace the night black screen. Hope that even if you can't, your words may come back. And then we go back to our own blank screens and wait.

Wait for it to come.

Then we type.

We type towards the light.

For Tim Footman and in memory of Avijit Roy.

ISIS members sue Apple Corps over lost Beatles royalties...



Lawyers acting on behalf of the self-styled terror group, So-Called Islamic State have begun a civil action against Apple, the company set up in 1968 to manage their affairs by self-styled lovable mop-tops, the So-Called Beatles. Members of So-Called Isis also known as the self-styled, So-Called Beatles - Jihadi John, Jihadi Paul, Jihadi George and Jihadi Ringo - claim that they are not receiving royalties due to them for a large body of popular songs they wrote during the So-Called Swinging Sixties, songs which set the toes of the world tapping and launched an era of sexual freedom and social experimentation as the world reverberated to their tuneful Mersey beat music. A spokesman for the group which is currently succeeding in returning large swathes of the so-called Levant and self-styled Middle East to the Middle Ages through an impressive use of 21st Century social media skills, strict adherence to So-Called Islam and lots of beheadings, urged Apple to cough up.

"They're just four ordinary, working class Muslim lads from the north of England who have given us all a lot of pleasure with their grisly execution videos and cheeky but completely reverent and Halal-observant online banter. It just doesn't seem fair that they are toiling away in the desert with a 2nd generation i-pad and a pathetic 32 giga-bite laptop while Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo 'So-Called' Starr swan around with top of the range personal computer gear - how can you wage a Holy War aimed at restoring the Caliphate to its 11th Century boundaries with intermitent internet access and no wi-fi signal??? Even just freeing up the royalties from one of their big songs like 'Yesterday' or 'Let it Be' would keep us in broadband and viagra for several months. We might even be able to stretch to some kinky underwear for the lasses - Christ knows they need something to sauce them up. They make Jihadi Cilla Black look like Gina Lollabrigida. Still, at least you can't see their faces I suppose. So, come on lads, play fair - or we'll be round with a machete to chop off Heather's other leg..."

Critics of the regime who haven't already been silenced with a scimitar up the jacksy have pointed to the large revenues that are helping to prop up ISIS' campaign of violent jihad. They are currently funded from a variety of surprising sources - donations from wealthy Saudis, oil bootlegging, tobacco smuggling, sales of Yazidi women as sex slaves and the National Lottery. They also question the probability that members of a violent sect that has banned all forms of music in the territories it controls could possibly have composed songs of the beauty and expressive depth of 'Across the Universe', 'Hey Jude' and 'The Long and Winding Road' - although it's quite possible they may have been responsible for stuff like 'Octopus's garden' a singular dud from the 1969 classic album, Abu-Dhabi Road.

Meanwhile, in related news, former Beatle Jihadi John has himself been at the centre of controversy surrounding comments he is supposed to have made about the group's manager Jewish manager, Jihadi Brian Epstein. Epstein, a practicing homosexual, is alleged to have asked John to suggest a title for his autobiography to which he is purported to have replied, 'Queer Jew', a suggestion which could, if true, have dire consequences for him in homophobic, anti-Semitic ISIS controlled areas. The punishment for these crimes could lead to Epstein being beheaded and thrown from a tall building, or possibly the other way round, depending upon which is going to look better in a glossy snuff video aimed at radicalising young British teenagers. Fortunately, Epstein is no longer a smoker. The punishment for smoking - 'slow suicide' according to the ISIS ideology - is having a series of explosives tied to your waste and being very rapidly detonated in a crowded area.

The row comes only months after the furore generated by the controversial pop star's assertion that one day his group were going to be 'bigger than Muhammad'. 'If I'd said Buddha or Jesus or Krishna, I might have got away with it', said a clearly medicated Jihadi John.(Probably all that viagra.) The comments generated a spate of record burnings, book burnings, Jihadi Beatle wig burnings and a few innocent people were thrown in too for good measure.

The case commences on Monday...


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Coalition Announces Stepping up of British Roles in Syria and Ukraine...


The government has announced major military engagements in both the Syrian and Ukraine conflicts. Following heavy international criticism of the failure of Britain to shoulder its responsibilities as part of the coalition forces engaged in airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Prime Minister announced that it will do all it can to bring about a swift resolution to the current bloodshed in the beleagured Middle Eastern states. "We will not tolerate the barbarity and bloodthirsty ideology that ISIS is inflicting on the poor citizens of the areas it has under its control. Crucifictions, beheadings, stoning people - these are simply not appropriate actions in a civilised society. That's why we'll be sending some of our finest singers and variety artistes out there to form a concert party. People often ask me, 'how are we going to put the smiles back on the people of Raqqa and Aleppo? It must be a living hell out there.' Well, ISIS may have banned music, but let's see them try to stop Ed Sheeran and his vast array of foot pedals and digital loops - I wouldn't even know how to turn them on, let alone decommission them."

A clearly pumped up Sheeran, interviewed shortly after his performance at this year's Brit awards was defiant: "I can't wait to get out there and play the same four chords over and over again, starting off gently then building up a series of loops to a near deafening crescendo and then shouting over the racket my foot pedals make. It's the only way I know how to help, but naturally I'm going to be first in the queue to go there and try to put a smile back on the faces of the poor innocent civilians who've got caught up in this terrible civil war. I've even been growing a beard for the last 3 years in the hope that I won't get beheaded - it's just starting to take root, what do you think?"  Questioned as to whether this was just a cynical career advancing publicity stunt, Sheeran was adamant: "I really believe we need to get out there and sing those people back into the 21st Century. Honestly, it's been a top night for me, getting this award, playing at this prestigious show, then finding out I'm going to be playing Syria, the nearest place to hell on earth. The only thing that could top all that would be if Madonna were to fall off stage..."

