Thursday 30 December 2010

The Crisis (3)

It was dear kind Margaret, who had come to my rescue, that cherished companion of my childhood who had grown up to be a paragon of all womanly virtue and sober sense. Our walk led us through the larch plantation on the hill. It was a grey afternoon and the trees in the plantation resisted all interpretation: they were trees, just trees.

“But others have sustained a similar loss of faith,” Margaret said, “and they have gone on to do many great things ...”

“Yes, but they only lost their faith in religion, or in their mission to do right by others, or to sacrifice themselves in some noble cause. Whereas I have lost my faith in Puns! Can you not see the difference?”

Margaret drew her cape around her, and was about to speak. I continued:

“If I had lost my faith in a religion, I could easily replace it with another religion. There are enough to choose from! But to have lost my faith in Puns means I have lost something central to my very existence. For what is language, what are words for, if Puns have no significance?”

“Well,” came the measured voice of Margaret, “perhaps you could use words to describe things as they are.”

I exclaimed in horror.

“Journalism?! Never! The most awful lies and smiling approximations, bearing no relation to the reality they claim to describe -- that’s journalism!”

“Not journalism, necessarily. There are other ways to describe the world: one chooses one’s words carefully, and by finding the best words and setting them down in the best order ...”

“Poetry, Margaret?! Poetry?! All poetry does is to pile one obvious lie upon another, and attempt in their absurd juxtapositions to create an unwieldy impression of truth! Margaret! I despair!”

Margaret was silent a while. “True bravery,” she finally said, “is to try one’s hardest at a task one knows to be impossible, with tools one knows are inadequate. The truly brave man would try to describe the world, because he knows it is important, even while the tools fail in his hands.”

We walked on in silence. My mood was one of bitterness and gall. In addition to the spiritual crisis that threatened to overwhelm me, I now had the bitter knowledge that my oldest friend thought me a coward. Worse still, I had no words to defend myself.

At the edge of the plantation the track came out onto open farmland, that sloped downwards towards our home. From beyond the limestone wall rose up a great sound of bickering and carping and creaking unrest. Approaching, we found the field to be carpeted by a vast congregation of jackdaws and rooks. These strutted among and around each other, as if intent on their own business like tradespeople at a country fair. Ragged like ripped bin bags they were, dark and wet-seeming in the diminishing light of the overcast sky. And all the while the chipped, broken notes of their complaint did not cease.

“Our old friend Corvus,” I said weakly. Margaret smiled at me, and I had no doubt of her all-forgiving heart. Suddenly the jackdaws lifted from the field in a swirling mass, and rose up in the air, with a great clattering, chattering, clacking racket that sounded to me like a whole service of dinner plates sliding from a dresser and smashing on the floor. In that moment it seemed to me that the very words lifted up from dumb reality with the sole intention of making merry, and were set loose for a moment, circling with the jackdaws, and then, along with the jackdaws, returned once more to the dull wet field.

I turned to Margaret. There was something I needed to tell her, something that I could articulate at that moment for the first time, something I feared I had left too late. She regarded me with her level grey eyes, a look of readiness flickering over her face. But, just then, I saw Algernon Swift on the hillside, waving, and making his way very determinedly towards us.

Monday 20 December 2010

The Goats of Christmas Past

The Crisis (2)

It was four o’clock in the afternoon. The Reverend Hawker sat by the cold fireside with his fingers curled around a glass of whisky. Swift flicked matches into the empty grate, each flaring as it fell like Satan falling from Heaven. Hawker swilled the liquid in his glass like the thoughts in his head; drank from the glass; began:

“Puns,” he said, “enjoyed greater status in the past. One need only to read the works of the medieval divines to see how they considered each word at a remove, seeking a double meaning which might reveal the secret purposes of their God.”

“Indeed,” said Algernon Swift, breezily, “was not the Christianisation of our island the result of a pun? And not one pun, but a whole string of puns, by the future Pope Gregory the Great.”

He flicked another match flaring into the fire. Hawker grimaced.

“The point is,” the Reverend said, “no-one thought of slapping their thighs with laughter when the future Pope said ‘Not Angles, but angels. From the province Deiri, but truly de ira, plucked from the wrath of God.’ No-one said: 'That man – who, I have no doubt who will one day occupy the pre-eminent position in the Church of Rome -- he’s a great laugh!’ The pun was seen as a serious indication of a reality beyond the material and the apparent.

“The rise of Humanism put the pun into the service of the individual, as a means of displaying his wit, but still it retained much of its seriousness. In Hamlet ...”

“Or, indeed, the Metaphysical Poets,” said Swift and sent another match blazing towards the grate. “Their careful double meanings do not detract from, but strengthen, their poems, just as the cleverness of their conceits adds to their emotional force ...”

Hawker glared at him. “I wish you’d stop doing that,” he said.

“What? Wasting matches?”

“No. Interrupting.”

Swift closed the box of matches, and placed it squarely on his lap.

“But how the pun’s stock has fallen!” Hawker exclaimed. “And it has become .... what? By the eighteenth century every vestige of seriousness had been lost from it; and in the nineteenth century – oh, horrors! – it had developed into a bit of entertainment suitable for all the family. Worse still, it was reduced into another weapon in the armoury of the Englishman to avoid the embarrassment of looking life in the face! How far we have travelled from Hamlet in the graveyard – ‘quite chopfallen’, indeed! How far we have travelled into triviality ...”

“But, Reverend Hawker,” risked Swift, “what of the great resurgence of the pun in the twentieth century? What of Freud’s work on puns? What of Joyce’s monumental Finnegan’s Wake?”

Hawker waved his hand, dismissively. “Too late, too late. We might as well face facts, Swift: the Pun in this day and age is nothing more than ... just a bit of fun.”

The words had been said. Swift closed his eyes. Hawker stared blackly into the cold grate. The unbearable tension of his being manifested itself in white spots in his grey complexion. I stood up, unnoticed, and left the room.

Half-unseeing, I strayed onto the drive. The setting sun was an orange jewel, peeping out behind lurid scrolls of cloud. How desolate I felt, surveying this grand spectacle of nature! How small my concerns had revealed themselves to be! Puns were merely the result of the arbitrary nature of language. They were not traces of the handiwork of God, not clues to another existence. A mirror reflected and so did I, but that meant nothing. A brake in the forest was the same word as the brake in a car, but there was no significance to it. And to think I had travelled so far, had left my home, had sold my birthright and worked my passage, had worked every passage for double meanings and triple meanings, for strong misreadings, and had reached at last Hawker’s Pot. And there to hear from the mouth of the man himself that puns were just ... No! The words were inestimably bitter! I can say truthfully that the sun that day set also on my hopes and dreams. The earth around me had grown grey. Behind the house the rooks cawed.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Goodbye, Captain Beefheart

The stars are matter,
We’re matter,
But it doesn’t matter.

(Don Van Vliet)

Much saddened by the news of the death yesterday of Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart. He was one of our greatest heroes at Hawker’s Pot. At times I thought he had heard the secret sound of the Universe and gave it back to us in words like twisted Bacofoil and music like bits of broken glass, glinting in the late afternoon sun. Good night, dear Captain, and thank you.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

The Crisis (1)

“The search for the earliest puns in this country,” said Reverend Hawker, leaning back in his chair, and revealing on his old clerical shirt a variety of stains – gravy, wine and smudges of cigarette ash -- somewhat resembling a map, “takes us back to the Norman Conquest. From that point on, the Germanic language of the Anglo-Saxons and the Old French of the Normans jostled for space on this island, mingling like the leaping waters of two tributaries at a confluence. Many were the words in French that had the same sounds as words in Anglo-Saxon, and thus puns arose, because these words invariably had different meanings.

“Then, during the Renaissance, many thousands more words were introduced from French, Latin and Greek, making English the language we treasure today, a language unparalleled in its capacity for punning!”

Algernon Swift leaned forward in that intense way of his. “While your theory has the benefits of long age and wide acceptance,” he began, “there is little evidence that it has any relation to the truth. Of course, the situation you describe may have led to some comic misunderstandings during the Middle English period, but ...”

Reverend Hawker raised his hand towards the rebellious Swift. “You would deny that one of the greatest puns in our literature relies on just such a mingling of languages?” And Hawker recited the famous passage from Milton’s Paradise Regained:

“Him thought he by the brook of Cherith stood
And saw the ravens with their horny beaks
Food to Elijah bringing even and morn --
Though ravenous, taught to abstain from what they brought.

“... where ‘raven’ has a different meaning in its French and Old English derivations.”