 Ellie Gouding: 'Apprehensive, Michael'

Sheeran will be joined by a dazzling roster of British talent said to include the likes of Ellie Goulding, Paloma Faith, Ant & Dec, David Suchet, The Krankies, Joe Pasquale, Russ Abbot, Chris de Burgh, The Arctic Monkeys, Colin Welland, Krishnan Gurumurthy, David Walliams, Tony Robinson, The Proclaimers, Chris Tarrant, Simon Cowell, the surviving mebers of Dave, Dee, Dozy Mick & Titch, Celia Imrie, Rhod Gilbert and several of the families from the hit Channel 4 couch potato reality show Gogglebox.

In a separate but parallel development, Mr. Cameron announced an escalation of British involvement in the Ukraine conflict. "We're committed to backing up the legitimate Ukrainian government and making sure that the terms of the recent ceasefire are adhered to on both sides. That's why we've decided to reunite the concert party from 'It ain't 'arf 'ot Mum'. We're going to get the old gang together - Don Estelle, Windsor Davies, Melvin Hayes, 'La-di-da' Gunner Graham, the one he used to call 'Lovely boy' that one always assumed would turn out to be his son. 'Land of hope and glory, mother of the free - SHUT UPP!' I can't think of a better way of sending a very clear message that we have the resolve to stand up to Mr. Putin and tell him exactly where he gets off. If we had more than 6 tanks, we'd be sending those too."


Melvin Hayes: 'delighted', Allan.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Scott Walker's Indispensable Guide to The General Election 2015!!!!...







With what promises to be one of the most fiercely fought and unpredictable elections ever just around the corner, we asked our resident Psephologist and Sixties Crooner-turned-weird-avant-garde-art-thing Scott Walker to give us the lowdown on all the major parties and their leaders...

This week....

The Conservative Party: 

The received wisdom: Many doubted the Conservative Party's alliance with their Liberal Democrat Coalition partners would hold on for the full five year fixed term Parliament, but Tory leader David Cameron has seen off hard right critics in his own party and in the process hobbled a major political adversary - few expect the Lib Dems to recover from the taint of being the junior partners in a coalition despised by many on the left. Cameron may still feel the squeeze from the alienated via a strong nationwide UKIP showing, but he'll be secretly hoping that the upstart anti-Europe party will wreak as much havoc in the north for Labour. Scotland may, ironically, hand him control of the UK on a plate if the SNP do as well as many expect.

Chances this time round: Odds on to be the largest party in an even more fragmented parliament.

Scott says: The benecol demands a hurried Instagram denouement constellations spitting rancid flu-jab rigmarole pyjamas at the moooooooo-oooooooooooon.

Next week:

The Labour Party...

Friday, 20 February 2015

Carlton Palmer of the F.O.....



A House of Lords committee has issued a damning appraisal of the Foreign Office and its reading of the build up to the current crisis in the Ukraine. The Committee's report has been highly critical of what it sees as a loss of experience and skills within the department and has poured particular scorn on the employment of former Sheffield Wednesday and England footballer Carlton Palmer. Palmer, seen by many as little more than a tenuous attempt by desperate bloggers to link the current Foreign Office story to the 1959 Boulting Brothers comedy, Carlton Browne of the F.O. starring Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers, was unavailable for comment as he was appearing for the Foreign Office works team in a friendly against a Qatar Embassy XI. However, a spokesman for the lanky and industrious defensive midfielder defended his appointment to the seemingly incongrous world of high level diplomacy and strategic global security.

'Obviously Carlton's a box-to-box type player, likes to put himself about a bit, has a better touch than many people expect from a big lad and has a similarly intelligent range of passing. Some may question whether he has the genuine world class ability to power the sort technically adept, quick thinking midfield unit you expect in the engine room of a modern international governmental department in today's game, but you could certainly do a lot worse, mentioniong no names. Marouane Fellaini."

The report expressed alarm at what it sees as a skills deficit within the Foreign Office, questioning whether the department had the requisite linguistic and cultural expertise to comprehend the subtleties of developments within the Russian sphere of influence. A Foreign Office expert defended the department's skills set: "Obviously it's just one of those where we've taken our eyes off the ball for a second, failed to switch on at a set-piece and no one's picked up the lad Putin, ghosting in at the far post and extending Russian influence in the former Soviet bloc. But it's a cold war of two halves, they've got to come back to our place and no doubt buy up the other half of London they don't own already while they're there. We're still very much in this tie and let's hope we can give the fans something to really sing and shout about while they're stopping black people boarding the tube on the way home..."

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Downton Jihadi - episode 3





Previously on 'Downton Jihadi'....

Ashraq's insatiable desire for a bright, handsome young eager-to-please-then-make-her-a-widow young Doctor, preferably a specialist leads her to explore the possibility of the establishment of an insurance-based National Health Service. She contacts a three year old yet-to-be-Lord Beveridge but is told it will be a nightmare getting the Doctors to agree to a pay cut. Perhaps a couple of global conflagrations will soften their mood? We still don't know what an entail is, but we have a good idea what Brien O'Edna-O'Brien and Cora have been getting up to behind the bike sheds, but not whether or not it will rub off....

Now read on...

Like so many in this house, Gwenda has her own secret and Anna discovers it. It seems Gwenda is taking a correspondents course in Welsh. Inspired by Robert Peston, she wants to work for the BBC as a current affairs or economics presenter, or possibly an anchor for BBC Wales? She's always dreamed of the nautical life off the coast of a Principality. Brien O'Edna-O’Brien discovers the typewriter and alerts Carson to have her tailed to Broadcasting House or, where is it they've relocated to? Somewhere horrible and up north. Oh yes, Salford. Why does Gwenda think she is better than they are? Is it because she can spell? Has some rudimentary concept of personal hygiene? Belongs to the as yet only a glimmer in the imagination of the teenage Adolf Hitler's eye Aryan master race? We'll never know, but she looks simply lovely in a pair of jackboots and a brown shirt, her long blonde tresses and clear blue eyes glinting in the sunlight as she annexes the Rhineland. Gwenda is upset and explodes. Brien O'Edna-O'Brien-O'Edna, to the shock of Carson and Mrs Hughes, is unscathed but something funny appears to have happened to her name.