“I do not deny it,” said Algernon Swift, “but, I tell you, such puns are an exception. I have recently conducted a statistical survey – Reverend Hawker, do not roll your eyes! do not sigh so heavily! -- and, of the puns I studied, over 85% were cases where both words derived from French or Latin roots. The merest fraction combined words derived from the Romance languages with similar-sounding ones of Germanic origin. In fact, those Germanic words were far more likely to pun with other words of Germanic origin ...”

I, meanwhile, put another log on the fire, blew on it, and watched the sparks fly up the chimney. The night was closing in on Hawker’s Pot and I pictured, in my mind’s eye, the black trees in the thickening twilight of the park. Bare, leafless, soon to be lost in darkness, those trees had nothing to do with puns. Nor, I began to suspect for the first time that evening, did the wider world beyond them. I put the thought quickly to the back of my mind and watched the bright fire in the grate. How it crackled and sparked and wheezed! Hawker and Swift talked on.

Friday 10 December 2010

The Smirking Ban

One of the unforeseen consequences of the recent Smirking Ban has been that the streets are now lined with unrepentant smirkers. Every spot out of doors, be it kerbside, bus-stop or handkerchief garden, is now occupied by them, with their little fires of self-complacence smouldering behind their tight smiles. Of course, this is not so much of a problem in the countryside (although it is never pleasant to find a smirker in one’s flowerbed) but the consequences for the big cities could be devastating: the cumulative effect of all those little fires of self-satisfaction could result in a situation not seen since the Great Smug of 1952.

Saturday 27 November 2010

In an earlier life, Reverend Hawker was a cattle rustler in the Old West. One night he and his old pal John Flaherty (now a big man in the Church of Rome) were ambushed by a rival gang as they rode across the wide plain, discussing the finer points of the High Church Revival. Our heroes were bound hand and foot, and thrown into a deep pit with perpendicular sides and no prospect of escape. But what did Flaherty do, but wriggle out of his ropes, fish a tin whistle out of his pocket and start to play? The rope which he had carefully arranged in a coil on the floor began steadily to rise up into the air! Flaherty shinned up it, followed by Hawker, who asked, as they continued their progress across the plain, how the devil he’d done it. But Flaherty was a close one and “Old Indian trick” was all he’d say.

Friday 19 November 2010

They were thinking of having an éclair.

-- Darling, there’s something I need to tell you.
-- What is it, darling?
-- I’ve been having an éclair at work.
-- I suppose I should have guessed. Is that why you never eat your sandwiches now?
-- After a cream-filled pastry at eleven o’clock, I just don’t feel hungry.
-- But those sandwiches ... I make them each morning from bread I bake specially!
-- I know.
-- Oh God! Does my loaf mean nothing to you?

(from Fondant Makes the Heart Grow Baser by Patti Serry)

Friday 5 November 2010

November the Filth

(Fireworks available for November the Filth include rockets stuffed with dungpowder, latrine-wheels, etc..)

Friday 29 October 2010

Novels of the Rontë Sisters

(Jane Eye)

(Wuthering Eights)

(These, of course, are "Lost Consonants" after the fashion of the excellent Graham Rawle, whose website lies here.)

Friday 22 October 2010

Wisdom of Hawker's Pot #7

What one man finds impossible to swallow in earnest, another can easily in jest.

[cf. Hamlet, III.2, "No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest, no offence i'th'world."]

What is’t with Puns and Graves?

“The dreary grave! – O, when I think
How close we stand upon its brink ....”
(Thomas Hood)

In Shakespeare’s well-known play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, the graveyard is the scene of a protracted bout of punning, as the gravedigger equivocates and Hamlet meditates on the skulls he unearths. It is enough to make one wonder what the link can be between puns and mortality ... John Donne famously chose a punning epitaph, and Thomas Hood carried the blazing baton into the nineteenth century with his poem “Death in the Kitchen”, in which the inevitability of the concealed puns mirrors the inevitability of the fate to come to all the household servants:

"The groom will die, like all his kind;
And even the stable boy will find
This life no stable thing."

Christian Morgenstern (that bright and secret star that burns forever above the house of Hawker’s Pot) makes the connection even more tangible in that incomparable collection of puns and corpses, ravens and skulls, The Gallows Songs. “It is exactly the inevitable/ that draws our special scorn,” the leader of the Gallows Gang proclaims, continuing (in Max Knight’s translation):

"Call it infantile vendetta
On life’s deeply serious aim --
You will know existence better
Once you understand our game."

In search of answers, Hawker’s Pot took a stroll around our local graveyard. We had observed the sexton to be a studious type, always with his nose in a book between digging out graves, and we hoped to find in him a man -- a philosopher, even -- who had delved deeply into the matter and could shed some light on our enquiries. So imagine our disappointment when we drew closer and saw that the book he read was merely a cheap paperback thriller. On being asked about his taste in thrillers, he said he liked them for the plots.

Thursday 7 October 2010

The Crooked Straight

In Handel’s otherwise laudable The Messiah the tenor sings the words “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low”.

However, I beg pause to consider what the world would really look like after such a change.



Probably better to leave things as they are.


(The author of the text, Charles Jennens, is quoting Isaiah 40:4, and it may not reflect the personal opinion of George Frideric Handel. With this in mind, we were initially going to call this post The Isaiah National Certificate in Landscape Management.)

Thursday 30 September 2010

A Very Close Relationship

nne and Matthew are very close. In fact they barely speak.

One time, Anne said she wished their relationship was more open. Matthew nodded enthusiastically. Then he realised what she meant.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Oh no!

The toy Indian is secured to the roof of the toy car.

The car is at the top of a steep incline!

A finger approaches, clearly about to give the car a nudge ...

(Go figure.)

Saturday 18 September 2010

Crashaw’s Diary (part ix)

The story so far: Philip Crashaw is the Curate to the Rev. Arthur Jenkins in a Country Parish in Dorset. The year is 1871.

Friday 25th August
Today may be the most important day of my life, for today I invented a new kind of joke. It happened like this. This morning Mr and Mrs Jenkins and I, along with several of the young people from the village, set out for a picnic on Golden Cap. Mrs Jenkins had packed a large hamper for us, with plenty of meat and drink, cold chicken, ham and tongue, all the usual things, pies, salads, jam, gooseberry tarts, and bread and cheese.

After we had admired the view along the coast we spread out the feast on the rug. However, the large size of the company meant that we were all a little squeezed for space on the rug and I found myself squashed between Mrs Jenkins and the hamper. “Is the hamper a little in your way?” the lady asked kindly. Of course, I knew that there was a joke to be made, something about the hamper hampering me. But no! instead, I replied:

“Mrs Jenkins, the hamper is not restricting my movements at all!”

I made the joke, as it were, without actually making the joke at all. But, then, oh wonder! I felt that “sudden glory” that comes upon one when one has made a joke. And yet my comment had passed quite unnoticed! (And without censure!) How delighted I felt by my new discovery! What untold possibilities await!
Presently I heard Mr Jenkins say:
“Do you think Mr Crashaw is quite all right?”
To which Mrs Jenkins replied:
“It is hot. Perhaps he should loosen his coat a little.”

Saturday 26th August
I shall call my new kind of joke an “Under-Pun”
Because it is a Pun that underpins the sense of what is said, without ever coming up to the surface!

Monday 28th August
Oh, glory piled upon glory! Tonight I made another of my new kind of joke! At supper, Margaret brought in a large trifle for dessert (a particular favourite of mine). I immediately felt that electrical prickling on my skin, which is so familiar to me and which signifies that a joke can be made. However, I said nothing. When it came around my turn to be served, I declined. Mr Jenkins was most surprised, and asked if I was well. But, instead of replying “There is no cause for concern, it is a mere trifle,” I replied:

“There is no cause for concern, it is a thing of little importance!

Oh, how glorious I felt! (My joke, once again, went undetected!) In fact, the glorious sensation that I experienced quite made up for missing out on my favourite dessert, and having to sit and watch Mr and Mrs Jenkins enjoy theirs.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