Mary learns that Evelyn Nappier-Rash is riding out with the local hunt and the meet will be at Downton. Cora presses him to stay, but he explains that he will be accompanied by a 'friend', Kemal Pamuk, an attaché at the Turkish Embassy, who is in London to discuss the independence of Albania and Turkish entry into the as-yet-unformed European Union and can she please now stop pressing him as he's coming over all unnecessary and has developed a rash. Cora is unfazed. If the price of Nappier-Rash is the presence of this Mr Pamuk, then she will invite them both and just hope that the latter can get the hang of a properly constructed water closet before there are any more accidents. She caught him flossing his teeth in the last one. To get some mileage out of Nappier-Rash’s brief stay, Mary will join the hunt and leave his briefs to look after themselves.

To her surprise, Mary is instantly attracted to Pamuk - she normally expects at least four weeks written notice and a tip off from her astrologer before she is smitten like this, and the feeling is reciprocated. When Thomas makes an ill-judged pass at Pamuk - well, he is no Mesut Ozil - the Turk, who despite his nationality and uncanny likeness to Peter Lorre is no Mesut Ozil himself, forces him to take him to Mary’s room later that night, the two gliding through the night along the Downton corridors with their deceptively lazy gaits before missing half the season with a hamstring strain and being photographed smoking in a Cologne night club with the former Miss Leichtenstein.

Bates, who is no Per Mertesacker, has purchased what looks like an instrument of torture in an effort to cure his lump but is in fact merely a decommissioned electric chair in need of a little upholstery and a few thousand volts. The pain it causes makes him cry out - "...it was fifteen shillings....FIFTEEN SHILLINGS I tell you!" - but he dismisses any concerns, until Mrs Hughes, who is no Gerd Muller but can bear an eerie resemblance to the late Helmut Schon in a dim light,  threatens to take the matter to Carson if Bates is not honest with her. Reluctantly, he shows her the residual seepage from his lump which is now covering a fairly substantial area of local farm land.

Edith has decided that if Mary is not interested in Mahfuz, she would like to try for him, herself. Learning about his interest in local mosques Edith volunteers to act as his guide only to find she's not allowed in as she is neither a Hindu nor a man. She is told that she can enter if she converts but tells the Hindu authorities that she has already been confirmed. They too confirm that she is definitely a non-Hindu woman but say she would make someone a lovely wife. After a brief ceremony during which she is ceremonially stoned, Edith is allowed day membership of the Hindu faith and finally allowed into the mosque on pain of silence. She reluctantly stubs out the reefer and enters the mosque. While there Mahfuz ignores her attempts at flirting, simply answering her questions with ones about the mosque - is it true that it can be seen from space? Are the hens kosher? Does it have a bar? Stuff that he should, as a good Hindu, really know already. In fact if he seems interested in anybody, it appears to be Mary who, whilst no Lucas Podolski, strangely reminds him of Karl Heinz Rummenigge of whom he's always been somewhat of a fan, apart from the blatant diving of course. The family discuss Gwenda and her ambitions. Violent, particularly, is shocked at her rebelliousness, although she is strangely attached to the safety pin through her nose and can see herself wearing one one day, should she ever tire of the bulldog clip. The only ones to defend her are Sybil and Matthew - and no, I have no idea who they are either. Mary is more interested in flirting with Pamuk, who whilst no Miroslav Klose could just about pass as a rather swarthy and chubby Gunther Nietzer on a dark night.

Anna is asleep and a hand comes down over her mouth. It is Mary. Well, the hand bit of her at any rate. Pamuk has had a heart attack, in Mary’s bed - all that smoking and carousing in nightclubs in Cologne, most likely. He’s dead. Anna is stunned. If Mary is not to be completely ruined they must get Pamuk back to his own bed so he can at least be dead in some clean sheets. The only person they can call on for help is Cora, no Franz Beckenbauer, but a pretty useful Uwe Seeler on her day. They do not know that Daisy witnesses Mary carrying Pamuk along the corridor. They don't call her 'The Kaiser' for nothing.

Nappier-Rash, in complete ignorance, undertakes all the arrangements following Pamuk’s death. But not before Mary’s tear-streaked eyes and a forty foot neon sign she's had attached to the main Downton tower saying, "I fucking hate you you completely ignorant tit" have told him that she is not in the least attracted to him. He graciously bows out of the running for her affections, concentrating his efforts instead on the Cirencester 12K mufti fun run which he hopes to complete in under three and a half hours hours and a sari.Thomas informs Edna-O'Brien-O'Edna that he took Mr Pamuk to Mary’s bedroom on the night he died, and that he saw him go through the door. Brien Edna-O'Brien-O' Edna  saves this vital information in her squirrel store of mischief along with an assortment of nuts whilst pondering the strange shifting uncertainties of her own nomenclature.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Holiday on the buses...

This week......

Raqqa....

Mid-morning, three stops from the main Raqqa bus terminus....

Stan: 'Ere, Jack - there's a bird on here wiv'aht a veil on....

Jack: (too busy smooching with a scantily clad blonde to hear properly replies to Stan): I left it in yer locker, next to the can of milk stout....(to the blonde bit) ...yak yak yak, cor blimey you ain't arf a right little goer and no mistake...what time do they come orf?

The bus comes to an abrupt halt sending many of the passengers, mostly fully veiled women tumbling.

Stan: Oi, Jack!! I fort I told you not to let any crumpet on the bus unless it had a veil on it. Blakey'll have our guts for garters if he finds out - *literally*! Nar, put that bit of fluff dahn, hook 'er orf the bus and get back to punching tickets. And don't forget you still owe me half an ounce of shag. I wan' it in me locker by the time we get back to the depot. Just leave it by the can of milk stout...

Jack: Alright, alright, keep yer 'air on. I'll escort the young lady orf the bus and see she gets home safely....now, if you'll just kindly follow me young lady....

Stan: Ja-aaa-aaack! Put 'er down fer Gawd's sake (peace be upon him) or yer'll 'ave yer 'ands chorped orf, never mind a flamin' floggin'...

Jack: Ta-da darlin' - safe home...

The blonde lady strides sexily off to her imminent death and the bus pulls off. At the next stop, all but one of the passengers alights leaving just one fully veiled woman on the bus. Jack pulls at the chord expecting the bus to move on...and again...and again...but the bus stays where it is.

Jack: Carm on Stan, let's get back to the depot, I could murder a bacon sarnie and a can of Mackesons...Stan...

The bus stays put.

Stan: I ain't goin' nowhere wiv 'er still on the bus. Carn't you remember nuffink? Regulation 323 sub section a) part vi - '...solitary females will not be allowed to proceed unaccompanied. In the event that a female party is the last passenger on the bus, she should be ejected from the bus so that it may proceed back to its terminus....' Carm on Jack, wakey wakey. Let's get this tart orf so we can get back and knorck orf, I'm ruddy famished....

Jack: Carm on darlin', horp it. We carn't 'ave you sat 'ere all on yer Jack Jones wivout no chaperone....do us a favour love....carm on, yer'll jest 'ave ter walk the rest....

The lady departs and the boys trundle back into the depot where they are met by a subjectively unattractive woman in her late forties and a misreable faced man....

Olive: Where the 'ell ave you two been?? I got a hot flask of broth 'ere for yer lunch, ain't I Arfur?

Arfur: I wish you was a few years younger Olive...

Olive: (blushing) ....Aaaaah! You are lovely sometimes. What make you say that?

Arthur: Well, if you was under 45, you'd 'ave to wear a bloomin' veil...

From off stage left...

Blakey: I 'ate you Infidel scum Butler!!

GRAMS (deflating trumbone notes....) wah wah wah wah...

Downton Jihadi...

 Episode 2...



 Previously on Downton Jihadi....

Following Great Aunt Robin Nedwell's spontaneous combustion, Cora immerses herself in rehearsals for her esperanto production of 'Oh what a lovely Boer war'. A sudden refrigeration crisis leads Robert Peston, Thomas and Carson to abandon their ambitious attempt to build a three quarter scale facsimile of the Humber Bridge out of Dairy Lea Triangles. We still have no idea what an entail is.... 

Now read on....

The heir presumptuous, Mahfuz Crawley, and his mother, Ishraq, arrive in Downton where they have been allotted a spacious biovouac. As a doctor’s widow, Ishraq asks about helping out at the village hospital - she would like to become the widow of a younger, better looking doctor, preferably a specialist or a brain surgeon. Violent assures her the hospital does not need help from Ishraq or anyone - the doctors there are perfectly capable of widowing themselves thank you very much. It is clear these two will be at scimitars drawn from the start.

Cora’s maid, Brien O'Edna O'Brien, is openly contemptuous of the newcomers - well, they're foreigeners for a kick off. And Hindus. She and Thomas encourage the servants to snub them as much as they dare, although they have to be careful as stocks of snub are getting perilously low thanks to the imminent (well, it is only two and a half years away - or three episodes) First World War. However, she has misjudged Cora - who is upon closer inspection really a rather hirsute and stocky Bermudan gentleman - and finds herself being reprimanded in front of the staff. Cora has further offended by taking on a local man, Alfred Molestation, as butler and valet for Mahfuz. Thomas is furious he has not been offered this post as his first foot may be missing its rightful partner but with the proper assistance (i.e. a crutch or shooting stick arrangement) he can kick ass with the best of them. Mahfuz finds it hard having a valet - he's not too sure of the spelling either and had conjured up something wholly more agreeably treelined  and pastoral than the disgusting one footed wretch he was presented with - and in the process offends Molestation who attempts, unsuccessfully at first, to behead him. It is Robert who makes Mahfuz aware of his new responsibilities. Even so, he cannot dissuade Mahfuz from taking a job with a local turf accountants, even though gambling is expressly forbidden under the yet to be invented Hindu green cross code. Violent finds this tradesman-like thinking absurd, especially as he insists upon going to work wearing a suit of armour and sling-backs.

Meanwhile, the butler Carson, a stickler for standards and dignity, is mortified when he is confronted with his own past. Charles Grigg has been blackmailing him, revealing that before working at Downton, Carson was one half of a transgendered pantomime horse, in point of fact, he had once been the graphically accurate nether quarters of "Cheerful Charlotte" - 'the droopless brewer's dray with a fanciful fetlock and a sting in the tail!!' Together, Robert Peston and Bates defend Carson, and Bates gains respect from Carson as a result - especially once it's discovered that Bates too has a theatrical past. He was third understudy in the Bracknell Folies for several years and once had to perform in an emergency, unscripted and with no notice whatever, as a chorus girl's appendage. 'It was the best job I ever had....' he tells them, dreamily.

One of the housemaids, Gwenda, seems to have a secret correspondent. She has received several packages, all in the shape of a hexagon, and is seen hurrying into the village to post a rhombus shaped letter. Second Footman, William, who has the second foot that Thomas was so cruelly denied, but is in turn without a good first foot of his own, develops a crush on Daisy, but she is far too taken by Thomas' first foot to notice his second. She secretly dreams of a tall, handsome third footman who will be able to sweep her off both her feet and win three-legged races all on his own.