News from Hawker's Pot

Our move to Gloucestershire has invigorated us. We follow a strict physical regime, rising early, doing press-ups and handstands, and making up several jokes before breakfast. It has stopped raining. Reverend Hawker spends much of his time alone, developing his electronic “Keyboard to All Mythologies” which, I have no doubt, will in time prove a very useful poetic tool.* I am busy editing the voluminous diaries of Philip Crashaw, which we have brought with us. (I forget: have I yet recounted the remarkable series of events that led to their discovery in an abandoned attic of our old abode?) We will continue to publish excerpts from this surprising relic of the Victorian age, and are currently approaching experts in the hope they might say: “One of the most extraordinary survivals of the Victorian Age,” “Kilvert and Woodforde and My Secret Life have nothing on this”, “Undoubtedly genuine”, and such like. Henry the Raven, meanwhile, prods the cheap patterned curtains aside and peers hesitantly through the window at the glassy world outside, where shadows creep down hillsides and the ash trees stir restlessly in the sunshine and wind. (As I mentioned before, it has stopped raining.) And it is into this glassy world that Algernon disappears for long hours, working on his new side project, available here, a countryside journal completely devoid of puns.

(*When it is finished Reverend Hawker says he is going to call it the Casio Casaubon, but I have no idea why.)

Thursday 9 September 2010

Wisdom of Hawker’s Pot #6

It is commonly held that lunacy is caused by changes in the moon, but a fixation with the moon is merely a side effect of the real cause: the worst lunatics are obsessed with the stars, and are, in fact, star-craving mad.

Thursday 2 September 2010

And St Francis preached a sermon to the wild creatures

... and one of his disciples asked him about it afterwards.
“The stern injunctions against laying up goods in this world,” (asked the disciple) “who were they intended for?”
“They were intended for the squirrels, of course,” said the saint.
“And the injunctions against stealing?”
“For the foxes.”
“Of course. And the exhortations to be cheerful always?”
“The badgers. They’re terribly disposed to gloom, you know.”
“I see. And what about all the little jokes you made throughout the sermon?”
“They were strictly for the birds,” said St Francis.

Wisdom of Hawker’s Pot #5

The fortunate man sings for his supper, while the less fortunate man can whistle for it.

Thursday 26 August 2010

The High German Sound-Shift Joke

Or like the patches of moisture said to the stone:

"You’re either porous or against us."

And like Don Vito Corleone said, when he became a musical impresario and the guys at the Met kept turning down his projects:

"I’m going to make them an opera they can’t refuse."

He Would, But For The Trees

Leon and Clive were lost in the Forest of Verdun. Leon screwed up his eyes and looked at the map once again. “If only there was a clearing, or a landmark of some sort, or a road, then I might be able to get my bearings. But as it is, it’s just trees, trees, trees and more trees.”
“It’s all forest,” Clive forestalled him.

Wisdom of Hawker’s Pot #4:

Jesus said: “Suppose ye that I am come to bring peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” (Luke 12:51) Which is why, when he called Simon and Andrew on the Sea of Galilee he promised to make them fissures of men.

Friday 20 August 2010

Hawker’s Pot has moved

to darkest Gloucestershire and apologises for the break in transmission. These past weeks have been spent packing up all the technical apparatus for joke-making, the galvanometers, the polygraphs, the ancient typewriters, along with our library of dictionaries and thesauri and books of quotations. Which is not to mention those books we never read, but keep always close at hand, for the inspirations of their possible contents.* But finally all was packed into stout cardboard boxes with strengthened leather corners and carried down the muddy lanes to the waiting grocer’s truck. It rained heavily, of course, as it has rained all month, and we had much ado in our oilskin capes to keep the boxes dry. Meanwhile Henry the raven sat in the driver’s cab and shivered wetly.

How magnificent the countryside looked as we drove along, the tall trees majestic in the falling rain, the cattle clustered in the shelter of hedges, while on the wide green fields stood a few disconsolate crows. We were rather subdued and Algernon only managed a feeble joke about the grocer and the fruits of another man’s labours. The rain continued to fall, drifting across the surrounding fields in heavy veils, as we arrived and carried the boxes up muddy paths to a house that looked frankly familiar. Algernon assures me that it is quite a different house, simply chosen for its similarity to our old residence, and that the mighty Severn flows a mere ten miles from our doorstep, but I shall see for myself ... as soon as it stops raining. In the meantime:

I realised too late I had forgotten to bring gifts for my nephews. How they clamoured! I stilled their cries by carefully placing imaginary gifts on the table before them, thereby displaying remarkable presence of mind.
These currant buns are past their sell-by date. Impossible!


These prospective anchorites have reached their cell-by date.