Defying Violent’s strictures, Ishraq visits the hospital and sees a villager, John Drake, who is suffering from dropsy. It's so serious, in fact, that he's had to be put on a dripsy. She is determined he should benefit from the latest Cure, but Dr. Clarkson would prefer to treat him in a more traditional way, so Tony Bennett it is. At last he is persuaded, and a distraught Violent witnesses a seemingly barbaric procedure only to have to accept Isobel’s victory following Drake’s impressive recovery after extended exposure to side two of the 'Pornography' album.

Despite her dislike of him, Violent can’t help promoting a match between Mahfuz and Mary. Even Ishraq can see the benefits - especially as the disposable lighter is still some way from being invented. So does Cora who is coming to like the new heir, even if she doesn’t want to have him and his filthy kind living next door. Yet. But Mahfuz is unconvinced and Mary is insulted by the very notion and insists on holding out for a proper zippo. The idea is consequently dead in the water, meaning that Violent and Cora have to resume their fight to get the entail (a belt of some sort??) overturned. Later, whilst talking to her sisters, Mary reveals she has a viscount’s heir in play, The Hon. Evelyn Nappier-Rash. She'll be happy to introduce him to the rest of the family once she's cleaned him up and got him out of his romper suit.

Dr. Clarkson is nervous after Violent’s protests, but Robert Peston supports him, proposing that Ishraq will be brought on to the hospital board so that she can personally select her next victim...erm.. husband. The offer is made to Ishraq and accepted. Ishraq and Violent are consequently, if anything, even more at war than ever....

Friday, 13 February 2015

Downton Jihadi...

Episode 1...




As Daisy the kitchenmaid opens up the house a telegram is delivered. It is 16th April 1912 and the Titanic has gone down having, according to your viewpoint, either hit a Mujahideen iceberg or been surreptitiously blown up by agents of Mossad, the yet-to-be-established secret security arm of the yet-to-be-established State of Israel, cunningly disguised as a Mujahideen iceberg and taking with it Lord Grantham’s heir, James Crawley, and his son, Patrick. So who is to be the new heir? Not just to the Duke of Earldom but to Downton Abbey, itself, which is entailed to the title - and before you ask, no, I don't know what entailed means either. Violent, the Dowager Countess, assumes that Robert Peston, the present Duke of Earl and as yet unborn BBC economics correspondent, will break the entail - some sort of seal? A biscuit? Fuck knows - and make an heiress of his eldest daughter, Mary, but Robert is not so sure. He's unsteady on his feet too - probably on account of all the brandy and late nights spent waiting for the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to open. To make matters worse, his wife, Cora, has her own money - at least £13.76 - tied up in the estate, and there is no way to extract it without crippling Downton. Even if Robert could break the entail (a vase of some sort??), or take Cora’s money out of it, would he want to? After all, you can buy a lot of brylcreem for £13.76.

Below stairs, a new valet, John Bates, arrives. Bates was Robert’s batman during the Boer War and Robert welcomes him and is keen to show him to his new cave. However, he looks as shocked as the rest of the servants when he sees Bates’s lump. Will this lump hamper his duties? It's certainly doing something extraordinary to his trousers. Cora’s maid, Edna O’Brien-O'Edna, and first footman, Thomas, who wanted Bates’s job but couldn't afford the second foot, deliberately try to sabotage his first days at work by putting a haemorroid preparation on Bates's lump and then making him balance a tray of scones on it.

Mary was supposed to marry the heir, the late Patrick Crawley, but his death has freed her to move on, so she's toying with becoming either a high class call girl or a professional all-in-wrestler, depending upon which comes with a free lyotard and has half day closing on Wednesdays. She believes her own prospects have changed for the better, especially once she hears that she could be smeared with real lard if she goes into the wrestling lark, and now she angles to catch the young Duke of Crowbar. Her sister, Edith, was in love with Patrick and seethes with resentment towards Mary. The Duke arrives at Downton, ostensibly to present his condolences, but after dinner he requests an interview with Robert Peston, presumably to ask for Mary’s hand and whether or not to stick with his yet-to-be-invented premium bonds or take the plunge on a riskier investment option. As long as it's tax free, he doesn't really give a stuff.

But when he learns that Robert Peston is not intending to challenge the entail (some sort of costumier's accoutrement??) he withdraws his offer, without ever in fact making it. No, I didn't get that bit either, but what do you want from ITV? Bloody Shakespeare???? It was Thomas who brought the Duke of Earl to Downton, luring him with the prospect of the Grantham money, all £13.75* of it, and the promise of ten minutes at the peephole into Mary's bedroom whilst she's trying to get the lid off her tub of wrestling lard. He and Thomas shared a summer dalliance - neither of them can remember the chap's name - and Thomas intends to use this to further his own career, blackmailing the Duke of Earl with his own letters if he has to - although there's only so much you can get for two vowels and two consonants unless you're on an as-yet-univented triple word score. However, the Duke of Earl is one step ahead of Thomas - who only has only got the one foot after all - who can only watch as the incriminating pages go up in flames.

Meanwhile, Robert Peston informs Bates that his disability is interfering with his work and he will have to have his lump either removed or re-fashioned into a useful household appliance such as a nutcracker or some such. Bates seems to take the news well, fainting instantly before slipping into a coma for 3 weeks, but the Head Housemaid, Anna, hears him crying in his room - it's the Brazils, they're always a real bugger aren't they? However, as Crowbar leaves, Robert finds himself unable to let Bates down in this way, especially as he's just bought in a month's supply of shop-soiled hazelnuts on the cheap, and to the amazement of Cora and the servants he asks the valet to stay.

Mary’s fury is matched by Cora’s surprise when they realise Robert Peston has made up his mind and will not challenge the entail (some sort of truss??). He has discovered the identity of his new heir, a distant cousin, and intends to write instantly to the distant young man and invite him to Downton to be distant in person. In Arabic....

*deflation...

50 shades of grime ...

His breathing is ragged, matching mine.
“When did you start your period, Anastasia?” he asks out of the blue, gazing down at me.
“Err… yesterday, it's been a real globber too I'm afraid. Sorry...” I mumble in my highly aroused state.
“Good.” He releases me and turns me around.
“Hold on to the sink,” he orders and pulls my hips back again, like he did in the playroom, so I’m bending down.
He reaches between my legs and pulls on the blue string… what! And…  gently pulls my tampon out and tosses it onto the kitchen floor. Holy fuck. Sweet mother of all… Jeez. And then he’s at it… ah! Mop against lino… moving slowly at first… easily, testing me, pushing me… oh my. I grip on to the sink, panting, forcing myself to watch him, feeling him scrubbing and buffing. Oh the sweet agony… his hands clasp my squidgy foam cleaning thingy. He sets a punishing rhythm – in, out, and he reaches around and finds my fridge, massaging the plastic salad trays and the bit with the holes in it for eggs… oh jeez. I can feel myself quicken.
“That’s right, baby,” he rasps as he grinds into the congealed blob of red leicester that's been dangling from the dairy rack for about the last 6 months, angling his jeye cloth, and it’s enough to send me flying, flying high.
Whoa… and I come, loudly, gripping for dear life onto the sink as I spiral down through my orgasm, everything spinning and clenching at once. He follows, clasping me tightly, his front on my back as he does the necessary where I've dripped all over the lino again - and him having just cleaned it so thoroughly and everything. Holy Pooh!
“Oh, Ana!” His breathing is ragged in my ear, in perfect synergy with mine. “Oh, baby, will I ever get enough of your slovenly ways?” he whispers.
Will it always be like this? So overwhelming, so all-consuming, so bewildering and beguiling.*So* *ruddy* *clean*.....?

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Ned's Atomic Parliament...

Wally: This is the BBC.... (sound of a million ows emanating from a million Bluebottles followed by a very loud, echoey burp)...Indeed. Welcome to tonight's show entitled....

Ned's Atomic Parliament....

....or....

[GRAMS: Sinister Orchestra chord]

The Strange Case of The Wide Ranging Inquiry into Various Nefarious and Untrue and Unsubstatiated Claims About Events That Never Happened in the First Place Made in a Series of Stolen Documents That Never Existed in the First Place Either, With the Potential to be Expanded into a Full Blown Whitewash at Any Time Should the Accused Decide That They've Had Enough of Being Interrogated by the Lower Echelons.

[GRAMS: Seaside sounds, seagulls, candyfloss melting into a harem of kiss me quick hats, someone drilling. ]

...Christmas 1864. A flannelled fool saunters down Whitehall...

Seagoon: (in between whistleing The Marseilleise) Bluebottle, what's this I hear about you making a complaint about one of our upstanding Members? (grams: theatrical audience groans followed by sound of three hundred weight of treacle being poured over Beachy Head by a shoeless plumber from Catford) [aside to orchestra pit - wish they spent as long trying to fix the economy as they do standing up - ting boom]

Bottle: Eugghh, eugggh and treble eugggh Minstern Seangnoon it was 'orrible wot them rottin swines in thern Housings of Parlenment doneded to me. Nearly deaded me with his (Bluebottle drownded out by the sound of a million secret service men taking photographs of the same quiet, terraced house in a leafy West London suburb) and that was just for starters. Wickid it was. Nyack! I almost wish I had got deaded this week!

Seagoon: ah, fear not intrepid knee-knocking ginger limbed scout, with the powers invested in me by the Clacton and Area Dictrict Nose Fluting Association (Hon Sec) I hereby declare A Wide Ranging Inquiry into Various Nefarious and Untrue and Unsubstatiated Claims About Events That Never Happened in the First Place Made in a Series of Stolen Documents That Never Existed in the First Place Either, With the Potential to be Expanded into a Full Blown Whitewash at Any Time Should the Accused Decide That They've Had Enough of Being Interrogated by the Lower Echelons..... er-hem (Sings:) 'Kneeeeeeeeees and shoooooulders kneeees and tooooooooo-holdthatnoooooooote!!!"

(Cut to the Commons)

[GRAMS: the sound of 658 mystified ancient politicians; mass creaking sounds, sundry hemming and hawing...]

Grytte-Pyppe-Thynne (at his most emoliently George Sanders): Now, look here laddy. Much as the court sympathises with the complainant, really all this to do and hoo-ha is hardly serving anyone's interests. No, let's just see if we can't change your mind about remembering to forget all about that little incident with the (Grytte-Pyppe drownded out by the sound of a million secret service men taking photographs of a different, terraced house in a leafy West London suburb or possibly in Rochdale or in Wales...) Now, where is my esteemd fag and schoolhood wellington wobbler, Count Jim 'Special Branch' Moriarty..??

Moriarty: aaaarghh.. arrgh... supristi Grytte-Pyppe! A pair of pooves!! [aside to orchestra There's nothing like a pair of poooves for power.] Curse this blindfold.....which secret Parliamentary torture chamber are you in Grytte-Pyppe???

Grytte-Pyppe-Thynne: ....the one with the 40 year super injunction and time share apartment in Barbados on top (comes with free mutual non-extradition treaty....get one today!) Now, let's just see what happens when we tighten *this* little handle up, shall we....?

[GRAMS: sound of three ounce sparrow-kneed cub scout being pinged rubber band like across the Pennines before landing in a tepid bowl of puce custard.]

Seagoon: hold on folks, we can't allow our intrepid sparrow-kneed cub scout to be hurled across the United Kingdom in a blur of ginger and stale confectionery into a tepid bowl of puce custard ! At least fire him into a hot one! What what what? What's that I hear....

[GRAMS: sound of immense cavalry batallion stampeding across open terrain, quick screeching of breaks, then farting deflating bouncy castle effect....]