(*What are the books, you ask, that remain unread? Well, for instance, E M Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread, his early foray into gangster fiction; or Bulgakov’s poignant portrait of a hard-drinking schoolteacher in the cocktail set; or Neville Shute’s classic novel where every aspect of the town in which the narrator lives -- a fringe of creeper over a doorway, the sleepy half-shuttered windows of the tall houses, the river like a lithe and silky stockinged leg -- remind him of a girl he once knew called Alice.)

Saturday 31 July 2010


As Gibbon points out in Chapter XV of his majestic History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, there must have been a certain period when the miraculous powers of the Early Church ceased, and the afflicted in health, who heretofore had sought out the most devout of the early Christians, were now left to apply to members of the medical profession. The increased workload must have been burdensome, but each doctor had the patience of a saint.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Lakes and Pains

Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey were – at their best – Lake Poets.
(At their worst, they were Mere Poets.)
(And when no inspiration came, they all just desponded.)

Oh, how I regretted bringing my great uncle, the nineteenth century ethnologist, to the School Sports Day, when he started to make all sorts of embarrassing generalisations about the Egg and Spoon Race, the Sack Race, the Three-Legged Race ...

Gudmund entered two events at the village games. In the arm-wrestling event he was bested by his old enemy Sigmund. And in the spinning-yarn-from-wool event he was worsted.

“I know you,” I interrupted. “You’re a drum! I hit you along to the music.”
“I was going to say that,” the drum replied. “You beat me to it.”
(I picked up a flute and I said: “I bet I know how to play you too!”
“Well, I’m blowed!” said the flute.)

Monday 28 June 2010

Light Years, Dark Ages

AD 449 and the staff at the Daily Tablet are covering the Saxon invasion of Britain. Ace reporter Gallo comes back without a story to furious editor Brennius. “Hey!” says Gallo, “I’m still looking for an Angle.” Finally the team get some copy down, but Brennius says it’s far too dull. “What!” gasp the team, “are you suggesting Saxon up the document?” (Click here, to see the document after Saxon up.)

(This was a disastrous day of reporting for the Daily Tablet team, but nothing as bad as their coverage of the Jute invasion: that resulted in all-round sacking.)

Tuesday 22 June 2010

The Hawker's Pot Song.

(For what is a website without a song?)

The hawker’s pot is full tonight,
The moon rides high, the tides delay.
As gay as larks, as wild as hawks!
The hawker rides the old high way.

The hawker travels down the lanes
Where farm dogs growl beneath the trees.
He has sharp words, the dogs sharp teeth,
The hawker finds it best to leave.

The hawker walks long paths by night
And blows his nail and blows his horn.
He hawks his wares, but where’s his hawk?
It rides the ancient airs forlorn.

The hawker’s pot is full tonight.
(Cry fol-de-rol for what is not!)
As wild as larks, as gay as hawks!
(All in, all in, the hawker’s pot!)

*For further information concerning the Hawker figure in the folksongs of Dorsetshire and the mysterious identity of his Pot, see the pamphlet by Percival Tredinnick: The Hawker figure in the folksongs of Dorsetshire and the mysterious identity of his Pot (collected in the Transactions of the Worshipful Company of Hawkers and Potters, To me Hip! fol the day, Hip! fol the day, To my Hip! fol the day, fol the digee, oh; Beaminster, 1973)

Friday 18 June 2010

Thursday 3 June 2010

Time for some Smut

Chimney Smut.

One for the connoisseur. Authentic Victorian Chimney Smut:

Those Victorians knew what they were about, eh?

And, if that wasn't enough for you: some Pure Unadulterated Smut.

Good Lord!
(Reasons of decency prevent me from showing you the chimney flashing.)

Thursday 27 May 2010


standing for: in my humble opinion

as in:

In my humble opinion they’re excellent pyramids.

(or: imhotep.)

Show Your Workings

You may have noticed that Hawker’s Pot has been absent for some months. Perhaps you thought we were all on a pleasant holiday, but no! Not us! We were working hard: it was simply our jokes that weren’t working for us. Witness these witless exempla! They just wouldn’t come out.

On their fag-break in the cloisters, the monks stood around chanting ... (No, doesn't work.).... having a chant ... (No.)

The malfunctioning hospital robots were acting like metal patients.

What a change! The care-worn cafe owner walked along the street whistling, as if he didn’t have a cafe in the world.

(NO! The words can’t just look similar on the page. They have to sound similar too!)