Eccles: 'Allo dere! (Yawns) What 'appened to der ern-gui-ery??

Seagoon: So much for the cavalry. Eccles, thank goodness you're hear. We were just about to start making things up without you....

[GRAMS: Massive MI5 sponsored splashing sound.]

Little Jim: He's fallen in the water!!!

Wally: that was the Goon show starring Harry Redacted, Redacted Sellers, Spike Redacted, redacted harmonica by Max Redacted, Re EllingDacted did the singing....

(For Tim)

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Kvitova v. Bouchard - a feminist critique...

Well, this won't take long...

We forget that it's the Do-we-still-call-it-The-Ladies'-or-is-it-now-The-Women's? final day at Wimbledon but as luck would have it, manage to tune in just as the Ladies/Women are popping a few looseners across the net at one another. I've not really followed this year's tournament at all - impromptu post-Murray-exit champagne buffet celebrations aside - and all I knew about today's finalists was that Petra Kvitova (Vanessa Redgrave stars in 'Miranda: the movie') had already won Wimbledon once despite being a mere 24 whilst her opponent Eugenie Bouchard (Bridget Jones: tennis legend. Excellent!), aged even younger, was appearing in her first final and is the first Canadienne (is that a real word?) to reach this stage since....erm, ever? Bouchard was also, by all accounts, somewhat of a golden girl and a bit of a stunner.

Sisterhood being - as I fervently believe it to be - global, all this strident competitiveness, muscle-flexing and grunting and so on sits a little uneasily with the deeply buried unreconstructed hippy within me that feels that somewhere between Julie Christie's train belting off to London while Tom Courtenay haplessly grapples with a milk carton dispenser on the platform of Manchester Piccadilly in 'Billy Liar' and Madonna's 'Justify my love' video, something kind of got lost. Surely, this same voice quietly insisted, the Ladies/Women might ultimately be of more use to 'the struggle' if they could patiently help improve one another's cross court backhand as a symbol of their refusal to indulge the fallacy of male-serving hierarchy that is winning and losing and which pretty soon spirals into negative self-image and wilful submission to the patriarchal hegemony, before heading off arm in arm to deliver leaflets about Female Genital Mutilation to the pre-consciousness residents of Earlsfield. But both Ladies/Women looked pretty intent upon battling this thing out, so who were we to object?

The George Peppard-haired 'Guest Umpire' - another Eastern European sounding lady and one who seemed unable to pronounce her Vs (and several other consonants) soon called the warm up to a close. 'She's a lesbian' insists S. She seems to have a nose for these things, so who am I to doubt her wisdom? The camera zoomed in on an attractive brunette in the crowd wearing an attractive purple and green garland. 'She's not a lesbian', so we I assume her to be the Canadienne (I'm sure I've seen it spelled like that somewhere before) First Lady/Woman. Sadly no Cliff Richard though, that I could see, possibly buried deep beneath a 40 year super injunction somewhere in the Mutual Extradition Treaty-free Bahamas. (Well, you can't be too careful nowadays, especially when you're so obviously innocent.) So unfortunately, should it start raining as it's threatening to do, we'll have to make do without a 'Batchelor boy' singalong this year. And then, with no further ado, we were off.

The first two games go with serve then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, we are suddenly at Aantage Kitoa who wins the next point to break Bouchard, who seemingly still in warmy-uppy mode. It was pretty much all down hill from there for poor Eugenie, which is a big shame as I had been quietly rooting for her. Not, as you no doubt suspect, because of her looks - although yes, she is very lovely. No, I once had a pleasant encounter in New York with an elderly lady/woman called Eugenie. She'd seen me taking - as you do when you've never seen a building higher than a lampost before - photographs of Manhattan bulidings that to me looked absolutely like nothing I'd ever seen but which must have seemed to her little more than everyday. So, we walked along I forget which of the numbered avenues together chatting for about twenty minutes and it was all very delightful. And they say that New York streets are cold and unwelcoming.

Anyway, this other Eugenie pretty soon looked as if she would rather be mentally sauntering up one of the New York avenues - or anywhere - other than where she was, on centre court, getting a serious whupping from a so-called sister who seemed to be treating it as her sorolial duty to pulverise Miss Bouchard, take every Eugenie service game to aantage, break her sere and then win the second set to loe. Which she duly did. Indeed, the camera seemed to spend more time scanning the Preious Winners' Enclosure, focussing in on such luminaries as Martina Naratiloa ('Definitely a lesbian'), Hanna Mandikoa and Irginia Wade - oh, mustn't forget Canada's First Lady/Woman, who in addition to holding that spectacularly powerful position in Canadienne affairs of state, seems to have been last year's winner. That's multi-tasking for you.

The game - rarely has the word seemed so utterly inappropriate - gamed, the set setted, the match matched by Miss Kitoa by way of a stunningly emphatic cross court base stroke, the whole proceedings came shuddering to a halt in less than an hour. This seemed to take everyone unawares as there quickly followed an announcement that the traditional plate handing over session - incidentally, why is it that the guys get a beautifully wrought golden cup with handles and a lid and a base (*and* a plate?) and all the Ladies/Women get is something to serve the sandwiches on? Is it still actually 1876 but we've not been told? - would be delayed so that they could wind the roof over the court. As it was, this proved a pretty good call and not just because - as the otherwise impeccably courteous and 'on message' John McEnroe suggested - it would allow time for the Ladies/Women to get the stylists in and possibly glam themselves up for the dishing out of the plates. I certainly felt a few barely perceptible droplets of water when I went outside looking for an excuse not to have to hang the washing out. Never let it be said of us Brits that we don't love our royals enough to spare them the smallest inconvenience.