The AI robots were suffering from metal fatigue.

(No, still doesn’t work.)

Those overweight stagehands, those sconeshifters!

Tin Girl ...

(What of her?)

... Tin Girl had trouble fighting her enemies on her own, but Pewter Boy proved a useful alloy.

(Nearly ...)

The conifers at the bottom of the garden miss my Love when she is gone. They grieve and drop their leaves. But my Love will not be gone for long. They pine needlesly.

(Oh dear, we have worked on this joke for many, many years, but now we have to face facts: I don’t think it is ever going to work out.)

Monday 1 March 2010

Crashaw's Diary (part viii)

Wednesday, 1st March
Old Mrs Price told me an amusing story today. Every night for the last forty years Price has woken her in the night to tell her something that struck him as funny. It never was. Last night Price had woken her and told her something that actually was funny and they had both roared with laughter. However, when she told me, she could not remember for the life of her what it was.

High Jinks, Low Jokes

A man of Low Church leanings was visiting Bath in the 1850s and was distressed to see how many of the churches there had gone over to ritualistic practices. Here were altars decked with coloured cloths, where priests officiated in ornate vestments, swinging censers and chanting. In some churches there were even confessional boxes. Finally the man retired to his lodging where, in contrast, he found everything to his liking. There were upright chairs and simple furnishing and, best of all, no dried flower petals in little baskets. “I trust you find everything to your satisfaction?” his landlady asked. “No pot-pourri!” he beamed.

Monday 1 February 2010

What I like best about the United States of America

... is the way they look like they were drawn by a schoolchild for a homework project.

1. Really enjoying this project. Putting in a lot of detail.

2. This is taking ages.

3. I think I'll use my ruler:
4. That’s better. A few last squiggly bits and ...Finished! Can I go out now?

Monday 4 January 2010

The Twelfth Dog of Christmas

The season for supernatural tales is not yet over at Hawker’s Pot. Last night, we drew our chairs up to the fire and the Reverend Hawker told us one of the most terrifying yet:

“It was on a winter’s night a few years ago. I was walking back from a lonely cottage to whose poor inmate I had been offering words of spiritual encouragement, and was profiting from a high full moon to walk across the moors. Suddenly, I found my way barred! In the moonlit strip of the track, hackles raised, growling vehemently, a mere few feet away from me, stood a dog! Shadowy its form was, certainly, horrible and uncanny, but I recognised the creature. It was none other than the dog of Farmer Hackpen, an old acquaintance of mine. And yet it could not be! For Farmer Hackpen lived twenty miles hence, and I had passed through his farmyard that very morning and seen the dog there! Thinking fast, I bent down, picked up a stick and threw it -- threw it with all my might! The dog bounded after it, of course, yelping and yipping as it careered headlong over the uneven moorland. And so I went quickly on my way.

“How did I know to throw a stick? you ask.

“Because I had recognised it was a fetch, of course.

“These apparitions bode ill, as I’m sure you know, and, seen in the evening, presage the death of the one whose form they take. It came as no surprise, therefore, when I saw Farmer Hackpen two days later and he told me his dog was dead. But worse was to come. The dog would not lie in its grave! The night it was buried, its re-animated corpse scratched its way out of its grave and spent the hours of darkness sniffing and scratching and howling around the farm house. “The wife an’ me were terrible afeared,” the farmer said. “‘She said to me, you should’n’t never have done shot that ol’ dog, no matter how bad ‘e was.” Taking spades and mattocks, the farmer and I dug a far deeper grave and laid the dog in it. After we had tamped the earth down solidly over the corpse, I performed a brief ceremony, and then showed the farmer the way to leave the grave of a dog to ensure that it remained buried. Walking backwards, we took five steps, stopped, commanded ‘Stay!’; took another five steps backwards, stopped, said ‘Stay!’; continued so, saying ‘Stay!’ at every five paces, backwards all the way to the farmhouse, which haven reached, we stepped inside and slammed the door.

“‘And will that do it?’ asked the farmer. ‘‘E never would lie still, ol’ Shambles.’
“I assured him that the ceremony would ensure that even the most dogged spirit, or spirited dog, would not return. ‘But why did you shoot him?’ I asked.
“‘‘E started worrying sheep, that’s why,’ the farmer said.
“‘He certainly worried me,’ I replied.”