Sue Barker - seemingly oblivious to Sir Cliff's absence, but if she was missing him, bravely carrying on regardless - did her usual MC act. The Tournament Referee, who looks as if he may conceivably have been put into cyrogenic storage after every Wimbledon since the first one - but in a good way, was very gentlemanly and had a few consoling words for Eugenie. Georgina Peppard even got a gong - petri dish? - despite her barely comprehensible contribution - first serice?? Second serice? What *is* she on about? The Ladies/Women at the centre of it all, whilst not exactly on hugging terms were about as consoling/congratulatory as you can conceivably be when you know you're going to be trying to do exactly what the other one has just done to you/doing what you've just done to the other one again in about four days time. That's the modern professional tennis circuit for you. But at least from now on they'll both have something smart to hand the pickled gherkins round on.

Three of a perfect pair...

OK, it's been decided. I am now a woman. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know - it's alright for some. I flounce off for months without so much as a by your leave and then waltz right back in - wearing a FROCK no less - transformed into the divinest female form and demanding your IMMEDIATE attention as if nothing had happened. I know, I know,  and I really am sorry but, y'know, that's literature. I can't choose the words that write me any more than you could have chosen not to be born or to be born any other way than the way that you were. So deal with it, OK? I know I am.

And yes, before you ask, I DO have some idea of what I'm letting myself in for. I read the papers too you know. I know I could be on a hiding to nothing here - a second class citizen with my glass-ceiling-pummelled-brain in my tits. And I'd be good for only the one thing if you guys out there hadn't suddenly decided - en masse it seems - that it can be just as much fun to beat the shit out of as it is to fuck me. The two manouvres seem indeed, in some minds, at times to be interchangeable anyway. So, go on then loverboy; get my battered face tattoed on your cheek if it makes you feel a real big man, but don't you DARE think that you are going to stop me.

So you can think of this as you will - a cry for help into the wilderness? Almost certainly. A last great plip-plop of insanity tossed out into the binary firmament? Mmm hmm. A doomed literary experiment? Perhaps and probably. You see, the ball is pretty much in your court here. I can't really do this on my own. I don't need a man (necessarily) or a woman (necessarily) to complete me, obviously. But I do need YOU. I need a reader just as much as you need air in your lungs and the sweet scent  of bourbon on the breath. You will make me whole. You will make me breathe. You will bring my sighs and yelps to life, breathe fire into my rages. You will, one day I hope, make a woman out of me. Because, if I can be frank here brothers, sisters, right now who on EARTH would want to be a man?


Men need to change. OK, that didn't hurt, did it? Let's say say it again - all together this time: MEN NEED TO CHANGE. OK, group hug over, everyone back to their seats. So, Mr. Elephant, meet Ms. Room; we've said it: *men* *need* *to* *change*. It can be done. It should be done. It will be done. We are changing too - and that's great - but it won't be enough. It hasn't so far. So come on guys, show a little imagination for once. Let's do this thing!

So there we are - and yes, I suppose you'd have to call us a we now. Not in the royal sense, obviously - well, not YET. There was him and now there's me. And there, floating up above it all somewhere, another me makes three. A perfect pair.

For Lucy Ellmann.

Friday, 4 July 2014

The line of beastly...

Alan Hollinghurst wrote a novel called The line of beauty. It's set about as close to the heart of Margaret Thatcher's government as you could reasonably expect its unconnected, young, gay narrator plausibly to get. From what I can remember of it, which is not an awful lot I'm ashamed to say, it's a nicely written and engaging book which gently elides from a Thatcherite roman a clef into a moving remembrance of the other great tragedy of the period; AIDS. The book was well-praised at the time - indeed, it may well have won the Booker prize. But even as I was reading it I felt an anger bubbling up. It was very fine writing and a subtle critique of the Iron Lady's decade, sure, but it didn't remotely resemble that period of time as I experienced it, and I'm sure many others will have felt the same.The more I discover about that government, the less easy it is to identify anything of beauty about it at all. Someone needs to write another novel about that time. It could be called The line of beastly.

It would begin with a helicopter circling over a plush west London townhouse. We'd go inside the penthouse apartment and zoom in on a recently-asphyxiated man with a plastic bag over his head. A sullen security services operative would first remove the rope pulled tight round his neck, then the bag to reveal the a rouged and ruddy face, bedraggled perm and displaced large frame Jonathan King spectacles of a junior minister. We'd probably notice at some point that the chap - it would definitely be a chap - happened to be wearing women's lingerie. The building would be checked for incriminating documents - any found being efficiently freezer-bagged by our stealthy operative for discrete incineration well away from the scene. The security services guy would then probably spark up a ciggie, possibly even tut, and then look out into the bleaching sun low in the early morning sky/a cold, bleak Chiswick sunrise or similar, and we'd be off.

Not a bad opening, is it? I can tell you're already hooked. From here, having established our twin themes - sexual depravity and remorseless obscuring of the activities of the powerful from the view of those they govern - it would virtually write itself. You could, just example, go round the cabinet table and home in on each member - and, please, do feel free to acknowledge the innuendo here as, with the exception of the PM that so many of us voted for in the belief that things would be different with a woman, they're still all men. A chapter each on the sexual, business and personal misdemeanours of each portfolio - some might even deserve a whole section. You could throw in a few satirical asides about Westland-style business bungling and errant sons getting lost in the desert, perhaps close down a few industries wholesale leaving vast swathes of the nation idle and seething, just to add a bit of kitchen sink style grit. But you'd have more than enough just mining the sexual/political sadism seams, I should think, to come up with a suitably unsavoury and accurate depiction of Britain in the 1980s.

You could even, if you were feeling a bit po-mo and 'what the heck', coda it with a flash forward to the Major cabinet. The novel ending, perhaps, as we spin round the circle of grinning faces, chortling politely as the new PM is warming to the theme of his first address from the seat at the sentence: family values....back to basics... we drift off into white paper like a cirrus of cigar smoke.

So there you have it, in outline. A much better book about the 1980s. Now we just need someone to write it.